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>> Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Life imitating art imitating death. Beautiful.

A couple of years ago director Darren Aronofsky brought us The Wrestler, a wonderful film about a man who lives (and dies) for his performances. A couple years before that he brought us The Fountain which was about ... well, I don't really know. Now he brings us the inspiring, the delusional, the dark, the horrific and mostly, the fantastic Black Swan.

Nina (Natalie Portman) is labelled as the rising star for a prestigious New York ballet. Nina, perhaps under the influence of her mother (Barbara Hershey), strives to be the perfect ballerina. She practices so hard it often becomes debilitating, and as her boss Thomas (Vincent Cassel) says, "It's not about perfection, it's about passion".

But this isn't the way Nina works, and when she lands the role of the Swan Queen in Swan Lake, all bets and all inhibitions are off. Much like the attitude of her predecessor (Winona Ryder), Nina now feels she is constantly in a battle with someone who wants to take her place - a new girl named Lily (Mila Kunis). Although Lily seems to only want to be Nina's friend, she seems mischievous and like she's hiding something. To say this creates a paranoia for Nina is an understatement - as is the constant pressure of trying to be the perfect lead, right down to last detail.

Black Swan is a haunting film about the obsession of ‘making it’ - a theme carried over from The Wrestler. Nina has a true passion for the arts, to the point where you see she eats, breathes and sleeps ballet. You can feel her obsession, always on the verge of complete despair and teetering on the fragile breaking point of success - every move is calculated far in advance to it's action. Yet when she secures the role she's always wanted, there is no real happiness - no sense of relief for the one who strives to have it all, and finally achieves it. This unrest is what makes Black Swan so intriguing.

The look and design and direction of the film is also something to really pay attention to, as it presents itself to the viewer as another character. Black Swan is a movie that gets into the mind of it's characters, and allows you to see what they see - feel what they feel. This is by far Aronofsky's best work to date and I am certainly interested to see how he pulls off next year's The Wolverine, seeing as it's not his usual forté.

I am giving Black Swan an open door. The film is just as patient, quiet and delicate as it is exciting, loud and harsh. Normally I would say you have to be in the mood to watch an Aronofsky film. They're the type of film that if you watch just the right moment it may blow you away - other times, you can't wait for it to be over. With Black Swan, it takes you in and grips you until it's final moments - all without you really knowing why. Watch for Portman and Kunis come Oscar time, they both did excellent with this one.

*Stills courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures



>> Saturday, December 25, 2010

Go fock yourself... seriously.

Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller star as grumpy father-in-law and the subject of his ridicule (respectively) in the third installment of this fockin' silly series, Little Fockers. This time around Jack is having heart problems, Greg is getting boners over Jessica Alba (due to a new Viagra-like drug they're promoting together), and the Focker kids are having a birthday party (enough to name a movie after, apparently). Now, when it came to Meet the Parents (2000), I didn't mind the flick. It was funny enough and one could make light of poor Gaylord Focker's name, as well as the series of unfortunate incidents he got himself into.

Little Fockers, however, is something else entirely. Not only does it not center itself around the Focker children enough to make that the title, but simply and purely, it's not funny. It's insulting to anybody that's made a good comedy movie (or enjoys them), and when one of your scenes relies on a five minute back-and-forth using the term GodFocker continually like it's actually funny, you know your in trouble. We get it, Focker sounds like a swear word. You want to make the movie funnier? Rename it and don't mention the last name unless applicable - it was worn to death after the sequel.

Relying on the wholly un-clever wordplay shouldn't have been a factor anyways. Little Fockers has three (count 'em - THREE) two-time Academy Award winners - Dustin Hoffman, De Niro and Barbara Streisand. Between those three (and their awful managers), perhaps somebody could have thrown out some better ideas to make this movie a little more likable - or maybe they did, at which point I shudder to imagine how bad it was before. Also, Owen Wilson is back again? He adds nothing to the story besides the presence of a rich idiot who's still in love with Pam (Teri Polo). Don't get me wrong, I like Wilson - just not here.

Simply put, Little Fockers doesn't measure up to something that's worth seeing, so it gets a closed door. I get the likability of it's 'just okay' predecessor, Meet the Fockers (2004) but this one just isn't worth your time. The storyline is weak, the characters typical and predictable and the humour is absent. If this isn't the last one, trust me, I won't be going to see the sequel - which will probably be titled Look Who's Focking.

*Stills courtesy of Universal Pictures



>> Monday, December 20, 2010 come here often?

Tron came out in 1982 to mixed reviews. I saw it for the first time earlier this year and while I can appreciate it for what it meant to audiences when it was released, frankly I found it a little dull. The storyline proposed an interesting way to view how computers worked from a first person point of view, but the look of the film (colors, not graphics) was uninteresting to look at.

Twenty-eight years later, we find ourselves in the midst of a sequel to draw in a new generation of Tron fans, and of course it comes to us in 3D. Tron Legacy starts off seven years after the end of Tron. Kevin Flynn (the Dude himself, Jeff Bridges) now has a son, Sam (of whom the older version is played by the relatively unknown Garrett Hedlund). Kevin has also taken his experiences from the first film and turned them into a video game called, unsurprisingly, Tron. However, one night Kevin disappears forever, leaving his legacy to his son, Sam.

Fast forward to 2010 and Sam has the usual 'grew up without parents' complex that wealthy troublemakers like Bruce Wayne also seem to have. Although he could take over the company his father acquired after the first film (Encom), he decides to instead frivolously break into Encom on a regular basis and leak the company's software for free - as his father originally intended.

That sums up Sam's life until one day his lawyer and second father, Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) tells Sam he received a page from Kevin's old arcade (aptly titled 'Flynn's'), which has been closed for the last twenty years. Sam heads there to investigate the strange occurrence and finds a secret basement room containing the portal into the virtual world we became aware of in the first movie.

As with his father, Sam is immediately put into a gladiatorial game as soon as he enters the system. Now that technology has advanced, so has the look of this virtual reality. As Sam identifies himself as a a user and not a program (more specifically as Kevin Flynn's son) an old friend named Clu (an exact digital replica of Kevin) takes sinister interest in Sam and it soon becomes clear what Clu's motive is. Clu wants to use Sam to get to an aging Kevin, who has since been trapped in this world for the last twenty years. More specifically, Clu wants to obtain Kevin's information disk and use it as a way to get out of the virtual world and into the real one, where he plans to continue his journey of creating and maintaining Hitler-esque perfection. With that threat against them, it's up to Kevin and his estranged son Sam, along with Kevin's mysterious protege, Quorra (Olivia Wilde) to not only stop Clu from getting to the outside world, but get themselves home.

Speaking of Clu, I was relatively impressed by the CG they used to animate both the younger version of Kevin Flynn as well as Clu. Although there is something uncanny about the way they move and they both indeed look like characters from The Polar Express (2004), it's a neat way to bring back a younger Jeff Bridges from the pre-Lebowski era and an effective story-telling technique. There are some people that are bashing this, but considering Clu exists in a computer generated world for the most part, it's not something I had a problem with.

On a pure aesthetic level, Legacy looks fantastic and is certainly easier to get into than its predecessor. I give it some credit for the idea to make the virtual reality world 3D and not the real world that sandwiches the middle of the film. Although the 3D isn't come-at-you amazing with Legacy, I believe this decision was still effective, at the very least.

The biggest problem Legacy does have is not anything that makes me hate the film per say, it's more or less just an improvement that needed to be made. Although some will gauge this problem as perhaps bigger or smaller than I am making it out to be, it is a problem nonetheless. What you will find as you exit the theatre after the credits begin to roll, is that although you have been pleasantly entertained for the last two hours, you weren't blown away - at least not as much as a fan of the first film (or even a newcomer) should be. The action was fine, the storyline okay but ultimately (and oddly) forgettable. I don't really know if it was because we've seen films with a similar storyline before (ie: Inception, The Matrix, I, Robot) or if the darker look and lighting of the film put your mind more asleep than doing what it should have, which was creating an effective atmosphere.

I would have ultimately enjoyed the film a bit more should they have explored the other possibilities this virtual reality had. There is moment in the film where Kevin gives Quorra (a virtual reality-born individual) a new arm by locating the broken code on her disk and fixing it, thus having her new limb grow right before their eyes. I couldn't help but think of a similar thing being done for people with cancer, who are handicapped or blind, and having their problems being solved as simply as a computer virus can be. Although this may not be viable in this storyline, it was something I felt should have at least been discussed. Meh, perhaps the sequel.

I also wondered why even simpler things aren't questioned - like why or how food exist in this world and why Kevin needs it, or more poignantly - why he even ages in the first place. These are things Sam didn't ask, and seeing as he was representational of the audience's point of view - it would have been nice.

Tron Legacy ultimately gets an open door. Although there are movies I've liked on a higher level in recent months, this one still has it's moments and is worth a trip to the theatre. Don't go in expecting too much and you'll have a good time. Also, let it be known there are some things left unanswered at the end of the film. It doesn't make or break the movie for me and I don't know if they're saving it for a follow-up, but it is something to be aware of as it may be a bother to some.

*Stills courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures



>> Friday, December 3, 2010

Chicago? No. Moulin Rouge? No. Good movie? Well....

If you don't already know, I'm a fan of musicals. I watch Glee every week and two movies that play in my DVD player on a regular basis are Moulin Rouge (2001) and Hairspray (2007). I think what I've always enjoyed most about them is that it's clear from the first number how much work has been put into them, to get them to flow correctly so the songs don't seem out of place or forced. A song's introduction should be just as organic as the film's dialogue and so should its exit. As I mentioned in my review for the poorly done Score: A Hockey Musical, when it comes to songs in a musical, it's my belief they should exist only when the message or emotion cannot be easily or efficiently conveyed in another fashion, such as through dialogue or visuals. This is the first and most obvious key to a successful tune-filled film and while the act may be made more difficult when characters in real life need to belt out a number, it's still a feat to successfully blend songs into a film - even one such as Burlesque.

In her first leading role (perhaps movie role, at all), Christina Aguilera plays Ali, a small town girl with big town dreams. As she states to a colleague when asked why she left her hometown, Ali responds by saying that when she looked around, nobody had a life she wanted. Fair enough. So what do all young girls do who are down on their luck? They pack up their shit and they move to LA. Not the best of lessons to impose on the younger generation, but nonetheless, suspension of disbelief, right? Turns out Ali was lucky enough to snag an apartment immediately, and on her first day out on the town she floats into a seedy little whorehouse called Burlesque. Well, whorehouse may be a little extreme (especially with a PG rating), think more along the lines of a slightly riské set for American Idol.

Finally, Ali sees a life she wants. Glitz, glam and Cher as a teacher. Knowing only how to waitress (and sing and dance and show up the local snobby girl), Ali grabs a tray and gets to work until she can get the chance to audition. At this point you're aware that no matter how little she gets paid, she just wants to be closer to her dream. Now I know that we're supposed to believe that she came to LA to find just something different, hell - anything, but even I was surprised that this was the first job Ali said "I want that" to. I mean, look around, see what's out there. Unless of course Ali was thinking what I was the entire time - "The girl in Coyote Ugly did it, so why can't I?"

Low and behold persistence pays off, and Ali snags a stage job, much to the chagrin of fellow problematic dancer Nikki (Kristen Bell), who decides to screw Ali by pulling the plug on the pre-recorded vocals right in the middle of a performance. Thankfully for Ali, despite Nikki's Milli Vanilli outing attempt, Ali finally gets the chance to let her vocals shine - and goes for it! Good for her, she needed it. The rest falls into place, no doubt, and soon she's the talk of the town - all in the nick in time to save the club from closing down and going bankrupt. Ali does of course get help from her trusty sidekick Sean, played very well by Stanley Tucci - even if he does play the exact same character he played in The Devil Wears Prada (2006). Whatever, he has a thing for young girls in need - that's decent of him. Oh wait, didn't he play the pervert in The Lovely Bones (2010)? Never mind.

Interestingly enough, I started out this review thinking Burlesque deserved an open door. Then as I actually started writing my review I realized there wasn't a lot of originality here. I mean, don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it. I liked the musical numbers and despite its unoriginal premise I still fell for the "Oh my God, what's she gonna do now?" moments as much as one can. I actually had a decent time watching it, but in the end I had to let my musical-loving bias go and see Burlesque for what it was - an impressive array of music videos strung together by a stingy storyline. I'm giving it a closed door. It doesn't do anything wrong per say, but it's far from special. For the record, Christina Aguilera does a fine job acting here, and movie lighting is definitely her friend. Just a thought.

*Stills courtesy of De Line Pictures



>> Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Shocking perhaps. Yes. But watching the trailer, it just fails to, I dunno, grip me as much as it maybe should. Don't get me wrong, I love Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp. But I feel we've seen the whole 'beautiful woman sucks poor schmuck into a danger-ridden adventure including a boat chase in Europe and he ends up being a bad-ass for once in his life' type of thing. I'm not saying this will be an awful movie. In fact, I'm willing to bet you if I saw it I might even give it an open door. But I can tell right now I don't feel this will be an original tale, even if it on occasion has some exciting action (and I don't mean just between the two leads either, wink wink).

So go see this one if you want. I don't think you'll hate it, you may damn well love it. You may even be asking me, 'But Angry Charlie, why would you refuse to see this and not obvious flops like Yogi Bear, or Gulliver's Travels?' Truth is, when it comes to those flops I'm more curious about the end result and how the filmmakers handled them. With The Tourist, I feel as if I already know what I'm going to feel like exiting the theatre. Also, why is Angelina Jolie always the secretly, tough seductress? Isn't it obvious by looking at her that she's a heap load o' trouble? And why is that when Johnny Depp finally steps out of the make-up chair for a second he's weaker than an injured duckling? Whatever. point is, this ain't for me. Plus, anybody else thinkin' Tron Legacy far outweighs the hype of this flick?

The Tourist opens December 10th. Have fun.


TANGLED (2010)

>> Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It's a pleasure to get tangled up in this Disney flick.

Rapunzel, Rapunzel! Let down your long hair! Words that ring through all our heads, no doubt, when we remember the fairy tales we grew up with. In fact, aside from Goldilocks and the Three Bears and those silly Hansel and Gretel kids, Rapunzel was one of the fairy tales I remember most. I don't know if it was easy to read or what the reason is, but it's there - engrained in my memory.

In Tangled, the tale sinks its talons into my memory deeper still. For the first time though, not as words on a page or pictures in a book. But as a charming, fun, whitty and quite aesthetically pleasing adventure.

The film starts off in the usual fairy tale manner - a long time ago, in a land far, faw away, etc. That's all there, of course, to set up Rapunzel's backstory and how she ended up in the tower. In the original fairy tale it's because the witch who took Rapunzel from her parents (as a punishment), put her in a tower to simply keep her from the outside world. With Tangled, it's more or less the same, save for the fact that Rapunzel's (Mandy Moore) long hair is long because once cut, it loses the power to heal and keep the witch, named Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy), young. Believe it or not, the backstory is set up quite nicely; and in a way that has an old school Disney air to it - which was nice to see after the disapointment that was The Princess and the Frog (2009). I don't care if it was Disney's return to classic animation and fairy tales - I just wasn't into it.

Eventually the handsome prince, or in this case, a thief named Flynn (TV's Chuck lead, Zachary Levi) finds Rapunzel's looming tower. He climbs up to and inside the tower using arrows to scale the side of it, in an affort to hide from the authorities that are chasing him. That's where he meets Rapunzel, who eventually coerces Flynn into taking her to the kingdom to see where the lights in the sky come from (one of the only mysterious views she has from her window). The lights are floating lanterns released by the town every year on Rapunzel's birthday, to honor her memory after she was kidnapped eighteen years ago. Flynn reluctantly agrees and the two begin their journey. Throw in several musical numbers (some memorable, some not) and a few wacky characters, and you have the first CG movie released by Disney that has successfully married old school Disney style with new school CG and 3D technology.

The biggest problem Tangled has (and it's barely a problem really), is that it may borrow a little too much from old school Disney. Certain mannerisms and the way Mother Gothel moves may remind you of Ursula from The Little Mermaid (1989). Flynn is undoubtedly inspired by Aladdin and Rapunzel is definitely reminiscent of most other Disney princesses. One can argue that this is all an omage compliment of the young animators, putting a little of the films they loved as kids into their very own Disney movie.

What I loved most about Tangled, however, was just how funny it was. It was random, it was clever, it was a shining example of just how Disney has modernized their humour - and it works wonderfully! The way the jokes played out in this film, reminded me a lot of Meet the Robinsons (2007), in the sense that it knows today's audience are smarter and quicker - and comedy has evolved to that level as well. Physical humour doesn't hold up as well as it used to in the animated classics we all know and love. Today, it's about wit, charm and obscurity - that's what Tangled embraces and I loved it.

I am giving Tangled an open door. Despite it's overuse of classic Disney cliches, one can argue it wouldn't really be a Disney flick without it. I will say that it falls apart a little at the end as the obligatory romance blossoms and the characters are forced into their happy ending. The film was far more enjoyable at the beginning when it wasn't worried about getting to that inevtibale, romantic, fairy tale conclusion. As aformentioned though, these are little problems that I'm only nitpicking on. Don't let it hold you back from going to see this film, especially in theatres. While the 3D doesn't blow your mind (as it rarely does), it's a nice way to get lost in the Tangled world - which is very pretty to look at and quite vibrant.

In the original Rapunzel, by the way, at the end of the story, the prince accidentally pierces his eyes as he falls on thorns and spends years walking around blind trying to find his princess. Disney didn't include this ending. Not sure why, but I suppose they do have they standards...

*Stills courtesy of Walt Disney Animation Studios


SKYLINE (2010)

>> Friday, November 26, 2010

Has anybody ever told you that your eyes light up a room?

The thing that got me excited to see Skyline was the relatively original imagery I'd seen in the trailer. It had a distinct and original look to it. More specifically the image of thousands of people flying through the air, being sucked up into a giant alien spacecraft seemed wholly entertaining. Now, that's what got me to see the movie, it's not what made me dislike it.

Skyline focuses on a group of people in Los Angeles who wake up early one morning to discover that aliens have invaded their fair city - and yes, I'm aware I could insert an immigrant joke here, but I won't because I have tact, even if Skyline doesn't. Glowing blue lights that shoot out from the ships have the hypnotic power of drawing people towards the light, making them oblivious to the fact they're about to get Hoovered. Thousands fall victim to this ploy, minus a few who realize what's going on and look the other way.

If there's one thing to be said about Skyline's alien species, it's that they're quick and efficient. If you succeed in hiding from them the first time around, another one will be back later on to find you. Whether or not it's the giant kind that stands five stories tall or the smaller ones that fly, it seems you're doomed. Of the few that realize something is going on as events unfold, is a small group of friends (which includes The Texas Chainsaw Massacre's (2003) Eric Balfour) who are stuck on the top floor of an LA high rise apartment building. That apartment building, by the way, is the biggest problem Skyline has. Well, one of the biggest problems.

Now, I don't hate the idea that an entire movie may take place in an apartment building. Quarantine (2008) did well with a similar premise, and I really liked it. What I don't like with Skyline (aside from the shotty acting and poorly written scenes) is the fact that this movie spends far too much time sitting around trying to avoid spending it's $10 million budget in five minutes. To do that, it gives us lame arguments between Balfour's character, Jared, and his girl, Elaine (Scottie Thompson). We also get another weak back story for Jared - this time with his best friend Terry (Scrubs' Donald Faison). In fact, the only redeeming quality about Skyline is the last five minutes. It's the only part of the film I actually enjoyed as it introduced an intriguing and relatively original idea. I won't say how it ends here as even though the movie was bad, I hate spoilers.

I'm giving Skyline a closed door. If it's lucky enough to get a sequel (which I highly doubt) then maybe check it out. Even on DVD though this won't be a very good watch. The first hour and half should have been five minutes long and the last five minutes should have been an hour and a half long. While I'll recognize the fact that the special effects are actually pretty good, a movie comprised of a few cool shots that doesn't have a good story to back it up - is still a bad movie.

*Stills courtesy of Black Monday Film Services



>> Tuesday, November 23, 2010

No seriously, Harry. This time your life really IS in danger.

This being the first of the Harry Potter movies I am reviewing, I will say I have been pretty pleased with the way the movies have gone so far. Ever since seeing the first one on DVD, I've been able to see the last five in theatres and never felt it was a wasted trip. The movies have always been entertaining and, thankfully, as the years progressed and as the children matured, so did the look, the feel and the themes of the movies.

Deathly Hallows is no different. In fact, it's probably the best of the series this far. Although there is an epic doom constantly looming that creates a very haunting and exciting atmosphere for Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and pals, what I really appreciated was that Deathly Hollows took it's time in all the right ways, and really allowed us to appreciate the characters for who they are and what they've been through. This includes them really growing up and facing the facts; realizing that tiffs may happen and friendships may end; that those close to you may die and that sometimes, should the circumstance allow it, you just need to dance.

In this chapter, we catch up with Harry as he continues right where he left off in The Half-Blood Prince (2009), searching for the horcruxes, which are mystical objects spread throughout the world that contain pieces of Lord Voldemort's (Ralph Fiennes) power. The magic world is recovering from Dumbledore's death, and some are even profiting from it. As usual, Voldemort is on the hunt for Harry Potter with his trusty band of evil goons - which now includes Severus Snape (the always enjoyable Alan Rickman) and Harry's schoolmate Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton), following in his diabolical father's footsteps.

There's a certain patience that Deathly Hallows has that the others didn't. This may be because it was split into two movies (with the last half coming out next summer), or it may simply because the filmmakers realized that it's the quiet moments that can say the most. An outstanding example of this is when Harry and Hermione (Emma Watson) go the town Harry was born in and visit his parent's grave. That extra minute the camera rests on Harry's face allows us to see his pain, and see where his real motivation lies within reference to his journey to kill Voldemort.

If there's any problem with Deathly Hallows, is it's exclusivity to only those that have seen all of the prior Harry Potter movies. As a mild fan I appreciate this, but if I was someone who got dragged along and this was my first Potter experience, to say I would be lost and confused would be an understatement. There is a lot of reference to past films, including props, unfinished journeys (Harry's search for the remaining horcruxes), histories and characters that show up here and there without much explanation for who they are. Is this really a valid criticism? Yes and no. I'm not saying we need a 'Previously on Harry Potter' thing prior to the film - you're either a fan or you're not. However, even for someone who's seen all the movies prior to Deathly Hollows, I found it difficult to recall what the crew was talking about at times. But again, this is a minor thing in my eyes.

I am giving Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 a wide open door. It's a film that's near perfect and sets up the finale in an excellent fashion. It does what it was supposed to do and more. There's a love the filmmakers had for this film and have for the series that radiates from the screen in a way never before seen in a Harry Potter film. Evidence of this was clear when the studio announced that due to it not being up to standards, this half of the film would not be released in 3D. One of the biggest movies of the year has the opportunity to be in 3D and it backs away? Hollywood may be learning it's lesson when it comes to gimmicks people. There still may be hope, after all...

For a more detailed telling of the experience my friend Luke and I had seeing Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007), check out the post he wrote here.

*Stills courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures


DUE DATE (2010)

>> Monday, November 15, 2010

JK, LOL, HI - hop in.

To say that I've enjoyed Robert Downey Jr. as an actor is an understatement. Noticing him first in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) and than again in Iron Man and Tropic Thunder in 2008, I began to really like and appreciate his very recognizable acting style. In Stepbrothers (2008), Dale and Brennan get to know each other by asking off the cuff questions. One of the questions they ask each other is "Alright, if you were a chick, who's the one guy you would sleep with?". They answer John Stamos simultaneously. My answer would be Robert Downey Jr. So, it's no surprise that I would not only look forward to seeing Due Date, but that I would also enjoy it.

Due Date is a buddy comedy about a man named Peter (Downey) who is on his way from a work excursion in New York to his home in LA, where his wife is having their first child. As soon as he gets to the airport he begins to have problems at the hand of a chubby, bearded, permed hair fellow named Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis). First Peter's chauffeur loses a door as he's parking (due to Ethan's drunk friend who was dropping him off). Then Peter's bags get lost (due to Ethan inadvertently switching them curbside), and finally Peter is kicked off the plane because Ethan won't pipe down about terrorists and bombs and they both end up on the No Fly List - and since Peter left his wallet and ID on the plane, he is left with no other choice than to hop in with Ethan. Peter does so hesitantly.

That's when the Odd Couple-esque adventure begins, as the two have only three days to get across the country to be there in time for Peter's first child to be born, C-Section style. If you thought the problems at the airport were bad, you`re in a for a few more (and hilarious) doozies. No need for me to go any further. All I could think think to do is talk about the funny situations they get into (including a few decent scenes with Jaimie Foxx and Juliette Lewis) and doing so would be the equivalent to seeing all the funny scenes in a movie while watching it's trailer.

Now obviously we all know Galifianakis from last year`s The Hangover, which was pretty good, but not nearly as funny as a lot of people made it seem. He does his same kind of clueless schtick in Due Date, and it works for the most part. I cite the moment where Ethan and Peter are standing at the edge of Grand Canyon, and Ethan asks Peter "Are you sure it's not man made? I could have sworn that's what I heard...", to which Peter replies "Perhaps you're thinking of the Hoover Dam." Then (because the funny guy always has to get the last word), Ethan deduces "No, I'm not thinking of the Hoover Dam - everybody knows that was built by the Pilgrims!". What a lot of people may find surprising is that Due Date is just as much Downey's movie as it is his bearded co-star - even if Galifianakis is the face publicly associated with the film. Scenes like the one I just mentioned don't work if you don't have Peter constantly telling Ethan to be quiet, shut-up or to stop jacking off in the car.

In short, I am giving Due Date an open door. In the end it has enough heart to weigh against the comedy, and enough shock humour to weigh against the heart. It's a good mix of all. Downey and Galifianakis make just as good a pair as any, and Peter's quick witted, sarcastic attitude plays well off of Ethan's childish nature and bumbling naivety. It's just as funny a movie as The Hangover (which will be it's obvious comparison), and looking into Galifianakis's eyes it's a no-brainer that he's going straight to the top - to the point where you know he'll be playing a pedophile in some Oscar nominated drama in the next five years. You never know - he did handle that baby pretty well in his last film. JK. LOL. HI. Hop in.

*Stills courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures


SAW 3D (2010)

>> Tuesday, November 9, 2010

At the risk of sounding like I enjoy hanging out at a playground, I recommend you see Saw.

I first watched Saw (2004) when it came out on DVD. I liked it enough and was intrigued by the idea of fighting for your life, like, really fighting for your life in an effort to appreciate it more and live it to its fullest. It was amusing enough but only semi-stuck with me until Saw II was released the following year - at which point I was more or less hooked.

What I've always enjoyed about the Saw movies was similar to the enjoyment I got from watching serialized TV shows like Lost and Heroes. It was neat to see a question (introduced early on) become a mystery that was unanswered until much later. It was even better when there was evidence the filmmakers knew what they were doing from the beginning. I didn't hear of this being the case until Saw III hit theatres in 2006 - that apparently there were going to be "about seven" and they were already written out. I also really relished in the fact that being a horror fan, as a cohesive series, Saw never required the usual (and quite tedious) explanation of how the bad guy came back in the next one. Although I will never have fond memories for a horror series as much as I do Halloween (1978), I will say Halloween's sequels had become quite tedious and unorganized after the second in the series, Halloween II (1981).

So you can imagine my excitement when I was on the brink of seeing the last of the Saw series, Saw 3D. How would it end? What secrets lie within the chambers of this gorefest? Will the 3D be somewhat visually interactive? Also, will is suck? Alas, I found out the answers to all these questions.

Saw 3D starts out with an interesting premise. There are two guys stuck in a glass (and seemingly unbreakable) box in the middle of a very public center. It seems a girl is also in the box, but she is just as helpless. I won't get into the details of the trap itself as although it's not complicated, it's hard to explain without a visual - but the basic idea is that only two of the people in this trap can survive. What happens is pretty entertaining, if not gruesome. This is a Saw movie though, so you don't expect much less. Why I say it's interesting though, is because although this public thing is one time dillio in the movie, it seems they were onto something that could have made a much more interesting film. Normally in a Saw film you have these people who have gotten themselves into a sticky situation, but it's always in some old warehouse or abandoned building. The idea that an entire Saw film might take place in the public eye where other people are present and the victims are still helpless, though - now that's something that I would have liked to have seen.

However, after this little public fiasco, we find ourselves directly following the end of Saw 6, where Jigsaw's protege, Mark (Costas Mandylor) is on the hunt for Jigsaw's widowed wife, Jill (Betsy Russell) - who decided to turn Mark in once her feeble attempt to kill him failed. Mark won't give up easily, either and sets up Jigsaw traps one last time - for more than just the group of people directly involved.

Now, there was a lot of talk prior to the release of Saw 3D that maybe there would be some visually interactive shots it was in 3D. The tagline for the film afterall, was "The traps will come alive". Save for a few kind of neat shots, I'm saddened to report this was not the case. The closest I felt this film got to the level I wanted it to (as far as the 3D was concerned), was when a woman's face was getting closer and closer to spikes that would impale her eyes and mouth, and we got to experience her looming point of view. I also embarrassingly enough ducked a couple of times when guts where flying at the screen. Beyond that, although the 3D was okay, it certainly didn't make or break this movie - at least not to the point where they couldn't have simply titled it Saw VII.

Now, if I were to rate Saw 3D by itself, I would give it a closed door. Frankly, the gore was a little over the top - in the sense that it was awfully fake and although it did it's job and made you cringe, it also made you roll your eyes. The plot was just okay but was disappointingly familiar, and by the end of it all it was ultimately forgettable.

However, I am giving Saw 3D an almost honorary open door. The reason for this (as contradictory as it is) is because I've thoroughly enjoyed the series as a whole, and as aforementioned have appreciated the formulated and serialized storyline. Saw 3D is not just another part of this series, it is apparently the end (even if I doubt that fact very much). Since I have not reviewed any of the movies prior to this one, I feel as a send off and part of the saga it works and deserves to be in our good graces. Everybody knows what Saw is, and as an indie film that turned into the biggest horror franchise of the decade, I respect it. This may not be a film (or a film series, for that matter) for everybody. So I'm not saying this film is a must see. But for me, and for any other horror fans out there, I would recommend checking out the Saw series if you can. Despite it's commercial appearance, it's actually quite a creative and enjoyable series.

*Stills courtesy of Twisted Pictures



>> Saturday, November 6, 2010

I'm blue, dum, dum, dee...

Will Ferrel has treated us over the past decade to a lot of memorable characters. While Ferrell seems to always play the same kind of character (naive, silly and childlike), he also has the ability to play things as a real straight shooter - as is the case with movies like 2006's Stranger Than Fiction, which I really enjoyed. Even if he hasn't fully yet taken to the Jim Carrey and Robin Williams route of playing 'so serious it's spooky' roles, he does somehow seem to find his way into many different roles for the same type of character.

For example, the character we see in Elf (2003) is not much different than that in Anchorman (2004) or Step Brothers (2008). It all deals with childhood adolescence and stubbornness, akin to and old man being stuck in his ways. 'Now' means 'now' and if it turns out to be otherwise, a tantrum ensues.

In Megamind, it's no different. This time however, the tantrum is, surprisingly, much darker than arbitrarily shouting "Son of a nutcracker!" and moving on. Ferrell plays Megamind, a blue-faced, kind-eyed outcast who came to Earth from his home planet in a journey not unlike that of Superman. The difference being that Megamind came to Earth at the same time as another extra-terrestrial, Metro Man (Brad Pitt) - who actually is, well, more like Superman, While Metro Man has everything given to him and soon becomes humanity's favorite saviour, Megamind immediately lands in a prison and is forced into a life of evil. Problem is, Megamind was never really that good at being evil - in fact he only decided to be evil after being rejected by peers, teachers and pretty much everyone else (which would make anyone blue in the face, I imagine).

As the years progress, nothing changes between Megamind and Metro Man. Metro Man always wins and gets the girl, meanwhile Megamind goes back to jail. That is until one day when Megamind succeeds in one of his evil plans and actually destroys Metro Man. Soon Megamind begins to get everything he's ever wanted (as nobody on Earth is powerful enough to stop him), and that's when we see something quite surprising - Megamind begins to realize that without the good doings of Metro Man to challenge him, he lacks purpose. He becomes a depressed, bored loner who starts to face an identity crisis.

Although I wish not give too much away, beneath the cartoonish, silly front of Megamind I was surprised to find an underlying layer of more adult themes. Watching the film revealed a lot of truths about the uncertainties many people face when they're not sure if they are doing what they should in life - including the opportunities a lot of us find ourselves forced into. Megamind deals with his particular crisis by transforming into different people to get what he wants, including a relationship with reporter Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey), as well as an apprentice in Ritchi's cameraman, played by the always pleasant (if not overused) Jonah Hill.

I always find it relatively interesting going into a movie, and walking out knowing I'm remembering something about the film that may be the farthest thing from what I'm supposed to. In this case, I may be over-analyzing Megamind, putting themes in there that aren't. In a lot of ways there was an original air surrounding this film, one that seemed to be hidden behind 3-D entertainment made for children. I felt a similar thing walking out of Despicable Me (2010).

Megamind gets an open door. In the end it's funny, occasionally witty and Will Ferrell adds a lot of fun to what is sure to be a lot of ad libbed lines. I also wanted to mention the performances of David Cross and Brad Pitt, who play Minion and Metro Man, respectively. They are more or less what you expect, but considering each of them are capable of carrying movies on their own, it's nice to see them not overstay their welcome. With movies like Avatar (2009) and The Smurfs (2011) surrounding this film, I guess the obvious thing to take note of, is that blue is cool, and so is Megamind.

*Stills courtesy of Dreamworks Animation



>> Monday, November 1, 2010


If you don't know what Faster is, I'll give you the plot summary as outlined on

An ex-con (Dwayne Johnson) sets out to avenge his brother's death after they were double-crossed during a heist years ago. During his campaign, however, he's tracked by a veteran cop and an egocentric hit man.

Now, I don't care if it's a typical storyline or if sounds like something we've heard of or seen before. There are plenty of great movies out there that aren't 100% original. Whatever. The reason I refuse to see Faster this month (or any other month for that, matter) is because the dialogue and the way the story line plays out will undoubtedly be unoriginal. Although it may contain some cool action (well, it better), and even though Dwayne Johnson has finally taken a break from his Disney career (save for The Other Guys), lines from the trailer like "Sermon's over..." are of the things that make eyes roll. It's feels as if I'm watching a trailer that looks like it should have preceded Tropic Thunder (2008).

Keep in mind, I'm not saying some people won't enjoy Faster, I can see the appeal and it has all the right ingredients to make some movie goers go gaga - muscles, cars, guns, rebellion, etc. So, don't let me hold you back. I'm just saying with movies like Due Date, Megamind, Morning Glory, Skyline, Unstoppable, Harry Potter, Love and Other Drugs, The Next Three Days, Tangled and (maybe even) Burlesque coming out this month, you have a near unprecedented choice of other films to see besides Faster. But should none of them sway you, Faster will be in theatres November 24th, and the Wal-Mart $5 bin same time next year.



>> Sunday, October 31, 2010

I see dead people... and you can too for only $4.99 a minute!

I hadn't really heard of Clint Eastwood being a director until Million Dollar Baby (2004). Since then I've seen pretty much every film he's directed, my favorite being Gran Torino (2008). A lot of people like Gran Torino because of the shock value associated with Clint's racist remarks. It's also pretty cool to see Eastwood kick some ass again, with his 'takes no shit' attitude. What I remember most about that film, though, is not just the dark glimpse into the life of a dying man, but how the film itself flowed in a very organic way from the softer moments to the rougher ones. I remember Gran Torino being like a great poem. If you have the patience, take it slow, listen to and watch everything closely and appreciatively, a rare and beautiful experience will unfold before your eyes - leaving you knowing just a tiny bit more about your own life and who you really are. It's not inspiration per say, but rather an understanding.

As with Gran Torino, Eastwood seems to be realizing that he's getting older. If you've made a movie about what happens when you get old and the last minutes of your life are upon you, than I suppose the next logical step would be making a flick that questions what happens after you die. That's when Clint decided to team up with Matt Damon and Cécile De France to bring us Hereafter.

George Lonegan (Damon) is a retired psychic. He had a book written about him, his own website and his own office. One day, out of the blue, he quit to pursue a career at a factory. Now George makes only a fraction of what he did before, but as his brother Billy (Jay Mohr) proclaims, "He says he's happy". The reason for leaving it all behind? As George tells Billy repeatedly, its because his 'gift' is more of a curse. He finds he is spending more time on the afterlife than on his own life, leaving George without much of an existence at all.

I imagine it would be a tough life being the man who has all the answers. George often runs into problems with people disliking what he has to say, as is the case with the near romantic experience George has with fellow culinary class student, Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard). After getting him to do a reading she begs him to do, he never sees her again. Even worse for George, who has the answers to the questions that plagues him?

Hereafter is not only George's movie, though. Being as important and diverse a topic as post-death existence is, we travel across the pond to catch up with the lives of two others who have had death come a little too close for comfort. There is the news personality, journalist Marie LeLay (De France), and Marcus (played by both Frankie and George McLaren). Marie nearly drowned and believes she saw the white light. Meanwhile Marcus, who is only about ten years old, lost his twin brother Jason (his only friend and confident) to a car accident. Marcus and Marie become affected intensely by the experience of death, so they both set out on their own journey to find the answers they are looking for.

Marie uses her journalist super powers to seek out a more definite answer, for a topic that her colleagues say has a 'limited market' (as in, it's only for the crazies in the world). Marcus on the other hand, simply wants to talk to his brother again and beg him to come back - sad, I know, yet highly effective. This leads Marcus on a journey that forces him to sift through the many fakes that exist in the psychic world - from mediums who use ultra-sensitive high frequency microphones, to those that use a similar technique originally popularized by fake psychic, John Edward. Marie on the other hand, speaks with esteemed colleagues of hers - professionals who have been looking into life after death for years on a scientific level. I found the two characters a good representation of the way the world sees the hereafter. While Marie is out seeking fact-based knowledge as a professional adult, Marcus is out taking a faith-based approach - which is right on the money for someone who is still young enough to believe in Santa Claus.

As you can gather from my aforementioned appreciation of Eastwood's directing skills, it would take a hell of a misfire for me to have disliked Herafter. One of the things I've consistently noticed in all of Eastwood's work is his keen eye for lighting. More often than not its completely breathtaking to look at and you can see a definite fondness for dark settings. In Hereafter, it works especially well as I believe all the under-lit faces play as a parallel on this film's brief images of the afterlife - where the deceased appear as fuzzy and darkly lit - another nice subtle commentary on the idea that the living are just as lost as those who have passed on.

I mentioned earlier as well that Eastwood's films more often than not require you to be patient. If you're looking for an action movie or for something that will move quickly, this isn't for you. Hereafter has a running time of over two hours, and it's the type of film you have to be in the mood for. But if you're in that mind frame, you'll be in for something that will leap off the screen and play out like the reading of an amazing poem, that has existed just long enough to be wise, and in turn radiates age and experience with every word -not unlike the Hereafter's eighty-year old director.

I am giving Hereafter a well deserved open door. Death and the afterlife are incredibly important topics to keep as neutral as possible in order to send the right message. Hereafter doesn't ever really confirm that life after death is a real thing, nor does it make religion front and center in trying to convey its messages. Rather, it tells the tale of George, Marie and Marcus to, simply enough, relay their story and portray the many ways a person deals with death. In the end, Hereafter is just as much about the acceptance of death as it's about what happens after we all die. Eastwood's never done better , and I would keep this in mind come Oscar season.

*Stills courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures



>> Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I'm not mad, I'm just disappointed.

As I headed to the theatre last night to see Score: A Hockey Musical, I did what I normally do. I get to the theatre forty-five minutes to an hour early, I grab any food I want and I head into the theatre to get the best seat possible. This normally results in me getting my favorite seat - back row center. Walking into Score produced no different result. Not only was I treated to the best viewing spot in the house, I was also privy to a view I can honestly say I didn't expect nor have every experienced - that of a completely empty theatre. Not just for the half hour before the movie started, but through the entirety of Score as well. Through all my years of seeing movies on every day of the week, during every time of the day and no matter at which point in the films theatrical run - that I've never had the whole theatre to myself, especially not during the film's opening week.

In some movies, I would be thrilled by this. It's certainly something I've wished once or twice I could experience in some cheaper theatres, but it's nothing I've ever expected to happen at a bigger multiplex. Yet there I was. Alone, confused and kind of upset. Being a filmmaker with aspirations of my own films being shown at this exact theatre one day, I was disappointed to see nobody supporting this film. It's an all Canadian film which now seems doomed to the fate of its predecessors (Gunless [2010], Pontypool [2008]) - recognized, unpopular and seen by few. This may be due to the Canadian film curse, that drives our stars and our talents down south for "actual" success - all of which will continue to happen if we don't start going to our own goddamn movies. That's just a small piece of my mind and I could easily write a much bigger post on it, but this is a review for Score, and that's what I will continue with.

I'll get this out there right now, I don't really watch Hockey, but recognize and embrace it as Canada's sport. I do however have a soft spot in my heart for musicals. They are tough to pull off correctly, but when done right, they are absolute magic and can make you feel just fantastic. One of my favorite movies is Hairspray (2007), and I'm not ashamed to say it. But I also like the classics such as Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and Mary Poppins (1964) - simply because I can appreciate them. The fact that Score is Canadian and a musical is what drove me to see this film.

Score tells the tale of home schooled Farley Gordon (Michael Cera wannabe Noah Reid). Farley's neighbour is his best friend (Allie MacDonald) who has had a crush on Farley ever since they have known each other. 'Problem' is, he doesn't know. Fareley rarely leaves the house except for one thing - to play hockey, and he's damn good at it. He could never play in a team though. Not because he doesn't want to, but his parents are kind of prudes when it comes to organized sports. Farley's mother Hope, by the way, is played by Olivia Newton-John - who us terribly underused considering this is her first return to a musical since Grease [1978].

One fine day, Farley gets discovered by the owner (Stephen McHattie) of the Blades, a local hockey team. He is reluctant but soon finds himself trying out for the team, to the chagrin of Coach Donker (John Pyper-Ferguson) who is understandably hesitant about the home schooled kid who's never played an organized game of hockey in his life. Predictably, Farley blows the socks off of everybody and is soon the biggest star in town - appearing on billboards, magazine covers and cereal boxes. But is the fame too much for him to handle. His best friend and parents seem to think so. They say he's 'changed' and is 'different' - this is the point where you confirm what you've been thinking for the last forty-five minutes, that Score is predictable and unoriginal in its characters and plot. Oh, and Farley refuses to fight when another player challenges him. This is apparently what makes a hockey game and there's no room for his 'why can't everybody just get along' mentality.

In support of Canadian films I wanted to really like Score. In fact, before I went to the film I believed I would most likely give it an open door. However, I'm sad to report this is not the case. The reason Score failed as much as I think it did is for more than just one reason, so don't think I'm being picky here.

The first and biggest problem I should bring up is the songs themselves. It was as if the songs were trying to be bigger than they could be, and for some reason most seemed to be no longer than a minute. The audio was badly mixed which was incredibly distracting. I often found it difficult to hear the lyrics over the rest of the music, which made any meaning the songs had to begin with...well, meaningless. It wasn't until the last twenty minutes or so that I felt the songs finally improving. Every song up until that point seemed weak, awkward and out of place. I then realized that it was because there was an orchestra behind the songs, rather than the piano and guitar combination every other song had (causing them to all sound the same). In my opinion (obviously), Score's composers should have spent more time developing a good nine or ten songs rather than spending less time on twenty. Classic debate: quality or quantity?

When it comes to songs in a musical, it's my belief they should exist only when the message or emotion cannot be easily or efficiently conveyed in another fashion, such as dialogue or visuals. A good musical has no songs out of place - they are there for a reason and flow with the entirety of the film. Score felt like it was broken down into music, movie, music, movie, music, movie, etc. Each one interrupted the next which became very distracting and, well, annoying - especially when the songs have no imagination. It's one thing to have characters just stand on the street and sing to each other lacking any actual visual stimuli, but its another when the lyrics appear to be as complex as something written by a sixth grader. I think at one point they actually rhymed 'cat' with 'hat'.

As for the characters, I didn't really like any of them, especially the main cast. There is one character on Fareley's hockey team named Maurice (Chris Ratz) that I enjoyed whenever he was on screen, as did I enjoy the very few shots of the overly rambunctious character played by Nelly Furtado. She seemed fun, obnoxious and for some reason she was hanging off the arm of a big, fat, shirtless guy. Where's the rest of her part? Hell, where's her own movie?

I'm giving Score: A Hockey Musical a closed door. Its a better film when it's not constantly being interrupted by its out of place and awkward musical numbers. Even then, the dialogue and storyline are okay at best. This grade isn't because I don't follow hockey, nor is it because this is a small Canadian film. This grade is because Score felt lazy. It's writer was also its director - Michael McGowan, who also directed Joshua Jackson in the also 'only okay' One Week (2009). I feel if McGowan had spent more time on the script or brought in another writer we may have had something main stream enough yet uniquely Canadian. His gross underuse of bigger names like Olivia Newton-John and Nelly Furtado are big mistakes that should have been corrected upon confirmation of their involvement. Also, I couldn't figure out for the life of me if the movie itself was trying to be cheesy and silly, or if it was taking itself seriously. All the actors seemed to play it as if it was a serious drama, which is maybe why none of Score actually worked. Do me a favor, McGowan. Next time you make a movie please make it decent enough so I don't look like an ass for supporting Canadian cinema. Thanks.

*Stills courtesy of Mulmer Feed Co.



>> Saturday, October 23, 2010

A lot more paranormal activity.

I don't think a person can begin to talk about Paranormal Activity 2 without speaking about the first film, Paranormal Activity. In my review for the first film I concluded it was a patient man's movie. If you gave it enough of your time and had the right atmosphere, the movie's quietness and eeriness would serve you well when the big moments came. I also mentioned that Paranormal Activity was also lacking a lot of those big moments. I later found out the film was made for only $11, 000 and this made those mistakes more forgivable. A sequel however, that has a budget roughly 200 times higher than that of the original, has no excuse for failing. Thankfully, it doesn't.

The movie opens with another couple, living in the suburbs. This couple has a fourteen year old daughter, and a baby boy named Hunter. At this point a person is not sure who these people are and how or if they connect to the previous film's stars, Katie and Micah. That guessing game doesn't continue for long as it is soon revealed that Katie (Katie Featherston)is the mother's sister. I would like to also apologize for the lack of character and actor names in this review, as IMDb and Paramount seem to want to uphold the illusion that this film is real - even if we all know otherwise.

It isn't long before unexplained things start to happen. It starts off small (the pool lights going out) and eventually gets bigger (shadows appearing and doors slamming). The good news here is that PA2 moves at a much quicker pace than it's predecessor, having things happen almost immediately - even if they aren't related to the actual 'paranormal activity'. The movie is told this time through a handheld camera accompanied by an in-home security camera system, which was installed shortly after a break-in during the first few minutes. It works effectively as this time we don't have to buy into the unlikely fact that someone will have a camera on them at all times. It also allows us to see events (no matter how big) unfold to individuals while alone at home.

I don't want to go much further into the plot. What I will comment on is that if you take a look at the poster for the film, you may notice that the baby in the crib is not in the reflection in the mirror - even though everything else is. This is not necessarily important to PA2, nor does it give anything away, it's just an interesting thing to take notice of.

I am giving Paranormal Activity 2 a wide open door. It was not only entertaining and vastly superior to the first, but its story also tied in very well in a way that sheds some unexpected light on the overall story. This is either a sequel ploy or it was planned all along. ;-) Not only does it move at a nice pace but it effectively scares and even shocks you at just the right moments , all without seeming cheesy. This is definitely a movie to see in the theatres not only this Halloween, but beyond the season as well. It's by far the scariest movie of the year and will not disappoint.

*Stills courtesy of Paramount Pictures


RED (2010)

>> Thursday, October 21, 2010

"Old man, my ass!" - Marvin Boggs

Alright. Time for some movie trivia. What do you get when you put Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman and John Malkovich in a movie? You get a very lazy intro for my movie review of Red. You also get something that is surprisingly really, really fun.

Bruce Willis plays Frank Moses, a retired Black Ops CIA agent who lives a mundane life in suburbia. Is it boring? Hell yes. Does he seem to mind? Yes and no. In an intro that is akin to American Beauty (1999) (minus the narration) we catch a darkly funny glimpse into Moses' life and how he spends his time. Whether it's destroying his mail as a reason to speak to somebody on the phone, or putting up Christmas decorations simply because his neighbours have done it as well - Moses goes through the same motions day in and day out. But there's always that look in his eye. A look that says he prays somebody will come crashing through his wall with a semi-automatic and try to take him out. Cut to scene two - it appears Moses gets his wish.

If you're a man in Moses' position, you may live alone - but you're wise enough to know you're not really alone. Enter Moses' Black Ops long time friends - Joe (Morgan Freeman), crazy 'they did experiments on me' Marvin (John Malkovich) and Victoria (Helen Mirren). They all happen to be on the hit list it seems, and I'm not talking about 80's pop. Also joining the group is Moses' very recently acquired girlfriend, Sarah (Weeds' Mary-Louise Parker). The group's main goal outside of staying alive is to find the person who put the hit out on them.

They seek help from a former Russian enemy, Ivan (Brian Cox), who says to Moses "Twenty years ago if you would have walked through my door I would have killed you. Now... now I'm just too old to care". Ivan's statement becomes the creed Red as a films seems to live by. Through all their shenanigans these guys get into, each characters represents a certain ideal of what it's like to be past your prime.

Moses seems to have the philosophy that life goes on and things change, and he has to suck it up. He treats his retirement much like he would have treated a mission - in stride without uttering a complaint. Joe has Cancer and has since realized and accepted his fate. Victoria, on the other hand, is dreadfully bored. She likes her quiet life but keeps a gun near her at all times should the opportunity arise to put a bullet into someone's torso. Ivan is just saddened that it had to end and leads a life filled with nostalgia. At one point he utters to Moses "I miss the old days, I haven't killed anyone in years." To which Moses replies, in a empathetic and serious tone "That's sad." It is sad, but it's also quite funny. In the end, that's what Red is about.

What do you do when your 'life' is over? Do you accept it, do you fight it, or do you start a new chapter? Outside of that, Red is also about the generational gap between those born in the first half of the century and those born in the latter half. Moses' generation was about people who would do their job as long as they were recognized and treated right because of it. Meanwhile, rookie CIA agent Will Cooper's (Star Trek's (2009) Karl Urban) generation expects recognition and special treatment without having to work for it. It's safe to say in the end Cooper may learn a thing or two from Moses.

Red gets an open door. It's not just an action movie or a comedy, but deals with life lessons both realized and unrealized. The cast in this film is very well put together and creates a great energy that radiates from the screen - mainly as a result of the fun these guys had making this movie. There's some insanely great action shots in this movie, snappy dialogue and costumes that were also quite good (something I don't normally notice in films). It reminds me a lot of how a retired James Bond movie might play out. John Malkovich is also a delight and delivers some of the best one-liners of this film and most others I've seen this year. If you get the chance, go see Red. It's s shame this will undoubtedly get lost amongst the Jackass's and other more anticipated films of the Fall. It surely deserves more.

*Stills courtesy of Summit Entertainment


CATFISH (2010)

>> Monday, October 18, 2010

Plenty of fish in the sea? Maybe. Plenty of catfish? Thankfully, no.

I first heard about Catfish about two months ago. At that point I had no idea what it was, nor did I look into it. After all, I had never heard of it before and based on the title and the poster image alone, I assumed it was some kind of horror movie. In some ways, it turned out I was right.

For those of you that haven't seen the trailer or even heard of the documentary (which shouldn't be too many people by now), Catfish follows the life of photographer Nev Schulman as he embarks on an online journey that involves three members of the same family. There is Abby, an 8-year old painting prodigy, Megan, Abby's older half-sister, and Angela, Abby and Megan's mother. Nev starts out by discovering the painting abilities of Megan and through long distance correspondence he begins to form a relationship with all three. Eventually Nev starts to form feelings for Megan, and that's where the movie starts.

Nev's roommates (which include his brother Ariel Schulman) are filmmakers. Being a filmmaker I constantly think the same thing these guys did - "Hey, maybe we should start taping this stuff - it may make a good movie one day". Indeed. However, after eight months of getting to know Megan through Facebook and phone calls, some strange things and irregularities start to surface that lead Catfish to a place that is in some ways, very dark. That's as far as I'll go when it comes to summarizing the story due to spoliers.

Take my advice, if you plan on seeing Catfish, stay away from spoilers that may pop up when it comes to the ending. I unfortunately knew what happened prior to seeing the film and I feel that may have changed how I saw it for the first time. However, like most good movies with a twist ending, it becomes equally as interesting to watch or rewatch the movie knowing what happens. It allows you to see and appreciate certain intricacies .

As Catfish became more popular, questions popped up as to what aspects of the film were true. Frankly, I didn't think it mattered. Sure, as with most documentaries (specifically Michael Moore vehicles) you wonder if what you're seeing was put in for truth and fact, or shock and entertainment. In this case I'd say what you're getting is about 90% truth. In the end though, I don't think it matters. What the movie focuses on more and more (and maybe not enough) is the complex nature of the human mind and the abilities it has to keep people on their toes. Catfish isn't as much a thriller as it is a human interest story.

What's interesting is watching a movie like this the same month as The Social Network. Both are relatively Facebook oriented, both make comments about the way most people are living their lives and how big an impact online dating and social networking have become on our society. Most people I know live their lives by Facebook and more often than not either end up loving it and getting addicted, or hating it because of the pressures it can have, mistakes made and lives that have been ruined by it. Catfish is another shining example of almost all of these. Something that should be referred to as 'the Facebook circle of life'.

I am giving Catfish an open door. As aforementioned, it's a great human interest story as has decent social commentary. I found at times it dragged slightly and feel maybe the documentary-making experience (or lack thereof) of Nev and crew lacked enough skill to really dig into the story they stumbled upon. After you watch this film, I recommend tracking down the 20/20 episode that aired on Friday October 8th. It goes into the film's story with a bit more detail and gets answers to some of the questions you may be left asking when the credits roll.

*Stills courtesy of Relativity Media and Rogue


JACKASS 3D (2010)

>> Friday, October 15, 2010

Jackass 3D - so real it'll make you vomit, then laugh, then vomit.

I don't know if there's actually been any films quite like the Jackass movie series, which started in 2002 with Jackass: The Movie and continued in 2006 with Jackass Number Two. Over the years (and starting with the initial show on MTV in 2000) Johnny Knoxville (Men in Black II [2002]) has given us the gift of an intentional, R-rated version of America's Funniest Home Videos. You think its funny to see a kid throw a baseball at his dad's groin? What if the dad knows it's coming and you can see the "Holy shit" look in his eyes? Now that's funny. What Knoxville has now done (being the pioneer that he sorta is) is said, okay, okay - that is funny. But what if we do it all in... (wait for it) super cool, state of the art 3-D?!

I know what you're thinking - because I (and anybody else with a slight distaste for sheep culture) are thinking the same thing. "No, Johnny! Don't! Jackass is perfect with its home video style the way it is! Don't jump on this band wagon and ruin it!" I guess I should say, that's what I thought. That somebody so cool like Johnny Knoxville would sell out due to studio pressure, blah blah blah. I was dead wrong.

Here's a guy that says "Look at what Hollywood is doing with 3-D. It's fucking everywhere. It's too fucking everywhere. And nobody is doing anything that looks remotely 3-D with it either. It makes things look pretty, sure, but where's all the shit that flies out at you? Where's the illusion that you can reach out and touch something that's not really there? I think we should do that. Yeah, yeah. A 3-D Jackass!" The thing you will be able to reach out and "touch"? A flying dildo, feces (lots of it) and maybe a penis or two (and not your own or the stranger next to you, please).

When it comes to the Jackass movies you probably know the drill - mix two parts gross out humour with one part insanely stupid stunts and three parts 'how the hell did they think of that?' The result? Pure enjoyment. Although I had my doubts about what the cast could do this third time around (and in 3-D nonetheless), Jackass 3D may be short on a few ideas that made the original shows and movies so endearing - but I'll damned if it doesn't work. Not only that, but the 3-D in this installment of Jackass makes this film the best 3-D movie of the year. Also added to the repertoire? A super slow mo camera you'll find more at home in TV shows like Time Warp and Mythbusters. Remember that shot in The Matrix Revolutions (2003) where Neo punches Agent Smith in the face and it goes crazy super slow? Lots of that stuff in Jackass, only real, and with more than just a punch to the face. Awesome.

Jackass 3D gets an open door, easily. Definitely one of the more entertaining pieces of cinema I've seen this year and one of the best times I've had at a theatre in a while. If you think a horror movie makes you cringe to the point where you cover your eyes and peak through your fingers, think again. I don't know how many times I sunk into my seat thinking nothing but "Holy shit..." (pun intended). Go see this movie. Go see it in 3-D. You won't regret it.

*Stills courtesy of Dickhouse Productions


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