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>> Friday, February 26, 2010



>> Sunday, February 21, 2010

I can't believe we're about to battle Harry Potter!

As the Harry Potter series begins to come to an end this year it’s no wonder why a movie like The Lightning Thief would come to be. It’s a successful book series that has monsters, people with powers and a hero that believes he will never amount to anything great. But compared to Potter, it has the potential to be much better.

Zac Efron look-a-like Logan Lerman is a poor, poor kid who lives in the slums with his adoptive parents who give stereotypes a bad name. The hardworking mother (played just a’ight by Catherine Keener ) irons and loves and supports her son, Percy, while his alcoholic step-father actually orders his woman to get him a beer when he gets home, wears plaid and slaps his woman’s ass (and is also a gross, GROSS underuse and almost insult of Joe Pantoliano). Despite this typical upbringing, Percy (sounding a lot like Perseus) is very talented, especially when it comes to swimming and holding his breath underwater for 7+ minutes. It’s enough to make one say “Oh…my… GOD !”. (*PS – Despite my use of this pun to entertain myself momentarily, I’m genuinely glad this line wasn’t actually in the movie).

On a field trip to a museum exhibit with his class, his substitute teacher, Mrs. Dodds, takes Percy to a private area of the museum and literally jumps out of her skin and turns into a ‘fury’ (a winged beast who looks like an over-sized bat) who tells Percy to give her Zeus’ lightning bolt which as we learned has been stolen, and everyone seems to think it was Percy ‘who dun it’. That’s where Percy’s real journey begins.

He learns his dyslexia is actually a natural way for him to read Greek, and his ADHD is just his natural battle skins yearning to get out, which, after a sword fight with his new potential love interest Annabeth (Athena’s daughter), seems to be the truth as he goes from iPod playin’ street kid to battle warrior in a matter of only minutes. On his way to a camp (to hone his battle skills) just for the bastard children of Gods, his mother (who knew all along about Percy’s gifts) gets kidnapped by Hades, who tells Percy he must bring him the lightning bolt or he will banish Percy’s mother to the underworld forever. So Percy, Annabeth and Percy’s Narnia -inspired goat friend, Grover, take off on a journey to save his mother and return the lightning bolt.

Not being sure what to expect to begin with, it's hard to not be impressed with anything that’s better than a bad adaptation of a book I've never heard of. However, that's not to say I wasn't genuinely entertained once Lightning Thief got past all the intro stuff and Percy started on his quest.

Superhuman movie intros are always sticky though - filled with montages and sometimes meaningless character development when all you really want to see is all the cool things they can do. In the case of films like Spider-man I was terribly bored in the first hour because as a viewer and a fan I was there to see him in the Spidey suit and kicking ass; everything leading up to that point was plain, simple filler. In a movie like Lightning Thief you want to see what this guy can do with his new powers and you find until that first hour passes you're rolling your eyes a little and kinda ‘not impressed’ - especially when Joe Pantoliano is uttering lines like “Sally, get me more beer!”

Despite all that, though, I liked this film. Because once it picked up – it picked up nicely. This includes questionably small roles for Uma Thurman and Rosario Dawson, who play Medusa and Persephone respectively. The movie ends strong though and shows promise for upcoming sequels now that it’s found its footing a bit. As aforementioned it has the potential to be better than Harry Potter. Lightning Thief’s first chapter starts with teens who are almost graduating high school, therefore aging through the next four or five films won’t be as big and noticeable an issue as it has been with the Potter series. It also aims at an older audience from the get go which means perhaps some more mature themes will be the focus and we’ll get less ‘puff’.

The other plus here is that I actually got joy out of seeing some of the Greek gods and seeing the way they worked a lot of that Greek mythology into the film (including the beheading of Medusa). It’s nice seeing some of those plot points based on actual ancient lore instead of hearing made up words and phrases like in Harry Potter (this also includes you Lord of the Rings – not you Avatar).

So for all those fans of Potter who are desperately searching for the next book-turned-movie series to fill the hole that the Hogwarts dwelling wizard is sure to leave, I think Percy Jackson might be the man to take his place. The door to Olympus is open here, so if you’re up for some good old fashioned snake-haired women and lightning bolt-wielding Gods, then this is a movie you’re going to want to check out – at least until Clash of the Titans is released.

*Stills courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox



>> Sunday, February 14, 2010

Look, kids! I'm being punk'd!

Well, you caught me. I saw this movie on the day New Line was hoping everybody would. That would explain the huge line up I faced getting there an hour early. Either way, I didn’t know what I would be in for as the trailer is relatively vague and the tagline literally said “A love story. More or less.” It doesn’t matter though, as the title might be enough. I was either walking into a movie with an all-star cast that was about each of them dealing with the pressures and expectations of Valentine’s Day, or I was walking into a movie about a character named Valentine and the crazy day he was about to have. For the record, it wasn’t the latter.

That all said, I didn’t regret seeing this film. There are movies out there like Up in the Air that you have to be in the mood to see, and movies like Avatar that you have to be in the mood to sit through. Then there are movies like Valentine’s Day that I’m glad I went and saw simply because it was fun.

Valentine’s Day has no one plot – it has several. Even then, they are mini plots that on their own couldn’t support an entire movie, although there are several movies out there that have tried. If I was to compare this film to any out there I would say it’s most like Paris, Je T’Aime or The Ten, which were both released in 2007 - except Valentine’s Day only used one director (unlike Paris) and all the stories intertwined in one way or another. Which is both a good and a bad thing.

The good comes from the fact that because we jumped through all the story lines as fast as we did you were kept entertained all the way through the 2 hour running time. Each story was intriguing and different enough that you never found yourself wanting more of one story over another, or waiting for one to be over in order to continue on with an earlier plot line. Director Gary Marshall (of Pretty Woman) did an excellent job balancing all the stories and keeping everything straight. The bad came from the fact the plotline were almost too intertwined to the point where it levelled on being a little ridiculous. Then again, it is a movie so it’s kind of a fun idea that your neighbour is also the person who is sleeping with your boss which is making your boss in turn happier and in the end getting you a promotion. So maybe it’s not a bad thing? That’s for you to decide as to whether or not it’s going to bother you (for the record that plot line was an example and it’s not actually in this film).

As for the cast and the acting – none of them will win an Oscar for their roles here. Valentine’s Day works like the Ocean’s series where the big names turn up for their parts simply because they want to get paid to have fun - which is definitely what all of them had, and that clearly shows on the screen. No actor is better over the other here, but it’s a nice representation of actors from the past (Shirley MacLaine, Hector Elizondo, Larry Miller) the present (Julia Roberts, Jamie Foxx, Kathy Bates) and the future (Bradley Cooper, Taylor Lautner, Taylor Swift [maaaybe]). And for the record, Taylor Swift wasn’t awful here, but I don’t think this was more than a flavour of the month thing or that she should take any starring roles too soon.

Valentine’s Day is a good dose of fun amidst all the more serious suff that’s out there right now. You won’t regret seeing it (even after Valentine’s Day) because fun is not a once a year thing and there should be more comedies like this and less like When in Rome. The door o’ love is open here, so jump into your swan boat and float down a river of fun performances and lots of laughs.
*Stills courtesy of New Line Cinema


UP IN THE AIR (2009)

>> Saturday, February 13, 2010

Angry Charlie Reviews 'Up in the Air' from Angry Charlie on Vimeo.



>> Friday, February 12, 2010

'The Wolfman' misses by a hair.

Oscar winning actors Anthony Hopkins and Benicio Del Toro take the male leads in The Wolfman as father and son, Lawrence and Sir John Talbot. After the death of his brother, Ben, Lawrence reunites with his father and Ben's bride-to-be, Gwen, played by Emily Blunt. Taken aback by how distraught the beautiful Gwen is by Ben's death, Lawrence agrees to not rest until he finds Ben's killer. After seeing Ben's body, Lawrence comes to realize this isn't your typical "Ripper case".

Lawrence finds himself at a gypsy camp after coming across a talisman he found with his brother's belongings. While at the camp, a blur of hair and blood take over the scene as a growling, barking monster tears up the camp and everyone in it. Lawrence decides to run after the beast but soon finds himself with a chunk taken out of his neck, but luckily alive. The gypsy woman who helps to repair him though, assures him in one month's time during the next full moon, he may not be so fortunate.

After a time lapse and a montage of Lawrence tossing and turning, the worst seems to be true come the first full moon. It appears he is after all, a wolfman. You can guess what starts to happen from here.

The Wolf Man was released in 1941 and is considered to be one of the great monster movie classics of all time. At the time the effects were astounding, and story spellbinding. And for over 70 years, it has remained untainted despite older movies like Teen Wolf and newer ones like Underworld and Twilight bringing werewolves back into the spotlight. That is, it has remained untainted until now.

I believe when it comes to classic movie remakes (especially ones that are this old) its important to make sure you pay a certain homage to the original for which your film is based, as well as making newer decisions that help to make the story stronger. So it is beyond me that with two Oscar winning actors, a large budget and an established fan base why a unique movie such as this can turn out to be such a disappointment.

Before I go into that, its important to point out the good - the look of the wolfman is wonderful. Lawrence in his beast form is not a pure werewolf, he is exactly as the title describes - part wolf, part man. The transformation scenes are exceptional, although I don't know if bad CG is acceptable anymore, especially after Avatar. The transformations make sense in the way the bones under the skin move and the way the sharp wolf teeth break through his gums. Hugo Weaving's Abberline is also an entertaining character in this film as well, but perhaps only because of his fellow actors' performances - which brings me to the bad.

Shame on you both Mr. Del Toro and Mr. Hopkins. It's pretty clear neither of you cared much about this film. Both of your performances were phoned in and uninspiring. In films and theatre there's something called the suspension of disbelief. In most cases a viewer is able to sink into this suspension within the first 10 minutes of any movie. I was not able to get into it until over an hour into Wolfman - and I was out of it just as quickly. For this I will not only blame these two actors, but the writer Andrew Kevin Walker who also worked on Sleepy Hollow and Se7en. Its seems like the makers of this film had an idea for a bunch of really cool scenes, that they threw them together into a movie and decided it was good enough. And there was definitely more that could have been done here, and one of those might have been to slow things down a little and really let the viewer feel what Lawrence is going through. Instead your left feeling like you could care less what happens to either him or those he cares about. You're more likely to think "wow, that wolfman looks cool howling at the moon" vs "wow, that sucks what Lawrence is going through". This is all outside of probably the worst death scene to grace silver screens since . . . you know, I don't actually know. But I did find what most people call the worst death scene of all time on YouTube, from a low-budget film called Hard Ticket to Hawaii.

The fact here is that in most films (either good or bad) a strong ending can save the entire movie. This movie's ending is disappointing and uneventful and (along with the acting and the story) that is why I am saying leave this a closed door and see something else instead. There's enough Oscar nominated films playing right now and unless you've seen them all first, skip The Wolfman and save yourself from disappointment.
*Stills courtesy of Universal Pictures



>> Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Some friendly elderly folk are happy to "meat" Eli.

A wise man once said the pen is mightier than the sword. Don’t ask me who, I don’t know and I don’t care to look. For The Book of Eli, it is certainly is nothing less than true. The movie starts off with a man of faith (Denzel Washington) who is simply ‘traveling’ west to a place where he knows (for no other reason than knowing) that the book he is carrying will be safe from the hands of the bandits and murderers that roam the roads of this post apocalyptic land.

Along the way he stops through a western-esque town to get his battery charged for his first gen iPod (perhaps the only thing keeping him sane anymore) and he runs into trouble a local bar where the only thing more valuable than your life is the water it serves. The bar is run by Carnegie (Gary Oldman) who has his thugs go out on month long road trips plundering and killing to look for one special, un-named book. Since the public school system has been out of whack for a good 50 years by now, they of course can’t read and end up bringing him back novels and O magazines, basically every book they can find. One does have to suppose at this point Eli is carrying the book Carnegie is looking for.

Soon enough that fact is confirmed and now it’s on between Eli and Carnegie, who will stop at nothing to get Eli’s book. Knowing what the book is worth to Eli, and believing in his journey, Carnegie’s sorta step-daughter, Solara (Mila Kunis) decides to help Eli on his quest and accompanies him as he escapes (rather easily) the clutches of Carnegie and his pirates. Needless to say it’s not long before Carnegie catches up to the duo and the real war begins.

Washington and Oldman play extremely well off each other, so much so I would like to see them work together again, their moments are some of the best in the movie). Mila Kunis you know is on her way, and after this and 2008’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall, it won’t be long before she’s the star of her own movie, perhaps one that’s good enough for Oscar consideration. There’s a quietness and a patience to the movie that gives it that western feel I mentioned earlier, which is believable in the world as it’s set up, and it’s no doubt that if the world was to come to an end, society would come full circle where resources and luxuries like shampoo are things you learn to live without. It’s also never really explained why the world came to be the way it was, and that was refreshing. The last thing Eli needed was flashbacks of people jumping through the sprinklers on a fresh, green lawn.

This movie is extremely entertaining though and it will undoubtedly get lost in the current Oscar buzz and probably end up not making as much as it could have. As for the 2011 Oscars, I wouldn’t count out Washington or Oldman, although it is far too early to tell. The door is open to this post apocalyptic adventure, although watching it in the theatres won’t be too different an experience than watching this one at home, besides the magic that going to the theatre does seem to still have (should you allow it to).

*Stills courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures


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