Archive for November, 2008

25 Nov 2008

Twilight

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Captivating and visually enticing, “Twilight” cements itself as one of the most culturally-relevant romances of the 21st century, with its lead actors delivering the most authentic and heartfelt on-screen romance since Jack and Rose in “Titanic.”

Photo courtesy of www.movieweb.com.

Photo courtesy of www.movieweb.com.

Based on the first book in the Twilight series written by Stephenie Meyer, “Twilight” follows 17-year-old Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart, “Into the Wild”) as she begins her new life in Forks, Wash.  Living with her father (Billy Burke, “Untraceable”) until her mother and stepfather find a new place to live, Bella learns that Forks is nothing like her old home in Phoenix.

As she moves in during the middle of the school semester, Bella quickly meets many new people who don’t understand why she doesn’t have a tan even though she came from Phoenix.  Everybody seems to love her, except for the group known as the Cullens, especially the brooding and mysterious Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”).

Curious to understand why Edward is so different from the rest of the people at school, Bella soon finds herself in a relationship she could have never imagined.

Every so often, a film comes along that redefines and revamps the idea of what a particular genre should be like.  In 2001, “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” re-energized the seemingly dead fantasy genre. In 2006, “The Departed” made the films about organized crime cool again. In 2008, “Twilight” has done what only “Titanic” and “The Notebook” have been able to do throughout the past 15 years; break Hollywood norms and become a truly moving romance for the ages.

While Meyer may have started the phenomena, director Catherine Hardwicke has created a beautiful film adaptation that does not stand in the book’s shadow.  With undeniable chemistry between Bella and Edward, in addition to Edward’s unusual vampire origins, it is easy to see how the franchise has garnered millions of fans over the past few years. “Twilight” may be a vampire film, but at heart it is an undying (pun intended) story of love that everyone on earth would be lucky to take part in.

That being said, the success of the film relied solely on the believability of the romance between the two teens.  Both Stewart and Pattinson create such vulnerable and likable characters that it is impossible not to believe they are meant for each other.  Only kissing twice during the entire movie, it is their use of body language and expressions that display their true emotions.

Though nothing is more beautiful than a true love story, the film’s jaw-dropping backdrop takes viewers deep into the film’s fantasy world. Between the shots of the endless fog-covered forests and thrilling baseball sequence, an Oscar nomination for best cinematography seems likely.

Aside from all of its accomplishments, there are the few expected flaws. First, Meyer’s vampires hardly fit the mold of traditional Hollywood vampires, which takes some time to get used to for those not familiar with the books.  Also, on its small budget, the special effects and action sequences look fit for a B-rate movie. And, finally, since the majority of the film concentrates on Bella and Edward’s relationship, the villains hardly get any screen time and almost no character development.

While it’s unlikely to win over the manliest of ego-driven males, “Twilight” is the perfect setup for what could turn out to be one of the greatest romantic cinematic journeys of our generation.

‘Twilight’
Release Date: November 21
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Cam Gigandet
Genre: Romance, Drama, Thriller
Rating: PG-13 for some violence and a scene of sensuality.
Grade: B+

18 Nov 2008

Quantum of Solace

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Courtesy of Movieweb.com

Courtesy of Movieweb.com

Famous for thwarting the plans of humanity’s most insidious villains for 45 years, it’s hard to believe that in Bond’s 22nd mission, the legacy of the most endearing spy meets its demise at the hands of three Hollywood screenwriters.

As the first direct sequel in the series, “Quantum of Solace” picks up literally hours after the end of “Casino Royale.”  Bond (Daniel Craig, “The Golden Compass”) has captured Mr. White, (Jesper Christensen, “Casino Royale”) and is racing back to MI-6 headquarters.  At this time, White is Bond’s only lead on the organization that blackmailed and ultimately brought Bond’s true love, Vesper, to her death.

Only moments after arriving, a mole inside MI-6 helps White escape and leads Bond to Haiti where he quickly meets Camille (Olga Kurylenko, “Max Payne”), a woman with her own intentions for the leader of the group Bond is searching for.

Together, they must now try and stop one of the top men in the organization, Dominic Greene, (Mathieu Amalric, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”) from taking control of one of South America’s most valuable natural resources.

Let’s get something straight. I have never been a fan of the Daniel Craig Bond.  I grew up loving the witty and sly Pierce Brosnan Bond, who always got himself involved in some of the most outlandish situations possible.

That being said, while I don’t care for the new gruff and reckless attitude Craig brings to the character, I still thought “Casino Royale”was an exciting action/spy movie.  Therein lies the problem with “Quantum of Solace.”  Not only is the once charming Bond turned into a careless madman bent on revenge, but the frenetically shot action sequences cause more headaches than they do thrills.

In a time where the Knight is dark and gritty action guys are Bourne, the worst possible thing Hollywood could do is turn the world’s classiest spy to the dark side.

Thanks to the help of screenwriters Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, that is exactly what has happened.  With an unnecessary overly complex plot, the three, with help from newbie action director Marc Forster (“The Kite Runner”), create an experience that is confusing, aggravating and, most importantly, not fun.

Though 30 minutes shorter than its predecessor, “Solace”seems to drag on just as long.  Usually, the Bond baddies or babes help pass the time by throwing James into unexpected situations, but again, this is not the case.

Amalric is possibly the least threatening villain in the history of 007.  His ultimate moment of shame comes when fighting James one on one.  Trying to kill Bond by violently swinging an axe at him, Greene releases sounds that resemble the mating calls of African Mangabey monkeys.

Honey Ryder, Pussy Galore and Christmas Jones are just a few of the unforgettable names that made being a Bond girl so special.  Once again, Haggis and crew ruin the spirit by creating a character simply named Camille.  While Kurylenko does have the looks, James never attempts to bed the fair maiden, a 007 first.

To make matters even worse, the latest Bond movie features no signature catch phrases, no gadgets and quite possibly the worst opening credits song ever recorded.

Something wrong, horribly wrong, has happened to arguably the most iconic cinematic character of all time.

‘Quantum of Solace’
Release Date: Nov. 14
Director: Marc Forster
Starring: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric and Judi Dench
Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller
Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence and action.
Grade: D+

11 Nov 2008

Rachel Getting Married

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In one of his most mature outings to date, Jonathan Demme (“The Manchurian Candidate”) creates a raw and powerful look at the struggle for acceptance and forgiveness in “Rachel Getting Married.”

Courtesy of MovieWeb.com

Courtesy of MovieWeb.com

After just completing her most recent stint in rehab, Kym (Anne Hathaway, “Get Smart”) is returning home for her sister Rachel’s (Rosemarie Dewitt, “Cinderella Man”) wedding.  While at first her return is warmly welcomed and embraced, it isn’t long until Kym’s selfish and unstable mannerisms begin to raise tensions among the family.

Unanimously accepted as one of the happiest days of a person’s life, weddings are a celebration of two people’s jump into creating a future together.  Hollywood is famous for glamorizing the process of the ceremony in such romantic comedies as “My Best Friend’s Wedding”and “The Wedding Planner.”

Last year, director Noah Baumbach took a different approach to the subject though and created “Margot at the Wedding.”  Filled with dark humor and an overwhelming role played by Nicole Kidman, the film has little to do with a wedding, but primarily on the struggling relationships of the characters.

In similar fashion, “Rachel Getting Married”is set around a wedding, but based upon a family’s endeavor to forgive and connect with its most detached member.  Never forcing a hidden message, the film simply shows the audience the events that take place around Rachel’s wedding.

In her most consuming role to date, Hathaway creates a conflicted character that screams Oscar. When the film begins, Kym is a selfish brat who is only good for causing trouble.  As time goes by, Kym and Rachel continually fight to understand each other, Kym realizes how much pain she has inflicted on the ones she loves.  The transformation is truly heartbreaking and offers one of the best cinematic translations of a person in the stages of rehabilitation.

Counteracting Hathaway in an extremely underappreciated role is Dewitt as Rachel.  Always overwhelmed, Rachel, through the help of her friends and father, is somehow able to manage her wedding while also finding a way to help her sister.

Using many non-traditional elements, Demme is able to transport the audience into the film itself.  Shot using handheld cameras, the shaky cinematography makes viewers feel as if they are filming the chaos themselves.  Also, instead of mixing the score after the movie is done, Demme had the film’s wedding band/performers create the score as the film played out.

Though hardly a joyous film, “Rachel Getting Married”is a celebration of the art of independent filming.

‘Rachel Getting Married’
Release Date: October 3
Director: Jonathan Demme
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie Dewitt, and Debra Winger
Genre: Drama
Rating: R for language and brief sexuality.
Grade: B

04 Nov 2008

Winter’s heavy hitters

No Comments Features, Published Work

Notable leading men make this season’s movie releases chillingly unforgettable.

November

14:

“Quantum of Solace”
Starring: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko and Mathieu Amalric
Description: Infamous spy James Bond embarks on another dangerous mission in order to keep an enemy from taking control of the nation’s water supply. After the death of his lover, the mission becomes personal.
Rating: PG-13
See it if you liked: “Casino Royale”and “The Bourne Ultimatum”
Read more

04 Nov 2008

Zach and Miri Make a Porno

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Outrageously vulgar and proud of it, “Zack and Miri Make a Porno”epitomizes the essence of director Kevin Smith, even with its clichéd conclusion.

Zack (Seth Rogen, “Pineapple Express”) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks, “W.”) are two best friends that are unable to pay their utility bills.  When their paycheck comes, they lack the common sense to pay off their debts and instead buy sex toys.  At their latest high school reunion, Miri reunites with her old crush only to learn that he has become a gay porn star.  With the future looking grim and only a small fire in a barrel to heat their house, the lifelong pals decide that drastic times call for drastic measures; in their case, turn a profit from making a porno.

Director, writer and actor Kevin Smith has made quite a career for himself.  With the creation of characters Jay and Silent Bob in the first “Clerks,”he started a franchise known for its raunchy dialogue and inappropriate scenarios.  Many thought his scene involving a bit of bestiality in “Clerks II”was his most politically incorrect contribution to cinema.  Lo and behold, Smith outdoes himself once again by exposing audiences to the “shitty”consequences of filming an anal sex scene below the actors.

Besides the bout of anal leakage, Smith fills the film with dozens of raunchy one-liners, but surprisingly adds a heart to all the filth.  While his always entertaining graphic dialogue works, his juvenility in creating an original and unpredictable romance ultimately keeps this film from becoming his masterpiece.  Instead of focusing on finishing the production of “Swallow my Cockachino”in the last half hour of the film, viewers get to witness the heartwarming though clichéd start of two friends taking their relationship to the next level.

In the most obvious yet best casting choice of the year, Rogen owns the screen as the morally deprived Zack.   Looking like your average bum off the street, Rogen turns a deviant cappuccino barista into a very likeable guy.  Always trying to make the best of things, he is able to convincingly compare porno to a Coke or Pepsi – except with a dick in them.

In her third movie in a month, Banks steps out of her comfort zone by creating a fearless Miri.  Walking a thin line between desperate and skank, her interaction between her and her high school crush is one of the film’s best moments.

And of course, no Silent Bob film would be complete without Jason “Jay”Mewes (“Clerks II”).  As the random guy off the street who can get a boner in a matter of seconds with no visual help, he gives fans a glimpse of what he has been hiding all those years under those baggy pants.

Add in a couple real life porn stars and Justin Long in his best cameo ever as a raging bear homosexual in love with Superman (Brandon Routh, “Superman Returns”) and you have one of the greatest ensembles of the year.

While hardly suitable for anyone who hasn’t seen a real porno before, “Zack and Miri Make a Porno”is one of the few great adult comedies not part of the Apatow collection.

‘Zack and Miri Make a Porno’
Release Date: Oct. 31
Director: Kevin Smith
Starring: Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Rating: R for strong crude sexual content including graphic nudity and pervasive language.
Grade: B