Sunday, November 29, 2009

New Moon***

Starring Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner, Billy Burke, Ashley Greene, Michael Sheen, Dakota Fanning.

Rated PG-13

Directed by Chris Weitz

Screenplay written by Melissa Rosenberg (based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer)

* * *

Bravo to the film crew of New Moon for once again sticking very close to the storyline of Stephenie Meyer's novel New Moon, the second installment in the Twilight series.

Despite having fewer lines than in the first film, Robert Pattinson still pulls ahead of the pack as the premiere acting talent. There is a sort of beautiful, old-school aura that surrounds him. He has palpable talent and fits seamlessly into his role as Edward Cullen.

Kristen Stewart earns some kudos for a slight development in her acting skills since the first film, although she still comes aross as stiff and unfeeling while running most of her lines. Even though Bella Swan is meant to be emotionless and empty, there doesn't seem to be a huge amount of depth to Stewart as an actor at any point in the film. Somehow though it works, since arguably, there isn't a whole lot of depth to the character Bella anyway. It would be a challenge for any actor to wail away laboriously, portraying the misery Bella experiences in the film. Stewart's moans and screams are akin to fingernails scratching across a blackboard: unnecessary, strained, and uncomfortable. Billy Burke,who plays Charlie Swan, Bella's dad, provides the only real comic relief in the film.

Taylor Lautner is the brightest star of New Moon (or maybe it's just his rock-hard abs!) His sweet, unassuming character and honest, straight-forward acting are incredibly endearing. Lautner had to fight to keep his role as Jacob Black in New Moon, packing on 30 pounds of pure muscle. He flawlessly steps up to the plate and slams the ball out of the park. Twilight fans won't be disappointed in his portrayal of Jacob Black. He is equal competition for vampire Edward Cullen, brown and warm to Edward's pale and cold.

The CGI wolves in the film are impressibly life-like and the Volturi are delightfully terrifying with the help of Michael Sheen as the cunning Aro and Dakota Fanning as tiny but deadly Jane. The cast and crew came together with great respect for Meyer's storyline and work to make the best adaption of the book they can. It's a movie that is pleasing to the eye, the mind and the heart all together. The wrath and all-consuming power of the Twilight series is only just beginning.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Starring John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Chiwetal Ejiofor, Woody Harrelson, Danny Glover, Oliver Platt, Thandie Newton and Thomas McCarthy.

Rated PG-13.

Directed by Roland Emmerich.

Written by Roland Emmerich and Harald Kloser

* * *

2012 is a blank canvas which German director Roland Emmerich has splattered with a thick, brilliant assortment of colors, exploding like fireworks in great disarray. He has thrown everything onto the canvas but the kitchen sink. For his viewers, he holds nothing back. Disasters of every kind burst onto the screen, from crushing tidal waves that swallow cities whole, to volcanic eruptions the size of mushroom clouds and earthquakes that split highways in two and bring sky scrapers crashing to the ground. There’s no real order or finesse to the art of the film, but it’s great fun to watch the plot of 2012 unfold.

The lives of a smattering of characters, including author Jackson Curtis (John Cusack), the president of the United States, Thomas Wilson (Danny Glover), top geologist Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor), White House Chief of Staff Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt), and the president’s daughter, Laura Wilson (Thandie Newton), are irrevocably changed when they learn the end of the world is within arm’s reach. All characters battle the elements, but only a few reach China, where their sole chance for survival exists in the form of massive arks, constructed to sustain the wrath of Mother Nature. But seats on the arks have been pre-sold to the highest bidders, leaving thousands upon thousands of people to perish around the earth.

The characters and acting skills aren’t very intriguing throughout the film, but fantastic special effects and dramatic events pop up around every corner. The actors aren’t the stars of the film; it’s the great tidal waves and earthquakes that bring that brilliant color to the canvas. The power of Mother Nature is terrifying because it can’t be stopped. As far-fetched as the basis of 2012 may seem, the truth of the matter is, the story is not impossible. That’s where Emmerich grabs the audience, taunts their fears and delights their senses with the sounds and images of unstoppable disaster.

The film is rather lengthy, and some of the characters can be a bit grating, but it’s a dazzling escape from reality for 158 minutes. 2012 is a (really long) roller coaster ride that leaves you dizzy, but ultimately riding high on the pulsating thrill of “What if?”

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Whip It ****

Starring Ellen Page, Drew Barrymore, Alia Shawkat, Marcia Gay Harden, Daniel Stern, Kristen Wiig, Juliette Lewis, Landon Pigg, Jimmy Fallon and Andrew Wilson.

Rated PG-13.

Directed by Drew Barrymore.

Screenplay and novel written by Shauna Cross (a former roller derby girl herself!)

* * * *

Whip It is a completely brilliant, exciting ride not to miss. The characters are fresh and totally loveable and the story is hip and chock full of understated girl power.

Bliss (Ellen Page) lives in the tiny Texas town of Bodeen. She’s alternative by nature, waitresses at the local burger diner, the Oink Joint, and her best friend, Pash (Alia Shawkat), is her partner in crime: all attitude and major curves to Bliss’s willowy, awkward frame. The film is set in modern time but has a retro charm to it that one only experiences when stepping far away from the major metropolises of America. There are two style themes within the film: a free and bohemian, groovy 70s vibe found at the concerts and roller derbies the two girls attend. The other is reflected in the beauty pageants Bliss’s mother (Marcia Gay Harden) forces her to partake in. They are reminiscent of the prim and proper women’s world of the 50s. Bliss goes along with her mother’s $600 dresses and pageant primping, but her grungy 80s rocker style speaks for the rebel in her.

She finds her true calling in a roller skating team full of confident, vivacious chicks who unleash the tough, hardcore feminine side of Bliss.

She also finds love with a musician, Oliver, whose style mirrors her own, played by singer/songwriter Landon Pigg. Their sweet romance is palpable and lovely to watch. The love scene they share beneath the clear blue waters of the community pool is one of the coolest, plainly sexy ever.

The roller skating chicks are made up of stars like Eve, Kristin Wiig, Juliette Lewis, and the director herself, Drew Barrymore. Jimmy Fallon, Andrew Wilson and Daniel Stern add some Y chromosome to the mix as the roller derby announcer, head coach, and Bliss’s father, respectively.

Amusing to the nth degree, laugh-out-loud funny, edgy and charming, Whip It could be one of the most satisfying films of the fall.

This is the kind of film you walk out of with a smile on your face and a rush of empowerment flowing through your veins.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Jennifer's Body **1/2

Starring Amanda Seyfried, Megan Fox, Johnny Simmons, Adam Brody.
Rated R.
Directed by Karyn Kusama.
Written by Diablo Cody.

* * 1/2

Get ready for lots of guts, gore, and whip-smart one-liners in Diablo Cody’s latest creation, which she actually wrote the same year as the Juno screenplay, her 2007 cult favorite. Jennifer’s Body is more than a campy high school horror flick, oozing with overt sexuality; there is an undercurrent of intelligence that separates it from the pack.

Jennifer (Megan Fox) and “Needy” (Amanda Seyfried) are best friends, but they couldn’t be more different. Jennifer is the girl every guy wants: gorgeous, promiscuous, and a bit of a bitch. Needy is a nerd, sporting schlumpy outfits and huge glasses that hide her beauty. She has a steady boyfriend, Chip (Johnny Simmons), who treats her like gold. Jennifer drags Needy to see a band play at a local bar, and starts chatting up the lead singer immediately. The lead singer, Nikolai Wolf, played by a creepy Adam Brody, has a sinister plan for Jennifer, one which will change the lives of everyone in their tiny, odd town of Devil’s Kettle forever.

The film isn’t a showcase of Megan Fox’s acting abilities, although it does put her body on full display. Viewers looking for just “hot” are in for a surprise. In one scene Jennifer shows up in Needy’s house, covered head to toe in blood. She stands silently before Needy, a grin slithering across her face, exposing bloody teeth. There is a look of pure evil behind her dark eyes. Whether or not Fox’s acting chops exist, her possessed cheerleader act is perfectly terrifying.

Through the horror theme, Diablo Cody explores the darker side of high school, the media, fame, and men. All these things work together in one way or another to make life miserable for Needy and Jennifer.

“Hell is a teenage girl,” is the opening line of the movie. Jennifer uses her body to get what she wants and defines herself by what guy she can control and conquer next. Needy is completely caught up in everything her best friend does and seems to idolize her in a strange way. Both girls are focused on these false pretenses of who they are, which sets the scene for the typical hellish high school experience gone horribly awry.

Some of the brutally violent scenes were unnecessary and so was the girl-on-girl action between Seyfried and Fox. Did it really add anything to the story to see them making out on a bed? It only seems to enforce the message that girls’ sole route for power is with their bodies and that sex always sells. If Diablo Cody wants to enforce a message of strong female characters, as she did with Juno, the message gets a little blurry in Jennifer’s Body.

Some of the smaller roles add to the crazy, darkly comedic feel of the film. Adam Brody’s character is his farthest from Seth Cohen yet, and J.K. Simmons (also Juno’s dad) made an appearance or two as a teacher with a mechanical hand. Amy Sedaris plays Needy’s disheveled mother. Jennifer’s Body is twisted, dirty, and creepy, but captivatingly so.

Up next for review, FAME!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

All About Steve **

Starring Sandra Bullock, Bradley Cooper, Thomas Haden Church and Ken Jeong.
Rated PG-13.
Directed by Phil Traill.
Written by Kim Barker.

* *

There are certain constants in the light comedies that Sandra Bullock produces: quirky characters, an upbeat ending, and plenty of laughs, thanks to her slapstick and often self-deprecating humor.

All About Steve most certainly has quirky characters and an upbeat ending, but it’s lacking in the humor department.

Mary Horowitz (Bullock) is a talking encyclopedia. She is also a crossword constructer at a local newspaper. Her simple life goes a little wild after she meets Steve (Bradley Cooper) who is a cameraman for a news station. Immediately after their first date (which lasts all of ten minutes) Mary decides Steve is the perfect man for her and she follows him as he chases news stories around the country. Mishaps, natural disasters and absurd headlining events follow.

Watching Mary blindly go after this man who isn’t interested in her is a horrible mix of heartbreaking, pathetic and disturbing. The first scene Bullock and Cooper share together is so rushed and abrupt that it isn't even believable.

Cooper, who is Hollywood’s latest It guy, plays an everyday hunky Joe without a whole lot of depth or chemistry with Bullock. Maybe that’s the point: sometimes the object of a person's devoted pursuit isn’t such a great fit after all.

The theme of the film, to let your freak flag fly, is admirable, but Mary isn’t relatable or much of a role model and at times can be downright annoying. Although it’s a jovial romp, the film is missing a certain realness that Bullock brings to her other characters.

Look for the upcoming review of JENNIFER’S BODY, which hits theatres on September 18th.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Inglourious Basterds ****

Starring Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Mélanie Laurent, Diane Kruger, Eli Roth
Rated R
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Written by Quentin Tarantino

* * * *

Tarantino’s latest, a historical fantasy, explores the possibility of an alternative ending to World War II and the Nazi Party. Although filled with his trademark hauntingly piercing soundtrack, famous guest appearances, and gun blasts galore, it is a different kind of Tarantino story. Still fantastical and sickeningly comical, but with a glitzier feel to it.

After all, Brad Pitt stars.

Two stories run parallel, that of French Jewish woman Shosannah Dreyfus, living undercover as a non-Jewish French citizen and American Lieutenant Aldo Raine and his intense squad of Basterds.

The Inglourious Basterds and Dreyfus, both in Nazi-occupied France, each separately concoct a plan to take down the greatest leaders of the Nazi Party and the head honcho himself. While there is plenty of gore, it’s not much worse than that of any film portraying the casualties of wartime.

Whether filmgoers are Tarantino fans or not, the acting is polished, even superb, from European stars like Christoph Waltz. Setting aside history, the storyline is absolutely engaging, and not without the signature dark magic of Tarantino’s films.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Post Grad **

Starring Alexis Bledel, Zachary Gilford, Michael Keaton, Jane Lynch and Carol Burnett.
Rated PG-13.
Directed by Vicky Jenson.
Written by Kelly Fremon.

* *

Reyden Malby (Alexis Bledel) has her future planned out to perfection: get all A’s in high school, nab a full scholarship to a great college, graduate with honors, and get her dream job at a publishing company. But it’s well-known that the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Reyden doesn’t get her dream job and she ends up back where she started, living at home with her kooky family.

Unfortunately, Reyden’s “nightmare” situation is a harsh reality for the thousands of recent college graduates across America. The running theme in the film, that a graduate can have the most distinguished credentials, a practiced interview speech and yet still get nowhere in the job market, rings true.

While the subject should be very relatable to “post grads” everywhere, it doesn’t help that Bledel’s acting comes across as dull. She seems about as “devastated” over her jobless situation as someone who just dropped their ice cream cone on the sidewalk. Her shallow acting mixed with several poorly written scenes adds up to some awkward and cringe-worthy moments within the film.

The comedic wiles of Jane Lynch, Michael Keaton, and Carol Burnett add some spice to the film, which is much needed to buffer Bledel’s boring character. But even their punchlines are lacking, due to the writing more than their acting skills.

The most inspiring theme viewers can pull from the movie (and this is a bit of a reach) is that although things don't turn out exactly as planned, graduates still have a vast new world within their reach. There are ample chances to plunge in headfirst and enjoy what life throws their way. Sometimes, living life a little unplanned is the best way to gain fulfillment.

As for Alexis Bledel's acting and Reyden's character, they both could use a little more depth and development. Better to wait until the DVD hits Blockbuster shelves.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife***

Starring Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana.
Rated PG-13.
Directed by Robert Schwentke.
Screenplay by Bruce Joel Rubin.
Based on the novel, "The Time Traveler's Wife," by Audrey Niffenegger.

* * *

From the time Henry (Eric Bana) was a young boy, he has inexplicably had the power to travel to the past or the future. He can’t seem to control where he travels to. He never knows when he will fade from the present and when he will return. Clare (Rachel McAdams) first meets Henry when she is six. He time travels into her backyard when he is 36. There the seeds are planted for their one-of-a-kind love story.

McAdams and Bana have palpable on-screen chemistry, although McAdams greatly outshines him in many scenes. Her acting is much more natural, genuine, believable. It’s easy to get lost in her character. Bana’s acting seems stiff and at times, awkward.

While the novel provides a level of understanding and richness that wasn’t carried over to the screen, the film still has plenty of charm. Scenes with six-year-old Clare, played by Brooklynn Proulx, and with Henry’s mother (Michelle Nolden), lend a magical feel to the film.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Film Buff Glossary

To start off, I don't claim to be a film buff, only someone who loves going to see movies and who loves to write. This is where that comes together.

Whether you are a film buff, a newbie, or just up for some good reviews, it never hurts to brush up on your film jargon.

This post will be updated regularly.

blockbuster- a film with a huge budget, big stars and lots of explosions. It is expected to be a box office success, to garner a ton of attention for its stars, and to result in action figures and sequels alike. Blockbusters usually come out in the summer.
Examples: "Transformers," "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Jaws," and "Gone With the Wind."

indie film- (independent film) a unique type of movie, often with obscure actors, a soundtrack filled with underground bands, and a dark storyline. Because of all this, a true indie film isn't produced by a big Hollywood production company, it's low-budget and doesn't get anywhere near the attention blockbusters do.
Examples: "Requiem for a Dream," "Garden State," "The Motorcycle Diaries," and "Fargo."

MPAA ratings- the Motion Picture Association of America measures the graphic content in a film with the following ratings:

G (General Audiences: All Ages Permitted.) You can watch G-rated films with youngsters and never have to worry about covering their eyes. "Finding Nemo," "Toy Story," and "Wall-E" are all rated G.

PG (Parental Guidance Suggested: Some Material May Not Be Suited for Children) There is no drug use in PG-rated films, although there may be mild cases of "brief nudity," "profanity" or "depictions of violence." But nothing too shocking that would demand "parental guidance." "Shrek," "Enchanted," and "Rocky" are rated PG.

PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned: Some Material May Be Inappropriate for Children Under 13) Expect a little more swearing, a little more nudity, and a little more violence. "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "Independence Day," and "Million Dollar Baby" are rated PG-13.

R (Restricted: Under 17 Requires Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian) Considered to be adult content. The MPAA suggests that parents refrain from bringing young children to an R-rated movie, which, (can you guess?) may contain a lot more swearing, a lot more nudity, and a lot more violence. "The Reader," "American Pie," and "Almost Famous," are rated R.

NC-17 (No One 17 and Under Admitted) The MPAA makes it clear that NC-17 films are not considered "pornographic" or "obscene" in the legal sense, but rather that the material is not suitable for anyone other than adults. Films such as "Boys Don't Cry," "The Boondock Saints," and "Pulp Fiction," had to edit explicit scenes before they could fit into the more marketable R category.
Click here for more info on the MPAA.