Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Review: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) [Reviewed By Clifford Kiyabu]

Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: David Koepp (screenplay) George Lucas (story) and Jeff Nathanson (story)
Genre: Action / Adventure
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for adventure violence and scary images.
Released: 22 May 2008 (USA)
Starring: Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Shia LaBeouf, Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent, Igor Jijikine, Dimitri Diatchenko, Ilia Volokh, Emmanuel Todorov, Pavel Lychnikoff.

Plot: Famed archaeologist/adventurer Dr. Henry "Indiana" Jones is called back into action when he becomes entangled in a Soviet plot to uncover the secret behind mysterious artifacts known as the Crystal Skulls.

Review: 8/10

My Thoughts: 1981 the year two great filmmakers of our time came together with an idea in mind, mixing that idea with a talented actor and what was brought to life was something that can only be described as brilliance in its purest form, the film I talk about is none other than “Raiders of the Lost Ark” a film that mixes pulse pounding suspense with none stop action and adventure, and before you could say huh you was give a bit of comedy that loosened the mood a little. Some have said it wasn’t possible to replicate such greatness, and then came the year of 1984; and again we are thrown back into the lion’s den with “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” a Prequel that may not live up the full potential that was Raiders, but still manage to serve up a decent amount of action mixed with chills and humor, which made it a fine addition to the awesomeness that was Indiana Jones, and then alas came the year of 1989. The year we saw our hero ride his last adventure in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” here is where it was all over for fans everywhere, much like the Ark of the Covenant, our hero would be boxed away by the filmmakers and labeled “TOP SECRET” never to be seen again by the likes of you and me, or so we thought. It has been nearly two decades since our wool felt hat wearing wipe cracking hero has been seen by moviegoers alike!, some say that an aged Indy (65) wouldn’t be able to preformed properly like he use to, but Mr. Ford shows everyone age is not a factor as he retunes to take on the mantle of Indy once again, but this time instead of fighting Nazi Germany.

He takes on the might of Communist Russia, instead of facing off against the occult, he up against KGB operatives looking for the Crystal Skulls. Now after watching this film I decided to set down with some fellow moviegoers like myself in private chats to see others points of views on the film what they hated and what they liked, I do this sort of thing from time to time to research what others think about the film and see how their point of view compares up with mine and try to understand theirs as we talk it over, I feel that the only way to fully experience a film is to talk it over with people who also seen it, well what I found was there are those who liked it (Like myself and a few others out there) and then there are those who said it was bad(a pretty big audience so far), I will explain why some may think that. Most say it didn’t live up to its name and it was a complete waste of time and money.

But I will explane why it’s not as bad as some are claiming it to be. People everywhere are saying it didn’t quite carry the same torch as Raiders nor does the KGB live up to the villainess that was the Nazis and the occult, and I completely agree, the Commies don’t live up to the evil presence the Nazis brought on screen, some could say that the Nazis had the natural evilness about them that made us all smile whenever Indy killed one of them in the film. And Commies just don’t have that in this, however they still manage to bring some form of evil presence that still fun to see in some way and of course is does not live up to the greatness that was Raiders, Raiders is just a one of kind film that will never be replicated again so I say instead of trying to compare it to Raiders, just like it for what it is, and to explain the other problems moviegoers are having with this; is the film as a whole SC-FI acting take with UFO’s and government conspiracies and such.

when the other three previous films was based solely on a religious take, thing is the first three films pays homage to the 30’s and 40’s which of course was the War years, and the time of classy films, while the new installment pays homage to the McCarthy era with the ongoing Cold War. So because I didn’t try to compare it with the other and saw it for what it was is probably why I liked it so much, and Yes I will say that the plot is nothing Oscar worthy nor soled, it’s full of holes and the CGI is a bit over used in this as well as a few cheesy scenes that was overly done, but now I must ask, wasn’t that the whole point of the Indy films to begin with, mixing cheesiness with action and adventure with a little hint of chills and thrills that made it all the more worth wild to watch to begin with.

The story is about 19 years after the events in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, our lovable reckless hero Indiana Jones is at it again in another wild adventure, but this time fighting evil Communist during the Cold War. Indiana Jones (Ford) and his partner Mac (Winstone) is abducted by Communist operatives lead by Irina Spalko (Blanchett) and taken to Area 51 where supposedly all the secrets the government is hiding from the world is hidden, while there and being forced to help them find the Crystal Skull he is betrayed by his partner and must fights them off, with a little luck on his side and some smarts he manages to escape with his life, however he must remain on the run trying to figure out just what the commies want with the Crystal Skull, and his mission to do so he comes across a young man who goes by the name Mutt (LaBeouf) who claims his mother Marion (Allen) went missing in shout America and if anything happened to her that Dr. Henry Jones is the man he should go to. Now together the two of them form a team to find the Crystal Skulls and find his mother.

As for the acting; Harrison Ford is back and kicking butt in this new installment of the Indy films, at the ripe age of 65 he manages to pull off some magnificent acting as well as some incredible stunts, YES folks he does all his stunts in this one, and still shows us as old as he is he still has some years left in him. Cate Blanchett does a great job, although her accent may sound a bit fake from time to time she still pulls off the whole main villain thing quite nicely, not to mention she really rocked that hairdo of hers and has a very climatic drive by fight scene with Harrison Ford and Shia LaBeouf that was just awesomeness all around. As for Shia LaBeouf, I really like his acting I think he’s going to be a real somebody with his talent and with all the good jobs he’s been getting lately with Disturbia, Surf's Up, Transformers and the to be realest later this year film Eagle Eye, one cannot deny his is a fantastic actor, now with that said I must say is acting in this was somewhat forced and at times a little fake, which was a bit of a disappointment for me because I’ve grown to like his acting greatly, oh well maybe in the next Indy film he’ll do better.

As for Karen Allen, she was, well bad! Yes. She didn’t do a good job in this at all, which was a big downer because I loved her character out all the female characters in all the Indy films and if I could pick one to return it would have been her because both Harrison Ford and her shared this magic on screen that screamed “destined to be together” but this time around it was like she wasn’t even trying, and her performance was way too predictable and somewhat annoying, however I will say it was nice to see her acting on the big screen again. As for Ray Winstone, he just annoyed the hell out of me from the get go, but then again wasn’t that his job from the beginning/ so you could say he didn’t do too much of a bad job in this one. John Hurt was fantastic, he’s a great actor, but I found in to be somewhat out of place in this film and wished they had given him a much better place in this film or at least write a little more depth into his character. Jim Broadbent also did a great job, and must say he manage to pull off playing a new character introduced into the film which is to replace the late Denholm Elliott’s character Dr. Marcus Brody, who ironically dies some years before the film takes place.

Finale say: I had a fun time watching this, and I will say the film has some problems but none of which ruined the film for me, I will be looking forward for this one on DVD when it does come out and giving it another go around. I highly recommend it.

Copyright 2008
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Review: What Happens in Vegas (2008) [Reviewed By Tony-D]

“What Happens in Vegas”
** out of ****
Director: Tom Vaughan
Cast: Ashton Kutcher, Cameron Diaz, Rod Corddry

The good news about “What Happens in Vegas” is that the film isn’t nearly as bad as the trailer (and title) suggests. The bad news? “What Happens in Vegas” still sucks donkey balls, big, chunky, sweaty donkey balls.

Okay, come on. Let’s just admit right now that we actually saw it coming. “What Happens in Vegas” isn’t the least bit impressive. It won’t win any awards anytime soon (though it may win an MTV Movie Award or a Razzie in the future). Who actually thought that the movie was going to be good, and then I will cut the shit out of the person who said “I did” with a sharp blade.

Though I pulled stunts like this before (not since February, but hey, by some of the films I seen, you would have thought that I’ve been doing it for the entire year), “What Happens in Vegas” is actually the least harmful film out of the bunch of films you all tortured me with, which includes “Mad Money,” “Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins,” and “Meet the Spartans.” (Just typing and reading the title of that movie leaves a bad taste in my mouth that gasoline can’t even provide.)

Jack Fuller (Ashton Kutcher) is a Brooklyn boy who can’t seem to finish anything he started, other than sex and annoying the audience. He gets fired by his OWN DAD (Treat Williams, and how messed up is that?) for slacking. Joy McNally (Cameron Diaz) is a fun city girl with dreams of having a great marriage and career, but ever since her boyfriend (Jason Sudeikis) broke up with her in front of all of their closest friends, she hasn’t been herself. Neither of them knows one another, but one night in Vegas turns into a six month-nightmare.

So Jack and his best friend (Rob Corddry) go to the one place that you can forget all of your troubles – Vegas! And they are surprised (and aroused) to be put in the same hotel room as Joy and her best friend. (Lake Bell) (SHIT! I never told you that Joy went to Vegas. Aw well. Are you really surprised?) Anyway, they complain, get penthouse suites, VIP limos and other fun packages, and drinks. Jack and Joy drink and gamble themselves blue in the eye, and wake up the next morning married. After fighting in the casinos like two hungover idiots, Jack puts Joy’s quarter in a slot machine, and wins three million bucks.

But being that it was Joy’s quarter and Jack put it in, and being that they are still married, the judge (Dennis Miller, no other) sentences them to six months “hard-marriage.” This means that Fuller and McNally have to live with each other for six months, plus visits to a marriage counselor. (Queen Latifah) In the end, they both start to realize that they have problems, but they need to work them out in order to get a piece of that money.

Jack Fuller is like the fucking anti-Christ of cinematic characters. It is like they put Ashton Kutcher in a room filled of douchebags and told him to learn from them, then do everything that they did but on camera. This guy does nothing that impresses me the slightest bit. The most Kutcher does for our audience is annoy the living shit out of them. In one scene, he really asks Rob Corddry’s character if a girl party is a trap. Now if these girls are paying more attention to themselves than you, what in the tittie-monster hell do you think?

That being said, Cameron Diaz isn’t much better. Despite her good looks and romantic comedy charm, the only thing that she brings to the character is her awkward expressions in some scenes. But for those of you who were only going to see this film for Diaz, you can let out a sigh since she isn’t the worst part of the film (surprisingly). That honor goes to Queen Latifah. With such shitty and hipster dialogue, it makes me blow any little bit of respect that I had for her after “Hairspray” and “Life Support” were released last year.

I’ll admit, I laughed twice throughout the film, but that was all of the help from Rob Corddry and Lake Bell. It is the chemistry of these two that keeps the movie going. Whenever the two are not on-screen together (or not on-screen by themselves), the movie takes a slow and boring turn. Their love-hate relationship is enough for me to demand that you see it at once. But the Kutcher-Diaz relationship? Yeah, you should just wait for DVD.

You have to let guys write romantic comedies. It isn’t sexist; it’s true. Especially in comedies like “What Happens in Vegas.” The film is terrible because a lady wrote the film. If you notice, MEN always complain about their wives. It isn’t the other way around. Obviously, screenwriter Dana Fox doesn’t understand that. I should have knew that beforehand, considering that epic film “The Wedding Date.” That movie… SUCKED.

You should be lucky if you haven’t seen that movie, because “What Happens in Vegas” is much much better. But that’s not hard. How in the world this made more money than “Speed Racer” I will never know.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Review: 27 Dresses (2008) [Review By Kelsey Zukowski]

Starring: Katherine Heigl, James Marsden, Malin Akerman, Edward Burns
Directed By: Anne Fletcher
Written By: Aline Brosh McKenna
Released: 2008
Grade: B

27 Dresses is a romantic comedy centering around the fascination many women have with marriage. This is also countered by the male take on marriage not being about love at all, but being about the pressures of societal norms. The woman’s perspective is shown through an obsessive manner while the man’s perspective is shown in an ironic and almost hypocritical way. The film presents a story where these two very different view points, might just be what each needs, to balance each other out and to find a common ground and perhaps even love along the way.

Jane (Heigl) lost her mother at a very early age. From then on she took on the role of the mother, particularly towards her younger sister Tess (Akerman). When Jane was still very young, she was in a wedding, where she fell in love with this ceremony and bringing together of two people from then on. She is a part of all of her friends weddings and actually does most of the planning for them. So far, she has done this 27 times and still has the 27 very different, and in some cases downright embarrassing dresses to prove it. Jane does all of this, hoping that when her special day finally comes that all of those people will be there for her to return the favor. Waiting for this does get hard for her, especially when she has to face the one man she is sure is the one for her, her boss, George (Burns). She is always there for him 100% and in ways beyond his typical employees. Jane has never had the courage to tell him how she truly feels though.

Just as Jane is about to profess her love to George, she sees that he is with Tess, who has just flown back in to New York. Jane is hoping that this will just be a one night hook up since that is how things seem to ordinarily go with her sister. Unfortunately, they stay together and soon enough they become engaged even if their relationship is based on a lie. Dealing with this fact is hard enough since Jane can’t seem to let either person know how she really feels. On top of this though, she ends up planning the wedding. Meanwhile, a writer for the commitments section of the newspaper, who covered one of the weddings Jane was at, Kevin (Marsden), comes in to Jane’s life. Even though he writes about these weddings and the beauty in them, he doesn’t believe in it at all. It is really just a job to him. Kevin is simply paying his dues until he can find work that is more interesting to him. He is astonished by Jane and how she can dedicate so much of her life to weddings, none of which are even for her. At first, Jane wants nothing to do with Kevin. Kevin doesn’t give up that easily though, especially after he realizes that writing a piece on Jane could be the perfect opportunity to write something more compelling. As they spend more time together, Jane realizes that the man for her might not be as unavailable or far off as she thought.

The cast in 27 Dresses worked very well together. Katherine Heigl did a good job of making us feel for her character as well as making us slightly annoyed with her situation, just wanted her to find some sanity and happiness in life. James Marsden as always brought great life to the screen, through charm even though his character wasn’t quite prince charming. He had his flaws, but at times it was almost easier to see things from his point of view mostly because he seemed to have a stronger sense of balance in his life even if it was at times hypocritical and cynical. As the film goes on after spending more and more time with Jane, these qualities seem to break down along with Jane‘s flaws, illustrating that each makes the other a better version of themselves. Malin Akerman as Tess at first seemed very superficial and just the kind of girl who gets whatever she wants without lifting a finger. She showed that there is more than meets the eye with her, as she has worries and for once wanted more than the typical guys who just comes and goes. A smaller role I enjoyed was by Melora Harden (“The Office”) as Kevin’s editor, with that same stern and tough exterior as Jan has. I also liked Judy Greer, as one of Jane’s best friends. However, it seems like she already played this role as Jennifer Lopez’s best friend in another wedding based movie, The Wedding Planner. Greer seems to be stuck in this role as the side kick, which I would really like to see her challenge to break out of.

After watching 27 Dresses, the word that stands out the most is cute. It is a very cute film, not anything new or a showcase of eternal love, but still very cute. There are a few worthy themes like doing things for yourself once in awhile, speaking your mind, and following your heart. The well written script helped to develop the characters involved as did the wonderful acting, making us feel for them and able to see things from each perspective offered. However, if you don’t typically like romantic comedies, chances are you won’t like this one either. If you can appreciate a fun, light hearted casual romance story that will leave you smiling, than this is a film worth checking out.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Kim Sønderholm Interview

Kim Sønderholm is a filmmaker, actor, and writer among other things from Denmark who has been very active in the film scene. One of his most recent releases is The Horror Vault, a collection of horror shorts with very different tones and styles from sarcastic to gloomy to the old and the new. Kim had two of his short films released through this, "When John met Julia" and "Mental Distortion". Another big film for him that has recentally been released is Craig, a movie about the severity of one man's instability and lonliness leading him to horrific actions. We talk about these as well as his several other projects he is recentally working on and the horror movies that inspired him to get to where he is today.

Kelsey: In the short films that make up The Horror Vault there are prevalent linking themes of delusions and not being able to see things clearly until it is too late. How do you think this applies to our society today?

Kim: That's very observant of you, and I think it applies scaringly much today. I think a lot of people today are walking around only being able to see the tip of their nose, only worrying about themselves. I think in many ways most horror films are only weak copies of some of the things we are presented to in society today. But, it's not like I wanna make social comments anywhere I go, but I do think the world today is quite scary, to be honest, looking at some of the things that goes on in the world and how little people care for each other.

Kelsey: What motivated you to make the shorts that you were involved with?

Kim: Well I've always had a huge fascination for horror films so that was my main incentiment, I've always wanted to work on horror films as an actor ever since being a teenager.

Kelsey: What horror movies have had the biggest influence on you?

Kim: As a kid in the early 80's I was hooked on Star Wars and the 007 films. Always wanted to be up there as a part of the action. Throughout my teenage years I turned very much towards horror films, such as the Friday the 13th series, the Freddy Krueger flicks, not forgetting the Halloween films. I still love these films to this day I still watch any horror film I can get my hands on. I suppose I've been hooked on horror ever since I saw "The Exorcist" one late night it was shown on the TV. I guess I was 12 or so, and my parents had forbidden me to watch. But, you know, as it is with kids, what you are not allowed to do is always the most exciting. So I saw it and as cliched as it sounds, it changed my life in many ways. The film scared the living crap out of me. I didn't sleep properly for two weeks after that. (laughs) What scared me wasn't the possession as such, it was more the face of the demon you see in very short frames in a dream that Damian Karras is having, with his mother having to cross a highway. I mean, that fascinated me a lot. The fact that we have this whole film and what terrified me the most was what you hardly saw, I guess those glimpses you catch of the demons face is less than a second in the entire film, but it made quite an impression on me. No other film has ever been able to get to me like that one did. It actually took me several years and a lot of persuasion to see it a second time. These days, obviously, it might not look like much - although to me it still does. As I got older I loved the slasher films such as Friday the 13th and the likes, and I guess I grew a bit tougher with age. I have a huge fascination in general for the "darker" movies, the Predators films and the Alien films also have a very big place in my heart, as does David Lynch's films.. Not forgetting "The Crow" which in my eyes is an absolute masterpiece.

Kelsey: What is your opinion on the current state of horror movies?

Kim: Well they've become more crude, which is not necessarily a bad thing, I mean I've enjoyed films like Saw and Hostel very much, but in general a lot of garbage is released too. I do try to watch anything I get my hands on though, and I'm not the sort of person to bag things I don't like, so I'm not mentioning any of the bad ones. In general though I think horror is in a very good place, but I do miss some of the Friday the 13th sort of stuff, maybe it's just me being an old geezer, I don't know - but it was definately good news for me when Halloween was announced to be remade, and next year Friday the 13th. I mean, in general I'm not very much for all the remakes, I think the only one which is really good is actually "The Hills Have Eyes", but I'm extremely curious to see the F13 remake, hoping I'm not gonna be too disappointed, so let's see.

Kelsey: How do you think the films of The Horror Vault differentiate from the bulk of films that are around in the mainstream today?

Kim: Hm, well some of the segments in The Horror Vault are of the same bag of goods as "new" horror, others are inspired a little more by the older stuff, but I hope people will like it all and enjoy it. I think we managed to make a nice mix that will please everybody.

Kelsey: With the faulty state of sequels, especially in the horror genre, what made you want to be involved with 2 more sequels to The Horror Vault?

Kim: It was actually always decided to be a trilogy, and seing how all the stories are completely non dependent on each other I think it's gonna work out well. Then again, not all sequels are bad - just most! ;-)

Kelsey: For The Horror Vault 2 and 3, will it be a continuation of the type of short films from the first or will there be any new styles or themes shown?

Kim: No stories are gonna continue, all stories in the first ones are ended. I'm a little against revealing too much about part two and three, to be honest, but I can guarentee that The Horror Vault 2 will feature some supernatural themes and some Edgar Allen Poe inspired stuff, so it should be interesting :-)

Kelsey: You got your start in the media very early, as you already had a radio show at a local station when you were 12. What was that like for you at that age and how did that affect the rest of your life to the point you're at today?

Kim: Not a whole lot - or maybe more than I know of, I'm not sure. I've always been interested in the media world, I knew from a very early age that I wanted to be an actor, but I kept it very much to myself until I actually auditioned for acting school and got in at the age of 25.

Kelsey: What was it like to be involved with so many aspects of the making of The Horror Vault from acting to directing to the cinematography and editing?

Kim: Stressful! And extremely exciting... I'm so glad I dug into it, although I had a lot of reservations about it to begin with. It's been extremely interesting and now I wouldn't be able to live without it. Sure, it's a lot of hats to wear on a production, but then I'm also a control freak and want to have control over everything, so I guess it evens out.Well it was extremely hard work, absolutely. But you are given a lot of advantages when you both act and direct. You won't have to spend endless days with the lead actor explaining the character and his deeds, cause you just need to understand them yourself. And obviously, I know what I want, so if I deliver it myself I'm sure it's done the way I want it done, haha. No I'm kidding on that last bit, but I always wanted to play a serial killer part and there was so many things about Craig I wanted to try out, both as an actor but also working with the film media, so it was kinda given from the beginning. But yes, it was extremely hard work and if it wasn't for me collegues at Cetus Productions, Jan and Jim, I would never in my wildest dreams have been able to pull it off, that's for sure.

Kelsey: How did you merge into writing and directing from acting and what was that experience like the first time?

Kim: Well I wrote my first stuff already a year into acting school, dark comedy stuff I always wanted to do, but it sure was a special feeling when we started the filming, seing your stuff actually become alive on the screen. Quite addictive :-)

Kelsey: Do you have one favorite aspect of filmmaking or do you just enjoy each phase, having that artistic control?

Kim: Acting is still my main thing, but I love jamming ideas, writing, directing... actually even enjoy the editing stage of it... but I hate pre-production like location scouting and stuff....

Kelsey: Is there anyone in particular who you would really like to work with in the future?

Kim: I could fill pages up and down with names, but I guess anyone who does interesting work. Recently I've worked a lot with the horror genre, but I've also done comedy, action, romance, drama and just about anything else and I'd love to keep spreading over the genres.

Kelsey: Another recent film that you were heavily involved in, Craig, seems to be more of a dramatic
thriller, but has some truly horrific elements in it like the capabilities of mankind and how severe human dependency can be. From a filmmakers stand point how did you weave all of these genres together and as an actor what was it like portraying the heavy role of Craig?

Kim: I wanted to play Craig even before the story was developed fully. I knew it would be an interesting journey for me to take. I always was very interested in the serial killer films, both the ones about fictive killers and the ones about real-life killers. Without of course thinking what they did was cool, I've always found it quite interesting, and as the time was right it became more and more interesting to me to explore that as an actor. I had developed this serial killer story over several years in my head, and finally I got around to actually making it a full-on story and we started to film it before I hardly noticed it. I wanted to make it a little surrealistic as well, a bit "messy" if you will, because that's how Craig's mind is - messy. I've been a huge fan of David Lynch for years and love the way he is able to affect your subconscious. Sometimes his movies don't make a whole lot of sense, but you still do get something out of it. I mean, I've watched "Lost Highway" and "Mulholland Drive" several times now, and every time I think I get something new out of it. Now, that far being it from me to compare myself with "The Lynch", but I tried to put some elements in that didn't make a whole lot of sense, but at the same time on another level, did. I've had a lot of reactions to it, positive I'm glad to say, but different people get different things out of it, but all things fit in somehow, so it's an amazing thing to explore. Another thing with Craig was - I wanted to if it was possible for a character to gain peoples sympathy, in this case because he is rather pathetic and sad, and to see how far that sympathy stretches when he starts doing evil deeds. Will they on some level be able to understand him, not condoning it necessarily or how will they react? It's clear that Craig has had a very tough life, experienced very gruesome things but does that justify punishing other people? The film is about a shy guy named Craig who loses both his parents when their house burns down. His sister survives, but due to heavy lack of oxygen, she is sent into a deep coma. Craig has only got one friend, Cliff, but he's got more than enough problems on his own, so he cannot really be there for Craig. Meanwhile, Craig is under heavy medication, and when he one day looses his precious Lithium pills, his whole world is getting turned upside down. Anyhow, if anyone is interested in checking it out, it's available from

Kelsey: Did you see Craig in yourself at all and what made you want to bring this character to life?

Kim: Well not really... There may be a few similarities, like the feeling of alienation toward other people in a period of my life, but it is fiction and it is only very losely based on my own experiences, heh..

Kelsey: You have around 10 more films that you are working on this year. Can you tell us about some of those?

Kim: I'm currently in the early stages of two other feature films as a director; Tour de Force, which is an action film about a policeman who due to a tragic loss has a breakdown and starts doing hits for the mafia. Second, as already mentioned, Czech Mates, of course. Finally, we in Cetus Productions are currently working on a supernatural thriller in Danish named "Sølvtråd", English title will most likely be "Silver Thread", which is being directed by Jan T. Jensen and I'm producing and playing a bigger part in it too. And FINALLY, recently, I played a supporting part in a feature film named "Jon" by Texan based director William Instone. Another part in "Unlikely Prophets" by director Cristian Cupertino based in Florida, and finally a part in "The Tourist" by Andrey Iskanov from Russia. I'm looking forward to "What nobody knows" ("Det som ingen ved") by Sren Kragh-Jacobsen. A Danish political suspense thriller by the same people behind "Mifune's Last Song", the third of the dogma films. Not a very big part I play in this, but I am very much looking forward to seeing that one as well. That film incidentally premiers in Denmark on my 35th birthday, heh. "Dead on Arrival", a Swedish crime thriller I was in Stockholm to do a part for last summer, directed by Henric Brandt. "Operation Sunrise" by Donovan Cerminara which is a Canadian film I was in Poland to shoot last year just had a couple of screenings and will hit the festival circuit soon, can't wait to see that one. I did a cameo bit for "Aurum" by James Barclay and finally a part in "Westbrick Murders", directed by Shaun Rana, starring Eric Roberts and Vernon Wells, in which I play the role as Officer Sam.
So I'm really happy and honored to have been given the chance to participate in projects that far away from my "homebase", it has certainly been exciting and an enormous experience for me, and I certainly hope to be given that chance again in the future. I love my job, so I always make space for new projects. I've done a lot of each, both indie films and studio films. Both definitely have their charm. I love the indie way of working, always so vibrant and alive.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Review: Deaden (2006) [Reviewed By Clifford Kiyabu]

Directed by: Christian Viel
Written by: John Fallon (story) Christian Viel (story)
Genre: Action
MPAA: Not Rated
Released: 2006 (USA)
Starring: John Fallon, Deke Richards, Claudia Jurt, Neil Napier, Anna Jaeger, Carmen Echeverria, Kevin Kelsall, Marcello Bezina, John Topor, Howard Rosenstein, Heidi Hawkins, Ray Cocomello, Loukia Eleni, Rob Burns, Jocko Alston, Berge Garabedian.

Plot: Ex-undercover cop turned biker Rane, witnesses the brutal murder of his pregnant wife by his crew who have learned about his old policemen days. Upon his exit from the hospital, he arms himself to the teeth and goes on an substance fueled, psychotic rampage, in the name of retribution

Review: 7/10

My Thoughts: For as long as I’ve been an avid moviegoer I have always been a fan of the revenge genre; because there’s just something about seeing bad things happening to those who deserves it that just brings a smile to my face, and even though it’s been overly used in films with mostly the same plotline behind it, man losses wife and kids goes out killing everyone involved, or woman losses love of her life or family and must go out killing everyone involved, it’s the same recycled stuff being done and showed to the audience over and over again, but one cannot help but love these films, for one, watching assholes getting what’s coming to them, and two. Enjoying the fun filled violence that comes with the territory. you could call me a religious man with the whole belief of ‘An eye for an eye” stuff, but seriously; people are way too soft in these days we live in, with being afraid to admit what they’d do to someone who did them wrong regardless of their gender or ethnic background, I say you do me or my family wrong and I’m going to rain hell over you in return, bring on the pain. Well I’m happy to say that with Deaden we get that very thing.

The film is raw and gritty, not afraid to say what it wants to say regardless who it may offend, much like the old Grindhouse films of the 70’s where the antihero was loved by moviegoers, more so than the hero who is bound by laws and morals filled with good deeds, Deaden carries an old fashion style of action which is much in the image of “The Punisher” and “Death Sentence” to a generation that’s never seen what an action film experience was like back in the day and it does so with its own blend of justice that you can’t deny is righteous in its conviction as its ending which proves to be stylish and poetic. I must admit though; the plot isn’t exactly what you’d call Oscar worthy, it does have some serious plot hole here and there, but with a film that opens up with a pregnant woman being violently raped and then having her unborn baby cut out her Charles Manson style, I think that’s more than enough info to warrant it not needing a strong storyline, all that’s needed is a combination of violence and gore, and man do we get a lot of that in this baby.

The film manages to get its point across to its set audience even though it was bound by a very poor budget and shot entirely in 13 grueling days, some would say that a film like that is shit out of luck and jolly well f***ed, Ion the other hand disagree, not only does it work, but it also pulls in some heart pounding action that’s quick to the punch, and as dramatic as the plot to it is, the film also manages to through in a few laughs here and there, over all; Deaden is a film that pays homage to action films of the 70’s and 80’s in style. The only downer is the film leaves you with a few unanswered questions that will have you thinking long after the film is over, but in the same token, this film was made an a very low budget so I will let it slide on that part, aside from all this the film’s most strongest point is it’s unique kills, just about everyone in this film die in a uniquely different way which is never repeated.

The story is about Ex-undercover cop turned biker named Rane (Fallon) who not long after going undercover becomes part of the gang and decides to leave his cop days behind, however not soon later his girlfriend, Jaimie (Jaeger) becomes pregnant with his child, not wanting to raise his unborn child in a life of crime. Rane and Jaimie decide to leave their old life behind and make plans to run from the gang; however Rane’s past catches up with him as someone close to him rats him out to the gang. Him and his girl and captured by the gang, the same men who he had learned to call family now was violently raped his girl while making him watch, then cutting his unborn child out of her and killing it. Then last but not least they shot him in the head with an arrow which should have killed him, but luckily for him it doesn’t. Now still alive when the ones he love are dead, Rane comes to terms with himself and decides that this is an eye for an eye game, and if he’s going to die, he’s going to take everyone in the gang with him.

As for the acting, well I must say John Fallon was brilliant, I have seen his career over go from nothing to star over these years, he went from being a nobody to a successful film critic, to successful Actor, and now a great screenplay writer, the man seems to make whatever he sets his eyes on work, and that’s because he works hard for it, and greatness will be his reword for it, as for his acting in the film I can’t help but say his acting could be compared to a mixture of Thomas Jane from the “The Punisher” and of Kevin Bacon from “Death Sentence” which makes a great compo if you ask me. Anna Jaeger was so bad, her performance help a little for the film in what few scenes she was in. Deke Richards was very enjoying seeing. He acting was quite nice alongside Fallon as his partner, and manages to slip in a few jokes here and there that loosens the mood a bit for the viewers letting them know not to take the film completely seriously. Claudia Jurt was so so. I found her to be a bit annoying throughout the film. Neil Napier was great, but sadly to say the main villains don’t get as much run time as others do in this film which was a bit of a downer. Carmen Echeverria was dangerously beautiful, her acting was great, don’t let her good looks fool you, she not just another eye candy, she can be wicked as well as hot at the same time. Kevin Kelsall was, horrible. He’s a great stuntman but other than that I wouldn’t recommend him going for another role. There are other actors to this film but none of which are really that good, and I don’t want to bore you with more stuff that will only lead to a headache.

Final Say: Overall Deaden prove to be quite the enjoyable film that I’d love to take another turn on some day, however the film does lack in some departments but nothing that will do much harm to it. I recommend it if you’re in the mood for a good old fashion action with some unique kills.

© The Comic Whore 2008

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Review: Juno (2008) [Reviewed By Tony-D]

Release: 2008
**** out of ****
Director: Jason Reitman
Cast: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jason Bateman

A teenaged girl and her friend sit her parents down to tell them both something very important that would affect her life forever. The girl’s name is Juno, (Ellen Page) a sixteen year old wise-cracking rebellious teenager. When Juno tells her parents (J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney) that she is pregnant, they begin to ask her questions such as “What are you going to do with the baby?” and “When did this happen?” When they ask her who she did it with, she responds simply, “Paulie Bleeker.”

Her dad responds back, “I didn’t think he had it in him.”

That is the type of humor that you will find in such a film like the Academy Award winning film “Juno.” Originally intended to be a low-budgeted indie-flick, “Juno” grossed over $140 million, making it a profitable flick. Many early reviews claim it to become funny, hilarious, and warm-hearted. Many critics, including Roger Ebert, called this film the best film of 2007. Even stripper-turned-Oscar winning screenwriter Diablo Cody managed to pick up an award at this year’s ceremony. And being whether or not you like it, it doesn’t resent the fact that Cody didn’t try and create something new, even after all of the baby flicks from the last year (including “Knocked Up” and “Waitress”).
But after people started to hype about it too much, I realize that many people who once claimed how much they loved the film immediately started to hate it. They supposedly can spot pop-culture dialogue gone wrong coming from a mile away, and those that once said that Juno learns her mistake at the end of the film later claim that she never did. I’ve stuck by the same opinion since I saw it for the first time the day after Christmas, and I still think that “Juno” is as good as it was the first two times around.

Juno, after telling her parents, her best friend, (Olivia Thirlby) and Paulie Bleeker, (Michael Cera) she decides to give the baby to a married couple who can’t have children. While looking in the penny-saver under the “Desperately Seeking Spawn” section, Juno finds the perfect parents for her unborn child – Mark (Jason Bateman) and Vanessa. (Jennifer Garner) She likes both of them, but she gets along with Mark the best. Mark shares the same interests as her, in both music and film. While carrying around a good few extra pounds on her chest, she tries to sort out her situation with Paulie, who still obviously has a crush on her.

The script, written by ex-stripper and blogger Diablo Cody, is just slightly uneven for the first ten minutes. Yeah, it is no surprise that the people in “Juno” don’t really talk like this, nor does anyone else on the outside. Hell, I’m a teenager and I rage with words like fuck, shit, and crouch. But after the first ten minutes, “Juno” starts to work better than it should. The characters are really likeable and it feels like that we have known them for a longer time than just the time we have spent with them. Not only is it an accomplishment for all of the strippers out there, but to see a blogger win an Academy Award really makes me look forward to the future of blogging.

I don’t know about Jason Reitman receiving an Oscar nomination this soon in his career, or even if he is worthy for one with his direction of “Juno,” but I’ll admit that he is pretty damn good. For only his second film, he creates a film that balances comedy and drama just about equally. Like “Thank You For Smoking,” he doesn’t only show how pregnancy separates you from your friends and classmates, but he shows you that it is a sign of growing up. Unfortunately for Juno, she doesn’t know what it means to grow up. Jason Reitman understands that about his character and decides to examine her even further with her love-life.

The movie is ultimately owned by Ellen Page. Her character is easily one of the most likeable characters of the year. Let’s check back to one of the earlier scenes in the movie when Juno is walking through a crowd of people in her school. No one moves out of her way and she has to dig her own way through. By the third trimester, when she is larger than ever, everyone stands clear and gets out of her way. This shows how we view at pregnant teenagers today. We don’t think that pregnant adults are so controversial anymore. It has basically become the subject “when is the right time to do it?” Ellen Page understands that in these two perfect scenes.

The biggest problem that I found with “Juno” was the music. The first time around, I’ll admit, I never really paid much attention to it. The second time that I saw it during the Best Picture Showcase it became apparent just how annoying the music was. Every song, done by The Moldy Peaches’ Kimya Dawson, should have been another part to the story. What it turns to be is a bunch of annoying singing on the same subject: love. Can we get any more fucking clichéd? That being the only problem, it shouldn’t really bother anyone who only plans on watching this movie once and only once.

“Juno” is a really good movie and is better than what most people are saying. I’ve learned to just give up on those followers of people who once liked the movie but now hate it. Another movie that is subjected to that group of hatred is “Napoleon Dynamite.” Let’s hope that I don’t hate this movie anytime sooner than I did that film.

Review: Jen X (2007) [Reviewed By Clifford Kiyabu]

Directed by: Dan Smith
Written by: Dan Smith
Genre: Independent / Drama
MPAA: Not Rated.
Released: February 2007
Starring: Lindsey Warm, Santiago Craig, Mike Buck, Jon Proudstar, Jay Khawaja and Zelieann Rivera.

Plot: Generation X has two ways of looking at life, one is wanting to make a positive difference in the world by using their creative talents, while others want riches, success and power right now and not worry about what will happen tomorrow.

Review: 7/10

My Thoughts: Generation X; A generation that is now in its 30’s and as some have said, “wants it all but doesn’t want to work hard for it, in other words it’s the generation that wants to have what the generation before it (Baby-Boomers) had but not have to go through what they did to get it, with Writer turned Director Dan Smith (J. Floyd King) we get an inside look at a generation that has been labeled by society, but what if we take away the label what do we get? We get Jen X. a short film that may lack in length, but if a photo can say a thousand words, then Jen X has a lot to say that could last a lifetime.

The Story is about Jen X (Lindsey Warm) a young woman who is happy about being pregnant and becoming a mother. But her Boyfriend Bruce (Santiago Craig) is not happy with the new and isn’t at all supportive about the situation and his thrown out because of it, so he heads to his best friend and wife for advice on how to make his girl happy again. Meanwhile Eric (Mike Buck) Bruce’s brother is beaten up by a couple of henchmen working for a Samuel (Jon Proudstar) the man who runs thing is the town they live in and says what goes there, he desires nothing more but a child, and after Eric hears the his bothers girlfriend is with child he set out to have her kidnapped in hopes of getting back on Samuel’s good side.

I’ve been looking forward to seeing Jen X for a long time now, but as some of you know I have had some complications in having it reach me, but alas my problems was fixed and I finally arrived, and my was I pleased to have finally see it. I was really impressed with the production of this film and how it was handled, thing is; Dan Smith manages to tell you a story about an entire generation in no more than a mere 13 minutes and actually have it work in an art-house kind of way. The film deals with how people handle responsibility, life changing situations that will leave some in regret. You have to give Dan Smith credit for doing this when other filmmakers have spent a great deal of time in making films that are two to three hours in length but never making the statement it set out to make, as where Jen X he not only manages to make his point but by doing so in a much shorter time.

Also the cinematography was very satisfying, presenting the film to its viewer in quite the entertaining way, not to mention the score which not only is it fantastic, but matches the film dead on, and also the acting which is great; I give kudos to both Mr. Smith and the entire cast that worked on this protect, my only complaints are one. In one of the scenes the editing doesn’t quite match the dialogue that is being said which clearly reveals the dubbing over the scene. and two. I’d really love to see this movie be given a much longer run time if ever given a second chance, other than that I really have nothing wrong with this film, I recommend seeing it for yourself if you’re in the mood for checking out an Indy short.

You can view this film for yourself by going HERE

© The Comic Whore 2008.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Review: The Horror Vault (2008) [Reviewed By Kelsey Zukowski]

Starring: Kim Sønderholm, Claire-Ross Brown, Elisa Richardson, Jonathon Trent, Heather Tom, Mandy Amano, Russ Diapor, Jerod Edington, Maja Mulack, Barbara Zatler, Anthony Wentzel, Adam Boone, Heather Amos, Rachel Grubb, Sean Seuthorp, Leslie Armstrong
Directed By: David Boone, Josh Card more
Written By: Russ Diapor, Drew English more
Released: 2008
Grade: B+

The Horror Vault is a series of 9 short films, all displaying chilling horrific events. They were done by independent filmmakers, many of which were extremely involved in creating this DVD. It is a very collaborative effort not just through the people involved but even through the themes. The films are bonded together not just by horror, but by the specific elements that make horrors occur, at times seemingly even beyond the control of the villain. The film begins with fake trailers as a tribute to the Grindhouse movies. They show an extremely cheesy take on this, but purposely do so.

The first film we see is called “When John Met Julia”. It is a spin on the classic tale of Romeo and Juliette starring Claire Ross-Brown and Kim Sønderholm, who also write and directed it. There is a stronger difference here besides the names of our characters from the original Romeo and Juliette. It is a modern day story that occurs when John (Sønderholm) is driving home one night and stops to help out Julia (Ross-Brown), a young hitchhiker who needs a ride. At first, Julia is disgusted by him and tries to get rid of him, convinced that he must be some sort of psychopath that can’t be trusted. It may just be that this is the other way around though. Julia thinks that John must have just been waiting around for a young girl alone that he can take advantage of. He tells her that he has a wife and children at home, but rather than listen Julia attacks him based on her assumptions of him. If her guilt doesn’t get to her, John surely will.

“When John Met Julia“, plays with the object of fate, love, and death. It could be perceived that fate brought their meeting together, since if they wouldn’t have been on that road at that very minute than none of this would have happened. It is clear that John loved another person and you get the feeling that Julia has been wronged by men in the past and has resulted in her mistrust and aggression, which led to death. The strongest basis for everything that happened though was revenge. Julia was getting revenge on John for other men who had let her down, while John was getting revenge for taking him away from those that he loved in his life. The next film is one of my favorites, “Delusion”. This is a black and white dramatic take on horror events with a 50’s style. It deals with suspense wonderfully as we are slowly given more information step by step. Luckily, the pacing with this is done just right so we are on the edge of our seat, guessing what has happened and what the characters are dealing with as well as how that will frame the story to affect what will happen next. At the same time, it remains to be interesting and intriguing every step of the way, never losing the audience. The story is centered around, Flynn (Trent) and his sister, June (Richardson). Flynn is back from college and is a popular guy admired by many. He isn’t as happy as you might think though, as June and his mother died not too long ago. Suspicions are put on him about this accident. The horrific truth lingers inside of Flynn for far too long. Once he can’t hold it in any longer, his aggravation of his secret may cause him to lash out on the last person that deserves it. “Delusion” has great character development, although at first there is a struggle to understand them, as the audience you are drawn to them anyway. This was a very stylistic piece by Mark Machillo that was eerie, mysterious, and very satisfying.

While many of the films in The Horror Vault remain to be more serious, it manages to have some fun too. One that really does this is “Disconnected”. Up until this point the films are much more about scary events and serious but deadly occurrences. While “Disconnected” follows this pattern somewhat, it is easily the most graphically brutal film of the collection. It takes place in a place of torture. The one committing this torture, says his girlfriend is late, giving us the idea that this girl had some sort of an affair and this torture is the revenge for it. Mr. Blakes (Boone), the primary culprit in the situation seems horrified and completely clueless at the same time. Numerous tools are used on his body in sick ways, such as having his finger nailed to the table, having his finger cut off with a wrench, and having a screw drilled in to his leg. This is all very heavy and there is amazement that he is still alive. When we find out why Mr. Blakes is really there it seems absurd. This is where it takes a comedic turn as we learn that it really didn’t have to happen the way it did. David Boone did a very good acting and directing this alongside of Josh Card. This sequence showed extreme torture, yet managed to show a lightness of the situation while showing how dire the consequences for this was.

Alongside of the films I have already mentioned “Mental Distortion, “Alone”, and “Dead to the World” were also very good. “Mental Distortion” wonderfully acted , written and directed by Kim Sønderholm as the first short he created, shows grief and a deep sense of haunting. It is about losing one love and feeling her presence around. This is a good representation of an eerier take on the experience of losing someone you loved and how hard that stage of moving on can be. “Alone”, was a slasher mystery type of film. One night a girl at a sorority house is murdered, making Ellen (Amano) fear that night, as she is the only one in her sorority house. It becomes a mystery in her attempt to figure out who the real killer is and if she will be safe enough to make it through the night alive. “Dead to the World” is a film that depicts real life serial killer, Ted Bundy, played by Russ Diapor, who also directed this segment. It is a mix of documentary style and narrative. We see Ted being questioned about a number of girls who he is suspected to have raped and murdered. He claims he had no part in this and Diapor actually makes Ted seem like an innocent man, who is just the wrong target. As the narrative takes play, we learn that this is anything but true. We found out that he learned that the girl he thought was his sister growing up was really his mother. When he is raping one girl, he mentions a resemblance to his cousin, showing his need for revenge against his family and women in general as he has feels abandoned by them. It was eventually proven that between the years 1974-1978 Ted Bundy had killed 30 women, and suspicions fear that this number may have ranged anywhere from 29 to 100. This shows a very cynical view of the world and exploration in to one man’s past becoming so deadly to the world he was living in.

Now as good as many of the films in The Horror Vault were, not all of them were as good as others. The three that didn’t quite seem to measure up were “Echoes”, “The Demon”, and “Retina”. The problem with “Echoes” and “The Demon” were quite similar, they just didn’t leave enough of an effect due to poor communication through them. “The Demon” is lacking in dialogue and “Echoes” doesn’t have much more. There is some action and more so in “Echoes”, so we do get a sense of what is going on. However, it seems like there just isn’t enough substance there to rely just on this images that attempt to make have chilling enough tone could outweigh everything else. Now, “Retina” wasn’t quite as bad since there was a little bit more of a set up. Rachel Grubb and Heather Amos did work well off each other in this black and white film that falls in to a cycle of killing. There is background information that we aren’t completely clued in on, making the sequence and its’ intended meaning a bit blurry. Although this meaning isn’t completely clear that is what it speaks of; what someone may do when they have a blurry perception. I think more could have been done with this, to bring this out to make it stronger. The Horror Vault is an overall haunting collection of horror films, showing style, character, and meaning. Together, they form a strong exploration of true horror; never knowing who may be capable of it, including yourself. The theme of not being able to see the truth and having your mind deluded until this takes over you. Even besides the killer in the scenes, other characters show a sense of being mistaken or deceived leading to deadly circumstances. The Horror Vault 2 and 3 are already in the making, so the fun doesn’t have to stop here. You can purchase the film at

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Review: The Forbidden Kingdom (2008) [Reviewed - By Tony-D]

“The Forbidden Kingdom”
2008**½ out of ****
Director: Rob Minkoff
Cast: Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Michael Angarano

The best part about “The Forbidden Kingdom” is that it isn’t a bad flick. Oh believe me, the film could be much, much worse. Don’t believe so? It came out the same day studios dumped “88 Minutes.” But all joking aside, “The Forbidden Kingdom” is better than what many are saying. Some reviews commented on how it is too silly, which it is. Other reviews are saying that it isn’t as fun as the film should have been, which is also true.

And for a film where the two masters of Kung-Fu Cinema come together just isn’t as impressive as it should have been.

More than five hundred years ago, the Monkey King (Jet Li) was the most powerful kung-fu master ever, but he was only powerful with his staff. Once the Jade Warlord (Collin Chou) takes it away from him in a battle where the Monkey King is defeated, the staff is later lost and the Monkey King becomes a frozen statue. In present day, the American Kung-Fu Flick Geek Jason (Michael Angarano) walks into a pawn shop to buy some bootleg Shaw Brothers flicks and sees the same exact staff. The kid isn’t sure what the artifact is, but he leaves it alone.

That same exact day, a few bullies force Jason into helping him to break into the pawn shop ran by an old man. (Jackie Chan) Once the old man gets shot, Jason picks up the staff and runs away, but falls of the roof of another building during a chase. He’s sent back in the past, where the Jade Warlord has been ruling the world for many years now. Jason, demanding to get back home, meets an immortal named Lu Yan. (Jackie Chan) Yan fills him in that the staff he has in his possession was once owned by the great Monkey King, who is now frozen.

Yan, Jason, and Golden Sparrow, (Yifei Liu) who has a grudge against the Jade Warlord herself, make it their mission to travel through the dangerous lands to get to the Forbidden Kingdom and rightfully put the staff in the hands of the Monkey King. Oh, and there is a Silent Monk who wants to bring pain to Jade Warlord also, played by Jet Li.

For a film that really shouldn’t have been as good as it was, it definitely pays a lot of respected to earlier kung-fu flicks instead of just becoming a fantasy epic. I should bring up that I am a big kung-fu fan. I can remember back to my earliest of ages that I sat down on my floor, watching one Asian fight off twenty other Asians. I sat through the epics of Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and others. I watched the first installment of “Kill Bill” just for the reason of the kung-fu fighting, not actually knowing anything about the plot or the actors. Now you all know why I approve of the “Rush Hour” films, right?

But even though I don’t have many problems with the final product, it could have been so much better. The meeting of the two action masters should have really been more eventful instead of a film like this. Ever since Hollywood has been doing kung-fu flicks, things just aren’t the same. They have Jackie Chan starring next to Jennifer Love Huge-Tits and Jet Li next to Jason Statham. While I have no problem with a little bit of mainstream every now and then, I have a huge problem with trying to find an audience when the subject isn’t the audience type. This film should have easily been the type of film that all kung-fu fans would have praised. Instead, it is a family kung-fu flick, which means that there is little blood, the violence is sort of campy, and the battle between the two action heroes is nothing short of tiring.

I have nothing but respect for what the film is trying to accomplish. If the filmmakers were trying to create a kung-fu flick that would appeal to everyone and not just kung-fu fans, they succeeded. But other than just respecting the kung-fu cinema and not actually being a kung-fu film itself, it isn’t as eventful as it should have been. It acts less than a kung-fu flick and more like “Stardust.” Even the final battle is similar to “Stardust.” It’s just that the two Asian women in the film don’t get uglier as the film goes by.

I’ll admit that some people who go into the film expecting nothing will come out with something special. The American hero, played by Michael Angarano, isn’t cowardly, prude, or boring like Shia LaBeouf’s character in “Transformers.” Instead of whining the entire time asking to go home, he sucks it up, acts like a man, and does what he has to do. And besides, he is a film geek. I don’t have any beef with film geeks like that.

But while it isn’t the fault of Jet Li and Jackie Chan, the few action sequences aren’t really as entertaining as they should be. They’re not violent and, if I was to be really nice, I would call them silly. I’m not that surprised because it is PG-13 and it is supposed to be a family film. But I really was expecting much more from the meeting of the two guys for the first time. I wished for the two to come together and have a bloody brawl. The biggest problem with the film is that they fight within thirty-five minutes of the film and not in the finale, but by then, you’re already asking what gives.

“The Forbidden Kingdom” is better than most family films, but it isn’t as good as some old classic kung-fu flicks. Still, I would like to see an R-rated matchup against these two action stars.

Oh, and the Monkey King? What the hell are they, two?

Review: Them (2007) [Review By Kelsey Zukowski]

Starring: Olivia Bonamy, Michaël Cohen
Written & Directed By: David Moreau and Xavier Palud
Released: 2007 (USA)
Grade: B-

Them is an independent horror film from France. It has been compared to High Tension, especially given its’ ending and the general atmosphere. I would say High Tension is the better film, but that doesn’t mean that Them won’t take you by complete surprise. It is based on true events, but the characters and even a lot of the circumstances and events have been changed.

After we witness a killing of two innocent victims on the side of a road one night, we are taken to our main characters, Clementine (Bonamy) and Lucas (Cohen). They are a couple living in a large house in Bucharest. Clémentine is an elementary school French teacher, while Lucas is a novelist. One night, Clémentine starts to hear noises in the night. After waking up they realize that someone is stealing their car. Clémentine and Lucas call the police, but it doesn’t look like anything will happen. Soon, all of their electricity starts to go out, making it impossible for them to even call for help. They know someone is messing with them, but the question is who and what do they want. After, this Clémentine never feels completely safe and for good reason. One night, they begin to be chased as the two of them run for their lives. Lucas is injured though and Clémentine leaves him to try to get some help. On her way, she ends gets kidnapped while Lucas follows. They end up in a sewer, and the culprits of an unexpected predator.

The biggest problem with Them is the pacing. If it wasn’t for that, it might be one of the best recent horror movies. The ending is a complete and utter shock. However, the built up feels like it takes far too long. The interesting thing about this though is that the movie is only 77 minutes long. The first 70 minutes, really don’t do or add much at all. Sure, we get to know Clémentine and Lucas a little, but this could be covered in 5 or 10 minutes rather than 70. Also, we don’t see or hear any part of the killer until the very end of the film. This almost makes the fear seem less real and possibly irrational. The thought of them imagining this whole thing really doesn’t seem that out of the question. When we do see the killers, the wait almost seems worth it. Even though at times it seems like they were running from nothing, the audience makes at least some very broad assumptions about the killer. I can almost guarentee that whatever this assumption is, it isn’t accurate. There isn’t much gore at all, but when we find out the truth behind what has been happening, it is more twisted and grotesque than any bloody gore scene could be. It makes you question society and what kind of mind frame the killers could have had. What made them become this way. It appears that they don’t even see themselves as doing anything wrong at all, but blame their victims instead.

There also didn’t seem to be too much consistency. Within the first 5 minutes of the movie, 2 people die. This fast paced killing is immediately put to a halt though. There is a threat of it, but we really aren’t in a similar situation at all until the very end of the film. This was to grab our attention, but it didn’t stick with this pattern, making the following slow pace of the film seem to take even longer to get through. The killing in the beginning and the kidnapping at the end are completely different. At the beginning, it is a very quick thing. The first woman killed doesn’t even have a chance to make a single noise, making her daughter completely unaware that her mother has just been murdered. The kidnapping is drawn out much longer though. The killers mess around with them for quite some time before they even strike. When they do and have them just where they want them, there is an emphasis on making them suffer and the killers really getting joy from playing with them and doing whatever they choose. This leads to the point that although, Them, is based on a true story it is very loosely based on it. The first two killings were just added to the film and weren’t a part of the real story, explaining the vast difference in the way the victims were treated. The original story took place in the Czech Republic where an Austrian couple, while at their vacation home, were murdered by three killers. Aside from that, the rest is made up by the filmmakers. Being based on a true story does make it seem more real and scary, but even looking at it just as fiction, there are some flaws.

I think Them would have worked much better as a short film. A lot of the beginning could be cut out. We would still have time to meet our protagonists and care for them, having the tension build, with just enough time for the climatic and shocking ending to kick in, leaving a lasting impression. As frustrating as it was to wait to the ending, once I got there, it really put everything in to perspective. It was hard to believe that after all that time, the killers were what I was seeing before my eyes. It all seemed worth it at that point though. Them is definitely a film you have to watch with patience. It is also a film I highly recommend to everyone just for that reaction and sense of surprise it exerts. Even once you get to that point and learn who is really the antagonist behind the film, it doesn’t stop there. Clearly the killers were influenced by others. It is most likely that this happened indirectly. Whatever or whoever influenced them most likely had no idea what they were doing to these future killers who clearly had some sort of mental inability to see their actions for what they were.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Review: Smart People (2008) [Reviewed By Kelsey Zukowski]

Starring: Ellen Page, Dennis Quaid, Sarah Jessica Parker, Thomas Haden Church, Ashton Holmes
Directed By: Noam Morro
Written By: Mark Poirier
Released: 2008
Grade: B+

Smart People’s title itself reflects on the film quite a bit. Yes, the characters themselves have intelligent backgrounds, but more so than that they have that intelligence embedded inside them, even when it is hard for them to admit, working against them. The film itself is a very smart film and it is very interesting how it deals with these characters, who are essential to the film as well as to each other, each influencing the other to become the best person they can even through the struggles that all of them are facing.

Lawrence Waterhole (Quaid) has become a very cynical person since his wife died. He is a college professor, but doesn’t even have that same passion for teaching that he once thrived upon. Teaching is just a job to him now that he attends to, blind to his students. One night after Lawrence falls attempting to climb a gate, he ends up in the hospital. His doctor, Janet Hartigan (Parker), was one of Lawrence’s old students. Janet had a crush on him, but Lawrence still doesn’t even know her or remember who she is at all. Lawrence gets to know her soon enough, as they begin dating. As this wasn’t a big enough change after all of these years, now Lawrence’s brother, Chuck (Church) is back in town and begging for a place to say. Lawrence and Chuck don’t have the best relationship. He just finds Chuck to be irresponsible, lazy, and undependable. However, after his accident, Lawrence is not permitted to drive for awhile. So he agrees to let Chuck stay at the house if he agrees to be his chauffeur.

At first Lawrence’s daughter, Vanessa (Page), has a problem with both of these changes. It is clear that she is not comfortable with the idea of her dad being with someone besides her mother. Vanessa claims that her only reasoning for disproving of Janet is that she isn’t right for her dad, which is something she really doesn’t budge on. Luckily, she ends up warming up to her Uncle Chuck a bit more. They end up spending a lot of time together, especially since she is somewhat of a loner. Vanessa obsessed with SAT’s and being an overall perfect student, Chuck tries to teach her how to just kick back and have fun.

The cast compliments each character in this film wonderfully. There have been complaints that Ellen Page is simply playing her character of Juno over again here. She does have some of the edgy dialogue, loner status, and attitude that Juno had, but Vanessa is a completely unique character from her. Vanessa is much more rigid, constantly putting higher and higher expectations on herself. She has to be the best, which has really forced her to grow up faster than she needed too. A major reason for this is the death of Vanessa’s mother as it is obvious that she tries to play mom, feeling it is now her job as the only woman in the house. Although, Juno was forced to make some mature decisions, she was trying to hold on to her youth whereas Vanessa nearly skips over it by choice. I do think that if Page continues to take roles that can be linked to characteristics of Juno then she will be type cast as that. So I hope she takes on some different roles to explore new things.

Dennis Quaid also did a very good job as Lawrence. I wouldn’t necessarily picture him in this role, but he did very well. He showed that he felt pessimistic towards certain things, but he didn’t play this as his entire identity. Towards Vanessa especially regardless of his sarcasm, he was actually very warm to her. Her adopted role as the women of the house played a part of this as Lawrence saw a part of her mother in her. Sarah Jessica Parker was actually very good in this too. This is the first performance that I can remember seeing that she has done this well in. I felt for her and wanted her to be happy with Lawrence, regardless of all of the ups and downs. The hopes weren’t just for Janet and Lawrence as a couple, but just for both of them to get the respect and chances that they deserved and to find and embrace their happiness at the same time.

Thomas Haden Church did very well too, as the one person who challenged the other characters a lot. This seems a bit ironic since he was thought to be the lazy one of the family. He exerted a sense of warmth and care towards his family though. He became especially close with Vanessa as he really just wanted to let her know that it is okay to be a teenager. He tried to show her how to have fun. The relationship became a very interesting one as it crosses the line when they become a little too close. After this point, things aren’t quite the same with them. This leads to Vanessa’s brother, James, played by Ashton Homes. He shows that even though everyone else is having problems, that doesn’t mean that everything is perfect in his life. At times he gets looked past and turns in to the invisible child. Chuck is the one person who actually realizes this and tries to be there for him. I also enjoyed seeing the small roles played by Camille Mana (“One on One”) as James’ girlfriend and yet another student that Lawrence doesn’t recognize and David Denman (“The Office”) who played Janet’s co-worker and friend.

The one complaint I have about this film is the direction that Lawrence and Janet’s relationship went. Obviously, it wasn’t perfect and was something that they had to work on. It was just such a back and forth thing of them fighting or obviously not getting what they wanted out of the relationship. I even think that they could be good for each other if they would consciously work on it and think of the other. We were just being yanked around like a yoyo, so it would have been better if there would have been more of a resolution sooner which ever way it ended up.

As long as you don’t go in to Smart People expecting a comedy, than there is plenty of enjoyment to experience through the film. It is a dramedy and there are some jokes and comedic instances, but just the state these people are in and what they are going through makes it more of a personal film. Although, some of the characters aren’t the most accepting themselves and on paper may seem harder to like, the actors really bring a wonderful life to them. The script it very well written too as well as the dialogue that brings out their personalities and at times the words that they hide behind. Smart People is really about finding truth in yourself and in those around you. It explores finding yourself and the realization that it is okay to forget about what the norms or expectations are and to just do what you makes you happy. Smart People is a wonderful character piece vividly acted by a top notch cast centering around self discovery.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Review: Lars and the Real Girl (2007) [Reviewed By Clifford Kiyabu]

Directed by: Craig Gillespie
Written by: Nancy Oliver
Genre: Comedy / Drama
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for some sex-related content
Released: 12 October 2007 (USA)
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emily Mortimer, Paul Schneider, Kelli Garner, Patricia Clarkson, Nancy Beatty, R.D. Reid, Joe Bostick, Liz Gordon, Nicky Guadagni, Doug Lennox, Karen Robinson, Maxwell McCabe-Lokos, Billy Parrott, Sally Cahill.

Plot: A delusional young guy strikes up an unconventional relationship with a doll he finds on the Internet.

Review: 8/10

My Thoughts: Loneliness, a thing we all dread, even those of us who won’t admit it, it’s a troubling thought and feeling to have, to think that one may remain his/hers life alone, without someone to call their own is just heart wrenching, some of us will do anything just so that we don’t have to be alone, now add that with a lifetime of oppressed emotions and what you’ll get is Lars and the Real Girl (2007). Now before I go into details let first say I had a bit of skepticism towards seeing this film at first because of the plot just did bold well with me when I read about it online. But how could I call myself a respectable critic if I let this one pass me by, huh? So I figured I’ll just give it a look see so I can get it out of the way, well what I got was nothing short of sheer brilliance, I was blow away by how this movie could grab a hold of my emotions and bull me in every which way you could think, the filmmakers really came through with making such a outstanding film, managing to make you laugh, cry, and downright feel awkward the whole way.

And it’s because our main character, “Lars” played by Ryan Gosling, wants to be normal so badly and just treated like everyone else. But he suffers from being extremely too shy, which renders him unable to communicate well with others, so because of this he spends every minute of his free time in complete solitude, isolating everyone in his life from co-workers to family, because of this he creates a form of delusion in which he sees his Realdoll as a real person, and creates a relationship with it. I know I know you can stop laughing now, just the thought about must make you laugh or feel a little weirded out by that aren’t you? That’s exactly how I felt, but in all honesty when I did see it I felt kind of sad. Because when you look, I mean really look at it, you have to ask yourself this; what have I done that was so out of the ordinary that others would call you a weirdo for, just to feel the warmth of love from another? I bet everyone who reads this has at least one memory that they are too embarrassed to say.

Now if what we do for love is alright, then what is so wrong or in his case weird and not alright? Sure everyone in the story is affectionate and opened to him and willing to show him love, but he doesn’t understand how to comprehend it like others, which I can’t help but feel sad for because in a way aren’t we all like that, aren’t we all to some degree unable to comprehend what others can. But like I said it’s not all sad, it has a great deal of comedy to it as well, see it’s not long after his doll arrives to the town, the townsfolk play along with the idea that she’s real just so that it may help him get better. But not a moment too soon they accept him for what he is and accept Bianca (the realdoll) into the town as a member of their community, the men think of his Bianca as a dream girl because it’s sex anytime with no talking after, while the women like his doll as the new girl to the town, ultimately as strange as he is they welcome him as a normal person, now because of this his shyness is all but gone, which puts him on a somewhat crossroad within himself, a part of him wants to keep Bianca in his life, but the other part of him is slowly letting go Bianca and allowing himself to feel among those who really exists, this of course where it becomes hear breaking, because you see that his delusion didn’t just affect him, it affect everyone in the whole town, it gave them hope, something new, something wonderful that connected them to each other, and most of all it brought them closer together as a community. You could say his mental illness help them more than it caused problems.

The story is about a young man named Lars (Gosling) who lives with his brother (Schneider) and Wife (Mortimer), he’s always keeping himself isolated from everyone, never going out on dates or with friends, he seems like a person who is most comfortable in complete isolation, but one day while at work he comes across a website that sales Real Dolls, fascinated with this, and the fact everyone is grilling him over the fact he’s alone and needs a girlfriend, he falls into a state of delusion and strikes up an unconventional relationship with a doll he names Bianca. Soon when his brother gets wind brother and wife gets wind of this they flip out and what to have him see a doctor or worst have him committed, but when the towns local doctor noticed a change in Lars attitude, she see he’s more talkative and more willing to converse with people now that he has Bianca she tell them not to do anything and let him play it out, because without them knowing this delusion of his is actually helping him overcome his fear of being around people, to that the doctor convinces the whole town the play along as well, soon the whole town will come to see Bianca as a loving member of this small community.

As for the acting; well I must say Ryan Gosling steals the show with yet another fantastic performance, when you look at his track recurred of films like The Notebook, Stay, Half Nelson, Fracture, it’s clear that as an actor he can do no wrong with ever roles he does. Paul Schneider does an ok performance, although I felt his acting was a little weak at times and it seemed he wasn’t 100% focused with his role during the film, he just felt like he was missing something that keep him off target, but that could just me I guess. Emily Mortimer was fantastic, she give a great performance which was strong and on target the whole way. Kelli Garner also did a great job; she and Gosling share this on screen charisma that is genuine, you could really feel that there was some kind of attraction between the two. Patricia Clarkson also does quite an impressive performance as Dr. Dagmar.

Final Say: Lars and the Real Girl is a film that is humorous and heart touching, it will have you laughing and touch you in a way few films can, I for one really enjoyed this film and could help but drop a few tears of both laughter and sadness while enjoying such a great film which I’ll admit I didn’t think I would, because I didn’t care for the plot when I first heard about it, but all doubt went away after I got into watching it. I highly recommend it to be seen and enjoyed

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