Archive for June, 2009

This Week In Blockbusters: Johnny Depp And Christia Bale Are "Public Enemies" And "Ice Age" Brings Back The Dinosaurs

June 30, 2009

Ah, the fourth of July. An extended weekend full of barbecue, fireworks, and big summer releases. Though, if I may be so bold, this year’s tent-pole release date isn’t as strong as I feel like it has been in the past. Though, perhaps this is because Will Smith is nowhere to be found, Michael Bay has already released his movie, and Arnold Schwarzenegger is still doing that whole ‘politics’ thing. This has been a big week for blockbusters in past years. Three of the four Die Hard films came out this weekend, where the phrase “yippee-ki-yay mother fucker” became oddly patriotic, Will Smith has had so many openers on this weekend it could practically be named after him (including the Men In Black movies, Hancock, Wild Wild West, and the appropriately titled Independence Day, which features the best presidential address since Gettysburgh), Superhero films have flourished and failed, and Michael Bay has decided fireworks just weren’t explosive enough to celebrate the fourth like our forefathers would want, so decided he’d blow some shit up himself. Tack on some Terminator movies, more movies about alien invasions like War of the Worlds, and we’ve got ourselves a federal holiday. (But seriously, what is it about this weekend that spawns space oriented/heavy science fiction
movies?)

Not so this year. When you look at the smash-hit lists from yesteryear, this weekend looks relatively tame. But that’s not to say it won’t be fun. First we’ll have Johnny Depp and Christian Bale step out from two of the most financially successful film franchises ever and lend their talents to Public Enemies, a film about the depression bank-robbing wave lead by John Dillinger. Depp stars as Dillinger, and Bale stars the FBI agent, Melvin Purvis, who is trying to catch him.

My first fear is that Bale will still be locked in intense-grunt mode left over after The Dark Knight and Terminator Salvation. Assuming that isn’t the case, this looks to be a rather enthralling film. Early reviews are pretty positive, praising both the actors as well as director Michael Mann. Dillinger was treated as a hero to many, who saw him as a modern day Robin Hood. But he was a killer as well. America had a rather strange habit glorifying and mythologizing our criminals. (I’m sorry, did I say had? Insert: Joke about any rapper). Bonnie and Clyde, Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, Ma Barker; these people of the ‘Public Enemy’ era captivated U.S. press as they went on their crime sprees in the Midwest. Some people have since forgot how ruthless these people could be, and that they did, in fact, shoot a lot people in the face. John Dillinger himself was one of the most famous, known as ‘Jackrabbit’ for his speed and grace in heists (he was known to leap over furniture, something seen in the trailer for the film. Hooray accuracy!)

We also see in the preview that, during a bank heist, a bystander pulls out his money. “We’re here for the bank’s money,” Dillinger says, “Not yours.” Never mind that the bank’s money belongs to him, and anyone who puts their money in the bank… But it was acts like this that made people transform him into some sort of hero. I am interested to see how the film portrays him.

Though this role is also surprisingly normal for the likes of Johnny Depp. Are we absolutely certain he won’t be tripping on acid the entire time, or dressed up like this:

I’m sure he’ll find some way to quirk up this role.

This will draw in some crowds, certainly, but I’m going to guess the Transformers shadow is going to linger for this weekend.

Excitement Buzz: 7.8/10


Also coming out this Wednesday is the family film Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. Now, I’m not one for historical accuracy, but this genre is starting to push even my limits. In the first film, the Ice Age began. Apparently, in the second, what seemed like 16 seconds later, it began to “Melt Down.” Now, in the third one, it’s the Dawn of the Dinosaurs. Really? Didn’t they die out long before mastodons and woolly mammoths walked the earth? There sure seems to be a predominance of mammals in this series for there to be T-Rex’s walking around. I’m okay with this, save for the fact that there are going to be very confused kids concerning particular geological time lines.

But it’s okay! Because this doesn’t actually claim that Dinosaurs didn’t come around until this point in history. In Ice Age 3, they were believed to be extinct for a long time, but actually lived in a secret land under the earth’s surface. How original, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of that-

Alright, this whole ‘dinosaurs living underground’ bit needs to stop.

I actually really liked the first Ice Age film. I thought it was original, and interesting. The aspect of saving the human baby, along with Manny’s tragic history involving humans, gave some pretty serious stuff for a kid’s movie. The next film, however, looked too generic and standard ‘cartoon sequel’ like, where the plot consisted of “let’s reverse the first movie” and whose purpose was to show more of Scrat’s antics as he chased his acorn. Now this one seems to be, “okay, let’s have them face dinosaurs!” I’ve seen bits and pieces of the second film, and wasn’t just wildly impressed, and am not expecting much out of this. But perhaps I’m being unfair.

So while this is purely family fanfare, it might pull in some cash over the holiday weekend.

Excitement buzz: 4/10


Transformers Breaks The 200 Million Mark

June 29, 2009


Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen blew up the record books, despite, or perhaps because of, its only upside being “blowing stuff up.” The movie has been critically panned, but that’s okay, a lot of times I’ll like movies critics despised, and so will the rest of we normal viewers who saw the film. Only I have heard such negative things about this movie I can’t possibly believe word-of-mouth is very positive. Apparently it’s like watching a giraffe pee all over the Mona Lisa: visually impressive, but absolutely horrifying to behold (come on, you know that would be a sweet image).

Despite this, it managed to pull in 201 Million Dollars in its first five days. It came dangerously close to knocking The Dark Knight out of its first place spot for that record, which I think would have caused a batman fanboy uprising like we haven’t seen since the great Batman and Robin debacle of ’97. Transformers put it’s name on all kinds of record books, including one of the biggest Wednesday openings ever. In fact, of it’s 201 million, only 112 came during the weekend. The rest was from Wednesday and Thursday showings, probably paid for by 14 year old boys ever, who probably loved it in a Megan-Fox-has-nice-boobies kind of way. Older guys still see that as a plus, but they still seem to notice some of the more atrocious aspects of the movie, like Robot Heaven. Now All Dogs Go to Heaven was a fantastic childhood film, but I don’t think celestial paradise for car-robots is as impactful. Oh, it’s also really fucking stupid.

But the damge is done, and the money is in. It also pulled in a cool 180 million overseas, which puts this as the king of the summer, and has put up numbers hard to beat. Let’s hope Harry Potter can work some magic, I know the fans are anxious.

The other new opener this week, the weep-fest My Sister’s Keeper fizzled at 12 million in its first three days. This was a little surprising, I thought it might pull a Mama Mia and draw in females and people over 30 who thought Transformers to be a little too boistorous for their palate. Alas, it did not, finishing in fifth place. The Proposal, The Hangover, and Up, managed to hold onto their high place in the box office rankings.

Movie Review: My Sister’s Keeper. I’m The Only Male In The U.S. That Saw This Instead Of Transformers

June 28, 2009

While all you poor saps were sitting through the bombastic train wreck I understand Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen to be (I’ll be seeing it shortly), I was sitting through the ‘Anti-Transformers’ movie of the weekend, much like Mama Mia was the Anti-Dark Knight last summer. The theater I was in was actually packed with people, so much that when an older gentlemen with a walker came in, the groups that took up each handicap spot avoided each other’s gaze, because whoever stood for him was going to have very limited choice in seating. In the end none of them stood. Assholes.

It was an ironic beginning for a movie entitled My Sister’s Keeper, a play on the biblical question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” To which the answer is, indubitably, ‘Yes,’ since the person asking is Cain, the first murderer. Apparently, those in the handicap section forgot that, and let the old man find his own damn seat.

Now, for starters, I give you a warning. Only go see this movie if you want to have your emotions manipulated like Play-Doh. If you’re not willing to sit through some sappy, melodramatic scenes, you’d best get your tears elsewhere. I understand there’s “Transformer’s Heaven” in that other movie, I’m sure that’s pretty touching. Everything in this movie is written to shape your emotions as the creators desired. So if you’re willing, it does a decent job at it.

That’s not saying this movie, about a family struggling through a fifteen-year-old’s battle with cancer, doesn’t have some genuine moments. There’s some real drama mixed in with the melodrama. My point is that the film works really, really, hard to get you to cry, with everyone involved. As if the battle with cancer wasn’t enough, they decided to have a very minor character have an entire scene devoted to her struggle coping with the death of her 12 year old daughter. Necessary? Absolutely not. But my theater was sniffling.

Which is to say one thing about the movie: it is very well acted. The character mentioned above is actually the Judge in the court case I will explain very shortly, and she’s played well by Joan Cusack. When this relatively unimportant character draws tears from the audience, it must be a fine actress playing the part. And the rest of the cast does a great job as well. There’s only one weak link, the son played by Evan Ellingson, but he’s still more than acceptable. He’s also given the most melodramatic role to play at the film’s climax, so the writing could be to blame.

The film is about (finally, a synopsis) the Fitzgerald family working through the cancer struggle of their fifteen year old daughter, Kate (Sofia Vassilieva). The mother, Sara (Cameron Diaz), is a fierce, relentless warrior-mom, doing everything she possibly can to let her daughter survive. The father Brian (Jason Patric) is a little mellower, and tries to ensure his daughter’s happiness. But when it becomes clear Kate is going to need a lot of tough medical work, the two decide the best route is to create little Anna, played by Abigail Breslin. Abigail is genetically engineered en vitro to be a perfect match for Kate, a bag of organs and blood that will be able to swap sisters when Kate really needs it. And she does, a lot. We find out Anna has undergone numerous procedures, some fairly serious, by the time she is 11, all in the name of helping her sister. But one day, little 11 year old Anna walks into the law office of Campbell Alexander (Alec Baldwin), who thinks she’s selling girl scout cookies. Turns out, she wants to sue her parents for the medical rights to her own body. They have recently learned Kate needs a new kidney, or she will go into complete renal failure and die. Turning to their spare-daughter once more, Anna seems to decide she can’t take it. The risks of having one kidney, and the cost it will lay on her later in life (she couldn’t be as active as the other girls, would have to be more careful, there are more risks in pregnancy, etc. etc.) is too high. “I’m important too!” She screams at her mother, who had slapped her when she was first served the legal papers.

If that sounds like an interesting premise, it is. The movie breaks the melodrama just enough to raise the interesting, ethical questions that the film is actually dealing with. And it is an intriguing one. “Can you bring a child into being in order to harvest her organs for another? What are the repercussions? What does it do to the child? To the family? Okay, now more crying.” After the initial questions are asked, it brings them back up only every now and then. Brian, in particular, seems to understand the dilemma, more than Sara, who thinks Anna is killing her sister. But the question is largely forgotten so we don’t have to be all philosophical while we weep.

As I said, the film is acted very well. Each character does exactly what their role calls for them. And even when it doesn’t call for much, they make that position worth watching. The two female children are fantastic. Sofia Vassilieva is spectacular and moving as the dying Kate, who is a child in years but an adult in tribulations. She conveys just the right emotions at just the right time, with one rather hilarious exception where those in charge decided, in one of the film’s many flashbacks, that Kate went through a rebellious, emo stage. That’s the only time Kate didn’t work. She was usually just a sweet natured girl, trying to live in the situation she was put in.

Then there’s Abigail Breslin, who is not only an adorable child actress, but also immensely talented. Abigail, I beg of you, don’t walk the path that so many have before you! She really is too sweet and too talented to fall the way of Lindsay Lohan. (For those who are unaware, Abigail is already an Academy Award nominated actress). She plays Anna perfectly, protective of and devoted to her sister, who is clearly her best friend. She and Vassilieva give moving performances, worthy to melt even the coldest of hearts.

Brian and Jesse Fitzgerald are backgrounds in this matriarchal family structure. Brian is a good father, who has “lost the love of his life” according to Kate, since Sara has dropped everything to help her daughter, including her husband. Brian doesn’t resent this, and understands the struggle. He cares immensely for his daughter’s happiness, and it shows. Jesse is a largely forgotten character. It’s implied he’s somewhat of a delinquent, a subplot that is much more fleshed out in the original novel. But even he gets some sweet moments in. And an incredibly cheesy one where he tears up a painting and let’s it blow off the top of a building.

Cameron Diaz’s first foray into cinematic motherhood is an interesting one. I don’t think it was her fault that Sara came off as such a bitch, but just the way the character was formed. She makes it quite clear her loyalties lie with her eldest daughter, and her eldest daughter alone. But even so, she is incredibly blind, and never realizes that the person who should be the most upset about Anna’s decision, isn’t, and in fact the two sisters seem closer than ever. Anna isn’t a selfish girl wanting her sister to die, but Sara just can’t lose, and shields herself from the glaring truth: Kate wants it to end. Sara has never listened to her when she’s spoken like that, always telling her to keep pushing, so Kate has to resort to getting her younger sister to fight the battle for her. And though Sara is stubborn, she is doing it for all the right reasons, and it would be hard to judge a person in her situation. And she has glimmering moments of kindness. She shaves her head bald to look like her daughter, she gets giddy when taking pictures of her daughter before a dance, and she has perhaps the most moving transformation of the movie.

I would also like to compliment Thomas Dekker, who plays Taylor, Kate’s boyfriend and inspiration for part of the film, who naturally has cancer as well. Though it comes to a tragic and predictable end, their romance is pretty genuine. It has the innocence of their youth but the weight of maturity, as they both understand the uncertainties of tomorrow. Yeah, it’s a little awkward because he looks ten years older, and it’s strange seeing the two bald patients spooning in the nude (blech), but it was a nice relationship to watch. He definitely has a little Edward Cullen in him, seeing as he was quiet and expressionless for the better part of his presence. But he also didn’t make me want to hit him, something Edward Cullen does every time he’s on screen.

Oh, and we can add this to the “Movie’s I’ve laughed in more than Year One list.” Sure, a lot of the laughter is of the “Oh thank God, some comic relief after watching the young chemo-patient throw up into a trashcan,” variety, but it’s laughter nonetheless.

The ending of the movie is sad, but predictable. Unless, of course, you’ve read the book, which ends completely differently. And for those who thought the movie was depressing, you better be glad they altered it. In the book, the end actually has Anna getting in a car crash and being left brain dead. Her lawyer, Campbell Alexander, has the rights to make her medicinal decisions (since they had won their lawsuit) and has them give Kate her kidney. The book ends with Anna dying, and Kate surviving the transplant, but still sick with cancer. Damn, now that’s a real bummer.

One of the more glaring complaints I have with this movie is that the first third is told largely in voice over vignettes from different members of the family. This was likely done to keep the style of the book, which alternates narrators between chapters, but it’s a tactic that ultimately does not work in film. There’s quite a large chunk of movie spent on sad montages and a dramatic voice over, a tactic I thought distracted from the film and convoluted the style. It worked quite well in Watchmen, but here it never really added much, but was used because they couldn’t think of another way to get their point across.

So did I cry in this movie? No. My eyes welled a few times, but a tear never fell. My theater, however, was full of sniffles that actually made it hard to hear the movie. Now I’ve said this movie is melodramatic, and it was, and it’s one of its greatest faults. There’s a difference between a story that is sad and packaging sadness in story form in order to illicit an emotion from your audience. With every little piece of the film trying to get you to cry, I wonder if Kleenex had some investment in this film. It gets exhausting, and I would have rather them tried to make a movie that happened to be sad than try to flood the world with the tears of the viewers.

But it has some truly genuine moments, and has that fantastic ethical premise, with strong outings from all involved. So if you want to be moved (superficially and legitimately), this is a good movie to go to.

Rating: 7/10

Death Week ’09

June 28, 2009

This was, truly, a sad week for famous people. On Tuesday, television great Ed McMahon passed away at the age of 86 years old. He was perhaps known best for his work as the announcer for The Tonight Show starring the late, great Johnny Carson. He also hosted Star Search for twelve years, and was a beloved comedian and television personality. He was also decorated Marine pilot, with 6 Air Medals to his name.

Two days later, former Charlie’s Angel and renowned pin up girl Farrah Fawcett passed away in a battle with cancer at the age of 62. It’s funny, but this chick was obviously so hot that her name spilled over into my generation, even though she was 41 when I was born. When you’re a sex symbol who is remembered by young men and you’re over sixty, meaning you didn’t die young like Marilyn Monroe, you obviously did something right.

Unfortunately for Ms. Fawcett, she could not have passed away on a worse day. Her death was drastically overshadowed. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Michael Jackson died later on that same Thursday. Apparently the entire world is shook up over this death, and perhaps rightly so. His close friend Liza Manelli has said that once the autopsy report goes public, “All hell will break loose.” Ominous words, for sure.

Since then I have heard nothing on the radio but Michael Jackson, and the TV has been playing his old videos nonstop. Two things are abundantly clear:

1. That guy had immense talent. He created that dance style out of nothing, and was a fantastic song writer. I have never really listened to his music. I knew the timeless songs, “Thriller” and the like, but that dude had some great stuff that, while popular at the time, has been stood up by the aforementioned “Thriller” and his other mega-huge hits.

2. That guy was a freak. There’s no getting around it. He mutilated his face so that it no longer looked human, he wore the most bizarre clothing around, and there’s always the infamous ‘Neverland Ranch’ to keep that cloud of doubt hanging over his legacy. It’s really quite sad. His parents messed up his life from the get-go, if you do a little research you’ll learn some of the most horrific things about his childhood. I’m sure Michael Jackson died a very lonely, very depressed man, despite the hordes of fans who are now mourning him.

But watching those music videos and hearing his songs, I realize that that Michael Jackson died long ago. Before his skin turned white, and his nose turned to a razorblade, that dude was the most bad-ass effeminate man to walk the planet. In fact, I daresay he’s the only bad-ass effeminate man to have ever lived.

When asked about his plastic surgery, he famously said, “that’s just ignorance.” He then said they were natural changes to his body, implying even that ‘puberty’ was to blame. His skin-changing color is perhaps a more controversial issue. Rumors still persist that he bleached his skin to appear more white, while he was always said it is due the diseases vitiligo and lupus.

Right now, his wikipedia page informs me that he was the first Jewish man to set foot on the sun, and that “HE LIKED PEACHES” as the first entrants. I wouldn’t cite those as fact just yet, though.

As if this barrage of bad news wasn’t enough, today I find out the most tragic news yet, that Billy Mays, that guy you know from every late night infomercial you’ve ever watched, has died. He almost convinced me many times to purchase Oxiclean or another one of those super-handy cleaning products.

Seriously, that guy was incredibly entertaining. I’m actually very upset I’ll never actually consider buying useless shit again, because there is no way they can find a suitable replacement. “Would you like to buy a broom that doubles as a toaster?” “Well yes I would, Billy Mays, thank you.” I’m sure right now he’s selling stain remover to the angels, who don’t even need it, since their clothes are always spotless.

So RIP, celebrity friends who I’ve never actually met, but are all over the media now. And now, I’m not even going to take a side on whether Michael was guilty of what he was accused of or not. But I know for damn sure the media wasn’t on his side. Now they’re revering him like he was a God.

Media, thy name is Janus.

Cracked: Michael Bay’s "The Great Gatsby"

June 26, 2009

I lately discovered Cracked.com, which has quickly become one of my favorite websites on the net. I laugh a lot while reading some of their stuff, more than I think a normal person should. And today, I read a piece that I had to get a link to here, in case there are some readers out there that have never been. (Usually it’s the big websites that help out the little guy, but not me. This is truly a David helping Goliath, as if they needed my aid. I’m sure they’ll thank me for the shout-out).

It’s a piece on Michael Bay, and I sat here in my little area at work, literally holding back laughter until my stomach hurt and tears were pouring out my eyes. I was working really hard to laugh quietly, but it became harder and harder to do as it went on. Now I think I have a ruptured spleen from buckling over in complete hilarity. I should probably get to the hospital.

I’m sure there’s a lawsuit here somewhere.

Link is here.

J.J. Abrams On Star Trek Sequel

June 26, 2009

Steve Weintrub at Collider.com got the chance to ask J.J. Abrams, director of the recent smash Star Trek (among many other successes) about the prospect of a follow-up. You can (and should) watch the video and read his article at the link above. The highlight question, at least for me, was this:

Q: Everyone wants to know, what are the chances of you getting back in the director’s chair?

Abrams: We just started talking about ideas… we’ve just begun this process so it’s so early that it’s insane to, you know – I have no idea; but I would say that it’s that kind of feeling that as we’re talking about stories you start to salivate, like ‘oh my God I can’t wait to do that!’ and so that feels good and my guess is that as we continue it will become clearer how we will plan out what will happen. But it’s been really fun – even the cursory discussions we’ve had so far

So I’m no detective, but it sounds to me like he’s excited to do another one. Which bodes well for Trekkies (both of the original and the ‘Abrams’ variety) everywhere.

First "Amelia" Preview

June 26, 2009

Filmschoolrejects has put up the first preview for the historical biopic Amelia, starring Hilary Swank. It is embedded above, and looks intriguing. It certainly has a fine cast, with Hilary Swank in the leading roll. Richard Gere (I usually like him, outside of his standard chick flicks) and Ewan McGregor costar in what looks to be a promising film.

Swank is a great actress (with a funny name), who has proven herself in movies like Million Dollar Baby, so much that we forget she was ever in The Next Karate Kid. She was young then, we shall forgive.

I do wonder how they will handle a movie where the only thing known about the title character by mainstream audiences is the ending, but that ending is ‘nobody knows what happened.’ I suppose I should warn spoiler, for those of you who are historically ignorant, but Amelia Earhart vanished in attempting her flight around the world. So everyone knows that she isn’t going to make it. That’s fine, I suppose, there have been plenty of biopics where the ending is no surprise. But I do wonder if they’ll show the crash. I hope they don’t, because so much of the history is that no one knows exactly what happened. Showing her crash would definitely be ‘Hollywood-izing’ the story. It’s not as bad as Michael Bay’s molesation of Pearl Harbor, but it should be left unshown.

Maybe she’s on the island in Lost. Are you reading this, J.J. Abrams?

In Other News

June 25, 2009

The Video-game movie Hitman has a sequel under works, meaning there will be a sequel to a movie that was not received well by critics or fans, or box office revenues, before I see another Superman movie. Verily, the world is not fair.

Transformers Demolishes Record For Wednesday Opening

June 25, 2009

Evidently the explosives used to make Michael Bay’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen were also used to completely destroy the old record for Wednesday openings. It racked in almost 61 million in its opening day, 16 of it coming from midnight showings. The previous holder was Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix which opened to 44.2 million. This is a huge blockbuster opening, and could put us back on the summer movie money train, which has hit a small bump. There were still some successes, but Up made in its first weekend what Transformers has made in its opening day, in the middle of the week no less. /Film estimates earnings from 150-170 million by the time the weekend is over.

After leaving the shit-tacular Year One in a daze on Tuesday evening, I was slowly brought back to life by the army of teens and tweens lined up to see this movie, two hours early for its release. The only people over 18 had brought painted boxes and dressed up like transformers themselves. I’m not judging. It was an impressive sight, and made me look forward to the next midnight release I go to, whatever that will be. Though I hope that one will have a smaller concentration of children. Even Harry Potter will bring in the ‘generation one’ kids that are my age. This looked like a Jonas Brothers concert, though perhaps the male/female ration was about 50/50 rather than 1-gay-kid/99. Again, not judging. But I gather the Jonas Brothers more successful with the effeminate.

Anyway, expect some triple digit numbers for the first time since Star Trek if my memory serves me correctly. Which it doesn’t, a little research tells me. We haven’t seen a triple digit opening weekend yet.

Until now.

Valerie Reviews "Transformers"

June 24, 2009

Valerie Atherton has put up her review of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Not surprisingly, since Shia Labeouf is in it, she loved it.  She definitely understands Megan Fox’s acting talents.
The link is here.