Sunday, February 15, 2009

Push: Push it real good

Hey there everyday American. Tired of your average superhero movies with shallow characters that have stupid powers and even dumber code names that reference the particular power they possess? Well luckily there's some new blood added to the genre, and that blood is Push. A gritty, dirty, crime thriller-like movie that just happens to have superpowers thrown into the mix. The story takes place in China (the especially dirty parts of the country), and tells of a present day, or not too distant future where there are people with "abilities". But instead of everyone having special powers that are all different, like the popular TV show "Heroes", there are only a few abilities to choose from. They are broken up into categories. The fun part is the names they have for each ability, such as, Movers, Pushers, Bleeders, Sniffs, Shadows, Watchers, Stitches, and Shifters. Tell me those names aren't just awesome sounding. Director Paul McGuigan is quickly becoming one of my favorite film makers. His film Wicker Park (2004), looking incredibly dull because of previews was actually a beautifully directed film. Lucky Number Slevin (2006), was even better, but had the same problem of the previews not doing the film justice. The direction and handling of where to put action, and how much action is well done and the pace of the film doesn't lag or move too fast. Dakota Fanning is a welcome member to the adult parts she's destined to take in the years to come. She shows a vulnerablity and honesty that's hard to come by for most 15 year olds. So if you're looking for a fun action film with cool (but not over-done) effects, then look no further than push.

Friday, February 13, 2009

He's Just Not That Into Your Herpes Riddled Face

From the previews, He's Just Not That Into You can be seen as nothing more than a glorified chick flick that's released at the chick flickiest time of year, a few weeks before Valentines Day. Yet, it's much more than that. It single-handily represents the best and worst parts of modern relationships with a plethora of stories being told from separate perspectives that tie together in different ways. Now we're going to take a look at the cast of characters. You may want to go to the pottie before-hand, cause it's gonna be a doozy. OK. So. Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin) goes on a date with Conor (Kevin Connolly) who confides in Alex (Justin Long) that he's still in love with his former girlfriend Anna (Scarlett Johansson) who meets and falls smitten for Ben (Bradley Cooper) who's married to Janine (Jennifer Connelly) who is work friends with both Gigi and Beth (Jennifer Anniston) who is in a long term, non married relationship with Neil (Ben Affleck). Now while Gigi agonizes over Conor not calling her, she gets to vent all of her modern dating frustrations out on Alex, a manager/bartender at the nearby bar everyone tends to go to. Add in a solo story-line of Mary (Drew Barrymore) who's trying to make things work for herself in the ever growing technological age. At first glance, this is a crap load of exposition and way too many characters and psychosis to keep up with. But what this film got right is that it doesn't try and tell every one's story in an equal amount of time. It takes the most interesting characters and develops them while the less interesting are assistants in the character development and story progression. As you can probably tell, all of the interlocking stories come to a semi-harmonious conclusion. Although some come to a sudden halt which you wouldn't expect in a romantic comedy, but is never-the-less very realistic. If you can get past the TV spots and movie trailers that shuck in 80's music in a montage of late 20's early 30 somethings going through their own romantic gauntlets, then I suggest H.J.N.T.I.Y. You'll leave the theatre either rejuvenated in your beliefs on life and love, or searching in great need for a 12 gauge and some buckshot to use on your love bird neighbors. Hopefully it won't be the latter.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Coraline: I Had Such High Hopes

I'll openly admit that I was looking forward to seeing the stop motion animated depiction of Neil Gaiman's "Coraline". With Henry Selick directing, who is most noted for "Nightmare Before Christmas", the animation was nothing short of amazing. With that being said, the way the story is executed, is slow and disappointing. The Plot itself is very interesting. A small girl (Coraline, voiced by Dakota Fanning) finds a small secret door in the new home that her and her parents recently moved into. It leads to a world that is completely opposite from the world she knows. Where her parents are nice to her, and the tenants that live in the house are not as creepy, yet more entertaining. With the small difference that everyone in the alternate world have buttons for eyes. As the story goes on, you find that the perfect world is not so perfect after all, and that Coraline should realize how good she has it in the real world. It's an interesting premise, and interesting how the alternate universe comes to be sinister. It's the journey to that point that is particularly agonizing. If any movie ever made me revert back into a child riding in the back of a Chrysler New Yorker chanting "Are we there yet", it is most definitely Coraline. The first hour builds up the story to a fault. It pounds it into your brain so viciously that the second hour of the film suffers greatly because of the pain you had to endure in the beginning. The best things I can say about Coraline is that the character design, animation, and environment design were all top notch. At least it wasn't as horrible as The Corpse Bride. That film was like taking a bag that looks like Nightmare Before Christmas, and filling it with human excrement.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Uninvited: Why have you forsaken me David Strathairn?

The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of The Uninvited, is what the hell are you doing with your life David Strathairn? If you have no idea who I'm talking about, then please let me enlighten you. He's a wonderful character actor who has seemed to blend into the background and go un-noticed for many years. Until in 2005 when he was nominated for Best Actor in a leading role for playing Edward R. Murrow in "Good Night, and Good Luck". Usually getting nominated will jump start or at least playfully nudge along an actor's career. Although here we are David Strathairn, you, me, and The Uninvited. Where he plays a supporting role as a father to a troubled daughter Anna (Emily Browning) who comes back home from a mental hospital. The reason she was in the hospital? A suicide attempt caused by depression caused by watching her ill mother get exploded in the guest house/hospital room of their horribly expensive looking country home. She comes back to find that her father is diddling her mother's former hospice nurse Rachael (Elizabeth Banks) whom the audience automatically points the finger at as the person responsible for Anna's mother's death. And why wouldn't we? She's blonde, perky, and has no reason to be sexually attracted to David Strathairn. In fact the only person Anna can trust is her older sister Alex (Airelle Kebbel) who is by far the worst actress in the film. Her angst ridden lines seem so robotic that I could have put R2D2 in a tube top and gotten a better performance. Anyway, Anna starts to see weird visions of dead children and other creepy things that pop out about every 5 to 10 minutes like clockwork. All of the pieces to the puzzle seem uninteresting and uninspired. Until the end where there is a genuine twist that I myself did not see coming. If this movie had come out 10 years ago before The Sixth Sense, it could have been a blockbuster of epic proportions. But here we are. With the ending being quite good, it still doesn't excuse the dragging middle points that only exist until the finale. All of that pales in comparison to the absolute waste of a talented actor such as Strathairn. That's right, I'm back to this point again. There are so many more capable actors who could have filled the role of dull unimportant father. Although I can't fault a man for just wanting to pick up a paycheck while they fake bang Elizabeth Banks. Actually, when I think about it in those terms, David Strathairn may be smarter than us all.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Wrestler: Check your razor blades at the door please

Before you set foot into the theatre to watch this gut-wrenching, tear jerking, face grimacing tale of former pro wrestler Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke) still chasing the dream way after his physical prime. You may want to prepare yourself. I'm not talking about buying a large popcorn and sour patch kids. I'm talking about discarding any sharp objects or other devices that you may be able to harm your body with. Don't get me wrong, you're not going to want to kill yourself because it's a horrible movie, far from it. But there is only so much sadness one person can see another person go through before opening a vein. The story follows Randy Robinson, lovingly called "Ram" by his friends and adoring fans who is a washed up wrestler from the 80s. Living in the past and still subjecting his body to pain and abuse for very little compensation. You see all of the aspects of his existence including the trailer he lives in, his tanning and work out rituals, and the strip club he frequents to talk to Cassidy (Marisa Tomei) whom he throws money at just to have a friendly chat. He also has a daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) whom has major abandonment issues brought on by the non-fathering of The Ram. Midway into the movie, you see him starting to get everything back to where it's supposed to be with his career, his relationship with his daughter, and sparking the interest of his topless muse Cassidy. To see these things fall apart is in the same spirit of shouting for a slasher film damsel in distress not to go up stairs or have pre-marital sex. Darren Aronofsky's ninja documentary style of shooting the move was the right tone to set. With many shots seeming like we're walking right behind The Ram through all of the difficult chapters of his life. Story-wise, The Wrestler is quite good, but nothing extraordinary. There are plenty of movies that have come and gone about the same down and out loser trying to make something better for himself. The difference between all of those movies and The Wrestler, is the stand-out performance of Mickey Rourke. When you really think about it, who else is more experienced to take on this character? Mickey Rourke's acting career has been declared dead for almost 2 decades. Yet here he is, fighting for the spot he so rightly deserves. I mean was there anything redeeming about "Sin City" once you took away Rourke's performance as Marv the menacing brute with a heart of gold? I don't think there was. I'll admit it's not fair because Rourke has a leg up on the rest of his Oscar competition. Richard Jenkins never found illegal immigrants living in his house. Sean Penn was not California's first openly gay elected official. Brad Pitt does not age backwards (or at all for that matter). And I hope to God Frank Langella is not really Richard Nixon. But Mickey Rourke was and is Randy "The Ram". Not by name, but by spirit. Even with that said, it is my belief that this Oscar is property of Rourke and no one else. I'll be rooting for Rourke to win, and if he does, it will mark one of the greatest career comebacks ever. Although in my opinion, as far as his acting goes, he never left.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Revolutionary Road: This time the sinking boat is called Marriage

Well you've been waiting for it for damn near 10 years. The chance to see Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio star in another film where there love would be free to reign without the pesky former problems of gigantic cruise liners sinking. At first glance Revolutionary Road could be seen as a romantic get together for these 2 handsome actors, but when you get down to the story at hand, you can see the depressing under-belly. April Wheeler (Kate Winslet) and Frank Wheeler (Leonardo DiCaprio) are a young married couple living in the suburbs in the 1950's. Before marrying and retiring to the green grass picket fenced hell that awaits them in their early 30s, they were filled with life and ambition. Talking about living in Paris where people are "alive" and things really matter. Winslet and DiCaprio's performances are truly remarkable. It's easy to act like you're head over heels in love, but silently loathing a person that you took an oath to love, honor and obey is so much harder. Winslet's steely glances made my testicles shrivel into tiny bits of nothingness. DiCaprio's Frank Wheeler is a trapped, best intentioned coward who you ultimately feel sorry for. In the middle of the film, the couple honestly try to make a better situation for themselves which gives you hope. But is just as promptly taken away. With the two leads playing their parts with such emotional ferocity, they are put to shame with the scene stealing character John Givings (Michael Shannon) who is the mathematician insane asylum patient son of their realtor frienemy (Kathy Bates). Givings himself is the catalyst for the stirring finale between man and wife. I must admit I was apprehensive when I heard about Shannon's Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor, thinking that the little known actor from films such as 8 Mile, Bad Boys 2, and Pearl Harbor, was nothing more than a pity nod. His amazing 10 minutes on screen was proof enough for me to not judge a book by it's cover and just keep my mouth shut until I view the goods. Sam Mendes as always makes the drab surroundings seem hauntingly beautiful. Although there's one moment in the film that's slightly reminiscent of Road to Perdition where Winslet is in her house standing in the living room staring out of the front window, you half expect Jude Law to suddenly shoot her in the back and watch her body struggle to stand up. In closing, Revolutionary Road is a look into the dark side of marriage, family, and commitment. The entire cast was wonderful and I wish DiCaprio was at least nominated for his role, but it seems the academy loves to make him the bride's maid, but never the bride. I'd also like to add a special kudos to Sam Mendes for helming a beautiful film that includes him directing scenes in which his real life wife (Winslet) has sex with Leonardo DiCaprio on the kitchen counter. You're a better man than I am sir.