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Be Kind Rewind Poster IMDB

The FUTURE FILM MAKERS club went and saw this movie about a week ago. In Be Kind Rewind, Jack Black and Mos Def star as two New Jersey nobodies attempting to save their VHS-only video store through the action of remaking old films. Their only resources are their nostalgic memories of the films themselves and whatever random items they can find in their slum community. Its a great premise, highly inspiring in this age of do-it-yourself digital film making and distribution, and got us future film makers all really excited to see what Michael Gondry could come up with.

Unfortunately the film itself is somewhat forgettable. That’s a sad thing to admit considering its one of the more creative movies to come out of America in the last couple years, but the fact of the matter is that the pacing, the narrative, and the fun factor of a movie such as this was just way too…I dunno, WONKY to really recommend. Now I like strange things and I love outrageous cinema, but this one just really didn’t do it for me or my friends in terms of “laugh factor.” The conversations the characters have come off as disconnected, as if all the characters have rabid cases of ADD. While it isn’t unusual for a bunch of zero-budget film makers to behave in such a way, it doesn’t work for a narrative as deeply themed and potentially rich as this. The humor is also smart, but sometimes pretentiously so, that the only jokes the whole audience will tend to laugh at at once involve Jack Black’s physical comedy (i.e watching him be beaten and violated by the environment around him).

As the plot thickens and the community pulls together to help the aging and dying video store (And associated format, VHS), the story begins to congeal into something far more palatable and upbeat. One cameo by Sigourney Weaver takes a tad of a depressing turn, however, and the predictability of the film becomes apparent.

The ending is really marvelous though, and if you truly appreciate the art form of cinema then you probably should watch this film. This is one of the best displays of how film making has become the prominent art form of this generation and why it brings people together as it does. If the entire last third of the picture was used as a thesis for Film’s Power in Sociology, it’d probably get an A+. Somehow, sadly, I don’t think most viewers will get it. Hopefully you will.

If you are a mainstream viewer then a rental will be good for you. Its really hard for me to say whether or not I liked this movie, as I am sure my readers can tell by the indecisivenesses of this review, but heck, that’s why we’re allowed to have our own opinions, isn’t it? One thing is for certain- the movie was full of great performances and a couple of really truly memorable moments.

However, I think what this movie will be most remembered for is it’s impact on the internet film community. Filmmaking Frenzy did a contest based off of the “sweding” of films (Custom-to-order-film-renting-on-less-than-zero-budget) that takes place in the movie. Here’s one of the favorites I’ve seen on the internet, TERMINATOR 2:

REVIEW: I AM LEGEND

Watching this film earlier tonight, in fact I just got back from it, I decided that it is now necessary to come up with a term (for myself, in any case, I don’t know if there’s another one for it) for movies such as this.

I AM LEGEND is about the best example you will ever get of a “Two-Thirder,”and by this I mean a film that is essentially that- two thirds are brilliantly done, and then the ruin it all in the final third of the picture. For this movie, it’s easy to divide up- it was a 101 minute film, and somewhere around the last 35 minutes everything decided to take a back-seat to “good film making.”

I AM LEGEND
is the story of Will Smith saving existence once again (sorry, my family is ironically enough watching Independence Day upstairs), from some form of world-apocalypse. This time however, he isn’t Will Smith, he’s Robert Neville, a military scientist who believes he knows the cure for infection. Why he’s the one with the key to this, what his background in science is, and why he is in particular immune to this virus are all unknown to the viewer, thus diminishing greatly the chance for this film to be good science fiction. I’m not saying they have to explain every little thing. That would be treating the audience like idiots. Oh…wait. It appears that they decided to do that with the first five minutes of the film in the worst way imaginable- a News Report talk show extravaganza that takes place outside of the continuity of the actual events of the film.

Effortlessly explaining that the cure for cancer was on the rise, the film does make a smart decision to cut to “Three Years Later” and show off Will Smith as The Last Man On Earth. The whole movie is about contrasting images, with the city of New York overrun with grass and wild animals. One of the more amusing scenes is when Neville drives his SUV down the street and music is heard coming from it. Not a speaker system, mind you, just from the car. It has no over powered bass, it is just on at a low volume and can be heard for a great distance in the once noisy City that Never Sleeps.

If you’ve read any other review, you already know that yes, the first forty-five minutes are incredibly interesting, with a “day in the life” story of the omega, going through his amusing paces and doing his best to stay sane talking to mannequins and the like. If you’ve seen Tom Hank’s isolationist portrayal in Cast Away you’ve already seen the best display of man-on-inanimate-object action, but there are moments when this film tops even the great scenes of Wilson the Volleyball and his Oscar Worthy performance. Smith does in fact own the screen the entire picture, even towards the end when it falls apart. So does the dog he works with. The beautiful pooch deserves muchos applause, and her chemistry with Smith was gold. In fact, it’s pretty easy to see where the film falls apart.

When the dog becomes a less prominent character and two humans are introduced, completely out of nowhere, and ruin the story. There are some embarrassingly bad scenes following the addition of the non-infected, and the action slows, grows, and then completely dies in a ball of stupid and meaninglessness. The story is yet again plagued by the idiotic notion that a science fiction story needs to, at some point, compete with God. This humble reviewer is not an atheist, mind you, I am just of the opinion that bringing God into a movie over the course of two lines of dialog is incredibly moot. Furthering this bad mistake was the idea that “everything happens for a reason,” which worked great for the movie Signs because that entire film was an allegory for a man’s loss of faith. This movie was telling a different story and they decided to leave it at the end for something far more dumb and done.

The action was consistently good, with a handicam author that finally knew how to keep things in focus enough that it was more of a tool than a distraction. The scares were exciting, and while they were still resorting to cat scares, they were much more primal and ferocious than the silly things horror movies in general try to pull. You did not see the scares coming. That makes it effective. The direction of Francis Lawrence was generally powerful, sometimes heart breaking, and the editing between the scenes of “flashbacks” and modern time, getting inside Neville’s head, were very potently placed. Any time when the monsters were attacking created a feeling of dread and excitement, and the direction of the creatures was well maintained throughout the scenes of action. Their movements were animalistic, but with a primal edge of stalking prey that allowed the audience to feel fear right along side of Smith. The special effects were even far more decent than a lot of reviews will admit, and worked for the film, not nearly as against it as some trailers will make it seem.

Over all though, not enough of the action was between Neville and the Mutants. Too much of it focused on his day-to-day life. It painted a great character portrait that had no real development by the end, and anything that could be considered growth felt too written in to really count. Tacking on something that easy just makes the film out to be exactly what I’ve coined it: A Two Thirder.

REVIEW: WAR

WAR

Does “WAR” achieve victory? Hardly. Just like Hitler didn’t learn from Napoleon, Jet Li didn’t learn from Cradle 2 the Grave and other past Americano mistakes.

The music video director has to be the guy to blame. Or maybe its the screen writer? Or could it be Lee himself? This movie felt like a hollow drum- something constantly to be banged on to produce the same noise over and over again until it becomes irritating. Can you still make music with such a device? Sure! But it really won’t have a lot of notes, and it won’t get any prettier. There were maybe 3 good fight scenes in the whole thing, only one of which involved Statham and only one involved Li. The rest were just sorta…meh. I mean I can’t even write a particularly intelligent review of this film.

This was a movie I had been looking forward to for over a year now, since it was announced that Jet Li would be FIGHTING Jason Statham. Now this movie was announced right around the time Jet Li was going into “retirement.”

Did his change in pace work out? Not really. See, he wasn’t retiring- he was merely changing his agenda- no more classical, long drawn out choreography? Ok, I can deal with that- after all Danny The Dog (also known as UNLEASHED in the states) was a great drama with some action sprinkles to keep it thrilling. His acting in Hero was the main emphasis of his role, with you never knowing which side he was playing.

That role particularly could be compared to this film, with Li’s new character Rogue being phoned in as a harsh Asian ripoff of the Man With No Name played by Eastwood (which, circularly, is a ripoff of a Japanese character, Yojimbo, played by Mifune). The setting for a such a character is well imagined- Yakuza vs. Triads in the dingy, dirty evil town of…San Fransisco…? Wow. Aside from the Golden Gate Bridge in two scenes this movie could have taken place in any town- with most of the locations even being referred to as generically as “Yakuza Turf” and “Triad Turf” and at the worst “Chang’s Warehouse 16.” I mean how freaking lazy can you get? Have you guys ever BEEN to San Fransisco? The one time the environment works to its advantage is one of the only passable action scenes in the film- a car chase down SF streets. However the chase actually starts strong and ends poorly. You see Statham chasing Li around trolley cars, across the huge gaping drops, and through tunnels, only for his car to slightly…dip over a guard rail or something and him to walk away barely even injured. This can essentially be seen as a metaphor for the whole film- great premise, poor execution, and a very weak and empty conclusion. And for future reference- Jason Statham does NOT LOSE CAR CHASES. Who the hell said “Hey Jason, you’re gonna let JET LI of all people out drive you.” And this is where the biggest problem with the movie really occurs- it was not made for the fans.

Now is it wrong to wish that? In most cases I’d say hell yes. But when you have such a simple meal ticket in the works with both Jet Li and Jason Statham being box-office gold in their last two separate movies (Li’s Fearless and Statham’s Crank both got in the top 5 opening weekend), the ambition in this movie seems to aim more towards Gangster Noir than action film- with cheesy character stories and overly cliche motivations pushing the story along. These are the types of movies designed to make big bucks, have big bangs, and get big cheers. I laughed a couple of times at both moments intentional and unintentional, but by the time the third act arrived and I still hadn’t seen Statham beating Jet Li to death or Li whipping Statham’s ass I knew there was something wrong.

By the end of this movie you’ll realize a few things you already knew:
1. Statham can act. Really well actually, and given a better script he could probably get A List in no time.
2. Jet Li can act- when the conventions of the film aren’t going against him and his accent issues. It’s forgivable in something like Unleashed because his character hardly ever speaks the first 20 some years of his life. In this movie its just plain irritating that he can’t speak English without any inflections. Perhaps the director is to blame, because I KNOW he was trying a lot harder in Kiss of the Dragon to pull off the English Accent and Anti Hero roles.
3. Neither of those things will matter when the script is inept enough to label a location with an exposition lettering “CHANG’S WAREHOUSE 16”

This movie was just made for dumb people. And I feel dumb for being cheated out of what would have been the coolest grudge match of the year. Maybe one of the best of all time. They better try a sequel or something and do it right. Get Luc Besson to back it and Yo Wuen Ping to choreograph and maybe we’ll have some REAL action.

WAR Totally does not strike a pose- both actors need to stay the hell away from Music Vid directors…you think Li would have learned that by now after Cradle 2 The Grave.

**/***** (2/5)

REVIEW: HOT FUZZ

hot fuzz

Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg teamed up again to bring us another amusing Brit-Com, one that this time skewers the American Cop, Horror Thriller, and Action movies. It even makes Timothy Dalton the mustache twirling bad guy.

Well, when I was up in Boston I went to see the film with my lovely girlfriend, and well, she was half asleep from exhaustion though she still got the movie 100%, we laughed our heads off.

Even though it was British and the dialogue was a tad…unfamiliar.

Nicholas Angel (Pegg) is a good cop- no wait, he’s the best cop London has to offer. In fact he’s so good, he makes everyone else look bad by a 300% margin. So what do you do when you’ve got the best person on your team? You chuck him out in the middle of no where so everyone else can be equal again…kinda reminds me of Maryland public schooling. He ends up in some backwoods uber-peaceful town, with nothing to do and no crime to prevent. All the cops are inept and eat cake for punishment, and the world as Nicholas knows it is gone. He gets no respect and is treated like a washed up has been, even though he’s clearly more talented than everyone around him.

ice cream

What’s worse is bizarre accidents start occurring around the town, and only his partner, once again played by Nick Frost, believes him. Too bad he’s a bumbling idiot who’s father is the captain. A few people die, then disappear for good, and the cops completely ignore it. A plot is uncovered, a town secret revealed, and then one good, gun-hating cop decides he has had enough, and goes OVER THE EDGE WITH EXTREME VIOLENCE. This movie spoofs at least 5 genres in just an hour and a half and every attempt is a successful, spot on mockery but still remains fresh and entertaining.

Utilizing a familiar spoof mechanic the film delves deep into what could end up being bad Police Academy territory, however it decided to make a daring move and incorporate one thing many movies are forgetting these days: Characters.

This film, with not only zany antics (one of his missions is to catch a missing swan), but deep and moving character drama, especially between the two leads, is a hallmark example of that USA channel slogan “characters welcome.” Here is a case in which they really, really are. Nicholas Angel- rightly named and played by Simon Pegg with an edginess and perfectionism that really almost feels method based, is our hero-who-can’t-turn-it-off.

swan

The polar opposite of his character from the brilliant character-driven zombie comedy (how often do you see THOSE?), he’s always in cop mode, morning noon and night and refuses to give up his hard-ass ways. His partner played by Nick Frost is a great buffoon of friendly warmth and feel-good messages. Together they…KICK A LOT OF ASS.

nicolas angel

The end of the movie may feel tacked on to some, but its the perfect full circle in a story that built up to the moment of truth- in this case a big frigging gunfight- quite momentously. Throw in some of the best on-screen kills seen in years, laughs ranging from light chuckles to giant guffaws, and you’ve got a tastefully scripted, tightly shot, and brilliant paced action comedy. With character.

This film undoubtedly strikes a pose, and damn well near perfect, gets a **** out of ****

In any case, Hot Fuzz is one of the best films of the year so far, and I encourage everyone to go see it. In celebration, here’s a link to an interview “vs.” between the film’s director, Edgar Wright, and Hollywood action revolutionary Shane Black.

So if you’re dying to see a movie this weekend, please go support intelligent, witty, and downright hilarious humor. Even with one of the biggest summer blockbusters of all time just released last weekend, this is what is REALLY worth your nine bucks.

300

So, first things first: Thumbs up or thumbs down?

I am part of the video game culture. I grew up with it. And for the most part I enjoy it. Thoroughly.

As for the film side of me? I enjoy movies.

As for the 40 % of critics who claim this movie sucks because it “feels like a video game”?

    FUCK YOU GUYS
    THUMB WAY FREAKING UP

Well, I’ve tried to make it a habit of limiting profanity on my site. In this case I just happened to fail.

This movie was as glorious as the Spartan victories: beautifully edited, filmed, colored, acted, played out, paced: yes, it is as visionary as it claims to be. Take all of the speeches of the three Lord of the Rings films, roll them into just any one sentence that Gerard Butler speaks as King Leonidas, and you have one of the most action, inspiration, and emotion packed movies I’ve seen in years. It’s a mix of old-fashioned “patriot” films like a Clint Eastwood/John Wayne WWII endeavor, mixed with the unleashed power of today’s “overblown violence.”

Let me say one thing about the violence- it is not going out of its way, a la KILL BILL to promote it’s action scenes- it feels freaking real, even with CGI blood thrown in.

This is a true myth coming alive as film, and the only time I’ve seen it done as strongly was with Hayao Miyazaki’s last few great works Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. And those were animated.

drama300

The acting in this film was classic and genuine. Not a single person or single line seemed to “ham it up”- it all went with the style the film wanted to convey- and that was pushing legend to the limit without breaking complete realism. The fact that the fight actually played out more historically accurate (although we can only assume) than the trailers make it look to be (this is NOT a “kung fu flick in disguise”), means that there’s just something brutal and passionate that I believe a majority of movie goers, from ANY COUNTRY would be proud to use as an example of human history.

historically accurate 300

Hell, even for angry Persians who might not like having their nation’s history being filled with a humiliating defeat- at least this movie makes your opponents look like something worth losing to.

The pacing never let up- every scene was interesting or visually poetic in some way. Not really a movie for actual imagery- this was hard, old fashioned “what you see is what you’ve got” stuff. But some moments, such as when one traitor is mentioned in a scene taking place in Sparta, and the film cuts to a scene of another traitor on the battlefield, really proves this movie has brains and was TRYING.

Honestly, guys- that’s all I want to see. Some serious effort from your film making. If Bodangofish can work out half as well as Sam and I think it might not have sucked, a movie about 300 angry white boys slaughtering everything in site shouldn’t be that hard. It isn’t.

And they beat, trampled, and crushed all GOOD expectations. My first words after seeing the movie, and it can be quoted as truth:

“IT HAD A PLOT!” which is not something I was expecting. I was expecting, pretty much “yeah these guys want us dead let’s kill them” and then 70 minutes of ripping colorful enemies apart in a crimson veil of unbridled massacre.

But, to my most pleasant surprise- there was more to it than that. I cared for the characters, I cared for the future of this brutal civilization, and I cared for the destruction of the invading enemy- I wanted to see them not only defeated. NO. This was much more important than, let’s say the proving of a point in Ridley Scott’s much under-appreciated Kingdom of Heaven or the “vanquish evil” motivation of the LOTR saga- no this was something far heftier and more important to my pathos:

I wanted to see these bastards humiliated.

And by the end of the movie: Everything you wish could have happened, did happen, and the fight scenes did not become at all repetitive. The final “battle” took the PERFECT turn, didn’t ham it up, and drove the story home.

This is a FOUR STAR MOVIE. No reason not to watch it, no reason not to enjoy it. No it is not some brilliant character-driven intellectual masterpiece, but in terms of raw film making, sheer effort, and complete payoff?

Damn…how can you actually not love this? I’m sure by the end of the weekend, the people who hate this film will be a lowly 300 hundred again the thousand nations of people who will LOVE THIS FILM. Too bad they won’t have the resources to win THAT fight though. This thing is going down in history as a classic of modern cinema- mark my words.

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