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Nice going Dragonball Evolution

masterI may lose a few loads of any credibility my opinion site has managed to get me in the last month, but I don’t care. Dragonball Evolution was a pretty decent manga live action movie. You may have seen the trailers and the posters, hell you probably laughed as heartily at them as I did. The special effects looked like they had  been copy pasted  from the mid 90’s cult classic “Mortal Combat” which was awesome. Beyond that, choosing Justin Chatwin, the guy who played Tom Cruise’s son in  “War of the Worlds”, to become”Goku”, the main protagonist from the manga, seemed like Hollywood’s bastard attempt to create an anime  live action anglo friendly box office titan. It may have well been, but Chatwin was pretty kick ass to say that he didn’t have a whole lot to work with.

11-14 year old boys would probably adore this flick. There are plenty of cute girls, great fighting scenes, and some nice fantasy elements to aid the retelling of one of the most popular mangas of all time. Having never read more than 2 pages of the manga, I found that the writer did a good job of explaining the story without alienating a non Dragonball fan.

Chatwin summons the box office gods

Chatwin summons the box office gods

“Dragon Ball: Evolution” is the story of a unpopular teenaged boy named Goku, who  is found by an old martial arts expert who raises him as his grandson. On Goku’s 18th birthday his grandfather gives him a dragonball. There are 7 Dragon Balls spread all over the Earth and whoever possesses all seven can summon a dragon who will grant any wish. Piccolo, an evil alien demon, comes to Earth in search of all the Dragon Balls so that he make a wish to destroy the planet. Lord Piccolo (James Marsters, Spike from Buffy) and his faithful sidekick (Eriko Tamura wearing a bad wig) have descended on Earth to appropriate all seven Dragon Balls,  so that they can destroy the planet.  Bulma (Emmy Rossum of Phantom of the Opera with a silly blue hair streak), a scientist who wants to use the Dragon Ball’s as an energy source (go green!) finds Goku at his house with her Dragon Ball Energy finder. Together they start a quest with Master Rochi (Chow Yun Fat), Goku’s Grandfather’s Trainer, to find the Dragon Balls before Lord Piccolo so they can save the Earth.

While true fans of manga will be shocked and appalled by the story’s modification and the anglo “Goku” who does not have a tail, viewers who are just looking for a good time at the matinee will not find any harm. The actors and actresses all seemed to be in good spirits, Yun Fat yucks it up as “Master Rochi” in his Hawaiian shirt, Bulma’s love interest Yamcha (Joon Parks, huge in Korea, unknown in America) is charming and fun as a hustlin surfer dude, and Chatwin’s Goku is pretty charming and likeable. Even Ghostbuster Ernie Hudson shows up in a brief role as a monk . Ernie Hudson is 63 years old, I can hardly believe that.

The special effects came to the aid of a slightly soft script, adding nicely to slowed down fight scenes, dynamic alien space ships, a fucking dragon, and amazing Buffy the Vampire Slayer makeup for Lord Piccolo, a demon who was imprisoned for 2,000 years and is a wee bit vengeful about it.

Spike from Buffy, is that you under there?

Spike from Buffy, is that you under there?

Overall this movie was a fun watch, coming in at 86 minutes it had amazing pacing, I also had a few laughs “with it” as opposed to “at it”. Weirdly enough I’m pretty interested in seeing the promised sequel. All in all, a better picture than “Race to Witch Mountain”, so if you’re stuck babysitting your little brother this weekend take him to see this one. It will probably rank number 10 at the box office this weekend, though it’s been very successful in Asia, but it still deserves a fair shot for being entertaining.

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Monsters Vs. Aliens. Go B.O.B.

Monsters Vs. Aliens

Monsters Vs. Aliens

$16.00 was the price of my movie ticket for the 9:20pm showing of Monsters Vs. Aliens at the AMC in Century City. This is the most money I have ever spent on a single trip to the movies. Yet I am not disappointed, I am nostalgic. As I have only been to a 3 dimensional movie twice in my life, and both times I was under 10 years old. As an adult, I was filled with childish glee, an almost drug induced happiness, watching this weirdly grown up Dreamworks toon.

Now Monsters Vs. Aliens did not reinvent the wheel, however it was well paced, wonderfully animated and had a slew of jokes that crossed all age barriers. Now in order to see this movie in 3D you have to purchase a pair of 3D glasses for $4 (real cost $0.04)  which oddly enough are knock off Ray-Ban Wayfarers, endearing to children and hipsters. The previews were 3D and waht you forget as a grown up, is how giddy you get when technology starts fucking with dimensions. I imagine 2009 will go down as the year that 3D  theatrical releases force its way into your local theater because at this point, you can download any media desired on the internet, so studios will have to go out of their way to offer us a reason to pay the steep box office prices.

The movie starts by introducing us to Susan Murphy (Reese Witherspoon) on her wedding day. She finds out that her groom to be has cancelled her dream honeymoon to Paris in favor of a  honeymoon to Fresno and she is pretty bummed. As she tries to be optimistic about it when a giant meteorite crashes down to Earth and lands right on top of her. She toonishly shakes it off and runs to the alter to marry Derek Dietl (Paul Rudd) her douchebag newsanchor in training, groom to be. Before Susan can get to the vows, she starts glowing green and grows to become 49 ft 11inches.

The military led by the hardcore General Monger (Kiefer Sutherland) swoop in and commandeer the Susan the Giant, bringing her to some sort of testing facility where she meets up with her soon to be monster friends. Bicarbonate Ostylezene Benzoate or B.O.B. (Seth Rogen)  is basically a blob of goo that has one eye and no brain yet better comedic timing that most of the humans in the movie. The Missing Link (Will Arnett) is a monster from 20,000 years ago who appears to be half ape/fish with a giant ego and a big heart. Dr. Cockroach (Hugh Laurie) is a brilliant scientist who happens to be a cockroach. The last of the monsters being the gigantic cuddly Insectosaurus, the mute of all the monsters is the one you’ll care about the most. Mr President (Stephen Colbert) is the funniest human character, playing the toon President like the best of Clinton’s charm and the worst of Bush’s intellect, he also provides one of the biggest laughs of the movie. General meets with the President and they decide to send the monsters to fight a war against Galaxhar (Rainn Wilson) an evil alien who’s waging a war against Earth. The monsters fight the aliens, San Francisco is destroyed and Susan makes some big revelations.

The casting is amazing here, grouping together the best talents of our generation for an animated movie that’s a little gritty featuring some semi coarse language (boobies and pee) and a little sexual. But that’s how Dreamworks rolls and I love it, down with the G rated snoozefest “UP” Pixar family toon. Viva Dreamworks!

B.O.B (Bicarbonate Ostylezene Benzoate)

B.O.B (Bicarbonate Ostylezene Benzoate)

It’s all pretty predictable and the moral was visible from the first 5 minutes but it didn’t matter. I could count original storylines and plots from cartoon movies in the last 10 years on one hand. The way they used the 3D images is what I’ll remember the most about the movie, well second to the top notch casting. Instead of using the technology for oohs and awws, they concentrated on using the 3D for perspective, bringing to life the amazing background imagery and subtle nuissances in the animation. It was well thought out and perfectly executed, the use of this technique brought you fully into the movie because less than halfway through you forget it’s a 3D movie altogether and you just let yourself go with it. Simba’s dad doesn’t die, Bambi’s mom won’t be shot, and Dumbo will not be incarcerated in a cage, but like it or not  Monsters Vs. Aliens will still find a way into your heart,

I Love You, Man..Totes Magotes to you.

Paul and Jason at a Rush concert

Paul and Jason at a Rush concert

A few thousand posts ago, I mentioned winning some tickets to the premiere of “I Love You, Man”. Well that premiere came and went and your loyal hero totally missed the ball on hyping you up to see this soon to be Apatowian classic. I won’t bore you with amazing details, in just 3 short sentences I’ll catch you up on that fateful night.

I stood in line with friends and waited to get tickets. I ran to press line in the hopes of meeting my beloved Seth Rogen, who was not in attendance. I tried to get Jason Segel’s autograph but was soon swallowed by the crowd, I propelled myself in his direction and got a much closer look. He is a younger, taller  Judge Reinhold and that’s a compliment because Judge Reinhold is the cat’s pajamas in Danger’s opinion. After that pursuit, I focused my attention on the arrival of  Paul Rudd who was NOT  6 feet tall, to my dismay, but he was nice to look at. I resumed my place in line and was escorted inside the glorious Mann Village theater. As I was waiting for a friend to use the bathroom, I came across Weird Al Yankovic, the man, the legend. He was noshing on popcorn, I interrupted to shower him with praise and I got to take a picture with him. The highlight of my night, since I couldn’t commandeer Seth Rogen, Yankovic would have to do.

Rudd and Segel rock out to "Tom Sawyer"

Rudd and Segel rock out to "Tom Sawyer"

We got to our seats and star gazed until one of my friends went out to buy us some soda pop, and came back saying that concession was free. Highlight # 2.  Being rich and famous means you don’t spend money, and that is so backwards I won’t go into it.

Then the lights dimmed. The screenwriter/director gets up for the movie’s introduction and we are thrust right into the bromance of the year until July 31st when “Funny People” arrives in theaters. The movie has a nice Californian pace and the laughs are aplenty. Paul Rudd plays “Peter Klaven” a man in love with the idea of being in love, devoting so much time to the lady in his life that he forgets to have friends of his own. He proposes to his girlfriend played by Rashida Jones and shortly after realizes he hasn’t any friends, so who will be his best man?

I Love You, Man

I Love You, Man

A  full on  man hunt is under way. After striking out a few times, he holds Klaven, a real estate agent, holds  an open house for Lou Ferrigno’s estate, where he  meets Sydney Fife (Jason Segel) and they immediately hit it off. The bromance begins, brimming with Vespas, Ugg boots and jackoff stations. Stuttery, awkward yet  perfectly executed, Rudd breathes life into a man we don’t often come across in the movies. A guy without friends.

He courts Fife, stammering and hopelful, finding common ground and opening up to this stranger in hopes of landing a best man for his nuptials. Fife is just as smitten but can hide it way better. Segel takes his character on as a guy who is brutally honest, caring, masculine, and without inhibition. The dynamic duo however is not the only reason to watch this movie twice. Joe Lo Truglio is great as the voice cracker, Lennon is razor sharp as the guy whom Peter smites in the beginning of the movie and tensely hilarious Jaime Pressly and Jon Favreau are the couple who hate/love each other. Andy Samberg doesn’t get nearly enough time to flex his comedy muscles as Klaven’s gay younger brother but take what you can get. Rest assured, the DVD will be chocked full of unrated glorious tidbits and deleted scenes for your home viewing pleasure. But do not wait for the DVD, watch this movie in the theater now, it will work for a dude’s night out or a romantic date.

Rudd and Segel make for an amazing comedic coupling, fresh and charismatic, which is why this movie should have took the top slot at the box office. A light comedy featuring great music and a slew of cameos, should have pounced the twice yearly Nic Cage suspense/thriller. Show the studios that it doesn’t take a disaster movie to get people into a theater. A little late now but there’s always “Funny People” in July.It’s time to let the funny guy win for a change.

The Race/Escape to Witch Mountain

The Rock and friends

The Rock and friends

I went in on “Race to Witch Mountain” this Saturday and had I been 8 years old, I would’ve been mildly impressed. As a grown up, I found myself shocked at the Dwayne Johnson, the wrestler formerly known as “The Rock”, and the amount of charm that this giant man owns. A mediocre Disney release that will probably go on to make $150 million during it’s theatrical release, this movie put all it’s weight on the adorability of Mr. Johnson.

Playing Jack Bruno, an ex con turned taxi cab driver who is being chased by some thugs that want his repaid immediately.  When one afternoon 2 aliens disguised as angelic blond tweens sneak into his taxi and offer him a wad of cash to take them to their spaceship, his job is to mangle his cab in a big chase scene while asking lots of questions that never get answered. Protect the children who are being chased by the C.I.A. at any cost. That is what Jack Bruno was born to do. The ex con with the heart of gold. Dwayne is not left with a whole lot to work with, maybe the convict aspect of the character supplies the grit, but he practically breaks the fourth wall in every scene to apologize for the movie’s writing.

The kids are played by Anna Sophia Robb, Violet from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Alexander Ludwig from Sandlot 3. I can not believe they made a third Sandlot movie. Really? Anyways the kids are stoic “aliens” with Anna Sophia playing the loving one and Alexander plays her brother who trusts no human.Carla Gugino took a break from filming “Watchmen” to phone in her appearance as a kooky scientist who owns The Rock’s heart.

The Rock and friends in a spaceship

The Rock and friends in a spaceship

With mediocre “Power Ranger” like special effects and some non threatening? violence this is a decent movie to take your niece or nephew to if you’re stuck babysitting in the near future. You won’t be bored and there’s always Dwayne Johnson’s ever pulsating bicep to keep your loins company for an hour and a half.

Anyone over 10 years old can see how this will all play out immediately and to make all the parents in the audience more uncomfortable, they give a big wink at the end of the movie to let you know that this time next year you’ll be watching this movie’s sequel. Sorry. At least this will hold the kids over until the next Pixar/Dreamworks 3d extravaganza makes it’s $200 million budget into a theater near you.

You got me good with “Synecdoche, NY”

"Paranoia shrink wrapped as art" the movie

"Paranoia shrink wrapped as art" the movie

By now, any true film aficionado knows their redundant role when it comes to the ominous works of Charlie Kaufman. He only creates original, awe spiring masterpieces that leave you perplexed as you sit in the Java House sipping your  triple shot non-caf soy latte from unnaturally large mug. discussing his genius could take hours if not days and you are  better person for having witnessed this cataclysmic cinematic explosion breathe it’s life all over your film screen at the Arclight.

synecdochenewyork

Snap out of it fool. This 124 minute opus to paranoia and death obsession was beautifully shot but played out terribly. Now I don’t need everything to be spelled out for me, I enjoy deciphering the meanings of intelligent films. I love it when a filmmaker uses the medium to open up a dialogue  inside the viewer, aiding the exploration of concepts and ideas, that might otherwise go untapped.  Film speak aside, for the first half of this movie,Charlie Kaufman you get a C+in this class.

“Synecdoche, NY” is about Caden (Philip Seymour Hoffman)  who is struggling to be a relevant play director, trying to maintain the women in his life, and dealing with hypochondria, extreme morbidity, and paranoia. Subtle cuts and editing techniques are used as devices to trigger emotions in the film viewer but theses images and actions are too abstract to strike a chord. All the women in Caden’s life (Michelle Williams, Catherine Keener, and Samantha Morton) are emotional wrecks, and what starts off as a cute neuroses becomes an utter annoyance to watch. Perhaps this movie was made for the average white nerotic male writer but unlike Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine, or Being John Malkovich this movie  refused to offer me something to identify with.

The second half of the movie has all the heart but I couldn’t be redeemed. The characters truly go from worst to worse and it took me over 3 hours of pausing and making excuses before I forced myself to actually finish it. Torture. Guantanimo Bay style. Sad reflections are presented and I began to attempt to root for Caden but I felt depleted.

I am truly saddened that a movie I was looking so forward to seeing offered me little to no incentive for my viewership. I’ll probably have to watch it a second time because there might be a lot to be uncovered in this film puzzle.  Maybe next time Kaufman. There’s always next time.

Savage Grace. Oi Vey

savageposter

They must’ve known this story did not need to unfold cinematically from the moment they started adapting the second act. Starring Julianne Moore, Eddie Redmayne, and Hugh Dancy this film could’ve been shot for a quarter of the price and turned into a saucy Showtime Red Shoe Diary episode.

This dramatization of the Barbara Baekland murder in 1972 features Moore as Barbara, a charming cultured American socialite who is more intrigued by entertaining her social circle than being a caring mother or wife. Her husband Brooks played by a stoic always fleeting Stephen Dillane, leaves her for their son Tony’s ( Redmayne) prospective girlfriend. Girlfriend theft aside, Tony doesn’t care as it’s revealed that he is gay and only wants acceptance and love from a father who can’t get away fast enough.

Spoiler Alert.

Barbara hires Sam (Dancy) a gay escort, to act as Barbara’s perpetual dinner date, easing her back into the social circle that gawk and gossip about Barbara’s divorce. Sam winds up screwing Barbara, then Tony screws Sam. Then 2 scenes pass and they wind up having a threesome. Yes, she sleeps with her son. Pulling the old Oedipus card, nice.

Sam gets freaked out and leaves. A couple scenes later Barbara walks into the living room where Tony is hanging out, proceeds to engage him in chitty chat, during which she seduces, straddles and totally does it with him. 1 scene and a half later he starts bitching about some dog collar he can’t find, he finds it in the kitchen, realizing she hid it, he stabs her, calls the cops, orders Chinese food, grubs and then holds the dead body until the cops come.

Then the movie ends. The title cards are used to let you know what happened to Tony afterward and I’m left sitting on my couch with my jaw on the floor. What was that? The first 45 minutes was all soft porny, followed by 30 minutes of incest and then capped off by matricide. I didn’t care about Tony because Redmayne played him unneccessairly numb and snarky. I cared about Moore for the first 15 minutes but then she started to become a cartoon. I tried to figure it out, to see where it was going, but it could be summed up as a true story that probably reads a lot better than it played out on the big screen. You want a good nasty shock, watch “Oldboy”, wanna feel a little bit ashamed of yourself? Then by all means, Savage Grace is for you.

Sex Drive. Straight to Video? Apparently not.

sex-drive

This movie comes highly recommended from my stoner friends and that may be saying it all here folks. The undeniably tired genre of teen comedy is practically put to bed in this forgettable buddy flick. The few laughs courtesy of Clark Duke ( check out clarkandmichael.com, 10 minute webisodes featuring Clark and Michael Cera of “Superbad” fame, will make you laugh repeatedly) are not nearly enough to keep this turd afloat.

clarkandmichael

James Marsden (who can’t really catch a break in Hollywood ever) plays the quintessential bully older brother “Rex” who probably chugged18 Red Bulls to appear super hyped during each scene. In the lead acting position is Mr. Josh Zuckerman playing “Ian” is mind numbingly bland, so much so that I felt like he was still in shock that he got the lead during the filming of this cookie cutter “bro” comedy.

Urged by Lance (Duke) to steal Rex’s car so that he could drive one state over to lose his virginity to his internet girlfriend whom he’s never met, Ian heads out on the road trip from hell with Lance and Felicia, Ian’s attractive female best friend who likes Lance but Ian likes her, and she might like Ian but they’re best friends since the first grade and she doesn’t want to ruin that. A lot going on huh? Isn’t it funny how people in movies are always best friends since they were 2 months old? I don’t know anyone from 1st grade, I can only assume they went on to graduate from grade school to pursue a life of crime. I can’t waste another molecule of energy hating this movie so I’ll sum it up short and sweet. Shenanigans ensue, a couple sight gags and a completely predictable ending later, “Sex Drive” left me completely flaccid.

REVIEW: Vicki Cristina Barcelona

vicki-cristina-barcelona

I’ll begin by saying that I am in no way a Woody Allen connoisseur,  but I’ve enjoyed the few works of his that I’ve had the chance to watch:  “Annie Hall”, “Matchpoint”, and the delightful but dark “Cassandra’s Dream”. I went into this movie with only a vague knowledge of the plot. Well  I really only knew that Scarlett Johansson and Penelope Cruz kissed each other and that Ms. Cruz’ performance scored her an Oscar nod. From the previews I had surmised that it was some time of road trip movie where 2 girls fall for the bad guy from “No Country for Old Men”. I was a little wrong.

V.C.B is a 96 minute comedy starring Scarlett Johansson-Reynolds (is anyone acknowledging that yet?) Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem and Rebecca Hall (who is good in the movie but doesn’t even have a photo attached to her I.M.D.B page) as a horny bunch of coming of agers. ScarJo and Rebecca fly to Spain to spend the summer finding themselves. Rebecca is engaged to the perfect man, uber responsible and future minded, while ScarJo is a single, impulsive free spirit. They are shown around Spain by Rebecca’s uncle and aunt, whom they are staying with. They happen upon Bardem at an art gallery. ScarJo is immediately enthralled and finds out Bardem is a painter with a certifiably insane ex-wife and more charm than a Blow Pop. They  encounter each other after the art show at a local restaurant and Bardem invites the 2 ladies to an island to eat drink and make love. Temptation is offered and partially pursued, Penelope enters the picture and lights a firecracker on the screen. Her performance, a pertinent one to this film, was not in my opinion the best supporting female role of 2008. That being said, this movie is a solidly entertaining, filled with charm, variety and a cast that is fit to captivate even a non believer. I wouldn’t put Vicki Cristina Barcelona in your top slot but it has definitely earned a space in your Netflix queue.

House of D, and I’m done.

houseofd Now I will be the first to admit that I have a major dvd buying compulsion.  I own hundreds of  dvds and easily half of those I’ve never seen and a better portion of those are still in their original packaging. Back in the early 2000’s toward the end of Blockbuster’s reign, I perused their section of previously viewed dvd’s on a weekly basis. I’d spend $25 bucks every Friday and leave with a little white yellow and blue bag filled with upwards of 5 used but otherwise in good condition movies. Of those 5, I would watch one and throw the rest into my dvd bucket in the corner of my room.

The times they changed and so did my responsibilities so like any good 26 year old with rent to pay, I purchased my very own Netflix subscription. For $13.99 a month I can watch as many movies as I want but only 2 at a time. Only problem is the returning of said movies.  I find it to be as difficult as killing a newborn kitten to physically remember to return these movies. I manage to send back my movies once a month on average, meaning that I am spending $14 bucks a month to rent 2 movies. My name is Desiree and I am a sloth.

Then on a  day like today, after practically taking a lynching at the office, I get home with some Chinese takeout and decide that I want to be entertained cinematically. I saunter over to my makeshift library and I select a lesser known David Duchovny directed movie entitled ” The House of D”.

The cover reflects a few name brand stars with credible work, Robin Williams, Tea Leoni, David Duchovny, and Anton Yelchin and that’s pretty mucha recipe for a good hour and a half of entertainment. I throw the disc into my electric pink dvd player and snuggle into my Transformer blanket as the credits begin to roll.

The movie is of the coming of age variety. Kid has a bad childhood, a few horrible events follow him into adulthood and he  must revisit his painful past if he wants a brighter future.  I sobbed like a bitch for maybe 45 minutes of this heart wrenching film. It played like a shocking prediction. I was too shocked to see this obvious about to occur. Robin Williams was great as “Papass” a  mentally challenged man. Actors playing the ubiquitous mental retardation role for the Oscar nod should be smited. Duchovny (director, actor) was stoic and snarky per usual, even Tea Leoni was good as the single mom with the world on her shoulders. However, Mr. Anton Yelchin stole the movie and a tiny portion of my perv heart. He put a realness, warmth and empathy into a run of the mill movie. Erykah Badu was amazing and necessary, providing the movie’s much needed edge factor. I fully recommend this movie if you want to drop a few tears  or if you want to join the Anton Yelchin train. Not a bad ride. Wow I employed a lot of critique cliches in this post. How gauche.

Anton Yelchin Robin Williams

Anton Yelchin Robin Williams