Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Review: 81st Academy Awards

The 81st Academy Awards had its ups and downs, unfortunately though in my opinions, more downs than ups. To start, Hugh Jackman hosted this year, an interesting choice and I gave him a chance. The intro song and dance was actually pretty funny and interesting with them building low cost props out of cardboard “due to these hard economic times”. The bits about The Reader and The Wrestler were pretty funny but the best part was when Hugh dragged Ann Hathaway up on stage to play the part of Nixon as Hugh played Frost, very funny, and of course the end where he proclaimed “this is the Oscars and I’m Wolverine!”. Though the second musical number, with Beyonce and the cast of High School Musical was not nearly as entertaining and actually just downright bad. Some of my favorite moments from the Oscars this year would be Ben Stiller’s spot on imitation of Joaquin Phoenix, chewing gum and wondering the stage aimlessly. Jack Black’s “secret” for making money in animation, “do one Dreamworks picture a year, then take all the money you made from that movie to the Oscars and bet on Pixar”. Though the best part by far was the skit with Seth Rogen and James Franco reprising their roles from Pineapple Express (I still don’t know how this movie wasn’t nominated for anything, specifically James Franco) as they watched “bootlegged” DVDs of this year’s nominees. Watching them crack up while watching Doubt and The Reader was great, or mistaking Love Guru for Slumdog Millionaire (it is better) but the best part had to be when they were watching Milk (showing all the clips of Franco making out with Sean Penn) and Franco puts his arm around Rogen, hilarious, then of course they brought out Janusz Kaminski, great stuff. Back to Hugh Jackman, while I don’t think he was a bad host I would personally like to see the return of Jon Stewart, he did a fantastic job hosting and it’s not his fault viewership was down last year, after the writer’s strike he had 13 days to prepare for it and most people were not interested in watching because of the lackluster Emmy awards that year.

Now to talk about the categories and who won and who got snubbed.
Original Screenplay: Winner – Milk. A deserved win and a beautiful acceptance speech, but I can’t help but think this was a political win due to the attempt to overturn Prop 8 soon, I still feel that In Bruges should have won this award, amazing writing.

Adapted Screenplay: Winner – Slumdog Millionaire. I found nothing impressive about the writing of this movie, very forgettable, Doubt or Benjamin Button should have won this category.

Achievement in Visual Effects: Winner – The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button. A close call but well deserved win.

Achievement in Sound Mixing: Winner – Slumdog Millionaire. WHAT? How did Slumdog Millionaire beat out Dark Knight, Wall-E, Wanted and The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button for sound mixing? This is just an insult!

Achievement in Sound Editing: Winner – The Dark Knight. Finally some justice as Dark Knight beats out Slumdog in a well deserved win.

Best Live Action Short: Winner - Spielzeugland (Toyland). No problems with this.

Best Animated Short: Winner - La Maison en Petits Cubes. Never saw it but I really liked Presto.

Best Original Song: Winner – Jai Ho from Slumdog Millionaire. I still can’t believe they didn’t nominate Bruce Springsteen’s song “The Wrestler” for The Wrestler, that’s an insult and that song should have won.

Best Original Score: Winner – Slumdog Millionaire. I’m noticing a pattern at this point. The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button and Wall-E had beautiful scores and one of them should have won.

Achievement in Makeup: Winner – The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button. Another close call amongst the nominees but still a well deserved win.

Best Foreign Language Film: Winner – Departures. Great acceptance speech.

Achievement in Film Editing: Winner – Slumdog Millionaire. Again, how did this movie win this? The other four nominees had beautiful editing, Slumdog was frantic and annoying at at times. Dark Knight or Benjamin Button should have taken this award home.

Best Documentary Short: Winner – Smile Pinki. Didn’t see any of these.

Best Documentary: Winner – Man On Wire. Great movie, very inspirational. Best part though was having Bill Maher, who’s documentary should have been nominated but whatever, give out the award.

Best Director: Winner – Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire. I like Danny Boyle but think he should stick to movies like 28 Days Later or especially Sunshine, that was an amazing movie. This should have gone to Ron Howard or Gus Van Sant.

Best Costume Design: Winner – The Duchess. Never saw the movie but the costumes did look pretty good from what I saw.

Achievement in Cinematography: Winner – Slumdog Millionaire. I give up, this is ridiculous. Should have gone to Benjamin Button or Dark Knight.

Achievement in Art Direction: Winner – The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button. Well deserved win, that movie was beautiful.

Best Animated Feature: Winner – Wall-E. All these movies were great but Wall-E takes the cake. For a movie that had barely any dialogue, the body language was amazing and kept me excited throughout.

Performance by and Actress in a Supporting Role: Winner – Penelope Cruz. This was one of the biggest snubs of the night, I don’t know what it is about Penelope Cruz but I just don’t find her to be that good of an actress. Viola Davis did an amazing job, but she was only in the movie for 5 to 10 minutes so I feel that Taraji P. Henson should have won this, her performance was perfect and amazing and emotional.

Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role: Winner – Heath Ledger. An absolutely deserved win and it was really nice to see someone besides Christopher Nolan accept the award. His family gave a very emotional and honest speech, one of the best of the night.

Performance by and Actress in a Leading Role: Winner – Kate Winslet. I like Kate Winslet but I just don’t think she’s a “Great” actress. I feel that Meryl Streep should have won for her fantastic performance in Doubt.

Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role: Winner – Sean Penn. Great performance and amazing speech but again I can’t help to feel this win was political. Mickey Rourke’s performance in The Wrestler was ground breaking and simply astonishing. Plus, this is probably the closest Rourke will ever be to winning an Oscar, while Penn will probably be nominated again in the years to come. It would have been nice to see Penn give his award to Rourke.

Best Picture: Winner – Slumdog Millionaire. Again, I just don’t get it, this movie was so very forgettable and the performances were terrible (thank you academy for at least realizing this), the story was laughable and it just didn’t move me at all. Every year I look at the nominees for this category and can at least understand why a movie is nominated, I may not always like the movie, but I at least understand. Great performances, great writing, great story, emotional, beautiful imagery and cinematography, this movie had none of that. I think I’ve finally figured out the reason people love it so much, most Americans like to feel like they care about the world, this movie shows scenes filmed in the slums of Mumbai. I think people thought that if they liked the movie and supported it they were somehow helping the people in those slums. That has to be it because this movie, like I said, was very forgettable. I still feel that The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, Milk, Frost/Nixon, Doubt, The Wrestler, The Reader, Gran Torino, The Dark Knight or In Bruges should have won over this movie, all were exceptional movies with great writing, great acting, great stories and everything else that makes a movie stick with you.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Review: He's Just Not That Into You

Grade: B-

It may surprise many of you to know that I was actually interested in seeing this movie. There were a number of reasons, first, I like Greg Behrendt, the writer of the book this movie is based on, he is a very funny and honest man when it comes to the subject of relationships and secondly, I like the cast, I don’t care what anybody thinks but I really enjoy Ben Affleck, also I like Justin Long, Jennifer Connelly, Jennifer Aniston and Scarlet Johansson and was pleasantly surprised to see brief appearances from Kris Kristofferson and Luis Guzman. This movie, set in Baltimore, is about a group of different intertwining relationships and a couple of people trying to find love… and how it can all go wrong sometimes.

It starts in a park where a young girl is pushed down by a boy who then says that she is “made of dog poo”, this girl then goes to her mother who proceeds to tell her that the reason he did this is because he likes her. Then we have the narration about how girls are conditioned to believe that if a guy treats them bad that that just means he likes her. This is just one of many problems about relationships presented in the movie. I was very happy to see that this movie wasn’t a man-hating movie and in fact in several cases, the women were worse than the men.

First you have the (in my opinion) lovable character Gigi, played so very well by the beautiful Ginnifer Goodwin, who is very, how do I put this kindly… psychotic and clingy when it comes to dating. She’ll go on a date with a guy, exchange phone numbers, then literally wait by the phone for him to call, then call him, then drop by a bar she knows he hangs out at in hopes of running into him. She befriends my favorite character in the movie, Alex, played superbly by Justin Long. Alex is a very honest straight forward guy who tells Gigi the inner workings of a guys mind. He tells her things like “if he doesn’t call you, he’s not going to because he’s not interested” and “If he says he’s going out of town and won’t be able to be reached for a couple days, he’s not interested” and many others. Alex is friends with Conor, played by Kevin Connolly, a real estate agent who is hung up on a girl who just toys with his emotions and shows no real interest in being in a relationship with him. This girl, who in my opinion is easily the scummiest character of them all, Anna, played by the gorgeous Scarlett Johansson. Anna, as I mentioned, toys with Conor and strings him along and just uses the guy basically and on top of that she meets the character Ben, played by Bradley Cooper, who is a married man, she then proceeds to tease him and flirt with him until he finally caves and cheats on his wife by sleeping with her. Ben is married to Janine, played by Jennifer Connolly, who is, again in my opinion, crazy and does not have her priorities straight, she is more upset about her husband possibly smoking than her husband cheating on her and we find out at one point, that she never has sex with her husband, ever. Janine works with Gigi as well as Beth, played by Jennifer Aniston, who has been in a relationship with Neil, played by Ben Affleck, for over 7 years and is still not married and wishes to get engaged, but Neil doesn’t believe in the institution of marriage, but her younger sister is now getting married leaving her the last of four daughters to be married. Lastly, going back a couple steps, Janine is friends with Mary, played by Drew Barrymore, a columnist who works at a gay magazine who finds that technology lately, makes relationships, or rather finding one, complicated.

This movie was actually very funny and very good. I really enjoyed it and all the performances were great, especially Justin Long, it’s movies like this that makes me think he needs a better agent, he is such a talented and funny actor he should be making better movies. Also, I am not a big Scarlett Johansson fan but she was pretty good in this as well. I’m not a big fan of Jennifer Aniston in movies but she was great in this. He’s Just Not That Into You is also a very insightful movie, as I have known girls like Gigi and Beth. It is a very honest movie and sometimes brutally so. There is stuff in this movie for men as well as women, so it is not a straight chick flick and I think some guys will enjoy this movie with their girlfriends. This provocative movie is not your typical chick flick, there are no make-over montages, nobody slides down a wall while crying, nobody laughs and cries at the same time, no elderly people saying inappropriate things, no emotional chases down the street, no speech about every little detail that the guy likes about the girl or vice versa and no falling in love montages, in fact I don’t remember a single montage in the entire movie. This really is a movie for everybody. I really do recommend everybody go see this, it is a great date movie.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Review: Push

Grade: B

Push is a sci-fi thriller about a group of young American people with different psychic powers who band together in order to try to bring down a government agency that hunts them down to either experiment on them in order to turn them into weapons or kill them, usually while experimenting on them. There are nine different kind of psychic abilities involved. Movers are people that can move objects with their minds, and if they are advanced enough, can even deflect bullets with their mind. Pushers are people that can put any thought, memory or emotion into a person’s head and can make them perform actions making them think it was their own agenda. Watchers can see into the future or track somebody by seeing what they are going to do. Bleeders are able to emit powerful high-pitched sonic frequencies that can cause blood vessels in people bodies to explode or can destroy certain objects. Sniffs act like psychic bloodhounds by being able to smell an object, or even the air, in order to track somebody and even see what they have done. Shifters are able to shift light to create illusions to the naked eye, for example they could pull out a 1 dollar bill and make it look like a 100 dollar bill for an extended period of time, the effects are not permanent. Shadows are able to “block” the vision of sniffs as long as they are near the subject in question. Lastly, Stitchers are people who can heal people rapidly with their hands, and if they want, even un-heal whatever they’ve done.

This movie mostly focuses around 2 characters played by Chris Evans (Fantastic Four, Sunshine) and Dakota Fanning (War of the Worlds, Charlotte’s Web) as they try to find a case that contains an item that could bring down the government agency known as Division. Chris Evans did a great job as Nick Grant, a mover who is still trying to develop his powers. He was funny and did great with the action scenes, I have always enjoyed his acting. Evans’ back must be hurting because he had to carry Dakota Fanning’s acting through the movie. I don’t know how this girl still has a career, she has two modes, monotone and boring or screaming her head off (thankfully she didn’t do any of this in this movie because that almost ruined War of the Worlds). Her acting was stiff and drab throughout. Djimon Hounsou did a fantastic job as the evil Agent Henry Carver from division. He did a great job playing a character who clearly does not care if these people live or die, in fact in several scenes, it seems he prefers the latter. The rest of the cast was did a great job as well which included Camilla Belle (10,000 BC) as Kira Hudson, a pusher the Division it tracking as she is the only person to survive the injections they give these people, Nate Mooney as Pinky Stein a shadow they hire to protect Kira and Cliff Curtis (Sunshine) a shifter who helps them with their plan.

I did have a few, minor, problems with this movie. First, there are some scenes where the camera work is a little hectic and can be dizzying. Another being a something I just found didn’t make much sense. Chris Evans’ character at the beginning of the movie doesn’t seem to know how to use his power, he can’t even get a die to roll, but by the end of the movie (which is probably a day or two later) he is an expert at using his powers to the point where he can deflect bullets, a task only the top expert movers are able to accomplish. Lastly, I don’t know who’s idea it was to dress Dakota Fanning like a hooker, but that was grossly inappropriate. Her hair is dirty and frizzy and has ugly pink stripes in it but the worst part, was that the entire movie I had to watch this 13 year old girl walk around in a skirt so short it would make a Jenna Jameson blush and on top of that there were several scenes that she would be sitting or lying down and the camera would be in front of her and she would have her legs open, this was just wrong. Other than that Push was a very fun and very exciting sci-fi movie with a great cast

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Review: Pink Panther 2

Grade: C+

The Pink Panther movies have always been classics and I loved the re imagining of the series with Steve Martin back in 2006 so I was kind of excited to see this sequel. In this movie, Inspector Jacques Clouseau, played by Steve Martin, has been working outside of the museum the Pink Panther diamond is kept on display, writing parking tickets for six months. This is an assignment that Chief Inspector Dryfus, played by John Cleese, put him on to get him out of his hair. Now, Chief Inspector Dryfus has been asked to assign Inspector Clouseau to a “dream team” of international detectives to track down and capture a thief known as “the Tornado” who has been stealing historic artifacts from around the world. As he predicted, as soon as Clouseau leaves Paris, the Pink Panther Diamond is stolen by the Tornado and he must now once again, find and save the priceless diamond.

This movie had an all star cast that helped make this movie just as funny as the 2006 Pink Panther. This includes the return of Jean Reno as Ponton and Emily Mortimer as Nicole. Also, John Cleese joins the cast as Chief Inspector Dryfus, Andy Garcia joins as Italian detective Vicenzo, Alfred Molina joins as the English detective Pepperidge and Lily Tomlin as the etiquette teacher Mrs. Berenger. Great cast and a very funny movie. Steve Martin was great as the dim witted Clouseau delivering great physical humor to the role as well as some great lines. John Cleese was hilarious as always, Andy Garcia was entertaining as he tried to swoon Nicole and Alfred Molina was fantastic as the pompous Pepperidge, especially at the end, I won’t give it away.

Over all, this movie was well worth seeing if you like Steve Martin comedies. The story is great and the humor is nonstop. While this one is not quite as funny as the 2006 Pink Panther, it is still well worth watching.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Mini Reviews

Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans

Grade: A-

This movie was fantastic. If you have seen the first two Underworld movies then this is a must see. Taking place during the dark ages, Rise of the Lycans is about how the feud between Vampires and Werewolves started. Bill Nighy is back as the evil and corrupt head of the vampires, Victor. Michael Sheen is back as Lucian, the first werewolf that can transform back into a human at will. Victor uses Lucian to create a new breed of werewolves that can serve them and protect them during the day. Lucian falls in love with Victor’s daughter Sonja, as played by Rhona Mitra. Lucian, wanting to be free of his shackles, convinces the rest of the Lycans to rise up and free themselves, then starting the centuries long feud between the two. Rhona Mitra was excellent as Sonja, Michael Sheen was great as Lucian and Bill Nighy was superb as the very intense Victor. The effects were great and the action was a plenty. I highly recommend this movie if you are a fan of the genre.

New In Town
Grade: D+

This movie, about an executive from a corporation in Miami who moves, temporarily, to a small town in Minnesota in the middle of winter to oversee the transition of a plant, was cute. Renee Zellweger plays Lucy Hill, an executive who apparently has never experienced winter. Harry Connick Jr. plays Ted Mitchell, a union rep and single father of a teenage daughter. Siobhan Fallon plays Blanche Gunderson, a Midwestern woman with a killer recipe for Tapioca and Lucy’s assistant. But the man who stole the show is J.K Simmons as Stu Kopenhafer, the plant manager. I don’t know why, but they decided to make J.K. Simmons quite fat. This movie had a few laughs and your typical hate turns to love story and unfortunately most of the big laughs are in the trailer for the movie. None the less, this movie is a very good date movie.

Grade: B+
I love a good vengeance movie so I was pretty excited to see this, and it was worth it. Liam Neeson plays an ex-spy who has retired to try to spend more time, and get closer to, his daughter who lives with her mom and rich stepdad. His daughter goes to Paris and ends up getting kidnapped by human traffickers, he then tells the kidnappers that he will find them, kill them and get his daughter back. The rest of the movie is very suspenseful as he uses every resource and bit of training he has to rack these people down and get save his daughter. Filled with action and suspense I was on the edge of my seat through most of the movie. There is some pretty shocking scenes and Liam Neeson kicks some serious butt. Well worth it.

DVD: War, Inc.

I had heard of this movie and I like John Cusack so I thought I’d rent it and give it a try. Definitely worth watching, John Cusack is back as a hitman, Marisa Tomei is a left wing reporter and Hilary Duff is hilarious as a Middle Eastern pop star with such great song as “I want to Blow You… Up”. This movie is a great satire about the war in the middle east and coporations rebuilding the countries. Very funny all around with some good action. If you get a chance, pick this one up.