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Archive for May, 2009

The Last Post

This is the last post. Maybe for just a while, or maybe forever.

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I don’t know if this accurately represents the famous works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but it sure looks like fun. Christmas Day will be a good day.

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State of Play is a rather cliche political conspiracy thriller, following journalists Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe) and Della Frye (Rachel McAdams) as they try to uncover the truth behind the murder of congressman Stephen Collins’ (Ben Afleck) mistress.

The plot is the heart of this film, and it’s a weak heart at best. The screenplay jettisoned far too many twists for it to explain in logical detail, just leaving us with an unsatisfactory, sloppy ending. A plot twist should be surprising and logical at the same time. The twists in State of Play were very forced, and they just made more holes in character motivation, and they could’ve been done without.

The second act of the movie, however, was really intense. I was on the edge of my seat, waiting for something to knock my socks off. The way suspects and leads were revealed was entertaining, and it had my attention, but none of this great buildup ever really amassed to anything.

There were also a few scenes that were either misleading or improbable. The direction in some scenes was a bit off; the way some parts of a shot were accentuated, and the way music was played over gave the scene a tone that didn’t actually match with what was happening on screen. I didn’t think this was the intention of director, Kevin Macdonald. Rather, it was just poor craftsmanship.

As much as it seems like I hated this movie, there were several good elements. The editing  and cinematography were pretty great. Edgy, fast paced, fun. The entire cast delivered; Ben Afleck was a surprising gem, and Jason Bateman did well in a role in which we’re not used to seeing him. Russell Crowe, Rachel McAdams, and Helen Mirren gave me no complaints. The relationship between Crowe and McAdams is kind of adorable, and I wish there was a bit more.

Overall, State of Play had the formula to be a standout movie, but its sloppiness, especially in the last twenty minutes, made it just okay. The one big thing that came out of this movie was the idea of  journalists vs. FBI. What makes a story and what makes a case? How far should one go to ascertain the truth? These are interesting questions this movie brought up. So underneath an okay thriller, there were some insightful questions that were presented to the audience. Kudos for that.

7 out of 10

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My experience with Star Trek consists of catching a very few episodes as a kid. The series never grabbed my attention for I was too much of a Star Wars fan to consider any other sci-fi series to be in its league. So while a review of this movie is far better off in the hands of a Trekkie, I’d still like to share my thoughts.

I think JJ Abrams’ revival of the series is great. It’s certainly the best way to start off a nice looking Summer. A popcorn movie displaying a dazzle of special/sound effects. As of late, I’ve been having a gripe with special effects in movies. Everything seems too computerized for me; before the movie, trailers for Land of the Lost, Transformers, and GI Joe all appeared, and all of them had lackluster effects. Granted, these films are not yet finished, but still…everything seemed blatantly spawned from the glossy touch only a computer could provide.

However, Star Trek, while heavily CGI, is nearly flawless in its execution, showing the care and precision that went into making this film; it certainly feels real.  The grandeur of space that Abrams captures is mesmerizing to watch. The epic scope of space almost devoured me whole while in the theater. Oh, and seeing a planet collapse into itself made me smile.

With the obvious out of the way, let’s focus on the story. The plot involves some intracices of time travel that are spolierish to the movie, so I’ll refrain from going into detail, but it focuses on James T Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) aboard the USS Enterprise, and their entanglements with each other and the protaganist, Nero, a vengeful Romulan who uses red matter, a subtance that creates a black hole after contact with matter, to destroy planets. The plot, as will any plot involving time travel, is a bit contrived, but according to two friends of mine, it’s something very Trekkian and JJ Abramsish. Thankfully, the pace of the film doesn’t really allow you to think about what’s happening chronologically. Instead, it just asks you to hang on for dear life because it’s such a fast paced and fun ride. So the plot, while bothersome to others, works fine for me.

The characters are all fun to watch. While a few exchanges of dialogue are terrible, the banter back and forth between Spock and Kirk is great, and the acting done by the two wonderfully delivers a great tension between the two beloved characters. The acting overall is splendid, and there are certain moments that just seem iconic. I feel like I’ll never forget the first time I saw these certain moments/characters on screen.

The film isn’t perfect though. Abrams binges on lens flare, which becomes abundantly annoying within the first half hour. And speaking of the first half hour, it isn’ all that good. It’s too rushed and cliche, and the entire car scene in the desert is overdone. Parts of this movie definitely could have been cut/changed. For instance, when Kirk lands on Delta Vega, he gets chased by monsters, but this, I thought, was absolutely unnecessary. Let us enjoy the vastness of what seemed like a really breathtaking planet. Another problem for me is the villain, Nero. He was poorly written. At times, I felt sorry for him and not in a sympathetic sort of way. He appears whiny, desparate and reckless, things I don’t want to see coincide with the word Villain.

Besides my nitpicking, Star Trek is an overall great movie. The acting, the action, the sound, the music, are all part of an experience I encourage you to take. The revival of Star Trek is surely happening, and I’d definitely want to see what can come out of this franchise. It’s funny; if I compare this to say, Revenge of the Sith, I’d choose Star Trek. I never thought I’d say something like that, but my, did Trek deliver on so many levels.

9 out of 10

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Vodpod videos no longer available.

In 2009, there will be two movies called Nine. One, actually noted 9, is a computer animated film. The other, a musical. This is the trailer for the musical, and it’s pretty explosive. It starts with a quiet, almost lonesome tone but then blasts into a frenetic haze of color, song, and dance.

The cast is simply untouchable. It stars Daniel Day-Lewis, who is reason alone to go, but he’s also backed up by Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz, Kate Hudson, Nicole Kidman, and Marion Cotillard.

I honestly enjoy musicals, and this looks like fun.

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Disney and magic started going hand in hand in 1937 with Snow White and The Seven Dwarves. 70 years later, film has changed, and this magic we refer to is done only in the past tense. Fortunately for us, Disney has decided to go back in time, revitalizing hand drawn animation with this year’s The Princess and The Frog. And my, does the animation look brilliant…

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The best way to describe The Girlfriend Experience is that it’s a display window. A tease, if you will. The movie sets us up with the this cozy, intimate New York; each shot has such a soft and pristine hue, emitting a warm glow of closeness. But therein lies the tease. Intimacy is not what we get at all.

Director Steven Soderbergh mostly keeps the camera at a distance, never fully letting the audience into the conversation on screen. This disengagement never allowed me to get a true feeling for the characters, thus keeping me from caring about them.  Even the main character, Chelsea, a high class prostitute, is protective and aloof, and while her character compliments the camera work, it clashes with the color of the movie. I think I understand what Soderbergh was aiming for; I just couldn’t go along with it.

The film isn’t even really about the girlfriend experience. Instead, it’s a depiction of the shithole of an economy we’re currently in. At least that’s what the first half of the movie was about. The first 45 minutes display Chelsea as a serious businesswoman who’s trying to help her and her boyfriend, Chris, make ends meet. A lot of scenes show her trying to sell herself better economically, and there are many bits of dialogue discussing Obama and McCain. While this is an understandable use of commentary for Soderbergh to use, it dies off halfway through the movie, and The Girlfriend Experience suddenly becomes about the girlfriend experience. The plot strays away from its already thin roots, and it never grows into a completed story. This just didn’t work for me. It should have either stuck to its commentary-based theme, or it should have delved much deeper into the world of Chelsea and her relationships. I would have preferred the latter.

Most of my problem lies in the direction of the film. It doesn’t take away anything from the acting, though, which is an important and somewhat controversial piece to this movie. Chelsea is portrayed by Adult Film star, Sasha Grey. Of course, the stereotype is pornstars can’t act, but I thought she was really wonderful in this. It can be said that she’s just playing herself, that transitioning from porn star to prostitute is easy. Yet, Sasha Grey definitely created a difficult character that hides things from the audience and even those close to her. While the character, Chelsea, bothered me with her coldness, I thought she was portrayed well. The supporting cast was also pretty good.

The film isn’t great, but it’s not too bad. The story’s told in a nonlinear fashion, creating a scatterbrain of scenes that, for the most part, works. It definitely embodies Chelsea’s lifestyle of living in the moment, but I’m sure this scrambled device of storytelling could put others off. The acting and music were excellent, and the dialogue between the characters felt real. Yet, I couldn’t get myself to enjoy the distance Soderbergh created between the characters and the audience, and I don’t like how it started off one thing, an economically based commentary, and then ended another thing, a character drama. It lacked consistency, and it was mainly just a tease. A display window.

6 out of 10

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