Yes please

Yes please

O, Zombieland. You inject not only life into the well worn zombie genre, but into this blogger’s fingertips as well. Shaun of the Dead this isn’t, but that’s a good thing.

Zombieland is about a group of people played by Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin who survived the zombie apocalypse. Woody Harrelson in particular shines as a macho, zombie slaying warrior and he nails his part perfectly. The rest of the cast does a good job, but the funniest performance of the entire movie comes from a surprise star cameo that I won’t spoil for those of us that haven’t seen it. Jesse Eisenberg plays the awkward teenager character perfected by Michael Cera in every role he’s ever been in, and Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin are believable in their roles as the female con artists.

This movie is a lot of fun. There isn’t a whole lot of downtime or wasted scenes. The constant stream of character beats, humor, and zombies keeps the movie fresh from start to finish. Occasionally the movie steps back from all the humor and absurdity to reveal something about one of the main characters and their lives before everything went to hell. These small scenes never take you out of the movie and are believable, a sign that this is more than just mindless entertainment. I know, a good movie hidden under a zombie movie. Whoda thunk it? This focus on characters and character interaction elevate the movie to a higher level than similar movies that focus on sex and shock kills. Not that there aren’t any gruesome deaths in this movie. There are. Plenty.

If you’re looking for a good movie to kick off the fall season, this one. Right here. More than just zombies, Zombieland is the best romantic horror comedy of the year. Even if it is the only horror romantic comedy of the year.

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We're here to evict you, fookin prawn

fookin prawns

Fred’s take:

District 9 is brilliant. Luminary. A fucking torch in the desolate landscape that is this thing called culture. And this is true on all levels. Yes, it is an exciting and well-paced action movie. The alien tech in here is just ridiculous. More people explode than you could ever possibly expect, and that is awesome.

But you can go see poorly directed and confusing action with way more explosions in GI Joe and Transformers 2. So why should you care about District 9? Because it has the thing that those movies forgot about – characters. Neill Blomkamp does a masterful job of creating characters that you actually care about. The main character starts off as an asshole but becomes the hero you’d hope him to be in a believable fashion, while the other major character you follow is an alien that is incredibly expressive without ever saying a word that you would understand.

And District 9 is smart. It is a story that you have not seen before (unless you watched Blomkamp’s short film that he expanded for this). None of the usual cliches from sci-fi are present here. I don’t even have the words to express my sheer joy and wonder at having seen this movie. Go watch it if you like an action movie that also has brains and (dare I say it?) heart.

Back up, BAMF coming through

Back up, BAMF coming through

Matt’s take:

District 9 is the sci-fi movie I’ve been waiting for. It proves you can marry the explosions of The Transformers and the brains of Moon and come out the other side with one of the best movies of the year. And these explosions have purple electricity arcing through their smoke clouds. Take that Michael Bay.

District 9 is all about the alien Prawns (a derogatory name given to them by humans) and their oppression at the hands of MNU. Wikus van der Merwe (played by newcomer Sharlto Copley) comes into the scene as the leader of an MNU initiative to relocate all of the Prawns to District 10. He starts the movie as an ignorant, bumbling racist, but he’s not unlikable. He almost comes across as childlike with his sweater vest and parted hair and the way he gets excited when he talks about his wife. He’s a very human character that I could relate to and his evolution over the film is believable and even heart wrenching at parts.

Blomkamp should also be lauded for giving the aliens emotion and making me care about them. Here are these hideous bug creatures that would terrify me if I bumped into one in a dark alley, but by the end of the movie I found myself completely sympathizing with them (it doesn’t help that there is an alien child that’s really cute).

This might not just be one of the best sci-fi films I’ve seen, but one of my favorite movies period. I don’t think I’m alone when I say I am very much looking forward to the next movie Neill Blomkamp has up his imaginitive sleeves.

All Moon miners should be required to wear Aviators

I want a pair

The questions about morals raised in Moon are more hard hitting than those in the film adaptation of The Watchmen. It has more science in its fiction than the new Star Trek did. The human drama contained in five minutes of this film is unreachable by anything done in Wolverine or Transformers 2. As of right now, Moon might be my favorite movie of the summer (it’s a tough call between this and Star Trek).

I've got nothin

I've got nothin

Moon stars Sam Rockwell as a moon miner named Sam Bell. The part was written specifically for him by first-time director Duncan Jones, and the movie is a throw back to hard sci-fi films such as Alien and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Sam Bell is in a lunar mining base at the tail-end of his three year contract when things take a turn for the weird. His only company out on that lonely piece of real estate is the base’s robotic caretaker Gerty, voiced by Kevin Spacey. One of the great things about Gerty is that he expresses his emotions through emoticons on a screen. This little trick does so much to add to the robot’s character.

O, Gerty

O, Gerty

Sam Rockwell also does an amazing job as a blue collar guy who starts losing his cool when things start going wrong on the moon base after three years of isolation. The film is carried by his excellent performance since he’s the only character on screen for ninety-eight percent of the movie.

This movie deals with some deep themes. What does it mean to be human? What’s real and what isn’t? What can being isolated for so long do to a person? I saw similar questions raised in I Am Legend, but a weak second half and a botched ending prevents those questions from being answered. No such problem exists in Moon. High Five.

Two other things in this film bear mentioning: the music and the special effects. The soundtrack was composed by Clint Mansell, and it ranks right up there with his work in The Fountain. Gosh the music was good. Hauntingly good. I bought the soundtrack off of iTunes when I got home and I listened to it the whole time I wrote this review. How many times do you have to hear me say it’s good?

The special effects are spectacular. Looking at them, you could not tell this movie was shot on a 5 million dollar budget. The outside of the moon base and the rovers all look very industrial and cool. They’re not cgi though, they’re all done in miniature. Something about using miniatures just looks good, and I enjoy seeing movies where film makers go this route.

Look at that view

Look at that view

Moon is the kind of science fiction movie that you don’t see anymore, the kind that makes you think and brings a healthy dose of realism to the table. That unto itself is impressive. Even better is that the film is pulled off so well, with an amazing performance from Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey’s lovely voice (it really is quite smooth). Unfortunately, Moon is in limited release, so it might not be playing in your town. If it is, and this is the kind of sci-fi that gets you all hot and bothered, don’t hesitate to see this film. I’m looking forward to buying it on DVD and watching it again.

ha books! am I right folks?

ha books! am I right folks?

The 6th Harry Potter, here at last. I braved the hordes of dressed up preteens last night to witness this, the near zenith of the cultural phenomenon produced when J.K. Rowling tapped into a worldwide blah blah blah. At this point, you probably know the drill. Lots of books sold. Lots of money made.

But what about the movie? I’m going to skip the plot stuff, because either you’ve already read the book and know what’s going to happen, you haven’t read the book and so don’t want anything runined, or else you purposefully avoid all things Harry Potter. If it’s that last one I feel sorry for you.

this is the entire movie. right here.

this is the entire movie. right here.

The movie itself is alright. While I haven’t read the books recently, I’ve been told by those in the know that several plot elements were dropped. In general, yes, things must be cut from a book (especially books of HP’s girth) in order to be shaped into a movie.  But so much damn time was spent on the relationships and the comedy that they clearly could have fit more important plot into the story. Although judging by the squeals, ahs, and catcalls of the audience around me, they made a smart demographics call. (Seriously, if you wanted to get arrested as a pedophile your best bet was to go to a midnight screening by yourself. 90% children barely in high school.) Any kind of thrill I got from watching it seemed to come from my emotion memory dredging up what I felt when I first read the book and then saying yes, this goes with this part.

On a visual level it was a great movie. They apparently had to tone down the original color scheme, and it was the right move. Everything is bleached all the time, and is one of the few elements that really lends to the sense of foreboding that the movie needs, seeing as how it’s all leading up to the big finale of the 7th book (i.e. people die). Again this comes back to the problem of the focus on relationships, which means less focus on the increasing threat of death eaters. The few wizarding fight sequences were awesome and made me wish that there’d been more.

this is the entire movie. right here.

this is the rest of the movie.

And the acting! As one reviewer said, Hogwarts is a school blessed with a staff made up of the great names of English acting (except for Patrick Stewart, who is once more shafted for any part. What’s a Shakespearean starship captain got to do, Hollywood? When you going to respect?). They all do a wonderful job, but the kids come up short in such exalted company. The worst of the four is Bonnie Wright, playing Ginny Weasly. She really seems to be sort of operating in the “go and do what the director tells me exactly” school of acting. Radcliffe and Gint are both serviceable, and Emma Watson is the one that does the best. I will admit, it doesn’t help them to have  a script with some clunker or cliched lines in the teenage drama vein of “been there, done that”. And how many times must we have a close-up of moodily Radcliffe staring at something?

Wrapping up: it was okay, and surprisingly funny. But the movie also just sort of rolls along its path to the two-parter awaiting us at the end of this crazy train. As an ‘experience’, a part of the mythos, it’s worth seeing. Mostly, though, the movie just made me want to read the books again. Which I suppose isn’t such a bad thing, all in all.

signing off//

Shiny

Shiny

I thought this movie would be awful. I heard it was bad from reviews. It has Keanu Reeves starring as the alien Klaatu. His acting in Bram Stoker’s Dracula was more monstrous than the King of Vampires himself. It’s also a remake of a 1950’s sci-fi movie that I’ve never seen. None of the above left me feeling optimistic. To my surprise, the movie had a few things going for it besides a some cool special effects shots.

Keanu isn’t a terrible actor in this movie for the same reason Arnold Schwarzenegger is good in the Terminator movies. They’re both playing as these emotionless, robotic characters. Keanu Reeves managed to pull off being an aloof alien visitor quite well.

BAMF

Lookin good

His reason for visiting the Earth is a pretty neat spin on the usual alien invasion motif. Usually when an alien shows up, they want to erradicate us and strip mine our planet and move on, a la Independence Day, Slither, or War of the Worlds. In this movie the alien wants to save the Earth by destroying humanity. His argument is that there are so few life bearing planets in the cosmos that they can’t waste one on us. I like the idea that there are so few planets capable of sustaining complex life that when one is threatened the aliens are willing to intervene on it’s behalf so they don’t lose it.

The other cool moment in this film is when the alien meets with a Nobel Peace Prize winning scientist (played by John Cleese). They discuss that the human race is about to pass the point of no return from which we will no longer be able to save the planet. From this we discover that the alien race was in a similar situation at one point and that only then did they turn around and do what they had to to save themselves and their planet. The scientist argues that humanity needs its chance to show that we can turn around and save ourselves. We can be just like the aliens and adapt so that we don’t perish. It was a thought provoking scene.

All of the above stuff I enjoyed. It might have an environmentalist message that borders on being preachy, but I liked it. However, that’s not to say that I liked everything about this movie.

Klaatu isn’t just rolling around by himself. He has a female scientist with him who was part of the first contact effort and her son. I had an extreme dislike for her son. He was basically just representing racist America. “Why are we helping the alien? He’s the bad guy! If dad were here he’d stop him!” You have no idea how many times this kid went on about how if his soldier dad were still alive he’d be shoving his boot up Klaatu’s ass. Every scene up until this kid realized Klaatu is the good guy he just hates on him and it gets annoying very, very quickly. There was a good way to handle the theme of racism in the movie, but this wasn’t it.

Less talking please

Less talking please

The military was painfully incompetent at some points. “Hmmmm. I think it’s a good idea to interrogate the alien in our secret military base instead of letting him talk to world leaders like he requested.” or “The alien’s cloud of nanomachines is wrecking us! Instead of reasoning with the alien lets try and blow him up. I bet that’ll stop his robot cloud THAT HE IS NOT CONTROLLING.” Although I will say the special effects shots were good. They may have been making some stupid decisions, but they looked pretty cool when they payed for it by blowing up or being eaten by a cloud of robots.

I didn’t hate the time I spent with The Day the Earth Stood Still. It was a flawed movie, but it was still entertaining and presented an interesting spin on the alien invasion movie. I haven’t seen the original, and I feel like if I had, I would have a lower opinion of this movie. As it stands I would say this movie is worth a rental.

They're hungover

They're hungover

Fred’s review:

So, the Hangover. Yes, as the reviews like to point out, it is another entry in what has become a long line of bromances (a tradition that Zach Braff and Donald Faison of Scrubs fame recently claim to have started). But that doesn’t make it any less funny. The writers have given themselves a smart set-up; the three groomsmen spend the majority of the movie going back and re-examining the events of the previous, forgotten night in order to find the missing groom (I don’t think this is spoiling anything as any trailer for the movie would tell you as much).

I’m going to say up front that this format is both a strength and one of the few weaknesses of the movie. It is constantly moving forward, zigzagging from one recounted mishap to another. If one of the scenarios they find themselves in starts to lag a little, well in a few minutes they’ll be at another location, talking to another zany character and undergoing a whole new routine. But at the same time, there isn’t a lot of coherency to the overall movie. There are still plenty of holes at the end  as to the exact course of the evening’s festivities, and the events themselves don’t lead from one to the other naturally. If the movie had just followed them through the night in question it would have been horrible, because the shenanigans without the framework don’t have any kind of connections.

But honestly, unless you’re keeping score that doesn’t matter. Each of these little situations provides plenty of fodder for the three talented actors behind the groomsmen, Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis. Galifianakis in particular is unafraid on screen, seemingly willing to go to any length that the movie requires of him. His Alan is, in his own words, “a one man wolf-pack”, someone who has absolutely no self-awareness. In a movie that’s all about giving into the pleasure instinct Galifianakis represents pure id, which makes him pure comedy to watch.

I was laughing throughout, from Mike Tyson to the baby to the hilarious Mr. Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong, most recently of Role Models and in the trailer for The Goods). It is a movie of excess in every sense; you can tell that the writers put in every joke that they could think of, which results in a movie that has something going on in each scene. The final proof of this is in the ending, where whatever punches you thought might have been pulled are let loose. By the time you leave the theater you’ll feel as though you’re ready to take on your own night worth forgetting.

Matt’s Review:

Lets get this out of the way right off the bat, The Hangover is a delightful movie from start to finish. And not just because it’s funny. (Which it is. All the time.) In the Hangover, four guys go to Las Vegas for a bachelor party, and only three of them wake up in the hotel room the next day with no memory of the night’s events. This leaves the three groomsmen scrambling all over the city, piecing together what happened in order to locate the missing groom. The interesting storytelling kept me just as involved as the humor did, and I was laughing throughout the entire film.

The humor in this movie is absurd. Tiger in the bathroom, baby with sunglasses, Mike Tyson absurd.If you saw the movie you’ll know what I mean. If you haven’t seen it then there is something wrong with you. The closest thing I can compare this to are the recent Judd Apatow hits, and they have been some of my favorite comedies of the past few years. If you enjoyed them, go see this right now.

A strong cast, strong writing, and interesting plot tie together to make this the best comedy I have seen this year. There isn’t a whole lot I can say about this movie that my cohort hasn’t already said (yes, Ken Jeong was fantastic and I can’t wait to see The Goods, and you can’t put enough emphasis on the bromance). If you like raunchy, no holds barred comedy, then this is the movie for you.