Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Up In The Air

As with all of Jason Reitman's movies they are very talk heavy complimented with smooth and artistic photography. Since I saw "Thank you For Smoking" I have always liked Jason Reitman as a director/writer and even producer. He writes simple dialog, but uses them in an extraordinary manner. I can see people dropping quotes from his work left and right. Sometimes things will edge people a little bit, but he has a way of making it seem like everyone is in on the same joke as not to offend anyone.

Latest from our hero behind the camera is "Up In The Air" which has been getting a lot of buzz ever since buzz about it started well....buzzing.
We have the suave and integrity oozing George Clooney scoring top billing in this dramedy about a company downsizing expert Ryan Bingham who gets flown around the country and is hired by company bosses to fire employees because they are too chicken shit to it themselves. This is a pretty good gig to get if you love flying, travelling around the country for over 315 days of the year, leaving you with roughly 40 days to yourself to go home and spend time with your family or whomever it is you've got to retire to at the end of the day. - In some cases that may not be anyone at all. - That's nearly the case here with Mr. Bingham as he really doesn't care to ensure time along with his family. He is quite content in being a skip down the block work-a-holic.

He does however attempt to make a connection with another downsizing expert Alex (played by Vera Farmiga, whom I don't really care for as an actress. Her choices of roles reminds me of Amanda Peet. They both seem to take on these promiscuous roles where if they can show off how skanky they are, they're on board! How Farmiga got cast in Scorsese's "The Departed" is quite beyond me. All though she was bad ass in "Running Scared".)

Back to our synopsis, they both have roughly the same job and have to make arrangements throughout the month for where and when they can meet up to enjoy each other's company primarily on the physical level. This proves to work very well in the screenplay as a subplot. Mr. Ryan Bingham is addled by his superior (played by the always entertaining Jason Bateman) to take on a protege Natalie Keener (played by Anna Kendrick). This is where everything gets a little cliche with Ryan taking on the younger, attractive nose to the grind stone-hard working rookie and there are of course laughs aplenty as she stumbles and retrieves herself throughout her learning experience with the stereotyping and proud of it, Bingham. But that's okay! Its okay because they are making this a movie about finding connections with people they are firing/letting go and within themselves. I am not spoiling anything from your film experience for this movie, believe me. There is a lot in this movie to appreciate. These are just some of the finer points that help the characters get by.

Aside from the character development, Reitman gets you the feel of taking an airplane. They get into the step by step process of taking a trip. Everything from packing your bags, zipping them up, rolling them into the airport, arriving to hand in your ticket, pick up your boarding pass and go through security handling before headed onto the plane. Wonderful work is done here. Truly engaging and thought provoking for anyone and everyone that has ever lost a job, fired someone from a job and even starting your life over once there is nothing left in it. Speaking both figuratively and literally.

Clooney doesn't seem awkward in this role at all. He meshes so well with his character you feel and even understand his daunting philosophies about love and marriage and how absent he is of all these thoughts and emotions. He's a work-a-holic and proud of it. Even if he has to fire a few people in the process.

Anna Kendrick is stellar in her breakthrough performance. She's apparently also been in the "Twilight" films up to date with "New Moon". I can imagine getting a gig with "The Clooney" must've been quite overwhelming. But she handles herself very well and makes the most out of her screen time. Complimented by her stunning good looks is her acting talent. She seems nervous enough as a protege to Bingham, but not as an actress to Clooney.

Directed and written by Jason Reitman (of "Thank You For Smoking" and "Juno" fame.) Starring George Clooney, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman and Vera Farmiga.

I love the dark humor made about the internet here. Very subtle yet classy. In this day and age, I think most people should pay proper attention to those "messages" being touched upon. Pun intended.

Cine-a-meter rating: 4.5/5

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Matrix

The Wachowski's formally known as the Wachowski brothers, wrote and directed "The Matrix" back in 1999. Ten years ago now.

To say that "The Matrix" is a great movie is a significant understatement. Science fiction is one of the most difficult genres in which to establish innovation or advancement. Not only did the Wachowski's blow people's minds with creating bullet time , but they provided a sense of storytelling that was unseen and unmatched. Our movie opens with green code and eavesdropping on a conversation between Cypher (Joe Pantoliano) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) where a "click" in the phone leads Trinity to believe their conversation may be being tapped. Off sets into motion an attempted capture of Trinity by a group of police officers in The Matrix as it is known.

We realize that she is a master of the martial arts, running and jumping. Though when being chased by an Agent, this proves to do little help without sheer luck of having a phone nearby in order to escape via the system.

Aside from that, we enter upon Mr. Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves). Occupation: computer programmer for a decent computer company. At night however he is an avid computer hacker going by the hacker name: Neo. It is here that it starts under adamant advisory from the father like figure Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) leads a group of freedom fighters that he believes that Neo is the one (prophet-like unbeknownst hero, think Harry Potter) to save the entire human race from being taken over by the machines and farmed for their energy to fuel the race of machines. - Pretty intense stuff.

Through the movie, anytime they are plugged into the Matrix, there is a green tint symbolizing the cloud over their eyes. That they are are slaves in the their own life and not even knowing it. Machines/computers have designed the Matrix to keeps people at bay while they harvest them for survival. Of course Morpheus and the people he saved aren't having any of this! They have their own way of exiting the Matrix and living in the "real world" where they can jack into the Matix ironically with with machines and use computer programming to program themselves to look certain ways i.e. slick hair, leather clothes and sunglasses and be professionally trained in martial arts, use of artillery (lots and lots of iron!!!) even how to operate a helicopter or other vehicles of choice. The possibilities are absolutely endless. But learning to use them is not all candy and popcorn. There are brutal and exquisite training sessions that make you understand that they are preparing themselves inch by inch for war and cannot leave anything to chance.

There are Agents who are basically men in black who are very strong and sadistically dangerous. The leader of Agents featured here are led by Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving's big break) who absolutely terrorize our heroes in action. In fact, it is strong advised that if they ever run into an Agent, they are to "Run. Run your ass off." They will take you apart no matter what fighting skills you have, and they delve into this fantastically which is where the introduction of bullet time came into existence. Even by today's standards, "The Matrix" is still one of the best movies ever made. In any genre. But the fact that they actually touched upon something new and brilliant is a prize on its own.

Stellar storyline and storytelling. Excellent characterization. Top of the line action sequences. - Too bad the sequels did not measure up even nearly....

Regardless, a landmark film that evolutionized the science fiction/action genre and will even with repeat viewings, never loses its magic. Bravo Wachowski's.

Directed by the Wachowski's. Starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving and Joe Pantoliano.

Cine-a-meter rating: 5/5

***May contain spoilers or hints to the original Boondock Saints movie***

After a ten year hiatus, The Boondock Saints are back after being called out from the murder of priest in a church. The calling card comes from the execution style of the murder; arms crossed over the chest, two shots to the back of the head and coins laid upon the eyes.

The films opens with an opinionated monologue delivered from Rocco a character from the previous film. Getting the audience to understand that there are two types of people in the world. Talkers and doers. Its pretty self explanatory the characteristics of each type. Its also quite obvious that our heroes known as "The Saints" in the plot line of the movie are doers. Since they go out and execute mobsters left and right, making a difference in the world. - Ensuing them as doing something about crime in their city i.e world.

This chapter seems a little more commercialized than the last one, but not too much so. In fact, it keeps quite faithful the original's lay out of characters and work habits and even tempers.

Willem Dafoe is absent this time around as the lead F.B.I. investigator only to be replaced with the alpha female F.B.I. "Special" Agent Bloom brought in to distinguish if it was in fact "The Saints" who murdered the priest, or if it was a set up or something else. Luckily our new detective knows her shit when its comes to drafting a crime scene. Although this time around, particular attention to detail of crime scene investigating is toned down. I think this is good because although this is "Boondock Saints 2" we still do not want a remake of the first. What is thought to have happened and what REALLY happened are this time spliced together into the scene giving a less appealing effect as the first one did, but still innovative and fun to get caught up in all the same.

The main goal in the first act from the police force and F.B.I. "Special" Agent Eunice Bloom is to establish if in fact the "The Saints" will be coming back to exact vengeance on a brave but stupid souls that called them out. The Boondock Saints even get themselves a third musketeer if you will in this as well. A Spanish street fighter whose clumsy but reliable.

Without giving away too much of the story, The Duke retains his post here in much different fashion and we get into his back story more to understand what he ended up in prison for in the first place. While that story line is somewhat convoluted, it still rings up for a good story intertwined with the Saints. Since this directed by Troy Duffy again, and has most of the same cast as the first one, a lot of jokes are referenced and plot lines are touched upon as to keep the audience thats part of the cult following engaged.

This is a good sequel to the original. It was well worth the wait. Also, as a stand alone movie for those of you who are not familiar with the original Boondock Saints (shame on all of you! j/k) you can grasp the concept of what these men are and why they do what they do just the same. Only thing that is lacking is the "true magic" of the original that I don't believe is necessarily lost in this picture, but simply not as strong.

Directed by Troy Duffy. Starring Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus, Julie Benz, Clifton Collins, Jr and Billy Connolly.

Cine-a-meter rating: 4/5

The Boondock Saints

Connor McManus (Sean Patrick Flanery) and Murphy McManus (Norman Reedus) are two brothers residing in Boston, MS who are gun men who in the name of the Father are hell bent (pun intended) on ridding their city of evil i.e. the mob that's made the mistake stirring up trouble on their favorite Irish pub on St. Patty's Day no less.

They always say a prayer before executing their last and most important target. Usually the boss. This ensures that God knows this is done for good and not bad. Also to ensure the "soul" of the victim gets proper attention once they've done their deed. It doesn't end there however. Once assassinated, our heroes lay coins on the eyes of their prey to ensure that the ferry man can be paid to take their soul to the other side. Otherwise their soul would be left in purgatory. Leaving their death to be in vain.

F.B.I. Agent Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe) is called in investigate the first "incident" that involves the homicide of two Russian mob soldiers in an alley way with awkward conditions which have the Boston police for scrambling for answers and coming up with laughable conclusions.

Agent Smecker is sharp. He has what is known in the industry to be "soft eyes". He arrives at a crime scene, snaps on his rubber gloves, jacks on his headphones and engulfs himself in his classical music so he can concentrate on what he needs to find to crack the case. He's does so with such grace and finesse that he puts the rest of the officers on the scene to shame. He's even got some quirky chemistry with one of the more egotistical detectives working the "The Saints" cases. It makes for great laughs and accentuation of analyzing the investigation which simply makes the storytelling even more acute.

A scene will begin with an instigation i.e. near the beginning of the movie the Russian mob soldiers as mentioned previously exchange words between the Irish pub patrons and are asking for trouble. The scene cuts to those same men all bandaged up and left for dead. Enters our clever FBI detective to explain how he thinks this all went down. Then we see how it all REALLY went down afterwards which makes for stellar and innovative action sequences.

There is plenty of music playing over the action as to provide appeal to the use of visual spectacle that otherwise might have been lost without the groove of a guitar heavy solo strumming over a .50 caliber shot to the body. Slow motion is used pristinely here as well to build suspense and also to wallow in the "orchestration" of the violence. When bodies are hit with shells, every movement of the body is captured and intertwined with the music at hand as to provide a way of reiterating the story to the audience as this is being shown in the past and present tenses. You have the director and editor to thank for this. They do a wonderful job of explaining why each shot happens, each person is killed and even how and why the scene looks the way it does.

The McManus brothers run into one of their acquaintances Rocco (David Della Rocco) right after they've executed a room full of armed mobsters and accept him into their facade to serve their own brand of street justice. Apparently he's a package delivery boy/funny man with the Italian mob and is now fully ready to make moves back onto the mob he's from. Since he knows where they hang out, live, play cards they have a great time setting up hits and efficiently wiping out the Boston mob scene.

At the same time, Agent Smecker is running around without clues and begins to wonder if maybe "The Saints" might have something worthwhile going on which leads to a very amusing scene in a Church confessional which I will not dare spoil here.

I will not lie to you. This movie is extremely violent and intensely graphic but at the same time.....Fun! Troy Duffy finds ways to set up scenes very similar to the way Quentin Tarantino did in "Pulp Fiction" where all your emotions are being pulled every which way at once. Laughter, fear and adrenaline all come into play at the exact same time. Being the viewer you sometimes can't help but love/hate the Boondock Saints for their zany yet iconic behavior.

When this was released in in 1999, it was around the time of the Columbine high school massacre and the big wigs at Maple Productions did not want to step on any toes due to the violent nature of the movie. So unfortunately this did not get very good distribution. In fact, according to IMDB, this was only released in 5 theaters in the United States for 1 week. It was only when this was released on video and DVD did this find its cult following.

Directed by Troy Duffy, starring Willem Dafoe, Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reemus and David Della Rocco.

***The long awaited sequel (ten years) has just been released and you can bet your bottom dollar that I will be posting a review of that one very soon.***

Cine-a-meter rating: 5/5

P.S. Watch for Willem Dafoe's facial expressions throughout the picture. You can tell he had a fuckin' blast making this. He completely absorbed his character right down the the fingertips.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Dark Knight

Superhero movies have always had their niche with movie goers. They are fun, flashy popcorn movies to gaga over usually whenever summer time comes around. Back in 2002, is when Sam Raimi's excellent "Spider-Man" was released and it made the biggest opening weekend ever of $114 million dollars. - That's a lot of money to rake in in just three days. It opened the doors for superhero movies to be taken seriously in this day and age and Hollywood execs were not oblivious to this. - In fact, this is when emails, cells phone and blackberry's the world over began lighting up like mad because everyone knew that the "superhero genre" was something that people wanted to see!! Every wants to see their favorite superhero's brought to life. But not just brought to life for the heck of seeing them on the silver screen, but to see it done properly.

Summer 2005, Christopher Nolan revamped the Batman film series wonderfully after Schmacher made a complete debauchery of Batman to the mass audiences in the last decade making people forget the true mythology of who and what the Batman is. - Now, it must be mentioned that Tim Burton's original 1989 version of Batman is still to this day an excellent movie. Nolan's set's up Batman from scratch and we get to see our masked avenger back in the dark night doing what he does best. (spoiler) The ending of "Batman Begins" superbly sets up the sequel with the find of the joker playing card - totally getting us wet for the next chapter. However, beyond my knowledge and even my expectations come summer 2008 when "The Dark Knight" was unveiled to public, I was not at all expecting to be as astonished as I was.

I proudly saw the 12:01am IMAX presentation of "The Dark Knight" and from the first frame where the mirrored building is being zoomed in on from a great distance quickly getting tighter and tighter on the full IMAX screen, I was hooked. You're literally being pulled into this world and scenario where an incredibly orchestrated bank heist is about to happen. Not just any bank heist, these fellows dressed in clown masks are stealing from Gotham City's mob. - Pretty balsy . Planning. planning. planning. Everything was planned by the most vicious villain ever to grace our minds - The Joker.

He's one man to not to be reckoned with, not to be underestimated and never, never ever to be judged - or he will show you a magic trick you will never forget!

The Joker gives our tortured soul Batman a.k.a. The Dark Knight choices. Choices that he must make. Choices he must live with whether he wants to or not. The pain is so intense you can understand how and why an entire city was brought to its knees by one man's power.

There is so much story and characterization to this movie that it simply cannot be wrapped up in a synopsis review. Nor will I try, for that will be doing this a great injustice. I have far too much respect for this movie. This movie is the next step in the evolution of cinema. Some, if not the darkest and most brilliant storytelling I've ever seen done through the medium of film takes place here. Christopher Nolan truly has taken film making to the "next level"; even other than his incredibly original "Memento". - Which blew me away too I might add.

Nolan pulled out all the stops with this one. Down to the sonar detection Batman utilizes via Lucius Fox's (Morgan Freeman) spectacular technology all the way to the insanity and disturbing ways The Joker retells how he got his scars and of course our white knight Harvey Dent/Two-Face (Aaron Eckhart). The pacing is superb. There are scenes when a character on screen realizes something just at the same time the audience does. Always keeping us going and keeping right there with the characters. Truly feeling what is happening in every moment. Even fear.

There is no doubt that Heath Ledger stole the show of his mesmerizing performance of The Joker, for which he was honored with a posthumous academy award for best supporting actor. Absolutely amazing. Anyone that believes this movie is less than a landmark in the history of cinema, well....they don't know shit. Plain and simple.

I can understand however if some people "just didn't understand it". This is a very complex story and takes your mind to outlandish places. But its perfection is almost haunting in its own degree. "Some men just want to watch the world burn" says Alfred, Bruce Wayne's butler. Summing up The Joker's intentions in a figurative nutshell. - Stunning writing.

This is the first film ever to use IMAX technology. According to the Christopher Nolan, IMAX cameras are very heavy machines to use and very noisy therefore making it very difficult to use when filming. But Mr. Nolan is a professional and understands this equipment very well so he knew what needed to be done in order to get it the way he needed. - Absolute perfection. IMAX never looked better than it did when I witnessed the masterpiece titled "The Dark Knight".

I've thought about this alot....could this be the greatest movie ever made? Possibly.....

Cine-a-Meter rating: 5/5

Directed by Christoper Nolan, written by Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan (brothers) and story by David S. Goyer.

Starring Christian Bale as The Dark Knight/Bruce Wayne, Heath Ledger as the The Joker, Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon and Aaron Eckhart as Two-Face/Harvey Dent.

Rest In Peace, Heath. I am sorry I ever doubted you.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Jennifer's Body

Last night was opening night for wide release of Megan Fox's first lead staring role "Jennifer's Body". The original poster for this was released early last year, which is quite the early buzz for movie which isn't a blockbuster epic.

Although this is not getting pretty reviews with critics, it really doesn't matter. "Jennifer's Body" is written by Diablo Cody who wrote the academy award winning screenplay for Juno. - which was great. I personally enjoyed this movie very much. This was a throwback to old school horror flicks from the 80's with better dialog thanks to Diablo. Movies of that genre are meant to be campy. Its just the way it is and people who watch them, understand that. This is a fun movie when it comes to being a high school movie about Jennifer Check, whose your regular man-eater (pun intended) who always gets asked out on dates and sex and barely ever declines. Her and her friend Needy (Amanda Seyfriend - who shines in her role and gets the opportunity to provide V.O.) gets caught up with an indie rock band (played by front man Adam Brody) who refer to Satan to get better opportunity to have their band grow forth. - In order to do this, they must sacrifice a virgin teenage girl i.e. Jennifer. - As we know early on, Jennifer is not a virgin which throws a wrench in their sacrifice. (Good lord, with a woman like that, it'd be a crying shame for her to be!) sorry Christian folk....

From there, the spell goes awry, and she becomes a literal man-eater on the hunt for what she needs to live. Lots of funny dialog is spewed left and right and gives the characters much more like-ability than if they were just drone high school teens reiterating how to "stop a demon" in their school. There are several kills and they are all fucked up! All these things mixed in made for quite an entertaining experience as well as seeing Megan Fox become a demon and kick some ass. Its unusual or rare might be the better world to see a female doing all the macabre actions in a horror/comedy flick. Its refreshing to see a take on the other side of the spectrum for once. Moderately directed by Karen Kusama but convincingly scary and darkly funny, this was a fun trip.

Megan Fox puts through her first ever lead performance and to settle and all the mutter - she can act. Finally with the proper medium and writing and of course directing, she can spread her wings and we get to see and hear her in a full light. As oppose to her lame character in Mikaela in Michael Bay's dump truck blockbuster movies Transformers 1 & 2. She never got a chance to "act" in those because Michael Bay doesn't allow females in his movies to properly "act". They're always either watching for a control room screaming in anguish for their loved ones in danger, closing their eyes in fear (The Rock, Armageddon,) or most recently just running around behind Shia holding his hand while shit is blowing up left and right around them - just for the heck of it. But that is Michael Bay crashing - lets save that for another time!

All in all, "Jennifer's Body" could've been more fun, and I would've liked to have gotten more into the demonic themes of the storyline more, but when its comes down to it, this is a movie about high school and the friends/relationships you have while you're there - along with some crazy ass horror spectacle for good measure.

I must drop, that one of my favorite scenes in any movie is in this one where Jennifer is talking on the phone and she is looking in the mirror and lights the tip of her tongue on fire with a lighter and watches as it heals back up immediately. - Hot.

Directed by Karyn Kusama of "Girlfight" and "Aeon Flux" previously (one good, one stinker) written by Diablo Cody of "Juno" screen writing fame, produced by Jason Reitman director of "Juno" and upcoming "Up In The Air" (which looks great I might add).

Starring the gorgeous beyond all belief Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, Adam Brody and J.K. Simmons who I almost didn't recognize at first when he comes on screen. (You'll understand when you see this).

Cine-a-meter rating: 3.5/5

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

First posting....

So here we finally are at my first ever online blog! Over and over friends have been saying that I should start my own blog and get my ideas "out there" to expand my horizons and simply exercise my knowledge of film, movies, series and over all news surrounding the movie industry....

As the saying goes, "all good things come to those who wait". In this case I am not sure if I am referring to myself or them....either way - I wanted to get started focusing on my first movie to blog on.

The first movie that has the honor of being blogged by myself is:"An American Werewolf In London". Any cinephile or even if you are just a fan of movies should definitely be familiar with this satirical horror classic. Our poor fool David is the victim of a werewolf attack which "scars" him leaving him bedridden until the real torment begins. He is visited by his subconscious hallucinations which make for wonderful characterization.

The infamous "transformation scene" to this day is one of my absolute favorite scenes in a horror film. They don't bother cutting away for the intense and excruciating pain of our character's body morphing before our very eyes into....well, a werewolf.

This was made in 1981 mind you, long before the letters CGI were ever used to describe what we now all know automatically to stand for computer generated images. So you can only imagine the painstaking efforts the SFX and make up team had to endure to get it that good!!

There is a very symbolic dream sequence in the movie that still freaks me out!

For everyone whose seen this already, you know what I am talking about I am sure. For those of you who have not.....you are in for an effing ride!

Directed by John Landis, released in 1981 and starring David Naughton, Griffin Dunne and Jenny Agutter

Cine-a-meter rating: 5/5