The Movie Buffer

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Here Come the Oscars/The Razzies!

With the major award season half finished (Golden Globe winners here, Screen Actors guild winners here [you'll have to scroll down to find the list]), only two of the major awards of the year remain – The Oscars and the Razzies.

The Oscars have been the crown jewel in Hollywood since1929. Over the years the awards have tried to maintain the same quality but occasionally there have been some blips – some awards have been given to people and films of lesser quality because their better ones have been overlooked (e.g. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King).

For some unknown reason, comedies are usually overlooked for this particular award, but this year that trend has been soundly broken. There are four comedic films that have been nominated for various, and key, awards:

Little Miss Sunshine – Best Picture, Best Original Screen Play, Best Supporting Actress
The Devil Wears Prada – Best Lead Actress
Venus – Best lead Actor
Borat – Best adapted Screenplay

With about 61 films vying for 5 spots for best foreign film this year, a Canadian film made the cut. Water by Deepa Mehta, in which Hindi is spoken throughout, premiered in 2005 at the Toronto international film festival and went on to becoming the highest grossing foreign feature film in the US in 2006. In a group of films that have had significantly more press (Pan’s Labyrinth and The Lives of Others), Water is going to have a tough time breaking through and taking home the award.

The second award ceremony has less history but just as much enthusiasm. The Razzies, started in 1980, are the creation of John Wilson, who wanted to dishonor all the terrible movies of the past year. In the beginning, the categories mirrored the Oscars, but with time irreverent categories like the Worst Reckless Disregard for Human Life and Public Property and Most Tiresome Tabloid Targets arose. Unlike the Oscars, whose judges are kept anonymous from the public, the Razzies depend on the public to nominate and choose the “winners”. Moreover, those who sign up to vote secure an invitation to the awards ceremony that takes place in Los Angeles, a day before the Oscars.

The Academy Awards take place on February 25th and the Razzies on the 24th. To see the lists of the nominees, you can check out these links:

The Oscars

The Razzies

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Smokin' Aces


I spoil movies like butter spoils popcorn


Magician/mobster, Buddy “Aces” Israel (Jeremy Piven of Entourage) is looking to make a deal with the FBI to sell out his ‘family’. All he needs is the call from his lawyer saying that the FBI will be placing him in protective custody and the witness protection program.

If there’s one thing the mafia knows, it’s how to make a body disappear, so it’s a race against time and an army of hitmen for FBI director Locke (Andy Garcia) and agents, Carruthers (Ray Liotta) and Messner (Ryan Reynolds of Waiting). Meanwhile, four teams of assassins, lured by the one million dollar bounty on Israel’s head, set their plans in motion.

Along with the FBI and the assassins, there is a group of bail bondsmen/bounty hunters, lead by Jack Dupree (Ben Affleck), who are on the job to bring Buddy in on a bond that he ditched in Las Vegas.

When a movie, like this one, has so many marquee actors, individual points of view, and action sequences none of the characters get the time to really flesh out, with exception of Carruthers and Locke. This wouldn’t have been a problem in another action movie because they don’t bother with character development at all, but director, Joe Carnahan, dedicated the first hour to the back story of the assassins, the mafia and the feds only to let it all go when the action starts.

Once the action begins, the director’s mastery behind the camera becomes apparent. The story rolls right along and aptly reveals all the facets of the shady dealings in the mafia and the FBI. Since there are six points of view and they all intersect at Buddy’s hideout, the penthouse suite at a casino in Lake Tahoe, tight editing and smooth transitions from one to the next help in sorting out what is going on.

Liotta and Garcia play their characters impeccably and with palpable conviction. Being veterans with the subject matter, they know exactly how to make use of their limited face time to bring out their character’s personalities. Alicia Keys, who plays Georgia Sykes, makes her big screen debut as a femme fatale who is contracted to deliver the hit on Israel. She plays her role as cool and composed as many of the more senior actors. The rest of the cast seem to just go through the motions in delivering their characters.

Unfortunately, the one word that best describes this movie is: stock. There is nothing novel to this picture. We’ve seen it before in every mob film where some stooley is about to squeal and the cops rush in to meet the assassins with guns blazing. Everything that has come to be cliché in a mobster movie is included in this picture: The stake-out outside the godfather’s mansion, the nervous snitch, the pair of FBI agents with a father-son type relationship, the drive-by killings, the mysterious lone gunman, et cetera. The cherry on the top of the sundae would have been that this was agent Carruthers’ last day on the job before retirement (I was waiting for this line to come but it never did).

Though this is a plain mobster movie, it had enough action and a little comedy, provided by Jason Bateman, to make it watchable. This was a 6/10 or two and a half out of five stars film because it doesn’t maintain the story, as bland as it was, or come at the genre with a new or interesting perspective. The film scores points on the action: there are some great scenes with double crosses, the plans that the hitmen use are rather good, and there are a few plot twists that are decent. Fans of chase scenes, gunplay or Alicia Keys in revealing outfits will enjoy this film but otherwise it’s a disposable action film which can be left until it’s available for rental.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Interview with a Filmmaker: James Rolfe

This is a first for The Movie Buffer! The very first interview with a filmmaker is with James Rolfe and as you can see (from above) he doesn't look to happy. Please note that the videos that I have linked contain coarse language so they are not safe for work or for younger audiences.

With the advent of online communities like MySpace and YouTube, directors, professional and amateur, have the potential to reach vast and constantly expanding audiences. If their videos resonate with viewers, distribution of the material may turn ‘viral’ extending the network of viewers and creating a source of celebrity.

In the world of online videos, eye-catching, humourous and sometimes painful material exerts the strongest pull with viewers, as seen in the Badger Badger video, the Numa Song and the hordes of Jackass-style stunt videos.

James Rolfe is on the brink of such notoriety with his series entitled The Angry Video Game Nerd (AVGN), in which he lampoons video games from the late 80s and early 90s. Based at and available through, the AVGN has spread rapidly and has become a hit. I asked James about his films and the wave of popularity he is enjoying.

Danny Smooth: Hello, James! According to your webpage, you've recently got a surge of hits (over one million in October 2006) because of your series of videos entitled The AVGN. Why do you think these videos have stuck a chord with the online community?

James Rolfe: Yeah, it's crazy. I got 3 million hits during December. When I first created the Angry Nintendo Nerd[now known as the AVGN] in 2004, it was just an in-joke for my friends. I had no idea that so many other people would find it so amusing. These are targeted at mature gamers, people my age who grew up in the time of NES [and] SNES, but I guess everyone's interested in the past. Somehow, it just spread like wildfire. I abandoned most of my other film projects for the meantime, to try and keep up with the nerd videos, since people keep wanting more of it.

DS: How does it feel to be that well received?

JR: I love that I'm entertaining so many people and that my comments on the games are being embraced by everyone, but being only one person it’s hard to keep up with it all. Twice a week, I have to sit down for many, many hours at a time to answer emails and MySpace messages. It’s crazy. I appreciate the fanbase, but I just hope everyone knows how busy I am.

DS: What are you working on now?

JR: I'm working on a 2-set DVD compilation of all the AVGN reviews. I also just moved and am seeking a new job with more flexible hours. That's why it's taking a while to get another video out. I'm really dependent, at the moment, of getting some money, because it’s very hard to make these videos on the side of a full time job. So, that's my goal, to make the nerd my source of income so I can make more videos.

DS: What do you see in the future for the AVGN?

JR: As far as content goes, I have a lot planned. My list of games I wanna review is endless. What I hope the future holds is simply that I don't have to work a job, and get to keep making ‘Nerd’ videos on a bigger scale and get back to some other film projects.

DS: Any Non-AVGN projects in the works for the near future?

JR: I have tons of films planned. Some short, some feature length. All different. I have some goofball comedies I want to make, another zombie splatter flick and a pyschological horror film. I hope to get started on one of them within the next year.

DS: Thanks for answering my questions!

JR: Thanks for the interview, Dan.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

DVD Review: The Oh in Ohio


Forget it, Jake. It's spoiler-town.


When film about sex hit the mainstream, even in an indie pic like this, they tend to be overly sexualized co-ed romps or overly dramatic liaisons dangereuses. But The Oh in Ohio takes a more subtle and quirky look at sex and it’s role in relationships.

Jack Chase (Paul Rudd of The 40 Year Old Virgin) is a high school teacher, who is growing more frustrated, depressed and cynical every day. This is no midlife crisis - this is the culmination of years of inability to please his wife Priscilla (Parker Posey of Superman Returns) in bed. The school’s gym teacher/guidance councilor Coach Popovitch (Keith David of Dirty) notices the change in his attitude and tries to help the guy out with a few personal tips and tricks. Another witness of Jack’s descent into depression is one of his students, Kristen (Mischa Barton of The OC), who vows “fix” him. This plot line leads into a morally challenging avenue. While Jack is dealing with his “help”, Priscilla takes matters into her own hands and with a little help from Wayne, the pool guy (Danny DeVito of Deck The Halls). Through a series of life altering situations the pair of characters find what was missing in their relationship and realize that their “perfect” life wasn’t at all what they wanted.

This film is constructed in a very concise and quick paced manner. Each of the elements of the plot get a good amount of time to develop and the viewers get to connect to with the feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty that the characters have. Sophomore director, Billy Kent, also the co-writer, has made a nice film about an interesting topic that people have a hard time talking about.

Rudd plays his character with great enthusiasm and flair. His talent in comedy does not outshine is ability to slip into dramatic roles. His ability to be so flawed but also such a good everyman is outstanding.

Posey, who plays a career centered business woman, steps into her role entirely and shows us that she has evolved since her days in Dazed and Confused. She gives this very ordered but very quirky character some great personality. And even though she looks like a supermodel in most of her scenes, her character, like Rudd’s, is flawed, human and ultimately likeable.

The crew of secondary characters is also very strong with Keith David and Danny Devito. David, who is really a bit character designed for a few laughs, plays his part to perfection. He plays the “comic” to Rudd’s “straight man”. His often silly dialog add some nice touches to the comedy of the film. Devito plays the second male lead who teaches Posey a good lesson about life and loss. Though his character is rather sedate, his ability to liven the scene is amazing.

Barton plays the role of a young temptress with the poise of a young starlet. She doesn’t really do anything except dress up like a high school student, take off her clothes and talk about penises. Though her performance was sketchy, the character was a necessary addition to push Jack further into his realization that something was wrong with his relationship with his wife.

The conclusion of this movie leaves much to the imagination of the viewer in stark contrast to the style of the rest of the movie. Jack’s plot line is left dangling without mention and Priscilla’s plot is thickened with an ultimatum from Wayne. This was not a cohesive conclusion, and at eighty-eight minutes total run time, they could have wrapped things up if there was an extra five to ten minutes.

Though there is this hiccup at the end of the picture, the film remains a clever and humorous look at sex. The main characters are easy to relate to, human and funny. They all have problems and try as they might they can’t and don’t fix everything. It’s a laugh to watch and it gets a 7/10 or three stars out of five.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Dvd review: Battle Royale

Bloody and Barbaric, Battle Royale is a Slasher Nightmare


Up-up-down-down-left-right-left-right-B-A- Spoiled!


Overly violent and uninteresting sum up this gruesome picture, which seems to be based on "The Lord of the Flies" and the short story “The Lottery”, that tries very hard to be gritty and provocative but ends up tepid. Billed as an action packed, adventure movie, it quickly devolves into a mindless “shoot ‘em up” flick. With nary a coherent plot device during the length of the film, it chugs along as it’s cast of about 50 gets mowed down.

In the near future, in an effort to curb teen violence, a randomly selected class of grade nine students is forced, by the militaristic government, to brutally fight each other until only one remains. The kids are dropped off on a deserted island with food, water, one weapon and explosive necklace, to deter defectors. The kids quickly form up into groups and attempt survival by either eliminating the other teams, disassembling their necklaces and running or simply bunkering down in one of the many empty warehouses, huts and underground caves that are present on the island.

Now, you may be wondering why the government thought that this is a good idea and the film provides a brief explanation – “ ‘cause we said so”.

Given the previously stated point, why would the government have to ship these kids off to an island to fight? A school yard with broken bottles and knives seems just as apt. More and more questions like these ones crop up all over the film and there is little to no explanation of how an uninitiated viewer, like me, should answer them.

Like many films these days, this one is based on a series of books of the same name. The books garnered plenty of media attention when Japanese censors tried to get them banned from book stores for being too violent and racy. The books were never pulled and enjoyed more success from the attention than anyone could have imagined.

The director, Kinji Fukasaku, clumsily darts from fight to fight, unable to keep the story on track. The cast is made up of many well known Japanese television and film stars. The North American viewers will probably notice, Beat Takeshi (Vic Romano from Most Extreme Elimination Challenge; Zatoichi: the Blind Swordsman), as the embittered ex-school teacher-turned-military-man and Chiaki Kuriyama (Gogo from Kill Bill), as the one of the school girls. Takeshi is a great actor but he seems to be type cast as the angry villain lately. He was the one ray of sunlight in the otherwise blackened movie.

Even taken as a disposable horror flick, this film cannot be watched and unfortunately it isn’t one of those films that’s so bad that it has a sort of charm, it’s just utter garbage. The violence isn’t even that interesting because we’ve seen this sort of thing in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “The Running Man” and Jean-Claude Van Damme’s “Hard Target”. I wish that Godzilla had popped up and finished off all the kids to end our misery. For Beat Takeshi fans, he’s on screen for about 16 minutes, he’s violent and unfortunately he can’t save this film. 1/10 or zero stars.

p.s. Surprisingly, this is one of the highest grossing films in Japan, having earned 3.11 billion yen domestically (source).

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Three Legged Legs

Over the weekend, I received and email about a triumvirate of “dangerous” animators from California, the Three Legged Legs.

They merge traditional 2D animation with computer generated imagery to create a visual style that’s very eye catching (check out “Humans!”).

Tomorrow in the ‘feed’ section, you’ll find “Samurai”, the newest addition to the trio’s porfolio. There is a contest for spotting all the ninjas in the short film. The prize - a necktie.

These guys have the talent, a good sense of humour and I wish them luck in the future.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Top 10 Digital Effects from Popular Mechanics

Popular mechanics has released an interesting list of the top 10 revolutionary digital f/x projects in film history. The top five are undeniably influential on film and still play a large role in how films are made today. The other entries in this list have that “Oh, yeah! ” feeling to them.

The list is as follows:

  1. Star Wars – Motion Control Photography via computer
  2. Tron – CGI light bikes
  3. Terminator 2 – T1000 liquid metal effects
  4. Cliffhanger – Deleted safety wires
  5. Jurassic Park – Realistic dinosaurs with movement
  6. Forest Gump – Inserting Gump into archival film
  7. The Perfect Storm – Realistic Water
  8. Lord of the Rings – Artificially intelligent Uruk-hai sprites
  9. Polar Express – Large scale motion capture + photo realistic acting
  10. The Day After Tomorrow – Photo realistic New York City

Four of the titles they mention deal with photo realism, so I think they missed the ball in that respect. They should have put in Toy Story and The Matrix, which have had a far larger impact than the visuals in The Day After Tomorrow and The Polar Express. Especially Toy Story because without it a movie like The Polar Express would have been done as well or at all for that matter.

For the entire article click here.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Motel


All work and no spoilers make Jack a dull boy.


Trailer Found here.

This indie gem focuses on the awkwardness of puberty and how it overwhelms or is overcome by the young main character, Earnest. Living with his mother and grandfather at the family’s rundown hourly rate motel, Earnest finds himself misunderstood, isolated and without help in his time of need. That is, until Sam arrives. Sam pulls into the hotel, located on a deserted stretch of highway in the wooded areas of northern California, and befriends the lonely kid. Through a series of escalating shenanigans, Sam bestows some life lessons on to Earnest, who tries his best to apply them to his current problems, like impressing the young waitress at the local restaurant, dealing with his terrible job at the motel and trying to express himself to his overbearing mother.

Director, Michael Kang, made a huge splash with this movie at the Sundance Film Festival and Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film festival. The film is crafted in such a way the even though the story revolves around an Asian family, it still rings with truth for everyone. Though the pacing may put some people off, the slow build up and the crashing, chaotic events suit the topic of the film perfectly.

The actors, especially the main lead, Jeffrey Chyau, and the female lead, Samantha Futerman, play their roles very well. Chyau has acting skills far beyond his age, holding his own with the far more experienced cast members. Sung Kang (Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift) plays the charismatic and delinquent, Sam, with poise and vigor. The duo of Chyau and Kang are great on camera with each other. Not only do they have a brotherly relationship but they each learn something about themselves from the other.

This movie is great fun and painfully realistic. It didn’t enjoy a wide release, but smaller theatres may have it for a short run. Overall this movie gets a 7/10 or three and a half stars out of five. This is a touching coming of age story that down plays a lot of the baggage that comes with the genre.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Dvd Review: Blackballed: the Bobby Dukes Story


No transfats or spoilers!


Rob Corddry steps into his first starring role in this picture and he really shines with the all the attention. In this fictional documentary, Corddry plays Bobby Dukes, a former champion paintball player who was served a ten year suspension for “wiping” (wiping paint off one’s jersey during play), who returns to the game yearning to recapture some of his former glory.

Brant Sersen, the director, takes on this mainstream comedy with hilarious results. Most of the humour in the film comes from awkward silences and general weirdness so it doesn’t exhume belly laughs, but from time to time they come through. With a cast of eccentric friends and silly rivals, this movie is sure to bring a smile to your face.

The film is shot in a faux documentary style with talking head interviews and shaky handicam shots of the action. Unlike many other sports movies, this one doesn’t get jammed up with secondary plot lines, love interests or anything like that. The scenes move briskly from one to the next and really focus on the character development of Dukes and his team.

Along with Corddry, Ed Helms, Rob Riggle (both from The Daily Show), Paul Scheer, Dannah Feinglass, Curtis Gwinn (all from BurlyTV) and a legion of other sketch-com actors round out the cast. They all play rather human characters with all the minor flaws and subtle (but sometimes not so subtle) sense humour that real people have. The onscreen chemistry is decent with Dukes as the father figure character teaching his team the ins and outs of championship paintball. One problem I found was that the actors break the fourth wall and interact with the camera crew at times to ask to get out the of way or to hold a jacket. It was out of place and it added to the overall absurdity of the film, in the end.

This is a sports flick, so there are a few typical elements: a sport training montage, the coach, in this case Dukes, giving rousing pep talks and the arrogant current champion that shoot his mouth off once too often. Though these are rather elements are rather cliché, in the context of the film they end up being very funny.

I wasn’t expecting this movie to be as entertaining as it is. There aren’t any really big names attached to this film but everyone in the cast put out great performances. I would have liked a bit more adversity for Dukes and his paintball team but the story was strong none the less. I didn’t notice this one in theatres but Blockbuster has it for rental now. It’s got a lot of heart and plenty of balls, Blackballed gets a 7.5/10 or three and a half stars out of five.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

DVD review - DOA: Dead or Alive


This review contains 100% of your daily required spoiler intake.


*Though this DVD is not available North America until April, I was able to lay my hands on Japanese Region 2 copy of the film.

Every couple of months there’s an outrageously bad film that’s released - the kind of movie that could turn someone off of movies entirely. It’s usually a crappy horror flick or a b-grade adventure or, in this case, a video game adaptation.

The Dead or Alive video games have been much maligned because of their attention to gravity and how it acts on the female form (what is casually called “jiggle physics”). Beyond that, the game is a clone of the wildly popular Street Fighter series.

The only thing that this particular film needs to have to be a good translation is a quartet of starlets willing to run around in bikinis and punch things. But they strayed from that approach by trying to fit a terrible story, with a love triangle subplot no less, in with the eye candy.

The DOA tournament is a world wide event that highlights the greatest champion of every combat sport. Each participant is matched up in a single elimination fight to determine the greatest champion of all. Throw in a megalomaniacal tournament arbitrator and a volleyball game and that sums up DOA.

This film is awful and instead of just letting everything hang out and having a fun time with the bad material the director, Corey Yuen, took everything very seriously. Even the dick and fart jokes come off as forced and pompous. The film has an awesome tropical backdrop which soothes the brain until someone starts doing something and then it’s rapid-fire cuts from place to place without slowing down.

Since all the characters in the video game are such cartoon-y caricatures, the cast tried to fit their roles as much as humanly possible. Tina (Jaime Pressly), Christie (Holly Valance), Helena (Sarah Carter) and Kasumi (Devon Aoki) are the four female leads in this picture. They look good strutting around in bikinis throughout the film but when they open their mouths it’s hard not to laugh at the horrible dialog that comes spewing forth. Kevin Nash (from WCW wrestling) seemed to be the only actor that recognized that this was a trashy B-movie so he made his character over-the-top goofy.

There is nothing good about this movie - it’s creatively void, the only reason it got made was to try to wring more money out of the prepubescent male teen demographic, and when they tried to add some substance to the story none of it fit with the characters. Terrible game, terrible movie and there’s nothing more to say about that. 1/10 or zero stars.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Dvd Review: Scoop


A good critic never spoils the movies


Woody Allen is at it again, writing and directing a subtly humorous romantic comedy, but this time it’s in England. Surrounding himself with two of huge stars, Scarlett Johansson and Hugh Jackman, the movie was destined to be a hot ticket. Or was it? Fans of Allen’s work lamented that this film doesn’t take place in New York, as most of his work does. Critics ranted about how Allen himself had lost his comic touch and that he only nervously paces across the screen as a tribute to his famous neurotic characters.

The main plot line is that there have been a string of murders in London and the police haven’t identified the killer but they have nicknamed him “the tarot card killer” because of his unique MO. Johansson’s character, Sondra, is a keen journalist looking for her big break and it comes when she is attending a magic show, hosted by Allen’s character, Sid. Sondra volunteers to be a stage assistant for Sid’s disappearing trick and while in the magic disappearing box a specter of a dead investigative reporter outlines who the tarot card killer is. Using this lead and some help from Sid, Sondra attempts to track down the killer. Eventually, she lands in the lap of Peter, Jackman’s character, who seems to be entangled in the murders too. As the investigation progresses, tensions between the trio force Sondra to chose who she is going to hurt when she publishes her story and who she will stick by afterwards.

Like every other Woody Allen movie, the film is rather minimalist, but in the new city of London everything seems fresh and alive. Allen may have been phoning this one in to avid fans but it’s interesting to watch and it’s well put together, though the formula is simple. Don’t expect much in the way of plot twists or hard thinking for this movie, it’s a romantic comedy after all.

The acting is all over the chart, Jackman was good as a snooty british aristocrat, Johansson was trying hard to be the plucky young journalist but ended up being a Jekyll and Hyde between an airheaded teenager and a sultry vixen, and Allen played himself yet again, the neurotic, though outgoing, magician. Much of Johansson’s part in this film was to play the deadpan to Woody’s nervousness, but she’s far too emotive to do so. It always seemed like she was playing a caricature of someone trying to deadpan a line, she threw in a wry smile, a near laugh or a lip bite which broke the scene. Otherwise, the acting was great and there was great chemistry between Johansson and Jackman.

I didn’t know that the supernatural was going to play such a large role in the plot development, but it was a welcome twist from Woody’s usual fare. Overall, this movie is a 6/10 or a three out of five stars because it is a plain and simple story told in an average way. Though there were some annoyances throughout the film, it was not the fluff that I had expected from Allen. It’s a decent romantic comedy and with it’s few twists and turns is worth viewing.

Monday, January 08, 2007

DVD review: Who Killed The Electric Car?


This review is a powered by a low spoiler engine


Who Killed the Electric Car? is a critically acclaimed but poorly received documentary about the conception, life and death of General Motors(GM) electric vehicle program (which produced the car known as the EV1) that took place in the early 90s. With the oil prices soaring, the auto industry promoting larger, less efficient trucks/SUVs and a general public that is becoming more environmentally conscious, this movie points out that a fully electric vehicle is not the fevered dream of a madman, but a viable solution to these problems.

Rookie director, Chris Paine, casts light on several key players that lead to the eventual demise of the electric car, from consumer to automaker, from hydrogen fuel cell researchers to oil company executives. Though highly critical of what big business did to the EV1, this film is not just a rant. He shows that the advances that the EV1 made helped fuel the imaginations of some smaller engineering firms, which now retrofit older and current model cars with “plug in” hybrid systems(gas/electric engines that you plug in at home to charge) or convert them to fully electric vehicles.

The film’s style is of the “talking head” variety, in which interviews with former employees of GM, celebrities and regular folks that owned the EV1, and industry insiders make up the bulk of the film. Some of the celebrities that get some face time and lend their support are: Tom Hanks, Phyllis Diller, Mel Gibson, Alexandra Paul, Martin Sheen, among many others. The dialogue doesn’t get bogged down with any technical jargon or otherwise, the film moves along at a decent pace and if you haven’t heard of the EV1 project then this is a great introduction how it got started.

When the film renders it’s verdict on who has killed the electric car, it pays close attention to the consumer. The director, the auto industry executives and the engineers all blame the buying public as the largest contributor to the demise of the project. Even though the engineers stated that this particular car cannot operate in below zero conditions (which cuts a least half the American market), GM only produced approx. 1200 of the vehicles and after the cars were returned the owners were willing to donate nearly 2 million dollars to keep the project going.

The film's message comes through loud and clear and gets rather preachy by the end of the picture but it’s well worth watching. Though I don’t agree that the consumer is the main reason that the electric car died, I think it’s our duty to understand the issue and take reasonable steps to solve the problem. It took laws to get seat belts in cars, it took laws to regulate emissions, so it will require laws to get auto manufacturers to produce an electric alternative to the internal combustion engine. This was an interesting movie with that was expertly constructed, though it gets preachy, it ranks a 6/10 or a two and a half stars out of five.

Rocky Balboa


I ain't no spoiler, Mick. I ain't no spoiler.


Sixteen years have passed since Rocky last “threw hands” with his protégé Tommy “The Machine” Gunn and essentially ended one of the most famous underdog stories in film. Most fans found that the last film lacked the emotional punch and a satisfying conclusion so Stallone wrote and pitched this new Rocky installment to cap off the series with a triumphant blow.

Making a sequel like this one isn’t a cake walk through a tea party: Sly is much older now (no one else could play Rocky), there are an army of studio nay-sayers (who, according to Stallone, have been stonewalling the production) and what kind of story could wrap up all the loose ends without speaking over the heads of those who aren’t Rocky fans.

Though there are legions of hardcore fans, nostalgia alone does not make a movie a blockbuster. A movie needs heart, guts and some great dialogue to go the distance.

There were a few signature elements to Rocky sequels that I was looking for: A “catch-up” montage of what has been happening with Rocky since the last film, the inspirational speech that gets Rocky motivated to train, the training montage and an expertly choreographed fight.

The only missing element from my list was the “catch-up” montage but I think the reason that they didn’t put one in was that they wanted to distance themselves from Rocky V(For the same reason that the title is Rocky Balboa instead of Rocky VI). Though they don’t want us to forget about the events from that movie either, Rocky still lives in South Philly, he tells the tale of what Mickey’s angel told him to his customers at his restaurant and several references to conversations like “careful, I’m brittle” and “home team”. Though there are some flashbacks to Mickey and Apollo, there should have been more, maybe to stretch out the very short training montage. These two guys were pivotal in Rocky’s life and they barely get mentioned.

Written and directed by Stallone, this film succeeds in being quick paced and emotionally motivated, based on several well constructed and executed speeches. As a mirror to the first in the series, this film doesn’t have much fighting in it and deals with the inner turmoil of the characters. There isn’t much in this film that hasn’t already been said in the other Rocky movies, but that is hardly a knock against this film. We expect Rocky to fight with all his heart and he does. He shows the world that even the little guy should get a chance at the big time.

Along with Stallone, Burt Young (Paulie) and Tony Burton (Duke) come back to play their iconic characters. Their acting is good though their characters have seen better days (the actors have also seen better days). The other main characters in the film are played by Geraldine Hughes, who plays Marie (a bit character from Rocky, who yells out “Screw you, Creepo!”), Milo Ventimiglia, who plays Rocky’s son Robert, and Antonio Tarver, who plays Mason “The Line” Dixon (the main rival in the film). The new comers were rather good, even Tarver was convincing as a pompous boxer who’s more interested in image rather than sportsmanship. Marie’s whiny voice gets annoying by the end of the picture when she just keeps shouting and shouting. But that’s a small price to pay to have a likeable female character in the film that isn’t Adrian.

The budget of this film was an estimated 24 Mil USD, and it shows where they spent their money, the boxing match. There were flashbacks, digital effects, pyrotechnics, and Mike Tyson. It was also filmed by an official HBO broadcasting team to get that “true to life” feeling. They even got Michael Buffer to recite his trademarked saying “Let’s get ready to RUMBLE!”.

This movie doesn’t disappoint as the bookend of the series. Though it lacks some of the low budget charm of the first it trims the fat that lined the later incarnations. It pays homage to where the series has been and the journey it has taken us on. It probably won’t win any awards but it was entertaining and done well. Rocky Balboa gets a 7/10 or a three and a half stars out of five.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Happy New Year!

Hello, faithful readers! Please forgive my laxness, the holidays and advancing my career have caused the delay. But fear not! I have been blessed with several DVDs and I made 2 trips to the theatre so there will be daily updates this week so I can catch up with the new releases. Hooray for everything!