28 January 2008

RAMBO

Rambo with a Vengeance

Well, after the extreme success of Rocky Balboa, it was a no-brainer that a new Rambo was on the way. As with Rocky V, Rambo III was a terrible finale for the franchise. But, Rocky Balboa finished the saga of America’s favorite fictional boxer. Rambo did not give complete closure. Another Rocky film would be a huge mistake. Another Rambo film, well, it couldn’t hurt. As with Rocky Balboa, Rambo was written and directed by the star Sylvester Stallone.

This was Stallone’s first real action film to direct. I have to say, it was not bad. It had a budget of around $47.5 million. I want to know how much of that was spent on blood, gore, body parts, and fake corpses. This film could quite possibly be the most violent film I have ever scene, and I have seen plenty. I find that I do not find films violent often. I am jaded and desensitized to violence. Yet, this film was violent to me. With that, I can only imagine what other people thought. Right before my showing started, a family of three sat in the row in front of me. There was Mom, Dad, and a 10 year old daughter. I don’t get it.

The film opens with a news report of the horrors going on in Burma with the civil war and genocide tearing the nation apart. We then get our first look at Rambo hunting snakes with natives. Stallone, who openly admitted to using HGH, beefed up to over 200 pounds. I am the same height of Stallone, weight about 200 pounds, but I am in no way shape or form in that good of condition. Soon after returning to his shack of a house, some people on a church mission ask if he will take them up the river into Burma. The group is lead by Michael played by Paul Schulze, who may recognize as Father Intintola from The Sopranos. Rambo refuses, but is later convinced by Sarah, played by Julie Benz of Angel and Dexter fame.

On the way up the river, Rambo does what he does best, he kills. He kills an entire boat full of Burmese pirates to protect his group of church missionaries. Once getting them to shore, the camp that they arrive at is quickly attacked and the survivors are taken captive. Another person from the church comes and asks our hero-without-a-home to take a group of mercenaries up the river to rescue the group. Upon getting them to shore, Rambo then decides to join the group. The leader of the mercenaries denies him. When the mercenaries get pinned down, Rambo gets them out of it. This makes him part of the team. The rest of the film is a Burmese bloodbath. There are plenty of creative death sequences, and then plenty of old fashioned ones, too.

For a Rambo film, this one will probably be second only to First Blood. This film was missing one key element, Richard Crenna and his character Colonel Samuel Trautman. Sadly, he died a few years back in 2003, leaving Rambo with no one to help him control his issues. There was one scene I this film that was almost identical to one in Rocky Balboa. It involved black and white archive footage from the previous films. I was slightly disappointed with the repeat on Stallone’s part with that. Verdict: Worth the money if you are a fan, if not, you weren’t going to see it anyway.

14 January 2008

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

I went to see this with my sister when she was in town. I wanted to see this, and my wife didn’t, so if it weren’t for the fact that my sister was in town and wanted to see it, I would have ended up there alone, like many other films I see. We both really wanted to see the latest Depp/Burton masterpiece. A fact worth noting is that I was not even aware of this musical until seeing Jersey Girl a few years back. Even then, I thought it was something made up for the movie.

To sum it all up, I was disappointed. I didn’t get it. The whole movie is a tale of revenge, love, and betrayal. I had it all figured out long before the end. I don’t know if that was part of the movie, trying to figure it our or not. I just do not understand why everyone was obsessed with this movie. I still do not understand why Johnny Depp won the Golden Globe for his role. It was nothing new for him to play a weird deranged character. Helena Bonham Carter was excellent in her role of Mrs. Lovett. Sacha Baron Cohen was sadly under played. He seemed a bit out of his element in this film. Alan Rickman was on his game of creepy Snape-guy. And who can forget typecast Timothy Spall playing henchman Beadle Bamford.

The movie opens with Tim Burton using his trademark opening sequence with the camera following something while the cast and crew names are shown. It was a callback to his Batman says when we went around the mantle of the bat. In this one, we follow blood through, over, and around various objects that make appearances later in the film. Opening credits are a lost art. James Bond films still use them, thank goodness. We then get our first look at Sweeney Todd and Anthony Hup, played by newcomer Jaime Campbell Bower. The first song number was the best. The rest of them seemed out of place. They sing a song about London and how it is dirty but home. Sweeney Todd then goes straight to Fleet Street. This is where the horror story of Benjamin Barker and his family. Barker’s wife was coveted by the evil Judge Turpin, Rickman, and he had him arrested on bogus charges and exiled from England. His wife and daughter, Johanna, were then taken in by Turpin. His wife took a poison, and Johanna was taken in by Turpin. Barker has now returned as Todd. He sets up shop as a barber at his old place that is over a bakery run by Mrs. Lovett.

As the story unfolds, Hup falls for Johanna and he and Todd scheme to free her from the grasp of Turpin. Todd sets up his barber chair to dump bodies of his victims into the cellar for Lovett to cook into her meat pies. Cohen plays Signor Adolfo Pirelli a rival barber. The rest of the film revolves around Todd exacting his revenge on Turpin, Hup’s love for Johanna, and Lovett’s love for Todd.

Amidst the betrayal, loyalty, love, hate, and revenge, the musical aspect is really were I got lost. The story was fantastic. The acting was great, though some was better and some out of place. The direction was phenomenal, too. It was the songs that were off. They were more like dialogue lines that were sung instead of actual songs. I was not excepting song and dance numbers like West Side Story or Hairspray, but I was not expecting people to be talking and then sing a line, talk a line, sing a line, talk a line. It was odd. This is the only aspect of the film that got on my nerves. I am fairly certain that I would have enjoyed the movie more if the singing was eliminated all together. Verdict: Worth the watch once. I might rent it again to see what a second viewing does for me, but a purchase is not on the horizon as of right now. I would, however, like to see a stage production of this for comparison.

07 January 2008

Cloverfield

Monster Mystery Satisfies






There is not much to say here. It is Godzilla meets The Blair Witch Project with a budget closer to the latter. It is a handheld camera filmed movie that has given people motion sickness all over the nation with its 85 minutes of cinema genius. The whole movie follows a group of six friends who survived the initial attack and are trying to get out of New York before the monster comes back. As with the producer’s hit show LOST, Cloverfield is apparently littered with clues throughout explaining the origin of the monster, and many other things. As a casual viewer, I did not catch any of these, but still thoroughly enjoyed this film. I had to see it opening weekend because I was afraid that someone would ruin it for me. I am here to say that there is no big huge secret that will ruin it for you.

The cast is made up of a bunch of nobodies. The only person I recognized was Lizzy Caplan from Mean Girls. It was directed by first time director Matt Reeves. The whole film is shot through the eyes of these survivors so we only learn and know what they do. All the action that is going on is in the background of the movie. It reminded me of an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in which the episode follows Xander instead of Buffy and her fight against evil. Since we follow this group, we are left with many burning questions. What caused this monster? Where did it come from? Why did it attack? What does it look like in its entirety?

As I said before, I do not have much to say. The concept was brilliant. Cloverfield was fantastic. Be warned, it will cause motion sickness. Verdict: If you are not afflicted with motion sickness and you like monster films, this is a must see. If you get motion sickness, then rent it and watch it on a small TV or something that will work for you. It is loaded with fun and creativity. I will be purchasing this one for sure.

01 January 2008

I am Legend

Smith Keeps His Legend Going

Well, this was a treat. I liked the original The Last Man on Earth starring Vincent Pryce made in 1964. This film was based on a book written by Robert Mathis from 1954. There was another incarnation titled The Omega Man starring Charlton Heston in 1971. Will Smith has now tackled the same role as these two legendary actors.

The film focuses on a mysterious viral mutation of a cure for cancer. Robert Neville is the only man left on Earth who is not infected. The infected suffer from symptoms similar to that of vampirism. Neville does research on captive “dark seekers” in search on a cure. He has his own time schedule that he sticks to in order to keep himself and his companion dog alive.

This film completely relies on Will Smith to keep in audience enthralled. He is the only person on screen for over 90% of the film. There are flashbacks to help explain how we got to where we are. In his last film, The Pursuit of Happyness, his son Jaden plays opposite him. In this, his daughter Willow plays his daughter in the flashbacks.

Will Smith is box office gold. He can do no wrong. In this film, I wonder where his nomination for Best Actor is hiding. It is not his strongest role, yet, the whole film worked solely due to his acting abilities. Isn’t that why Tom Hanks was nominated for Cast Away? I do not think that his acting is on par with his past couple movies, but still. If he were to fail, the whole movie would come crumbling down. Instead, he was on it, and the CGI brought it down. The “dark seekers” were completely CGI and completely lame looking, moving, sounding, etc. Why could they not use real people and make-up? That is what was done in the two previous incarnations of the same story. I understand that they did not have CGI back in the 60’s and 70’s, but why use it now? They are still meant to be humans, just slightly mutated. There was no need to use CGI, and crappy CGI at that.When another human enters the scene in the form of Anna, played by no-name Alice Braga, the movie stalls out. The last act of the film drastically changes pace and style. Some say it ruined the movie, but I do not think that it was that bad. The end was not what it should have been, but I blame the CGI for “ruining” the movie. I have the book on request from the library because I want to know how it ends. The ending between the two versions I have seen are very similar. Apparently, there is another ending filmed, and it should be on the DVD. I am looking forward to that. Verdict: Though disappointed in the ending, I do advice seeing this. Will Smith has hit another homerun. I will purchase this on Blu-Ray when it hits the streets.