Archive for May, 2010

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Transformers

May 27, 2010

Transformers

Another Saturday morning cartoon, like GI Joe and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, takes on the big screen, and Transformers does a reasonably good job creating an entertaining first film.  This is purely a summer sort of film, one that you can shut your mind off to and you don’t get distracted by the story either being so bad or good that you pay all that much attention to it.

It all starts with Sam Witwicky, a high school student, who is trying to get his first car.  As he is working on that, by getting good grades, several objects fall out of the sky crashing into earth, and the Autobots and Decepticons are on Earth.  They are searching for the All-Spark for their own various reasons, for the Autobots it is primarily to protect it from the Decepticons.  And while the Decepticons take on the world trying to find out the location of it, and Megatron , the Autobots, lead by Optimus Prime, try and blend into society and covertly stop the Decepticons.  Sam Witwicky accidentally becomes involved as he tries to see his grandfathers spectacles in order to raise more money for the car.  Little does he know that a map to the All-Spark is hidden on the cracked lens.  Things go to hell quickly and the Autobots have to protect Sam and defeat the Decepticons.

The acting in this film is very sub par.  Shia LaBeouf, who some people for some reason think could be an up and coming actor (he really can’t act) stars in the role of Sam Witwicky.  He comes across as annoying and whiny throughout the whole film and doesn’t do a good job.  His love interest in the film, Mikaela, is played by Megan Fox.  Again, she can’t act to save her life, and while she is stunning to look at on the screen, her performance is very bland.  The people who are actually interesting on screen are Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Anthony Anderson, and Rachael Taylor, and all of them play lesser roles.  Duhamel and Gibson both play men from a military squad to manage to capture part of a Decepticon.  Their acting isn’t all that great either, but they do a very good job in the action sequences.  Anthony Anderson and Rachael Taylor player computer hackers/nerds, and they provide much of the comic relief.  Anderson is hilarious in this film with the one liners and situations that he gets.  His performance is probably the high point in the acting.

In the visual department is where this film gets to be pretty decent.  Michael Bay is known for making films with huge explosions and action sequences, and this film doesn’t disappoint.  It starts off with action and it ends with action.  Roberto Ocri and Alex Kurtzman deserve from recognition for this film as well.  They both screen wrote this film, and while they didn’t manage to keep it going through the second film, they have some writing talent with both having written for the television show Fringe and writing the Star Trek film.  They created a very good mindless summer film.

Overall there isn’t anything all that special about this film.  The action sequences are fun, and it is easy to shut your mind off while watching and just enjoying the action as it takes place.  And there is definitely a time for films like this one.  A lot of the time a good summer film fails because it tries to be clever at points, or it gets convoluted by adding in too much action or too many characters, but this one keeps it simple enough to be very entertaining.

Entertainment Grade: B+

Critical Grade: C-

Overall Grade: B

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Teeth

May 24, 2010

Teeth

Teeth is a perfect blend of horror and dark, dark comedy that makes you cringe at times and laugh at others. With a great leading performance by Jess Weixler, the film comes together nearly perfectly.

The story starts out with Dawn O’Keefe’s mother on a date with her future husband and Dawn playing in a kiddie pool with her soon to be step brother, Brad.  Something happens and we jump forward to the present (sorry, this is going to be very odd description/summary of the story ).  In the present, Dawn has become and abstinence nut in high school, she leads the club at the local high school and the whole idea of sex is out of the question for her and she has a boy friend who is in the club with her as well.  Mean while, her step bother has become a degenerate, in his twenties, living at home, not really working and has a rotweiler.  The relationship between the two isn’t good as Dawn tries to be pure and Brad basically doesn’t care about anything.  One day Dawn and her boyfriend go off to a river for a swim.  It turns out that her boyfriend isn’t quite as into the abstinence thing as she is, and he tries to have sex with her.  Things go wrong, and he ends up drowning.  Dawn doesn’t know what to do and she goes to another friend, a guy, for advice.  He tells her that he is her hero and they end up having sex but it turns out that he was just doing it for a bet, so the following morning when they have a “quickie” things go wrong.  Also during this time, Dawn’s mother ends up in the hospital, in a massive series of unfortunate events worsened by the step brother, and she ends up passing away.  Dawn decides to take revenge on her step brother before she leaves town.  That is probably the most disjointed and confusing summary I’ve ever written, but I was trying to keep it cleanish.

The acting of Jess Weixler is simply brilliant in this role.  It is extremely out there, and I don’t think that many actresses would have been able to pull it off as well as she does.  John Hensley, from Nip/Tuck, plays her step brother Brad.  And while his performance isn’t as good, he does come off as a scumbag and while you feel sorry for most of the other characters who have unfortunate events happen to them (at least a little bit sorry, not all that much, all the guys are made out to be some level of deviant), at no point in time do you feel sorry for Brad.  The rest of the roles are much smaller, her boyfriend, her friend, even her mother, only show up for bits of time in the film.  Their performances aren’t as good as Weixler’s, again, but their roles are smaller, so it isn’t all that important if they aren’t as strong.

Mitchell Lichtenstein is the writer and director of this film, and while he has primarily done acting in his career, his second attempt as a writer/director is very good.  This is definitely a film that has a strong straight forward message about female empowerment wrapped up in a an extremely odd way of telling it, much like Ginger Snaps being about puberty.  He does a good job getting solid performances all around, and visually creating proper surroundings for each character.  And while there are a few hilariously cheesy lines, it feels like they were intentionally put in, not that they were unintentionally poorly written bits of dialog.

This film just works on every level, the writing, direction, and acting all just come together perfectly.  And while films at times can be too preachy and heavy handed in getting across what they are trying to say, Crash, The Happening, and The Day After Tomorrow come to mind, it has that humor element that makes it every interesting to watch.  I can’t quite use the term enjoyable, as I don’t think any guy can completely enjoy watching it, but I’d still highly recommend it.

Entertainment Grade: A

Critical Grade: B+

Overall Grade: A-

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New Feature:

May 21, 2010

I’ve added ratings to the posts, now this could be used to say what you think of my post, but my goal is that you can use it to rate the movies as well, so we get an average of what people think of the films overall.

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The Informant!

May 21, 2010

The Informant!

This oddly paced comedy delivers some results but fails to produce an expected number of laughs.  It just moves along at such an odd pace for a comedy and almost makes you feel wrong for laughing at the humorous situations.

Mark Whitacre is an employee at ADM, a lysine developing company.  He is in middle management with dreams of being a big shot.  He gets a chance when ADM starts meeting with other agri-companies and he finds out that they are fixing prices.  He decides that it is his duty to blow the whistle on them and go to the FBI.  He contacts the FBI but doesn’t completely realize what he is getting into, and the FBI doesn’t realize what they are getting into with him.  There are a series of odd events between the FBI and Whitacre and ADM.  Things finally fall apart as Whitacre’s issues rise to the surface and the FBI brings ADM down.

The acting in this film is pretty good.  Matt Damon leads off as Mark Whitacre and gives a very good performance, maybe not the breath of emotional change as would be dealt with in the case of the actual condition that Whitacre had, but he still does a good job.  It isn’t Damon’s greatest performance, but it is quite solid.  Joel McHale and Scott Bakula play the two FBI agents working with Whitacre to gather the information against ADM.  McHale is playing a very different role from that on Community or his work on The Soup.  It is still a comedic role, but much of the comedy comes from the absurdity of serious situations instead of a single punchline.  Bakula fits better into the role in many ways.  He comes off as very serious and caring about what happens to Whitacre and his family and then he comes off as extremely frustrated as the series of misadventures take off.  It is a different role from what I’ve previously seen him in as the captain of Enterprise.

Steven Soderbergh directs this bit of a mess of a film.  It unfortunately doesn’t live up to some of his previous directing work, such as Ocean’s Eleven.  The style of humor is just so uneven that it doesn’t come across on the screen all that well, and while awkward humor can be really funny at times, a feature length comedy based on awkward humor and no actual punchlines simply doesn’t work out all that well.  It seems forced in terms of trying to make it funnier than it actually needed to be.  Visually he does a great job, though, creating a world of the early 1990’s with terrible clothes, hair, and interior decoration.  It has that old kind of feel to it, which is sad since the 90’s aren’t all that old, and at times it feels more 80’s than 90’s, but visually it is very well set up.

This film just doesn’t quite deliver, and with the type of comedy that it is, being that it does miss, it misses badly.  It would only need a few minor tweaks to be much better, I feel, but it is hard to put ones finger on exactly where those would be needed because of the type of film it is.  The acting is good, the directing is good, it is awkward to watch and laugh at, but after you don’t feel like it was that great a comedy.

Entertainment Grade: C

Critical Grade: B-

Overall Grade: C+

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Swimming Pool

May 18, 2010

Swimming Pool

This art house film is fairly well done that takes on one of my favorite subjects, writing, much like Finding Neverland.  The acting in this film is quite well done and it just flows together quite nicely blending two stories into one.  It combines a soul finding adventure and mystery.

The story starts off with Sarah Morton, a British mystery writer, trying to get work done on her next book.  She is stuck and hasn’t been able to write for a long time, so her publisher kindly offers her the use of his vacation home, in the south of France.  She goes there, and words start to flow onto the paper, and then a disruption comes into her life as Julie comes into her life as her publisher’s daughter.  She is a promiscuous and is working her way through the town and other country men.  She generally disturbs and frustrates Sarah Morton.  Sarah eventually ends up using Julia as a muse for her story, adding in her sorted affairs.  Things go very wrong when one of Julia’s trysts ends up dead.  Then there is a twist at the end that leaves you thinking.

Charlotte Rampling stars in this film as Sarah Morton.  She does a good job creating the character of a seemingly boring author writing about something that she really doesn’t know having lived a safe life and showing just a little interest in the sorted affairs that are going on around her.  Ludivine Sagnier takes on the role of Julia, and while primarily in the film for her beauty, she does a decent job in terms of acting.  There is some semblance of being care free and rebellious that she blends together very well as she bucks the ideals that Sarah Morton expects.  Rest of the acting is pretty minimal after Rampling and Sagnier, there are various men that show and disappear in the film with Sagnier’s character, and the publisher only shows up at the beginning and end of the film.  They all do a solid job, but it is much more about Sagnier’s character pressing and bothering Rampling’s.

Francois Ozon screen wrote this film as well as directed it.  He takes on a pretty challenging story as creating a story about another storytelling medium.  Visually he does a solid job portraying the beauty of south France and creating a beautiful story at the same time.  He likely won’t ever be a household name in the United States with only a limited number of films, and all of them in France, but he definitely has a talent for story telling and has written most of what he has directed.

This isn’t a film for everyone, it is fairly risque with all the sorted affairs, and it moves along fairly slowly developing characters more then it works on moving the plot along.  However, the characters are interesting and it is an entertaining film to watch.  This is a film that should be better known as well because the story is as good as is, and it is fairly well critically recognized.

Entertainment Grade: B

Critical Grade: A-

Overall Grade: B+

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Dog Soldiers

May 14, 2010

Dog Soldiers

Dog Soliders

Neil Marshall’s first film and possibly my favorite film of his.  This is really a B sort of horror film with werewolves, but a great B horror film.  It doesn’t really launch into a new area of werewolves like Ginger Snaps, but it keeps in the classic werewolves, and is all about fighting them off.

It starts with a routine, boring, military exercise in the middle of Scotland.  Things start to go wrong when they find the remains of another special ops team that has been torn apart.  They see werewolves out in the woods and they take refuge in a small cabin where Megan lives in her family cabin.  The werewolves circle around the house and the soldiers are forced to fight them off and try and find a way to escape, because they aren’t within range to contact anyone else.  They make an attempt for a vehicle in a barn, but that fails.  When their ammunition starts to run low they find out that Megan hasn’t been completely honest about why she lives out int he house.

The acting in this film isn’t all that impressive, Emma Cleasby plays Megan, and it is a pretty boring performance.  The acting isn’t all that important though, because this is a strong horror/action film.  Sean Pertwee and Kevin McKidd are the two main military men in this film and they are strong in the terms of their action.  They come across as extremely intense.  The whole military team is intense as well, and the action sequences are a little bit hokey and the werewolves don’t look extremely great at times and at times they look very good.

Visually this is a decent film.  It struggles at times do to the small budget that it had with visual effects but Marshall does a good job of creating a dark and intense creature feature.  This, along with The Descent shows that Marshall really knows how shoot a horror film and how to show it off.  I love the fact that it is set in a tiny little area, I think that it is a good thing for a horror film, the sense of feeling trapped makes it much more intense.  It also helps that this isn’t a teen driven film, so many horror films, since they are targeted towards teens, end up being full of teens and just annoying everyone watching the film.

This is a B horror film, but it is a very good B horror film.  It doesn’t rely stupid slasher action sequences or annoying deformed human monsters that show up in so many horror films.  Neil Marshall is definitely a one of the better horror directors out there and I look forward to see more of his work, which should be coming out next year.  One of the better werewolf films outt here, so it is definitely worth checking out.

Entertainment Grade: A-

Critical Grade: B+

Overall Grade: B+

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The Alphabet Killer

May 12, 2010

The Alphabet Killer

The Alphabet Killer

This film tries to blend itself between true crime and horror, unfortunately it leans more to the horror aspect, which is where it fails.  The story is initially interesting as it starts with a double homicide and then moves into the realm of psychological horror film.  Visually it is solid, but it isn’t all that great.

It starts in Rochester, NY where a double homicide has taken place.  Megan Paige, an over zealous police officer, takes on this case and becomes very personally involved in it.  She develops schizophrenia and starts hallucinating about the victims becoming more and more obsessed with the case.  This puts stress on her fiancee, Kenneth, and eventually leads to a violent breakdown.  After going into treatment for two years, she returns to the force, cleared for desk duty.  When a call comes in of another murder and she dives back into the case vowing to solve it, with or without the help of the police.

The acting in this film is pretty suspect.  Eliza Dushku plays, from Dollhouse, doesn’t really fit in this role.  She just seems very stiff in her role and comes across as kind of annoying.  And she dominates the film.  Cary Elwes plays Kenneth, Paige’s fiancee, and he just isn’t all that interesting in this role.  His role seems to be very secondary and they really don’t develop him.  Timothy Hutton, probably the biggest name in this film, and his role is solid, but not all that impressive.  The talent just doesn’t come together for their roles, mainly thanks to the poorly crafted story.

Visually this film is average, when set in reality, it actually comes across as a pretty tough true crime sort of film, but when it jumps into the horror aspect, it becomes very cliche in how it looks.  Rob Schmidt, director of Wrong Turn, simply isn’t good enough to blend the two aspects.  His previous forays have always been into horror, and this film would have worked better if he had stuck to a single genre instead of jumping between the two.  Much of that problem, though, can be placed on Tom Malloy, the screenwriter.  His story is just a really poor retelling and unfocused retelling of something that has actual events to be based on, it is hard to know how he ended up with it going so poorly.

This is a film that I would recommend skipping.  There is nothing that really draws you into watching this film that is worth while.  I don’t mind true crime films (even though you look at my review of Zodiac it might not seem like it), but they need to be much better focused then they currently are.  I’d definitely recommend Zodiac over this film.

Entertainment Grade: F

Critical Grade: D-

Overall Grade: F