Category Archives: Movies

MOVIE NEWS: The Oscar Nominations Are In! What a Boring, Safe, Crop…

The Oscars have been announced and I can without a doubt tell you, I don’t care. Sure, I’m doing the obligatory blog post about it. I may try and do a commentary on this, but this year’s Oscar campaign was so lackluster and nothing on this list is either outrageously good or bad, just middle of the road safe choices.  I will say are they kidding me? Frost/Nixon as Best Picture? That movie was barely watchable, I turned the screener off 40 minutes into it and would have walked out of the theater if I saw it there. The problem is, yes, I know Frank Langella wasn’t trying to “impersonate” Nixon, but come-on, couldn’t they have at least tried to hire someone who resembled him, just a LITTLE bit? The casting was HORRIBLE, and I don’t get why people are praising his performance.

The same goes for Anne Hathaway, I love her, but she’s annoying as hell in Rachel Getting Married – and again, I realize that’s the point of her character and the movie. It felt like being trapped at your best friend’s house and being forced to sit through their crappy, grainy, poorly shot wedding video. Ok, I was wrong, I can work up some snark about this year’s nominations. So I’ll post that this weekend.  For now here’s the list, comment if you wan.

BEST PICTURE

  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Frost/Nixon
  • Milk
  • The Reader
  • Slumdog Millionaire

Continue reading MOVIE NEWS: The Oscar Nominations Are In! What a Boring, Safe, Crop…

Movies: My Bloody Valentine 2009: A Commentary on 3-D vs 2-D

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He’s gonna break your heart.

Several people have already written some excellent reviews of this movie for EclipseMagazine so this is going to be mostly a commentary on the movie that will be mainly focused on the 3-D version vs the 2-D version with some comparisons to the 1981 My Bloody Valentine. Some of the content will be of a reviewer’s nature however.

I know that with the advances in the way a 3:D movie is formatted – to quote Jensen Ackles ‘this isn’t your grandma’s 3-D – and that the movie industry is ready to embrace this new technology, I am going to be right up front about this, having seen both versions of the new, updated My Bloody Valentine movie I have to say that I personally think that the 2-D version is better than the 3-D version when it comes to telling the story and seeing how good a job the actors really did in this movie. I also know that the executives at Lionsgate, the producers of the movie and the actors are all gung ho about the 3-D special effects for My Bloody Valentine. However to me as a viewer, no matter how technologically advanced and super whiz-bang as they are in this movie the 3-D aspect  just -and no pun intended- strips the heart out of the story and reduces the movie to nothing more than a series of fancy visual effects,

This is not to say I didn’t have an appreciation of the new 3-D technology employed in the 3-D version of My Bloody Valentine and I certainly like the new style of 3-D glasses (and yes I kept mine because I consider them paid for with the ticket price). I thought the technology was awesome and visually stunning. I jumped and cringed at all right moments. I appreciated how the 3-D effect brought out textures and depth to the scenes and especially to the visual presence of the actors on screen.

Continue reading Movies: My Bloody Valentine 2009: A Commentary on 3-D vs 2-D

MOVIE REVIEW: My Bloody Valentine 3D — Pleasantly surprised

The tag line for My Bloody Valentine: 3D proclaims: Nothing says date-movie like a 3D ride to hell. You really have to hand it to a horror/slasher film that has the guts to bill itself as a date movie! At least that’s one way to get more ladies into the theater. The other is to hire the handsome and charismatic Jensen Ackles as one of your stars. Good looks aside, ask any fan of The CW’s cult hit Supernatural and they will quickly expound this man’s acting talents as well. And we must not forget about Kerr Smith who provides a double dose of the good looks plus acting ability of his own. If the boyfriends attending this date movie can enjoy Jaime (King) and Betsy (Rue), then the girlfriends can certainly enjoy Ackles and Smith!

Let’s be very clear, I do not consider myself a great fan of horror movies, especially the ‘slashers’ whose sole purpose is to dole out as much blood, gore, nudity, and sex as possible, while the body count increases exponentially. Too often, these slashers even have the audacity to actually call what they are presenting as ‘storytelling’. I am much more intrigued by terror and fear delivered through suspense and mystery. This isn’t to say that horror films can’t be a cut above the rest, as proven early on by the likes of Halloween.

Continue reading MOVIE REVIEW: My Bloody Valentine 3D — Pleasantly surprised

MOVIE REVIEW: Hotel For Dogs: Undemanding Fun

The trailers for Hotel For Dogs make much of the Rube Goldberg devices that are created for the titular hotel and, in truth, they are pretty amazing. The film is not nearly as much fun, but it does have its good points.

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Andi [Emma Roberts] and her little brother, Bruce [Jake T. Austin] are foster kids who have adopted a stray dog they’ve named Friday. Their latest foster parents, Lois [Lisa Kudrow] and Carl [Matt Dillon] are obnoxious, and talentless, would be rock stars who have a no pets policy. In trying to find ways to keep Friday with them, yet unseen by Lois and Carl, they have gone to extraordinary lengths – which take them into a closed down hotel, where they find two dogs, that Bruce names Lenny and Georgia. Before long, Andi and Bruce are being helped by a pair of pet store employees named Dave [Johnny Simmons] and Heather [Kyla Pratt] as they turn the place into a hotel for dogs. Along the way, a guy named Mark [Troy Gentile] joins the band, maybe because chunky kids are funny… or something.

The Rube Goldberg devices in all those trailers? They’re to take care of feeding the dogs and give them typical doggie experiences – like playing fetch, barking when there’s someone at the door, or sticking their heads out of a car window. The devices are created by Bruce [who is clearly the reincarnation of Mr. Goldberg], but one of the key plot points is what happens when the devices malfunction and the dogs all flee the building.

The villains are the pet control officers who rake sadistic glee at putting strays in their cages and count the moments until the unclaimed ones will be put down. Other than the sympathetic Bernie [Don Cheadle], the kids’ social worker, all the remaining adults in the film are pretty much twits [though not as bad as Lois and Carl].

Despite its flaws [and they are several], Hotel For Dogs kinda works. The dogs are well trained and steal every scene, though the kids hold their own, for the most part. There’s a certain lowbrow charm to the piece – though perhaps one too many dog poop jokes. The movie is aimed at tweens [the Nickelodeon demographic], but the dogs and Bruce’s wacky machines will keep adults interested while the forced romance between Dave and Andi develops.

Hotel For Dogs is a put your brain on hold and eat your popcorn movie. That’s precisely what it intends to be and, on that level, it works.

Final Grade: B-

MOVIE REVIEW: My Bloody Valentine 3-D: Bloody Entertaining!

When I scored a pass to see My Bloody Valentine 3-D, I wasn’t sure it was a good thing – but since I went into theater with absolutely no expectation, I was pleasantly surprised. I never saw the original, but this new version – written by Todd Farmer [from a story by Stephen Miller and the original screenplay by John Beaird] and directed by Patrick Lussier – contains all the elements of a classic horror movie: gore, mutilations, laughs, a genuine mystery and some gratuitous nudity.

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More than twenty years ago, a miner named Harry Warden survived a mine collapse by killing the other miners trapped with him in order to make what little oxygen remained last until he could be rescued. Even so, he came out of the mine in a coma. A year later, he came out of the coma and when on a killing spree – first at the hospital, then back at the mine where a bunch of teenagers were partying in the closed tunnel. Only four of the teens survived: Tom Hanniger [Jensen Ackles], whose father owned the mine and who left town right afterward; Sarah [Jaime King], Tom’s girlfriend who winds up married to Axel Palmer [Kerr Smith], who is now sheriff, and Irene [Betsy Rue], who now has a thing for truck drivers [and provides the aforementioned gratuitous nudity]. Warden is reported dead – killed by then Sheriff Burke [Tom Atkins].

Now, ten years later, Tom has finally returned to town to sell his share in the mine’s ownership and everyone is unhappy about that because if the mine closes, the town dies. And the killings begin again. Since unreported details are accurate, the townsfolk begin to suspect that Warden is back. As the killing mount, we’re given scenes that implicate former miners, Tom and even Sheriff Palmer.

Director Lussier keeps things moving along at a fast enough clip that any plotholes are skimmed over before we can recognize them as such. The 3-D effects are frequently dazzling right from the second the Lionsgate logo appears [when the audience oohs and ahhs over the studio logo/introduction, you know the effects are special] and are used in ways both subtle and sledgehammer obvious [it’s the mix that makes the more obvious effects work.

The entire cast is better than average, which gives the film just enough humanity to make the horror work, and the resolution is shrewdly realized. Both Ackles and Smith are given more to do than they usually display [or in Smith’s case, got to do] on their hit TV series and they tackle their roles with enthusiasm.

My Bloody Valentine 3-D is one of the better horror movies of the last several years because it knows what it is and isn’t afraid to be just that. In that regard, it shares a lot with some of the great horror films of the seventies and eighties. It may not be the groundbreaker that Halloween and Friday the 13th were, but it’s better than most of the raft of imitators that followed them. In short, it’s good, bloody, sexy fun.

Final Grade: B-

CONTESTS! Win Matthew McConaughey’s Autographed Surfboard!

Win Matthew McConaughey’s autographed Surfboard!
Win Matthew McConaughey’s autographed Surfboard!

Win Matthew McConaughey’s autographed Surfboard!  That’s right in one of the coolest contest we’ve ever run here at EclipseMagazine.com, we’re giving away Matthew’s board.  Sweet, man.  This board is being given away because Matthew is in a new DVD/Blu-ray movie called Surfer, Dude. Hey can the casting be any better?

Synopsis

Soulful longboard surfer Steve Addington (McConaughey) returns to Malibu for the summer to find his cool hometown vibe corrupted. New sponsorship demands Addington to expand into Virtual Reality Video Games and Reality TV. Unwilling to participate in this new digital reality, he chooses to spend his summer surfing his home break. But in a twist-of-fate, the waves go flat. Out of money, his expense accounts cancelled, and betrayed by his buddies, Addington is backed into a harsh corner. Aided by his manager (Harrelson), his mentor (Glenn), his guardian angel (Nelson), and his summer lover (Alexie Gilmore), Addington has a chance of keeping his cool, but it’s not going to be easy. The dude needs a wave, and there’s never been a drought like this.

Win Matthew McConaughey’s autographed Surfboard!
Win Matthew McConaughey’s autographed Surfboard!

Win, Win, Win!!!!!!!!

To win this board is simple: first post a comment about your favorite Matthew McConaughey film, then be one of the top 4 posters during the contest period – which will run Jan 12 – Sunday, February 1.  On February 2nd, I will select a winner from the top 4 posters of this month. The grand prize will be this Surf Board and a copy of Surfer Dude.  The other three winners will receive a copy of Surfer Dude.  Only real comments will be counted, so if you try and Spam the site, with one word replies or other methods you will automatically be disqualified from the contest.

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MOVIES & TELEVISION: It’s Time To Party With The 66th Golden Globes Awards!

newgoldenglobe

With “Awards Season” in full swing, we come to my favorite awards show to watch – The Golden Globes [the Globes’ new look featured, above]. Where else can you see an award winner rush from the little girls’ room to the stage, trailing a piece of toilet paper from her shoe [Christine Lahti, you are immortal because of this], or another award winner insist upon giving his award to the actor who inspired him to become an actor [the only award Jack Lemmon ever got that was voted for by a panel of one – and who knows how many other actors he inspired…?]. Thank you speeches that come from the heart or, on occasion, from a few too many drinks… The Golden Globes are fun because you get more moments from real people than all the other awards shows combined [excepting, possibly, The Spirit Awards]. Plus, the Globes honor movies and television – so there are twice as many opportunities for entertainment. So, here, after the jump, here are the nominees and my choices.

Continue reading MOVIES & TELEVISION: It’s Time To Party With The 66th Golden Globes Awards!

MOVIE NEWS: Michelle’s Picks for Best Films of 2008

MOVIE NEWS: Michelle Selects the Best Films of 2008
MOVIE NEWS: Michelle Selects the Best Films of 2008

I say this every year and every year it’s true – I hate doing lists of any sort, especially the yearly Top 10 re-caps.  I can’t even remember the last ten films I saw, that alone rifle through my brain and remember everything from an entire year. Overall this was an interesting year, the beginning of the year was terrible as usual but this year’s crop of summer Tent Pole films were surprisingly great – not just good mind wasters. But intelligent, well crafted and acted pieces of cinema. Then the bottom dropped out in the fall, which is generally the time you see the Oscar Wannabes. Everything was boring, bland – safe. My number one choice of 2008 is a clear for me, but there’s a 3 way tie for the #2 spot. Without further adieu, here is my list (Without a lot of verbiage this year) of the best of 2008.

10) Che
9) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
8) Let The Right One In
7) Tropic Thunder
6) Son of Rambow
5)  Iron Man
4) Slumdog Millionaire
3) The Dark Knight
2) Prince Caspian
1) Speed Racer

I didn’t see nearly as many films this year as in the past. Generally speaking I don’t like American animated films, so I didn’t see Wall E or Kung Fu Panda.  I’ve seen all the award wannabes except Revolution Road, Valkyie, and 7 Pounds.  I’m a huge X-Files fan, but I don’t know if I Want To Believe would be classified as a big disappointment because I walked in with no expectations, so the fact that the film was terrible didn’t annoy me.

MOVIE REVIEW: The Spirit Made My Toes Curl – But I Kinda Liked It!

In a summer during the early-to-mid sixties, I surreptitiously acquired a copy of a specific issue of Playboy – not for the pictures, though those were nice, but for an essay on The Great Comic Book Heroes, by Jules Feiffer. It was about comic characters from the Golden Age of Comics [approximately 1939-1946 – your mileage may vary]. That led to my acquiring, with a hard-earned seven bucks, for Feiffer’s book of the same title on the subject. Included in the book was an eight-page, full-color Spirit story from the Philadelphia Record Sunday Comics Supplement, dated July 20, 1941. It was about a tale told to a tourist couple by an Egyptian beggar, twice in two days – first as a prophecy, and then as a fait accompli. It was incredible – it had action, wit, humor [even then I knew wit was not the same thing as humor] and amazing art. Well before the Kitchen Sink reprints of the seventies, I was hooked!

The Spirit's Women

In the summer of 1987, the ABC network broadcast the ninety-minute pilot for a projected series based on Will Eisner’s legendary masked hero, The Spirit. It was bright and colorful and really seemed, to me at least, to capture the peculiar mix of whimsy and drama that marked the comic as a unique and brilliant work. Eisner, on the other hand, said it was so bad that “it made my toes curl.”

Today, I saw Frank Miller’s movie adaptation of Will Eisner’s The Spirit. As a critic, I realize that its thin story is told choppily [Frank, buddy, have you never heard of dissolves, transitions and such? And, really Frank! Plaster of Paris? What the hell were you thinking???] and the acting varies from poor to really poor. I get that it’s supposed to be a black comedy; I get that it’s Eisner’s characters and situations as filtered Miller’s sensibilities; I even get that The Octopus [Samuel L. Jackson] is supposed to an evil, human version of Wile E. Coyote/Yosemite Sam, while The Spirit is The Roadrunner/Bugs Bunny.

Somehow, though, I don’t think blending Sin City, Tex Avery and Chuck Jones was really the way to go here. The Spirit is not a character for whom bleached out colors [except, of course, for that blood red tie] really work. Neither should the character be set in such a static, blocky manner. The comics were always more fluid than all but the best films – and certainly more so than any of the comics of the period [and most of the best of today, as well]. And juking The Spirit’s origin in such a manner – turning a tough, determined man into a superhero, when he was really [to quote Douglas Adams, “Just this guy, y’know?”]. The spirit of The Spirit has been pretty much bleached out of the movie.

The Spirit is pretty much a disaster no matter how you look at it – and yet, I enjoyed it. Maybe it’s because of the hard edge Dan Lauria gives Commissioner Dolan, or the resignation Sarah Paulson gives Dr. Ellen Dolan, who knows she’ll never have The Spirit’s heart – at least not exclusively. Part of it is the cinematography. Miller may be a long way from being a film director, but he can compose a shot like nobody’s business! Also, the world of Central City may be CG but it has more heft than Sin City. Plus, there are moments when Eisner’s character peeks through the chaos […and this is for Muffin!”].

Even with the movie’s compositional beauty, a couple decent [not brilliant] performances [Sorry Mr. Gabriel Macht. I know The Spirit, and he’s not a monotoned refugee from a Philip Chandler novel] and amazing CG, I can understand how most critics will give The Spirit the equivalent of an ‘F’. I can’t do that. But tempering my love for the character with what little of that remains here – and combining that with an objective overview of everything that’s wrong with it – I can’t give The Spirit a positive grade [as much as it pains me].

Final Grade: D+

MOVIE REVIEW: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – Youth, Apparently, Is Not Wasted on the Young!

One of the strangest – and yet most normal – films of the year is The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Even you’ve not been paying attention to pop culture for the last six months, it would hard not to have heard about the movie about the guy who ages backwards while living forwards. Directed by David Fincher [Fight Club, Zodiac], Button stars Brad Pitt as the titular button – a man who is born an eighty-five year old baby whose every breath rasps and rails as if it might be his last and grows physically younger with each passing day. Whether this odd journey through life is supposed to mean something specific, in terms of metaphor, will no doubt be the subject of much debate.

Button 02

For Benjamin, though, life is the same puzzle as it is for the rest of, though he views it from a unique perspective. When he first sees Daisy [Elle Fanning], they are seven – but he is, physically, seventy-eight. This makes their relationship, which would otherwise be completely normal, something else entirely. Even so, his first love, first drink, first sex, first affair [and so forth], all happen in pretty much the conventional order – only Benjamin’s de-aging is different.

Perhaps the point of the movie is that “normal” is strictly a point-of-view, not a definitive quantity; maybe, it’s a tone poem on the idea of youth being wasted on the young; it’s even possible to see the film as an argument for the idea that the beginning and ending of life are the same thing seen from different perspectives – and what happens in the middle will be much the same no matter which way we progress, physically.

When Benjamin and Daisy [now played by a luminous Cate Blanchett] finally come together in the middle of their lives – when they both look their age – they do the expected things, like move in together and have a child. Benjamin’s de-aging means that he will appear to be teenager when his daughter hits puberty, which leads to his having to deal with being unable to be a father to his child – again, an ordinary thing that happens to many men but here because of a unique reason.

In the context of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the importance of the ordinary… the normal… is brought home in a new way. Pitt’s performance [including the CG grafting of his face onto older and younger actors’ bodies] is perfect because Benjamin is, in spite of his unique manner of aging, an ordinary man whose life is except for brief moments, pretty ordinary. The film winds up showing us that even the ordinary is wondrous. That’s a pretty heady achievement.

Final Grade: A+

MOVIE REVIEW: Bedtime Stories – The Kinder, Gentler Adam Sandler Kinda Works!

Adam Sandler in a Disney movie… what’s wrong with this picture? Nothing, as it happens. Well, nothing major. Adam Shankman [Hairspray] directs Bedtime Stories and – except for the usual Rob Schneider cameo [which sucks the life out of the film for a few moments] – gets a solid performance out of Sandler as handyman Skeeter Bronson, who works in a towering hotel that sits on property where his father [Jonathan Pryce, who also narrates] once had a charming little hotel. The terms of the sale to future hotel magnate Barry Nottingham [Richard Griffiths] included a verbal promise that Skeeter would one day run the new hotel [and verbal promises are worth the paper they’re printed on].

bedtime_stories

In the kind of sequences of events that exist in a whimsical tale such as this, the hotel is run by an obsequious twit – here called Kendall [Guy Pearce] and his simpering second in command, Aspen [Lucy Lawless] – and the hotelier’s plans for an even bigger hotel are situated on a piece of land upon which sits a school. That school is where Skeeter’s eco-warrior sister, Wendy [Courteney Cox] is vice-principal – not to mention the school attended by his niece and nephew – and where a pretty teacher named Jill [Keri Russell] works. Because of the plans for the hotel, Wendy has to look for work out of state and asks Skeeter to help Jill look after the kids.

When Kendall’s plans for a unique approach for the new hotel turn out to be in use elsewhere, Nottingham gives Skeeter a shot at running the new hotel. All he has to do is come up with a better theme than Kendall. Meanwhile, Skeeter’s bedtime stories for Patrick [Jonathan Morgan Heit] and Bobbi [Laura Ann Kesling] start coming true – though it takes him a while to figure out that it’s the kids’ improvised additions to his stories that are coming to pass.

So, can Skeeter be a good uncle, beat Kendall, and win the fair maid [Jill, of course]? And can he do it without relying overmuch on Sandler’s usual brand of humor. Almost. The humor is kinder, gentler and G-Rated, but the genuine whimsy of the fantasy is, for the most part, winning and well done. Sandler gets to use some of the chops first unearthed by Paul Thomas Anderson in Punch Drunk Love, and the rest of the cast seems to be having a pretty good time.

The effects vary in effectiveness, but by having one story element come true through what looks like a real life coincidence, Shankman gives the more far-fetched bits more punch – and makes Skeeter more relatable. The pacing occasionally falters [and grinds to a sudden halt during Schneider’s two scenes], but overall, Bedtime Stories is a fun diversion that will be enjoyed in theater and mostly forgotten by the time you get to your car.

Final Grade: B-