Monday, July 28, 2008

The Master Of Suspense...

My first director's study will be on Mr. Alfred Hitckcock. It was a close race between Hitchcock, Spielberg and Kubrick but in the end Hitchcock pulled out ahead, and rightfully so. He has a wonderful canon of films for me to choose from.

The next matter of business is choosing the 7 films I am going to study. These films have to represent all that is Hitch. I have put quite a list of films in the poll and also added other, if you choose other just let me know in these comments what your choice is.

I plan on getting into Hitchcock in a week or so, and hopefully will have it finished by the end of August. If anyone has any essays, reviews or anything they have written regarding Hitckcock and would like me to post a link to it when I publish my study that would be great, I would love to have a whole slew of different viewpoints on Hitchie.

By the way, you can vote more than once, I would suggest choosing the 7 films you think I should study.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

12 Movies Meme

have recently been tagged.
Marcy from Because I Saw The Film is the culprit.
Read Marcy's Blog to read something much better than my own.
The tagging/idea originated with The Lazy Eye Theatre.
It is from the story that the New Beverly Hills Cinema is allowing Diablo Cody(writer of Juno) to pick 12 movies to play in their theatre.

Here's the rules fools:
"The Meme that asks what if YOU could pick 12 movies to run at the New Beverly Cinema?"
1) Choose 12 Films to be featured. They could be random selections or part of a greater theme. Whatever you want.
2) Explain why you chose the films.
3) Link back to Lazy Eye Theatre so Piper can have hundreds of links and she can take those links and spread them all out on the bed and then roll around in them.
4) The people selected then have to turn around and select 5 more people.
My theme may be lame but...okay it's just lame.
Celebrating the 5 senses.
Have you ever tasted Monday?

I chose this sweet Pixar gem because of the passion you can feel in it's every scene. From the way Remy wants to be a chef and talks about his love of good food, to the way the critic express' his thoughts on the food he has eaten and on criticism itself. It can be related to anything in anyones life really. A filmmaker can replace food with film, so can a musician, writer, painter, etc. It is truly a film about just having good taste, to really think about what you are tasting and why you like or dislike it.

I chose Alexander Payne's hilarious character study because it too is all about taste. Giamatti's character cares deeply about how the wine tastes, so much so that when an inferior wine is even mentioned (Merlot) he freaks out. I really admire the way Payne mixed in the way wine ripens and tastes to the characters lives.

Have you ever touched Tuesday?

Touch Of Evil
I guess this one seems pretty obvious, but really,Orson Welles second best film (In my humble opinion) is all about the way evil has the ability to change us in one touch. Orson Welles performance is masterful and friggin Chuck Heston plays a mexican...what more could you ask for?

Lars And The Real Girl

This little film made last year is a polarizing film. Some hated it, some loved it, few fell in the middle. I was more on the loving it side. It doesn't get sappy or overly sentimental, but it is "touching" in every sense of the word. Another aspect that made this film my second choice was Lars inability to accept being touched, it literally hurt him. His journey is a journey anyone who has been through the loss' he has must go through, he must allow himself to allow others to get close to him, close enough to touch him (physically, emotionally, mentally, etc.).

Yep, It smells like Wednesday-

Apocalypse Now
Uh, "I love the smell of napalm in the morning." Need I say more?

Why Mallrats? Well the line spoofing Apocalypse Now made me think of it ("I love the smell of commerce in the morning.") but the more I thought about that line, the more it stuck out that that is what the film is about. Everyone in the film is selling themselves off to something and in the end they really still are. Don't get me wrong, I am not Kevin Smith apologist, this film is pretty bad, but I find it funny and entertaining to say the least. I guess if you disagree it still fits in this category because you think it stinks...dirka dirka dir.
Have you seen Thursday lately?

Days Of Heaven
Honestly, it is just a beautiful film to look at.

The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford


Did you hear what happened to Friday?

The Conversation

For anyone who has seen this flick it is easy to tell why it was chosen for this day. What was heard or what is thought to be heard is what this film is all about.

The Graduate

This was really a given for me because I love to hear this film. It has one of my all time favorite movie soundtracks.

"Here's to you Mrs. Robinson, Jesus loves you more than you will know."

Senseless Saturday-

Sense and Sensibility

Yeah, I didn't think this was my type of film. It was really great though. I think it work's because it captures all of the senses. Ok well it doesn't have a taste or smell and it didn't touch me in the literal sense. It has a uniquely wonderful story though and the word sense is in the friggin title.

The Sixth Sense

Yeah, duh. You get it, I know.


So there's my list of films I would play in a movie theatre had I had the chance. Actually I probably would play very few of these films if I were to have such a chance, but with the restriction of a theme (which I know wasn't mandatory, but it was fun) this is what I came up with.

As for tagging, I think anyone I would tagged has already been tagged.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Day The Earth Stood Still....again?

There has been alot of talk about the remake of the classic 50's sci-fi film The Day The Earth Stood Still(1951) starring Keanu "Excellent!" Reeves and Jennifer Connolly, directed by Scott Derrickson(The Exorcism of Emily Rose). In regards to that film I have a analysis of the original movie.

Before watching a film one begins speculating on the films possibilities. It may have a lot of action, or possibly some laughs thrown in. These possibilities grow into expectations and we measure our expectations up with the final product and see how the film measures up.

When the opening credits began for The Day the Earth Stood Still I began speculating and generating my own ideas of what I was going to witness over the next 90 minutes. I found myself feeling like this was going to be a cheesy, yet classic, 1950s Sci-Fi film. I figured there would be a lot of action filled with silly special effects but what I found was much deeper than that.
The Day the Earth Stood Still is about an alien named Klaatu landing on earth with his giant robot Gort to tell the world they must live peacefully or earth will be destroyed so as not to be a threat to other planets. After being shot at and taken to the hospital he tries to get the worlds leaders together so he can warn them, but he is informed that the leaders will not come together due to their differences. The film progresses with his trying to find a way to let earth know of the impending doom it is about to place upon itself.

I was highly intrigued with Klaatu while watching the film. He is so persistent on saving the world and has so much compassion for the world that it’s unbelievable that anyone could see him as a threat.

I related to this film in a different way than I think many others would. While Klaatu obviously speaks of the world and its petty arguing being juvenile and stupid I felt it on a more personal level. This film isn’t just a critique on war and international relations, but a story of love and compassion for our neighbor. Not only are fear tactics used by our president and the government in general, but they are used in everyday life. “I am fearful when I see people substituting fear for reason” Klaatu says about the world. This is the case with our nation, but it’s also the case with a wife who has an abusive husband. The wife is substituting fear for reason in the situation if she doesn’t leave him. This can also be said for the homosexual who holds in their true selves out of fear of what others will think, or to be more general, anyone who will not stand up for something they believe in!

In the article Alien Encounters: Science Fiction and The Mysterium in 2001, Solaris and Contact Karl Wessel writes; “At the level of personal psychology the alien can serve as an icon for the experience of loneliness and isolation experienced by many people living in modern or postmodern societies.” With this we see that Klaatu isn’t just here to rid the nations of their bickering, but the people in these nations from their loneliness. If we weren’t so incessantly worried about the affairs of others we may all just be able to be ourselves and love each other for who we are. Christians and gays can run through fields holding hands while bloods and krips have tea parties. Through this we find loneliness and isolation has ended because our belittling of each other will have ended.

With saying that I don’t believe Klaatu’s goal was for us to never argue or have a conflict of any sort. It seems in Klaatu’s final speech he takes a very Libertarian approach. “Now, this does not mean giving up any freedom, except the freedom to act irresponsibly”, it seems he realizes that we all will not agree and have the freedom to believe whatever we will to believe, just do not infringe it upon others. “The result is, we live in peace, without arms or armies, secure in the knowledge that we are free from aggression and war. Free to pursue more... profitable enterprises”, He realizes that freedom is what we should have as a world, but it is impossible to do so with such aggression, not conflict, but when conflict leads to aggression. “It is no concern of ours how you run your own planet, but if you threaten to extend your violence, this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder”, it is here that we find a puzzling statement. Klaatu just spent the entire film talking about no violence we must live in peace, yet he is threatening to reduce the earth to “a burned-out cinder”. This is where the Libertarian politics fully come into play. We are all to live in peace unless one is protecting ones self. In this we find the root of Klaatu’s reasoning for coming to earth. Until we can realize that when someone is not effecting us their actions should not be a problem we will not have peace. This is the basis of Klaatu’s argument and the conclusion of mine.

“I'm impatient with stupidity. My people have learned to live without it.” Says Klaatu. Mr. Harley responds; “I'm afraid my people haven't. I'm very sorry... I wish it were otherwise.”

2001: A Space Odyssey(CLASSIC REVIEW)

BE WARNED: THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD.How does one begin to even write about a masterpiece? How can anyone in their right mind enter into a conversation that has been going on for 40 years and think something can be contributed? 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, Kubrick) is such a film that has been talked about almost to great exhaustion, or so it would seem. Film geeks for 40 years have pondered upon the theories and ideas behind this masterpiece, and even Arthur C. Clarke has stated that neither his nor Kubrick’s opinions should be stated as THE idea behind the film. It is a film that is so open to interpretation that at some point it almost becomes a film about not having an interpretation.

Stanley Kubrick, the genius behind this masterpiece and many others is often discussed as making films in a generally nihilistic mindset. They are often bleak and generally become about having a belief in nothing. Nihilism is “a philosophical position which argues that being, especially past and current human existence, is without objective meaning, purpose, comprehensible truth, or essential value.” Does this common attribute really add up to Kubrick’s magnum opus also following suit with what his supposed ideology is?

Arthur C. Clarke stated in his short essay “The Myth of 2001” that they had “made the first 10 million dollar religious film.” Now religion normally “relates to the existence, nature and worship of a deity or deities and divine involvement in the universe and human life”. Why would Kubrick take such a huge leap with this film to suggest there is a meaning to be found in existence when he takes so much time and effort on other films saying the opposite? The truth is Kubrick explores the lack of meaning and gives a meaning to it.

The film begins and a card appears with the words “The Dawn of Man” strewn across it. We are brought into a group of apes, but as the title card suggests these apes are about to usher in the next step of the evolutionary process. They scavenge around fighting off pigs for their food, seeming to barely make it. All of the sudden a tall, black monolith appears out of nowhere. The apes make contact with the monolith, but other than that nothing happens with it. The viewer is left bewildered and wondering what the point was. As the deliberately paced sequence goes on we see an ape begin to learn to kill. Thus ends the ape’s need to scavenge and begins the ape’s time to hunt. As this comes after the monolith appears, it isn’t totally clear but it can be assumed that such knowledge grew from the ape’s contact with the monolith. At this point we can safely begin to wonder; what is it that the monolith represents here? If it is obviously overseeing what is going on, as the film goes on we see that it is omnipresent, or at least able to travel far distances and survive as long as man has. It can be said that the monolith represents God, or a type of god. Is this Kubrick’s vision of religion?

The monolith brought good for the apes. It gave them everything they needed, but all it does to the rest of existence is hurt it. It seems the monolith might have given the apes the idea that to survive you have to be on top, attack any person who has the chance at overtaking you when they are least expecting it. Religion then is the cause of war. Most likely we see, especially in today’s world that most wars are brought on because of religious beliefs. Whether it be George Bush saying God told him to invade Iraq, or Bin Laden claiming Allah told him to attack the United States. On a smaller but no less disgusting scale it is the KKK’s excuse for their hatred of other races.

As the film goes on, we are still under the title card “The Dawn of Man” when we reach Dr. Floyd. Dr. Floyd is headed to an excavation on the moon where a monolith has been discovered. Why does this, the year 2000 A.D., still have the title card “The Dawn of Man”? It seems that although man has evolved technologically they are still “spiritual and emotional infants” as so profoundly stated in the film Angry Red Plane (1960, Melchior). We first see them as apes evolving technologically with the invention of war (in a sense) and now they lack the ability to understand that such a magnificent thing as the monolith is that they should have respect for it. Instead they opt for a photo and a smile, which the monolith appears to be unhappy about as it lets out a loud piercing noise. From this point we head into our next title card.

“Jupiter Mission, 18 Months Later” appears on the screen and we are introduced to Dave Bowman, Frank Poole and the infamous HAL 9000. Neither we nor those on board know the purpose of their mission at this point. This is where the technological advances of man have reached a maximum. We see throughout this piece of the film that HAL is not only capable of conversation and human understanding, but perfectly capable of emotion and feelings. This can be seen as another evolution of man because man has created a being in his likeness, at least mentally. Man has, in a sense, become a god. It is at this point that man can no longer evolve as man anymore, but to reach the next point man must destroy what it is that he has made of himself. When Dave “kills” HAL we feel the devolution of HAL, we can see a clear, determined Dave seemingly changing before our eyes.

When we reach “Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite” we have reached the last step in man’s evolutionary process. Dave goes through some sort of portal which leads him to a room where he is able to see himself at different stages in his life just before he becomes it. Once reaching elderly, Dave also sees the monolith and reaches towards it (just as the apes did and Floyd) and begins his rebirth.

This film is filled with birthdays. There are 5 in total; the birth of man, Dr. Floyd’s daughter, Frank, HAL, and the Star child. This only enforces the idea that the main ideology behind this film is rebirth, or redemption.

Dave has reached a state of redemption at the end of the film. He has messed up as a man by putting so much trust in technology while becoming a robot himself. By this point he is overlooking earth and seems to be given a purpose. It is so easy to categorize this film into any religion or belief/idea but the film boils down to redemption and rebirth. He has reached a state of absolution, by overcoming what man is. He only reached this point when no longer allowing technology to hold him back from reaching his destination. He was determined to do things on his own, to make something of the mission no matter the cost. In this instance the film is very religious, not specific to any religion, but in an overall sense it is saying to believe in something, even if that something is yourself.

Through Clarke’s novelization we see that he is of the belief that the Star child is a God-like figure even proclaiming he was “master of the world” but “doesn’t know what to do next”. This brings up an interesting thought that the next logical step, especially since man has already created in his own likeness (HAL), would be God. At the same time, this is only the next logical step because at this point we lack understanding of what could happen next. In context of the film I think it is an interesting idea to explore but completely stating it would simply disfigure the mysticism of what 2001: A Space Odyssey is.

So I Had This Idea....

Come along with me young ones. I am working on a project right now, and the recent poll question proves it. I am doing a study of different directors, their common themes, traits and worldviews. I am going to do one director at a time and take 7 films(unless they have less than 7 than I will just do them all) and try and find what ties each of them together, as well as what sets them apart. I will do a review/analysis of each film and also an overview of how they all fit into said director's canon.

My question for all of you is, does anyone have any ideas on who they would like to see me study? I am not biased. I want to learn more about foreign as well as domestic films, comedy as well as action, silent and talkies. Even if you want to see me study the deep moral complexities of a Uwe Boll film(please, don't) if enough people suggest it, I will go for it. For my first study I have put up a poll. I would like to study someone who has a great deal I can dive into, but also someone I am at least slightly familiar with.

Not much else to say on the matter I guess. I plan on doing my first study in August.

Thanks for the feedback!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

"Memories, All Alone In The Moonlight..."

“The things which the child loves remain in the domain of the heart until old age. The most beautiful thing in life is that our souls remaining over the places where we once enjoyed ourselves.”

-Kahlil Gibran

There are a few films that we see in our childhood that can change our lives forever. For me as a kid I loved to laugh. I loved to have fun. So as far back as I can remember( I was born in 1987) I have had one film that has stuck with me. This film isn't on any one's top list of any type, and if pressed to give a list it wouldn't be on mine either.

The film in question is the hilarious Spaceballs(1987). I can remember being a young boy and watching it with my dad on TV and trying to laugh when he laughed, while not exactly sure what was going on. I also have the fondest memory of staying up late with a friend and building a tent in our room with chairs and blankets. This tent was elaborate with secret rooms and the best part is, the only way to fit in it was to be as small as a kid. We were around 10 or 11 at the time. Anyways, we would drape one of the blankets over the TV and play Nintendo or Sega, but for this time we decided to watch TV. What did we see? We saw a huge helmeted Rick Moranis making a fool of himself at every turn. We were in stitches!

At some point during this cinematic experience I realized, "This is Spaceballs!" I told my friend. He only replied with the logical response, a giggle at the fact that I said balls and then a perplexed look. I responded to his look of confusion with, " I watched this movie with my dad before, he loves it!" We fell asleep watching Spaceballs that night, but it's impact would forever mark my future sense of humor and everyday conversations.

Years passed and my friends and I would constantly gather together and watch/re watch comedies. I for one fell in love with comedy. I was 13 and I didn't care about John McClane or The Terminator, I wanted to watch The Jerk(1979) or Ghostbusters(1984). My other friends also loved comedy, but were still attracted to action films like most normal teenage boys are. Regardless we would always watch comedies together. At this point we didn't have a critical gauge, so most things we saw we found to be hilarious and would watch over and over again.

It was September of 2001, two friends and I were headed to the movies with one of my friends sister and her boyfriend. They were older, maybe 20, while we were 13-14 years old. We had no idea what we were going to see on the way, we were just happy to go to the movies. When we arrived the adults decided they were in a comedic mood and the only comedy on the menu was a little film called Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. As soon as the name was mentioned all three of us lit up. Was it because we were familiar with Kevin Smith and his View Askewniverse? Not at all, we had seen these hilarious TV Spots and were always game for some comedy.

Needless to say, we had no idea what was going on. The film is chocked full of elements of Smith's past films, but we still found it to be hilarious. So hilarious in fact that it inspired a friend and I to try and write a script/comic. The script/comic was titled That Man and it was more in the vein of Mel Brooks than Kevin Smith, but it was directly after seeing JASBSB that we decided we wanted to do this. That Man was a play on words with Batman, except literally no one knew him, and when he would solve crimes or save the day, people would simply say, "who is that man?" Ridiculous? Yes. Dumb? Yes. But we didn't care.

Right afterwards I went and rented Mallrats(1995), Clerks(1994), Chasing Amy(1997) and Dogma(1999). We loved them all, but didn't entirely understand some of the complexities and underlying themes that we may now understand. I think somehow, seeing such mature films at such a young age changed me in some ways. At that age, and sometimes now, I tend to try and one up people with saying the dirtiest thing(in a nice way, tehe) but now I have learned restraint. At the same time, it led me to love independent films. I would watch interviews with Kevin Smith and saw who he looked up to and would dive into other films that had an independent quality to them, that I still love today.

Fight Club(1999). What can I say about Fight Club. Although it came out before Jay and Silent Bob, I saw it afterwards. This was my first real favorite film that wasn't a comedy. I am 15 now and a friend has heard that Fight Club is a must see film. We go to the local video store and search it out in the action section, to no avail. We are confused, so we ask the employees and they point us to the drama section. I wasn't really sure how a film called Fight Club could be a drama, so I was worried to say the least.

We get back to my place and head to my room and put the DVD into my Playstation 2. I had bunk beds and they took up a lot of space in my tiny room, so we pushed the beds out ate pizza and sat behind the beds, using the mattress as a table.

I was totally and completely riveted by this film. Somehow, for once, I was able to feel some kind of an emotion towards these talking pictures that didn't involve happy feelings. I didn't really understand all that was going on, but I knew it was deeper than a group of guys beating each other up. I took the words to heart and really began trying to think for myself. Not that I hadn't tried before, I have always been a little weird. I listened to punk rock and loved dirty comedies while attending a Baptist school. I wasn't aware of the characters deep spiritual longing, at least not knowingly aware of it, but I think deep down I felt the same way. I needed something to feel anything. I was in a state of mediocrity. This film made me want to become a creator. A creator of anything, stories, songs, reviews of other stories or songs. Through this yearning, I realized how much I loved to write. So I wrote songs, stories, etc.

I didn't pick the first 3 movies that affected me. I didn't know I would love Fight Club or a movie about stoners or a film about mogs and druidians. They seemed to have sought me out. It seems the movies I am most excited for and search my hardest for, while generally I am not disappointed, they are rarely ever life changing. Through these young years of film watching I wasn't very critical, but still to this day, even with a critical eye I can enjoy these films. Maybe because of their nostalgic value, or maybe just because they are good. Either they have helped shape who I am, which is more than I can say for most things in my life.

What are some rare, or odd things that may have helped shape who you are?

"You Either Die a Hero or You Live Long Enough to See Yourself Become The Villain."

Hype is a curious thing. The fan boys fall for it and are guilty of it every time a new comic book movie comes out. But there are only a few films that generate a certain type of hype. This type of hype can never be lived up to. Whatever it is that is being hyped without the hype could become the most surprising thing of the year, but with the hype it will often hurt it's credibility and be looked at far more critically. In the past, this wasn't always true; Star Wars: A New Hope(1977) was extremely hyped, but was also nominated for Best Picture. Considering that it is odd to think of how hype has changed. Yes, both are generally made by fan boys but the films of 2007 to get major hype were Spiderman 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End which came with mixed to awful reviews. This didn't stop them from making record breaking amounts of money, but there will be no legacy behind these films. To get to the point, The Dark Knight is the most hyped and buzzed about film to come out all year. It has been called a masterpiece in film making by many and has been compared to such classics as Citizen Kane(1941), Godfather 2(1974) and The Empire Strikes Back(1980). Is Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight truly the first comic book film to transcend its source material and become something that will have a lasting legacy?

It is easy to sit back and either fall for the hype or totally reject it. It would be easy as a critic for me to sit back and say, "But there are flaw's so this film IS bad." And the thought did cross my mind, but the film isn't bad, in fact it is nothing short of outstanding!

Would the plot details make a difference? Anyone and everyone knows it has The Joker(the late Heath Ledger), Batman(Christian Bale), and Two-Face/Harvey Dent(Aaron Eckhart). Anymore description would simply be mind numbing as there is so much plot here. It is impossible to really know where to start or where to end.

Here in lies one of the major problems with the film; too much plot. Nolan did a wonderful job directing but this is a problem that he could have easily fixed. I am not going to lie, I was completely compelled the entire time, but sometimes it felt like parts were repeating themselves. Although I love Ledger in this and his performance is remarkable, we didn't need every Joker scene. It's hard to realize this while watching the film because Ledger is so watchable, the audience does not want to take their eyes off of him. I simply think Nolan knew what he had with Ledger and did not know which part's to cut because individually they are all amazing scenes.

Speaking of Ledger, with all the buzz surrounding his part in The Dark Knight another actor who was surprising and excellent, Aaron Eckhart, seemed to be overlooked. This isn't to say that Ledger's hype is not earned. It is totally earned and with all the Internet hype surrounding his performance and certain awards, while I don't think it'll happen I wouldn't be upset if it did. He has an interesting Anton Chigurh or Hannibal Lector quality in his performance that is impossible to ignore. To get back to Eckhart though, he is magnificent as Harvey Dent. It was easy to imagine him as the charismatic, justice loving DA because he is a charismatic guy and all he had to do was play himself, but when things start changing he changes his performance so perfectly that I simply am appalled at how underrated he is in this film. You really can get a grasp on his character and all that surrounds him because he is the center of the film. As his character changes the other's do. His character arc seems to be the basis of all the rest of the characters and it really ties everything together.

Christopher Nolan didn't cease to really pack the film with a punch. There are some truly devastating scenes here. This is one of the most heartbreaking blockbusters I have ever seen and that is to the films advantage. The story lends itself to that kind of feeling, but most directors would have opted out and glossed over many of the details.

The Dark Knight is transcendent in many ways. If you took out the bat suit and batman mythos and made him a regular vigilante then this could easily be a gritty hard hitting crime drama in the vein of Heat(1995). Every character that is established seems to serve some purpose that isn't explicitly shown but ultimately realized. Batman films work best when he isn't the main character, because the villains in Gotham City are always more fully realized and imaginative than our hero. The same goes for this one, but I would have to say that Nolan really made Batman more empathetic than ever before and his vulnerability really brings a new dimension to the character that hasn't really been developed on screen before.

The films other flaws are few and far between. Harvey Dent's transformation is a bit rushed, and probably would have worked better to cut out 20-30 minutes throughout and set his character up for the next film. Although some really fun things Nolan did was as the film went on and Two-Face's time grew closer and closer, Eckhart's face is shown half in shadow and half in light, kind of showing or predicting the future for us.

Social commentary isn't a stranger to comic book films. It seems to show up a lot in The Dark Knight as well. It is often asked how they should deal with the Joker because he is a terrorist with nothing to lose. Much like the situation faced with our country today. Batman is outcast because while trying to do good for the city good people die on his watch. The parallels can be easily seen there as well, but it isn't sure if Nolan wanted that in there to be a comment on our current times or if he thought it fit the story. I find that it is to Nolan's credit that it isn't apparent that he is making any type of commentary, but it simply comes out of the characters and they don't focus on it.

The Dark Knight delivers on so many levels that it really is hard to focus on any flaws it does have. Setting the hype aside though and viewing it unbiased I feel that the film stands on its own and surpass' the usual summer fare. There will be those who over-hype and there will be those who want to be different, ignore both sides and just enjoy the film for being superb.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"You Can Suck My Ectoplasmic Schwanzstucker!"

In 2006 the Oscars were buzzing for one of the hottest young directors in the business. Someone who had proven himself time and time again to make truly imaginative, creative and masterful films. The movie being buzzed about was Best Foreign Film Oscar Nominee Pans Labyrinth and the director in question is the wonderful, Guillermo Del Toro. Of course Del Toro was known before this Oscar win with Hellboy, Blade 2, Mimic and a few others, but after his victory at the awards he was given free reign to pretty much do as he please. His first choice, Hellboy II: The Golden Army.

With all that Del Toro is known for already established, the main question anyone would be asking is; Where does Hellboy II stack up against his other films? Not only this, but in a summer filled with blockbusters, where does such a unique voice land with the American public?

Our story follows Hellboy (Ron Perlman), who is having trouble with his significant other Liz (Selma Blair) who can force herself to become entrenched in flames. In the midst of this lovers tryst we have a Prince Nuada of the mythical world, for which Hellboy truly belongs too. Nuada starts a rebellion against the humans on earth to get back that which he believes is rightfully his. In between all of this Abe Sapien (the magnificent Doug Jones) falls in love with Nuada's twin sister Nuala and gets heartbroken because he isn't sure how to express this love.

If the story sounds a little convoluted to you that's because it kind of is. But this isn't exactly a problem. Del Toro balances the love stories, the fantastical elements and the action perfectly to really make this a wonderful and entertaining film.

The main thing the film does right that so many films this summer have done terribly wrong, the villain seems capable of actually winning. Hellboy actually has to struggle to get ahead at all. Not only that but the reasons for Nuada having a rebellion seem to make perfect sense to me. If I were in his shoes I don't believe it would be any stretch for me to at least be angry. This is wonderful because Del Toro is able to get us to altogether disagree with and despise the villain while at the same time empathize with his plight.

If compared to the first film I would say this one is unequivocally funnier. The inclusion of Johann Krauss is absolutely wonderful and Seth McFarlane is perfect as the voice of the German, Gaseous blob that is sent to lead them.

Another wonderful thing about Hellboy II if compared to some other bloated blockbusters of the summer, it seems light and fun, while still able to add some depth to it. It does go a little into X-Men territory at some points with Hellboy being cast out by the humans and thought of as a freak. I liked the idea of adding this layer to the Hellboy vulnerable yet tough persona, but I don't think it is given enough weight to be a truly integral part of the film. It seems almost to be a distraction because the sub-plot almost goes no where. It does plenty to offer up food for thought though, and we get a wonderful shot of Hellboy yelling while standing by a television playing The Bride Of Frankenstein's climactic ending.
The failures of the film would mainly lie in Del Toro's tendency to be a bit indulgent with his fantastical, other-worldly stuff that it detracts a bit from the story. For example, we get a wonderful scene in the Troll Market that echoes some other famous scenes filled with imaginative creatures and wonderful choreography and Del Toro sets it up to be a little more important than it really is to the overall plot.

Another thing that became a slight detraction was how after spending a perfect amount of time setting up certain things, the characters were given a pass and some magic creature could fix everything easily without letting a little set back really create tension and suspense. If there is anything that hurts Hellboy II it is it's lack of suspense. The suspense is there, but only in small portions.

The main thing that can be said for Hellboy II is that it is definitely worth seeing. It's flaws are minor and really don't take away from anyone having a wonderful, entertaining experience with the film. Check your reservations at the door and just look forward to having a good time with a comic book film in the vein of Tim Burton's Batman.

"Call Me An Asshole One More Time."

If the summer of 2008 has been anything for movies, it is the summer of the superhero. Beginning with Iron Man and running all the way to The Dark Knight, this summer has been chocked full of them. In the midst of all of these fan boy wet dreams with pre-established characters and retold stories comes an original superhero, something we haven't seen before. Will Smith stars in the only superhero film to not be made after a comic book this summer, Hancock.

Hancock (Will Smith) follows John Hancock (don't worry there is actually a reason for the name), a down on his luck superhero with a devil-may-care attitude. He is constantly helping the city, but all the while destroying it at the same time. We see Hancock fly through highway exit signs, throw beached whales, and total many cars throughout all 92 minutes. Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman) is a PR exec who is one day saved by Hancock and decides to return the favor by getting the city to love him since he does rescue them on a regular basis.

What follows this interesting and entertaining premise is a film that doesn't know what it wants to be. We get hints of a comedy, but they never come to fruition. It seems that they wanted to make a dramatic action film but threw in some comedy at the last minute to put in the previews to get the families in the seats for The Fresh Prince.

The films first fifteen minutes hit the regular beats that a comedy would attempt to hit, but after the entry of Bateman's character and a convoluted subplot involving Charlize Theron, who plays Bateman's wife, we get thrown into a character drama with bits of comic like action.

Peter Berg's direction wouldn't even be considered competent. This film is so sophomoric in it's pacing and timing that it honestly feels like it was thrown together at the last minute. This is not a slight against Peter Berg, in general I think he is a competent if not good director who has potential to be something special. With Hancock, we get the look of a gritty, R-rated action film, along with terrible special effects and terrible acting from everyone but the three leads.

With that being said, the film isn't all terrible. It has it's moments and in the moments we see a film that could have been. If they would have chosen a direction to go in and used that style as a reference to what kind of film they are making, then maybe Hancock would have come out at least coherent.

The shining bits of this film mainly lie in Jason Bateman's performance. He does the best with what he's given and can be pretty on the ball when he needs to be.

There is one scene in this film that I thought was particularly effective in every aspect. The direction, the music, cinematography, the pacing, it all worked together near the end when we reach a climax of sorts. This climax was good, but definitely did not belong in this film. Not because it was good, but because it just didn't fit with the world that Berg creates throughout the rest of the film.

With Will Smith as a selling point, most people will see this no matter what the story is, but if there is an ounce of doubt in your body about this film, I assure you that it needs to be there and it needs to be much larger. This is probably the worst blockbuster to be released this summer, and on a lesser summer it might have actually gotten a better rating, but when films are being released weekly at the caliber that they have been this summer the weaker films weakness' show more often. This is the film that proves it.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

"I'm Bill Murray, You're Everybody Else."

A junkyard worker named Jerry(Jack Black) attempts to sabotage a power plant he suspects of causing his headaches, but in the process inadvertently causes his brain to become magnetized. This leads to the unintentional destruction of all the movies in the store his friend Mike(Mos Def) is looking after for his boss Mr. Fletcher(Danny Glover). In order to keep the store's one loyal customer(Mia Farrow) happy the pair re-create a long line of films including The Lion King, Rush Hour 2, Ghostbusters, When We Were Kings, Driving Miss Daisy, and Robocop, putting themselves and their townspeople into it. They become the biggest stars in their neighborhood.

Does this not sound like a very creative promising premise to you? To me it seemed like a dream come true. Not too mention it's director, Michel Gondry(Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science Of Sleep), is one of the most innovative directors working today. Even with a great premise and director plus a great cast the film, with all it's wonder, doesn't seem to work, at least not all the way.

When the film begins we are introduced to Mike and Jerry, they are the type of lovable losers that we can identify with. We see them doing various hijinks throughout the town, but really it's hard to grasp onto anything during this first half of the film. They are setting up the story and letting you in on some important plot details, but they are not doing so in an engaging way. It seems like when Michel Gondry is forced to sit back and let the characters just talk to each other that the film really grows stale. That isn't to say that the performances are lacking, Jack Black plays himself, as usual and Mos Def does just fine. It seems to me that they are building to something, but the film isn't even sure what it wants to build towards.

Once we get to the midpoint of the film though, it really picks up. The tapes are all erased and Mike and Jerry have decided they are going to make their own movies out of the blank tapes. They start with Ghostbusters(1984). Once we see them in action the film's magic really seems to shine. This movie really is for lovers of cinema. When you know the references they are making with certain shots and costumes and such then it is all the more hilarious.

Gondry, really lets the whimsy take control and that is the point when this film really becomes something special. Their remakes really bring the community together and they become huge stars in their town, but then they are threatened that if the tapes aren't destroyed they will get sued for copyright infringement, among other things.

It seems that Gondry not only takes a nod to the films they recreate but there is an obvious Frank Capra influence on this film, especially with the ending. With Mr. Fletcher in danger of losing his building due to city regulations the whole town comes together and creates something truly wonderful.

To be honest, the second half of this film is one of the most wonderful pieces of cinema I have seen all year. It is truly a shame that Gondry couldn't let the whimsy be carried a little further into the beginning, but this isn't to say that the film shouldn't be seen.

If you are going in expecting a Jack Black comedy, don't see it. If you are going in expecting some indie masterpiece from Mr. Gondry, skip it. But if you are a fan of movies and just want to sit back and have some fun then I say this is the film for you.