This Blog Has Been Glanced at This Many Times:

Friday, March 6, 2009

REVIEW - "Watchmen" (2009)

Who watches the Watchmen, and why should you? There’s been a lot of hype building toward this feature beginning with the controversial teaser from last year. Does it live up to it? Is it the perfect adaptation of the novel everyone has been talking about? Can people who haven’t read the book still enjoy the film? Yes and no, but it's still largely enjoyable.

“Watchmen” begins with the expected death of Edward Blake, a man who was known to the public as The Comedian. Outlawed vigilante Rorschach investigates and believes a “mask-killer” is picking off the now retired, and illegal, super heroes of the past. As the Watchmen dive deeper in to the mystery they unfold a conspiracy that shakes the foundation of everything they stood for.

The first thing to understand about “Watchmen” is it’s not your typical comic book, superhero flick. It’s not that action heavy and it explores the people behind the masks more than the masks themselves. Furthermore, it’s a movie made for the fans of the graphic novel. Zack Snyder should be commended for creating a film so close to the source material that even the simplest shots look like they were lifted from the page. That said, it’s almost as if “Watchmen” is a better companion piece to the book, than a standalone flick. Because of this I hope it encourages audiences to go out and grab the original material whether they liked the film or not.

As far as changes go, most were fine and largely needed to keep the film at a decent pace. The condensing of scenes such as Rorschach’s psychiatric analysis and Dan’s tour of his basement were fine if slightly uneven. The costumes that were altered were of no beef to me either. I actually prefer the Nite-Owl costume in the movie. (The Silk Spectre’s alterations are easy to live with considering how absurd she’s supposed to look anyway.)

The casting of this film was just about dead on. Patrick Wilson plays the perfect “everyman” that is Dan Dreiberg/Nite-Owl and Billy Crudup’s Dr. Manhattan is probably the best digital character brought to the screen. Sorry Gollum fans. The “Watchmen’s” big blue simply looks and feels more real than anything Jackson or Lucas has come up with.

The real show-stealer goes to the man with no face: Jackie Earle Haley’s Rorschach goes beyond expectations for his character. The casting could not have been more perfect. With a performance that borderlines “Oscar winner,” Rorschach comes to life as the most interesting, strangely lovable and thematically unstoppable force in the movie. Haley’s growl-like voice actually works better than Bale’s Batman and strikes a chord with, arguably, the most emotional scene in the film. (A massive spoiler toward the end I won’t give away to the less familiar.)

The few problems I had with the movie concern more trivial and technical aspects than overall enjoyment. For example, the only characters to kill anyone, or at least mentioned killing anyone in the book, were the Comedian and Rorschach. Seeing Dan Dreiberg and Laurie Jupiter take the lives of a few street thugs was strange. It seemed out of character for these ex-heroes. The same goes for Dr. Manhattan, although the flashback of him during the war is more excusable. And with all the amazing effects used to bring Manhattan to life, I found the make-up prosthetics for President Nixon absolutely laughable. It was terrible! He looked less like Nixon and more like a clown. Where’s Frank Langella when you need him?

Rolling back to Laurie Jupiter, Malin Akerman’s Silk Spectre II, (Laurie, for the less knowledgeable) she seems to be the film’s weakest link. With a script as decent as “Watchmen” it’s hard to really muck up the dialogue, but bravo Akerman! Her “Do it for me” line is just as poor as the trailer suggests, with Billy Crudup doing everything his digitalized face can do to save the scene. I'm still not sure if he did.

But in the end the only true detractor for the film is the loss of context from novel to movie. If writer Alan Moore meant that every aspect of “Watchmen’s” message being brought to the screen is impossible, then he’s right. Maybe it isn’t entirely "filmable." On the other hand what Snyder has brought to the table has proven otherwise. It is a movie, right? No, it doesn’t capture every grain of thought and majesty that makes the novel so captivating, but to this I ask, what adaptation does? Is "Jurassic Park" ridiculed for having almost nothing to do with the novel of the same name?

The movie isn’t a masterpiece by any stretch and it’s not the sure-to-be-classic “The Dark Knight” is destine to become, but it’s a fun companion piece and worth analyzing. It can be slightly confusing for those less familiar with the source material, and some of the potent ideas that were omitted from the film make it less significant than the novel. Not that I believe it was “dumbed down,” but Zack Snyder did the absolute best job anyone could to stay true to the source while appeasing outsiders. I can’t imagine there being a much better adaptation since the film has taken accuracy to a new level. “Watchmen” is a worthwhile movie, even if it seems to be daunted by the shadow of the novel.

*** out of ****

(Late) REVIEW - "Tropic Thunder" (2008)

Ben Stiller has never exactly been a favorite of mine. Everything he’s been in from “Zoolander” to “Night at the Museum” has been less than stellar… but certainly Stiller! See? That’s the kind of joke that this man evokes. A bad one. Who knew all it took was giving him a director’s chair and a script chronicling the behind-the-scenes banter of filmmaking we audiences are unaware of?

In an attempt to create a groundbreaking war movie based on the book of war vet, a washed up action star, Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller), a drug savvy comedian, Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black) and nine time Oscar winning playboy, Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.) embark on a journey through the Vietnamese jungle that’s a little more real than they expect. When Tugg gets kidnapped the cast of Tropic Thunder must rescue him, while a foul mouth, money obsessed producer (Tom Cruise) breathes down the production of the film.

Truthfully, the plot sounds like a recipe for disaster. The movie could have easily been terrible. In fact, by all accounts it should have been terrible. Yet Stiller is able to parody the negative aspects of back-lot/on-location life with a bunch of brat actors so well, it’s hard not to love the film.

Very little is spared from this movie: Racism, mental retardation and homosexuality is added to the absurd mix of impossible Hollywood actors in a fashion “Family Guy” could never get away with. And, you know what? For once it’s funny. “Tropic Thunder” does not apologize for being as politically incorrect and unfriendly to these situations as possible. Nor should it. If you’re too sensitive to laugh about the flaws and obscurities in the world, don’t watch it.

Outside of the somewhat controversial comedy in the film, “Tropic Thunder” takes a hint from the amazing “Hott Fuzz” and shows just how ridiculous summer action flicks are. The difference here is the movie is full of actors, playing actors that are acting out sequences that define their careers. While these sequences are commonplace to them, the film actually makes the audience wonder if the stars have always looked this absurd in action.

As much as Ben Stiller wants to be the star of this film he makes a better director than actor. Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of an Austrailian actor, playing a black military hero from the 1960s is the film’s selling point. I’m not entirely sure how he got away with so much praise, but I’m glad he did. If he were any less stereotypical I might argue that he didn’t go far enough… Just saying….

However, I have to commend the audible, and physical return of Tom Cruise. His unbilled performance as a big-shot, short, hairy, bald, money loving, immoral and dancing movie producer is one of the most shocking performances I had seen all year. It nearly got to the point where I wanted to see more of him and less of the Tropic Thunder cast lurking in the jungle. Whenever Cruise was onscreen laughter and alarm attacked my soul. “How could this be Tom Cruise?” I still ask this question, but find it best to accept what’s on screen and move on.

The film’s finale offers exactly what the audience wants it too. Explosions, gun fire, the most gratuitous “character developing” dialogue I’ve ever heard and more Tom Cruise dancing. Well, okay, maybe that last one isn’t what everyone wants, but its there. I won’t say “Tropic Thunder” is comedic genius, but it’s certainly the funniest movie I’ve seen since “Hot Fuzz.” (A hard task to live up too.) In a time where comedies aren’t very funny, especially ones from Ben Stiller, “Tropic Thunder” is able to fly by everything that should have tanked it and become delightfully absurd. Don’t miss the “trailers” at the beginning.

*** out of ****

TRAILER - Star Trek (Trailer 3)

I'm not sure what to say. I'm speechless. We've seen that "Star Trek" will be quite the action flick in past trailers, but this is different. It reveals more story and gives off a new feel of grandeur. I can already feel geekbumps mounting on mine and others arms as Kirk sits in the captains chair for the first time.

Absolutely beautiful trailer. Very different from the last few and, ultimately, quite breathtaking.

Trek has become my number one movie to see this year; May 8th can't come fast enough.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

TRAILER - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Trailer 4)

Harry Potter 6 strikes again. The new trailer doesn't exactly show much new, but it's exciting none-the-less. I prefer the previous trailer myself though.

TRAILER - X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Trailer 3)

I have to admit, the trailer does look cool... So how come I have such cold feet about this? It seems like the trailers are trying too hard now. What we're all hoping will be a good movie is still coming from Fox, a studio that decided to slice down the director's cut of this film way below two hours. A studio with a CEO that saw fit to "lighten" the movie's appearance and get in the way of the director's vision. A studio that... well has only made one or two decent flicks in the last few years.

"X-Men Origins: Wolverine" looks fun. But it's sad that it only looks fun considering we've seen the X-Men franchise do better. (The third movie tore that image down.) Take a look. What do you think?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

TRAILER - Public Enemies

Slick and cool. These are the words I'd use to describe this trailer. Johnny Depp plays a rather suave John Dillinger. I hope Mann brings out his "Collateral" and "Heat" talent for this one. I've been looking forward to this for awhile and it'd be a shame if it ended up being another "Miami Vice."

July 1st.

Chris Nolan Targets "Inception"

I'm going on record to say that Christopher Nolan is probably the most talented director in the field of film making-- At least right now. With consistent turnouts of quality material spanning from "Memento," to "Insomnia," "Batman Begins," "The Prestige" and, of course, "The Dark Knight," the man could be considered a genius. Nolan knows how to tell thought provoking tales of the human condition while maintaining a firm grasp on the audience's attention. He makes movies in the spirit of the '70s and '80s: Entertaining stories rich with complex characters and multi-layered story lines. The world could do with more of Nolan's films and that's exactly what we're getting.

Before he tackles a third Bat-outing, (as rumored) Nolan will direct a sci-fi actioner that's set in today's world. Not much is known of it, except for hints Nolan dropped about it being extremely psychological. (A Chris Nolan film? Psychological? Get the hell outta' here!)

Leonardo DiCaprio is expected to play the lead role. The film is set to be released July of next year. Bring it.

"Public Enemies" Poster Mimics The Joker

I'm really looking forward to Michael Mann's "Public Enemies" remake. With Depp and Bale on board it almost seems too good to mess up, just as long as you remember Mann did "Collateral" and "Heat."

That said I can't help but recall "The Dark Knight" poster with Heath Ledger holding an automatic weapon. Hopefully the promotion will improve. Click to enlarge:

Star Trek sees "Blu"

Some of my favorite movies of the 1980s (+1991) are finally coming to Blueray. On May 12th, one week after J.J. Abrams' take on the universe, the original series Star Trek films will be released in fully restored form. Now these are movies that will look beautiful on blu-ray.

In this set you'll enjoy Star Treks 2, 3, 4 and 6. Oh... And 1 and 5 come with it too... I might watch those once or twice...

Enter the box art:

The Enterprise Snug as a Bug

A new picture of the Enterprise from Abrams' "Star Trek" has been released. A very quaint, relaxed little picture. I believe this is the first good look we've received of the top of the ship. Click to enlarge:

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

TRAILER - Terminator Salvation (Trailer 3)

Every "if," "but" and qualm I originally had with this movie starting a year ago is just about gone. Warner Brothers, again, shows they know how to market a movie-- Cutting trailers is their forte. That said, "Transformers: Rise of the Fallen" can go to hell as far as I'm concerned. "Terminator Salvation" is the real robot frenzy to see this summer. It looks gorgeous. It feels gritty. And if the movie has as much heart and power as this trailer below, it could be a Terminator movie for the ages.

The end result is staggering:

With my favorite Nine Inch Nails song blaring in the background and the cinematography blowing my mind I have to wonder what this movie is really going for here. "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" is largely considered one of the, if not the, greatest action film of all time. Not simply because of its explosions and action, but because of the characters and amount of beauty it put in to portraying the value of human life. McG may have had my nose turned up at this previously, but the film is looking great. Here's to salvation!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

And the 2009 Oscar Winners Are...

Better late than never, but with a show this bad who cares?

"Slumdog Millionaire"

Danny Boyle - "Slumdog Millionaire"

Sean Penn - "Milk"

Dustin Lance Black - "Milk"

"Man on Wire"

"Smile Pinki"

A. R. Rahman - "Slumdog Millionaire"

Anthony Dod Mantle - "Slumdog Millionaire"

A. R. Rahman (music), Gulzar (lyrics) - Song: "Jai Ho" from "Slumdog Millionaire"


Chris Dickens - "Slumdog Millionaire"

Kate Winslet - "The Reader"

Resul Pookutty, Richard Pryke, Ian Tapp - "Slumdog Millionaire"

Richard King - "The Dark Knight"

Simon Beaufoy - "Slumdog Millionaire"

Penélope Cruz - "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"

"La Maison En Petits Cubes"


Heath Ledger - "The Dark Knight"

Donald Graham Burt, Victor J. Zolfo - "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button "

Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton, Craig Barron - "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button "

Greg Cannom - "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"

Andrew Stanton - "WALL-E"

The Duchess - "Michael O'Connor"

I'm not sure what the world is coming to when Penélope Cruz wins an Oscar and "The Curious Case of Benjamen Button" owns 'oscar worthy' special effects, but I do know a piss-poor awards show when I see one. Amusing how the Oscars are hailed as the celebration of the year's best films and, yet, I saw so few of them in their deserving categories-- Let alone the few that were actually win.

While I can understand why "Benjamin Button" would win make-up, was I the only one who saw the abstract designs in "Hellboy II" caked on top of performers? And forgive me if I believe an 18-wheeler flipping over or an armored man breaking the sound barrier is more impressive than aging Brad Pitt; I simply respect real special effects.

Though I've yet to see it, I have no doubt "Slumdog Millionaire" is great film. I knew from the beginning it would win best picture because it's the perfect Oscar bait candidate. (And frankly... All the other movies in that same category weren't that great.) Outside that it does look like it has heart. While I'm not sure if Boyle deserved the trophy 'yet', he is a gifted, passionate director. I'll speak more on the film when I actually see it.

"The Reader" was an overtly pretentious, mind-numbing exercise in sexuality. Something I could receive more beauty out of if I just watched porn. I suppose Kate Winslet was deserving of her award, but the fact the academy nominated the movie for best picture is rather embarrassing. And lets not forget "Milk."

The Academy's big orgasm to gays and lesbos didn't win best picture-- And rightfully so. Like "Brokeback Mountain" before it the film boasted little artistic structure and was nothing more than another pro-gay sign held by a decaying, AIDs ridden child upset that daddy didn't accept him years before. I have no problem with movies about gays, pro-gays...etc... But it would be nice if a good one was made. You know, one that actually makes a good argument and wasn't just another Oscar baiting tool? Maybe one day. If that day comes the Oscars probably won't nominate it because it'll actually be a decent flick.

With that said, the Academy couldn't look past the fact that their gay-marriage proposition was denied. So instead of awarding the best actor of 2008 for his performance in "The Wrestler," Sean Penn received an undeserved win because he, and most at the ceremony, are actually much bigger sore losers than they let known when they're snubbed a trophy. Mickey Rourke, I am sorry. You deserved it. You were, without a shadow of the doubt, the very best man on screen last year.

"Lets wind the clocks back..." Does anyone remember when "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "Back to the Future" and "Jaws" were nominated for best picture? How about when bad ass, heartfelt movies such as "Rocky" and "The Godfather" won best picture? The academy has lost their edge concerning classic film making. "The indie-er the better," is not the case. The days of truly great pictures being made and respected appears to be a thing of the past.

Perhaps all these old men who jack each other off to period pieces, homo-erotic sentiment and snail paced "dramas" (a word that is suppose to stand for "excitement" and "emotion") will pass on and a new foundation of members can award the movies that deserve praise. (Yeah, right.) "The Wrestler," "The Dark Knight," "Wall-E"-- All were movies that gave the academy a chance to reform. They were 2008's greats. The boat has sailed. I'd say "better luck next year," but who am I kidding?

Poll - Which Year of Movies Did You Like More?

The hell? I've never had a tie, so I don't know what to say... Welp. It was a tie! Enjoy the so-called results.

2008 - 3 Votes (50%)

2007 - 3 Votes (50%)

Ok... I guess I'll construct something worth more people's time...

"Arrested Development's" Development

First, I want to confirm that Michael Cera's dumb ass has finally decided to return as the son of Michael Bluth. The actor was holding out and, seemingly, stalling the production of the film. It appears hes had a change of heart-- Not that I would have missed the guy had he decided to not do the film. Although I suppose it would've been difficult to write him out.

Meanwhile, Mitch Hurwitz, creator of the comedy that was too good for television, a fact known because it was canceled, (I'm serious, that's how you can always tell) gave a brief update on the film. Apparently, for the first time ever, he and his writers are feeling the pressure of creating a story with these abstract characters:

"Here's what's going on with the movie: Everyone goes off and has careers and that kind of thing, so it's been a little challenging to schedule everybody together, but everyone who has agreed to make this movie has agreed to make this movie, and we're going to make the movie. I haven't written it yet, so I'll be accepting pitches. We're determined to do this.

It was a great joy and privilege, all kidding aside, to do a show that took risks and with such a wonderful cast and wonderful writers," he continued. "For us, it's irresistible. Here's an interesting thing about it. When we did the show, one of the things that really made it work is that we didn't hold ourselves up to any standard. We got a lot of positive critical recommendations, but we even kind of ignored those and just did what was funny to us, and kind of remained the underdog in a great way. It was very clear early on that we weren't going to be a big hit, so it really was a labor of love. Now suddenly, there is a bar to hit. I think the key to this is once we get as many pieces as we're going to, which appears we have, we'll just dive in and have fun and see if we can create the same thing. But we're excited about it."

Not yet written? It sounds like the final cut of this movie is still way off. None-the-less, fans of the show, like myself, are at least excited that its been green lit. I look forward to both closure and the idea it might spawn an expanded franchise. Good luck Mitch.

More on "Cloverfield"

What is up with my random hiatus? I come, I go, I come, I go. I don't know. I'll just update when I feel like it.

In recent news J.J. Abrams spoke about the future of "Cloverfield."

"We're actually working on an idea right now. The key obviously at doing any kind of sequel, certainly this film included, is that it better not be a business decision. If you're going to do something, it should be because you're really inspired to do it. It doesn't really have to mean anything, doesn't mean it will work, but it means we did it because we cared, not because we thought we could get the bucks. We have an idea that we thought was pretty cool that we're playing with, which means there will be something that's connected to 'Cloverfield,' but I hope it happens sooner than later because the idea is pretty sweet."

"Connected" to "Cloverfield?" Well, that sounds slightly more original than saying 'sequel to "Cloverfield."' I'm glad Abrams wants this to happen because it seems like a cool idea vs. sequel = money. Which it does, but I trust Abrams' words behind the project.

Loved the first movie. I don't think it needs a sequel, but I'm not going to oppose one. Bring it.