Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Great Debaters

Its nice to know that the sports movie formula is so tried and true that it can be used to make an inspirational story about a debate team. Then again, there is nothing like being on the edge of your seat waiting on a rebuttal. The Great Debaters hits all the points that you would expect but that doesn’t stop it from being inspirational and uplifting once it got to the final moments.

Denzel Washington takes his second turn behind the camera with The Great Debaters. He is completely fine as a director and since this story is told like your classic high school or college sports team coming together, Denzel is able to film all the usual standbys. Star player having conflict with the coach, love triangle, team coming together to support the coach when he is in need, adversity strikes, everyone comes together at the end, little guy hits the last minute shot. Nothing new but it’s a formula because it works. He may be the director here but Denzel’s best work, for now, comes when he is in front of the camera. Denzel may be walking the same ground he traversed in Remember the Titans, but taking on similar roles is nothing new for the man. Plus this time he has sweet hair, wears cool jackets, and dresses like a sharecropper when he spreads the word of the Southern Tenant Farmers Union. Much of the movie may have concentrated on the debaters but Denzel still gives himself a few moments to shine. His speech about Willie Lynch was a classic and then there were his great reactions throughout the movie either in dealing with this team or when he is having an argument with Forest. I wouldn't put this ahead of American Gangster but the The Great Debaters was right in Denzel's wheelhouse.


The other big name in The Great Debaters is Forest Whitaker. He is phenomenal as the minister father of the youngest debater. Since its Forest, you always wish that he had more to do. He gets a few scenes to show his skills but his best work is when he and Denzel go head to head for a couple minutes. The four debaters all do good work. Once again they come close to clich├ęs at certain points, but Nate Parker brings enough emotion so he doesn’t become just the temperamental star and Denzel Whitaker (which is a spectacular name to have as an actor in this movie) is able to turn James Farmer, Jr. into more than just the young kid on the team. Plus Jurnee Smollett turns into a preacher when she is on stage and her voice became downright hilarious.

The subject matter of The Great Debaters allowed a basic team overcoming adversity story to become a better final product. Race in America post-Civil War but pre-Civil Rights has not been explored all that often for movies so much of story felt fresh. The only issues I would have with the movie is that you knew what was going to take place beore it happened onscreen. Still, you can't help but pull for the kid when he gets up on stage at the end and that is all that matters in this type of movie.

8 out of 10

Atonement

It took me awhile to see Atonement but I am glad that I finally took the time to see it in a theater. Sometimes I can’t even explain my own actions, I hear about the great performances by both Keira Knightley and James McAvoy and yet I still don’t get off my ass. But let me read about a 5 minute tracking shot of England retreating from France during World War II and 3 days later my ticket is bought. Still the final outcome is that I saw Atonement and it was a beautiful story that had an even better ending than I expected.

Any worries that I had about sitting through your standard 2-hour love story were removed once the word “cunt” became an important storyline point. How can I not get behind a movie like this? In fact, once we got past the slow start with all the character introductions, Atonement told one of the best stories of the year. It was a slick how Briony's misinterpretations were shown from her point of view and then then the movied went back and showed those same scenes as important the moments in the relationship between Cecilia and Robbie that they were. In fact the Briony character was so well established as a story-teller that once she see saw Robbie and Cecilia by the fountain it was all downhill from there. There was also the Lola and Paul candy bar scene which was beyond awkward and uncomfortable. And the interactions between those two only got worse from there and by the end of the movie is downright nauseating. There was the aforementioned “cunt” letter that just blindsided me with its awesomeness. Once Robbie is sent to jail, the movie jumps ahead to World War II. The state of the main 3 characters has completely changed, Robbie enlisted to get out of jail, Cecilia cuts herself off from her family and live alone, and Briony is racked with guilt over her actions. This section is more straightforward with Robbie trying to get out of France alive, Cecilia waiting for him, and Briony trying to come to grips with what she did by being a nurse and writing the story of what occurred. The conclusion of everything is amazing with Briony 60ish years in the future talking about the book she has written about this part of her life. There are revelations that I had a feeling may occur but were still floored once they took place. This was a fantastic story.

Atonement’s plot wasn’t the only thing going for it. The two main performances by Keira Knightley and James McAvoy were incredible. Although it seems like Knightley prefers to act in the past, she is so damn good at it that I can’t complain. The way she moves and speaks at the beginning of the movie is in that perfect British upper class style. Did those people really do anything back then or did they just lounge around being wealthy? Knightley is also able to turn everything around in the second half of the movie when she is living on her own and waiting on Robbie. There is a night and day change in her character. I walked into Atonement thinking that Knightley was the one to pay attention to but by the end I was most impressed by McAvoy. Maybe it was because he got to play the injured soldier which means there was a lots of sweating, looking pale, and hallucinating but his performance was top-notch before that even occurred. I don’t know what was better his scene on the beach of Dunkirk or the confrontation between the three main characters at the end of the movie. This was some thoroughly impressive work. The other main character is Briony but 3 separate actresses play her since she starts so young and ends so old. The 13 year-old, Saoirse Ronan, was fine because she never became the annoying child routine. The 18 year-old is portrayed by Romola Garai and she does really good work as the tortured sister trying to make things right. And finally Vanessa Redgrave plays the final version of Briony and well she puts the other 2 to shame. The power of the final scenes mostly comes from how she delivers the final interview.


I just need to make a quick note about the Dunkirk beach scene. The 5-minute tracking shot of Robbie arriving in the middle England's evacuation was powerful. It may not have been necessary for storylines sake but it was incredible to see it pulled off. To watch Robbie walk the length of the beach while getting steadily more desperate over his situation was amazing. It ended up being a nice extra in an already incredible film.

Although Atonement is not the type of movie I anticipate a year in advance, that does not mean it wasn't one of the best films of 2007. It contained an amazing story that was able to hold my attention until the final shoe dropped. On top of that, Keira Knightley and James McAvoy each give one of the best performances of the year. There is not much more to ask for in a movie.

9 out of 10

Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem

What? Why? I don’t understand how this came to be. The first movie was awful. It was a complete waste of time that is only memorable because Sanaa Lathan got it on with a Predator. That’s probably a lie but I wouldn’t know because I have never been able to watch the movie a second time without agreeing to a lobotomy first. Well the only improvement from Alien vs. Predator to Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem is the presence of Michelle Dessler. And sadly that is not enough to make up for the complete waste of time that is the rest of the movie.

I don’t think I am going to waste too much time on this review. Thankfully, they at least use the ending of the first movie as some vague idea of a starting point. Continuity! So the surviving Predator from the first movie is infected and once the Alien bursts from his belly, it kills everyone on the ship and then the ship crashes back to Earth. And then you get your basic introduction of a bunch of characters, and by introduction I mean names and some quick relationships, then you start killing them off. Aliens invade a town kill off the residents, the Predator ship notifies the Predator home world and 1 Predator comes to fix the problem. That’s seems like a weak answer but then again he is a Predator so he single-handedly kills dozens of Aliens before the end of the movie. Maybe I’ll say that some of the action scenes didn’t suck but it is 2 days later and there is nothing memorable either. All of this has been done before. Plus I am tired of the fighting taking place in the darkness or shadows or the rain. Isn’t the technology good enough that you don’t have to cheat to cover the effects? And did the use of the word Requiem mean anything at all? Or was it just some a-hole being pretentious?

What a complete waste of time. There are many competitors to the throne of worst active movie franchise. You have AVP, the Date/Epic/Whatever Movie, all of those horror movie franchises, any dancing movie franchise, but what I really hope is that the next Aliens vs. Predator is actually Resident Evil: Alien vs. Predator vs. Umbrella. Then I may have a bit of interest. I hate myself for seeing this but I will hate you more if you read this and then go see it.

3 out of 10

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Charlie Wilson's War

I have had Charlie Wilson’s War on my radar for months now, but I wouldn’t say that I was banking on it being one of the best movies of the year. Still, Tom Hanks, Julia Robert, and Philip Seymour Hoffman is a significant enough cast that I held out hope that maybe this could sneak up on me and deliver something top notch. And wouldn’t you know it, Charlie Wilson’s War kind of kicked ass.

My enjoyment of this movie is not based on any sort of political leanings. In fact arguments about the truthiness of the story make my eyes glaze over and then I nod off. I like the movie because the acting was strong and the plot was engrossing, be it true to the letter or not. Mike Nichols direction and Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay keep the movie on a brisk pace so that there are no boring points. In fact the movie is only an hour and a half long so it passes by in a flash. With the length of the movie being so short and Sorkin giving everybody slick dialogue, Charlie Wilson’s War was a very enjoyable time at the theater.

Let’s skip over the 2 biggest names for now and go straight to Philip Seymour Hoffman. I have to be honest when I saw that hair and those glasses, even though it was set in the 80s, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to take him seriously. But then again who the hell am I to judge whether or not Hoffman can pull off anything he damn well pleases. And he proceeds to dominate each and every scene he is in. From his entrance where he breaks his boss’s office window, to his response when Hanks asks him if he drinks, to his proposition of Roberts, all the way through him getting pissed at Hanks after they had driven the Soviets out, he was unbelievable in this movie.


Tom Hanks has never been one of my favorite actors but he has always been someone that I trust to give a really good performance no matter what the movie. He brings a little extra to Charlie Wilson’s War. Maybe it was playing such a flawed man but he really brought out the conflict in Charlie Wilson. Plus all of his interactions with secretary pool, Charlie’s Angels, were hilarious and the fact that he called them "jailbait" was just icing on the cake. Julia Roberts was almost as fun as Hanks here. She played the hell out of the rich Texan who spurs Hanks into action by screwing him then sending him off to Pakistan. Last but not least is Amy Adams as Wilson’s dedicated personal assistant who has to put up with all his crap but is still with him every step of the way. Adams deserves to be a much bigger star than she is, she can do almost anything. This is just a fantastic cast
.

2007 has been a crazy good year. At almost any other time, I would be amped to get as good a movie as Charlie Wilson's War at the end of December. Instead I am trying to figure out a way of keeping it in my top 10. Still that is through no fault of this film, this was a fun movie disguised as a deep political thriller. Great stuff.

9 out of 10

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Well, three great movies in a row means I have to give up the fight. If I now have to call myself a fan of musicals, and my enjoyment of Dreamgirls, Hairspray, and now Sweeney Todd: The Demon of Fleet Street sort of forces my hand, I will do it proudly. Of course, Sweeney Todd is not exactly Chicago or Newsies so I feel much better giving a full recommendation to a musical helmed by Tim Burton, Add to that Johnny Depp and his sweet sweet escaped from an asylum style hair and it is difficult to find anything to complain about.

I have to say that my ticket was bought when I read that the story is about a man who seeks revenge on corrupt judge by killing his barbershop customers and having his neighbor cook the bodies in her meat pies. And, really, with that as the starting point would it have been even possible for someone other than Tim Burton to direct this story? When all is said and done, Sweeney Todd will probably go down as my favorite Burton movie. He was able to get the most out of the setting, the story, and the performances. Oh yeah and the blood. The blood was awesome.

And here we have the Johnny Depp performance of note for 2007. He may not have an operatic voice, but whatever shortcomings he has vocally do not deter from the power of the songs that he sings throughout the story. Plus the man specializes in making you sympathize with any character he inhabits. Being that Sweeney Todd is dropping bodies throughout the movie, Depp’s work is even more impressive than usual. His last few scenes were phenomenal. The crazed look that he had will he was realizing his vengeance and then the aftermath of his vengeance was sweet.


Helena Bonham Carter does the rest of the heavy lifting in Sweeney Todd. If there is another actress who looks better in disheveled period clothing playing a poor baker who turns to cooking humans to hide her neighbor’s murder victims, I’d like to see her. I think she may be this pale naturally and no make-up was necessary. She also had just the right about of wide-eyed devotion to Sweeney that made all of Mrs. Lovett's decisions seem at least plausible. And her fate was just crazy. Alan Rickman and Sacha Baron Cohen also pop up to sing a tune or two then meet their fate. And there is also a singing storyline between Depp’s daughter and her hopeful love interest which is the only part of the movie where my attention waned. There was nothing wrong with their performances but when they were onscreen, Depp and Carter were not. That’s bad math.

I wouldn't call Sweeney Todd a pleasant surprise but I definitely wasn't expecting to enjoy as much as I did. Then again, Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, throat slashing, meat pies, it was all there. And the final product was a thing of gory beauty. Hey, when is the next musical being released?

9 out of 10

Monday, December 24, 2007

TV from 12/16 - 12/22

Sunday (12/16)

Dexter

And sadly seasons have to come to an end. I am very glad that I picked up the first season of Dexter the week that the second season began because if I had let this show slip by me for another season I would have been disgusted with myself. After building towards the conclusion for what has felt like half the season, Dexter is somehow able to deliver on everything that has been promised. Doakes, Lila, Angel, LaGuerta, Deb, Lundy, Harry, and Dexter all get their season-long arcs dealt with in someway. Doakes’ death by explosion is disappointing only because it means that there will be no more Doakes next season. That being said, having it be Lila who kills him was sweet because it was another way to help and hurt Dexter at the same time. As for Lila, man, by the time that this episode ended I was begging for Dexter to take her out. Dexter may be a serial killer but that chick’s crazy. And the way that Dexter deals with her made everything worth it because Lila thought she had gotten away, she thought that Dexter wouldn’t track her down, and she thought what Dexter did was beautiful, but instead what Dexter did was shove a knife through her chest. There was also a nice moment where Deb comes to kids rescue and chooses her brother over taking off with Lundy. The relationship between Dexter and Deb is one of the best things on the show. The season ends with Dexter voiceovering that he has found a new path to walk on and that he no longer will be following Harry’s code, I cannot wait to see what means for the third season.


10 out of 10

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Juno

It is so rare for me to have this much love for a comedy. Juno was probably closer to a dark comedy than your run of the mill funny film but even placing it in that category doesn't ease the shock of my final rating. I have absolutely zero complaints. This entire movie worked from beginning to end. In a year full of great movies I now I have to figure out how high I am going to place Juno and it is throwing all my perceptions and expectations out of wack.

So I think Ellen Page may have become my current favorite actress. That may be jumping the gun a little but I have seen her in 3 films so far and in 2 of them, Juno and Hard Candy, her work and the movie itself has been flawless. The other movie is X3 and she did what she could but the thing was a mess and I wouldn’t place any of the blame on Kitty Pryde. I can guarantee you that I will rank this as my favorite performance by in actress for 2007. She connects on every joke, she hits every emotion, and she meshes with each and every actor or actresses she shares screen-time with. I couldn’t even tell you my favorite scene, division sign on the pregnancy test, moving a living room set into Paulie’s front yard so she can sit in the chair fake smoking a pipe to break the news to him, all her scenes with Jason Bateman, fingernails, the ultrasound, you know just about everything she did should be mentioned. And then after connecting on every single joke, the scene will turn and she will deliver an emotional line like I switched theaters and am now watching Atonement. I cannot find enough pretty words to write here.

I would have been happy if all a got from Juno was Ellen Page’s performance, but everyone came to play. Michael Cera plays another version of the same character he has been playing since Arrested Development but he is so good at it that I can’t complain. He just has this perfect way of delivering lines that turns okay jokes into hilarious moments. Continuing the Arrested Development connection, Jason Bateman is phenomenal as the would-be adoptive father. The chemistry between Bateman and Page is fantastic. Jennifer Garner may not have got as many jokes but she was great as the Bateman’s wife and desperate-to-be-a-mom. Olivia Thirlby plays Juno’s best friend and she is constantly amusing as the person who never takes the pregnancy seriously. I love that while Juno was in labor, Leah was running her wheelchair into the walls of the hospital hallway. And lastly, JK Simmons and Allison Janney play Juno’s father and stepmother and they are both amazing. It is helpful that they actually get to be good parents instead of the usual movie hardasses or absentee parents. All of JK’s scenes bounce around from funny to heartwarming. And Janney gets one of the best moments in the film where she absolutely tears the ultrasound technician to shreds for disparaging Juno. The entire cast deserves praise.


Usually I take the time to talk about the director and I don’t want to slight Jason Reitman so let me say that he finds just the right music and just the right cuts to make all the humor work. But the key to Juno is the screenplay by Diablo Cody. This is her first movie and it is incredible. This story is funny without forcing jokes into each and every single moment. Although it is cute and quirky, Juno never loses the emotion that is underneath every single action of Ellen Page. Hopefully she sweeps all the writing awards over the next few months.

Man, I was excited when I first read about Juno. And then I got amped when I saw the trailer for the first time. But I obviously was not putting my expectations high enough. Juno destroyed whatever perceptions I had about what I was walking into the theater to see. I thought I was seeing a quirky comedy that I would laugh a little and general enjoy my couple of hours. Instead I saw the best performance of the year and one of the best comedies I have ever seen. I really like when these things take me by surprise.

10 out of 10

I Am Legend

Sometimes movies would be much more fun if I could truly turn my brain off and just stare at the pretty pictures. I was able to do that for the first two-thirds of I Am Legend but then too much nonsense took place towards the end of the story. What I was left with when I walked out of the theater was a great performance by Will Smith, Francis Lawrence delivering on the tension of the story, but the plot contained so many holes that it left me annoyed once the credits rolled.

I am quickly becoming a fan of Francis Lawrence’s work. This is only his second movie, but with I Am Legend and Constantine he has been able to film a couple of really good-looking movies. The empty New York City that appears here is just an amazing thing to see. Although it was obvious that they achieved the overgrown vegetation, wild animals, and degradation of the buildings through special effects, it was not obvious on the screen. While watching the movie, it looked real enough to fool me. Once the environment was set there was always a constant level of tension. Every sound or change in light could mean something bad was about to happen. Having Will’s watch beep to notify him that the sun is about to go down was a sweet idea. It always made you wonder if this was the point when shit was going to go down. The entire movie was eerily silent until it was broken up by the sound of the infected. And that was the best part of the infected; when you just heard them around the edges. It increased the paranoia level of I Am Legend. It was just an all around slick job by Lawrence.

If there is any actor who can thrive in a one-man show then it is Will Smith. I Am Legend proves that he doesn’t need other people to act against, dogs, mannequins, and his own hallucinations will do. He somehow pulls off all of the emotions that a man in his position would be going through. When he is hunting and driving around with Sam, you can see him having fun with his friend. But when his watch beeps everything changes and it is clear by just looking at his face. Even after 3 years, the nights terrify him. There is also the look of obsession when he goes down to his lab to look for a cure. Each of these moods are beautifully portrayed by Smith. But the best scene in the whole film is when the infected move one of his mannequins over night. Everything spills out when Will sees the mannequin in a different part of NYC. He has gone insane at that moment and it is an unbelievable scene. Will Smith is someone that clearly hasn’t given his best performance because he routinely brings something new to the table in his movies.


I don’t want to hammer I Am Legend for the missing pieces but I have to at least mention them. First of all after 3 years, where the hell is Will getting the energy to power his HUGE home. Did he scour NYC for generators after everything hit the fan? And if the bridges were blown up in an attempt to stop the spread of the infection, how are vehicles getting to and away from Manhattan? And let me get this straight Will has been broadcasting for 3 years on ALL AM stations and I am supposed to just accept that ending? And finally the infected were a disappointment. They were all CGI and they looked it. It was a letdown after all the buildup.

I may have had some issues with I Am Legend, but they did not stop it from being a really good movie. I was all over the edge of my seat for most of it. The ending may have let me down but that doesn't completely overturn the greatness that proceeded. Plus Will Smith is just fun to watch. He had to use all of the tools at his disposal and he did not disappoint.

8 out of 10

The Golden Compass

Now that I sat on my lazy ass and failed to review The Golden Compass for over 2 weeks, it has become clear that no one has gone out to see it. That’s disappointing. It may not have been the best movie of the year but it in no way should have been avoided. This was a fun fantasy story that was the first part of a trilogy that will probably never be finished in theaters. Maybe the foreign box office will be big enough to make up for crappy Americans who would rather see Alvin and the Chipmunks.

They keep trying and they keep failing to recreate the success of The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter franchises. The Golden Compass has probably been the closest in quality to come through so far. The girl that they found to portray Lyra was fantastic casting. And since the first story completely hinges on her, Dakota Blue Richards is able to shoulder the weight. You have to be able to believe her as she doesn’t back down against every single adult, animal, and magical whatever she faces throughout the film. They were even able to capture the relationship between Lyra and her daemon, Pantalaimon, which is the key to this story. The rest of the cast pops in and out and never really has a chance to create a memorable performance. Daniel Craig is nicely cast as the powerful Lord Asriel but he has about 10 minutes of screen-time. Nicole Kidman pulls off Mrs. Coulter but once again she pops in for a stretch in the middle of the film and then falls away again before showing up again at the end. Worse than those two is Eva Green because she only gets about 5 minutes as the witch queen. If I were forced to pick, I would say that Ian McKellan delivers the best performance as the voice of the armored bear Iorek. Still, the supporting characters are all talented folks so the movie clips along.


I guess in an attempt to please a large audience, and by that I mean not piss of Christians, the religious plots of the story are toned down. Its still clear whom the Magisterium is supposed to represent but it is kept so far in the background that it never really plays a significant role. Mrs. Coulter is the villain of the piece. And anyways the volatile material is in the second and third book of the trilogy, that's when we learn about Lord Asriel’s assault on heaven. The Golden Compass does touch on daemons and dust having something to do with the souls and original sin and a bunch of other stuff but who cares there are talking polar bears fighting each other. There is an evil golden monkey. There are witches flying around with bows and arrows. When Lyra leads a bunch kids out of danger they are confronted by a mercenary army and her response is to spit in their face. Sam Elliott plays another version of the Marlboro Man that he has played many times before but this time he flies a freaking balloon. And goddamnit how can you complain when the bear king is voiced Al Swearengen? This is a fun movie, why do people got to ruin a good time by turning everything into a life and death religious struggle?

The best praise I can give The Golden Compass is that after seeing the movie I went out and bought the books. I doubt I will ever get a chance to see The Subtle Knife or The Amber Spyglass on the bigscreen, but I won't hold that against The Golden Compass. A good movie was made even if no one wanted to see it.

7 out of 10

Sunday, December 16, 2007

TV from 12/9 - 12/15

Sunday (12/9)

Dexter

Man, it feels like Dexter has been driving hard towards the finale for over a month now. The pieces have been in place, Doakes in captivity, Lila as a crazed stalker, Rita inching back into Dexter’s life, revelations galore for Dexter, but each week brings more and more information that just clouds where the show is heading. This week saw Dexter nearly turning himself after some great scenes with Doakes. But at the same time the hatred Doakes has had for Dexter seems to be waning even though he has been locked up for days now. Watching them work together to take care of the drug dealers was fun and shows that there is a possibility that Doakes may live and not go to jail. But I still don’t see how the show can reconcile Doakes’s knowledge of Dexter without killing or arresting him. As for Lila, with her showing up at the cabin as the climax of her Dexter stalking has gotta mean she will be facing the sharp end of Dexter’s knife in the finale. Although it was nice even to see Deb berate her and tell her to leave town even if it doesn’t work. The finale cannot start fast enough.

9 out of 10

Thursday (12/13)


Why did this come back in the middle of December? If the CW had new episodes, they should have held on to them until 2008 when the rest of the networks are scrambling for shows. Not that this was even a decent episode. More awful clone storylines. Who cares? That plus no Lionel means a bad hour of television.

3 out of 10

Yeah, television has begun to disappear. Once Dexter ends this week, the holidays start and then when television should be coming back from the holiday break I have no idea how many shows that I watch will still be on. Thankfully The Wire pops up in January.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The 2007 List (13)

  1. No Country for Old Men
  2. Into the Wild
  3. Michael Clayton
  4. Zodiac
  5. Gone Baby Gone
  6. Eastern Promises
  7. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
  8. The Lookout
  9. American Gangster
  10. 3:10 to Yuma
  11. Talk to Me
  12. The Bourne Ultimatum
  13. In the Valley of Elah
  14. Grindhouse
  15. Breach
  16. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  17. The Kingdom
  18. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
  19. Hot Fuzz
  20. Stardust
  21. Reign Over Me
  22. Rescue Dawn
  23. 300
  24. Black Snake Moan
  25. Superbad
  26. Hairspray
  27. Ocean's Thirteen
  28. Live Free or Die Hard
  29. The Simpsons Movie
  30. Enchanted
  31. The Brave One
  32. We Own the Night
  33. Spider-Man 3
  34. The Darjeeling Limited
  35. Rendition
  36. Mr. Brooks
  37. Beowulf
  38. Smokin' Aces
  39. 30 Days of Night
  40. Transformers
  41. Shoot'em Up
  42. Resident Evil: Extinction
  43. DOA
  44. Shooter
  45. The Mist
  46. Halloween
  47. Blades of Glory
  48. Reno 911!: Miami
  49. 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer
  50. The Condemned
  51. Fred Claus
  52. Ghost Rider
  53. The Pathfinder

It looks like I won't be reaching 60 movies within the calendar year of 2007. I am just as disappointed as you are. Rechecking this list at the end of the year is going to be fun. The top 20 is just packed to the gills. And who knows maybe AVP2 could be worse than The Pathfinder, that would just seal the deal.

Enchanted

Now its time for the sequel to No Country for Old Men, Enchanted. There are many of the same themes on display, mainly violence and talking hamsters. The fact that Enchanted received such good reviews gave me some comfort when I walked into a movie that is obviously for children. And in the end this wasn’t a wasted trip, Enchanted was a fun time.

I have to marvel at the skill of Amy Adams. This was a completely ridiculous proposition. She needed to act like a Disney cartoon character walking around in the modern world. This could have easily flown off the rails and crashed in a spectacular fashion but she somehow made it work. The fun that she was having was clear and it carried her through the whole movie. The way she moved, talked, looked, was exactly how somebody would act if they stepped through the screen of Cinderella or whatever other Disney movie that featured a Princess … which is pretty much all of them. This was an honest to god great performance. You cannot help but smile while she is bouncing around the room calling in bugs to clean an apartment or dealing with being angry for the first time in her life.

Everyone else is just playing the standard roles for this movie. Susan Sarandon is the evil witch. James Marsden is the empty-headed Prince. Patrick Dempsey is Mr. Right. And Timothy Spall is the manservant. None of them reach the level that Adams did but on the other hand no one ruins the movie.


Of course, the story is obvious. But it’s a Disney cartoon made with live bodies, what else could it have been? It’s the same jokes, twists and turns, and happy ending that has been done in every other one of these movies. That being said, the jumping from cartoon to live action switch is strong enough to make it stand out from the crowd.

Enchanted wouldn't be the first movie that I would choose to see, in fact I am not sure how far down the list you would have to go before it would pop up, but after seeing it I have nothing negative to say. Amy Adams carries the movie from bell to bell and makes the whole thing worthwhile. Good times.

7 out of 10

No Country for Old Men

2007 is just getting better and better as the year goes on. I don’t like to throw out rankings of 10 out of 10 but No Country for Old Men deserves it and so that is what it is going to get. Everything was on display here, acting, story, scenery; this was just a pleasure to view.

I may not be the biggest Coen Brothers fan but the quality of Fargo is something that cannot be questioned and No Country for Old Men is the equivalent or the better of that all-time great film. Not even sure where to start. Let’s go with Tommy Lee Jones. Is there an actor out there that looks more weary, worn-down, and seen it all than Mr. Jones? His narration to begin the film is pitch-perfect. Then you can see how draining it is for him to follow the aftermath of Llewelyn and Anton’s actions. I was definitely behind Tommy Lee for his performance in the movie In the Valley of Elah, but this was on a different level. Easily the greatest work of his career. Even saying that, Javier Bardem will definitely be the one that is remembered in No Country for Old Men. That haircut is enough to burn Anton Chigurh forever into your memory and that doesn’t even touch on him walking around killing folk with a slaughterhouse air gun. Chigurh is the essence of violence. There is no stopping him. There is no negotiating with him. Either he kills you or you escape … for the time being. It was just an awe-inspiring performance. Finally we come to Josh Brolin who completes his 2007 tour de force. His work here surpasses American Gangster, In the Valley of Elah, and Planet Terror. It may not be as showy as Bardem or as spot-on as Jones, but what Brolin did was give the viewer a rooting interest. You follow him on his journey to keep the money while staying ahead of Chigurh. He has the right about ingenuity and desperation in each and every one of his scenes. Props to Woody Harrelson, Kelly Macdonald, Stephen Root, and Garret Dillahunt (there’s that name again) all of them pop in and out of the story filling out the edges of the cast.


There is not much to say about the story. It is incredibly structured and engrossed me to the point where I wasn’t even anticipating the next steps; I was just along for the ride. The sick, twisted, violent, and bloody ride. There is such inevitability to Chigurh’s actions, that there is very little hope in No Country for Old Men. And it sure isn’t like the ending was upbeat in any way. That is my kind of story.

It was nice to know that all the hype for No Country for Old Men was not a lie. This film delivered the goods. At some point in life, everyone needs to witness Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh. His character and the movie itself is an instant classic.

10 out of 10

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Mist

I like to dip my toe into the horror genre every once and awhile and for this go around The Mist steps up to the plate. With Stephen King, Frank Darabont, and Thomas Jane I thought it was a decent choice. I was wrong but it is the thought that counts. There was nothing memorable about The Mist; it came through and delivered the usual without breaking any new ground.

Should I credit The Mist for creating such a despicable character that the crowd cheered at her death? Cause if I were to pick out the best part of the movie it would be the deserved death of Marcia Gay Harden’s character. I’m not entirely sure if this is a positive because Mrs. Carmody was so unlikable that everyone just began counting the moments until she was disposed of. From the moment she started preaching you knew it wasn’t going to end well for anybody. Then sacrificing folks? What the hell is that?

Thomas Jane may have been the star of the movie but Toby Jones delivers the best performance. The Mist won’t bring nominations but Jones is a lot of fun as the grocery bagman who ends up rolling with Jane and being the best shot of everyone in the store. As for Jane, he was fine but nothing to write home about. The same goes for Andre Braugher as Janes litigious neighbor. This is a horror movie and everyone has his or her basic parts to play before dying horribly.


One of the main problems for me were the bug-monsters because they never scared me. They seemed too colorful and fake looking. Everyone is cowering in fear and I’m laughing to myself. That’s not good. Add to that the completely irrational ending. It was awesome that they did what they did but it just doesn’t make sense. Why resort to that so fast? Couldn’t you have waited a couple minutes before doing the deed? At least it meant that the movie had ended.

So hey, I'm not a fan of horror movies. I am more than willing to give them a shot once and awhile but I usually end up disappointed. And that is what The Mist did. I went in with very little expectations and yet it didn't even deliver on those. Ah well, I took a shot.

5 out of 10

Sunday, December 9, 2007

TV from 12/2 - 12/8

Sunday (12/2)

Dexter

Oh my lord does Lila suck ass. This has been building all season and it is only going to get worse before the end. And I still doubt that Dexter can kill her without exposing himself. Why she got to mess with Angel? Doakes is still caged throughout this episode, which leads to multiple great scenes between him and Dex. When Dexter butchers a drug dealer at the end, the effect on Doakes was fascinating to watch. This also played into the revelations about how Harry actually died. Dexter realizing that it was Harry seeing Dexter in action caused him to end his own life was a sweet twist. There was more Deb and Lundy uncomfortableness so we can move past that as quick as possibly. For the final 2 episodes it will be interesting to see how Dex does not get pinned as the Bay Harbor Butcher while dealing with both Doakes and Lila. Not the best of the season but still a solid hour.

7 out of 10

Monday (12/3)

Heroes

Finale time. I don’t think I have been impressed with a single Heroes finale yet. That’s not to say that this was a bad episode but they build and build and build but it gets difficult to deliver on all the promise. Of course the Bennet part for the episode was the highlight. Bob treating Elle like dirt, Elle turning to Noah, Noah showing up alive freaking his family out, and the badassness of Noah returning to the company. Hopefully he rolls with the Haitian and Elle now. Elle has the emotional development of a 7 year-old so all her scenes are fantastic and there needs to be more. The next best part was Sylar shooting Maya. That was therapeutic. I’ll even accept that she was brought immediately back to life because that moment was so great. Sylar does get his powers back but it was obvious because they showed the scene in the previews last week and then it was held off all the way to the preview of the next chapter but it wasn’t a shock. Peter and his buddy Adam was amusing because Peter got to whip out all his powers then use the force to open the safe that he could have phased into in 1 second. Peter is an idiot and it was annoying to watch him beat on Hiro then go so far as to force choke him on Adam’s instructions. Nathan saves the day and Hiro buries Adam alive, which is a phenomenal fate for him. I don’t care about the New Orleans storyline even if Nikki ends up dead. Nathan getting shot was a bit telegraphed for my tastes but I am hoping that the twist is that it was Noah who pulled the trigger as his first job back with the company.

7 out of 10

Life


We are running out of new episodes of good shows so thankfully NBC gives us 2 episodes of Life this week. It was a 2-parter but it was a 2-parter that still had 2 separate crimes of the weeks to solve so Life takes a couple of steps forward but still takes a step back for my taste. We get a murder in a spiritual center on Monday so Charlie gets to be completely in his element learning about whether he is actually here in the physical world. Mike Novick pops up which was nice even if he may have been the killer at one point. I don’t really care about the murder investigation, it turns out that Mike’s wife killed the man who got her pregnant, what a twist. The meat of the episode was Charlie no longer being the main suspect in Ames’ murder and then finding the name of the man who committed the murders he was sent to prison for. And Charlie gave his ex a horse.

7 out of 10

Wednesday (12/5)

Life

The second Life episode of the week was the better episode. Mainly because Charlie spends the whole hour dealing with the conspiracy against him while his current and former partners deal with the murder of the week. The man who committed the murders 12 years ago, Kyle Hollis, is played by Titus Welliver. Welliver is another Deadwood transplant, which means his performance is awesome. Charlie works him over then scares the crap out of him by digging what looks to be a grave right in front of his eyes. This causes Kyle to admit to the murders that Charlie’s lawyer hears over the phone. This allows Charlie to bring him in and completely clear his name. There is also a nice scene where Charlie lays it all down for Jack Reese while his own daughter is arresting Kyle. Jack doesn’t break though and we get the next layer of the conspiracy revealed which is that Kyle was raising the missing girl and now she is in Jack’s custody. I am always for more conspiracy and it was a great end to a great episode.

8 out of 10

When there are so few shows, there is no real reason to rank them against each other. I'm going to miss TV when its gone.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Beowulf

Beowulf has completely shutdown my ability to review movies. I’ve been sitting on this for nearly 3 weeks and I just have nothing to say so this one will be short just so I can get it over with. It was alright. I have no idea if it stayed true to the original story because I’m fairly certain that Beowulf was one of the those English assignments that I “read” before taking a test based completely on my class notes. The animation is weird and not at the level that I believe moviemakers want it to be at. I guess what I’m saying is that this felt like I was watching an extremely long video game cut scene with a decent story.

How the hell wasn’t Beowulf rated R? This was a seriously violent movie but its still PG-13 because what? Animation? Violent towards monsters? The naked Angelina Jolie didn’t have nipples? That wasn't Anthony Hopkins actual bare ass? Strange rules we live by.

If I had my choice, I would rather not watch movies with this style of animation. Everybody looks off. They are shiny, the words don’t seem like they are coming from their mouths, and the eyes look like they are staring off into space half the time. It did allow for monsters, dragons, and naked demon Jolie, so I can see why they went with it. I would just prefer to see live human beings doing stuff.


Lots of folks provided voices and movements but is it really a great performance by Ray Winstone or Anthony Hopkins? It was definitely quality voice-over work by the lot of them. I don't know what else to say.

This was probably the best 3D movie that I have seen so far. But saying that puts at at the top of a very small list. The movie was filmed that way so all sorts of stuff flies at the camera even if there is no reason for it. Much like the animation I don't see this as a huge improvement in moviemaking.

Beowulf will soon be forgotten by me. In fact I am having a difficult time remembering it right now. This was a decent action movie that used animation tricks and 3D to make it seem more than it was.

6 out of 10

TV from 11/25 -12/1

Sunday (11/25)

Dexter


The last 5-10 minutes were incredible. The rest of the episode was the usual greatness, but when Doakes shows up in the swamps to confront Dexter everything went to a whole new level. Doakes becoming the main Bay Harbor Butcher suspect was a thing of beauty. I may have complained about Doakes getting his own story arcs earlier in the season, but everything has come together nicely. Now we have a few episodes left and Dexter has to deal with Doakes while not exposing himself. You have to assume that Doakes will end up on the table for dissection but I am not even certain of that. Plus Dexter now has a bullet in his leg and how is he going to explain that? Lila pops up again and I have no idea how Dexter is going to deal with her. Deb and Lundy move along with their relationship that makes me go hysterically blind. I don’t even want to speculate about Dexter, I just want to watch new episodes as soon as possible.

9 out of 10

Monday (11/26)

Heroes

Well, there had to be a letdown after last week. On one hand they are building towards a nice conclusion for this chapter but on the other hand these are some of the dumbest mofos on television. Peter, Maya, and Mohinder are all calling out to be smacked upside the head. I can’t stand any of them right now. David Ander’s Adam is awesome but Peter blindly following him is just unacceptable. Adam shoots someone dead and Peter just shrugs his shoulders. Hiro shows up and tells him what he is doing is wrong and instead of listening he fights him. If he weren’t the star of the show I would hope that he is one of the characters on the chopping block for the finale. Maya has been an awful character with an awful power from the get go. Since Sylar is so damn awesome this whole storyline is not holding the show down. Hopefully he cuts her head open next week and takes her powers. As for Mohinder … screw that guy. I shot and killed you in front of your daughter for your own damn good. There is nothing worse than an idealist, but on the other hand he is just the right level of character that can be bumped off as a shocker for the finale. The magical iPod shows up in New Orleans again even if that whole storyline is weak. And Elle is still awesome with her busted arm. Should be a sweet finale this week.

7 out of 10

Tuesday (11/27)

Bones

And another episode of the Bones happened, there was nothing remarkable and there was nothing horrible. It was just a good episode.

5 out of 10

House


This may end up being my favorite season so far. They were able to get 9 episodes out of House choosing his new staff and pulled off a worthwhile conclusion to the whole process. Cuddy forces House’s hand but House works Cuddy so that he gets 3 of the final 4 instead of 2. Kumar, the plastic surgeon, and the chick known as 13 survive while the bitch finally walks the plank. House plays all sorts of the games with the 4 of them throughout the episode; it was fun to watch everyone squirm over his insane scoring method. Hopefully now that everything is settled, when the show returns Chase, Cameron, Foreman, Wilson, and Cuddy can now be brought back to the forefront. There was a rather weak Wilson storyline this week but at least it got some House and Wilson sparring with each other. Cameron and Chase get little more than a walk-on this week. I’ve put up with it and even praised the show but everything is settled and I want my old favorites to shine once again.

9 out of 10

The Unit

I made it to the end of the fall but I don’t think I will make it any farther. The show is a classic story of the week style and there isn’t much to write about from week to week.

Reaper

Much like Chuck, I am giving up on Reaper. I may still watch it but I don’t feel like reviewing it.

Wednesday (11/28)

Bionic Woman

Hooray, it came back. But sadly there is still no Sarah Corvus and Antonio looks to be really dead which is confusing as hell. What is left is a so-so show. It is still fun when her powers kick on, like when she rips the door off the car and throws it across the parking lot, but the rest of the show lacks. Maybe not all of it, the Berkut folks are constantly entertaining. The pieces are still there but they just haven’t been put in the correct order yet.

5 out of 10

Life


Hey, this came back this week. Shockingly this has become the most consistent of the new shows. I don’t think it will ever be able to overcome the one and done episode structure like House has, but it is still pretty damn strong. The conspiracy to lock Charlie up is still in the background so we do get movement on that nearly every week. There was some fun stuff between Charlie and Reese’s father, Charlie and IAD, and Charlie and Calamity Jane all revolving around the conspiracy. The murder of the week was a bit odd with the kitten-loving murderer and the child stealing fake father. Still, Charlie is fun to watch as he acts off and disturbs everyone around him.

6 out of 10

Dexter and House are clearly the head of the pack for the week. Dexter is flying towards some sort of insane finale. And I believe this is pretty much it; next week is about half of this week and then everything fades into the Writer's Strike wind.