Sunday, November 30, 2008
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Another franchise as come upon us.
And it's not like we didn't see it coming. The four-book series by Stephanie Meyer is the biggest craze since Harry Potter, and its film future will take-off as Harry fades out. Does Twilight outshine its source material? No, it doesn't. But it is worthy of its fame.
So are the stars. Kristen Stewart and Scott Pattinson carry the torch of young love in this romantic-thriller about a teenager who falls for a vampire. Bella (Stewart) is returning to her old town of
In the book, the first act consists of Edward and Bella learning about each other. I found this to be the most interesting part. Sadly, the film rushes through it to get to, I guessed you can call it, the part with, "more bite".
For those who don't know what the plot is really about, I suggest you pick up the book. For you men out there, swallow your pride and read it. I'll give you two reasons why you should: 1.) It's actually a really good read and 2.) If you ever go on a date, you'll have something to talk about, because every girl in the world has read the damn thing. As for the movie? Well, it grossed $67 million on its opening weekend and has potential to cross the $200 million mark over its theatrical run. Sequels are certainly a guarantee.
The movie works. Director Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen, Lords of Dogtown) can't raise the material to brilliance, but she stays faithful enough to the book to satisfy fans. After all, that's the first priority when adapting such popular material. Right? The movie does have a tendency to leave out small yet significant personality traits to the characters. Especially Bella. In the book, she cooks. A lot. And it's important to have that in the character because it shows her as a woman of freedom of independence. In the movie, they go out to a diner and eat burgers.
When the sequels start to dish out, I am excited to see what kind of direction the franchise will take. Will Hardwicke be replaced? Will Stewart and Pattinson keep the same caliber in their performances? Will non-fans of the series care to keep up? For now, the fans of Twilight can breathe a sigh of relief. You won't be unconditionally and irrevocably in love with the movie version, but it will keep you thirsty enough for more blood.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
Quantum of Solace has suffered from the Spiderman 3 effect. What's the Spiderman 3 effect? Here's the definition:
The Spiderman 3 effect: a sequel/continuation of a film series whose budget saturates the original story, ultimately destroying its predecessor's hard work and becoming an unnecessary failure.
Quantum of Solace budget: $230 million (** Stars) Casino Royale Budget: $150 million (**** Stars)
Spiderman 3 budget: $258 million (*1/2 Stars) Spiderman 2 budget: $200 million (**** Stars)
When I first heard that the follow-up to the greatest Bond film of all time was going to be a direct sequel, I was ecstatic. Casino Royale was a re-boot of the franchise, so why not continue to spice things up after such a wonderful success? Unfortunately, that dream became a nightmare in what I believe is one of the worst Bond films of all time.
And believe me, I'm a huge Bond fan. I grew up watching every single film in the franchise. When Pierce Brosnan ended with Die Another Day, I along with most of the world thought it was time for a change. When Daniel Craig came into the series using a film with barely any gadgets and no Moneypenny, I was feeling a bit skeptical. Thankfully, Casino Royale gave us a new Bond for the 21st century. And the right one.
So why does Quantum of Solace fail? First and foremost, the script is terrible. Paul Haggis, who I have loved for so long, gives us an abysmal approach to a promising theme. Bond is pissed about the loss of his love Vesper from Casino Royale and he is thirsty for revenge. In the opening sequence, we get this car chase that is so quickly cut that I had absolutely no idea what was going on. After that seizure, Bond goes to a building, opens up the trunk, pulls out his prisoner (Mr. White from the previous film) and starts to ask questions. He discovers that Mr. White has his people everywhere. Ok, good to know?
Then Bond goes on several more fast-paced chase sequences, from running on hill tops to jumping on boats with motorcycles. It all sounds really cool right? Absolutely! But like I said before, we don't know what's happening in these key moments because of such painfully quick camera movements. The average cut has to be no more than two seconds. A note to director Marc Foster: Dude, relax. You don't need to tell a Bond film in only 106 minutes. And if you're going to, we don't need to see the development of a villain who really has no purpose but to give Bond something to chase. The villain is named Dominic Greene (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly's Mathieu Amalric, who is sadly miscast) a ruthless businessman behind the Quantum organization. He is forging a deal with baaaaaaad people to try and take control of a very powerful natural resource.
Now get ready for this. The reason why Vesper was killed and why Bond lost his mind was because of this organization wanting control of, wait for it, water!
Yea, you heard it right. After Bond and the new Bond girl Camille (the incredibly sexy but dull Olga Kurylenko) have an aerial dogfight, they crash land to find a secret stash of water. At that point in Quantum of Solace, I pretty much lost all interest.
The film does have great stunt and technical work. I enjoyed the on-foot chase that Bond endures and wouldn't have minded the others (the opening car chase and aerial dogfight) had they been shot differently. And I will admit that the film ends on a note where the series can get right back on track, but in this installment, Marc Foster went all Jason Bourne on us and turned one of my favorite on-screen heroes into a tantrum-induced basket case. Daniel Craig, you deserve better.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Role Models is a movie that feels like a movie concept worked into something completely improvised. In this case, it works. This is another worthy selection from the familiar cast of the Judd Apatow gang (Apatow surprisingly did not produce this one) along with Sean William's Scott funniest performance since his departure from the American Pie series.
Scott plays Wheeler, a mascot for the energy drink Minotaur. Wheeler loves life and doesn't mind coasting along with barely any responsibility. His co-worker and best friend Danny (the always hilarious Paul Rudd) is the exact opposite, hates everything and is miserable 24/7. After a bad morning at work and his girlfriend Beth (the very busy Elizabeth Banks) dumps him, Danny loses it. He crashes his work truck into a statue trying to escape from his truck being towed. Both Danny and Wheeler are forced into 150 hours of community service to avoid 30 days of prison time. It will be painful, annoying, and of course, from an outside perspective, hilarious.
When Role Models explores Danny and Wheeler with their two kids, things get really funny. Danny is stuck with a fantasy world obsessed geek named Auggie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) where Wheeler has to babysit a out-of-control little punk named Ronnie (Bobb'e Thompson). Like I said, almost everything here feels improvised, so for the middle hour of the film there are little scenes that achieve very funny moments. The two kids are shown with substance and heart, aside from what the trailer shows. The climax of the film is a long battle scene surrounding all the dorks in the fantasy world Auggie belongs to. What makes the action work is how appropriately choreographed the fights during the scene actually are. Rudd and Scott are a winning combination. They riff off each other in a classical buddy comedy way that makes us feel sympathy for their awfully painful punishment, even when they act like total jerks.
Because this is a one-liner kind of film, I must say my favorite. In the conclusion when Danny is trying to win back his girlfriend by singing her a song, Danny sings a line "Like Susan Surrandon and Tim Robbins". For absolutely no reason or adding support to the plot, there's a close-up on Wheeler who grins and says "They're good actors". It doesn't need to be there, but hell, I laughed pretty damn hard. Role Models is a funny, funny movie.
Sunday, November 09, 2008
I'm starting to get a crush on Elizabeth Banks.
Banks is in three new movies currently playing right now. Oliver Stone's W, the newest one Role Models, and this, Zach and Miri Make a Porno, a movie in which the Weinstein Company chose to distribute solely based on its title. Banks is the charm, sass, and beauty of all of three of these films.
Zach and Miri Make a Porno does involve porn scenes, but that's not really what the film is about. It is actually a sweet and lovable story about two lifelong friends who are forced to make an adult movie due to insufficient funds. Through this dilemma, they discover that there is something deeper to their relationship.
Who would have thought that a love story could be successfully made through the medium of porn? Kevin Smith writes the raunchiest material this side of Two Girls One Cup and still manages to find his respectable muse. The film begins with Zach and Miri (Seth Rogen and Banks) on the day of their high school reunion. Miri is forcing Zach to go and he accepts because he'll pretty much do anything she asks (he never says it, but its obvious). This tells us that their trust factor is incredibly high, and that is proven when Miri agrees to Zach's lucid idea that making a porno will bail them out of their financial problems.
Zach works at a coffee shop with his buddy Delaney (Craig Robinson) with the same enthusiasm as a teenaged part-time employee who couldn't possibly care less about proper work etiquette. Smith's dialogue during the introduction of the store is really funny stuff. When a customer interrupts Zach and Delaney and says "Can I get a cup of coffee, black?" Delaney fires back "Can't you see we talkin', white?" The little comical touches Smith creates makes the scene explosively funny.
When the cameras start rolling on the actual porno, Zach and Miri agree to have sex with each other for the sake of saving their apartment. With this decision comes the truth. After they have sex for the movie, (very tastefully done by Smith, who makes the scene romantic) the two realize that they may be in love.
The film works best when focusing on the intimate relationship between Zach and Miri. The rest of the movie is filled with gross-out moments, that even I found to be borderline NC-17. However, I would have been extremely pissed had this been NC-17, when a torture porn show like Saw V gets an R-rating with no argument whatsoever. Ratings aside, the actual story of these characters show that Smith is still a great writer. He may be raunchier than ever, but strangely enough, Smith is still growing up. And as for Banks, with no argument whatsoever, the woman is a star to the ultimate degree.