Sunday, August 26, 2012

Cosmopolis Review

“A rat became the unit of currency.”
-Zbigniew Herbert.

In this day and age, if anyone can describe Capitalism as a disease ridden rodent it is David Cronenberg. In his new film "Cosmopolis", starring Robert Pattinson, the rat has become the symbol for all economic progress or downfall. The relevance of this film is staggering due to a post 2008 financial crisis, one which many people still face. Most will presume this is Pattinson's exploration into a new form of film since his final Twilight film is this year. But this film is not simplistic in any way, it is cerebral.

Cosmopolis is the story of multi-Billionaire Eric Packer(he doesn't dawn the bat suite. Totally different billionaire you are thinking about) who wants a haircut. His chauffeur advises him that the president will be in town that day, which will ultimately make the ride a little more difficult. Throughout the course of a sex, economic, food, anarchy protest driven day. Eric still waits for his haircut knowing that his life is at risk, he still ventures to receive his desires.

Now I'm not the biggest fan of Pattinson, but before I say my opinion of his performance I'd just like to say that I haven't liked his performances in Twilight(it's like starring at a wall), I can say this is his best performance to date but it's an okay performance, it's not that impressive. However, I would like it if he would do more films like these to prove to cinephiles that he is not just that twilight guy.

While it's very easy to note that Cronenberg has been playing the safe side for the past few years, this seems like his more ambitious and weirder films like "Videodrome", "Dead Ringers", "Naked Lunch" and "Crash". I personally did not like "Dangerous Method", I thought it was pure Oscar Bait, "A History of Violence" and "Easter Promises" are both great films, but they lacked the weirdness that his earlier films had, which is what helps "Cosmopolis" become such a great film.

While I stated that Pattinson is okay, I do love the character. Here is a character that is has everything, but wants and desires something as simple as a haircut. He is on the edge of his sanity, and is purposely betting all of his money against himself. He has his appointments in his limo, including a check up by his doctor, numerous sexual encounters, and has many food based encounters with his wife. He is narcissistic, cold and alienating, he isn't the hunk from Twilight that many of his fans will be expecting.

This film is dialogue driven and it can put some people off. It alienates the viewer intentionally as the film goes on, but the dialogue is so well written and smart that it's almost hard to not be interested as it goes on.

The main setting, the limo, is very scifi, it's unrealistic but very real. It's Oscar worthy for a Production Designers point of view. The Limo is were most of the action takes place, were the conversations are staged. The viewer almost feels like we are in the limo with these characters because it becomes familiar throughout. We see it drive off in the beginning, watch conversations about capitalism, watch Eric have sex in it, watch him cry, watch it getting destroyed by anarchists, watch him get a check up by a doctor, and piss in it, essentially, the limo becomes a character.

There isn't much violence, but with whatever violence we do get, it's very well done. My personal favorite scene involves a riot which *spoiler alert* vandalizes the limo. The entire scene is Eric and this woman talking about the future while a riot plays in the background, the scene mostly focuses on the conversation rather than the riot, but it has an effect that sends a chill through your spine.

The performances are good. Some characters I wish could have been fleshed out a bit more, but otherwise they were good enough to watch entirely. Some could have been a little more realistic and some were beyond unrealistic. I really didn't buy Eric's wife, she seemed way too mysterious for her own good and otherwise I couldn't really care about her. Paul Giamatti's last 20 minutes actually had me on the edge of my seat and had my heart beating quickly. His character is scary and subtle.

This is a film about ideas, not emotion. It will end up on my Top 10 of 2012 easily. However, I'm pretty sure this will not be in favor at the Oscars next year since their current streak with films about emotions rather than ideas(Extremely Close anyone?) always dominate every categories.

I Give it 4.5/5 Stars

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Crap of the Day: The Crater Lake Monster

Now I'm normally a fan of shlock B Movies, hell I'll even consider myself a fan of Ed Wood films(they're fun to watch when you're with friends). But where there are fun B Movies, there are bastard children wannabes that are too bad to watch, and that's where "The Crater Lake Monster" comes in.

So we all know the story of Loch Ness monster right? Alright now imagine that, but it's a plesiosaur and it's not in Scotland and it kills people for food and there you have it! The complicated plot of this mad movie!

Now this movie has a pile of issues, for instance, it's more lake than monster. If I counted how many minutes in total the monster is on screen, it would be at least 15 minutes out of the total 1 hour 25 minutes movie. We are spent watching pointless scenes of terrible character development and dialogue. There is a scene where some random dude *spoiler alert*shoots a store clerk for beer, which by the way has absolutely nothing to do with the monster, and is later chased by the cop into the lake where he is later eaten by the monster. He is a pretty pointless plot point and a badly executed one at that.

The performances are just terrible. It's like watching people reading note cards right in front of their faces. Now I realize this may be low budget, but it doesn't even feel like the actors were having a fun time with this, it feels like they were tortured on set so they used there performances to torture the viewers. If I am correct, then well played actors... well played.

The effects are all stop motion effects. If you're not aware of stop motion then think clay like visual effects. I'm generally a fan of it. I've done some work on stop motion effects and they are fun. These are some pretty cool stop motion effects since some of them actually blend well in reality, but there's not much of it in a movie that's supposed to be about the monster.

The editing is just half assed. All cuts are choppy, you can barely see the monster attack characters in separate scenes.

Now, some of the scenes showing the lake are beautifully shot, there's just too much of them. So much that after a point of watching this movie I could stop calling it "Crater Lake Monster" and start calling it "The Crater Lake".

Ultimately, I would put this in a category next to Troll 2 for crappiest of the crap. It's not fun, it's torture for the eyes. My advice? See it drunk with your friends if you really want to see it.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Trailer Reviews: Man of Steel

While this is just a teaser trailer, this has certainly become one of the most hyped up films of next year. While I am not a huge fan of Superman like a I am a Batman fan, I am aware of the mythology and am currently in the process of reading the Man of Steel comics by John Byrne and Dick Giodarno; and from what I've seen, this will be a more "grounded in reality" version of Superman.

The story of Superman is almost universally known by everyone, I'm not going to bother writing the whole concept of the plot. Plus it's a gigantic spoiler if I tell you everything! I'm not going to ruin your joy a year before the movie is released.

The notoriety of the trailer mostly stems from its beautiful tone that sparks memory of Terrence Mallick if you will. This seems to be Snyders most adult themed film coming out of making visually stunning CGI films. It's somber tone makes it seem as though it wont be a big explosive summer film but a serious film that could join the realm of The Dark Knight Trilogy.

I do have one big problem with it. Zack Snyder. I am still very angry about Sucker Punch which landed on my #2 of my worst of 2011 list. Now you're considering the idea that I am going to hate this movie because I don't like Snyder. Not at all true. I think he has a visually stunning eye(I did like Watchmen but didn't like 300), I just don't think he should write his own films.

There are two versions of the trailer. One with Russell Crowe, the other with Kevin Costner. Here is the Costner version if you're wondering about it(the crowe version is the trailer at the top if you haven't guessed it yet)-

The final shot of Superman flying is pretty Spectacular. It shows us the harsh conditions of the mesosphere, stratosphere and troposphere; after leaving the final layer of Earth, he goes supersonic. While the other Superman films make this effect seem simple, Snyders version seems to take the realism to its realistic level(pun not intended).

So overall, if you were expecting to see more of Superman in this trailer, it wont work for you. Otherwise it's a fantastic teaser that left me wanting to see more.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Hunger Games Review

As someone who has read the entire series of Suzanne Collin's books "The Hunger Games", I had only two things on my mind for the film adaptation. 1) Is it good?(simple question but better than nothing) And 2) Will it be faithful? Well let's find out.

In what used to be America is the world of Panem. 74 Years ago, there was a rebellion against the capitol of Panem and their 13 Districts. District 13 had fallen, and the Hunger Games was born to remind the citizens of their failed rebellion. Each year, 12 Males and 12 females of each District would be chosen to fight to the death in the games. During the 74th annual Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen bravely volunteers for her sister after she is chosen. With her fellow tribute Peeta Mellark, survival is their only option in a game where only one can win.

Now to get this off of my chest, the timeworn plot. You know, a repressive world in which state enforces brutal control(usually by offering children to fight to the death), is nothing new. So the story is not original, in fact, titles that come to mind are The Most Dangerous Game,Nineteen Eighty-Four, Lord of the Flies, Rollerball, Logan’s Run, The Running Man and Battle Royale. Although in all fairness, those stories(including Battle Royale, for those who are denial of that fact) can remind those who know the Greek Mythology of Theseus. 

I thought this movie was great. It's not too heavily violent like the books, but it finds its perfect balanced tone on the deaths of the children. I knew the moment that the book would turn into a movie, it would be PG-13 and not R. It should have been pretty obvious since it's Hollywood trying to make cash on another series.

Now I believe this to be a brave film. It's coming right after Harry Potter has ended, and the arrival of the final Twilight film. Even though we know many other fantasy films has tried to cash in on the Potter fandom, they failed. But now that Potter is gone(ending that franchise spectacularly I might add), we needed a new movie. And because of the overhype, and the film itself, we have a winner!

The performances in this film are strong, from most of the cast. Jennifer Lawrence is now at the top of her game(Winter's Bone proved it back in 2010) while playing Katniss Everdeen. From a fans perspective, I wouldn't have chosen anyone else to play her. Josh Hutcherson has more than enough charisma to play Peeta, and that was a character that needed a lot of charm. Liam Hemsworth(who I'm pretty sure only had less than 15 minutes of screen time) did a fine performance in a character who's build up is done and will now see a more blossomed character in the next film. Lenny Kravitz as Cinna, this guy can act, a lot of musicians can't act, so it's fresh to see some actual talent. Elizabeth Banks, under all that make up, you can't tell who she is, and her performance is actually one of the highlights of the film, seeing as how she is a very ironic character(she orders politeness in a barbaric game). Wes Bentley(who lately has been in a ton of really REALLY bad movies) does a good job as Seneca Crane. Alexander Ludwig and Issabelle Fuhrman are actual bad asses, they can turn in good performances and not feel like a plot device. Donald Sutherland is great as the mean spirited president of panem, he's not an underdog(as he would say in the film). If there was an Oscar for scene stealer of the year, it would have gone to Stanley Tucci as Ceaser Flickerman, this man will make you feel and laugh in seconds. I don't really like Woody Harleson as Haymitch, he was much more of a drunk in the book, but he's just too soft for this role, even though he was another perfect casting choice!

I've stated so many times that Visual Effects are the reason why I love film, and I'm not going to lie, but I wasn't the biggest fan of the effects. It seemed too campy for my taste. An example would be the(SPOILER ALERT) mutant dogs, they were scary in the book and had this really cool twist with them. But the moment they appeared on film, they didn't feel like Ceaser the ape from Rise of the Apes, they felt more like 0's and 1's from computers.

The make-up design on the film worked so well, I predict an Oscar nom. It's supposed to be this really ugly city in the eyes of Katniss, and it succeeds in doing so. Also, that design for Peeta in the mud was just fantastic.

Tom Stern really knows how to give an atmosphere for this film, to be honest, it felt very much like Winter's Bone. I do have this to say, the camera moved just like Cloverfield. I think the reason for that is because of the films rating and the mix of violence that the book has.

Gary Ross is did a great job adapting the book into film. I'm guessing he's an actual fan of the books, so he really does try to bring some justice into this movie. He never drags the film, everything has its pace and moves on even though we all know making a book into a movie is really hard. 

If you're still sad over the fact that Harry Potter is gone, see this movie, it might cheer you up.
If you hate Twilight, see it, the romance isn't really focused on at all in this movie.
If you bitch and whine about it being a rip off of Battle Royale, shut up, they both were inspired by the greek story of Theseus.

Overall, if you want great entertainment value with a side politics.

I GIVE IT 4/5 Stars.

Side note-
Just for fun, if I were in those games, most likely, I would run for my damn life. I'll probably die, but it's better than dying in the beginning of the games.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Project X Review

Remember Chronicle? That very surprising film about young kick ass super heros who document the effects of what their powers could do? Remember how great that film was? Remember how it literally almost saved the style of Cinéma vérité(which film has been missing these past few years)? Well I do. After seeing Project X, I can assure you, that hack of a movie almost ruined everything Chronicle has done to save a dying format.

The plot for the movie is basically simple. Costa(Oliver Cooper) and J.B.(Jonathan Daniel Brown) set a secret party for their fellow Best friend Thomas(Thomas Mann), who is aware of the party. All of this is being filmed by Dax(Dax Flame), who lives alone and doesn't drink. The trio are only having this party as a way to enter the social center of High School. What starts out as a relatively small party becomes a successful party for the trio, which later on ends up being a ground zero fight between S.W.A.T. , drunken teenagers, and a pissed off drug dealer. Will they survive the greatest night of their young lives?

I'm just going to go ahead and say that I hated everyone in this movie. Costa is not only an offensive character, but he is the most despicable character in film since Jar Jar Binks in Phantom Menace. J.B. is literally the bastard child of Jonah Hill, he has no charisma, and your glad he broke his thumb. Thomas, who is supposed to be the films hero, is hard to even care about. He not only is supposed to carry the film, but we're trying to care for every action and consequence he is put through, and he fails at trying to get the audience to do that. Dax actually becomes the only character you actually give a damn about. Since he's the guy who is holding the camera, you're actually wondering what he is thinking about during all the chaos. He is only given a maximum of about 6 or 7 lines and he should have been the main archetype of the film. No girl in this movie is actually interesting. They are either presented as meat, or..... yeah, just meat.

This is marketed as a Todd Phillips(Old School, The Hangover) film. It's not, he's just producing it so that audiences can say "yeah! This is gonna be like The Hangover!". While I'm pretty sure a lot of young adolescents were having hangovers in jail after that enormous party, it really should not have any comparisons to Phillips other films. This is a film that is written by Matt Drake and Michael Bacall(Scott Pilgrim), and I am disappointed. Bacall, who we know can write a great comedic film because of Scott Pilgrim, writes a fairly lazy, uninteresting, and cliched story. Nima Nourizadeh is the films first time director, and he is bad. There is just so much of this movie that he could have changed for the better instead of just making this movie for horny adolescents. All in all, give credit to editor Jeff Groth who I'm pretty sure had spent hours just to try and make a coherent story out this this insult to my generation.

Speaking of my generation, what the hell? Is this really how we're viewed? If The Social Network taught us anything, it was that my generation is darker and smarter than most people presume we are. But Project X somehow manages to make complete horny idiots out of my generation. I can't say that I have attended this sort of party in my life span, which I'm glad I haven't. But if I were to compare this out of something I have witnessed, it would be Prom. Prom night was supposed to be the social event where we were to take a break from all the hard work we accomplished. But from what I saw, it was just a night of dry humping and bad music. And while I enjoyed my Prom night, I was sort of disturbed by what my generation could do. And that same thought is what went through my head during this film, but without any pleasure.

If you ask most people, they will tell you that they are tired of the "Found Footage" genre, or as I prefer to call it Cinéma vérite. They history of Cinéma vérite was that it was used to document events of real life, one of the more famous examples would be "An American Family" which followed The Loud Family for 12 episodes. It was a breakthrough in Film and Television. More recent examples, like Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity, and The Blair Witch Project, have shown that audiences really do like the ambiguous style, but to an extent. These days, because of our phones and the computers, we can see all of this on the internet, some more raw than others. This film tries to be what all the other examples have set out to be, but fails because it is too busy exploiting teens.

Overall, this is a very insulting movie to the new generation, and is devoid of anything actually worthy of comedy.

I give it 1.5/5 Stars