Wednesday, June 30, 2010

June Movie Hijinks

Well, the summer of 2010 is chugging right along and I have been seeing movies at a record-setting pace. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a whole lot worth writing about, as this has been one of the most underwhelming summer movie crops that I can remember (with a few exceptions, most notably TOY STORY 3, which I fully intend to write about as soon as I can get my emotions under control). There have also been lots of fun distractions, lazy vacations, an exciting Mets team, the World Cup and etc. But that’s no excuse, dammit, so let’s pick up where we left off at the end of May and see what there is to see...

splice SPLICE -- Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the sci-fi camp classic of the year! This bat-shit insane cautionary tale about genetic engineering gone wrong is, in itself, the mutant love child of a variety of films ranging from FRANKENSTEIN to THE FLY to JURASSIC PARK to SPECIES. It wears its influences on its sleeve but never feels like a rip-off thanks to some fine acting, great effects, intense visuals, crazy twists, and a heavy dose of awesome ridiculousness. Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley are perfect as Clive and Elsa, hotshot scientists who defy legal and ethical boundaries by splicing together human and animal DNA to create a new organism. The female creature, which they name "Dren" ("Nerd" backwards, get it?) rapidly develops from a deformed (and strangely cute) infant to a full-grown (and strangely sexy) adult. Over time, ever-curious Dren bonds with both of her creators -- in a daughterly way with Elsa and, um, something else with Clive -- and needless to say, dangerous hijinks ensue. It’s one of those movies that gets more and more insane as it goes on… slowly at first and finally exploding into a veritable cacophony of insanity in the final act. Easily one of the best slices of sci-fi horror in recent memory and one that will stick with me for a long time. Dren rules! (SIDE NOTE: I actually won a contest on Twitter that awarded me a SPLICE prize pack, which included a stuffed Baby Dren doll! Hilarious, yes… but a life-size adult Dren would’ve been even better....)

metropolis THE COMPLETE METROPOLIS -- I managed to catch a screening of this, the grandfather of all sci-fi epics, on the last day of its limited run at the Film Forum, and I'm glad I did, as it was an incredible movie watching experience. Arguably the most famous and influential product of the silent era, it's one of those classic films that you know without even knowing that you know it, thanks to its iconic visuals and far-reaching influence (STAR WARS, BLADE RUNNER, THE MATRIX… the list goes on). The restoration was unbelievable -- it was hard to believe that I was watching an 80-year-old movie, it looked so good. I believe it will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray later this year, and I strongly urge everyone to watch it at that time!

ateam THE A-TEAM -- I never really watched THE A-TEAM back in the day, so I can't really tell you how well this works as an adaptation... but I CAN tell you that it definitely works as a big, loud, mindless summer popcorn flick. The action is fast & furious, the explosions are plentiful and the cast is impeccable. Liam Neeson is epically badass as the cigar chomping Hannibal, DISTRICT 9's Sharlto Copley proves that he isn't a one-hit wonder as the crazed Murdock, and Bradley Cooper gets the job done as the smooth-talking Face. The weakest link, sorry to say, is “Rampage” Jackson as B.A. Baracus -- honestly, if they were going to make him a poor imitation of Mr. T, they should've just gotten Mr. T and used some de-aging technology. It's okay, though. This is like the TRANSFORMERS of 2010... only not nearly as close to my heart... and ultimately forgettable... but lots of fun in the moment.

shrek4 SHREK FOREVER AFTER -- At first, I wasn't going to see this fourth and (please, God) final installment of the SHREK saga because I knew there was no way in hell it would be good. But then I figured, what the hell, why stop now. So I saw it... and it did indeed suck... and now we can close the book on this whole overblown, overrated saga. It's such a sad testament to society that these completely forgettable movies have made SO MUCH money over the years (SHREK 2 is actually the 5th-highest grossing movie of ALL TIME on the unadjusted list, which just boggles the mind), but what can ya do. I’ll actually give them a little credit for trying to mix things up a bit with the whole IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE/"What if Shrek had never been born" plot twist... but still... this is a stinker. Extremely weak use of 3-D, too. The film's only real saving grace is that fat Puss-in-Boots looks exactly like my late cat Peaches. (See?) R.I.P., Peaches... and good riddance, Shrek!

jonah-hex JONAH HEX -- I guess for every comic book adaptation as awesome as IRON MAN, there's gotta be one as terrible as this woefully misguided piece of trash. I'd actually go as far as to say that this may be one of the absolute WORST comic book movies to date, delving dangerously close to BATMAN & ROBIN territory. It’s a complete mess from top to bottom -- senseless plot, horrendous dialogue and bad acting across the board. I'll tip my cap to Josh Brolin, who tries his damnedest to make the best of a bad situation, whereas John Malkovich just phones it in (not that I can blame him). It could also mark the end of Megan Fox's already-tenuous career -- she is really, really bad, to the point where even her ample, constantly-glistening cleavage can't distract you from how bad she is. It's a true debacle of a film with half-baked plot points that serve little purpose -- so, Jonah can talk to the dead... big f'ing deal! Plus, his deformities are more distracting than anything else, too -- he could’ve looked like a regular guy and it’d be no different. Stuff like that. Make no mistake, my friends: JONAH HEX currently resides at the very bottom of my list of 2010 movies -- if there's a worse movie still to come, I hope I manage to avoid it!

Cyrus CYRUS -- I discovered Jay & Mark Duplass and their “mumblecore” cohorts (including the lovely & talented Greta Gerwig) about a year and a half ago and was quite taken with their low-budget, off-the-cuff takes on interpersonal relationships in films like THE PUFFY CHAIR, BAGHEAD, HANNAH TAKES THE STAIRS and HUMPDAY. Their latest film takes that laid-back style, fuses it with a bigger budget and big-name stars, and turns it into something even better. Fantastic film about a sad sack (John C. Reilly) who finally finds love (Marisa Tomei), only to be cock-blocked at every turn by her needy, troubled 21-year-old son (Jonah Hill). Everyone here is at the top of their games. Reilly can do no wrong, Hill gives his most nuanced performance, and Tomei continues this remarkable rebirth to her career and brings out the George Costanza in me once again. It’s an interesting mix of wackiness, dark comedy and grown-up drama, anchored by incredible performances and the Duplasses’ offbeat sensibilities. I very much look forward to seeing how their careers progress from here!

Knight-And-Day KNIGHT & DAY -- I've said it before and I'll say it again: I like Tom Cruise. I'm a Tom Cruise fan. I think Tom Cruise is a much better actor than he will ever be given credit for, despite the fact that he has been nominated for three Oscars and has been involved in some of the most beloved movies of the past 30 years. Trouble is, of course, he's a damn lunatic in real life, and Scientology is ridiculous, and granted, he hasn't made a great movie in several years (his mind-blowing cameo in TROPIC THUNDER notwithstanding). He needed to do something to remind people of his acting abilities, and KNIGHT & DAY looked promising on the surface -- a light-hearted spy flick satire in which Cruise could sort of riff on his lunatic persona, banter with Cameron Diaz and have some fun, right? Indeed, the movie gets off to a rollicking fun start with a great airplane action sequence. But then... inexplicably, it makes a crucial mistake and starts to take itself SERIOUSLY and becomes a SERIOUS spy thriller and the whole thing falls apart. If it had stayed true to the satire and not become just another Bond rip-off, Cruise might have had a hit on his hands -- instead, it's going to be a flop and the criticism will keep on coming. Ah well... here's hoping the Les Grossman "biopic" fares better!

grown_ups GROWN UPS -- Fifteen years ago, a movie starring Adam Sandler, David Spade, Chris Rock, Rob Schneider and Chris Farley would have been the greatest movie of all time. Unfortunately, in those fifteen years, Chris Farley died (sadness), Adam Sandler's films have pretty much gotten progressively worse since the awesome trifecta of BILLY MADISON, HAPPY GILMORE and THE WEDDING SINGER (exception: PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE, which was more of a Paul Thomas Anderson film than an Adam Sandler film), and the other guys... well, they've just sort of continued to exist in spite of themselves. Now, reuniting to make this movie in 2010, with Kevin James replacing Chris Farley... it's more sad and depressing than anything else. The movie is a gigantic yawn -- pointless, unoriginal and containing no more than three real laughs. Sure, Salma Hayek's cleavage is always a welcome sight... but this is just a travesty of a film, and I really need to seek out some SNL from the early to mid-'90s, when I worshipped the ground that these guys walked on, as a way of purging it from my mind.

Thus ends June. What will July bring (besides my birthday, that is)? We shall see! At the very least, I fully expect Christopher Nolan’s INCEPTION to be awesome... and I’ll probably see TOY STORY 3 a couple more times!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Nyah, Nyah, I Saw TWILIGHT: ECLIPSE Before You Did!

That’s right, Twilight freaks, while you were all at home bouncing off the walls with excitement -- or perhaps waiting in line for the midnight show at the very same theatre -- I was sitting in front of the giant IMAX screen at Loews Lincoln Square watching a free advance screening of ECLIPSE, the third installment in the Twilight Saga.


eclipse Um, no. But I will say this right off the bat: ECLIPSE is by far the best Twilight film yet. Granted, that's like saying the crap I took today is better than the crap I took the previous two days. (The only difference is that I tend to feel better about myself after taking a crap.) But seriously, the movie IS an improvement over the mind-bogglingly dismal TWILIGHT and NEW MOON. It’s still very, very bad, with horrendous acting, dialogue and plot developments across the board -- but it does have more going for it. For one thing, MORE STUFF ACTUALLY HAPPENS. I was pleasantly surprised by the addition of some actual CHARACTER DEPTH, particularly amongst the supporting cast). And best of all, there was MORE ACTION, something that was sorely missing from the first two movies, including (this is probably not a SPOILER for most people, but just in case, I will hide this next section -- highlight the invisible text to read) a pretty badass and surprisingly intense climactic battle where we FINALLY get to see vampires and werewolves go at each other in a no-holds-barred, bone-crunching, limb-ripping street fight! Easily the best sequence of the series so far.

As for everyone’s favorite love triangle… well, it’s still happening and lamer than ever. This time, though, the movie is ripe with sexual tension, which the teenyboppers in the audience ate up like candy, and which made me laugh out loud more than a few times. (Dear lord in heaven, just wait for the Tent Scene… eclipse1HAHAHA! Also, Star Wars fans, you know how we all hated Anakin and Padme romping in the field in ATTACK OF THE CLONES? Well, that looks like the classic beach scene in FROM HERE TO ETERNITY next to Edward & Bella sitting in their field of flowers!) Still plenty of brooding and pining and whining from all sides. Kristen Stewart still sucks the life out of every scene she is in. Robert Pattinson stills sparkles and sleepwalks his way through the proceedings -- has there ever been a more boring heartthrob? As for Taylor Lautner… well, he still sucks, too. He’s got the personality and acting range of a department store mannequin… but with abs to match, which, I suppose, is all he needs as far as most girls (and gay porn fans) are concerned. However, as a character, I think Jacob is the most interesting. He’s got the more relatable angst, the better one-liners and, frankly, the better superpower (I mean, yeah, the Twilight werewolves are ridiculous and an insult to werewolves throughout history… but they’re a heck of a lot better than f’ing sparkly vampires). Makes you wonder how these movies might have been if they’d actually gotten a good actor to portray this depth (and, y’know, if the whole thing wasn’t completely ridiculous).

In the end, if you're a Twilight fan, you will probably love this movie, because it has everything you could possibly want in a Twilight movie -- and as a geek myself (a geek who unconditionally loved the STAR WARS prequels, I might add), I cannot begrudge you that excitement. Enjoy, Twi-hards! And to the rest of us: Don’t worry, two more movies and it’ll all be over!

Also, only five months till HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, whose new trailer buries Twilight in every way possible in two and a half minutes of unbridled awesomeness: