The Movie Buffer

Thursday, July 31, 2008

X-Files: I Want to Believe

I went into this film really wanting to love it. I loved the series, well, most of it and I liked the first movie. With ten years and six years separating those memories and this film, I felt that absence would make my heart grow fonder. But the film was pretty ho-hum. 

I’d heard right off the bat the film was like an extended episode (or two episodes combined), which was great news for me but as I read on they really meant was it looks and feels like a television show rather than a feature film. They spent 30 million making this movie and I struggle to see where it all went. The casting was probably the biggest expense because there was very little in the effects department. I guess getting Xzibit broke the bank.

Resurrecting characters is more than a trend these days, it’s an epidemic and in most cases it’s a case of a last cash grab or to reinvigorate a stagnant career. But David Duchovny is on a hit show, Califonication, and Gillian Anderson has been nominated for numerous awards for her other projects. So, maybe this one was just for fun. Anyway, Duchovny and Anderson play their famous characters almost perfectly. Neither of the actors has markedly aged or changed from the last time we saw them so, the illusion of a seamless transition works. Though Scully is a lot more churchy in this film than I liked or remembered her being from the series.  

With the X-files basically wrapped up, there is a new breed of mysterious cases that the FBI is handling and they need to bring in a couple of experts to help solve a peculiar case. Scully is tapped to track down Mulder and with a little persuading the duo are back in the thick of things. Agent Whitney (Amanda Peet) is the new Agent Mulder and she’s conducting an investigation to track down a lost agent with the help of a pedophilic priest, who seems to be a psychic medium. It’s a pretty decent plotline, but there is a main diversion from this that hampers the flow of the story.  

During her time away from the bureau, Scully practices at a church run hospital, where she is treating a boy with a currently incurable brain disorder. She continues to treat the boy even though her options are quickly disappearing. There is some hope of treatment, but there is an ethical debate because it requires stem cells. Holy cripes, this is getting heavy! So, the priests are against doing anything and letting God do His thing with the boy. I actually find it pretty jarring when Scully makes her decision because it doesn’t seem like she hesitates even though she’s put to dilemma that is personally gut-wrenching, her child had some problems plus she’s catholic, and scientifically dubious, the treatment is experimental.

I had hoped that this film was going to be great, but I should have looked at it a little more objectively. I liked the movie and there was enough new material as well as key references to the series to elicit some hoots and hollering from the crowd. I wish I could recommend this film to everyone, but it was really made for fans and not to win anyone over. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

This is what we know.

Over the past three decades, two men have bickered across the aisle and either upthrust or dangled extremities to signify approval or disgust.  Encapsulating entire films into a simple gesture is the trademark of "Siskel and Ebert" and "Ebert and Roeper" and will be missed if it suddenly disappears from the show. 

In a statement released yesterday, Ebert reports that Disney, the producer, is moving in a new direction with the show and he will not be going along for the ride.  It really is the end of an era, but this did not come as a shock considering Ebert's health issues and not really being able to recreate the chemistry that was lost when Siskel passed away.  

As for the new program, who knows?  We'll have to hope for the best.

Source: Roger Ebert's Webpage

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Dark Knight


Same Bat-Channel, no Bat-spoilers!


As a preamble, I haven’t seen the likes of The Dark Knight’s marketing blitzkrieg since the insidious campaign of Godzilla in ’98. Every thing that could have a batman logo on it did. With Heath Ledger’s performance and death as a talking point, not only did the movie have the industry’s spotlight, it also had the mainstream news media covering it. Fortunately for us, the Dark Knight lives up to about 90% of the hype.

The Dark Knight follows immediately from the end of Batman begins, Wayne Manor is still being rebuilt, Batman is still figuring out how to fight crime and Bruce (Bale) is still pining over Rachel (Gyllenhaal).  Lt. Gordon (Oldman) is trying to keep Batman in the loop of police work but there is pressure for Gordon to cut ties and arrest him.

Meanwhile, a new villain has been hired by the mob to reinstall their rule of the streets that has been regained by the police and Batman. Unfortunately for the mob, they unleash a monster that they could never hope to control, the Joker. On the other side of the law, a new ambitious district attorney, Harvey Dent, is going after the mob with extraordinary vigor and seems to be reining them in.

The story is a great continuation from the first film, maintaining a somber atmosphere and keeping the characters from getting too over the top. The film has a sense of gravity which guides it deftly through introducing new characters and plotline without becoming too full of itself. 

Christian Bale continues to be a great Batman, though his Batman voice is markedly more gruff and deep in this film. The rest of the returning cast fit like a comfy pair of slippers – playing it consistent and predictable. Though Maggie Gyllenhaal thinks she’s a great actor and bashed Katie Holmes, she doesn’t play the part any better than Holmes did and looked like she didn’t sleep for more than an hour before shooting. Her sullen face and deep eye bags really take away from the vivaciousness of the character. Aaron Eckhart plays the D.A. Harvey Dent and the disfigured, coin flipping vigilante Two-face. His performance wasn’t as solid as I would have hoped, but being a secondary character had it limitations. There is one really lame involving him where it looked like their budget ran out and had to patch some effects together on the cheap. 

I can’t write a review without talking about Heath Ledger, who died unexpectedly earlier this year. His portrayal of the Joker draws from the many personalities and performances the character has been given over the years: He’s manic like the Cesar Romero version, theatrical like the Jack Nicholson version, and as ruthless as his portrayals in the comics. Ledger plays the Joker in every way he should be played but something fell flat. His Joker didn’t seem to be enjoying the mayhem - he just went about business as usual. Almost everyone says Ledger should win an Academy Award for his performance and I guess he will but I don’t know if he deserves it. 

In conclusion, this is a great sequel that equals the original. It’s dark story provides a great contrast to the good that Batman and Dent try achieve. In the end, there comes a choice, Lt. Gordon must choose the fate of our hero and we are left hoping he made the right one. 

p.s. If there is another film in this series I would hope they do one based on the series Knightfall, which would really cap of the trilogy with a bang. 

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

DVD review: The Hammer


In this corner, no spoilers!


Washout, Wannabe, Neverwas, and Ne’er-do-well, all these adjectives describe Jerry, a former golden glove winning boxer who did not have the heart for boxing and has ended up as a day-laborer on a construction site. Though he never turned pro, he teaches a recreational boxing class at a gym to a group of eclectic characters, a job that he has a tenuous hold of. Just as Jerry seems to be settling into a comfortable life of apathy, several turns of fate thrust him onto a new path that rekindles his competitive spirit. 

The film was written and stars Adam Corolla, you may know him from The Man Show or his radio talk show, with Oswaldo Castillo and Heather Juergensen backing him up. He did a good job balancing the weird circumstances in the movie with some excellent dialog and rapid fire jokes.

This being said, you have to appreciate Corolla’s self-deprecating sense of humor to allow the jokes to develop. There are quite a number of clichés that the movie employs, but it does so in a light and humorous way.  

The film is short, which leads to the denouement being very quick and kind of disappointing, though all the loose ends get tied up. The story is lean but it’s more than enough to keep the viewer engaged.  

Corolla is built for these kinds of buddy comedies, his cynical, sarcastic sense of humor makes him a perfect wall to bounce zany characters off of. Castillo is a perfect example of this - his English is pretty sketchy but his heart shines through.

This film was released on a shoe string budget, appearing on about 40 screens, and just recently came out on DVD, so pick it up if you like underdog stories with a some heart.

Source: The Hammer

Saturday, July 05, 2008

DVD review: In Bruges


I am one happy spoiler


Bruges is in Belgium, it’s the best preserved medieval city in Belgium, and this is where we meet Ken and Ray, the hitmen. They’re in Bruges awaiting a phone call from their boss Harry, but they get sidetracked by a woman and her skin-head boyfriend, a dwarf movie star and seeing the many sights around town.

Out of context, this sounds like some kind of screwball comedy, and from the trailers, it looked like it was going to be a shoot ‘em up type film with little to no plot. But once the film gets going there is a distinct sense of calm and purpose.

The film is much more about the how the city effects the two hitmen, strengthening their friendship and causing a crisis of conscience. The writer-director of this film, Martin McDonagh, is a playwright who has clearly mastered the flair for dramatic and skillfully crafted a film that is, at times and all together, funny, human and bloody violent. There are some excellent shots of the town and it’s attractions, so if nothing else this is a great movie to watch if you’ve always wanted to see what medieval Belgium is like. 

The three main characters, Ken, Ray and Harry are played by Brendan Gleeson, Colin Farrell and Ralph Fiennes, respectively. Both Gleeson and Fiennes were built to play roles like this (Gleeson as the fatherly, veteran hitman; Fiennes as the mildly psychotic but highly principled mob boss). The image of Farrell pulling his sad puppy-dog face is literally burned into your retina because he pouts for nearly half the movie. This being said, Farrell does put up a good performance as the pouty hitman (We even start to believe that he isn’t such a bad guy). 

The crisis of conscience part of the film comes in the second act. After we’ve seen the two guys romp around the city, we finally get to what the point of the story is, the hit. Though it may not be what you think it is. 

In Bruges is a great film with some excellent performances from the stars aswell as the supporting cast, excellent cinematography and has one of those ambiguous endings that makes you think about it (I love this sort of ending). Though I had some preconceived notions about this film before picking it up, I was pleasantly surprised by what I got. Enjoy this film because it’s worth it.

Source: In Burges Trailer

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Dvd Review: Wristcutters


Nothing will be spoiled. 


Approaching this review, I cannot escape the fact that this film is a romantic comedy about suicide and the “life” that comes after. It’s not an afterlife, because this implies that there is some closure to your previous life. In Wristcutters, it’s a little different. When you off yourself, you don’t go to heaven or hell, you end up living another crappy life in a world that is just bad enough to make you pine for your original crappy life.  

To mirror the degraded, copy of a copy nature of the land of the dead, director Goran Dukic, puts the colours out of phase, the film looks like a pair of worn-out, acid washed jeans. Furthermore, no-one cares about anything: jobs, responsibilities, etc. We mainly see people getting drunk or just standing around. Which leads to a somewhat strange question: where does all the food, electricity and everything come from? 

We meet Zia, living his unremarkable life and subsequently killing himself. But instead the release he desires, he’s even more pent up: he works a do nothing job at a pizza parlor and constantly fights with his roommate. He meets Eugene, an eastern European rock musician, who has a unique view on this strange new world. Soon, Zia finds out his former girlfriend is also a suicide case, so he and Eugene set out on a road trip to find her. Enter the second love interest, Mikal, the sexy hitch-hiker, who may or may not be where she is supposed to be. Apparently, the people in charge of running the show are sloppy in the record keeping.  

The story develops some real heart as the trio form some chemistry and reaches a crescendo when they run into Kneller and his band of happy campers. As Kneller reveals the nature of the land in weird riddles, Zia and Mikal realize that they both long for the same things in this life and their last. 

Though the characters talk about their deaths, they don’t try to explain their actions. They mostly lament how things haven’t changed in any particular way. When Zia complains that going out makes him depressed, Eugene quips “So what are you going to do? Kill yourself?” 

This film has is pretty heart-warming despite its morbid nature. It’s a little heavy at times but a sense of gravity does bring an appropriate air of drama. It’s a interesting concept and it’s pretty fun to watch.  

As a footnote, the music that is featured in the film comes from a band called Gogol Bordello, a self-proclaimed gypsy-punk band. Their songs really bring an eclectic, rustic feel to the film and I liked that very much.

Sources: Wristcutters online , Gogol Bordello