Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Day The Earth Stood Still

I had never seen the original 1951 movie but I heard it was good so I was looking forward to seeing this. I know there are many people who have a hard time accepting this genre. I'm the advocate of alien movies so it pains me to have to criticize The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Right from the start it came across as being fake and I'm not talking about aliens landing in New York City. I'm referring to the immediate response of thousands of military, scientists, police, and government officials within minutes of the alien landing. It was just overkill.

The acting was very bad. If you want a monotone emotionless lead to play an alien then Keanu Reeves is your guy. He was cast well and had very little to do with this movie's problems. I know that Kathy Bates is an academy award winning actress but her role in this movie was horrible and unbelievable. I also found Jaden Smith to be annoying.

To add insult to injury the movie turned into environmental propaganda like The Day After Tomorrow. I can summarize the message the writers of the remake were trying to achieve in four words. People Bad, Earth Good. It was appropriate that I just happened to see this movie on Earth Day. I give it 5.1 stars. I guess Twilight wasn't so bad after all.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


I wasn't sure if this was going to be an action movie, spy thriller, pro-Muslim, anti-terrorism, anti-American or what. It had a dismal run in the theaters so I wasn't expecting much but I enjoyed it more than I expected to. Beware-spoilers follow.

Don Cheadle plays a Muslim American named Samir Horn. He is an ex soldier and we catch up with him after he has spent several years abroad. He is in the Middle East trying to sell detonators to terrorists. They are attacked by the local authorities and he and a few other survivors are sent to a prison in Yemen. After proving his loyalty to the faith, he is befriended by Muslim extremists and when they break out of prison they take him with them.

Once on the outside he works with the terrorists and helps them make explosives for suicide bombers. After seeing him prove his loyalty and assist in several bombings the movie takes a twist and we learn that he is actually secretly working for the US government to help uncover terrorists who are on American soil just awaiting their orders. His mission is so top secret that the FBI does not even know about it and they end up pursuing him the entire movie. Samir is tormented because of the collateral damage that is caused in order to keep his cover. The point of view and the philosophy of the terrorists and the Americans are both depicted which makes it a little more insightful. It also leaves you questioning Samir's loyalties throughout the entire movie. The climax involves a plot to have suicide bombers blow up greyhound buses in every state across the nation on Thanksgiving.

The cast was great and Cheadle gives a great performance as usual. I appreciated the realistic feel to this movie unlike many others that lose their credibility during the first action scene. I enjoyed the movie just for the sake of the story and the suspense, but I'm still not sure what the intended message behind the movie was. Was it a Muslim propaganda film or just your typical spy movie? I imagine that some Muslims may be offended by some of the stereotypes, but if that's the case I invite them to join the crowds of Amish, Catholics, Mormons, Jews, and Evangelicals who have experienced the same thing thanks to Hollywood. I give it 7.4 stars.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Some of My Favorite Documentaries

I enjoy an occasional documentary. They don't usually have the budget, stunts, or special effects that most movies do, but it is refreshing to see something very realistic as opposed to so much fake stuff we see at the movies. I know not all documentaries are created equal and some are definitely more honest than others. Over the years I have seen many documentaries and some of my favorite have been:

Hoop Dreams
Bigger, Stronger, Faster
King of Kong
Supersize Me
Spell Bound
My Kid Could Paint Like That

If you haven't seen these I would recommend you give them a shot. I'm sure I'm missing many others. Feel free to recommend any documentaries you may have enjoyed in the comments section.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Most Extreme Villain Deaths

When It's A Wonderful Life came out the MPAA was in an uproar that Mr. Potter appeared to get away with his crime and was not punished at the end of the movie. It looks like Hollywood made a course correction because now most bad guys end up getting what they deserve and then some unless there is a sequel in the works. I have noticed a recent trend in movies that when the villain dies he can't just die from colon cancer. He has to experience an extreme death for us to get our money's worth.

I remember when I saw The Wizard of Oz as a little kid and was shocked to see the witch melt. When I saw Ben Hur I witnessed Messala stampeded multiple times until he was just a bloody pulp. I thought that was intense at the time, but melting and stampeding are old school. Today if you want to kill a villain you've got to do better than that. Raiders of the Lost Ark took killing villains to the next level. Their heads actually melted and exploded! This was a memorable moment in movie history, but these days it would no longer turn any heads.

In Speed, MI3, Attack of the Clones, and Lord of the Rings bad guys are decapitated. Several James Bond movies feature blowing up the villain. Some of these can be seen in Never Say Never Again and Live and Let Die, and Golden Eye. Lord of the Rings made a fine showing. The King of the Ring Wraiths implodes which is different twist. Lava was also used to melt Gollum and Sauron explodes ala nuclear explosion. We are making progress.

After careful analysis the most extreme way to kill a bad guy is to blow him up, but not with regular explosives. It is much cooler if super powers are used. In The Matrix, Agent Smith has surging energy bubbles running under his skin before he ends up exploding. The other day I rented The Mummy 3. In the final scene the villain died by having sand and oil come out of all of his facial orifices and then he started to vomit lava before he exploded. Now that's how a bad guy should die!

After talking about all these extreme and exaggerated ways to kill a villain I need a break from the violence. I think I'll go watch some cartoons. Maybe Itchy and Scratchy.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Seven Pounds

The trailer to this movie looked intriguing and mysterious so I was looking forward to seeing it. I was surprised that it didn't do too well in the theaters. This is the sort of movie that you have to be careful about reviewing so you don't spoil the ending. If you haven't seen it yet you may want to wait before reading any further.

Seven Pounds had my attention from the start. Will Smith finishes up a swim in the ocean, goes into his ocean side home and makes a phone call to a blind telemarketer and proceeds to taunt and belittle him. He then hangs up and is obviously distraught from what he has done. It peaked my curiosity and I wanted to get an explanation for what had just happened. The movie strings you along the whole time with bits and pieces of information that help to explain the storyline.

I wanted to enjoy this movie more, but I felt it was confusing and hard to follow since it splices flashbacks into the movie without letting you know they are flashbacks. (At least Wayne's World had the decency to make that clear.) Will Smith begins working as an IRS agent, later he's working for an aerospace company, then he's an IRS agent again. He has a beautiful wife he loves, but then he starts dating another lady. It takes a while to explain that his wife had died in an accident. Aside from the confusing flashbacks, I was also trying to figure out if there was any relationship between the 7 victims of the crash and those he chose to serve.

The acting was great by the entire cast, but I felt it was slow moving and overly weepy. There were several times when I wanted to fast forward the scenes because the pace was so slow, but I didn't dare to since my wife would be angry with me. If you like long, slow, emotional movies then you will probably enjoy Seven Pounds. I am a Will Smith fan, but I had a hard time understanding or relating to his character. My favorite part of the movie was when his girlfriend gave him a new outfit since I couldn't stand seeing him in the same suit he wears for most of the movie. I admit I was tired while watching this and that didn't help any so to be fair I am giving it 6.9 out of 10 stars.
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