Archive for June, 2008

Wanted (8/10)

Posted in Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , on June 28, 2008 by Brandon

Visually gorgeous, heavily soaked in style, and all run by an unapologetic “f**k you” attitude, Wanted is pure summer popcorn entertainment at its apex, a sheer bloody spectacle of explosive action, dead-on performances, and a story that’s actually kind of interesting. It’s acted with entertaining vigor and showcases more slow-mo bullet scenes than you can fire a gun at, not to mention a tight and engaging script.

The horny British dude from last year’s “Atonement,” James McAvoy, plays Wesley Gibson, an American office drone in a dead-end, soul-crushing job. McAvoy’s deadpan, tongue-in-cheek narration over the first thirty or so minutes of the movie is hilarious and perfectly tuned to set up the sharp parody of office work life in the US. Think Jim and Pam, only with a few bullets, blood, and a keyboard smashing into somebody’s face for some kick, and you’ve got the idea.

Cue Angelina Jolie, in full-on, tattooed brunette bombshell mode, letting Wesley know that his long-lost father was recently killed and that he’s part of a long line of The Fraternity of Assassins who have sworn to “kill one, save a thousand.” Before Wesley knows it he’s a full-fledged member of the team and is already out and about doing the will of the fraternity to gloriously splashy bloody effects.

Wanted’s biggest strength is its flashy attitude and gorgeous style. Though there may be a few too many slow motion bullets and splatters of blood for some, it’s all conducive to the pic’s sincere desire to kick some serious ass, and it succeeds in spades. Most of the action defies anything you’ve seen before, taking previous conventions of action cinema and overturning them on a whim, widening your eyes, dropping your jaw, and making you squeal in delight.

The storyline, at its core, is a little ridiculous, but it’s aided by how well it’s pulled off. A perfect balance is struck between life-threatening severity and generous winking at the camera. The script is tight and the pacing perfect, and at a mere hour and fifty minutes, not once does it feel like it’s overstaying its welcome. The cast all turn in excellent performances, too.

Angelina Jolie is hot and sexy as always, but she makes sure to give her character a solid extra shot of adrenaline, steaming up the camera every time she’s onscreen. Morgan Freeman finally gives us an interesting performance where he’s not the narrator or some kindly old father figure – as the leader of the Fraternity he’s a serious bad-ass, and some of the deadly looks he gives the camera are downright chilling. Perhaps most surprising, though, is James McAvoy, who tosses away his proper British boy persona like a beat-up old coat and has an insane amount of fun with the character of Wesley Gibson, managing to balance his nice guy side with his killer one and turning in a performance that is blazingly funny and entertainingly intense.

There hasn’t been such a gloriously bloody and action-filled movie that is little more than a bucket of blended style in a long time. “Wanted” is liquid quicksilver entertainment, an homage to the seemingly dead art of pure action. These days, whenever some kind of “pure action!” pic comes along, it’s bogged down by a pretentious story (er-hem, Hitman) or action that doesn’t deliver the promised goods (*cough*Shoot ‘Em Up*cough*). Wanted has neither, and unlike other intense action films, it doesn’t sacrifice taste, suspense build-up, strong characterization, or a solid story, and instead ups the ante in so many ways that it’s likely it will be compared to in the future and held up as an example of what quality action truly looks like. There’s nothing else like it, and simply put, it’s a hell of a good time.

Disaster Movie

Posted in Movie Buzz with tags , on June 28, 2008 by Brandon

So I recently saw Meet the Spartans, possibly the worst movie that has ever been made, and no that is not an exaggeration. Then to my horror I find they have another one planned FOR THIS VERY YEAR! And they’re spoofing War of the Worlds WHICH Scary Movie 4 already spoofed. Wow, it’ll be interesting to see if they top themselves. But seriously? Two movies in the same year? Yeesh.

Something Marvel-ous is happening…

Posted in Movie Buzz with tags , , , , on June 21, 2008 by Brandon

Warning: If you have not seen the part after the credits of Iron Man and not seen the hidden cameo in Incredible Hulk, then there might be some spoilers in the following entry.

So I mentioned it briefly in my review of the Incredible Hulk, but one thing that has me very excited with the superheroes movies lately is that we will finally see a unified cinematic superhero world.

At the end of Iron Man, after the credits, Nick Fury, a member of the Avengers, laughs at Tony Stark and says, “So, you think you’re the only one?” Then he approaches Stark and says, “I’d like to talk to you about the Avenger initiative.” When I first saw that I got goose bumps all over, and then when I saw Stark’s cameo in the Incredible Hulk I was even more thrilled. Until now I have really not found a review online that adequately expressed my joy over it, but I just found one, from Harry over at Ain’t It Cool News.

It’s so full of unabashed joy, the exact kind of joy that I feel after being a comic book fan for so many years and finally seeing my joys come to fruition. When I write books I plan on changing around the characters within the worlds, if it suits the story, because unless you really do have two completely incompatible worlds, there’s no reason not to.

Anyways, just thought I’d share that. Oh, and I recently saw the worst movie of all time. Meet the Spartans. No, I’m not kidding. It really is the worst movie I’ve ever seen – like its creators made it their mission in life to throttle humor until it couldn’t breathe or even move, and they succeeded. I just watched the whole thing, my mouth hanging open, appalled that two humans could possible be so unacquainted with what’s actually funny and make such terrible trash. You think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not.

New Sonic Unleashed footage!

Posted in Trailers with tags , , , , on June 18, 2008 by Brandon

There it is, folks, the gorgeous new trailer for Sonic’s holiday 2008 comeback. It looks even greater than the last one that came out, and has virtually erased all of my doubts about it. The music is great – definitely new Sonic but with plenty of touches and homages to old school Sonic fans like myself. The environments look fantastic, detailed, and perfectly textured even though the camera is blazing by at supersonic speeds. I am worried about the controls – I wonder what happens if you don’t press the designated buttons on time to avoid obstacles, as the trailer showed.

Ah well, I will not let that dampen my excitement. This will be the event of 2008 for me, this, and Benjamin Button.

And for those interested, here’s a better quality trailer from IGN.

Silly atheists, tricks are for kids!

Posted in Rant, Trailers with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 18, 2008 by Brandon

Here’s the trailer for Bill Maher’s new movie, Religulous.

We’ll see how insightful this documentary truly is – though I can already hear the liberal stance of the media praising it for being tremendously insightful and every atheist and their mother flocking to the sanctuaries where they will give their sacrifices of praise to its smelly feet. They’re so predictable, it’s not even funny. Oh wait, yes it is.

Whenever I read an atheist website like Richard Dawkins.net or something like that, I literally laugh out loud. I’m surprised that the internet is big enough to support the weight of their combined ego. Every single centimeter of atheist sites, atheist videos on youtube, and atheist books positively teem and bubble with self-important, self-assured, bull shit. They honestly think they own the world right now, and all of their talk of religion doing so much harm to society is nothing more than ignorance making its way out of their bodies as they speak through their rear ends.

I’m not against this movie “Religulous” because it looks like it’ll be attacking religion. I’m against it because it looks like it will do it in a characteristically inept manner and be unequivocally praised by atheists, regardless of its faults. For some reason they think they can do no wrong. And the Richard Dawkins “review” of Expelled was just awful – a list of its sins and not one iota of something good about the movie – it even goes out of its way to point out faults that have little to no bearing on the movie as a whole. That’s not a review, that’s a bonafide atheist BS-machine at work.

Am I the only one who finds atheist books and “reviews” hilarious? I consider myself an open-minded Christian – free to answer and retaliate against arguments that say there is no God. And when Religulous comes out I will most definitely go see it so that I can see for myself whether Bill Maher’s movie goes the predictable writes and makes time immemorial attacks on religion or offers some insightful critiiquing of the harms that its proponents have done to society.

And isn’t it interesting how every prominent atheist takes every other prominent atheist’s word as gospel truth? When some prominent agnostic or atheist disagree with the norm, they go out of their way to slander and brand that person as a dissenter and nothing more than a closet theist. Either that, or they pretend this person doesn’t exist. Did anyone see anything about “The Devil’s Delusion” on RichardDawkins.net? Nope, didn’t think so. What are atheists so afraid of? Why must they mask their arguments behind foaming-at-the-mouth techniques? You’d have a hard time finding that kind of anger behind prominent theists who defend themselves. Timothy Keller’s book, The Reason for God, starts out with a strong, and vehement imploring of both theists and atheists to calm down and address each other with respect and honesty and not mud-slinging. Richard Dawkins goes out of his way to say no true morality can be found in religion, but when I look at his approach and then Keller’s, I’m inclined to say Keller is a lot more “moral” than Dawkins.

And Richard Dawkins has a fundamental misunderstanding of religion and what it would take to eradicate it.

He claims the only reason he’s so violently anti-religion is because of how much harm he believes it’s done, but how much of an idiot is he if he thinks this kind of technique is ever going to get rid of religion? If, indeed, religious people are so anti-reason as he claims, then wouldn’t calming, soothing, and diplomatic techniques work far better? His techniques are NOT CONVINCING A DAMN SOUL. They’re just antagonizing and needlessly separating people into camps of “reason” and “anti-reason.” And it’s not working. Religion is growing by leaps and bounds all across the world, and it is not in any way diminishing.

Even though his book, The God Delusion, is often quoted by atheists as having changed the world, in reality nothing more has happened except that atheists now have an atheist book that they can claim has changed the world. People who were already solid, staunch atheists are the only ones who think its arguments are convincing – anyone who was a Christian before is most definitely a Christian now. How they can still claim that their book has had any significant impact on the religious belief of the populace in general?

Oh well. I’m still fairly curious about this movie, hoping it will offer some intriguing insight, but knowing Bill Maher, it’s just going to be a pointless, self-important rant.

The Incredible Hulk (8/10)

Posted in Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 14, 2008 by Brandon

A big green monster stomping around smashing into things means absolutely nothing if the viewer can’t identify with what lies beneath the surface of that monster, and in the new, bigger, better, badder Incredible Hulk, Edward Norton gives us the perfect performance with which to identify before he goes into rage mode. It’s the strongest thing about an already strong movie, one that successfully continues this superhero summer after the homerun of Iron Man.

I was one of the few people who really appreciated what Ang Lee tried to do with the original Hulk back in 2003. He wanted to give us a superhero movie that was as much about the human drama as it was about the superpowers. Unfortunately for him, it got caught up in some rather bloated acting scenes, and way too little smashing. Let’s face it – when you go to see a movie entitled, “Hulk,” you want to see one or two things being tossed around, and possibly even the Hulk breaking a police car in two and using them as boxing gloves, but no, we didn’t get that.

Louis Leterrier, the director, whose previous credits include the Transporter films and Jet Li’s fumble, “Unleashed,” didn’t exactly have me all fired up with excitement. I was looking forward to it with a tinge of apprehension, and thankfully, Leterrier more than outdid himself, easily surpassing anything else he’s ever done and placing himself squarely alongside Iron Man’s helm-meister Jon Favreau as a superior superhero director. The Incredible Hulk is more gritty and rough around the edges, as opposed to Iron Man’s sleekly polished shine, but that suits its central character perfectly, and the result is a smash-fest that will leave viewers excited for more.

Any relation to the previous movie is done away with, as we learn, through a series of flashing images, that an experiment went horribly wrong and forced Dr. Bruce Banner to flee the US army and take refuge in South America, where he’s been hiding for the past five years, perfecting calming techniques so as to never let the Hulk take over again. The plot details are kind of hazy within the first half hour – Leterrier doesn’t take us the traditional route of superpower origin story, and refuses to lead his audience along like a poor puppy dog on a leash – this is a fast and brutal story and within fifteen or twenty minutes we’re treated to our first Hulk sighting as the army discovers Banner’s location and sends in a team after him.

Because so little time is spent before we see the big smashing green thing, we need a solid central character around whom the conflict can be centered, and, with marvelous conservation of energy and a minimum of scenes, Leterrier gives us that in the form of Edward Norton, whose earnest belief that he must never again let this green monster overtake his body succeeds in pulling the audience with him through these episodes of anger. When we see him transform into the Hulk, our heart breaks along with his, because we know how hard he has worked to never let the Hulk overtake him again. There’s finally an energy and heart inside this big lug, and the superb CGI overtakes Ang Lee’s version by leaps and bounds (pun intended). Leterrier makes the Hulk a much more realistic character (as realistic as any ten foot tall green muscular beast can be), who bleeds, gets cut, and has rippling biceps that would make Ah-nold salivate with envy. He is one bad-ass mother, but he’s centralized around Dr. Bruce Banner’s trials and tribulations, and it works.

Obviously, because one of the main complaints of the first film was not enough action, Leterrier makes sure to gives us plenty of what we crave, and some of the action scenes in this movie rank among the best in Marvel movie history. Leterrier manages to take what could essentially be a giant green galoot randomly smashing things and transforms it into a two ton ballet of fists and metal crashing into each other to ridiculous results. Moreso than the miminalistic and futurustic Iron Man, the Hulk is a true summer movie, complete with liberal explosions, monsters crashing into each other to spectacular, literally earth-shattering results, and a strong central story thread running throughout.

The film is not without its weaknesses. The central love story between Dr. Banner and the general’s daughter, Betty Ross (Liv Tyler), is seriously malnourished, and though Norton and Tyler share nearly electrifying chemistry in a scene or two, it’s not enough to save what often comes off as contrived cheese. At one point the Hulk actually says the name, “Betty” out loud, and I had to struggle not to laugh. William Hurt as the general who is pursuing the Hulk, as well as Betty Ross’s father, is competent and admirable, and he brings some much needed heart to the side story of the struggle between Betty and her dad. Tim Roth as the increasingly depraved villain (an army commander who becomes jealous of the Hulk’s powers and tries to find ways to achieve superhuman strength), unfortunately never comes off as anything more than a caricature, but damn, what a caricature! He’s deliciously creepy and his developing insanity throughout the film is pulled off masterfully, but the script he’s handed is just not much to work with. This movie is clearly about Bruce Banner, and it doesn’t waste much time developing the humanity of others.

In the future, the first decade of the 21st century might come to be known as the comic book movie decade, and rightfully so. This is a great time to be alive if you’re a comic book fan, and this new Hulk continues the successful trend of superhero movies. That, and Marvel is clearly dropping hints into their movies about a potential mash-up movie in the future, and if, like me, one of the things you miss in comic book movies is how, in the original comics, Spider-Man talked to Daredevil while chilling with Johnny Storm, then it’s even more thrilling. This is a comic book movie for comic book fans, and chances are if you liked previous Marvel movies, you’ll love this one. It has its frayed edges and gritty exterior, but that’s part of its appeal, and as long as a few hundreds tons of concrete, glass, and metal get destroyed as a result of this big green dude’s antics, who really cares?

The Happening (4/10)

Posted in Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on June 13, 2008 by Brandon

That’s it, Mr. Shyamalan. We are done. Though you used to be my friend, consider yourself removed from my top eight and blocked on facebook, because I have tried my best to support you consistently and you have consistently not been there for me, have always cluttered up our friendship with your self-indulgent and self-aware episodes where you can’t seem to decide whether you’ll be the next Hitchock, Spielberg, or whatever. I have stuck with you because I believe you’ve shown promise.

Where most people saw, in Unbreakable, a movie that fell far short of the original Sixth Sense, I saw a daring departure from expectations and a willingness to explore new territory. Where most people saw, in The Village, a ponderous and overlong snoozefest, I saw a hearkening back to the glory days of simplistic horror, minimal musical manipulation, minimal gore, and maximum tension. And where most people saw a smug director parading around an idiotic fairy tale in Lady in the Water, I saw some grand flights of imagination and a rather impressively cohesive and engaging story, despite the fact that you put yourself in as the “savior” in your own movie.

And now the day has come (perhaps it was inevitable) where I have to tell you, with my heart almost breaking, of how much you’ve failed me with “The Happening.”

This intro may be a bit melodramatic, but it’s the best way I could find to express my disappointment with Shyamalan’s newest effort, especially because the movie itself is about ten times more melodramatic. I wanted to like The Happening, I really did. I went in, my hopes high, for it looked like Shyamalan was making a return to form after the stylistic departure of Lady in the Water, but the movie just didn’t cut it. And I hate to use the line that every other critic and their mother is gonna use, but here goes: “It’s a funny title for a movie in which nothing really happens.”

The movie opens with a deliciously creepy scene in Central Park in which two women sit on a bench. One of them says to the other, “Oh my God, is that woman screaming? It looks like she’s clawing at her face. Is that blood?” It’s the single scariest moment in the movie, precisely because everything about it, from the camera angles (the woman clawing her face is never shown), to the acting, to the music, to the setting, is chilling you to the bone. And then Shyamalan makes the first mistake of many, and shows the woman’s friend taking a hairpin out of her head and stabbing herself in the neck with it. Too much gore has felled great directors before, and Shyamalan uses way way way way way too much, and he’s damn clumsy at it too.

We soon find out that some kind of event is “happening” (ooooh), and people everywhere are killing themselves for no apparent reason. We meet our protagonist, Elliot Moore, played competently by Mark Wahlberg, and soon we’re off with him on a train that is attempting to escape the “happening” with his wife, Alma Moore (Zooey Deschanel, weirdly radiant as always), and his co-worker, Julian (John Leguizamo in an overtly eccentric, but still lovable role), and his daughter, Jess.

The movie is basically some kind of random “chase” film, with the main characters dashing from place to place as technology and other people increasingly fail them, running away from God-knows-what. For the first twenty or thirty minutes of the film, Shyamalan does a good job of building up tension and effectively using the R-rating (this is his first film that’s been rated R) to maximum scare-effect. After that though, he crash-lands with a deafening blast and careens into sub-horror melodrama.

It begins with a completely pointless scene in which we see a man walk towards a lion in a zoo and extend his arm to the beast. The camera cuts away, we hear a crunch ,and when we cut back one of the man’s arms is missing. Which is all fine and good, but then Shyamalan actually shows a lion rip an arm away, and it falls off like it was attached to a mannequin. It’s not scary, or even particularly gross – it’s just dumbed-down, cheapened “horror,” the kind of thing you would expect from the Saw or Hostel movies but not someone of Shyamalan’s caliber.

It only gets worse from there, as both the gore and melodrama pointlessly increase, building up to a scene that feels like it belongs in another movie, nothing more than Shyamalan flexing his scare-tactic muscles (which, thankfully, are still in good shape) and winking at us, saying, “Hey, see what I can do? I can still make ya jump! Isn’t that cool?”

No. Granted, a good scare is probably the reason most would go to a Shyamalan film, and though this movie does have liberal doses of those, and they’re often used to great effect when the dull blood and gore remains un-involved, the overall story is neither compelling nor interesting enough to drive us. After about half an hour of running, it gets boring, especially because Shyamalan never gives us any tantalizing hints to what’s happening, merely heavy-handed exposition and scenes of gore here, a loud cymbal bang there, and a slow motion unintentionally laugh-out-loud worthy death scene over there. Most people will probably just be laughing at what’s “happening” ,and when the final message is delivered with the tone of a professor lecturing students, I was shaking my head in sadness. Really? THIS is what Shyamalan was building up to? I won’t give it away, but it’s a candidate for some of the worst final five minutes of a movie I’ve ever seen.

Shyamalan, how far you have fallen. When you decide to make a good movie again, one that doesn’t scream so desperately of, “LOOK AT ME! I’M THE NEXT HITCHCOCK!”, then you can give me a call. Until then, I’ll stick with the real Hitchock and not some self-absorbed wannabe.