Posted on 5/28/12 10:17 PM
It's funny and ridiculous as it should be. But it doesn't really go beyond being a longer TV episode.
Posted on 1/24/11 11:02 AM
This film will expose you to the actual tradition of Santa Clause. Not the smiling Santa that has been adopted in western culture via early Coca Cola advertising campaigns, but rather the Santa of pagan lore, who throws little kids into his sack presumably for some kind of cruel torturous beatings. The REAL Santa apparently values punishment over reward as a motivation for good behavior.
The film introduces us to this Scandinavian folklore by way of a greedy modern American corporation digging up some immortal Santa Clause creature from his enormous tomb. Local herders get involved as Santa's newly freed minions begin to slaughter their reindeer, steel their belongings and kidnap their children. Oddly enough, the latter act seems to be the least noticeable one, to these simple people. The final child to remain unabducted, also happens to be a dreamer who actually figures out what's going on weeks before any adult does. This little boy bravely fights the army of "Santa's Helpers" (several hundred naked cannibalistic immortal men), as he tries to save the bag-loads of local children from that "Satan" Clause monster.
The fun of this film is found in its ridiculous "alien invasion" structure (although substituting the supernatural Santa Clause instead of aliens) and in its social commentary. What does the mega-corporation want with this Santa creature? As usual with mega-corporations, I'm sure it isn't anything positive for society. The ending was a bit rushed, as a higher Hollywood budget could have helped fill out the action/effects scenes better, in this particular case. The acting is all over the top, sort of a pseudo-horror movie style. The directing is standard, with nice shots of the beautiful northern Finland scenery, but some cliche action motifs. Lets also throw in a warning that this may be a bit too bloody for people expecting to see something like "Elf".
Overall I'd recommend this for the ultimate change of pace Christmas movie since Die Hard!
Posted on 1/10/11 09:28 AM
Dull movie with several amazing moments. In better hands, this might have become a rebirth of the franchise (see Star Trek for example), but instead they hired McG. The action scenes work, but the characters are extremely dull.
Posted on 12/06/10 11:57 AM
In a world where celebrity is always a few clicks away, be it Justin Bieber's fame or Lindsy Lohan's infamy, we usually ignore the fact that these famous faces on our televisions are actually real humans. They may be geniuses, they may be heroes, they may be ordinary, they may even be villains, but they still have the weakness of being people with actual emotions and stress and baggage just like the rest of us have. This is what the Black Swan presents to us, a very flawed woman who is just about to join the highest ranks of celebrity in her own field, and the resulting impact that this event has on her life.
Aronofsky methodically tells the story from gifted ballerina Nina's own point of view. We not only see her dedication and self doubt, but also her ever increasing paranoia and panic. The stress induced delusions in Nina's mind are occasions for Aronofsky to show off his favorite surrealism techniques, and these scenes stand among the likes of Hitchcock and Cronenberg in their intensity and horror. Not to be forgotten, Aronofsky's ballet sequences are also equally impressive, especially when surrealism leaks into those scenes as well.
Of course the most impressive element of the film is the acting. Natalie Portman not only has to portray a seriously disturbed genius, emotionally, but must also succeed in controlling her body language and dancing convincingly as a ballet phenom. On all counts she is flawless. Mila Kunis is convincing as the mysterious villainess? Barbara Hershey and Winona Ryder are both disturbing as the mother and the "forced-retiring" star dancer, respectively. The ALWAYS awesome Vincent Cassel is perfect as the ballet director.
If anyone has a problem with this film it will be because of the over-the-top visuals, performances and suspense. None of this should be viewed as a flaw, because it is consistent with the story being seen through Mina's skewed perspective, much like the Shutter Island mystery was distorted by being told from Teddy Daniels' perspective. Unlike Shutter Island this film isn't a red herring filled mystery, but rather a raw thriller that is unbearably tense, exceedingly sexy and borderline gruesome.
See it if you dare!
Posted on 12/02/10 03:07 PM
On many occasions I have suggested that comedy is impossible to review objectively. Some people may find this film to be completely brilliant and hilarious, while others would call it racist and inappropriate. Such is the nature of a comedy like this, that tiptoes on the edge of bad taste and controversy.
The plot is the tried and true comedy formula of gathering several oddball characters together for a "mission". In this case the mission is a suicide bombing somewhere in England, and the oddballs are a bunch of Muslim terrorists. Chaching: instant controversy! Most of the humor leans toward the absurd, such as the way the peace-loving Muslim is harassed by the police, while the radical Muslim is accepted in English society because he is a rude lout much like the locals.
I love to see the type of humor that puts in perspective the absurd nature of society or human nature, although again, that is just my taste. Unfortunately this particular film goes a step further. The slapstick evolves to the point where suicide bombers are actually blowing up themselves along with innocent bystanders. That type of humor is just a bit too close to the "I dare you to joke about this sacred thing" crap that inevitably exploits the worst tragedies whenever they happen. I respect the fact that this movie goes all the way to the furthest extreme - kinda like those "I [plane] NY" T-shirts - but some particular jokes are really just all shock and no funny. Did I laugh back in the day, when my buddy made a joke about 5 minutes into the coverage of the Lady Di car crash in that Paris tunnel? Sure, but that was a tension breaker. To see that kind of gallows humor actually scripted into a film is quite a different experience. To me, it better be much more clever and insightful than what Four Lions offers up.
So how to recommend this? After all is said and done, the limited amount of distasteful humor can be overlooked in favor of much greater amounts of harmless slapstick and some genuinely funny social commentary. If you can laugh at Jack's death in Titanic, or if you crack jokes about the latest school shooter's fashion sense, then this is definitely up your ally. However, if you are offended by "Yo Mama Jokes" and/or someone in your family has recently died in a Muslim extremist suicide bombing, well let's just steer you clear of this one for now! Too soon.
Posted on 10/14/10 02:19 PM
This sequel to Shogun Assassin is another mishmash of Japanese "Lone Wolf and Cub" episodes, edited down for maximum action, and dubbed into English. Of course, the original movie is much better because it explains the whole origin story of these characters, while this sequel just continues where the first one left off. If you don't understand why this master samurai is wandering the countryside with a baby carriage and killing hordes of people, then it's probably a good idea to check out the first movie, because they really don't go into that in this one.
Posted on 9/20/10 09:30 AM
Hollywood legend Robert Redford's latest project is a historical epic about the assassination of Honest Abe Lincoln. More specifically, the film focuses on the trauma that this event inflicted on America, and the inevitable revenge hysteria and disregard of constitutional rights that followed.
If this sounds familiar, it comes as no surprise that the world premiere for this film was on 9/11. Redford is obviously using historical events to make a statement on modern society. But if you follow current events, you realize that history repeats itself over and over, so using a historical allegory is quite a valid technique for a filmmaker with a message. Yet this story is so well researched that it has enough life of its own, that the political meanings are not as clumsy and shallow as Redford's previous film, Like Lions for Lambs.
The plot quickly dives into Lincoln's assassination as we see it from the perspective of several of the main characters. Once the violence winds down and the more famous players like Lincoln and Booth have been killed, we settle into the meat of this film. The mother (Robin Wright) of one of the infamous group of assassins is put on trial for murder. Her lawyer is none other than a Civil War hero soldier (James McAvoy) who worshiped Lincoln, but defends the woman simply out of his sense of duty to uphold the right to a fair trail. Throughout this trial he discovers that men like Donald Rumsfeld... er I mean Edwin Stanton (Kevin Kline) have used America's emotional outrage to grab outrageous amounts of power in what was then a young democracy. The trial and judgment make up the rest of the plot.
The standout performances are from McAvoy as the conflicted lawyer, Kline as the villainous politician and Wright as the title character, the "Conspirator" mother. Justin Long and James Badge Dale are effective as the various voices of the American people in several scenes where they advise and argue with McAvoy's young lawyer. In fact there isn't any weak acting at all from this all star cast.
In summary I would recommend this film as a detailed historical drama for fans of Americana, especially from the Civil War era. This is certainly not a fast paced film, but it has enough emotion and political relevance to be interesting throughout its 2+ hours running time.
Posted on 9/17/10 10:56 AM
This may be the best $15,000 movie ever made, but the price of a ticket to see this is still the same as all the rest, so there are no bonus marks for the amazingly low budget. The title promises monsters and monsters you shall get, but ultimately this is a movie about a road trip romance.
The film takes place in an alternate reality where people use pay phones instead of mobiles, air travel seems non-existent, and oh yeah... alien life forms have started to spawn monsters in northern Mexico. This area of Mexico has wisely been quarantined from human society, and the film takes place 6 years after the monsters' initial arrival. Frequently the monsters still seem to escape into populated areas, but these are disposed of effectively by the military.
Our heroes are a young male reporter who wants to photograph monster atrocities and the young woman who he is forced to escort back to America, by his employer. Because of a string of misfortunes, the couple ends up taking a route directly through the quarantined area to go home. Obviously this is where the romance blooms and the majority of the giant monsters are encountered.
The film was shot in a guerrilla style - no not by monkeys with cameras - but rather something like a Borat or Bruno film. The cast and crew (all four of them) would jump out of their van, film the scenes on location, and take off again before too many questions are asked. The other "actors" throughout the film are all local people who were simply encountered along the way and given a few lines to say. The process worked well, as everyone is more or less playing themselves, and the performances are quite natural.
The special effects are surprisingly frequent considering the budget, and they actually look as good as most Hollywood blockbusters. The monsters themselves are huge land squid creatures that appear to be reasonably intelligent. Of course the camera work is 100% hand held, given the rapid filming schedule, so there is a bit of that dizzying Cloverfield feel to the film.
Overall, Monsters surpasses most of the typical high budget sci fi trash, with it's exotic locations and clever premise, but it is still just a notch below the more consistently exciting District 9. Check it out if you are a fan of this type of movie.
Posted on 9/14/10 08:30 AM
There are times you see a film to be mindlessly entertained and there are times you see a film to be transported to another world. This film about the oldest artwork ever discovered is certainly in the "another world" category. Not only do we, the audience get to see a detailed examination of the ancient paintings in Chauvet cave, but we are practically transported inside the cave ourselves, as this was filmed in stunning 3D!
As any fan of Werner Herzog is aware, he is the only filmmaker who would make a feature documentary about the world's oldest work of art, by ironically using the world's most advanced form of art! The 3D format is essential to experiencing the caves because there are no flat surfaces to be found anywhere in those caverns. Studying a typical 2D picture of these cave paintings, as seen in chapter 1 of every art history textbook, is like looking at a LOL-cat picture without the misspelled caption: you just don't get the full effect!
Herzog uses his typical approach to question various scientists and cave painting scholars about the meanings, historical significance and technical details of the paintings. The information is sometimes informative and sometimes speculative, but usually fascinating. Herzog goes off on many tangents including the hunting techniques of cave people, the preservation efforts at the site, and even a visit with the mutant radioactive albino crocodile population that lives nearby (no I'm not kidding).
So is there a point to seeing this film, you ask? Absolutely! There has been only a handful of humans who have ever been allowed into the strictly guarded cave to set eyes on these drawings. If you have a passing interest in art, ancient history, anthropology or archeology, then this is your "Avatar Special Edition"! Even if you just enjoy exploring and traveling like I do, Herzog really succeeds in taking us to a place we would never be able to go in person, because of the spectacular 3D technology. Of course the film is also worth a viewing just to hear Herzog say the word "doppelganger"!
Posted on 9/10/10 11:20 PM
Biutiful can be described as a dark and gloomy meditation on dying (is there such a thing as a happy meditation on dying?). The film succeeds in being an exhaustive examination of many aspects of death, such as our relationship with our own mortality, or the tragedies we cause by our actions, or the effect a death can have on surviving loved ones.
Inarritu abandons his signature "Babel" style for the first time, and creates a more linear narrative with this character study, but still challenges the viewer with symbolic images and surprising plot developments. The city of Barcelona is depicted in a less than flattering way, think of the NY from Taxi Driver. In all this grittiness, the director effectively expresses the dark themes and atmosphere mentioned earlier.
The film's success hangs on the performance of Javier Bardem, and thankfully, he delivers. The events that Bardem's character must deal with range from dramatic to traumatic to supernatural! But good old Chigurh shows us that his No Country Oscar was no fluke.
Since it's 2:00AM and I have more TIFF tomorrow, I will wrap this up! If you are in the melancholy mood to play mental chess with the grim reaper, check out this terrific film. If you are looking for some kick ass action, go watch Machete instead.