Saturday, August 15, 2009

The District-9 Post

District-9 is the best movie I have seen all year, if not longer. Emotionally compelling, visually stunning and well balanced- it succeeds in every category it dabbles in. It’s nice to see a science fiction movie that focuses on dramatic character development and poignant undertones rather than making an adrenalin fueled blast-fest. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy alien blasting movies once in a while, but D-9 spreads its focus across other avenues and the end result really pays off. Where D-9 really succeeds however is in its universal appeal. You don’t need to be a sci-fi geek to really appreciate this movie. I can honestly say I’d recommend it to anyone who likes movies, period.

The movie is composed of many different camera styles, which adds a level of realism to the otherwise very believable visual effects. The interesting mix of gritty handy cam shots and aerial panoramas works well and is mixed seamlessly, resulting in a very ‘real-world’ feeling presentation. The effects on the aliens are truly impressive. You honestly forget it’s CG on the screen as they feel as though they are as part of the scene as the people and props. It really is a masterful weave of elements.

This movie is borderline perfect. That pacing, plot, effects, acting; all phenomenal. The main character is a bumbling bureaucrat played by Wilkus Van De Merwe. After seeing him blab to the camera for the first few scenes I was asking myself how the hell I was going to survive watching him for 2 hours…. However the transformation of his character (both inside and out) during the course of the movie turned me into a believer. He does an unexpectedly terrific job of the role, and I can’t think of any way to improve his efforts. (Sorry for ever doubting you.)

The movie as a whole is a bit racist, which is a bit hypocritical considering it’s supposed to highlight the dark underbelly of human ignorance.
Every character, besides the two protagonists; fit neatly into the following categories. White people: heartlessly sadistic oppressors. Black people: Gun wielding, voo-doo obsessed criminals and Prawns: Trash rummaging cat food junkies.
I don’t think there are any actual racist implications of course, however this is the only thing I can see critics having any wiggle room with.

I am very glad to see this movie turn out so well for the directorial debut of Neill Blomkamp after the whole ‘Halo’ fiasco. Admittedly having Peter Jackson producing doesn’t hurt things, but it is nice to see new talent in the theaters. Very cool that in the current Hollywood environment a short film could impress the right people and net someone a big break still. He earns his success with this first entry into what will hopefully be a long list of future projects. Simply put District-9 is the most thrilling and emotionally charged science fiction movie to come along in a long time. Definitely a must see.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The GI-Joe Post

GI-Joe: Rise of Cobra, is like the popcorn and large soda you scoff while watching summer blockbusters; You know its bad for you but you want it anyway. By all accounts this is a terrible film, but hell if I wasn’t entertained the entire time.

The movie has so many faults that you stop noticing them pretty quickly. The acting in particular will have you wanting to pull your hair out. There is one character, ‘Cover Girl’ (who thankfully doesn’t last too long in the storyline), who is portrayed so poorly it’s almost painful. I co
uld play a more convincing blonde chick in uniform than this girl can. It’s sad when the best acting in a movie comes from the writer and star of White Chicks…but Marlon Waynes is actually the only ‘Joe’ besides Dennis Quaid who’s bearable in the movie. Ray Park is the man, but he doesn’t talk and his face is covered the entire film and Sienna Miller is a good Baroness, but both roles are eclipsed by shoddy screen time taken up by the film’s lead ‘Duke’ played by Channing Tatum. Good lord this guy can’t act. It’s very evident that they picked him for his look and nothing more. Duke is actually pretty funny, charming and likable, but all the soul of his character is sucked out and crapped on by Tatum’s abysmal efforts.

I think we are spoiled these days with movies oozing eye-candy from every orifice, because GI-Joe’s effects often seemed really cheap and fake looking. Some of the m
ore action oriented parts where right on point, but a few of the vehicle portions looked notably dated and very ‘computer graphicy’ if I had to use a term.
Fortunately there are a lot of scenes where the Baroness kicks stuff….so the eye candy quota was well met come curtain fall.
Considering the ridiculousness of the GI-Joe brand and all its aforementioned shortcomings, as a whole this movie is remarkably watchable. The plot features brainwashing, evil-doers living under the polar icecap and terrorist missiles that melt national monuments- basically it’s a 80’s cartoon. What many people will fail to see is that this film doesn’t want to be much more than a cheap (scratch that EXPENSIVE) thrill. ‘Joe is a pretty explosion wrapped around a nostalgic franchise for old school fans and people w
ho like seeing bad guys getting blown up. If you can’t get behind that then you are as and as the monument melting Cobra terrorists.

The Funny People

Funny People relies on its well equipped cast and crew to pull laughs out of a dark and depressing plot-line. It’s hard to describe a laugh-a-minute comedy as a story that centers around a home-wrecking, lonely man who is dying from a terminal illness. But somehow Apatow’s ever present penis jokes and traditional cast pull it off. I’m a fan of the Apatow crowd and Funny People does a great job expanding the stable and letting a few new comediennes into the group of familiar faces. Adam Sander fits right in and adds his distinctive flavor to the movie. Its not old toll-booth-Willie-Sandler and it’s not Punch-Drunk-Love Sandler either- it’s a believable mix of aged comedian and it fits the tone of the film perfectly.

The movie’s direction and tone take a few interesting turns, but it starts out as an homage to Sandler and his past efforts through his career, thinly veiled as a tribute to his character who is all but Sandler in name. The use of real-life clips from past efforts really adds to the realism of the character. As well as cameos and bit-parts that make it feel like the audience is being let into the secret world of comedy that only ‘funny people’ know about. The support from Rogan and co. is top-notch and the whole movie feels as real as one can expect. A far cry from the Will Ferrell ‘scream-comedy-romps’ that are all too common these days. I did tire of the cameos after a point however, primarily because they weren’t that funny.
There are a few scenes where we see a bunch of comedians from across the board like Sarah Silverman and Dave Attell to Andy Dick and Paul Reiser just sitting around being ‘hilarious’. Unfortunately it feels like an inside joke and little more than validating the comedians implied humor supremacy.
That said its a small taint on a otherwise very enjoyable film. I was expecting something less demanding and more situational as far as the comedy goes, but I am honestly glad that Funny People is as weighty as it is. Hardly an emotional roller coaster by any means, but enough drama mixed into the hilarious jokes and charming cast to pull out a win.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Ugly Truth Post

I wasn’t expecting The Ugly Truth to be as raunchy or aggressively vulgar as it was. The advertisements for the film had painted to look like a classic chick-flick, when in reality the end result is closer to There’s Something About Mary than Bridgett Jones or a Meg Ryan vehicle. Honestly it’s a breath of fresh air to see a romantic comedy that fits guys into the equation. What’s the point in having a romantic date-movie if the girls can’t drag their guys along to see it? The Ugly Truth adds just enough inappropriate hilarity to keep guys strung along while women get the cliché love arch that has sold so many memberships to the Mr. Darcy fan club.

That being said there is a lot wrong with movie as you might imagine. Catherine Heigl continues to be borderline unwatchable in everything she does, and is a very unrealtable main character. Her ‘too busy for her own good’ character who works as a producer at a failing TV news program is too far away from the every-woman who will ultimately want to go see the movie. If I had to do a chick-flick reference I’d say she was a cheap caricature of Cameron Diaz from 2006’s The Holiday. Gerard Butler is pretty much on point as Heigl’s counterpart and plays a role that every guy would like, short of his King Leonidus in 300 (2006 also). The only problem I have with Butler in this movie is his atrocious American accent. We are so used to hear forced British accent attempts, especially in romantic comedies, but this is beyond the opposite. H
is rootn’ toon’ attempt at sounding like a good-ol-boy is almost as laughable as the awkward scenes he puts Catherine Heigl through. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it-- keep him sounding like the gruff Scot that he is.

Besides those issues the movie is honestly a lot of fun. I was laughing out loud along with the sold-out theater of couples who looked like they where genuinely enjoying themselves. There are some scenes that will offer laughs for everyone while sticking to a love story that meets all the requirements for the chick-flick genre.
It is a perfect date movie that will keep guys happy and girls appeased. Get in your boyfriend points while this one is still in the theaters, before something sappy comes out. (Or you might end up sitting through 130 minutes of Meryl Streep)

Characteristically though, if you strip it of all the hilariously inappropriate comments from Butler and awkwardly amusing scenarios Heigl gets into, it is a tad formulaic. Honestly the film feels like director Robert Luketic went to the movies one lonely Saturday night back in 2006 to watch Butler’s 300, then snuck into a late showing of the Holiday and decided to go home and write a combo-script. T
hen when he found that it wasn’t that good he decided to take out Leonidus’s weapons and replace them with vulgarity. Three years later someone gave him the money to make film and this survivable little movie pops out. “And that my friends is The Ugly Truth”.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Half Blood Post

Harry Potter is an acquired taste and many people write it off as a franchise altogether. Those who tough it out all agree that it is a charming and wonderful series of books. Among the book’s fan base however there is a large rift of people that do and don’t like the movies. In the films’ defense there is an awful lot packed into those books and the vivid wizarding world is not one that can be summarized with ease. Many directors have tried their hand at a film (or two) and some have been hits for me…and others big misses. The hardest part is sitting through a movie you have high expectations for and a very vivid understanding of what should happen before the curtain falls. If the director puts his own spin on the film, or a particular scene is shifted, shortened or even cut, then it really rubs you the wrong way. Goblet of Fire is my favorite of the books, with the dragons, the Quiddich Cup, Mad Eye Moody, Uncle Sirius… so much great material. Unfortunately the movie fell so short of my expectations that it actually soured me to the series as a whole.
Half Blood Prince is my second favorite of the Rowling’s books, and I can happily say that David Yates does not disappoint in his second Potter directorial role.
All the drama, magic and character entanglements that riddle (!) the latter chapters in the Potter saga are fully realized in ‘Prince, and nothing feels compacted like it has in the previous few entries. At close to 3 hours this movie definitely has a lot in it, but it is presented at a perfect pace and never feels rushed. I will say that while everyone else seems to be growing with their characters, Emma Watson is struggling. Her overacting is really noticeable this time around compared to her more natur
al classmates, which is unfortunate. That and the fact that Fenrir Greyback’s wolf-hair looks more like a full body, lunch lady hair net…are the only real complaints I have with the movie.

The effects are substantially more action-packed this time around and everything from wand-work to Quiddich matches are much more gritty and effective. There is a certain level of cheese layered on, especially towards the end with the various climaxes and love interests, but the movie keeps a hold and doesn’t let anything get too carried away. It really is a pitch-perfect port of seemingly unmanageable content. I am both impressed and enthralled by this entry to the collection. With the exception of the first movie (that will always have the upper hand with it being the initial magical introduction to Potter’s universe,) Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is the best of the Harry Potter films to date.

The Bruno Post

Vatsup!? Bruno is a hard movie to review because it breaks all the conventions of what a ‘movie’ is supposed to be. Yeah there is a plot, and a few characters, and a conflict, but that’s about it. The whole premise is pretty much to stuff an ostentatious character into awkward situations with real people, and to watch their horrified reactions or see them do (or say) some incredibly stupid things. It’s amazing to see the situations Sacha Baron Cohen is able to get himself into while keeping the guise of ‘Bruno’ up in front of the oblivious victims. And for that he should be commended. It's even more amazing some of the real reactions he is able to get out of people. It’s a bizarre world we live in, and this ‘movie’ does a great job of pointing that out to us.

Unfortunately Bruno is simply another flavor of Borat, and without its forefather setting the stage, this movie would be unable to exist on any level. Instead of pushing ethic boundaries, this Cohen effort pushes the sexual orientation issue and exploits people’s fears and ig
norance much the same way its predecessor did. The boundaries get pushed further with Bruno though, for shock value if nothing else.
There is far too much penis on the screen in this movie for no other reason than to gross out the audience and make everyone feel uncomfortable.
While that in itself is funny, it has pretty much alienated Bruno from being the sort of movie people would see again or want to own…or even speak favorably about. I am glad I saw Bruno, it was a roller coaster of awkward horrors that had me laughing the whole way. Will I ever see it
again. Most definitely not.

The Co-Op Launch Post

Last Friday was the official launch of! Treebeerd and I worked on 5 strips to open with, and will be supplementing the site with a new episode every Friday from here on out.

To promote the site I’ve set up a few ad banner exchan
ges with some friendly sister sites as well as got a FaceBook group going, to which we have quite a few members already helping to spread the word. Twitter has a new Co-Op Comic feed @coopcomic which you can follow if you want reminders and updates whenever anything new is added to the site. I just wrapped up the colors on this Friday’s episode and we’ve got the next months worth mapped out and ready to go into production. I’m really excited to have the ball rolling on this and finally getting back into regular updates. Check out the site at and tell your friends!