Tuesday, June 26, 2012

3 Short Paragraphs: John Carter

2012, Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, Wall-E) -- cinema

Like, Graig, I had high expectations for Mr. Stanton doing a movie, a story, in the calibre of some of the best animated films out there.  Albeit, translating from directing animators to directing people, even green screened people, must be difficult but I am glad the best (Brad Bird being the last one) of the lot are doing it.  So, I will give him that credit, where it is due, and not be too miffed this movie was not handled as well as it should have.  But to also give credit, it was handled incredibly badly in the marketing department. For one thing, John Carter ??  Seriously, if you are going to handle the Barsoom stories then start right off calling them Warlord of Mars or something along that line. Get the attention of the audience that this is a space adventure movie, set on a Mars out of a fantasy that knows nothing of the science of the place!!  Excite people, not expect them to be drawn in just because its Disney.  I watched the trailers excitedly for months and just wasn't... excited.  That sucked.

Now, a little background. I don't  know the stories.  When I was a kid, and I think I have already mentioned this, I didn't particularly like mixing my fantasy and scifi.  Carter swings swords and wears skimpy Conan armor but he also fights aliens and has flying ships.  Meh.  Teenager me was much more divisive.  But still, something about the stories always intrigued me, those tall 4-armed green guys with tusks and the idea of Carter being stronger and more agile because he was on a planet with different gravity.  Did Burroughs know the truth of that?  Dunno, but I liked the idea.  But my only exposure stayed as Frazetta paintings and probably a handful of old comics. I will admit nothing when it comes to the story element of saving the princess wearing the harem outfit... nope, admit nothing.

The movie? Oh yeah, that is why we are here, right? I liked it.  Yeah, not high praise. You see, it is a visual spectacle, as it should have been --- grand, glorious, BIG and exciting.  But the story was in some need of tightening. For one, why three openings? Start with Burroughs getting tailed, no start with a recollection via diary of living in the old west, no START ON MARS.  True, you have to establish some sort of get-the-man-to-mars story but the early part seemed tacked on.  Bleah.  Did I mention there is also a monologue that sets up Mars for us?  Double bleah. The best part of the movie is Carter's introduction to the Green Martians, given to us as Tharks, and their warrior-culture. The CG is top notch, the alieness of them drew me in. Meanwhile the story of the Red Martians and their civil war did nothing for me, let alone the meddling of the godlike White Martians. There is a story about being against war but also doing what needs to be done, when it needs to be done.  There is also a story about science run rampant vs the use of clean science. And of course, there is the "i just met you but I love you" story that should have been left to Up where it is easier to accept.  Its a fine movie, probably to be added to my shelf of swords & sandals but it could have been so much better.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

3 Short Paragraphs: Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

2011, Troy Nixey -- download

Despite some definite Katie Holmes hate-on in our household, we were eager to see this because Guillermo del Toro wrote the screenplay.  If I have a favourite movie creator these days, it would be him.  His influence is very obvious on this movie, visually as well as the script.  In this remake of a 70s TV movie, nasty little faerie creatures are the protagonist, very del Toro creatures reminiscent of those seen in Hellboy II and Pan's Labyrinth.  They scrabble through the walls and substructure and come out at night to make trouble.  And they have an unsavoury fondness  for human teeth, the younger the better.

Guy Pearce and Katie move into one of those ancient old American homes that nobody but the ultra wealthy could afford these days.  Decrepit and falling apart, the couple are renovating the house for the consortium of Mr. Jacoby.  They hope to make their name as designers/renovators doing this reno.  Add to the mix Pearce's daughter, handed over unexpectedly as part of the ex-war.  The house is creepy as hell but I probably more saw the place through their eyes because, damn is it gorgeous !!  The little girl, left to fend for herself as the adults work, is both frightened by the house (and its scrabbling inhabitants) as well as intrigued.  The fact she is drugged up by her mother doesn't help the situation.

It was a sufficient movie.  Yeah, not high praise, but it is one of those movies where the characters are required to do things not quite logically to allow the tension to rise.  Everything is quite atmospheric and I was quite happy to see the wizened little creatures emerge from the dark almost immediately after having been accidentally summoned via a bowl of teeth.  From there it is a war between the little girl's credibility and the trouble the creatures create for her.  I will blame it on the drugs or her age but why she didn't immediately freak out that this 6" dark pixie was real is beyond me.  When the adults are finally brought into play, they react as they usually do, seeking evidence and explanation instead of just getting the fuck out of Dodge.  And they pay the price.  First time director Nixey shows through here as the supporting elements, art work and creature design, are more enthralling than the actual story direction.  But Guillermo got him his break into film and he does respectably well with it.

Monday, June 11, 2012

3 Short Paragraphs: From Paris with Love

2010, Pierre Morel (Banlieue 13, Taken) -- download

I admit, I never caught the James Bond reference from the title.  Oh this is a spy movie but really, it is the opposite of Bond's style.  With all intention this is American style business, with guns blazing and things exploding and collateral damage out the wazoo.  From Paris with Love is a small movie from the director of one of my favourite small movies, Taken.  But really, the only reason this is a small one is that the focus is on shooting people, not a focused plot.  Jonathan Rhys Meyers is completely out of place here as a minor CIA guy in Paris performing (badly) small spy functions but dreaming but becoming "active".  He gets that wish (insert familiar adage here) fulfilled with the arrival of John Travolta's Charlie Wax at the airport.  Wax is exactly the American spy as envisioned by all the European viewers of this movie -- loud, crude, anti-stylish and completely racist.  He also has no concern for the laws of the land he is in, not that any spy in a movie ever does, but at least Bond tried to do it subtly.  There is nothing subtle about Charlie Wax.

Meyers' Reece is dragged along behind Wax's crusade, first by shooting just about everyone in a chinese restaurant, bus boys included.  He gets to comically carry a vase full of cocaine around so Wax can get a snuff here and there.  Then they follow the drugs to Pakistani importers who... well, of course they are, using the drug running to fund terrorism.  You can tell Luc Besson, writer of the story here, sees the loud American (in general) as at least being effective if not delicate in his handling.  Wax is completely over the top but he is also very very capable at what he does. He connects dots, shoots straight and offends just about everyone.  He fires a rocket launcher on a crowded highway.  He shoots a dinner party guest. But he does save the day and get the girl, albeit not in the way we should expect.

We are not supposed to like Wax.  But I guess we are supposed to have a grudging respect for him. I cannot help but think this is all a scriptwriter way of making references to Americans, by Europeans. Wax is the worst kind of American tourist in Paris, with just about all the opinions from the stereotype, and he has a gun.  We may not like the way he does things, but he gets things done. Is this what Besson would have us believe? Are Americans actually affective in their war on terrorism?  True, the US does have less bombings and random extremist violence than Europe does these days. But at what cost?  The cost in the movie is unbelievably high and the final decision made by Reece states loudly that sometimes the worst decision is the only one.

Friday, June 8, 2012

3 Short Paragraphs: The Secret World of Arrietty

2010, Hiromasa Yonebayashi (artist and animator on other Ghibli projects) -- download

Studio Ghibli has produced some of the most memorable anime movies I have ever seen.  Howl's Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away are popular enough to have reached across the oceans and made impacts world wide.  Getting connected with Disney didn't help.  But it will always be stories such as My Neighbor Totoro and Grave of the Fireflies, so very very Japanese in their character, that will typify the studio for me.  This is by no means their only adaptation, as many of their stories come from other sources, but I think this is the first time they adapted a children's story from Europe. Also making this story stand out less is the lack of Hayao Miyazaki as director; to be frank, it was his presence on other stories that make them stand out so much more.

So, you probably got the hint that this one was not one of my favourites.  It's true, the story is wonderfully told, beautifully animated and just lovely to behold.  But it was lacking a sense of investment. The full original story is there in the key elements, of a lonely ill child discovering the existence of the borrowers, little people living in his house.  The conflict with one nosy adult is there.  And the isolation felt by young Arrietty is there as her family is the only group of borrowers she has ever seen.  The movie also does a lovely job of portraying the parts I love best, the creative interaction with the big world that these little people have, the mountain climbing around the kitchen, the use of dollhouse furniture and the scale sized items building Arrietty's home.  It is also so lovely to behold. But...

But there was something lacking, something I cannot quite put my thumb on.  I guess it was plot based in that the story never really got anywhere. I suspect that in their attempt to draw upon the main plot of the first Borrower book they forgot they had a standalone movie here.  The story is about introducing the borrowers and their world and the conflicts they deal with.  Things never really come to a conclusion, more a climax of this one episode.  But we want more than just this small revelation, we want to see the rest of the series. A series that does not exist.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

3 Short Paragraphs: Wrath of the Titans

2012, Jonathan Liebesman (Darkness Falls, Battle Los Angeles) -- cinema

So, if you read the last review, you know the basic plot of this movie as well.  Someone (Hades this time) wants to release the Titans in order to destroy the world and it is up to our hero with the attention of the gods (Perseus this time; son of a god no less) to defeat them.  This one is the sequel to the moderately popular remake of the Clash of the Titans.  The original was one of the handful of formative D&D movies in my childhood stable.  At least one of my characters had a mechanical owl and all of us wanted a Pegasus. But this is not about a remake but a sequel to a remake but one that would fit well into my adult collection of "only if its cheap" collection of D&D formative movies.  Hell, just about any movie where the heroes fight with swords and CGI monsters are defeated enters that stable.

Again, I found this movie is quite enjoyable -- and I remember saying this about the first movie -- unless you pay attention to the dialogue. Oh Em Gee, what comes out of their mouths is so extraneous.  The plot (???) is incredibly focused so anything they say really doesn't matter, and it was almost as if the script writers knew that.  I felt like a typical action fanboy talking in my head (where they scream it out loud to the screen), "Blah blah blah, quit talking!!  Swing your sword !!"  The hero is dragged out of his "i don't need the gods even if one is my father" life and into the sibling battle between Hades and Zeus against their dad Chronos, the Titan they imprisoned in order to become the sole rulers of the world.  Their power has been waning ever since Perseus proved you don't really need the gods around so they need the prodigal son's help again.  Perseus has to trek to the bowels of Mount Tartarus to try and stop Hades from releasing grampa.  As you see in the trailers, he doesn't succeed so we get another titanic battle. Yes, you can groan at that comment.

Again, this one isn't remotely related to the mythos it supposedly bases itself on.  Again we get an insertion of a labyrinth (brilliant performance by Bill Nighy as Hephaestus) and a Minotaur.  Again, it doesn't really matter to the story.  At least Hephaestus had his buddies the cyclops, which was a nice touch.  Andromeda is back, but he saved her from being chained to a rock in the last one, so this time she is the powerful queen with an army at her back, an army setup to be slaughtered by the Titans.  I never got that part -- not only did the queen not evacuate the unfortunate village on the slopes of Tartarus nor did she turn her army around and RUN when Chronos is released.  Its not like a couple of thousand men the size of his little toe have a chance to defeat a mountain sized walking magma golem.  Meh, makes for a good battle scene I guess.  Like all hollywood sequels, we have to recreate a key scene from the original -- this time, Perseus swoops and dives as he flies Pegasus around Chronos, like a boss battle in the PS3 adaptation of the movie.  Or the trench run in Star Wars -- you choose your analogy.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

3 Short Paragraphs: Immortals

2011, Tarsem Singh (The Cell) -- download

You probably know the director as just Tarsem, the visually stunning director who did The Cell all those years ago, and was then known for directing the video for R.E.M's Losing My Religion.  And now he just did Mirror, Mirror ?!?  Anywayz, his style is clearly his signature -- the color palate, the costuming and the set dressing are all incredible, works of art unto themselves.  But where does that fit into movie making?  Does it make good movie?  Is it just extraneous window dressing to mask bad or uninspired films? There is probably just not enough of a body of work to answer the question, but unto itself, with just this movie -- maybe.

Immortals is a snapshot of the greek myths, the story being that King Hyperion wants to free the Titans to have them destroy the world, in revenge for the loss of his family.  The Gods place Theseus, the slave with the heart of steel, in his way.  When you say "based on" in this context, you mean "not at all".  Theseus was the guy who killed the Minotaur but never wrangled with the Titans or Hyperion.  There is a minotaur in this movie but the connection is loose.  Amusingly, this movie has the basic plot as Wrath of the Titans where a reluctant hero is also forced to foil the freeing of the Titans from Tartarus.

You would think I didn't like the movie, but in fact, I enjoyed it immensely.  I am not hung up on purity of myth adaptations, enjoying them being redone for the sake of a good swords & sandals movie.  The use of Tarsem's visual style as well as his continued use of CGI to supplement the look just made me enjoy it more.  He is allowed to make things BIG and awe-inspiring.  This is over the top as a myth should be.  The battle scenes are horrific and stunning.  Mickey Rourke as Hyperion is creepy and dangerous, a solid villain.  There is magic, incredible and powerful!  The supporting cast, and by that I mean the actors all supported the look & feel, is settled in their roles and invested.  This was by no means a good movie but something to be enjoyed for what it is, a visual play for the eyes for fans of swords & fantasy battles.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

6 Short Paragraphs: The Raid: Redemption & Lockout

2011, Gareth Evans -- cinema
2012, James Mather, Stephen St Leger -- cinema

Double bill ! Kent's take here.

Maybe it was my mood, maybe it was the movie but unlike Kent, I didn't much care for The Raid: Redemption.  There was the hint of a movie I should love, a small movie, a movie in a closed environment with a very tight focus.  Unfortunately, that focus was about beating the crap out of each other without much concern for the why's or who-cares.  I was expecting a slight rendition of Assault on Precinct 13 or maybe even a building-related human-only version of La Horde, a french zombie movie set in a urban project tower controlled by criminals.  But the trappings of cops raiding the building owned by bad guys was almost a pretense.  It really did not mean much to the plot.

As you probably know, I am completely fine with bare bones plots as long as they are focused on the goal.  If this movie had been only about a group of cops raiding a building to arrest the crime lord and did the floor-by-floor battle, I would have been fine.  But no, they eliminated most of the cops right off the bat and we get stuck with the melodrama between a couple of good cops and a couple of bad cops each with their own idea of why they are raiding the building. But even that decently attractive plot thread is overshadowed by the pounding on each other.  Yeah, I am sure all the mixed martial arts guys were dribbling in their pants over the combat scenes but I found myself just being bored after a few rounds.  The cliche of knocking down one guy, onto the next until a circle completes and the first guy gets back up, just got tired tired  tired.  Or maybe I was tired.  The few times where he (and really, there is one focused character, the survivor) actually took out a foe in two hits, I cheered.  The boss battle seemed like someone was pumping quarters in to no end.  Yes, dated analogy.  Hitting respawn better?

Also... redemption?  There is no redemption.  There may be a turn of events but its all circumstantial and not about redemption at all.  In the end, after all the cops are dead and the last lone hero escapes the building, we are left with the clear idea that it was all for naught -- another crime lord will control the building and lone hero will lead the assault in the sequel.  And there will be a sequel; these movies are often made as if the writer was already eager to write that movie and this was an inconvenience.  Evans may have had a hint of style, I will give him that, but he was also trapped by the melodrama that this genre seems to like to cling to.  Tortured hero, crooked cop and familial connections are common enough, but to be frank I like them when they are even more over the top, so I can get a sense they would end up as part of a cheese-fest for another theatre's double-bill, another night.

Now, speaking of cheese, it was grand to see Felicia Jollygoodfellow bulked up for  a (and really, is there any other comparison) Snake Plisken role !!  Oh, I am sure I could find a few more action flicks in his IMDB listing but none more muscle bound than this one.  Rogue CIA operative framed for the murder of a friend slash coworker sent to sleep away his life in a cryogenic SuperMax prison... in SPACE !!  OK, low earth orbit but I just wanted to say, "in SPACE !!"  Hee.  This is a movie that really embraces the cheese factor it could only know it was going to emit.  Hell, it is another Luc Besson vehicle so I guess it's pretty much expected.

Yes, a prison in orbit filled with the lowest, nastiest most evil criminal element all frozen into scum-sicles.  Enter "the president's daughter" investigating the place for violations of human rights -- the scum-sicles seem to occasionally wake up crazier than before they went to sleep.  Oops.  But we get an even worse oopsy-daisy when a key interview candidate gets the upper hand and frees all his buddies, and his brother.  Joseph Gilgun dominated the scenery for me.  I know him better as the crassest character on Misfits but he is transformed into this cyberpunk, psycho irishman with an accent that probably was subtitled in the US.  Almost all the rest of the released criminals were set dressing in orange though the brother (Vincent Regan) does carry some dramatic weight of intelligence amidst all the brain-deads.

The movie is really just about Pearce cutting one liners while doing his best tough guy impression. He is skilled enough to know he can accomplish the goal (get the daughter, get out) and heroic enough to handle the no-win scenario.  We get cliche creative deaths, tit-for-tat between rogue & daughter and... well, we also get a lot of really badly done CGI.  It was as if they spent it all on something else (sets?  sure wasn't the script) and were left with early 2000s computer work.  And at the end, when we should get an exciting, over the top escape by parachuting from orbit (yes, you read that right) we get low-grade Star Wars (huh?  don't find key points, just blow the fucker up from a distance !!) and a rush to the "now we are safe on the ground and kissing" scene.  Wait, how did they get down and rescued by EMTs?  Did I blink?  But still, I laughed, I cringed, I enjoyed myself.  And woke up from the first movie.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

3 short paragraphs: Daybreakers

2009, the Spierig Brothers

Unfortunately, this isn't a feature length picture of Troy and Abed enjoying Michael Haggins' smooth-jazz classic(#sixseasonsandamovie)

Instead, Daybreakers is a cleverly conceived yet poorly executed future sc i-fi vampire action/drama.  Set in 2019 (10 years in the future, three years ago), vampires are the dominant species after a viral outbreak.  With humanity on the verge of extinction, so too is the vampire's "food" supply.  Ethan Hawke plays a scientist looking for a synthetic blood substitute, only to get entangled with the human resistance and learn that there is, in fact, a procedure for curing people of their vampirism.   Of course, it's not as simple as it sounds as Hawke must contend against the might of the corporation that controls the blood supplies and his own brother, who's charged with corralling any remaining humans.

There's great ideas in the film, including the societal breakdown as the blood supplies start running low as well as the mutation of the virus when the vampires begin to starve, and yet it's all so clunkily executed, on the level of a low-budget, syndicated genre TV show.  The German Spierig Brothers, acting as both writers and directors, don't seem to know what they want out of their own film, as early on they seem to strive for a Gatta-like seriousness, yet constantly undermining it with cheesy dialogue or overly transparent foreshadowing.  By the third act of the film the Brothers abandon any sense of drama in favour of an exceptionally awkward and poorly constructed action finale/bloodbath which is either painful or funny, depending on how high or drunk you are.  I don't think that either reaction is what the brothers were after.

I seem to recall discussion that writer David Goyer had originally planned a similar plot for the third Blade movie, a world in which the vampires won, human were cattle, and Blade was to lead the resistance.  Somehow, between Blade 2 and getting the directorial gig for Blade Trinity the concept changed completely and became a Blade and the Scooby Gang vs. Dracula instead.  I was hoping Daybreakers would capitalize upon Blade's loss and that this great idea would finally be executed on screen.  Alas.  Exceptionally skippable.

DOUBLE FEATURE: The Raid: Redemption and Lockout

The Raid: Redeption - 2011, Gareth Evans
Lockout - James Mather, Stephen St. Leger

I don't remember the last time I've watched two movies in the theatre back to back.  I'm going to guess it was a festival, probably four years ago or more.  It's actually something I used to do more frequently when I was single and childless, with no real constraints or demands upon my time and having long ago gotten comfortable attending the cinema by my lonesome.  The opportunity presented itself to cram in two films in one evening, with David no less, although such an endeavor required, well, not so much strategic planning as a willingness to watch whatever it was that fit the scheduled block of time.

There's not a a whole lot of connective tissue between The Raid: Redemption and Lockout, although both are international productions, with The Raid shot in Indonesia with an Indonesian cast by a Welsh director, and Lockout starring a bevvy of international talent, and a product of French producer Luc Besson's steadily churning action movie brain.  As well, both seem to owe a tremendous debt to John Carpenter, not that he's the sole source for either story or structure for these films, but he's certainly the most prominent namecheck.

The Raid: Redemption is a throwback to the 70's in-over-their-heads, rock-and-a-hardplace action movies, ala Assault on Precinct 13 or The Warriors.  It's a completely stripped down plot and script, practically threadbare, with just enough of a story, and a pinch of characterization to hang its relentless martial-arts extravaganza hat on.

The premise of the film finds a compact police SWAT team attacking a notoriously impenetrable apartment complex in Jakarta which is the headquarters of the city's most prominent drug kingpin.  Very quickly the team finds that they are outnumbered, outgunned, and, worst of all trapped in the middle floors, unable to retreat or advance.  One of their numbers has a personal stake in the raid, which seems to fuel him further and provide him the resilience to survive despite the odds.

Director Gareth Evans, as the story goes, after getting married to a woman of Indonesian descent, was pushed by her to direct a documentary on the country's martial art, Pencak Silat.  Somewhat entranced by the fighting style, he went on to make the cult film Merantau after discovering Raid star Iko Uwais.  The Raid is a stylized film, heavy on the blue, yellow and brown tones, creating a grimy atmosphere suitable for a poorly maintained drug fortress fronting as an apartment building.

Evans' spotlight on Silat differs from traditional martial arts films, which tend to glorify its practitioners as superheroes in a certain light.  Here, instead, the combatants are quite readily seen as mortal, blood and bone, prone to fatigue and flaws.  Evans pulls the camera back and gives the expertly orchestrated fights their due, keeping the edits to a minimum and the action in focus.  This isn't a Greengrass Bourne film, where the fighting is masked by quick cuts to exaggerate momentum and intensity, instead the technique is quite on display, left raw, in the open, brutal but impressive.

The film is not without its directorial flourish, in which Evans would jostle the camera slightly during the fight sequences, particularly during the copious firearms exchanges.  The particularly motion-sensitive may feel the effect, others might not even not even notice.

Lockout, unlike The Raid, is a clean-cut, far more traditional b-movie action movie with sci-fi trappings, again owing a generous debt to John Carpenter and his Snake Plissken vehicles, although instead of reaching for the dirty, tawdry, darker look and feel of the early '80's Escape From New York, the film cops quite liberally from the early 90's, glossy, cgi and technology-enabled Escape From L.A., that it's more like Plissken fan-fiction than anything approaching an original concept.

Guy Pierce's Snow subs in for Kurt Russell's Snake as the sarcastic, tough-as-nails mercenary who has connections high and low as eager to help him as to kill him.  When the president's daughter is amongst the civilians trapped aboard an orbital supermax prison, Snow is the only man for the job of infiltrating the escapees and getting the girl... to safety, and without any options to do so.

The sequence of events that follows is rote b-movie material carried forth with pithy, if not entirely clever dialogue.  The film frequently borrows from other genre pics, including a horrendous lifting of the Death Star trench assault sequence which seems not only entirely extraneous but a waste of effects budget that could have been put to better use refining those throughout the rest of the film.

Despite his quite lengthy resume, Pierce hasn't really played the tough guy or conventional action star too often, if at all, yet somehow beat Jason Statham to the part.  While he doesn't exactly wear it comfortably, he seems to have fun with it.  Maggie Grace, Besson's new go-to girl-in-distress, isn't really given a concrete character to work with, changing face and temperament as the script demands.  The leads don't entirely radiate chemistry, and there's little investment from the actors all around, but the end result is passably entertaining, if unmemorable.

Oh, one final connection... the posters, both of the drab, generic variety implying the man-alone-against-great-odds scenario.  Uninspired and not at all embracing their retro leanings.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

3 Short Paragraphs: The Lost Future

2010, Mikael Salomon (hard working TV director including Band of Brothers, The Andromeda Strain and Camelot) -- download

This is one of those situations where I find out about a movie on some blog that I have already forgotten about.  This was post-apocalypse (PA) fiction starring Sean Bean.  OK, not exactly starring Sean Bean but he has a strong role, and guess what, he is not killed horribly. I am rather fond of PA fiction, especially the less-than-stellar stuff like ... weird, I cannot think of anything that is anything other than less than stellar.  So, stuff like Max Max 2: The Road Warrior, The PostmanSteel Dawn and The Book of Eli.  They take place long after an apocalypse but not so long after that the remnants of the old world are forgotten about.  Also, some element of the plot focuses on how things were, such as finding old tech or exploring lost cities or living off the detritus.  Geez, if I was to make this genre one of my '31 Days of...', I would again spend a lot of time saying why some movies are on my list and some would not be.

Anywayz, a plague basically wiped out mankind and many of those left are mutated into horrible beastly killing machines.  The group of survivors we meet have been primitive for enough generations they don't have knowledge of the old world; basically they are pretty cave people.  They hide inside an area they deem safe from the plague and the mutants and know little of the outside world.  I think there must have been some climate shifts as well because they all sound British but its the warmest, prettiest PA Britain I have ever seen.  One hunting group strays too far and brings back the mutants and the plot establishes as the young & brave have to go on a quest to bring back a cure for their village before all become monsters in sub-par makeup.

It is a very basic plot, as my favourites of this genre often are, about travelling to the unknown land, surviving its dangers, locating the object of the quest and bringing it back to save the day.  Very fantasy-based, very Hero's Journey.  Sean Bean is here as a source of knowledge, a once-member of a group of skilled explorers and plague detectors, aware of the cure as well as a collector of the old world.  He directs the young ones, a mentor of sort, and draws out the needed heroism in them.  While very very TV low budget, as many of this genre are, it was still not as bad as most of the 80s & 90s examples.

Friday, June 1, 2012

3 Short Paragraphs: Crazy, Stupid, Love

2011, Glen Ficarra, John Requa (I Love you Philip Morris) -- download

OK, the idea of two directors isn't usually a good idea but these guys are a long time writing duo (Two Angry Beavers) and their first movie, which I haven't seen yet, got some pretty good acclaim.  We will let them try this out for a while.  And yes, I do like romcoms.  I remember hearing that it was a cut above other expected Steve Carell romcoms and that usually defines whether I will like it, that being a cut above the average dribble.  Yes, dribble not drivel.  I like something just above what a comedy actor normally does.  And that is pretty much what I got.

Its a midlife crisis comedy, but what else could it be starring Steve?  He does hurt & befuddled so well. He loves his life, his middleclass suburban family and father life but when his wife has sex with her coworker, a breakup is hatched.  Steve goes and gets drunk in a local nightclub in his schlumpy clothes and his schlumpy Steve attitude, to only catch the attention of Ryan.  We have already seen this nightclub as the basis for Emma Stone, smart educated and in love with her boyfriend, to reject Ryan Gosling (playing Leisure Suit Larry in this movie) who is astounded a woman spurned his advances.  Meanwhile a highschool girl is in love with Steve because he is the perfect, nice guy. Meanwhile Steve's son is in love with the highschool girl.  There are lots of meanwhiles in this movie.

This is a connected to the connected movie that wants to be a smart comedy. And it succeeds for the most part.  The intertwined plot has some surprises and a lot of cute paths cross.  The dialogue is charming and for the most part, the movie focuses on Jacob (Gosling) taking broken bird Cal (Carell) under his wing and teaches him how to respect himself enough to get any girl he wants.  Jacob is just sleazy enough to be effective (law of averages kinda guy) and disarming enough that we root for him when he falls for Hannah (Stone) who originally rejected him.  The plot weaves around a bit but comes back to a final backyard party where a number of things are revealed and.... which totally surprised me, Cal does not immediately get back together with his wife (Julianne Moore).