Thursday, July 29, 2010

Review of an Attempted Viewing: Battlefield Earth (2000)

Is that a terrible movie in your pants or are you just happy to see me Travolta?
Hoooly sh*t. So I was recently dared to endure the pain of the infamously awful Battlefield Earth. I was strolling through F.Y.E. today and saw a copy for $1.97. "What the hell?", I thought. Let me begin with a Synopsis. Battlefield Earth was a science fiction novel written by L. Ron Hubbard in 1982. Hubbard also composed a soundtrack to the novel and literally named it Space Jazz, no joke. The novel takes place on earth in the year 3000, a time in which earth is run by an alien race that has virtually enslaved and almost completely exterminated the entire human race. Humans are ready to fight back. The novel brought about much controversy due to the fact that the church of scientology reportedly bought a ridiculous amount of copies of the book, resulting in it earning 1.5 million dollars by 1983. John Travolta, a scientologist himself, decided immediately upon reading the book that he wanted to make a movie adaptation. This brings us to the year 2000 in which Travolta produced, starred, and obtained a director (Roger Christian) for the film. I wish that I could give the film zero stars, but that would require I finish watching the film. I did not. In the first 20 minutes of the film (which is all I could endure), I witnessed an impressively dreadful performance from the not-so-dreadful Barry Pepper. I was in awe at the scene transactions resembling a Power-Point presentation. Additionally, I simply cannot comprehend the thought process of the costume department issuing costumes equivalent to an eight year-olds halloween wear. And finally, Travolta's god-awful acting was no shock, but I may never view the once promising Forest Whitaker the same ever again. I'm pretty sure this film was an attempt to brainwash the human race into buying into Travolta's fantasy, but those crazy aliens will never get this guy. Battlefield Earth is to the film industry what Hitler is to Germany's reputation. I watched 20 minutes of this film so that you don't have to watch any of it. You're Welcome.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Golden Oldies: Cocoon (1985)

Ron Howard's Cocoon tells the tale of a group of adventurous elder men living in a retirement community who decide to take a stroll on the wild side. The group of men (Wilford Brimley, Don Ameche, Hume Cronyn) stumble across a set of mysterious cocoons in their "foreign" neighbors' pool. Upon diving in, the men began experiencing a sensation of youth not felt in many years. As if to have discovered an extra-terrestrial fountain of youth, the gang experience a vast array of youthful side effects. The seniors sex life sky-rockets, and Cronyn's character's cancer is gone. Although like most good things, there's a catch; there is only so much to go around. Howard's Cocoon not only differs from many Science Fiction films in the sense that it doesn't thrive on action and laser beams, but its characters are just as interesting as its premise. Cocoon's space men (one of which portrayed by Brian Dennehy) are just as humane and sympathetic as its human figures, nevertheless the film's glue is in the four senior men and their wives being twice as lively as the younger characters. Additionally there is the ethical dilemma of wether or not it's morally wrong to go against nature, therefore daring the viewer to decide which set of characters' morals closely resembles their own. Cocoon may go a bit over the top on a couple of occasions with the older gentlemen acting a bit too young. Otherwise Cocoon not only fulfills the viewer's dream of a new-found youth, but allows them to experience exceptional film-making. I give Ron Howard's Cocoon a solid 3 stars.

Reviews from the Vault: Juice (1992)

In Ernest Dickerson's directorial debut, we are introduced to four power-hungry teenagers from the streets of Harlem. They're dream is to earn "juice", a term they refer to as respect and power. Q (Omar Epps) intends to achieve this goal through becoming a scratch n' mix DJ, whereas Bishop (Tupac Shakur) plans to gain respect by armed robbery. Dragging his friends down with him, Bishop has gotten this gang of friends into a situation that will not only challenge their friendship, but challenge their freedom. Perhaps one of the best performances from Tupac combined with a collection of characterizations that bring you closer to these four hoodlums than some of your own friends make this film worth the watch. Juice challenges the viewer to determine how far they would go for friendship, and at what point personal morals would interfere. By the end of the 94 minute running time, the viewer has met, familiarized, chosen a side, and authentically felt for these four young men in a way not often accomplished on the big screen. Additionally, the music of juice ultimately sets the tone, featuring songs by Salt N' Pepa, Eric B. and Rakim, Naughty by Nature, and more. The film takes a hold of you with the power of it's script and captivating era and setting, not to mention a special appearance from Queen Latifa. Juice pleases the eyes, ears, and mind, scoring 4 stars.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Reviews from the Vault: The Midnight Meat Train

Time for another installment in "Reviews from the Vault", in which I review movies (some good, some bad) from my personal collection. The Midnight Meat Train is the latest and arguably most original adaptation of Clive Barker's array of short stories. This particular film is directed by Ryuhei Kitamura and stars Bradley Cooper, Vinnie Jones, and Leslie Bibb. Meat Train follows a struggling New York Photographer (Cooper) who has a passion for capturing New York in it's "natural" form- crime and negativity. In doing so he stumbles across a butcher who seems to be slicing more than cattle. Cooper's character is in over his head in a world of activities that he cannot comprehend. It would be an understatement to claim that this film is original. Containing a strong, early career performance from Cooper and an unraveling mystery with a conclusion that leaves the most investigative viewers astonished, Meat Train does not fall too short of a complete success. The film's unnecessary amount of gore and violence will butcher it for some viewers, leaving them more debilitated than boggled. For this viewer the film's pros outweigh its cons, scoring a solid 3 stars.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Review: Inception (2010)

Wow. Where do I start? Inception, Christopher Nolan's latest project, takes us on a ride we may not have been prepared for. First of all, I personally gathered from the trailers and advertisements that Nolan intended on the viewer knowing very little as they stroll into the cinema. So for those who would enjoy going in blind I wouldn't recommend reading any further until viewing the film. In this Sci-Fi action flick, the viewer is introduced to a professional thief named Cobb (Dicaprio) who specializes in the extraction of information and ideas from targets' minds at their weakest point: dreams. The film takes an early sharp turn when their original mark (Ken Watanabe) agrees to give them what they want under one condition. Rather than extract an idea, they must plant an idea in the mind of a mark (Cillian Murphy) that will lead to the fall of his father's empire. Cobb (the extracter) is accompanied by a team of specialists: an architect (Ellen Page) who's aim is to create an environment so real that the mark confuses it with reality; a forger (Tom Hardy) who's goal is to impersonate someone close to the mark to create a source of comfort; and the tourist (Watanabe), the man ordering the mission, attending for the sheer purpose of assuring that his business agreement goes as planned. Inception is sophisticated and deeply intelligent on so many levels that it renders itself a bit of a challenge for the viewer to keep up with. Nolan's previous films (The Dark Knight, Insomnia, Memento), although high-class films, were completely comprehensible from end to end. Complicated or not, Inception simply put is a smart movie, and a release from the average mindless non-stop action flicks of the summer. On the surface Inception is about a team completing their mission, yet broader is the overpowering sensation of a man's conflicting dedication to his wife and to his career. I may not fully comprehend the film the way writer/director Christopher Nolan intends, but with a performance as stunning as Dicaprio's, the script and direction of a genius, and a rotating fight scene that makes the Matrix look like a high school play, Inception earns 31/2 stars in my book.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Review: Toy Story 3 (2010)

The Toys are back, but this time Andy (the toys' owner) is moving to college and the gang is faced with the dilemma of moving on to their next owner- a day care called Sunnyside. Upon arrival Sunnyside appears to be toy heaven. They're welcomed by new friends; Barbie meets Ken (well played by Michael Keaten), and there's a large number of children who can't wait to play with them. This however turns out to be one of the problems, along with the fact that not every toy at "sunnyside" is who they appear to be. Written and directed by Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 2, Finding Nemo), Toy Story 3 fills America's hearts with the joy of Pixar once again. Not only are there more laughs than the previous sequel, but 3 digs deeper into the viewers heart and hits closer to home with the breath-taking bond between friends. With amazing 3-D special effects, an adventurous yet contiguous plot, and great voice performances from all returning actors (i.e. Tim Allen and Tom Hanks), Toy Story 3 is debatably the best Pixar film yet. There were two major accomplishments of 3: creating innocent summer fun for children and adults (including a few punchlines aimed exclusively at parents), and creating a captivating personification of the tiny characters of this film. The toys of the film were more human than the human characters; filled with a sense of love, faith, and camaraderie that I can only hope to achieve myself one day. Toy Story 3 was a laugh-out-loud-funny and deeply touching film that earned a spot near the top of my list scoring 3 1/2 stars.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Reviews from the Vault: Pulp Fiction

Ah yes. The one... the only... Pulp Fiction. Quentin Tarantino brought a tale to the screen in 1994 that was like nothing told before. Pulp Fiction follows two hit men named Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules (Samuel L. Jackson); a boxer (Bruce Willis); two bank-robbing sweethearts (Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer); and a gangster's wife (Uma Thurman), all of whom are having a complicated day. Everything is right about this film, including it's special appearance from Christopher walken. The cast alone was enough to attract viewers to the film, including arguably the best performances by Travolta and Jackson. The dialog itself was strong enough to be it's own movie and create tension in the room that could be cut with a knife. From the odd couple-like relationship between Jackson and Travolta, to the "date" night with Thurman, to the epic revenge scene posted below involving Willis and Rhames, the characters created by Tarantino and portrayed by the actors are arguably more interesting than most real life people. The viewer tends to find themselves tremendously focused for a movie that is so famously scrambled. From it's realistic elements to it's supernatural ones ( i.e. Ving Rhames' glowing suit case that is rumored to contain his soul), Pulp Fiction is one of the only movies that runs 154 minutes, yet under stays it's visit. For that I give Tarantino's cult classic a solid four stars.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Review with Spoils: Knight and Day (2010)

This review of James Mangold's "Knight and Day" contains spoilers, although I use this term lightly considering the difficulty of spoiling the obvious."Knight and Day" takes you on a mission with Roy Miller ( Tom Cruise)-a government agent on what seems to be his last dangerous mission, and June Havens (Cameron Diaz)- an everyday girl who gets on the wrong plane at the wrong time and falls for the wrong man. The film follows the courageous international agent Roy Miller protecting a dangerous new technology that fits in his hand, yet has the capacity to be a power source for an entire city. Terrified, yet thrilled and aroused, June Havens can't help but succumb to Miller's charm and join him on the journey, regardless of being told he is out of his mind by alleged "FBI agents". As the story unfolds one becomes aware that the alleged FBI agents are out to destroy Havens and Miller and retrieve the power source for their own plans. My biggest problem with the film is that I've seen it numerous times, set in different locations, with a smaller budget, and with different actors of course. The film did a swell job of keeping the viewer charmed by the A-list actors (although acting sub-par as a whole), yet didn't bring anything new to the romantic action-comedy table. From the preview one can make the assumption that the two completely opposite attractive individuals wouldn't click at first, but conclude the story by falling in love; one's assumption would be accurate."Knight and Day" isn't much more than a summer occupation of two hours on a hot day (which it accomplished). Effects were great and the relieving presence of Peter Sarsgaard (who's performances I admire) was well appreciated. However another issue with the film was it's failure to push the envelope. Throughout the film, agents were telling Cameron Diaz's character to stay away from Cruise because he was insane. This was of course a deceitful attempt at retrieving the power source. For the duration of the movie I was secretly hoping that Cruise's character really was insane in hopes of a surprising twist, but I'm afraid that the writers decided to go the safe route with a hollywood ending. For that I give "Knight and Day" two stars.

Golden Oldies: Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Where do I start? Bonnie and Clyde is f@*#ing amazing. It tells a true tale of love and bank robbery as it follows Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway), a small town girl who's bored with her life; bored until she meets Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty). Clyde is everything Bonnie's mother doesn't want for her daughter. He's trouble, he's a convict, and fun. The charismatic duo were madly in love from the beginning. He had her at: "I rob banks". Never staying too long in one town, the couple robbed banks, picking up new members as they traveled. A few members of their crew included a handyman they picked up as a getaway driver, Clyde's brother Buck (Gene Hackman) and his wife, and a pleasing appearance from a young Gene Wilder as a hopeless civilian. Along their journey and path of wreckage they manage to gather both fans and enemies, which is a recipe for an excellent crescendo of thrills. Directed by Arthur Penn, "Bonnie and Clyde" sucks you in to it's dynamic, lovable characters and forces you to root for the bad guys and not feel guilty about it. The movie may have been filmed in 1967, and it may have taken place in the southwest 1920's, but "Bonnie and Clyde" is a timeless display of the wild side in all of us that just wants to high-jack a car, grab a gal, and live out the rest of our days as outlaws. Containing strong performances from the charming Mr. Beatty, the stunning Miss Dunaway, and the pleasantly outrageous Hackman, "Bonnie and Clyde" grabs you by the hand and runs without letting go. You'll laugh, fall in love, and experience heartbreak all in 111 minutes. I give this classic a well-deserved four stars!

First Review: Predators (2010)

The Movie is "Predators", the latest update on John McTiernan's 1987 original film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Predators, directed by Nimród Antal and produced by Robert Rodriguez, stars the Oscar winning Adrien Brody and the aspiring Alice Braga in lead roles as former, highly trained soldiers accompanied by a collection of soldiers, killers, a doctor, and a convict that have awakened in mid air, free-falling to an alien planet. Upon arrival the group of diverse specialists come to the conclusion that they have been brought to this planet to survive amongst alien hunters. I admire the approach of naming the film "Predators" in comparison to James Cameron's "Aliens" (a sequel to Ridley Scott's original film, "Alien"). I perceive this as an approach to weed out any expectations of Predators being a follow up to anything but McTiernan's original film and to disregard the god-awful remakes of recent years. First of all I would like to acknowledge that I can understand one's disliking of the film if one is completely turned off by violence and non-stop action. For this viewer, Predators did not disappoint. Predators started with a free-fall and ended with victory, both on the screen and in the audience. One thing screen writers Alex Litvak and Michael Finch conquered was characterization that was on par with the original. Walking out of that theater, I was closer to the characters of "Predators" than I have been with characters of any film of the dry cinematic year of 2010. Beyond that was the screenwriters achievement of originality that has not been an element since the original. Not to mention Brody being a sigh of relief due to a display of heroism not seen since Sigourny Weavers role in "Alien" and top notch acting in his most diverse role yet. It didn't hurt that J.C. Cantu and Mary Vernieu of the casting department threw in a pleasant and slightly humorous role for the lovable Laurence Fishburne. Would I recommend Predators for a fun summer action flick? Absolutely; especially for fans of the franchise searching for a relief from the failed sequels of recent years. "Predators" had every element of a perfect sequel that "aliens" did: bigger, longer, more beasts, and more violent. and for that I give Predators a solid 31/2 stars!