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Archive for December, 2009

Up in the Air (2009)

I challenge any adult American to watch Up in the Air and not find at least one character that they relate too.  This is so timely, it’s as if the filmmakers could sense the economic crisis on the horizon.  The story is set around the life of Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), a man who travels for a living to companies that are “downsizing” and does the dirty work for them.  Ryan loves the life of living out of a suitcase, it fact he revels in it.  He likes being able to go to the front of the line at the airport, to have his rental car in a matter of minutes, to have relationships with people who will have a definite end.  That is until his company decides to ground him in favor of conference firing.  Only then does Ryan examine his life and question some, if not all of his choices. As an audience member you find yourself engaged into the life of Ryan, inspired by the fact that he can indeed talk people out of stupid decisions, yet still chooses to keep them at arm’s length.  He wants his backpack nice and empty so that he can sprint out of the room if need be (see the film, it will make sense).  The movie doesn’t hit you over the head with what it is trying to say, it just let’s the characters speak for themselves.  As with Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), the young employee bringing on the technology that is wrecking Ryan’s world, is a brilliant touch to the film.  She could have so easily been a caricature of herself, but the actress playing her instead allows her to be vulnerable and even likeable at times.  See this film if for no other reason than it will make you think about your own decisions, good or bad.  5 out of 5 monkeys.

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A jolly good time, full of wit and action, the new retelling of Sherlock Holmes starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law is indeed a fun ride.  Guy Ritchie is back, reminding us what we loved about him (Snatch), but with a refinement that is true to the Holmes name.  Sherlock Holmes is an eccentric, but also a genius, so who better to play him than the incorrigible Robert Downey Jr.  One of the things that makes this film stand out from others is how they take something that we have seen many a time, such as a fight scene, but giving it a twist.  We see into the mind of Sherlock, a scientific mind, telling the audience exactly how he is going to defeat his opponent.  A specific jab here, a closing of the airway there and afterward, speeding it up for full effect.  Brilliant.  Jude Law is well cast as the straight man, the cool-headed sidekick, with his own dark gambling past.  They are a wonderful team, Holmes and Watson, if a bit dysfunctional at times.  The only weak link is Rachel McAdams as Holmes’ muse Irene Adler, mainly because you wish that she was a bit sassier, but still not bad enough to make one miserable.  The villan is a true surprise as Lord Blackwood a ghostly presence who seems to be a match for Holmes as he tries to crack his often teetering on the edge mind.  Visually stunning and often quite humorous, Sherlock Holmes is a fun ride, well worth your time and money.  4 out of 5 monkeys.

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When I was in the seventh grade, my older brother had a group of his friends over for a viewing of the new Terminator movie, Terminator 2:  Judgment Day .  I remember sneaking into the room and sitting on the hard floor in the back, excited about the prospect of seeing these amazing machines I had heard about, but also afraid of what I might see.  Based on this experience, years later I was excited to see the new installment, Terminator Salvation, especially after the puzzlement that was Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (I still don’t understand the ending).  Anyway, there were aspects of this new film that I greatly enjoyed, but the ending fell extremely flat for me.  SPOILER ALERT:  In the next section I am going to talk about key points in the plot to way the pros and cons of the film.

I thought the opening was stellar, starting out in the near present-day 2003 with a convict on death row (Marcus Wright played by Sam Worthington). It set up a whole new way of looking at mortality and eventually second chances for this franchise. The first few scenes with Christian Bale as John Connor were stellar, especially when he crashes in the helicopter (excellent camera work) and I like that we learn right away that is not a hero to everyone, but instead a nut-ball.  Surprisingly, many of the best parts of the film revolved around the Marcus Wright character – SPOILER ALERT – a new breed of terminator, who thinks he’s still human with a human heart and brain.  A brilliant concept that I wish they could have taken on into the franchise should they choose to continue with it.  Marcus is given a second chance in many ways, although we never find out why he was a criminal in the first place (this is something that I think would have been interesting to know).  Connor’s conflict with the character of Marcus is evident, especially once he realizes what he is.  This fits well with past themes, harkening back to his feelings towards the terminator in the second film as a boy.  I would have liked to see them explore that territory a bit more.

I loved that they had the teenaged Kyle Reese spouting lines from the original (made me think of the awesome lines spoken by Bones in the new Star Trek film).  It was nice seeing this character on screen again, since he is such a pivotal character to the series, who we haven’t seen much of since the first film.  Unfortunately,  once the film entered the Skynet headquarters, the film started to go down hill fast.  First off, the Schwarzenegger re-creation was ridiculous, it looked fake and didn’t excite me as a fan.  Next in the ridiculous realm was John’s scheme to blow up the Skynet headquarters with the nuclear terminator devices, according to my sources, the way he did it is impossible.  The whole ending sequence just felt weird and rushed.  But what REALLY disappointed me was the end with the heart transplant.  I totally called it, which made it even lamer.  What was the point?  Marcus was such an interesting character, why kill him off in such a clichéd way?  This is why I can only give this film 3 out of 5 monkeys.  It could have been a 4 and I really wanted it to be, really I did.

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Firefly (2002-2003)

I can officially say now that at the age of 30, I am a nerd!  I am a huge Star Wars fan, I am perfectly content watching a matinée of Iron Man with a bunch of 16-year-old boy geeks, I have seen almost all of the Underworld movies (with no Kate Beckinsale or Bill Nighy in the last one, I figured what was the point?) and I desperately want to go to comic con someday.  Too bad it took me 30 years to fully embrace this aspect of myself, but now I shall revel in it!

A few months back I had the pleasure of viewing the awesome film Serenity, which I had known was based on a short-lived series Firefly.  I have only seen one episode of the television series so far, but I just had to do a post.  What an amazing idea, cowboys in space!  The last frontier in many way is space, so the concept makes complete sense to me.  Firefly takes place in  the distant future, where Captain Malcolm ‘Mal’ Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), a former galactic war veteran, who after being on the losing side of a war, six years later is the captain of the transport ship “Serenity with a loyal hand-picked crew made up of first mate Zoe Warren, pilot Hoban ‘Wash’ Washburn,  grunt Jayne Cobb, mechanic Kaylee Frye and a few surprise  fugitives to spice things up a bit, Doctor Simon Tam and his psychic sister River.  They all travel together to the  far reaches of space in search of food, money, and anything to live off, while still trying to stay out-of-the-way of the Alliance.

From the music, to the visual imagery (example, when they are attempting to get the cargo in space for the first time on-screen, beautiful), this is a science fiction series that was before it’s time.  With Battlestar Gallactica being such a hit with modern audiences, I wonder if it wouldn’t do better today?  One can always hope (I will always feel that way about you Arrested Development).  My only recommendation is to watch the series first, not the way I did it, otherwise you already know too much at the start of the series.  4 out of 5 monkeys.

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Funny People (2009)

Being a person who is married to a former wanna-be comedian who worked with the likes of Bobcat Goldthwait and unfortunately Dave Coulier, I felt that the film Funny People was spot on in the truth department.  Comedians, especially male ones are basically juvenile maniacs and this film wasn’t afraid to comment on it.  The story centers around the life of George Harris, a successful comedian (played by Adam Sandler) who finds out that he has a terminal disease and therefore must face up to the choices that he has made in his life.  The character of George seems to be very much like Sandler himself, shown through actual footage of Sandler doing prank phone calls back in his youth, etc.  After bombing at a comedy club, George hires a young comedian by the name of Ira Wright (played by Seth Rogen) to be his personal assistant and joke writer.  Through their relationship we get to see the ups and downs of being a comedian and the process that they go through to be portrayed as funny by society.  The film is often straightforward and truthful, especially in its analysis of comedians being mainly insecure guys who spend their whole lives trying to be funny in order to be accepted (or in some cases as George states in the film, to avoid being abused).

It seems that many audience members went into this film thinking that it would be a mash-up of Sandler and Apatow raunchy humor, but instead the comedians chose to tell a more truthful story, a dark comedy or even a ‘gasp’ drama.  It was a very mature film for these men, an ode to their profession.  So, if you like comedy, but are also not afraid to admit occasionally that you are an adult, then you should watch this film.  And for those fans of juvenile humor, there are still plenty of ball jokes to go around.  4 out of 5 monkeys. 

I couldn’t help but post the picture of the Jewish Superman t-shirt.  Awesome.

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