Monday, November 30, 2009

The Day I Lost 180 Minutes

I love having days away from work as much as the next guy. I’m a lazy s.o.b. hence a site dedicated to an activity where I get to sit motionless for 2hour bouts. But the downside to days off is that during the daylight hours there is absolutely nothing worth watching on television. And during the holidays it’s even worse; networks play it safe by turning to marathons, most of which consist of the same movie on a loop. Let’s face it, if that movie is not A Christmas Story then the chance of getting even one view from guys like me is pretty slim. Even the premium channels are weak during the day. But they have “On Demand” so I figured why not check out their library and see if there is anything I haven’t seen. Oh neat, The Day The Earth Stood Still. I would never want to pay for it, but since it’s free why not?

A remake of the 1951 film, this update stars Keanu Reeves as Klaatu, an alien visitor; Jennifer Connelly as Dr. Helen Benson, an astro-biologist; Jaden Smith as Jacob Benson, the young, pain in the ass stepson of the good doctor; and a large, cycloptic alien defense system made up of tiny metallic termites. The plot is simple enough: a large glowing sphere is on a crash course with Manhattan. Convinced it will wipe out the city and that there is zero time to evacuate, the geniuses of the U.S. Government decide to round up the most brilliant scientific minds to examine the aftermath. But when the sphere slows and coasts harmlessly into Central Park the inhabitants of earth are not overjoyed for being spared, instead reach historic levels of panic and automatically assume a state of fear/policy of “shoot first, ask questions later.”

You would think from all the trailer and promotion of the “IMAX experience” for this movie that it would at least be a sci-fi, special effects extravaganza. SPOILER ALERT!! It’s not. It’s an overly dramatic movie that puts a lot of its heavy burden on Jaden Smith’s back and acting performance. While he’s fine at what he needs to do, the movie just falls flat and here’s why. Klaatu professes to Helen that his mission to earth is to save the Earth. But not it’s homo sapien inhabitants, oh no. The Earth. The question Klaatu must answer is: Are humans capable of change? Can they change their ways in order to save their planet and forego intergallaticly sanctioned genocide?

After sitting through 2hours of movie watching an inept government run a “seek and kill” mission for a being they do not understand and watching people riot and run in fear I was kind of on Klaatu’s side. You know what? Unleash the hounds and locusts. Let it all burn down! People don’t change and they treat their planet like crap. If we’re going to make movies with warnings about how we treat our planet and each other then let’s go all the way across the finish line to at least get the message across. Why cop out at the end and go for the sob story? Even innocent men will confess to a crime when a gun is to their head. So people becoming “nice” near the end of existence means nothing about the ability to achieve true change.
I’m sure you can guess how this movie played out. More spheres appear and serve as arcs to help transplant non-human animals safely away from the planet while the locust-like metallic termites go to work on the eastern seaboard. Perhaps what you didn’t expect is a lack of depth for Jennifer Connelly. Her character is a waste and serves a babysitter and dialogue medium to progress the story. She is far too talented to be relegated to a role such as this one. Jaden Smith shows some talent and I’m sure we’ll be seeing much more of him in years to come. And Keanu…the one thing that is not going to help his acting image is playing an emotionless alien…or maybe it’s right up his alley.

You know, this movie is not so much bad as it is just not good. I’d say skip it because you’ll want to finish it just to prove to yourself that you can and that’s a challenge no one should undertake -- 1 reel out of 5

If you’re keeping score there’s still a little over 60minutes remaining on my time lost. And that time went to The Girlfriend Experience, a Steven Soderbergh film made on less than a $2M budget and filmed in less than two weeks starring porn star Sasha Grey. I’d love to tell you what this movie is about, but truth is I don’t know. I mean, I know that for 76 minutes I watched as a high-end escort (Sasha Grey as Chelsea/Christine) went on several…uh…client dinners listening to men complain about the impending 2008 Presidential election and economic decline all while struggling with her open relationship with her gym trainer boyfriend, Chris.

But the film is not presented chronologically and Soderbergh should know better. There is no reason for this cheap trick other than to keep us intrigued by what we do not know, for had this story been told chronologically we all would have walked out by minute 30.

It’s a weak movie with an even weaker storyline that probably would have been best served as a series of vignettes about the economy and election rather than a movie held together by a balsa wood premise. In fact, the most brilliant thing about this movie is the fact that Soderbergh n’ crew were kind enough to keep the runtime under 90minutes.

Grey’s performance is better than I expected, but in no way does it measure up to the hype I had been hearing. Like the movie itself, her character lacks any real depth or dilemma. I am confident, however, that she has the capability to turn in a much stronger acting performance if given the tools (not sure if a pun was intended there). The only reason I will give it a better score than The Day The Earth Stood Still is because this may be something die hard Soderbergh fans will appreciate. But I think instead of wowing you with a surprise performance the movie disappoints at every turn -- 2 reels out of 5

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Who is the Baddest Bad Ass Villain?

When it comes to movies everyone likes to talk about “favorites”, “bests”, and “good”. Whatever happened to the bad? Stone/acid wash jeans and saying, oh so slickly, “that’s bad.” Sometimes Bad is a good thing. And that’s why I’m bringing it back and breaking out the tournament to find out who is not only bad, but who is the baddest. The baddest villains in movie history have agreed to meet in the Hendecagon for Really Reel Reviews’ Baddest Bad Ass Tournament. The Challengers have been divided into four separate regions: Famous Villains, Horror, Science, Classic Villains, Sci-Fi.

EAST REGION: Famous Villains
The Joker v. Hannibal Lecter: First off let’s establish that we’re going with the more sadistic Joker that we simultaneously loved and feared in The Dark Knight and with Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal. Both villains are psycho/sociopaths that would make Charlie Manson brown his tighty-whities. Both have done stints in insane asylums and escaped only to wreak more havoc. This is one of those first round bouts that would go the distance and become epic, perhaps too early in the tournament. Lecter is a well-educated man who is pretty much as disturbed as a man can be .He knows everyone’s next move before they do and usually makes you pay…by using your brain as airplane snacks. But most of what we know about Lecter is through story and reflection, and in 2 out of 3 movies in which Hopkins portrayed Lecter he’s really serving as an aide to police, a snitch…and we all know snitches get stitches and end up in ditches. And that’s where The Joker will put him. A sadomasochistic-pyschopathic genius who possesses the intelligence of the world’s greatest hero – Batman – and the sinister traits of all the world’s worst villains. WINNER: The Joker

Johnny Lawrence v. Darth Vader: “Put him in a body bag, Johnny!” Sorry, pal, not this time. Your dumbass got crane kicked in the face by a kid you already hobbled. Nice defense, idiot. Good luck fighting the dark side of the force. WINNER: Darth Vader

Freddy Krueger v. Michael Meyers: I’ve always hated Michael Meyers. It pissed me off how he could catch up to people who were running and he just walked. I think he’s a punk and when it comes down to masks he has the worst one. But Freddy’s got style. Freddy wears his deformity like a badge of honor and he’s the only murderer daring enough to wear a J. Crew sweater while slicing whiny brats to bits. Freddy would rip Meyers to pieces, no contest. WINNER: Freddy Krueger

Leatherface v. JigSaw: Ooooh, this is another tough one. Task forces of police can’t take down JigSaw. By the time you realize where he is or what he’s up to it’s too late and you’re already trapped in one of his elaborate torture-porn schemes. On the other hand, Leatherface is a chainsaw wielding freak who did to body chopping what Edward Scissorhands did to landscaping. Without JigSaw getting the jump on Leatherface – which he couldn’t – he’s just a sickly old man who doesn’t have the stones to kill anyone. The best part of this would be watching JigSaw get a little taste of his own terrible tasting – like Robitussin bad – medicine. WINNER: Leatherface

NORTH REGION: Classic Villains
Vampires v. Zombies: If we go with the baddest Zombies out there, like the Rage-Type zombies from 28 Days/Weeks Later, then it’s possible they could stand a chance and get the drop on a Vampire. The thing about defeating a Zombie is that you want space and lots and lots of artillery. For Vampires it’s a little different. You need smarts, strategy, and – depending on your beliefs – some other artifacts or trendy objects. To get an idea of how close and ridiculous this bout would be just watch Tyson v. Holyfield, the biting and blows that happened there are almost as exciting as what you’d get here. Zombies are relentless, but Vampires are too cool and they need blood just as much as Zombies. In a bout that is sure to go the distance…WINNER: Vampires

Frankenstein’s Monster v. Werewolves: Seriously? There are only two things that are more of a punk than Frankenstein’s Monster: Frankenstein himself and Johnny Lawrence. WINNER: Werewolves.


Predator v. Valdamort: This bout comes down to an age old philosophical question: is the wand truly mightier than that sick ass wrist thingy? In true rock-paper-scissor fashion wrist thingy beats stickWINNER: Predator

Alien v. Terminator: Pick your best Alien and your worst Terminator and I still think the Terminators come out on top. Aliens dominate in tight spaces, vent ducts, and creepy, other-worldly habitats. They simply have no predatorial abilities except over humans. Aliens were the prey of Predators and I am confident they’d be wiped out by any terminator in a matter of moments. Bleeding or spitting acid or not…WINNER: Terminator

The Joker v. Darth Vader: From my brief stint as a mega-nerd I discovered that the force operates on emotions – anger, jealously, fear, that sort of thing. If you believe the Joker is an angry, jealous man then Vader has the upper hand. However, I think The Joker’s mind is too distorted and cannot be mapped by words like “fear” and “anger”. I think he’s too complex to fall victim to Mind Tricks and force choke grips, and smart enough to avoid the light-saber or telepathically thrown boxes. Instead The Joker will play mind games that will exploit Vader’s own emotions and hot-headedness. Some will call it the upset of the century, but I think it’s an epic showdown with total destruction of all things around it and only one survivor. WINNER: The Joker

Freddy Krueger v. Leatherface: I really think that Leatherface is one of the baddest dudes out there. Have you ever tried to just walk with a chainsaw and not cut off your own hands? This guy can run and cut you to bits…but even bad ass serial killers need sleep. And that’s when Freddy says, “night-night, freak.” WINNER: Freddy Krueger

Vampires v. Werewolves: Ugh, all the tweens out there just soiled their pants in extreme glee thinking this was a Twilight: New Moon reference. There have been many film instances in which these two famous creatures have battled each other. In a caged death match it’ll come down to brains v. brawns and in this case brains will take the edge. As BJ Penn said in regards to this battle, “it’s like matador versus the bull.” WINNER: Vampires

Predator v. Terminator: T-1000 is perhaps the greatest villain in movie history. I don’t think anyone will disagree with that fact. And unless there is bubbling hot lava or liquid nitrogen on the Predator’s wrist band I’m pretty sure he’ll get sliced to bits. In a perfect scenario the T-1000 shape shifts into a Predator and just toys with him for a moment, something similar to the “guard with coffee” scene in T-2, an oldy but goody. WINNER: Terminator

The Joker v. Freddy Krueger: In the West Region Finals we saw Freddy put Leatherface six feet under in his sleep. But the only person’s whose dreams may be more disturbing than his everyday life as a villain is The Joker. Again, I think he’s one of the smartest human villains in film and comic book history. He’s conniving, disturbing, and yet, in a way, charming. Freddy, you fought well and proud, but the tournament underdog is taking this one. WINNER: The Joker

Vampires v. Terminator: There is nothing a Vampire can do a Terminator. There is no blood to take from a T-1000 and very little from at 800 series of Terminator. Again, with no major weapons systems the Vampires stand no chance and at the very least a Terminator could stand by idly and wait for a Vampire to starve to death. Vampires are like the Arizona Cardinals: they’re good, but mainly made it this far because of their poop region (yes, I know the Cardinals are a decent team. Just go with the analogy). WINNER: Terminator

CHAMPIONSHIP BOUT: Death is the Only Way Out
The Joker v. Terminator: If you dropped an atomic bomb on a state fair it wouldn’t compare to the carnage that would ensue in this showdown. I have already called each of these two the greatest villains in history. But who would win? Terminator: advanced weapon systems, devoid of emotion and relentless killing abilities. The Joker: extremely intelligent and a seemingly endless amount of resources. Taking into account the sadomasochistic personality of The Joker I think he would be willing to put himself in a harmful situation to overtake any of the Terminators…but he’d fail. T-1000 can only be stopped in a couple of ways and without access to those tools The Joker would fall, but only after severely hindering Terminator. A fight for the ages and one that would forever disable T-1000, the greatest Terminator, villain, and baddest bad ass…


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Black List

The other day we decided to see Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day and we were lucky enough to gatch a glimpse of the new Hughes Brothers film The Book of Eli starring Denzel Washington. I asked myself, what was the last Hughes Bros. movie I remember ? Holy crap! From Hell, 2001. And then I started thinking about the long and varied, but ultimately successful career of Mr. Washington. Wow, three very talented black filmmakers teaming up together for what looks like a pretty bad-ass action flick. This train of thought barreled right past the station platform and into a whirlwind of thought about the current status of Black actors and filmmakers today. With an interracial President in the oval office I think it’s important to look back at how far we – yes, this is a term that is applied to all humanity not just one race, ethnicity, religion – have come as a civilization, nation, world.

Not long ago HBO decided to ask – and seeked to answer - these questions with a documentary vehicle The Black List: Vol. 1 which was an Official Selection 2008 Sundance Film Festival. HBO decided to continue the examination with The Black List: Vol 2 which "profiles some of today's most fascinating African-Americans. From the childhood inspirations that shaped their ambitions, to the evolving American landscape they helped define, to the importance of preserving a unique cultural identity for future generations, these prominent individuals offer a unique look into the zeitgeist of black America, redefining the traditional pejorative notion of a blacklist."

A lot of people like to talk about art imitating life and vice-versa, but either way you look at it I think our celebrities and leaders help to begin to paint the picture of America’s current status in a variety of areas. Unfortunately, the success and acceptance of a lot of celebrities masks the inequities and injustices that many Americans today face due to status: racial, social, economical. The Black List: Vol. 2 helps expose and unmask what is all too often a mystery or surprise to many Americans. And this is done through conversation and reflection. The entertainers and entrepreneurs featured in this volume – Maya Rudolph, Tyler Perry, and my man RZA – talk about those who have inspired them by making countless and overlooked sacrifices that have allowed all of us – regardless of race – to enjoy their talent.

I highly recommend picking up a copy; you can get it for mad cheap at Target and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to UNCF. Pick it up, pop it in, and digest - I’m telling you no matter who you are you will find someone on here to relate to and a story that will touch you. The Black List: Vol. 2 trascends race and becomes something more - an invaluable dialogue in which we should all take part.

You can catch/follow The Black List at any of the below links:
Webpage Twitter Facebook Myspace

And make sure you check out the below exlusive interview with R3's new favorite woman, Maya Rudolph.