Friday, September 25, 2009

Jennifer's Body

Oh my. This movie is just bad. Jennifer's Body is Diablo Cody's follow-up script to her Oscar winning Juno (which despite which I assume I gave a glowing review to, was highly overrated). This time she ventures into the teen-horror-comedy genre. Megan Fox stars as Jennifer a possessed cheerleader who starts killing her male classmates. Starring along side her is Amanda Seyfried as Needy, her slightly dorky "all she needs to do to be hot is take off her glasses" stereotype.

Just looking at the trailers you can tell the target audience. Seriously, Megan Fox in a horror movie with lesbian undertones. Who do you think wants to see this movie? On the subject of Megan Fox- she's simply terrible. At least Seyfried can act. It's a terrible role, but she's able to make it work. Fox on the other hand, is downright awful. It worked fine in Transformers because the real stars were the robots. And it could work here, because she's supposed to be a sexy husk of a person. But instead of looking alluring, she just looks confused.

The script certainly has Diablo Cody all over it. From gems like "it has to be true, it's on the Wikipedia," to "Move on dot org" (in which Jennifer is telling Needy to get past the fact they were almost killed in a fire). If you want to bring trendy catch phrases into your script to show off the hipness of your characters, fine, it worked or Juno. But don't call it "The Wikipedia." It just makes high schoolers look even more vapid than intended. I know these are little quibbles, but if you're going to build your whole trademark around quick witty dialog, you better make it a lot tighter than that.

It had a relatively small budget (most of which probably went to their troublesome star) so I have little doubt it'll turn a pretty profit. Though it did have a mediocre opening weekend- so here's hoping movie going audiences aren't being drawn in by this movie's one trick.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Patrick Swayze


Here's a pretty decent obituary about him.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


You generally don't associate post apocalyptic wasteland with animation (yes, Wall-e did it) but 9 takes that idea to a new extreme. The human race has been wiped out and all that remains is a small band of rag doll-esque heroes and the robot responsible for destroying humanity. This is certainly not a children's movie (that should be evident from the presence of Timur Bekmambetov as producer), but it doesn't feature anything that would inappropriate for children- just some intense action.

The movie opens with the title character "9" awakening for the first time. He quickly comes across and is befriended by "2" (all the characters are just numbers), and is almost immediately thrust into the conflict between the survivors and the machines. The film moves at a rapid clip, and in no time the action is in full swing. This results in little character development up front. Fortunately this comes throughout the movie in the short bits between action sequences.

Clearly the best aspect of the movie is the animation, and the all around visual aesthetic. Shane Acker captured the wasteland of the crumbling ruins of society perfectly. There was not a shot lacking the requisite filth and dust. Every detail seemed painstakingly created. You could see Tim Burton's hand at work in some of the robotic villains, including one disturbing doll faced snake creature. These particular moments seem to be the ones making this not a kid friendly movie.

The film could be taken as cautionary tale about our dependence on technology; or on the importance of the human soul; or even a simple tale of redemption both for "9" and the cantankerous de-facto leader "1". Honestly, I don't think any of these themes are all that strong, and it seems they're simply a way to stitch together well directed action sequences. In the end, 9 simply boils down to a feature length video game cinematic.


Also, here's shane Acker's original short. Almost every part of this showed up again in some way in the movie- and the style remained almost exact. The short gives you a really good idea of the movie.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Final Destination

Well they've certainly got their formula down. One teen has a premonition about an overly elaborate and drawn disaster, saves his or her friends, and subsequently spends the rest of the movie trying avoid death. The first movie actually introduced this as an interesting a novel concept (though it was poorly executed). The second one, though bad, featured a spectacular car accident scene that still looks great. The third brought a sense of humor and lightened the series a bit. Now the fourth installment just went through the paces. Though none of the movies were good (or even mediocre), it should come as little surprise that this was the worst.

This time Nick O'Bannon (Bobby Campo) and a few of his friends are at a NASCAR race. He witnesses a horrific crash that kills everyone in his section- in his mind. After making a scene he convinces his friends to leave, and by extension a few others follow. Of course, the accident occurs, and now they have to avoid increasingly complex traps set by death.

I'm not outright dismissing this movie. Naturally it's not supposed to be an Oscar contender. The few things that made its predecessors palletable are all but absent here. In the previous movies, the accident caused the survivors to band together and try to protect each other. This time except for the four main characters, there's almost no interaction between the survivors. This means there's absolutely no development of these characters. In the first movies as well, the death scenes were indeed elaborate, but at least they led somewhere. In this movie, however, these buildups lead nowhere. Drawn out and complex traps end up being for naught. Granted, this ends up blindsiding you, but more importantly it leaves you asking "what was the point of that?" And the few times the payoff is as intended, it is so absurd as to put even the most outlandish deaths in the earlier movies to shame.

This is the shortest movie of the franchise, clocking in at under an hour and a half. Clearly they sacrificed even the most remote character development to keep this trim running length. I did not have the privilege of seeing this in 3D, but I bet I picked out most if not all of the instances this effect was used. I'm not sure if I've ever seen a movie that relied so heavily on objects flying at the screen.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Julie and Julia

Julie and Julia is an absolutely delightful close to the Summer. Amy Adams stars as Julie Powel, a skilled amateur cook lacking something that can't be fulfilled through her cubicle job. She finds an outlet through Julia Child. Julie gives herself one year to cook every recipe in Julia's "Mastering the art of French Cooking" and blog about it. 500 and some recipes in one year. Meanwhile, the movie features the parallel, and more compelling, story of Julia Child as she's writing the book.

Despite some certainly dramatic moments, the movie maintains a decidedly lighthearted tone through most of it. I don't think there was a single scene with Julia Child (played brilliantly by Meryl Streep) that didn't elicit a smile on my face. Her infectious positive, even when things didn't go her way (and this was a lot) was astounding. I'm hoping for an Oscar nomination for her role. Amy Adams seemed to hold her own pretty well as Julia Child's modern counterpart. She wasn't as effective as Meryl Streep, but then again, who is?

The movie switches between Child trying to get her book made, and Powel trying to get her blog made. They both faced completely different, yet somehow linked trials. Both were lost in a way, not sure what they wanted, and both found salvation through cooking (Julia as a profession, Julie as a hobby). The similarities also carried into their tasks. Julie finds herself overwhelmed by the momentous task, whereas Julia had trouble keeping it as small as it was. The major difference between the two was that Julie's endeavor started to drive a wedge between her and her husband (Chris Messina) whereas Julia and her husband Paul (Stanley Tucci with yet another amazing performance) never let anything get between them. It's almost certain that his presence played a major role in her never gloomy attitude.

They both found themselves in a situation many can relate to. Though Julie had her identity crisis about 20 years younger than Julia's, and dealt with it in a very public forum. Of course the food was center stage for both of them. Though Julie often found it more obligation and bane than salvation (the scene when she tries to make an aspic for example). But what was possibly even more important than just the food, was the process- the exploration.

The part with Julie got off to a but of a slow start. Whereas Julia seemed to fall naturally into her quest for french cuisine, Julie's motives seemed a little forced. The first twenty minutes or so are filled with very expository conversations. The inciting argument that drove her into the block was painfully obvious. It stopped just short of her husband saying "I dare you." Julie took this off the cuff remark seriously and the seeds that would eventually grow into her book were sown. This is a very minor, quibble, however, and the rest of the movie makes up for it. Besides these few forced moments, this is one of the most charming films I've seen in some time.