This Blog Has Been Glanced at This Many Times:

Friday, January 30, 2009

Final "Watchmen" Poster

The more I see of this, the more excited I am for it. The final "Watchmen" poster has a lot of charisma to it. I love how each character is in a pose that communicates what they're like. Beautiful poster. Click to enlarge:

Soundwave Revealed for Transformers 2

It's amazing what the toy company is to the film community these days. Toy companies are what leaked the fact that Two-Face would, in fact, appear in the "The Dark Knight." And whenever we're sorely desperate to know the design of a big franchise character, you can count on an upcoming toy line to leak the goods.

I present to you, Michael Bay's Soundwave:

"Wait a minute. This doesn't look anything like Soundwave! Soundwave looks like this:"

Well... Of course it doesn't look like Soundwave. None of the characters, save Optimus, look like themselves, why would the designers stay true to the characters now?

I'm not going to say I'm a big fan of it, but in its defense there's no way Soundwave would be plausible as a transforming stereo that launches transforming tape cassettes at his enemies. And the head, surprisingly, does have some similarities to the original design. No, I don't like the fact that he's a Cybertronian jet like Megatron, but, hell, I didn't even like the first movie.

Wolverine Poster

It was kind of predictable wasn't it? I'm not saying the poster isn't any measure of cool, but after three movies where we see promotional pictures of Wolverine holding his claws near his face you wonder if he can make any other pose. Click to enlarge:

Sunday, January 25, 2009

(Late) REVIEW - "Wall-E" (2008)

Last year I was enormously disappointed with Pixar’s “Ratatouille.” It was a film stuck in the typical Pixar formula that hasn’t worked as well since “Toy Story.” I noted that something new and fresh was needed to keep the magic in Pixar’s rather impressive line-up. “Wall-E” was just that and more.

I make it no secret I have very little love for films that have environmental “messages.” I thought “An Inconvenient Truth” was an inconvenient joke. Nature programming wasn’t my thing until “Planet Earth” came along. (And I’m not afraid to admit the upcoming “Earth” looks beautiful.) “The Happening” is an example of an environmental movie gone very, very wrong. It’s a film I wish not to think of ever again. So when I say “Wall-E” is the most effective movie in this category I’ve seen in awhile, it says a lot. “Wall-E” has heart without giving us a character with one. It says plenty without giving us a great deal of dialogue. And it’s relentless creativity and inspiration places it as Pixar’s best film since “Toy Story.”

A small robot, Wall-E, (Waste Allocator Load Lifter Earth-Class) is left alone on Earth, many years after mankind has abandoned it. Left to clean up man’s trash with his roach friend, Wall-E’s “world” is thrown for a loop when Eve arrives on Earth. Eve is sent to Earth to see if life has been restored. Wall-E shows her the only plant life left and they disembark to the Axiom, where mankind resides in a rather lazy state controlled by machines. A struggle between Wall-E, Eve and the humans against the less friendly machines ensues to make it back to Earth. But can it sustain life?

Pixar’s always had a way of inspiring people through the darkest situations. This is the first time where the human element of survival really takes a central roll. It includes the disposal of apathy and the care of the planet.

“Wall-E” also puts today in perspective-- So often do we see the darkest of films show how trends, gizmos and disposable commodities control us. The idea has become something of a cliché in recent years and it feels forced in even the most effective movies. “Wall-E” takes a more literal direction with it. On the Axiom mankind is huge and bulbous. They’re carted around by hover chairs, always looking into computers to talk to people and are only distracted when the latest “trend” is previewed. This is an amusing way to frame the American society and it doesn’t take away from how eerie it feels too. It’s simply that if this isn’t to be the shape of things to come we are to take better care and attention with ourselves.

Wall-E himself is more of a catalyst for the story than a character. What he cares about most is Eve and her mission. Whether or not these two machines are aware that mankind needs to learn from their mistakes and survive is irrelevant. Their journey centers around a certain beauty for each other that humanity seems to have forgotten. One of the most flattering scenes between these two characters is their “dance” outside the Axiom. The gorgeous rays left from their flight begin to inspire people within the ship and thus the reason to live is made evident: To survive is to stay on the Axiom. To live is to find beauty. Something that only Earth can provide in their current situation.

Wall-E’s character is also very interesting to compare to the villain of the film, Wheel. Wheel is a fantastic villain, beautifully inspired by Hal from “2001: A Space Odyssey.” I found it interesting that, despite all the environmental preaching going on, “Wall-E” wasn’t afraid to admit man-made machines are, in fact, needed. But there’s a line. Wall-E and Eve are two machines created for the purpose of helping mankind. Whereas Wheel is a machine created to govern them. I’ve never seen anything displayed quite like this in film. It felt extremely… well… honest.

The animation is also a lot of fun. The attention to detail borderlines “Star Wars” nerdom. It’s a lot of fun. The introduction to the many “malfunctioned” robots and the enormous Wall-As are staggering. And as cool as the Axiom’s interior is, it’s also easy to see how mankind became the lazy blobs they are. The hover-seats, the self-swung tennis rackets… it all adds up to how the Axiom was the perfect and worst residential for mankind.

The film’s finale built up enough drama to be tear-jerking. Wall-E and Eve’s relationship is brought full circle and the difference between “programming” and decisions are made clear. It seems to vaguely mirror what Wheel felt humankind was suppose to do on the Axiom, and what the Captain decided to do in the end. It builds up a powerful amount of beauty for both its characters and its meaning. Who knew a kids movie could be so smart?

“Wall-E” is a rare piece. While children will no doubt love the hysterical antics of Wall-E, older audiences will have something to chew on as the characters unfold some very unique ideas. Granted, the movie does come off a bit preachy sometimes, but the way it delivers its significance should be applauded. “Wall-E” is a rare movie indeed. It’s a film in a genre that tends to be overlooked as great art and, like “The Dark Knight,” defies those restrictions with wonderful grace. “Wall-E” is just another reason why the summer of 2008 was more impressive than the fall.

**** out of ****

(Late) REVIEW - "Hancock" (2008)

It’s always a shame to watch good ideas go down the toilet. “Hancock,” would have been a good movie, maybe even a great movie, had it kept things simple. “Hancock” delivers an intriguing spin on the Superman-esque character and some equally interesting ideas on how people would have to deal with him. This is certainly enough material to give “Hancock” what it needs to be a fine movie. Filmmakers are constantly drilling deeper into the superhero psychosis and it’s really bringing about some of the better blockbusters we’ve seen in recent years. Unfortunately, “Hancock” can’t restrain itself enough to tell this story. Every hero needs a worthy firefight I suppose. In this case the resulting battle is enough of a twist to kill the movie’s integrity.

Will Smith stars as, you guessed it, Hancock, a bum superhero that can indeed save the day, but the collateral damage he causes becomes a problem. Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), a failing public relations supervisor, decides he has what it takes to help Hancock. He advises him, gets him to look more presentable and introduces him to his family. From there Hancock learns how to fit in with our society and discovers an alarming connection to his past-- A connection that reveals itself to be the point where the movie begins to fail.

Lets back up a moment though. “Hancock” starts out promising. Smith plays the perfect anti-Superman, constantly saving the day with much disdain and receiving the least amount of gratitude possible. His antics are as amusing as they are flawed. When he finally saves Embrey’s life the movie’s parodying of super-heroic collateral escalates to some of the film’s finest moments. In reality, would a superhero be the cheesy truth, justice and American way man we always imagine them to be? Or would they be like us? Selfish, depraved, flawed… Because of this would a super human need a PR associate to keep him in check?

All of these questions the filmmakers pose get answered in one way or another, but it would have been far more interesting to spend time on the ideas that created the character instead of spin the audience in to an entirely new storyline. Suddenly the reality of “Hancock” is shattered by one, brief scene and the following footage catapults the audience in to disbelief. Everything the movie built on: The reality of supermen in the real world. Their depravity. Their collateral. It all goes away so we can get treated to a “Matrix Revolutions” battle.

And where does Charlize Theron fit in to all of this? She plays Embrey’s wife, and she knows how to act, yes. She can look beautiful, sure; but she did not need to be in this movie. (For those who have seen the movie and understand my dislike for the “twist,” you understand why.)

The rest of the movie forgets the first half occurred altogether. The explanation for Hancock’s existence is as trite as it is vague, making me wish it were left unexplained. Dramatic moments leading to the climax are half-hearted, riddled with only textbook action movie clichés.

What true drama is in “Hancock” is certainly worth the look. The effects are certainly pretty as well, but the payoff is disheartening. Will Smith is a fine actor, but I’m beginning to wonder if his misses outweigh his hits. Peter Berg certainly has talent as well. “The Kingdom” was one of the finer, more underrated films of 2008, but here he really loses sight of when drama and action are necessary. There are heroes. There are superheroes. And then there’s Hancock. Stick to the former two. They make for better movies.

** out ****