Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What I Think Of: New In Town (2009)

When I look at this picture from the movie I get the feeling that the actors and creators are mocking me saying, "I can't believe you were dumb enough to watch this." I love romantic comedies, I'm a chick flick kind of guy so I've seen them all and I'm generally very forgiving to the genre since they're predominantly all the same. Still, New In Town stands above them all as one of the worst romantic comedies I have ever seen and is an early contender for worst film of 2009. We all know Renee Zellweger can't act, but here she's worst then ever and as much as I like Harry Connick Jr. he should stick to singing if this performance is any indication.

Monsters vs. Aliens movie review

This 2009 CGI animated 3D family film is from Dreamworks studio, and is the story of Susan (voiced by Reese Witherspoon) who on her wedding day gets struck by a falling meteor which causes her to grow 50-feet tall. She is quickly captured by the US military and taken where other monsters are held being held, a brilliant scientist who turned himself into a cockroach, an indestructible gelatinous blob called Bob, the missing link fishman, and a 350 foot giant insect who became big after being struck with radiation. They must join forces and protect California, as an alien mastermind tries to take it over. It’s Monsters vs. Aliens and we’re just the collateral damage. But yeah, no one dies here oddly enough.

Let’s talk first about the 3D in the film. Monster vs. Aliens is the first animated feature film produced in Real 3D rather than just converting the film print after into 3D, which added 15 million more to the overall cost of this film. And frankly, it was pretty much wasted. Some of the 3D scenes were good, like in the beginning someone is playing with a paddle ball and the ball bounces back and forth, seemingly striking viewers at random, and there are some nice space debris scenes in 3D, but overall, yeah not that impressive. The 3D never feels immersive like it did with Coraline 3D, or even Bolt 3D. The 3D here always feels like a gimmick and a not entirely good one. It really feels like the art of using 3D technology in films took a step back here.

I had very high expectations for this one. The trailers and tv spots made the film look fun and inventive, while still retaining the old charm of the old Godzilla and other monster movies. I’m a big fan of the cinema known as Kaiju (which means Strange Beast), films where giant monsters battle humanity or one another, popularized during the 50’s at late night drive-ins. Such examples of this are Mothra, Godzilla, Rodan, etc. However, this movie also harkens back to such great early creature films like The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Fly, The Blob, Attack of the 50-ft Woman, Them!, etc. So after the melding of so many classic conventions and characters how did this movie hold up?

Well, it’s not as good as I was hoping it would be. Perhaps a CGI animated movie about monsters destroying things just can’t be done well, or maybe it’s just because Dreamworks generally makes crappy movies. My friend commented, maybe Pixar can do it, but this movie has really shaken me.

There are some nice homage’s if you’re a fan of the monster genre. The military comments that we need to Destroy All Monster which is reference to the great 1968 film of the same name, and if you know what to look for, there are posters layered throughout the film like little Easter eggs. And the animation overall is quite nice, San Francisco is breathtaking as is the giant alien robot the monsters fight on the Golden Gate Bridge. That fight scene is amazing. Personally I think the giant robot is the best aspect of the movie. It looks like one of those plastic Easter eggs that when you open them you find candy inside. The robot looks stunning and totally kicks ass.

However none of that hides the incredible pacing problems this film has. While this should feel like a light and fun action comedy, there were stretches where it was incredibly boring, where you have all these monsters and aliens standing around and nothing really happens. I mean one of the monsters is like a 100 stories tale and all he does is blow snot. It’s just sad use of creatures. And while the dialogue was witty, most of the movie fell to the same problem most Dreamworks animated films fall too, an over reliance on pop culture and stupid, “look at me I’m funny” kind of jokes. For example, The US President when first confronted by aliens busts out a keyboard and plays Herbie Hancock’s Rockit as he dances all around, finally ending the piece with a Vulcan peace sign. Ugh. Also, I know we live in the MTV generation, but I think it was an odd choice for this movie to have so many quick cuts. Generally that’s used for budget constraints and because most people have short attention spans, but this is animation, you can draw whatever the hell you want, so why bother with fast cuts to hide what you aren’t doing? I don’t get it. An overreliance on flash over substance is the Dreamworks norm though. However that’s not the worst part.

I mean you have a movie about a bunch of giant creatures destroying everything, so it should be fun right? But truthfully the action really isn’t that interesting. First off, it should have been Monster vs. Monsters because the aliens concept wasn’t utilized enough. You have this alien being with high-tech weaponry that can destroy things in an instant, and yet none of it is every used on a simple human girl. The whole alien aspect of the film took a back story to the monster aspects and I think that really hurt the film because it’s not just Monsters, but Monsters vs. Aliens. Also the action got a bit too chaotic at times, as all these bright colors flash by at incredible speeds, and robots explode everywhere, it’s hard to keep track of what you’re seeing.

Still, the one thing I always fault Dreamworks for, their dependence on named voice talent, really helped the film here. All the voice talent is great. I know you dislike her, but Resse Witherspoon as Susan was surprisingly good here and her voice worked for her character. Will Arnett as the Missing Link is just faux machismo personified. Hugh Laurie as Dr. Cockroach, PHD was a nice nod to this House tv show character. Seth Rogen was really fantastic here as Bob the indestructible goo. The same laid back persona he uses in his live action films, really works as he ratchets things up 10 notches and plays this really dumb yet loveable blue blob. Steven Colbert was also nice as the President of the United States, although he’s not utilized enough. Rainn Wilson as the Alien Gallaxhar was only okay. I think after The Rocker, I can’t stand his voice anymore. Even Keifer Sutherland was in this one as the general W.R. Monger (get it?) who was in charge of the monsters. Overall I was really pleasantly surprised with the voice cast.

While a step back from last year’s Kun-Fu Panda, I don’t think this is as bad as the Shrek 3 and Madagascar 2 dreak that Dreamworks puts out. It’s mildly entertaining, and I think kids will get a kick out of all the action scenes. Things are very bright and flashy equipment constantly go boom. So I give this a “dvd/matinee” rating. The story had so much potential and could have been so much better, but as with most Dreamworks animated films, it’s a slightly wasted effort here.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Episode 25: Monsters vs. Aliens and Sin Nombre

Hello there and welcome to the 25th episode of the Cinema Cafe Podcast: the new weekly film podcast by the fans, for the fans. Each week we will review new movies releases, dvd reviews, talk some film news and share our general love for all things cinema. The main goal is to have some fun and hopefully provide the listener with some helpful insight. This week we have a treat: a look at 2 movies that have been recently released. With that said here's a look at what we discuss on this weeks podcast:

* Monsters vs. Aliens
* Sin Nombre
* A quick look at the 2009 romantic comedy Renee Zellwegger starring snooze-fest, New In Town and of 2002's sci-fi remake adaptation, The Time Machine.
* DVD Review of the 2009 Watchmen companion piece, Tales of the Black Freighter and of the 2007 Edith Piaf Oscar Winning French biopic, La Vie En Rose.
* A look at the films that inspired the Monsters from Monsters vs. Aliens.
* Upcoming movie releases for the weekend of 4.03.09

Also, film news and more, only on the Cinema Cafe Podcast. We hope you enjoy and happy movie watching.

We're now on Itunes so head there and subscribe to the Cinema Cafe Podcast. Thanks!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

What I Think Of: The Time Machine (2002)

Hi everyone. I decided to create a new series of posts called "What I Think Of" that will be reflect my quick thoughts on any random number of movies. Hope everyone enjoys it. To start this new series of: The Time Machine (2002).

I don't get all the hate this remake gets. It's adapted from the classic novel by H.G. Wells and stars Guy Ritchie and Samatha Mumba. Sure Mrs. Mumba is better known for her song, "Gotta Tell You", but I think she played her role admirably. Frankly the visuals are stimply stunning, and yes, the remake does lack some of the naive charm of the original film and book, but that's why I like it so much. The toys and the visuals are a sci-fi geeks dream. Everything bleeds off the screen in wonderful color and art. An interesting fact, the director of the film, Simon Wells, better known as a Dreamworks animator, is the great-grandson of H.G. Wells. Lucky!

Friday, March 27, 2009

New Movie Releases for the Weekend of 3.27.09

1) Monster vs. Aliens

- this is the animated feature from Dreamworks after last year’s Kung Fu Panda (I’m forgetting that Madagascar 2 ever existed) so I have high hopes for this movie. Backed by a stellar voice cast, this one’s about a soon to be married woman named Susan who comes in contact with a fallen meteor and ends up growing 50-ft tall. When aliens invade Earth, it’s up to Susan and a motley crew of other monsters, including a genius human cockroach, an indestructible gelatinous blob, a really really big insect and a fish man. Shot entirely in 3D, let’s hope this is the epic battle its name suggests.

2) The Haunting of Connecticut

- another based on a true story Amittyville Horror wannabe, this one’s about a family who move into a new house and slowly find out that it’s haunted, and the ghosts aren’t nice like Casper. The trailer for this movie is a perfect example of why I dislike many modern trailers, since it shows and reveals everything you’re going to get from this movie. The plus side to that is that now I don’t have to see this movie since I’ve already seen the beginning middle and end from the trailer, but yeah, poor marketing. Seriously, enough of the Amityville Horror copycats.

3) 12 Rounds

- this is the new action epic starring the WWE wrestler Jon Cena. This one’s about a detective (played by Cena) whose girlfriend gets kidnapped and must complete 12 challenges in order to save her. Granted Cena’s last film The Marine should’ve gone straight to dvd, but this one looks like mindless fun, and is directed by the guy who brought us Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger. Will this be an action version of the Saw horror franchise? We shall see.

4) The Education of Charlie Banks

- this coming of age story set in the 70’s about a young college student named Charlie who must face problems from his past when an old friend shows up on campus and begins to ingratiate himself in Charlie’s life. This one’s directed by Fred Durst, yes that Fred Durst, and frankly sounds like every other coming of age movie, but reviews appear positive for it. Still as Fred Durst once stated, “it’s my way or the high way” so I’ll probably take the highway on this one.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I Love You, Man movie review

This 2009 buddy comedy stars Paul Rudd and Jason Segel (who were last seen together in Knocked Up and the highly underrated Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and is directed by John Hamburg, who is traditionally a tv show director, although he did direct one film, Along Came Polly- however he is best known as a screenwriter, co-writing many films with long time bud Ben Stiller with Meet the Parents, Meet the Fockers and the ultimate in comedy Zoolander, so the guy known’s his comedy. Rudd stars as Peter Klaven a real-estate agent who is about to get married to his live-in girlfriend Zooey (played by Rashida Jones). However it turns out that Peter has always been more interested in cultivating his relationships rather than his friendships and doesn’t have any male friends to be his best man. Saddened and feeling a little bit awkward about this he sets on a series “man-dates” in order to find a new bff. Right when it looks like all hope is lost, in walks Sydney Fife (played by Jason Segel), and the two instantly click. Has Peter found the bff to shame all other male bff’s, or is three really too big of a crowd?

We saw this film at a screening about 2 weeks ago. The screening we attended was hell on life. A lot of people showed up, a lot of critics and there was a terrible mess of communication. But beyond the hell that was the screening, what did I think of the film?

I love this film. I mean it’s not the benchmark to end all comedies, but it’s funny and entertaining as hell. I mean it takes the romantic comedy genre and flips it on its head. Sure, it’s one long gay joke, but the joke is done well. I mean there are great one-liners, a lot of seat scrumming awkward moments. One of the central plots is that Paul Rudd’s character is trying to sell Lou Ferrigno’s house. And people keep calling him the Hulk, like “come on Hulk, what’re you going to do.” And he’s like, “hey I’m a person, not just the Hulk.” I just find that absolutely hilarious. It’s hard to choose my favorite moment since this film is really a series of one-liners, moving from scene to scene and some people may not like it for those reasons, but for me, I just found the whole movie a blast and the theater we were at seemed to love it as well since the laughter didn’t die down from start to finish.

This film will feel like you’re watching a Judd Apatow film, as was evident with last year’s Role Models, regardless if there is any involvement of Apatow with the film, you can create a film that feels like it’s part of his oeuvre. Perhaps that’s the new state of comedies, eventually they’ll all look like Apatow films, but at least for me, right now, I love them. So yeah, while Apatow has nothing to do with this film, it bears all his trademarks, boyish man-child’s, gross out comedy, the woes of relationships, the loneliness of its main characters, hot women loving wimpy guys. So yeah I Love You, Man falls into a lot of recent clich├ęs, but it’s still damn enjoyable.

However the downside to this movie is that there are a lot of characters, but none of them get fleshed out, as they seemingly come in to say one-liners and then leave. And that leads me to one of the major problems I, and I’m sure many people who watched this film will have. The whole movie is essentially the relationship between Peter and Sydney, as they grow closer together and learn things about one another. However, Sydney’s character is never fleshed out. There is no backstory for who he is, at one point you think he may not be who he says he is and it’s all an act, but then that’s thrown to the waste side. He never invites Peter into his actual house and you think maybe it’s because he’s a loser, but they never explain the reasoning. It’s just like, yeah, they don’t explain anything about Segel. You can see some of his motives, but I mean is he a good guy, who is he, why is he, all that and more is unexplained. So while we see so much about who Peter is, the person who shares half the movie with him Sydney, we don’t learn anything about, and I found that really frustrating. I just don’t get it.

I love the running gag that whenever Paul Rudd’s character uses an accent he always sounds like a leprechaun, regardless if it’s a Spanish, Jamaican or whatever accent, it’s leprechaun. Loved it.

So in the end what rating do I give this film? Like I said before, the film does have its faults, but I think the overall flow of the comedy and the hilariousness of two grown men getting closer and closer to becoming BFF’s is something that will appeal to a lot of people and will make even the most jaded of BFF’s smile. It never feels contrived, never falling for the easy dramatic moments and I commend the filmmakers for that. So I give this film a, “bring your lunch from home because you do not want to miss this one” rating. Standout comedy with some truly standout moments.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Episode 24: Knowing and I Love You, Man

Hello there and welcome to the 24th episode of the Cinema Cafe Podcast: the new weekly film podcast by the fans, for the fans. Each week we will review new movies releases, dvd reviews, talk some film news and share our general love for all things cinema. The main goal is to have some fun and hopefully provide the listener with some helpful insight. This week we have a treat: a look at 2 movies that have been recently released. With that said here's a look at what we discuss on this weeks podcast:

* Knowing
* I Love You, Man
* A quick look at the 2006 Jason Statham testosterone absurdity fest, Crank and of 1999's Star Trek sci-fi spoof, Galaxy Quest
* DVD Review of the 1986 David Bowie starring all-ages fantasy cult classic, Labyrinth.
* Upcoming movie releases for the weekend of 3.27.09

Also, film news and more, only on the Cinema Cafe Podcast. We hope you enjoy and happy movie watching.

We're now on Itunes so head there and subscribe to the Cinema Cafe Podcast. Thanks!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

New Movie Releases for the Weekend on 3.20.09

1) Knowing

- some may laugh, but I’ve been eagerly awaiting this film since it was first announced. No not because Nic Cage is in it (he sucks), but rather because this is the latest film from directory Alex Proyas, who has made two films I love, 1994’s Crow and the criminally underrated 1998 Dark City. This one stars Nic Cage whose son discovers an artifact that is able to predict many of the catastrophes going on in the world and it seems like one event is fast approaching that may mean the end of civilization. Yeah it sounds stupid but the trailers actually look pretty damn good.

2) Duplicity

- this looks like a more espionage based Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Here Julia Roberts and Clive Owen play off one another as two competing corporate spies who see a chance to retire by stealing a lot of money and most work together in order to succeed. Honestly, I’m not sure if this one’s going to be any good, but it has a hot cast so who cares right?

3) I Love You, Man

- a story of the highest form of bro-mance, this one stars Paul Rudd as a man who has no male friends and must find one to be the best man at his wedding. I mean Paul Rudd and Jason Segel. What more do you need? Oh Lou Ferrigno’s in it too and he’s constantly called the Hulk. Have they finally cancelled that stupid bro-mance reality show on MTV about guys who want to be best buds with some douchebag? That shows more homoerotic than Brokeback.

4) Sin Nombre

- this is getting a fast release since it just premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. This is the story of two youths, one a young Honduran girl and the other a member of a brutal inner city gang who dream of better lives and meet one fateful day on a freight train bound for the US. I’ve read reviews of this and it sounds fantastic, with many calling it a love story thriller. Can’t wait to see this one.

5) The Great Buck Howard

- this one should be called My Two Hanks, which sounds like a fantastic movie to me, but anyway, this one stars Colin Hanks, a law school dropout who becomes the producer of a has-been magician (played by John Malkovich) much to the dismay of his father (played by Tom Hanks). A feel good movie from last year’s Sundance Film Festival, this one looks like it could be quite good.