Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Best Films of 2005

10. The Aviator - Alright, technically this film should fall under last year’s category, as it opened in limited release in December 2004. However, I was unable to see the film until it went into wide release in January 2005. In any event, The Aviator is unquestionably director Martin Scorsese’s best work in recent memory, far superior to his last project, Gangs of New York, which I absolutely loathed. The acting was superb, the picture’s visual style was nothing short of stunning (the picture quality was the same as the motion pictures of the time period in which the film is focused on at that particular moment), and its story is brilliantly and emotionally poignant. This honestly should have been the film to have taken home the Best Picture Oscar this past February.

9. Wedding Crashers - Sure, I have actually gotten around to writing the review for this film (if you haven’t noticed, thanks to school, work, and a developing personal life, I’ve been kind of backed up here), but I can sure as Hell comment on it a bit. Wedding Crashers was hilarious. At long last an original concept for a raunchy comedy. Wilson and Vaughn are perfect together and Rachael McAdams is adorable.

8. King Kong - Yes, the latest adaptation of King Kong is not performing at quite the level that everyone, particularly Universal executives, thought it would. The media is partially to blame for this. I mean, who was the moron who started the idea that King Kong would be the new Titanic in terms of box office returns? He/she should be slapped. Also, incredibly high expectations for Peter Jackson’s follow-up project, whatever it may have been, following the highly successful Lord of the Rings trilogy would also have been a contribution. The action and the computer-generated special effects, while not perfect, are top-notch and truly make-up the picture.

7. Sideways - Yes, another film from 2004 but, again, I was unable to see it until January 2005, in the time leading up to the Academy Awards, so cut me some slack here. This went far beyond what I expected. Not always tasteful humor, but it did the job. Sideways is the reason why I am a fan of Paul Giamatti (his performance in Cinderella Man was the clincher) and why I am looking more forward to M. Night Shyamalan’s The Lady in the Water this summer then before.

6. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - It’s the Chronic (what?!) –cles of Narnia! Sorry, but I just had to throw that in. Sure, it’s Disney’s way of capitalizing on the Lord of the Rings-esque fantasy craze (I wonder how after one billion dollars world-wide Michael Eisner feels about having let this slip throw his claw-like fingers), but it works brilliantly. Furthermore, the New Testament allusions as written in C.S. Lewis’ classic children’s novel remain intact in the feature film adaptation and for that I am extremely proud of both Andrew Adamson, the director, and the Walt Disney Company who to say the least has not had a friendly relationship with the Catholic community.

5. War of the Worlds - Boy, did Tom Cruise ever pick a more terrible time in which to go psycho or what? True, the Spielberg picture did manage to go on and collect over two-hundred million dollars at the domestic box office alone, critics however were far from kind to this science-fiction drama and Cruise’s erratic behavior, particularly his discussion of Scientology on the TODAY show with Matt Lauer, may have had an effect on their perception of the film. Regardless of Cruise’s couch jumping antics or his cult, War of the Worlds is a touching film about how far a man is willing to go to protect his family. Director Steven Spielberg alone should be commended for putting this whole picture together in less then eight months.

4. Serenity - It is honestly tragic to see one of the most innovative and original science-fiction motion picture events this year fail to attract an audience at the domestic box office while less worthy pictures such as The Exorcism of Emily Rose thrived. The dialogue is especially crisp and brilliantly crafted by director Joss Whedon, the acting is well done, and the special effects are superb. If you haven't seen this film yet, rent tonight and you won't be sorry.

3. Cinderella Man - The move from its prime Oscar bait release date in December 2004 to June 2005 likely hurt both its box office potential and its chances at Oscar gold. This is a shame because director Ron Howard creates a truly stunning and an emotionally haunting boxing drama that would have given any Best Picture contenders a run for their money. Again, Paul Giamatti is brilliant in this film.

2. Batman Begins - The Dark Knight returns! In light of the Joel Schumacher debacles of a short time ago (those neon monstrosities), I honestly never imagined that the Batman film franchise would return with such brilliance and wit as it did this past summer. Never for a moment. It just goes to show you that if you wait long enough for the right director, the picture-perfect script, and the most suited performers to come along, it will be alright. Superman Returns has a lot to live up to following this film, but I trust Bryan Singer will do the franchise justice and more.

1. The Island - Poor Michael Bay. You really have to feel sorry for the guy. Here is his first motion picture without producer Jerry Bruckheimer (the man who essentially started his film-making career) and one that is quite opposite from his usual minless action-packed entertainment formula he has followed for all of his past projects and no one goes to see it. Dreamworks may be partially to blame for not promoting the picture properly, but pointing fingers isn't going to anybody good now. Everything about this picture was top-notch - the acting, the special effects, the script, etc. More importantly however is that The Island covered a wide variety of serious topics, among them the moral implications of stem-cell research and human cloning. Brilliant from beginning to end.

Honorable Mentions - Sin City, Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

Friday, December 30, 2005

Most Anticipated Films of 2006

Given that tomorrow is New Year's Eve, I thought now would be the proper time to list the films opening next year (as of December 30th, 2005) that I am anticipating and providing a little info as to why that is ...

V for Vendetta (March 17th) - I am a bit weary about the quality of this picture since it was moved from its prime December 2005 release date to March 2006, a period at the box office which is usually catergorized as a dump, but the latest has me drooling. If the message of the graphic comic book series is translated to the screen correctly, it should be a good film.

Basic Instinct 2 (March 31st) - Okay, I'm pulling your leg on this one. I am however interested to see how badly this thing bombs that it took a lawsuit and more then ten years time to be produced.

The Benchwarmers (April 7th) - Despite the fact that the storyline has PREDICTABLE written all over it, it is a surprisingly original concept and should be hoot if done properly.

American Dreamz (April 14th) - This one is up in the air for me. You would have to be a complete idiot to not look at the president and the vice president of the United States in the trailer for this film and not realize they are mirror images of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Either this will prove to be quite insightful or illfully executed. But Mandy Moore is adorable, don't you admit?

Flight 93 (April 28th) - I am conflicted. On the one hand, I salute efforts to keep the memory of those horrible events which took place on September 11th, 2001, and the heroes who emerged that day to save countless innocent American lives. But on the other hand, I am disgusted as Hollywood's efforts to quickly capitalize on the blood of innocent Americans when they fail to support our troops in combat. That said, it will be intriguing to see the events which took place on Flight 93 (as best as experts can piece together) portrayed onscreen in real time, so long as there is no liberal anti-war/multi-culturalism propaganda message slipped in to balance things out.

Mission: Impossible III (May 5th) - I never really got caught up in the Mission: Impossible film franchise when the two previous films came out (it was a bit confusing to follow to say the least about it), but the fact that LOST and Alias creator J.J. Abrams is making his directorial debut with this film already has ass there.

The Da Vinci Code (May 19th) - This is kind of obvious, isn't it? However, I am interested to see if Ron Howard shakes thing up a bit in terms of story in order to make the adaptation less predictable for audiences, a majority of which have clearly read the book on which the film is based.

X-Men 3 (May 26th) - Please God, don't let Bret Ratner screw this up! Please, PLEASE!!

Cars (June 9th) - Alright, the story seems rather lame and the trailers haven't really done anything for me just yet, but it's PIXAR. How could it be bad? Biting my tongue, biting my tongue ...

Click (June 23rd) - Throw Adam Sandler, Christopher Walken, and the delicious Kate Beckinsale into a comedy and what do you get? We'll have to see this June but from what I can see from the trailer, it doesn't look half bad.

Superman Returns (June 30th) - I am pissed at director Bryan Singer for leaving the X-Men film franchise when he did (just as the Phoenix legend was coming up), but I am relieved to see that the Superman franchise is in the right hands. McG?! What the Hell was Warner Brothers thinking?! The teaser trailer alone has me drooling. Can't wait for the full-blown trailer.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (July 7th) - Yo Ho, Yo Ho, a pirate's life for me ... Geez, how can you not be excited for this film?!

Lady in the Water (July 21st) - I am willing to forgive director M. Night Shyamalan for his major screw up with The Village if his follow project is half as good as it appears to be (based on the teaser trailer and the premise). The selection of Paul Giamatti to the cast already has me excited.

Marie Antoinette (October 13th) - I greatly enjoyed Lost in Translation and I am deeply looking forward to Sophia Coppola's foolow up project. I am however a bit unnerved by the teaser trailer.

Will Disney and Pixar Reteam?


Variety reports that Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios are on the verge of renewing their distribution deal.

So what's holding things up? The trade says a key point is "Circle 7," the secretive division that Disney formed to make sequels to Pixar films, for which it has rights through next year's Cars, which is also the last film under the partners' current deal.

Production on Toy Story 3 is already under way and the division is close to picking a second film to greenlight from several scripts under development -- most likely Finding Nemo 2 or Monsters, Inc. 2.

Apparently the next step -- picking a director -- is on hold until Disney and Pixar close their deal.

Disney CEO Bob Iger reportedly is keeping Pixar head Steve Jobs and creative guru John Lasseter in the loop about developments at Circle 7 -- something former Disney topper Michael Eisner rarely did.

Under the new deal, Disney will probably distribute new Pixar films and produce, in one form or another, a slate of sequels.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Film Review - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Once more the young wizard-in-training Mr. Harry Potter has come to the rescue. Screw Hogwarts, it’s the domestic box office he has yet again saved from the brink of disaster. And for apprehensive studio executives it could not have come at a better time. If early estimates hold, the box office tally for this year will not come anywhere near 2004’s total take of $9.4 billion. Movie theatres across the United States have been suffering tremendously this year because of it. Each new weekend seems to pale in comparison to the exact same weekend one year ago. What makes this bit of news all the more embarrassing for Hollywood to swallow is that the number of tickets sold, the real indication of the motion picture industry’s progress in the course of a year, has been on a steady decline ever since 2002. And it appears as though the story this year, even with the inclusion of the Goblet of Fire’s receipts, will be no different. However, with the lower then expected returns for The Chronicles of Narnia – The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Peter Jackson’s King Kong, at least thus far, the exclusion of the Goblet of Fire would have been far more humiliating for studio executives to have handled.

The story for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is quite arguably the least consistent of the four full-length feature films in the series. The first half-hour feels like an absolute blur, moving at blinding speed from one event to the next without a moment for the audience to gather its breath, take in the scenery, and figure out precisely what the Hell is going on. The film spends about fifteen minutes (roughly) setting up the Qudditch World Cup scene and yet not a single moment of the match itself makes it into the final print of the film. Why waste the effort? At the very least the filmmakers could have informed those less familiar with the novel or the franchise in general what the Qudditch World Cup was all about or who, outside of the Irish, was playing in it. However, after those first thirty minutes it is pretty much smooth sailing from there on out. The Goblet of Fire begins to truly pick up steam as soon as it delves into the Tri-Wizard Tournament in which a majority of the film’s action sequences take place in. The only issue that can be raised concerning the rest of the script is that it is continuously inconsistent in resolving a number of its individual subplots woven into the main story-arch. Particularly annoying was the one involving Daily Prophet reporter Rita Skeeter who essentially disappears following her two brief scenes in the film.

Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint, all of whom have remarkably matured as young performers in their respected roles since the series began back in 2001, return as Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley. There is a lot more physical action stunts in the Goblet of Fire then in probably all of the other feature films in the series combined. These three should be applauded for performing their own stunts as opposed to stunt doubles filling in for them. This increases from the audience’s perspective the believability of the performances as well as giving their money’s worth having shelled out eight dollars for a movie ticket. Demonstration of physical prowess in the Tri-Wizard Tournament scenes aside for a moment, The Goblet of Fire is also emotionally wearing for Daniel Radcliffe who must establish a variety of emotions when he faces Lord Voldemort near the conclusion of the picture. Recalling Radcliffe’s performances in the last three features, he continues to give further legitimacy to Warner Brother’s decision to select him as the series’ leading star.

Emma Watson, to say the least about her, is simply stunning in this film. Granted, Harry is the central focus of the film, so she does not receive as much screen time or does not become as involved in the actions onscreen as much as she was able to in The Prisoner of Azkaban, but her appearance at the Yule ball in a dress in a moment likely to stick out in the minds of many young males.

And, yes, Rupert Grint still has his comic relief moments in the film as he always does but it is safe to say that his character is being taken a lot more seriously since The Chamber of Secrets a few years ago. There is however a bit of a problem with his character which again has regrettably to do with the inconsistencies of the screenplay then with the actor himself. Unless you read The Goblet of Fire prior to seeing the film, you would have no definitive explanation as to why Ron becomes mad with Harry after his name is pulled out of the Goblet of Fire. One could easily assume the reason is because he is tired of constantly playing second fiddle to Harry but this is never fully explained for audiences.

As far as the three other Tri-Wizard Tournament competitors are concerned, Robert Pattinson as Cedric Diggory has the most personality, though in all honesty this is not saying much. All three of them are rather bland and uninteresting. Unless you had read the book, you wouldn’t gather that Viktor Krum, played by Stanislav Ianevski, is the best Quidditch player in the wizarding world. True, they build the idea that he’s a spectacular sportsman but no indication that he is in fact the best there is which would build up anxiety toward Harry’s chances of winning the tournament. And unless Clémence Poésy hadn’t said something at the end of the second round of the Tri-Wizard Tournament about Harry saving her sister, you would never have known she had one. With so much information contained in the novel, the script for the Goblet of Fire by condensing everything into one two and a half hour feature film causes some pertinent background information to be lost in the process.

Gary Oldman returns, albeit briefly, as Sirius Black, the escaped convict of Azkaban and Harry Potter’s godfather from the last film. In spite of Oldman’s absence, this can however be seen as a benefit to audiences. Black’s absence in the fourth feature film unquestionably carries with it a sense of frustration. This allows us as moviegoers to be more keen to the feelings and emotions of characters like Harry which makes the end results of The Order of the Phoenix, due out in theatres in 2007, all the more emotionally taxing.

David Tennant is eerily unsettling, downright creepy even, particularly when he is flicking his tongue out like a snake, as Barty Crouch Jr., a loyal follower of Lord Voldemort who many believed had died in Azkaban prison. The revelation of his character so early on in the film – he is seen for a moment in the first half-hour of the picture conjuring the Dark Mark at the Quidditch World Cup but he however is not named – is, to say the least, a bit dampening for fans of the series. It eliminates a bit of the “who-done-it” mystery of the film at least from one perspective. What may be a bit confusing for audiences, specifically those unfamiliar with the novel on which the film was based on, is how exactly Barty Crouch Jr. was able to escape his prison sentence in Azkaban (hint – it involves his dying mother and polyjuice potion) and, in turn, how this relates to his complex relationship with his father. This is barely alluded to at all in the film.

However, the inclusion of Ralph Fiennes as Lord Voldemort tops them all. He’s present in the film for a very short amount of time – at most ten minutes in this two and a half hour motion picture – but the anticipation that has been built up, not just by this film but the mere mention of his name throughout the franchise thus far, makes his revelation all the more significant for audiences. The makeup effects used to transform Fiennes into Lord Voldemort, particularly the obstruction of his human nose to form snake-like slits, are especially impressive.

Overall, although it was certainly nowhere near as intense or as frightening as anticipation made it out to be, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is by far the most impressive in the film franchise as far as story, acting, special effects, cinematography, and, most importantly of all, maturity are concerned. Specifically the subject of death and the serious implications young children may encounter in their discussion of the subject is handled especially well. That said however there are issues concerning the Goblet of Fire that should be addressed. Mike Newell who makes his feature film directorial debut with The Goblet of Fire does not screw up the franchise as badly as some may have imagined he would, but regardless some of the camera angles he experiments with, specifically early on in the film, are just awkward and don’t work in the least. Another concern is the script. This however is in no relation to the dialogue used but instead the amount of material included. No one will know whether Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire would have benefited from splitting the film in two or not, but it is quite apparent that too much information from the book is being crammed into this two and a half hour motion picture. The elimination of a few subplots and a revision of the first thirty minutes may have cleared up this issue but as it stands, it feels a bit too much. The bright side however to Newell’s condensation of the storyline is that the irritating house-elf Dobby is not brought back into the film series. And as always, the Harry Potter films boast an impressive array of ‘magical’ effects. But the computer generated effects presented in The Goblet of Fire, particularly the Hungarian Horntail Harry faces in the first round of the Tri-Wizard Tournament, are especially top notch. Parents however should be strongly cautioned about taking their younger children to see this film as it is given a PG-13 rating, a first in the Harry Potter franchise, for a reason. The Goblet of Fire is easily the most intense and emotionally frightening chapter in the series thus far and may be a bit too much for some children to handle, although this varies from child to child. The best advice is for parents to either check the film out for themselves or accompany them and notifying them that if it gets too scary that they can leave the theatre if they feel the need to. Nonetheless, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire continues to push the bar upon which each new film in the franchise must improve on, standing as one of the more impressive movies of the holiday season.

My Rating: **** ½ out of 5 (Grade: A-)

Kong & Narnia Top the Holiday Box Office


Peter Jackson's King Kong narrowly beat Andrew Adamson's The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe for first place over the four-day Christmas holiday weekend. The former earned an estimated $31.4 million from 3,576 theaters, while the latter brought in $30.1 million from 3,853 theaters. Universal's Kong, which carried a budget of about $207 million, has collected $118.7 million ($272.3 million worldwide) in 13 days and Narnia, which cost $180 million, has made $163.5 million ($301.5 million worldwide) in 18 days.

Sony's Fun with Dick and Jane, starring Jim Carrey and Téa Leoni, took third place for the four days, making $23.5 million and pushing its total to $31.1 million since opening Wednesday. The comedy remake cost $100 million to produce.

20th Century Fox sequel Cheaper by the Dozen 2, with Steve Martin and Eugene Levy, came in at #4 with $14.8 million. The comedy has earned $20.1 million since its Wednesday debut.

Fox's other comedy, The Family Stone, rounded out the top five with $10.9 million. The $18 million-budgeted feature has garnered $30.1 million in two weeks.

Sony expanded Rob Marshall's Memoirs of a Geisha nationwide into 1,547 theaters which allowed it to add $10.2 million in its third weekend in theaters. The $85 million drama's total is at $13.3 million so far.

Johnny Knoxville's new comedy, The Ringer, took the seventh spot with $8.4 million from 1,829 theaters.

Two new movies were released on Christmas Day as well, and their box office results only reflect Sunday and Monday. Coming in at #8, Jennifer Aniston's Rumor Has It... collected $7.5 million for the two days from 2,815 theaters and The Weinstein Co.'s Wolf Creek made $5.9 million from 1,749 locations.

10th place belonged to Warner Bros.' Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which earned another $5.7 million from 2,521 theaters for a grand total of $262.4 million domestically after six weeks. That total is good for the 28th spot on the all-time domestic blockbuster list, while its $759.4 million worldwide is the 19th best on that all-time list.

The Steven Spielberg-directed thriller Munich also was released in 532 theaters and pulled in $5.7 million for the 11th spot. The $70 million film averaged a strong $10,734 per site.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

God's Recurring Role in Hollywood

Sure, only when they seek to profit from him.

Stars Turn Backs on America's Troops in Iraq

Why I am not surprised to see this? Hollywood celebrities today only care about their country and its servicemen when it serves to garner them the most publicity.

Film Review - Serenity

Success is not without its fair share of pitfalls as perennial cult-favorite Joss Whedon knows all too well. Following the fruition of his horror/drama television series on the WB network, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and its eventual spin-off, Angel, Whedon set to work on a new drama for FOX entitled Firefly, a science-fiction series blended with a nostalgic western style to its storylines. The series however was doomed to fail from the very beginning. Although it did manage to successfully recruit a loyal fan base during its short run in the United States, a group which would more commonly be referred to later on as the Brown Coats, low ratings led executives at the FOX television network to cancel the show after only eleven episodes. Reasons for its early cancellation are attributed to its late-Friday evening timeslot, in which it was often preempted by sporting events, FOX’s inability to properly promote the program as a character-based drama, and the airing of the series’ episodes out of chronological order. Fans of the program quickly assembled the Firefly Immediate Assistance Campaign to revive the series, perhaps on another network, but were unable to do so. However, the remarkable profitability of the complete series’ DVD sales prompted series creator Joss Whedon to team-up with Universal Pictures to spawn a full-length feature film based on the now-defunct series entitled Serenity in an effort to revive the once thought dead cult-classic.

The story for Serenity is truly one of the most originative and flat-out awe-inspiring scripts to grace domestic movie theatres with its presence in the last few years, let alone this year. The dialogue is especially crisp and brilliantly crafted with each of the characters and their actions onscreen. At first glance the specific word usage would conceivably fall flat in regards to the demographic with which the feature film is aimed toward, this being young adults, but surprisingly it never once feels out of place or awkwardly constructed. Instead it flows genially throughout the picture. The one downside it has however is the amount of confusion the film may cause for those unfamiliar with the now-defunct television series, Firefly, which now appears in a DVD box set. This is not necessarily the fault of series creator Joss Whedon who took it upon himself to attempt the daunting task of having to balance within his own script – (a) a certain proportion of the viewing audience which needs to be brought up to date, at the very least minimally, on the individual character storylines and (b) appealing to the loyal following of Browncoats, the nickname given to fans of the short-lives series, without pissing off or demeaning either side off. That being said, it is not recommended that anyone unfamiliar with the series go into this film without at least some basic concept as to what the characters are all about. This would go so far as to suggest watching a few episodes of Firefly now playing on the Sci-Fi television network or renting the series on DVD and taking in a few episodes before viewing the movie.

Many, if not all, of the recurring characters of the Firefly television series return to their respective role in the feature film adaptation. While their performances are pretty much the same as they were on the small screen, not a complaint in the least, each performer seems to take their role up a notch in the transition to the silver screen. Nathan Fillion is one of the major stars of the picture and the one likely to benefit the most from Serenity’s critical acclaim. Comparisons to Star Wars’ Han Solo are expected to be made toward Fillion’s Captain Malcolm Reynolds whose ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ attitude often gets him over his head. Chiwetel Ejiofor is the perfect adversary to Captain Malcolm Reynolds, an avowed atheist, in the role of The Operative simply because unlike Reynolds he believes adamantly in what he is fighting for. Surprisingly he is not the villain audiences might expect. He is perfectly admirable, relinquishing his ‘sword’ so to speak at the end when the cause he has fought valiantly for has been defeated. It is only his cause that is immoral but because he believes in it, again, unlike Reynolds, we have to respect him for it. And Summer Glau is wonderful in the role of River Tam. There are moments, in particular a scene in which the crew returns from a heist and she delivers the line, “I swallowed a bug”, where she is perfectly adorable. Then you have scenes, especially near the end of the film, in which she able to show off her action skills. Hopefully she will have more opportunities to work in feature films thanks to this film.

Overall, Serenity, whether it is viewed by certified Brown Coats or green horns, is an innovative motion-picture event, a true rarity in a year overflowing with lifeless big-budget action flicks and extraneous sequels, with something for nearly everyone, from breathtaking special effects and solid performances to splashes of well-timed dark humor and inspiration religious message every audience member no matter what their religious affiliation can take to heart. Series creator and film director Joss Whedon, a man quite familiar with using theological subtexts within his works, designed Serenity specifically as a means in which to answer the question his now-defunct science-fiction series attempted to ask. The driving force behind the power of belief is that we as human beings conceptualize of a greater power in the universe, greater then ourselves, which controls every aspect of our lives down to our very actions. We however still retain the ability to decide for ourselves whether we should follow the right or the wrong path in life and the level at which we are willing, or unwilling, to give up a part of ourselves to a higher purpose in life will help us in making that decision. Serenity does not pull for one particular faith over another. Although Shepard Book is Christian, audiences would only know of this if they were to watch the television series. However, atheism, a concept to which Captain Malcolm Reynolds applies himself toward for a majority of the picture, is strongly condemned in the film. Mal has a moral code but because he does not belief in anything, let alone God, he can not comprehend what it fully means. This causes him to do stupid thing and risk the safety of his crew as he does. According to Serenity, it does not matter what religion we affiliate ourselves with as long as we believe in something. It may be a tad naïve to say the least but, on the other hand, it isn’t preachy with its message which is often hard to find, especially in Hollywood. The Joss Whedon helmed picture does have other things besides a motivating message going for it. As low-budget as this action adventure is, roughly thirty-nine million dollars according to studio estimates, the special effects, in particular the stunning aerial acrobatic chase sequence near the end of the film, are positively stunning. Furthermore, Serenity’s musical score, a wonderful blending of nostalgic western ballads and mysterious futuristic accompaniments, is brilliantly composed by David Newman. Serenity benefits substantially from a brilliantly witty and charming script from series creator Joss Whedon. Its effective combination of humor, action, and heart make it a must see for any fan of science-fiction, whether they be Trekies or Jedis in training, or movies in general.

My Rating: **** ½ out of 5 (Grade: A)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Trailer for Click Premieres

I was a bit disappointed with 50 First Dates and Anger Management, but any film which combines the talents of Adam Sandler, Christopher Walken, and the delicious Kate Beckinsale has to be good. The plot is obviously predictable, but what isn’t these days. This should have been thought up years ago.

Check out the trailer for Click which opens June 23rd, 2006.

Trailer for Date Movie Premieres

I don’t know about the rest of you but I am getting pretty sick of this spoof comedy films, particularly they are not even funny. This one just looks even worse, but we’ll have to see.

In the meantime, check out the trailer for Date Movie which, surprise, opens this February.

Hawke Seeks Clemency for Murderer

Here is yet another case in which a Hollywood actor does something that has us all saying, ‘What the Hell was he thinking?

Can Alias Live on After This Season?


TV Guide reports that, despite ABC's announcement this fifth season would be the last for J.J. Abrams' Alias, the show may survive in another form.

The producers are mulling ways to continue the franchise. "I would say we haven't seen the end of all things Alias," executive producer Jeff Pinkner teases. "There are versions of this show which could exist after this season. There are plenty of stories we'd love to tell."

Among the formats Pinkner and Abrams have discussed is a spin-off series revolving around villains Sark (David Anders), Peyton (Amy Acker) and Sloane (Ron Rifkin). "It's the triumvirate of evil!" Pinkner says. (No official discussions with ABC have taken place yet.) Producers have also toyed with the idea of a big-screen adaptation starring Garner.

When the series returns this spring, expect to see familiar faces. Greg Grunberg has already filmed an episode as Eric Weiss, and producers have worked up a wish list that includes Syd's buddy Will (Bradley Cooper), perhaps more appearances by spy mommy Irina (Lena Olin, who put in a surprise cameo in the Dec. 14 episode), and the evil Francinator (Merrin Dungey).

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Sharon Adviser Hired to Promote Munich in Israel

It seems that the recent controversy which has brewed as result of early screenings for Steven Spielberg’s latest ‘historical’ drama, Munich, has forced him to hire an adviser to Ariel Sharon, Eyal Arad, to soften its release in Israel. Yeah, let’s hire the guy that was behind the withdrawal of the Gaza Strip, a move that was highly unpopular in Israel, to promote a movie which blames the Jews for all their problems involving the Palestinians. Right! What a brilliant idea!

Teaser Trailer for Apocalypto Premieres!

I greatly enjoyed both Braveheart and The Passion of the Christ, so it comes as no surprise that I am looking very forward to his upcoming action-adventure film, Apocalypto, which takes place in the final years of The Mayan civilization.

The teaser trailer for the film is online now.

The Chronic of Narnia Rap

Who’d have thought that I would be mentioning Saturday Night Live twice in one day on this blog? Apparently there was short film that aired on the show called The Chronic of Narnia Rap. It starts off kind of stupid but it gets better as it goes on.

Jack Black on SNL Clips

Kong is, the unofficial fan site dedicated to covering anything related to Peter Jackson and the release of his two-hundred million remake, King Kong, has some hilarious clips from this past weekend’s Saturday Night LIVE in which Jack Black was the host. My personal favorite is the one with the Skull Island Tourism Bureau.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Film Review - King Kong (2005)

No one could have possibly imagined just a scant number of years ago that director Peter Jackson, remembered prior to 2001 for his low-budget horror pictures, would become the highest paid director in motion picture history? Or, more importantly, that he himself would be in charge of a nearly three-hundred million dollar budgeted major motion picture remake of the classic Merian C. Cooper monster movie, King Kong, from 1933? Peter Jackson would scarcely believe it himself if it were not for the fact that he is indeed living the dream. It is funny how things work out the way they do. A proper re-imagining of the famous stop-motion animation special effects extravaganza has been in the pipeline at Universal Pictures for quite some time, waiting for just the right script and the director to helm to come along. Sure, there was the Paramount Pictures take on King Kong in 1976. And while the film did manage to scrape ninety-million dollars worldwide into the kitty, the presence of Kong himself, basically makeup artist Rick Baker in a laughable monkey-suit, failed miserably to do the original justice in any sense of the word. Now, one-billion dollars in box office ticket sales and three Lord of the Rings films later, director Peter Jackson sets out to prove once more that nothing has ever nor will ever top nor equal the magnificence of Kong, the eighth wonder of the world!

The story for King Kong (2005) is undeniably reflective of the epic style of the 1933 original motion picture, a successful invocation of nostalgia on the part of director Peter Jackson who with this adaptation even surpasses the emotional intensity and high adrenaline rush of his Lord of the Rings series. With that said, King Kong regrettably has its fair share of flaws. The first one-third of the story is spent on bringing all the main characters of the film together onto the S.S. Venture destined for Skull Island. This portion of the picture is a bit slow to say the least but it allows audiences to become familiar with the personalities of the characters and set up the eventual confrontation with the dangers of Skull Island. The second section of the film, a majority of which take place on the island itself, is what truly makes up the movie. However it does stagger a bit as it draws closer to the final one-third of the picture leading the actions on screen to become repetitive and clichéd. The last one-third of the movie in which Kong as a captive is brought in chains to New York City and goes on a rampage in search of Ann, leading to the final confrontation on top of the famous Empire State Building, is unquestionably the worst part of the film, though far be it from a total wash. As soon as Kong is captured on Skull Island and brought to New York City, the drama and intensity of the film begin to seriously go downhill from there. Regardless, there are quite a number of memorable moments in this portion of the film including Kong sliding across the frozen river with Ann Darrow and Jack Black delivering the infamous line, “It was Beauty that killed the Beast”, which just leave the audience awe-struck. It feels as though Jackson rushes the events leading up to Kong’s death and his fall from the Empire State Building onto the street below which in effect severely diminishes the anticipation and the emotional anxiety that led up to this moment in the film.

Naomi Watts is positively delightful in the role of struggling actress Ann Darrow who is recruited by motion picture director/producer Carl Denham to star in his adventure film and is then captured by the natives of Skull Island to be offered as a sacrifice to Kong. Like Kong himself, we the audience are entranced with her attractive appearance and sympathize with her life and desires early in the picture. King Kong will likely open a lot of doors for Miss Watts which is well deserved for the range of emotions she exhibits in this film. It is to be expected that few, if any really, took the casting of comedian Jack Black as Carl Denham in the Peter Jackson remake of the classic monster movie seriously at first glance, but he definitely silences his doubters. Black brings a certain amount of bitter humor and sarcasm to the role of a swaggering movie producer whose penchant for greatness is so excessive that he ends up destroying the very things he believed so strongly in. It is still a little difficult to accept Black within a dramatic role entirely but this should certainly help. He doesn’t make the transition from comedy to drama as easily as Adam Sandler did with Punch Drunk Love but certainly no Jim Carrey either. And Adrien Brody is alright as Jack Driscoll who seems to all but disappear in the final hour of the picture. He works well as the everyman’s hero and the foil to Bruce Baxter, the Hollywood action star who in reality is nothing more then a coward.

However, the best performance in the film is given by Andy Serkis. Not for his role as Cookie, the cook of the S.S. Venture whose demise on Skull Island is particularly gruesome to witness, but rather for his behind-the-scenes portrayal of Kong himself. What was done for Kong was similar to what Serkis did for the creature Gollum in the Lord of the Rings series. He was strapped with a special suit with sensors attached in specific places in order to capture not only his movements but also his facial expressions. Besides being one of the most realistic and distinguished computer animated creations in recent memory, Kong is furthermore one of the most emotionally grappling characters in the film, filling you with terror and excitement one moment and the next having at the verge of tears. Serkis simply does a positively phenomenal job at retaining Kong’s wild natural instincts early on in the picture while at the same time slowly integrating subtle human-like characteristics into the role such as when Kong throws a temper tantrum like a little child when Ann refuses to amuse him any longer after he has knocked her down several times.

Overall, Peter Jackson’s King Kong is truly a rare motion picture event that can honestly be defined as an epic in every capacity of the word. As was the case with the original, King Kong is far more then a monster movie. From beginning to end, Kong dazzles and amazes you. Terrifying, entrancing, and saddening, Jackson’s reinvention of the classic 1933 film is one of the few remakes in recent Hollywood memory to actually do justice to its predecessor and in some areas even surpass it. This said however there do appear to be some issues with the film. The source of these problems may reside with director Peter Jackson’s success following the lucrative Lord of the Rings trilogy and how it may very well have gone to his head, albeit unintentionally and unconsciously of course. Prior to Lord of the Rings, Jackson worked with what he had and that was that. However, with King Kong, post-LOTR, he has a nearly indefinite budget and unlimited resources at his disposal. Jackson’s ability as a director to judge what should or should not be included in the finished product may have inadvertently been diminished because of this. He himself has admitted that there are hours of material not included in the final print of the movie which begs the question of what was left out of the film. There are scenes in King Kong, a majority of which appear in the second act of the movie, that are exhilarating but do nothing to advance either the plot or the message of the film.

Regardless, the action sequences and the impressive computer animation effects which accompany them are what truly make up this picture. The special effects, though not entirely pristine, are awe-inspiring. From the moment the characters set foot on Skull Island the action is nearly non-stop. This however can border on the excessive, particularly during the second portion of the movie more so right around the part where the crew of the S.S. Venture plummets down a chasm filled with man-eating giant insects. Anyhow, a majority of the action sequences do work effectively. One scene in particular in which Kong proceeds to toss Ann Darrow from paw to paw as he battles three tyrannosaurs at once will literally have you gasping for air and clutching the edge of your seat. It is just that intense. There are few additional sequences like that, but why spoil the surprise?

Parents with younger children eager to see Kong rampage his way through New York City however should strongly be cautioned because unlike the original 1933 King Kong film, or even a significant portion of Peter Jackson’s own Lord of the Rings franchise for that matter, the gore, violence, and intensity of this adaptation are set onto overdrive throughout the entire picture which can be quite unnerving for children after three hours spent in a darkened movie theatre. Let’s face it. Kong himself is an intimidating figure as it is. Throw in carnivorous tyrannosaurs, rampaging brontosauruses, creepy-crawly insects, gigantic spiders, man-eating razor-teeth sponges, and the ugliest, spectral natives you will ever lay eyes on and this is the stuff nightmares are made of. And, judging by the material in this film, there is enough to make them sleep with you in your bed for at least the next month.

And as much as composer James Newton Howard should be commended for taking up the arduous task of rescoring from scratch the entire three-hour motion picture event King Kong after Howard Shore and director Peter Jackson parted ways on the project, what he delivers in the film, albeit far from what can be described as a disaster, is nothing memorable. From the same man who brought us unforgettable scores from The Sixth Sense, Signs, and the NBC television drama ER, this is a pure disappointment, but not one which can entirely be placed, if at all, on his shoulders. Regardless of its fault, Peter Jackson successfully achieves his goal of bringing his own distinct vision to the King Kong legend while at the time paying reverence to the dignity and superior quality of the original motion picture on which the remake was based. Hollywood would do well in taking notes on this film as it demonstrates firmly how a remake should properly be made.

My Rating: **** ½ out of 5 (Grade: A)

Miami Vice Poster

American Dreamz Trailer Premieres

The trailer for American Dreamz starring Dennis Quaid (as the president of the United States), Hugh Grant, William Dafoe, and Mandy Moore will either be really stupid or particularly insightful. It’s still up in the air for me.

The Second V for Vendetta Trailer Premieres

The second trailer for much anticipated and long-delayed feature film adaptation of the graphic comic-book series V for Vendetta has come online. I wonder however if ordinary Americans will get the much? The comic-book series is meant to denounce terrorism as conducted by Osama Bin Ladin rather than promote or excuse it.

Kong Climbs to the Top


The big new movie this weekend was Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong, released by Universal Pictures into over 3,500 theatres on Wednesday. After a slow start with only $16 million in two days, the film picked up steam over the weekend, earning just over $50 million, an average of about $14 thousand per theatre. While its five-day total of $66 million was nearly $10 million less than The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings grossed during the same pre-holiday period four years ago, it will be the fourth biggest December opening movie ever if those numbers stick. Kong is expected to continue to bring in word-of-mouth business over the holidays. Kong also earned $80.1 million from 55 foreign territories over its first five days for a worldwide total of $146.3 million.

After a great opening weekend, the second biggest December opening ever, Walt Disney's The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, directed by Andrew (Shrek) Adamson, dropped 52% to make way for Kong. Its second weekend take of $31 million was still respectable, as it brought its total up to $112.5 million in just ten days.

Opening in third place, Thomas Bezucha's dramedy The Family Stone, starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Diane Keaton, grossed an estimated $12.7 million in 2,466 theatres, an average of $5,160 per theatre. Its Christmas themes should help it continue to do well over the holidays, especially among women.

Warner Bros. took the fourth and fifth spots with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Stephen Gaghan's Syriana, respectively. The fourth Potter film earned roughly $5.9 million in its fifth weekend, bringing its total gross over the $250 million mark, where it should be firmly set as the second highest grossing film of 2005. It also passed the gross of the third installment, Prisoner of Azkaban, to become the third highest grossing Potter movie to date. The political thriller Syriana took a bit of a tumble in its second weekend in nationwide release with $5.4 million, a 53% dropoff from last weekend. It has earned an estimated $22.3 million.

In sixth place, the Johnny Cash biodrama Walk the Line, with Golden Globe nominees Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, continued to do decent business, adding another $3.6 million to its impressive $82.5 million gross. The Dennis Quaid family comedy Yours, Mine and Ours grossed roughly $3.4 million to bring its total gross to $45 million, essentially making back its production budget in its fourth weekend.

After getting into the Top 10 with its impressive opening weekend per-theatre average, the Ang Lee cowboy romance Brokeback Mountain expanded into 64 more theatres nationwide, where it grossed roughly $2.3 million, enough to break into the Top 10 in eighth place. Its estimated average of $31 thousand per theatre is expected to be the highest for the weekend.

Paramount Pictures' big screen version of the animated series Aeon Flux, starring Charlize Theron, had another huge drop-off in its third weekend, hanging on to the Top 10 by its fingernails with $1.7 million.

Rounding out the Top 12 was another movie expanding into less than 100 theatres, as Sony's Memoirs of a Geisha added another $1.2 million to its gross in just 52 theatres, averaging around $23 thousand per site. It will expand into over 1,000 theatres nationwide next Friday, December 23.

Opening in just six theatres in six cities, Mel Brooks' musical comedy The Producers, featuring most of the Broadway cast plus Uma Thurman and Will Ferrell, earned $156 thousand in its opening weekend, a less than spectacular average of $26,000 per theatre. (By comparison, Rob Marshall's Chicago averaged that same amount when it opened in 77 theatres three years ago.) But the film isn't quite down and out, and it will expand nationwide on Christmas Day, where it will try to grab the attention of those outside the big cities who may never have had a chance to see the original Broadway show.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Film Review - The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

The release of two centrically Christian theological films, Mel Gibson’s controversial The Passion of the Christ and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, could not have come at more crucial junctures in modern American history. The thirty-million dollar budgeted The Passion of the Christ, which then went on to gross more then three-hundred and seventy-million dollars in North America alone by the end of its run in theatres, played brilliantly off of Michael Moore’s seething anti-Bush propagandist piece Fahrenheit 9/11 and by November of that year proved to be momentous in the president’s reelection victory, although it was far from the true issue which garnered him the majority of the people’s vote (that being his stance toward the war against terrorism). The release of the second of six books in the Chronicles of Narnia series comes at a time when American Christians, many of whom side with in some shape or another with the Republican Party, find themselves in pitched battle against the intimations of political correctness and multiculturalism in their retention of the significance and sanctity of Christmas itself. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe will likely play a less indicative role then The Passion of the Christ did toward the political environment of the country last year and yet its direct allusions to Christ and his message will almost certainly be a factor in the way Christians are motivated maintain their traditions and be less reluctant to give them up for anyone.

The story for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe remains true to both C.S. Lewis’s epic vision of the whimsical world of Narnia and all those who inhabit it and the Christian undertones which encompass the plot and character developments of the entire book series. This said however, the feature film adaptation of the classic children’s novel does take its fair share of creative liberties in regards to specific plot elements which, for lack of a better word, fail to translate as effectively onto the screen as Lewis may have hoped they would. Rather then tarnishing C.S. Lewis’s epic, they instead enhance the emotional intensity of the plot. For example, there is a scene not presented in the book in which the White Witch’s secret police (wolves) are in hot pursuit of Peter, Susan, and Lucy as they cross the thawing river. This accentuates the potency of the situation and makes for a far more engaging experience then any minimal description penned in the novel could have. Furthermore, scenes like the opening sequence of the film in which German (Nazi) planes are seen bombing the city of London, an event now referred to as The Battle of Britain, fills in the gaps of background information left absent by Lewis. And while Adamson falls short of addressing the specifics of either the Nazis who bombed Britain or the Second World War in general, he leaves just enough room to allow parents at their own discretion to discuss these events in more detail with their own children as they see fit.

All four child actors in the roles of Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie do a splendid job in their respected roles. There are however some issues with their characters. Peter’s transformation from a gangling British preteen into a cunning and formidable warrior and inspirational leader of Aslan’s army is one point of contention. It comes off as a bit miraculous, if not a bit implausible, and may be difficult for some people to swallow. Nevertheless, this is a fantasy film after all and it can just as easily be contributed to magic.

James McAvoy is positively magnificent in the role of Mr. Tumnus, the faun, or half-man/half-goat, who is the first creature in the world of Narnia to befriend the young Lucy when she initially enters the magical wardrobe. His interaction with Lucy, played adorably by newcomer Georgie Henley, is emotionally priceless and works every bit as well as one might have imagined reading the children’s novel. The character himself is representative of two crucial concepts author C.S. Lewis introduces in the novel. While the faun is a creature often associated with Greek/Roman paganism, he is not necessarily an evil character. Although he does stray from the righteous path in the beginning, he quickly comes to see the error of his ways and repents. Lewis’ point here is that while Christianity is preferred above all other religions, every religion strives toward the virtues of charity and compassion. So when you boil down to the basics of religion, there is a common element that every one of us can relate to. The second point Lewis makes with the introduction of Mr. Tumnus is that while Christians are susceptible to sin and may initially fall prey to it, whether it be out of fear or necessity, we still have the choice to realize we are in the wrong and make up for our mistakes as Mr. Tumnus does.

Tilda Swinton is emphatically conniving as the white witch Jadis, an evil enchantress who rules the realm of Narnia with a cold iron fist, turning anyone who crosses her path into stone and stowing away the hope of all its inhabitants with continuous winter without Christmas. Jadis signifies the figurative temptation of sin and evil in the world. While on the outside she may emit a certain ambiance about her that makes her attractive and desirable, once Edward gives in to the white witch’s desire to capture Peter, Susan, and Lucy, he comes to grips with her true nature which is malevolent to the core. And while some readers are quick to associate Jadis with Satan, supreme rule of Hell, most literary scholars agree that she may very well be a servant of Lucifer but not the actual Prince of Darkness himself since there is no direct correlation between her actions and those of Satan as opposed to the equivalence between Aslan and Jesus Christ. Her demise, however, is not as dramatic as it should have been and feels a bit rushed as soon as the resurrected Aslan arrives on the battle scene.

Overall, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is every bit as magnificent as readers dreamed it would be and exceeds nearly every expectation, though certainly far from all of them, writer C.S. Lewis may have set down for its adaptation in the last fifty years since audiences first discovered the world of Narnia. Parents however should seek to take certain precautions with their younger children as there particular scenes in the film, specifically the sacrifice of Aslan on the Stone Table, which are emotionally profound and may be too stimulating for smaller audiences. Nevertheless, if children of a specific age demographic are able to sit through the latest Harry Potter picture with little if any difficulties at all then they should be fine toward this film. The musical score, conducted by Academy Award-winning composer Harry Gregson-Williams, famous for compositions for Shrek and Team America: World Police, is not nearly as memorable as those for The Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter franchises, lacking anything related to a reoccurring musical theme, but at the same time it reaches the right emotional depth, particularly in the Battle for Narnia, while not overshadowing the actions or dialogue onscreen. Director Andrew Adamson and, more importantly, the new leadership of the Walt Disney Corporation who have in the past been far from what one would consider a close friend to the Christian community should be commended for not downplaying the allusions to Christian theology, particularly Aslan as a mirror-image of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, in an age where political correctness has dominated modern society. There is still much debate amongst the literary community as to whether the Christian allegories in The Chronicles of Narnia series were intentional or not on the part of adult Christian convert C.S. Lewis. Regardless of the true answer, if one does indeed exist, anyone unfamiliar with the suggested theological prospects of the story will hardly notice and their perception of the film so go unchanged. Though comparisons are likely to made to The Lord of the Rings series or even the Harry Potter franchise, nonetheless the special effects of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe hold their own as dazzling and the physical environment which encompasses the characters of the film, all shot on the island of New Zealand where Peter Jackson’s King Kong and the three Lord of the Rings films were also filmed, is nothing short of breathtaking. Notwithstanding allegations from the ACLU quick to label The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as a piece of unmitigated brainwashing propaganda from the religious right who seek to convert the ‘pagans’ to Christianity, the film remains a timeless fantasy classic and an emotionally grappling motion picture event, theological allusions or not.

My Rating: **** ½ out of 5 (Grade: A)

When Did Stephen Speilberg turn into Barbara Streisand?

The Steven Spielberg who brought us Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan is dead. Hail the Steven Spielberg who blames Israel for its own problems involving the Palestinians and places both the terrorists and those who respond to terrorism on an even moral footing.

Personally, I have not seen Spielberg’s latest historical drama, Munich, but I do indeed on catching it over Christmas Break and writing a full review of the film, which will be posted here and quite possibly in The Warrior newspaper as well.

Woody Allen Slams President Bush While Praising Bill Clinton

I’m not one to take political advice from Hollywood celebrities (I do not believe any one should), especially washed-up ones like director/writer/actor Woody Allen, but some times reading their comments on the current political environment brings a little joy to your morning.

Take a gander at what Woody had to say about President Bill Clinton …

“I always liked Bill Clinton. I campaigned for him before he was first elected President, and always regarded the Monica Lewinsky thing as laughable evidence of a prudish population and thought the whole thing was totally absurd, and that he was very smart and would have—if he ran today, he’d be elected in a landslide.”

Is anyone else as surprised as I am that Woody Allen would find a sex scandal ‘laughable’? I didn’t think so. And of course his strategy was smart – deny, deny, deny – then backpedal like Hell when Hillary bitch slaps you one night to confess. How could anyone forget that huge bruise on his cheek?

Thank you Woody! I needed that pick-me-up this morning.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Golden Globe Predictions (Part I - Motion Pictures)

Alright, I had some time on my hands. Here are my picks for the feature film portion of the 63rd Annual Golden Globe Awards (the television portion should be posted some time this weekend) ...

Good Night, And Good Luck

Good ol' McCarthy/Republican bashing. What else could Hollywood ask for? Just my two cents - I actually think it will be a close call with the Gay Cowboy Movie (also referred to as Brokeback Mountain) but I believe George will prevail ... so to speak.

Charlize Theron - North Country

Okay, she's not playing a prostitute this time. But a feminist is the next closest thing, right?!

Philip Seymour Hoffman - Capote

Walk the Line

Reese Witherspoon - Walk the Line

Joaquin Phoenix - Walk the Line

Paradise Now (Palestine)

Like there's any contest!

Shirley MacLaine - In Her Shoes

Your guess is as good as mine.

Paul Giamatti - Cinderella Man

Will he get it? I have my doubts but he certainly deserves it, especially for this film.

George Clooney - Good Night, And Good Luck.

It will be a close call between Clooney's anti-Republican/pro-Communism film and Spielberg's anti-Israel drama, but George should be able to pull this one out.

James Newton Howard - King Kong

" A Love That Will Never Grow Old" - Brokeback Mountain
Music by: Gustavo Santaolalla
Lyrics by: Bernie Taupin

Actors in the Hit TV Show Have a Hard Time Finding the Brake

I am obsessed with ABC’s hit television series, LOST, as if you couldn’t tell by the numerous links to LOST-related websites I have on the right-side of this site. That’s why I am kind of on edge about the possibility that Michelle Rodriguez whose character Ana-Lucia I just starting to get into may face jail time if she is found in violation of her probation. This may mean that her character will have to be killed off which is a shame because a) she is a real catalyst for emotions on the show as of late (having accidentally shot Shannon) and b) the element of suspense with her character’s demise would be lost entirely. However, it appears as though she is not the only cast member who has had a run in with law as of late.

Film Reviews Coming Soon!!

Alright, Christmas Break for Marquette University officially begins this Saturday (my last exam unfortunately is at three in the afternoon tomorrow – one of the very last ones on campus to precise) and although I will likely have a lot of things to do during this time (visiting friends, family, work, reading, etc.) I want to get as many film reviews I have neglected in the past few months as possible done before second semester begins in mid-January 2006.

The list of film reviews yet to come includes Apollo 13, Alien vs. Predator, Serenity, Wedding Crashers, Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and King Kong (I have not seen the film yet – it is finals week after all – but my roommate and I are hoping to catch it on Friday after exams, but we’ll see). I hope to get a majority (if not all) of them done within the next month but during this time please be patient as I organize things.

Thank you.

UPDATE – I forgot to mention that there are also a lot of films I have not seen yet that I hope to catch during the break, including The Producers, Walk the Line, Syriana, Good Night And Good Luck, and Brokeback Mountain.

One-Sheet for M. Night Shymalan's Lady in the Water

NEW Over the Hedge Trailer Premieres

I’m not a real fan of PDI. I’ll give them credit for vastly improving upon the original Shrek film and creating a truly heartwarming and inspirational follow-up project, but then they release Madagascar and my opinion of them drops again. This summer’s Over the Hedge, based upon a comic series I have never heard of until now, could go either way. The trailer is cute, but so was the one for Madagascar and the end results were opposite of what the trailer made it out to be.

King Kong Opens to Just $9.7 Million


Variety reports that Peter Jackson's King Kong opened well below Universal's hopes and industry expectations with $9.7 million domestically on Wednesday. That's about half of the opening day take of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring four years ago, which the studio reportedly said was a comparable film.

Universal is now hoping that good word of mouth will help push the film to a stronger weekend than the Wednesday figure historically indicates, as well as long playability. One thing to keep in mind is that it is finals week for many college students around the country, which is definitely one of the film's targeted groups. They most likely can't see the movie until this weekend.

Overseas grosses were stronger. Kong opened internationally with $8 million at 4,659 playdates in 36 markets. The biggest numbers came from Australia, where it grossed $860,000 at 232 playdates, UIP's second-largest Wednesday opening, and in Germany with $664,000 in 739 theaters, similar to War of the Worlds.

Kong had the biggest ever Wednesday opening in Peter Jackon's home based of New Zealand , grossing $297,000 with 73 plays, as well as Malaysia, where Kong set a record with $254,000 on 49 playdates. The film did well throughout Asia, with similarly strong numbers in the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

63rd Annual Golden Globe Nominations

And finally with all the commotion surrounding the final exams at Marquette University and the anticipation of Christmas Break (screw that PC Winter Break crap), I nearly forgot to mention the Golden Globe nominations. Yeah, I realize the Golden Globes are a joke, merely an excuse to see celebrities get drunk and display their utter stupidity with total acceptance. Right now I am bit preoccupied with other things (working on my comparative politics essay which is due tomorrow afternoon), so I will post only the nominees and make my selections as to who I believe will win later on.

Brokeback Mountain
The Constant Gardener
Good Night, And Good Luck
A History of Violence
Match Point

Maria Bello - A History of Violence
Felicity Huffman - TransAmerica
Gwyneth Paltrow - Proof
Charlize Theron - North Country
Ziyi Zhang - Memoirs of a Geisha

Russell Crowe - Cinderella Man
Philip Seymour Hoffman - Capote
Terrence Howard - Hustle & Flow
Heath Ledger - Brokeback Mountain
David Strathairn - Good Night, And Good Luck.

Mrs. Henderson Presents
Pride & Prejudice
The Producers
The Squid and the Whale
Walk the Line

Judi Dench - Mrs. Henderson Presents
Keira Knightley - Pride & Prejudice
Laura Linney - The Squid and the Whale
Sarah Jessica Parker - The Family Stone
Reese Witherspoon - Walk the Line

Pierce Brosnan - The Matador
Jeff Daniels - The Squid and the Whale
Johnny Depp - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Nathan Lane - The Producers
Cillian Murphy - Breakfast on Pluto
Joaquin Phoenix - Walk the Line

Kung Fu Hustle (China)
Master of the Crimson Armor (aka "The Promise," China)
Merry Christmas (Joyeux Noel) (France)
Paradise Now (Palestine)
Tsotsi (South Africa)

Scarlett Johansson - Match Point
Shirley MacLaine - In Her Shoes
Frances McDormand - North Country
Rachel Weisz - The Constant Gardener
Michelle Williams - Brokeback Mountain

George Clooney - Syriana
Matt Dillon - Crash
Will Ferrell - The Producers
Paul Giamatti - Cinderella Man
Bob Hoskins - Mrs. Henderson Presents

Woody Allen - Match Point
George Clooney - Good Night, And Good Luck.
Peter Jackson - King Kong
Ang Lee - Brokeback Mountain
Fernando Meirelles - The Constant Gardener
Steven Spielberg - Munich

Alexandre Desplat - Syriana
James Newton Howard - King Kong
Gustavo Santaolalla - Brokeback Mountain
Harry Gregson-Williams - The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
John Williams - Memoirs of a Geisha

" A Love That Will Never Grow Old" - Brokeback Mountain
Music by: Gustavo Santaolalla
Lyrics by: Bernie Taupin

"Christmas in Love" - Christmas in Love
Music by: Tony Renis
Lyrics by: Marva Jan Marrow

"There's Nothing Like a Show on Broadway - The Producers
Music & Lyrics by: Mel Brooks

"Travelin' Thru" - TransAmerica
Music & Lyrics by: Dolly Parton

"Wunderking" - The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
Music & Lyrics by: Alanis Morissette

The Da Vinci Code Trailer Premieres

I must say that I was a bit disappointed with the official trailer for director Ron Howard’s feature film adaptation of the best-selling novel, The Da Vinci Code, but I remain in anticipation of its release on May 19th, 2006.

Poseidon Teaser Trailer Premieres

I do not know what to quite make of the teaser trailer for Poseidon, a remake of the classic disaster film, The Poseidon Adventure. On the one hand, I am not a fan of Wolfgang Peterson, particularly after he butchered (and I mean butchered in the worst sense) the legend of Troy two years ago, nor was I fan of his other water disaster film, The Perfect Storm, which I just found to be pointless. On the other hand however how can you pass up a film with someone as adorable as Emmy Rossum? Poseidon could either be really good (nothing Oscar caliber mind you but mindless entertainment typical of Wolfgang Peterson) or ungodly (ha, ha) awful.

Poseidon opens May 12th, 2006, and, once more, the teaser trailer (they say it’s the trailer but I am assuming that at this point, so far from its release date, that it is only the teaser) will premiere along with Peter Jackson’s King Kong today.

Miami Vice Teaser Trailer Premieres

In all the times I have been able to catch reruns of the 1980s cop series Miami Vice, not once do I ever recall it ever being as down and dirty as the teaser trailer for the modern feature film adaptation makes it appear to be. I am not complaining however. I greatly enjoyed Michael Mann’s Collateral last year and he seems to be applying the same digital camera style here as well.

Miami Vice opens in theatres on July 28th, 2006, and, again, this is likely to be attached to Peter Jackson’s King Kong which opens today in theatres.

Mission: Impossible III Teaser Trailer Premieres

I was never one to have been caught up in the Tom Cruise Mission: Impossible franchise, but I must admit that I am looking forward to the release of Mission: Impossible III this coming summer (May 6th, 2006, to be precise) simply because J.J. Abrams, the man behind ‘Alias’ and ‘Lost’, is making his feature film directorial debut.

So be sure to check out the teaser trailer for Mission: Impossible III which is more then likely to be attached to Peter Jackson’s King Kong which coincidently opens today in theatres across the country.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Corrupt Priest Shelters Pedophile on 'Boston Legal'

A liberal bias with just a hint of an anti-Catholic slant is not surprising coming from David E. Kelley whose now-defunct The Practice clearly demonstrated, but even for him this has to be a bit out of line.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Film Review - The Island

What draws audiences today to science-fiction thrillers set within the ‘not too distant’ future? Can it be the mystery, the intrigue, or the fear of the change that could potential swipe mankind into an alter environment we are unfamiliar with? Only in recent years has this particular genre in filmmaking been as successful as it seems to be for modern audiences. Total Recall, starring the now governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Back to the Future – Part II were the only ones to have crossed the one-hundred million dollar mark until Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report, which debated whether it would be just for someone who was predicted to commit a murder at a particular time to be arrested and sentenced when they had committed no crime, rejuvenated the genre. Many, if not all, of the films set in the near future deal with issues that will likely never take place (for example, robots gaining a conscious mind and rising up in revolution against their human overlords), though they may certainly seem probable in one way or another. But Michael Bay’s first departure from producer partner Jerry Bruckheimer and the Walt Disney Company, which owns Touchstone Pictures, the production company which has distributed many of his films, will likely change that. Stem cell research is just one of many issues at the forefront of the national debate and it won’t be long until cloning, specifically with humans involved, is the topic of discussion at every breakfast table in the country. This is precisely the issue on which Bay’s film, The Island, touches upon.

The story for The Island, an invention of the minds of the creative writing duo behind J.J. Abram’s “Alias” television series on ABC and Paramount Pictures’ Mission: Impossible III, is without hesitation the most daring and trenchant concept to come down the box office pipeline in several years. Sadly, with all due respect to the courageous directives of Michael Bay and the creative team behind the speculative project, in a year of tired retreads and timidness on the part of studio executives unwilling to compensate the bottom line for the sake of creativity and originality, this may not speak profoundly toward audiences which is why it would not be all that surprising, albeit begrudgingly accepted, if this imaginative feature film were initially ignored. The Island’s premise is a mixture of the themes of two cautionary tales – humanity’s dangerous pursuit of knowledge through science and its unquenchable desire to conquer death, even to the point of usurping the role of God, seen in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: Or the Modern Prometheus and the manipulative power of a totalitarian-like state such as the Institute to control the imaginations and emotional functions of its inhabitants, seemingly as George Orwell depicts in his science-fiction novel, 1984.

Ewan McGregor, fresh off the anticipated success of the final installment in the epic Star Wars film series, exemplifies magnificent chemistry with co-star Scarlett Johansson and offers up a wide range of emotions as his character Lincoln Six Echo goes from being a relatively content innocent to an unnerved transient doing whatever he can in order to stay alive. In a small way, minus of course the motivational killing spree set against his creator’s loved ones, Lincoln mirrors Victor Frankenstein’s monster in several ways. He remains essentially nameless in the movie, referred to only as if he were a product and not an actual human being. Lincoln simplistically examines the world around him with a childlike curiosity about him which matures as his knowledge of the world around him grows. And there exists in him upon escaping from The Institute the desire to bring destruction to his creator(s). Lincoln’s ability to question his existence and environment in which he lives demonstrates that no matter how advanced scientific technology becomes, the presence of God’s hand in our creation can not be entirely erased, as in The Institute’s need to retain the basic concept of ‘life’ for its products in order for them to remain functionally viable. Scarlett Johansson has more of a ‘laid back’ performance in the film in comparison to McGregor’s upfront action persona through a portion of the picture and since it fits exactly with the characteristics and situations of the individual characters in the story, it works well as it is. Her illuminating presence onscreen however can act as somewhat of detriment to her, particularly when others within the film comment about it. The first time a bystander compliments Johansson’s character on her looks, it is a bit amusing, more for her confused reaction then anything else, but as the joke is regurgitated at verbatim throughout the rest of the picture it becomes increasingly annoying. Okay, we get that she’s hot – let’s move on, shall we? Why continue stating the obvious?

Sean Bean is perfectly disquieting as Merrick, head of the Institute. Merrick is many ways directly parallels Victor Frankenstein from author Mary Shelley’s classic horror novel. His intentions on embarking on this venture of human cloning may very well have been for the right reasons (at least within his own mind); although there is no clear evidence from the film to directly support this theory. Sadly, as the old saying goes, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. The fact that he hires a band of mercenaries to capture the missing clones instead of sending his own men or notifying the Defense Department demonstrates his inability to take responsibility for his creations when the tide turns against him and in the process more lives were lost and damage created then was necessary. With much arrogance he views himself as God on Earth, fiddling with forces he does not quite comprehend and has little, if any, control over (evident through the Echo-line’s retention of the human curiosity characteristic), able to renounce his creations on a whim only to have them turn against their creator.

Michael Clarke Duncan as the clone of famous national football player Starkweather is quite possibly the most disappointing aspect of the film’s cast. This has nothing to do however with his performance, which in fact was quite genuine, but rather it had more to do with the amount of time onscreen. For as relatively famous as Michael Clarke Duncan is, this seems too small of a part for him to usually accept and may have worked just as effectively with a lesser known actor. The clone’s sole purpose is to act as an insurance policy to its client. In this case, he provides a healthy liver to Starkweather who no doubt has rotted his away through excessive drinking and partying in light of his football fame, though no reason is given with the film’s storyline. The scene in which surgeons begin to open up his chest to remove the liver when he regains consciousness and attempts to force his way out of the operating room only to be dragged back to his death is positively gut-wrenching to witness as it should be.

Overall, The Island firmly stands as director Michael Bay’s most enterprising, proficient, and poignant project to date, which, as far as his detractors in the media and throughout Hollywood are concerned, may not be saying all that much. Though the Hollywood foreign press may be unwilling to accept it, The Island should speak volumes to studio executives across the state of California. In a year in which we have borne witness to increasingly declining box office sales as Hollywood continues to senselessly flood the marketplace with vapid sequels and fortuitous remakes, director Michael Bay’s exposition on the issue of human cloning and how science, albeit beneficial in the long run for society, has its moral limits stands out as the season’s sole originative piece. What is truly unique about The Island is that it sets itself apart from a box office entirely devoid of controversy, as opposed to last year when The Passion of the Christ and Fahrenheit 9/11 dominated the political headlines for months, the science-fiction thriller numerous issues and/or concerns that currently stand on the forefront of the nation’s pitched political battlefield. While decidedly the moral implications involved with the concept of human cloning for the purposes of extending life is the main focal point of the picture, The Island also raises questions, albeit indirectly, pertaining to the extent stem-cell research can or should be taken in order to preserve human life. Abortion and genocide are additional underlying issues present in a scene in which the remaining Echo-line of clones are decimated near the end of the movie. Totalitarianism and fascism are also highlighted briefly and there can even be distinguishable hints referencing Communism and Nazism with one scene in particular near the end of the film that is eerily reminiscent of the Holocaust. Will audiences likely notice these themes on their own, let alone care about them? Sadly, no, as many will likely be expecting mindless action-packed entertainment from director Michael Bay. Unfortunately it seems as though The Island, easily this year’s most innovative and startling motion-picture event, will likely go unnoticed by a majority of mainstream American audiences.

My Rating: ***** out of 5 (Grade: A+)