Archive for September, 2010
Posted by benjamin on September 25, 2010
Director: Will Gluck
Runtime: 92 minutes
Plot: After a little white lie about losing her virginity gets out, a clean cut high school girl sees her life paralleling Hester Prynne’s in “The Scarlet Letter,” which she is currently studying in school — until she decides to use the rumor mill to advance her social and financial standing. — Yahoo! Movies
Easy A follows a funny premise with some interesting commentary behind it as Emma Stone’s character, Olive, struggles to help those that are less fortunate, but at the cost of her own reputation. In laymen terms, this is a modern day Scarlet Letter but its main character knows what she is doing and is telling lies in order to do it.
Told from a post event perspective, Olive confesses the events of the last several days seemingly into her home webcam. We are only provided a quick flashback in order to understand who Olive is, but it is more than enough for you to warm up to Olive. Her wacky attitude and witty smarts easily make you want to cheer for her cause of helping the ugly, undatable underdog, even if she is taking money for it. I mean, come on. Everyone needs an extra gift card to Home Depot or Amazon.
Now as much as I enjoyed Emma Stone’s character, this movie would have failed without the greatness of her parents played by Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson. These are the parents that want to be cool, are cool, and continue to be cool. Sure, this is the biggest myth on the planet but they are just too much fun to watch without thinking they’d be great parents to have. And since it is a movie, let’s throw in an adopted kid just for the fun of it since this family just isn’t crazy enough.
In a teenage film that questions the morality of its main character and their actions, the film would not be complete without your stereotypical popular kid who is of course the goody-goody and overly religious. Played by Amanda Bynes, Marianne goes from enemy to friend to enemy again as Olive’s to-do (or did) list grows. However, I’ve seen this cliched of a character too many times to really buy it, especially when Mandy Moore did it to perfection in Saved.
As much fun as I did have with this movie and its quotable lines, I’d still have to say it is renter. But if you are a fan of many different 80′s movies where the teenage comedy shined, then Easy A should be a top pick for a date night or your rental queue.
The Marc Pease Experience
Posted by will on September 24, 2010
Director: Todd Louiso
Runtime: 84 minutes
Plot: Former high school musical star, Marc Pease, finds himself still living in the past, eight years after graduating.
Despite the fact he continuously portray characters of similar demeanor, style, and personality, I am a fan of Jason Schwartzman. I occasionally will check up on certain actor’s and director’s Wikipedia page to ascertain when their next film is and what other projects they may be involved in.
The Marc Pease Experience popped onto my diligent rounds over a year ago. First, I was excited for Mr. Schwartzman to be teaming up with another actor I fairly have a high tolerance for, Ben Stiller. On top of that, the film was being written and directed by Tom Louiso, probably best known for his role as Dick in 2000′s High Fidelty (one of the few John Cusack films I can actually stomach). Not that I had any high expectations that his shy-music-elitist foil to Jack Black’s boisterous-music-elitist Barry would translate into a sensationally directed comedy — I just thought it was worth noting.
It took me two nights to get through this film. The first night I fell asleep within the first 20 minutes. That should have been a warning.
Calling this a “comedy” would be a little too generous. Any attempt at humor, whether verbally or through slapstick fell flat. And when I say flat, I’m referring to my-soda-has-been-sitting-out-opened-for-a-week-flat. If this film was trying to be off-beat, well, it should have strayed a lot farther from the path.
Mr. Schwartzman and Mr. Stiller both fall back on roles we have seen play before. Think, for Mr. Schwartzman, Max Fischer (Rushmore), “Cool” Ethan Dulles (Slackers), or Albert Markovski (I Heart Huckabees) except a little more bland. Okay, a lot more bland. Mr. Stiller is somewhere between Tony Wonder (Arrested Development) and White Goodman (Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story) minus the magic, balls, and steroids. I always have a hard time with Mr. Stiller as I’m always thinking to myself “Hey, it’s Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson playing cops and robbers” (Owen Wilson is another example of someone I have trouble immersing into the film as the character and not as Owen Wilson). But for some reason, it usually works.
A huge problem I had with this film is that the plot is way too contrived and unoriginal (high-school musical star is still living in the past 8 years later). On top of that, the characters are too stiff and dull and never really develop. I wonder if you had two completely different actors playing the main characters how much better this film might have fared.
Either way, it’s not worth your time.
Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
Posted by will on September 21, 2010
Director: Lee Daniels
Runtime: 109 minutes
Plot: In Harlem, an overweight, illiterate teen who is pregnant with her second child is invited to enroll in an alternative school in hopes that her life can head in a new direction.
Even though it was a two-time Oscar winner, I still had minor reservations and low expectations when we first popped the DVD in. The thing really holding me back was that I did not really want to watch a melancholy picture, something I felt was unavoidable solely based on the trailers I had seen.
Precious follows the plight of 16-year-old Claireece P. “Precious” Jones who is overweight, pregnant (again) and poorly educated. Jones is living in Harlem during the late 80s with her mother, Mary. To say Precious and Mary have a intense, dysfunctional, and extremely abusive relationship is quite the understatement. Precious is on the receiving end of vile physical assaults and vitriol. Mary is a obviously a very disturbed woman.
The story follows the basic rise/fall/climax/ambiguous ending formula. Nothing about the plot surprised me. Maybe I am just jaded but you have to know the situations and scenarios presented in the film are still occurring today. For this reason, I am still wondering what the true intention is for this film. Is it an attempt to show another side of life that is still taking place in our country? Is it to inspire or to create a, hopefully, positive reaction? Is it solely to entertain (hopefully not).
A film like this makes me question what is the purpose of movies? I think largely we see them as vehicles for a few hours worth of amusement. But, there is always some vision, some purpose … even if it is just to simply entertain. Or maybe it was a shallow attempt to go down in the award pantheons (doubtful?).
The most notable thing to me were, of course, the acting performances. This is Gabourey Sidibe’s acting debut. Wow. And as outstanding as Ms. Sidibe was, she was only topped by Mo’Nique, the eventual Academy Award Best Supporting Actress winner. Probably best know as the hostess for Showtime at the Apollo, her plus-sized beauty pagent Mo’Nique’s Fat Chance, and roles in movies like Soul Plane, Mo’Nique gives a performance is able to induce a certain disdain and ethos for her Mary. Think how difficult it is to not only hate someone but feel sorry for them all at the same time.
For the most part, this was a fairly engaging movie. There were a number of things that irked me. The fantasy/daydream cutscenes were a little odd. I understand why they were placed there but it really took away from the story (my humble opinion) and were completely unnecessary and out of place (feel free to disagree). The other was the blatant Oprah pandering. This movie received promotional assistance from Ms. Winfrey and she also received a producer credit for the film. Please, pass me the trash can.
While this movie did not do very much to really impress me as the basic story has been told a hundred times over, at the very least, watch this movie for the excellent acting and performances.
The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
Posted by will on September 16, 2010
Director: Seth Gordon
Runtime: 79 minutes
Plot: In the early 1980s, legendary Billy Mitchell set a Donkey Kong record that stood for almost 25 years. This documentary follows the assault on the record by Steve Wiebe, an earnest teacher from Washington who took up the game while unemployed.
My earliest memories of arcade games were at Lupino’s Pizza in Thomaston’s Northside strip mall (Treasury Drugs, anyone?). The specific game was Joust, a game where knights on ostriches tried to knock each other off in a 2D multi-platformed landl. I don’t think I was good at the game and I do recall grade school classmate Kali Gray lending me a few more quarters to subsequently get pummeled by the opposing knight bearing ostrich. Good times.
Suffice to say, I was and still am not very good at arcade games, although I do love playing them. My counterpart on this blog and I loved, as college roommates, saving quarters to waste an afternoon playing Time Crisis II. I once spent $10 to beat The House of the Dead II with Ennio Sanders in middle school. Trice’s dream is to one day own The Simpsons Arcade Game (that would cost him around $900 on eBay).
As much time and money we have wasted in front of these machines, it pales in comparison to the characters you will find in The King of Kong.
The basic premise finds newly unemployed Steve Wiebe as he attempts to break the legendary Billy Mitchell’s Donkey Kong score of 874,300, a mark that had for decades, never been topped.
Immediately, you figure this sets very specific roles for Wiebe and Mitchell. Wiebe is a soft-spoken father of two who we find, through interviews with his family and friends, has been unable to catch a break all of his life. In other words, he is the underdog protagonist. Mitchell, he of the long, flowing mane, dark, villainous beard, and pomp and pride is the perfect foil as the former classic gaming prodigy cum hot sauce king. A true enigma who wields ridiculous amount of influence in the classic gaming community.
These very specific roles have been set not only through natural progression but clever editing. Yet, as hard as I try, I kept coming back to Wiebe obsession’s with topping the high mark, really the crux of the plot (forget the character development). Eventually, as the plot progresses, our hero starts to take on the appearance of the negligent father, ignoring his two kids and wife, spending countless hours in front of the joystick screen, and extreme obsessive. Of course, Mitchell, appropriately, comes off as a pretty loathsome individual, but Wiebe, with his preoccupation, really left a poor portrayal when it was all said and done – at least, in my very humble opinion.
Through the course of events, Wiebe is certainly wronged on many fronts by Mitchell, the governing body of video games (Twin Galaxies), and the classic video game establishment, which we eventually discover, Mitchell has much sway … but there is no way I can relate to the focus and energy Wiebe puts into his gaming efforts. As much as I love video games, the amount of spirit and months he invests, I just simply can not relate to.
Is this supposed to be some type of statement on how much importance our culture and society can put on trivial, trivial things? I don’t know. I do know I left a little unsettled when the credit began to roll, despite the ending. I don’t know if it was the director’s intention to make a statement on a small slice of our civilization or our fanatical behavior, but even if it was not intended, the results were all not that pleasant.
Posted by will on September 13, 2010
For a lot of people, the argument is Star Wars or Star Trek? For me, it is both.
I was blessed (?) to be raised by a man who absolutely loves the science fiction/action adventure movie genre. I was spoon-fed Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, etc. as a child. Looking over the film series, I am almost certain I have seen every Star Trek motion picture, 4 of which I saw in the theatre, on top of the countless Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes that used to run in syndication. Suffice to say, I am pretty well versed in the most basic cannon of Star Trek that had ships helmed by either James T. Kirk or Jean Luc Picard. But, I am far from a Trekkie.
For the opposing brand, I have seen all six films, contributed much financial value to the Lucas Empire, and found, generally, the series to be more enjoyable as a child as there was a greater expanse of depth to the stories, more likable characters, a larger range of alien breeds, and a primary antagonist.
Back to Star Trek and to 2009. When J.J. Abrams’ re-launch first came out, there was much bravado and applause. For me, it looked like a solid film, but not something I wanted to plop $9 down for. So I waited … and forgot.
Finally, last weekend, I noticed Star Trek in Instant Play and immediately (well, almost immediately) fired it up.
I got to hand it to Abrams, I have never watched his films (MI:3, Cloverfield) nor his television shows (Felicity, LOST, Alias) but he did a very, very impressive job of not only relaunching the series, but making this movie accessible to a general audience. Not only was I impressed but Brittany was almost as equally awed at how well conceived compelling the story was.
The tale takes us to the origins of young, brash James T. Kirk, the famous captain of the equally famous USS Enterprise as well as his polar opposite and counterpart, the Vulcan Spock. Normally, I find origin stories to be either boring, formulaic, or undercooked. Not so with Star Trek. The story’s pace, basic story structure, and portrayed background was just enough for the competent and not too much for the greenhorn.
I won’t go too much into the story but I will say it is a pretty solid script. The real brilliance is how the “original” Spock, reprised by Leonard Nimoy (the one known from the original television series and films), is weaved into the tale.
What I want to rave about is the casting. Oh, the casting. Each role deserves a gold star. Chris Pine as Kirk and Zachary Quinto were perfect matches. Even the more secondary characters such as John Cho/Sulu, Anton Yelchin/Chekov, Zoe Saldana/Uhura, and Simon Pegg/”Scotty” could be construed, in hindsight, as “logical choices”. The real gems, in my opinion, were Karl Urban as the gruff “Bones” McCoy and Eric Bana as renegade-run-amok Romulan, Nero. For someone who has a history with the series, the personality and characteristics each actor brought to their role was refreshing.
Really, I found the characters themselves to be much, much more compelling than the actual plot and arc (which, looking back, wasn’t anything to shout about from rooftops).
All of the cast members have been signed for an additional two films. The next is slated to be released in 2012. I hope, for the future of this franchise, that the next installment will “live long and prosper”.