Monday, June 30, 2008
This weekend was a bit of a family retreat to the hinterlands of upstate New York. But we wouldn't let a little thing like a 40 min drive keep us from the movie theater to see Pixar's latest and greatest, Wall-e.
And so without further ado...the top five reasons you should charge up your solar cell and run (don't walk) to go see Wall-e!
#5. The best robot-character ever.
Ben Burtt, gave sound to the Star Wars saga and a voice to one of the most beloved robotic characters in history, R2-D2. He performs the same service for the one and only Wall-e to much greater effect. I know that says a lot, especially from me an unabashed Star Wars fan. But Wall-e's character is riveting, his emotions complex, and his gestures distinct, sure he has more to work with than little R2-D2, but he also owns the screen alone for about 40 min. Which brings me to...
#4. Kids pay attention
Anyone that read an early review knows that the beginning of the film is unlike anything you've seen in recent film making (with the exception of Cast Away), essentially one character dominates the screen for nearly 40 min without the aid of more than one word. My initial fear, knowing this heading in was people, especially young children in the audience might get bored. Let me tell you it doesn't happen. From minute one, the Pixar team pulls out all of their tricks from every Pixar short playbook to keep these kids riveted. Every beep and boop, every stumble, every gaze at the stars, kids and adults alike are spellbound.
#3. Its an adventure.
I won't reveal the plot to you. But this movie kicks in to gear with action sequences that should make Indy 4 jealous. Zooming along the dusty earth, dodging blaster bolts, zipping through space, crowds hurling. Lets just say, you don't want for action from one.
#2. Its a love story.
Wall-e is a lonely guy. I'm not revealing anything the trailer doesn't reveal to tell you that he falls madly in love with another robot. Their romance and their chemistry on screen is the stuff hollywood stars beg for. We are pushing for them from moment one, and despite their metallic bodies and lack of a functioning english vocabulary, we understand them. Their passion is at the heart of this story, and we feel it with them.
#1. Its social commentary on a grand scale.
Wrapped in a package that little children will find attractive is a deep social commentary on our consumer culture, what it does to the planet and to us as we eat and drink more and more, and buy more and more and do less and less. From minute one we see what comes from the damage we are bringing about to the planet. A huge corporation called Buy N' Large is all around care-taker and as people become more and more vegetized to their floating screens as they zoom around in floating chairs, the need for government becomes less and less, BNL takes care of everything. Its a stunning indictment on our potential future. Pixar took a huge risk to create a movie that actually makes be quiet and think and feel and laugh for two hours, luckily they have the chops to pull it off.
5. Driving Miss Daisy
The film that earned Freeman his first Academy Award nomination in a leading role. Throughout the course of his career, Freeman has been noted for the chemistry he develops with his on-screen colleagues, his performance with Jessica Tandy being no exception to his vaunted repertoire. Despite not winning the Oscar (that pesky Daniel Day-Lewis, starring in My Left Foot, is a fine actor in his own right), Freeman would go on to be nominated for two more Oscars beyond 1990 (Shawshank Redemption and Million Dollar Baby, the latter of which he won as a 'we finally have to give this guy credit' distinction of pity).
4. March of the Penguins
Face it: in biology class, penguin migration would have been the last topic you'd wish to write about, outside of glacial shift patterns and polar bear mating behavior. Morgan Freeman, lending his sonorous voice to the documentary March of the Penguins, took a topic that was seemingly lackluster and breathed life into it through first-class narration. As far as I am concerned, all major book publishing houses should collaborate on crafting a multi-billion dollar deal that allows Morgan Freeman to voice every book-on-tape ever, and yet to be, produced. Hands down, Freeman's voice is the most iconic in Hollywood (sorry, James Earl Jones). Even so (perhaps it wasn't written into his script), when it comes to Penguins, Freeman tended to glaze over moments in which a young penguin gets sacked by an albatross or a mother becomes porpoise fodder, instead allowing nature to run its awe-inspiring course. Hell, even Spielberg recruited Freeman's voice for a 30-second clip in War of the Worlds; now that's drawing power!
As one of the most spellbinding psychological thrillers of this era, Seven combined the accolades of Brad Pitt, Freeman, and Kevin Spacey, an ensemble cast that chilled countless fans of American cinema as they played out David Fincher's masterwork. As Detective William Somerset, a cop on the verge of retirement, Freeman portrayed a crime specialist with one last case left to lead, one that he'd regret signing up for. Freeman masterfully shows Pitt (David Mills) the ropes throughout the pursuit of a serial killer (Kevin Spacey's John Doe) obsessed with the seven deadly sins, only to watch all that he does for Mills come tumbling down. The anguish in Freeman's voice as the sins of Envy and Wrath are revealed to Mills and Somerset is absolutely haunting, leading one to believe that Freeman, just as he always has, fully embraced his role. In addition to Freeman's portrayal, Kevin Spacey's performance was Oscar-worthy, even in spite of appearing in the film for a mere twenty-five minutes.
2. Lean on Me
This film is a must-see for educators everywhere, as it shows that, even in the most dire of circumstances, an educator can rise above to instruct, lead, and inspire. As Eastside High's Principal Joe Clark, Freeman rid a Patterson, New Jersey high school of miscreants of all sorts, calling on even the not-so ably-minded to pass a mandatory state assessment. Freeman's passion and vigor jump off the screen through each and every scene of 1989's Lean on Me, one of a trio of films that surfaced in Freeman's most successful year in Hollywood. Clark got kids to quit drugs and rallied his staff to extend beyond the normal duties of an educator, harboring a renaissance at Eastside High. If Morgan Freeman were my principal, Lord only knows I'd rush to work on a daily basis, just to see what he would do next. Although unorthodox and outright bizarre from time to time, Clark constantly pulled out all the stops. Needless to say, Freeman's role was one for his career and the ages.
1. Shawshank Redemption
The film by which the TNT network based the phrase "TNT Knows Drama," Shawshank Redemption, at first a Stephen King short story, is one of the greatest films of all time, one that stands as the movie by which Freeman and Tim Robbins may define their careers. By coining the phrase, "Get busy livin' or get busy dyin'," Morgan Freeman's Ellis 'Red' Redding was Shawshank's moral barometer, gauging each and every inmate that left and entered the prison's walls with impartial judgment and compassionate eyes.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
5. James McAvoy
James McAvoy (Wesley Gibson) was to Wanted as Gerard Butler was to 300: a rising, unknown Scottish thespian from Glasgow who can star in a major Hollywood production. McAvoy, a young talent starring opposite Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman, absolutely stole the show with some of the film's best dialogue and the ability to believably wield a gun and partake in various stunts a la Harrison Ford in the Indy series. His performance alone is worth the price of admission (and is far more substantial than Keanu Reeves's portrayal of Neo in The Matrix. Also, McAvoy has signed on to play Bilbo Baggins in Guillermo del Toro's The Hobbit, due out in December 2001. Score!).
4. Minor Characters and Catalysts
Some of the smaller roles in the film (the vast majority of the assassin league "The Fraternity") were cookie-cutter representations of rehashed action film personas. The smack-talking, machete-wielding Butcher with Latino flair (despite being played by an eastern European actor). The brooding Gunsmith with little to no dialogue (played by hip hop legend Common). The Repairman with no premise but to pound Wesley Gibson into submission. Each of them was incredibly bland and did little to convey the Fraternity's prowess as cold-blooded killers. The only small roles I cared about, super-assassin Cross (Thomas Kreschmann, who poignantly played Jewish sympathizer Wilm Hosenfeld in The Pianist) and munitions specialist Pekwarsky (Terence Stamp), were barely on screen long enough to build a character arc. And all I wanted was more from each of them; in short, their lack of screen-time was utterly disappointing. Then again, there is always the possibility of a sequel, a trend Hollywood will surely continue with Wanted's inevitable success.
3. Tongue-in-Cheek Narration
Many a great film (i.e. Casino, Memento, Goodfellas, 21, etc.) has been brilliantly accentuated by insightfully delightful narration; Wanted is no exception. Wesley Gibson's voice over was hilarious and did plenty to keep the plot moving, but was not so apparent that it took away from the juicy special effects and imagery. Wesley's core behavior and personality (from non-entity to swash-buckling hero) was well-conceived via the power of narration.
2. Action Film Homage or Rip-Off?
Fans of the Star Wars and Matrix series will groan over the amount of times Wanted blatantly rips off key scenes and ideas from the works of Lucas and the Wachowski's. The mythology of Star Wars and the premise of The Matrix (a nobody supplanted in a dead-end job is salvaged and rises to the top) is packaged into a film that barely measures up to the aforementioned pieces that came before it. Without giving too much of the plot away, I will say this: Wanted does very little to deem itself original the way a film like The Empire Strikes Back and the original Matrix did.
1. Action, Action, We Want Action!
Much like Michael Bay's Transformers, the Bourne series, the Italian Job, and the Transporter series, Wanted delivers potent action-packed sequences and serves as a hybrid of each of these outstanding films. Curving bullets, train-hopping, and high-octane car chases were actually quite amazing if one can look past the sheer farcicality of it all. Then again, the climactic train sequence in the Alps was pure nonsense, even by Wanted's standards. I blurted out, "That's absolutely ridiculous!" less throughout the course of Indiana Jones's latest than I did throughout Wanted, and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull had ludicrous moments aplenty (is a floating boat-car really that indestructible?). Even so, every moviegoer purchasing a ticket to witness this film already knows what to expect: an edge-of-your-seat affair laced with some 'gimme a break' moments. All in all, Wanted was a worthwhile moviegoing experience--even better when you consider the treat of a Defiance trailer during the previews.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
While the "penis gun" also made an appearance in Robert Rodriguez's film Desperado, we only get to see how it works in the vampire film From Dusk Till Dawn. In fact, the entire character centers around his "piece" which can come into action at a moments notice. What does he load that thing with Viagra? You think he's nasty in human form, wait till you see him as a vampire.
Our World Leaders
From the standpoint of Hitler and Stalin, the moustache signified evil attempts at global domination. But look at how happy Teddy is rocking his full-grown, white speckled rendition. Although cruel with his methods, how did a nation take a ruler like Hitler seriously with his ink-splotch 'stache?
The NBA is 'Stache-tastic!
Two Hall of Famers here have nicknames associated with their moustaches: Clyde and the Round Mound of Rebound. Adam Morrison, on the other hand, has little NBA career to speak of, but we know him by the pre-pubescent 'stache that continues to haunt Gonzaga fans to this day.
Moustache Donning = Literary Genius
William Shakespeare, he of the pencil-thin moustache, may have begun the literary trend of wearing facial hair, but the likes of Hemingway, Hughes, and Twain (marvel at his masterpiece!) have refined it through the 20th century and beyond. Bonus points for sporting moustaches of great variety here.
Great 'Staches in Baseball History
Jason Giambi is small-time when measured against these MLB moustache heroes. Sandwiched between two Oakland A's greats is the indignant Rafael Palmeiro, whose Viagra and steroid use are dwarfed by his illustrious mouth brow. The Oakland A's could field a squad of Hall of Famers for all the moustache card carriers they have amassed: Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Dave Stewart, Mark McGwire, and the man who will not be topped: the handlebar maestro Rollie Fingers. Bonus points to Eckersley who often combined his pushbroom with a full-blown mullet.
Real Men of Genius
The V-List presents: Real American Heroes. Today we salute you, Mr. Nose Neighbor Wearer. Whether you were attempting to fly with the birds, develop ground-breaking theory, or make people laugh without the sound of your voice, you made a mark on history by first making a mark above your upper lip. Yes, that dazzling moustache of yours goes beyond anything of substance you have contributed to society, for its the facial hair we remember (that, and the fact that your mastermind did in fact sack a proud nation). So open up an ice cold Bud Light oh scruffy patron of facial hair and continue to accentuate that cookie duster of yours with a black derby hat, a fly suit, or gravity-defying hair that makes Phil Specter seemingly uninventive.
Landing iconic roles like Bandit Darville, Lando Calrissian, and Magnum P.I. was no problem with the suave presentation of moustaches to die for. You want thick? Selleck and Reynolds know how to bring it thick, alright.
WWF Super 'Stache Stardom
Facial hair in the WWF was as prominent as body slams and championship belts. Everywhere you looked in the 1980's, an opponent bringing you down to the mat more than likely did so via the power of the 'stache, brother. OH YEAAAAAH.
Small Screen 'Stache Wearing Studs
Borat on the small screen? Don't forget: Sasha Baren Cohen first caught our attention on Da Ali G Show on HBO, must like what Paul Teutul did on Orange County Choppers and Josh Holloway did on LOST. Kudos to Paul Sr. for his rockin' pair of mutton chops.
'Staches of the Musical Realm
For whatever reason, John Lennon refused to be privy to the moustache revolution, which says a lot about his individuality. Freddie Mercury and Carlos Santana, on the other hand, wore their respective 'staches like the rock gods they are. Officially pimp!
In order for one to join the fraternity of comedic genius, one must grow out the ol' mustacchio, as Eddie Murphy, Dave Chappelle, Richard Pryor, and George Carlin would attest. The late Pryor and Carlin were the models of comic consistency; at the heart of such balance is facial hair, facial hair, facial hair. Carlin allowed his to materialize into his trademark beard, while Pryor grew one that Ulysses S. Grant would be mighty proud of. Despite their pencil thin 'staches, Chappelle and Murphy brought it hard with rivetting stand-up routines that packed a potent punch. Moustaches and edgy comedy? Respect!
These guys have that lip-ticklin' thing down to a tee!
Penning lyrics to '80's classics like Maneater, concocting the perfect chip or beer creation, drinking milkshakes, treating 'diabetis,' and starting revolutions Che style all comes at the expense of letting that prickly lil' lip caterpillar grow. We salute you, masters of the moustache!