Archive for May, 2009

Doing The Impossible: Ranking Pixar’s Short Films

May 29, 2009

This Week in Blockbusters: Up

May 28, 2009

Yomygod… It’s finally here. I was excited about Wolverine. I look forward to seeing Angels and Demons, I’m being infinitely patient with a friend would like to ‘finish the book first.’ (ahem), and Terminator looked like a good diversion. But the first film I’ve been really ecstatic about, the one I’ve anticipated the most, the one I might actually see during its midnight debut, comes out at 12:01 tonight, Disney/Pixar’s Up.

I’ve purposely avoided too much information about this movie, just because I don’t want to be spoiled on what I foresee to be another masterpiece. When I heard the early premise, and all we knew was, “an old guy straps balloons to his house and flies away,” I won’t lie, I had my fleeting doubts. But my faith was strong and my spirit pure, and as I’ve said, if Pixar announced they were making a movie called “The Little Shit-Biscuit That Could” I would probably froth at the mouth at its release as well. Blind brand loyalty? Perhaps. But when the brand has not delivered a bad movie yet, nay, when the brand has delivered at least 8 (I say 9) great movies it’s hard not to go gaga over each subsequent release.

The movie sounds, not surprisingly, unique and imaginative. (See the treatise on the remakes posted yesterday. Oh, also add Alien to the remake/prequel category). An old widower, who had always promised his wife he would take her to South America finally fulfills that promise by shooting balloons out his chimney and flying south. He accidentally takes a young boy scout with him, who was on the front porch during lift off. From the preview I know there’s an old antagonist, a big funny sounding bird, and a dog with a collar that allows his thoughts to be communicated to humans (interrupted every few seconds by the thought “Squirrel!”). That’s about all I want to know. It looks funny, charming, original, inventive; everything I want from a Pixar film.

So far it has a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and 50 critics have voted in. I expect that number to rise; the two nay-sayers are not exactly the most popular on the sight and tend to vote down popular, good movies. A lot of people actually predicted Armond White would vote it down, based on his track record. So reviews are wildly positive. Box office predictions say Up could rack in approximately 60 million this weekend.

Oh, and I believe a teaser for Toy Story 3 is attached as well. Though it might be another sequel, with Toy Story 2 Pixar showed they made sequels just as innovative as they do their original movies.

Excitement Buzz: 8.5/10

Holy Shit, McG’s Orginal Ending for Terminator Salvation Even Worse Than We Knew

May 28, 2009

You know that little original ending you’ve seen floating around the internet? The one that was leaked for Terminator Salvation? The one that infuriated everybody so much that they changed it? The one I mentioned here? Well if not, here it is: John Conner dies. They decide his image is too important for the resistance, so his skin was put over the cyborg Marcus’s body.

That’s horrible, right? As a pretty strong outsider of the Terminator fan universe, I can say all in all it’s a bad idea. But that wasn’t the end of it. It went farther, and by ‘farther’ I mean deeper into the pile of shitty ideas, as if finding shittiest idea of all was their goal, and they thought that if they found and used this shitty idea, it would open the secrets of the universe so they could become omniscient beings who were smart enough to know how to produce shitty ideas like a shitty idea sweat shop would.

McG tells Entertainment Weekly:

“Connor dies, okay? He’s dead,” McG continues. “And Marcus offers his physical body, so Connor’s exterior is put on top of his machine body. It looks like Connor, but it’s really Marcus underneath. And all of the characters we care about (Kyle Reese, Connor’s wife Kate, etc.) are brought into the room to see him and they think it’s Connor. And Connor gets up and then there’s a small flicker of red in his eyes and he shoots Kate, he shoots Kyle, he shoots everybody in the room. Fade to black. End of movie. Skynet wins. F— you!”

F— you? F— YOU?!!!! That’s you’re brilliant idea? Holy hell, how were you paid to make this movie? I’m actually furious that this was ever a possibility. Who wrote this, some brainless emo kid who hates his father, cuts his self, and has never seen a Terminator movie?

McG (what a ridiculously stupid name, I’d like to reiterate) calls the ending ‘nihilistic’ and ‘ballsy.’ Sure. It’s also nonsensical and retarded. It would have been fine if they’d ended on a low note, where Skynet had the upper hand, much like The Empire Strikes Back. But you don’t kill you’re main character, and you don’t do anything that defies all credible logic. You don’t do nihilism for the sake of nihilism, throwing everything else out the window for cheap f–king shock value, you inbred f–king foolish moron. The movies are already full of light paradoxes, but killing off the main character’s father before he diddles the main character’s mother is pretty damn hard to pull off with any sense of legitimacy. Mc-I’m-a-shit-head-G recognizes that it would piss, well, everybody off, but in a few years we’d think it was ballsy. Wrong. In a few years we’d be saying, “I could be seeing a Terminator movie right now, if McG wasn’t such a witless bucket of phlegm.”

I cannot imagine if they had done this, nor can I think how mad I would be if this were a franchise I actually cared about.

Remakes And Sequels And Remade Sequels: Let The Madness Continue

May 27, 2009

So browsing for movie news today really enlightened me. Apparently Hollywood is making a LOT of remakes, sequels, and reboots. That’s so weird, I hadn’t noticed. I just went through three weeks of sequel blockbusters, maybe I should have picked up on the trend?

Seriously, where did this start? I’ve commented on it a few times, but what instigated this incessant need for recycling old material? Not that I don’t enjoy sequels and remakes, some are great, but I would like to see more original thought. Too often a sequel is only made for monetary purposes and is only a complete rehash of the first. What happened to original sequels, told for the sake of a good story? Remember Die Hard? Die Hard 2 was completely different. They were in an airport that time…

I think, sadly, comic book movies are to blame. I don’t want to accuse them, because I enjoy most of the so damn much, but there has been a negative effect on originality due to their popularity. For one, comic book movies are made to be serials. Not only that, but many of them were reboots or sequels from older movies, thus started a ‘dig up the old’ trend. When comic-book franchises became the big thing, studios stated looking for any franchise, and voila, we have remakes and reboots into modern franchises. Oh, and sequels galore. Movie-goers are now sequel obsessed. Hollywood’s most original thought today is to make board game movies. And one about Bazooka gum… Does that count as originality? In some ways, perhaps, but it just seems like some idiot trying to adapt anything into a movie. It’s original in that it has rarely been done (Clue was made a while back), but what they must not realize is this: it’s also a terrible idea. Can’t we do better? I guess we should specify: we want good originality. It’s original to walk around and lick strangers pupils as an introduction. Few people would label that as acceptable, and those that do… well, they’re probably pretty original themselves.

Most recently in this retread world, we have news of a few possibilities.

Anchorman 2: apparently Will Ferrel has said the leading guys from the first movie are meeting next week to discuss a possible sequel. Now, Paul Rudd and Stevel Carrel have gained significant star power since Anchorman, so it’s not certain this will happen, but all the cast members and Adam McKay have expressed interest. There’s talk of setting it in the 80s this time, and I read at slashfilm they even mentioned (gulp) the moon… I would be more excited about seeing the 80s, I’m a little wary about seeing them on the moon. Airplane 2, anyone?

I loved Anchorman and I’d hate to see them ‘Caddyshack 2‘ its good name. But that cast is so funny, I find it hard to think they’ll make a bad movie.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’ve learned something during my parade on the internet, through various TV and movie and comic-book message boards or blogs: Buffy fans are loyal and rabid. Some site had a contest about a year ago to decide who the best comic-book character was, where people voted and the winners moved through a tournament bracket. I naturally pushed the Man Of Steel through, and thought he’d come to face the likes of Batman, Spider-Man, Wolverine, hell, even Aquaman. I was surprised to see the final showdown was between Superman and Buffy. Then Buffy fans teamed up, and sat at their computers to vote multiple times, so that not only did she win but she gathered more votes than China’s population.

Alright, so that’s an exaggeration, but it did tell me one thing: Buffy fans are cheaters. Devoted cheaters, perhaps. But still cheaters. They must just wait for some contest like this to pop up so they can manipulate their way through the system to win. Ask anyone on the street, you’ll find very few Buffy votes. But, this shows the blond vampire slayer has an obvious fan-base, as well as a cult movie and successful TV series under her belt. So what do we do? We reboot her of course. Expect to see it soon, where I will go in Superman costume and smack all those little bitches that ruined the poll.

Tomb Raider: Remember a while back, I posted five video-games that should be made into movies? You know what wasn’t on that list? Pac-man and Tomb Raider.

But that’s what’s goin’ down now. They’re rebooting the series, so forget whatever you remember starring Angelina Jolie. Apparently, the six years its been since the last movie is enough for movie execs to say, “You know what? I think we’re ready for a new one.” It’s going to be a character driven origin story starring a younger Lara Croft. Megan Fox’s name has been mentioned, but I think fanboys would start that rumor if there were a movie about Mother Teresa’s teenage years. “Teenage female? Oh, Megan Fox is available. Yeah, who knew Teresa was a sex-bomb.”

Great… A third Tomb Raider movie. There are better things to do with your time and money, damn it! Plus I still want to see a Legend of Zelda movie…

Oh well.

Slow News Day: A Shameless Plug For Wonder Woman

May 26, 2009

I mentioned this a while back, and have made a few comments here and there reinforcing it: I’m kind of a Superman/Batman/DC fan. Alright, so saying ‘kind of’ is a very liberal usage of the term… Here’s a shot of my collection, of sorts, something I call my ‘Alter of Superman’ though it has gathered quite a bit of Batman lately.

It’s poor quality because it was taken with the camera on my laptop, but it should get the point across. It’s also a mirror image, so it looks like Bizarro’s S. But if you think it looks ridiculous there, you should see it in person, because it’s much more imposing in real life. I should add that that entire top row of the DVD shelf is filled with various Superman and Batman movies and TV shows made throughout the years…

Obsessed much? Yes. I am. So sue me. But of the DC poster-heroes, there’s a third that gets little love. Wonder Woman. I know, right? Nobody wants to see female superheroes, unless they’re supporting characters in a predominantly male cast. I can hear feminists scream from here…

But that’s the point of Wonder Woman, isn’t it? A strong, female hero. One that can embrace her sexuality in that skin-tight leotard without being a promiscuous, erm, harlot.

Anyway, I never really thought much of Wonder Woman outside of that supporting role. She was fine in the Justice League TV show or when working with the other big guys, but I didn’t really care about, or think it would be worthwhile, seeing her in a standalone setting.

Then I saw Wonder Woman, a recent direct to DVD release in the DC animated universe, the fourth of its kind produced by Bruce Timm, the leading man in the critically acclaimed Batman, Superman, and Justice League animated series. The first, Superman Doomsday, gave a simple version of the ‘Death of Superman’ arc from the nineties. The story wasn’t quite as fleshed out as it could have been, but it gave the best Superman action scene to date. The second, Justice League: The New Frontier, was mediocre. The third, Batman: Gotham Knight, which was released about the time of The Dark Knight and meant to tie in loosely with that universe, was absolutely horrible. Then came Wonder Woman, a movie I bought out of brand loyalty but didn’t expect much out of.

It turns out this was the best of the group, by far. In terms of story quality this one surpasses the others by miles. The only rival it has in action is Superman, but I think most neutral viewers would agree that this was the better film. And critics agree. It has gotten very positive reviews, and IGN ranked it the number 1 straight to DVD animated movies of 2008 (obscure award? Perhaps, but an award nonetheless). Not only that, I learned today that it’s still selling well and is projected to continue its upward trend (hence my promotion). It was released in March and has sold almost 200,000 copies and is expected to hit the half-million mark by years end. The bottom line is: Wonder Woman turns out to be marketable, even in direct to DVD animated format, and the movie is really good. So put away your preconceived notions about cartoons and superheroes and watch it. I assure you, you’ve seen a lot worse (like Ghost Rider).

Expectations Matched And Butchered

May 25, 2009

Currently, and not surprisingly, Pixar’s Up has a 100% Rotten Tomato ranking from 25 reviewers who were lucky enough to see the movie early. Naturally I’m not surprised. Besides Cars which was a 75%er, Pixar’s movies have all been higher than 90%. The Toy Story movies have yet to receive a negative review, and I can’t help but hate the three people who brought Finding Nemo down to 98. But you understand, Pixar has released great movie after great movie, and it seems Up isn’t about to kill that tradition. Pixar could have its next film be about amoeba and I’d have high expectations, so I always thought Up would perform well.

But what HAS surprised me over at Rotten Tomatoes are the early reviews for another release this weekend, Drag Me To Hell. I’ve seen quite a few previews for this movie and did not think much of it. It looks like B movie horror film with a typical, evil Ouija board storyline and a girl who sees ghosts. But I made the critical mistake of forgetting Sam Raimi defined the B-movie horror genre with the Evil Dead series. Along with Up, we have a second 100% on the Tomatoscale. The movie is 15 for 15 so far, with positive reviews that call it a, “fun horror flick that’s a little gross, a bit silly, and entirely entertaining.” So far the Top Critics have yet to drag that down, but I hope this is a surprise hit in the making.

Night At The Museum Trumps Terminator Salvation

May 25, 2009

Never underestimate the power of families going to movies, especially during the recession.

Though the Memorial Day weekend isn’t over, it appears that Night at the Museum: Battle at the Smithsonian has won the box office war with Terminator Salvation by a heftier margin than most people predicted. The geeks have been bested by Ben Stiller’s strongest opening to date, not counting animated features.

As of today, Museum has brought in about 53.5 million, while Terminator has garnered 56.4 million. However, Terminator got an extra Thursday to rack in money, and Museum saw a 30% increase from Friday to Saturday, AND beat out Terminator on Friday night, a rarity for family films.

Speaking of family films, I read that 52% of viewers for this movie were non family. Quite an impressive statistic, really. Final four day tallies won’t come out for a few days, but it looks like Museum will take the weekend, and even surpass Terminator’s earnings with one less day under its belt.

Terminator Salvation: Predictable, Occasionally Illogical, Pretty Damn Fun

May 24, 2009

I didn’t grow up in love with the Terminator series. I don’t have a vehement adoration for the characters. In fact, of the three I first sat through the third, which is regarded as significantly worse than the first two. It might not be as good, but the hate it gets from many people is a little unfounded. It wasn’t great, but it was an entertaining movie. Such is the case for Terminator Salvation, though perhaps it is a better film than its first predecessor.

The film opens in 2003, where a death-row inmate named Marcus (Sam Worthington) is approached by a doctor who works for Cyberdyne (Helena Bonham Carter), the company Terminator watchers will recognize as the creators of Skynet, the AI system that eventually takes over the world. Marcus signs for his body to be used for science experiments after his death, though it’s somewhat unclear what they will be, the doctor tells him it’s “a chance to live again.”

There’s a little typed up summary of the franchise history, and we come toe the year 2018 to see John Conner infiltrating a Skynet base, where he finds a horde of human prisoners. There’s an ambush on the base, a seen that looks like Saving Private Ryan meets Robocop, and eventually we see Marcus wake up, very confused after his 13 year coma.

Marcus is chased by a robot with a big-ass machine gun and saved by two young boys who humorously call them selves the “L.A. branch” of the resistance. One them is (dum dum dum) Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin, who is having a huge summer, since he had a part in Star Trek as well) the known future father of John Conner and key to the entire resistance. It would be incredibly difficult to comprehend why this is the case if you haven’t seen the other movies, and the film does little to explain it. It hardly even mentions time travel, a key element in the first three, so newcomers might not understand the entire going-ons of the film.

Reese is taken prisoner and Marcus escapes, only to help a beautiful pilot Blaire Williams (played by Moon Bloodgood, whose topless scene in this movie was removed because director McG hates everybody). Marcus and Blaire trek back to resistance headquarters, and through certain circumstances involving magnetic minefields, it is revealed that Marcus is himself a cyborg. A machine with human organs, including a powerful heartbeat.

Which brings me to my first gripe. I really wish I would have had to warn you of a spoiler in that previous paragraph, but I don’t, because that little tidbit was part of every Salvation preview released. I watched the entire time knowing Marcus shared DNA of both humans and household appliances. But if I hadn’t known, it would have been a really kick-ass twist. Even though they told you before the movie was released, throughout the first half they act like they haven’t and put in really subtle clues that in a second viewing could have looked brilliant. For instance, when everybody else is eating, he doesn’t even touch the food. He falls from a speeding jet and skims across the water and appears unharmed. We would know something was going on with this guy, but with a different edit and with different previews it could have been a nice surprise. If I hadn’t known, I would have wondered why he was such a skilled fighter and why he could survive such ridiculous events, but the revelation would have been an “Ahhhh” moment.

However, this could all be because the early script for this movie was leaked to the public at large. Therefore, they might have thought the surprise was ruined since everybody knew Marcus was a cyborg, so why not put it in the previews? And believe me, I wouldn’t trade the loss of this surprise for the terrible, original ending they had planned. It involved John Conner dying, but his skin being put on Marcus’s skeletal body because his image was so important to the resistance. Oh my God that’s an awful idea. Thank goodness the leak occurred, because that is not the ending we have, thank goodness. Though I was told the ending would be controversial and divisive, and kind of a downer. I guess it wasn’t ecstatic per se, but it wasn’t near what I thought it would be. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it and it works, it just wasn’t as ballsy as I assumed. But if there version of ballsy is killing the main character, perhaps that’s not such a bad thing…

As for the main character, Christian Bale is, well, just okay. Conner is remarkably one-dimensional in this film, and doesn’t do much besides run, shoot, yell, and rasp. It’s all perhaps in the spirit of conveying intensity, but we don’t need to main character to rasp all of his lines to show that: the omnipresence of robots does it just fine. In original drafts, Conner was going to be a secondary character, an influence on the protagonist much like Christ influenced Ben Hur. I’m glad this idea was dropped, because Conner is a neat character, but he was in this movie less than I thought it would be. Marcus gets a pretty hefty share of the screen time.

Which is a good thing, because Marcus is the infinitely more interesting character. He’s first shown on essentially a crucifix on his death bed, right before they kill him and bring him back as a Metallo clone. He has a lot to do in this movie, and was really a high point for me. His ethical questioning, self-reflection/redemption/sacrifice all made for a resonating character. Also, he kicks a lot of ass, which is always fun to watch.

The cinematography in the movie is actually pretty awesome, I have to give direct McG credit (though I really hate that name). There’s a particularly fascinating shot of a helicopter crash, all seemingly one take, as it spirals out of the sky and crashes upside down. It was brilliantly crafted, and really brought you into the peril.

Despite the praise I’m giving, the movie is riddled with logical inconsistencies that somewhat drag it down. I’m not even referring to those involving time travel, because they make my head hurt. I’m looking for for these:

1. Why do the robots attack Marcus at first, but then later let him walk right into their base because he’s one of them?
2. How can John Conner jump from a plane into a stormy ocean and swim onto a submarine underwater? (Alright, so that isn’t a logical mistake, it’s just dumb writing).
3. How do gargantuan robots who can’t walk without causing earthquakes sneak up on people without making a sound?
4. Why is Skynet taking human hostages? It’s brought up but never explained, unless I missed it.
5. Why do these robots tend to attack so few at a time? This one is actually kind of strange to me. The greatness of the first film was the fact that it was one cyborg, stalking and trying to kill one person. It allowed an air of suspense to be breathed into the action film. It seems in order to replicate this, they wrote many instances into Salvation that pit one man against one robot, where that man would have to struggle immensely just to defeat it. Good for suspense, but it leaves you wondering why this A.I. system doesn’t just send 10,000 of these babies out at once. If one is that hard to defeat, more must be better. So why don’t they? Because there’d be no story. Alright, fair enough.

There are others, but I’m trying to keep spoilers to a minimum and make sure you enjoy the movie without having too much on your mind. It’s exactly what it looks like, so don’t expect much else, but it’s a good popcorn-flick and an interesting addition to the Terminator series that’s not like any of those that have come out before.

Also don’t go to the bathroom while Marcus is talking to the computer generated face, or you’ll miss a neat little cameo. Like I did.

Score: 7.9/10

This Week In Blockbusters Part II: Night at the Museum 2: Battle at the Smithsonians: There Are A Lot Of Colons In That Title

May 23, 2009

Indeed there is another blockbuster hit this weekend besides Terminator Salvation. Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson are joined by the likes of Amy Adams and the hilarious Hank Azaria in the sequel to Night at the Museum. It seems to be a re-tread of the first premise, except this time it’s set in D.C. and the Lincoln Memorial comes to life. For those that don’t recall, the first film was about a museum security guard who was surprised to find all the objects in his museum come to life once the sun sets, including a skeletal T-Rex, a dummy of Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams), and miniature caricatures of a small cowboy (Wilson) and Octavius Gaius (Steve Coogan). The sequel will have many of these objects returning, with some new additions including Amelia Earhart (Adams) and Egyptian pharaoh Kah Mun Rah (Azaria). It will also feature cameos by Darth Vader and Oscar the Grouch, both of whom have displays at the museum in D.C.

I don’t expect much from this, nor did I the original. It’s mildly entertaining, perhaps more so for the kids than the adults, so this could be good for a family outing. That is unless you want to scar your kids for life having them watch cyborgs rip humans apart. I might catch this one, because some of the additions have potential to make it superior to the first. Amy Adams is a great actress, but I really like Hank Azaria. He does some of the oddest roles of any actor I’ve ever seen, but is always funny. You might recognize him as David the Scientist Guy from TV’s Friends, or perhaps the Scuba Guy from Along Came Polly, or as the young Patches O’Hoolihan in Dodgeball, or perhaps as Agadore, the flamboyantly homosexual Latin-American house-maid in The Birdcage. If you don’t recognize his face, you’ve undoubtedly heard his voice on The Simpsons. He’s worked there for years, and does many voices including Moe the Bartender, and Apu. I bet you didn’t even know they were voiced by the same guy. Apparently, Azaria has an incredible talent for voice mimicry. That long exposition was to point out that Azaria is a dynamic and hilarious actor, who has always taken on the smaller but scene stealing rolls, and I think his presence in this movie will be great.

Reviews are lackluster, but it could be a good diversion.

Excitement Buzz: 6/10. Unless you’re a kid: 9/10.

Dishonorable Mention: Dance Flick

Whoever thought it was a good idea to put this movie’s release against Terminator and Night at the Museum must be high. It might pull in some revenue, but there are many less competitive weeks ahead where people might actually want to see bad movies since they’ve already seen all the good ones.

Alright, I’m being a little harsh. The Scary Movies are a guilty pleasure of mine, though since then I’ve laughed twice. But I don’t expect this to be anything fantastic. I did, however, laugh at the trailer more than I laughed at the entirety of some other movies. So perhaps the impact of the Waynes Brothers will make this a more-than-tolerable comedy movie.

Excitement buzz: : ( /10

Hilarity: True Movie Posters, Valerie Atherton

May 22, 2009

I stumbled upon this site this morning. Funny, and oddly accurate.Link
What would summer movie posters look like if they were accurate?

Then there’s Valerie Atherton. I stumbled upon her site a few weeks ago and have been following it even since. The only thing funnier than her moronic reviews are the moronic comments. I’ll let you decide for yourself if you think this is the legitimate, idiotic work of a girl with an IQ lower than Alaska’s temperature or if it’s someone with a great sense of humor. They’re just realistic enough for it to be plausible. I comment as ‘Satire,’ so you’ll know my views. But decide for yourself.

I liked the blog so much I quoted her on Facebook, when she was describing Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen. He is, “Essentially, electricity and ice.”

“Surface” to say, I think it’s good for some laughs.