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Thursday, March 23, 2006

V for Vendetta 

After hearing so much negative buzz about this movie for its supposed glorification of terrorism, I must admit to being slightly bewildered by this attitude toward the film now that I have seen it for myself. I don't recall that the hero of the movie, V (Hugo Weaving), ever targets civilians, and furthermore he fights against a ruthless Nazi-like dictatorship set in the future. The viewer does not want the citizens of this future England to remain enslaved to their government, so V is an exceptionally easy character for whom to root in his struggle to restore freedom throughout the galaxy... or just England for the time being. This was easily one of the best movies I have seen in a while, with its amazing but understated special effects, consistently engaging plot, wonderful acting on all counts, and exceptionally well-written dialogue. While the movie was just over 2 hours long, I was keenly interested in everything that happened for literally every second, which honestly, is really quite rare. There were no stretches of drawn-out dialogue, overextended fight scenes, or elongated musical montages to fill up time. And I still can't think of any huge plot holes.

Evey (Natalie Portman), lives in a dismal future, wherein wars and plagues have killed millions of people worldwide, causing the total collapse of the United States and plunging England into a society that is entirely dominated and controlled by its government. Where the citizens once lived in fear for their lives over a widespread and devastating plague, they now live in fear of their government, which censors everything and seeks to control every aspect of their lives. Evey works for British Telecasting Company (formerly the BBC I assume), and as she is out late one night past curfew, she is attacked and nearly raped by a gang of civilian police. Shockingly, at the last possible second, the masked V shows up and saves her, putting on an impressive display of non-lethal combat. After speaking nonsensically for a minute or two and then having to assure Evey that he is not, in fact, a crazy person, he takes her up to a rooftop where she can watch him blow up an empty government landmark.

While Chancellor Sutler tries to spin the explosion into a "planned emergency demolition," V sets out on a campaign to fire the people up so that they will throw off their repressive government and take back the freedoms they had willingly given up out of fear. V promises that in one year, on the 5th of November, he will blow up the Parliament building, and asks his fellow countrymen to join him outside for the event. During the course of the year, V seeks vengeance upon certain government officials who had tormented him years earlier, while Chief Inspector Finch (Stephen Rea) attempts to unmask the villain/hero before he can deliver on his destructive promise.

What I liked about this movie was that it conveyed a lot of idealistic thoughts on freedom over oppression, as well as the basic comic book fight between good vs evil. Despite a rather awkward introduction to V at the beginning, and once I managed to get over the fact that the mask's lips don't move when V talks, I found his character to be almost ridiculously intriguing. We learn that he has a horrible disfigurement which motivates him to hide behind the Guy Fawkes mask, as well as a haunted past that ultimately drives him to fight against the evils in the world, both tangible and intangible. The acting was simply incredible in this film, and it's amazing the difference between Natalie Portman as Evey and Natalie Portman as Padme/Amidala in Star Wars. The effects were also quite nifty, but not overdone or constantly made to be the entire focus of a scene, which in effect gave the movie a much more realistic feel to it despite some unrealistic acrobatics here and there. There's also a great display of some hilarious British comedy that drastically lightened the mood but also served as a poignant example of the government's stifling oppression.

V for Vendetta was still a fairly dark film, and there are elements of the plot that are shockingly disturbing, one of which is the question of how long it must have taken the filmmakers to set up an elaborate domino design without accidentally knocking them over before it was completed. But aside from that, it's an incredibly interesting story that was beautifully executed. I can't recommend this movie enough, especially for comic book fans, but also for anyone who enjoys deep and elaborate action movies with real meaning behind them. It was exciting and interesting during every second, and you can bet that I'll be in theaters to watch it again this weekend.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Failure to Launch 

This movie was much less formulaic than I had anticipated, with unexpected spurts of slapstick and wonderfully entertaining supporting characters. The plot itself, while admittedly implausible, was still refreshingly new if nothing else, which made this movie both surprising and funny. I definitely recommend it for a date movie or all girls excursion.

Tripp (Matthew McConaughey) is 35 years old, has a stable job that he enjoys, and an exceptionally easy time picking up women. He also has the perfect mechanism by which to dump said women without actually having to do the dumping--anytime a woman starts to get too serious about him, he takes her home to his place whereupon she is horrified to discover that he still lives with his parents. Apparently he is not alone in his parental dependence, however, as his two best friends, Demo (Bradley Cooper) and Ace (Justin Bartha) also live with their parents but for very different and completely understandable reasons. Tripp's parents have finally decided that they would rather have their house to themselves and enjoy their retirement, so they hire Paula (Sarah Jessica Parker) to make Tripp fall in love with her, thus boosting his confidence and motivating him to move out of the house...whereupon Paula will pulverize his heart and newly-formed confidence by promptly breaking up with him. Haha! But, you know, his parents will have him out of the house so there is a silver lining to this cloud. Anyway, Paula realizes immediately that Tripp is not her normal client. He's not a computer geek, isn't obsessed with Star Wars, enjoys a myriad of athletic outdoor activities, and is of course a total babe. Rather than bother with attempting to find out why this seemingly confident and well-adjusted man is unable to move out of his parents' house, Paula simply goes through the normal routine: have a memorable first meeting, pretend to enjoy activities that he likes, have him comfort her through an emotional crisis, and let him teach her something. Apparently after a client has completed all of these steps, he is not only in love with Paula but is ready to move out of his parents' house. And since Tripp seems to be cruising through all the steps much too easily for the program to be working, Paula attempts to get to know this complicated guy a little better. No, she doesn't do that. She rubber stamps him through all the steps and then is confused when the results are not what she expected.

As I said, the plot itself is just a tad implausible, but regardless it was still fun to watch. More than anything else, the supporting characters made this movie funny. There were several "when animals attack" subplots that were completely unexpected and made me laugh out loud just for the silliness of it all, and both Tripp's friends and Paula's roommate, Kit (Zooey Deschanel) were consistently hysterical--mostly because they were exaggerated, but again, unexpectedly so.

I really enjoyed this movie because it was refreshingly original and didn't take itself seriously in the least. The entire tone of the movie was carefree and lighthearted, and I had fun watching it. While it's not the funniest romantic comedy I have ever seen, it is one of the better ones that have come out lately. Funny, cute, worth the money.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

16 Blocks 

While 16 Blocks kind of drags in some parts, and then ended about 20 minutes after I was ready for it to wrap up, overall the movie was fairly decent. Still, as it was really nothing special, it's definitely a DVDer.

Detective Jack Mosley (Bruce Willis) is an run-down old cop who is long past the point of caring about anything but his next drink, making him precisely the kind of redeemable character that everyone wants to root for. Before he can learn a valuable lesson about how wonderful life can be, however, he must first transport Eddy Bunker (Mos Def), a small-time thief, something like 16 (or so) blocks to the courthouse for a grand jury hearing. This menial task turns a bit more challenging when two gunmen attempt to shoot Eddy during transport, forcing Mosley to forgo his next drink in favor of saving Eddy's life. When Mosley calls his former partner, Frank Nugent (David Morse), in for backup, he is horrified to discover that Frank is less interested in helping Mosley safely deliver Eddy to the courthouse for his testimony, and instead much more excited about shooting Eddy in the head. This falling rather firmly into the "bad" category of possible courses of action, Mosley decides that he'd rather shoot one of the cops in the knee and escape with Eddy. Frank simply can't allow Eddy to testify at this hearing lest he and 6 other cops lose their jobs in disgrace, so he and his gang of corrupt cops set out after Mosley to stop him before he gets those 15-17 blocks to the courthouse. The rest of the movie consists of a series of run-ins and close escapes, while Mosley tries to protect his extremely talkative witness and maybe even learn to love life again through an unlikely friendship.

The decision making skills in this movie are quite questionable, inasmuch as whenever Mosley is presented with two possible courses of action, one being logical and likely to succeed, the other being extremely irrational and fraught with danger, he always goes for the crazy option. The same is true for the gang of corrupt cops; it's imperative that they kill Eddy simply because he is an eyewitness to their wrongdoing, but apparently the hundreds of bystanders who witness the cops trying to murder Mosley and Eddy are somehow less of a problem. Personally I don't think that anyone needed to testify that Frank was a bad guy--it was obvious from the start because he was chewing gum the whole time. Bad cops in particular always chew gum.

As I said, this was a decent movie. The action scenes were fairly entertaining, but probably would have been a lot more fun to watch if they weren't separated by such long stretches of boring dialogue and predictable character development. The acting was good, the dialogue was decent if not a little dull at times, and the action was fine. All in all it was the epitome of an average movie--worth a rent but I doubt a case could be made for one to see it in theaters.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Much to my disappointment there were very few things about this movie that were actually good. There were some really awesome looking sci-fi effects which were used over and over and over again until they completely lost their novelty, some other effects that were sadly underused, and then great costume design and well choreographed fight scenes. Now normally, even with a bit of bad dialogue, this would still be sufficient material for the makings of a decently entertaining sci-fi/comic booky/fantasy/action flick. But, unfortunately, Ultraviolet simply tanked.

Violet (Milla Jovovich) is part of a group of people who have been infected with some genetically engineered virus, which, created by the military, was intended to produce superhuman soldiers. The hemophage virus was accidentally released into the general population, however, and as is the case with so many epidemics, the government decided to simply isolate and summarily execute all those infected rather than spend time and money on finding a cure. Those hemophages, as they are called, who escaped went into hiding and eventually formed a resistance in order to avoid being exterminated. Oh and apparently the virus made hemophages into vampires or something, which made very little sense since they grew fangs but didn't drink blood, and seemed to only have a slight sensitivity to light or god knows what. Since the plot wasn't forthcoming with any explanations of any kind whatsoever, I had to assume that this growth of vampire fangs was just another random symptom that the government engineered solely to make their supersoldiers look fierce.

Violet is sent to intercept a new weapon that Vice Cardinal Ferdinand Daxus (Nick Chinlund) has developed in order to completely wipe out all the remaining hemophages at once, but upon opening the super secret weapon case, she discovers that this dangerous new threat is merely a small boy named Six who refuses to speak. The silent treatment: deadly. As with all children though, he can't maintain his silence for long, and he tells Violet that he was created in a laboratory with antigens in his blood that, if released into the atmosphere, would instantly kill any hemophage. The mean hemophage leader wants to kill the boy so that his blood can't, um, kill all of them, but Violet insists that murdering children is wrong. Mean Hemophage Leader asks for a show of hands of those who have a problem with killing kids, and when it seems that Violet is all alone in her righteousness, she has to go ahead and kick everyone's ass yet again and escape with the boy.

After a ridiculously dull and uncreative government conspiracy is revealed, Violet has some more cringe-inducing lines of dialogue delivered with about as much enthusiasm as Ben Stein, before ending with a few anticlimactic showdowns. I can't stress enough how disappointed I was in this movie. I mean it really doesn't take much for me to like a sci-fi film--I don't care if there's some bad dialogue, questionable acting, unrealistic stunts, or confusing plots; just show me some great effects and good choreography along with a plot that isn't completely uninspiring, and there's a great chance that I'll walk away feeling pleased. But this was too much. On top of the dispirited acting and insufferable dialogue, the plot was so boring and stupid that I couldn't get into this movie at all, and I couldn't have cared less about the characters or the outcome.

I would rent Ultraviolet on DVD just to see some of the special effects, but don't waste too much money on this one.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Date Movie 

This movie was quite a bit of fun, with the expected amount of spoofs, immature yet funny slapstick, and a variety of other unsophisticated yet still quite entertaining jokes. I doubt there are any surprises here, but for those who like silly, ridiculous comedies then this one will not disappoint.

Julia Jones (Alyson Hannigan), an amalgam of Bridget Jones and Toula Portokalos from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, is single, overweight, and extremely lonely. Her father, Frank (Eddie Griffin), employs her at the family's restaurant and constantly attempts to set her up with the undesirable yet culturally compatible handyman Nicky. Julia resists, however, and instead hires Hitch (Tony Cox) to make her hot and fix up her love life, which he does by entering her in The Extreme Bachelor where she meets Grant Funkyerdoder (Adam Campbell). After several mini spoofs, the two decide to get married, and the movie moves into full-on Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers mockery, which works surprisingly well. Grant introduces Julia to his best friend, Andy (Sophie Monk), who turns out to be a gorgeous but conniving seductress, and she does her very best to break up the wedding.

As with the Scary Movie films, there were a squillion references to countless different date movies, and most were pretty hilarious. I was impressed with the screenwriters' ability to make a comedy about other comedies, and most of their spoofs were just about dead on. The bulk of the movie centers around a Meet the Fockers and My Best Friend's Wedding storyline, but there were always plenty of references to other movies scattered throughout. Jennifer Coolidge does a ridiculously funny impersonation of Barbra Streisand, and even though every single preview for this movie focused on the cat using the bathroom spoof from Meet the Parents, I still found that scene to be particularly entertaining. Normally I'm not one for the poop jokes, but I suppose if one insists on including them in a movie, this would be the way to go about it. Eddie Griffin was absolutely in his element in this film, and he seemed like he was having an awfully good time with his role. Personally I thought he was one of the funniest characters in the entire movie.

Alyson Hannigan has always been adept in comedic roles, and this one was no exception. Tony Cox was a very worthy co-star, however, and at one point he did an imitation of Brad Pitt (and later of Matthew McConaughey) that was so perfect that I couldn't concentrate on the movie anymore for laughing so hard. There were certainly some moments that I thought were a little lamer than others, but on the whole I was happy with what I saw.

This is obviously a type of humor for a very specific audience, one that can stand a lot of immaturity and silliness, but that also enjoys a good pop culture satire. I laughed shamelessly throughout most of it, and I definitely recommend it as a movie to rent when you just want to hang out at home with some friends. It's impossible to take seriously, so it's perfect for those times when you just want a good laugh.