Menu

5 stars5 stars5 stars5 stars5 stars5 stars

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

YOUTube Pick of the Week: 2008 a Year in Review

Hey all,

Since it is the New Year, I would like to present Jibjab.com's newest animation - "2008 - A Year in Review"




Personally I prefer their video for 2007. Check out all the videos on JibJab.com


HAPPY NEW YEAR and SEE YOU IN 2009!

Review: BEDTIME STORIES



This movie easily places in my top 5 favorite Adam Sandler movies. Adam plays a nicer (less jerky of a guy than usual) guy, the rating helps keep the cursing down from more recent comedies, and the plot - though very predictable - is super delightful.

Basically Sandler is a guy named Skeeter who has lived in a hotel his whole life with his dad and sister. The hotel gets bought by a rich mogul and Skeeter is promised a position of power in the hotel one day. Unfortunately, he serves his entire life as the janitor of the hotel. The hotel changes hands to new management and this is when the story truly begins. Skeeter is places in charge of telling stories to his niece and nephew. He tells stories, and whatever the kids contribute to the story happens for real to Skeeter in the following day. So he gets his chance to become the new hotel manager, and uses the new storytime opportunity to weasel life enhancing story arcs from the little kids so his life can be better.

Everyone in the movie is great. Guy Pierce makes a great, more-or-less believable villain (teamed with Lucy Lawless), and Keri Russell is a good foil for a love interest. The story is cute and the bedtime stories that Sandler tells are full of good ol'e clean yet Sandler-esque humor. Russell Brand was a great surprise in the film (He's not in even one trailer), he's basically Skeeters friend that sleeps over and watches the kids every night, providing a very wavy opinion at every choice made in the story, in a hilarious way.

The film does a great job of lampooning the degree that schools and parents watch over what their kids eat nowadays, with Rice Crackers and Wheat Germ being all the kids have, and when it comes down to it, when the kids in the movie eat sugar, nothing bad happens, showing that sometimes people just need to lighten up and have a good time once in a while, knowing that little harm is going to come of a light unhealthy experience.

The only thing I did not like about the movie was the inclusion of an obnoxious CGI Guinea Pig named Bugsy (Cause he has HUGE eyes). He is there for a constantly absurd call back gag, and I have no idea why the kids insist on taking him everywhere they go. Other than that, the movie is well worth the trip to go see.
3 stars

Monday, December 29, 2008

Shane Ackers 9 -Original Short

Hello all,

Since the new movie 9 (scroll down for a couple of days to find the trailer) is based on a short, I have decided to post the original short for all to see, so everyone can better understand this movie trailer that blew my mind when Wilder posted it a few days ago.

So - without further ado - the original short by Shane Acker (God the sound design is incredible) 9:

Friday, December 26, 2008

Review: THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON


I wanted to write this review backwards, but I tried it and it looked terrible. Oh well.

Maybe I'm just a geek, or maybe I saw Back to the Future at too young of an age, but any movie that plays with the laws of time and space is ok in my book.

What Kind of Year Has it Been: Dan's Top 5 of 2008

Now, normally an end of year top 10 list would be in order, but honestly, a trip to the cinema these days seems less and less enticing.  Fond memories of seeing The Fellowship of the Ring for the first time, or sneaking into Kill Bill Part 1, or further back the re-release of the Star Wars Trilogy in theaters seem distant now.  Many films aim to do nothing but make enough barely amusing ads (in the case of a comedy) or stupidly grand ones (in the case of action) to get the butts in the seats, then distract you for two or so hours.  You leave the theater the same as you came in.  Time to get on with your night.

The following is a list of the few films I sought out to see this year, and each one of them leaves an impression that lasts for days, the mark of any great art, whether it be prose or paintings or the moving picture.  Here they are.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

9

Hello all, and merry Christmas.

I have just one little blurb for you today. I just saw the trailer for Shane Acker's new animated film, 9, and I nearly wet myself.

Maybe it's just me, but this looks like one of the most beautiful, original, and epic animated films in quite some time.

Check it out.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas from The Movie Watch

Alongside the Christmas tree, Nativity Sets, Wreaths and Cookies, nothing defines the Christmas season more than the movies that are traditionally aired year after year on Television. Each year, November has at least a two or three Christmas movies with some being forgettable comedies like Surviving Christmas and others being future classics like Elf. With Christmas Eve being tonight and Christmas day following soon after (not to mention being a few days into Hanukkah for our Jewish readers) and slow news from the world of Hollywood there's no better time to list Chris Cookson's top ten Christmas flicks.

YouTube Pick of the Week

The good people at Picnicface have the pick this week.

The thing about Picnicface's sketch comedy that always puts a smile on my face is their subtleties. The way they correspond with each other and seemingly improv their lines is really great.

Without further ado, 'Fanmail From the Future'!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Review: MILK


My name is Mark Donica and I want to recruit you.

I want to recruit you to see this film. As a Californian, this movie hits close to home. As a human being, this movie will pull at your heartstrings.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Review: THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX



I have not seen an animated film like this in a long time.

Watching Despereaux is like watching an old fairy tale animated movie classic. There is a hero that is not yet a hero who goes on a quest becoming the hero he was always meant to be along the way. While this story has been told in almost every animated movie, Despereaux is different. They don't go for the jokes, pop culture gags, and fart humor. They tell a story and if a joke happens to come out of it then all the better. Finally, this gives an animated movie a full story, one we haven't heard or seen in a while.

Despereaux is the tale of a mouse with large ears who isn't afraid of anything. He lives in the Kingdom of Dor, which has always loved Soup and Rats (?). One day though, a rat ruined the soup, causing the death of the queen - and leading to both being banned from the kingdom. Years later (apparently - cause nobody ever seems to age) tiny Despereaux is set with the task of bringing all of these things back with the intent of being accepted into his community in the process.

This is not done with out flaws.

You never catch the name of any character besides Despereaux, there are a few too many plots happening at the same time, and the ending just seems to happen coincidentally - not for any real reason or chain of events. It just wraps up to nicely. Also there is a terribly overbearing Narrator - voiced by Sigourney Weaver, who chimes in literally every five minutes with a new moral to say - but then taking it back later so the next moral will make sense. It gets annoying fast.

However, the art is astounding. The backgrounds are some of the highest quality I have ever seen, and while the character animation and models are nothing special, they do have a certain charming aesthetic to them. Especially the rats, the leader of which looks so much like Anton Ego from Ratatouille, it is absurd.

Overall I enjoyed the movie a lot, but it could have been better. It certainly is a film that the whole family can enjoy though, and hopefully other studios take a tip from the key points of what made Despereaux good, and don't just gawk about what is missing.
2 stars

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Review: VICKY CHRISTINA BARCELONA


Vicky Christina Barcelona is a movie that could only be set in Barcelona. And although it does not capture the physicality of the city, by giving us deep focus placement shots of Paseo de La Gracia, La Sagrada Familia or Parque Guell, it does capture the psyche behind the city. Do not let this misguide you the famous places are there, but Woody Allen weaves them into his story in such a way that they all happen naturally rather than being forced as must-see locations. It is not uncommon for Woody Allen to set his films in European cities, and here he demonstrates knowledge and insight about the culture that has allowed him to survive in the market. Mind that two of the main characters, Vicky and Christina, are actually Americans visiting Barcelona and we see most of the events through their eyes. It is not the true Barcelona but the fantasy Barcelona in which we fantasize about having an adventure in.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Can America Understand Japanese Source Material?



There is no denying that Japan has had many exports from our childhood and the childhood of others being recreated onto the big screen for another shot at glory. The last example of this was Speed Racer and an upcoming example is the live action adventure, Dragonball Evolution.

These aren't the only things coming as Astro Boy and Gatchaman are also slated for release, among other rumored projects. One of the biggest concerns after the release of Speed Racer and the release of the trailer for Dragonball Evolution is that the American filmmakers are trying to hard to make something magic and mystical as real with digital effects. Needless to say, the Dragonball series is loosely based on the Chinese Story of Journey to the West and changes it up by adding aliens and fireballs.

My point is that I hope American directors don't take the great stories that the Japanese have made that are major building blocks of our childhood and adapt them into the "American Style". The great thing about these stories is how off the wall and original they are. By removing the style in which they are regularly presented, it becomes hokey and average. In the new Dragonball movie, they have removed the anthropomorphic animals to create a sense of realism. If you have an alien that comes from another planet to collect seven magical balls that grant any wish you want and the only way to fight him is by learning how to throw a stronger fireball, I think the idea of realism isn't that much of an issue anymore.
With Astro Boy, it is being animated by Imagi Animation Studios, who did the great TMNT, and thusly keeping it's overall visual style. The movie looks stunning and a teaser was being played with the earlier release of Bolt. The cast is rather stellar and is being led by Freddie Highmore, who is well known for his roles in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Finding Neverland, as Astro as well as Bill Nighy, Kristen Bell, Donald Sutherland, Nathan Lane, Scarlett Johanssen and many more. There haven't been any confirmations of who they are playing, but needless to say, Imagi is treating this fantastic future story with the respect it deserves.

As for Dragonball Evolution, it doesn't look too bad. I'm a big enough fan that I would love to give it a chance. I think you should too, but be open, as it's not going to fulfill any fans wildest desires. Let us look to the future of anime based films and hope that they are CGI or even hand drawn. In Japan, popular anime series' get feature films on a yearly basis. Thanks to the acceptance of anime in our society, those films are slowly being released in our theatres.

The future looks a little bright, let's hope that we're all just wearing sunglasses.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Review: YES MAN


Since I was about six years old, Jim Carrey has been, to me, the pure, physical manifestation of perfect, comedic acting. I grew up treasuring Liar Liar and the Ace Ventura series. Bruce Almighty proved he still had it in him, and, to this day, he has never let me down. I'm one of those fans who believes he even does a great job in his more dramatic roles like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Majestic. Even though I didn't particularly like The Number 23, I still thought he was great. Jim Carrey has truly never let me down. He's one of a kind. He's a master.

He's, in a word, majestic.

What We Like: Dan's Favorites

This is most certainly an incomplete list.  More to follow later.



Stranger Than Paradise (1984)



No film I have encountered so far matches the sweet simplicity of Jim Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise, arguably his most focused and effective effort.  It has been said that it was Jarmusch's intent to create a foreign film about America, to see familiar institutions and social norms in the slightly skewed filter of the quirkily observant.  The film lavishes attention on awkward pauses, false starts, aimlessness, and hipster posturing in such a confident and curious manner that the smallest gesture or exchange or action wonderfully fills the screen that is usually occupied these days by a cornucopia of spectacular distractions.  And because of Jarmusch's ever-present sense of wry humor, unintentional nihilism has never been so funny.



Rushmore (1999)



A bombastic celebration of adolescence that charmingly coerced me into placing it in my favorite's list before the curtains closed on the film's final shot, no doubt the best of director Wes Anderson's trademark slow motion endings.  In this one moment slowed down, no less than a dozen or so characters are given more life and endearment than most other film personalities get in an entire two hour period.  Expressive stylization at its liveliest, Wes Anderson at his freshest, and Schwartzman and Bill Murray both at their best, hitting and underplaying each unconventional beat perfectly.  The film's heart, though, is Schwartzman's Max Fischer, the silver screen's most lovably wormy teenager.  His flagrant personality flaws and general inexperience with life are equally matched by his soaring, nerdy ambition and earnest, rehearsed confidence.



Before Sunrise/Before Sunset (1995/2004)



These two films are inseparable, one made in 1995, one made nine years later in 2004.  Together they portray the chance meetings of Jesse (Ethan Hawke), and Celine (Julie Delpy), characters so real they threaten to overtake their respective actors and film they inhabit to become two would-be soulmates whose lives we happen to have the privilege of joining for a few fleeting hours.  If When Harry Met Sally represents the Hollywood take on romantic connection through insightful conversations fraught with undertones and overtones, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset is like having one of those treasured experiences yourself.  Director Richard Linklater's style of structure also lends a certain magical quality to the films, the first takes place over the course of one night in Vienna, and the second takes place in real time (!) over the course of one afternoon in Paris, as the sun just starts to drop.  The lives they lead outside these encounters, which they frequently allude to, are wonderfully drawn but serve only as a distant reminder that their time together is both beautiful and tragic because of its transience.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

If you thought Episode I was bad...

Then you have to see the Star Wars Holiday Special. Aired only once on CBS in 1978 this special has become a cult classic among Star Wars fans for its camp value and use of the original Star Wars cast. In short the plot follows Chewbacca on a quest to go home to celebrate Christmas...err...Life Day. In the typical "Star Wars fashion" all things go sour as Darth Vader has plans to ruin the festivities. Throughout the special you also get to see entire scenes performed in Wookiee, meet Chewbacca's son Lumpy, Carrie Fisher singing over the Star Wars theme and an oddly suggestive video from the Jefferson Starship.

The special is absolutely horrid with the sole action scene consisting of a Stormtrooper bending down to pick up a blaster and then falling off a ledge. The special is a must-see for Star Wars fans and a great endurance test for just about anyone. I've seen it three or four times now and I still can't watch the entire thing in a single sitting. Its impossible.

George Lucas wants every copy of the special burned and forgotten. He has publically said "The special from 1978 really didn't have much to do with us, you know. I can't remember what network it was on, but it was a thing that they did. We kind of let them do it. It was done by... I can't even remember who the group was, but they were variety TV guys. We let them use the characters and stuff and that probably wasn't the smartest thing to do, but you learn from those experiences. I had a wonderful time on Young Indiana Jones. It was a great series. We did it for four years. I spent those four or five years actually working on it. That's really all I did during those years. It was really a great experience and I love television."

The special earned itself a special place in the Star Wars canon. The Star Wars Animated Adventure segment was the first time the character Boba Fett was introduced in the Star Wars mythos. This was also the first time we saw Chewbacca's home planet of Kashyyyk and this was later used as a model for Star Wars Episode III. Since the release the special has been spoofed by Robot Chicken, South Park and it even earned spot in the music video for Weird Al's White & Nerdy.

So if you haven't seen it already, cozy up against the fireplace and make a tray of Wookiee Ookies. Below is the Star Wars Holiday Special.

Review: BODY OF LIES


Last semester in IR class, that is international relations, we had a whole class dedicated to what CIA agents actually looked like. They are not handsome, suave people, with a good taste in women and drinks, who can handle any weapon by pure instinct; they are more like fat average guys behind a computer, revising and investigating all the data they can lay their hands on. Ridley Scott’s new action thriller is by no means an accurate representation of what the spy game of the real world is like; however it comes much closer than what any movie of its genre has ever been. Or, at least it convinced me that that is how the CIA and other intelligence agencies might actually work. I cannot say how it works, well because it is a spy game and like ninjas, you are not supposed to know they exist.

I do not want to spoil most of the plot, which is nicely filled with intricacies and neat twists. What you need to know is that Leonardo DiCaprio, plays Roger Ferris, a CIA operative who is trying to track down a terrorist in Amman, Jordan. Meanwhile safely back at home; Russell Crowe gives him instructions and orders through his hands-free phone. Crowe can keep an eye on DiCaprio because the CIA has satellites in space that work more or less like Google Earth to the nth power. Mark Strong plays the Jordanian General of Intelligence who trusts DiCaprio but dislikes the CIA. There is also a sweet love interest played by Iranian actress, Golshifteh Farahani.

Like most of Ridley Scotts movies, Body of Lies is superbly directed. Heavy use of close-ups gives us an intimate experience of the characters and we see their frustration in knowing how few they can trust. Like most modern spy thrillers, the camera seems to be shaky, not disgustingly shaky like in the Bourne movies, but shaky enough that it confuses the audience. Being a spy thriller, this is ok if you are not confused until the end - if you always know what's going on, then it is not much of a spy thriller. This is the fourth time Scott works with Crowe, and like always Crowe gives us a performance that makes us swear we are seeing the life and times of Russell Crowe (I mean that as a compliment). This time we do see the life and times of Russell Crowe, half of his scenes are amongst his family, taking the kids to soccer practice, living the good American life as his boy out there risks his life every second. DiCaprio has a tendency to overact, however this time it works. After seeing him in action in Blood Diamond , here we see him in territory that he seems familiar with and enjoys it. The true sweetness however comes from Strong’s character, Hani Salaam. Hani is one of those characters who you immediately like. He is so charismatic and dresses so well that you know there is dark side to him. Yet he seems to be the character with the highest sense of morality in the story. He reminds DiCaprio that in some parts of the world friendship and honesty can save your life.

What Ridley Scott attempted to tell in the film though is a bit unclear. Is this simply another spy thriller, or an attempt to criticize how the USA runs the world in a Big Brother kind of fashion? Russell Crowe’s über-Google Earth makes me want to say it’s the latter. It is scary how easily one can track you down if they wanted to, and how much we depend on technology and mass communication every day of our lives. I found it incredibly ingenious how Ridley Scott demonstrates that the hard thing about finding terrorists in the desert is that they live in almost a prehistoric fashion. If they don’t use a phone, how are you going to tap into their conversations? If they don’t store data in computers or write it down, how do you get information out if it?

If you are into spy thrillers, political thrillers, or into films about the world of today, Body of Lies is the film for you.
3 stars

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I Love You, Man

Hey guys, no YouTube Pick of the Week today, but here's something better.

The first Trailer for I Love You, Man has appeared online, and it looks absolutely fantastic. Check it out.



I Love You, Man will be walking down the aisle March 20.

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolves?

In today’s world, or at least in Hollywood, movies are made by large studios. These studios along with many other non-filmic companies form conglomerates called corporations. In a previous entry, About the Indie Film, I spoke about the difficulties in labeling a film as independent. The economic gears and systems of today’s world are so intrinsically complicated that the only way to survive is to conglomerate into a corporation. Is there anything wrong with this? Definitely not, if a good film has to sacrifice the honor of being called Indie for it to still exist I’ll call it a studio film just so I can see it. Plus without the money coming from corporations, we wouldn’t see Iron Man kick the shit out of the Iron Monger this past summer. (Although, I could have saved myself from watching the Hulk and Abomination make loud noises in the rooftops of New York). We would also not have a franchise like Batman, which has given us two continuities to choose from: Nolan’s physiological thrillers or the highly stylistic Burton/Schumacher pieces of the last decade. What about Wall-E? Without the Disney Empire there is no way we could enjoy animated films like Wall-E or Bolt. Nevertheless something has been lost. For every one new original piece we are getting a dozen rehashes of old stuff, and the value of a lot of previous originality has been lost.

Iron Man, The Dark Knight, and Wall-E; these are all great studio films, and they could have not been made unless a studio had done them. It is when a studio steps out of its territory when problems start arising. Several films come out every year that studios should not be releasing. This year was no exception. here are a few.

Anticipating the success of Juno, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist had to be produced. Both films offer an Indie feel to their audiences, and in the past only a small independent crew would have ever ventured into producing a film about teenage pregnancy or about “wild night” in the music scene of New Jersey. The problem here is that instead of being made by an underground group of people who probably suffered the hardships of both situations, such movies are being written by office desk writers who know little of either situation. Yes, a former prostitute wrote Juno; but street touch did not go past script level. Lots of money went into the production of both movies but they were marketed as independent films. Instead of getting the fruitful flavor of an Indie film we were expecting when we walked in we walked out with a bland taste of wanabe quirkiness. Nevertheless, both films were enjoyable up to a point, and who knows maybe in the future we will see a good product come out of this new Indie looking style. However there is one new style, corporations have created this year, which I could live without: the color saturated neuron-popping mesh that was Speed Racer

Speed Racer's plot, if you could find any, dealt around a family that wanted to keep a small home owned business a family home owned business. There used to be a time when films with such plots were created by small family owned business, and thus meant something. It was a small statement of , “stick it to the Man” but not anymore. Speed Racer was created for the sole reason to make money of nostalgic baby boomers to take themselves and their kids to see a rehash of an old and not very good cartoon. Corporations have begun to exploit and make profit from what once defined a product anti-corporate.

Similarly, our enjoyment of high-end art works has been blended down and spoon-fed to the masses. Call me an elitist, but it's true. A couple of decades back, an incredibly blood-filled musical was made, by who was then considered one of theater’s most avant-garde writers. I’m talking about "Sweeney Todd" by Steven Sondheim, based of an incredibly obscure novel/play of the same name. The musical was of course praised by art critics and was soon moved up into becoming something a little bit more commercial: a Broadway musical. Three decades later and the show is revived as a Hollywood Holiday movie by no other than Tim Burton. Is there a problem with this? Well the film was indeed a beautiful film but something on it felt terribly wrong. First of all it lacks the unique Timburtoness of other Burton films, and at the same time it lacks the obscurity of an intended only for theater buffs movie. It just lags in the middle quite not being anything. Like other things corporations have stolen from us, it lacks flavor.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Review: DEATH AT A FUNERAL


I know it's been around for quite some time, but here's a feature to get used to: not all of the movies we review are going to be new releases.

Not to say Frank Oz's Death at a Funeral is old. It was released in August 2007. It was incredibly hard to find in America since it is, though Oz directed it, a British film, and I had been trying to find a way to see it since that time. Luckily, I was able to snag a DVD copy of it, and the following 90 minutes were just bliss.

Monday, December 15, 2008

What We Like: Ezra's Favorites



Do you know what time it is? It's time to find out what sorts of movies I like!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Last Airbender: Cast Revealed! Is Zuko a No Go?


Slashfilm.com was the first to break the news that the main four characters of M. Night Shamalamadingdong's adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender were cast! That's about where the excitement stops.

Older fans of the series can easily tell on which civilizations the tribes were based. The Water Tribe has an Inuit influence, yet both the kids cast as Sokka and Katara aren't, one of them was even in Twilight. It did make me happy to see that they found Aang at an open call in Texas, but that was tampered at the casting choice of the antagonist, Prince Zuko. I am not saying that he is a bad actor, I rather enjoy his work, but Jesse McCartney does not seem to exude the, for lack of a better word, "dickness" of Zuko.

Was this the BEST picture to show Jesse's Zuko-ness?

For those of you that don't know, I'm a video game fanatic *coughshamelesspromotioncough*. My favorite RPG franchise is Kingdom Hearts, a co-production of Disney and Square-Enix. Jesse portrayed Roxas, a character linked to the main protagonist, Sora. This character is meant to provide the player with a new character to sympathize with and give more depth to the "Nobody" storyline. This character and storyline will be expanded upon more in the upcoming Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, but my point is that for all of the roles in which he doesn't play himself, they are mostly characters that are on the side of good. So in the big picture, Zuko doesn't seem like a stretch, but in this first "book" of the series, Zuko is quite the evil guy.

I have hope for this movie, but I will not pass my next judgement until the announcement of Iroh is made. As a fanboy of this series, there is no reason for you to listen to me, but if you are unfamiliar with the Avatar series, I hope that these films can do the series justice.

For more info on this story, visit SlashFilm.com

Review: THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL


All the pieces are there. The Day the Earth Stood Still could have soared into becoming a highly iconic remake of a highly iconic Sci-Fi film of the 50s. However it is a clear example of a big budget film that is afraid to step in the deep end of the pool. I am not saying it is a bad movie, in the contrary it is a highly enjoyable film, which I highly recommend if you are looking for good old fun. As a remake of a classic it is what War of the Worlds should have been and it does not even carry the name of Steven Spielberg in its credits; yet it underachieves enormously and thus it is reduced to merely an entertaining film with some social discourse rather than a film about social problems that also happens to be fun.

The plot is simple to follow and avoids complications. Aliens land on Earth. Klaatu, (Keanu Reaves) one of the aliens informs US Secretary of War (Kathy Bates) “It is not your planet”; referring to the fact that it belongs to all living things within it. Thus he plans to kill every human by using a giant automaton called GORT. That way humans wont pollute the oceans, tear down the forest or clog up the atmosphere in CO2. A military biologist, (Jennifer Connelly) must convince Klaatu that humans can change in order to save the race, and more importantly her late husband’s ex-wife’s child. (I almost expected her to break into Sadam Hussein’s song “[We] Can Change” from South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut, while attempting to do so). She is such a progressive woman that she even cares for a child that is totally not related to her in any way that’s understandable to the average nuclear family.

As far as the directing goes, well there is not much to it. It is your average Sci-Fi end of the world thriller and it offers nothing new. The same goes for the acting. We have seen Keanu in other completely non-expressive roles and I can say that here we see him at his best, which is not much. Jenifer Connelly plays the same progressive woman we saw in Blood Diamond with a hint of her lost love trauma we saw in Ang Lee’s Hulk where she also plays a military biologist. The photography offers some nice backlighting and ominous shadows where it is required to do so and the music creates suspense right where it has to. Thus it offers little that we had not seen before in countless other movies. Where does it achieve? Well surprisingly for a big high concept film like this one, its charm is in the writing and its intention.

The Day The Earth Stood Still adapts the 50s classic perfectly onto modern times. The 50s version was about not blowing up each other into smithereens with nukes. This one is about not consuming our planet out of recourses with our low mileage SUVs. Like the 50s version it maintains a naïve perspective on its dissertation of current affairs and intents mostly to entertain the masses and maybe touch a few in the audience. In this way it is a perfect adaptation of a classic. It even keeps the automaton’s ridiculous look and preposterous name for a killing machine.

So if you were too lazy to sit through Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, or you want simple harmless entertainment for one afternoon then this is the perfect movie for you. I highly recommend it though I wish Hollywood tried harder next time.
2 stars

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Dragonball live-action movie continues to look awful

Following in the tradition of live-action cartoon adaptations, the new Dragonball movie (now with the not so subtle subtitle Dragonball: Evolutions) looks more akin to to a throwaway D-rate kung fu movie than it does a proper homage to the anime and manga series of the same name. Between numerous reshoots and rumors of cancellation long ago this trailer doesn't do much to tide away my already very low expectations for it. Understandably, Dragonball and its spin-off Dragonball Z are by no means high art this is looking about on par with your average video game movie. However, the film is being produced by Stephen Chow who directed and starred in the awesome Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle among others. Though I doubt he'll be able to save the film, much like how the Wachowski brothers failed to create a compelling Speed Racer film.

See the trailer after the jump...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

YouTube Pick of the Week

This week's pick is by none other than Mr. Dustin Hamlin. It's called "Leaves".




I think the reason I love this is the simplicity. So often now we are bombarded with over-the-top silliness and blasts of music, and YouTube is becoming a place where madness and chaos are valued. Those things can be ok, but it is refreshing to see the more simple things.

Why can't just one joke be an entire video? Well this one just puts a smile on my face, and I think that is the reason YouTube was invented.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Mr. Underrated - Joe Johnston


His movies have been smash successes, but does anyone know his name? I have found that when I mention it, most people have no idea what I'm talking about.

Joe Johnston might just be one of the most underrated directors around. Not to say that every film he has done has been pure gold, but his name has been associated with lots of hits, without any of the credit attached.

He started out with one of my favorite childhood movies, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. I remember growing up watching this movie over, and over, and over. As I remember it, it was a decently funny movie, with some awesome special effects, especially for 1989. Of course, I haven't seen the film in years, and my opinion of it could very well change if I saw it now. So for the sake of preserving Mr. Johnston's work, I think I'll wait.

He then went on to direct one my all-time-favorite films, The Rocketeer. It's the story of a young pilot who finds a german rocket pack, that, once he learns he can strap it to his back, becomes a jet pack. What a fantastic 90's movie it is. It's simple, stylized, and fun.

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids is not the only childhood movie that Johnston has directed. He also handled the live action sequences of The Pagemaster. But unlike Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, this film still holds it's own today. The whole thing is very solid, and the opening sequences that Johnston were in charge of are very commanding.

So far we have a pretty solid lineup for Johnston. He went on to direct Jumanji, another great movie, October Sky, which everyone on Earth should be required to see, and Hidalgo, a fun, fast paced adventure. Of course, he did have his stinkers, like Jurassic Park III, but this is still a very strong resumé.

As for right now, Johnston has two projects coming up, that are sure to be big hits. You can look for his name on the upcoming remake of The Wolf Man (though personally I am surprised Stephen Sommers had not attached himself to that one) and The First Avenger: Captain America.

I am extremely excited for both of these, and I hope Joe Johnston continues to make his mark in film - and I also hope he starts to be associated with the films he makes.

Monday, December 8, 2008

EDITORIAL: Marvel's Movie Magic: Is Everyone On The Same Page?




Marvel comics is easily the most successful company that ever went from making comic books, to then producing movies about them. In the past few years alone we have seen amazing movies such as Spiderman 1&2, Iron Man, X-men 1&2, Blade 1&2, and The Punisher (among others).

But like any film 'series' they have also had their less popular films, Ghostrider, Hulk, X3, Spiderman 3, Daredevil, and Fantastic Four (among others).

But that seems to be a good track record. Now, here is my problem.

Marvel does not seem to treat film as different art from the art of comic books. This is their downfall, because the two forms of expression are very different. Here are the two comic book tenants, that I think should not apply to their film counterparts.

1. When an artist leaves... get a new artist! The character will change a bit, but everyone knows that it is the same guy.

When a characters artist changes in a comic book, people either like or dislike the new designs, but eventually they get over it and keep reading. The art may have changed, but the character is the same and it is good enough for the readers.

In a film though, if an actor leaves and is recast after making one popular film already as the character, people will have a lot more trouble accepting the new actor in the sequel.

In Iron Man, Terrance Howard played Jim Rhodes, Tony Starks best friend, with many hints that he will return as another hero in the sequel. Ironically, he won't. Well, Rhodes will, but Howard has been recast with Don Cheadle.

Edward Norton already said he will not be reprising his role as Bruce Banner in the upcoming avengers movie, making one wonder how they will recast a lead character with out everyone complaining about continuity.

Back in 2004, The Punisher was played by Thomas Jane, and now in the sequel, he is being played by Ray Stevenson. Once again, the lead actor quit and someone new came on.

Now, sure, if it was animated, nobody would care. Lots of people can do the same character voices, and pull of the character convincingly, but when it is a full actor who must bring his character to life, every actor will do it differently. I can guarantee that each of these new actors will not play the character in the same way as the first actor originated the role.

Bringing me to...

2. Don't make a film with a sequel in mind.


Why? Because unexpected stuff may happen! If any of these films were made to be standalone films, then there would not be an issue. If they just planned on making a Hulk movie, and then later the producer said "let's make a sequel", and the lead actor said 'I don't want to...' then they could just drop the film and move on to the next one... because face it... Marvel has tons of characters, and would probably love to make a film for each and every one.

But... if you really want to make a sequel... then you need to GUARANTEE that all the original actors (unless they are incapacitated) will be in it. How? By outlining how long you want the franchise to run and then getting all the actors to sign 'multiple film agreements' before starting the first film.

I like Marvel films, but I wish each one didn't have to be it's own trilogy. The first (and usually the second) ones are usually great, but by the third they just push the stuff way to far in a bad direction. I don't want Spiderman 4 after seeing Spiderman 3, as much as I loved the first two, and I don't want to see an avengers movie with half a cast from the prequel, and half 'all new replacements'.

What do you think?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

YouTube Pick of the Week

This week's pick looks something MIchel Gondry would have done.

It's pretty self explanatory why I picked this one; it's awesome.



I really love the style of the whole thing. The amount of time that must have been put into the making of this is staggering.

Definitely check this video out. And if you have played Space Invaders, this will be an even bigger treat for you.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Guillermo del Toro's Animated Remake of The Witches Set to Terrify New Generation of Third Graders

The 1990 film version of the Roald Dahl book, "The Witches" featured some crafty mouse puppets from the Jim Henson company, a bald incarnation of Angelica Huston, an early Rowan Atkinson, and a fair amount of near child nudity towards the end. I remember a good amount of deep emotional scars from the film between seeing it once in third grade and again on a Saturday afternoon on the late UPN network.

The upcoming remake of the film will be shot entirely with stop-motion animation and will be directed by Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy & Hellboy II) with Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) maintaining a producing role backstage. The project started back in 2006 when Cuarón and Del Toro discussed collaborating on a film adaption of a Roald Dahl book. Soon after Del Toro wrote up the screenplay for it.

There is no date set for this project, and with Guillermo del Toro's upcoming adaptation of "The Hobbit", it's hard to judge when we'll actually get to see anything from this movie. If Corpse Bride and Coraline are any indication, stop-motion animation has come a long way in recent years.


Above is the trailer for the original film. Though someone has also uploaded the entire film onto YouTube but there's a good chance that will be removed due to the obvious copyright violation.
Disclaimer:
Views and comments expressed by readers and guest contributors are not necessarily shared by the consistent team of THE MOVIE WATCH. This is a free speech zone and we will not censor guest bloggers, but ask that you do not hold us accountable for what they proclaim.