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Archive for June, 2010

Knight and Day

Directed by James Mangold

That was a lot of fun. I could just leave it at that, but I won’t. Mainly because I think this movie (sadly) needs some defending.

Everyone needs to get over Tom Cruise. Yes, the man is probably crazy, but we all are in our own eccentric ways. The thing is, we aren’t all on a television channel (somewhere in the world) 24 hours a day. The worst thing Cruise ever did was tell people that they shouldn’t use antidepressants, and yes, that is certainly way out of his jurisdiction. He has no right to pass judgment on people, just as they have no right to pass judgment on him. For God’s sake we’re a culture that practically canonized a man like Frank Sinatra, a man with known connections to the MAFIA, yet still we hate Tom Cruise. Why? Sadly I think it has more to do with what he believes in than anything in particular that he’s done. Scientology is a crazy ass religion, but then again, they all are. If you have the right to believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, than let Tom Cruise have his Aliens. It’s fair game. And guess what? Once you get past all that, you can’t help but realize that Tom Cruise is a Movie Star with a capital MS. The man has enough charisma to start his own religion and guarantee about a million followers. He’s damn entertaining and I can’t help but think that anyone who says differently just can’t get over his personal life to reconcile the fact that Cruise is a talented man. And that’s a shame.

Cameron Diaz. Oh Cameron Diaz. I used to love you. “The Mask”, “There’s Something About Mary”, you were so promising… okay, well actually, you were just so hot. But for the past few years I have slowly cooled off of you. Then you go and actually act again. “Knight and Day” is easily her best role since (the classic) “There’s Something About Mary” and I can confidently say that Diaz not only refrains from messing up the film, she actually improves it as well. The relationship between her and Cruise is just loads of fun. In fact, the entire film is just loads of fun. James Mangold makes sure that the film never takes itself too seriously or gets in the way of itself. The closest film I can compare it to is “Charade”. And while “Knight and Day” is not quite as good as that classic, it’s still favourable that I can make the comparison at all. The humor of the film is spot on, the action is intense, and the banter is well written. Quite simply put, the film just gels. (And any time I get to see Peter Sarsgaard in a film, it makes me happy. Take note, Sarsgaard is only a few roles away from something spectacular, even if he is sort of wasted in this particular role.)

The bottom line is, if you’re avoiding this film simply because it has Tom Cruise in it, please give it a chance. I think you’ll be surprised by how much you enjoy it. Tom Cruise has been entertaining us for well over twenty years, and whether you believe it or not, he’s still got it. Here’s to twenty more.

Trailer:

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Craig survived his weekend in the Bahamas and that’s good news for everyone. Especially those of us who like to laugh. He spent almost the entirety of his show last night talking about his time in the Bahamas and (as always) had quite a few interesting things to say. And just take a look at those pictures of him and the sharks. If that had been me, I don’t care innocent they might seem, I’d be going fetal in the middle of sea.

And yes Sean Connery, Asian hookers are amazing to think about.

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Religulous

Directed by Larry Charles

Many have said it before, faith is a funny thing. Like “The Last House on the Left”, “Religulous” is a rather difficult movie to discuss, simply because (as this documentary points out again and again) arguments about religion are some the most dangerous things in the world. Sure, most people can keep a level head, realizing the contradictory nature and impossible conundrums raised by their beliefs, but a startling number of people are far too willing to become violent to defend what they believe. It’s truly frightening. In fact, despite how witty Bill Maher often comes across in the film (and at times, sleazy too) I ended up being more terrified by the film than I was entertained by it.

If faith is a funny thing, religion is a scary thing. I’m pretty much of the same mind-set as Bill Maher, I preach “Doubt.” Would I like to believe that there’s a greater purpose to everything? Sure, of course I would. Who wouldn’t? I’d feel safer. (And there in lies the true power of all world religions, we’re just too scared not to believe in them.) But the truth is, there is absolutely no way that I believe any world religion has it right. It’s just not feasible. If, if, there is a greater power at work in our world, we sure as hell don’t have the resources or the capabilities to understand it. All religions take and steal from each other’s stories (but of course, never admitting to it) so much that there is simply no way, one religion could be the true way. Why? Because at their heart, they’re all the same damn story. They preach the same morales. They want to make the world a better place. But the problem is, they want all the credit it for it on their own. So Christianity has to be the path of the light. And there can be no truer path than the path of Islam, and so on and so forth, until we allĀ  just kill ourselves. And that, that’ll show us .

And of course, even if we somehow manage to avoid the heat seeking missile that is a religious war destroying all of mankind, in the meanwhile, we have churches covering up acts of pedophilia, or executions of artists for questioning or representing religious figures. In short, for all the good that world religion does (and it does do some) I worry that it causes more harm than anything else. We should all be able to simply put faith in each other and make this life we’re living right now, a deserving one. And the after life? I think we’re all going to be too dead, to really let it bother us.

Shit… this was supposed to be a review for “Religulous” wasn’t it? Okay then… it was pretty good. It could have been funnier, and it could have been more informative. As clearly intelligent of a man as Bill Maher is, I found that he refrained from asking the more thought-provoking questions (though he did ask some) and was simply always looking for a way to insult whomever he was talking to. Sometimes the insults worked, sometimes they just come across as juvenile. But despite the shortcomings of the film, I give Maher (and Larry Charles who appears to have shot most of this film by himself) all the credit in the world for having the guts and the balls to make this documentary. Religious people can be a scary bunch, and during a few of these interviews, I know that I would not have been feeling particularly safe. The message of the film is certainly worth it though, if Global Warming in an Inconvenient Truth, than World Religion is becoming an Inconvenient Fairy Tale.

And I swear, this isn’t just a hate filled rant on religion because I had to go to Catholic School for most of my life. (Though that’s certainly where these ideas began to foster.)

Trailer:

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Toy Story 2

Directed by John Lasseter

I figured that since I don’t remember a single moment from this film, I should probably go back and watch it over again. In almost every story or critique I have ever read on the “Toy Story” films, it is nearly a unanimous decision that this film is the best of the series. After watching the film again, I’ve found it to be certainly very endearing and creative, but also probably the weakest.

From what I can remember of the first film (and considering that I just watched both 2 and 3, I figure my re-watching of the original is only days away) the creators of “Toy Story 2” basically took the story of the first film and flipped it on its head. So instead of Woody rescuing Buzz, Buzz comes to the rescue of Woody. And instead of learning about the lineage of Buzz Lightyear, we learn about where Woody comes from. It’s a basic enough idea, but the fact that it’s such a rehash of the first film somewhat diminishes this sequel in my eyes. The creators certainly do their all with the premise, creating a number of funny and touching moments, but I can’t help but think that they could have done so much more with a completely new and original premise. (Something that “Toy Story 3” ended up doing a better job with.) This film also introduced Jessie who is probably my least favourite of all the toys. I’m sorry I just can’t stand listening to Joan Cusack’s voice for an hour and a half. She does an admirable job as a cowgirl, (interesting note, my spell check wants me to change the word “cowgirl” to “showgirl”… my computer is sexist) but my ears can only take so much shrieking. However, it also introduced Bullseye so that sorta makes it a wash. Prospector Pete is frustratingly similar to Lotso in “Toy Story 3” (which makes me appreciate the writing in 3 a little bit less) but he’s not nearly as intriguing of a character as that huggable bear is. The best scene probably comes from the toys adventure to try and cross a rather busy intersection. It’s a very broad scene comically speaking, but it’s also fantastically directed.

In the end, “Toy Story 2” is a very well made and entertaining animated film. It’s fun to watch and I can’t imagine it disappointing anybody, let alone children. But as it stands, it’s still the weakest of an (admittedly) fantastic franchise if only because it’s no where near as emotionally satisfying at the other two.

Trailer:

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Directed by Dennis Iliadis

This is a very hard film to talk about. On one hand you have a bunch of surprisingly talented actors (Tony Goldwyn, Aaron Paul – Jessie from “Breaking Bad” for those who don’t know – and the always fantastic in everything he’s in, be it for one line or less, Garret Dillahunt) and on the other hand you have a film that deals heavily with the brutal rape of a seventeen year old girl with about the tact of a sledgehammer. “The Last House on the Left” is a horror film, first and foremost, so to expect it to address that subject with anything more than using it at shock value, would be, I suppose, to expect too much. I find rape a very hard thing to watch in films, but at the same time it troubles me that I can pay so little care towards the brutal murder of other characters in a film (this one included) and yet almost always be offended by rape. Both are horrible crimes and it’s hard to argue which one is worse than the other (if indeed, either one can be considered worse). I suppose it’s mainly because I’m afraid the filmmakers are using rape (as they use most sex in films) to titillate its male viewers, more so than disgust. But I suppose violence is used to do just that as well is films like this. (And the circle goes on and on and on…)

So dropping the heavy stuff, how exactly is “The Last House on the Left” as a horror film? Pretty effective over all. As I mentioned before, the acting is all pretty top-notch, especially from Dillahunt (and later on Goldwyn). Sara Paxton also turns in an intriguing performance as the aforementioned seventeen year old girl. The horror is effective and doesn’t attempt to lower itself to “mock scares,” it lets its over the top and disturbing violence do all of its work for it. And make no mistake, no one dies easy in this film. Almost every death is slow, drawn out, and disturbing as all hell. It’s a vicious, vicious film, a “horror” film in the sense that we are not used to seeing. It’s sort of like “Funny Games” if you upped the body count and the gore, and removed all of the artistic nuances that makes “Funny Games” so great. But that isn’t to say that “LHOTL” isn’t a decent horror film, it is. Especially if you can sit through it. My only real criticism of the film is of the characters played by Tony Goldwyn and Monica Potter. They both do an admirable job with what is given to them, but if more time had been spent at the beginning of the film developing their characters a bit, it would have benefitted the movie overall. (Especially as far as catharsis goes, which this film really needs.)

If anything, the film shows that at one point, Wes Craven was one crazy mother fucker. Coming up with ideas like this one. I’ve never seen his original, so I can’t compare the two, but if it is anything like this remake, I can only imagine how audiences in the 70’s reacted. I’m hoping that with “Scream 4” he’s going to redeem himself a bit for his past decade or so of work (though I did appreciate parts of “Red Eye”) but I’m not holding my breath.

Trailer:

I should also note that the trailer is very spoiler heavy for anyone actually planning on watching the film.

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So Craig Ferguson was off to the Bahamas this weekend. To swim with sharks. (Because he’s delicious.) And this is what he had to say about it on Friday night.

I’ve never watched Shark Week before, but with Craig Ferguson hosting it this year, how can I not?

And just for your information, when Craig mentioned the possibility of Shark Repellent my head almost exploded. He was “this” close to referencing the “Batman” T.V. show of the 1960’s with that remark. If Craig Ferguson and Batman ever meet, I’d die (at that moment) a happy man.

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Toy Story 3

Directed by Lee Unkrich

About a year ago I probably would have never gone to see this film. Ever since hitting the double digits age wise (i.e. 10… yeah, I know, so old) I threw away my childish things. And by childish things, I basically just mean cartoons. As soon as I started watching R rated movies (which was only a little bit after the age of 10) I thought to myself “why the heck would I ever go back to watching films that are composed of nothing more than gags and juvenile humour.” Okay, so that’s probably not what I thought to myself when I was 10. I probably thought something more along the lines of, “it sure is cool to watch that guy bleed so much when he gets shot. And did he just say the F-word? What’s that woman taking off her top for… oh. Well now, I’m definitely never watching a cartoon again.” Regardless of my exact thought process, cartoons were put on the back-burner with me for a long, long time. And even when I would venture off and give one a chance, they’d almost always disappoint me. “Finding Nemo”, “Ratatouille”, “Wall-E” the list goes on. They never really stood out to me. Then I saw “Up” last summer and something changed. It was the first cartoon I had seen that actually moved me since I had been a young, young boy. It didn’t speak down to its audience, if anything it asked everyone to look up and to meet each other in the sky. It was a work of art. And since then, there have been a number of very well received (and most of them, deservingly so) “children’s” films. “How to Train Your Dragon”, from a few months ago, is probably still one of the top films of the year so far. And now enter summer, which means yet another Pixar film, but this time it’s something a little more familiar, “Toy Story 3”.

The original “Toy Story” is one of the last cartoons I ever enjoyed growing up. “Toy Story 2” came out when I was a little older and starting to disown the genre, so even though I saw it, to this day I barely remember any part of it. But “Toy Story” I remember. I think I might have seen the movie twice in theatres. I also remember going to Euro-Disney and eating at the “Pizza Planet” restaurant that they had built there with Buzz Lightyear all over the place. So even though I might not remember the sequel, the franchise holds somewhat of a special place in my heart. This caused me to both anticipate and dread thisĀ  sequel’s release. Considering the roll children’s films have been on for the past year, I really shouldn’t have worried so much.

Is “Toy Story 3” the best film of the year? No. It’s not even the best animated one (“How to Train Your Dragon” still gets my vote) but it’s a very endearing film. I think there’s a very real chance that I am becoming less cynical the older I get, (cynicism, I believe, played a large part in me not enjoying animated films for the past decade) and watching Woody, Buzz, Rex, and pals come together for one more adventure struck a pretty emotional chord in me. I still think the movie could have been a little faster, had a few more jokes, and a slightly better ending, but most of the time, it was very fun to watch. The climax of the film, taking place in a garbage incinerator is particularly powerful and hardly even a word is spoken in that scene. (And since that was the greatest moment in the film to me, the denouement with Andy came across as slightly hokey.)

“Toy Story 3” is a film that everyone can enjoy and since that statement is coming out of the mouth (or typed out of the hands, whatever have you) of an admitted cynic, (maybe not as much as I once was, but I am still) you can take that to the bank.

Trailer:

P.S. I’m sorry, and this is purely that evil cynic in me talking, but throughout the entire film I did have one question. Namely, what the hell happened when Andy had to have some… shall we call it “alone time” at his more advanced age in this film? Considering how the toys seem to study and analyze his every decision, when Andy started doing that, it must have scared the hell out of them… Especially his Woody. Okay that one was too easy and juvenile… oh my God, I could write an awesome kid’s movie!

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