Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Day The Earth Stood Still Review

Remakes aren't all bad. Sometimes they have the ability to expand on an original concept, or approach a particular topic from a different perspective to bring about a new viewpoint. Yet many times, "Why bother?" is an appropriate response, especially for a film so revered as the original "The Day the Earth Stood Still." And unfortunately, this 2008 version with Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connelly does absolutely nothing to contribute to the legacy of the original.

While I have never seen the original version, the reading I have done about the movie suggests that it is a classic that did not need to be remade; that the movie stood on its own as a piece of art. Unfortunately, this did not stop 20th Century Fox, resulting in an interesting visual piece but very little in the way of story and even less in character.

For those who aren't familiar, "The Day the Earth Stood Still" is about an alien, Klaatu (Reeves) who is sent to Earth in an attempt to save the planet. And the only person in the world who seems willing to even listen to him is scientist Helen Benson (Connelly) who is also busy tending to a greiving stepson (Jaden Smith). Meanwhile, the military acts in standard movie-military mode, led by the Secretary of Defense (Kathy Bates), trying to sequester the alien and force him to reveal his ultimate plan through force, despite clear indications that there is nothing they can do to contain any threat, perceived or otherwise.

Director Scott Derrickson was clearly trying to approach the film in a culturally relevant way in an effort to make a social statement about society. There are references to many current events and actual world leaders are shown on televisions in an effort to ground this movie in a present day reality. The problem is that the screenplay by David Scarpa draws one-dimensional characters whose motivations are driven by plot instead of actual development or growth. Characters who seem absolutely set in their ways do a complete 180 as a result of simple, almost inconsequential, events. This would not even be as terrible if the characters were set up in a realistic manner but most act in a one-note fashion that seems to exist solely to antagonize the aliens, especially the military.

The military throws logic completely out the window as they seem content to take on an alien civilization with sheer brute force, despite the fact that their abilities are shown to be near impervious to human weapons and are able to disable them at will. So instead of at least attempting to form some sort of dialogue with the aliens, they continue to act antagonistically by pushing the aliens into a corner when clearly nothing physical can be done to stop them. This attitude is also inexplicably echoed in Jacob (Jaden Smith) who seems to believe that his deceased Army Engineer father would have attempted to kill the aliens were he alive. The attempt is made to make Jacob the conduit for change in this movie but the complete lack of subtlety and the bludgeoning of the audience over the head with simplistic themes undermines any attempt at getting across a coherent message.

This wasn't an unmitigated disaster though. On a visual level, the film was sufficiently engaging and there were some truly interesting effects. Strangely, there was a curiosity to find out what would happen next, although there was no concern for any of the characters and often times a mild annoyance at their actions. This is not a slight at the actors though, since all of them, including Keanu Reeves, deliver as convincing performances as they could given the material they had at their disposal. Reeves is believable as an alien, as his often times wooden delivery would suggest anyway. Connelly is always a bright spot in any movie (although would it kill somebody to put her in a comedy? Why is she always playing such sad characters?) and she and the rest of the cast probably prevented this from being the unwatchable film it could have been.

As it stands, "The Day the Earth Stood Still" is instead just another unnecessary remake that would appear to add absolutely nothing to the original. With a different screenplay, this could have been an insightful commentary on the direction of humanity and that is really the biggest disappointment of all.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Quantum of Solace Review

Discussing the newest James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace, is almost impossible without discussing that which came before it. The fact that this movie picks up literally moments after the first one ended makes it less a sequel and more an extension of the first movie, an extended coda that follows Bond's path in an attempt to exact revenge on those that were responsible for the events of the first movie. As a result, this is less of a movie that stands on its own and more of one that must be watched in conjunction with "Casino Royale" to fully understand its complexities.

Unlike "Casino Royale", "Quantum of Solace" is less layered and more straightforward from a character perspective. Instead of watching Bond slowly learn to love, only to have it all stripped away from him, his demeanor changes very little throughout the course of this movie. The plot on the other hand is just as involved as the first, alluding to the way corporations can control things by obtaining natural resources as opposed to with powerful violence. I think the story wants to be a little more political than it actually is, but it was nice to see Bond being brought into the 21st century and given 21st century villains.

Given that I've only seen a few Bonds prior to Casino Royale, I'm less inclined to concern myself with who or what Bond is supposed to be, but there was a little hesitance over the way Bond was portrayed in this movie. As I'm sure the comparison is being beaten to death already, I won't go much further than to say Bond has a lot in common with Jason Bourne, only with more style and a little more support. That's not to say this is a bad thing; on the contrary, the fight scenes were extravagant and exciting and there was nary a dull moment throughout the entire 110 minute run time. But there is a certain style about Bond that I believe he should have that, while not completely missing from the film, seemed to be somewhat lacking a bit.

The dynamic between Bond and M, though, was probably the most central relationship throughout. Judi Dench plays M with a very specific concern about Bond and trusts him almost implicitly, even though she disagrees with many of his methods and understands that sometimes she has to make hard decisions that are counter to what Bond is trying to accomplish. There was much more of a connection between these two characters than there was between Bond and either one of the more conventional female companions he had. Granted, the fact that he was still so concentrated on Vesper made it almost impossible for him to connect on any level with another female, so this did make sense from a character standpoint.

On the other hand, the character of Camille (Olga Kurylenko) had a story that sufficiently dovetailed Bond's but I never felt a real connection with her beyond her physical appearance. The performance was good and she was written well enough, but there just seemed to be something lacking overall despite the fact that her presence does mirror Bond's in such a way that it enhances his story somewhat.

Director Marc Forster crafts an intense action movie that truly shows his versatility in what he's able to accomplish. Some complaints have been made about the length of the movie in that it's much too short, but while I would have enjoyed seeing a few more character moments, the movie keeps moving along at a brisk pace with exposition scenes punctuated by exciting action scenes that come together to form a well-balanced, coherent whole.

While the movie is certainly entertaining in its own right, I'd go so far to say that if you haven't watched Casino Royale, preferably recently, then so much of the connection will be lost on you. There's a feeling that this is all one giant movie, split into two parts. As it stands, there is certainly a closure that happens with Quantum of Solace that allows the character of Bond to be explored in new, exciting ways in future installments.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Zack and Miri Make a Porno Review

Despite the fervent cult following that Kevin Smith has acquired in his 15 years of movie-making, financial blockbuster success has seemed to truly elude him. But the possibility exists that with "Zack and Miri" he can attain a level that he has not seen before, if only on the goodwill of Seth Rogen fans. This is not to say that the movie is substandard; on the contrary, the movie is a very funny, interesting look at two life-long friends who enter into a venture that will change the dynamic of their relationship forever.

Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) are two high school friends who live together in Philidelphia. Their problem is that they never seem to have enough money to pay their bills, yet they have no problem purchasing amenities for themselves on their credit cards. After running into a male porn star (Justin Long) at their 10-year high school reunion, and after having the electricity and water shut off in their apartment, the two decide on a plan to make and market a porno movie and distribute it to pay their bills.

The result is one of Kevin Smith's best films to date, but ultimately does not achieve true greatness. The jokes are funny and the cast is top notch (including a hilarious Craig Robinson from the "Office") but it doesn't really do anything new with the genre that hasn't been done before. Yet what it does do it does well. The core of the film is the central relationship between Zack and Miri and what this situation means for them and for their cohabitation.

For the most part, this relationship played out pretty naturally throughout the duration of the movie, but one moment in particular that was used as a turning point in the relationship seemed to have a character act in such a way that is counter to his or her goals. This moment was introduced strictly as a way to create conflict and unfortunately it really knocked the movie down a little for me, if only because at this point it entered into the standard romantic-comedy formula.

Secondly, Zack and Miri are essentially losers who have done nothing with their lives over the last 10 years. Clearly not idiots, they just choose to be lazy and make horrible financial choices. I've seen other references elsewhere about how this is happening because of the financial state of the country, but it seems clear to me that for the majority of their lives they've just made zero effort. This in turn makes it somewhat difficult to sympathise with their situation at the beginning but it's something that's easily gotten over by the end. Overall, petty complaints that are surrounded by an otherwise solid story.

And all of Smith's trademark gross-out jokes are here, including one that I never thought I would see in a movie like this, and probably one of the reasons the NC-17 rating was initially placed on the movie. I believe I can honestly say I've never seen more of a gross-out moment in a mainstream movie than I did in this one.

Fortunately though, it wasn't all disgusting dick-and-fart jokes and much of the humor stems from the characters and who they are with fewer jokes for jokes sake. The laughter is pretty consistant, although it wasn't constant. There were plenty of funny movies this year and the fact that this movie is even able to be on par with some of those other ones is a testament to its quality. The actors really sell their characters, including surprising turns from real-life porn star Katie Morgan who has a few scenes of actual acting that she pulls off rather well that help to propel the story forward.

On my personal list, I'd rank this movie slightly better than Clerks II and just below Chasing Amy in terms of my favorite Kevin Smith movies. These past few years he's really injected a lot more heart into his films, and I believe that it shows. Hopefully others will see it too this weekend so that he finally achieves a true financial success.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Sex Drive Review

No question about it, comedies have come back in full force this year. There have been so many excellent comedies that finding laughter and a solid story is ridiculously easy. That's not to say that there haven't been poor comedies lately. In fact, seeing "How To Lose Friends and Alienate People" shortly after viewing "Sex Drive" made me realize just how bad some comedies can be.

The premise of "Sex Drive" is a relatively simple one, yet the movie is done with such heart that it comes across as rather fresh. Ian (Josh Zuckerman) is a recent high school graduate who can't seem to get rid of his perceived virginity stigma. He's your stereotypical nice guy, always a friend, never anything more. He bends over backwards to help girls, and he gets stepped on. His best friend Lance (Clark Duke) wouldn't seem from his chubby, spectacled exterior to be a ladies man, yet somehow he pulls it off with relative ease. Despite Lance's efforts to help Ian out, Ian just cannot seem to follow through.

In the meantime, Ian has been chatting up "Ms_Tasty" (30 Rock's Katrina Bowden), an online companion to whom he has been presenting himself as a college football player and practicing being a jerk. So after she claims that she'll have sex with him if he drives from Chicago to Knoxville, TN, he packs up his bags and attempts to hit the road with Lance. As it always is in movies such as this, things don't go quite as planned.

What really works is that at the center of this movie, the story is overwhelmingly solid. Sure there are plenty of unbelievable moments, but the characters all react in ways that make sense and are internally consistent. At the same time, the wacky situations are tempered by corresponding sweetness that allows you to be pulled further into the story. The actors especially really work to drive it home, especially Ian's brother Rex, played by the hilarious James Marsden. Marsden hasn't really been in many comedies over the years, normally playing the brooding, serious guy who gets his girlfriend stolen from someone else. But here, he really uses everything that he's given and highlights the film anytime he is on screen. Others, such as Ian's best friend Felicia (Amanda Crew), really help to ground the movie by not allowing all the male stuff to get too out of hand.

The movie follows all the road movie touchstones, including a run-in with a rather knowledgable Amish man named Ezekiel (Seth Green) who helps them along their journey when they run into car trouble. Overall, there are a few elements of predictability that you can see coming from the get-go, which can be seen as a negative. But fortunately the humor quotient is so high that it renders these issues rather pointless.

What is certainly great to see though is story-based comedy that doesn't have gags for the sake of gags but the humor develops from the story. This is the type of teen comedy that will hopefully last for a while and not be the forgettable movie a lot of people are expecting it to be. And if nothing else, see it for the giant donut costume. I sometimes I wish I had one of those. (Okay, all the time.)


Friday, September 26, 2008

"HOW much?!"

Ah, the glory of working at a movie theater. Nothing sticks out in my mind more than the rare times that I would be asked to work at the box office. And inevitably, the question would come up with every few people, "Did the prices go up?" or "This is ridiculous. Way too much." (As they'd hand over their card, as well.) Sometimes the prices had, sometimes they hadn't. Yet, they continued to purchase tickets.

Eventually, though, people stop. Despite the perceived quality of movies being better in 2008 in comparison to 2007, movie attendance is still down 5% according to the Associated Press. But ticket prices continue to rise. What seems to be happening is studios, and by extension individual theaters, are raising prices, and knocking more people out of the ability to see movies. Revenues are similar year-to-year, but attendance is down. Could it be that these rising prices are pricing people out of movies in general? Could it be possible that by keeping prices relatively static, that you would in effect have MORE people coming to see movies? I don't know the answer to that, but if it were me, and I was running the studio, I'd probably want more people to see my movie and have more potential from that customer in the long term, than to get them the one time they go out.

Arguments made when the complaint of expensive movie tickets are brought up over how much more of a value going to the movies is as opposed to going to a sporting event or a concert. Well, yeah, obviously. When you go to a sporting event, whether basketball or baseball or football, whatever, every game is going to be unique. There will never be two games that will be played out in exactly the same way. They are playing live in front of your face. This is an experience that cannot be replicated. Therefore, the barrier to entry is going to be much more expensive.

Movies on the other hand are unique in their own right. They can inspire, elicit emotional reactions, excite, entertain, all of that. But you can replay those effects over and over again. A movie, while often times a dynamic experience, is a static form of entertainment. No matter how many times you go see The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader will always admit to being Luke's father. So of course movies need to be much cheaper. The great thing is that it allows you to see movies again and again. There's always something new to be seen.

And let's not forget the potential of having a ruined experience. Loud patrons, kids running around, poor presentation can all bring something a feeling of rushed excitement to a screeching halt. All things that need to be looked at in the future.

Sure, home theaters, surround sound systems, and high definition televisions are getting closer to recreating that silver screen adventure, but they aren't quite there yet and probably never will be. Nothing compares to having your entire vision engulfed to the point where you find yourself fully immersed in this world placed in front of you.

While movies will probably still continue to go up, along with their delicious counterparts at the concession stand, I hold out hope that one day they will slow up their expedient rises and bring people back to the theater where they can best experience a movie.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Eww! Gross!

What fascinates me these days is the obsession with box office that so many of the mainstream media and followers of film have. The most recent obsession seems to be with people wanting "The Dark Knight" to take down "Titanic" in US grosses. Except it won't. And even if it surpasses that $600 million mark, that means nothing. Since, according to Box Office Mojo, when adjusted for inflation, "The Dark Knight" would currently only be hovering around $340 million in 1997 dollars, and Titanic itself is only number 6 on that list.

The problem with the way film measures success is that the benchmark continuously changes. A platinum selling record is one that sells a million copies. A smash hit television show is in the 10s of millions of viewers. The benchmarks in most other industries is one in units. How many units of this item were sold? And through that, one can figure out a long-term success pattern. But this is not the case for movies. In the many years I've been involved with movies, I have never once seen an amount of tickets sold number. When I have searched them out, I can usually find them, but never are they reported.

But people get so attached to these numbers. Dark Knight breaks the Spider-Man record. Great. So what? Does this inherently mean that one is better than the other? Absolutely not. They are completely different movies. I can think of plenty of movies that made very little at the box office that were still incredibly successful overall. The most prescient example that comes to mind is "The Shawshank Redemption." Currently at or near the top of most "Best Ever" lists, it grossed only $28 million total when it was released in 1994.

I believe that film fans all around should begin to put these numbers behind us, and pay less attention to them. The only reason I want films to make lots of money is so that other films like it will continue to be made. I'm glad The Dark Knight has made so much money, because it secures the franchise in the minds of most executives and they will continue making more Batman films. Beyond that, there is no care for me. I was certainly disappointed to see Speed Racer make so little money overall, as I would have enjoyed seeing sequels to that movie, but its comparitive success or failure has little bearing on whether or not I enjoyed that movie on its own merits. My appreciation for that movie would not be vindicated by a higher box office gross or massive DVD sales because I continue to love it regardless.

And then you have situations like the upcoming "Watchmen." Frankly, it's irrelevant whether or not that movie makes $1 or $1 billion. The movie is made, it cannot be a franchise, and it's done. If it's a good movie (which I expect it will be) then I will certainly be happy to see it succeed if it does. But if it doesn't, and I still enjoy it, it will make little difference to me.

All I want is for studios to continue to make good movies or focus on quality again (I'm looking at you, 20th Century Fox). And maybe, somewhere down the road, we can focus on benchmarking through admissions instead of inflated box office numbers.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Summer 2008 Retrospective

Well, summer is officially over. And as a result, the blockbusters are ushered out and the award movies are brought in.

To say that 2008 was a better summer than 2007 would be a vast understatement. Sure, one could look at the numbers that have been released regarding box office and notice that attendance is actually down year-over-year, but that has more to do with franchising than any respectable amount of quality.

2007 was sincerely my most anticipated movie summer ever. My favorite franchise of all time, Spider-Man was receiving its third installment, while 5 other movies were given 3-quels that summer and a few other run-of-the-mill sequels as well. My excitement was so high going into last May, only to dash all of my hopes as the weeks went on. Spider-Man 3 was a pretty big disappointment overall. Shrek the Third was horrific. Ocean's 13 was less boring then 12, but still a far cry from the fun of 11. The only sequel that truly appeared to surpass its predecessors was The Bourne Ultimatum. Everything else was mildly entertaining at best.

So coming into 2008, I kept my expectations in check. No longer would I allow my expectations for a film overshadow what it is able to deliver. No, this would be a summer where I would attempt to put all those feelings aside and just enjoy movies for what they are.

And I did.

The summer started out with some serious (and some would say very surprising) quality in Iron Man. The perfect embodiment of the role, Robert Downey, Jr. delivered a believable and exciting turn as Tony Stark that also led to the beginning of a larger Marvel Universe. Having Downey make an appearance in The Incredible Hulk was not only a lot of fun, but helped a lot to tie these universes together.

Unfortunately, Hulk did not see the success that Iron Man did, despite many in the internet community seeing it as a welcome upgrade from Ang Lee's 2003 version. Whether or not Universal, and by extension, Marvel Studios, sees it as a success is something unknown to me as its overall box office was not too different from the original.

The following week, my hopes were still high, as I experienced one of my favorite movies of the whole summer, Speed Racer. This was surprisingly one of the most divisive movies of the year, in that a very small minority (myself included) absolutely LOVED this movie, while the vast majority of the critical press panned it as juvenile and much too long. I was holding out hopes for a sequel, but that doesn't seem to be in the cards anytime soon, given its $100+ million price tag and lack of box office overall. I still want this movie to succeed on DVD and will be singing the praises to anyone who will listen.

Narnia was decent, but nothing great, and it was a good holdover until Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Indy 4 was worth seeing strictly on the basis of the fact that it was Indiana Jones and for the first time in my life I was able to see him adventure on the big screen. Since I was a baby when Temple of Doom came out, and only 5 when Last Crusade was released, this was my first (and possibly only) chance to see and hear the excitement for myself. While the actual story I had some serious issues with, it was definitely still worth checking out.

I ended up missing Sex and the City (it wasn't hard for a male to do), but I certainly marveled at the amount of women who went to go see it. I guess never underestimate the potential for a girls' night out.

A few animated movies really stood out from the pack this summer. Kung Fu Panda was a surprisingly solid entry from Dreamworks, who normally seems to rely on pop culture jokes at the expense of story. This time around, they really kept their focus on story first, and the movie was helped tremendously by this. And who could forget Wall-E, perhaps my favorite movie of the year thus far? I'm really hoping to see a Best Picture nomination, but that could just be a pipe dream of mine.

But what this summer was really great for though was comedies. From Pineapple Express, to Step Brothers, to Tropic Thunder, there were so many quality comedies this year that I found it difficult to contain my laughter when just thinking about them afterward. Less successful, but still entertaining, comedies such as Get Smart and You Don't Mess with the Zohan at least offered a few humorous moments. And it pains me to write even the words "The Love Guru." I'll leave it at that.

Overall, this was a different summer. A summer filled with all sorts of different kinds of movies and one that I was able to enjoy much more because I didn't allow myself to get hyped to levels that would only set me up for disappointment. No, I just enjoyed being a movie fan this summer, because it allowed me to spend some good times with friends, having fun discussions, and watching crazy things happen.

So, thanks 2008. And we'll just say that my hopes are even LOWER for 2009's summer, since there really isn't much happening there at all. Except for Transformers 2. I love giant robots.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Ghost Town Review

Ricky Gervais is easily one of the funniest men on the planet. I have never seen something that he has put effort into that has come out poorly. Unless you count "Night at the Museum" in which he was the museum curator. But he was only in it for a few minutes.

Regardless, despite the seemingly tired premise, I was anticipating this movie if only for the chance to see how Gervais fared in carrying a movie all on his own. Fortunately, he succeeds handily in a well constructed movie in its own right.

Gervais plays Burtram Pincus, a dentist in New York City who cares nothing else for the lives of others. Content living his own dissatisfied life, he makes no effort to help others in any way. Yet, after a routine colonoscopy goes awry and he dies on the operating table for 7 minutes, he awakes with the ability to see the ghosts that have yet to cross over. One of these ghosts is Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear), who convinces Pincus to help break up his widow, Gwen's (Tea Leoni) new engagement with Richard (Billy Campbell).

The story seems pretty straightforward from the outset, but writer/director David Koepp provides enough originality to keep you interested. Sure, plenty of the ghost movie cliches are here, but many are delivered with such humor that it becomes rather easy to forgive the lack of originality in these moments. The story also takes a few rather heartfelt turns, but not at the expense of the humor. Underneath it all lies a story of a man who refuses to see the joy that letting other people into his life can bring.

When all is said and done, the movie does not exactly come close to greatness, but is an excellent showcase for Gervais' comedic talents and a step up from Koepp's previous directorial effort, Secret Window with Johnny Depp. Overall, the film is just a well-crafted, somewhat unconventional romantic comedy that succeeds in being both engaging and hilarious throughout the duration of its run time.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Dark Knight Review

Few, if any, movies have been hyped to the degree that The Dark Knight has. After the successful reboot of a series that was languishing in exile after nearly a decade, the deadly serious interpretation of this classic character from Christopher Nolan was just waiting for the sequel everyone knew it was going to get. And after the tragic death of Heath Ledger, things kicked into overdrive with the hyperbolic talk of Oscar nominations and The Joker literally causing Ledger to go insane.

Yet, when walking into the theater last night, I attempted to put all of that aside. Forget the reviews, forget the hype, and forget all the talk about Ledger's interpretation of The Joker. Just enjoy the movie for what it is and accept what is up on screen.

Fortunately, The Dark Knight delivers, but not in the way that some reviewers or fans would have us all believe. The Dark Knight is in fact an incredibly solid movie, a complex morality tale that finds itself wading in shades of gray, where other movies in this genre often take a strictly black and white approach to evil.

The story picks up shortly after the end of Batman Begins. Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) is the new DA, the human face of Gotham who tries desperately to clean up the city in a legal way. He is currently dating Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal, who replaces Katie Holmes), an assistant DA. Meanwhile, The Joker (Heath Ledger) starts a crime wave throughout the city and offers the mob bosses a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rid the world of Batman for good as Batman continues to do his vigilante thing that he does so well.

Much has been said about Ledger's performance as The Joker, and much of it is true. His origins are shrouded in mystery. No one knows anything about him, nor do they have any leads. He is a master of misdirection and offers no real clues as to where he came from. No, he is little more than an insane individual who just relishes in evil. By appearance he seems to be motivated by little else than being Batman's foil, Batman's opposite incarnate. The Joker is equally brilliant as he is mad, hatching incredibly complex plans that often go precisely as he expects them to, regardless of Batman's attempts to stop them. And Ledger plays it with such a ferocity and so calculated that you can just buy it instantly. He is increasingly entertained by carnage and the most disgusting facets of the human experience and that excitement is undoubtedly scary. This is truly the greatest iteration of The Joker to be placed upon screen and frankly, I do not see how it could possibly be duplicated. But whether or not it is Oscar worthy is certainly up for debate. While I would love to see actors nominated for a movie like this, I fear that the only reason the award train is moving so quickly is because of the tragic demise of Ledger. While I certainly cannot think of any other such memorable performances this year, we are only half way through the year and prime awards season does not even start until late fall. So I will reserve my judgment on that for now.

Less has been said, however, about Aaron Eckhart's turn as Harvey Dent. This is a man who exhibits true bravery, who is unrelenting in the face of undeniable evil. He truly believes that Gotham can be a better place and does everything in his power to make that the case. Yet, slowly but surely things begin to change. And, without spoiling anything, Dent's transition from upstanding DA to the villain known as Harvey Two-Face is not only believable, but incredibly compelling. You buy his descent into insanity, if insanity is what you want to call it. To devote so much of your life towards a goal, only to see much of that shattered, well, those are certainly valid reasons to lose one's mind. And not only the character, but the Two-Face effects are incredible. With imagery reminiscent of the animated series, whenever Two-Face is on screen you can't help but be mesmerized by the character.

But that's not to say that other performances are weak. On the contrary, everyone in the entire film delivers solid performances. From Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) to Lt. Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) to even smaller players like the mayor of Gotham (Nestor Carbonell), everyone comes through with compelling conviction.

Bruce Wayne in particular is tormented. While he has become the symbol that Gotham needs, Gotham needs more than he can give. And not only that, he's inspiring people both positively and negatively and doesn't know whether or not it is worth it to continue his journey down this path. There is not a clear cut answer that he can take. If he quits, then things could end up getting worse, but if he continues, then things, again, could also end up getting worse. There doesn't seem to be an easy way out of all of this. But the one strong point, essentially Bruce's moral compass, is Alfred (Michael Caine). Alfred understands what Bruce provides for this city, and Caine plays him with such a history that you understand where he is coming from with the advice that he gives. It is obvious Alfred is more than just a butler and the concern he has for Bruce and for the city delves deep for him.

The complexities of this story and the force with which The Joker delivers on many of the anarchic promises he makes place many of the individuals in this movie in impossible situations. Decisions need to be made for the greater good, but without losing one's soul. Sure, Batman could easily shoot The Joker in the head and be done with it, but that's not what he does. He needs to stay true to himself and resisting that temptation to become the thing he hates the most is a struggle, and it becomes a struggle for all characters with a solid moral center in this movie. The way Nolan explores these themes is not only effective but also a welcome change from a lot of the lighter fare often released during the summer months. Strip away the costumes and the comic book history and at its core, The Dark Knight is a human drama based in the reality we see around us today. How do you fight evil without losing yourself in the process? And are humans as disgusting as The Joker interprets them to be? Questions that do not have easy answers and questions that are explored in many interesting ways in this movie.

Yet, interestingly enough, on a strictly entertainment level, the film doesn't deliver as much as it could. The first hour and a half felt like nearly three hours. I was surprised when I had realized that there was still another hour to go. I was engaged, but not fully entertained by what was placed before me. I found myself zoning out in some parts, but I think much of that is because it goes against your expectations on what a "Batman" movie should be. By taking a different route and only occasionally going the more predictable route (which is pretty close to never), sometimes it does affect the base entertainment value of the movie. Yet, the last hour essentially grabs on and doesn't let up until its over. And what made this even more interesting was the way that the movie took turns that I didn't exactly expect. Not "plot twists" exactly in the Sixth Sense way, but just going in unexpected directions. And as a result, I find myself a little conflicted about where it leaves the characters going into a third movie.

I can easily recommend this movie to just about anyone. The performances alone are worth the price of admission but there is also so much more to it as well. And one thing is for sure, this seems to be a movie that will continue to add layers upon each viewing, so on that note, I can't wait to go see it in IMAX.


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Hancock Review

Will Smith is currently the most bankable star in Hollywood, and with good reason. The man never gives a less-than-entertaining performance. Everything he does, he seemingly does with such conviction that it becomes very easy to accept whatever role he is playing. Smith's charisma just emanates off the screen and it's difficult to think of one time where he, personally, has failed in his attempt.

No, the problem is never Will. The problem lies with something else, and that's precisely the issue that Hancock has. Hancock is a tonally inconsistent mishmash of a movie that presents a number of really great ideas but never actually follows through on any of them.

The story is simple enough. Superhero Hancock (Smith) is drunk and disorderly, but still is committed to stopping bad guys, collateral damage be damned. He doesn't seem to care about the financial toll he takes on his heroics, but is apparently still inspired to attempt heroics in general. When PR executive Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman) is saved by Hancock, Ray makes it his duty to turn around the public's perception of Hancock and make him a true hero for the ages through a series of PR stunts.

A premise such as this is ripe with possibilities. Many people disagree with me, but I've always thought that one of the most fascinating superhero stories would be if Superman just got fed up with trying to help people and stopped giving a damn or attempted to take things into his own hands regarding the world power (in a more dictatorial role than in Superman IV, in which he asks, and everyone enthusiastically complies, in getting rid of all nuclear weapons). Instead, what Hancock delivers is a watered down version of a similar premise that attempts to cram a number of different ideas into a 92 minute run time while giving them very little time to breathe.

That's not to say there isn't some exquisite imagery in a large portion of the movie, because there certainly is. The way director Peter Berg films this movie is slightly reminiscent of the pseudo-documentary style he employs in "Friday Night Lights", which does ground this movie in a sense of realism. His biggest problems are two-fold. First, the tone switches in such a jarring way that it can sometimes pull you out of the movie. When you're expecting certain themes to be explored, only to have them be inexplicably dropped and another is picked up, the movie isn't helped by this. Of course, this could be rectified by a few extra transitional scenes that would exist to string the movie along a more solid focus. Secondly, the way he telegraphs a plot twist is much too obvious. The lingering shots in a scene that doesn't require lingering shots draws you out of the experience and makes you contemplate the nature of these shots instead of allowing the movie to unfold in a more naturalistic way. The twist certainly should have been alluded to in some way, but it was much too obvious from the outset.

John Powell also turns in a questionable score. I've heard his music before, and none of it was this inconsistant. This is certainly not a score I'm going to be seeking out anytime in the future.

If it feels like I'm being too negative on this movie, it shouldn't. I just find it frustrating when you see the skeleton of what could be an amazing superhero movie, only to be let down. What's so great about Hancock was the way that you could essentially create any story for him. There aren't any comic books or TV shows or old movies based upon this character; no, he was a completely unique character with his own mythology. You can go in with no preconceptions at all about who Hancock is or what he is. A true blank slate. Yet, with the exception of a few small monologues, we never really delve into that history. Why does Hancock choose to save people at all? He obviously has some sort of moral compass, a moral center that allows him to see right from wrong on a base level, but beyond the loneliness, what makes him who he is? What drives him at all? I don't necessarily feel that an origin story is necessary, but answers to these questions would have made the movie all the better for it. I can't really get into any more without getting into spoilers, so I suppose I'll stop with those questions here.

On a strictly entertainment level though, Hancock does deliver. Watching Will Smith tear through the streets of LA with a vague idea of what he's planning on doing does have an inherent entertainment value to it all. The banter between Smith and Jason Bateman is hilarious and they both have their own styles of humor that add immensely to the film. There were plenty of truly funny moments delivered by both characters, yet in very unique ways. Bateman once again plays the straight man and he succeeds just about every time. (Where's that Arrested Development movie, anyway?!) Charlize Theron is somewhat of a weaker point in this movie, but it has nothing to do with her performance, since not only is she playing attractive again (FINALLY it seems!) but you can tell she's actually putting effort into this role, depsite its "type" of movie.

Overall, this is a movie that gets by because of the star power of Will Smith. Giving this role to a weaker, less charasmatic actor could have doomed the movie from having any entertainment value at all. But fortunately this was not the case. The movie was absolutely worth seeing, it was just unfortunate that a structure of what could have been is laid out there, but never truly taken advantage of. I find it difficult to really qualify this movie, but I do think it falls somewhere along a continuum, one that doesn't really have a clear cut answer. So I give it a:


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Wall-E Review

I think it's safe to say that Wall-E is, without hyperbole, one of the single greatest films I have ever had the opportunity to witness. Frame by frame, scene by scene, I cannot think of one element that I disliked or felt out of place. Even things that were presented rather uniquely, specifically the way the humans were presented, was shown in such a way that it truly seemed like a natural extension of human progress.

And what is so interesting about all of this is that the movie is simply about holding hands. The central crux of the movie upon which all else is realized is one robot's dream of holding the hand of someone else. That's it. You wouldn't think that it goes deeper than that. Yet, the resulting depth is one that should resonate with any human being regardless of age.

Wall-E is a robot placed on Earth to clean up all the garbage that was left behind after humanity took off on a space cruise, planning to return in 5 years. Wall-E gets through his day with a sense of enthusiasm and excitement rarely seen in any individual human. He's happy to be alive and does his job with the gusto expected of him. A gusto that has apparently served him rather well over the last 700 years. His only friend is a cockroach who exudes more personality than most characters these days. He spends his evenings relaxing in what he calls home, a giant mobile vehicle that is no longer in use, which he has decorated with the various trinkets he's found during his clean up sessions. And he ends his day by watching a video he's found of "Hello, Dolly" and fantasizing about being able to have a connection like that with another individual. Watching him long for this action, this ability to hold the hand of another, is an incredible sight to behold. The innocence of Wall-E, coupled with his unflinching optimism, makes him one of the most endearing characters ever placed upon the silver screen.

And Wall-E's life changes unexpectedly when a probe robot named EVE shows up and could potentially give Wall-E what he's looking for. The changes he goes through after her arrival are hilarious and subsequently heartbreaking. To feel for these characters, despite their perceived inability to speak, is a testament to Pixar and the phenomenal job they have done to create this world that goes beyond expectations.

It's also a testament to the sound design of Ben Burtt, who again creates such memorable sounds in a piece of film history. While Wall-E and EVE speak in languages we don't understand, the way they are able to emote through the sounds they make and through the audible interactions with the rest of the world is nothing short of breathtaking. Adding to the wonderful sound is Thomas Newman's pitch perfect score that heightens the experience greatly while taking nothing away from it.

Honestly, it becomes difficult to fathom anyone who would possibly dislike this movie. They may not agree that it's one of the best ever, but one would have to be a truly cynical person to actively dislike this movie. I can't say at this time whether it will become one of my favorites. I don't think that something needs to be a favorite in order to be praised as an exquisite piece of film making, but it's certainly possible it could be. It's certainly something I want to see again and I urge everyone who reads this to make time. Trust me. It's worth it.

Pixar again knocks another one out of the park, and frankly, it's difficult to understand how they can make it look so easy when every other film studio surely puts out its share of garbage. This is movie making at its finest and an example set for all others. Here we are, nine films into their existence and only one film falls short of greatness and that's Cars. Cars was still an incredibly watchable film, but just not up to the same sort of quality other Pixars movies are. Regardless, I'd still give them a 9 for 9 in terms of solid movies, and an 8 for 9 for excellent movies. Hopefully someone will come along and copy their business model so well so that we never have to suffer through another big budget awful movie ever again. A pipe dream, I know, but a dream I will continue to have. Thank you Pixar.


Wanted Review

There are times when you go into a movie and don't know what to expect, and come out pleasantly surprised and rather excited over what you've just seen. Wanted is that type of movie. The fact is, that if the actors in this did their job, there was no way that it could be any less than entertaining. All the pieces were there. Angelina Jolie, check. James McAvoy, who has proven himself a few times over to be a solid actor, check. And the always dependable Morgan Freeman, who actually utters the line "Shoot this motherfucker!" in the way that only he can, check. These are not elements that add up to a lack of entertainment on a base level. And the result was so much more.

James McAvoy plays Wesley Gibson, a corporate employee who hates his life and is suddenly drawn into the world of international assassins. The story goes that Cross, one of the greatest assassins has gone rogue and begun to pick off members of "The Fraternity", a group of assassins led by Sloan (Morgan Freeman). After Fox (Angelina Jolie) saves Wesley from an attempted assassination by Cross, he begins a training regiment that's torture at best and attempted murder at worst. Yet, this is all to help him control his latent powers; powers that allow him to curve bullets, and a power that apparently his father, who was killed by Cross days earlier, possessed. (All seemingly in an effort to force me to use variations of the word "assassin" more times than I've ever done in the past.)

The biggest issue I had with the movie, strangely enough the same issue I had with Kung Fu Panda, was the nature by which Wesley is drawn into this new life. He hates his life, yet does nothing to change it. The changes are forced upon him. He's not kept by a sense of honor or duty to that which he currently belongs, he's just afraid. The only thing that makes him special is the fact that his father was such a great assassin. This has less to do with him, and more about his genes and I always find it hard to get behind characters who are forced into circumstances beyond their control because of birthright and not by individual choice.

Fortunately, this leads into Wesley taking more of a stand for himself later on in the movie with the knowledge of these new powers, but the initial jumping off point was enough to give me pause.

And the small matter of the way "fate" chooses the targets is a little silly, but I suppose you can judge for yourself on that one.

Beyond that, there wasn't much NOT to like about this movie. An incredible, often downright hilarious visual display that does not hold back at all. Director Timur Bekmambetov puts all his cards on the table and embraces the R-rating to the best of his ability. Bullets fly into (and out of) people with an intensity often only saved for the likes of "Saving Private Ryan". There's an element of "What if Jim from The Office was recruited by Angelina Jolie to assassinate people"?

There's a certain "Matrix" element to it, but drops the pretense of that trilogy to become its own animal. Yet, the story hints at an interesting "Is the grass really greener?" perspective late in the movie, but never really delves into it. While certainly not a deal-breaker by any stretch of the imagination, I think a little more could have been served by taking a closer look at the duality between a "normal" life and an "exciting" life.

Wanted is a movie you just don't see that often anymore. It is a film that revels in what it is, and makes no apologies for it either. An R-rated, all-out action movie that takes special precision with the stunts and effects and draws you into a world where you can truly believe that people can curve bullets. Obviously, the plot is not going to win any awards, but it's definitely an above-average showing that is leaps and bounds above a lot that is called "action movies" these days.

Would this be as successful with different leads? Probably not. The chemistry between the three main characters is what really brings much of this to life. Being unfamiliar with the comic book, I can't say that I think this would be better or worse if they stuck to the original storyline. But what does end up showing up on screen is something that floored me in a way I wasn't expected. Hopefully this movie will become a success and the studios will look more closely at the potential for R-rated action blockbusters utilizing actors with a more serious pedigree. I sure as hell would love to see it and I'm glad that Wanted was the movie to make me feel that way.

Grade: A-

Friday, May 30, 2008

Lost Season Finale: So Where Did It Go Again?

After the mindblowing finale of Season 3, a finale that caused me to lose sleep as my brain was working overdrive, I kept more conservative expectations going into the Season 4 finale. Since really, how could Season 4 even come close to matching the complete "game changer" of a finale last year?

And, fortunately or unfortunately, I was correct. This did not blow my mind in the same way that last year's did and to attempt to compare the two is truly an exercise in futility.

The reason for this is abundantly clear: last year the question was centrally focused on "What Does This Mean?" We didn't know whether the flash-forwards were the last point in the series, whether this was only ONE possible future or a number of different possibilities, how the show was going to be structured in Season 4, what the meaning of the word "present" is. All of these speculations caused people to have months upon months of wondering until we finally got our definitive answer in the form of "The Beginning of the End."

This year, the question is more straight forward. Instead of "What Does This Mean?" it's more of a "What Happens Next?" My personal belief, and this could turn out to be 100% wrong as 100% of my predictions have been in the past, is that off-island is now the present. The crux of next year will be Jack getting the group back together which will finally culminate in them arriving back to the island. In the meantime, our flashbacks will show what led Locke to end up in that coffin. Therefore, in next year's season finale we will presumably see, in flashback, what killed Locke.

Unfortunately, I feel that Michael was rather wasted this year and particularly in this finale. Was he really fully redeemed to the point where it was worth it to finally kill him off? What purpose did he serve staring at the C4 instead of running upstairs with Jin? As it stands, he apparently never even made amends with his son, which was one of the primary reasons for his introduction in Season 1. Granted, as is always the case with Lost, just because you're dead doesn't necessarily mean you're off the show. And Christian Shepherd could certainly attest to that. Speaking of the old Dr. Shepherd, his appearance on the freighter was particularly interesting.

As for Jin, I would stake a week's pay on his being alive. The purpose that his "death" serves is to send Sun into the spiral of vengeance that she appears to be taking in attempting to conspire with Widmore. My concern though is that Sun will turn into her father, making a reunion with Jin somewhat bittersweet. While it will be great to see them together again, in what direction will Sun have gone that might make us root against her somewhat? Jack explicitly stated that "Sun blames me for Jin's death." (Which is slightly inaccurate, since it was kind of Lapidus who refused to go back to the boat, too.)

Season 5 by necessity seems as if it will be a completely different animal if the driving force is returning to the island. Of course, that in and of itself, raises some questions. When Ben says "everyone" has to go back, does that mean Lapidus and Desmond? Aaron? Taking a toddler on a cross country trip is hard enough, try bringing one along to find a mystical island.

Speaking of Desmond, I would have to say that his reunion with Penny was quite possibly the highlight of the finale. To think that this dynamic wasn't even part of the show until the very last episode of Season 2 is very difficult to believe since it resonates so much more than any of the other love stories on the island. The Jack/Sawyer/Kate triangle has been done to death and certainly doesn't seem to be nearing a TRUE resolution anytime soon.

And who would have thought even a year ago that they were going to TELEPORT THE ISLAND. Which is kind of a downer for Faraday and his band of merry meat socks floatin' away on the ocean. Yet, I'm sure we haven't seen the last of him. How far we've come from "Where are we going to find water?" to "How exactly does one move an entire isalnd?" The curious thing is where exactly did it go? And how can it get found again? Once again...more questions.

While I'm certainly looking forward to the Season 5 premiere, it's not the same sort of anticipation that I had last year, and really, how could it? Even so, Lost still excels at being one of the most quality shows on television and I certainly cannot wait until February to see what direction we will be taken next.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Review

I must admit to the fact that I have never seen Indiana Jones on the big screen until now. Born in 1984, the year that Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was released, the only opportunity I would have had would have been The Last Crusade five years later. And it wasn't exactly my parent's predilection at the time to take a 5 year old to a PG-13 movie.

Yet, that's not to say that I wasn't fond of Indy growing up. In fact, I was a HUGE fan of Temple of Doom, since it was on all the time when I was younger. Strangely, I didn't even end up seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark until my teen years because I was biased against the movie. First, there was the fact that it didn't have "Indiana Jones and the" in front of it. Secondly, I thought they were talking about Noah's Ark. And I didn't want to see a movie about Noah's Ark. (I ended up seeing one years later called "Evan Almighty." And it was crap.)

But throughout the years, I have become a bigger and bigger fan of Indiana Jones. Because really, what creature with a Y chromosome wouldn't want to be him? I certainly can't think of any.

Which is what makes this review so difficult to write. There is so much great about "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" but at the same time there is also so much that takes away from it.

Make no mistake about it, Indiana Jones is back. His wit, his abilities, his tenacity are all on full display for the world to see and being given the opportunity to experience this character on a 100 foot screen was rather thrilling.

The problems exist mainly regarding the plot. So many points in the movie, the momentum would stop dead in its tracks in order to explain what was happening and why. This overly complicated plot regarding what may or may not be aliens was distracting and didn't serve the movie very well. Maybe I'm misremembering, but the previous movies didn't have such convoluted plots. Although, I suppose the familiarity with the previous plots could have to do with the numerous times I've seen the movies throughout the years. Or at least when it was exposition time in the earlier films, it didn't feel so forced and unnatural.

Especially with the introduction of Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf). While I understand the reasons for Mutt's presence, the fact he is even there seems rather strange. He only serves to reintroduce Marion to the story who, while great to see return, seems like she was shoehorned into the story for little reason other than to see Marion back and to provide Indy with a sidekick. I don't have any issue with Shia LaBeouf on the whole, and have enjoyed him in other movies like "Disturbia", but here he feels out of place. Also a scene with him in the jungle with some monkeys is literally laugh-out-loud ludicrous. I mean, I know this is Indiana Jones and all, but that's just another moment when I'm immediately drawn out of the movie. And I'm not even going to get started with how dumb the monkey-men or spider-men were and what the hell they were even doing in this movie.

And as a last negative, the big finale and the events leading up to it do not fully seem to make much sense. The events that take place at the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull are ambiguous at best and nonsensical at worst. Maybe the whys and hows of it all will be better explained upon future viewings, but the results of the actions of the characters seem to be at odds with what the Crystal Skulls were apparently supposed to stand for.

If it seems I'm being overly negative, I'm not. The action is very cool and, with signature Spielberg style, is thoroughly entertaining and never boring. There were moments in this film that despite knowing that Indiana is going to survive, I felt real dread over what could potentially happen to him. The opening scene in Area 51 especially really felt like a return to form for the old archeologist. When the "Raider's March" kicks into high gear as Indy is doing his thing, you can't help but be filled with a childlike glee at the entire experience on screen. Even just that would have been enough to justify going to see this movie, but fortunately there was much more.

The character moments, when they weren't sitting around being conduits for exposition, were great. In fact, a huge complaint I have is that there was too much time explaining the plot and not enough time for character. More bickering between Marion and Indy would have been great, as would more reactions to various plot twists that exist throughout the movie. Certain moments seem to be accepted far too easily and there's no real struggle in that acceptance when one might expect there would be.

Ben Burtt's sound design is once again on full display with the over the top punches and whipcracks that seem to be unique to Indiana Jones. The sound effects are especially great and draw you in even more. But John Williams' new score seems to be a bit of a mixed bag. Much like the movie, it is sufficient but nowhere near the greatness of either the Raiders score or my personal favorite, The Last Crusade. I enjoy the new themes that were written but none seem to lend themselves to the emotional gravitas that existed in prior incarnations. The old themes were great as ever, especially the little nods here and there to the previous films, and I could certainly listen to those over and over again.

Make no mistake about it: this is a fun movie that's worth seeing more than once, if just to see Indiana Jones back in action one more time. The problem is that while it is in the same vein as its predecessors, the script is along a different track that prevents it from achieving true greatness. And if the rumors are true that they're setting up Shia LaBeouf for his own series, then I'll be incredibly annoyed by this. I can't say that I wouldn't see it (I see pretty much everything), but I think Harrison Ford IS Indiana Jones, and to attempt to replace him would be a tragedy.

Some people might be making the case that in today's movie-going environment, Indiana Jones has no place. But I would certainly argue with that. Indiana Jones is the everyman. You feel like you could put on that fedora and whip and become him, exploring the outer reaches of the world and getting into all sorts of adventures. Despite a few small missteps, Indy has most certainly returned and I have to say that I'm rather happy about it.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Movies in the 21st Century

The world of cinema has entered a totally new world in these last few years, particularly since the dawn of the internet. Now, I personally haven't been a fan of movies, at least like I am now, for my entire life. In fact, working at a movie theater for six years probably had quite a bit to do with my exponential interest in the workings of the world of the silver screen. But growing up in this time certainly has many pros and cons. Unfortunately, I will be looking at this issue through my admittedly narrow experience, given that I am only 24 years old and rarely experienced movies in the same way that many of those did before my time. So any input from those who have different perspectives would be highly appreciated.

The multiplex is now the preferred method of cinema delivery. Gone are the days of Drive-Ins and small, independent theaters with only one or two screens. Any less than 10 screens is seen to be exceedingly small and is rather rare these days. The intimate experience of going to the movies is now being somewhat diluted by this overwhelming sensory overload. The memories that people have of going to the movies is assuredly different than it must have been in the past.

This, unfortunately, leads to an increasing lack of control on the part of theater management. How is it possible to rodeo dozens of teenagers who seem to be everywhere at once? People who are disrupting the movie for others are becoming insanely difficult to track down and proof of wrongdoing on the part of the perpetrators can be nearly impossible to come by. Couple this with skyrocketing prices (a topic that will be exploited in a future entry) and one can only see why attendance is dropping so dramatically. Box office gurus continue to tout financial numbers like they are all that matter. "$100 Million in its first weekend! $300 million overall!" Yes, but how many people actually went to see these movies? How many people were you able to reach with them? These LEGITIMATE questions appear to be lost in the shuffle of the overwhelming "more is more" policy that Hollywood, and by extension theater exhibitors, seem to have these days.

That policy also extends to the marketing of movies. The way trailers are cut today, I cannot fathom them being cut the same way 20-30 years ago. With so many competing forms of entertainment out there ranging from just web browsing to video games, there seems to be the attitude that so much needs to be shown from the movies to get people interested. The downside is that it lessens the impact of the movie itself. Last year, essentially the entire plot of Spider-Man 3 was given away before the credits even began to roll. Multiple trailers, an 8-minute sequence given out a month before opening, TV spots, all led to a digestible version of the movie to the point where one did not even have to go see it to understand what was going to happen. I understand that anticipation needs to be built, but sometimes you give away too much. So many movies are guilty of this these days, I don't even know where I'd begin to start. (I guess I started with Spider-Man 3, a sub-par Spider-Man movie and a slightly above average action movie, and this is coming from a HUGE Spider-Man fan.)

Of course, not all is bad in this new world of cinema. When an event movie arrives, you are pretty much guaranteed to be able to go to the theater and catch it within a day or so. Gone are the days when people would have to line up seemingly weeks in advance in order to catch a glimpse of the new Star Wars movie. The saturation of theaters has gotten to a point where that isn't necessary. A Star Wars-caliber movie would have a showing almost every half-hour to avoid totally selling out. Granted, some may argue that this lessens the communal nature of movie-going but I think all would agree that it's nice to be able to see what you want when you want. The downside is that it gives crap movies almost an equal chance at success, therefore unintentionally raising the perceived quality of said movies. This could be a symptom throughout movie history though, since I have not researched the success of bad movies in the past.

The internet is also turning into a cesspool of leaks and spoilers and prejudgments on non-finished products. A piece of concept art could be released about a project and suddenly the internet comes out and jumps all over it. This in turn gives the impression that the entire world is against whatever it might be, when in fact I would argue that a tiny percentage of the movie-going public is active on the internet. But with the instant nature of the internet, the ending of a movie could get out, and suddenly it's available to anyone with a search engine. People could come across is accidentally and have the whole experience ruined for them. Granted, I'm sure that is a rare situation, but the fact is that it exists and it can be rather harmful.

On the other hand, the internet has so many wonderful things these days. The ubiquity of internet video and therefore trailers has allowed anyone to be able to find out about the newest movies. No longer do people have to wait in line for a movie they didn't want to see just to find out if a trailer to an anticipated movie will be on it. Just log on and check it out yourself. And for free. The access is unprecedented and I'm sure allows for some movies that wouldn't otherwise be seen to be given a chance at success that it otherwise would not have had.

Yet, when all is said and done, would I rather live now or then? If you take away DVDs and home theaters and the financial issues, and judge movie theaters on their merits between now and then alone, it becomes a difficult decision. Ultimately, I would probably say now because of the ability to see movies on my own schedule, but certain upsides to movie experiences from the past certainly hold water. The thing is, I think we can get to a place now where it becomes more enjoyable for everyone. It will just take a little hard work and some dedication. It's too bad I'm not in a position to help make that happen. Yet.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Forbidden Kingdom Review

The movie that so many martial arts fans have been waiting to see, a showdown between Jet Li and Jackie Chan has finally arrived. Unfortunately, it has arrived in the form of a slightly better than mediocre movie aimed mostly at the younger crowd.

The movie starts as Jason (Michael Angarano) wakes up and visits a DVD/Pawn Shop in the Chinatown section of Boston to purchase some of his favorite kung fu movies. The shop is run by Jackie Chan in old person's make up and if you thought that Chan was difficult to understand before through his accent, just wait until you try and hear him through his accent and "old man" voice.

(On a completely unrelated side note, I found it odd that Jason has a Sega Dreamcast and an old Nintendo 64 box set up in his room. Especially the box. Is it really worth saving 10 years later? You might say that it's set in the past, but an Xbox 360 shows up in the Old Man's pawn shop.)

Anyway, Jason is riding his bike home when some girls stop him and ask him what he's doing. He talks to them for a second, when out of nowhere, some bullies show up and see that he buys things at a shop in Chinatown. Of course, to them this means that the place will be easy to rob. (???) Things escalate out of control when the main bully SHOOTS JACKIE CHAN and then plans on shooting Jason until the mystical staff that Jason picked up in the pawn shop drags him off the roof of the building and transports him to ancient China. Immediately this takes me out of the movie, as I cannot stand movie bullies who inexplicably escalate things to realms that would never happen in reality. I understand that bullies in the real world exist, but not like this. Fortunately, the movie becomes more entertaining once they enter ancient China.

What follows is a movie that's one part "Back to the Future Part III" (or Ninja Turtles III, depending on your perspective), two parts Lord of the Rings, and two parts Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. (That's 5 parts for those of you who are keeping track.)

Jason is then tasked by Jackie Chan to take the staff to the Warlord's castle and release the imprisoned "Monkey King" (Jet Li) in order to get home. Along the way they pick up a monk (Jet Li, again) and a young woman named Sparrow. The problem is that you really never get a sense of any sort of danger or sense of foreboding, despite the attempts to highlight the story of Sparrow, who is seeking vengeance against the warlord for killing her parents. Oh yeah, she also inexplicably only speaks about herself in the second person.

Nor do you fully understand why Jason is so anxious to get home. He doesn't seem like he has any friends and his only excitement in life is watching old Kung Fu movies. There's also the fact that the last time he was conscious in his world, someone was holding a gun to his head and he was falling off a building. Personally, I don't know if I'd necessarily want to go back to that. But I guess that's just me.

The fight scenes are pretty good and show themselves to be entertaining enough, especially between Jet Li and Jackie Chan, but the reasons for which they all fight never really rise above mediocre.

Coupled with the fact that some of the bad guys make INCREDIBLY stupid decisions given the prospect of a "prophecy", the movie can't shake its failures despite the attempts to rise above these inherent shortcomings. The movie reads almost like a cliff's notes to an Asian "Lord of the Rings" (minus the mystical creatures) and in fact certain imagery looks almost like it was taken straight from the film trilogy.

Yet, despite it all, "The Forbidden Kingdom" does prove itself to be an entertaining way to spend two hours if there is nothing else to do. I can applaud what they were trying to accomplish but unfortunately the whole is worth less than the sum of its parts


Forgetting Sarah Marshall Review

We are getting to a point with comedies where the idea that whatever Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, Superbad) produces is supposedly comedic gold. Unfortunately, the last two Apatow produced movies (Walk Hard and Drillbit Taylor) did not exactly live up to his high pedigree. Fortunately, Forgetting Sarah Marshall corrects that pattern and puts things back on the right path.

Written by star Jason Segel (of TV's How I Met Your Mother, possibly the best sitcom on TV today) and directed by first time director Nicholas Stoller, "Sarah Marshall" is an incredibly hilarious look at people's motivations within relationships that really takes the opportunity to give all the characters a chance to explain themselves.

By now I am sure most people have heard of the basic premise of the story. Peter Bretter (Segel), a composer who does music for his girlfriend Sarah Marshall's (Kristen Bell) TV show "Crime Scene: Scene of the Crime" gets dumped (while naked). In an attempt to get away from it all, he goes to a resort in Hawaii that Sarah once mentioned to him. Of course, as luck would have it, she is there with her new rockstar boyfriend Aldous Snow (Russell Brand). And, because no comedy would be complete without a new love interest, Peter develops a crush on the front desk girl Rachel (Mila Kunis).

What really makes this movie great is the way that it doesn't demonize anyone. Every character, whether it be Sarah or Peter or Rachel, all have issues within their lives that need to be dealt with. In many romantic comedies, the person who does the dumping is not really given a second glance and the blame is often squarely put on them. Unlike those, without giving anything away, you find that the real reason for the split is much more complicated than a woman who just wants to move up in the world. Looking at the characters as people with flaws and imperfections certainly helps to make the movie relatable in ways it might otherwise not have been.

A small issue with the movie is that it isn't as funny as Knocked Up or Superbad. This shouldn't be construed as a complaint though, as the laughs are consistent and don't really cease for the duration. The problem is that while I found myself laughing out loud, they never reached the complete hilarity of those other movies. Only once did I find myself laughing uncontrollably, which happened a few times in those other films. Yet, in comparison to the majority of the movies that pass for comedies today, this is infinitely better. I do feel somewhat bad for Jason Segel though, as he shows his penis numerous times yet it never really comes off as that funny, except for at the very end. Funny how the only time naked dudes are really ever used is for humorous effect. Naked women are usually shown so that people can see naked women. (I don't buy the whole "It makes sense for the scene" crap.)

On its own merits, without comparison to other movies within the genre, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is very funny and provides an experience that not only delivers minute-for-minute hilarity, but also crafts an engaging story. One more final complaint is that the end somewhat begins to head down the track of predictability, somewhat lessening the effect of the rest of the movie, but I wouldn't find it to be too much or a complaint, nor something that ruins the experience in the slightest.

As a final note, I have to mention that while Mila Kunis has always been hot, in this movie she's pretty much off the charts. Not to take away from the hotness of Kristen Bell, of course. I don't know whether it's movie magic or what the situation is with her in this movie, but I think we can all agree that Macauley Culkin is a lucky man. Yeah, I don't know how that happened, either.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Oscar Live Updates

So for the first time in 7 years, I'm currently watching the Oscars alone without anything fun surrounding it. I suppose that means that it is up to me to make this as exciting as I possibly can for myself. What that means? I don't know. I figure I should write about it.

I just got done watching the Barbara Walter special. I cannot wait for the new Indiana Jones movie. It's going to be some awesome stuff. Although they really should put Hannah Montana in it, you know, to get the tween set. Hell yes. Ok, maybe not. I really hate Hannah Montana (although I'm sure that Miley Cyrus is a lovely person). The show literally makes me want to gouge my eyes out.

So I've seen 26 of the nominated movies. I would have seen more if I didn't live in South Carolina where it's impossible to see them all.

The Oscar red carpet has officially started. I could care less about this stuff. I don't care what they're wearing. One of the reasons I'm almost embarrassed to watch the Oscars is because they're often considered the Super Bowl for women. But I'm not a woman. And I don't want to be a woman. Also, I'm not gay. But I love the movies. Which is why I'm writing this. Heck yes.

What's Regis doing here? That guy seriously seems like he never has any idea what's going on. He's out of control. I think it's time to away Regis. To where? I'm not sure.

These women who interview the celebrities are kind of idiots it seem like. They talk to them like they're friends. Something tells me they're not friends. This random lady doesn't hang out with John Travolta. Unless Travolta is trying to trick people into getting into Scientology. Scary fake religion.

Why are they asking Javier Bardem about his stupid haircut in No Country for Old Men? Isn't it time to put that away? Let's move on.

Oh god, why is Hannah Montana at the Oscars? I wish she would fight Regis. Fight him! That would be awesome. Regis vs. Hannah Montana. They could move that over to Pay-Per-View and I'd definitely check it out.

Oh boy, here come the chick commercials. Although I had no idea I would be watching a dog food commercial for chicks. Surprising.

I don't know if I should make any predictions. In recent years I've actually been pretty good with my predictions. I'll make them just before they announce, and you'll just have to trust that I'm being honest.

Yes! Jennifer Garner is being interviewed! At one point I was going to marry her, and then she went and had a baby with Ben Affleck. What a jerk. Man, I miss the days of Alias when she would come into my home...and to my heart every week. Goodbye, Jen. Goodbye.

Why is Regis pretending he cares about Helen Mirren's dress? He doesn't care. Helen Mirren just said that she is running a whorehouse. I'm a little concerned about that.

Now, Daniel Day-Lewis is being interviewed. He's such a weird guy. But he was awesome in "There Will Be Blood".

Amy Adams has popped up. I think I'm going to make her my new future wife. She doesn't know that yet. Is that creepy?

I think that Access Hollywood is one of the worst programs ever. Let's talk about being so over-the-top that everyone seems insane. Which is totally awesome.

Ellen Page is cool. I hope people ask her why Juno is so accessible! Again. And again.

They have now asked Hilary Swank about how she chooses her roles. Why doesn't anyone ask how people choose their rolls? Personally, I'm a huge fan of the brown-n-serves, but crescent rolls are nice too.

It's kind of exciting that I was in the Kodak Theater less than a year ago. But I suppose if I actually lived out there, it wouldn't be that cool. We Middle America people think that so much is cool that totally is NOT cool.

The Oscars BEGIN. That's cool. The Terminator is delivering the statues. I suppose if you're gonna trust someone with them, there's no better person to trust than The Terminator.

Here comes Jon Stewart. I think he's a funny guy, but we'll see how he does here.

So far so good. I don't really have much to say about it so far. Although I think the haircut jokes need to end from No Country For Old Men, as I stated before.

Does anyone still care about Dennis Hopper? Oh, that's part of the joke. Interesting.

The opening monologue was pretty decent. Didn't blow me away, but entertaining nonetheless.

Ah, here comes my former future wife, looking radiant as always.

I gotta go with Sweeney Todd for this one.

PREDICTION: Sweeney Todd

WINNER: Elizabeth: The Golden Age got it. One of the dullest movies I've seen in years. But that's cool. I guess the costumes were decent in the movie. I suppose I was so bored with the ACTUAL movie that I forgot that the costumes were cool looking. But whatever.

As if there needed to be more evidence of the chick laced problem this show has, a commercial for diet coke. Ladies love their diet coke. (Although recent research suggest that it might be making you fat.)

Clooney's up on stage. You gotta love the Clooney. But you don't gotta love an 80 year retrospective.

I do love the classic music they got going on, though.

Aw, I miss the Celine Dion. That was like the anthem of my 8th grade year. "My Heart Will Go On". My life HAS gone on. Even though my boat sank.

Steve Carrell and Anne Hathaway have arrived. I'm actually pretty pumped for the Get Smart movie. I liked Get Smart. Let's hope that this is going to be a good one too. And wow, Anne Hathaway is pale.

Ratatouille better win this one. Even though I didn't see Persepolis. How do you not love little rats? Little rats COOKING! And Surf's Up was lame. So it's got no chance.
PREDICTION: Ratatouille

WINNER: Ratatouille. It's good to see Brad Bird getting awards. But his story about his guidance counselor didn't seem to be necessary.


I gotta go with Pirates of the Caribbean. It was some good stuff, even though La Vie En Rose was good.

PREDICTION: Pirates of the Caribbean

WINNER: La Vie En Rose. Ok, I can see how that would get it. Wow. I am not doing too good with my predictions so far. One of three is pretty weak. I should have thought about this more. La Vie makes more sense than Pirates. Man, I feel foolish. Give these people more time!

Oh, my newest future wife is on screen. Soon, my love. Soon we will be together. On a side note: I loved Enchanted. And I'm totally hetero. But I'm not the biggest fan of that song. I think the other one from Enchanted is better. I wouldn't vote for "The Happy Working Song".

Well, we're a half hour into the ceremony and we've done a total of three awards. Wow. We're really flying. Or not.

You really gotta love Mastercard commercials that make fun of people with lazy eyes. Really freaking professional.

If they ever make a movie of Barack Obama's life, I think The Rock should play him.

The Golden Compass was trash of a movie, but the effects were decent. Pirates was good too. But if Transformers doesn't take this home, I'll be really surprised. Those giant robots looked REAL!

PREDICTION: Transformers
WINNER: The Golden Compass. Unbelievable. 1 for 4. This is my worst Oscar year ever. What about the GIANT ROBOTS?! This is ridiculous.

I think Atonement is going to take this one. It was just a beautiful movie. Although Sweeney Todd could upset it. That was also an incredible looking movie.

WINNER: Sweeney Todd. See? Why didn't I just pick that one? Dammit. 1 for 5 now. I'm doing terrible.

Javier Bardem is definitely going to take this one for No Country for Old Men. He has to. Unless Hal Holbrook serves as a spoiler for this one. But Javier's going to take it. I say that like he's my friend. He's not my friend. I don't even know him.

PREDICTION: Javier Bardem
WINNER: Javier Bardem. THANK YOU! Finally. 2 for 6. Good to know I'm not completely useless. Although no one is going to read this anyway. I thought that I was going to be a complete failure tonight. But I'm not. Awesome.

I'm coming to the conclusion that nobody is going to read this. At all. I don't know why I'm even bothering. Maybe I'm doing it for me. Maybe I'm doing it for you. Maybe I'm doing it for the future of America.

Oh, an August Rush song. Didn't see it, didn't care to. Wait, I didn't know there were black people in that movie. It looked like lots of white people in the trailer. learn something new every day.

I haven't seen any of these, so it's going to be nothing but a guess for me. So I'm gonna guess:

PREDICTION: The Mozart of Pickpockets

WINNER: The Mozart of Pickpockets. YES! Another one! Maybe I'm coming back. Maybe it's happening. A mounting comeback.

Another one I didn't have the opportunity to see.

PREDICTION: Peter and the Wolf. Just because I like Wolves.

WINNER: Peter and the Wolf. I'm turning this around people. Whoo hoo! 4 for 8. Back to 50%.

I need to win myself an Oscar. I suppose I'd actually have to get involved with movies in some way.

I gotta go with Amy Ryan in Gone Baby Gone. That was some good stuff. Cate Blanchett probably would get it if she didn't get it 3 years ago for the Aviator. Although talk about gender confusion. Ruby Dee was barely in American Gangster. Good, but not enough to give her an award for it.


WINNER: Tilda Swinton? She would have been my #5 choice. Wow. Totally did not see that one coming. There goes my streak. Down the hole it goes.

"The always fantastic Jessica Alba." My ass. Fantastic sometimes. Not always, though. Not always at all.

Here we go. Still surprised that Transformers didn't get nominated here, but whatever. Can't win them all.

PREDICTION: Joel and Ethan Coen for No Country for Old Men

WINNER: Joel and Ethan Coen! Whoo hoo! Good stuff guys, good stuff.

I'm kinda winding down here. I think I'm pretty much just going to write my predictions followed by the winners. 5 for 10 now. Back to 50%. Again.

I love "That's How You Know" from Enchanted. I hope this one wins.


PREDICTION: Transformers

WINNER: The Bourne Ultimatum. Dammit. I'm a loser again. Does NO ONE know how to give Transformers some love? They're ROBOTS IN DISGUISE!


PREDICTION: Ratatouille

WINNER: The Bourne Ultimatum. Again. Son of a bitch. Why didn't I pick Bourne? I'm a loser. :-(

5 for 12.


PREDICTION: Marion Coutillard.

WINNER: Marion Coutillard. BOO YA! Yay for attractive French women.

6 for 13. All hope is not lost for Sean. I liked her speech too. Short, succinct, to the point, no idea what she's talking about it. All good stuff.

Yes, they're playing Wii! That's that kind of Oscars I like to see.

I didn't see "Once" but apparently people love it. I didn't see it. I'm sure this song will win even though I want "That's How She Knows" to win.

Are they seriously going to show every best picture winner ever? It certainly looks like it. Can't say I've seen all of these. Or most of them for that matter. A few of the more lasting onces I have.


PREDICTION: The Bourne Ultimatum. I screwed myself earlier not going with this movie, but we'll see what happens.

WINNER: The Bourne Ultimatum. YES! Good job not going back on your instinct, boy. A winner is me! 7 for 14. I'm floating right around 50% here. That's a struggle. I'm normally closer to 80%.


PREDICTION: The Counterfeiters

WINNER: The Counterfeiters! Whoo! Good guess Sean! Excellent guess! 8 for 15. This puts me over the 50% mark! I love it.


PREDICTION: "Falling Slowly" from Once

WINNER: "Falling Slowly". Of course. Stupid Once. Where's the Enchanted love? Where is it, I say? But I knew this was going to happen. Good job on the cheap movie, though I guess.

Now at 9 for 16.


PREDICTION: Atonement. How you overlook that 5 minute tracking shot to me would be unbelievable.

WINNER: There Will Be Blood. Yeah, definitely wrong. Ouch. I'm a loser.

9 for 17.


PREDICTION: Atonement.

WINNER: Atonement. It was the damn typewriter songs that did it. But I was hoping for Ratatouille by Giacchino, just because I'm a huge fan.

10 for 18.



WINNER: Freeheld.

Eh, I didn't see these anyway. I wish I was a better guesser sometimes.

10 for 19.


You know what? My mind says Sicko, but something tells me that it's not going to do it.


WINNER: Taxi to the Dark Side

Well, at least I wasn't wrong about Sicko.

10 for 20. Back to 50%.


PREDICTION: Juno. I don't know why. But I am guessing Juno. It's just too trendy to NOT guess.

WINNER: Juno. Rock on.

11 for 21.


PREDICTION: Daniel Day-Lewis. I don't even know why they bother going through the motions with this one. We already know who the winner is.

WINNER: Daniel Day-Lewis. Wow. What a surprise.

12 for 22.


PREDICTION: Coen Brothers

WINNER: Coen Brothers

13 for 23.


Here it is. Coming up. Now who am I going to pick?

PREDICTION: No Country for Old Men. It's been getting so much love tonight as it is.

WINNER: No Country for Old Men!

And my final tally is 14 for 24. Not too bad. Not my best showing, but decent. At least I'm over 50%.

Well, there it is. I'm sure no one will ever read this. Ever. But I have it for my own personal future. Awesome. Ok, well, that's it. Good night.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Lost Season Four Premiere: "The Beginning of the End" Review

In some ways, I feel like a bit of a crack addict who has been clean for 8 months and has suddenly found himself back in the midst of the world of delicious, glorious crack.

I have always been a huge fan of Lost since Day 1. What has differentiated me from many fans is the way that I have allowed patience to come over me, to help me stay steadfast through the times that may have been somewhat iffy. The reason being is that I always felt like we were on the same track. Some shows, like "Heroes", seem to jump between tracks, never allowing you to fully understand where they are going or things happen that defy the internal logic of the show already set forth.

So, while Lost may have had some relatively boring episodes, they never contradicted their prior nature, never seemed to stray too far from their course. The train was moving slow, but it was still moving.

Then, in season 3, after a stall that probably left quite a few people pissed off at a railroad crossing, Lost picked up steam on its return in February 2007 and continued moving faster and faster until its lighting speed finale "Through the Looking Glass." This two hour event, which, in my mind is the best two hours of television I had ever witnessed caused me an immeasurable amount of brain functioning trying to process the glorious finale. Critics and audiences alike were crying out that Lost had returned to form. The only problem now is that the new shortened season schedule meant that there were 8 months between the season finale and the season premiere.

In that time I would have to say that I was learning to live without Lost. No longer did it dominate my thoughts. I distantly longed for its return but was at peace with myself without it. And returns.

But on to tonight's episode.

"The Beginning of the End" picks up on the island immediately where it left off. They had just contacted Naomi's freighter and were awaiting rescue. Except not everyone will be rescued. Hurley reveals in a flash-forward that only 6 people were saved from the island. We know three: Jack, Kate, and Hurley. The other three? Still unknown. And this episode doesn't really give us any clues as to who the other three will be.

The repercussions of Charlie's death are felt in very poignant ways that absolutely are not expected. It almost feels like the island is able to contact people after they remove themselves from the island, because how else would it be possible for an obviously dead Charlie to reveal himself to Hurley in an attempt to convince him to return to the island he left behind. Back on the island, Charlie's death moves Hurley to respect Charlie's final warning: that these people who are supposedly everyone's saviors are not who they say they are. Claire, also not wanting Charlie to have died in vain, listens to these pleas and other members of the camp begin to separate into Jack's rescue group and Locke's survival group.

Jorge Garcia as Hurley delivers an incredible performance that runs the gamut from complete despair to possibly insanity to utter joy in an intense 43 minute period. Given that this was his flash-forward this week, a lot was riding on him to maintain the momentum and he certainly delivered.

Ben, in the short screen time that he has, delivers some of the most hilarious moments of the entire episode. Despite his creepy and manipulative nature, seems more and more to be the only one who really knows what is going on with the island. Why he doesn't just share his wealth of knowledge with everyone, I can't really say. But it is obviously up there.

And there was a quick flash of Christian Shephard sitting in what appeared to be Jacob's chair as Hurley was losing his mind in the jungle. Whether or not this was actually Jacob remains to be seen, but it was definitely a nice TiVo moment that people will be speculating about for weeks to come? Me, I think it shows that Christian Shephard has something to do very involved with this island (especially after viewing the final "Missing Pieces" mobisode on, but I think it would be too obvious for him to be Jacob.

The biggest problem with the episode is that it does not match the same pace and intensity that "Through the Looking Glass" had. But how could one expect it to since the season 3 finale was such a game-changer in a way the very next episode could not possibly be?

Yet, the way this episode lays itself out offers a promising look at the way the rest of the season will play out. I liken this episode to Chapter One of a (supposed-to-be) 16 chapter book. It lays down the guidelines as to what to expect for the duration of the season. There are a few excellent moments and some rather humdrum ones as well, but almost all of the information is valuable. Looking back, season 1 began with the survivors surviving. You could almost subtitle season 1 "Survival" or "Exploration". Season 2 was obviously "The Hatch". Season 3, since it started out in the barracks with Juliette listening to "Downtown" was the season of "The Others". This seems to be the season of "The Freighter" or possibly "The Rescue." I think the latter will ultimately turn out to be the more accurate of the two, but regardless, both are obviously going to be the focus of this new season.

And on top of all that, there is so much more riding on the writers than there was before. Now, things in flash-forwards and present day island stuff needs to be able to be connected in more intricate ways than was necessary in flashbacks. Yet, I see this as an opportunity to prove to the audience that the tiles are falling into place, that the show is inexorably moving towards a conclusion that will surprise us all. And there is no more fitting title for that momentum than "The Beginning of the End."

There was a lot to like in this episode and little to dislike. Yet, I wouldn't necessarily call it one of the best episodes of Lost ever, but a solid opening episode, a peek through the door of the house of this new season. Next week will hopefully be the week where we finally step inside and experience the overall situation in a much more dramatic way, but I definitely cannot do too much complaining about this episode.