Saturday, September 29, 2012

REVIEW: Dredd (2012)

Karl Urban called it a few weeks ago, when he told reporters his movie would be an instant cult hit. I wish he hadn't though. If we learned anything from Michael Bay or Summit, it's that moviegoers will more often than not choose bad movies in droves. And this instant cult classic is simply too good to have caught the interest of general audiences. Like Mad Max, Army of Darkness or Serenity before it.

From the opening minutes we are gushingly reminded of similar films that probably inspired the look, style and tone of this one, as well as their more (in)famous scenes. Bad guys mow pedestrians down in a gruesome yet matter of fact way, but the cherry on top is the title character reacting to it by calling for a "recyc" on the bodies. Paul Verhoeven is facing-palming a wish he'd thought of that one... We HAVE seen that future before plenty of times, in various degrees of effectiveness, but that doesn't make the post-apocalyptic Mega City 1 any less impressive and hard hitting.

For newcomers to the 2000 A.D. character AND those who sheepishly think it is but a remake of a Stallone atrocity, the story takes place in a future where most of continental America has been irradiated, and what's left of the population live in megalopolises that span thousands of square miles. The inability to keep such calamities under control has led to the creation of the Judge Corps where individuals are mandated to act as Judge, Jury and Executioner right on the spot. One of the more ruthless of them, the uncompromising Dredd, has to break a new recruit before she is left on her own to patrol the city. Their training day puts them in the cross-hairs of a powerful drug-selling gang whose control of an inner-city tower will prove a sizable challenge for both mentor and trainee.

Toilets of the near-future use a quite minimalist design

In a cinematic landscape where directors -and studios- bet on visuals worth the operations budget of a small country to make their product look much better than it actually is, director Pete Travis dared limit his enterprising sets and effects to a mere $50M, meaning the whole thing rests on the screenwriter and lead actor. Thankfully both were up to the task.

Karl Urban, who in accordance to the source material never once takes off his helmet, contrasts the current superhero trend of making crime fighters brooding, deep and driven by complex emotionalities. His Judge is coiled to the limit with anger and matches it only with his confidence in the rule of law. There's no loved one to avenge, no dead relative that triggers a quest, no need for something bigger and greater; he's the law and he'll kick your ass, period. Urban completely loses himself under the character and lets him do all the talking, in a performance that reminds Hugo Weaving's brilliance in V for Vendetta.

One Batman's trash is another comic book hero's treasure...

Dialogues and exchanges are wisely few and manage to reduce the cringe-inducing one-liners oft associated with the genre. Save for the over-sue of slow-motion that more than once made me wonder if Zach Snyder had commandeered the editing room, the quick-paced and tightly packed proceeding -clocking in at a brisk 85 minutes- makes for one of the more surprising and enjoyable action movies since Fast 5 (YES, I LOVED that one, problem with that?!?) and one who deserved better than the cold shoulder it got from audiences on opening weekend.

Final Word: 8/10

Friday, September 07, 2012

TV REVIEW: Elementary (2012)

Let's the get the obvious question out of the way right from the start: Elementary isn't as good as the BBC's Sherlock. Because NOTHING is. Period. It would be completely unfair to compare the two, seeing the amount of talent and money pooled into the Cumberbach/Freeman version which benefits a 90-minute, 3-outings-a-season formula that easily outshines any 26-episodes US Network show current or past. That being said, it IS nevertheless an interesting show that deserves a chance to prove itself.

Admittedly I was of two minds when reading the initial announcement; a modernized, junky Sherlock roaming the streets of New York sounds great on paper but the choice of Johnny Lee Miller seemed a little too fast-tracked (especially since his last US TV gig gave him the thankless task of succeeding the amazing John Lightgow as Dexter's villain-of-the-season) while other tried-and-tested shows already explored the concept of a 21st Century Holmes; Hugh Laurie's House  and Simon Baker's Mentalist pop to mind. After viewing the recently released Pilot episode, I can't say I'm entirely sold but my former opinion prevailed: a tattooed, 12-stepping lunatic is indeed an excellent transposition of the character into modern times, and given some clever writing could prove to be a serious hit, if not a cult one.

Purists probably won't agree however, since the first major change other than the country is the gender of loyal sidekick Watson. Jane, as she's now known, could only be unfavorably compared to her predecessors had she not been made a lady, here in the guise of TV already-vet Lucy Liu. So far the clichés and pitfalls have been avoided; Liu brings a broken, sensible and surprisingly smart ex-surgeon who now serves as a hired nanny for the recovering sleuth. Thankfully there's no trace of a possible will-they/won't-they rapport, and Liu genuinely brings something fresh to a character that's been portrayed every-which way for decades. Rounding out the cast is one Aidan Quinn, who's in his 12th year of seeking his second wind on TV, playing a generic cop who plot-devices Holmes into investigating cases for the NYPD.

If the pilot's storyline is any indication, Elementary will be following its own independent plots with little to no reference in the general direction of the source material's supporting characters and lieux. The gamble would be promising as a cable-show format of 10-to-12 episodes a season, but here might prove to quickly run out of steam and originality in the hands of a broadcast network. Hopefully the emphasis will be to study the characters and their interrelations as opposed to trying for a new and clever Shyama-twist every week.  The one thing that can help make or break a new show, a recognizable score and title sequence, is so far unaccounted for, which adds to my desire to find out more. Not a hit in any sense as it is right now, but with the right touch could definitely become the welcome winner of an otherwise-bland vista of fall-TV start-ups.

Overall decent intro for a new show, but a long way to go before it gets the bona-fide thumbs up.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Darth Schwarzenegger

That thing's been been a sure-fire picker-upper of mine for almost 2 years now, about time I help spread the word. Very well edited, extremely clever choice of sound bites, overall pee-in-my-pants funny.

So here y'all are, enjoy!

TV REVIEW: Bullet in the Face (2012)

It's been a week now since IFC aired over two night the entire 6 episodes of their latest original TV show, and I still can't decide if it's brilliantly insane or just a spectacular misfire. Series director Erik Canuel is known, at least here in Canada, as a guy who tries to make both the audience and financial backers happy, pretends to be edgy but delivers pre-cooked, unoriginal content that barely takes a chance. On the other hand, he works of the writings of Alan Spencer, the off-the-wall mind behind cult classic, ultra-violent fan favorite 80s show Sledge Hammer. So what the heck DID I just watch?

In an undisclosed country's fictional metropolis or Brũteville, the only thing thicker than the permanent smog is the crime rate that turned the city into a war zone. Pigeons gets shot randomly mid-flight, jewellery stores are operator by ex-mossad agents and criminals are as ruthless as they are clueless. When the bloodiest of them, Gunter Vogler, gets shot in the face by his lover during a botched robbery, he is secretly transplanted with the face of a glorified cop he killed. The reason behind such a move, ordered by a lady police commissioner with ballpark-size daddy issues, is to fight evil with evil, pit Vogler against the two crime Lords who control the city.

If the plot makes little sense, worry not, it matters even less. Very quickly the characters, straight out of some Frank Miller nightmare, themselves highjack this series with twists and turns that feels like All My Children as written by Marilyn Manson. A lot of it is funny if only because it's much too insane to be properly criticized. And because Eric Roberts, for once, didn't take himself seriously either and is actually, absolutely funny. And a great contrast to series star Max Williams who perfected an impression of Robin Williams on a cocaine rampage.

Most of the targets from this satire are quite deserving but also way too easy and even uncomfortably NOT subtle, like the compulsive gamer kid hooked on energy drinks who goes out and shoots people for real; Colorado movie theater, anyone?  But then comes along Eddie Izzard who steals the show six ways till Sunday with an hilarious delivery rivaled only by some of the best lines I've heard on TV. Examples:

-We could name our child FIRE! and create mass panic whenever we call his name!

"You think you're GOD!" 
"No! HE thinks he's ME!"

-"Are you busy?"
"I'm in the middle of a woman!"  

-I don't want to live the rest of my life with a face I don't recognize. I'm not Mickey Rourke.

IFC probably didn't put much stock or faith in the series seeing as they dumped the whole of it on two subsequent nights. Yet I can't help but wonder the reaction generated had it been shown on HBO. It would have certainly caused some wildly divergent opinions, but what would the final word be - brilliant or just another sell-out attempt at attracting a hard-edge crowd?

REVIEW: The Expendables 2

The good news here is this one has an actual director, no offense to Sly who's marketed an entire career out of writing ONE decent screenplay which dumbfounded its way to an Oscar win almost 40 years ago. The bad news: that director is Simon West. As in the guy who got relegated to directing TV shows for 10 years after that painful Lara Croft movie. He returned to feature films last year for Jason Statham's Nth generic action flick The Mechanic (do yourself a favor and watch the generic Charles Bronson original instead), and has another movie coming out this year, a generic Nic Cage piece of shit action thriller. Good to know that some things will never change.

The original was flawed, but it was fun and it was made to please the fans; take a bunch of stretch-faced, steroided geezers from the 80s, add some wrestling goons trying to leave the ring behind, sprinkle two current action stars and an NFL retiree and top it off with the mob boss from one of the 3 highest grossing films of all time. Oh, and throw in one of Dexter Morgan's pals for good measure. Lots of big guns, outdo Michael Bay on the explosion count, some cool bikes and tattoos and you got yourself an entertaining -if brainless- crowd pleaser. Why not stop at one? Because there's money to be made that's why. I mean after all, Tony Scott (rest his soul) was on the verge of unleashing a second Top Gun, 25 years later.

30 years ago, cause for a global nerdgasm. Today, cautionary tale about quitting while you're ahead.

And like the aforementioned brain candy, this one throws logic out the windows in order to make room for spacious egos. In a way it feels like a 90-minute commercial, a montage of money shots aimed at making the 50+ crowd get up their fattening arses and go out to and buy some Viagra and other over-the-hill helpers. Heck, you even have a slow-mo shot of 72 year-old Chuck Norris walking out of some heavy smoke and badassingly taking off his Rayban sunglasses. You got Jean-Claude Van Damme performing random gratuitious roundhouse kicks to show-off his shiny Airwalk boots and Colgate smile. You got Bruce Willis and The Governator making fun of each other's 80s catchphrases while riding indoors in a brand spanking new zero-emission, noiseless electric car. You got the Stat dressed as a monk throwing some badass Henckels Five Star 8-inch kitchen knives to singlehandedly take down 12 bad guys. You got one-liners flying by so fast you don't even have time to register what's being sold to you. And somewhere in there you got a storyline. Something about revenge for Thor's little brother from Hunger Games getting killed. In some unidentified east-European area. Oh, and plutonium. Darn that stuff!

Chuck Norris Fact: If u drop a penny off the roof of the empire state building and hit Chuck Norris in the head it will ricochet off, kill u and hunt down your family.

To be perfectly fair, if you wanted more of the original (as in first one, not that is was original) you'll be quite satisfied with this sequel. If you thought beforehand they should've left it at just the one goofy, testosterone-sprayed entry, you'll feel vindicated. Personally I was entertained but strongly feel it must've felt much funnier and cooler in discussion stage with a few brewskys in the belly than it came out on screen. I also maintain Sly should lay off the juice and leave the boom toys to younger boys from now on; you had your comeback and your trip down memory lane, now go the Eastwood way and do good movies if you really must do some more.

Final Word: 5.5/10

Friday, August 17, 2012

There IS a God: Bill & Ted 3 is almost a reality!

I KNOW these films are exacerbatingly idiotic, AND the second one would be dead boring if it wasn't for, er... "Death", as played by the insanely awesome William Saddler. BUT I just cant help my unconditional love for Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure!

Reeves mentioned casually, 2 or 3 years ago, that he'd love to revisit these characters in their forties and show them depressed, struggling to becoming the world saviors everyone was expecting them to be. Everyone had a good laugh at that but never expected it to actually happen. And then it did...

The guys not only have original creators Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson penned the script (which was recently reported to be complete) but BOTH stars are locked and perfectly willing, and now they got themselved a director attached. Galaxy Quest handler Dead Parisot (haven't done much since that, but I loved it SO much I'm still giddy as a dog in front of the fire hydrants store). GONNA ROCK!!!


Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Dark Knight...Bores.

I haven't really written up my thoughts on TDKR so far because everyone and their poodle already has, plus there seems to be a fandom embargo on saying anything remotely negative about Nolan's "Masterpiece". Even Rotten Tomatoes had to take down commenting on reviews for the film because negative ones were catching such nasty flack that some of those reviewers probably had to hire bodyguards. Enter David Cronenberg.

Truth be told, I respect the movie and can admit that technically and visually it is flawless. But it's also boring as hell. I could not care either way about those characters, aside maybe from Joseph Gordon Levitt who could be charismatic even if he played a McDonalds burger flipper with a booger up his nose. Nolan felt he had a story to finish and tried to make it just as good as the previous if not better. I LOVE The Dark Knight, I DO think that one is an amazing achievement, but now I understand the value of quitting while you're ahead.

So where does my man Cronenberg fit in? Dave's never been one to care very highly what people think of him. He got into a nasty divorce and his ex drained him dry, so he made a nasty horror movie called The Brood based on how he felt about her. A guy who can lay his personal life out like that certainly won't shy away from a negative opinion about something he's a master of (movies). And his opinion about the latest Bat sighting is less than favorable. Why did he experess it? God knows, but its high time somebody did.

 Says he, "I think it's still Batman running around in a stupid cape. I just don't think it's elevated. Christopher Nolan's best movie is Memento, and that is an interesting movie. I don't think his Batman movies are half as interesting, though they're 20 million times the expense… they're mostly boring. A superhero movie, by definition, you know, it's comic book. It's for kids. It's adolescent in its core. That has always been its appeal, and I think people who are saying, you know, 'Dark Knight Rises is, you know, supreme cinema art,' I don't think they know what the fuck they're talking about."

I know, ironic coming from the guy who hired Edward Cullen for his latest movie, but still, not entirely wrong, is he?! Either way someone has to address the elephant in the room: we don't ALWAYS need three movies, especially when you KNOW the third one just can't be as good as the previous. I know, not exactly what Crone just said, but I do; I say stop making trilogies, there are plenty of other ways for Hollywood to rob me of my money. Like re-issuing DVDs and Blurays over and over again or making 3D movies just for the sake of charging more. Not that anyone's already thought of that....

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Devil May Dare: Carnahan's out, Fox may follow...

Story I missed out on writing last week, figured I'd have plenty of time to write about it before anything comes out of it, turns out I was dead wrong. The crimson crimefighter's saga is in the final stretch of maybe getting out of the actual Devil's clutches. Yes boys and girls, Fox is on the verge of losing all rights to Daredevil. 

Long story short: Fox has been trying for a while to get a reboot going after the Mark Steven Johnson debacle that contributed to end the first leg of Ben Affleck's movie career. The studio that Murdoch built has auditioned lots of screenwriters and directors for the job, the latest of which was Joe Carnahan who even put together a kick-ass "sizzle reel", a clip formed from all sort of archive footage to give a clear idea of his concept. And it DOES kick-ass (see the video below). 

But that was last week. THIS week, Carny tweeted that studio execs don't share my opinion on his concept. Says the man, "Think my idea for a certain retro, red-suited, Serpico-styled superhero went up in smoke today kids," before concluding "We shall see. Time is NOT on anyone’s side."

What he means by that last part is that Fox might've just blown their last good chance to keep movie rights on the character. According to the contractual obligations with Marvel, a new movie has to be in production before October 10 of this year, otherwise the rights revert back to Marvel, whom it so happens are Disney's new golden goose with a string of hits crowned this summer by one of the highest-grossing movies of all time. 

Kinda sucks that Carnahan's cool, Tarantinesque vision was turned down, kinda exciting that Marvel might be able to put the blind butt-kicker on the big screen themselves; can you imagine the global fangasm if they line him-up alongside the Avengers in their second outing?!? And hey, who says they can't hire Joe Carnahan  to give Matt Murdoch a better film than his namesake studio owner did?

Here are the aforementioned reel put together by Carnahan. Tell me this wouldn't ROCK!?!


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

REVIEW: Magic Mike (2012)

I can hear very clearly even with earplugs the question burning the tongues of everyone who noticed my having watched a male-stripper movie: Why did I want to? The answer is just as obvious. Because it's a small-budget Steven Soderberg movie (ergo inevitably interesting) and it has tangerine-skinned hasbeen Matthew McConaughey in the most self-reflecting role since Kristen Stewart played a depressing klutz who wishes to become a soulless bloodsucker.

Yes, the male anatomy-lessons scenes are plenty, but uncomfortable only to those who think they can compete with someone who makes tens of millions a year and can afford an army of trainers and plastic surgeons to make them look like they makes tens of millions a year and can afford an army of trainers and plastic surgeons. If that movie had been handled by anyone south of some artistic competence, you'd have a strip show and about 15 minutes worth of story-telling. But in the hands of Sod the camera tends to get a life on its owns and the cinematography itself becomes a character as much as a storyteller. in this case, it turns a fluff piece into a diary into the probably-uncomfortable memory of its main star who also wrote the darn thing based on nothing short of his probably-uncomfortable memory.

James Bond: The Series, coming soon to Cinemax

I have to admit I can understand the jealous disposition of people who call Channing Tatum the second worst actor on the planet next to Taylor Lautner. Yet you can't ignore the fact that his ecclectic choice of roles made for a fast rise and a brilliant career strategy, which here reaches the next level with an involvement as screenwriter, producer, choreographer and star. And no, he doesn't suck, he plays his self-reflecting character almost as well as McConaughey who embodies a 45-year old stripper who's just as pathetic as he's aggressively shallow.

The weak point of the exercise, unsurprisingly, is Alex Pettyfer who, for reasons passing my understanding, is still getting work despite a nasty reputation and the undeniably proven inability to carry a movie in any way. He scored flop over flop since his premature debut and each time was partly (or mostly) to blame. In a way he does fit the bill perfectly, playing a brainless bozo with a knack for creating a mess wherever he goes and who inevitably bites the hand that fed him. If it wasn't for Tatum's onscreen charisma and Mac's semi-revisiting of the Wooderson persona, even Soderberg wouldn't have been able to save Pettyfer from himself. Somebody PLEASE cast this guy in movie starring Kristen Stewart and Hayden Christensen, I'll gladly pay IMAX fare to see that!

"Dude, if Rupert Sanders can hit that, so can you!"

Kudos to Joe Manganiello who takes a virtually silent supporting role and makes it a quasi show-stealer, and  to whomever put the soundtrack together. All in all an interesting, quick paced dramatic comedy that's worth the Little Movie That Could status it garnered this summer (over $50M in profits on a $7M budget), and worth seeing even for guys; if it helps in any way to remain feeling manly, the opening scene features a lingering, full frontal shot of Olivia Munn's fun bags.

Final Word: 7.5/10

Sunday, August 12, 2012

REVIEW: Total Recall (2012)

If this poster reminds you of Duncan Jones' brilliant mind trip flick Source Code, there the similarities end. This far no further.

Because when you remake a movie that was itself VERY loosely adapted from a cult-classic sci-fi short story instead of re-adapting the original story, you have to expect ending up more on the Uwe Boll side of the sci-fi/fantasy spectrum than the Stanley Kubrick one.And "Doctor" Boll will very much like this one: this movie is little more than a 104-minute video game. A crying shame for Colin Farrel who was on the comeback trail these last 2-3 years, but has so far failed to carry a film to both financial and critical success at the same time. I loved -LOVED- his turn on the Fright Night revisit, but that one barely made it out of the gate.

My generic dislike of the film doesn't stem from the fact that it's a remake -I'd completely respect the intention if it had brought something fresh and imaginative to the table- but from he fact that it's not even a clever, original or creative remake in any way. The 1990 Paul Verhoven film was B-Movie with lots of money, a fun, cheesy, amped up star vehicle that never once makes the mistake perpetrated by its unworthy progeny: It refused to take itself seriously. Len Wiseman, the American response to U.K.'s Paul W.S. Anderson (ironically, Anderson married an American walking plank while Wiseman stole boobelicious Beckinsale form the old continent, and her then-husband) tries to make the kitsch classic look and feel like Blade Runner, but ends up just north of entertaining. There's no humor, no weird, gross out shlock moments (a three-breasted tribute to the original fails to illicit any kind of reaction, good or bad) and no reason to care either way about those people. Although Kate Beckinsale, as the bitchiest bad babe since Kristen Stewart's rant against her own fans, does steal the show whenever she can.

And entertaining it is, relentless as well. From start to finish the film bombards us with incessant futuristic set designs and costly, spectacular visuals, including the two female leads whom the demo-target teen boys know as being among the sexiest ladies on the planet. When ti comes to actual plot points and storytelling, the exercise falls way short of even trying and thus makes this summer entry little-more than forgettable eye-candy which I wouldn't recommend paying $13.50 to see. Although it it impressive on a big screen I must say, but after 30 minute you start wishing someone else than the F/X guys had been paid to write the damn thing. Just wait until it comes to cable, and in the meantime have fun with Lockout instead.

Final Word: 4 out of 10

Sunday, August 05, 2012

SCENE IT: Luck of the Draw

One of the most iconic, best known and beloved lines in movie history, yet very few know how it truly goes nor ever actually saw the whole damn thing. So here it is, in all its glory, the "Punk" scene from Dirty Harry.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Batman is brainwashing voters. Says Rush Limbaugh. *cough*

The title says it all, no further words are needed on my part to explain what you're about to watch, except to say Hey, here's one more proof that Al Franken was right all along

Monday, July 16, 2012

Fringe: Comic Con 2012 Panel

No secret that Fringe is not only one of my current favorite shows but also one of my all-time favorites as well. No secret either that I'm still baffled by Fox's decision to NOT screw fans over and give the series a proper (albeit short) final season.

As most of us (except the complete offline weirdos) know, last weekend was San Diego's Comic Con which has very little to do with comics anymore but who cares, it's the geek rendez-vous of the year. And as such the Fringe gang were once again guests of honor for their own panel, sadly their last, where some discussion was held of the upcoming final outing as well as reminiscence from the past 4 years.

Of course I wasn't there, but this cool dude naming himself Ennaxor filmed the whole ordeal and was kind enough to post it online. So with a choke in the throat and mouse in the hand, here's in its entirety Fringe's Comic Con 2012 panel.

Friday, July 13, 2012

SCENE IT: Steeeee-Rike!

The Naked Gun's Baseball Bit

Leslie Nielsen had all but retired or decided to by the late 70s after decades of playing the straight man and never really reaching the artistic fulfillment he had been looking for as a thespian.  He'd gotten a few starring roles back in his late 20s/early 30s (chief among them the cult classic Forbidden Planet), but then had bee relegated to mostly generic supporting parts increasingly similar to one another. Another one of those came in 1980, but this time in a movie that fame fun of what populated Nielsen's career. 

The success of Airplane! gave the actor and his benefactors an idea: do the same kind of parody about cop shows. Didn't work ratings wise (Police Squad was canceled after only 3 airings, out of 6 episodes produced) so they did the next logical thing: increase the budget and make a major motion picture. 

The Naked Gun: From the Files of the Police Squad is composed from start to finish of priceless, classic moments of movie comedy which all deserve a spotlight of their own. Yet for this week's Scene It my fancy will be to feature the side splitting sequence where Nielsen's Frank Drebbin goes undercover during a baseball game where he quickly gets the gist of what a referee does on the field. 

REVIEW: The Amazing Spiderman (2012)

I have to admit I'm not a big fan of what Sam Raimi did for the character. I love Raimi, don't get me wrong (Army of Darkness is one of my all-time favorites) but those movies were just not good. Aside form the second, which still turned the villain into a "victim" when he should've been a straight-up bad motherf***er. The faults are too many to list, so let's keep it at not good.

Enter Marc Webb, a newbie who's one and only other directorial film credit rested on the amazing chemistry between Zooey Deschannel and Joseph Gordon Levitt. Was he the right man for the job? I said so loudly back when, and I feel I was quite right by now. For he made a film that's entertaining AND good AND fresh to watch despite 50 year-old source materials and four sizable stumbling blocks: it's way too soon for a reboot, the summer is already being pilfered by two other HUGE superhero movies, people are getting fed-up with superhero origins stories and the one with a bad case of Topher Grace gave us all spidey fatigue. Those things are still true when watching the film, but I dare say I liked it a LOT, much more than the previous franchise anyway.

"Watch out for that tree...."

First off Andrew Garfield, even at 28, plays a way better teenager -AND Peter Parker- than Maguire ever could (or was allowed to). And thus HIS Spiderman makes sense; he has the posture, the demeanor and the hairdo (...) of a true angst-ridden, hormonal teenager. This one is truly the diffident smart-ass that Peter/Spidey should be, which makes sense when he starts shooting his mouth off at criminals behind the mask. Mechanical webslingers? YES, finally, someone gets it, this kid's a genius trapped in an awkward body. A brainy girlfriend? YES, finally, Kirsten Dunst's sleepy damsel in perpetual distress was really getting on my nerves. 

The rest of the cast is just as brilliant as it sounds on paper, in particular Uncle Ben and Aunt May, who both never felt so realistic and grounded. Martin Sheen is especially such a commanding presence, even when playing a blue collar worker, that you actually wish Uncle Ben wouldn't buy it just yet, at least not in this movie. And I strongly feel Sheen could not have been paired up with someone stronger than Sally Field to play his over-caring wife. My only disappointment is Dennis Leary as Captain Stacy. I was really hoping he'd go all Tommy Gavin on Spidey's a**, but saddly the man who mimicks Bill Hicks tones it down -WAY down- to a point where is role is almost generic. Meatier than what James Cromwell was given to play last time around, but still disappointed.

"Show me all the data you want, costumes DON'T HAVE NIPPLES, period".

As for the story, it does feel at times like Webb is deliberately trying to steer clear of what Raimi did, but overall it does work a lot better too, especially when concentrating Peter's story toward the mystery of his parent's death which never was even hinted in the previous films. If not for comic fans, at least for general movie goers it does freshen up the character and offers a renewed interest in seeing 2 more of those. Combined with a grittier tone and an..."amazing" attention to details (like the explosion-like discharge from the webshooters) and it's a film that truly has its place among the top blockbusters of the summer. I just wish this version had been the first to come along, so that this reboot wouldn't feel like a precipitated attempt at striking a little more while the iron is hot.

Final Word: 8.5/10

Sunday, July 08, 2012

REVIEW: Lockout (2012)

Genre: Thriller | Action | Sci-Fi
IMDB rating: 6.4/10 from 2,156 users
Directed by: James Mather, Stephen St. Leger
Starring: Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace and Peter Stormare

Lemme get this off my chest right away: This film is clichéd to the extreme, it defies logic at every turn, and it's the closest thing to an Escape From New York rip-off since Escape From L.A. (the lead character even buries a reference to it inside another reference, when alluding that he wants to party "like it's 1999"). Ergo it's honestly the most FUN I've had watching a guns-blazing science-fiction flick devoid of any brain matter since Sarah Palin's The Undefeated
(Edit: someone just emailed me to say that Palin's movie is actually a documentary that showcases her "success". PffffrrrrouAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!)

Don't get me wrong, I actually really liked it. It's not AS bad as you'd be led to believe from uptight criticisms written of it in places like Rotten Tomatoes or the National Republican Convention. It COULD have been disastrous (if good looking) had it been for a less perfect casting. Starting with Guy Pearce who hasn't seemed to enjoy himself so much playing a role since... heck ever - the guy NEVER looks like he's having fun, except maybe in full drag for Priscilla. But here, playing the wise-cracking badass Snake Snow, he's downright setting the tone for and carrying the film. Supported efficiently by a cadre of lesser-known yet solid faces, like Brits Vincent Reagan (why ISN'T that guy a MUCH bigger star?) and Joseph Gilgun playing the film's antagonists hilariously named Alex and Hydell (+100 points if you got that one without Googling it), underrated Lennie Jame always on hand for a solid turn, and the always-typecast Peter Stormare as the a-hole of the piece. The rest of the cast matter little, for these few grab all the screen time they're given and run off with it in every possible direction.

Nothing more to say really but to compare this fast-paced piece of fun to the aforementioned John Carpenter classic if it had met The Fifth Element in a bar late at night and decided to procreate. This would be the bastard grand child; all the fun, none of the Hollywood pressure to perform in any way, being a product of French action master Luc Besson (servings a s producer only, but still). No one was aiming for the Oscars here, but everyone is having a blast, and so was this viewer. Although I kinda have to say I'm glad I didn't actually pay to see it - boosts the enjoyment factor that much more...

Final Word: 7/10, purely for the entertainment value.

Wanna watch it? Use this link and thank me later!

REVIEW Take This Waltz (2011)

Genres: Comedy | Drama
Director: Sarah Polley
Writer: Sarah Polley
Stars: Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Luke Kirby and Sarah Silverman

I don't think Sarah Polley will ever be a successful mainstream filmmaker. And I don't think I want her to be. Her debut feature, Away From Her, was a beautifully-filmed slice of heartbreaking human drama, a soap-operatic love story treated with honesty and humanity. For that is the essence of an independent movie (not counting those directors for whom the indy scene was either a way to be hip or a backdoor "in"), a quiet human drama. Many will say Take This Waltz feels more like a first film for Polley; I say it feels like a Sarah Polley film, beautiful yet uncomfortable, predictable yet surprising, painfully honest yet visibly hopeful.

Michelle Williams plays child-less Canadian housewife Margo who tries to navigate the thin, uncomfortable line between grown-up resignation and child-like exuberant passion. But try as she may, no matter how much of a nice guy her husband is (played by a surprisingly NOT annoying Seth Rogen), she is visibly suffocated by the routine of her normal, simple life. Her chance meeting with buff new neighbor Daniel (Canuck fellow Luke Kirby, for his best work check out the first season to Sling & Arrows), an artist with a similar passion for his outlook on llife, will put her on the cutting edge of a choice to make. 

Polley's many visual metaphors, though in no way very subtle, are nevertheless visually powerful and emotionally arresting, like the scene of a shared carnival ride that goes from cute to awkward to wild fun but ends abruptly to emptiness and silence. The film presents us a love story in its entire honesty, one we all know by heart from our every day lives but which we try to escape by watching movies about fairy-tale love. For this love story is not about two soul mates who meet, but about trying to live a life of passion without paying the price. 

"I like shiny new things" says one of Margo's friends in shower scene where she and two other "firm" ladies are shown next to their elders sporting bodies which sustained the ravages of time. "New things are what old things used to be" replies a comfortably-naked Sarah Silverman. And that is the essence of the twist pulled on us by the storyteller, that nothing truly ever lasts, and all that remains are the choices you make. For in the end, a love story this is not, but one about life as we truly live it. None of these characters are truly likable, yet none of them can be despised even if we do so. Life, as we know it. 

Bottom line, Sarah Polley's promise as a burgeoning independent filmmaker is being upheld with Take This Waltz, offering a simple and not overly original story and making it something equally sweet and heartbreaking that is impossible to resist, unless your preferences are more directed towards Michael Bay's brand of non-cognitive entertainment. In that case stay away. And I mean hazmat-suit precaution with this puppy.

Final Word: 8/10

Wanna watch it? Use this link and thank me later!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

TAKE 5: One Movie, One Room

Perhaps the single greatest challenge for both actors and directors, aside from financing a film without studio interference, is to make an interesting film out of one single setting; one confined space or room. The story, the performances, the cinematography need to to both keep the viewers in that room while expanding its scope to something much larger and gripping. It's the ultimate irony: spending 90 minutes sitting in a small room watching a movie that takes place in a small room. Either you tap the viewer's imagination and psyche, or you come off as a a pr*ck who waste people's time and money.

Here's my pick of 5 films that pulled it off majestically. 


5- EXAM (2009)

Stuart Hazeldine's debut feature centers on a group of candidates applying for a rare high-level position in a world we learn to have been devastated by an outbreak. For these candidates, getting the job is do or die, which is exacerbated by the fact that none of them, left to their own devise in the room, know what the exam actually is. A beautifully filmed low-budgeter that looks -and is- way better than it would've if studio suits had been involved.

4- TAPE (2001)

What Happened to Rinchard Linklater? He used to make such compelling movies on no money. Like this one (and of course Dazed and Confused, one of my all-time favorites). The no-budget, seedy motel setting allows for something unusual and unexpected: proving once and for all that Uma Thurman is an actual, bona fide good actress. Perhpas helped by the fact she was flanked by two very strong (and often underrated) actors themselves, Ex-Mr. Thurman Ethan Hawk and his Dead Poets classmate Robert Sean "Wilson" Leonard, who chew on their many confrontations with great gusto.


3- 12 ANGRY MEN (1957)

Sidney Lumet's thriller set the tone and paved the way for small films in small confinements to be regarded in a big way. An extroardinary example of a film where tension comes from personality conflict, dialogue and body language, not action. Not to mention one of Henry Fonda's most subtle and compelling performances this side of Once Upon a Time in the West.
(yes, it's the entire movie, you're welcome!)


Granted some of the scenes, compared to the other entries in this list, do take place outside the one room (though all of them are flashbacks) but you have to admit the priceless dialogues, instant-classic characters and killer soundtrack blow the walls right off the confined little warehouse that shelters the "color" crew. And if anything if gave birth to the "Tarantinesque" filmmaking style. 
Has any other director in history seen his name so quickly become an adjective?


1- Rope (1948)

Some will argue I should've chosen Hitch's other single-setting masterpiece, Rear Window, but this granddaddy of all procedurals truly shines for it's tour-de-force cinematography of being filmed in only 10 cuts. Meaning for each take actors had to stay focused for up to 10 minutes without fail or else the entire 10-minute take had to be redone from scratch. The fact that the grand master made an edge-o'- your-seat thriller ouf of that is itself a commendable feat worth the watch. Oh, and it's based on a real-life murder case, just to sweeten the pot.


Monday, June 25, 2012

TV REVIEW: HBO's The Newsroom

Critics have been unusually harsh on Aaron Sorkin before his new show could even hit the air -even Liberal critics that is- and I have to admit I was inclined to follow their lead. Sorkin dropped the ball with the pretentious-yet-empty Studio 60, then easily swept Oscar Gold with The Socialist Network. Shouldn't he stay with movies instead of (yet again) repeating himsef?

The promos for The Newsroom made a lot of eyes roll. Sorkin's a fnatsatic writer especially when it comes to dialogues, but he's stuck with a disastrous case of white-page anxiety at the start of a new project. So for a TV pillot, he usually breaks the ice the same way. First you have the mediatic figure who has a very public meltdown; on Sports Night it was Peter Krause's disillusioned sports anchor, on The West Wing it was Bradley Whitford's DCOS taking a (well deserved) jab at the hypocrisy of right-wing religious fundamentalists, and on Studio 60 it was Judd Hirsh's Executive Producer sick of how TV has become little more than a constant marketing machine. Among a slew of familiar Sorkin, that one stands out themost because he's always the one to get the ball rolling. Here it's Jeff Daniels as a news anchor sick of narrating the sinking of a once great ship.

Familiar, yes. The dilalogues, rhytms, themes, impossibly liberal -and downright impossible- ideologies that we,re used to from all of Sorkin's media-centric TV shows are here. Does that make it bad? Absolutely not. The harsh criticisms received from early reviewers probably simple stems from Sorkin fatigue (of COURSE the central character is a huge sports fan, and I put my money on no more than 3 episodes before someone mentions Senator Stackhouse or Joshua Malina shows up) but the things he has to say, even though naive and overly liberal, are not wrong. And the debate he wishes to incur is NOT out of place.

The one strength in all this familiarity is to have gone with not only players new to the Sorkin-verse, but also ones little seen on television, making an old concept feel fresh. And even more kudos for letting the Brits -all 2 of them- keep their OWN accent; DEv Patel has a beautifully diffident character to play and his voice brings just the right pitch. Lesson learned: only Hugh Laurie can cross the pond and do a Yank accent. All others should keep their slang oir stay home. You here me, Stephen Moyer?!? Your painful attempt at a southern accent is NOT charming!

The Newsroom is a new show and has ways to go before being a GREAT one, like any news series looking for it's own voice. But I do feel that HBO is a great home for Aaron Sorkin to take is tried&tested TV formula and take it to the next step. As long as he's not imposed the usual HBO credo of The More Sex the Better. Don't get me wrong, I like sex as much as the next guy, but come on - you can't watch True Blood without being subjected with EVERY character's bare bum or sexual prowess a few times every show. WE KNOW you can do it on cable, get over it already!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

To Be Discovered: THE LIZZIE BENNET DIARIES (2012)

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune MUST be in want of a wife. 
You might think that line to be the opening to Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice, but it's actually something that Mrs. Bennet, 2.5 WPF (White Picket Fenced) suburbanite neurotic housewife, printed on t-shirts for her 3 daughters Jane, Lizzie, and Lydia. Because in 2012, suburbanite moms (especially the ones voting for Rick Santorum in the presidential primaries) still aim above all to marry their daughters to a rich doctor. Especially in this financial climate where a family like the Bennets have a hard time making ends meet. Thus begins the new web series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

I admit I have quite an aversion for "modern adaptations" just as I do for unnecessary remakes. And that is the spirit with which I checked out the first episode of, thinking it would be so homemade-dreadful I'd get a good laugh at it. And admit again I do, I instantly fell in love with it. The producers of this thing (yes, producers, because this looks way too professional to be made in an actual student's bedroom) managed to keep the wit and the bite of Austen's social class commentaries within the confine of a three-character, 3-minute-a-week play. 

Jane Austen: All About the Style

The series concerns "Lizzie", aka Ashley Clements, a college student who's been coaxed by her lifelong friend Charlotte Liu (yes, Charlotte's Asian, Political correctness and all that, get over it) into doing a video diary for Charlotte's film class project. All she has to do is talk about her life, and at the moment it means her mom's shenanigans for her daughters to meet the new med student neighbor, Bing Lee (I mean really, get over it). Lizzie illustrates the players in her life through her witty impressions (I particularly coughed my lungs laughing at her take on a drunken jock that hit on her at a bar) and with the sometimes-unwanted help of her 2 sisters (yes 2, I mean come...). 

Episodes are short but full, easy to watch and very well written. To all purists out there, get a life. To all others, get some free time and catch up while you can. Series is already 22 episodes in (again, 3 minutes each, easy to watch) and has so far covered about maybe a third of the book. And since I'm such a good guy (no snarking, I am, ask my mom), here's the first episode right down here. 

And you can catch the rest of the episodes Right Here.