Thursday, August 28, 2008

Babyon A.D.

The first thing I ever watched by Mathieu Kassovitz was a French film in 1995 called La Haine, known by English audiences as Hate. This was a great example of how Kassovitz was talented at telling a story in unique ways with an obvious skill behind the camera and behind the pen because he wrote, directed and starred in La Haine.
His latest offering is a big budget Hollywood extravaganza called Babylon A.D., which from the first scene proves that he is still skilled, but somehow changed. Not sure if working in the industry for several years has warped him or if it is just growing older and more hardened. Starting with an explosion and blending right into a gun-drenched, angry display by Vin Deisel, the opening sequence looked like classic Kassovitz with a serious case of 'roid rage.
So much macho posturing from the go, it looked like the whole film would be tortuously filled with overt displays of manliness.
Luckily, the story got better.
The story actually got really good. There were still moments of too-much-testosterone, but it was an intriguing storyline that demonstrated Kassovitz's abilities of yesteryear.
Okay, now the spoilers:
The solid storytelling devolves with a rush to finish the movie as if they ran out of money, time or desire to put forth effort. The final quarter of the film really does not fit with the rest of the story, especially not the final scene.
Vin Deisel's closing line of the film is delivered with all the acting skill of a ninth grader who got cut from the drama club. And the close of the story is not much better.
The first three-quarters of the film are a solid B, but the ending is so bad it drags it all down to a C-.
--John Berry, Online Editor--

Monday, August 25, 2008

Pineapple Express

It would appear that Seth Rogen can do no wrong. Makes me think that maybe I should see Horton Hears a Who and The Spiderwick Chronicles. Aside from those, everything Mr. Rogen has touched lately has turned to comedic gold.
Pineapple Express is no exception.
From the onset, this film's concept is amusing and seems like it should end there. Just amusing enough to be worth watching once, but nothing notable.
Somehow Rogen and his long-time collaborator Evan Goldberg crafted a near-masterpiece with a comedy that becomes more than a simple stoner flick soon after it starts. Truly a stoner-comedy-action-crime-drama-romance. Every scene delivers its fair share of each of those aspects. Every scene also keeps you drawn in and genuinely concerned for the two lead characters.
The truly impressive part of Pineapple Express is how they manage to keep it funny and keep the whole audience laughing while also giving serious drama and action sequences that can be taken seriously while you laugh.
It is a delicate balance that is maintained through the whole film as a compelling storyline unfolds.
The plot is unique. The performances are impeccably delivered. The writing is top of their form. Pineapple Express may indeed be the Rogen/Goldberg team's finest work. Their previous endeavors have delivered the same comedic punch, but this one teams the laughter up with an action movie that is equally viable on it's own.
Some moments go a little over-the-top and get too silly, but those are very few.
Pineapple Express gets an A- and will be a lot of fun to watch repeatedly.
--John Berry, Online Editor--

Monday, August 18, 2008

Clone Wars.

The Star Wars universe expanded a little more recently. Star Wars: The Clone Wars is an animated feature-length movie that fills part of the gap between chapters two and three in the endless saga of the Skywalker clan.

As a child, Star Wars took up a good portion of my time and thoughts and toy collection. So watching another expansion is always good. Even when it's as abysmal as The Phantom Menace.

The latest installment is not anywhere near as bad as Chapter I, but it is also no instant classic.

Clearly geared toward a younger audience, and allegedly a precursor to a primetime TV series, it does the job it sets out to do. An enjoyable storyline that steers clear of any major developments in the overall epic series, it sets up a little of the story of the clone wars. More a character study than an in depth story, it covers a period of time that was alluded to in the actual Star Wars movies several times.

The Clone Wars is an enjoyable 90 minutes for fans, but will probably not engage too many people who did not enjoy the movies. The promising aspect of it is that it may draw in a younger generation of fans that will then go back and watch the original holy trilogy.

I'll give Star Wars: The Clone Wars a B.
--John Berry, Online Editor--

Friday, August 15, 2008

Hitting theaters this weekend.

Apparently Woody Allen is back at it. He has done nothing worth seeing in several years, but he's got Vicky Christina Barcelona coming out this weekend. I can't see Scarlett Johansson and Javier Bardem doing a bad movie together, so it gives me hope.

Mark Pellington (Arlington Road, U2 3D) drops Henry Poole is Here which is getting pretty luke-warm reviews. Not sure why, but something makes me like the idea of Luke Wilson and George Lopez together. Lopez, fresh off his minor role on one of the most underrated shows on TV, Reno 911, is hit-or-miss for me. But Wilson rarely steers me wrong. Yeah, he did the Legally Blonde movies, but he usually does alright.

Another possible horror debacle is out with Keifer Sutherland and Amy Smart on board. Mirrors might be alright with those two leading it, but recent horror offerings have been fairly disappointing. With Alexandre Aja of Hills Have Eyes (2006) directing, it has a shot at being good, so I'll probably see it at some point.

The big buzz is around Tropic Thunder right now. Ben Stiller directs and stars in an action movie comedy about bad actors in a bad movie. Sounds bad, but then I thought Zoolander would suck. Some genuinely funny clips in the previews (especially the red band trailer with Stiller getting stabbed by a toddler) and the fact that Downey Jr is doing black face without international protests are enough to pique some morbid curiosity, despite all of the "retarded" protests.

My first choice this weekend will have to go to my childhood favorite: Star Wars. The Clone Wars is a cartoon entry into the Lucas universe with the man himself in the producer role. It is apparently the first entry in what will be an animated TV series, so all the Star Wars nerds are going to be interested in what is going to become of this. The upcoming video game, The Force Unleashed, and this movie are bridging gaps in the story lines between movies (the game between chapters 4 and 5, the movie between chapters 2 and 3) so it just leads to speculation of where Lucas might be going with the expansion of his universe. Rumors of chapters seven, eight and nine have been swirling for years, but there may be no real reputable source behind them.

--John Berry, Online Editor--

Friday, August 8, 2008

This weekend looks like fun.

Pineapple Express is out. I'm looking forward to seeing it and laughing a lot. Seth Rogen cracks me up. Watching him in the interviews promoting the movie has been fun as well. He's a genuinely funny guy.

I also like the idea of this one. Stoner comedies are funny, but not usually great. This one looks like a step up from the typical pothead fare. Maybe because the people behind it are funnier. Maybe because they infused it with much of the magic of their previous endeavors that were not stoner movies. Maybe because it's the first stoner action flick.

Probably all of those things.

I know what I'll be doing at some point this weekend.
--John Berry, Online Editor--

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Step Brothers

Kind of a let down.

Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly in tandem should be way funnier than they are. Talladega Nights was not as funny as it could have been and Step Brothers follows suit. Lots of good jokes. Two funny lead actors. A ridiculous story idea that allows for many chances for comedy.

The plethora of hysterical jokes are peppered throughout the movie with a lot of slow points that make the viewer just wish the jokes were back.

Co-writer and director Adam McKay seems like he's hearkening back to his SNL days of settling for occasional funniness.

Ferrell and Reilly are grown men who still live with their single parents. The parents, played by Mary Steenburgen and Richard Jenkins (Six Feet Under's Nathaniel), meet and fall in love and the two guys are forced upon each other.

The new step siblings are too much alike and thus hilarity ensues. Or rather should be ensuing. Instead we get the funny jokes from the previews, but expanded upon and left to drown in a sea of less funny jokes.

Ferrell and McKay were clearly at their best in Anchorman and on

Wait for video or cable for this one. But if you do go see it, wait for the clip during the credits. worth sticking around and probably should have been the actual end of the movie and not the bonus clip.

Step Brothers gets a C+.
--John Berry, Online Editor--