Thursday, April 30, 2009

More Than Meets The Eye At The IMAX

For centuries, two races of robotic aliens – the Autobots and the Decepticons – have waged a war, with the fate of the universe at stake. When the battle comes to Earth, all that stands between the evil Decepticons and ultimate power is a clue held by young Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf). An average teenager, Sam is consumed with everyday worries about school, friends, cars and girls. Unaware that he alone is mankind’s last chance for survival, Sam and his friend Mikaela (Megan Fox) find themselves in a tug of war between the Autobots and Decepticons. With the world hanging in the balance, Sam comes to realize the true meaning behind the Witwicky family motto – “No sacrifice, no victory", in Transformers.

Based on the Hasbro toy line that initially captivated kids in the 1980s, director Michael Bay's Transformers finds two warring bands of shape-shifting alien robots renewing their intergalactic conflict on Earth. While the Decepticons, followers of the malevolent Megatron (voiced by Hugo Weaving), strive to take over the planet, the Autobots, led by the valiant Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen), are intent on protecting humanity. When young Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) discovers that his new car is really the Autobot Bumblebee (voiced by Mark Ryan), it sets the stage for a massive giant-robot showdown. A shining example of the Hollywood summer blockbuster at its best, Transformers combines stunning CGI effects and thrilling action sequences with drama, humor, and a touch of romance. Featuring a large cast that includes Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Jon Voight, John Turturro, Anthony Anderson, and Rachael Taylor, the film is anchored by LaBeouf, who always displays an engaging Everyman charm, whether he's running from colossal robots, interacting with his well-meaning parents (hilariously played by Kevin Dunn and Julie White), or pining for his gorgeous classmate (Megan Fox). While some Transformers purists may be dismayed by certain aspects of this bold big-screen adaptation (Bumblebee is a Camaro instead of a Volkswagen), the movie balances its spectacle with an admirable amount of substance, giving it an appeal far beyond pre-teen boys and their nostalgic Autobot-loving elders. Transformers, the second big-screen adaptation of the Hasbro toy line about two sets of vehicle morphing robots, delivers in all the places that spiders, pirates, and surfers couldn't: It's a crowd-pleasing, rock-´em, sock-´em, explosion-laden 143 minutes, with no pretense of being anything more than it is. Every aspect of the film is a wonder to behold, not just the buildings when weapon blasts eat out chunks of their sides or the massive robots wrestling with each other in Ultimate Fighting Championship-type encounters. Either Industrial Light and Magic has progressed leaps and bounds beyond the effects houses that handled "Spider-Man 3" and "Pirates of the Caribbean," or those other outfits are grossly incompetent. From a rational standpoint, there is no way that what is on screen could come from miniatures or stop motion. But from a moviemaking standpoint, how can Spider-Man swinging through the streets of New York look so obviously fake and cartoonish (although I LOVED the Spider-Man movies it did bug me), yet the Autobots and Decepticons so convincingly real? They blend in with their surroundings so completely and interact so flawlessly with the human actors that it's not outside the realm of possibility the production team assembled full-size robots for every sequence in the picture. There are no jerky movements, not so much as a detail out of place. Scorch marks, dents, dings…even the way each individual gear moves when one of the Transformers walks. The effects are bar none the best we've seen outside of "300." Even the actors fulfill their end of the bargain. Of course, they're not asked to do a whole lot besides run, jump, slide, yell, and pull triggers. With Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Anthony Anderson, Jon Voight, John Turturro, and Bernie Mac, a cast which reminds us more of "Armageddon" than "The Rock," takes shape. Without fail, everyone in the film does what they were contracted to do: Duhamel provides the good-looking poster boy; Mac provides a welcome breath of humor early on; Voight is his patented bewildered government official (here the Secretary of Defense); and Turturro is the man we all love to hate.  Now to the plot. The Allspark has been kept in a U.S. landmark for decades, and its power signature has been masked from everyone by reinforced concrete. I'm sorry, but concrete? Are you serious? This thing has the power to destroy entire worlds and concrete keeps all manner of scans from seeing its location? And the final decision to move the cube is just as bewildering. Why, outside of the "blowing stuff up good" rationale, would anybody agree to this plan? Hell, we can bat around all manner of plot holes or head scratchers, but that wouldn't be fun. For the sake of argument, though: Why are people continuing to run from the scene of the final battle twenty minutes after its started? Is the government so desperate as to be recruiting analysts out of high school? And why, for the love of everything rational, does the military consistently discount the one person with any credible information on the Transformers or the Allspark? Not that it really matters: This is an action movie with no agenda. If there is one aspect of the film that doesn't quite live up to what it should be, it's the introduction of Optimus Prime and the final battle with Megatron. When Optimus finally comes on the scene, there should be a bombastic score, something to herald the coming of the hero the fans want to see. There isn't that sense that everything will be okay once he's arrived. Think of how Darth Vader is introduced in "Return of the Jedi," with the Imperial March. Prime is a hero worthy of that level of reverence. Transformers isn't supposed to be anything except loud, action pulp to fill a summer slot and rake in the money. Oh, yeah, and sell toys. It's a family-friendly film, with no real objectionable content. However, there is a large amount of fighting and peril, which might cause a smaller child to have problems. The movie rates a strong 4 on my "Go See" scale because it delivers on its premise and doesn't get bogged down in plot trivialities. It's huge; it's loud; and it's filled with things that crash and blow up in glorious high-definition picture and sound. Transformers is everything you'd expect from a colossal summertime blockbuster. However, looking for logic, sense, reason, even sanity in a story based on a children's toy would be stretching the point. The movie is for the eye and the ear, not the brain. It turned out a lot better than I thought, though, by looking and sounding so very good on the IMAX screen, so I've got to give it credit. Big, dumb, and attractive in this case is good enough. I'm very much looking forward to Revenge Of The Fallen. 

Almost A First Class Delivery

When two bumbling criminals (Mike Epps and Wood Harris) accidentally receive a package of grade-A cocaine, they think they've hit the jackpot. But when they try to cash in on their luck, it triggers a series of events that forever changes the lives of ten people in Next Day Air, an uproarious action comedy featuring an all-star cast including Donald Faison, Mos Def and Debbie Allen.

There's no honor among thieves in Next Day Air, a dopey, bloody and downbeat "Black Pineapple Express." The laughs come easily enough. But the violence and grim finale drag this coke-deal-gone-wrong comedy into a hole it can't giggle its way out of. Inept thieves smoke weed, play video games and argue over who was supposed to do what at their last botched bank job. An equally stoned delivery man (Donald Faison) misreads the numbers on their door. He leaves them a box stuffed with cakes of cocaine, coke destined for the Hispanic dealer (Cisco Reyes) who lives across the hall, and next thing you know Next Day Air is off. Mike Epps and Wood Harris are cousins who believe the coke "came from God." They plot how to spend the money they're going to make, grand plans for an Escalade and hookers Brody (Epps) hires by phone. "Do something strange for a little piece'a change," he coos. Guch (Harris) is more paranoid. And with a distraught Jesus across the way looking for his lost delivery, correcting everybody's pronunciation of his name ("That's GEE-zus!"), fighting with his shrill Nuyorican girlfriend (Yasmin Deliz), Guch has every right to be scared. In this corner of Philly everybody's related to some other manner of crook, and Brody's cousin (Omari Hardwick) is the hook-up for unloading a lot of blow. Can the clumsy thieves trust the untrusting drug dealer? Will the Mexican drug lord (Emilio Rivera) put it all together and track them down? Or will he take out his frustration on poor Jesus? And what about the doper delivery dude? Will he and his steal-from-his-own-delivery-truck pal ( Mos Def) get theirs? Next Day Air was cast like a comedy with funny roles for Debbie Allen, Darius McCrary and Malik Barnhardt, who plays the robbers' blissfully sleepy roommate. Much of the violence is comic -- threats that Jesus makes every time somebody calls him "hay-Zeus," practicing waving a gun in the mirror. But all these drugs, all these thugs and all those guns are going to wind up making a bloody mess, sooner or later. Director Benny Boom saves that "mess" for the grim, message-slapped-on third act of what had been a gritty, trippy, underwritten comedy. Boom kills his own buzz. The filmmakers behind Next Day Air probably have posters of Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino lining their bedroom walls. The movie is like a fanboy love letter, but you end up wishing director Benny Boom simply sent his heroes bouquets instead. Newcomer Boom directs the script by Blair Cobbs, another first-timer. Neither shows a lot of imagination and the stereotypes run deep throughout. It's the kind of movie in which you can tell the Puerto Ricans from the Mexicans because the latter characters are enjoying a cock fight. While there are some very funny moments, overall the movie is poorly produced and horribly acted. Wasn't this movie made in Hollywood? Can't they get a believable Latina or at least someone with a believable Puerto Rican accent? Don’t get me wrong, I like Yasmin Deliz, just not in this role. Even the black actors had to pretend to be “hood” which was overly acted resulting in a mockery much like that of a parody. Even the freeze frames are badly placed, unflattering and awkward. On the plus side, there are some silly jokes and a few laughs to be had, especially when Faison's character is in with his boss, who accuses him (rightfully so) of smoking marijuana on the job. The music is catchy and fits the feel the movie attempts to create. But we still have one question: who ships ten kilos of illegal narcotics through a commercial delivery service?!? The plot is as ridiculous and unbelievable as the acting. On the plus side, the film does have a certain frenetic energy, and Epps can wring a laugh out of the driest material. But really, you should just rent a double bill of "Reservoir Dogs" and "RocknRolla." Ultimately, it tries too hard to be something that it's not.....entertaining. This gets a dreary 2 on my "Go See" scale for the few laughs it produces. 

Deliver Me Next Day Air, To A Better Movie

Today Hollywood can take any subject and turn it into what they call comedy, as long as the writers know what they are doing it works. If they don't then you get something like "Next Day Air" a comedy that takes a serious subject, like gangs and drugs, adds some major comedic star power, and still come up empty.

When an inept delivery driver, delivers a box of concealed bricks of cocaine to the wrong address, things go from bad to worse quickly. This sets in motion a desperate search for the package, between the furious dealer that sent it, the intended recipients that missed it, and the accidental recipients that plan to sell it. Leo (Donald Faison) is the son of the delivery services manager, after he is called into her office, he promises his mother, yes she is the manager, that he won't smoke any more pot while he is driving for the company.

When Leo makes the mistake of dropping a package off at the wrong address no one is the wiser, until the drug lord wants his merchandise back. The people who live in the apartment where the box is dropped off, think it's a package from God. Brody (Mike Epps), Guch (Wood Harris) and their unwanted room mate Hassie (Malik Barnhardt) are three of the worst conmen, robbers and thiefs ever to try their hand at crime. They rob a bank and only take the video tapes. When they open the box of cocaine they think their ship has finally come in, Brody suggests that his cousin Shavoo (Omari Hardwick) will buy all ten bricks, cause he is a baller. Shavoo tells Brody he will buy the bricks but Shavoo doesn't know Guch, so he brings his friend Buddy (Darius McCrary) along.

When Bodega (Emilio Rivera) calls to find out if the shipment has arrived, Jesus (Cisci Reyes) tells him that it hasn't, Bodega tells him that he has tracked the package and that it has been signed for. Jesus has his girl Chita (Yasmin Deliz) go to a payphone to track the package, she is so dumb that she can't even handle this small task. Bodega decides he has to go to Philly to find his package so he takes Rhino (Lobo Sebastian) with him as his back up. Leo comes across another driver, Eric (Mos Def) going through peoples packages, Eric once told Leo that he has every right to do this and if they try to fire him he will scream prejudice. Right. Is that a good message to teach our kids? When Jesus and Chita come across Eric in his truck they pull weapons on him and threaten his life, all this for some drugs, after this little scene, Mos Def is gone, he has maybe ten minutes of screen time, so if you want to see this movie for him, DON'T.

When Bodega and Rhino get to Philly, they go to Jesus and Chita, Bodega tells them that they better come up with the drugs or else. When they finally come across Leo they beat him up and tell him unless he takes them to where he dropped the package off they are going to kill him. Back in the apartment where the drugs are Shavoo has agreed to buy the drugs so he takes Buddy to the storage locker to pick up his cash, when he gets there the locker has been broken into and the money is gone, they soon find out that the two guys who work for the storage company have the money and after threatening them they get the money back. Heading back to the apartment Shavoo is surprised when Buddy pulls out several weapons, he says he isn't sure they will be needed but it's best to just have them anyway. Up in the apartment Guch has hidden guns all over as well, just in case he says.

Once the eight main characters are set to show up at the right apartment, this movie turns into a bloody mindless excuse for violence. The end of this movie makes you wonder what you found so funny up to this point. When did this comedy turn to an action movie, when did the viewers get left behind, where did we get shafted? My thought is this, we got shafted when we plunked down our ten dollars for this stupid unfunny movie.

I give Next Day Air a 0 and on my avoidance scale a 4, this is the type of movie I try to warn movie viewers to stay away from. The comedy isn't worth the mindless violent ending. If comedies with a violent twist is your thing then this is your kind of movie, if you have any more intelligence than a common house fly stay away from this useless pile of drivel.

Next Day Air is rated R for Pervasive Language, Drug Content, Some Violence and Brief Sexuality
Running time is 1 hr. 30 mins.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

3 Ghosts Changed My Life

In Ghosts Of Girfriends Past, celebrity photographer Connor Mead (Matthew McConaughey) loves freedom, fun and that order. A committed bachelor with a no-strings policy, he thinks nothing of breaking up with multiple women on a conference call while prepping his next date.  Connor's brother Paul (Breckin Meyer)is more the romantic type. In fact, he's about to be married to Sandra (Lacey Chabert). Unfortunately, on the eve of the big event, Connor's mockery of romance proves a real buzz-kill for Paul, the wedding party and a houseful of well wishers -- including Connor's childhood friend Jenny (Jennifer Garner), the one woman in his life who has always seemed immune to his considerable charm. Just when it looks like Connor may single-handedly ruin the wedding, he gets a wake-up call from the ghost of his late Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas), the hard-partying, legendary ladies man upon whose exploits Connor has modeled his lifestyle. Uncle Wayne has an urgent message for his protege, which he delivers through the ghosts of Connor's jilted girlfriends -- past, present and future -- who take him on a revealing and hilarious odyssey through a lifetime of failed relationships. Together, they will discover what turned Connor into such a shameless player and whether he has a second chance to find -- and this time, keep -- the love of his life.

It's gone well past cloying to see Matthew McConaughey play a ''charming cad.'' (The more he pushes the charm, the more the cad shows through.) But even if you've tired of the star's oily cocoa-butter narcissism, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past offers a solution, of sorts: It casts him as a studly photographer who is such a smarmy, dislikable (insert expletive of your choice) that the film doesn't pretend you're supposed to like him.  In the first scene, McConaughey, cast as a fellow named Connor Mead (that should get your hate juices flowing right there), swans around a photo set, firing off lewd remarks at barely dressed models. When they make goo-goo eyes at him anyway, the film seems to be endorsing this sleazy-does-it lounge lizard. Fear not, though — it's counting on the audience's revulsion. Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, you see, is a chick-flick update of A Christmas Carol, with Connor as a heartless, babe-magnet Scrooge who, during the long weekend of his brother's wedding, gets his comeuppance when a series of ghosts reveal the train wreck — past, present, and future — that is his romantic life. The movie is cheesy, tacky, and gimmicky. But as directed by Mark Waters, it's also prankish and inventive enough to be kind of fun. As the ghost of Uncle Wayne, the Hefneresque bachelor who taught Connor how to be a pickup artist, Michael Douglas shows his gift for turning creepiness into light comedy. Laying down rules lifted from Neil Strauss' egregious insult-your-way-into-bed manifesto The Game, Douglas shows you the loser inside the swinger. And it helps to have Jennifer Garner, with her dimpled vivacity, as the lifelong object of Connor's affection. There's some funny business with a wedding cake, as well as a deeply unfunny (and shrill) performance by Lacey Chabert as the bride, but mostly there is Matthew McConaughey acting abashed — and, yes, a wee bit charming — as he gets the lesson he deserves. through its first act with little to offer in the way of comedy or romance. Connor is more cheesy than amusing, the supporting characters and situations feel re-used from other ghost or wedding movies, and the jokes are mostly pretty lame. There's also a crassness to the tone that makes it hard to laugh at the chick-chasing antics of Connor and his ghostly uncle. Surprisingly, though, things become more appealing when the film starts to focus, at first in flashbacks and then in the present, on the relationship between Connor and Jenny, one of the few women who seems immune to his supposed charms. The scenes involving the two characters as kids, then teens, then adults lead up to a pleasant if conventional third act in which Connor sees the error of his ways. While McConaughey does manage to give Connor a more interesting and vulnerable side in the story's latter stages, it's really Garner's understated performance that lends the film what charm and warmth it has. Surprisingly, there isn't much to say here. While I enjoyed this movie, it will surely be ine of those that will be seen and then forgotten. This gets a 3 on my "Go See" scale.

When Can To Many Ghosts Become A good Thing?

When a comedy takes an old classic and retells it, I usually will find this dull and boring, but when "Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past" does a little Charles Dickens, I'm couldn't help but be a little bit impressed. This movie tells the story of A Christmas Carol with a modern day twist, of course.

Fashion photographer Connor Mead (Matthew McConaughey) is a true ladies man, he thinks that by dating every woman he meets he can keep the pain from his first love slipping away at bay. He thinks the less he commits himself the better off he will be. This is a philosophy that was taught to him by his uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas), a now deceased lady-killer legend who notoriously hosted mind-numbing, clothing optional, week-long orgies in his house. Connor also remarks that the term MILF was invented by his Uncle.

Connor is invited by his brother Paul (Breckin Meyer) to his and his fiance Sandra's (Lacey Chabert) wedding, against the advice of Connor's childhood sweetheart Jenny Perotti (Jennifer Garner), Jenny had hopes for Connor at one time, they were childhood friends, and even sweethearts. Connor's reputation proceeds him, he breaks up with three girls on a conference call so he can be with a fourth woman. When Connor makes it to the mansion where the wedding is going to be held, all kinds of high jinks start. Connor goes to the washroom and there the fun starts, he is visited by the ghost of his uncle Wayne, Wayne tells Connor that he has been watching him and that he is destined to be alone, so in order to help him, Wayne is going to allow Connor to be visited by the three ghosts, they will represent his Girlfriends past, Allison Vandermeersh (Emma Stone) present, Melanie (Noureen DeWulf) and future (Olga Maliouk).

Connor even hits on Sandra's Mother Vonda (Anne Archer), she tells him that she is to old for him. She points out the one bridesmaid that hasn't already slept with Connor, he tells Denice to go up to his room and wait for him. When he gets there he meets his first ghost who takes him back in time to when he and Jenny were just kids. Just before his parents die in a car accident. Of course uncle Wayne steps up and raises both the boys, this gives Connor his education that he carries with him into his adulthood. After the first ghost leaves, Connor runs down into the kitchen to get a drink and more calamity happens, he tries to leave the mansion but is stopped by the "present" ghost. She is going to show him how happy the people around him are when ever he isn't near them. She points out that Jenny is moving on, that she still has feelings for Connor but he almost destroyed them, he has also just about destroyed his brothers wedding as well. The "future" ghost shows Connor that his life is a lone one, that no one except his brother will come to his funeral.

The next morning when Connor wakes up he opens the window and asks a young boy if it's Christmas, the boy replies "no it's Saturday." Connor finds out that what he has done has almost ruined his brothers life as well, so Connor sets out to right the wrongs of his actions. To say that the ending is so cliche is an understatement, we know he will stop Sandra from walking away, we know he and Jenny will get back together, but it's touching to witness it as it happens.

I give Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past a 3 and on my avoidance scale a 0. Ghosts isn't a true chick flick but it's close, but guys don't despair this movie is worth the time and effort. Overall this movie contains some touching scenes, the comedy hits it's mark almost every time. You will laugh and maybe even cry, I recommend this movie whole heartily.

Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past is rated PG-13 for Sexual Content Throughout, Some Language and a Drug Reference
running time is 1 hr. 55 mins.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Dangerous Battle For Terra

Senn (Justin Long) and Mala (Evan Rachel Wood), two rebellious alien teens living on the beautiful planet Terra, a place that promotes peace and tolerance, having long ago rejected war and weapons of mass destruction. But when Terra is invaded by human beings fleeing a civil war and environmental catastrophe, the planet is plunged into chaos. During the upheaval, Mala befriends an injured human pilot (Luke Wilson) and each learns the two races are not so different from one another. Together they must face the terrifying realization that in a world of limited resources, only one of their races is likely to survive in Battle For Terra.

Battle For Terra is certainly not a brilliant little experiment, but it sure is colorful enough to warrant a few peeks. Animation buffs will appreciate the film's lush landscapes -- but I'm wondering if the movie has that "kid appeal" that's the absolute lifeblood of CG features. The plot kicks off in slightly familiar fashion, but then we're thrown a nice little curve-ball: Seems the planet of Terra is populated by these kind-hearted and really adorable tadpole-ish creatures. This species knows nothing of war or violence, so when a massive "something" appears in the sky, most of the Terrians mistake the presence for that of a "new god." (The movie touches on religion only tangentially, but also rather interestingly.) But it's not a god; it's an invading force. Obviously the viewer is expecting the invader to be some sort of horribly nasty creature, and in some ways it is: The invader is us. After spending generations floating through space on a massive ship, the universe's last humans have chanced upon Terra -- and it sure looks like humanity has a plan to terra-form and colonize that pastoral planet. Too bad the oxygen-making process will make the Terrians extinct, but that's of no concern to the human military leaders. While some of the more considerate folks are looking for other options, the selfish General Hemmer (Brian Cox) decides to -- you guessed it -- bomb the hell out of Terra and claim it for "humanity." Clearly we're looking at a simple enough allegory, but hats off to the filmmakers for at least tossing a few curve balls into the mix. Although it's a simple adventure story and an obvious statement on the evils of war, Terra also makes a few small statements about organized religion, the dangers of conformity, and the importance of open-mndedness. I also like how neither race is portrayed as too angelic or too evil. The heroic Terrians are victims of their own conformist ways at the outset, and the humans express both nobility and horrific selfishness. Yes, it's a pretty "sweet-natured" movie, but there are some shades of gray in there, which I both noticed and appreciated. The animation is exceedingly beautiful as far as the exteriors, the landscapes, and the overall production design are concerned -- but the characters (both the humans and the Terrians) are a bit too stylized to sell the meat of the movie. The heroic Lt. Stanton looks a like like a larger, blander version of Buzz Lightyear, while the Terrians are all tails and eyeballs; cute, but not all that dramatically engaging. As is always the case with CG features like Terra, the voice cast is jam-packed with familiar chords: Evan Rachel Wood and Luke Wilson provide the voices of lead characters Mala and Stanton, but eagle-eared moviegoers will recognize David Cross as a helpful robot, Danny Glover as a wise leader, Brian Cox as a war-mongering soldier, and hey that's Justin Long, James Garner, Dennis Quaid, Chris Evans, and on and on. Based on director Aristomenis Tsirbas' short film from a few years back, the feature-length Terra has a basic-yet-admirable statement to make about the best and worst of human nature, and it makes the statement colorfully and sincerely. It's got a little something for everyone and should be seen by all. This gets a 3 on my "Go See" scale.

Mankind Takes It's Battle To Peaceful Terra

Today Hollywood has several ways to try to get their message of the moment across, today's method is a message in a cartoon, in the 3D cartoon "The Battle For Terra" we get a hidden more subtler message of greed and what it brings to everyone.

On the beautiful planet Terra, peace and tolerance are celebrated. Huge animals that resemble whales float in the sky, everyone gets along. Mala (Evan Rachel Wood) is a young girl, who is best friends with Senn (Justin Long). The two spend their days in contest with each other, the planets inhabitants are a kinder gentle people who look like a cross between amphibians and tadpoles. The inhabitants of Earth have exhausted the resources of their planet and those of two others, they are now searching for a new home. When this Earthforce discovers that the use of a Terraformer will make Terra habitable for humans they decide that they will just take it, never mind the climate change will kill all the creatures that live on Terra.

When the Earthlings embark on a hostile invasion of Terra, Mala's father, Roven (Dennis Quaid), is kidnapped. Mala is chased by a ship, she leads it into a trap, when the ship crashes Mala takes the survivor, the human pilot named Jim (Luke Wilson), back to her house and hides him. Back on the Humans ship, that is falling apart faster and faster each day, General Hemmer (Brian Cox) has decided that it is best for everyone, human that is, if he just turns the planet Terra into Earths new home base. Mala along with a robot named Giddy (David Cross) help Jim get better, of course at first when Jim wakes up he is scared but when Mala once again saves his life, Jim realizes he is with friends. Of course Terra wasn't always peaceful, they once had weapons and wars, Elder Orin (Mark Hamill) hides this fact from most of the people on Terra, he only shows Mala, cause she had contact with the humans. When Jim wakes up Senn sees him and runs and tells the elders, they come to her home looking for him. Mala takes Jim to where his ship crashed, but its gone, they follow tracks and find a hidden base, they barely escape when the people of Terra reveal themselves to be as capable of violence as humans are.

Back on the humans ship Jim is hailed as a hero back on his ship, General Hemmer asks him to help defeat the planets inhabitants. Jim tries to tell him that the people are mainly peaceful. Mala being curious about where her father is leaves the ship to look for him and is captured. General Hemmer forces Jim to make a choice when he places Jim's brother into the same room with Mala, the air that Mala breathes is poisonous to humans, if Jim hits a button the air will turn to oxygen and save Jim's brother but kill Mala. Jim presses the button but tells Giddy to save Mala. When Mala escapes General Hemmer uses that excuse to force the council to declare war on Terra. President Chen (Danny Glover) is against it, so Hemmer takes control of the council himself. He sends his fighters to attack the planet but this time, thanks to Mala, they are ready to defend their home. Of course the battle takes a turn for the worse when Jim sees who he is shooting at, Mala is trying to save Senn and has flown between Jim's ship and Senn's. The outcome of the battle is a little bit overdrawn and violent, Jim decides he can't allow the peaceful people of Terra die. The finale brings forth the one means that both races can live together.

I give The Battle For Terra a 3 and on my avoidance scale a 1, wait and watch this movie with your children in your home, this way you can stop it at certain scenes and let your children talk about what they are seeing. The message that this movie brings is a little bit harsh for the younger viewers that it is garnered towards, most kids won't think about the hidden meaning in the movie. The carton is shot in both 2d and 3D, there is little difference between the two. The battle scenes in space are spectacular and are worth the cost of admission alone, but that's about all to look forward to seeing. You will be amazed at what the younger kids see, that as adults we miss.

The Battle For Terra is rated PG for Sequences of Sci - Fi Action Violence and some Thematic Elements
Running time is 1 hr. 30 mins.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Go Ahead And Get Obsessed

Derek Charles (Idris Elba), a successful asset manager who has just received a huge promotion, is blissfully happy in his career and in his marriage to the beautiful Sharon (Beyoncé Knowles). But when Lisa (Ali Larter), a temp worker, starts stalking Derek, all the things he's worked so hard for are placed in jeopardy in Obsessed.

"Fatal Attraction,""The Hand That Rocks the Cradle,""The Temp," and "Disclosure" all come to mind as Obsessed plays out. One of those genre staples wherein a dangerous, unhinged individual becomes severely and, ultimately, violently fixated with another, the film is predictable, trashily entertaining time-filler. The villain of the piece—sexy, efficient, and, yes, obsessive office temp Lisa Sheridan (Larter)—is treated in the first half with enough intriguing shades of sympathy that it all plays out well when it turns from serious exploration into a sad, unhealthy mind showing climactic bursts of violence. Derek Charles (Elba) seemingly has it all—a beautiful wife, Sharon (Knowles); a precious baby son, Kyle (Nathan Myers, Nicolas Myers); a spacious new home in the Los Angeles suburbs; and a tidy new position as executive vice president to law firm Gage Bendix. When assistant Patrick (Matthew Humphreys) gets sick and must miss a few days of work, ambitious blonde Lisa Sheridan arrives to temporarily fill in. Derek is friendly with Lisa, listening to her boyfriend woes, bonding over music, and sharing a nice conversation and drinks. To him, their relationship is harmless, and he not once even considers the option of cheating on Sharon. To Lisa, however, there is much more between them, and she is going to do whatever it takes for their fantasy romance to become a reality. Obsessed is competently made, not above some egregious displays of clichés—there is, indeed, a heated confrontation in a parking garage, as well as some plate-throwing during an argument—but relatively absorbing for much of the time. Usually stuck in supporting roles, Idris Elba deservedly gets the lead role of Derek Charles, and is up to the challenge of portraying this faithful, hardworking businessman who gets so far in over his head that he has no idea how to get out of it. His relationship with Lisa, traveling close enough to the line of what is and isn't appropriate between coworkers that it is easy to see how Lisa might get the wrong impression, is well-developed. In another place, in another time, these two might have actually been ideal for each other. That Lisa is unwilling to accept the reality, getting lost in her own delusions of a life with Derek, is where the conflict arises. None-too-subtle examples of workplace sexual harassment follow, and the way the film sets up this predicament and then finds ways for Derek to be unable to explain his side of the story before it is almost too late to salvage his family is smart enough to not strain believability. As Lisa, Ali Larter is quite arresting, the most fascinating character in the film. Before the script pushes her off the deep end and flirts with making her a stock psychopath, Larter is given the chance to essay a person who feels like a true human being, her disastrously skewed reading of situations and relationships worth feeling sorry for her over. Fortunately, director Steve Shill is brave enough to follow the gradually charged storyline out to a natural, character-oriented conclusion. He goes for the obvious, with Lisa drugging Derek during a business retreat, and later breezing into Derek's and Sharon's home while they are out to dinner, spending time with their baby and ransacking their bedroom. The third-act brawl between Sharon and Lisa is expected—curiously, Sharon is the instigator of the knock-down fight—and worth some the excitement. As it turns out, this is also the film's biggest hit, dislocating the root predicament between Derek and Lisa simply so there can be an action-oriented, to-the-death finale where Sharon spouts one-liners and calls Lisa a bitch while dragging her across the floor and smashing her face into the upstairs banister. Certain audiences will be cheering by the end of Obsessed, particularly fans of Beyoncé Knowles who are there to see nothing more than the former Destiny's Child singer kick some white-girl booty. Knowles is perfectly respectable in the part of Sharon. The crowd-pleasing conclusion that utilizes her to her fullest is guilty of being portrayed to some as pure run-of-the-mill silliness that demeans the character of Lisa and deems her to be unworthy of receiving the professional psychological help she needs. By ending on a freeze-frame that brings no insight into anything and solves the plot in the most rudimentary fashion imaginable, Obsessed may seem like it runs out of last straws, but I enjoyed it. I thought the casting was very well put together. It will definitely draw a good crowd. This gets a 3 on my "Go See" scale.

This Is What Happens When You Get Obsessed

Every so often movies come out that just bring out the beast in everyone, the newest movie that will try this is "Obsessed." I know I am included in the large group of people who go on and on about Hollywood constantly cranking out drivel over and over again, but the truth is as long as we go sit through the endless stream of these movies they will continually be made. This movie will get a huge audience it's first week and then hopefully fade away.

Successful businessman, Derek (Idris Elba) receives a huge promotion, is happily married to Sharon (Beyonce) and they have just bought a nice house out in the suburbs. When Derek arrives at work he meets Lisa (Ali Larter) in the elevator, she is the new office temp. Derek pays little attention to Lisa until the next day when his regular assistant Patrick (Matthew Humphreys) gets the flu, Lisa becomes his new temp assistant. Derek at first thinks she is proficient and helpful, he will soon find out the depths of her insanity. When Patrick is well enough to come back, the offices lead Secretary, Marge (Bonnie Perelman) goes out with the flu, so of course Lisa gets her desk. The game starts one day when Lisa is alone in the lunch room and Derek walks in, she is crying and Derek asks her why, she tells him its boyfriend trouble. The day of the office Christmas party comes and of course spouses are not allowed at the party, Lisa dances with Derek and when he goes into the bathroom, she follows him in, she pushes him into one of the stalls, she rubs against him and pulls his shirt from his pants, Derek reacts like most men would, he pushes her away. (RIGHT).

He goes home to his wife, and starts to tell Sharon about what happened, she stops him when she tells Derek about what is going on with her sister and her cheating husband. He thinks it will all just go away. The next day back in the office, Lisa acts as if nothing happened at the party, Derek wonders what is going on until he goes to leave and Lisa gets into Derek's car, she opens her coat and Lisa is wearing nothing but a bra and panties, Derek yells at her that nothing is going on and to get out of his car. The next day Derek tells his best friend in the office, Ben (Jerry O' Connell) what has been happening, and because Derek had married his last female assistant, Ben tells him not to make waves. He of course thinks Lisa is one "smoking hot piece of meat." When Joe Gage, the firms president takes Derek and Ben to a convention, of course Lisa shows up, when Derek tells her to leave she drops a drug into his drink, later that night as Derek is passing out, Lisa comes into his room and in an eerie scene she rapes Derek. Later that afternoon when the firm is having a meeting Lisa has a hotel staff member go into the meeting and tell Derek his wife is here, when Derek comes out he finds Lisa there, he screams and stamps his feet and tells her that she is crazy that NOTHING is going on.

He walks back into the meeting and that night when he gets back to his room he finds Lisa overdosed in his bed. His concern for her is shown when he yells "come on bitch wake up." He calls 911 and they rush Lisa to the hospital, Sharon unable to reach Derek calls Ben and finds out that there has been an accident, fearing the worst she rushes to the hospital, to find a detective questioning Derek. Detective Reese (Christine Lahti) doesn't believe that a man wouldn't take advantage of Lisa, and makes it clear she doesn't believe Derek. Sharon also makes it clear she doesn't believe him, she throws him out of the house. Months go by before Sharon is even willing to talk with Derek, in the mean time we see detective Reese question Lisa, we also see as her belief in Lisa's story crumbles. Of course we see where the movie is heading, when Derek and Sharon return from their first date in three months they find that Lisa has been in the house and has taken their baby Kyle. Sharon and Derek run around the house looking for Kyle and find him in the baby car seat in Derek's car. The confrontation, when it comes is predictable Lisa makes in into the house again, even though they have added a new security system, Sharon forgets to set it on her way out and when she is reminded returns and finds Lisa in their bed. The two women fight it out, going back and forth, the fight goes from the bedroom to the landing, down the stairs to finally in the attic.

I give Obsessed a 2 and on my avoidance scale a 1, watch this movie at home, so its easy top walk away from. When a couple things are shown in the beginning it's clear that they will come into play sometime during the fight, a weak floor board in the attic is pointed out right at the start of the movie and a few minutes later some movers bring in a huge glass top table, this is paid to much attention and we know what will happen to it later. Or we should. The movie ends with Sharon walking from the house as Detective Reese drives up. Everything is over she says, can taking a life be this easy? NO it isn't.

Obsessed is rated PG-13 for Sexual Material Including Some Suggestive Dialogue, Some Violence and Thematic Content
Running time is 1 hr. 32 mins.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bringing Music To My Ears With The Soloist

The Soloist is a biographical drama about real-life musical prodigy Nathaniel Anthony Ayers (Jamie Foxx), who dropped out of Julliard after developing schizophrenia and became a homeless musician on the streets of Los Angeles. Journalist Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.)discovers the former classical music prodigy, playing his violin on the streets. As Lopez endeavors to help the homeless man find his way back, a unique friendship is formed, one that transforms both their lives.
Despite being raised in the 'hood by a single-mom, child prodigy Nathaniel Ayers (Foxx) exhibited such promise on the cello that by the time he graduated from high school in 1970 he had earned a scholarship to Julliard. But unlike other classmates such as Yo-Yo Ma, Nathaniel would never get a chance to realize his full potential, because during his sophomore year he began exhibiting symptoms of the schizophrenia which would derail his dream of a career in classical music. Soon, he had to drop out of school and return home to Cleveland where he was cared for by his mother until she passed away in 2000. At that juncture, he headed west, prompted by a delusion that his long-lost father resided in Los Angeles. Instead, Nathaniel only ended up on the infamous Skid Row, leading a hand-to-mouth existence in obscurity alongside thousands of the equally destitute and less-fortunate. There, the only hint of his musical past was revealed when he periodically played the violin in the park while standing beneath a statue of Ludwig Van Beethoven. Nonetheless, Nathaniel generally went unnoticed by passersby until the fateful day, Steve Lopez (Downey, Jr.), a writer for the L.A. Times, was struck by the virtuosity being exhibited by this homeless man on a battered, old instrument with only two strings. The intrigued reporter introduced himself, and was shocked to hear semi-lucid Nathaniel, during rare moments of clarity, assert that he had once studied at Juilliard. After confirming that rarified pedigree with the school's administration office in New York, Lopez decided to write a series of feature stories about how someone so talented could end up a street musician begging for tips. However, he gradually found himself crossing the line from dispassionate journalist to friend and benefactor as he became increasingly involved with rehabilitating his subject, not only finding him an apartment, but arranging for violin lessons and mental health treatment as well. Thus, "Can this lost soul be saved?" is the burning question posed by The Soloist, a bittersweet bio-pic based on Mr. Lopez's best-seller of the same name. Directed by Joe Wright (Atonement), the film features Jamie Foxx who does a magnificent job in his most challenging outing since Ray. Here, he convincingly conveys the tragic plight of a man still capable of flashes of brilliance who is more often than not betrayed by his own brain. Narrator Robert Downey, Jr. is just as effective playing the would-be Good Samaritan forced by his estranged wife, Alison (Catherine Keener) to question his own motivations when his every overture is ostensibly thwarted by the very person he's hoping to help.Was Lopez truly altruistic, or just motivated by the potential book and movie deals that Nathaniel's sensational tale might enable him to land? And was it fair of him to presume to know what was best for a schizophrenic without walking a mile in the man's moccasins or medulla oblongata? Judge for yourself. There are no easy answers here, so don't expect a Hollywood ending, even though the picture was shot on location right on Skid Row (and employed hundreds of homeless as extras), virtually in the shadow of Tinseltown. A compelling cross of a couple of Academy Award-winning Best Pictures, A Beautiful Mind and One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, capable of holding its own up against those similarly-themed, screen classics. A heartwarming 4 on my "Go See" scale.

The Soloist Is A Tragic Story Of Brilliance

I have said before that when a movie is based on a "real" person or event, Hollywood usually takes a view that is slightly different than the real occurrence. In "The Soloist" based on a book by Los Angeles Times reporter Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.), and his amazing story of the life of Nathaniel Anthony Ayers Jr. (Jamie Foxx).

Steve Lopez (Downey Jr.) hasn't had a good story in a while and the newspaper where he works is laying off journalists due to falling ratings. When he happens upon a homeless violinist, Ayers Jr. playing with only 2 strings. Ayers was a former Julliard student who begins to trust Lopez, and a friendship grows. When Lopez first checks Ayers story about Julliard, he is disappointed to find out that there wasn't anyone in the schools records by that name. Later he finds out that the reason Ayers name didn't come up at first is because he never graduated, he dropped out in his sophomore year. Lopez, who is influenced by the talent of the man he can only see now, writes story after story about the man with two strings. Soon gifts start to pour in from the readers who are moved by the plight of this talented man. Soon Lopez gets Ayers to store his instruments at a homeless facility called Lamp, and tells him if he wants to play them then Ayers has to go to this facility.

Ayers is schizophrenic, and has violent outburst for reasons that he feels are worthy of his time. Litter, especially cigarette butts are the number one thing that sets him off. Ayers is never more alive then when he is playing, he hears things and feels things that no one else can contemplate. Lopez makes such an impact in the city of Angels that even the Mayor comes to speak to Ayers, he also pledges fifty million dollars to help end the homelessness on skid row. Once Ayers agrees to go to Lamp, Lopez is sure that with medicine Ayers can be cured, he is given the facts by David (Nelson Ellis) one of the men who runs Lamp, he says if Nathaniel isn't ready for med's then he won't take them. Steve tells Nathaniel that an apartment is available at lamp and that Nathaniel can use it as a studio to play his music, Nathaniel is reluctant to go there because he feels that someone will steal his cart. Lopez works for his ex wife Alison, (Catherine Keener), who is fighting to keep the paper going, cutbacks and layoffs happen everyday, even with the stories of Ayers becoming such a huge hit, the paper still is hit with several lay offs. She is a little jealous of the success that Steve is getting, but keeps telling him that if he is committed to Ayers than he has to go all the way.

One of the perks that Steve is able to give to Nathaniel are tickets to see a rehearsal of the Philharmonic Orchestra. Nathaniel is aware that he is homeless and this is one reason that Steve suggests the rehearsals instead of a performance, Nathaniel goes and is so captivated by the music that he is able to slip away from his reality and just feel the music. This scene is touching and tender to watch. Of course Nathaniel's disease comes into play one day when Steve brings some papers to where Nathaniel is staying, they had agreed that Nathaniel's sister Jennifer (Lisa Gay Hamilton) would be his executor. The day Steve brings the papers over, Nathaniel misunderstands them and gets angry at Steve, he threatens to kill him if he ever comes around again. Steve picks up Jennifer at the airport and takes her to Lamp, Nathaniel has been staying there more and more.

I give The Soloist a 3 and on my avoidance scale a 0. The movie ends as Nathaniel tells Steve he is sorry for saying the things he did, the disease is as heartbreaking to the friends and family as it is horrendous to the victim. This is a touching movie that will make your heart ache. This is a movie that should be seen, though it does seem to drag at points, it's understandable, there is no "light" way to tell this story.

The Soloist is rated PG-13 for Thematic Elements, some Drug Use and Language
Running time is 1 hr. 57 mins.

Not Just A Whole Lot Of Fighting

Starring Channing Tatum and Terrence Howard, Fighting tells the story of Shawn MacArthur (Channing Tatum), a small-town boy who has come to New York City with nothing but a dark past. When scam artist Harvey Boarden (Terrence Howard) offers Shawn help at making real cash by streetfighting, the two form an uneasy partnership. Shawn and Harvey both find success, but there's also struggle -- for brotherhood, survival, and respect both in and out of the streetfighting ring. Their world involves the corrupt bare-knuckle circuit, where rich men bet on disposable pawns. If Shawn ever hopes to escape the dark world in which he’s found himself, he must now face the toughest fight of his life.
Writer/director Dito Montiel drops down a few rungs after his promising debut film "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints," with an undernourished drama about small-town fighter Shawn MacArthur (Tatum) who comes to Manhattan where he meets two-bit hustler Harvey Boarden (Howard). Harvey introduces Shawn to a world of underground street fighting, and Shawn proves himself a viable money-maker with an early steak of hard fought wins. The well-filmed impromptu bouts are appropriately gritty and energetic, but it's the film's romantic aspirations between Shawn and cocktail waitress Zulay (played by newcomer Zulay Valez) that provide a much-needed emotional lift to the otherwise dead-end social atmosphere. The ever-watchable Terrence Howard mixes things up with a quirky slowed-down accent that keeps you hanging on his every word, and Montiel cranks up the suspense with a third-act surprise climax that pays off nicely. Fighting's title puts aside any questions about the sort of genre story at hand, and to that end the filmmaker creates bare-knuckle fight sequences that have the kind of uncontained freestyle roaming quality of Martin Scorsese's celebrated bar brawl sequence in Mean Streets. The Italian underground mob world of Scorsese's '70s era New York is transposed to a leaner modern-day Manhattan where a Russian-operated crime syndicate is responsible for promoting no-holds-barred fights in private locations for a select group of gamblers willing to bet large sums of money on the outcome. The Wall Street frat boys that show up to invest their cash with Harvey are the epitome of the kind of greedy testosterone-obsessed guys that America has come to loath. Once we know that Shawn can handle himself in the ring, he runs into Evan Hailey (Brian White) a former wrestling teammate from high school in Birmingham, Alabama. Backstory provides that Shawn's father was their wrestling coach, who came between the two rivals during a knockdown-drag-out fight and suffered a series of unforgivable blows from Shawn's fists. It's this bit of teased-up personal drama that elicits an inevitable all-or-nothing match between Shawn and Evan that gives the movie its overflowing climax. Unexpectedly, Fighting exudes romantic warmth in Shawn's courtship of Zulay, already a mother to a young daughter. During an extended scene in her grandmother's Bronx apartment the couple painstakingly pursue a first kiss that Zulay's familial chaperone actively attempts to prevent. Montiel lets the sequence go on longer than we expect, and the naturalistic humor that comes from the situation endears us to the characters. Fighting seems like a no-brainer project for Dito Montiel that he needed to get out of his system before he can move back into an emotionally rarefied world as complex as that of his first film. Nonetheless, Montiel finishes Fighting with a narrative flourish that accomplishes the hoped-for effect of a movie aimed at romantically inclined urban audiences. No one has to keep fighting. A dramatic 4 on my "Go See" scale.

WTF? Moment : After Shawn buys a box of umbrellas from a Korean guy to sell later, it starts to rain as he takes them home. When he spots Harvey in a resturant he goes to confront him about his partner that stole his money. It's here that we notice that the box is now dry and has some umbrellas missing. After he leaves the resturant with the box it has stopped raining, but the box is repeatedly wet and then dry throughout the scene.

I Left Fighting The Urge To Like This Movie

When a movie comes along that has a silly name, I for one don't hold out much hope for a good movie, when the one word name is "Fighting" I hold out even less hope. So it was a pleasant surprise to sit through a movie that had a story, not just sweaty men beating each other to a pulp. Not saying that is a bad thing, but in a movie you want substance.

Young Shawn MacArthur (Channing Tatum) is reduced to selling bootlegs on the streets to survive in his new found home of New York City. While selling bootlegs he is accosted by several young street thugs, in a fight to protect his property, he loses his stash of cash. He sees who picks it up and gives chase, he is blocked by the leader of the young men. Harvey Boarden (Terrence Howard), is a street hustler, he has moved to New York from the bustle of Chicago. He along with a few friends from his past run some underground bare knuckle street fights. In these street fights the rich yuppies who won't or can't do the fighting bet huge sums of money on the fighter of their choice. As Shawn is walking from a store where he just bough umbrella's he spots both the young man he saw take his money, and Harvey sitting, eating in a restaurant. He walks in and tells Harvey that he wants his money back, Harvey says he liked Shawn's style in the fight, and that he can make him a lot of money if Shawn will let Harvey manage him.

Agreeing to at least meet the people that Harvey says he knows, Shawn is, from the start out of his element, these men dress fancy and spend money at clubs like it's water passing through their fingers. One of the men who came to New York with Harvey is Martinez (Luis Guzman), who actually broke Harvey's leg with a baseball bat. After Shawn's first victory, Shawn becomes an instant celebrity, the fight is in a church and lasts just a few minutes, that night at a club, Martinez tells Shawn that powerful people will try to steal him away from Harvey. Harvey finds Shawn asleep on a park bench and offers him a place to sleep, he even tells him if he needs money that there are sneakers, concert and play tickets he can scalp. When Harvey asks him to throw a fight, Shawn in need of money, still insists upon his code of honor and refuses to throw a fight.

A couple of the guys who work with Harvey at first don't like Shawn, but as he wins fight after fight they come around. Ajax (Michael Rivera), Ray Ray (Flaco Navaja) and Z (Peter Tambakis) start to root for Shawn. When the guys are celebrating Shawn's victory they go to a club and there they run into a rival of Shawn's from back home (I know, I know cliche time). Evan Hailey (Brian J. White) was a team member on a wrestling team that was coached by Shawn's father. One day they two got into a fist fight and stepping between his son and prize pupil, Shawn accidentally punched his father, not being able to live with what he's done, Shawn runs away from home. Shawn meets a cocktail waitress names Zulay Valez (Zulay Henao) and he right away likes here, she was one of his customers the morning he was attacked. He takes his time to get to know Zulay, he doesn't push her or make her life worse than it is. When he finally gets Zulay to go out with him, its to grab a quick bite to eat. The date is over even before it begins, Shawn keeps "running" into Zulay and she takes him back to her apartment, in one of the movies funnier scenes Shawn is continually harassed by Zulay's grandmother Alba (Altagracia Guzman).

Telling Harvey that he needs money, Harvey sets up a fight with the one guy that has been looking to fight Shawn, Evan. The fight is for big money, a hundred grand to the winner. Shawn wants to win, but Harvey says he can't, he thinks he has talked Shawn into throwing the fight and we next see Harvey going around to collect large sums of money to have Zulay place bets. The big money guy is Jack Dancing (Roger Guenveur Smith), he is also one of Harvey's friends from Chicago. Harvey tells Zulay to place a five hundred thousand dollar bet against Shawn. The day of the big fight draws near and Shawn has found out the hard way that Zulay and Harvey have a past, so now we are made to think that maybe Shawn will set Harvey up to take a fall.

When Harvey gets the money he goes to a couple of large money stockbrokers and also to Martinez. They both mention that if Harvey tries anything that he is a dead man. The day arrives and Shawn and Evan face off. The fight is brutal but it isn't made a part of the continuation of the story, who wins and who loses is logical if you think about it, it doesn't really matter to the story, the real story is the building friendship between Zulay and Shawn. Where this leaves Harvey is right where he started when Shawn came along.

I give Fighting a 3 and on my avoidance scale a 1. I really didn't want to like this story, the title alone gave me pause before I even went in to see it. I for one am glad I gave this movie a chance, you will be too. You may just find yourself liking this movie if you give it a chance, if you see it while it's in the theatres you won't be disappointed.

Fighting is rated PG-13 for Intense Fight Sequences, Some Sexuality and Brief Strong Language
Running time is 1 hr. 45 mins.

Monday, April 20, 2009

An Intriguing State Of Play

Russell Crowe leads an all-star cast in a blistering thriller about a rising congressman and an investigative journalist embroiled in an case of seemingly unrelated, brutal murders. Crowe plays D.C. reporter Cal McCaffrey, whose street smarts lead him to untangle a mystery of murder and collusion among some of the nation’s most promising political and corporate figures in State of Play, from acclaimed director Kevin Macdonald. Handsome, unflappable U.S. Congressman Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck) is the future of his political party: an honorable appointee who serves as the chairman of a committee overseeing defense spending. All eyes are upon the rising star to be his party’s contender for the upcoming presidential race. Until his research assistant/mistress is brutally murdered and buried secrets come tumbling out.

Paul Abbott's much-admired BBC drama serial about a murderous conspiracy at the heart of the British establishment has been condensed and Americanised into a decent, workmanlike, old-fashioned political thriller, directed by Kevin Macdonald. The original had seemed so edgy and contemporary - State of Play was state of the art - but the movie version, while perfectly watchable, could have been made any time in the last 30 years, despite references to blogs. The TV show had young John Simm as Cal, a political journalist who was once campaign manager for a politician now intensely embarrassed by the apparent suicide of a beautiful young female researcher. The film transmutes this character into Russell Crowe, as an older and more traditionally rumpled investigative reporter, less obviously encumbered by personal conflicts of interest, but encumbered nevertheless. He is that enviable kind of journalist who never seems to have much to do in the way of work, and his grizzled integrity and heart-of-gold cynicism transmits itself in the form of a grotty car, dingy flat and a sprinkle of Irish-lite mannerisms. Ben Affleck plays Stephen Collins, the troubled congressman her paper is writing about, a man who is taking on the sinister, unaccountable corporate powers with their snouts in the defence-security trough, powers who may be behind the death of the young employee with whom Collins was having a dalliance. Rachel McAdams plays Della, the feisty young blogger with whom Mirren forces grumpy old Cal, that exasperated warrior from the Journalism 1.0 old school, to team up. Having "met cute" in the normal way, Cal and Della break the biggest scoop of their careers and despite Della's modernity, she doesn't seem to mind handling the softer "female" side of the story. Crowe ticks every box for the Hollywood journalist. In the real world, we tend to have the unexciting appendages of family, children, elderly parents, etc, to whose unsexy needs we must attend on getting home from work in the evening. Crowe, of course, is a supercool loner in a sparsely masculine apartment, in which he can take anonymous calls in the dead of night. In the real world, we tend to be obliged to show up on time for work, and then, in fact, do some work. Crowe, in that fantastic big-screen way I have never been able to manage, shows up in the office hours after everyone else and then does a kind of running lap of honour exchanging quips and in-jokes with various other ranks to show how unstarry and down-to-earth he is, before cracking on with the day's business: exchanging barbed badinage with the editor. His stories apparently do not need to be sub-edited or run past the legal department. You may recognize the scenario from a dozen other movies as Crowe sets about finding out that a congressman’s researcher didn’t commit suicide but was murdered. The politician seems to be doing a good job rooting out big-business corruption — in this case the privatisation of homeland security — but may, in fact, be deeply compromised in other ways himself and has been having an affair with the researcher. He is also our reporter’s best friend from college days; Cal, however, once had a fling with his wife (Robin Wright Penn). So we’re in the midst of an awkward political and emotional dogfight, and it looks as if the congressman’s career is a certain goner. Lie low and keep quiet, says poobah Jeff Daniels. But we know by that time that illicit sex is only half the story. How it plays out makes, in the hands of an excellent director such as Macdonald, a taut and clever thriller — even if it’s not as modern as it likes to believe. Writers Tony Gilroy, Matthew Carnahan and Billy Ray have provided a convincing screenplay and, though the action doesn’t serve up the kinetic feast of the Bourne franchise, it works well most of the time. The old-fashioned investigative hack, so wedded to his now slightly antediluvian methods he still uses a typewriter, eventually teams up with Della, his cyber-snoop Girl Friday, to solve the case. You feel the film’s heart is located somewhere in the Seventies, even as it provides enough action to placate the present. That’s no real disadvantage when the performances are excellent, right down to Jason Bateman’s sleazy PR man. Crowe and McAdams dovetail well together without — thank goodness — resorting to what would once have been an obligatory romance. Originally cast as Cal, Brad Pitt pulled out over perceived flaws in the screenplay. But Crowe, taking it at short notice, inhabits the role with an experienced weariness that perfectly suits the piece. You can almost smell the whisky on his breath — “Irish wine”, he calls it. Mirren, as a scolding, hard-boiled editor who knows she has to deliver and pushes her staff into action until her corporate bosses say no to too much scandal, is equally convincing. “The real story,” she barks, “is the sinking of this bloody newspaper.” The ending provides a speech about the continuing necessity of good, old-fashioned journalism that underlines the sentiment. We may have seen this all before but generally not as convincingly done. Alan Pakula, director of The Parallax View and All the President’s Men, would no doubt approve. It doesn’t stray too far from his better movies which suggested that campaigning journalism can sometimes solve problems beyond the daring of politicians. The director, Kevin McDonald, clearly has an affinity with the material. He’s meticulous about tying up loose ends and his pacing is dead on; deliberate and measured enough for each twist to register with the audience but never losing the sense of controlled urgency of the breaking scoop. This is not an action movie — its thrills are more of the cerebral variety — but an opening scene that captures a ruthlessly efficient double murder is a heart-stopping entrance into Washington’s underworld. Later there’s a tremendously tense sequence where Cal, too close to a very dangerous man, is stalked by a would-be killer in an underground car park. But most rewarding is the battle of wits between a journalist compromised by a friendship and a politician who might be prepared to use that friendship for his own purposes. This is exhilarating, compulsive storytelling and looks likely to be one of the year’s cinematic highlights. This gets a 3 on my "Go See" scale.

A State Of Play Brings Down One Of It's Own

Movies about the high jinks of Washington politics are a Hollywood favorite, some are better than others while some remain a mystery. Hollywood has this idea that when they make mysteries they have to spell out everything or the viewers will not understand, this is like a connect the dots movie, we are lead to each clue one at a time, in a reasonable order, its an idea of major studios that we will walk out unhappy if the bad guy gets away, so instead we are given paint by number movies where the good guy wins and the surprises are few and far between. The only mystery here is the mystery of why this movie was even made. In "State Of Play" the story is a little of both, it is made to showcase the stars talents but not to make the viewer think to hard.

On the morning of a new Congressional hearing led by popular congressman Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck) his investigation's lead Research Assistant Sonia Baker (Maria Thayer) falls in front of a train on her way to the hearings. Also, a petty thief is gunned down in an alley, along with a man delivering pizza, how they are connected no one can see, YET. A news reporter for the Washington Globe, Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe), is investigating the shooting when he hears about the congressional aides death. Being an old college roommate of Congressman Collins, the Globes foul mouthed editor, Cameron Lynne (Helen Miren) wants McAffrey on the story bad, she tries to backdoor him by sending the Washington Globe's blogger newbie, a recent college grad, Della Frye (Rachel McAdams) to question McAffrey about his former dorm buddy Congressman Collins. Congressman Collins is taking a high-profile position as a champion against a private corporation called PointCorp which will have taps on the entire workings of American phones, e-mails, and all private information. It appears to be very clear right from the start who is behind the death of both the aide and the thief, how they tie in is STILL a mystery.

Of course there is conflict between the two friends, it seems McAffrey has slept with Anne Collins (Robin Wright Penn). McAffrey begins to look into this story when Congressman Collins comes to his apartment and tells him, that yes the two were sleeping together, but he thinks that if he gets out in front of the story he will be ok. McAffrey gets Della to join him into looking into the story, Della goes to the hospital where the third shooting victim is now waking up, the guy who was delivering pizza's and was shot, is a pivotal witness. She walks into his room when shots are fired through the window killing the pizza driver as he lies in the bed. Stephen goes to Rep. George Fergus (Jeff Daniels) for help, Fergus is the man who handles scandals on the hill. As McAffrey and Della get more facts about the case, they realize that there is a structured network of former soldiers that have been trained into a mercenary group-for-hire and now are employed by a division of the corporation Collins is questioning in Congress. The man responsible for the killings, Robert Bingham (Michael Berresse) is getting closer to both reporters.

When McAffrey goes to question a man he thinks is on the inside, he is met by Bingham, running to the buildings garage, WHY does the guy who is running away always run where its enclosed and dark? McAffrey is chased and fired on by Bingham, of course since he is the good guy he escapes. Going to the police with some information, now that Vernon Sando (Dan Brown), has been killed. Det. Donald Bell (Harry Lennix) thinks that the reporters wasted his time. Not only did they endanger themselves, but because they hid the information, the pizza driver is now dead. McAffrey gets a Pointcorp Ad Executive, Dominic Foy (Jason Bateman) to give up some information about Sonia and Stephen, that rocks what the reporters thought was going on. Getting Stephen to commit his story to the paper, McAffrey thinks it's now over, that the story will break about Pointcorp, and the company will stop trying to kill everyone. When Stephen comes in and the story comes out, McAffrey and Anne share a minute alone, when Della and McAffrey are done writing the story they meet and share a couple drinks, they are talking about the case when something Anne said crashes through the muck in McAffrey's brain.

Now he knows who is behind the killing and he thinks he knows why, McAffrey knows that Bingham is the killer, but now he knows who sent him out, he confronts the man and tells him that he knows the truth, that he has to turn himself in or that McAffrey will call the police. When McAffrey leaves the building and is walking to his car he is surprised to find himself confronted by Bingham. The police arrive in time to save McAffrey, and make the arrests to close the case.

This movie does bring to mind the Watergate story, and looks like all the other Hollywood Newsroom type movies, yet I still give State Of Play a 3 and on my avoidance scale a 1, there are better movies coming, so wait a few weeks and catch this one at your leisure in your home.

State Of Play is rated PG-13 for some Violence, Language Including A Sexual References, and Brief Drug Use
Running time is 1 hr. 58 mins.

Efron Graduates High School Musical

Mike O'Donnell (Matthew Perry) was a high-school basketball star with a bright future. But he threw it all away to marry his girlfriend and raise their child. Almost 20 years later, Mike's marriage has failed, his kids think he's a loser, and his job is going nowhere. He gets a chance to correct the mistakes of his past and change his life when he is miraculously transformed back into a teenager (Zac Efron), but in trying to fix his past, Mike may be jeopardizing his present and future in 17 Again.

The old age switcheroo is employed once more in this highly derivative but still moderately enjoyable comedy starring teen heartthrob Zac Efron. He plays Mike O’Donnell, who, in a prologue set in 1989, is a high school basketball star on the verge of getting a college scholarship. But just before the big game is to start, he learns that his sweetheart Scarlet (Allison Miller) is pregnant, and tosses his plans aside to marry her. Eighteen years later, Mike’s turned into Matthew Perry—a truly tragic turn of events. Even worse, Scarlet (now Leslie Mann) is divorcing him, and his kids Maggie (Michelle Trachtenberg) and Alex (Sterling Knight) are as distant as can be. When he’s denied an expected promotion at work, he revisits his old high school dreaming of what might have been, and a janitor-angel zaps him back to age seventeen, but in the present. He has a second chance.But of course things don’t go exactly as planned. He has the nerdy best friend with whom he’s been crashing—rich software dork Ned Gold (Thomas Lennon) claim him as a long-lost son and enroll him in the old high school again, with the intention of making a new and better future for himself. But of course his goals turn from self to his family. He helps Maggie break up with her surly brute of a boyfriend Stan (Hunter Parrish) and Alex, the class doormat, make the team and get a girl. And of course he learns that he still loves Scarlet and wants to win her back. Guess what happens when he’s faced once again with the same choice he had nearly two decades ago, at yet another final basketball game? It’s good that the essential absurdity of the premise gets the sly post-modern treatment it warrants in the offhanded remark by dorky Ned that this sort of thing is just a staple of the fantasy genre, but then the script tries stressfully to find some way to shoehorn into the narrative virtually every familiar twist and complication of the formula, and the result is too often simply ungainly (and, on a couple of occasions, borderline creepy). One gets the sense that had another draft or two been allowed, it might have turned out a smoother affair.But there’s still some pleasure to be had here, mostly because of Efron, who’s easily the best reason to see the picture. He has a basketball court dance number upfront that will satisfy all the “High School Musical” fans, but that’s hardly all he has to offer. He proves himself once more a really charismatic screen presence, handling both the physical comedy and the detours into sentiment and near-drama with as much finesse as his brings to the sports action, which is considerable. This may be more a baby-step move than a real stretch for him, but he pretty much carries things, and does so with assurance.He gets some help from the capable Leslie Mann as the grown-up and increasingly confused Scarlet, and from Trachtenberg and Knight as the kids in need of guidance from a father, even if it’s one in a seventeen-year old’s body. But entirely too much time is given over to Ned and his pursuit of school principal Jane Masterson (Melora Hardin); Lennon’s shtick as the boy who never grows up gets old faster than the transformed Mike does, and the descent into Tolkien territory between him and his quarry has a pandering tone. Even worse is the subplot involving Maggie’s romance with thuggish Stan, played dully by Parrish (the ending of which takes us into one of those slightly creepy place), as well as the sitcom stuff early on with Perry, whose reappearance at the close is mercifully brief. The inconsistency is the fault not merely of the script, but of the direction of Burr Steers. So long as Efron is at center stage, his unsteadiness of hand is trumped by the talent of the star; but elsewhere it casts a pall over the proceedings.Technically 17 Again is okay, but neither Garreth Stover’s production design nor Tim Suhrstedt’s widescreen cinematography is anything special and doesn’t provide the period punch the material would ideally invite. But the closing credits, which use the yearbook photos of crew and cast members, add an amusing touch. The upshot is a movie that’s agreeable enough because of its star, but otherwise only average. A 3 on my "Go See" scale.

Turning 17 Again Can Have It's Advantages

The theme of "17 Again" has been a favorite in Hollywood for many years, it has been told and retold with the HOT star at the time. We have had this movie told in movies aimed at girls, "Freaky Friday" and aimed at guys "Big" and here we get one aimed at teens. In 17 Again it's Zac Efron teen age heartthrob himself.

Popular high school senior Mike O'Donnell (Zac Efron) seemingly has it all. He is a star athlete headed straight for a college scholarship when he decides to give it up to settle down with his high school girlfriend Scarlet (Allison Miller) who it turns out is pregnant. Twenty years later, an adult Mike (Matthew Perry) finds his life is not exactly what he expected. He has spent the time blaming his wife for all his failures. He is of course now separated from, Scarlett (Leslie Mann) and is forced into living with a wealthy software genius nerd and his best friend, Ned Freedman (Thomas Lennon), his career at a pharmaceutical company is at a stand still, and his relationships with his teenage children, Maggie (Michelle Trachtenberg), and Alex (Sterling Knight) is barely worth mentioning. After getting passed up for yet another promotion at work, he returns to his high school to relive his glory days, looking over his basketball awards and thinking about the life he could have had. While he is reliving his glory days, he is approached by a janitor (Brian Doyle Murray) and shares with him how things were so much better when he was 17.

As Mike is driving home from the high school, he sees the mysterious janitor standing on the ledge preparing to jump into the Los Angeles River. It's raining very hard, but Mike can still see the man on the ledge, and know who it is. Mike rushes out of his car to rescue him, but when he gets there, the janitor has vanished. Mike looks over the railing and in the water below he sees a reflection of him when he was younger. Of course Mike falls into the water, when we next see Mike he is getting out of his car and going into the shower to wash off his now muddy cloths. Mike looks up and sees himself in the mirror, his first reaction when he sees that he is now 17 again is to scream. When he goes into the other room, his friend Ned hears him walking around, when he sees Mike he thinks at first someone has broken into his apartment to rob him, and the two fight each other with gadgets and toys that Ned has collected over the years. When Ned finally believes that Mike is in fact Mike, they begin to wonder what happened and also how to reverse it.

Mike believes that his purpose is to go back to school and get the scholarship he missed out on. Mike has Ned pretend to be his father so that he can get enrolled in school again, of course when they go to enroll Mike, Ned falls for Principal Jane Masterson (Melora Hardin). When Mike goes up into the school he is at first dressed in cloths that he thinks today's teens wear, he is soon made aware of this error. Ned being the rich geek that he is, says if they are going to do this they are going to do this right. He takes Mike shopping. Once in class Mike discovers that his daughter Maggie isn't the angel he thinks she is, she is dating the basketball captain Stan (Hunter Parrish) and they make out openly in the classroom. Mike also discovers that his son Alex is the teams punching bag. One day when Mike is in the bathroom he finds Alex duct taped to the toilet and he befriends Alex, and he tries to instill him with enough confidence to join the basketball team. When Mike goes to Alex's house, which is his house, Scarlet comes home and mentions that Mike looks so much like her ex husband.

As the days pass Mike now knows he isn't young again to help himself it's to help those he gave up on in his life. Helping Alex make the team is only the beginning, Mike tries to get close to Maggie as well, but she just thinks he is kind of weird. Getting close to Scarlet is Mikes next objective, he sees the woman he fell in love with, and everything that he did to let her down. Mike realizes that he had the perfect life, but was to busy to see that, now he must find a way to get back to his adult life. The rest of the movie plays like a standard Hollywood cliche, Mike gets close to Scarlet, she is still trying to get a divorce, Alex is becoming a stronger person, Maggie is falling for dad. What? How icky is that? Unknown to Maggie, Mike is her father not someone trying to win her heart. When Stan breaks up with her, Maggie thinks Mike is trying to get close to her to date her. Later she will see Mike with Scarlet and think he is using her to get close to her mother.

Of course dad pulls himself together and turns not only his life around but also his families, now he feels he is ready to be an adult again. Making a stop at the courthouse where he is supposed to be getting a divorce, he tells the judge he has a letter from Mike, he reads this sweet letter to Scarlet telling her how much she and the kids mean to him, then he leaves. When Scarlett picks up the note Mike left behind she only sees directions written on it to the courthouse. The ending is sweet and standard Hollywood cliche, Mike turns back into the adult Mike and Scarlet runs out to him.

I give 17 again a 3 and on my avoidance scale a 0, this movie has a lot going for it, not just Zac Efron, there is more to this light movie then just the star. It is enjoyable to watch, and it makes you laugh. When Mike realizes what he is losing and makes amends, you may just find yourself crying. Go enjoy this movie, Zac Efron the actor is getting better as he progresses. Take your family to this movie, they will all laugh at this movie, and that is what it aims for.

17 Again is rated PG-13 for Language, Some Sexual Material and Teen Partying
Running time is 1 hr. 42 mins.

Cranked Up About Jason Statham

Chev Chelios (Jason Staham) faces a Chinese mobster who has stolen his nearly indestructible heart and replaced it with a battery-powered ticker that requires regular jolts of electricity to keep working in Crank 2 : High Voltage.

Despite having fallen hundreds of feet to his death at the end of the previous film, Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) remains alive after Chinese mobsters literally shovel his body off of the asphalt, remove his heart and implant a mechanical one. Escaping only to discover that his heart isn't the only organ scheduled for relocation, Chev sets out to find the guys responsible, in the process crossing paths with ex-girlfriend-turned-stripper Eve (Amy Smart); Venus (Efren Ramirez), the brother of his ex-partner; Doc Miles (Dwight Yoakam), who promises to return his heart to its rightful place; and Ria (Bai Ling), a psychotic prostitute whose life he saves. Unfortunately, the mechanical ticker that's keeping him going requires frequent recharging by virtually any means possible, including jumper cables, shock collars, taser guns and even static electricity, so Chev soon lights up the city with sex and violence as he tries to stay alive long enough to recover his heart and get it back into his chest. A little bit like Chelios himself, Crank: High Voltage is all muscle and no connective tissue—there's nothing truly substantial or intelligent about his or the movie's forward momentum. Scenes explode out of nowhere and dissolve into nothing just as quickly, almost never with any clear or discernible purpose except for Neveldine and Taylor to exercise some oddball creative impulse. For example, the "explanation" for Chelios' heart looks like a '50s elementary-school filmstrip, and later, a brawl at an electrical plant inexplicably turns into a showdown between Godzilla-style monsters. That said, because nothing matters except for how outrageous each moment is and how it looks while it's happening, it's hard to examine High Voltage by any serious standard, unless there's an "awesomeness/suckiness" scale for the caffeine levels in Monster energy drinks. This movie practically defines the term "hot mess," but at least it has the integrity to provide the thrill before it makes you feel a little disgusted for watching it—or wanting to, anyway. (While I endorse the film's joyful embrace of the action-movie convention that the hero never, and I mean never, gets hit by bullets, you'll forgive me for covering my eyes when the tattooed gangster slices off his own nipples as an apology for failing his mission.) As a member of the vocal minority who recommends Tony Scott's Domino as the best example of, or at least the only plot-driven entry in, this subgenre of overwrought, action-filled and style-heavy odyssey, it is nevertheless hard to begrudge Crank: High Voltage any of its excesses, because its heart is in the right place, even if the movie is literally chasing after it the whole time. Neveldine and Taylor are not especially good storytellers, but they don't seem to want to be, which makes this film and its predecessor more experiments or experiences than pieces of entertainment. Ultimately, Crank: High Voltage is the superior of the two films not because it knows it's a second helping of something that is all empty calories, but because it's simply more than the other one: more stylish, more sexy, more violent. Yes, more offensive too, but for better or worse it's just plain more ridiculous, which not only makes it more excusable, but also makes it more exhilarating. Again, Chev mows down a wide variety of ethnic stereotypes. But at least Crank: High Voltage goes about its business with a better sense of humour than Taken did. More fun are the absurd digressions and set pieces that Neveldine/Taylor cram into the proceedings with a flagrant disregard for the usual rules of time, space and continuity. Tasteless, trashy and totally over the top, Crank: High Voltage might also be one of the year's most inventive movies. Sometimes, nothing exceeds like excess. I give this one a charged up 4 on my "Go See" scale.