Friday, August 14, 2009

District 9

Directed by Neill Blomkamp

Written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell

Starring Sharlto Copley

Over the years, it seems Hollywood has its creativity, and most of the films we see made are sequels, or remakes of older classics. Just look at this summer; Wolverine, Star Trek, Terminator, and Transformers 2. With the exception of Star Trek (which was till now my favorite action blockbuster this summer), the rest of these films were either so-so or complete abominations. But sometimes, a few creative minds get together and make a completely new, original intellectual property. This is where District 9 comes in. And is, by far, the best, and most fun movie this summer.
Producer, Peter Jackson (who really needs no introduction, but for a few of you out there who don't know him, Lord of the Rings) oversees newby feature film director Neill Blomkamp. Neill's work prior to this project mostly consisted of some of the best advertisement commercials out there. Originally the crew was to make the Halo movie, but because of doubts of Blomkamps skill in directing, the project was pushed aside and they made District 9 instead. After seeing this film, there is no doubt in my mind that Blomkamp can perfectly execute a Halo, so please Hollywood execs, greenlight it.
Now, lets move on to why District 9 is so great. First is the backstory; twenty years ago an alien ship makes its way to Earth, hovering above Johannesburg, South Africa. For unknown reasons the ship cannot leave, so the aliens (also known as prawns, a nickname given to them by the people of Earth) are stranded on our planet. After many months of riots and violence between the two species, the prawns were relocated in District 9, which eventually turns into a slum with poor living conditions. I don't want to say too much about it, I'm all for people to go in and learn it for themselves.
Second is how the story is told. The first twenty minutes of the film is presented like a documentary. With interveiws from people of the city and the organization MNU ( Multi-National United), a company who has control over the aliens for science and weaponry study. Gradually the film moves out of its documentary style and moves into a narrative story.
Like in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Jackson hired WETA Workshop for special effects. And they are spectacular. Not only were they able to enhance the action sequences and make them absoutly thrilling. But they were able to make characters, fully fleshed out from CG, that you simpathise for and actually care about.
Summer blockbusters have a reputation for being big and dumb. Something you just go into, not expecting to find any substance to it, but just to gawk at. District 9, however, seems to have some very interesting underlying social commentary. One in particular is segregation, how because a people may be differant, or we don't understand them, we seperate them from ourselves, instead of trying to reach out. Or how these prawns were probably at one time a peaceful race, but because of the living conditions they were forced into, turned them dangerous and untrustworthy towards humans. It's just something to think about, which is a nice change from a big bugdet film like this.
So yes, District 9 is a must see. I can't think of one scene where I wasn't completely engrossed in the film. It's smart, fun, interesting, and I forgot to mention very violent. This isn't one to take the kids to. Make sure you experiance this while its still in theaters. It's a film that join along side other sci-fi classics in the years to come.

5 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Cove

Directed by Louie Psihoyos

We've all been to a zoo and have seen a dolphin show. They jump out of the water and majestically flip into the air. What probably doesn't cross your mind as you watch is where these dolphins came from. The zoo keepers probably say they were bred in captivity, but the chances are higher that the dolphin was caught from the wild. From its home where it was free, swimming along the ocean at 40 miles per hour. Now it spends its day doing laps around a tank the size of your living room. What a great life capitivity must be. And where was this dolphin caught? Chances are Taiji, Japan, who not only exports wild dolphins for show around the world, but the rest they catch are slaughtered for their meat. Over 20,000 dolphins a year are killed. The fishermen in Taiji claim its tradition that they harvest dolphins, yet no one else in Japan even eats dolphin meat, or even knows about anything that happens in that small fishing town. So why do they do it?
I'm sorry, I'm going on a rant. Trust me, its hard to write a review for this film without getting frustrated and having the activist inside me flare up. So where was I? Oh yeah, The Cove. The single most important documentary to come out in years. It tells the story of filmmaker and Ocean Preservation Society's leader, Louie Psihoyos. Along with Richard O'Barry, who is most famous for his work on the show Flipper that started this multi billion dollar industry. Richard has realized the wrong things he has done in the past, and for the past thirty years been fighting for the right that dolphins don't belong in captivity. Their goal is to get footage from the unseen cove in Taiji where the wild dolphins are taken, and to expose to the world what really happens there.
But to do that they need a top notch crew ready for the job. It's almost like watching Ocean's 11, but with dolphins, and less funny. Each crew member has their own specialties and talent they bring to the table. They even get help from ILM (Industrial Light and Magic) to make spy cameras disguised as rocks, or a small log. They infiltrate in in the dead of night, praying not to be caught be security. These scenes are extremely intense, and even more so eerie as it is shot with nightvision. Being caught by the guards would mean serious trouble and would bring all of their hard work and planning to nothing. Not only that, but these fisherman will do anything to keep their secret safe, and will kill to do so. It wouldn't be the first time.
The footage they do get that is saved for the climax of the film is nothing short of gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, and horrifying. The Japanese government has been trying to keep this under wraps. Claiming that the animals are killed humanely and instantly. That is definitly not the case.
What The Cove does best is making the audience feel like something must be done, and that they can partake and help. The filmmakers make the connection that dolphins have with humans. Though we cannot communicate with them by voice, there is a connection and understanding . Dolphins are much smarter than we take them for, they are self aware, they have their own conscious decisions. We humans believe that because we can't interact with them on the level we interact with ourselves that means they are inferior, and there for we believe we have the right to exploit them and do whatever we please. Sorry, another rant.... anyways....
The Cove is a powerful and emotional tour de force that should be seen by everyone. Though it mostly only covers dolphins, there is a bigger picture to see here. With all the things happening in out ever changing world, if we can't stop one small problem like this, how are we as humans, suppose to tackle to bigger issues out there. To support the cause of the filmmakers see the movie, PAY to see the movie. Secondly sign this petition, the link is below. Once again, I'm sorry, this hasn't been much of a review. Just me on a soap box. But see the movie, that's all I'm telling you.

5 out of 5 stars

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Hurt Locker

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow

Written by Mark Boal

Starring Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty

As the film states "war is a drug". After the first fifteen minutes of the film you will understand perfectly what that qoute means. The Hurt Locker takes control of you and doesn't let go for two and half hours. It tells the story of small bomb sqaud of three in Iraq who risk their lives everyday in life or death situations as they defuse bomb after bomb, and the tole the human psyche takes.
There is almost a taboo on movies based on the Iraq War. People feel that it is too soon, or that all these movies fail because they are so one sided and only try to appeal to certain crowds. The Hurt Locker doesn't have any political agenda its trying to shove down your throat, its just the story of three soldiers. Whatever your views are on the war, it won't try and make you change your mind. It's hard to imagine the life of soldier since I am not one, but The Hurt Locker is the very best attempt from a film to try and make the audience see life through a soldiers eyes. Even if that window of time is only for a couple hours.
Every scene is packed with drawn out suspense so intense the audience will be holding their breath, gnawing their finger nails, and jittering their legs the entire time. One wrong move and things will end horribly for Staff Seargent William James and his men. There are spots of humor with witty banter between the men. But the tone changes on the turn of a dime and your sucked right back in.
The Hurt Locker is almost as perfect a war movie as you can get, and is the best movie this year by far. Do yourself a favor, find the nearest Indie Film theater, and go to the next showing. It's a movie that is not to be missed and should become an instant classic.

5 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Public Enemies

Directed Michael Mann

Written by Ronan Bennett and Michael Mann

Starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale

I think everyone can agree that 2006's reenvisioning of Miami Vice was Michael Mann's big career flop, luckily he learned from his mistakes and has redeemed himself in this years crime drama Public Enemies. Its the true story of John Dillinger (played by Johnny Depp) the notorious bank robber from the 1930's, being chased by an FBI squad led by Melvin Purvis (played by Christian Bale).
All of the performances in this movie were wonderful. It's great to see Depp in a darker, serious role than what he has been doing the past few years working with Disney and Tim Burton. And Christian Bale leaves behind his Batman-car-muffler voice to play a down to Earth FBI agent. The rest of the characters and the story are very engaging and should keep the audiences attention throughout the movie.
What Mann's highest strength as a filmmaker is in his fire fights and scenes of violence. He drops the viewer right in the middle of the fight with some amazing camera and sound work. You feel the weight of a shotgun blast blowing through a wall, or a tommy gun shooting through a window. These scenes are truly visceral and the high points of the film.
The only criticism I have with the movie is on a technical basis. It was shot on a HD video cam (a trademark that Mann has used in his past few releases) and while some scenes look extremely crisp and clear others don't. When the camera or characters start moving too fast there is an awkward blurring effect that just doesn't look right. And in some needs the lighting seemed off and you can definitly see the grain from the underexposed video. Granted using HD video for feature films is still a new technique, filmmakers are still figuring out the best way to use them for optimal picture. But most veiwers won't even care or notice, so really it's not that big of a deal. Though usually I am a fan of the hand held shaky cam, there were points where it is excessivly shaky.
Otherwise Public Enemies is a great gangster drama that just about anyone can enjoy. So far its the years best crime movie that is smartly written, has great acting, and is intriguing, even if his filming techniques needed some work.

4 out of 5 stars

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Directed by Michael Bay

Written By Ehren Kruger and Roberto Orci

Starring Shia Lebeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, John Turturro

The follow up to 2007's biggest summer release is out, and man, what a horrible mess it is. This review is going to be harsh, and lot of you will think that I'm expecting too much from a movie about toys, but Transformers 2 is bad. Reeeaally bad. So let us begin.
Shia returns as Sam Witwicky, he has graduated from high school and is now moving on to college life where apparently every single girl is extremely attractive and acts like a slut. One day while putting on his favorite shirt, a small piece of the "Allspark Cube" falls out of his shirt, he touches it and goes crazy. In the entire two year span between the films take place, after all the times he has worn and washed that shirt, how does he not know about it until now? The movie is filled with these plot holes and just gets worse as it progresses. Speaking of plot, there is none what so ever. Yet the story gets so convoluted and wrapped up in its own bullshit. It becomes one giant clusterfuck. My mind literally shut down about half way through the movie for about twenty minutes. Then I snapped back to reality and realized I was still in this God forsaken mess.
But story isn't what Michael Bay is here to do. He here to make huge action sequences and to fit in the highest amount of explosions into one shot as possible. Even these scenes fall apart because there is no human element, no emotion into any of them to draw me in. Bay throws in a comedic one liner (that isn't funny) every 15 seconds, and separates viewers attention from the action and draws them even further away. I felt no connection with the characters or the action at all. The humorous dialogue is horribly written and in scenes when I'm apparently supposed to be sad, I felt nothing.
Being that this is a Michael Bay movie, there are certain signature camera movements that appear in everyone of his films. The famous slow motion 360 spinning track around the characters with a bright sun in the background gleaming into the lens of the camera. Bay went all out in this one, he over uses this shot way too many times. Its almost a cliche by now.
As a director, Bay has the job of "directing" his actors to bring out their full potential to portray emotion on screen.... Every single actor was terrible. TERRIBLE! One in particular is Megan Fox, who again redeems herself as the worst actress in Hollywood. She is only there for looks and to act like a skank.
Transformers is like a cake with 10 layers of icing, your least favorite flavor, and you're forced to eat it for two and a half hours. All flare, no substance. Mr. Bay has out did himself this time. He took his one "good" movie, mixed with the sequel formula (bigger, badder, dumber and more badass) and absolutely drove it into the ground. Only on an extremely hot summer day, when you want to escape the heat and you have absolutely, ABSOLUTELY nothing to do would I recommend seeing this. Hats off to you Michael, a 44 year old man child who can't do shit but make loud, stupid, obnoxious movies and still make millions from it.

1 out of 5 stars

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Hangover

Directed by Todd Phillips

Written by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore

Starring Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, and Justin Bartha

The year's big comedy is finally here. The Hangover is crude, insane, and absolutely hilarious! The story is of four friends, one of which is getting married, spending the night in Las Vegas for a bachelor party. The morning after the groom is gone missing, and the other three men have no recollection of what happened the night before and set off on a quest to find their buddy before the wedding and understand what happened the night before.
The cast is spot on for their roles. Bradley Cooper plays Phil, the level headed, cool leader of the group. Ed Helms plays Stu, the worry wort dentist. For his first major role in a big film he was wonderful, it was good to see another side of Ed's talent instead of being a huge dork, like he does in The Office. But the best performance was from stand up comedian, Zach Galifianakis, who plays the bride's brother that is not-all-there in the head. Zach was meant for this role, anyone familiar with his work will know that Zach is just as insane as the character he plays on screen (check out his Live at the Purple Onion, or in The Comedians of Comedy, he is brilliant).
There are a couple things I have to gripe about. First is that there are some plot points that seem way too ridiculous and don't seem to fit in with the flow of the rest of the movie and are really out of place. Secondly, after all the events leading up the finale the ending was resolved way too easily and was a total cop out. You'll understand when you see it. And third, Ken Jeong's character is really annoying. He was funny the first scene you see him, probably because he didn't talk, but after that he just got worse and worse. But that's all I really have to say. I loved the rest.
The Hangover is the best comedy to come out yet this year. If your not into raunchy humor, or a lot (a lot) of cussing, then maybe it isn't for you. But for the rest of us, it should keep you laughing for a long, long time.

4 out of 5 stars

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Land of the Lost

Directed by Brad Silberling

Written by Chris Henchy and Dennis McNicholas

Starring Will Ferrell, Danny McBride, and Anna Friel

Land of the Lost is probably the most ridiculous movie to come out this summer. Viewers should know before to take all sense of logic out of their minds when watching this, as the movie itself doesn't take itself seriously at all. It pokes fun to all of the cheesy sci-fi/fantasy adventure movies from the 50's and 60's, you can tell from the cheap set design and laughable lizard costumes.
Will Ferrell plays a fumbling scientist who thinks he knows everything, but in fact seems to be wrong about 90 percent of the time. Its good to see that he isn't playing the same Ron Burgundy character that he has many times before, but there is still a Ferrell-ism to the movie which will be the deciding factor for audiences; whether they love or hate Will Ferrell. I don't mind him, and I think he is pretty funny, but his act gets old as the movie plays out. Danny McBride remains consistantly funny and is definatly the shining star of comedy for this movie.
About half way through the movie is starts to lose steam and there are many dry patches where you won't laugh at all. For only being just over an hour and a half long, the movie drags on too long and overstays its welcome. But for those looking for a ludicrous romp that has plently of laughs to share then it might be worth your time seeing.

3 out of 5 stars

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Directed by Pete Docter and Bob Peterson (Co- Director)

Written by Bob Peterson

Voice Talent by Edward Asner, Christopher Plummer, and Jordan Nagai

Pixar again proves that they are the best at what they do, and no one else even comes close. Their latest release, Up, is a shining beacon of light in a dark world where throw away computer animated features come out left and right, that shows the true potential the genre has in the right creative hands.
I don't want to give too much for the story because it is something you should experience for yourself, but it tells the tale of Carl Fredricksen(voiced by Edward Asner) an old man who once had grand childhood dreams of going on adventures, but now whose life has moved on too quickly for him to ever fulfill his passion. Until now! Along the way he is grouped with Russell the boyscout (Jordan Nagai) and a talking golden retriever named Dug (a little absurd, I know, but he's hilarious).
What audiences will be surprised to see is that this is the most mature Pixar (and any family film for that mature) to date. If your eyes are not slightly moist by the first twenty minutes then chances are you cannot conceive human emotion, and are soulless. Pixar handles these mature themes with such a delicate, and sensible matter that parents shouldn't worry about what their kids are watching. Fear not though! Because it is still a ton of fun and there is plenty of hysterical laugh-out-loud humor to it. Pixar is able to blend moments of action, comedy, and touching moments perfectly together.
Up is also by far the best computer animated film to date. It looks absolutely gorgeous! You won't help but be stuck in awe, mouth agape looking at the fluid character animations that bring them to life, and the level of detail in every frame. It's truly breathtaking.
ItalicThis is definitely a must see for everybody. Pixar goes above and beyond the rest of their competition. Dreamworks wishes they could pull something like this off, but one dimensional characters and pop culture references won't get them any where. Up is a completely original story with brilliant, clever humor, and amazing unforgettable characters. It's impossible to not feel "Up" afterwards (pun intended).

5 out of 5 stars

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Night At The Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

Directed by Shawn Levy

Written by Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon

Starring Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Owen Wilson, Robert Williams and Bill Hader

First and foremost, I hated Night at the Museum. For anyone who did like it and is looking forward for the sequel should stop reading now... Ok, my biggest gripe with this movie is that it is NOT FUNNY at all. I think I counted a total of three times that I actually had a small chuckle. The movie relies heavily on a formula that takes a gag (that isn't funny in the first place) making the character repeat the same lines over and over, and then dragging it on and on and on and on until you will want to shoot yourself in the face. And why does every comedy that comes out nowadays need the cast of The Office to appear as random cameos in it. They serve absolutely no purpose at all for why they are in it and are not funny. It's like they just magically appear as if to say "Hey! Remember me? I have a career too!". The only cameo that did get a couple laughs out of me was Jonah Hill playing the guard on duty, but even that bit falls apart fast and you have to watch another irritating two minutes of him and Stiller bicker.
Speaking of guards; the halls of the Smithsonian are running amok, windows and glass being shattered, yet there are no guards on duty what so ever in the entire museum. Plot holes like this are seen through the entire length of the film.
I really thought Ben Stiller redeemed himself with Tropic Thunder, and its sad to see him back as his old character he has played a million times before; the straight man who awkwardly mumbles through his lines.
But what can you expect from a family friendly kids movie, perhaps I'm being too harsh. I just don't fall under the correct target audience. I don't have kids, I'm not thirteen years old, and I absolutely hate the Jonas Brothers.

1 star out of 5

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Terminator Salvation

Directed by McG

Written by John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris

Starring Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, and Anton Yelchin

fans have long been waiting for this moment, to finally experience the future between man and machines. The whole series has been leading up to this. John Connor (Christian Bale) is the prodigal leader of the Revolution, the beacon of hope of humanity whose population has been cut by half and now living as scavengers in a post-nuclear holocaust world. It fulfills what it set out to do, but fans will leave theaters wishing there was more to it. Fear not, there are still two more sequels to be made.
Overall the acting is decent, but at parts a little rocky. Anton Yelchin, who plays the young Kyle Reese (John's father who knocked up Sarah Connor from the first one, but I won't get into the whole backstory. If you don't know then watch the first film) does an outstanding job portraying the character that Michael Biehn played in 1984. Props to whoever casted him.
The action sequences are everything a Terminator fan would want; big, intense, and explosions. The CGI helps to enhance these heart pounding moments.
But while watching the film I felt as though something was missing. Sure its continuing the story, its fun to watch, but it just didn't feel like a Terminator movie. What made the first two movies so thrilling was that they played off the fear of being chased after something that cannot be stopped, that won't stop until you are dead. In Salvation they are killing these robots left and right, there is nothing scary about them. And the (somewhat) absence of Arnold doesn't feel the same. Like it or not he's what made the movies so great, it wouldn't be Terminator without him. Sure, you make the argument that its a new story that takes the series in a differant direction, but its still not going to fill that empty whole inside of every Terminator fan.
But enough of my purist talk, Salvation is a good movie. It still doesn't topple T2: Judgement Day as the best in the series (and one of the best sequels of all time) but it is a awesome look into the future and revives the series (that seems to be happening a lot this summer).

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Angels and Demons

Directed by Ron Howard

Written by Dan Brown (novel)
David Koepp and Akiva Goldsmith

Starring Tom Hanks and Ewan McGregor

The 2006 film adaptation of The Da Vinci Code proved that just because a book sells millions of copies and becomes a best-seller doesn't mean that it will work as a movie. The same goes for the prequel Angels and Demons. Though the story is more fast paced and suspenceful than Da Vinci, you have to wait over half to movie for it to pick up.
The first forty minutes are painfully slow. Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) looks at symbols, statues, ancient scriptures, and delves in the Vatacin archives to find his next clue. Langdon cannot go one scene without describing in great detail the history of whatever facts he finds. I'm sure it's interesting and all, but there is so much information being pounded into the veiwers brain that sometimes it becomes overwhelming and hard to follow.
The performances are stiff and dry. Hanks seems bored most of the film, as he sluggishly half jogs to each objective. But to give him some credit, it must be hard to play a character whose excitement peaks when he enters a library. With such a good cast, including Ewan McGregor, its sad to see such talent go to waste.
But if you can stay awake long enough the movie does become intriguing. But this is not going to be a film that stands out from all the other competition coming out this summer.

3 out of 5 stars

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Rewind Volume 1: The Diving Bell and The Butterfly

With "Rewind" I'll review movies that have come out in past years that I missed out on.

Release: March 2007 (France) 2008 (U.S.)

Director by Julian Schnabel

Written By Jean Dominique Bauby (Memoir)
Ronald Harwood (Screenplay)

Starring Mathieu Amalric

Based of the memoir by Jean Dominique Bauby, The Diving Bell and The Butterfly tells the true life story of Jean, after awakening out of a three week coma from a stroke. He finds out he has locked-in syndrome, which paralyzes his entire body except for his one functioning eye, which he communicates with by blinking. For writing the memoir Jean had to blink for each letter of each word, adding up to almost 200,000 blinks to complete the book.
The first forty minutes of the film is shot in the first person perspective, with Jean either lying in the hospital bed or in a wheel chair. Jeans thoughts are voiced over and the actors are right in front of the camera. This is one of the most effective filmmaking seen. The audience is one with Jean, they see what he sees, they hear his thoughts. His disorientation, his frustration, his sadness, and his anger are felt by the veiwer. What makes it so beleiveable and powerful is the supurb acting. They are right in your face and the only thing you see. Without their spot on performances the movie itself would fail.
Jean does come to termss with his new life, and he becomes grateful for the things he does have control over; his eye, his imagination, and his memories. As the movie progresses there are flashbacks to his past life when he was a journalist. There are also scenes from his imagination, like going on a romantic date with one of his care takers, stuffing himself fat with all sorts of delicious food that he will never again be able to eat. Hence the name of the title, the diving bell, his own body that he is forever trapped in, and the butterfly, which is his conscience mind and imagination, free to go whereever he wants.
The film is simple and beautiful. Despairing and yet uplifting. It is an emotional tour de force that shows the triumph of a man limited to his hospital bed. For anyone who hasn't yet, check it out.

4 1/2 out of 5 Stars

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Star Trek

Directed by J.J. Abrams

Written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman

Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, and Eric Bana

Its a daring move to try and reinvent a cultural phenomenon like Star Trek, but Director and Producer J.J. Abrams pulls it off flawlessly. Star Trek has been rebooted for a new generation, making it more accessible for the general audience, and yet still holding true for the old school. A fresh young cast play the iconic characters, they make them their own, while at the same time remaining faithful to the original characters. One that stands out in particular is Simon Pegg as young Scottie. The plot is so-so, but its mainly meant for restarting the story of the series (literally) into something completely different and new for future inevitable installments. The CGI effects are amazing, but whats nice is that it doesn't take over the movie like so many other summer blockbusters do. Star Trek is a must see, even if your a new comer to the series. It still holds true to the mission statement of the original show; to entice the audiences' imagination, and the excitement of new discoveries.

4 1/2 out of 5 Stars

X-men Origins: Wolverine

Directed by Gavin Hood

Written by David Benioff and Skip Woods

Starring Hugh Jackman

Though not as bad as The Last Stand, it still lacks the charm and smarts from the first two in the series. A lot of unnecessary, ridiculously over- the - top action sequences, plot holes, and incredibly bad CGI. The characters are all one demensional and seem to have no other purpose than to fight eachother. But if your looking for a movie that doesn't require a lot of thought and moves along at an ADD pace, then Wolverine is right up your alley. To sum it up, the Crank of superhero movies.

1 1/2 out of 5 stars