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Showing posts from April, 2009

I Vote “Yeh” on State of Play

Movie title: State of Play (2009)
Spoilers ahead: No

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Alas, we get a movie about conspiratorial/political corruption that succeeds in maintaining credibility and in being entertaining at the same time! State of Play succeeds where The International fails in that State of Play’s storyline is believable, and better than that, the film’s steady leaking out of incriminating facts draws fascination rather than a dreary sense of “Oh, now they just want to confuse us!”

Russell Crowe is Cal McAffrey, a veteran journalist investigating four local murders, one of them the “other woman” of McAffrey’s old friend and roommate, Congressman Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck). A firestorm of media coverage is ablaze, and Collins is getting roasted. McAffrey is eventually teamed up with a number of reporters to cover portions of the ever-growing case, including Della Frye (Rachel McAdams), a rookie journalist who wants to make it big. As the two push legal boundaries to get to the deepening well of questio…

Star Power Saves

Movie title: 17 Again (2009)
Spoilers ahead: No

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17 Again, starring Zac Efron as a young Mike O’Donnell and Thomas Lennon as old Mike’s friend Ned Gold, is about…yes…being 17 again. No, you’re no genius for figuring it out since it doesn’t take one to guess the plot. Old Mike O’Donnell (Matthew Perry) starts wondering what might have been in his life had things been different and he not married Scarlett (Allison Miller/Leslie Mann). We’ve only seen the plot 17 times already and thought about it probably 1700, but graceful performances on the part of the three main stars manages to save what would otherwise have been a complete wash-up.

The film begs to be funny, and it is funny—about as funny as the antics of an annoying, pencil-tapping eighth-grader. It’s the charisma of Zac Efron that bails out a problematic storyline. Reno 911’s talented Thomas Lennon is Mike’s rich and nerdical sci-fi buff of a best friend, and although he too puts on a fine performance, such characters have by no…

Crazy Preteens Lash Out!

Movie title: Hannah Montana: The Movie (2009)
Spoilers ahead: No

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Try and imagine yourself as a ten-year-old girl on the bus ride home from school. The girls sitting next to you are doing the same thing you are, and that is texting others with countless back-and-forth messages in faithful shorthand fashion (“u r a dork.”) When the bus arrives at your stop, you get off and say “text u n a few” to the friends on your block. You head inside and throw your backpack on your bed, and before you begin watching iCarly and the rest of the after school favorites, you eat a Carnation Instant Chocolate Bar and then turn on the tube. Hannah Montana is on.

Your parents may or may not know it, but you know it. You know that all 7 to 13-year-old girls worldwide know—that Hannah Montana is the newest and biggest thing around. She's the new preteen-targeting icon, and she can actually sing. And she's not just a singer. She's a celebrity in every sense of the word. For those of you who have …

Dragonball: Excretion

Movie title: Dragonball: Evolution (2009)
Spoilers ahead: No

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Dear James Wong,

I regret to inform you that after reviewing your film Dragonball: Evolution, I am left with no choice but to give it a failing grade of F (0 stars). Your attempt at transforming a work of Japanese animation into a live-action movie for international audiences was...to put it nicely...a full-dress failure that had me running for the toilet.

Your efforts to reach across cultures and continents with made-real martial arts fighters to attract mainstream audiences, while remaining theatrically appealing to an Asian fan-base was a total loss—a loss of cinematically epic proportions.

It happens to be the case that many cartoons and comics can be fashioned into great movies (i.e. The Hulk, Superman, etc.), but this requires an immense budget and finesse-full directing. But even then, not all animated source materials can be translated into real-life action. Take, for instance, Mario Brothers.

It doesn't require im…

I Love This Movie, Man!

Movie title: I Love You, Man (2009)
Spoilers ahead: No

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With exquisite performances and a script straight from the gods, I Love You, Man, starring Jason Segel as Sydney Fife and Paul Rudd as Peter Klaven, hits pay dirt. It’s funny, but just credible enough to be worth its salt as a serious story about friendship between two guys.

Peter is your average fellow. He’s a socially split personality—part cool guy and part office drone. His intelligence and sense of refinement keep him in a certain mannerly mold. He’s comfortable doing the things he’s always done and being the way he’s always been. He’s got his sights set on marrying one girl, the love of his life, Zooey (Rashida Jones).

Sydney Fife, on the other hand, is an honest guy, but a little bit too honest. He has no shame and he never cleans up after his dog. He's the epitome of liberation and self-expression. Heck, he makes Woodstock hippies look like shy schoolgirls! You only wish you could cut loose like this guy. You’ve heard …

Duplicity...and How Sucking at Math is OK

Movie title: Duplicity (2009)
Spoilers ahead: No

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Most of us know the feeling. You're sitting in math class studiously staring at the board. The arched frown on your face almost touches the floor. You fear the intense concentration beginning to bring on a headache and a touch of perspiration. Flooding your mind are those self-esteem-bludgeoning questions: “Am I the only one this confused?” “Is it a good idea to announce that I'm totally lost or should I wait for someone else to go first?” Now you've got that headache. You can feel your blood pressure as it rises.

You needn't be ashamed if this describes you. It does me. That unpleasant feeling of being confused may be extra noticeable in brain-twisting subjects like math, but the feeling has been known to surface in areas germane to our consideration—movies.

There's no slam against you to admit it. A movie can have a person confounded as easily as a math problem, and never has this been a more common thing than toda…

The Hoax in Connecticut

Movie title: The Haunting in Connecticut (2009)
Spoilers ahead: No

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In 2002, a 2-hour documentary aired on The Discovery Channel called A Haunting in Connecticut. In it was featured the story of the Snedeker family. It was 1986 when Allen and Carmen Snedeker and their three sons, a daughter, and two nieces moved into their newly rented home at 208 Meriden Ave. in Southington, Connecticut. The documentary was so scary that it caused a stir and soon began to get national attention. The affect of the documentary had been aided by a 1992 novel by author Ray Garton entitled In A Dark Place: The Story of a True Haunting. It contained the chilling narrative of the family's experiences while living at the house.

The reported experiences are quite bizarre. Blood is seen being mopped onto a floor. A man with blue-grayish eyes rolled back into his head appears to the oldest son. A featureless, black-colored being with no eyes is a regular unwelcome guest. Specters of boys walking around are …

Enough of Knowing

Movie title: Knowing (2009)
Spoilers ahead: No

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I am going to coin a phrase: “Atheists and Hollywood don't mix.” Hopefully, anyone who uses it from here on will give me credit for it, but I don't really care. The statement is true. That's the important thing. The movie industry runs the gamut with devotees of many beliefs represented, from Buddhism (Steven Seagal), to Judaism (Jackie Mason), to Christianity (too many to count), to mysticism (Roseanne Barr, Sandra Bernhard), to Scientology (Tom Cruise, John Travolta), and many other flavors, including a few atheists (Julia Sweeney, Kevin Bacon, and Ray Romano). But atheists never get to be atheists in movies, at least not credibly.

Hollywood has so very little atheist influence. The result of that is that when movies are made portraying us, we come off wrong—wrong and bent. It's the same junk every time. Atheist characters in movies are always closed-minded, hopeless cynics who won't believe something unless they can…

Monsters vs. Aliens

Movie title: Monster vs. Aliens (2009)
Spoilers ahead: No

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Monster vs. Aliens is a big, bulgy-eyed, animation movie that tries to boast its value in a 3D presentation. Flashy, but only occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, it's a kid's movie without an appeal to intellect. An all-star voice cast – with the likes of Keiffer Sutherland (who happens to be a remarkable voice actor), Amy Poehler, and Renee Zellwigger – does little to offset the obtuse-ness of the film.

Susan Murphy (Reese Witherspoon) is an ordinary girl. She's getting married to jazzy TV news anchor Derick Dietl (Paul Rudd). Well, that was before a meteor fell and transformed this ordinary girl into a nearly 50-foot-tall giant-ette whom the government has taken the liberty of capturing and renaming “Ginormica.”

Her fellow monster captives are a brilliant doctor-turned-cockroach "Dr. Cockroach, PH.D" (Hugh Laurie), a ball of slime that has the hots for ordinary tabletop jello molds "B.O.B." (Seth…

The Frowning and the Furious 4

Movie title: The Fast and the Furious 4 (2009)
Spoilers ahead: No

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There’s one thing you can be certain of when watching any in the series of The Fast and the Furious—the story will invariably boil down to a street race. Not a single series has been made with a more predictable plot in all of filmdom. That’s what you have…men between the ages of 20 and 40 settling disagreements or initiating members via illegal street races like a tenth-grader in his first V8 Mustang. Only in The Fast and the Furious (F&F) can instances of reckless disregard for human life be as common as clouds while watchful traffic cops are nowhere to be found when they are most needed.

What you get in this, the fourth installment of the F&F series, is a straight-up improvement from certain earlier films, i. e. Tokyo Drift—an insultingly cheesy put-on at best. The death-defying stunts and adrenaline-pumping car chases you only wish you could pull off come standard with all F&F models. They are found here…

Fired Up...Watered Down

Movie title: Fired Up (2009)
Grade: C- (2 stars)
Rated: PG-13
Summation: The two most popular guys in high school decide to ditch football camp for cheerleader camp.
Spoilers ahead: No

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I understand perfectly the appeal of raunchy teen-targeted comedy. The stuff sells. Hearing about bodily processes, “scoring” with the opposite sex, the lure of “getting wasted,” the glories of pot, and an undying love of fraternity drink-offs makes sense. I loathe the immaturity, but it makes sense.

Kids love to see these things. If they didn't, we wouldn't be having the rising floodwaters of cheap, bad, worthless teen movies that have been assaulting our sense of good taste since the late 1990s. What I don't understand is how a film like Fired Up is supposed to fit into this category.

It's not raunchy enough. It's not dirty enough. It falls out of step in only mildly having boys (yes, boys, not men) gawk over female anatomy and “making out.” And it had an actual plot—a plot that was a …

Coraline

Movie title: Coraline (2009)
Grade: D+ (1 1/2 stars)
Rated: PG
Summation: A young girl finds a doorway to another dimension in her new home.
Spoilers ahead: No

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To say that Coraline was memorable isn't doing it. This movie will forever be etched on the folds of my brain. And in this case, that's not a good thing. I can only imagine being subjected to this as a child and not having nightmares from it.

Reading the summary of Coraline makes it sound so quaint, like an adventure in a wondrous world of thrills. Potential viewers should take note of the MPAA rating. Coraline is rated PG, not G, and when it says it, it means it. This is way too scary for young kids. It would border on cruelty to expose a 9-year-old to this. But let's look at what we have.

We have gothic and depressingly dark coloring (better like blue and black) with love-it-or-hate-it stop-motion animation. Drab and unpleasantly life-like animation defeat the real purpose of animation (i.e. to transcend the clutches …

The Shallowest Pool on the Left

Movie title: The Last House on the Left (2009)
Grade:D+ (1 1/2 stars)
Rated: R
Summation: A gang led by a prison escapee unknowingly finds refuge at a vacation home belonging to the parents of one of the victims, where a mother and father seek revenge.
Spoilers ahead: No

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Wasted time can put me in a bad mood. Having a bad time is understandable in that bad times are beyond our control. We deal with them, and often, they make us relish the good times even more. But wasted time is different. It detracts while giving nothing in return. Bad movies have that effect. They take, but someone show me where they give back. The Last House on the Left is a prime example.

First, you have typically clueless teens wandering into trouble, reapplying that tired old sense of poetic Hollywood justice that says kids doing naughty things always end up dead or in dire straits. It's the moral of the story of nearly every horror movie in existence. The kids are young and dumb and hot, but if it weren't f…