Sunday, September 27, 2009

Polar bears cover their noses before they pounce on a seal. How do polar bears know their noses are black? Did they look in the water one day, see the

Hi Im the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

Have any of you ever heard of the company Archer Daniels Midland? Probably the majority of you havent. But if youve ever had lysine, glucosine, or high fructose corn syrup, than it was probably developed by Archer Daniels Midland. It was in the top 50 of the fortune 500 and barely anyone has ever heard of it. But if you look on a box, its there.

Well in the early 90s there was a scare with a Lysine price fixing conspiracy between ADR and other company's to fix the price of the addictive substance Lysine, found in corn. What followed soon after was an FBI investigation with the help of one Mark Whitacre. Whitacre was the head of the BioProducts division but was brought in to listen in on the price fixing conversations. With his conscience feeling guilty he decided to become an informant, wear a wire and ultimately bring down this conspiracy once and for all. Well the FBI and Whitacre did, and what followed was one of the best documented corporate crimes in Americas history. Even though Whitacre helped he still faced 9 years in jail, more than the executives at ADM. You want to know why? He embezzled, stole, took kickbacks and forged signatures to ultimately earn himself 9 million dollars WHILE working under the FBI. And he lied through his teeth about the whole thing. And when he was caught you know what he blamed it on? Being bipolar...when that didnt work...he was assaulted by the FBI...when that didnt work...he just stopped lying.

Well with this kind of story it was just begging to be made into a movie right? You bet. In fact Whitacre himself was a big fan of the movie and really enjoyed Matt Damon's portrayl of himself. But while most critics including


thought it was a great, funny, witty movie and it made a lot of money at the box office. But for me it just shocked me. And to tell you why lets start with the first problem: Matt Damon. As all of you may now (or now know) I do not like Matt Damon...the actor. He seems like a really great guy with a great personality but he just doesnt show that in his films. Hes good in Good Will Hunting but mostly for the reason that he was just playing himself and he wrote himself a good part. To me he just hasnt made a watchable movie. The Bourne films were decent (if not nauseating from all the camera movement) but Damon really didnt do anything in those movies that any other actor couldnt have done better. "Okay be boring, dry, rude, yell a lot and hit people. GO!" But my hatred for Matt Damon only wants me to want him to be better. If and when he makes a good movie I will applaud him for it, but this is not one of them.
Matt Damon's Whitacre is a very weird, unlikeable, seemingly stupid and boring man whose thoughts buzz through his head quicker than we can process them. He rambles out lines like in the header almost every other minute and most of the time they make no sense whatsoever. Some of them are kind of chuckle worthy and some of them are pretty lame but for the most part they just seem really out of place. Its like they copied and pasted big chunks of thought from the book and forced Damon to say them so it would feel more like the book. I can understand trying to emulate how the book felt but having Damon's voice over the music and action talking about butterflies or polar bears is honestly just really weird. But his thoughts arent the only problem. Damon's other problem is he never feels really comfortable in this movie. He mostly has this sour look on his face like he is bored out of his mind or a really dopey grin. This is a textbook definition of phoning it in. Im sorry people who liked this movie but if you watch this movie and ANY of his other films, it seems like he really doesnt give a crap and decided "Screw it, I gained weight and grew this horrible moustache for this film to LOOK like the character but I refuse to BE the character!"
Along the way the whole bipolar thing comes to play in the film. But it wasnt until they blatently kept reassuring us he was bipolar and he kept saying it until anyone in the theatre knew about it. After the news that he was "bipolar" I thought back through the rest of the movie and there was no sign whatsoever that he was even slightly bipolar. Paranoid and a chronic liar yes...but not bipolar. As much as I hated Observe and Report (darkest most unfunny comedy ever released. A total Paul Blart rip off, except it was badly written and completly unlikeable and as violent as a saw movie) you could at least tell that Seth Rogan was really bipolar. Which is sad if Seth Rogan does better acting than you...thats really saying something.

But maybe the whole thing was a lie. Most of the film is. Thats the most distracting thing about the movie: the lying. Its in ever scene. He does it so much and so often (in between the nonsequitors) that it gets ridiculous. Yes Whitacre lied about stuff but it gets to a point where you are like REALLY? YOU COULDNT HAVE SAID THAT EARLIER. There was only one time when that joke was funny but did they beat it to death because it was one of the few funny things about the movie? SURVEY SAYS: YES! Whenever he says "Well..." or "There is one other thing I forgot to tell you" the whole audience and I all groaned. Its crazy how some movies just get this crazy idea in there head like "Hmm if we do it once and its funny, than if we do it 100 times it will be the funniest movie ever!" Whoever thought of that idea for films should be shot. And I should have gone in the past to shoot myself or the ticket person so that I wouldnt have had to sit through LYING: THE FILM.

But besides Damon there are other actors. Except all the other actors in the movie really dont seem THERE. They seem like they phone it in so that Matt Damon will look better. And what do you get if the entire cast phones it in: A BORING PIECE OF CRAP!
His wife is mousey and quiet and a bit of an unlikeable girl so you dont see her that much. His son only has three lines in the whole movie and two of them are barely audible. The other workers are barely there and for the most part dissolve into nothing more than wasted screen. The big wigs are there but never have a real character or any development whatsoever besides "CORRUPT BUISNESS MAN!" Only Scott Bakula and Joel McHale seem to really stand out as characters and that is because you see them so much. Bakula seems more bored than Damon and they most have who can deliver there lines with the least amount of effort contests while Joel McHale (who is hillarious) really tries to be the straight man tough guy and it doesnt really work for him because he just seems pissed that he is in the movie most of the time.
Oh well its sad. This movie got great reviews and was on my top films I MUST SEE. The Oceans 11, 12, and 13 movies were great films and good ensemble films. They still remain some of my favorites. But I guess you cant always make great movies. And its a shame. The story is really interesting and considering its true it really makes you think about all the big corporations out there and if they are really cheating you out of your cash. And despite some flaws the script is really decently interesting and it should have kept my interest the whole movie. But when you got all the actors phoning it in, not commiting to there part, not caring about the audience and really only caring about the paycheck at the end, it turns an interesting story and script into a boring piece of film with nothing going for it. Maybe with different actors this could have been one of the best films of the year. But with the cast it got it just never clicked for me. This one really makes me sad.
(to add on from the ratings system...I gave this an AVOID IT because its only okay, doesnt keep me interested and it makes me sad because this one had A LOT going for it...but some movies will surprise you)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Human perfection. What could go wrong?

Greetings and welcome, I'm the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will watch it, I will.

Let me give you some backround. Early in his life Robert Venditti was working at Borders. He had a notion that he would become the next Hemmingway. He had an idea that he would become a great author. But after being peskered by a customer he read the comic Astro City. After that he decided a career in comics. In 2002 he was working at Top Shelf Productions as a box boy. At the end of 2002 he submitted his first and most noticable piece of work known as The Surrogates. Top Shelf took a look at it and decided to publish it. It was officially released in 2005 and became a pretty big hit. So much so that in July of this year he made a prequel that described how the whole surrogacy thing came to be. You can now find both graphic novels bound together at any bookstore.

In 2007 Disney claimed the rights to The Surrogates and decided to turn it into a film, under Touchstone Pictures. They attached Jonathan Mostow (director of U-571 and the third Terminator film) and assigned Bruce Willis to play the lead role. In 2008 they began filming and it was released today in theatres everywhere.

Surrogates (the film as well as the comic) is based around the idea of being so addicted to the internet and your internet personas (cough) that you start to live your life as that and not as a real person. From that idea stemmed the comic and film. Surrogates are a robot remotely controlled through neurological pulses that can live your life without you having to leave your home. You dont need to eat, sleep, anything. You can be who you want or what you want. And you cant die. You can be destroyed but all you have to do is unplug and get a new one. Cripples can walk, the deaf can hear and the blind can see. Nobody gets killed in wars (we're still in Iraq apparently according to the movie). Crime is down 99% and racism is now a myth. Its the perfect human society right? Well there is a small group of humans known as Dreads who believe that you should live your life with what you have and when you die, its all okay, you are going to heaven. They think Surrogacy is an abomination. So they were designated there own areas where its humans only. So everyone could (essentially) live in peace.

You know whats the most interesting thing about this movie? It has a distinct possibility of happening. Think about it. How far are we away nowadays from this kind of scientific and medical discovery? It would do as much bad as it would good. This film makes for a great debate and the story is very descriptive and well thought out. That's what shocked me. The previews made it out to look like a half-assed sci-fi thriller and it turned out to be extremly deep and really thought provoking. Than again, Bruce Willis likes to make movies where you think about it afterwards.

But even with a great story you need strong actors to back it up right? Otherwise its a good story with no reason to watch it. Like if they had gone with the original castings for wouldnt have been as good. Well for the most part the cast does a decent job. Bruce Willis, the driving force that he is does a great job in this movie. For the first quarter (maybe less) of the film you see a plastic, styalized version of Willis with the most GOD AWFUL DONALD TRUMP TOUPEE EVER, but the film moves so fast and cuts away from him alot that while its agonizing to see at first, it really doesnt become a distraction (like Dr Manhatten in Watchmen). But for the most part in the movie he is an older, pudgier, rugged version of himself. He doesnt look pretty in this movie. He is scarred, bruised, slow and broken and that does wonders for him. You think more about his craft and less about how he looks and his perfomance makes him shine. The rest of the acting however is an extreme case of hit or miss. Its either phenominal or BANG and groan worthy. Luckily the former is more prominant. Greer's (Willis) wife Maggie, played by Rosamand Pike does a really good job. You sense her true dependance on the surrogate as a safety blanket that she wont let go of. She seems a little dead behind the eyes and cold but you see her true self present herself in the movie as well and you really almost feel sorry for her. Like Willis with his looks, you see her true craft come out more BECAUSE she is robotic so her voice and mannurisms and behavior really have to stand out to make you care as much as you do. Agent Peters, played by Radha Mitchell is on the other spectrum. She is dull as a dishwasher and about as interesting as paint. Granted she was in her surrogate form for 99.9 % of her screen time (with one shot of her really thats quite disturbing) that doesnt give you the excuse to act robotic. Unlike Maggie she shows no emotion or true human value. In fact maybe she IS a prototype Surrogate. Her lines are good and she never delivers any big one liners but thats part of it, shes not really given much of a personality or given anything to do. She kind of stands there, prattles on, walks, stops and walks some more. I only saw one millasecond of actual acting out of her and it was for I think comic effect. But it wasnt Razzy worthy and really shes not a big player in the movie.

For me it was surprising to see Ving Rames in the movie. He plays a character known as THE PROPHET who is one of the dreads. He wishes to lead a revolution to get rid of all of the surrogates. But the truly puzzling thing is I cant figure out if he did a good OR a bad job. He doesnt have many lines and honestly looks like a silly Rasta Man but he does have a good prescence of power in the movie and does seem like a Godfather in dreads. But its an unsure one for me.

The most surprisng one for me is James Cromwell. He plays Dr. Cantor in the film. Cantor is the man who invented surrogates. If you havent seen Cromwell before he is a decorated character actor who is great at really getting into his roles. Even at 69 he still does great films. But what makes his part so interesting in the film is that he IS but ISNT. Im not trying to sound weird but he has a very small part in the movie, as himself. He has parts in the intro and has a big reveal at the end and gives a Matrix like Architect feeling and speech and than thats it.

His part is almost identical to his (above) but it also has a great individuality with what he DOESNT DO. Cantor fears showing himself for fear of running the risk of a dread wanting to kill him, so he has many different surrogates that talk for him in all sorts of different shapes and sizes. Even though its not Cromwell, you can sense him through his surrogates. Also with that comes his feeling of prescence in the movie. Even when hes not there you feel him there like hes gonna pop out and say something.

Speaking of popping up, lets talk about the thrills. This is a thriller sci fi if I remember correctly. The thrills are actually genuinely good in this movie. Sure there is the occasional routine pop scare and of course Bruce Willis getting hit by a car/truck/SUV (EVERY MOVIE) but for the most part the tension is REAL and when the characters exhale sharply, you tend to be doing the same. The thrills are well done and accompanied by a great score which only adds to the tenison.

Honestly i was expecting a mediocre RENT IT Sci-Fi thriller and instead what I got was a dark horse for one of the best movies of 2009. If you like deep, thought provoking thrillers than by all means this is your film.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Who's that knocking on my door

Hi I'm the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will. Bollywood is an interesting genre of film. It is arguably one of the most famous genres in film. It is as much a part of Indian culture as curry or Hinduism. Nowadays with the popularity of slumdog millionaire the Indian style of film has taken America by storm as well. Enter late 2008, a young and newly divorced film directorand writer named Nina Paley picks up a copy of the famous Indian epic Ramayana. Regarded as one of the greatest love and break up stories of all time, Nina Paley decided to take her creative mind and years at film school and art school, as well as her love for 20s music, especially by Annete Henshaw, and retell the story of Sita and Rama, as well as her own tragic love life.

I had the pleasure of watching Sita sings the blues whileon my plane trip to Hawaii. As I type this I am currently in Oahu, miles away from any computer, at a beach house in Kailua, jabbing furiously away on my half defunct, missing earphoned iPod touch. As you can tell by my somewhat time consuming typing on this thing, that I really wanted to publish this review. Along with my other review for "My Life in Ruins" this will probably (and hopefully) be my only time I type on this.

This award winning animated musical is on a league of it's own. It's one part mesmorizing, one part Beatles-esque trippy, and all the while charming. Sita sings the blues is only 80 odd minutes long. But from the very getgo you can either tell if you'll love it...or absolutly hate it. In the first ten minutes you are introduced to the three main art styles of the movie. It starts with the cartoony, blockish animation mainly reserved for the musical numbers. Shortly afterwards we are introduced to the second style, that of traditional Indian art and lore. This style is mainly reserved for moving the plot along, as well as the narration from young studiers of the Ramayana, who set the time, place, and emotions going into the story. They also give a bit of an Indian history lession as well as helping you, the viewer, make sense of the whole story. The third style is a more hand drawn style. All the artwork in the movie is done by the director herself which shows her creativity despite a small budget. The hand drawn styleconveys her story of heart break and how she got inspired to do the movie.

Now that I've explained the styles, you'll probably now understand why it's a bit much to get thrown at you, in the first ten minutes! It's kind of like swallowing "Across the Universe" the whole film in ten minutes. The styles flare all over the place. It's awesome to me buy could turn a lot of people off instantly. On our plane it was one of the least watched movies. People would rather play scrabble and bejewled for six hours than sit through that film. Me? I really had a lot of time to burn, I had just finished "My Life in Ruins" and decides to watch the only other movie on the digital player that I had never heard of.

So you know the styles, the fact its an award winning film, but what is this Ramayana I'm babbling about and who is Sita?

From what I've gathered on Wikipedia, it's the story of a king named Rama and his girl (wife, GF, I dunno) Sita. He is a mighty warrior and she is beautiful and absolutley devoted to Rama. but one day she is kidnapped by a greedy king and taken to his castle. With Sheeva's help Rama rescues Sita only to dump her a minute later. Eventually they get back together and she becomes pregnant, but than Rama dumps her again. When she has the kids and Rama finds out, he wants her to prove her love to him. So she says "if I was always faithful and never showed any devotion to any man besides Rama, may mother earth swallow her."

Sounds like an interesting story right? Well it is. The music is well done and extremly catchy, even if it's older. The art style is great and it's a really nice insight into the Indian mythos. And it's short!

Yes it's trippy and the music may not be for everyone but it's definetky a good movie if you are a fan of art, Indian culture, or jazzy 20s music.


(Update: good luck finding it on DVD. Because of copyright issues, airplanes, YouTube, or netflix are your only ways of seeing this movie)

Monday, September 7, 2009

I think it, you do it!

Hi, I'm the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, than I will. As you can tell by now there is something NEW right below the poster. I decided to tape the day I saw Gamer to give everybody an idea of a day when I go and see a movie. Hopefully it sheds some light on my weekly routine. Speaking of which my routine is going to be off slightly because I will be leaving for Hawaii on Thursday so I probably wont see any movies till I get back on the 19th. Hopefully this doesnt put a damper on my site because being away for 9 days can be pretty hard. But to make it up to everybody I plan on seeing a movie the day after I get back and maybe even do a review/recap to show you EXACTLY what are my Top 10 movies of all time.

But onto the review. Today's movie is the new film from Neveldine/Taylor (Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor) who we all may remember as the director of the Crank film series. Now if anyone has ever talked to me then they would know that I hate this film series. I'm not trying to be picky or prissy but those movies were terrible. The story was interesting enough for me: Video game designer/hitman Chev Chelios gets a chinese poison that will kill him if his heart rate isnt kept up...(Crank 1) or gets his heart removed and replaced with a battery that he needs to keep charged (Crank 2). That sounds like a nonstop action movie right? Like Speed but with a person? You would think but instead they made those movies as weird and over the top as possible. Not violently...just...for a movie that was trying to be a nonstop action flick, there wasnt much action and it was oddly funny. You couldnt take the movies seriously. Whenever there was a good scene, it was marred by a either a crossdressing man getting suffocated, a sex scene in Chinatown in front of everyone, or riding a motorcycle and running around...with a stiffy.

But despite my hate for those movies they did create a pretty unique style of making films. Whether or not you like the Crank movies, they had style. Fast cuts, close ups, quick violence, loud music and star driven. Well that formula should have worked for Crank but it didnt. Now they have a new movie to try it out on: Citizen (Seriously it was titled Citizen Game for a long time)

Gamer takes place "a few years from right now" in a world run by technology and gaming. Ken Castle (played by Michael C Hall...of Dexter and 6 Feet Under fame) is like Bill Gates, except creepier, crazier and smarter. He creates a neurological nanotechnology (Haley knows what I'm talking about) that replaces and replicates brain cells with a remote output from an outside source. Simple terms: Nanotechnology brainwashing...with another person controlling you.

Castle started first with a game called Society. A simulation game, it lets you take control of a human being to do whatever you want. And the people who ARE controlled? Destitutes, junkies, criminals or people who need money. Society is like The Sims plus Playstation Home...except skankier.

A year later Castle introduced another game. This game was called Slayers. Slayers is a FPS where you control a death row inmate. If they survive 30 sessions then they are set free. Except there is one problem...nobody makes it past 10 usually. The only person ever to do it is Kable, one of the first Slayers who is controlled by gaming superstar Simon. This movie focuses on the story of Kable, his imprisonment, and his journey to get out and see his wife and kid. But Castle is a corrupt SOB and he wants EVERYONE to join in on the festivities. But one group is smarter than the rest. They are known as the HUMANZ, a group of truth spreading hackerz.

Thats it for story (that I'll say) but it sounds like a decent enough story right? Well yes and no. It has a good premise but the movie at times seems a lot like a carbon copy of the matrix and death race, with crank's style. Thats not a bad thing, but when a character sits in a chair and "jacks in" it starts to feel a little familiar. The thing that really improves the story however is the acting.

Ive said numerous times that Michael C Hall is one of my favorite actors and Dexter is one of my favorite shows on TV. So it came as a surprise to me when he said he would do this movie. Mostly because he doesnt really do many films and will only do a part if it "challenges him as an actor". Well it certainly does and he does great with it. Castle is the antagonist early on and doesnt hide it. He is about as close to a moustache twirling, black wearing villain as you can get! But what puts him over the top (in a good and weird way) is his dreamscapes he is always sitting in when he talks that change rapidly as well as a song and dance number he has later on in the film to a Frank Sinatra song. Its a little Crank weird, but Michael C Hall does a great job at making sure it feels rooted and semi realistic. A good performance from him.

You also got Gerard Butler, famous for being Scottish, ripped, and a surprisingly good actor. Everyone will always probably remember him in 300 (SPARTA) but Butler has some really good acting chops. He doesnt talk a lot for the first part of the movie but when he does finally get going he does a great job, plain and simple. It's by no means Academy award winning but its a really good job all around.

I cant say the same for the supporting cast however. John Leguizamo seems out of place in the movie with his bit part providing nothing to the cast. Terry Crews seems like a missused character, playing a ruthless killer with a really twisted side. He is introduced as a rival to Kable but for most of the film, you dont see him, they dont really talk all that much, and the fight scene they DO have is like 30 seconds all together. Its a huge letdown. All of the Humanz (besides Ludacris) are wasted actors who are about as interesting as paint drying. Ludacris however more than makes up for it with his charisma and delivery of his lines. Pretty much besides Kable's wife and Ludacris, the supporting

Essentially though, this IS the kind of film that Neveldine/Taylor SHOULD be making. Its a decent action movie with a decent story and great acting. If you're looking for an action fix or are fans of any of the actors than this is a good movie to see.