Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Boy in Striped Pyjamas

WORTH-IT: (Mark Herman) Based on the novel by John Boyne, The Boy in Striped Pyjamas is an utterly heartbreaking tale of the innocence lost around the world during WWII. 8-year-old Bruno, the son of a Nazi Concentration Camp Commanding Officer, has no concern for learning the current events happening in his "fatherland." He would much rather go exploring. Even when the family relocates closer to the camp, Bruno has no idea what his father really does, or why they even moved out of the city. He's just heartbroken to leave his friends. Who will he play with? What will there be to do? A possible answer comes when he notices a strange farm with a few children just past his new backyard. Unfortunately, the "farm" and the children are off-limits. But Bruno eventually lets his adventuresome nature take over and is off exploring the forbidden woods in no time. Eventually his trail leads him to a barbed wire fence, no doubt surrounding the farm, wherein sits a boy his age, dressed in pajamas and looking bored to tears. Bruno sets out to become friends, poking fun at his peculiar name and silly pajamas, but also bringing snacks and games for the two to play together. Bruno knows little about the genocide happening before his eyes, and remains jaded to the life his new friends lives beyond the fence. Subconsciously knows to keep his new friendship a secret, although never putting together what the putrid burning smell is coming from the big chimneys outside the camp, or questioning why the farmers have to wear pajamas. Only when Bruno witnesses a violent reprimanding against one of the farmers does he realize something dreadfully wrong is going on. Pyjamas is about a family torn by right and wrong, duty and morale, family and country. Although the downfall rests in the fact that this film was done in English, Herman was able to mesh together enough deeply pent emotion that language proved certainly secondary, and that in this film the story came through, no matter what language it should have been in. Hard to accept and tragic to know, this film wrecks havoc on the soul and instills a powerful disbelief in the inhumanity that once existed.

The Incredible Hulk

WORTH-IT: (Louis Leterrier) Can't say it rivals Robert Downey Jr.'s rendition of a Marvel beast, but Ed Norton and Liv Tyler create a pretty close second to the beginning of this round of superhero flicks. First of all, Ed Norton as Bruce Banner creates an interesting approach to installing a contrast between average science nerd to uncontrollable temper beast. His reputation for phenomenal performances on screen is single-handedly what carries him through this film, because the muscles we saw him with in American History X are long gone. Downey Jr. is much better as Tony Stark than Norton comes across as Bruce, but because Norton is that good of an actor, he does it and you accept it. Liv Tyler is also an interesting choice, and her role comes across as a reprise of her Armageddon Lady in Distress character. (It's Dad, it's Boyfriend, and it's dangerous life-or-death stuff, all over again.) I love her though, so thank goodness she's mastered it. Lastly, as I watched this film, my fellow audience made an interesting comment that this movie played out more like a Comic book than a movie. I didn't even know to be looking for that, but once stated, it was hard to ignore. The Incredible Hulk was extremely visual, like an illustration. Facial expressions, intensified sound bites and flashy special effects took over the need for fancy and involved dialogue, but left the overall film somewhat flat and the audience un-invested. But, don't let the deep read take away from your enjoyment. The aforementioned special effects were explosive. The story a huge improvement from Eric Bana. The Hulk was a smash (yes, enjoy that pun) and thanks to a cameo by Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, you can't help but still be excited for the next member of Captain America's team to have a release date...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Iron Man

MUST-SEE: (Jon Favreau) This movie is perfect for any audience. It's awesome! (to be simple) I think that is what makes it such a "must-see." It combines action, humor, fantasy and good morale into one hulking man of steel... Robert Downey Jr. plays Tony Stark, president of Stark Enterprises, a company currently responsible for an explosives raid through small African villages. Kidnapped and held hostage by one of the foreign warlords, Stark is under the ultimatum to build them a bomb or die. Instead, he builds an un-stoppable man of steel, running on an unique power-source and taking out anything in its way. Stark escapes the prison and returns home with a new business plan: protect the world, don't destroy it. With the help of his techno-savvy robot and just plain savvy assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), Stark perfects his iron man and takes on the destroyers. Even as a 24-year-old, the film makes you googli-eyed for superheros, immediately wishing for your own special talent, or ingenious creativity in this case. I mean, this guy can fly, he can take any hit, blow things up, not to mention he has millions of dollars, several sports cars and a house with a personality. Not much gets better. Maybe that is why this film's hint at a greater picture makes us excited again about a possible superhuman alliance. It's light, yet intriguing, adventurous, but with purpose. Here's to hoping the SHIELD succeeds (in theory and in theatres). That said, see this before you see The Incredible Hulk, or so I have heard...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


ALMOST: (Greg Mottola) I just can't bring myself to say this one is worth it. When you compare it to other notables within the genre, 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and the recent, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, it just doesn't measure up. Sure, throw in sex-driven high schoolers, lots of sugary alcohol and a million do-good dorks and you've got a recipe for inappropriate humor, a type that seems to be acceptable these days as good film. Unfortunately, Superbad barely reached over the lines of crude humor to make it worth movie length entertainment. The jokes got old, the scenes got uncomfortable, and if it wasn't for the truly unique performance of Christopher Mintz-Plasse as the dorkiest boy I think I've ever seen, this movie wouldn't have even made it through the 118 minutes of unrated dialogue. Writer Rogen (who I like in most everything) lets his writing take him to limits that should actually be left untouched, like a girl dropping menstrual goo on boys legs at a party. Um, seriously? When was that ever okay to talk about in public? And for the record, it's hardly possible. But I digress. Movies should never be taken for real life, as they serve to pacify our need to release... unfortunately, Superbad never made it there. I laughed, I mean some parts are funny, but the touching happy ending with semi-well intentioned morals leaves no anxiety for an encore, or a recommendation. Rogen, I know you've got better.

The Fall

MUST-SEE: (Tarsem Singh) In a hospital outside of Los Angeles in the 1920s, an injured and heart-broken stuntman named Roy (Lee Pace) and an innocent five-year-old Spanish field-worker named Alexandria (Cantinca Untaru) meet amidst the injured and together embark upon one of the most beautiful and fantastic love-stories ever told. Alexandria, barely speaking English and stuck with her healing arm in the air, finds Roy, curious and anxious for company, in the quiet and otherwise empty adult ward. The two make introductions before he begins a story of five bandits (including Charles Darwin) who trek across country to each's unique avengeance. It's unique, original, and strangely hypnotic, but captures Alexandria's attention immediately. Using the suspense of the story, it eventually becomes Roy's bribe to get morphine to numb the pain not only after a tragic fall left him paralyzed, but also from a broken heart. Without his true love or a career left, he yearns for death, moping about what's left of his life, intertwining his tragedy into a story of morbid heroic hope for Alexandria. And she doesn't for one day give him peace to let his own thoughts marinate, resulting in stories that dawdle on the line between fiction and reality. What was once seeming affection for the little girl (who never spoke a word of English before taking this role, equalling adorable) becomes a greedy and cold-hearted attempt to feed his pain and end his life. His storyline strangely mirrors his life, or maybe his nightmares, taking Alexandria on a roller coaster through his emotions. Only as he moves towards death, she adores him more, fighting to keep him happy and alive, ignorant to the fact that what he asks her for is what is killing him. Even when Roy sees the error of his ways (Alexandria gets injured stealing pills) he still can't drag himself out of the misery, even if only for her sake... and the struggle between the two is breathtaking, gut-wrenching, and most of all, beautiful. Beauty is actually the most prominent feature of The Fall. Whether through color, film speed, rhythm or motif, the imagination brought to life on screen is one that goes beyond what words are able to describe. It's most literally eye candy, substituting a concrete plot or timeline for a mystifying cine-scope that not only steals your focus, but also grips your heart in tune for these unknown, yet genuinely phenomenal characters.


WORTH-IT (for the book lovers): (Catherine Hardwicke) To be fair, I have to admit that this review is biased because I am a Twilighter. But don't take that as me thinking the movie was awesome. I did love having my obsession illustrated on film, but I also struggled with its potential to stand alone. The first half was choppy and shallow, jumping from scene to scene quickly as to cover up the poorly avoided overacting, or maybe the incredibly awkward writing that made co-stars Rob Pattinson and Kristen Stewart look like facial expressions are their forte. It is hard though, to take such an emotionally gratifying book and put the same underlying intensity on screen without the baggage of droning narration. (or not, i.e. No Country for Old Men, Diving Bell, There Will Be Blood, anything Jane Austen...) But where they missed the mark was in the sacrificed depth in scene for quantity of book-correlated events. It pleased me as a reader to see everything addressed. (I can now finish out the series with less of an imagination). But anyone out of the novel-loop is strained, robbed of emotionally-inevitable sentimentality or the ability to identify with and believe in the characters. And, as a film-fanatic, I recognized just that. It lacked a unifying motif and instead offered unbelievable exchanges in dialogue that took us on a roller coaster of happenstance, taking the reality out of Author Stephenie Meyer's pages and making it a ridiculous on-screen display of love-struck teenage fantasy. This does nothing in the defense of those of us who (at 24+) have jumped on the Teen Vamp Train. Bottom line: Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) needs a new face, Rosalie (Nikki Reed) should have been played by a real blonde, Elizabeth Reaser (as Esme) will never do it for me after ruining "Ava/Rebecca" on Grey's Anatomy, and Bella Swan's Stewart might want to heed those Disney kids talent, and substitute a little genuine emotion for her constant efforts to be the miffed, disturbed, troubled, etc. young actress. No harm done from Pattinson; he mastered Edward's velvety voice, bears the strong jaw well, and stole my heart right there alongside every other swooning 14-year-old. How could it have been better? Either screen-writer, Melissa Rosenberg, or Hardwicke should decide who this movie is for: the fanatics or the masses? If for the fanatics, it should have gone deeper, lasted longer and resisted watering it down for someone less vamp-crazed. Edward's skin should have radiated crystals! Bella should have been more careful! Charlie should have had more lines! If for the masses, skip the high school jibe, simplify the plot to play up emotion, eradicate narration, and give us some real vampire violence. (That one fight scene is awesome!) Hopefully take 2 finds a director-elect that can round out the shortcomings, find a few replacements and truly scare us into believing Bella's real-life nightmare. Obviously, I can't recommend this to non-Twilighters yet . But if you don the label, enjoy putting faces to names (except avoid Jacob's). I know nothing can deter you from finishing the series or seeing the next film. We're just happy to know what Edward really looks like!