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LEGION (2010)

>> Saturday, January 23, 2010

*This review contains spoilers, but it shouldn’t matter anyway because you should never see this movie.

Upon first thinking about what Legion could be like, I imagined an epic battle with nothing but intense fear and a feeling of seclusion from beginning to end, all centered around the idea that God is pissed off at humanity for losing our way and feels His presence again should be proven and known for the first time since Noah’s flood. The trailer seemed a bit corny but more often than not trailers don’t always live up to the actual film as they try and appeal to too large a market.

Unfortunately, that compelling, interesting and decently original storyline I just stated is not the way Legion plays out at all - which is really too bad. The movie starts out as it should. We find ourselves in a secluded desert diner with owner Bob Hansen (played by Dennis Quaid – who should have been used more advantageously), a couple with a rebel of a daughter the diner’s gentle-giant cook Percy (Charles S. Dutton), Bob’s son Jeep (Lucas Black) and pregnant Charlie (Adrienne Palicki). A few other stragglers eventually make their way to the diner, including an oddly, overly kind old lady who does nothing less than tell Charlie her baby is going to burn in hell.

That’s where the movie gets going and after a mediocre start it is also the beginning of the end of any decent writing, tangible editing and a realistic timeline.

Not long after the old lady crawls on the ceiling and is shot and killed (by the stereotypical ‘black man with a handgun’ played by Tyrese Gibson), ex-angel Michael (played by Paul Bettany) shows up in a stolen cop car with a big ol’ bag of guns proclaiming that he knows what’s going on, but there’s “no time” to explain. Without skipping a beat Michael hands everybody a gun and tells them to shoot anybody that comes to the diner (talk about driving away some much-needed binazz).

After a brief shootout with hundreds of cars and potential customers, Bob FINALLY asks what’s going on. Michael tells them he is there to make sure that Charlie’s 'christ-like' baby is born, as it is going to bring the world out of darkness. That's the solution. Baby gets born, demons go away. I'll bite, as long as it makes those sharp-toothed, black-eyed demons go away. But wait, those sharp-toothed, black eyed demons aren’t demons? They’re angels?! Whaaaaa??!!

At this point the movie turns into a giant mess.

Okay, so God (who is apparently a woman)is on His rag and is sad because humanity won’t pay attention to Him anymore. So He’s decided to send angels to kill everybody because He doesn’t believe in people or how they have been acting. Seriously? But then why is Michael disobeying him? Michael says it’s because he has faith in humanity, in the people that fight to live, are selfless, move on and show passion and gratefulness for the life they have. That makes sense … I suppose – but is also super lame.

So the quickest first labour pains moment to actual birth to ever exist in humanity, another angel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) shows up saying he’s there to kill the baby and Michael, where it’s than revealed Michael was supposed to be the one to kill the baby in the first place (lamest twist ever by this point). Charlie is all sad about it and mad at Michael for betraying her, but that little moment doesn’t last long as Michael says to Gabriel “let’s finish this”, and sends Charlie and Jeep (I really hate that name, ps) on their way, telling Jeep that he must follow the prophets and learn the language if he is to survive, which makes no sense, but at this point you can only laugh because there’s been so many WTF moments you just don’t care anymore.

So Michael and Gabriel fight to the death, and Michael dies and dissolves into a cloud of brilliant blue light/smoke, right after Gabriel says “you wanted to live like a human, and you will die like one”. I know for one I’ve always enjoyed the idea of dying and then dissolving into blue light and smoke. Bob the owner comes in and blows up the diner destroying Gabriel, who after that point comes back like 8 more times a'la horror movie serial killer and only leaves for good after Michael comes back as an angel and scares him off. Why is Mike back? Because he “did what God needed and not what he wanted”. So now God is a 16-year old menstruating girl who has been “very spoiled and bad” and should take a time out. Yup.

The end, right? Unfortunately not.

Just when you think it can’t get much worse, the language Jeep is supposed to learn (mentioned earlier by Michael) magically gets tattooed on his arm and Jeep becomes a prophet himself…maybe…sorta?

Jeep says to Michael he should stay and help out and Michael tells Jeep it’s his own journey to take. Then, in the worst movie moment in the last 6 years since White Chicks’ farting at dinner scene, Jeep (no sh**ing you), says to Michael “Will we ever see you again?” and Michael seriously says “Just have faith.” and flies off into the sunset as Jeep and Charlie look down upon a town that is supposed to be their safe haven (which isn't really ever explained). The movie then ends in a T2 ripoff as Charlie and Jeep head off down the highway with a baby and whack load of guns while Charlie narrates what they learnt.

I won’t beat around the bush when I say THIS MOVIE SUCKS. Only see Legion if you want to be embarrassed for the writers and actors and for yourself for ending up in what will definitely be the biggest letdown if not the worst movie of the year.

*Stills courtesy of Sony Pictures

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SHERLOCK HOLMES (2009)

>> Friday, January 22, 2010

What up, Holmes? (you knew that was coming...)
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Robert Downey Jr. continues his "how could anyone else have ever played this part?" movie streak with the very entertaining Sherlock Holmes. Traditionally Holmes would be played in a drier, prudelier way. I would have imagined it to be more an extension of Pride and Prejudice meets Nancy Drew kiddie movie than an adult action flick with Matrix-style slow mo effects (that are actually there for more than just aesthetic purposes).

Jude Law plays the reluctant Dr. Watson and plays extremely well off of Downey despite both men are used to playing leading roles. Downey in particular does well with his role do to his charming and quick-witted ways. There was nothing that got me giddier than seeing him explain the entire plot’s secrets towards the end of the film in a calm and cocky manner. That technique in movie, however, is sometimes a double-edged sword.

The reason for my saying this is because there was a lot we didn’t know about the bad-guy characters until the very end. It reminded me a lot of movies like the Ocean’s 11 series. Towards the third one it was nice seeing how tricky the hero characters were and how everything came together, but at the same time it can get cumbersome not knowing anything until the very end. It’s nice to be in on some of the secrets sometimes – not everything (that would have made Sixth Sense really suck) but some things. In Holmes we didn’t get a whole lot, but Downey’s whit was enough to distract us.

The definite plus here is the studio and writers were definitely in it for a sequel or two by setting up upcoming villains like Professor Moriarty, and keeping the quality of the film at a decently high level. They avoided the cheesy clich├ęs by not making Downey where the famous Holmes’ hat (there was a pipe though), and not one did he utter the words “elementary, my dear Watson”. Thank… God… But as aforementioned, this is not your typical version of Conan Doyle’s legendary crime fighter.

Rachel McAdams does her best here as Sherlock’s unobtainable love, Irene Adler, but her performance is nothing amazing nor is it memorable. She seems to be there as an often comedic setup for Downey, and as a way for Holmes to connect the dots and get information about Moriarty he may have otherwise never gotten.

Overall, Sherlock Holmes seems like it knew what is was doing from concept to screen, and it appeared as though they had the full cast in mind the second they started writing it. This is either a compliment to the writers or the actors or both (as usually and should be the case), and that makes it a prime action flick suited for audiences in the 21st century. I personally hope the next one (and I guarantee you there will be a next one) is a step above this chapter, and I see no reason it won’t be. I compare the few problems this movie has to nothing more than a new TV series getting its footing. Once it’s found it’s voice and if the writers don’t sell out and screw up, I see no reason to not be excited nor enjoy the inevitable second and third chapters to come.

*Stills courtesy of Warner Brothers

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THE LOVELY BONES (2009)

>> Saturday, January 16, 2010

I still don't really understand the title...
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There were two things that drove me to see this movie. The first was Peter Jackson's reputation does unfortunately precede him by this point. Lord of the Rings was well done and King Kong was epic, although long and perhaps even slightly under appreciated by most. However, Lovely Bones did not seem like the cup of tea Jackson was likely to drink from, but I'm glad he did.

At the heart of all Jackson's films, there is a romantic notion. In this case it was the idea that good will overcome evil and no matter how gone someone is they are not really "gone". They have drifted off into a world where nothing may make sense but jumping onto a sleigh and letting a small dog take you over a cliff is but one of many ways to spend an afternoon, if such a thing exists in Susie Salmon's in-between. This "in-between" is a beautifully, well-imagined visual sensation that is used cleverly to tie both worlds of fantasy and truth together. This is no doubt what interested Jackson in the first place. Yet after seeing the movie, this is not what ended up being it's biggest strength, and it certainly not what has gelled most with me.

The queerest part about the film is when one would think for a second that the narrator, Susie Salmon (over-acted only slightly by Saoirse Ronan) was speaking in the past and present tense at the same time. Saying things like "this is the man that would eventually murder me" is a weird thing to hear. The idea of it all gives one a sense of relaxed and chilled oddness filled with hope that if Susie was to assist in solving her own murder, she would wake up and still be alive and everything would be back to normal, a'la It's a Wonderful Life. Obviously that would be a cheesy ending and a let down, but it doesn't stop one for hoping it still happens. This movie works well as a classic example that story is still king in a world filled with visual and CG temptation.

This type of narration though, is only part of a series of performances that worked well in the movie. Mark Wahlberg ends up being surprisingly good and genuine as Susie's dad, Jack, Susan Surandon steals every scene she's in as Grandma Lynn, and Stanly Tucci does nothing less then fill out every possible trait to its fullest with his character George Harvey, the film's nothing-less-than-creepy pedophile neighbour. Unfortunetly I still remember him as the real bad guy, Frank, from Pauly Shore's Jury Duty.

Lovely Bones in the end works as a fantastic movie that aims for nothing less than to please it's audience. It is a mix of What Dreams May Come and Ghost, so in that sense it will feel like you're treading familiar ground, but it still manages to work it's way through that familiarity to produce something newer and slightly (but not badly) chilling. It's not terribly realistic, and you will feel inspired by the scenery Susie gets to experience, in way that makes you kind of wish you were in her place, which is where the film's only real fault lies.

Post-'end of the year new drama Oscar hopefuls', things have died down in theatres a little as far as drama is concerned. And if vampires, angels and post-apocolyptic movies aren't your thing, I see no reason not to walk through this door into the in-between played out in Lovely Bones.
*Still courtesy of Dreamworks

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ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE SQUEAKQUEL (2009)

>> Monday, January 11, 2010

You mean they ACTUALLY gave us another movie??!!

So, I walk into the theatre and I ask myself, will I really like this movie? I didn’t know. But after a long December, taking part in the hustle and bustle of Christmas and shooting ROBO Hobo 4, I was just happy period to be getting in to see something - anything.

Albeit, I wasn’t dragged to this movie kicking and screaming as some might have been. The first Chipmunks flick wasn’t awful, and had some decent moments. I don’t necessarily recommend it, but on a lazy Sunday afternoon, it’s not a bad way to kill a couple hours. So I said, whatever, let’s see what this movie is like.

Alvin, Simon and Theodore are doing a show in France when Dave, played like Jason Lee needs a paycheck) gets in a stage accident and has to be hospitalized in Paris for the rest of the movie as he is too injured to go back to the US right away. Before the Chipmunks depart back to the US, Dave tells them that he wants them to live a “normal childhood”. For talking chipmunks I’m not sure if it’s possible, but whatever. So he sends them to school and his nephew Toby (played by Zachary Toby) ends up watching over them. Sort of…

While attending high school, talking to pissed off jocks’ girlfriends (no seriously, the jocks get jealous of the chimpmunks) they run into the chipettes, who have been placed in the same school for no other reason than Ian (played by David ‘I for some reason ended up in this again’ Cross) has placed them there to win a music competition the school is having so he can sign them and gain the same amount and fame he once had with the original Chipmunks. And wouldn’t you know it, they can sing too!

I won’t ruin the ending (Ian gets effed over again and the Chipettes end up moving in with Dave and the Chipmunks) but the movie itself flowed alright but was filled with gags such as an old lady falling down a flight of stairs in a wheelchair and, no shitting you, fart jokes. I have no doubt kids between 5 and 10 might get a kick of this over-acted movie, but if you’re any older there’s probably something else playing that would probably entertain you more. And to top it off, before I had seen the movie I checked on a couple other reviews, and read a brilliant observation in a review written by Capone, who is mainly featured on Ain’t It Cool News:

"First off, explain this bit of logic to me. Why have the makers of the motherfucking SQUEAKQUEL hired some solid comic actors as Justin Long, Amy Poehler, Anna Faris, and Christina Applegate to do the digitally altered voices of chipmunks? Why? You can't tell who is doing the voices; you can't even tell if it's a man or a woman doing the voice of any given chipmunk. For all I know, the makers of the motherfucking SQUEAKQUEL hired an army of she-males to play the rodents. When you totally obliterate the voice of the actor you've hired to play an animated character, any nuances that might enhance the comedy are lost. Dummies!"

He makes a hella-good point here. I wanted to bring it up but why write something yourself when someone else has said EXACTLY what you’re thinking?

So, in case you can’t tell by now, I’m not gonna recommend you walk through this door. Although by now it’s probably in most cheap theatres meaning it won’t cost you $10/pop to see it. Even then, there’s some good stuff from last year that’s probably playing too that could be worth checking out if you missed it. Your life won’t change if you see Alvin 2, and if you are thinking about spending $10 to see it, go see Avatar instead. And if you’ve already seen it, see it again.
*Stills courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

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AVATAR (2009)

>> Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Hey lady, you look familiar. Do you have a little smurf in you? No... Would you like some?

So... it's been a while. Christmas caught up with me and I didn't get a chance to see a lot of movies. My next review will be for Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Sqeakuel, which I actually saw before this one, but who wants to start the new year off with that? Like, yeah... Nonetheless, I give you the first review of 2010.

So a few months back I do what I usually do every day, and sit at work and look up movie reviews, news and trailers. Upon my search I come up with a new trailer for a upcoming film called Avatar. I said to myself “Alright, I’ll bite. Sounds like some Japanimation stuff or something, but whatever, let’s check it out”. Frankly, I didn’t think too much about it past the point of seeing the trailer. The characters looked cartoonish, the movie looked incredibly sci-fi, and I didn’t really know what the plot was. I’ll admit, it looked decently epic, but it was well on the way to becoming one of those movies you think about seeing, and eventually settle on renting it from Blockbuster 18 months later when you see the DVD case and say “Oh yeah….I forgot about that one”.

Well, as most of you are probably familiar with by now, it didn’t take long for this movie to get some buzz, and more buzz, and MORE buzz. To the point where, like Twilight, you have to say to yourself, alright, let’s check it out. Whether it be the fact that this is director James Cameron’s first film since Titanic, or the fact it has the biggest budget of all of time (reports put it at nearly half a billion), or simply the fact that Cameron has babied this film for nearly two decades, which means that’s it’s not a quickly put-together “let’s try and win an Oscar” flick. These things alone make the story of making the movie epic, so what was the end result of the actual film?

Avatar is easily the best movie of the year, if not the decade. I know that’s a lot to say, because there have been MANY great films over the past 10 years - The Dark Knight, Lord of the Rings, Kill Bill, etc. And perhaps my statement is a bit unfair, as it’s different in a lot of ways than those films. Plus a movie always seems better when it’s in its glory days and everyone is talking about it. There was a day when all I would hear were Napoleon Dynamite quotes ringing through the halls of the University and spewing from the mouths of my friends. “Napoleon your just jealous because I’ve been talking to hot babes online all day” and “can you pull me into town?” Ahhhh, to reminisce of yesteryear….
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But, I digress, upon making such a bold statement I must now explain myself. Most will think I say such a thing about Avatar because of the special effects and epic of it all, this is not true. The special effects are hella-ground breaking and amazing to see, especially in 3-D, and Avatar, much like Christmas Carol, used 3-D in the right way. In Carol because of things like following Scrooge as he flies over town, in Avatar because it actually held back a little making the experience not so over-whelming and easier to settle into. But it’s not the visuals that sold it for me, although it was a nice hefty layer of icing on this cake.

Here it was the story, and the care that can be seen in every frame of film courtesy of Cameron making sure he spent each cent of this ginormous budget in the best way possible, including the task of creating a whole new language and culture for the aliens to speak. This translated into a film that a person of every age can see, even though it has mature themes, much like Titanic does. Those mature themes translate into a very touching bond that is built between Marine Jake Sully, played excellently by the relatively unknown Sam Worthington, and native Neytiri played by Zoe Saldana, who also played Uhura in this year’s Star Trek. The bond between them feels very real, and might be one of the most memorable romances in film history. Even though both characters are CG most of the time, motion capture has gotten to a point where there’s no difference between the actors actually being on set as opposed to be on a motion capture stage. The same goes for the supporting cast made up of Stephen Lang, Joel Moore and Sigourney Weaver, who Cameron obviously new could work well with species from other planets.

The story here is that ex-Marine and paraplegic Jake Sully takes a job replacing his dead twin brother, who was supposed to operate an expensive avatar that was made with his genetic code. Turns out Jake is a perfect match and with his help (and the promise of a new pair of legs), that costly toy won’t have to go to waste. On his first day out Jake gets lost meets up with Neytiri, who was going to kill him but decided against it due to signs from the “Gods” so to speak. Because of this Jake integrates into their society and when it comes time to decide whether he should follow his initial malicious military orders or protect the people he is learning more about every day, our hero gets his struggle and must make a decision.

At nearly three hours, Avatar is not a quick in and out movie, but it does not slow or waver or get lost in the vast possibilities introduced by this new and fascinating world. It moves at a very tolerable pace and you will find yourself immersed completely in this visual and emotional wonder. The story will hold onto you and at the end of the movie you may find yourself inspired, or wanting more, or simply wanting to see it again (perhaps all of the above). So do yourself a favour and start this new decade off right and walk through this door. Avatar (especially on the big screen and in 3-D) may just be one of the best movie experiences you might have in a long time.
*Still courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

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