The Only Director Batting 1000: Christopher Nolan

This man really has had an illustrious career. Before his ultimate masterpiece graces all of our brainsicles this weekend lets take a quick look back at the only director to, quite impressively, not direct a single disappointing movie in his entire career. I’m thinking the chronological breakdown would be the most appropriate.

The Following – 1998

Chris not only directed his first official feature, but he wrote it as well. This under-seen gem portrays a man who likes to follow strangers around London with harmless intentions, until he breaks his own rules and follows a subject more than once, intertangling himself in a web of lies and murder. Despite being shot in black in white, this film won’t be remembered as a classic, but it is an incredibly impressive debut from a young director and should be checked out by all those Nolan enthusiasts who never had the pleasure.

Memento – 2000

I can vividly remember seeing Memento in theaters for the first time. It changed the way I thought about films and is largely responsible for the media whore I’ve become today. With twisted non-linear plotlines (the pieces shot in color are going backwards and the pieces shot in black and white are going forward) this thriller cemented Chris Nolan in my mind as the director to watch for in the new millennium. Memento follows Lenny, a man with no short-term memory trying to pick up the pieces of the puzzle to find the man who killed his wife. Nolan puts the viewer right in Lenny’s shoes experiencing scenes with no preface except the notes written down in Lenny’s pockets or tattooed to his body. When the black and white scenes fade into color and the two stories meet to reveal a horrifying truth, Memento’s ending ties up every loose end and satisfies like few films manage to do. When watched a second (third, fourth and fifth) time, Nolan’s genius can truly be appreciated as you can follow each intricacy of this backwards tale. Nolan penned this script based on his brother Jonathan’s short story, and it truly is a masterpiece in every sense.

Insomnia – 2002

After all the praise Nolan received for Memento the big wigs gave him some serious heavy hitters for Insomnia. Starring Hilary Swank (only one Oscar at this point), Al Pacino (Scarface, enough said) and Robin Williams sitting in as the villain, Insomnia took us on a little journey to a small Alaskan town where the sun don’t go down and murder is afoot. Despite being my least favorite of Nolan’s outings, although I’m not surprised since neither Chris nor his brother had anything to do with the script, Insomnia is a great film worthy of at least one viewing.

Batman Begins – 2005

After Joel Schumacher completely destroyed Batman with George Clooney and his pointy nipples my boy Chris Nolan came in and did the unthinkable. He completely reinvented one of the most iconic characters in movie history utilizing Christian Bale and directed / co-wrote the best comic book movie ever made: Batman Begins. If you haven’t seen it yet then you are out of your mind and running out of time. The Joker is coming to Gotham City in a week and you best not be caught in the sequel asking the person next to you who Morgan Freeman’s character is, or you might end up getting punched in the nuts.

The Prestige – 2006

The Prestige is most definitely my favorite Nolan family film from the whole catalogue and will always remain one of my favorite movies of all time. Penned by the Nolan brothers and starring Hugh Jackman and Batman (Christian Bale) as rival magicians, this film takes the high points of every previous Nolan film and bundles them all into a perfect package. Like Memento, the story is nonlinear darting between the present, where Batman is to be hanged for murder, to different pieces of the past sewn together by two rivals reading each other’s diaries. While the supernatural does come into play before the end credits roll the answer you were looking for is in fact quite simple and has been paraded right in front of your face the entire film. The movie opens with Bale’s character asking, “Are you watching closely?” Despite watching incredibly closely the twist eluded me until the final moments of the film when it was spelled out explicitly. When seeing this movie for a second time (*SPOILER ALERT*) with the knowledge that Bale’s character is actually two twin brothers, I could tell in each and every scene which brother was sitting in the room. Bale’s acting job here is simply amazing. To be able to play two characters and make them seem like one persona on a first viewing, yet clearly separable as two distinct personalities on a second viewing, is a feat I’ve never seen accomplished in a film. If you’ve only seen The Prestige once I really suggest sitting down for round two, only in multiple viewings can it all be taken in.

The Dark Knight – 2008

Appropriately taking the title of the best of the Batman comics “The Dark Knight Returns” by Frank Miller, Nolan’s sequel will no doubt match its namesake’s quality despite sporting an entirely different plot that has been kept under wraps locked up in a basement in a secret location in Maleriabekestan. Unlike Begins, the Nolan brothers wrote Knight so I’d expect a non-linear plot line filled with thought provoking bumps along the way. Much of the talk of the town is about Ledger’s Joker, which I’m sure will be haunting, but the idea for this twisted version of a psychopath sprung out of the heads of the Nolan brothers and is as much their child as it is Heath’s. I expect great things, and apparently I’m not alone. Despite theaters adding 3:00 and 6:00 AM showings on Thursday night many are still sold out. It seems that The Dark Knight could shatter all records to become the biggest opening of all time. I’m glad the Nolan brothers are finally getting the respect they deserve, because I think they are both brilliant and the best filmmakers in the industry.

– Rich

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Meller’s Mid-Summer Movie Thoughts: Wanted, The Happening, Shotgun Stories & More

So we’re already at the end of June, halfway through the movie season and it’s time for a mid-game thought dump. There have been a few good movies (Iron Man, Indy) and more than a few shitty ones (Speed Racer, The Love Guru, Zohan), but there are some particular points that I want to hit on about what has passed and what is upcoming.

First – Last weekend was the opening of Wanted, and all I can do is say “Fuck yeah.” I read the original comic books when they came out a few years ago and absolutely ate up its dark humor and pure badassery as only Mark Millar could deliver. The movie, though it changed the story to make it more audience friendly, seems poised to be just as sweet. The main reason that I’m pumped for this movie has little to do with any of the actors, but instead the director. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Timur Bekmambetov rules. Learn to say that name, because he’s going to be the best action director for years to come and Wanted serves as his introduction to the American market. Welcome Timur, welcome.

On a more depressing note, I didn’t heed the warnings of critics and ventured to see Shymalan’s latest misstep – The Happening. Wow, that movie ate some serious dick. On its knees in the middle of the group of dudes, moving like a circus seal. If you haven’t seen it yet, DON’T. It boiled down to be an utterly offensive experience. Really Shymalan, you call that piece of trash a movie? Death Sentence was better. Hell, Norbit was probably better than that trash. I’d rather watch the Number 23 on repeat for the rest of my life than sit through the happening again. Bad M. Night, bad.

The beginning of July marks a day that I’ve been awaiting for months. Shotgun Stories comes out on DVD. What is Shotgun Stories? you ask. Besides the best movie I’ve seen all year, Shotgun Stories is an independent film directed and written by Jeff Nichols that is Shakespearean in scope. The plot revolves around a trio of brothers whose drunk of a father abandoned them and later got his shit together and started a new life with a new family. He was such a bad father that he named his first three children Son, Kid and Boy. At his funeral, the two families see each other, Son spits on the casket and a feud ignites. It sounds simple, but it’s not to be missed. Catch this on DVD July 1st. Do it.

I’m fairly optimistic for the rest of the big summer movies coming out. My personal pumped list for the remainder of the summer is as follows: Wanted, Wall-E, The Wackness, Hellboy 2, Dark Knight, Pineapple Express, Hell Ride and Tropic Thunder. I’m pretty sure that all of these movies will be the highlights of what’s to come and won’t disappoint. Anyone else got any movies they’re excited for that I missed?

– Meller

Indiana Jones & The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: Meller’s Thoughts

So after 19 years, the fourth Indiana Jones movie has been released, and despite the gap, I’m happy to report that it is a worthy entrant into the series. Sure, there was too much CGI, but George Lucas has spent the past 15 years sleeping on a bed of money thanks to ILM so there’s no reason to think he’ll stop abusing that position of power anytime soon.

I read in an interview with Spielberg that like the first three movies captured the spirit of the time they were in, that of the pulp adventure hero, he wanted to capture the spirit of the 1950’s with this movie. While I personally prefer the 1930’s present in the first three movies, Spielberg does accomplish his goal. The 1950’s sci-fi craze definitely shows its influences.

The one way that the 19 year gap helped Indy IV was in the casting department. The movie benefited from becoming synonymous with awesomeness and so naturally every movie star wanted to be in it. Besides Harrison Ford and Karen Allen returning, the movie features solid performances from Cate Blanchett, Ray Winstone, Shia Lebeouf, and John Hurt. After transformers, I was not a believer in Shia, but with Indy and his upcoming Eagle Eye, I’ve been converted. Ray Winstone is spectacular in everything, and for my money, there’s no one who plays a crazy old man better than John Hurt.

I don’t want to give away too much for those who haven’t seen it yet, but trust me, you should. There are talks to make another Indy if the movie does well enough, and I’m sure that it will and we may even see another trilogy. There are approximately 10-20 scripts for unfilmed Indiana Jones movies circulating around Hollywood and the internet, so there’s definitely a wealth of material to work with. In fact, make it 11-21.

George Lucas, I know you’re reading this, so here’s my offer. I’ll sell you my script Indiana Jones and the Sacred Shroud for a whopping $1 as long as you make the movie. A buck! Seriously, do you want a double cheeseburger, or a movie? The cheeseburger? Yeah, I guess I don’t blame you. They’re tasty.

The biggest surprise for me when I saw Indy actually came before the movie even started. We were shown a preview for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a movie I’ve been following for more than a few years now as it went through the development cycle. The trailer looked absolutely phenomenal and seems to be director David Fincher’s epic-to-be. Mark my words, come Christmas everyone will be talking about Brad Pitt in Benjamin Button.

– Meller

It’s Almost Time, Start Getting Pumped for Indy IV, & Other Summer Movie Thoughts

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Raiders of the Lost Ark is the reason that movies were invented. Movies are primarily there to entertain us, and nothing does that better than Indiana Jones movies. Say what you will about the artistic beauty and emotional depth present in movies such as American Beauty, but for the masses the movies serve as a means of escape and enjoyment. Raiders is a thrill from start to finish, eternally fun and enjoyable.

Now, after 19 years, we see another installment in the saga of the man who single-handedly made archaeologist synonymous with bad-ass. The initial reviews of the movie have been good, but they point out that what I knew was going to happen, an over-reliance on CGI.

George Lucas is one of those filmmakers who shows exactly how CGI can be detrimental to movies. The man practically invented special effects, but now he’s using them to kill movies instead of make them. Remember how awesome the new Bond movie was? That’s because it was all stuntmen instead of CGI. I’m all for that, and the fact that the new Indiana Jones relies heavily on computers instead of human beings to produce some of the pulse pounding moments is disappointing.

Want to see how to properly use special effects? See Wanted this July, and watch as Russian director Timur Bekmambetov uses CGI to create some astounding visuals. If you don’t want to wait, check out the first two parts of his Russian fantasy trilogy Night Watch & Day Watch. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed. He’s the real deal.

Another example of poor CGI unfortunately seems to be The Incredible Hulk. It won’t look quite as poor as the previous iteration of the character, but it still doesn’t look quite good enough. I honestly don’t think that CGI will ever create a really good version of the Hulk – it just looks too fake. It’s hard to care about a character if he’s gigantic, green and fake looking, even if Ed Norton is supposedly in there somewhere. I remain reserved in my expectations for the Hulk, but I’m hoping to be surprised.

So Indy IV releases nationwide on Thursday, and you can bet I’ll be there – shitty CGI or not. I’d suggest you do the same and enjoy what is sure to be one of the most enjoyable movies of the summer. Check back on Friday for my impressions on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

– Meller

Iron Man: This Post Was Written By My Super Smart Robot

Iron man is all the rage this weekend, and while I liked it, all I heard leaving the theater were glowing reviews. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend doing so, but only so you can see how dead on the following observations / complaints about it are. I’m not usually a hater, but for all the praise I’ve heard, there is a serious need for a rebuttal. First, some overall background.

Tony Stark is an unparalleled genius, the heir to a weapons manufacturing company and a womanizer with no equal. Throughout the movie he becomes Iron Man, basically a souped up, more custom fitted version of those walking mech suits at the end of the 3rd matrix. But don’t worry, those old matrix suits do make an appearance as the “final boss”, if you will.

The movie has a TON of flash, and Robert Downey Jr. is really good in the title role. But, the more and more I think about it, this movie alternatively didn’t make much sense or was completely formulaic.

In the first scene of Iron Man, Stark is yukking it up with some soldiers, drinking a scotch, and talking about how many Maxim cover models he’s bedded, when the convoy of humvees he is riding in gets attacked. As he watches soldiers around him one by one leave the humvee, and one by one get mercilessly gunned down, he decides…to also leave the humvee! Interesting strategic choice. Considering they were in the middle of the desert, there was only one way to escape – keep driving the bulletproof humvee and hope you get away. He gets out and starts running! After he reaches his goal of hiding behind a rock 20 feet away, a missile lands and messes up his shit anyway. He wakes up in a cave full of evil terrorists. Here, he meets a nice doctor who keeps him alive while helping him build his first Iron Man suit (Think of a cross between the Pillsbury Doughboy and C3P0 after being dismantled). The doctor also changes his personality by talking about his dead family. I would have to say the scene with the doctor “creating a decoy” is one of the top 10 jokes of a scene I have ever witnessed. It’s one thing to shoot your gun in the air to draw attention…but he starts shooting right at the entrance to the “iron man suit lab”. Why wouldn’t that send even more guys right there? Then, there is the part where he is running behind 3 enemies in a narrow tunnel. The doctor is still shooting his gun into the air, yelling. Why he doesn’t actually shoot the terrorists, who killed his family and imprisoned him, is beyond me. He eventually dies, and his death is supposed to lead to some sort of personal transformation of Stark, who humanely and maturely no longer thinks about banging really hot chicks. So, he retreats to his lab, where 2 ultra-smart, completely voice controlled robots that can pretty much do anything are his main lab buddies. The combination of Stark interacting with the robots over and over, and their ability to do anything possible with any voice command quickly got boring. It was like someone said “how quickly and easily can we get him to make this suit, so he can start flying around in it ASAP.” Throughout the movie, this ultra-smart, ubiquitous computer helps Stark every step of the way. This is true until the end sequence, when he has to fight Iron Monger, as listed in the credits, or The Dude, as everyone in the theater was thinking.

The ending sequence was really what scaled back any kind of excitement/respect I had for this movie. After this, I quickly slapped the “standard super hero movie” label on this guy, and never looked back. I guess we can start at the beginning of it, where Stane (villain’s real name) is standing around in his lab. Oh no, a knock at the door. I don’t know which was less realistic – Stane hopping into an enormous mech suit in 10 seconds that Iron Man needs his two genius robots to help him put on, or Gwen Paltrow’s brisk jog to safety while a fireball chases her down. This was the 2nd time that she “escaped” due to the weakest of scenarios. In the first, Pepper (Gwen’s character) is at Stark’s office computer when Stane walks in. She already knows hes the bad guy, so discreetly finishes her download of the incriminating files, then suavely puts the screen saver up just as Stane walks over. After she leaves, Stane removes the screen saver to see “download complete.” “NO!”, he exclaims in a kind of sigh / whine / tantrum combo. What will he do now? Oh wait…SHE IS 10 FEET OUTSIDE YOUR OFFICE, WALKING IN HIGH HEELS. Stane has a plan though. Instead of wasting time shutting up that pesky Pepper, who quickly alerts the entire military, he breaks into Stark’s house and waits for him. Here, we see for the 2nd time the “super ear weapon”, which after being used next to a person’s ear will make the veins in their face pop out, and will paralyze them for 15 minutes. Unless you are the terrorist he first uses it on, then it kills you. So, he paralyzes Stark, takes out his crucial power source for the suit, and leaves. Yes, he leaves the hero sitting on his couch, unmoving. This kind of negligence towards the powerful hero hasn’t been seen since the Bond days, unless you count the spoofing of it in Austin Powers. So…Stane can kill him while wearing huge mech suits, but can’t kill him while he’s sitting motionless on his couch?

As for the final fight itself, obviously much can be explained away with the easy cover of “technology”. Like when Stark gets thrown into a bus, then a missile is launched from 15 feet away into the same bus. I’ll believe that the suit prevented his body from reaching temperatures that would turn him into a puddle of goop, just like I’ll believe that in the first suit scene, not a single one of those bullets finds their way through one of the enormous eye holes in his mask. Oh wait, what am I thinking. Obviously the Arab terrorists aren’t smart enough to think of shooting at his potential weak points. Wild screams and panicked, inaccurate gunfire is all they can come up with. Speaking of those terrorists, the head guy reveals his master plan to Stane just before dying – to make 8 Iron Man suits and take over all of Asia!! Of course, how did I not see it before.

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I Hope No One Thought 88 Minutes was Gonna be Good… But Atleast Uwe Boll Didn’t Direct It

I hope no one thought 88 Minutes was gonna be good. Unlike previously horribly shitty movies whoever made this 88 minute film made the mistake of screening it for critics. On Metacritic, a summation of every respected critic all over the country, you’ll see a 12 next to the name 88 Minutes followed by the quote “Extreme dislike or disgust.” This weekend will truly be a test to see how much of a baller Al Pacino is. How many people out there would like to see the worst movie Al Pacino has ever made? He is Al Pacino; we’ll find out on Sunday night. With the internet bringing reviews of movies to Yahoo and Google home pages, highlighting monumentally bad ones, Sony might have missed out on the wily move of not allowing any critics to see it. You may or may not be aware of this move that studios make every now and again. If they know that the movie they’re putting out will be completely panned by critics, they simply don’t screen it for them. Some movies you might remember seeing trailers for but not actually seeing that have utilized this tactic in the past are Ultraviolet, Date Movie, Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector, and the infamous Uwe Boll’s Bloodrayne. My guess is Sony might have made more chedder had they added 88 minutes to that proud list of fine films, and lord knows they need it with the Wii kicking ass and taking names. This guy Uwe Boll actually has quite a funny little story going on right now.

Uwe Boll is the director of a bunch of infamously bad films that include such gems as BloodRayne, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark, and last but not least BloodRayne II: Deliverance. A few months back there was an online petition that stated:

“We, the undersigned, respectfully ask that Uwe Boll give proper weight to the wishes of the video game community, the horror community, and the film going community in general and stop directing, producing, or taking any part in the creation of feature films. His distasteful handling of the subject matter and lack of acknowledgement of his failures simply cannot be abided any longer.

Mr. Boll has repeatedly shown a complete lack of comprehension regarding the videogames he has dragged, kicking and screaming, to the silver screen and his ham-fisted approach to horror has soiled future possibilities for anyone else who may attempt to bring videogames to film.

“Sincerely the Undersigned”

This petition has over two hundred thousand signatures and has been growing daily. Taking this as a serious personal attack good old Boll posted this video of himself on the internet.

And then this equally ridiculous one…

And then this completely over the top unbelievably ridiculous one, talking about taking a shit at Starbucks…

To date the Long Live Uwe Boll petition has 4,402 signatures. That’s 0.022 % of the people who signed the original petition. Uwe has said that with 1 million signatures he will quite the film business forever, so, similarly to the upcoming presidential election, I urge you all to do your part and vote!

– Rich

Rick’s Take on the Oscars: Tilda Swinton is Money in the Bank

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I figured I’d do a quick Oscar run down since some pretty serious upsets went down last night despite the big ones (Movie, Director, Actor) going as planned. I think it’s safe to say now that the general consensus of the academy is that No Country for Old Men was the movie of the year, taking home statues for Supporting Actor (my boy Javier pictured below enjoying the festivites), Adapted Script, Direction and Movie of the Year. The Coen brothers each took home 3 Oscars last night, although they could have won a record breaking fourth in one year. Apparently the Oscar nominated editor of No Country named Roderick Jaynes in the credits is simply an alias for said brothers. The Coen boys have had a wonderful career of interesting movies with The Big Lebowski, O Brother Where Art Thou? and their latest masterpiece, No Country for Old Men, topping my list of favorites. Congrats bros. I’m glad There Will be Blood didn’t rob you of your year.

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I really loved last night’s upsets. Julie Christie was thought to be a lock by most for her portrayal of a woman succumbing to Alzheimer’s in the beautiful and heartbreaking Away From Her. I couldn’t have been happier to see the coveted statue handed over to Marion Cotillard for her portrayal of Edith Piaf through all stages of her life in La Vie en Rose. This little seen movie will now have its DVD stamped with the approval of the academy’s two Oscars and therefore will be viewed by the masses. This little known actress, who I have loved since her role as the comforting wife to a heartbroken man losing his father in Big Fish, will find her career blossoming in ways she couldn’t have imagined. Most notably her paycheck will quintuple for her next movie and the trailer will don her as ‘Academy Award Winner Marion Cotillard.’

I don’t know if I could really call this an upset, but I certainly expected one of the tunes from Enchanted to win for best song despite the performances really sucking it up at the Oscars. Not only was the performance of ‘Falling Slowly’ from the perfect little indie Once quite magical last night, but they also handed the stars of the film the Oscar for their song. If you haven’t seen Once yet, be sure to rent it. It’s short, original and has some songs that will stay with you long after the credits roll.

And now for the best upset of the evening: Tilda Swinton! I’ve always had a lot of respect for this fascinating actress. She’s had lots of small roles that have really stuck with me in some of my top tier films. Tilda doesn’t appear in Vanilla Sky until 2 hours in, yet her 5 minute monologue is a scene that has always struck me as one of my favorites: “The Lucid Dream is worth the risk. And what is any life if not the pursuit of a dream? The dream of peace, the dream of achievement, the dream of hearing someone say these words when they really, truly mean them. I love you David. Te quiero. Roam free David. Most of us live our whole lives without any real adventure to call our own. It’s hard to comprehend, but they laughed at Jules Verne too.” I loved her business exec in Adaptation, her struggling mother in Thumbsucker, and her conflicted litigator in Michael Clayton was certainly Oscar worthy. To top it all off she turned her thank you speech into a joke about George Clooney. He’s got serious dedication to his art (because he keeps that Batman suit with the pointy nipples on all the time, both on screen and off). Hopefully we’ll get to see more Tilda Swinton now, perhaps in some starring roles.

– Rich

You Don’t Seriously Think Vantage Point is Going to Be Good, Do You?

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I first saw the trailer for Vantage Point months ago and immediately turned to my friend and said, “That’s going to eat some serious ass.” He nodded in agreement, and I thought that was that. I thought no one in the world would be duped into thinking that piece of serious shit would be at all good. I thought the shittiness would ooze out of the screen and leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. Apparently, I was wrong.

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Now people, I know February is a slow month for movies. February is by far the worst month of the year. The lack of movies, teamed with the cold and fucking snow makes it dismal. I thought everyone in the world would simply lower their heads for a month and kind of push through it. Write it off. So imagine my surprise when a large number of people told me that they were “really pumped” for Vantage Point. I guess they just needed something to look forward to.

Let me say it here, loudly, so everyone knows, VANTAGE POINT IS GOING TO SUCK BALLS. It’s going to make Smokin’ Aces look like a cinematic fucking masterpiece. If you see it, that $9 is gone and you’d probably be much less pissed if you simply lit some cash on fire. Fire is at least fun. Still don’t believe me? Let’s take a closer look.

To start with, there’s an inexperienced writer/director team. Barry Levy used to teach Hebrew School before he sold this, his first script, so you can rest assured that there will be a not-too-subtle message behind all of this somewhere that the Palestinians are dirty fuckers. Director Pete Travis makes his feature film debut in this movie as well. Sure you can claim his BAFTA award for Best Single Drama (The equivalent of Best TV Movie) gives him some cred, but winning that award is the same as being the smartest guy on the short bus. A first time writer-director combo isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s not exactly an auspicious start.

Let’s get to the cast. This movie is rife with mediocre acting. Yeah, Forest Whitaker can sometimes be good. Sometimes. And unless Sigourney Weaver is killing aliens she pretty much sucks. Despite my love of “Lost,” I think Knocked Up best summarizes my feelings on Matthew Fox. I really could care less about Dennis Quaid. He really hasn’t enhanced my enjoyment of any movie. Any role he played could have been done better by someone else. Including “that guy Corky, and he’s actually retarded.”

The plot behind Vantage point looks too convoluted to be even watchable. There looks to be about 8000 twists in this movie. The presidents dead! Oh wait, that’s a double! Oh but they have the real president! Something blew up! Forest Whitaker switched lazy eyes! AHHHH! “But I like twists!” you protest. Sure you do, everyone likes a movie with a good twist. The key part of that phrase being “a good.” Meaning one, singular smart and well earned twist. Ever see Reindeer Games? Thank god you haven’t. It had about 17 twists and by the end I was covered in my own vomit. If by now you still aren’t convinced, the movie runtime is 90 minutes. 90 minutes! That’s nothing. It takes me longer to take a shit. Are we really expected to explore these 8 crazily different view points in 90 minutes? No fucking way. The last time I saw a non-comedy at 90 minutes was a movie called Crank, which was just as big a piece of shit that Vantage Point is going to be.

– Meller

Across the Universe is a Trip Well Worth Taking

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Across the Universe enjoyed a relatively short stay in theaters, especially in St. Louis, but I still managed to get a classic Rich Siegel style two viewings in. With the coveted Oscars about to be handed out I’ve been racking my brain as to who I think really deserves them as well as what my favorite movie of 2007 truly is. I just saw Michael Clayton for the first time and was very impressed. This directorial debut for Tony Gilroy is remarkable, building slow intensity before it erupts with extremism. Of the Oscar nominees I’d actually give the best actor spot to George Clooney for his portrayal of a man at wits end in Michael Clayton, but we all know it’s going to Daniel Day Lewis for his oil man in There Will be Blood. Something was lost on me in There Will be Blood and I’m not quite sure what it was. Instead of hailing it as a classic as most critics have been, I thought it was boring and uninspired despite Daniel Day Lewis’s exceptional performance. I also caught a second viewing of the Coen Brothers’ No Country for Old Men which I will hail as a classic without reservations and give my approval for the Best Picture Oscar as well as a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Javier Bardem for his portrayal of the man who is the reason why this is no longer a country for old men. As much as I loved No Country I’ve got to give my top spot, as you might have guessed already, to Julie Taymor’s Across the Universe.

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Taymor’s last directorial effort was 2002’s Frida, a beautiful movie that told the tale of famed artist Frida Kahlo played by Salma Hayek, who has a great cameo in Across the Universe as 5 trippy sexy nurses. Frida was filmed with some of the most vibrant colors I’ve ever seen in a film with each scene more beautiful than the next. Occasionally scenes would start with a painting by the late artist that would quickly transform into a scene of realism. This technique was not overused, was particularly well done and proved to me that Taymor is a talented and innovative director. When I first saw trailers for Across the Universe with Taymor’s name attached I had high hopes, all of which were blown out of the water when I saw the film.

Across the Universe opens with 6 separated characters of Beatles fame: Jude, Lucy, Max, Sadie, JoJo and Prudence. All are broken in their own way and are destined to come together to find happiness. A common criticism I’ve read about the film is that it was disjointed, an opinion I couldn’t disagree more with. The character introductions are each presented in separate music video-esque scenes that may come off as disordered but gains bearing as all of the characters lives begin to intersect. While utilizing Beatles’ songs to tell the story you’ll find no John or Paul vocals in this film. This is a musical in every sense, in which the characters sing the words to express themselves. Whether the song is upbeat or slow is determined by the scene it is trying to tell, not how the original was composed. Using a combination of live action, animation and special effects Taymor really captures the spirit of the time and delivers a tale of love and loss that will remain with you long after the credits roll.

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Some of the musical numbers in this movie I can only classify as pure genius and deserve to be seen instead of described, so I’ll only say that the scene surrounding the song She’s So Heavy should be You-Tubed if you refuse to see the entire film for some unreasonable I’m too macho for musicals complex rationale. Across the Universe hits store shelves on DVD on Tuesday and I urge you all to check it out if you haven’t had the pleasure yet, it is most certainly a trip worth taking.

– Rich

Published in: on February 1, 2008 at 5:24 pm  Comments (3)  
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Cloverfield Impresses & More of Rick’s Rants

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After one of the most enticing marketing campaigns completely brain washed me to need to see this movie the second it came out, I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest. Its surprising to me that there is such a critical divide over Cloverfield since I’ve found over the years that critics tend to like anything different since they see the same crap over and over again. Cloverfield, on top of revitalizing a genre really did accomplish originality, a rarity in movies today. Critics adored last years The Host, a Korean monster movie that I thought was just plain boring and doesn’t hold a candle to Cloverfield. This monster movie isn’t getting nominated for best picture, but the camera work is amazing, the way they portrayed the story with cuts to our protagonist and his love interest everytime the camera got turned off is extremely intelligent, and the special effects are jawdropping. At one point our heroes seem to be victorious as they climb in a military helicopter. We the viewers, along with our heroes, get our first overhead view of the monster terrorizing Manhattan, but the beauty is fleeting; a monster tentacle whips up and catches the helicopter. Watching a helicopter crash from the viewpoint of the passengers is pretty damn cool. I’m gonna have to classify this as a must see in theaters. If you get motion sickness you might want to pop a Dramamine before you go, otherwise, enjoy the ride.

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My newest Rick’s Rants is up on Movieweb in which I give a very personal account of how FOX lifted my spirits last Sunday with the new Terminator show, Family Guy and American Dad. I also express my discontent with the new American Gladiators. As always, heres the link: Rick’s Rants: Quips on Televisions Finest. I’ll be doing a TV year in review of 2007 for Movieweb, and a movie year in review for The Trifecta as soon as I’ve seen all the possiblities. I just saw the Diving Bell and the Butterfly, which will certainly make my list and should be seen by all. Hopefully I’ll get to Atonement this weekend. Enjoy Cloverfield everyone, its one hell of a ride.

– Rich