Posted by christopher on January 31, 2011
Runtime: 107 minutes
Plot: Journey to the center of the sun.
Sunshine is a movie I was keenly interested in. While it’s somewhat dated today, coming out in 2007, the moment I first heard of it I was instantly captivated.
As a self-aware geek, I quite enjoy a sci-fi that is based in reality: futuristic but educated; full of imagination but plausible. And while any fact that I’ve read regarding our life-giving star Sol suggests it will well outlive humanity, the response played out in this movie is generally well founded and reasonably executed.
But before I get ahead of myself, in a quick summary: the sun is “dying” causing global cooling, which the viewer is led to believe is causing suffering, requiring a drastic response in the form of some kind of fusion-igniting bomb package delivered into the sun.
For me, the concept of the sun dying and our response was what initially sold me. And while the first quarter of Sunshine delivers interesting exposition, leading the viewer into a hopeful experience, executing a solitary space-oriented film is difficult without cliches: things go awry, difficult decisions need to be made, calamity ensues. And, again, while this experience in-and-of itself is at least entertaining, Sunshine delivers a twist which is alluded to and ultimately expected, leaving me to feel cheated and certainly let down by the overall experience. In other words, Sunshine turns from one genre, which I find interesting, to another. Yet the flip does not feel true; it feels forced, with characters and sub-plots introduced but not fully explored, which ultimately don’t contribute to the outcome of the overarching story. This leads me to believe that Sunshine was either born of an interesting concept that may have been better suited for a short film, or was forcibly modified in an attempt to potentially capture mainstream appeal.
Hope, however, is not completely lost. I actually did learn about space through the film–though through my own exploration, the film brought up the questions and was generally true to scientific consensus. In a similar vain and as I stated initially, the science fiction was well thought out; I can foresee the technology following a path similar to what was in the film, from the design of the spacecraft and how oxygen is maintained in long journeys to the more extreme earth room. The film also delivered realism in what longer-term space travel might feel like, what would be required from a psychological perspective, and how we may react to an abundant resource becoming scarce. On this note and finally, there are many moments of excellence where the actors and actresses reactions are captured, the camera focusing on their faces, both in awe and desperation, engaging me with the movie and character and balancing the drawbacks.
I feel I have been harsh on Sunshine. My expectations were high and ultimately not met. The ‘thriller’ aspects of the movie were too heavy, but the film does entertain and would be enjoyed by most.
Posted by christopher on December 20, 2010
Runtime: 127 minutes
Plot: Kevin Flynn is the creator. Kevin Flynn is the destroyer.
The first moment TRON: Legacy starts, nay, the moment I witnessed the TRONified Disney logo, goosebumps kicked in and I knew this movie would not disappoint. TRON: Legacy, as you may imagine, is a visual marvel and the perfect score by Daft Punk truly engulfs you the user into the world; into the grid.
The TRON universe is a classic man vs. machine struggle; a struggle for greatness; a tale of unintended consequences. The series has us following Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), a genius who has achieved success in computer programming by created the most popular video games in the 80’s. He is of course met with challenges in the form of a conniving business partner who tries and for a while succeeds in stealing Flynn’s ideas and selling them under the ENCOM Corporation name. Through a bit of hackery, Flynn is able to oust his former partner and take control of ENCOM, building it into a behemoth software company a la Microsoft. Something which both the first and now this TRON movie seem to gloss over is that Flynn and ENCOM have invented a way to transcribe the human body and mind into a digital form within a computer, which is where much of the series takes place–somewhat of a plot hole but forgivable. And this brings us to where TRON: Legacy begins: Flynn is on the verge of a major discovery in “the grid,” an empty plane in the computer world where programs (the people within the computer), machines, and buildings can be created, building a new utopian society. Flynn’s first order of business is creating CLU, a copy of Flynn’s persona who’s focus is on creating this perfect society, to manage the build while Flynn is away in the real world. Flynn’s son, Sam, is a budding young lad who himself has heard stories of the grid from his father and is eager to see what his father has spent countless nights creating; but something goes awry when Flynn senior disappears, trapped in the grid. Sam is left with his grandparents and grows up enjoying the benefits of the wealth he inherited but is left both with the struggle of discovery what happened to his father and striving for his genius with ENCOM. Through a bit of planned luck, Sam stumbles upon his father’s old arcade with a hidden basement office where Kevin was building the grid and that sneaky machine sit which can digitize the human body and mind, and the rest is Legacy.
The story of TRON: Legacy is interesting enough though a bit derivative of others in a similar category like The Matrix. It’s fast paced with enough action and mystery to keep us the audience glued to the screen throughout, but it doesn’t get lost for the sake of action alone. But the story alone is not why we want, why we need, to see this movie: the imagination of the computer world in combination with the execution of the visual effects and score of both TRON movies are incredible and where the series truly shines. The clean stylization of the grid, the lines of bright light set on a dark plane, the deep horns, fast violins, and heavy drums suck you in and keep you riveted. While we’re on the subject, the score Daft Punk created for Legacy is simply superb. It is the essence of TRON in the form of music. I’m left wanting it as my own personal background music in my day-to-day life–just drive at night with the street and city lights and you’ll feel the power, like you’re on a grand mission, like some mystery and longing compels you and you alone; it’s an epic feeling.
The action is as expected with disc throwing, acrobatics, hand-to-hand fighting, and of course the light cycles. But where the original now fails to impress in these aspects, Legacy delivers with fast paced sequences and close up shots of the action. They’ve expanded the scope of light vehicles as well, delivering an edge-of-the-seat light jet fight sequence, which sounds cool enough to say let alone experience. I saw TRON: Legacy in 3-D, though I missed out on the IMAX experience. The 3-D doesn’t really kick in until we get into the grid, which actually helps to convey the transformation into the new world, however the 3-D tends to sink to the background and really only comes through in the movie’s action sequences. Ultimately it adds some depth to certain parts and doesn’t get in the way in others so if you’re able to cough up a few extra dollars I’d say go for it.
And finally the actors and actresses. I’m left with really only one thought in this area, which is my biggest gripe with the film, and that is the execution of the young Jeff Bridges. I’ve heard others talk about the “uncanny valley” with respect to an all digital character who closely matches that of a real human; this may or may not be the case but what I saw was a supposed person that didn’t quite emote correctly–it’s the mouth–and who’s skin was just…off. It’s really the only area of the movie that’s disengaging.
So final thoughts: grab a stick, run as fast as you can, jump in the air, and ride the light to go see this movie now.
Posted by christopher on November 26, 2010
Runtime: 107 minutes
Plot: A group of Predators select the baddest mother f*#$ers from Earth to hunt as game. And there’s cloaking.
Predators is attempt to reboot the originally promising Predator franchise which, after Schwarzzenager, has since suffered from a trio of less than stellar sequels and forks into the Aliens universe. Sadly, devastatingly even, Predators continues the downward spiral with a lackluster plot and just plain sad action.
Brought to us by producer Robert Rodriguez–who has a solid track record in the over-the-top action genre–and directed by Nimród Antal–who barely has a notable movie to his name–Predators follows a rag-tag, rough-and-tumble group of mercenaries, black ops, and criminals, with a Yakuza thrown in for good measure, who are dropped on an alien planet as hunting game for a group of Predators. This SHOULD have been a recipe for success in the way of a cloaked, heat vision, explosion ridden, laser targeting, killfest. It was not.
Predators went wrong in two ways. First, it didn’t focus enough on the Predators. We the viewing audience want to see these dreaded, bad-ass, hunting machines suited up and out in the field blowing wholes in people and creatures, or getting blown to hell themselves; so why would you collectively only have about 10 minutes of Predator footage?! The fighting was largely a bore and generally ends quickly. There was actually the potential for an incredible swords duel with the quite underutilized Yakuza, yet the scene itself and the climax were like getting soggy tofu when I was expecting a porterhouse–nothing against tofu, I actually quite enjoy it, but it just can’t satisfy when you’re craving a hunk of steak.
Second, if you’re not going to do an action-for-the-sake-of-action flick, at least give us some story: what are the Predators? why do they hunt tirelessly? who are the people that were brought to be hunted? how did they Predators get them? There are a number of avenues to explore from a story perspective in the film, but everything is either not addressed or glossed over quickly. We are given an interesting insight into a rift in the Predators culture but we get no further exploration. There’s barely enough of a tease to be left wanting more, but still, give me something!
The performances were not spectacular either, but I attribute this more to the source material versus the abilities of the actors and actress. Except mayber Topher Grace; he was, well, Topher Grace, not much in the way of depth we haven’t scene in this role. As I mentioned above, most were underutilized: the Yakuza, a sniper, Danny Trejo, an overgrown Soviet, Morpheus [Lawrence Fishburn]! All of these guys and gal could have made for spectacular competition against the Predators, which is probably why they were chosen, but alas, disappointment. Instead much of the focus was on Adrien Brody’s, Topher Grace’s, and Alice Braga’s characters and the tension that built between them. Brody himself proved a competent and believable actioneer, minus the Christian Bale “Batman” voice.
My comments while harsh come from a perspective of love and longing for a movie that can highlight the Predator legacy in a way it deserves. Predator is one of those movies I remember fondly as just being rad and we all want more of! The inability of hollywood to recreate that magic is crushing. If you want a Predator movie to watch, opt for the original.
How to Train Your Dragon
Posted by christopher on November 9, 2010
Language: English / Viking
Runtime: 98 minutes
Plot: The tale of a boy and his dog…errr, dragon.
How to Train Your Dragon. This is one of those movies that makes you want to own movies. It succeeds on so many levels, which I will now go into…
Hiccup is a viking. Hiccup is the son of the Viking king. Hiccup has a crush on Astrid. Hiccup is a runt. Hiccup is understandably a bit down on himself, wanting to both please his father, impress Astrid, and live up to his Viking heritage. So he must, of course, slay a dragon, which attack Hiccup’s village on a regular basis taking lemming-like sheep for food. Toothless is a dragon of the infamous Night Fury variety: fast, precise, and seemingly only motivated by destruction for destruction’s sake. Hiccup, in his own dumb luck, sacks Toothless during a raid and in a failed attempt to prove his Viking prowess, he can’t help but fall for that punum and so the conflict begins.
Any animal lover will instantly melt upon the first scene between Hiccup and Toothless. This is truly the success of the film: the animators have, with such precision through facial and body expressions, turned what should be a violent dragon into a house cat or lap dog. And they delve into and develop the relationship between Toothless and Hiccup, translating that which anyone who has had a pet has experienced.
As an animated film, the graphics are superb. Perhaps more nuanced than most would be impressed by, I was blown away at the realism of the textures. Hiccup’s father, Stoick, understandably has a Viking-sized beard that truly looks rough, scraggly, and dreaded like you would expect in a live-action feature. The dragon’s scales are leathery, their flames splash, more akin to magma that pure fire; the resulting smoke, fog, and clouds are voluminous and misty.
The voice acting is rather on-point. Jay Baruchel (“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” “Tropic Thunder”) is himself a scrawny, nerdy character and so it’s none too much of a stretch for him to portray those characteristics to Hiccup. Gerard Butler is his rough, meaty father which again isn’t much of a stretch. Craig Ferguson, playing Hiccup’s mentor, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, playing Hiccup’s peer, both add a fun, geeky (if you’ve played an RPG or D&D) element which lightens the dialog to the heart warming tale.
Overall I think HtTYD is one of the top, if not the top (I’ve yet to see “Toy Story 3”) movies of 2010. It’s an incredible showing for DreamWorks and has earned a spot on my movie shelf.
Posted by christopher on October 22, 2010
Plot: Poop flinging, dildo swinging, painful comedic fun for the whole family!
Official Website: Jackass 3D
One sentence review: Dongs, doodie, and dudes…doing dastardly, dangerous deeds. Do it.
Full review: The boys men are back in the saddle for the third installment of the Jackass movie series (from two seasons of Jackass the TV series). Viewed in 3D because it was shot in 3D, or at least most of it, the opening and closing set pieces were truly epic feats highlighting the value of the now bustling movie technology. The true value of the 3D effects really shined in combination with the slow-motion takes and retakes used throughout the film. Fortunately and unfortunately these are limited to certain instances and for a vast majority of the film the 3D experience is somewhat lost—but when it hits, it hits hard!
On to the movie itself. Quite plainly, if you were not a fan of the TV show, Viva la Bam, or Jackass 1/2, then you will most certainly find this movie deplorable. The formula has not changed and nor should it: 30 second to 3 minute bits highlighting either pain, disgusting feats, or unknowing exploitation via hidden camera, repeated for 90 minutes is a definitive formula for [huge] success. Since there’s no plot, the only digging into the movie I could do would ruin the usually laughable stunts the crew pulls throughout the film. While some were better than others, as should be expected, there were two distinct instances where I was literally laughing to tears, both due to the reaction to pain and fear invoked in the unfortunate victim—hint, it was Ehren McGehehey—who had been or was about to be punished. His response actually conveys very well the pain and suffering everyone goes through, sacrificing their integrity and body for the enjoyment of the populous. I couldn’t be more thankful.
Jackass 3D is short, which is good, because there’s only so much one can take before getting bored. Again, the opening and closing and beautifully shot and in combination with the 3D really immerse the viewer into the moment while highlighting the comedic pain displaying on the screen. I do recommend folks stay through the credits as there was an actual sentimental—if you can believe it—homage to the entire crew who has entertained us since the birth of the series in the year 2000.
So should you see Jackass 3D? Definitely. Should you see it in 3D at the theater? Try and make some time…you could do worse.