Friday, July 30, 2010

You can't stop crime! That's what you never understood. I'm controlling it!

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

As a child of the 1990s I grew up with Batman: The Animated Series. Whether it was Mark Hamill's Joker, Kevin Conroy's Batman, the storylines or the animation I loved the show to death. On top of that I always sided more with Batman than any other superhero (If you look in my action figure containers I have at least a 5:1 ratio for Batman toys). Why? Batman was a real person. He was a man surrounded by death who fought for good using his brain and his gadgets, not superpowers. To me that was always better. And Batman has only gotten better over the years.

While the films that came out were disappointing, the direct-to-video films were always fantastic. It seemed that Warner Bros/DC knew what they were doing and weren't deviating from that plan. It all escalated up till Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, which is considered by many to be the best and darkest film. After that Batman kind of became more kid friendly/teen friendly and the movies lacked. That was until Nolan came and released his two Batman films. Since then the films have been great and now a new one "Under the Red Hood" is out and I must say it is AWESOME.
Now I don't read a enormous amount of comics but I'm pretty faithful to a few series, one of which has been the Batman comics. And the two story arcs this film is based on are two of my favorite story arcs in Batman comic history: "A Death in the Family" and "Under the Hood." The first arc followed Jason Todd, the second Robin, and how he gets brutally beaten and blown up by the Joker, who is working to try and use nuclear weapons with terrorists. Batman is devastated by this and goes on a violent filled rage, becoming a darker knight than he already was. The second arc picks up years later when a new vigilante hero appears known as the Red Hood. The Red Hood was The Joker's previous identity before becoming the Joker but he's in Arkham and this new guy seems like a hero, but a ruthless killer as well (A Dexter-esque kind of guy). This arc has Batman playing cat and mouse with the Red Hood with him trying to figure out who he really is.

The film follows this basic outline, although it condenses the first arc into just the opening scene of the film. That figures since Judd Winick, the guy who wrote "Under the Hood" wrote the film as well. He expands the Red Hood arc into a very fast paced, dark, violent and entertaining film. The character of the Red Hood is well developed and the twist, while slightly predictable, is dramatic and action filled enough that you don't mind the predictability. You can also see many nods to classic Batman comics, villains and series in the film as well. It's a Batman film made for Batman fans. And if you're only a casual fan than hopefully this film will make you want to read the comics.
The animation is stellar. The angles are sharp, each character looks distinct, it doesn't look too cartoony but not too realistic either, balancing on a fine line, and the city looks beautiful as well. Joker looks slightly more meaty and not lanky, which I think works considering Hamill isn't Joker this time. The 3D chase scenes (not glasses 3D but digitally rendered) are beautiful and well choreographed as well. Overall very stellar, high quality animation. You can see a lot of work was put into it.

The voice work is an interesting one. It doesn't feature Kevin Conroy or Mark Hamill (a first for me movie wise) in their respective roles instead having Bruce Greenwood as Batman and John DiMaggio as Joker. On top of that you have Jensen Ackles as Red Hood, Neil Patrick Harris as Nightwing, Jason Issacs as Ra's Al Ghoul, and other actors like Wade Williams, Gary Cole and Bruce Timm (guy who created animated series) as the Riddler. This sounds odd on paper but the casting and the voice work is superb. Greenwood gives kind of a smokier Batman than we've seen before but much better than Bale's snarl. DiMaggio is surprisingly well and his voice sounds more menacing sometimes than Hamill. Everyone else is brilliant and NPH always blows me away. Great work all around.

On top that you got an amazing score by Christopher Drake, a Jonah Hex short that's better than the movie and plenty of awesome extras.

Is it on par with the Nolan series or the first two Batman films? No. But it's a great quality Batman film that any fan should have.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

I'm innocent I swear!

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

As someone from a smaller town I usually hate crowds in theaters. That's why I make an effort to go to the cheaper, ghetto theaters near my house instead of the nearest Regal theater. Sure the Regal theaters are nice but the crowds are just too much. If I'm shoulder to shoulder with someone, the movie becomes less fun. So what if a speaker is shot, the dialogue is at a whisper, and there is an occasional fight in the theater? I'd rather sit through that then crowds. What does this have to do with Salt?

Well one of my mother's best friends is a cop. He works for the local PD and so whenever there is a sneak peek of a film up in Seattle at this one giant three story wooden multiplex (which worried me in case of an electrical spark) he would get notice right away in case they needed someone to cover it. So on day 1 they became available Bob (his name) grabbed 8 passes. The passes themselves were free but they came with a catch: you must come early or your pass doesn't count. They only have 450 seats in the theater and they hand out over 600 passes. But Bob grabbed the passes and invited his fiancée, her niece and fiancée, her brother and his partner and my mother and I. We waited in the middle of the bulk for about an hour (I brought The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest to read) and then were seated. After some balloney about free T-Shirts the movie started without any previews.
The film follows a CIA intelligence agent named Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie). She is a decorated agent, skilled in brains and brawn and is one of the most respected agents in her division. On her anniversary with her husband she encounters one last walk-in before leaving for the day. The man is named Orlov and he tells a story about a man and a woman whose child is taken away, forced to become a super agent for Russia, taught in the ways of American culture and taken to America to live as a sleeper agent until she is needed by her country. Lee Harvey Oswald was apparently one and there are hundreds out there. But that's not the only reason that he's there. Apparently there is going to be an assassination attempt on the Russian president at the funeral of the Vice-President. The agent responsible's name? Evelyn Salt.

When Evelyn get's the news she flees. She says, and we are shown, the reason she's running is to find her husband who was kidnapped. But at the same time she is also apparently going to try and assassinate the Russian President. So who really is Salt? A good woman and a good agent trying to clear her name or a Russian mole on a mission of destruction?
Salt's biggest glaring error is it's story and writing. For one there are a lot of plot holes and inconsistencies. These only become more apparent when the second problem, twists, comes into play. This film has a LOT of twists. It never has any deep twists like in the Sixth Sense but it has a lot of the writer trying to make you go "Bet you didn't see that coming." The problem is that you DO see it coming and when you don't see it coming it only makes you think about the massive plot holes that opened up because of them. So it becomes a slippery slope there. On top of that there is a lot of exposition heavy sequences early on and the film has a knack for flashbacks. Whenever Jolie stares directly into the camera they seem to pop up. It becomes annoying after the second time because you realize the director is trying to force an opinion or an emotion onto you. On top of all of that the dialogue is mostly predictable action movie fodder and the character motives for a number of them are really hard to follow.

The acting also suffers in a lot of places. Angelina Jolie is awesome as always (I have no problems with her at all and that's not just my hormones talking) but the rest of the acting is meh. Liev Schrieber continues to be a monotone asshole in every single role he does but he does show slight range (shocker) when his voice cracks during a line (which caused me to laugh). Chiwetel Ejiofor is okay but seems to have this constipated look plastered on his face the whole time. That and he suffers from the monotones as well but that could just be from hanging with Schrieber the whole time. August Diehl who plays her husband is weird and has a thick German accent that makes everything he say unintelligible. The only other good performance besides Jolie would be Daniel Olbrychski as Orlov but he is only in the film briefly on and off.

On a plus note the action is pretty awesome and you can tell that Jolie does her own stunts. That and the film has one really awesome kill move that will definitely be in my top 10 scenes of the year. It's creative, unique, brutal and it's badass to watch. It still doesn't make up for the crap writing or acting but it's pretty awesome.

Despite all my negative ranting about the film it wasn't terrible. Jolie is a good actress, the action is nonstop and intense and it's not overly long. The film suffers from bad writing and sub-par acting but if you want action with a hot chick, you get action with a hot chick. At least worth a rental.


(PS: If you want the nitty gritty it's like a better version of Tomb Raider...if that helps)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What's the most resilient parasite? An Idea...

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

In Stephen King's 2009 sci-fi novel "Under the Dome" he starts one chapter by saying that the worst kind of virus is an idea. He explains that it grows in people's minds until it can no longer be contained and the idea either evaporates or explodes out of the person. The first lines out of Leonardo DiCaprio's mouth in the film Inception is about the virus known as an idea. An idea is truly a scary thing to have because you don't sometimes know the weight of the consequences it may have on somebody. That is both shown and explained in this film.

Ideas are a major driving force of Inception but the biggest force would have to be dreams. This entire film is based around dreams, stealing in dreams, planting ideas in dreams, waking up from dreams, establishing what is and isn't a dream and creating a dream. Christopher Nolan, who seems to now be the "OMG" director of the 21st century with films like The Prestige and the two recent Batman films, has had a lot of time to create his dreamsterpiece.

In 2000 Nolan had started writing a script about dream stealing. Nolan has always been fascinated with the mind and it's shown in his previous films, especially the now famous Memento. He had always thought about dreams and how we hold onto dreams and how we create dreams and the idea of sharing and exploiting dreams. 80 pages later he had a rough draft of a script. He presented it in 2001 to Warner Bros. but decided against making the film. Why?

Like James Cameron he needed time. Time to truly create a masterpiece, time for great actors and actresses to reveal themselves, time to let technology reach the levels he needed and time to gain experience and fame as a writer and director. And after directing the Batman films and The Prestige he finally decided it was time to make the film. He added and tweaked around the script a little, changing it from a horror film to a heist film and then into a thriller/surreal/sci-fi/heist film, and started putting together a team of actors and actresses to play in what he thought might be his masterpiece.

The first person he signed was Leonardo DiCaprio. An actor who I think personally desperately needs an Oscar and who has shown amazing growth and depth as an actor, it was no surprise Nolan wanted him. And with Shutter Island earlier this year, it only added more momentum to this film with his involvement. After that, and with Nolan being a big name in Hollywood now, he cast the rest of the film. They got Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Tom Berenger, Tileep Rao and Nolan regulars Michael Caine, Cillian Murphy, and Ken Watanabe.

From there they started shooting, traveling all over the world. From Japan, to L.A, to Paris and even Tangier, this film got around. With the help of regular cinematographer Wally Pfister, editor Lee Smith and composer Hans Zimmer they were able to create a film that looked and sounded amazing.

With the film finished they started the ad campaigns. Starting off subtle, the anticipation and hype grew to a fever pitch. And with reviews from Rolling Stones calling it one of the best of the year and a lot of my blogging buddies saying exactly the same thing, it was a little hard not to have high hopes for this film. Nolan had set a standard for quality and I couldn't except anything less than awesome from him. Well is it awesome? Yes...yes it is.

I usually try to keep my plot summaries short unless I'm spoiling the plot of the film. Well I'm not going to spoil the film but instead give the short plot overview followed by an explanation of some of the ideas this film presents, trying to stay relatively spoiler free.

The film follows Dom Cobb (DiCaprio and little note Nolan's first film featured a character named Cobb) an extractor who specializes in security but also steals ideas and thoughts from other people, particularly his clients. A businessman named Saito offers them a job, a job which could prove to help Cobb get his life back of track, but like every good movie it's not easy. The job is an inception and Cobb can't do it alone. So with Saito, Cobb hires Point Man and partner Arthur (Gordon-Levitt), architect Ariadne (Page), forger Eames (Hardy) and chemist Yusuf (Rao). Their mark is the son of a prominent business man (Murphy) and they are planting the idea that he should dismantle his father's empire.

First I'll explain the jobs:
Extractor-takes the ideas
Point Man- researches targets
Architect- constructs the world of the dream
Forger- becomes another person within the dream world to get information out of the target
Chemist- formulates the sedative that helps them sleep and dream within dreams

Now an Inception-
An inception is when you plant an idea in somebodies head without them realizing it so that the idea will appear to be their own. This allows the idea to grow within the person and become the person's idea and his idea if they were never there.

But how do they wake up?
To wake up from the dream they must experience a "kick." That means you feel something that causes your body to involuntarily react. This could be water to the face, tipping in a chair, or hitting something really hard.

It sounds complicated and twisted but it really isn't. To some that's a negative but I actually see it as a positive. This movie could have taken a more complicated approach but I think that would have made the film really hard to follow and could have left the general audience scratching their heads. Inception makes you think, and you will think (and probably talk about this film for days on end) but not too much. Does that make it a fault also? Yes. Part of me wishes he would have gone further with the ideas and his creation of this world. But for what he has I love it. The writing is awesome, the dialogue is awesome and I just loved every word on that script.

As for the effects I really don't have a lot of words except that they are awesome. The three parts that really show that well are the diner scene, the hotel hallway scene and the kick segments. The diner scene has the world around DiCaprio and Page exploding and popping while everything else is still. This is early in the film and it grabbed me automatically. The hotel hallway scene is just brilliance of picture and will probably be in my top scenes of the year. It's not the longest scene in the world but the way the camera moves and works, as well as the suspense and action of the fight scene as well as the dramatic conclusion make it all amazing to watch. It plays with slow motion in a way I haven't seen since The Matrix. And The kick segments are brilliant, especially towards the end.

In those segments it was always shifted into slow motion. The first time it's just kind of "Oh that's neat" but as the movie progresses it becomes an amazing effect and even creates a lot of tension towards the end. I noted the film as having layers of slow motion I haven't seen before. "Slowest motion," "Really Slow Motion," "Slower Motion" and "Slow Motion." All of it is great and adds a lot to the film. A lot of work was put into those effects.

Now a film can be pretty and well written but without good acting it is nothing. So does the acting deliver? I think so. DiCaprio continues to prove he NEEDS an Oscar by giving a great performance as Dom. He is a tortured character and DiCaprio delivers on all cylinders. Gordon-Levitt is awesome as the "straight man" of the group although he does get a few laughs out of me. Cotillard is surprisingly good as Mal being both beautiful and haunting. Murphy is typical Murphy and Wantabe is typical Wantabe. Page delivers her typical straight faced, somewhat sarcastic but lovable performance but I actually thought she did quite well.

The big surprise for me was Tom Hardy. I've always liked Hardy but never really noticed him. He was just "that suave British actor with a pouty lip and a sharp wit." In this film he is electric and totally engaging to watch. His chemistry with all the characters (especially Gordon-Levitt) is great and his little quips are fun to listen to. He's also a total badass. Overall though the acting is extremely solid and well done.

As for faults this film has a few. There are some plot inconsistencies, the film could have been shorter, the idea could have been taken farther (as mentioned before), the film turns into a pure action film halfway through (not a big problem for me but still) and the ending is great but it pisses me off as well. I'm not going to spoil it but I certainly went "GAH!!" Overall though these faults are minimal since I had an awesome time watching this film.

So is Inception the best movie ever? No. Is it one of, if not the best film so far of 2010? Yes. Should you see it? Most definitely. Don't miss this summer blockbuster masterpiece.


Monday, July 19, 2010

You're going to be a force for good and a very important sorcerer. But for now, you're my apprentice

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

The earliest film I ever remember watching in the theaters was the Disney classic (and still one of my favorite films to this day) The Lion King. After that, besides religious viewing of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Wars, all I ever watched was Disney movies. And despite loving most of them, the one that always stuck out to me for some odd reason was Fantasia. It was so different from any other film I had seen that it intrigued me from the get-go. The music, not a written story, guided the film and for that, even at a young age, I could appreciate that on a deeper level. My favorite scene from that movie though, or at least the one I could remember the most clearly, was The Sorcerer's Apprentice. Maybe it was Mickie's involvement or the whole spectacle of the thing but it's still stuck in my mind to this day.

So when I heard that Disney had decided to make a live action movie loosely based on that segment I was intrigued. When the crew from National Treasure (Bruckheimer, Turteltaub and Nic Cage) attached itself to the film my intrigue slowly transformed into confusion. But nevertheless the film looked interesting enough so I decided to give it a look.
The story follows Balthazar and Dave. Balthazar (Nic Cage) is an apprentice of Merlin who, in 740 AD, imprisoned an evil witch named Morgana in a magical prison called the Grimhold and was given the task of protecting the Grimhold whilst finding the Prime Merlinian aka the person who would be the successor to Merlin himself. Besides Morganians (the people who want to release Morgana) Balthazar's major threat to the safety of the Grimhold is Horvath (Alfred Molina), a former apprentice and Morgana's partner in crime.

In 2000, Balthazar encounters Dave and gives him a dragon ring which is used as the indicator for the Prime Merlinian. The ring attaches itself to Dave but before Balthazar can do anything, Dave accidentally releases Horvath from the Grimhold (he'd been imprisoned in there) and Balthazar and Horvath are both imprisoned in an urn for ten years. Ten years later Dave (Jay Baruchel) is in college and is confronted by an angry Horvath who demands the Grimhold. Dave throws the Grimhold away and is saved by Balthazar. Now it's up to Balthazar and Dave to retrieve the Grimhold, or at least keep it away from Horvath and all the while Balthazar must teach Dave magic since he could very well be the chosen one.

(My Google spelling exploded while I was trying to write those last two paragraphs. Oddly enough Morgana was the only odd name that didn't get the wrong spelling red line. Huh...)
I don't really have any major qualms with the story to be completely honest. It's nothing that we haven't seen before (training, finding oneself, fighting bad guys) but it was interesting and it kept my interest throughout the whole film so for that I give it credit. It also did provide some laughs but oddly enough not many from Cage. Cage tends to be a comedy goldmine whether he means to be or not but he's a much more subdued Cage then I've seen in recent memory. Instead Baruchel delivers a lot of the laughs. Then again when you sound like Christian Slater Jr and you have as good of a comedic timing as him then whatever you say tends to be funny. And I liked the nods to Fantasia, albeit brief and the re-do of the original scene with the brooms was definitely impressive.

My major problem with the movie actually isn't the movies fault I think. I just wasn't blown away by the whole thing. The acting was good, the effects were pretty, albeit cheap looking on occasion, and the story was good but I just wasn't blown away by the whole thing. It was supposed to be this epic blockbuster in yet it ended up just being a decent fantasy film. I could blame Cage for not overacting the heck out of  his role but sometimes his overacting isn't necessary for a film to be good. Molina was a good villain, but I never really truly felt threatened by him. Maybe it was just me.
Sorcerer's Apprentice is not a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination, but just not that great either. All the parts work fine but I just never felt that sense of excitement that I feel the film was really going for. If you happen to catch it on TV then give it a look, otherwise I'd wait on this one.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

We needed to be here. Our kids were turning into little brats.

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

Comedians who are past their prime are hard to watch. There are those who are on the verge like Jim Carey and Robin Williams, but both still have some juice left in them. On the other side of the coin you got Mike Meyers and Eddie Murphy who are so past their prime that they are just withered plants stinking up the joint. I'm not the only one who thinks that though. Ask anybody and they will tell you that both of them are waay past their prime.

But then there is this group of comedians. They are an odd assortment of comedians, with three distinct groups seperating each of them: the stand up comedians turned A-List actors (Chris Rock and Adam Sandler), the comedian turned TV superstar but hasn't made a good thing since the show ended (Kevin James) and the unfunny comedians who you want to go away but won't (David Spade and Rob Schneider). So it's funny when you put all of these guys together in a movie because you get that odd mix of comedy that's both fun AND painful to watch.
Grown Ups was probably written on a used cocktail napkin one night when Adam Sandler and Chris Rock were having drinks. "What if we get five best friends together and have them meet each others families?" That's the basic idea of this film. Lenny, Eric, Kurt, Marcus and Rob are five best friends. When their basketball coach and mentor passes away, they all go to a lake house to mourn, spread the ashes, and spend some quality time together. All five of them are goofballs and all five have very different personalities and family types.

That's really it. I'm pretty sure the majority of the film was improvised and the plot basically worked as a vessel for these comedians to tell their jokes or their little quips at each others expense. There's not much development, character or plot-wise, but a good number of the jokes work and got a laugh out of me. Then again though, when you have two really funny actors and one kinda funny actor telling constant jokes, I guess you really don't need a WHOLE LOTTA PLOT.

The acting is what you'd expect with these actors. Sandler is entertaining, funny and sweet when he needs to be. Chris Rock is hilarious playing outside of his comfort zone as an effeminate stay at home dad (not gay though). Kevin James is hit and miss but funny in his more physical humor (like the pictured rope swing scene). Schneider is gruesome to watch and Spade is snarky, boring and unfunny. The rest of the cast is just as varied but overall works for the most part.

I wouldn't NOT recommend this film. It's decently funny, has heart, and some good performances. If you don't mind giving up plot and dealing with two unfunny actors, then you will probably get a kick out of this movie. A good rental comedy.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

You will not cry, or sneeze or barf or fart! No annoying sounds.

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

Universal Studios and animation newcomers Illumination Entertainment have teamed up to create what they think will be the family hit film of the year. While Toy Story 3 has been a big hit both commercially and critically, Universal thinks, or must think, they got the edge with Despicable Me due to Universal's domination of the airwaves and the fact that it's a new series and not already an established series. Ever since Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Despicable Me has been everywhere. Posters, toys, video games, appearances on television shows, banners on tour buses, costumed characters at Universal Studios take your pick. Despicable Me has been in the hearts and minds of people for a long time and yet now the film is out. So does it stand out in the sea of animated films? Was the nonstop exposure for good reason? Well I can certainly tell you it was. Despicable Me is a refreshing, cute and entertaining animated film and a must see for kids and adults alike.

The plot of Despicable Me follows the exploits of Gru (Steve Carrel). Gru is a supervillian but apparently not a very good one. Every now and again his exploits work, but most of the time things seem to backfire on him. But his crack staff of an old, almost deaf scientist (Russel Brand) and army of minions keep building the weapons and gadgets, even if they don't work or are extremely impractical.

One day Gru gets the idea that he must steal the moon, which he considers to be the most evil thing anyone has ever done. He's also got a personal vendetta with the moon, since when he was young he had dreams of being an astronaut, but that never panned out. But the bank won't fund him, his fame is being overshadowed by a new villain Vector (Jason Segal) and he's now got three orphaned children to take care of (Granted it was his fault for not realizing three young children are a handfull). Needless to say things aren't easy for our hero(?) but he's doing all he can to meet deadline and become better than Vector.

The animation is really well done in this film. It's bright, colorful, the 3-D adds some nice depth and effects and it has the feeling of a Pixar film gone Looney Toons. Basically this was a fun film on the eyes. The writing is extremely solid although I feel a few filler scenes could have been cut out. What really helps the writing though is the fabulous acting, especially from Steve Carrell and Russel Brand. Carell is a great Ricardo Montoban/Bella Lugosi/James Bond Villain mix and he is very funny, intimidating, and heartwarming. Russel Brand is very subdued and proper, something I've never seen, and he provides a lot of great lines too. Jason Seagal and the rest of the cast are great, with most of the cast being established comedians.

If you want great family fun, comedy that both kids and adults will love and a heartwarming moral than give this a shot. It's better than you think it'll me on that one.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Jack of All Trades PLAY BY PLAY Episode 10: Dead Woman Walking

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

Here is part 2 of Day 5, the spooky episode 10 "Dead Woman Walking."

Jack of All Trades PLAY BY PLAY Episode 9: Croque for a Day

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

Welcome to Day 5 of Jack of All Trades Play by Play. Due to reasons beyond my grasp I will not be able to do Day 6 and onward. I have more reviews coming and certainly I will finish both Brisco County Jr and Jack of All Trades before the month of July is up but due to not being by a computer for a long time as well as a lack of resources (screen caps, Windows Paint) I will have a tough time posting. I could always due a pictureless version but it wouldn't be the same. So if you're willing to give me a chance I will have all of it done by the end of the me. But I have Day 5 ready and more reviews scheduled to be released so let's start with Episode 9 entitled "Croque for a Day."

It's always lightest...before the dark

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

Films based on older books tend to be hit or miss for me sometimes. Unless you can be faithfully updated to today's times then sometimes you have to work with what you have and hope for the best. The Killer Inside Me is very much the 1950s and a lot of the films essence comes from it being a period piece. The original novel was such a great example of a much simpler time and that horrible things still happened then as they do now. It also was one of the best first person narratives involving a serial killer I have ever read. I would be willing to bet Dexter, The Shining and all of those books/films/shows took some influence from that novel.

The book also had a level of brutality that you don't see in other novels. A nihilistic, evil brutality that is as uncomfortable to read as it ends up being to watch. It's not Saw extravagant or Seed/Hostel methodical, it's just simple human brutality. And if you want to adapt the book correctly into a film then it becomes a hard film to sell. Many studios and many directors have tried to create this film but each having to drop out for different reasons.

Eventually though Michael Winterbottom was given the task of writing and directing the film along with John Curran. They had many actors in mind to play the different parts but eventually they settled on Casey Affleck as the lead and Kate Hudson and Jessica Alba as the love interests. And boy was the movie better for that. But I'll get to that shortly, first what is the film about?
The film is about Lou Ford, a small town sheriff who to everybody else seems like a great stand up guy whose a complete gentlemen to everybody he meets. He says yes sir and no sir and if you asked anybody they would say he is one of the greatest friends you could ever have. Lou is also stands up for what is right and values laws and rules. He doesn't tolerate cheaters and hates fake people. But Lou also has a sickness that eats away at him...he loves to beat and rape women. Why? Nobody knows and nobody will ever know. But sometimes if he is pushed hard enough or it becomes convenient to his own needs he will snap and start hitting.

Lou is currently working on a case involving a hooker who has been sleeping with the town, most notably the big bossman's son. The bossman, the cops, the union leader and practically everybody want Lou to handle the situation. But when Lou falls for the hooker and 10,000 dollars comes into play it becomes more "What does Lou want" and less "What does everybody else want?"

The acting is superb in this film, especially from lead Casey Affleck. He still looks and sounds 14 but he is a joy to watch. He embodies a killer and that dual personality that comes with it. You see remorse, no remorse and total apathy all within a matter of minutes. What makes Affleck great though is the way he works with the small. He is a very reserved character and he can get over all of his emotion with just a twitch of the lip, a blink of an eye or a stare off in the corner. He BECOMES Lou Ford and it is both brilliant and disturbing to see. All the other actors are good as well but are overshadowed by Affleck, which I think was the point. But they all do their job well and are all quite believable in their roles.

The writing, cinematography and costume/make-up design is also brilliant as well. The film feels like a half an hour when it's really an hour and 40. Some people may not like the slow pacing but it's written in such a way where slow works and really adds to the tension and the oncoming brutality. I have nothing bad to say about this movie.

It is a controversial film that will be hated by a lot of people. But the great writing and Affleck make this a film that I won't forget for a long time. A true contender for best film of the year.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Jack of All Trades PLAY BY PLAY Episode 8: One Wedding and an Execution

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

Day 4 Part 2. Episode 8 Titled "One Wedding and an Execution."

Jack of All Trades PLAY BY PLAY Episode 7: Daddy Dearest

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

Welcome to Day 4 of Jack of All Trades where we will be covering two episodes focused heavily on Emilia as well as Emilia and Jack's relationship. The first one focuses on Emilia's family and is Episode 7 entitled "Daddy Dearest."

We're busting out of here...tonight.

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

As a child of the 90s I grew up with the Toy Story series. They weren't the deepest films like future Pixar films would end up being like but they were full of great action, adventure and plenty of imagination. It was a unique and original series and set up Pixar to be a great company.

Well it's been a while since we've seen the adventures of Woody and Buzz on the big screen. Buzz has had some popularity with a small screen tv series and cameo appearances in other Pixar films but Woody has been fairly absent. Woody appeared in countless Disney based video games and a Disneyland ride but has otherwise been pretty quiet compared to Buzz. Either way it wasn't until last year's re-release of the first two films as a 3-D double feature had we seen them on the big screen together. Now that the third one is here did it live up to the promise of the previous two? Is it as good or better than other Pixar movies? Well I can tell you Toy Story 3 DOES live up to the promise of the first two and IS on par with other Pixar films, if not on the deepest level.
Andy is going to college. That's right, the little boy is now an adult and is ready to move out. Most of the original toys have been sold or donated but there are a few toys left that Andy couldn't bring himself to get rid of. But the toys, despite being the chosen few, still feel left out and unused, like Andy doesn't care. They come to terms with going into "attic mode" but when Andy mistakingly puts all the toys except Woody in a garbage bag, the toys freak out and decide that they would rather be donated. Because of plot conveniences, all the toys, including Woody, all end up at Sunnyside Daycare Center.

Sunnyside seems like a great place where toys are never forgotten and treated greatly. It seems to be run by kind and caring people who put other toys needs before themselves. Well it all turns out to be a fallacy and a majority of the film ends up being Prison Break: Toy Edition.

It's written by the same guy who made Little Miss Sunshine and it tells. The film has that child-like wonder and imagination that the previous films had, but it's also much more mature in terms of themes and even when it comes to some of the stuff that happens in the film. I can definitely say there were a few times where I was wondering if this was really G rated. It's really well written, really well crafted and the ending is truly brilliant. If they make a Toy Story 4 I think I will truly be devastated. The ending was that strong and added a level of closure you don't see in a lot of series ends.

The acting is top notch as per usual with Pixar films. Tom Hanks is great as Woody and Tim Allen is amazing as Buzz. Hanks adds true emotional depth with Woody and it shows that Hanks really cares about his character. Tim Allen had a tough time since he goes through a lot of mood changes in the film but he is great as always, funny when he needs to be, serious when he needs to be, good job overall. All the other actors are great too and I can't pick one performance that lacked. Quality Pixar voice work.

The effects and animation are beautiful as always and the 3-D isn't revolutionary but it does add nice depth and doesn't detract from the film. A rare thing in most modern 3-D films.

Is it a great film? Yes. Is it the best of the year? Not sure yet. But it is definitely the best family film you will see all year.


Also the short at the beginning was one of the best shorts ever...just saying

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Jack of All Trades PLAY BY PLAY Episode 6: Raging Bully

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

It's now time for part 2 of Day 3 which involves one of my favorite episodes of the entire series. The episode is episode 6 and is entitled "Raging Bully."

Jack of All Trades PLAY BY PLAY Episode 5: The People's Dragoon

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no else will see it, I will.

Today is Day 3 of our coverage of Jack of All Trades and it will be covering a decent episode and one of my favorite episodes. First up is the decent one: Episode 5 entitled "The People's Dragoon."

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Jack of All Trades PLAY BY PLAY Episode 4: Once You Go Jack

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

Now it's time for Part 2 of Day 2 of my coverage of Jack of All Trades: Episode 4. Episode 4 is entitled "Once You Go Jack..."

Jack of All Trades PLAY BY PLAY Episode 3: The Floundering Father

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

Moving into Day 2 of our coverage we will be covering Episode 3 and 4. But first we will start with Episode 3 entitled The Floundering Father.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Jack of All Trades PLAY BY PLAY Episode 2: Sex and the Single Spy

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

Now it is time to look at Episode 2 which is entitled "Sex and the Single Spy."

Jack Of All Trades PLAY BY PLAY Episode 1: Return of the Dragoon

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

Today begins Day 1 of my Play by Play of Jack of All Trades, Bruce Campbell's highly underrated and hilarious show that only made it 22 episodes. If you want more info on what's going on then check out the intro. But for now let's start with episode 1

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Jack of All Trades PLAY BY PLAY Intro

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

Hey everybody starting tomorrow I will begin a 25 day long tribute to one of the most underrated actors of all time: Bruce Campbell. This won't be like the Christopher Walken month where I review his filmography (or pathetically attempt to) or articles about his greatness because you can find both all over the internet. That and I want to save the Evil Dead and his B-Movie sci-fi/horror films for my October horror month. Instead I plan on reviewing his two big hit TV shows that weren't watched by anyone until after they were cancelled (aka my reason for not covering Burn Notice): Jack of all Trades and The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

It was not by chance that for generations people have been searching for him, and now you have found him. You're destinies are tied, Zuko.

Hello I'm the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

I'm really at a loss for words right now. For the first time in a very long time I feel absolutely nothing about a film. Peg it as apathy or indifference but either way M. Night Shyamalan's new film "The Last Airbender" is probably my pick for worst movie of the year. Not because of quality or writing or any of that but because it didn't invoke anything within me. When a movie is great you feel all warm and fuzzy inside or you feel refreshed. When you see a bad movie your side hurts from laughing or you feel rage of some sort. As soon as the credits started rolling for this film I just stood up and walked out. I didn't say anything, I didn't do anything, I just walked out and went on with my life. I joke about it and I hear others joke about it but I seriously think I now know what wasting 103 minutes of your life means.

If it sounds like I'm being too harsh I'm not. Out of that 103 minutes I was probably interested for about 6-7. And that was a fight scene about midway through the film. In it, two characters fight a group of soldiers. There isn't any super special effects (besides a little bending and flying) and instead it took a page out of Zack Synder's handbook by using the slow-fast-slow motion fighting sequence. It was interesting, it was choreographed a lot better than the rest of the movie and it was interesting. But like every other time I almost got interested in this film it ended prematurely.

Well better get into the plot...but trust me I have more complaints.
The story is an adaptation of the first season of the Nickelodeon show Avatar: The Last Airbender. If you know the show, skip the next two paragraphs, if not I'll elaborate. There is a world. In that world there are benders. Benders are people who control and can manipulate the elements. Air, Water, Earth, and Fire. Ruling over them and acting as a pope like connection between this world and the spirit world was the avatar. The avatar controls all of the elements as well as being that connection. Once the current avatar dies he is reincarnated and the process begins again.

The current avatar disappeared 100 years ago and in that time the Fire nation being the hotheads they are (ba dum pish) decided to take over. One day, two young kids from the water nation find something in the ice. As it turns out, it's the avatar who had been frozen in time for 100 years in a block of ice. The avatar's name is Aang and he has a pet Appa who is a flying bison. Together the three of them go on a journey to stop the fire nation and help Aang reach his true potential. While all this is happening, the Fire Lord is sending troops out to look for the avatar and his own son Zuko, who had been banished for insubordination, is looking for him as well.

That may sound interesting on paper but in execution it is yawn enducing and boring. The beginning stuff is a text scroll and the film pretty much plays out:

-Find kid
-Go back to village where kid gets captured only to casually break out
-Kid and other two travel stopping every 10 or so minutes to have a brief fight scene or a flashback heavy crying or sulking time
-Angry kid and uncle look and angry kid is brooding, mysterious and has his heart in the right place
-Evil man wants angry kid AND kid out of picture
-Mild fight scenes and exposition
-Set-up for sequel

It's so mundane, lazy and boring. The backgrounds look like sets or backdrops, the special effects are hit and miss and when they hit it looks like a minor annoyance rather than a punch of energy, and 99% of the fight scenes look like something out of Power Rangers. I'm serious...they had a 150,000,000 dollar budget and it looks like they used it all on two scenes and those only lasted 10.5 minutes. And while those are impressive, they don't really have any impact or force and mean nothing. I seriously went home and watched Power Rangers and it had better fights and effects.

The writing is dull and full of useless padding, the characters are unlikeable and you feel no emotion for any of them and when anything happens it's just meh. I yawned more times during this film then I have in years. The acting is stiff and wooden and everyone phoned it in. Dev Patel who played Zuko was okay acting wise...but lacked any heart or passion so he sucked too.

Honestly everything besides 1 fight scene and two special effects sucked...So that's 17.5 minutes. Minus the 10.5 since besides the effects I was bored and your back to 7 minutes of caring and even that's being generous.

I didn't hate this movie...I just didn't care. M. Night sure didn't care about the film so why should I. I will say it gets a new rating maybe that's something good going for it. But seriously skip this movie.