Saturday, July 24, 2010

Eric Bird Movie Review: Inception

Who's In It: Leo, Juno and the Scarecrow.

What It's About: A guy is hired to plant an idea in someone's head via his dreams. Hilarity ensues.

What I Was Expecting: It's been one of the most talked about movies of the summer. I'm a fan of director Christopher Nolan, but not a huge one. I thought Insomnia and The Prestige were just okay.

What I Got: The best movie of the year so far. In fact, it will be pretty tough to beat in my mind. It's a labyrinth of a story. Mazes play a big part of this movie and that's an unlikely coincidence. It is the kind of summer movie you WISH Hollywood would make more often. Everything about it is top notch. The acting, the dialogue, the directing, the special effects, etc. It's a 2 hour plus movie that flies by. At its core, it's a heist movie in reverse. It's a LOT of fun, but I don't want to spoil anything with the plot. I will say this, if you go see this movie, do NOT try and figure out anything ahead of time. I think that's where some people find it confusing. It's our instinct, especially with movies, to attempt to get ahead of the story. We, as humans, like to know where we're going. Don't do that with this film. Let the movie take you. Listen to what's being explained and watch. Everything is made clear ahead of time. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

Grade: A

Oscar Potential: It will be a Best Picture nominee. Nolan should pick up a directing nod. Writing, for sure. Leo and, especially, Marion Cotillard could pull nominations. Then just tick off the technical categories on the ballots. It deserves consideration in every one, except Best Song, I suppose.

Five Random Thoughts:

1. There are scenes so amazing, I can't stop grinning. And who'd have thought Joseph Gordon-Levitt would kick ass in what will go down as one of the coolest fight scenes of all time?

2. Is that Tom Berenger? Where on earth has he been? And the plastic surgery on him....eeek.

3. I love a movie where the only villain is time.

4. I cannot BELIEVE how quiet everyone is being in this theater. Kendall Village 16, this is why I love you.

5. Great reaction to the final shot, but again, if you were paying attention earlier in the movie, the "up in the air" ending was explained in one line of dialogue early on.

Trailer Park:

Dinner for Schmucks: My prediction? This movie will be just okay, but the dinner scene itself will be classic.

Tron: Same old trailer we've been seeing for months. With a December release date, we'll see it a lot more.

Wall Street Money Never Sleeps: I thought this came out already. Oh wait, this premiered at Cannes. The reviews ranged from mediocre to really good. I'll be checking this one out.
The Social Network: I'm not sure the audience I was sitting with understood what they were watching. I was expecting a stronger reaction.
Due Date: A road trip, buddy comedy with Robert Downey, Jr., Zach Galifianikis and Jamie Foxx. Has some good laughs with one great sight gag towards the end of the trailer that had the crowd roaring.
The Town: This was an interesting trailer in so many ways. First off, they say "From the acclaimed director of Gone Baby Gone", but never say who that director is. It's Ben Affleck. Curious that they hid that. Secondly, they hint at a plot twist that will happen in the movie. I thought it was pretty obvious what that twist was. Apparently, so did they and reveal it.This tells me there is a lot more to this movie then what they're showing.

Eric Bird Movie Review: The Last Airbender


Who's In It: A couple kids, the Slumdog Millionaire guy and some character actors. And I'm sure M. Night Shyalakalikimaka does a cameo somewhere, but I didn't notice.

What It's About: Couple kids find another kid in a snow globe who turns out to be Neo from the Matrix. Hilarity ensues.

What I Was Expecting: I'd read a couple of the reviews saying how bad it was. That's USUALLY a pretty good sign that I'll go in with really low expectations and wind up loving the movie.

What I Got: A true test of my moviegoing stamina. It was REALLY hard not to walk out. M. Night Shyamalan is getting brutalized for what he did to the Avatar series (Not related to the James Cameron film). In my opinion, it's not really deserved this time. The person responsible is the moron who hired him for the job. I've seen the Lord of the Rings movies. Does that make me qualified to direct The Hobbit? Nope. And that's the problem here. It's simply not the movie Shyamalan knows how to direct. He has an idea of how this kind of film should be done, but doesn't know how to do it well. It's like having A-Rod come in to pitch in the bottom of the 9th. Just because he's a baseball player, doesn't mean he knows how to do everything. Shyamalan is at his best in dark, moody films. To put it more simply, there's a reason Alfred Hitchcock never made a musical. Being a great director doesn't mean you can direct every genre well. Shyamalan, one, has no feel for the material and, two, doesn't know how to direct films on a large scale. The Wachowski Brothers would have been perfect. M. Night Shyamalan was simply out of his comfort zone. If I didn't like the story itself, I would have given it an F.

Grade: D

Oscar Potential: Zero.

Five Random Thoughts:

1. The child actors in this movie make Jake Lloyd (Anakin in Phantom Menace) look like freaking Daniel Day Lewis. There were times where it felt like I was watching an elementary school play.

2.They squeezed 20 episodes of material into 100 minutes. That's a LOT of source material thrown into the garbage.

3. Has Shyamalan even seen the Avatar series? This movie is WAY too darkly lit. In fact, most everything in this film is wrong. The score is inappropriate in a lot of places. The pacing is all wrong. The effects are just okay. The dialogue is so clunky it hurts to listen to. The cinematography is terrible. Just a good story very badly made.

4. They need to not let Shyamalan anywhere near part 2.

5. I wonder if there's a McDonald's near here. I'm craving an Angus Burger. (P.S. It was delicious.)

Trailer Park:

Legend of the Guardians: I trust Zack Snyder's filmmaking instincts. I believe he'll win an Oscar someday. This must be a hell of a story to want to follow Watchmen with, but if you need to come on camera and EXPLAIN why I should like your movie in your trailer, it's not a good sign.

Nanny McPhee Returns: I always feel a twinge of guilt bashing a movie trailer that isn't intended to entice me to see it in the first place. But wow, this looks dumb.

Sorcerer's Apprentice: At first, I was wondering why they are showing a trailer to a movie that's already bombed. It doesn't look half bad. Maybe it's to try and open people's minds a little.
Gulliver's Travels: This is an ODD trailer. It sets itself up like it's going to be one kind of movie and then it turns out to be something else. Hopefully, the title gives you an idea of what that something else is. It's Jack Black being Jack Black in a land of little people. I don't think the original novel was a comedy.
Rango: This has been Johnny Depp's pet project for a long time. An animated film about a lizard in the desert. Looks pretty creative. Can't wait to see more.
Mega Mind: I love this trailer, even though I've seen it several times. This one is going to be great.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Movie Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - A

Who's In It: Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace amd a bunch of other Swedish actors you've never heard of. No, Max von Sydow isn't in it.

What It's About: A journalist investigates a 40 year old murder of a girl in Sweden unfolding a labyrinth of secrets among this weird family. Hilarity ensues.

What I Was Expecting: Never read the books. Hadn't heard much about the movie except that Lisbeth Salander is one of the best female roles ever written.

What I Got: The kind of movie I've been waiting a LONG time to see. I'd been griping to friends for years about the lack of a true mystery in movies. Hollywood tends to focus on serial killers being hunted in the middle of their spree. "The Butler Did It" scenario just doesn't happen in films anymore. This is the movie I've been waiting for. And more. The two protagonists, the journalist and the title character, are so well thought out, as are the peripheral characters. The back stories, and present situations, are credible and help you understand their actions in truthful way. Not as an excuse to make up for motives that don't make much sense. There's no figuring out the mystery ahead of the characters. It unfolds for the viewer at the same time it unfolds for them. The same goes for the motivations behind them. It is a truly brilliant film. I must warn you though. It is NOT for the faint of heart.

Grade: A

Oscar Potential: It's not entirely clear if it qualifies for the Oscars this year. It had a run in L.A. in November, but wasn't released in the U.S. until March. To make things more complicated, the sequel, "The Girl Who Played with Fire", opened in limited release last Friday. And, because of the Academy's rather strange rules regarding foreign films, Sweden can only submit one of the two. That said, a nod for Foreign Language film would be a shoo-in. Acting nominations for its two leads are well-deserved. Editing, cinematography and adapted screenplay should also be considered, if not Best Picture and Director as well. It's a classic.

Five Random Thoughts:
1. NOT for the easily disturbed. This film has, not one, but, TWO anal rape scenes.
2. A bisexual, computer hacking, ass kicking, goth chick protagonist? Ain't nothin' wrong with that.
3. I would LOVE to see Michael Emerson in the lead for the U.S. remake. Daniel Craig is rumored to play the lead. I'd like to see someone a little less tough.
4. I dread the thought of the American remake. This film is brutal at times and Hollywood has a tendency to shy away from it. And the casting of a well-known actress (Carey Mulligan is rumored) could really hurt this film unless she goes all out. David Fincher is rumored to direct it. He'll have to return to full-blown "Se7en" mode to pull it off.
5. You know a movie is really good when you are able to pause the film, but STILL refuse to go to the bathroom.

Eric Bird Capsule Reviews

How to Train Your Dragon - A-

A surprisingly funny and touching animated film about acceptance of all kinds. The only thing that kept it from being an A was the deus ex machina ending. But even that didn't take too much away from a wonderful story about family, community and seeing things from all sides.  
Oscar Potential:  It should give Toy Story 3 a run for its money in the Best Animated Feature category.

Daybreakers - B

I knew almost nothing about this film going in. And learning it's about a vampire named Edward didn't give me too much hope. It's a vampire film almost in reverse. Only a few humans are left in a world populated by vampires. Some clunky scenes didn't take away too much from a clever story. (If circumstances are so urgent, does Willem Dafoe really have time to sing an Elvis song?) The logic is a little vague at the end, but for me to explain further would spoil an unusual twist on the rules of vampire movies. Sam Neill makes a great villain, but if you present a villain with a sound argument for his beliefs, you shouldn't have him commit an unspeakable act that no sane person would commit.  
Oscar Potential: Almost none, but the makeup deserves consideration.

 Grown Ups - B

I was pleasantly surprised by this one. Sure, with Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade and Rob Schneider, there's plenty of gross out and slapstick humor. But it's used sparingly. And, of course, there are certain elements that really could've been left on the cutting room floor or perhaps there was more to the story, but they left the rest out, i.e., Sandler lying to his wife, James being unemployed, etc. But the film does make an solid commentary on modern marriages, putting careers first and child-rearing. The cast, which includes Salma Hayek and Maria Bello, seems to be having a blast making the movie and it's hard not to share their fun.  
Oscar Potential:  Zero.

Martin Scorsese Film Festival Part 7

Part 7: The King of Comedy

During so much of this festival, I've been able to sit back and focus on the Scorsese aspects of these films. The King of Comedy is the first one that I got so caught up in the movie itself, I forgot to pay attention to the Scorsese style. It's truly a great film and belongs on the list with his greatest achievements. At first, I was a little weirded out by the star obsession and found it off-putting. But as the plot progressed, it worked. A lesser filmmaker would spelled everything out a little more at the end, but I found this ending was far better. My favorite of the festival so far.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Martin Scorsese Film Festival Part 6

Part 6: Who's Knocking at My Door

Well, here's a film you don't ever have to worry about being remade. A young Harvey Keitel finds out his girlfriend is not a virgin. And dumps her because of it. Oh, and the reason she's not a virgin was because she was raped. She even gets called a whore because of it. The movie itself is fairly plotless. A lot of the usual Scorsese tangents. But also a lot of the camera work that would become his trademark. Even at mere 90 minutes, it's a stretch. Not necessarily Scorsese's fault since it's basically a student film with footage added later (including a montage sex scene added even later) to get distribution. All in all, it's definitely a sign of things to come. A solid debut despite the actions of the protagonist.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Movie Review: Shutter Island - D+

Who's In It: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Creepy/Sinister TypeCast Villains.

What It's About: Leo goes to an island for the criminally insane to investigate a missing inmate. Hilarity ensues.

What I Was Expecting: It's directed by Martin Scorsese, which elevates any film buff's expectations. I had heard there was a plot twist that you either see coming or you don't.

What I Got: I saw it coming. In the FIRST scene, I saw it coming. Actually said out loud, "Oh...(insert spoiler here)". When that happens in a movie, especially in a film over two hours long, it makes you impatient. You see right through every red herring, every false lead is one you don't follow. It gets pretty excruciating when they don't steer you away from what became obvious at the beginning. That said, it would be a pretty mediocre film without the early tip off. It's dark, it's moody, but that would all serve a better purpose if I gave a rat's ass about any of the characters. And it's a Scorsese film that, frankly, could have been as effective if Brett Ratner were directing (see: "Red Dragon"). And good God, when the twist finally comes, it drags out FOREVER! This movie would have been better doing a reverse twist. You THINK you know one's coming, but it never happens. Might be something for wannabe screenwriters to think about.

Grade: D+

Oscar Potential: Cinematography, editing, nothing else stands a chance. Even in a week year.

Five Random Thoughts:
1. Max von Sydow plays so many German/Nazi Scientist types, I often forget he's Swedish.
2. HEY! It's Jackie Earle Haley playing a person in an asylum. That NEVER happens.
3. One rule this film does play with is The Economy of Characters Rule. Basically, you don't cast a recognizable face in a meaningless role. The audience will expect more from that character. Or maybe I just see too many movies that I expected more from Elias Koteas, Emily Mortimer and Patricia Clarkson.
4. This was a Dennis LeHane novel? I'm going to have to see how they differed. Just doesn't seem like it.
5. Is it too late in the day to make a pot of coffee?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Martin Scorsese Film Festival Part 5

Part 5: Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore

Interesting piece of trivia. Ellen Burstyn won an Oscar for a terrific performance. Scorsese, in 1974, had already directed more actors to Oscars than Spielberg has as of 2010. Scorsese later directed De Niro, Newman, Pesci and Blanchett to Oscar gold. Spielberg has yet to have anyone win for his films despite winning two Oscars for directing. Just something I like to give to Mr. Scorsese.

"Alice" has a lot of the Scorsese elements he went on to perfect. The tracking shots. The dolly shots were particularly unique in the beginning due to the height, almost looking down on the houses. Like his later work, the film has filler towards the end, delaying the obvious dénouement, but it still works. I don't know if this particular film lost some of its luster due to the long running TV show. It's a great film. The kind of small scale, character and dialogue driven story I'd been saying for years I wished Scorsese would make.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Martin Scorsese Film Festival

Day 4: Shutter Island

A separate review will come separately. This entry is a little shocking. Not the movie itself, which is not good, but the fact that nothing about this film feels like a Scorsese picture. None of his trademarks are here. And the plot itself seems a little mainstream for a film by Scorsese. Other than having the opportunity to direct a Dennis LeHane novel, it's not clear why Scorsese even bothered. Strange choice indeed.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Martin Scorsese Film Festival: Day 3

Day 3: After Hours

A totally unique entry in the Martin Scorsese filmography. It's an amusing film, with a couple laugh out loud moments, especially during the last half hour. It's interesting how the Scorsese style adds to the film, adding a sense of urgency and danger, which is all the fun of the story in the first place. Definitely a case when the movie is better BECAUSE it's Scorsese. And one of the few of his films that could've been longer.