The Movie Buffer

Saturday, June 28, 2008



No spoilers here, man!


Disney-Pixar, who pretty much carved out the landscape of 3D animated film and coming off two of their weakest pictures (Cars and Ratatouille had none of the heart of The Incredibles or Finding Nemo or the reckless abandon of Toy Story or Monsters, Inc.) has created a media frenzy over their new film, Wall*e. Universally, hailed as a masterpiece, Wall*e can apparently do no wrong: animation – perfect, story – exquisite, marketability - awesome.

I, too, was eagerly awaiting this film, pouring over the press releases and snippets from all the media outlets. I’ve read so much that I pretty much know how the film is going to go even before stepping into the screening. (Note: Even this didn’t ruin the picture!)

Our hero is Wall*e, a trash compactor that looks like the Muppet Babies version of Johnny 5 from Short Circuit, is the last of the planetary clean-up crew. Over the seven hundred years that he’s been cleaning up our messy planet, he’s become a little lonely. One day, a space probe arrives, this is when Wall*e meets Eve. Their relationship starts off pretty cold but warms up rather quickly even though there are fewer than 5 words exchanged.  

Wall*e decides to follow Eve out into the cosmos and has quite an adventure where the fate of humanity is revealed. Wall*e’s humanity rubs off on many of the characters, but especially the humans and they realize that the tiny robot is living the life they yearn for.

I have to admit this film is incredibly cute, looks wonderful, and doesn’t let down in the writing department either. I always feel a bit ripped off when I see a movie and it looks great, but the story is half-baked because the target audience wouldn’t know any better.  

This film is pretty much impervious to criticism, save a few miniscule, barely noticeable niggles about details (physics don’t seem to be internally consistent). I whole-heartedly recommend this film to everyone to see in the theatres and then to buy it when it comes out on DVD.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

DVD Review: The Beast With a Billion Backs


The spoilers are a lie


Futurama is back for a second instalment of their direct-to-DVD movies, the first was last years’ Bender’s Big Score. Taking cues from their more dramatic episodes of the television series, the writers have crafted a story about love and loss without too many character compromises. The story may be a little more heavy than usual, but there are laughs throughout.

We join this story already in progress, a rip space-time has opened and the planet express crew has won the exploration rights, through the scientifically approved method of Death Ball. Meanwhile, Fry and his girlfriend move in together, but he is disappointed with the living arrangements. Having lost Fry as a roommate, Bender pines for social acceptance and joins a club for robots. Amy and Kif’s relationship gets knocked up a notch when he proposes.

The film is laden with great voice acting from new comers like David Cross, Brittany Murphy and Steven Hawking, as well as veterans like Maurice LaMarche, Dan Castellaneta and Phil LaMarr. The complete regular cast is back and are still comfortable in their characters.

According the hive-mind of the The Infosphere, the title, The Beast with a Billion Backs (BBB), is a reference to a passage from Othello: “I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs”, as well as being a send up to a 1950s sci-fi horror film The Beast with a Million Eyes.

In the same way none of the episodes of the television show really follow each other, neither do these films. Though the first film left and excellent little avenue to bridge the gap, they opted to go back to pre-film storylines.

The trend for all these tv-shows-come-feature-length-projects is to include several stories with varying degrees of coherence to the main plot line and BBB is no exception. There are four or five (depending how you parse) subplots that bring some depth to the story, again with varying success.

I would argue that the Futurama formula, which is much more character and story based could easily succeed in extending the plot lines to feature length with little or no losses, where a weaker formula would fail (e.g. Family Guy movies). But the length does seem to hinder many of the jokes and feels pretty forced at times.

I was and still am a big fan of the series, so this was right up my alley. The film has plenty of gags, but it’s a love story so it’s not really balls to the wall funny. It has also been tailored to a sci-fi enthusiast crowd and existing fans of the series.

Sources: The Infosphere

Friday, June 20, 2008

American Film Institute's Top 10 of Everything

The AFI has just published their top ten lists (no-one likes to read real articles anymore) for the summer. They’ve pretty much broken film into ten main genres and spit out a list for each.

There are quite a few interesting choices but there is an equal amount of puzzling ones. Is Field of Dreams more a Fantasy movie or a Sports movie? The AFI classes it as Fantasy. Regardless, these lists are filled with some of the greatest American films of all time, though Citizen Kane is no where to be found.

My all-time favourite film, Lawrence of Arabia, tops out the Epic category. Other familiar titles taking their respective top spots are: Disney’s Snow White for Animation, The Godfather part 1 for Gangster, Raging Bull for Sports, Vertigo for Mystery, 2001 for Sc-fi, To Kill a Mockingbird for Courtroom Drama, Wizard of Oz for Fantasy, City Lights for Romantic Comedy and The Searchers for Westerns.

Take a gander over at the AFI’s webpage.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

From Print to Screen: The Incredible Hulk

Since The Incredible Hulk was released last week it’s not exactly timely writing yet another review of a film that’s had so much coverage. Also, pitting this new Hulk versus the old Hulk(only five years older) has also played out in every major film outlet imaginable. So, I’m going to look at the actual comic character to find out why it’s been such a long road to get a palatable version of him on the big screen.

Origin: Bruce Banner, a physicist working on a Gamma bomb, is accidentally exposed to the blast when he tries to pull someone from the test range into the protective bunker (or push them into a ditch, depending on which comic era you’re looking at). The Gamma radiation transforms Banner into the Hulk and the Jekyll and Hyde story begins.

Problems with origin: Nothing really, except we wouldn't really feel as bad as we should when a weapons designer is hurt by his own invention. The way that the new films characterize Banner as being such a nice guy (or unaware of the true nature of his experiments), we should feel terrible that he’s being used and he gets hurt. Both films really lay it on thick with this point.

Personality: Banner is a quiet, humble man, but after the accident, he becomes emotionally withdrawn and to some extent paranoid (about his affliction and what may happen to people he cares about). The books really deal with two main personality conflicts: emotional isolation and anger management.

Problems with Personality: Characterizing emotional detachment and paranoia are hard things to do. So, I bet both directors tried their damnedest to get one or the other on film. Ang Lee’s version tries to tackle the former as much as possible, straining the isolation aspect of the story. But sweaty fan boys want more action and less touchy-feely stuff. Louis Leterrier touches on this, but in a way that makes Banner look more like a rebellious teen rather than an emotionally racked adult. Furthermore, the Leterrier version is more about managing the rage and focusing it. Neither film really captures both aspects of Banner but the Leterrier approach makes for a much more exciting summer movie.

Conflict resolution: Hulk Smash!

Problems with Conflict resolution: Since Ang Lee’s film was about isolation and emotional detachment, the fight scenes were shorter and uninteresting, the relationships that Banner had between his father and Betty were wooden and forced, and there was little or no time devoted to the sheer magnitude of the Hulk’s rage. Leterrier took the film in the exact opposite direction. None of the relationships really mattered ( Is it just me or is looking at Liv Tyler in this movie like staring at the sun for a couple of hours? She was so very pale in this film!) and there was constant movement and things happening. We really see the raw power of the Hulk and it is pretty good.

Denouement: Banner decides to try to use the Hulk’s power to solve the problem, usually with plenty of collateral damage.

Problems with the Denouement: There should not have been any problem getting this point across on the big screen but both films left me wondering where it went. Ang Lee’s picture ended up with Banner using the Hulk’s power to escape a trap which is okay but not very Hulk like. Also, Nick Nolte’s character was incoherent and possible the worst tacked-on villain of all time. The US armed forces are nearly transparent in this film even though they are one of Banner’s arch nemeses. Leterrier’s Hulk almost exclusively uses his powers to beat up on the US army. Banner spends years of his life evading the army’s keen eye. And with Abomination, Hulk really goes all out in beating him into a writhing heap.

I find that the more I look at the new film it kind of reminds me that the older one really tried hard to pull away from the comics to explore banner as a person and tried to be something more about humanity rather than cartoon violence. The new film on the other hand was a pleasure to watch because it’s nothing but a pure popcorn movie with thrills and chills but unfortunately, nothing more. If you’re a hulk fan you’ll probably get angered by this film but if you have no such predilection, you’ll appreciate this up-tempo film.

Young People Fucking


Always practice safe spoiling.


If you happen to live in the sexy, sexy province of Ontario and keep up with the Canadian film scene, you’ve probably heard about Young People Fucking (YPF), which opened last weekend. It’s the film that nearly got the Canadian Film Tax Credit Program restructured into what artists and filmmakers suggest would be a little Minitrue.

A brief description of what happened is that YPF deals with a subject that some find offensive, so they formed a coalition to make sure the government would not give tax credits to filmmakers that happen to trod over the line of decency, and thus Bill C10 was born. Though the thought of the government regulating tax credits doesn’t seem too invasive, couched in the smaller print is an amendment that would allow the government to re-appropriate funds from films they had already given. This would certainly give precedent to get all kinds of money back from terrible films, new and old, that probably wouldn’t have been made if not for these tax credits. So, there were protests with angry movie stars and directors marching on parliament hill chanting anti-censorship and "shame on you for your conservative principles" slogans.

With the stage set, let’s talk about the movie. Starting with the title, which probably drew most of the ire because not only is it right in your face, there is no denying what this film will be about. It has the same sort of blunt honesty that Snakes on a Plane had.

After seeing the film, the title should have been “Young Sexy People Fucking: No Uggos Allowed!” which would have been apt because the people in this film are so attractive, any veiled attempt to be “real” is automatically cut down.

I felt that a juxtaposition had occurred between the reviews and the trailer. The reviews mostly stated that this was a frank dialog about sex but the trailer set the film up as a comedy of sorts. So, there was no telling what I was getting into, except that my current Canadian celebrity crush, Carly Pope, was one of the stars.

The film follows five couples through five stages of coitus and no matter what your hang up about sex the filmmaker has you covered. There’s the voyeur, the foot-fetishist, the all-too-willing-to-please girlfriend, the players (male and female), the boring-in-bed boyfriend, the innocent-but-closeted-dominatrix girlfriend, the maybe-maybe not exes, and the two friends who just need a lay.

For all the hubbub this film created, I would have thought that something would happen, but nothing really did. You could see the exact same thing if you took the complete series of Dawson’s Creek or some other angsty teen drama, stripped away everything that wasn’t about sex and spliced a story together. I was shocked.

The dialog wasn’t any more raunchy or vulgar than a Kevin Smith movie, pre-Jersey Girl, or a Tarantino flick and the sex was on par with American Pie, it even has an awkward pegging scene that rivals the infamous pie-sex scene. I wasn’t expecting porn, I was expecting something more. Perhaps C10 should have been about not giving money to films that aren’t commercially viable.

Regardless, this was an interesting look at how Canadian politics can quickly devolve over some silly movie about sex. If you have a chance, I would recommend as an academic exercise but if that isn’t your thing, this wasn’t a particularly interesting film.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Please allow me to re-introduce myself...

Hello, World.

I know it’s been a while since my last post and barring any new life-altering events, I can now make some time to write about films.

The main sticking point of my previous endeavor was I was writing far too frequently about the same kinds of movies and repeating myself. So, I am going to make a concerted effort to step out of my box and see a broader spectrum of films and hopefully, this will lead to some better writing for me and reading for you.

I’ll go back to my very old updating schedule of Wednesday and Saturday (starting this week on Saturday, because I'll be updating everyday this week). Please enjoy the reviews and I promise to mix things up and try to bring you some new stuff when I can.

Check in tomorrow for my take on the media firestorm that is “Young People Fucking”!


Two Docs about Quacks

Apple trailers recently released teasers for two documentaries about men who have made their names by stirring up controversy in their respective fields.

The first is Gonzo, a Hunter S. Thompson biography, which tries to unravel his weird, wonderful and twisted life. Almost everyone knows Thompson from his two most famous books, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72. The second is Trumbo, the biography of one of the most outspoken of the Hollywood Ten, the McCarthy-era Blacklisted-as-Communist screenwriters. Having written such films as Johnny Got His Gun, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo and Spartacus, Trumbo was a much lauded screen writer prior to his blacklisting. He even won an Oscar, for The Brave One, under a pseudonym after being blacklisted and that Oscar remains the only one never claimed.

Though their battles were disparate, both men loved the idea that they were David to the world’s Goliath. They fought for what they believed in and have become icons. Both films look terrific and if you have a chance to catch them you should.

Gonzo found here:

Trumbo found here: