Archive for the ‘ Movies ’ Category

Weird NJ Movie Madness

Since relocating to New Jersey in September, I began to experience mild ennui. I’ve taken to coming home from work to flop on the couch and eventually fall asleep in front of People’s Court or a similar attack on my brain cells. Then Beelzy called and told me we’re going to a Weird New Jersey party, part of the newly established Reel New Jersey Film Festival (LINK)

Mark and Mark

Mark and Mark

You may have read one of the Weird NJ magazines or even saw the offshoot of that project on the history channel: Mark Sceurman and Mark Moran hosting Weird U.S. If this is all new to you, just know that Mark and Mark think of their venture as “your travel guide to New Jersey’s local legends and best kept secrets.” It was once a more underground movement, with secretive trips to abandoned mental institutions and the like, but has become fairly mainstream in the past few years with corresponding events such as this large-scale Midnight Movie party. Continue reading

Superman in Bryant Park: An Exercise in Suffering

Movie Madness

Blankets and sheets separate the lawn into camps full of barefoot people, picnic baskets, and small children. Tonight is the last night of HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival,an outdoor event held behind the New York Public Library June through August. The focus is on classics from the 30’s all the way to the 70’s—but no later—and tonight’s feature is the 1978 rendition of “Superman” starring Christopher Reeve, Marlon Brando, and Gene Hackman.

The lawn is opened to picnickers at 5pm and the movie begins at dusk, sometime between 8 and 9pm. A large screen and powerful speakers are set up at the front of the lawn and people position themselves all around it. Blankets on the lawn itself, and all around the lawn are chairs borrowed from the front of the library and the Bryant Park Grill and Cafe. Although it looks pretty packed at 6pm, when d42 and I get there, turns out hundreds more people will pack themselves in during the next two and a half hours, and then some. Continue reading

The Fall: A Movie to Take You Out of Your Blockbuster Daze

Eye candy meets quality plot in The Fall. A small child from a war-torn country meets an American stuntman hospitalized due to a death wish. This is Los Angeles, California, 1915. Alexandria’s (Catinca Untaru) broken English and childish concepts of priority as well as her seriousness and self-reliance win admiration. Roy Walker’s (Lee Pace) desperate desire to befriend the child loved by the hospital through a promise of a story win our hearts in his favor as well. And then everything is torn to shreds.

The movie is the brain child of Tarsem Singh Dhandwar. It was self-financed to assure that his creative vision (obsession?) is not tampered with. The outcome is breathtaking, jaw-dropping, heart-rending. The film was shot on location all over the world, conveniently enough as Tarsem’s full-time job as a music video and commercial director required travel. The pay-off is astonishing. Whatever short-falls the movie may have, it is never in the visual realm.

The plot is of a story within a story within the less obvious context of the world of film-making as well as the world at large. Somewhere there are homes being burned, somewhere else a stuntman falls in love with a leading lady and agrees to perform an extremely dangerous jump from a bridge. It is never clear if she loved him back, and if he agreed to this life-threatening stunt when she scorned him, in fact, we hardly see her in the movie. And little is known of that country where it is enough to defend what is yours to earn death. The details are fed to us through the story Roy tells Alexandria. The child’s background is even more vague. She divulges bits and pieces as if everything should already be a known fact; the egotism of a five-year old. Continue reading

I messed with The Zohan, but I don’t recommend you do it

Dennis Dugan created another comedy characteristic of his previous efforts such as Big Daddy, as well as the more disappointing Adam Sandler movies like I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry. Disgustingly hilarious for the first hour or so You Don’t Mess with the Zohan deteriorated into tedium the moment Adam Sandler (playing Zohan) was allowed to, yet again, focus on a hot chick (Dalia, played by Emmanuelle Chriqui) with whom he was to have his sticky happy ending.

The Waterboy,Little Nicky, and The Wedding Singer are among my favorite movies. I appreciate Sandler’s stupid accents, sudden rages, and other tomfoolery. I like toilet humor, and can always do with a cast of quirky characters. All of these Zohan has, and yet, not quite half-way through, it still stops being funny. The jokes get too long, milked for all they’re worth. Yes, he becomes a sucessful hairdresser because he is also in part a gigolo, but that’s only funny for a little while. The plot stagnates and other characters are overshadowed by Sandler. Continue reading

Persepolis: Satrapi Seeks Purpose in Life

persepolis.jpgYes, it is petty to find fault with a movie because it did not live up to the book, and yet I am going to do it. Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novel Persepolis has recently become an animated film under the same title and I grieve this development.
The 95 minute film is a conglomeration of powerful scenes from the graphic novel, which lose their strength and significance without context. I warn you now, spoilers are a comin’.

The film opens with Satrapi as a young adult in a Paris airport, reminiscing. The next 30 minutes or so are spent with Marjane as a young girl whose life changes instantly when a revolution shatters the Iranian regime under the Shah. From a child who believes she will be a prophet, and who thought that the Shah was chosen by god, Marjane eventually grows into an unsatisfied young adult who is disillusioned with a variety of ideologies and hopelessly searches for a niche in the world. Marjane is an intelligent child in an upper-class family of politically conscious intellectuals. She is given the best schooling, and access to whatever interests her: history, punk rock, Western movies, philosophy, religion, sociology, etc. As she grows up, she travels abroad, has love affairs, rebels, falls prey to depression, travels again. And then the movie ends.

After I finished reading the graphic novel, I was left with a nagging feeling that the main character didn’t actually do anything with her life. The film brought this feeling to the forefront. Having have lived her life is supposed to be enough of an achievement. Writing a graphic novel which documents her adventures, and then having it developed into a motion picture is the pinnacle. Continue reading

I Am Legend The Motion Picture: A Happy “What-If” Ending

i_am_legend_poster2.jpg

Francis Lawrence directs this third adaptation of the 1954 classic written by Richard Matheson. The first attempt was “The Last Man on Earth” (1964), starring Vincent Price, and the second was “The Omega Man” (1971), which saw Charlton Heston as the lone survivor. I have never seen those two films, but I can certainly say this latest rendition is worth watching.

Will Smith stars as Robert Neville, a military scientist who urgently attempts to find a cure for a virus that has rapidly overtaken the citizens of New York, as well as those outside her borders. The virus, which was initially created to cure cancer, spread far too quickly for conventional quarantine methods to be of any use, thus resulting in decimation of humanity. Robert Neville’s curious immunity led him to be the last man standing in a world no longer human.

Three years later, he still broadcasts an SOS in a vain search for survivors and maintains a vigorous routine. During the day, he hunts and scavenges for food and supplies with Sam, his dog and only companion. At night, Neville hides in the safety of his fortified home while the infected claim the streets in search of fresh meat. Neville’s only aim in this post-apocalyptic “ground zero” is to find a cure along with any survivors before the infected eventually find his sanctuary. Continue reading

The Golden Compass: Motion Picture

movie_goldencompass.jpgThe Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman, is the first book of an exciting trilogy about a young girl named Lyra who is drawn into an adventure that crosses into different dimensions and determines the fate of her realm as well as all others. In the first installment, Lyra is lured away from a familiar life at Jordan College to become the assistant of the beautiful Mrs. Coulter, while her closest friend, Roger, mysteriously disappears. When Lyra realizes Mrs. Coulter is up to no good, and finds out that Roger is in danger, she sets out on a perilous quest to save her friend.

The story is a bit laden with detail, but the intricate web of events pulls together to bring you a solid adventure worth reading. With that being said, I must admit I am a bit fearful about the quality of the movie trilogy. It was a very enjoyable, yet brief romp into the fantasy world created by Pullman. For those who have never read the books, the movie should be satisfying, despite some obscurities. Those who have read the books will most likely have mixed feelings, like myself. The more extremist hardcore fans will more than likely bash this film.

I’ll start with what the movie does wrong. The Golden Compass as a book is saturated with details and serves as the foundation for the rest of the trilogy. Therefore, it’s a real shame that The Golden Compass as a motion picture is missing a few key events that were not only interesting, but imperative to the story. Why they didn’t make it a three-hour epic in the vein of Lord of the Rings is beyond me. At a meager one hour and thirteen minutes, it would be impossible to squeeze in all the important information, but the creators do try. As a result, the events in the movie don’t always feel seamless, and have a rushed quality to them. If you didn’t read the books and miss the exposition at the beginning, you will find yourself lost in obscurity throughout the rest of the film. Even if you do pay attention, you may still find yourself wondering who’s who, or why certain characters are important at all. Continue reading