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An American Carol (2008)
Not bad... not great
Knowing that generally Conservatives tend to think more than feel, and that comedy (especially ribald) is the realm of emotion, I went to this film not expecting a whole lot. I got about what I expected.
It could have done so much more than it did by illustrating instead of explaining the absurdities of the political left. There's an award show scene where announcers declare their dislike of wealth and elitism and opposition to world hunger while attendees bask in jewelry and dine on giant lobsters--that was good. Another scene portrays the ACLU (always a ripe target for ridicule) getting blown up by various soldiers defending... the Ten Commandments (the Constitution would have been better).
Still, it's a good start for what will hopefully be a string of Conservative films once they get thru their growing pains. Give it a look if you want to one day say "I was there when it started."
The Andromeda Strain (2008)
1) Why would a highly-classified government agency, under military purview and overseen by a four star general, give this degree of access to what are clearly anti-government civilians--including one with a known tie to a conspiracy nut in the media--AND give them unrestricted communication to the outside world?
2) Especially since the government is willing to covertly murder civilians to protect the project.
3) How can a helicopter fly as fast an an F-16?
4) How do you get a team composed of EXACTLY one Asian, one Latino, one African-American, one white woman and one homosexual?
...and that's just the first hour. It just doesn't pass the common sense test.
By my count, there were at least half a dozen human story lines that belonged in a teenage drama, and one half-thought science-fiction action film tossed in between the various soap operas. Too many side characters and subplots (failed romance, town bullies, family conflicts, etc.) distracted significantly from why I went to this movie. Even my lads, who love anything with explosions and aliens, were wondering when we were going to get to the good parts. The pre-coda resolution ("Mommy!") was so ham-handed that even my 12yo was rolling his eyes in disbelief.
Apart from the excessive subplots, there was also the issue of going too far. For the first time we see a preteen get face-hugged and killed by an embryonic alien, which is just plain bad taste. I'm sure it's meant to set the stage "we're not pulling any punches here," but the previously mentioned subplots knock the wind out of that premise. Later, the Predalien lays eggs inside a pregnant woman which magically erupt into alien larvae within minutes. The result is a bland enterprise punctuated by grotesque but ultimately tasteless violence against children--born and unborn.
Third, the whole thing seems rushed. From the instantaneous birth and maturity of the various aliens to the underdeveloped subplots, there's just too much going too fast. The coda at the end with Mme. Yutani is more poor attempt at salvage than ominous foreshadow.
Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)
Resident Evil: Jumping the Shark
The increasingly tired premise of a zombie-producing virus has been around for some years, having replaced the seductive living dead mystery of prior generations. I don't expect much of horror films, but I expect more than this. RE:E is just silly.
The cast is all here: evil corporation, out-of-control scientist, hapless minions who get locked in with the experiments gone wrong, multicultural gang of human fugitives strangely dressed in skimpy clothing and carrying military grade technology, etc. The story is advanced, but only in the direction of absurdity. Alice is still alive, but this time it would appear she's an android not only with superhuman agility and strength, but also with the ability to shut down satellites in space using her mind. She's always been one. And if that wasn't enough, she's also psychic--with the ability to generate force fields around herself and her friends. Most of the zombies look alike this time, strangely clothed in identical gray jumpsuits. You can now kill them by cutting their throats, shooting them in the abdomen, or dropping them off short buildings.
A few dozen overly loud bangs, crashes, and gunfights later and we get a showdown between Alice and the mutated evil doctor, carried out in a bad paste of unconnected rooms from previous films.
Close on a scene with the greedy corporate suits getting a holographic warning of their impending doom from a snippy Alice, and you have a film designed to sell wholly on the game's reputation and not because it's sincerely engaging, scary, or even interesting.
PS: here's an idea for a drinking game. Every time Milla Jovovich is on screen and her face has been digitally altered to look smoother than it actually is, that's a shot.
License to Wed (2007)
The real agenda?
What was the point of this film? It's a simple premise: if you want to get married in my church, you have to prove to me that you're ready for the big commitment. Beneath the bland and uninspired (not to mention far-fetched) plot, there's not much going on that sets it apart from previous, similar films about the troubles of two people preparing for marriage. As usual, a Robin Williams vehicle relies on his improvisation to carry most of the humor, but this just falls flat.
While others have made comments about how poorly it all came off, I was sitting there wondering if there was an alternate agenda. George Carlin played a Catholic priest as a hypocritical buffoon in Dogma, and that may have been the case with Williams here--only he goes a few steps further. Catholics are portrayed as sheep. They're utterly unconcerned about the bizarre, invasive, and downright illegal activities in which the local priest is engaging. When confronted with his having bugged the house, the good Catholic girl all but blows it off. Not only is that absurd, but it suggests that there might even be a history of his spying on the intimate lives of his parishioners, and that this is normal and acceptable.
I think this is just another hit piece against Christians, disguised as a comedy.
Happily N'Ever After (2006)
Miserably N'ever Ending...
I should have seen it coming when trailers for four separate film companies scrawled across the screen before the feature began. That many cooks WILL spoil the broth.
One-quarter of the way through this film, I was ready to walk out. I kept wanting it to get better--or at least to some kind of point--but it's a cavalcade of arbitrary events, soulless heroes, un-scary villains, and incoherent pacing. And it just doesn't STOP! Sigourney Weaver screams most of her lines, the romantic subplot is clumsy and unbelievable, the humor is flatter than year-old Coke. Even the wonderfully klunky Patrick Warburton couldn't save this film.
Should be taken sparingly and only as a cure for insomnia.
xXx: State of the Union (2005)
If you can get past the ridiculously absurd plot, a script written by a guy who has NO concept of what the military is like, a military prison which allows beards, a Naval officer with a lengthy criminal record who never went to college, the fact that every single person Ice Cube kills or beats up is white, the blithely ignorant-of-world-affairs idea that we need to make nice with terrorists and cut the Department of Defense ("The Military Bill"), the avalanche of clichés, trucks driving through everything from steel walls to other trucks without denting the front bumpers, the cookie cutter stereotypes, the logic-defying stunts, plot holes you could drive an aircraft carrier through, the Freudian-nightmare car worship, and Ice Cube's utterly flat acting... you get a film with a lot of really nice pyrotechnics.
Honogurai mizu no soko kara (2002)
Good, but could have pushed the envelope more
The biggest disappointment of this film is that the trailer gives away the entire story, and the only thing that surprises is the coda.
Good visuals, tho the "turn...pause...shocked expression!" was a bit overdone. Could have used more stingers (re: the calligraphy ghost in "The Eye") and a bit more symbolism with the rain.
**Possible spoiler** The solution to the story--near the end when Mom rushes into the elevator--could have had more impact if we'd gotten some better exposition on Mom's past. My first assumption was that she was the "thinking only of herself" mother referred to earlier in the film, but the last line of the film revealed I was wrong, and that was disappointing.
I still look forward to Nakata's next offering, tho. :o)
Artificial Intelligence: AI (2001)
A bit too Oedipal for me.
A.I. is a physically beautiful film, but whilst watching I was taken aback by the notion that men are bad and women are good, and fathers are the bottom of the barrel.
Firstly, almost all emotion springs from the mother while the father treats everything more mechanically than the android boy. David is presented as a gift to Monica from Henry, and Henry spends the rest of his part in the film at a distance.
There is also something uniquely disturbing when Monica bonds with David while Henry is away. It's as if to say the role of the father is immaterial. There's also a telling moment when David calls Monica 'mommy' but addresses Henry by his name.
[possible spoiler] David is further alienated when Martin returns to the fold and lies his way into getting David thrown out. Father and son collude against mother to spoil her love. Nobody asks why anything is happening, no one demands explanations, and Martin is never blamed for his rather obvious lies and set-ups.
The remainder of the film is David's quest for his mommy (what 11-yo uses that word?), through a cloying miasma of vicious, lascivious, and/or misguided men. No evil women, just men.
It's good eye-candy, but too Oedipal for my tastes.
If it were a man...
this film would be a dark and foreboding exposé on the horrors of child-rape. But a woman having sex with a boy is some mild story about forbidden romance, handled with kid gloves and a brief nod to 'oh, the mistakes the heart makes'.