Monthly Archives: January 2008

Attention Mysties! MST3k: The Movie on DVD!!!

Finally the feature film from the Mystery Science Theater 3000 crew is going to be rereleased on DVD on May 6th of this great year. This title has been one of the hardest to attain online unless (until now) you have large wads of cash. I’m pre-ordering it now, and at a pre-order price of $13.99 that is amazing. This is truly a great day in the history of DVD release date announcements. I have no need for a VHS player when I get this baby, I’m so excited.

Also, Joel Hodgson’s newest MST3k-esque project has its first episode on DVD and I plan on ordering that as well. Go to the website and watch the preview, it looks terrific!

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under DVD, Movie News, MST3k

Review: Cloverfield

Hollywood’s hottest producer and director of the moment is “Lost” creator J.J. Abrams, and after month’s of immense secrecy, his newest film, “Cloverfield,” has been released. The film, directed by Matt Reeves (who cocreated the acclaimed series “Felicity” with Abrams), isn’t perfect, but is a sufficiently refreshing horror/sci-fi/thriller piece that is just guaranteed entertainment. American audiences haven’t seen a really good monster movie in a while, and “Cloverfield” is surprisingly rejuvenating.

Like most films in its genre, “Cloverfield” has a very simple plot. During a going-away party for Rob (Michael Stahl-David), the island of Manhattan is attacked by a huge aquatic creature. During the party, Rob has some issues with his best friend/love interest Beth (Odette Yustman), and this fight leads to guilt after the attack. The party ends, and the guests hurry to the streets – only to see Lady Liberty’s head hurling past them and the legs of a creature in the distance. While the entire population tries to leave the island, Rob stubbornly forces his friends Lily (Jessica Lucas), Marlena (Lizzy Caplan) and Hud (T.J. Miller) to come with him to save Beth, who seems to be stuck in her apartment.

It isn’t Shakespeare, but it sets up a very good thriller/monster movie storyline. The movie is truly terrifying – especially how infrequentley the monster is featured. Clocking in at about six minutes of real visual contact with the monster itself was an ingenious tool to create more fear in the film’s audience.

The movie is filmed on a handy-cam by Rob’s friend Hud, a technique that adds a lot of realism, but also a lot of nausea. A similar complaint was made about “The Blair Witch Project.” The use of the camera can very distracting at times, but the action and horror elements of the film are what should be more memorable.

Hud serves as an oddly comical narrator to the tale of these ill-fated people. He’s very personable, and his reactions to the gigantic monster are quite authentic. This adds a calming quality to a very scary movie.

Another strange element in the film is the amount of interest invested in the human characters. At the very beginning of the film, the characters don’t seem exactly interesting, but they truly redeem themselves as very humanistic people. The previously mentioned party that starts out the film really draws you in, and then when the attack occurs, it is completely unexpected.

However, the characters are remarkably likeable at this point, and one legitimately cares about what happens to them. The reuniting of Rob and Beth is a bit anti-climactic, but the sequences on the streets – especially in the subway – are exceptionally engrossing and quite satisfactory.

The monster itself is never named or described as any specific species, but it is quite scary. The design of the creature isn’t revolutionary, but is very well detailed and exhibits terrific creativity from the film’s visual effects department. The scariest part about this particular interloper is its babies. Yes, it has babies! They are as unforgiving as their mother. These creepy little spider-like spawn inexplicably fall from the larger monster and serve as an additional threat to the group of twentysomethings.

The filmmakers were very good at making sure that terror was around every corner, especially with the addition of the little bite-happy critters.

“Cloverfield” could have just been another over-hyped disaster film, but really comes out on top as a piece of cleverly created and pure entertainment. The movie has its problems, such as its appallingly fakesounding dialogue, predictability and the lack of raw talent from its stars. It isn’t going to be remembered as a masterpiece, but it is a timely genre film from two promising talents – Abrams and Reeves. Reeves isn’t a very famous director at this point, but “Cloverfield” should open all sorts of doors for him, and hopefully, we will see many different films from him in the future. Abrams is currently directing the extremely promising “Star Trek” reboot, due in December.

A “Cloverfield” sequel is inevitable after the immediate box office success, and hopefully, an equally fun and engaging movie can be made for audiences who rarely get to see a well-thought out Hollywood monster movie.

Grade: B+

Originally published in Framingham State College’s The Gatepost

3 Comments

Filed under Cloverfield, J.J. Abrams, Review, Star Trek

The Worst of 2007

I don’t really see bad movies, but the following ten movies were all either disappointing or just plain sucked. I had high hopes for a lot of the “movies” but I was just declined happiness.

10. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End – Unoriginal, I was waiting for it to end.

9. The Last Mimzy – Way too confusing for kids, let alone adults.

8. Rocket Science – The Sundance hit that got a lot of praise – I have no idea why…

7. Dan in Real Life – Steve Carell’s “feel-good” pile of crap.

6. Broken English – Slow and very hard to connect with.

5. Epic Movie – The team behind “Date Movie” find a way to outdo themselves…

4. Norbit – Disgusting (not in the good way) and just not funny. Also, the movie that killed Eddie Murphy’s chance at an Oscar.

3. Across the Universe – Totally disappointing, extremely annoying. Evan Rachel Wood gives the worst performance of the year.

2. Hairspray – They didn’t understand their subject matter and created a very adult-themed and awkward family film. Didn’t they think that the little kids seeing the movie would ask about “Negro Day?” This was easily the most annoying film of all time featuring a horrifyingly nightmarish John Travolta.

1. Spider-man 3 – This could have been a continuation of a great series, but it was just a joke. Raimi & Co. really just pulled this out of their asses and just laughed their way to the bank. From beginning to end, “Spider-man 3” is a total disaster giving some of the worst performances of all time. This movie will make you laugh in the most unintentional ways, and then it’ll just make you angry.

The movie I didn’t see but probably would have been on this list: “Wild Hogs”

4 Comments

Filed under Across the Universe, Best of list, spiderman

R.I.P. Heath Ledger





This is breaking news right now, it’s not even really on the internet yet. One of the greatest actors of our generation Heath Ledger was found dead in his NYC apartment. This is extremely upsetting as this was an actor who seemed to have a lot more to offer the acting world. He was a tremendous talent and showed a brilliant subtlety in each role. I can’t wait to see him in “The Dark Knight” but the film now has a very dark veil of sadness that will be hard to get over.

Right now there’s a lot of confusion over what could have killed him, the news says he was found by his maid covered in pills. You never know… I’m very disturbed about this and I’m very sorry for all his loved ones and his little baby. Rest in Peace Heath Ledger, you will be quite missed.

4 Comments

Filed under Dark Knight, Obituary

Oscar Nominations…

Here they are, the nominations for the 80th Annual Academy Awards. I gotta say I’m surprised by a lot of the noms… it seems the Academy wanted to represent the films that people never saw. I for one never saw “In The Valley Of Elah” and was quite surprised to see Tommy Lee Jones up for that film. Also: “Into the Wild” will be the hardest to see unless it gets a rerelease as its DVD release is a week after the show. I wish some of the more mainstream foreign films had been nominated, but good for the filmmakers who got nominated. I’m also kinda pissed that “Across the Universe” snuck in like a bad case of herpes.

Anyways, I’m very glad that “There Will Be Blood” and “No Country For Old Men” dominated the show with 8 nominations, and “Juno” is seeing the stars that it deserves. I would have loved to see Paul Dano get a nom for “There Will Be Blood.” That would have skyrocketed his career, but that’s alright. Hopefully we’ll get to see him in more roles like this and not in some Hollywood shlock that Oscar noms/winners tend to find themselves. Cate Blanchett got not one but TWO nominations which is pretty cool. Finally, Jason Reitman got the acknowledgement he deserved and that rocks.

Here they are:

Best Picture
There Will Be Blood
No Country For Old Men
Juno
Michael Clayton
Atonement

Best Director
Julian Schnabel – The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Joel Coen & Ethan Coen – No Country For Old Men
Paul Thomas Anderson – There Will Be Blood
Tony Gilroy – Michael Clayton
Jason Reitman – Juno

Best Actor
Tommy Lee Jones – In The Valley of Elah
Daniel Day Lewis – There Will Be Blood
Johnny Depp – Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
George Clooney – Michael Clayton
Viggo Mortensen – Eastern Promises

Best Actress
Cate Blanchett – Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Laura Linney – The Savages
Marion Cotillard – La Vie En Rose
Julie Christie – Away From Her
Ellen Page – Juno

Best Supporting Actor
Tom Wilkinson – Michael Clayton
Hal Holbrook – Into The Wild
Philip Seymour Hoffman – Charlie Wilson’s War
Javier Bardem – No Country for Old Men
Casey Affleck – Assassination of Jesse James…

Best Supporting Actress
Tilda Swinton – Michael Clayton
Saorsie Ronan – Atonement
Ruby Dee – American Gangster
Cate Blanchett – I’m Not There
Amy Ryan – Gone Baby Gone

Best Original Screenplay
Michael Clayton
Juno
Lars and the Real Girl
The Savages
Ratatouille

Best Adapted Screenplay
No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Atonement
Away From Her

Best Animated Film
Ratatouille
Surf’s Up
Persepolis

Best Foreign Film
12 – Russia
Beaufort – Israel
The Counterfeiters – Austria
Mongol – Kazakhstan
Katyn – Poland

Best Cinematography
The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford
Atonement
No Country for Old Men
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
There Will Be Blood

Best Editing
The Bourne Ultimatum
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Into The Wild
No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood

Best Art Direction
American Gangster
Atonement
The Golden Compass
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
There Will Be Blood

Best Costume Design
Across The Universe
Atonement
Elizabeth: The Golden Age
La Vie En Rose
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Best Makeup
La Vie En Rose
Norbit
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

Best Original Score
Atonement
The Kite Runner
Michael Clayton
Ratatouille
3:10 to Yuma

Best Original Song
August Rush – “Raise It Up”
Enchanted – “Happy Working Song”
Enchanted – “So Close”
Enchanted – “That’s How You Know”
Once – “Falling Slowly”

Best Sound
The Bourne Ultimatum
No Country for Old Men
Ratatouille
3:10 to Yuma
Transformers

Best Sound Editing
The Bourne Ultimatum
No Country for Old Men
Ratatouille
There Will Be Blood
Transformers

Best Visual Effects
The Golden Compass
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
Transformers

Best Documentary
No End In Sight
Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience
Sicko
Taxi to the Dark Side
War Dance

Best Documentary, Short Subjects
Freeheld
La Corona
Salim Baba
Sari’s Mother

Best Short Film, Animated
Même les pigeons vont au paradis
I Met The Walrus
Madame Tutli-Putli
Moya Iyubov
Peter & the Wolf

Best Short Film, Live Action
At Night
Il Supplente
Le Mozart des Pickpockets
Tanghi argentini
The Tonto Woman

Till the 24th, I’ll be staring at these noms… because I’m a film loser.

3 Comments

Filed under I'm Not There, Johnny Depp, Juno, oscars

Double Review: Hairspray/Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

The two big Hollywood musicals of the year were Adam Shankman’s family friendly remake of John Waters’ classic “Hairspray” and Tim Burton’s eerily fun film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s award winning “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” While the latter film was dead-on and brought chills of excitement and surprise, the first film was, well, just dead.

When it comes to film adaptations and remakes, the key to creating something worth watching is infusing the elements that made the source material great with a similar but unique flair. Tim Burton’s “Sweeney Todd” does this perfectly. The famed dark director is quite faithful to what fans loved about the musical but adds his own directorial signature from beginning to end.

The story is simple: Benjamin Barker, alias Sweeney Todd, (Johnny Depp) is a vengeful man who returns to London after many years to seek revenge on Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) who framed him in order to steal away Barker’s wife. When he returns he meets up with the pie making Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter), who brings him back into his career as a barber. Todd becomes quite popular as the new barber in town after beating street performer/salesman Pirelli (the inimitable and superbly cast Sacha Baron Cohen). When Todd starts his killing spree from the seat of his barber’s chair, he and Mrs. Lovett begin their business of killing and baking.

The film is delightfully sick and is just great entertainment. Burton’s style is seen from the very beginning with his trademark animated opening sequence. The rest of the film does feel a little bit too reminiscent of Burton’s previous films from Todd’s unquestionable resemblance to Edward Scissorhands (also played by Depp), from Helena Bonham Carter’s “Beetlejuice” hairdo, and from the setting (Todd’s shop looks like a refined version of the castle in “Scissorhands”). But Burton knows his subject matter, and he knows who its fans are and why they love the famous musical. It would just be nice to see another Burton film that isn’t so perfectly fitted towards his aesthetic (like he did with his best piece “Ed Wood”).

The star of the film is Johnny Depp, and he gives another memorable performance and creates a marvelous character that seems quite simple but has many complexities and layers. Todd’s character doesn’t really change through the course of the film but Depp’s charismatic portrayal is fun, scary, and inviting all in one. He takes what could be a very unlikable character and gives us an explosive assurance of his talent.

On the other side of the coin, Adam Shankman’s “Hairspray” just falls flat. From the very beginning of the film it was quite obvious that it wanted us to think that it was an important movie. Well, it’s not.

The story is of Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky), a young girl in the 1960s who loves music and dance but is unfortunately a bit heavier than the girls on her favorite TV program, “The Corny Collins Show.” She gets the chance to audition for the show and after a series of events involving her being noticed dancing with one of the “negroes”, she makes it on the show. The film has rich dark themes that originally made John Waters famous. Unfortunately Adam Shankman and his team just didn’t get it and the film suffered.

The makers of the film did not understand its subject matter at all. This is a movie being advertised as a family film and has many dark sides that just come off as inappropriate. It just seems that the film they wanted to make didn’t fit its material source. Even the recent successful “High School Musical” films have had at least appropriate, family friendly messages (albeit cheesy and nauseating). The original film turned into a quite popular and winning Broadway musical that seemed more fitting for the stage rather than in movie theaters. Broadway doesn’t always turn into great films and this is another example of what happens when the translation doesn’t work.

The performances are also mostly poor, and while the production has a few awkwardly funny scenes it really comes off as annoying. Especially irritating is the “performance” of John Travolta as Edna Turnblad, who just seems to be entertaining himself. His character sounds like she had once had a slight stroke and most of the time it’s hard to understand what she’s saying. Nikki Blonsky is undeniably adorable as the film’s heroine but she’s really the only performer in the film that has any kind of likeability.

In comparison, “Sweeney Todd” reaches high into the stratosphere of great Broadway adaptations whereas “Hairspray” wallows in the gutters. One film is perfect entertainment due to its expertly capable star and its accomplished director while the other is like an unending headache personified through a truly creepy performance by John Travolta and a poor performance from a director who has had made a career of flops (Shankman brought us the likes of “Cheaper By the Dozen 2” and the idiotic “The Pacifier).

“Hairspray” has seen all sorts of financial successes that “Sweeney Todd” may never see, but the latter film will be remembered as the better film. Both films proved that adapting a musical for the screen is an acquired skill, something that needs to be done appropriately and faithfully. What would have really sealed the deal on this whole comparison would be to see a blood stained Sweeney Todd angling his blade against a bovine John Travolta and just seeing the guts flying out. Hey Vincent Vega, how about a shave?

Grade:
Sweeney Todd: A-
Hairspray: D-

5 Comments

Filed under DVD, Johnny Depp, Review

"Star Trek" cast = perfection

I’ve been unsure of the casting of “Star Trek” so far, mostly because of the choice to cast Karl Urban as Leonard “Bones” McCoy. Well I’ve completely changed my mind after seeing this blurb on JustJared featuring the cast at the “Cloverfield” premiere. They all look terrific, and I can’t wait to see more out of what hopes to be a re-energizing boost to a dead series.

Here’s the image featuring Chris Pine (Kirk), Zoe Saldana (Uhura), Zachary Quinto (Spock), Karl Urban (Bones), John Cho (Sulu), and Anton Yelchin (Pavel “Nuclear Wessels” Chekov):

1 Comment

Filed under Cloverfield, Star Trek