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And now for something completely different.
Mel Gibson's conduct as of late has been questionable to say the least. What with his drink-induced Anti-Semitic rant to his pledge to support Jewish actor Michael Richards, who had just finished an angry racial tirade (although Mel Gibson should be given credit for trying). We live in a world where everybody gets so angry. The Passion of the Christ opened to hostility because it was mistakenly taken for Anti-Semitism. This was about as absurd as German people getting riled up over Schindler's List, but I digress. Many people are still angry with Mel Gibson over his supporting an alleged racist, over his drunken Anti-Semitic remarks, some are still angry over his depiction of the Jews in the Passion. We all need to get over it. We need to forgive and forget, because our anger is affecting our opinions on his work.
Imagine a world where the Pianist was never given a chance, because Roman Polanski is a fugitive from the United States, under statutory rape charges. Imagine a world where nobody watches Falling Down, because Joel Schumacher destroyed the Batman franchise. Is it really in our best interest to hold a grudge? Especially in Mel Gibson's case, which was something so incredibly trivial? Doesn't Apocalypto deserve a fair shot? Doesn't it deserve reviews that are better than "mixed"? Well, yes.
Apocalypto is unlike anything we had seen before. It's not just the fact that Mel Gibson filmed it in a dead tongue (which had been done before, BY Mel Gibson), but the fact that it explored a civilization that Hollywood hasn't taken the time to explore. It went into the life of a Mayan, and it threw him into what was basically the beginning of the end of their civilization.
Jaguar Paw, a Mayan father played brilliantly by Rudy Youngblood, is taken away from his family to be sacrificed. He escapes a brutal sacrifice and begins his journey home - all the while being chased by his captors. We're talking one big, long chase scene. And it's awesome, to say the least. Don't want to give too much away, but there's plenty of bloodshed and a high body count.
To perform in Maya must have been a difficult task for performers who were not Mayan. But they pulled it off, and they did it very well.
Don't mean to use a stereotype, but the visuals are breathtaking. This is the best cinematography I have seen all year. The scenery was amazing, and the costumes and make-up were great. Mel Gibson has been compared to Cecil B. DeMille (in a negative context for some odd reason). DeMille has NEVER done anything like this before. I can see a few things, here and there, including a large cast and epic scenery, but this is a much different endeavor than, say, the Ten Commandments. In fact, this wasn't a religious film at all (and I've seen it referred to as such). This is more in the vein of Braveheart than the Passion.
I'm hoping to see Apocalypto get its due at the Oscars this year. I can at the very least see one for Cinematography. I'd put it up for Best Picture... maybe not the win, but definitely a nomination. While I felt this was Mel Gibson's weakest film, I DID hold his other films in very high regard. The story wasn't all that deep, but Mel Gibson had a Hell of a way of telling it. I enthusiastically recommend this film. This is a definite must-see.
Critics drop the ball yet again. The best movie of the summer thus far. Yes, even better than Superman.
Let's start by showing what the critics are saying about this film.
"Pirates of the Caribbean returns to theaters for more summer swashbuckling, only they may have forgotten to buckle their swash." -Joshua Tyler, Cinemablend.com.
"Yes indeed, Pirates 2.0 is a theme ride, if by ride you mean a hellish contraption into which a ticket holder is strapped, overstimulated but unsatisfied, and unable to disengage until the operator releases the restraining harness." -Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly.
"This sequel is appropriately named, because that's what you'll be staring at for nearly half the movie: dead men's chests." -Diana Saenger, Reeltalk Movie Reviews.
Oh, thank you critics. You make your misguided opinions so much easier to discredit when you think you're being funny. Aside from the obvious smear campaign these critics are trying (and will undoubtedly fail) to pull off, there was nothing about this film that didn't work for me.
First thing's first. Did you like the first one? If so, you can proceed to ignoring half of the negative reviews already -- the people who ALSO did not like the first one. Do you like the character of Jack Sparrow? Then ignore the other half, who seem to have a problem understanding that in sequels, characters are expected to return and continuity problems would arise if the actor would change the way he played that character.
Truth be told, this IS like a theme ride. But like the first one, it's like the best damn theme ride you ever rode on. The action sequences and special effects were top notch. The CGI didn't bother me so much because it didn't look like CGI. Most impressive was the way they handled Davey Jones. You really can't tell where Bill Nighy's extensive make-up becomes CGI tentacles. It's brilliant. I couldn't help but wonder why all Blockbusters couldn't be like this one. And the swordfighting? Well, don't get me wrong. These are among the greatest fight scenes I've ever seen on film. However, it seems to me someone forgot to buckle their swash. I don't know what that means, but evidently that got to SOMEONE.
All the characters are back in pure form and then some. Jack Sparrow now deals with inner turmoil, and if anyone can do that, it's Johnny Depp. Not only that, but he still retains his charm and remains just as likable in this film as he was in its predecessor. Keira Knightley gives one of the best performances of her career (topped only by her performance in Pride & Prejudice). Orlando Bloom's acting has improved as well. New additions to the cast such as Bill Nighy as Davey Jones and Stellan Skarsgaard as another important character (not saying who) also add another layer of excellence to the film.
The film's atmosphere is much darker this time around, and I gotta say I freakin' loved it. It was like all the fun of the first film with a sense of impending darkness. In fact, the film opens up on a pretty down note, and by the end, any shred of innocence the series may have had has been shot to oblivion... once again, making me glad they went for the PG-13 rating as opposed to PG.
As I said before, the climactic fight scene is one of the greatest fight scenes ever seen on film. This is the kind of stuff that would make Errol Flynn say, "whoa." It was a beautifully choreographed triple threat swordfight in the midst of an epic battle, and let me tell ya, THAT was the most fun I've had within the last three summers.
Sure, it's a lengthy picture. In this case, that's a good thing. Because in its entire running time, I never got bored. They don't give you a chance to get bored. When they're not fighting, the characters are always enough to keep you going. The story is NOT lacking as the critics will have you believe, it did NOT lose its heart, and it most certainly is NOT guilty of double-dipping. This is the best movie of the summer, and it's not Verbinski's fault, or Depp's fault, or the screenwriters' fault that critics are too thick-headed to realize that.
And a note about the ending: not only will you NOT see it coming, but you will most definitely WANT to see the third one. Sure, it's a cliffhanger ending, but I assure you, at the very last line uttered in the film, you will cheer.
Chicken Little (2005)
I disagree with the lot of you. This was good.
It's cartoonish. I'll give you that. But what's wrong with that? Some of my favorite cartoons as a child (Animaniacs and Tiny Toon Adventures) were also "cartoonish". But nobody's complaining about those cartoons because they didn't insult the intelligence of children, and in fact, intellectualized them somewhat.
So why all the negativity towards Chicken Little? I can understand the whole anti-Disney mindset going around. Let's face it, their more recent non-Pixar ventures were terrible. Brother Bear, Home on the Range, Valiant... All horrible movies driven by none other than the almighty dollar. No, friends. This was much different.
This was funny. It falls short of the Disney Masterpiece collection, but it is most definitely a move in the right direction. Maybe I find humor in a different way then most people, but most times I agree with the general consensus... and I found this funny. I could not stop laughing. We are a people who generally applaud tongue-in-cheek entertainment. Come on, people. The trailer didn't promise anything different.
Honestly, the only negative thing I can say about this film is that there's nothing in it that couldn't have been hand-drawn. And believe me, if this were hand-drawn, all the critics would have been in love with it.
I'm probably going to get a major backlash from many of you for saying this, but I'm going to anyway. I have seen every animated feature to be released this year (with the exception of the Heffalump Movie), and I have to say this was the best one. Yes, I enjoyed it more than Corpse Bride. I also enjoyed it more than Wallace & Gromit.
So say what you will here. I'm sure you all have a lot of pent up rage over the last few Disney films, and I'm not gonna blame you. But get all that out of your system first, and THEN go see this movie. This is their quasi-triumphant redemption. This is the first good non-Pixar Disney animated feature since Lilo & Stitch.
How's my commenting? E-mail me. firstname.lastname@example.org
...the tongue-in-cheek serial this decade has been waiting for.
I never watched Firefly, but I've heard it was one of Fox's many wrongfully canceled TV series. Creator Joss Whedon decided to show Fox what they were gonna miss out on, and he brought a film version of his series to Universal. Those Fox execs must be feeling really stupid now. Not only is Serenity a hit, but it's also a damn good movie.
This is one of the most original science fiction films I've seen in a long time. Joss Whedon put plenty of effort into the mythology surrounding it- he brought us a new world of fantasy the likes of which we haven't seen since the original Star Wars. I mention Star Wars because Serenity is also reminiscent of the old serials. Non-stop action, likable characters, and the escape from one dangerous situation only to walk into another, it's all there.
The cast had great chemistry. Perhaps it's the fact that they've all worked together before, but they played off each other very well and all seemed to be having fun. Summer Glau, however, stands out above the rest. Not only can she kick ass, but she can act. Her performance is one of the best this year, because of her ability to show a hint of humanity under her veil of mystery, rage and sadness.
Joss Whedon wrote a screenplay that elevates the quality of his movie above that of the Star Wars prequels. Unlike the Star Wars prequels, Serenity has personality. It has characters we care about; characters we understand and can relate with. The screenplay comes equipped with the naturalistic humor, wit and energy that hasn't been seen (although it has been attempted) since Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
As Whedon's first big screen effort, he really did an impressive job directing the film. He carried out his vision of the future much better than most with his experience would. Considering this guy normally does TV series for the WB, I was very impressed.
The visual effects weren't quite as prestigious or 100% perfectly integrated like Star Wars or Lord of the Rings, but they weren't overbearing and they maintained the fantasy. Besides, it was kinda nice to see that while CGI was used quite a bit, they didn't try to replace the story with it.
David Newman's score was beautiful. It's difficult to describe it, but this was the most exciting original score I've heard all year. My one complaint would be that it should have been used more.
Surprisingly enough, Serenity is one of the best movies of the year. It is perfect in every aspect, and it's also the tongue-in-cheek serial this decade has been waiting for. I'm told I should try to watch Firefly, and believe me, I'm going to. If it means watching a longer version of Serenity, I'm in.
Premise: 10 Performers: 10 Screen writing: 10 Direction: 10 Visual Effects: 10 Original Score: 10
Oscar predictions: Best Picture*, Best Actress in a Leading Role (Summer Glau)*, Best Original Screenplay (Joss Whedon)*, Best Original Score (David Newman), Best Visual Effects, Best Sound *Wishful thinking. I'm aware it probably won't happen.
...an exciting thriller thanks to a strong cast and a great screenplay.
These days it seems we have to savor a movie with Jodie Foster in it, because it doesn't happen often. That is unfortunate, because she's one of the most gifted actresses of our time. Even her performance as a teenage prostitute back in 1976 was worthy of acclaim. Then she brought to life the character of Clarice Starling back in 1991, which sealed her fate and mailed it with a kiss -- If someone's making a list of the best actresses of all time, Miss Foster is somewhere in the top five. So if you were to ask me to give you one good reason why Flightplan was a good movie, I have only two words to say: Jodie Foster.
She may not have been putting her talent to use these last few years, but she still has it. That's why sitting down in the theater, watching her deliver her lines... that alone was enough to keep me at the edge of my seat. And as if using the talents of Miss Foster were not enough, the brilliant casting director backed her up with a strong supporting cast. Peter Sarsgaard managed to stay below the radar, but with his talent I don't think that's gonna last very long.
The film lost points in the area of direction and visuals. There were a couple of scenes that were too stylish for their own good. For instance, there's a scene where a plane touches down on a runway, and it is shot at a 90 degree angle. I can appreciate the concept of expressionism, but that's overdoing it. As for the visuals, they looked to me like a rush job. You can tell they were done with a computer.
What I don't get, however, is why the critics are complaining about the ending. I didn't see any problems with it, or the "politically correct cop-out" the critics were complaining about (here's a hint: there WAS no cop-out). I was actually surprised by it... and I liked it. It was a well-written ending -- not necessarily an ending to talk about, but it was nicely done.
Aside from its flaws in visual effects and direction, Flightplan manages to be an exciting thriller thanks to a strong cast and a great screenplay. Not only does it receive my seal of approval, but it comes highly recommended. It's just so great to see Jodie Foster on the big screen again. I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking she's one of the greatest.
Scorecard: Premise: 10 Performers: 10 Screenwriters: 10 Director: 8 Visual Effects: 5
A History of Violence (2005)
...this isn't great on an objective level, but it is definitely good
It's that time of year again. Studios are releasing movies they believe are worthy of being voted best picture. That's right, forget about Cinderella Man (a film that should have been released around this time but was instead lost in the summer shuffle), because these are the movies the Academy is going to be looking at. Keep an eye out for Brokeback Mountain, Memoirs of a Geisha, and A History of Violence -- these seem to be the major players this year. But enough about what the critics and analysts say. What do I think?
Personally, I found the movie to be very overrated. Notice, I didn't say it was a bad movie. Because it wasn't. What we're looking at is a really good story with really good acting, but a poorly written screenplay.
So much of a film's quality depends on the screenwriter's ability to write believable, realistic dialog, which is an ability Josh Olson did not have. Before he began writing the script, he should have spent some time in high school, listening to how some of the students talked. I found any scene involving Tom Stall's son laughable and downright insulting (I graduated high school two years ago, high school is NOT like that). Most of the screenplay just seemed like a run-down vehicle to drive the fantastic story around in.
Still, what director David Cronenberg managed to build on that weak foundation was no mean feat. Silence of the Lambs this movie ain't, but damned if Cronenberg isn't good at using subtlety. Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello and Ed Harris are surely Oscar contenders (although I seriously doubt any one of them will win), and I gotta give William Hurt some credit for actually having a personality in this movie, as opposed to his usual monotonous performances. Ashton Holmes, however, was a terrible casting choice. If a character's scenes are poorly written, the least they could do is cast someone who can deliver it they way it was intended to be delivered.
The story was intriguing, too. It was a very good psychological study... I can't really go too far into that without spoiling the movie, so I'll have to ask you to take my word for it. But if you can get past the lackluster screenplay (and we all loved Revenge of the Sith - that shouldn't be a problem) and pay attention to the story, you'll see that it is actually a work of genius.
I'll be reading the graphic novel as soon as I can get a hold of a copy.
I've learned to watch films from several perspectives, and I gotta say this isn't great on an objective level, but it is definitely good. Mortensen, Bello and Harris will definitely get the Academy's attention, and Cronenberg fans will love it. Still, I can assure you this isn't the best Oscar season has to offer, and I will not be surprised (or even disappointed, really) if this film gets lost in the shuffle.
It does, however, earn my seal of approval.
Nominations - Best Actor in a Leading Role (Viggo Mortensen), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Ed Harris), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Maria Bello), Best Director (David Cronenberg)