Friday, October 31, 2008

White Noise 2: The Light (2007)

"If you save, you must kill."
- Henry Caine (Craig Fairbrass)

At a glance: Nathan Fillion stars as a man whose near-death experience gives him the power to tell which people are about to die, in this stylishly entertaining but uneven supernatural horror film

Abe (Nathan Fillion) watches his wife and son die at the hands of a deranged gunman. Distraught, he attempts suicide, but is pulled back from the dead. Afterward, he sees strange auras around some people. Realizing that these auras mean the people are about to die, he finds purpose in life again by saving them – but it’s not as straightforward as all that. Fillion is a powerful actor who runs from scene to scene, saving lives, and does his best with a script that occasionally dips into silliness. Katee Sakhoff (Starbuck from the new Battlestar Galactica series) is wonderful to look at and does an admirable job as Abe’s love interest. Nothing bad can be said about the imaginative, stylish direction by Patrick Lussier; he sets the mood perfectly and allows his creative camera angles and beautiful (and beautifully gruesome) images to shine. The scares are mostly generated by the occasional appearance of gruesome walking corpses. They seem incongruous (but effective) in a movie that is mostly a serious attempt to look at the phenomena of near-death experiences. Trivia: Listen closely to find the tiny reference to Fillion’s work as Captain Reynolds in the television series Firefly. Rating: 2.5 of 4

"...Fillion's stellar work ensures that one can generally overlook the film's various inadequacies..."
- David Nusair (Reel Film Reviews)

"A few cheap jolts, a handful of clever ideas, and just enough energy and creativity to make it across the finish line."
- Scott Weinberg (FEARnet)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)

Nurse (Willow Geer): Doctor! Doctor!
Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly): I'm so cold.
Doctor (David Doty): We need more blankets.
Nurse: We need more blankets!
Nurse: Doctor!
Dewey Cox: I'm so hot!
Nurse: I think he has too many blankets.
Doctor: Fewer blankets!
Dewey Cox: I'm hot and cold at the same time!
Nurse: He needs more blankets and he needs less blankets.
Doctor: I'm afraid you're right.

At a glance: This mockumentary about a fictional Johnny Cash-like musician has high production values and some good quality music, but the jokes are a little thin

In the world of the ‘mockumentary’ (Mock Rock Documentary), This Is Spinal Tap set the bar very high. Walk Hard attempts to compete (in my psyche, anyway) with the great Tap, and comes up a little short. Sure there are great songs and period attire as we follow Dewey Cox’s musical career and personal life from the 50s to the present, but not much of it is laugh-out-loud funny. Dewey (John C Reilly) does do one hilarious duet with Darlene (Jenna Fischer) (called Let’s Duet) where the double entendres slip out due to pauses. But for an unusually long 2 hour comedy, the jokes are few and far between. Too much time is spent trying to lend believability to the story of a very Johnny Cash-like country singer who rips the nearest sink out of the wall whenever he gets upset. I’m not sure if this movie doesn’t work because the script isn’t funny enough, or because John C. Reilly, a talented supporting player, does not have the screen presence for such a demanding role. Or it could simply be that I’m not Judd Apatow’s number one admirer. Rating: 2.25 of 4

"Walk Hard runs down quickly, and suffers further from having the wide-eyed and weightless Reilly as its star."
- David Denby (New Yorker)

"This burlesque of biopic cliches flounders from one setup to the next without the engine that drives the genre: a strong central character."
- Jim Ridley (Village Voice)

"The one area where ‘Walk Hard’ does manage to hold its own against classics of the genre such as ‘This is Spinal Tap’ or ‘Sweet and Lowdown’ is the music, all of which is expertly written and performed."
- David Jenkins (Time Out)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Transsiberian (2008)

Emily Mortimer and Eduardo Noriega

"Kill off all my demons, Roy, and my angels might die, too."
- Jessie (Emily Mortimer)

"In Russia, we say that with lies you may go forward in the world, but you may never go back."
- Grinko (Ben Kingsley)

At a glance: Brad Anderson’s thought-provoking thriller places the viewer on the Trans-Siberian Express, as two Americans chance meeting with a seasoned traveler leads to dangerous destinations

The Transsiberian Express serves as the backdrop for this story of passengers Roy and Jessie (Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer), a couple with marital problems who are heading for Moscow after taking part in a church-sponsored event in Beijing. On the train, they share a berth with Carlos (Eduardo Noriega), a much-traveled free-spirit, and his young companion Abby (Kate Mara). Jessie’s wild past is awakened by the allure of Carlos’s irresponsible, charm…with disastrous results. Ben Kingsley is excellent in a small but pivotal role. The clever script allows Mortimer to reveal her story in pieces, with each piece doled out to different characters, which creates a complex web of relationships. All of the actors are on their A game here, with Mortimer and Noriega as standouts, each managing to convey their characters in intriguing shades of gray that will leave you pondering their actions, motivations, and morals. Even Harrelson’s character, seemingly as one-dimensional as they come, has depth. Director Brad Anderson skillfully extracts these performances, as well as setting the claustrophobic mood of train travel, combined with the sometimes confusing and threatening fish-out-of-water feeling that can engulf the overseas traveler. Rating: 3.5 of 4

"It's not often that I feel true suspense and dread building within me, but they were building during long stretches of this expertly constructed film."
- Roger Ebert

"...a tight and terse thriller."
- Chris Barsanti (

"Like Hitchcock films, however, Transsiberian can engage the audience's intellect even while it sets pulses racing."
- Curt Holman (Creative Loafing)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008)

Sean (Josh Hutcherson) What, you’ve never seen a dinosaur before?
Trevor (Brendan Fraser): Not with skin on it!

"I just remembered…I hate fieldwork!"
- Trevor

At a glance: Brendan Fraser is his career-defining persona as a likable adventurer in this lower-budget but entertaining re-telling of the classic Jules Verne story

Professor Trevor Anderson (Brendan Fraser) has more problems than his students yawning during his lectures; he is also about to be kicked out of his lab. It probably isn’t the best time for him to have to ‘babysit’ Sean, the disgruntled teenage son of his deceased brother (and fellow scientist), Max. A little exploration of Max’s copy of the book Journey to the Center of the Earth reveals notes about seismic activity that seems to be occurring again. Excited, Trevor grabs Sean and they head for Iceland to investigate. There, they hook up with Hannah (Anita Briem), the daughter of another deceased scientist. Hannah agrees to be their guide. A simple trip to investigate a seismic sensor leads the trio into a descent toward the center of the earth, where they find unique beauty and danger. Rollicking, light, and good fun, this well-paced adventure yarn is unabashedly targeted toward tweens. It might be a little scary for some kids under 7. Brendan Fraser has made a career from playing these kinds of roles: the funny, lovable adventurer who wisecracks his way to success. Lovely Icelandic actress Anita Briem adds a natural beauty and exotic charm to what could have been nothing more than a sidekick part. The special effects are low-budget, but most kids (and adults) won’t care; you just have to augment them with your imagination, rather than relying on Spielberg. It will awaken the inner Vernian lurking in all of us! Rating: 2.75 of 4

"Fraser salvages his reputation as a solid, matinee-style action hero in this family-oriented fantasy."
- Vicki Roach (Daily Telegraph [Australia])

"Most of the movie, directed by Eric Brevig, is as daft, outlandish, and speedy as it needs to be, and, for all its newfangled effects, touchingly old-fashioned in its reverence for the Jules Verne novel that inspired it."
- Anthony Lane (New Yorker)

"Brendan Fraser's playful force of personality rules, 3D or no 3D, one of the few funny guys who could grab attention away from a dinosaur in assault mode, in the center of the earth or anywhere else on the planet."
- Prairie Miller (NewsBlaze)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Wanted (2008)

"This is me taking back control of my life. What the fuck have you done lately?"
- Wesley (James McAvoy)

At a glance: In his first mainstream Hollywood movie, Russian director Timur Bekmambetov goes way over the top with a violent, blood-spurting, often achingly silly film featuring one of the most obnoxious, unredeeming heroes ever seen.

Wanted is about a nervous, downtrodden young man who finds that his true fate is to be the top dog in a fraternity of world-stabilizing assassins that get instructions on who to kill next by reading irregular threads delivered by a ‘loom of fate’. Yes, that’s right, a loom of fate. Why are you looking at me like that? Oh, it’s because I’m not Morgan Freeman – when he delivers the line, he makes it sound credible. There’s in-your-face violence from the get go, as multiple 2-D bullets fly toward your head and into multiple skulls, which explode in a banquet of red. This continues pretty much throughout the picture, culminating in a loud, non-stop bullet bloodfest complete with heavy metal music. The superhero qualities and comic book origins of the assassins perhaps might blend better with comic book violence, but instead we get a more Tarantino/Rodriguez reality. There’s style galore – lots of super-slo-mo, etc. If you’re not grossed out, you’ll be thoroughly entertained. Unfortunately, I did not like the way this film glorified violence. It ends with a powerful call to arms that scarily seemed to speak to the sniper in all of us. Do we really need people to love guns more and to get more riled up?

As if that wasn’t enough, we top it all off with a scene that celebrates animal cruelty in a way that is so far over the top that I suppose someone thought it was funny. But why then use rats? Why not go the whole way and blow up 600 baby fur seals?

Wanted also features a near-staple of many action films: the young, annoying character (usually male), meant to cater to the younger movie-going audience. In this case, it’s James McAvoy, who, it must be said, is very good at being annoying (I’m not sure if that is a compliment or an insult; again, like the exploding heads, this will lie in the eyes of the beholder). Angelina Jolie and Terence Stamp round out the cast. Marc Warren, a personal favorite of mine from the great British TV show Hustle, has a small, virtually non-speaking role, and is killed in a stomach-churning, mindlessly brutal, sick way. Rating: 0 of 4

"Never has a mainstream movie made more of a fetish from splattered brains."
- Stephen Himes (Film Snobs)

"For any red-blooded, alpha male who loves to masturbate while armed - this is your movie."
- Garth Franklin (Dark Horizons)

"The most interesting thing about Wanted is that its protagonist is one of the most unlikable action heroes in memory."
- Bryant Frazer (Bryant Frazer's Deep Focus)

"As the body count rises, so does the portentous tone, and the relentlessness of Bekmambetov's overamped style becomes oppressive."
- David Ansen (Newsweek)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Host (2006) (aka Gwoemul)

Young Korean Doctor (Brian Rhee): But, you know, this is not just any toxic chemicals -
US Doctor in Morgue (Scott Wilson): The Han River is very broad, Mr. Kim. Let's try to be broad-minded about this. Anyway, that's an order. So, start pouring.

Park Nam-il (Hae-il Park): Look at that... Isn't that amazing? In this situation?
Park Nam-Joo (Du-na Bae): Wake him up, there's no time.
Park Hie-bong (Hie-bong Byeon): Let him sleep a minute. He needs to sleep every so often.
Park Nam-il: Should we leave him here? He's no help anyway?
Park Hie-bong: Kids, wait a minute. Sit down. In your view, is Gang-du really so pathetic?
Park Nam-il: Yup.
Park Nam-Joo: Yes.

At a glance: This Korean mutated monster movie scores plenty of points for campily combining scares, laughs, and pathos

Toxic chemicals dumped in the Han River of Korea breeds a mutated version of the Loch Ness monster that seems to have an appetite for humans as snacks. It gets personal when a young dad watches it wrap his daughter around its tail and spirit her back to its lair. You can laugh without reservation at the over-the-top grieving scene, meant to provide a huge hint that there’s probably nothing to grieve about - yet. But there are also strong emotions generated as this family bands together to try to save the missing girl. The unusual script features a young, irresponsible father with an undying devotion to saving his daughter. The missing girl’s sister, a bronze medal archer, spends the entire film wandering the sewers in a track suit, carrying a bow and arrow. The motivations of the beast itself are also cleverly hidden; the optimists in the audience may even believe that it is benign on some level (for awhile, anyway). On a limited budget, SFX company The Orphanage creates a unique CGI beastie, and director Joon-ho Bong uses clever locations and visuals to fashion a unique monster movie. Rating: 3 of 4

"Alternately scary, funny and inspiring, Bong Joon-ho’s first-class monster mash is also a scalding rebuke to U.S. interventionism, profiteering and general developing-world opportunism, and a lovely story of familial bonding. In a word, amazing."
- Ian Grey (Orlando Weekly)

"The creature is aquatic, acrobatic but definitely not angelic, in this idiosyncratic mix of creature feature and horror thriller, with a dash of slapstick, and a pinch of black humour."
- Urban Cinefile Critics (Urban Cinefile)

"A rather tender-hearted, often sorrowful, more often hilarious view on the familial conflicts between generations and between siblings."
- Tim Brayton (Antagony & Ecstasy)

"It packs an emotional kick that we don't expect from a movie where a giant iguana is running around with human legs dangling out of his mouth like stray pieces of linguini."
- Rob Thomas (Capital Times [Madison, WI]

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Baby Mama (2008)

Chaffee Bicknell (Sigourney Weaver): Our surrogacy fee is $100,000.
Kate (Tina Fey): It costs more to have someone born than to have someone killed!
Chaffee Bicknell: It takes longer.

Carl (Dax Shepard): My first thought about Angie carrying someone else's baby? I thought... My wife is gonna have sex with somebody else's husband to do this?...
Angie: - Out of the question...
Carl: - that's gonna cost extr - out of the question, right. Out of the question.

Angie: You went out with him?
Kate: I did.
Angie: Why?
Kate: Oh, he's beautiful.
Angie: Where?

Your stupid space car locked me in!
- Angie

At a glance: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler add a twist in this often-funny comedy about an odd couple bringing a baby to term

Its 2008, and every movie has virtually been made before. Many times over. So if you are going to churn out another baby comedy, you need something different to set it off from the rest. Baby Mama has that something different: atypically, it’s got two talented comediennes in the lead roles. Tina Fey, currently right in the middle of her fame boosting turns as the dead-ringer Sarah Palin imitator, stars here as a highly successful corporate vice-president of a health food company, who, at the age of 37, gets bitten by the baby bug. Unable to conceive in more conventional ways, she turns to a surrogate, which leads her to ‘white trash’ Amy Poehler. Circumstances force them to have to live together, which leads to a few more problems, as do a couple of major twists in the story. It isn’t the funniest comedy ever made, but there are more than enough laughs to carry it, especially if you have gone through some of these types of dramas yourself. Good supporting work from Sigourney Weaver, Greg Kinnear, Dax Shepard, and Romany Malco also helps. Rating: 2.5 of 4

"A lightweight romantic comedy that's to be welcomed, if only for the fact it offers juicy roles to talented writer-actresses Tina Fey and Amy Poehler."
- Christopher Tookey (Daily Mail [UK])

"There are plenty of laughs in this likeable and uplifting comedy that puts its own twist on life, love, relationships and babies."
- Louise Keller (Urban Cinefile)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Zodiac (2007)

Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal): Did he say they got a print?
Paul Avery (Robert Downey, Jr): A partial.
Robert Graysmith: Whoa. Dude, he wears his gun like Bullitt.
Paul Avery: No, McQueen got that from Toschi.
Robert Graysmith: Does he think that Zodiac's gonna send another code? 'Cause I think Zodiac's gonna send another code.
Paul Avery: Jesus Harold Christ on rubber crutches, Bobby, what are you doing? You're doing that thing. The thing that we discussed, the thing that I don't like, starts with an L...
Robert Graysmith: Oh, looming.
Paul Avery: Yeah.

"Do you know more people die in the East Bay commute every three months than that idiot ever killed? He offed a few citizens, wrote a few letters, then faded into footnote... Not that I haven't been sitting here idly, waiting for you to drop by and reinvigorate my sense of purpose."
- Paul Avery

At a glance: Director David Fincher’s docudrama about the Zodiac serial killer runs just short of 3 hours, and uses that time recreate a highly detailed, often intense criminal investigation slash period piece

In 1968 and 1969, a serial killer who called himself the Zodiac and ‘distinguished’ himself by writing letters accompanied by coded ciphers, attacked 7 people in Northern California, killing 5. Over the years, the letters continued, with the Zodiac claiming to have killed more than 37 people, although no other murders were confirmed to be done by him. The murder investigation went on for years and yielded some promising suspects, none of whom could be linked to the killings by any more than circumstantial evidence. Zodiac the movie is a docudrama that focuses on three people who tried to track the killer: reporter Paul Avery (Robert Downey, Jr), Inspector David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and cartoonist Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal). The screenplay is based on Graysmith’s book. Talented director David Fincher takes on much more than just doing a doco of the Zodiac killer: he creates a period piece populated by fleshed out characters where the Zodiac killing is the glue in their stories, but, even without it, the movie would still be a good movie. Carefully captures the history of the period, through sets, music, and topical references (for example, a characters discusses Melvin Belli’s appearance on Star Trek and its subsequent cancellation – which is a nice little homage to Trek, I must say). Rating: 3.5 of 4

"[W]here Se7en, with its stygian gloom and theatrical executions, inflated the serial killer genre to gothic proportions, Zodiac lets the air back out. It is methodical rather than macabre, clinical rather than cruel."
- Christopher Orr (New Republic)

"Not until well into its second hour does it settle on a theme: the need to know the truth, and the dismal toll of that futile obsession."
- Peter Keough (Boston Phoenix)

"David Fincher's sixth feature potently blends the dynamics of the newsroom drama with those of the police procedural."
- Graham Fuller (Sight and Sound)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Visitor (2007)

Mouna (Hian Abbass): Which one is she?
Walter (Richard Jenkins): The one closest to us.
Mouna: The black one? That is Zainab? She’s very black.

Walter: Tariq is teaching me the drum.
Mouna: How is that going?
Walter: Well, I sound a lot better when he’s playing with me.

At a glance: Richard Jenkins understated performance as a grieving husband who reaches out to casual acquaintances in a time of need touches on larger, global issues: immigration law, fear of terrorism, and the need for solidarity amongst peoples of varying backgrounds

Walter (Richard Jenkins), a stodgy professor who is caught within the web of his own grief, has a life-changing experience when he inadvertently becomes involved with a young couple from Syria/ Senegal, both recently arrived in New York. When their life changes for the worst, he tries to help right the wrongs. It starts as a redemption story for a grieving man, and even on those modest terms, it is fantastic, then suddenly the story becomes about so much more: an examination of how the arbitrary boundaries of countries are used to validate atrocities of justice done to innocent people. I was reminded of another, larger idea when watching this film: although the leaders and extremists in various cultures (western and eastern) tend to stress the differences between people and their ideologies, at the heart of it, whether you wear a kufi or a cowboy hat, you basically want and need the same things: food, shelter, and safety for your family, friends and neighbors. Miraculously, writer/director Tom McCarthy is able to present these ideas within the framework of a movie that gently and poetically portrays the bonds of love that bind us. Quiet, powerful, small, and beautiful. Rating: 3.5 of 4

"The beautifully restrained performance by [Richard] Jenkins is the anchor of a film built around complex characters and quiet moments."
- Robert Davis (Paste Magazine)

"Cuts across one of the West's most contentious political issues without ever getting political. And it features a terrific lead performance from Jenkins."
- Rich Cline (Film Threat)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (2008)

Penny (Felicia Day): You're not really interested in the homeless, are you?
Dr. Horrible (Neil Patrick Harris): No, I am, but... it's a symptom. You're treating a symptom while the disease rages on, consumes the human race. The fish rots from the head, so they say. So I'm thinking, why not cut off the head?
Penny: [pause] Of the human race?
Dr. Horrible: It's not a... perfect metaphor.

Dr. Horrible: Sorry I come on so strong.
Penny: But you signed [the petition]

Dr. Horrible: I’m Dr. Horrible! I’ve got a PhD in Horribleness!
Moist (Simon Helberg): [unimpressed] Is that the new catch-phrase?

Dr. Horrible: I want to be an achiever, like Bad Horse.
Penny: [surprised] The thoroughbred of sin?
Dr. Horrible: I meant Ghandi.

"It’s a good day to be homeless."
- Newscaster (reporting on the news of a new homeless shelter)

"The world is a mess, and I just need to rule it."
- Dr. Horrible

"Billy, You're driving a spork into your leg!"
- Penny

Captain Hammer: This is so nice / I just might sleep with the same girl twice / They say it's better the second time / They say you get to do the weird stuff.
Groupies: We do the weird stuff.

"Justice has a name, and the name that it has, besides Justice, is Captain Hammer."
- Mayor

At a glance: Joss Whedon’s rock opera about an inept wannabe evil doctor is a typical Whedon dark/light comedy, where the line between villain and hero in thin. Released directly to the Internet, it’s funny, clever, well-written – and the songs are great, too.

Back when Joss Whedon was making Buffy episodes, a friend sent me a memorable one: Buffy: The Musical. All the characters did their usual zombie/monster fighting, but sung and danced their way through the episode. The songs were great to listen to, and the episode was fun – and funny. Now, years later, in a way to keep working during the Hollywood writer’s strike, Joss has created a new short film, released directly to the Internet, that uses the same concept. Billy/Dr. Horrible () is an aspiring evil scientist who, more than anything, wants entry into the Evil League of Evil. To do so, he has to apply and get approval from the League Leader, and unseen evil entity named Bad Horse. Each time Bad Horse corresponds (either by letter or phone), his message is relayed by three singing cowboys who pop up into the borders of the shot wearing blatantly fake moustaches. Dr. Horrible’s other goal is to get serious with Penny, a girl he often sees at the laundromat. But standing in his way is Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion) a self-absorbed, misogynistic ‘superhero’. Through circumstance, Penny falls in love with Hammer, which pleases the good on the outside/ bad on the inside Hammer to no end: he’s not only going to get the girl, but his arch-rival Dr. Horrible isn’t. Clever, unique, and fun, it’s not only great to watch, but as soon as it ended, I wanted to start it up again. When the DVD comes out, I’ll be sure to get it, as a way of supporting Joss and his work. Rating: 3 of 4

"Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is a writer's strike baby, and far more interesting than dumb and skeevy reality TV shows like Moment of Truth. It's a 44 minute web musical, done on a low budget. I'd suggest downloading Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog from iTunes, but I have to admit, I'm waiting for the DVD. Why? I'll tell you why. The commentary is a musical, that's why. And that is, undeniably, totally cool."
- Lissa (

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

X2 (2003)

Professor X (Patrick Stewart): [voiceover] Mutants. Since the discovery of their existence they have been regarded with fear, suspicion, often hatred. Across the planet, debate rages. Are mutants the next link in the evolutionary chain or simply a new species of humanity fighting for their share of the world? Either way it is a historical fact: Sharing the world has never been humanity's defining attribute.

Storm (Halle Berry): [about Nightcrawler's markings] So... What are they?
Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming): They're angelic symbols, passed on to mankind by the archangel Gabriel.
Storm: They're beautiful. How many do you have?
Nightcrawler: One for every sin. So quite a few.

Pyro (Aaron Stanford): So, they say you're the bad guy.
Magneto (Ian McKellen): Is that what they say?
Pyro: That's a dorky looking helmet. What's it for?
Magneto: This "dorky looking helmet" is the only thing that's going to protect me from the REAL bad guys.
[magnetically takes Pyro's lighter and lights it]
Magneto: What's your name?
Pyro: [staring at his lighter in Magneto's hands] John.
Magneto: What's your *real* name, John?
Pyro: [summons lighter's flame to his hand] Pyro.
Magneto: Quite a talent you have there, Pyro.
Pyro: I can only manipulate the fire
[flame disappears into Pyro's hand]
Pyro: I can't create it.
Magneto: You are a god among insects. Never let anyone tell you different.

At a glance: The second film in the X-Men series is an improvement over the first, effectively combining a clever script, sharp direction, and an A-grade cast in one of the better comic book adaptations ever made

As a Star Trek fan, I shouldn’t have a hard time suspending my disbelief and entering an alternative universe. Such is required in the extreme when entering into a movie based on a comic book series about mutants. For some reason, I seemed to have a hard time entering this world when I watched the first X-Men movie. That was some time ago, and this time, I made sure I got my head in the right place when I entered: "That’s not the human Hugh Jackman," I reminded myself, "that’s the mutant Logan." "That’s not a silly haircut on Hugh Jackman; that’s a mutant haircut." And so on. I wanted to make sure I got full appreciation of this, the second and most critically acclaimed of the first three X-Men films. And my strategy worked this time. It probably helped that the movie is good; it sucked me into the universe right from the start.

This is not your everyday action movie. Not only was plenty of money spent on sets and locations, but the cast is a roll call of name actors: Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, Rebecca Romijn Anna Paquin, James Marsden, and Kelly Hu. And when it came to the director, they didn’t skimp there, either, going for the talented Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects and Apt Pupil). Singer does a great job with the action aspects of the film, but also knows how to direct the dramatic moments. But it’s rare to say this: the plot excels here. Rather than feeling like it is full of contrivances, this is a story where the jet is there not because it allows the filmmakers to include an exciting air battle (although it does), but because it makes sense that the school for mutants would have a jet parked in the back yard.

And onto the story: in brief, an evil human, William Stryker (Brian Cox)  uses his government position and personal vendetta to plot the destruction of all mutants. To defeat Stryker, all the mutants, including the dark side variety Magneto (Ian McKellen) and Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) must band together. Of course, there are complications. Lots of complications. If the movie has one fault, it is perhaps overlong, and, despite all the great elements, somehow not as emotionally involving as it could have been. But comic book fans will eat it up. Rating: 2.75 of 4

"Stylishly dark and visually thrilling with turbo-charged mutant action, X-Men 2 is a spectacle that delivers on every count."
- Urban Cinefile Critics (Urban Cinefile)

"Thanks to ample action, a stellar cast, amazing effects and a storyline that’s solid without being convoluted, it’s Xcellent entertainment."
- Terri Clark (Apollo Guide)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Nim’s Island (2008)

Jack (Gerard Butler): Be the hero of your own life story.
Alex Rover (Jodie Foster): Don't hand me that line - I wrote that line!

At a glance: This light and enjoyable island/ocean adventure focusing on an 11 year old girl, her lost-at-sea dad, and a timid adventure writer, will appeal to a variety of ages

A scientist/writer is lost at sea, leaving his 11 year old daughter, Nim (Abigail Breslin) to fend for herself. Through emails, she enlists the help of rugged adventure writer Alex Rover, unaware that Rover is actually a fictional character written by a timid apartment-bound agoraphobic (Jodie Foster). Foster is appropriately nervous and silly; Breslin is a natural actress, if at times a tad soft-spoken; Gerard Butler chews the scenery in dual roles; one as an adventurer dad who has to fight against the elements to get his small boat back to the island, and another as the brogue-sporting figment of Alex Rover’s imagination. Just to keep things interesting, there are a number of clever visual sequeways between scenes. I had hoped my five year old daughter and I might watch this movie together, and we did. We both enjoyed it. There’s a strong Australian/Queensland slant to this movie; Australian actors and locations added to my personal enjoyment. Rating: 2.5 of 4

"If you have a child, Nim's Island is the kind of film you won't be sorry you shared with him or especially her, and if you don't have a youngster, you'll wish you did."
- Bruce Bennett (Spectrum [St. George, Utah])

"Plenty of things happen that adults will have to overlook and forget any reasoning because this is a movie aimed at kids, and on that point it delivers."
- Diana Saenger (

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)

Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell): Do you want to put some clothes on!
Peter Bretter (Jason Segel): Oh, would you like to pick out the outfit that you break up with me in!

Surfing Instructor (Paul Rudd): I once saw him beat a guy up with a starfish!
Peter Bretter: That's ridiculous.
Surfing Instructor: That guy was me.

Kemo (Taylor Wily): [finding Peter in bed alone] Are those sad tissues or happy tissues?

At a glance: Writer/star Jason Segel shows his comedic talent and his vulnerability in this laugh-out-loud funny, ambitious film about a songwriter whose trophy girlfriend breaks up with him

Peter is a songwriter is in love with his trophy TV star girlfriend. When she unexpectedly breaks up with him, he gets away to Hawaii, only to find that she – and her new boyfriend – are staying in the same hotel. Writer/star Jason Segel is atypical and naturally quirky both on screen and with pen, and he is aided greatly by an excellent, funny (and attractive) supporting cast (Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, Russell Brand, Bill Hader, and Jonah Hill). There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, but, even so, there is still the semblance of a real love and redemption story too. And some of the seemingly throwaway bits (like Peter’s unfinished Dracula opera for puppets) are brilliant on their own. If you’ve been watching a string of Judd Apatow movies and are enjoying them, each one is a little bit funnier, as you are in sync with the silliness, the cadence, and even the sincerity. The characters end up in slightly unbelievable situations, but their motivations almost always are anchored in reality; it wasn’t a surprise to find out that some of the script (naked breakups and Dracula) came directly from Segel’s real life. Generally speaking, movies from the Apatow stable place their antiheroes through plenty of personal pain, but it remains funny, because the underlying message is that life is good and fun and beautiful and exciting, and our personal setbacks are, in the big picture, just humorous little blips on a greater journey. Rating: 3 of 4

"Segel is as vulnerable on screen as any actor I can think of in recent memory, and he bookends his character's journey as a writer just perfectly. It's a funny, lovely movie, and I look forward to more from Segel."
- Karina Montgomery (Cinerina)

"[The film] works, first and foremost because of Segel, who knocks it out of the park in both his first starring role and first produced screenplay."
- Stephen Silver (The Trend)

"Judd Apatow takes the sexual hijinks of guys-night-out cinema and bitch-slaps it with chick-flick emotionalism, an unlikely combination, but it works."
- Lori Hoffman (Atlantic City Weekly)