Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Avatar (2009) Review


I finally decided to do a review of the highest grossing film of all time. To set the record straight I do not like this film. I was incredibly excited for it, but when I discovered that it was only PG and was being marketed as a 'family friendly' movie, any hopes for the film having a strong plot disappeared. James Cameron already made a lot of amazing R films, so I was okay with him allowing his style to appeal to a broader audience. Sigourney Weaver was in it and that excited me as well, which made up for the lack of an R rating. The trailer finally appeared and I must have shit my pants with excitement, the special effects were superb. If Avatar was going to deliver on one thing it would be the special effects, which made up for any small errors the film may have. I went twice in Imax for the full experience, but then I saw the movie on a regular theater screen. I was disappointed. So here is a list of five things that Avatar did horribly wrong.

5. The characters are stock and unlikeable.
Every character in this film is an old movie cliche, whether it was the evil war general or the fighter pilot with a conscious, the characters in the film felt bland and stock. They acted in the most predictable ways and after they're introduced the audience already knows their point in the film. Even Sigourney Weaver is unlikeable, which isn't how I assume Cameron wanted us to think of her, but she still acts like a prick and appears as being pointless within the film. She doesn't do anything but bitch about the corporation and only sticks around as a main character so she can die as a way to make the audience get all emotional. Sam Worthington plays a total idiot and everything he does in the film pisses me off, mostly because no average person would act that way. The  worst character in the movie is Neytiri, as she is only their to play the love interest. She is uninteresting and uncharacterized, she begins the movie talking with an accent that disappears five minutes later, and worst of all she falls in love with Jake for no apparent reason other than provide a love interest. These characters were incredibly bad and it only gets worse form here.

4. The dialog is lame and poorly written.
James Cameron wrote some really bad-ass lines, but none of the can compare to "That is one big tree!" or "You are not in Kansas anymore!". Everything the bad guy Quaritch said was so cliche, and the stupidity only begins there. Jake talks like an idiot throughout the entire film and is always acting like a smart-ass. I cringe ever time a character in this film speaks, especially Jake and the Na'vi. The lines are incredibly cliche and at one point the fighter pilot says, "I didn't sign up for this shit." How many times have we heard that one before? The answer is lots and I noticed a lot of lines from other films that clearly didn't have any thought put into them. The dialog was bad and I didn't like it at all.

3. Subtle left-wing propaganda. 
The entire film bashes the United States government and makes a direct relation to cleaner energy and oil. I understand that this makes the film relevant, but it just preached 'green' views and made large corporations look evil. I don't think corporation are evil, as without them the entire world would live in poverty and I wouldn't have an iPod or Xbox, nor a job. I understand the Iraq war references and the line "We will fight terror with terror!" always makes me laugh uncontrollably because of the stupidity of the scene. The Na'vi did not terrorize the humans, however in real life terrorists did kill thousands of people when they bombed the World Trade Center. I don't appreciate these allusions to the Iraq war and respecting the environment because I'm constantly being bombarded by propaganda about the evils of the Bush administration and oil companies. This isn't that bad and I'm sure in ten years I'll actually enjoy this aspect, but for now I feel that its been overdone and brings down the film.

2. It copied the plot of other films.
Dances with WolvesStarship Troopers. Gully. Pocahantas. Avatar resembles all of these films with similar plots. Its an old cliche that a white man befriends the indigenous population and sides with them, but this movie blatantly ripped these off. The movie's evil military-esque corporation resembles the military of Starship Troopers with similar motivation to destroy the natives and the marines are being killed off by the planet's hostile wildlife in both films. I watched Fern Gully after hearing about its resemblance to Avatar, which was actually one of my favorite films when I was young. I was shocked to see the films not only featuring similar plots, but actual shots were stolen directly from the movie and placed into Avatar. A certain scene shows the main character of Fern Gully trying to stop a massive bulldozer headed towards some trees; a scene which Avatar perfectly recreates. I'm fine with a movie using a classic plot as the basis for their story, but Avatar clearly just took scenes from these other films to fill space in the plot.

1. It didn't look good on a regular screen.
When watching this on a regular theater screen without 3D and without Imax, I couldn't stand the visuals. The Na'vi look incredibly lifeless and grotesque, especially when many are displayed on the screen at once. It actually looked no better than a current generation video game. The lighting was the worse aspect of this, especially at scenes set during the night. It doesn't look good and I won't be buying this film on bluray, as it will look like shit. The visuals were what redeemed the movie for me, but without them it revealed how bad and lame this movie really is.

The good things about this movie were that the action was fun to watch and it was very rewarding to watch the soldiers get killed in a variety of horrible ways. The film could have had a strong ending if it had ended after the destruction of Home Tree, after which Jake says "I guess I just have to wake up." Sam Worthington, despite his horrible role in this film, is actually a good action star and I look forward to seeing him in The Clash of the Titans remake. In Imax the movie looks stunning. I enjoyed watching the movie the first time, despite its predictability.

The one thing that saddens me the most about this movie is that it will forever change the way movies are made. This means that directors and producers are going to focus more on the visual effects than getting good performances out of the actors, which takes all of the skill out of acting. Visual effects allow for the manipulation of anything in the scenes, so filmmakers will no longer have to focus on getting the lighting or camerawork perfect, as they can now just change it in post production. This is not filmmaking, this is animation; which is not the direction I want film to take. Avatar is going to change everything, and its going to be up to independent filmmakers to save the art form with low budget miniatures and organic effects (like the makers of Moon). It will all go downhill from here.

Rating: 3/10

Bruce Campbell: The Evil Dead (1981) Review

To conclude the month of Bruce Campbell, I am reviewing the best movies he was in, The Evil Dead Trilogy. The first film in the trilogy was a landmark horror film that created the subgenre of teenagers in a cabin in the middle of the woods (other films in the genre including Dod Sno and Cabin Fever). This is what I consider to be the perfect horror movie, as it includes character development, a strong plot, amazing camerawork, and a gritty and terrifying atmosphere. The movie looks great, as the inventive and long camera shots from a first person perspective set the mood of the film and terrify the viewer. These shots flow across the forest towards, and through, the house, showing an unknown force chasing our heroes. All the shots in this film look great, Sam Raimi sometimes strapping the camera to the roof to get the perfect shot.

The plot of the film is that a bunch of teenagers partying in an abandoned cabin accidentally awaken an ancient evil by reading the Necronomicon. This of course causes a creature to be unleashed in the forest and many of the group gets possessed and turned into zombies. The main character of the film is Ash, played by Bruce Campbell, and he goes through actual character development throughout the film series, which is very rarely seen in horror films. He begins in this film as a total pansy, but by the third film he is a bad-ass action hero. This progression is very well done because at the start of the first movie he is very unnoticeable, until the deadites are unleashed and he starts kicking ass with his boomstick. The woman in this film are incredibly annoying and get killed off quickly, the men being the heroes and continuously having to help the woman. These girls are incredibly useless and at the start of the film Ash is useless too, unwilling to kill one of his friends that has been possessed. This tricks the audience into believing that Ash's friend Scott will be the hero, and although he's the only person in the group to think rationally it is actually Ash that survives the ordeal.

The gore effects in this film are gruesome and beautiful, exploding heads and limbs being hacked off. The gore looks incredibly real, however since the characters are killing zombies the act of this murder is forgivable. The end of the film uses stop motion to show the zombies rotting away and it looks spectacular; the finale is a GUY'S FUCKING HEAD EXPLODING! The ending is so satisfying and concludes with a cliffhanger, which is perfectly continued in the sequel, which featured more gore and violence.

The greatest scene in the film is early on, when Ash's sister Cheryl first hears the evil from the Necronomicon runs out into the forest in terror. This of course ends poorly when she follows a voice calling her name only to be led deeper into the forest. The trees begin to come alive and wrap around her ankles, pinning her to the ground. Then comes the greatest, most ballsy, mind penetrating ever featured in a horror film: Cheryl is raped by a tree.

Rating: 10/10
Fanboy Rating: 11/10

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Moon (2009) Review

To be brief this is the best science fiction film I have seen that has been made in the last ten years. This film is comparable to 2001 in many aspects, but the story is paced much better and the story is easier to follow. The movie is a very accessible science fiction film, but fans of the genre will still be able to appreciate the intellectual aspect of the film, as it is in no way dumbed down to please general movie goers. The plot is incredibly suspenseful and the story is more intelligent than any other recent science fiction films; it does not contain any action like the new Star Trek, and I greatly enjoyed that its a thinking man's movie. This movie is very under appreciated and I believed that the lead (and only) actor in the film, Sam Rockwell, greatly deserved an Oscar nomination for the film. The movie also looks incredible with most of the special effects being a combination of models and miniatures, which is a style that we don't see too often anymore because of the ease of computer graphics. I highly recommend seeing this film because it is the perfect science fiction experience, being relevant, intellectual, and using captivating special effects and a superb story.

Rating: 10/10

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bruce Campbell: Sky High (2005) Review

This was usrprisingly an amazing movie, especially for something made for little kids by Disney. I would never have expected for two of my favorite actors to be in this film, Kurt Russel and Bruce Campbell, and although they play small roles their presence widely encompasses the entire film. The basis behind the film is that the world is full of superheroes and there is a school floating in the sky (hence the title of the film) that the superheroes' children attend in order to train to be caped crusaders.

The main reason that this film succeeds is that it does the superhero genre perfectly. In recent films like Batman Begins and the Spiderman franchise, the superheroes are slaves to realism, which has fragmented the entire genre of superhero films. Back in the 70s and 80s superheroes were funny and unrealistic, which is what the genre is known for. Sky High has their superheroes wearing underwear over tights and they have all kinds of different strange and silly powers. Some kids have the usual powers like flight and super strength, but others have the power to mulitply and even tranform into guinae pigs (which you think would be entirely useless, yet this film finds a way to utilize this power). This is the perfect superhero movie and restores my faith in this genre, for as good as movies like The Dark Knight and Iron Man are, they have sucked the life and humour out of the superhero genre and have replaced it with boring realism and gritty atmospheres, both of which are not what I think should be in a superhero film.

To get back to the point of Bruce Campbell, he plays the gym coach in this film which is a small part, however he remains both funny and intimidating in the role. Most people can relate to having a gym teacher that favors the athletic (or in this case more -super- powerful) students over the nin-athletic ones (or sidekicks). Kurt Rusell is also in the film playing the world's most famous superhero and delivers a very realistic fatherly role. He is the cliche supehero wearing a costume far too tight on him and with the power of super strength, kicking all the villain's asses. On the subject of villians, the film's main antagonist's reveal is a great twist and a very original plot point, the end being an incredibly silly and action fueled adventure.

The main theme of the film is that the main character hasn't gained his powers yet, which is an obvious puberty metaphor which has been seen in dozens of films. The reason this film does this well is that it isn't in the viewers face about it and uses lots of sublety. The other main theme the film focuses on is that their is a varied class structure between the heroes and the sidekicks (or Hero Support), which seperates the groups into obvious cliques. This leads to some amazing references, especially when the sidekicks are shown as not being allowed to do anything besides supporting their hero. The sidekicks are taught to speak catch phrases like: Holy _______, _______ Man; which I found absolutely hilarious as well as many of the other jokes in this film.

I highly recommend seeing this film instead of any of the current snore-fest superhero films that explain everything scientifically and give their villians motives. This movie has the bad guys as just being bad guys, no other explanations for their actions. This movie does a great job at everything it tries and is one of the best superhero films I have seen, perfectly utilizing the standards of the genre to tell a wonderfull story and capitalize on some amazing humour that the gerne used to be known for (before Joel Schumacher ruined everything by using only humour). Bruce Campbell plays a larger role in this film than most of the movies I plan on reviewing for this month, and his performance shines throughout the entire film. My favorite superhero film and definitely a film that all fans of the genre should see.

Rating: 8/10
Fanboy Rating: Holy Perfect 10, Reviewer Man

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

David Cronenberg Marathon: Scanners (1981) Review

Fifteen minutes into this film a character's head explodes in an incredibly gory and amazing special effect. I must admit that I rewound the film over a dozen times watching this memorable scene over and over. This single scene makes this film worth watching, as I haven't seen any other films that have pulled off an effect this great. David Cronenberg did a great job with most aspects of this movie, the special effects being the most memorable part. However the film is also very well cast, with Micheal Ironside giving an excellent performance, as well as the main characters being actors that were unknown to me, yet were still able to achieve incredible characterization.

The writing is the weakest portion of the film, especially around the ending in which the cliche twists are revealed.  The best scenes in the movie actually include little or no dialog, mostly in which Cameron scans people or deals with his ability of scanning. The scanning process looks incredibly painful, enhanced by great acting as well as some amazing sound effects that were able to make myself feel uneasy. The best aspects from the film all come from the scanning process, whether it be a head exploding or the uneasiness of the scans.

Be cautious as spoilers do follow this section as I will be spoiling the ending. One great thing about the ending of this film is the horrific scanner duel that occurs between the main characters Cameron and Revak. Cameron's body literally melts in a cluster of fire and gore, which is both unsettling and gorgeous, rival gore effects rendered by computers have yet to achieve the beauty of organic effects. The ending twist is incredibly lame and brings down the interesting and intense story, as the film concludes with Revak revealing that Cameron is his brother and that he has created an entire new generation of scanners in order to take over the world. Back in the eighties this may have been a huge twist that hadn't been done over nine-thousand times before, but watching today I found it to be an incredibly weak and cliche ending to an original and suspenseful story. BUT A GUY'S HEAD FUCKING EXPLODES!!!

Just watch this film for that one scene and it's worth it. It is just so amazingly wonderfully gory and gorgeous to watch!

Rating: 5/10

Thursday, February 4, 2010

2010 Oscar Predictions

Feel free to place money on these bets. I'm accepting any kinds of wagers on this list because I know that I'll be right.

Best Live Action Short Film: The New Tenants
A film with a plot similar to many great suburban paranoia films (American Beauty, ect), this short film was incredibly powerful in its portrayal of clashing characters and interesting situations that blend different genres.

Best Animated Short Film: Wallace and Gromit in 'A Matter of Loaf and Death'
The Academy has always been fans of Wallace and Gromit, examples being the original shorts and the feature length film.

Best Short Documentary Film: Music by Prudence
Very powerful subject matter and a very well told story.

Best Feature Documentary: The Cove
This was an intense documentary, a thrilling adventure into the horrible dolphin slaughter in Japan. The entire film is horrific and intense, making for an incredibly entertaining and disturbing documentary.

Best Foreign Language Film: Das weisse Band - Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte
I have no informed opinion on this category, yet this is the only movie I've clicked on before on IMDb, so I have obviously heard of it before.

Best Animated Foreign Film: Coraline
The reason I have picked this over Up for the best animated picture is because although Up was an amazing film and probably deserves this award, Up is nominated for both Best Animated Feature and Best Picture. This means that voters for these categories will split their votes towards either the Best Picture or Best Animated categories, resulting in Up getting less votes than the other films in this category and coming home empty handed. Coraline was also an amazing film with fantastic visuals and the greatest 3D in any animated film last year, the plot appealing to adults and kids alike.

Best Achievement in Visual Effects: Avatar
Duhh, what else would I have said.

Best Achievement in Sound Editing and Best Achievement in Sound Mixing: Star Trek
I'm unsure about this category because every nominee in this category had amazing sound, yet Star Trek had so many things going on all the time and sound effect worked perfectly.

Best Achievement in Music Written for a Motion Picture, Original Song: Almost There (from The Princess and the Frog)
Randy Newman working on a Disney film, nuff' said.

Best Achievement in Music Written for a Motion Picture, Original Score: Up
It was so incredibly beautiful and emotional, more Disney magic.

Best Achievement in Makeup: Star Trek
So many different aliens and lots of detail put into making them look real.

Best Achievement in Costume Design: The Young Victoria
I'm unsure again about this category, but the era costumes from this film looked very good and extravagant.

Best Achievement in Art Direction: Avatar
It got nominated and it's the Academy's favorite for the year; Cameron also put a lot of work into making Pandora look like a living world, as well as convincing his actors that it is as well.

Best Achievement in Editing: Inglourious Basterds
Every single Tarantino film has brilliant editing, this one was his best. Every cut was meaningful and the transition between story lines was flawless.

Best Achievement in Cinematography: Inglourious Basterds
Every single Tarantino movie has the most unique and perfect camerawork, every shot meaningful and allowing for the camera to become a character of its own.

Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Written or Published: Precious
This film contained very good dialog and was adapted wonderfully from the original book.

Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen: Inglourious Basterds
Tarantino is the absolute best screenwriter in the world, he deserves this award for the magnificent dialog.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)
Christoph Waltz was chilling and hilarious in his role as Hans Landa, the Jew Hunter. He will definitely win this award. That's a Bingo!

Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Mo'Nique (Precious)
She's the favorite for this category from her upsetting and emotional portrayal in Precious.

Best Actress in a Leading Role: Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side)
I didn't like the film, but Sandra Bullock was the star to bring people into the movie, which was an amazing performance and was probably her best.

Best Actor in a Leading Role: Morgan Freeman (Invictus) or Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)
This could go either way as each actor delivered an engaging and powerful performance in each of their roles. Morgan Freeman was believable as Nelson Mandela, yet Jeff Bridges played an emotional and compelling role. My assumption is that the Oscars will mirror the Golden Globes and Jeff Bridges will win.

Best Achievement in Directing: Quentin Tarantino
Tarantino gets the greatest performances out of his actors and creates brilliant movies. Jim Cameron could probably win this award for being able to convince actors to react to an environment that doesn't exist, but I'm going to stick with my hero Tarantino for this award that he deserves for every single perfect film he has made up to this point.

Best Motion Picture: Inglourious Basterds
I really like Basterds and it totally was the best picture of last year, but I have a bad feeling that Avatar will win because of the breakthroughs in computer effects. Basterds was an absolutely perfect film and although I had it second to Avatar on my Best of 2009 List, upon further reflection I have come to the conclusion that Basterds is one of the best films I have seen in the last few years. It will be a real shame when Avatar wins this award, but I'm going to put my money on Inglourious Basterds.

Monday, February 1, 2010

My Name is Bruce (2007) Review

To begin Bruce Campbell Month I have started with his most recent project, My Name is Bruce. Bruce Campbell plays himself and is absolutely hilarious, as he conveniently quotes his other movies and makes fun of people he has worked with. He pokes fun at his own B movie status and has some incredibly funny lines. The movie is basically just a way for Bruce to use his B movie status as a means to joke around and have control over making his own movie, as he directed it himself. The movie is about a Chinese demon being unleashed upon a small community and Bruce Campbell is asked to help the townspeople fight off the demon. Bruce assumes that its just a joke, but when he comes face to face with the demon he reacts like any other actor and runs for his life. The movie is full of great references and his number one fan has some funny tributary lines concerning Bruce, yet the movie falls flat because of some horrible acting and an incredibly bad ending.

Bruce Campbell delivers his usual camp performance and he's good at it as always, but every other character in the film doesn't work for their roles. The love interest isn't very good looking and all of her lines are incredibly lame and cliche. The townspeople incredibly overact and it is easy to tell that they're just delivering their lines rather than fitting into a character.

The ending is incredibly stupid, as Bruce Campbell decides that he can fight the monster himself and goes to kick its ass. Too bad for the audience this doesn't include any of the usual Bruce one-liners and doesn't even have him armed with his usual boomstick or chainsaw. The ending is also a disappointment because after the demon is defeated we see Bruce Campbell in a studio critiquing the movie we just watched asking for a happier ending, which is then concluded with the demon shockingly grabbing Bruce. It takes the viewer out of the film and is almost as bad as if it were all just a dream. It's a major disgrace to the audience and ruins the film, especially since the climax was lame anyways.

My Name is Bruce is the perfect Bruce Campbell movie, doing a great service to fans of the B movie star. The film delivers some clever jokes and allows for Bruce Campbell to do whatever he wants, which is great since Bruce is such a screen presence. The movie has a lot of flaws, but Bruce Campbell makes the film worth watching. Bruce Campbell is the God of B movies and because of him every movie he's in is instantly a million times better. That's the power of chin, baby.

Rating: 5/10
Fanboy Rating: 10/10