Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays....

And, for the special ones, have a merry Patrick Swayze Christmas.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Avatar - Review

Let me just cut to the chase: James Cameron's AVATAR lives up to its expectations. At least a majority of them. He paints a magnificent world of wonder and makes the CGI work perfectly with the real-life actors. The animation of the Na'vi characters through extensive motion capture is very natural and organic, with perfect facial expressions and body language. I may be hyping strictly the visual effects so far but that is because it is most obvious and notable aspect of this film that can help viewers forgive the stock plot of its script.

Though the many detractors may link this up with the enviromentalistic FERN GULLY as a joke, AVATAR is more simply a very glossy coating of DANCES WITH WOLVES. On the floral planet of Pandora, there is a substance called laughably "Unobtainium", a special mineral that Earth corporations want to take control of for profit. However, the planet's race of indigenous humanoids dubbed the Na'vi refuse to move from their forest residences and have created a tense environment with the hired military units. Meanwhile, a paraplegic Marine named Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) has taken over his twin brother's lucrative and informative position as a subject for the Avatar program. This scientific program was created to make genetically engineered Na'vi-like bodies as a way to democratically handle the racial situation and for their own private gain. Jake if forced to break away during an expedition and gets himself impeded with a Na'vi tribe and in a destined relationship with the leader's daughter Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). Cue the juggling of duty between the military leader (Stephen Lang) and head scientist (Sigourney Weaver), romantic melodrama, and a action-packed finale.

The plot may be expected and I may have treated it cynically, but Cameron has written it with entertaining dialogue and special story elements that makes his dream idea seem truly unique. One noteworthy moment is when Jake's status as a being is deeply questioned due to his constant jumping between his Avatar body and his human form. He becomes depressed and loses his track of thinking and the timelines imposed on to his missions. Another thing I enjoyed thoroughly was that Cameron gave all of the characters a gray morality instead of the "black and white" trope. For instance, the military colonel actually upholds the Marine code and seems to truly care for Jake by keeping his promise to repair his legs for his sleeper mission. As for the scientists, they have been caught up with their work and their sought-after goal that they have forgotten the reality of the situation and what the Na'vi truly want. This is best shown in the scene where Weaver tries to tell the corporate head about her theory of a collected nervous system among the plants and appears to be out of her mind. It's kinda of a nice callback to Weaver's work in GORILLAS IN THE MIST.

While the script has some good touches, there are some holes and big problems that aren't address. The "Unobtainium" MacGuffin isn't fully explained, only in a quick scene. I forgot why it is so important and the film did too, since you hardly ever see any mining or the crews working in a special area that had been violently conquered. The romance between Jake and Neytiri doesn't fully developed properly and is rushed due to the constant focus on Jake's viewpoint. It starts off on the right note but dropped in the many training scenes until returning again in the obvious moments. Speaking of Neytiri, she is the only Na'vi character with characterization, as the other important Na'vis get barely any time or lines to be flesh out. They simply stick to the selected roles. The same goes to some minor military characters who are intended to be enjoyable killed later but get no attention to warrant a response. As a last note, the ending theme is no "My Heart Will Go On" and is a bloated mess to play over the credits.

I have talked more about the criticisms than the positives, but AVATAR is an enjoyable adventure in the theaters. I say adventure in both the sense of its script and its visual effects. Cameron has created a film that wisely builds up the tension slowly between the Humans and the Na'vis until the climatic final battle. While it could have been as great as some of his previous sci-fi films, it still gets the job done and deserves to be discussed and enjoyed later on with them.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Thirst - Review

Park Chan-wook has made a career mixing brutal violence with social critique. His recent film, THIRST, was highly anticipated thanks to the cult popularity of his Vengeance Trilogy here in the States. Its premiere at Cannes left some critics in the cold, but it nonetheless won the Jury Prize. I can see why this twisted take of vampire romance has been praised however it remains a creative misfire within my own eyes.

Often, films with unique or creative ideas tend to fall in the same trap: Interesting opening and middle but loses steam fast when entering into the third act. THIRST has the mirrored effect; The film doesn't enter creative territory until the last 40 minutes, where it finally brings the expected payoff and becomes more of a black comedy. It opens with a Christian priest (Song Kang-ho) as he walks away from his distressing job in a hospital to volunteer to take a experimental vaccine for a deadly virus. He dies shortly there after but comes back to life miraculously on his death bed. He resumes his life but with the new stigma of a faith healer. He eventually meets up with an childhood friend, Tae-Ju (Kim Ok-bin), who was forcefully married to another old friend of his. The two begin to have an affair while the priest has started to notice his new body changes and a taste for blood.

The previous plot description might sound boring and generic in both a horror and melodrama sense. And you will be right; THIRST moves at a really slow speed as the two wrestle with their emotions and family/faith problems. Park tries to change or simply shock the proceedings by including long sex scenes and having Tae-Ju mentally unstable due to her horrible life. But it simply doesn't help cover up that the film is going through the motions. As stated, the story doesn't become very interesting until after the husband has been killed and Tae-Ju has become a vampire. The latter finally sets off the slow burn of Tae-Ju's manipulative nature and sadomasochistic sexual tendencies. The film stops being an ordinary "vampire man/human woman" romance and becomes a twisted view of it that Park intended to be.

If the the film cut a lot of the fat from the first two acts, especially the blind mentor subplot, THIRST could have been an enjoyable experience and worthy to be seen. While I might recommend it to those who enjoy Korean horror or Park's other films, it just can't be justified for everyone else. Even the great performances from the main leads and the nearly-voiceless ending are unable to make this a must see in my opinion.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Boondock Saints II: All Saint's Day - Review

The first BOONDOCK SAINTS was simply an okay/mediocre action b-movie that only had life to due to the scenery chewing of Willem Dafoe. The film also had more life given to it with a pretty ludicrous cult following on DVD. A sequel to the first would have been inevitable and lucrative but the only thing that should not have been included was the touch of the original creator and director Troy Duffy. Many of the faults of the first film rest entirely on his own hands and he should not be anywhere near the film industry again especially after the release of the documentary OVERNIGHT. However, his ego won over common sense.

THE BOONDOCK SAINTS II: ALL SAINT'S DAY is trash. A trash that has been resting in a dirty alleyway where passer-bys have regurgitated on and spilled their midnight drinks in. And because of the releasing of this film, this trash has slowly moved on a campaign around the country, infecting the masses intoxicated on stale popcorn and sugar rushes. This is an extreme way of stating that I hated this film, but considering how extreme Duffy wanted both in the film and its script, it's way too tame to describe.

Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flanery return in their roles, as the two assassins have chosen a life on peace in Stereotypical Ireland and also chose to wear the worst fake beards ever conceived. They learn that a hitman killed a Boston priest in their own special manner to provoke them out. After sailing back to America and picking up a new sidekick, they go after an Italian mafia group. Yes, they want to take vengeance on the hired gun but stupidly go after his possible benefactors first. Luckily, the dumb hitman forgets his mission as well and spends more time reflecting on his short stature. Get ready for a lot of scenes on his shortness, folks, if you make the bad decision to see this film now. Also, be prepared to see every shot have a fade in and out to black, the same now lamer crime recreations, more bad techno rock with gospel backing, and a terrible "grindhouse" scene.

No sense of reality is placed within this film and there is no suspense at all. Action films often have this lack of tension, but at least they try with some dangers for their main characters. At no point will you fear for the brothers' safety. And, if they are so good at not getting hurt, why do they have stupid complicated plans to always go ire? Once you get over the "god mode" device, you still have a juvenile, offensive action film with every actor performing their lines to reach the bleach theater seats. All the lines have either an expletive, a racial slur, or a gay joke in it. No one can speak or act in a simple straight manner, only in a hyper mode. I must have forgotten the three beat detectives from the first one, because their first scene made me hate them instantly. In fact, that can be said about all the characters, since all have to have an outrageous entrance into the picture.

With this film, Troy Duffy continues to amaze me with his ineptitude and misguided anger at the world. He lacks any semblance to filmmaking and writing, even if his films are not supposed to be art. His "entertainment for the average joe" direction is not good at all. Duffy wants myself to enjoy the death of Italian bad guys simply just cause he said they are bad with no show of it and because they aren't Irish. Even the original film had some reasons to hate its main antagonist. Duffy has not changed for the better. He, as OVERNIGHT has shown, is nothing more than a stupid hateful man.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Land of the Lost - Review

LAND OF THE LOST is simply random. All of its elements rely only on being random and maintaining it throughout. Notice that I haven't added comedy after it. There are many examples of random comedy (Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Family Guy), but LAND OF THE LOST can't be included because it is absolutely unfunny and has no sense of order in its proceedings or in the making of the film.

This whole review can be nothing but a laundry list of complaints so here is just a "random" few: Why the pointless prologue with the astronaut? How did Holly (Anna Friel) carry the dinosaur egg back to Earth? Why did I have to sit through a long skit where Will Ferrell poured urine all over him? Why did everything look super fake and green screened? How can Holly communicate perfectly with the ape man Chaka (Jorma Taccone)? Why would the villain want to conquer Earth? Why should we fear the Sleestaks if they hardly do anything? And, finally, how could all of these and many other problems got into the final cut?

The original Land of the Lost television show was simply a fun romp through a prehistoric world as a group of family members struggle yet enjoy the surroundings and new cultures while looking for a way back. The film, however, is a group of older adults who act like complete boards of wood while engaging in stupid action moments and can only experience the now ultra-surreal world only through violence, sex, and drugs. That last statement may seem like I'm over thinking but it's not: Will Ferrell and his two helpers often fight with whatever catches their sight, They interact with Chaka by groping and humping, and there is a way too long sequence where the three males are flying high due to narcotic plant.

Will Ferrell has been getting flack for this film and he deserves it whether it is his own fault or not. He doesn't know how to play his character, instead switching between uptight seriousness and his generic goofy shtick constantly. I don't know if he tampered with the script, but it is odd that all the comedy and moments that are supposed to bring down the house only come from him. Anna Friel and Danny McBride are both great comedic actors but they have nothing to add since the spotlight is always on Ferrell. McBride looks more disgruntled, since he seems to have to stick to the script and lose the fireball-hatred element that makes him hilarious to watch. Friel, on the other hand, does the stereotypical woman role of motivator/kidnappee who has to fall in love with the protagonist despite the lack of chemistry.

The only good thing about watching this turd was that the shear dullness of it prevented any anger to build up with me. Not even the misogynistic comments throughout it could provoke me. Not even the scene where the group rip-offs a Seinfeld gag and watches a ice cream man get mauled to death. This film needs to be lost and never found.