Sunday, June 29, 2008

Review: Wanted (2008) [Reviewed By Clifford Kiyabu]

Directed by: Timur Bekmambetov
Written by: Michael Brandt and Derek Haas
Genre: Action / Thriller
MPAA: Rated R for strong bloody violence throughout, pervasive language and some sexuality.
Released: 27 June 2008 (USA)
Starring: James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, Angelina Jolie, Terence Stamp, Thomas Kretschmann, Common, Kristen Hager, Marc Warren, David O'Hara, Konstantin Khabensky, Dato Bakhtadze, Chris Pratt, Lorna Scott, Sophiya Haque, Brad Calcaterra.

Plot: "Wanted" tells the tale of one apathetic nobody's transformation into an unparalleled enforcer of justice

Review: 9/10

My Thoughts: It’s said that when you have an extreme adrenaline rush that for a brief moment you see objects move in an entirely slower pace than usual, they say it’s due to the mind being able to comprehend so much information at a time, and when more than it’s normal amount of adrenaline is realest into the body, it causes the mind and body to go through a state of experiencing slow motion in both instinct and reflexes, for some, they can recall things that happened that seemed like minutes, while for others it was only a moment, a great deal of many people have or will experience this phenomena in their lifetime, if not multiple times than at least once.

The film Wanted sheds a new light on the matter in the form of a comic book flick with its own brand of justice; I must admit despite the fact I’m a comic book loving geek I knew very little about the comic this film was based on, and had to do a little research on it before checking out the film adaptation of the ground breaking six-issue comic book miniseries, I must say that I had very little hope in this film because of two things. The first being the fact the characters in this film differ from how they are presented in the comic book. For example; James McAvoy’s character “Wesley Gibson” original physical appearance in the comic is based on rapper Eminem, while in the movie he looks nothing of the sort, other notable characters who also share this huge difference is; Thomas Kretschmann’s character “Cross” original physical appearance in the comic is based on Tommy Lee Jones, and is only known as “The Killer” in the comic, and Angelina Jolie’s character “Fox” physical appearance in the comic is clearly modeled after actress Halle Berry. And of course, Morgan Freeman’s character “Sloan” in not even in the comic, the second reason is the fact that the plot, as well as the whole film for that matter is loosely based on the comic book miniseries it’s made from, and we all know that anytime a film is loosely based on the work it’s from things never turn out as we hoped it would most of the time.

Well fortunately this is not the case for this film; and even though it does not have the same drive the comic has, the film works very well solely on its own, and proves to defy even my doubts on it, which I must admire. The plot may not be something you could believe a 100%, but it still proves to be an entertaining film no doubt with some chills and thrills along the way, and a few plot twisting moments that will have your jaw drop, not to mention the film carries nonstop action packed gun fights that will wow any moviegoer to the very least, and fantastic melee fights that is nothing short of amazing, and eye opening CGI and special effects and that is equivalence to the level of orgasmic gratification, I assure you this is one bad boy you won’t want to miss, also the film remind to viewer to not take the film overly serious by throwing in some humor into the mix which in any other case would be a big mistake, however in this rare case it’s spot on. Also the film has a strong presence of bullet time and slow-motion sequences, which again an over use would be disaster, however again this not the case as the film only benefits from the slow motion, showing you how certain of the characters ether got out of a mess or manage to kill its target. And of course the cinematography is just. WOW! Purely enjoyable to the very last clip, it gives the viewers the very insight that most films don’t show you in a typical gun fight which is very gratifying. And the score which is don completely by master composer Danny Elfman is breath taking, the music alone sums up the entire film by just one listen, director Timur Bekmambetov the brilliant filmmaker behind Night Watch and it’s fantastic sequel Day Watch with writers Michael Brandt and Derek Haas the two men behind 2007’s 3:10 to Yuma comes this titillating joyride of a film that never lets up, not for a single moment which will give viewers all around far more than their money’s worth, and is even worth a second viewing in theaters.

The story is about Wanted" tells the tale of one apathetic nobody's transformation into an unparalleled enforcer of justice. In 2008, we're introduced to a hero for a new generation: 25 year old employed slacker, Wesley Gibson (McAvoy) an office worker who is best known as a pushover by his boss who chews him out hourly for lacking in work productivity, his girlfriend ignores him routinely and is cheating on him with his best friend, and his life plods on in interminable boredom and routine. Everyone knows this disengaged slacker will amount to absolutely nothing, and so does he, until he meets Fox (Jolie), and then everything changes. Wes' estranged father is murdered, and the deadly Fox recruits him into The Fraternity, a secret society that trains him to avenge his father's death, by unlocking his dormant powers, as she teaches Wes how to develop his lightning-quick reflexes and phenomenal agility, he discovers that The Fraternity lives by an ancient, unbreakable code: to carry out the death orders given by emotionless Fate itself. Wes, with his tutor and the paternal guidance of The Fraternity's enigmatic leader, Sloan (Freeman), as he grows to enjoy all the strength and success he ever wanted. Slowly he realizes there's more to his dangerous associates than meets the eye. And, as he wavers between new found heroism and vengeance, Wes will come to learn what no one can ever teach him; that he alone controls his destiny, and he alone must decide what is right, and what is wrong.

As for the acting: James McAvoy was fantastic, he gave the main character “Wesley Gibson” the justice that was needed for the role, he also gave the character a bit of his own personality which is spot on for the role. Angelina Jolie was great; her acting was a outstanding as is her beauty, which I need not remain you is, as the saying goes, “If looks could kill”. However I will say I have but one small complaint with her, Jolie in my opinion is starting to get a bit too skinny, not to say skinny, it’s just here appearance is starting to look a tad bit unhealthy, which was somewhat of a concern to me while watching this. Morgan Freeman was brilliant! I said it once I’ll say it again, the man has yet to disappoint me, even in the most horrible of films his presence manages to give any film a little hope, and his name added to an already fantastic film just made it even greater. Terence Stamp does a great job in this, much like Mr. Freeman, he is a veteran actor, but in his case he doesn’t get the proper appreciation that is owed to him in this business. Thomas Kretschmann was great; I very much enjoyed seeing him playing the role of “Cross”. Common was also somewhat good, I will say I don’t find him all that interesting as an actor due to the fact he has yet to show me a truly good performance to respectively call him an actor, however I will say that out of all his performances this would be the best one yet. Dato Bakhtadze did a pretty good job, I must say I was very impressed with his performance as “The Butcher” he gave the role that extra ingredient that was needed to make it work, plus seeing him fight towards the end of the film was fantastic and extremely thrillingly fun to watch. Konstantin Khabensky did a nice job in this, I must say, it was very nice to see one of the Night Watch stars making it into this film.

Final Say: was a very enjoyable film for me, and so far is among my top movies seen in 08, and surprised me, this is one film you must not miss, even if you don’t care for film like this you should still give it a shot, you may be as surprised as I was. If I have a chance I will defiantly give this movie a second viewing while it’s still in theaters, I highly recommend it!

Copyright 2008
All Rights Reserved

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Review: Charlie Bartlett (2007) [Reviewed By Kelsey Zukowski]

Starring: Anton Yelchin, Kat Dennings, Robert Downey Jr., Tyler Hilton, Hope Davis, Mark Rendall
Directed By: Jon Poll
Written By: Gustin Nash
Released: 2008
Grade: B+

Charlie Barlett is a high school coming of age story, reflecting on all of the different types of kids who seemingly have little in common with those outside of their social circle. However, a little understanding reveals that no matter how different they all may seem on the outside, they all still have their problems. The feeling that they are the only one is the very thing that brings them together. As they unite, they find a power within themselves that they use to be heard and to take control of what they want in their school. They become like disgruntled citizens overthrowing their government. It begins to feel a lot like Pump up the Volume through the anarchy that the situation brings. Charlie Bartlett is unique from the film as it has its’ own voice, which is the very thing it begins to praise through the characters in the film.

Charlie Bartlett (Yelchin) is a very rich teenager who has been kicked out of just about every private school in the area. His mother, Marilyn (Davis), not knowing what else to do, has Charlie come home and enrolls him in public school for the first time in is life. Everywhere Charlie has been, he never really fit in, which is something he truly longs for. He really wants this school to be different. Since he dresses differently than most kids, he is mistaken for a teacher by a girl that Charlie immediately forms a crush on, Susan (Dennings) and is brutally beat up by the school bully, Murphy (Hilton) for seeming queer. Refusing to relive this day again, Charlie auditions for the school play, that Susan is running, in hopes of impressing her. He also forms a business partnership with Murphy, which results in a new found popularity for him. Charlie uses his psychiatrist to get drugs and with Murphy’s help he sells them to kids in school to make quite the profit. Charlie also becomes a psychiatrist himself, allowing all of the kids in school to vent and share their troubles and concerns in their life with him.

Charlie quickly becomes what he always wanted to be, well liked by everyone including the most important person, Susan. They get closer and soon begin dating. The only problem is that the principal of the school, Principal Gardner (Downey Jr.) quickly blames Charlie for the students rowdiness and lack of respect for the rules. He suspends Charlie for one of his business endeavors and constantly has his eye on him from this point on, which is made all the worse when he turns out to be Susan’s father who has a history of alcoholism and to some degree mental instability. Soon Charlie’s selling habits do come to an end when one of the consumers, Kip (Rendall), uses the drugs to overdose and attempts to commit suicide. Charlie uses this as a chance to make more of a connection with his fellow students and forgets about the money for awhile. This bond ends up causing a full on war between the students and principal for power.

The acting was one of the most appealing elements of the film. In teen dramas like this, especially upon the characters who aren’t direct protagonists, come off as stereotypical and hard to relate to. That is not the case here as even the most minor characters that aren’t given the most background to work with, are still dealt with a sense of realism and true emotions. Anton Yelchin really takes on the role of the title character, Charlie Bartlett. He is extremely likeable and even his facial expressions are completely on key in every moment, really taking us in to the character that he is. We are able to be there every step of the way with him fighting for all of the students that he introduces us to. Kat Dennings of The 40-Year-Old Virgin fame, had tremendous chemistry with Anton Yelchin. She brought great charm, intelligence, and independence to her character that made her and Charlie work so wonderfully together as well as seeming that they were really the one that the other needed and deserved. Aside from Charlie, Susan was the most direct character, proving that Kat Dennings can shine in more than a supporting role, but can carry a film herself. Robert Downey Jr. gives another good performance. While he has done better in other films, he gave his character the depth that the role called for. As a principal he was under pressure to implement rules and what seems to be harder; to gain the respect of his students. He suffered a great loss when his wife left him, which causes him to cling to Susan even more as she is the last thing he loves that he still has. At times we are rooting against him, but even in these moments we can still understand him. He is just struggling with a job he doesn’t want, a daughter he is afraid that he is losing, and someone who is still dealing with a lot of anger and pain from his past that he hasn’t fully recovered from.

Mark Rendall plays Kip very well showing fear and depression. He loses sight of any purpose, feeling invisible. Rendall shows us this grieve as well to expose how rewarding self discovery can be. Kip himself isn’t just bettered by this, but he uses his creative voice to give something for everyone else to relate to so they don’t end up in the same situation that he was in. Tyler Hilton did well here as Murphy. He played the rebel before on One Tree Hill, but this film put him in a very different atmosphere. Although, he was the toughest kid in school, his vulnerabilities were shown and exposed for what he really desired. Speaking of TV stars, the film included minor performances by four actors of the teenage drama, Degrassi: The Next Generation; Aubrey Graham, Jake Epstein, Lauren Collins, and Ishan Dave'. Each of them addresses their character with personal experiences of teenage troubles. Ishan Dave' has the largest role between them and puts forth a lot of energy as his character is all for a change and making that change happen himself.

I was interested by the trailer for the film, but honestly the film exceeded my expectations. It touches upon material that has been dealt with before, but that doesn‘t make it any less of a film. Charlie Bartlett is thoroughly enjoyable and takes hold of you, by giving you endless amounts of characters to relate to. The real value of popularity, the future, others’ motives, self integrity, societal justice, creative voices, learning what you desire and what you deserve can be the same thing, loss, shame, expectations, standing up for your beliefs, confusion, friendship, family, and many other things are all dealt with. No matter who you are there should be something or someone you can relate to in this film. There are many negative as well as positive things dealt with , which is very reminiscent of life itself. Otherness is greatly encouraged as well as thinking for yourself and not letting anyone define who you are. Charlie Bartlett deals with similar themes, because it finds these themes universal and important to discuss, which the film does wonderfully through great comedy, very natural and charismatic performances portraying likeable multi-dimensional characters.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show (2006) [Reviewed By Kelsey Zukowski]

Starring: Vince Vaughn, Ahmed Ahmed, Peter Billingsley, Bret Ernst, Sebastian Maniscalco, Keir O’Donnell, John Caparulo, Justin Long
Directed By: Ari Sandel
Released: 2006
Grade: B

Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show is a documentary of the 30 day long comedy tour of 30 different shows in 30 different cities. Vince Vaughn heads the tour, but he is mostly using his name to promote and introduce these up and coming comedians from all over the country of different backgrounds. These men are Ahmed, Bret, Sebastian, Keir, and John. Peter Billingsley of A Christmas Story fame and Justin Long make a few guest appearances and even tag along with the rest of the gang on their tour.

All of the comedians had a different style and general subject matter. They were all decently funny. Not everything in their acts worked, but by experiencing that and trying out their material on different audiences of different age groups in each place they were in, they learned what to use and how to use it. As the audience, we see jokes, just a good time. We suspect that it may reflect upon the things that they find funny, or what they think a particular crowd thinks is funny. However, we learn that there is a deeper reasoning to what they are doing on stage. The comedians take their real life experiences and turn them to comedy. They take bad experiences and are able to make them good through this.

Ahmed Ahmed jokes about his name and being Egyptian, but more importantly being from a middle eastern country. A lot of his jokes seem to be representative of the stereotypes, but we find out in his case it is merely truth. His parents were so disapproving of his decision to become an actor and move to Los Angeles that his father refused to talk to him for 7 years. To his parents, the only acceptable careers are doctors, lawyers, engineers, and store owners. This seems what the typical generalization would be, but his father himself even states this. His background has had more severe consequences particularly with his experience with airport security. He was suspected and ended up serving jail time, simply because of the color of his skin. As someone who was raised and grew up in the U.S., but is treated like an enemy rather than a citizen, it can be hard to turn the other cheek. He is able to take this horrible experience, and essential hate crime making him seem like the villain, and turns it in to material for his act. This doesn’t just help his career or help other people laugh, but it is his way to deal with the troubles in his life and to make the bad in to good; something he can laugh and smile about. This is not an easy thing to do, which just highlights his strength.

John Caparulo comes from a suburb of Cleveland, in a not so well off area. His family never had very much money and they still don’t. John wanted to make a success out of himself, but by doing something that he loved and comedy was his way of doing that, for himself, but also for his family. Although, he has a very loving family and his mother seems very caring, she says that she knew John would either be in the entertainment industry, a drug dealer, or in jail. So out of the choices she seemed very pleased with the road that he ended up going down. Taking the high road with comedy and continuously working harder because of it, never giving up, shows his dedication to the art. John’s comedy style seems to reflect this since his act is much more rough than some of the other guys’. Also, it is not quite a lack of confidence, but just feeling that he is far from a girls’ ideal guy, that makes him show less conventional, but still an unashamed sense of himself, making no apologies for being who he is.

Bret Ernst uses the typical gay joke and uses it in a less judgmental and more intelligent way. He does this for his older brother who was gay himself. By doing this he doesn’t degrade him, but actually gives him a voice. Bret grew up being raised by a single mother who was busy working several jobs trying to support the family and wasn’t always around. His brother was more like his father and had recently died from AIDS. Bret’s comedy is like a tribute to him and beyond this, it is his chance to make the most of his life and spend it doing the one thing that he can really find joy in. Sebastian Maniscalco is a proud metro-sexual and adds that in to his routine as well as his habits and outlooks of even the simple things in life.

Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show uses a very western feel even in the cities that aren’t in the west. It takes a rugged and country feel at times even reflective upon the live music. Personally, I am not a fan of country music so I could have done without some of these moments, but I still did appreciate the theme of the wild west show that they held through out the movie. Most of the guys were roughin’ it, sleeping in small, close bunk beds stacked upon each other, even though the more famous, Vince Vaughn, has a private room and a king-size bed of course. It is fun to watch the comedians stand-up acts; what works for them, how they handle things, and even their journey from start to finish. The guys also have a chance to be tourists in a way as they explore all of the places they perform at across the country. Ultimately, the most interesting part of the documentary is what the comedians and the families say behind the scenes. We learn where the jokes are coming from and just what they mean to the people telling them. By learning of their background we have a deeper understanding of them and what they are really doing when they get up on stage. It becomes very obvious what they have and are still overcoming to pursue comedy and the love, dedication, and passion that go in to it, driving them more and more each day.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Review: Remember the Daze (2007) [Reviewed By Kelsey Zukowski]

Starring: Amber Heard, Leighton Meester, Katrina Begin, Alexa Vega, Lyndsy Fonseca, Melonie Diaz, Marnette Patterson, Khleo Thomas, Wesley Jonathon, Shahine Ezell, Brie Larson, Moira Kelley
Written & Directed: Jess Manafort
Released: 2007
Grade: B-

Remember the Daze is a film of high school wasteland. For some of the characters it is about post high school, as it takes place on the last school day and the first night of summer. For some though, it is spurred by the soon start of high school. Drugs and sex are the common ground, linking all of the characters together, but overall for most of them it doesn’t mean there is any understanding between them. Remember the Daze is a decent high school drug film, but there have been much better. It tries to find it’s place in between comedy and drama and in most cases just gets lost and leaves the two very unbalanced. It is no question that there have been better films of similar subject matter and most likely there will still be better to come, but Remember the Daze is better than a lot of films geared towards the high school crowd and it does do a lot of things right that should be relatable to the teen audience.

After the last day of school for the seniors and the last day of middle school for the soon to be high school freshman, it is a day full of partying for everyone that will surely wage on in to the long hours of the night. That is the basis of the plot, the differences are just attributed to the different sets of characters and what they are all going though. Stacy played by Marnette Patterson is a very outgoing and peppy cheerleader. She has a very involved and overprotective mother, who seems like she is clueless to what goes on in her life, but really just doesn’t want to acknowledge the truth about her daughter. Stacy has been keeping her boyfriend, Dylan (Thomas) in her room, hiding him from her parents for the last year, since he was kicked out by his parents and suspended from school. Dylan really just uses Stacy for sex, a place to stay, and for someone to get him food. He sleeps around with others and barely acknowledges his girlfriend. Marnette Patterson did okay, but the performance did suffer from overacting at points. I just found her character annoying and hard to relate to. The way she talked and acted was one thing, but she went from seeming blind to just proving how shallow she really was. Perhaps, she knew all along that Dylan was a cheating, using, no good boyfriend. She kept on saying that when she caught him cheating than she would break up with him. When she finally gets this proof, she strays away from him and begins hanging on another guy. After spending the night with him, she wakes up the next day and looks at this perfectly nice and understanding guy with complete and utter disgust. Does she really prefer a good looking jerk who treats her like she is only there to serve him to a nice caring guy who actually appreciates her? In the end, the story line just seemed to be wasted since she obviously didn’t learn anything and went right back where she started. It was fun to see Khleo Thomas play such a vastly different role from the loveable Zero in Holes and he certainly did that as he really brought out the scum in his character.

Lucy (Amber Heard) is in a broken relationship that has lasted quite some time. She is mostly frustrated with her boyfriend because he won’t come to school with her and she feels he is just wasting his life away. Meanwhile, she sees no problem with flirting with others, especially for what she believes is in the best interest of her friend. The relationship status between the two is never really solved. Lucy claims that she wants to break up with her boyfriend, but isn’t sure. So to be sure she thinks she should hook up with others to test if she really wants someone else or not even though she hasn’t really been happy with him for the past two years. Lucy picks Dylan, her best friend’s boyfriend to do this, so she will see that he is a cheater. If this is the reason though how is she supposed to test her current relationship since going in to it, she knows it will be meaningless. Heard did a decent job, but overall her storyline was one that I was just frustrated with, especially since she complains about her 14-year-old sister, Angie (Larson) not being responsible enough around the house, yet turns around and bribes her with weed. Brie Larson played a very obnoxious brat who was skipping school on the time and was rude to pretty much everyone she wanted to be and doing whatever she felt like. Already being at this level of teen rebellion before she even hit high school, just illustrates the point that kids are growing up faster and are exposed to things like drug and alcohol at a much younger age. It was also nice to see One Tree Hill mom, Moria Kelley, here, as a slightly weak, but still very concerned mother trying to have some sort of control over her two teenage daughters. In the end, she is given the illusion that they are respecting her wishes, but while one doesn’t even come home through out the whole night, the other is getting in just as much trouble, smoking weed at home.

Leighton Meester by far gives the best performance in the film and Katrina Begin works off of her well in the film. Their characters Tori (Meester) and Sylvia (Begin) are babysitting for a family that Tori has babysat for many times before. It is clear that Sylvia isn’t the best with kids. It makes matters much worse when Sylvia takes shrooms, that the two of them had agreed to take together. Her only chance to do it with Sylvia, is for Tori to take them now, so she does. Meester and Begin embrace the silly and wackiness that their characters are being taken over by. After taking a bubble bath together, one of the funniest moments they have is while Sylvia is trying to stall the parents while Tori cleans up, which serves as a real horror to the parents of the kids they were babysitting. Even funnier, a few kids trying to make trouble put Stacy’s mother’s plastic goose in the backof Tori’s car, which actually comes to life and interacts with them, or so they think anyway.

The portion of the movie with Meester and Begin is not just the best in the film, because it is funny, but because it actually has a purpose, reasoning, and accomplishes something. Tori is going away to school at Brown University in the fall, yet is very afraid of going away from home, leaving everything she knows, and taking her chances in a place that is completely new to her. Sylvia is in the other position, desperately wanting to get out of her comfort zone, but feeling pulled back and pressured in to staying at home, because of her family. There is fear of what the future will bring, especially with this taking place in 1999 and the unknown of what Y2K may bring. At one point, Sylvia even says in a hopeful way that maybe Y2K will just blow everything up, as if non-existence would be more comforting than some of the changes and risks that they will have to take otherwise. No matter what happens it is clear to them that things are not going to stay the same forever and they won’t have the chance to do things like this for much longer. This is why they decide to do shrooms for the first time together, desperate to hold on to what is familiar to them and for a last chance to live in the now rather than the future.

One surprising relationship in the film is with Lyndsy Fonseca’s Dawn and Melanie Diaz’s Brianne, as secret lovers, but just good friends to everyone else. Brianne keeps on turning away more and more, fearing her reputation. Dawn tries to find some sort of understanding and struggles to hold on to her, but this just seems to make Brianne turn away more. She begins flirting with guys whenever she can, desperate to make others think she is straight. This shows a lot of shame and lack of acceptance, of homo-sexuality especially at the high school age. I thought Melanie Diaz could have been better. It is also partially the fault of the script, not fleshing Brianne out enough as a character. That desperation and fear of what others might think, forcing you to defy what you really want and who you really are, could have been shown much more and would have added a great deal to the realism of the plot between them. Diaz just felt a little emotionless in her portrayal of Brianne. Lyndsy Fonesca really took the slack for this. She showed a sense of genuine concern and really attempted understanding of Brianne, even though she seemed to be rejecting her. Fonesca did this with concern for Brianne just as much as for herself. She was losing someone she cared about, but more than that she wanted Brianne to find happiness and to realize that there is no reason to be ashamed of who you are.

Aside from Meester and Begin’s story line, the one between Alexa Vega as Holly and Shahine Ezell as Eddie was handled with the most dignity. Holly is a soon to be freshman in high school while Eddie is a senior. Holly goes after these older boys, thrilled to be approaching high school, and desperate to be grown up and jump in to the party scene. She constantly throws herself at every guy she can. Vega really put this character in to perspective for us and is actually one of her better performances. She shows a desperation for others to like her, but it is really the male attention she is craving more than anything else. Holly needs that, just so she can be okay with herself and she will really do anything to get it. At points in the movie, Eddie, seems like the typical guy. Being friends with Dylan and Wesley Jonathon’s Biz, they all just seem the same, just using girls for sex without any appreciation for them and spend the rest of their time causing any trouble that they can. Ezell shows great energy in the film, which at first complicates our perception, but then shows that this energy is just his passion for life and what he wants his to be. Not only is he not impressed by Holly’s act to try to get noticed, but he actually goes out of his way to protect her from others like his friends that will fall for it, and end up just hurting her in the end. It seems like her age is what bothers him the most about this, seeing her almost like a little sister more than anything. He is one of the only male characters in the whole movie that displays this. Even though he is a partier, he doesn’t forget what is most important to him; his music. Eddie really believes that he is going to make a name for himself, his passion and his future are far more important than anything else at this point.

Remember the Daze’s biggest problem is that there are just way too many different stories going on. A lot of the angles of the story could have been cut off. Really the only two storylines that worked very well were Tori and Sylvia babysitting while on shrooms from the comedy it spurred and all of the fears it exposed and Holly’s clear insecurities of herself that she tried to make up for by trying to be as appealing as possible to guys, in hopes of hearing what she didn’t believe, but wanted to think was really true about herself. Some of the other storylines like the ones with Stacy and Lucy for example were just a waste of time and accomplished nothing. There are even many other minor stories and characters that I didn’t even have time to cover. Sometimes less if more, using quality over quantity could have helped the film reach a higher overall success. Overall, the film had a wonderful cast full of many rising stars that I hope to see more of in the future. To an extent I can understand wanting to use all of them, but there are a lot of talents that were simply wasted here, taking away the quality of the film. The points of the movie that are stronger and serve somewhat of a purpose hit upon a lot of things that teenagers worry about. It is not the most memorable film of it’s kind, but it is still pretty enjoyable for the most part and does manage to show some great perspectives on many teen troubles. Remember the Daze, has points that are pointless and do nothing for the film, but with that you also get, funny comedy and great performances to display fear of change, what the future will bring, insecurities, and not being accepted by others.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Review: Descent (2007) [Reviewed By Clifford Kiyabu]

Directed by: Talia Lugacy
Written by: Talia Lugacy and Brian Priest
Genre: Drama / Thriller
MPAA: Rated NC-17 for a brutal rape.
Released: 10 August 2007 (limited)
Starring: Rosario Dawson, Chad Faust, Marcus Patrick, Christopher DeBlasio.

Plot: A promising college student becomes bent on seeking revenge after a shocking act of violence is committed on her.

Review: 5/10

My Thoughts: In today’s age it’s very common to hear in the news of young woman being violated or date rapped at collage parties, what you don’t hear is many of the victims don’t ever get the justice that they deserve, many of the rapist manage to go by unpunished, and some are simply never caught. Now most of you who’ve known me for quite some time know I have a somewhat hatred to those who commit rape, I have a strong standing on sex between two individuals always remaining consensual between two parties at all time, and from time and time again I have been known to have a somewhat violent side to those who have committed the evil deed of rape, no matter who you are: if you’ve rapped someone once in your life, you’ll never have get an ounce of respect from me, call it a form of prejudice if you will, but I seriously hate people who rape, so you can understand how I must have been feeling while watching Descent,

I decided to give it a shot despite hearing bad things about it because as a film critic I stand by my word to never pre-judge a film, that before I give out an opinion I should see it from start to finish. Well what I got was a very strong mix feeling here, on one hand I couldn’t understand why it’s rated NC-17 by the MPAA, until I saw the climax ending which I go into detail in a little bit, first of the film starts off rather slow, but begins to show some potential of becoming a good film building up to a very nail biting rape scene in which Rosario Dawson’s character “Maya” is violently rapped by Chad Faust’s character “Jared” this of course was very hard for me to watch because all I could do was feel angry at Faust’s character because what was being done, however it did show one good point to the viewers, that a ripest is not an angry womanizing ass who hits woman and is built like a tank, no this type of guy we all see as a typical rapist is a stereotype, a rapist can be anyone of any race, religion, profession, and socioeconomic group; they are of varying ages and gender. The rapist in this is not built, and has a mellow attitude to everyone; he’s smooth to the ladies and as well a little shy to those who call him out, and defiantly not a fighter.

But still, he is a violent rapist, aside from showing you that people who do such acts of horror cannot be characterized, the film lacks greatly on storytelling, it seems after the rape scene was over the film take a very dull take on the storyline. Knocking out the villain of the film from sight, introducing some new characters that aren’t of any importance to the plot except for one maybe, and in this second act also lacks greatly on the dialog which was very flat, and somewhat meaningless to the plot, and this of course remains like so until the third act which finally builds up to yet another horrific scene, more so then the rape shown in the beginning which from here on out the film losses all its integrity and gives way to the blatantly overextended finale, which I can’t stress enough will have you hating the victim and feeling some form of sympathy for the villain, if you don’t want to know how it end then I highly saddest you stop reading and fast-forward to the next paragraph right now… alright if you are still reading then I must warn you Warning Spoilers Ahead. The villain in this flick gets what’s coming to him, and much more, “Jared”, in returns gets violently rapped by “Maya”, after she has him tied down she rapes him with a really large stick, than after she’s done having her fun, she has her friend, ”Adrian” (Played by Marcus Patrick) rape him and while doing so verbally abuse him by calling him a F**got, or being gay for taking it up the A** like a P***y, overall the scene was so horrifying to see that I can tell you know it will remain in your head for quite some time, and it made me very angry with the character, Maya, in the end film, because as much as the character, Jared deserved it, we didn’t learn anything from the matter, she ended up becoming just as wrong as he was, ultimately I felt the ending was why too negative and a little cut short, what I mean by cut short is the film just ends, with no explanation of where do they go from here, I mean what happens after she’s done getting her revenge? It was indeed very disappointing for me.

The story is about Maya (Dawson), a beautiful young girl who enjoys working as a construction worker, and loves attending college alongside her friend, but during a college party she meets Jared (Faust), a fellow college student who confesses to her that he secretly admires her, being a girl that never really dated before and somewhat shy to members of the opposite sex, she decides to give him a chance, their courtship seems harmless and somewhat pleasant, that is until the night he wanted to take their dating to a whole new level and she didn’t, Maya is violently rapped by Jared, after the horrific rape was done Maya is through into a state of shock, during the course of some months she drifts in denial becoming the easy slut she feared of ever becoming, that is until she meets, Adrian (Patrick) a man who helps those who can’t help themselves, shows her the error of her way she over comes her state of shock and embraces the new her, now will this new found her rise above her past or will it be her ultimate downfall.

As for the acting: Rosario Dawson is a fantastic actress and a wonderful individual, and I have to say, I feel her acting was a little dull, and the talent she’s capable of is wasted her, this of course is coming from a big fan of hers, I feel there should have been more work done on her character, I’m not saying she did a bad job, no sir, I saying the characterization was poorly handled in this film and her character above all lacked the most, in the plot as well as the advertising, it all proclaims how her character goes through a dramatic change, however the change is not clear enough for the viewer to notice, and she appeared to be unsure of herself in this role, almost as if she wasn’t okay with how the films was going, or maybe I’m just reading her body language wrong. You decide. Chad Faust did okay, well half okay that is, he aced the soft and sweet guy approach dead on, but I wasn’t feeling the violent rapist part from him all that well, it just wasn’t in him, but I will say the performance he gives in the climax ending is without a doubt fantastic, and I will give him kudos for taking such a very daring risk in this film by going fully nude, not many actors and actresses out there will go Full-Monty for the sake of art, aside from that even though you’ll hate his character, you can’t help but feel some form of sympathy for him at the end. Marcus Patrick was… not so bad, however he isn’t all that good ether, to be honest I can’t really say if he’s done better in this or in previous roles because there isn’t any other work of his I can compare it to, I will say he give it his best, but his best just wasn’t really agreeing with me that much due to the fact there isn’t much of his character to begin with for the viewer to know and understand the character and because of this you can’t really feel anything but hatred for his character and the his role in the end game of this flick.

Final Say: I really wanted to like this movie, but could not get into it no matter how much I tried, which is sad because I really wanted this to be Rosario Dawson’s breakthrough film, too long has her career been overshadowed by mainstream Hollywood. I guess you could say I wanted Descent to be for Rosario Dawson what Taxi Driver was for Robert De Niro. But in the end I was left so very disappointed. I cannot recommend this film in anyway, but as always: if you still want to see this movie than watch at your own risk.

© The Comic Whore 2008

Monday, June 16, 2008

Review: Kung Fu Panda (2008) [Reviewed By Tony-D]

“Kung Fu Panda”
Release: 2008
**** out of ****
Director: Mark Osborne, John Stevenson
Cast: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie

I don’t know what it is about animated films, because aside from their animation, nothing about them really seem to impress me. Aside from last year’s “Ratatouille” and “Paprika,” (and not including “The Simpsons Movie”), many animated flicks are meant for kids. And let’s be honest, they are (except for “Paprika”). When it comes to me reviewing animated flicks, I’m the big bully on the school ground and I’m picking on your movie left and right. Case in point: “Horton Hears a Who.” One very big problem fucked the entire movie up for me and it also fucked up the entire movie’s plot.

“Kung Fu Panda” is an exception. Of course, it can’t beat “Ratatouille,” but it has certainly beaten every single movie released this year so far. It is now my favorite Dreamworks Animation movie. It is now my favorite Jack Black movie. And this will be the only review for a movie that Dan Fogler is in that I will give four stars… I can’t believe it either.

In the Valley of Peace, a noodle-serving panda named Po (Jack Black) is the laziest and probably the biggest fan of kung fu to ever live. When he hears that they are announcing the new Dragon Warrior at the Jade Temple, he rushes out there but, as a result, doesn’t actually get to go to the ceremony in time. Instead, he gets fireworks and blasts himself over the Temple fence, in which a turtle named Oogway (Randal Duk Kim) declares him the next Dragon Warrior. This would be great news to Po, but even he knows that he has no experience in kung fu what so ever.

The news that he has no experience offends the Furious Five, a group of animals (Tigress – Angelina Jolie, Monkey – Jackie Chan, Mantis – Seth Rogan, Lucy Liu – Viper, Crane – David Cross) that are under the wing of Master Shifu. (Dustin Hoffman) In order to run out Po from being the Dragon Warrior, they put him through tasks that demand a kung fu warrior’s strength, which he obviously doesn’t have. When that doesn’t run him out, will the news of a snow leopard (Ian McShane) ravaging through the city do so?

“Kung Fu Panda” is great because instead of only appealing the children, it appeals to teenagers and older people as well. I believe that when I saw it, I was the only teenager in the entire theater. Everyone else had to be ten and younger and were accompanied by a parent. Not that this disappointed me the least bit, but it meant that I thought that they were going to disrupt my movie-watching and critiquing. But to my amazement, “Kung Fu Panda” didn’t just hold the interest of me, but everyone else. The only peep that I heard from everyone around me was laughs and applauses. If I’m wrong, I got about a hundred people to vouch for me.

It may just be me being a kung fu fan, but I insanely loved the many kung fu references and homages here and there. The best scene in the movie, hands down, is the scene where Po and Shifu have a chopstick fight. You heard me correct, and don’t think that it is the least bit corny or cutesy. It takes a lot for a battle like this to hold my attention, and goddamnit, this held my attention twenty minutes after the fight was over.

The animation for this film was perfect. The animation crew has to give themselves a pat on the back for the stellar animation. Like “Ratatouille,” I actually thought that while I was watching the film that this is a real kung fu movie. All that I can say is that if “Wall-E” wants to win the Best Animated Film award at the Academy Awards next year, it has a lot of fierce competition.

I know I guess it would be kind of hypocritical to say this, but people don’t see animated movies anymore because they are usually directed to kids. They won’t see it for the reason that they don’t want to be in the same theater with kids and babies. They won’t see it because why should they when a movie like “You Don’t Mess With The Zohan” is playing next door and “The Incredible Hulk” is playing across the hall. And to tell you the truth, I don’t blame them. I went into the film with probably the smallest expectations ever and I came out a happy man who just realized that the film he just watched with the same exact audience was the best movie of 2008 so far.

Review: The Happening (2008) [Reviewed By David Dominic DiMichele]

The Happening- *** Out of ****
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Release: 2008
Starring:Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo.

Nothing bares resemblance to M. Night Shyamalans’ previous morbid and dull thriller “Lady in the Water,” “The Happening” forgoes that film and all of the directors previous films to focus under a microscope a topic that relies relatively on nothing, an invisible antagonist, but on the contrary a topic that resonates deep into our world’s given situation. The result is a slowly building suspense film that binds reality and imagination in ways only a bedtime storyteller can conjure up.

And that is exactly what “The Happening” is: a surreal dream (at 90 minutes it stalls a tiny bit along the way). The way that Shyamalan captures the action of everyday people of the east coast frantically fleeing from an unknown evil is pure B movie bliss. The expressions on the character’s faces, the characters themselves and the feel of the movie can be regarded as a “campy” film that provides a good laugh when the occasion calls for severe seriousness. Even at times you might say the actors are acting poorly. But remember these people fleeing aren’t all superheroes or warriors they are your “everyday” people and act as though we would act in their given situation. Each character that meets each other along the way can possibly meet in real life. The casting is spot on (that hot dog guy sure is a hoot).

Above all “The Happening” thrives on the opportunity to excavate a commentary on our world out of a silly yet fascinating plot. The focus is on the death of man and the endless scenarios that add fuel to that fire. In Central Park an incident occurs that involve people stopping dead in their tracks, loosing their train of thought, walking backwards and mumbling phrases over and over again. Then they come to just kill themselves. In a haunting scene construction workers free fall from the top of a building plummeting to the ground with the sounds that make you cringe. Police officers kill themselves with their own pistols and those same pistols are picked up by pedestrians to kill themselves as well. An assortment of unsettling sites come by the boatloads such as dead men hanging from trees and a man settling himself underneath a tractor. At first this is all labeled a “terrorist attack” and New York City is then evacuated.

Shyamalan targets a society whose main attribute is panic, and only panic. Our hero is a Philadelphia school teacher, Elliot Moore, played totally out of the ’tough guy’ character that Mark Wahlberg is known for playing. Elliot is a man trying to deal with his wife Alma’s (Zooey Deschannel) trust, constantly reassuring his friend Julian (John Lequizamo) that his wife is safe and Julian’s daughter Jess (Ashlyn Sanchez) that her mom is safe. It turns out that he is, along with everyone else, a citizen living in a state of panic just trying really hard to conceal it. All of them are on a train, with other’s who have no clue what is going on, heading for Pennsylvania but there ride comes to a halt when the bizarre evil might be ahead of them and everyone is left stunned because they have no clue what they’re fleeing from.

Maybe the entire East Coast panics because of the infinite number of power plants that puff out black rings of smoke or the fact that we are quick to point the finger at the terrorist attacks that transpired on 9/11, which we still aren’t able to shake. Then there is the issue of blaming everything that happens on the government or heck, even saying “the president planned these attacks.” Each one of these issues are exploited and while Shyamalan never really sides with a certain one he makes us feel that it can be everything.

This may not be the conventional summer film people are looking for but it does contain the most indestructible villain this summer and the anecdote to heavily drenched CGI films. The landscape, which is captured so beautifully by Shyamalan, is a character in and of itself as our characters try to escape its sterile, barren and windswept surroundings. The scares and chills come in in these terms and the terms of the camera panning closely to a character’s blank expression and how people effected with the evil are drawn to just kill themselves. It’s almost as if the victims are saying “I’m fed up with the world and I’m not going to take it anymore!” The world may just be saying the same thing. This maybe Shyamalan’s only movie that can in fact happen. “The Happening” doesn’t make you ask the question: can this happen, but makes you ask: when is this going to happen?

Review: The Incredible Hulk (2008) [Reviewed By Clifford Kiyabu]

Directed by: Louis Leterrier
Written by: Zak Penn and Edward Norton (uncredited)
Genre: Action \ Fantasy \ Sci-Fi.
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action violence, some frightening sci-fi images, and brief suggestive content
Released: 13 June 2008 (USA)
Starring: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, Tim Blake Nelson, Ty Burrell, William Hurt, Christina Cabot, Peter Mensah, Lou Ferrigno, Robert Downey Jr.

Plot: Fugitive Dr. Bruce Banner must utilize the genetic accident that transforms him into a giant, rampaging hulk to stop a former soldier that purposely becomes an even more dangerous version.

Review: 8/10

My Thoughts: Finally Marvel has seen the error in their ways. For well over 30 years Marvel Enterprise has been producing and creating adaptations of their comics from book to live action, but none of which has ever been able to grasp the very essences or sometimes the magic that the book held, there have been a few exceptions though that may not capture the full trueness of the comic but still remained worthy on the big screen (Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, X-Men, X-Men 2: X-Men United) but still the big problem that all these Marvel heroes tend to have on the big screen remained the same, they were not under Marvel’s full control, and therefore could not be made by the right people who’d know how to give these superheroes the justice they rightfully deserve, one of the biggest disappointments for me (aside from Elektra, which I hold as the worst comic book film ever!) was Ang Lee’s Hulk, which I had find to be a snooze-fest and taking itself way too seriously, after viewing it I had lost all hope in the Hulk franchise, and a part of me was disappointed in Marvel Enterprise overall for allowing such a horrible thing to happen to one of their heavy hitters in the mainstream comic world.

That is of course until I heard about a Hulk reboot, much in the Batman Begins was to its franchise. I must say that I had mix feeling toward it, because I was happy to hear it may have another chance at being done right, and then I felt it may be a little too soon for a reboot Hulk film, because after all the Batman franchise waited eight years before a proper reboot was done, as where Hulk got barely five, and if you ask me five years is hardly enough for the general public to just forgive and forget, and even though I had my socks rocked off me by Iron Man I still had great doubt about The Incredible Hulk and went into it already with some feeling of disappointment coming my way, but what I got was FANTASTIC! It was everything I dreamed a Hulk film should be and more that I sat forward in my seat the whole way awaiting every minute wowed in awe of how enjoyable it was, director Louis Leterrier puts hope back into me for the Hulk, and Marvel Enterprise has pulled themselves out of the rubble this year and showed the all mistakes deserve a second chance to correct themselves.

The action was fantastic, not to overdone while at the same time not too underused, it was just right, the special effects was outstanding, much better than I ever expected to be, and the design of the Hulk himself was downright breathtaking I was just blown away by how he was visually it defiantly puts Ang Lee’s Hulk design to sham, the sound effects were great, and the cinematography was spot on, in my opinion a movie’s cinematography is one of the most important things, because in a film each and every scene must also tells a small part of the story on its own, and with the right eye behind the camera a masterpiece can be made on looks alone, and as for the plot, it was fantastically done right this time around. Also the CGI done on the Hulk is impressive, he’s more smaller than the last film, but and much darker looking, as well as a darker shade of green, and unlike the other film he does show true anger which wasn’t really expressed all that well in the last Hulk film, I hate to compare both films together because they are both really different, but it certainly puts Ang Lee’s Hulk to sham.

Unlike the previous film it doesn’t bore it’s audience with overusing dialogue that’s only there to past the time, and it certainly doesn’t try to complicate the audience with a silly subplot within a subplot method, and it skips the whole slow and boring origins plot and goes right into the middle of the story with Banner already the Hulk, now don’t you worry because you wont of course be confused or anything because the movie does in fact gives you a quick rundown on his origins at the beginning and does so in a respectable manner, also even though it’s not an origins story for the Hulk, the film however does serve to be a somewhat origins story for Tim Roth’s character, Emil Blonsky AKA The Abomination, it shows as he starts off as a damn good solder with a somewhat violent attitude who’s always looking for the greatest challenge for his highly trained skills, slowly by slowly throw greed of power he becomes something entirely different, he becomes one of the Hulks worst villains, The Abomination. The movie pays homage greatly to the 1970’s T.V. show with some dialogue reference and a cameo done by Lou Ferrigno who played the Hulk back in the 70’s, and even the original T.V. score is played throughout the film.

Also I must point out that the plot has a much stronger romance take between Bruce Banner and Betty Ross which I found to be greatly pleasing because last time (the last Hulk film) it was a complete disaster, and the integrity and intelligence still remains strong, many people feared (me included) that to make this more action packed they would have to dumb down the plot, but this was not the case as it remained as intelligent as ever, while keeping it incredibly entertaining, overall this was a fantastic time at the movies, and I like how they throw in a few hints here and there to both The Avengers movie pan down for summer 2011, and to a possible Hulk sequel, it was almost as if one of my issues of The Incredible Hulk was coming to life right before my very eyes. My only disappointment with the film is the film on a few occasions tries to throw some humor into the mix as an attempt to lighten the mood of the film, which works on a certain degree, but one scene in particular showing Bruce Banner and Betty Ross in a cab together while the cap driver is speeding real fast, showing Betty losing her cool to the driver while Bruce tries to come her down. The scene was funny, but felt out of place with the film overall, frankly the film could have done without the scene.

The story is about a few years has pass since Dr. Bruce Banner’s (Norton) accident with gamma radiation that transforms him into the “Hulk” forced to live a life of solitude from the love of his life Betty Ross (Tyler) he works night and day trying to figure out a cure for his problem and must remain hidden for Betty’s father General. Thaddeus 'Thunderbolt' Ross (Hurt) who believes that Banner is nothing more than US military and will make way for whole new form military weaponry; to help him catch the Hulk the general hires Emil Blonsky (Roth), a British mercenary who witnesses what the Hulk is capable of and admittedly becomes obsess with taking down Banner, so much that he willingly volunteers to become a guinea pig for the military’s Super Solder project which was started in WWII, Blonsky become more powerful than he ever was, and becomes a formative foe to the Hulk, but as time goes by and Bruce Banner escaping the might of the US military, both general Ross and Blonsky become greedy and continue his super solder treatment, which begins to show a sinister side effect that will face off with the Hulk in a climax battle of the monsters.

As for the acting: Edward Norton was breathtaking, he has proven time and time again that he can fit in just about any role you dare him with, may it the hero or the villain, he can do it, may it be low budget or big budget he can do it, now there was some skepticism by critics about rather or not Norton was a wise choice for the role of banner, I myself even held disbelief and spoke out against the idea of Mr. Norton starring in it, however I was wrong, he gives the character the emotional and intellectual skill which was missing from the last film, and him alone saves the Hulk from the watery grave that it was dropped into in 2003. I hope to see Mr. Norton in a possible sequel or if not than the avenger’s movie. Liv Tyler was magnificent I really enjoyed her performance as Betty Ross, more so than Jennifer Connelly’s in 2003, however I did feel that Tyler didn’t quite do the female scientist role all that well, but she did however show an incredibly strong on screen romance alongside Norton which worked perfectly, one scene in particular involves her and Norton running into each other’s arms gripping each other so tightly that it becomes clear that they to not one to lose each other again, that and so many other scenes like it makes up greatly for her poorness as a scientist. Tim Roth is brilliant; he does the role of the villain so good that I honestly can’t see anyone else playing the part.

William Hurt is outstanding, many of you know how much I enjoy Hurt’s acting, and to be honest I at first didn’t think he could be up for the task of playing general Ross, however I was wrong, and thanks goodness for it too. Tim Blake Nelson was not so bad, I will say I didn’t care for him playing the role of Samuel Sterns, for those of you who don’t know who Samuel Sterns is, in the comic he is one of the Hulk’s big time villains known as “The Leader” and the way the film presence him is clear hint that he may very well be the next major villain for the Hulk to go up against if a sequel is made. Peter Mensah does pretty good acting alongside Hurt, and the two of them prove to be a nice compo. Lou Ferrigno does a nice cameo to pay homage to his character from the 70’s TV series, I also found it funny that he plays a Security Guard in this when he in fact played one in the 2003 version, coincidence?, also I must give him kudos for dunning the voice of the Hulk, which I didn’t even know until I did a bit of research. Hulk creator, Stan Lee has a small role in the film, so look out for that. And last but certainly not least. Robert Downey Jr. reprises his role as Tony Stark, in a very short, but pleasing cameo, letting everyone know that both films exist in the same universe, and pretty much tells us straight out that there is going to be an Avengers movie.

Final Say: This was a very enjoyable film, and it may not have been as good as Iron Man was, it still is a fantastic film, and certainly worth viewing in theaters, I look forward to a sequel or if not than Avengers movie, whichever comes first, either way I hope Mr. Norton stays on. I highly recommend it.

Copyright 2008
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Review: The Eye (2008) [Reviewed By Clifford Kiyabu]

Directed by: David Moreau and Xavier Palud.
Written by: Sebastian Gutierrez (screenplay) and Jo Jo Yuet-chun Hui (2002 screenplay "Jian gui")
Genre: Drama \ Horror \ Thriller
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for violence/terror and disturbing content.
Released: 1 February 2008 (USA)
Starring: Jessica Alba, Alessandro Nivola, Parker Posey, Rade Serbedzija, Fernanda Romero, Rachel Ticotin, Obba Babatundé.

Plot: Sydney Wells is an accomplished concert violinist who has been blind since a childhood tragedy. Sydney undergoes a double corneal transplant, and her sight is restored. But Sydney's happiness is short-lived as unexplainable shadowy and frightening images start to haunt her.

Review: 5/10

My Thoughts: Visual Sight, one of our main five Senses, many people see eyes as only an organ that produces images to the brain. But in some cultures it is much more than that. In some Asian cultures eyes contains the soul of an individual, in other cultures some believe that eyes can see more than just the visual images that can be seen by the human eye, some believe that there are those who are born with what a “6th Sense” the ability to see into the supernatural world, or in other words Spirits, some say it’s a gift while other say it’s a curse, no matter what it may be, one cannot deny it to be intriguing. I myself has always been somewhat attracted to the mysteries unknown to us, and because of this curiosity I have always enjoyed films that looked into this matter, one in particular was the 2002 Chinese horror film called Gin gwai, the film was an eye opener, and showed a different take on what some take for granted, the film was dramatic on many levels, and as scary as it was, it also had a strong emotional look at death, regret and how the tortured soul is forced to repeat ones death over and over again without finding any rest, this was surely a fantastic film that needed an open mind to Daoism belief (a Chinese religion).

So it comes to no sock to me that such a fine piece of Asian cinema would be remade for its western viewers, which usually consists of putting a big name actor or actress into the film, and throwing a few extra more million dollars into its budget than the original had. And what you get as a finishing product is a cheesy remake that lacks the integrity its Predecessor had. With the 2008 remake The Eye Staring Jessica Alba we get that very thing, the film tries to do a play by play retelling of the original story but at the same time it also tries to bring in its own brand of horror. Problem is the filmmakers try to incorporate one cultures beliefs into another’s, the result is a complete disaster, not to say incorporating different cultures is wrong, I think people understanding others cultures and religious beliefs is great and educational that all should go throw at one point of another in one’s life, however the manner that they try to do it not only doesn’t make but it leaves way too much things in the plot unexplained, not to mention they messed up the two subplots that was in the original Chinese version, I won’t go into details because that would give away too much of the film, but the first subplot is missing parts from it that leaves the viewer asking questions that don’t get answered, meanwhile the second subplot which had a mixture of sympathy, chills and thrills in the original “Gin gwai” is almost cut out completely, and what they do show leaves viewers left with no explanation ever given to them, all and all The Eye was a downright mockery to the original Chinese masterpiece.

And I strongly feel that both Directors David Moreau and Xavier Palud should apologize for ruining this film, they had a chance to do what other filmmakers have failed to do time and time again with remakes, but they ended up relying on cheap thrills that aren't frightening to the mature moviegoer and instead they drop the ball and settled for mediocre, you probably can tell by now that I am not happy with this one. You would too if you saw the something great and original manhandled by someone else and rip-off in such a sad way it’s beyond repair. Oh wait, most of us have seen this happen already, it was called “The Grudge” which was another disaster if I may add. But I won’t go into that because that for another time, also the biggest problem for me was none other than the ending, Problem here is Hollywood: you see the Hollywood machine has this thing about endings, where everything must be fine and dandy, injecting such Idiocy as ”the good guy must always win” or “someone who was weak must find inner strength to save the day!” frankly I’m getting quite tired of this hypocritical ideology that it’s starting to give me a headache every time I see it in mardren day films, sure it’s good to see such Ideals presented in films, however with every single new remake that comes out, You have just got to be kidding me, I’ll make it clear folks, the eye, as well as 90% of every horror remake (Especially those that are based off of Asian horror films) in the last ten years or so haven’t ended the way they are supposed to, instead of giving of the bittersweet ending that’s originally intended, they give us this we beat the odds type of B.S. frankly I’m just tired of it all already.

The story is about Sydney Wells (Alba) a young, blind violinist who is given the chance to see for the first time since childhood through a miraculous corneal transplant. As Sydney adjusts to a dizzying new world of colors and shapes, she is haunted by frightening visions of death itself capturing the doomed and dragging them away from the world of the living. Terrorized and on the brink of insanity, Sydney must discover whose eyes she has inherited, and what secret visions they have held.

As for the acting: Jessica Alba is a smart and beautiful actress that in my opinion has a lot of potential, however she has yet to really show it, some of it was hinted in the last film I saw her in before this one “Awake” and even in that she showed some potential, but like her other films before it she never quite shines, she gives a somewhat straight to the point style acting that shows no real emotion in her words and a somewhat fake facial expressions that seems like she’s reading her lines off a cue card, I hate to be mean, I really do, but here is a woman who has a chance in this time and point of her career to be a triple threat in Hollywood, but throws it away with half A** acting, I really like her and think she could be great, but she has to do something about her acting skills and soon, because once that pretty young face of hers fall victim to father time, her career will just be another speck of dust in the wind, here today, gone tomorrow. Alessandro Nivola was fantastic, one of the few actors in this film that did exceptionally well, if you’ve seen his other films you’ll know he’s an actor that works hard in becoming the roles he acts in. Parker Posey was okay. I’m going to be honest with you, I am not a fan of her acting, just about every film I seen her in has been disappointing, she’s one of disappointments to “Superman Returns” and she downright irritated the heck out of me in “Blade: Trinity” so I think you understand how I felt about her acting overall in this film, but I will say she at least didn’t irritate me as much in this one, she was a little okay this time around. Fernanda Romero was not at all bad, she was a tiny bit flat, but still showed much potential, I’ll most certainly be looking out for her in future films.

Final Say: Perhaps I was too mean to this film, and didn’t give it a chance, maybe so, but I stand by my word when I say The Eye should have never been remade, or at least not this soon, the original was and still is the better between the two, and if you are interested to watch this film based on its plot, then you should see the original version not this one. But if you still plan on seeing it, than all I can say is watch at your own risk!

Copyright 2008
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Review: The Bucket List (2008) [Reviewed By Kelsey Zukowski]

Starring: Morgan Freeman, Jack Nicholson, Beverly Todd
Directed By: Rob Reiner
Written By: Justin Zackham
Released: 2008
Grade: B

The Bucket List is based on the dreams, experiences, and ambitions that we all want to live out before we die. The writer of the film, Justin Zackham, wrote the film based on his very own bucket list that he created. All of the locations that our main characters go to were taken from Zackham’s list, showing how much of himself was put in to the film, making it very personal and reflective. This film was a way for him to live out the things on his list that he hasn’t been able do and in the process was a way for all of us to come along on an exploration and beauty of the world and even the things that aren‘t so far away.

Carter Chambers (Freeman) and Edward Cole (Nicholson) are two very different people whose sickness brings them together. They are both cancer patients who end up sharing the same hospital room. On the outside they seem to be opposites. Carter is a mechanic who has only been with one woman, his wife, Virginia (Todd). He also had aspirations of becoming a history teacher, but never had the chance to accomplish that goal. Edward on the other hand, has been divorced 4 times and has many other very casual relationships and flings in between. He is a wealthy corporate mogul who has been making good money since he was 16. Both are in the room together, sharing the same disease and fate. They both learn that neither of them has very long to live; around 6 months to a year at the most. Reflecting on his life. Carter remembers his first semester of college when his professor had the class write a bucket list, the things they wished to do before kicking the bucket. He begins writing a more current list, but quickly gives up on it, since it seems his life is already over now.

Edward convinces Carter that they might as well go out there and have some fun, rather than sit around with everyone feeling sorry for them and watching them die. They create a list together and start doing everything on it. They go to France, the great wall of China, The Himalayas, and sky dive. Along the way they share a lot of their experiences and insights on people, life, and what may lay ahead of them after they die. During the course of this, we learn more of Edward’s past and that the most important thing to him, hasn’t been in his life for a long time. This is all because Edward put their needs and well being ahead of his regarding the relationship. Carter tries to push this to be an item on the list, so Edward can make amends. This is a horrifying thought to him, causing him to lash out, and putting an abrupt ending to their trip. In the end, they both knew it was time for it to end so they could both spend time with the most important thing in their lives: family.

Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson were an obvious and excellent choice to be playing the two lead roles trying to get the most out of the life that they had left. They are two of the most gifted older actors out there who consistently make accomplishments in their life and make work with the potential to affect others as well. The two of them really work together wonderfully. Freeman gives the insightful, caring, and personal side while Nicholson gives us the comical and daring side. Beverly Todd as Freeman’s wife does very well too. She shows authentic concern and desperation to spend the time that her husband has left with him. I also enjoyed the appearance by Freeman’s real life son, Alfonso Freeman, who plays his son in the film.

The Bucket List is a film that should be able to speak to everyone since I think everyone should have an experience like the one Carter and Edward have. It is the kind of thing that not only gets you outside of the bubble you live in and experience the rest of the world, but it is a way for you to share this and really connect with another individual. The most important thing that the film does though is showing that you are never too old to find self discovery. Really that coming to terms with oneself, is what adds the youth back to you, enriching your relationships and making yourself content and ready to accept your fate. The Bucket List is a good film with talented, iconic actors who are metaphoric to the meaning of the film themselves and enhance the film to take the audience on a journey full of discovery.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Review; Semi-Pro (2008) [Reviewed By Kelsey Zukowski]

Starring: Will Ferrell, André Benjamin, Woody Harrelson, Maura Tierney
Directed By: Kent Alterman
Written By: Scot Armstrong
Released: 2008
Grade: B

Semi-Pro is a sports film that follows an underdog basketball team, that many might not even consider authentic ball players. This makes the characters seem to be at an even more drastic disadvantage. Although, the film follows a lot of the common steps of sports films, it differentiates itself by using comedy as its’ basis to poke fun at the ABA organization and the entertainment and celebrity that the characters desire and grant themselves with in hopes of others seeing them as big as they dream.

Jackie Moon (Ferrell) is the owner, coach, and player of the Flint, Michigan Tropics, of the ABA league. Moon uses popularity through modeling and countless advertisement and promotional gimmicks. Soon this will be gone, since the entire league is being dropped, the Tropics are devastated this life that they have been accustomed to could be gone forever. Without this, many of them will be at rock bottom. Jackie can’t stand this thought and refuses to accept it. There are four teams in the league that will become a part of the NBA. None of these teams are the Tropics though. Jackie fights this, and makes a deal for the four teams that win the most games to be those who join the NBA. The Tropics have a long way to go to get to this point though. Not only are they not the most skilled players, but their stadium usually doesn’t have the best attendance. This is a major problem and could cost them the little shot they have at beating the many other teams out. It is not just about winning the games, but proving themselves to be the most profitable team.

To attempt to get passed this, Jackie does a few things. The first is bringing in another player with some experience behind him, Monix (Harrelson). Monix is a somewhat washed up player that once played for the champions, the Celtics. He traded to the far less superior Tropics in order to be close to a past love of his, Lynn (Tierney). Lynn wants nothing to do with Monix as he has clearly abandoned her in the past and the trust is lost for the time being. Monix still tries to make the best of that situation as well as the one with the Tropics. Upon the team’s request, he even takes Jackie’s place as the coach, assuring him that he can take care of the entertainment aspect of it. Jackie does this with continuous stunts and attention grabbers, anything really that will get people in to the stadium, as they need to average 2,000 people per game. These things include a fight with a bear, a roller skating jump over a gym of woman lying on the ground, allowing people to win thousands of dollars if a basket is made, and the crowd winning corn dogs if they win or lose by a certain amount. To everyone’s surprise a lot of these tactics including their new found basketball skills actually seem to be working. The underdogs might actually have a chance of becoming NBA stars, rather than losing everything which was their assumed fate.

The film did some good things, but there is no doubt in my mind that a lot of the enjoyment of the film was enhanced by the talented actors that were involved with this. I have been a fan of Will Ferrell since his early Saturday Night Live Days. Sure he has done some things that haven’t been great and even one that made me disgusted and very disappointed in him, Taladega Nights. With just an exception or so though, he still remains to always have a certain hilarity and spark displayed in ways that I really don’t think would necessarily be as funny if nearly anyone else attempted the same material. Will Ferrell does very well as Jackie Moon. Now he is no Ron Burgundy, Buddy the Elf, or Harold Crick, but it is slightly better than his character in Blades of Glory and at about the same level as he was in Kicking and Screaming. It is really just the way he holds his character in the film and how clueless he is to how ridiculous he can be at times. His energy is there 100% and he doesn’t hold back one bit. André Benjamin is really the one who stood out to me. He has a very youthful and driven nature to him that came out concisely in his character. This character has dreams of playing in the NBA and this seems to be a fantasy that is actually about to come true. He seems real through capability of relating him to us and through his grasp on situations. This is a great contrast to Jackie, which formed a balance and a place for both of them in the story. Benjamin giving some really great performances in Four Brothers, Idlewild, and now Semi-Pro, is one of the most talented and capable musicians turned actors. I look forward to seeing what else he throws our way as I am sure he hasn’t even scratched the surface of his potential.

Will Arnet and especially Andy Richter give great touches to the sport caster’s personalities. They are in touch, lively, and not afraid to have fun with the material at many points mocking some of the bizarre situations that Jackie Moon presents before them. It is especially nice seeing Andy Richter continuing to pop up, since I haven’t seen much of him since the underrated and short lived sitcom, Quintuplets. So it was nice to witness his humor once again. Tim Meadows was also very funny here reminding me of a more wild and daring version of his character in Mean Girls, maybe even with some of that spunk that he displayed on Saturday Night Live week after week. Jackie Earle Haley who gave a riveting and moving performance of a very morally gray character in Little Children gives comedy a go. He played an unemployed bum who won money that Jackie promised, but didn’t really have it in the first place to give away. Now this is obviously far from the type of material that Haley has the intellect and care to handle. However, I kind of liked that it was something so different for him even if it was a smaller part. David Koechner, who typically plays the raunchy and goofy character is actually completely serious. This is completely different for him, but he handled himself very naturally.

Really the only complaint I have is it seems it could have done without the sub-plot with Monix and Lynn. It was by no means bad, but it just didn’t hold my interest as much as the rest of the film. This was partially from the performance by Woody Harrelson. He just didn’t seem real to me, his emotions, who he was, and what he really wanted just weren’t displayed in the way that they should have been in order for me to care about his character. He wasn’t terrible, just ineffective. Even this wasn’t much of a struggle to watch especially since these moments were more minimal. It wasn’t as good as the rest of the film, but it wasn’t all that hard to sit through either; it was just kind of there.

Semi-Pro uses a show like atmosphere, which seems to be far from true basketball. However, it does this to critique the industry. Especially given that the amount of money they can give the league outweighs the talent that they have. It shows that it is all really just about money. When you look at LeBron James having his own lemonade bubble gum with his cartoon face and name plastered on it and a Nike add covering buildings essentially with the message that we should witness the legend that he is, some of the products and things Jackie models for and even his somewhat self involved attitude don’t seem all that unrealistic. It just serves as a representation that they’re not just athletes, but celebrities as well. Not only is it accounted how much money can be gotten out of them, but it works the other way too. Athletes fight over how many millions of dollars they are getting per year when ultimately it shouldn’t matter if it is really just for the love of the game. The film exerts it’s comedy by a ridiculousness of the situation and mostly just by using a illogical, but unique way of handling a challenging situation with quirky and vibrant personalities. Semi-Pro is a decent film with a fun spirit and the talents of a tremendously funny and lively cast with a critique on the sport portrayed in a comedic light.