Friday, July 25, 2008

X-Files and pseudo-siblings

Rolling in to theaters this week is a second viewing of The Dark Knight.

I guess there are some limited release things coming around. A period piece from the director of Becoming Jane, Julian Jarrold, brings out Brideshead Revisited with a veritable who's who of hey-it's-that-guy castings. Can't say too much because I don't really care.
Boy A is a British film about a dude coming out of juvie trying to build a new life. The reviews I've read are basically saying that the story is an obvious string of cliches beating viewers with a sense of loneliness. That sounds like no fun to me.
A couple of documentaries that present topics that nobody cares about. Indiana teenagers in American Teen, and a tight-rope walker in Man On Wire.

I really feel that the X-Files have passed its time of interest, but X-Files: I Want To Believe is here for some reason. Maybe somewhere some mother's basement is emptying out for the evening for a second week straight, it seems that even the nerds have given up on Mulder and Scully because the interwebs are not abuzz with talk of them kissing like before the first disappointing X-Files movie a decade ago.

For my 10.50, I'll be checking out one of my guilty pleasures, dumb comedy. Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly are back together for Step Brothers in a completely ridiculous plot that promises to make me embarrassed for liking it. Adam McKay at the helm makes me hopeful that they can reignite the magic that was The Landlord, but I'm sure it will be more along the lines of Talledega Nights. If they can live up to that, it'll be worth watching, but not worth repetitive viewing like Anchorman.
--John Berry, Online Editor--

Friday, July 18, 2008

Dark Knight is not just hype

For all the talk surrounding Dark Knight and especially Heath Ledger's performance, I went in to it expecting to be let down, at least a little.
I really thought that Ledger's performance was going to be good, but that there was a lot of hype around the role because of it being his last and the critics were being kind because they don't wish to speak ill of the dead.
Was I ever wrong.
There was no distortion in what the critics were saying, this movie is the real deal. Ledger's performance will go down in history as one of the best movie villains EVER.
His acting abilities have never been questioned by me. I have always thought he was good verging on great. As the Joker, he pushed way past that line of becoming a great actor. For the first time I am actually sad about his death. Rarely do I feel real live emotion about people I don't know personally, but after seeing this, it would have been truly amazing to see where he went next. There really is no telling how far this actor would have gone. Joker would have pushed him into the upper echelons of Hollywood talent.
That said, there is also a whole movie around that performance that defies everything I've ever thought about modern film making.
This is the first movie where I can find NOTHING to complain about. Yeah, I know, I complain about everything.
The story was top notch. Kept the audience involved for the full 2.5 hours and really could have kept them enthralled for longer.
The acting from everyone was incredible. Christian Bale is my favorite Bruce Wayne ever (although Michael Keaton might still be my favorite Batman). Michael Caine as Alfred delivered some of the most poignant speeches in a film filled with great dialogue. Morgan Freeman was great as always. Aaron Eckhart gave Harvey Dent a grace and empathy that no actor (live or cartoon) has ever been able to do with that character. Maggie Gyllenhaal was a huge step up from Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes.
The action sequences were beyond amazing. This was as close to perfection as a movie might ever come.
Christopher Nolan took what was a really good Batman Begins and tweaked every detail in his process of crafting that film and gave us what will undoubtedly be his masterpiece in his life's body of work. He improved on every aspect in his previous Batman endeavor, including things that didn't seem to need improvement.
Dark Knight
is an instant classic. Since I can't find anything to not like about it, I have to give it an A+.
--John Berry, Online Editor--

Monday, July 14, 2008

Hellboy lives up to expectations

Hellboy II: The Golden Army was able to hold up to my lofty aspirations for it. Guillermo del Toro brought to life a whole new world of other-worldly creatures and even spruced up the ones he had before.
The first Hellboy movie was a comic-book nerd's dream come true. The second fits right along side of it as Hellboy (aka Red), his love interest, Liz, and their associate Abe (aka Blue).
The story was hindered a bit by the incessant love story b.s., but overall the plot was intriguing and better than the first film. Red gets pulled in to the middle of a war that existed ages ago and was brought to an end by a truce between the king of the invisible world below the surface of ours and an ancient king of men. The king of the non-human creatures is still in power and his son decides its time to start that war back up again.
Red and Blue head into the seedy underworld of mythical creatures to try to maintain the truce. One of the more interesting subplots that was extremely underexplored was the idea that HB was not a part of the world of man, but belonged with the other world and the rebelious prince was trying to convince Hellboy that he should not stop, but rather help the mythical world take over. If they has spent less time with the love-story drama and delved into the inner turmoil drama, the movie could have been drastically better.
The only other problem was in the lack of backstory with many of the creatures and with the other world in general. Mr del Toro will have to learn to explain more when he gets behind the helm for the Hobbit because Tolkien's world is the best mapped mythology of any literary work in history.
Even with these flaws, the film was as enjoyable a movie as anything that has been released in recent memory. It will have trouble finding an audience this coming weekend as Dark Knight takes on all comers and will likely sit atop the box office reciepts for weeks to come. But for anyone who can't get tickets for Batman next weekend, go see Hellboy instead.
I'm giving Hellboy II an A-.
--John Berry, Online Editor--

Thursday, July 10, 2008

In theaters this weekend.

For me, nothing is gonna top Hellboy II this weekend, but the competition looks pretty weak anyway.
A whole bunch of limited release stuff that might have some sort of interest on another weekend. Spencer Breslin as a balding teenager, with a supporting role from Cuba Gooding Jr., yeah, he's still alive. Looking at Cuba's latest string of crap though, it might be wise to steer clear. Who even watched Daddy Day Camp? So Harold looks like a no.
Death Defying Acts is The Illusionist a couple years too late, so that's a no as well.
Ellen Burstyn is on a venture of memories and self-discovery in The Stone Angel. Not sure if i'm feeling writer director Kari Skogland's prior resume with a weak Crow tv show and something called Children of the Corn 666. But working with Burstyn and an upcoming project with Ben Kingsley means she might be better than her history would imply. Sounds like a wait for dvd.
The we move on to the wide release stuff.
Does anyone remember when Eddie Murphy made good comedies? No? Me neither. With the exception of the Shrek movies, i think we have to go all the way back to 1999 for the passable Bowfinger and 1998 for his first Nutty Professor which was better than i thought it should have been. The latest debacle with multiple Eddies is Dave. If Hollywood hasn't learned that multiple Eddies in a film hasn't worked in a decade, then maybe this one will teach them. Yeah, it was awesome in Coming To America. It was still amusing in 1998's Professor. That was the point where the concept should have died. Maybe his paychecks are bigger for the more roles he plays? Ah, who cares.
Brendan Fraser as been busy. Mummy 3 (or 4 if you count Scorpion King) is on its way. But before that we're getting Journey to the Center of the Earth. In all three dimensions. That might just be too much excitement. Maybe they could give us the full 4D experience and jab you in the back and spray water at us too. My prediction here is too much flash, not enough substance. A classic Jules Verne book given the family friendly treatment by Hollywood? Maybe if i had kids, which i don't, so no thanks.
-John Berry, Online Editor--

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Finally, Will Smith is in a movie that is good without qualifications.
I Am Legend was good at parts, but had lots of flaws. Pursuit of Happyness was done well, and Smith's acting was great, but it was kind of over the top on the emotional manipulation. Hitch was just crap. I, Robot had great source material, but lacked in comparison because the robots were a little too cartoony. Bad Boys 2, Men In Black, Ali, Wild Wild West, etc., all passable movies with major flaws that had to be overlooked in order to enjoy them.
Hancock's only flaws are in the brevity of it. If there was more movie, there would have been deeper explanation of many parts. Mostly questions on the back story. But to me, that's good because the film leaves me wanting more.
It's a hard movie to discuss because much of my enjoyment was based around the fact that the movie was not what was expected going in to it. It delivered on the promise given by the previews of a funny, outlandish and definitely out of the ordinary superhero movie. But after establishing that, they take on explaining why Hancock is who he is. His journey to become a better man, or better superhero.
Smith shows his off acting chops as he manages to ditch his usual charm and leave behind the guy that everybody loves to be a social pariah with a habit pissing off everyone around him, even the people he saves.
Honestly, the movie was better than the premise should have been. Partly because of Will Smith's ability to make movies that are better than they should be. Partly because of an extremely solid supporting cast. And majorly because of the director, Peter Berg.
Berg has a history of making movies that are okay ideas that turn out being better than the mediocre premise they are based on. He took Very Bad Things from what could have been just another comedy to one of the better movies from the late 90's glut of formulaic-pushing-the-envelope-but-only-just-a-little dark comedies. He made The Rock's first good movie. The Kingdom was a solid war movie in an era of crap movies about the middle east. So I'm clearly psyched that Berg has been tapped for the Dune remake.
So with the combination of Berg, Smith and one of my favorite actors, Jason Bateman, it turns out to be Will Smith's best movie in a long long time. Maybe ever. And his most unique movie since Men in Black. And his most enjoyable movie since the first Bad Boys.
I'll give Hancock an A-.
--John Berry, Online Editor--