Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Flightplan: SeanBeanSeanBeanSeanBean

What? This is a Jodie Foster movie? Yes, that's right but here is Sean again! Unfortunately, stuck in his supporting actor role, he doesn't get to take center stage in this misguided thriller. Nothing against Jodie, because I love her, but this mother-daughter stuff is just o.k. I kind of liked Panic Room, because of the colorful bad guys, but I'm starting to not be able to buy what's she's selling. I admit I was excited about the movie when I saw the trailer. I liked that she knew the plane and was going to have some fun running around it, chasing bad guys, looking for her kid. I identified with the kid loss aspect because I too have a six year old. If I lost her, I'd fall down dead with grief. But there were certain events that derailed this movie which was just too bad.

I don't want to do any spoilers here today. But I read a news story about Flightplan shortly after the movie came out. It seems a group of employees in the airline industry protested the portrayal of their characters in this film. Quite frankly, they ruined the story. I tried to forget but I couldn't completely fool myself and it did bum me out. Toward the end of the film we find out "why Jodie?" It happens over a couple of scenes and I got that frown on my face, like "did someone just bullshit me?" The explanation didn't work. I found the "you're crazy, lady" storyline annoying after a while. And Sean, as the captain, didn't act as I would expect him to. Since 9/11 (and they reference that in the movie) there are very specific rules for when things go wrong on an international flight - or any flight. For example, overly loud or irrational passengers and physical altercations. So many things go wrong on this plane that any sane captain would have had such heebie jeebies the plane would have been landed asap. But time and time again they just let it go.

There are certain "unbelieveialities" (Ha ha - what a stupid fake word-perfect for this blog!) that I can handle. Like in The Island. That's set in the future where just about anything can happen. But Flightplan is set in this time period and I can't get past so many shortcomings. In a final annoyance I checked IMDB and found out that Erika Christensen played one of the flight attendants. What was so irratating about this was that Erika got so much screen time but never really did anything. I kept waiting for her to unmask herself as SOMETHING - a good guy or a bad guy. I got zip nada from her. I figure she must have been dating the director.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Hellboy: Channel your inner 11 year old

You know I haven't yet seen Fantastic Four but my question is, how did they pass up Ron Perlman for the role of The Thing? I mean, he would have been perfect! But I'm sure Michael Chiklis did a terrific job and when I see it, I'll let you know.

Hellboy was a great flick. Perfect for muching the popcorn and slurping the soda. Sitting in my basement I did none of those things but I'm sure it would have added to the enjoyment. Speaking of eating and drinking there was an odd thing that happened with product placement in this movie. There were only two products, beer and candy bars. What's odd about this is that in a pre-teen movie, I would expect to see dozens of products from just about everything. But there were the candy bars and the six pack of beer done in an in-your-face kind of way. That's it. The camera zoomed up, showed us the product, and panned away. Off to the next scene. As if they said "check! product placement scene complete." They should have just left them out. I think the product placement sales guy took off in the middle of his shift.

Hellboy (Ron) was dark and broody and missing his girlfriend. He has a soft spot for cats. When we see him for the first time as he's introduced to his new keeper I was startled. I thought he ate the cats! Whew! Glad we cleared that up. He had a couple of cute nicknames, "HB" and "Red". I don't know if they do that in the comic book but it must be awkward shouting, "hey Hellboy, what's shakin'?" Red was good for me. I have yet to see an un-made-up Ron Perlman but he certainly fit the role physically. I liked that cool rock arm they gave him. I guess he was channeling his inner pussycat with that swishy tail. And the cigars! I thought the stubby stogies fit him very well. What does he care about smoking? He's a demon! A zippo is always a cool accessory.

I enjoyed the villain Rasputin, played by Karel Roden, especially when he was conjured up from a pool of blood. That was creepy yet fascinating. What confused me at the end, however, was his frustration with Hellboy who wasn't completing his duties as expected. During other scenes, Rasputin is unflappable. But in the face of Hellboy's little rebellion, he gnashes his teeth and shakes his fist as if they put mustard on his quarter pounder. But I still liked him.

The monster, Sammael, even gets a credit. He (it) was played by a dude named Brian Steele. I think Brian is pretty good at this sort of thing as monsters are his specialty. Sammael, with his snakey dredlocks, reminded me of our excellent Predator friends from those movies of the same name. Very fond memories, there.

I liked Hellboy because it took itself seriously but didn't hesistate to enjoy the work. The characters were earnest without being overly so. And finally, the romance between Hellboy and Selma Blair gave new meaning to the phrase "hot burnin' love."

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Curious George The Movie: "That was awesome!"

...shouted my six year old at the end of this oh-so-cute movie. A few parents around us chuckled and agreed. While I have raved about other animated films in the past I would have to say this is one for the kids. They really enjoyed it but I could have taken a pass.

My four year old mentioned a few times during the movie "we've been watching for hours!" in a sure sign of boredom. I thought they could have picked up the pace a bit too. The boring stuff they plugged in was the trite, embarrassing, uninteresting, and unnecessary relationship between the Man in the Yellow Hat and Maggie, played by one of my least favorite actors, Drew Barrymore, the little slut. As if I have always wondered why The Man in the Yellow Hat doesn't have a girlfriend. When we read these classic stories his marital status is the last thing on my mind. And Drew, drawn with huge anime eyes, takes a superior tone with the bumbling bee-colored explorer, and that annoyed me. Harrumph.

George is very adorable. He is voiced by Frank Welker who coos like a happy baby throughout the film. George is like a non-verbal two year old with the acrobatic ability of The Flying Wallendas. Although he sometimes expresses disappointment, George never gets angry. In a "my dad doesn't love me" storyline, Junior, son of Mr. Bloomsberry, attempts to discredit George. His treachery got caught by my daughter who reported, "he's not nice, Mommy." Not nice indeed.

I've read reviews of this film where folks hacked on the animation, that it wasn't up to par. I thought it was pretty, and brightly colored (lots of yellow!). The kids were engaged. But I would ask that the script writers decide in advance what they want to do with a film. If they are going to make me sit there in the theater for 86 minutes, then the grown up storyline needs to really grab me. If not, then keep the story at the kid level and go straight to dvd. That way I can still do the laundry while they watch it.

Friday, February 03, 2006

TROY: Sean Bean is Magic and the Slave Girls Are Back

After complaining about Sean's work in National Treasure, now I see him everywhere! In Troy he plays Odysseus, the guy who's supposed to keep Achilles in line, if that were possible. More about him later.

I'd like to share a little tidbit. I'm of Greek descent. My Dad used to tell me about the Greek gods and we even had a copy of Bullfinch's Mythology on the shelf. So I had some rudimentary knowledge of the story of the battle of Troy. When the movie started I tried to remember the players: Achilles, Paris, Helen. That's as far as I got. It started to come back thinking, "yeah, Agamemnon, that nutjob." But I was surprised during that first scene with Paris - who was that other guy? Hector? Who is he? What I found out is that Hector was the true hero of the story. Achilles, on the other hand, is a pig. I had to laugh (inappropriately) when we first meet him: a boy has been sent to find him to fight as Agamemnon's champion. So where is he? Piled on his sleeping furs with not one but TWO beautiful women. It's as if someone checked out the script for "Alexander" and said, "Achilles will NOT be gay!, Not gay!" They weren't going to screw that up. But the bottom line is that Achilles is not a nice guy, one could say barely honorable. Which was very big in those days. A helpful voiceover in the beginning of the movie sets the tone for the relationship between Agamemnon and Achilles so we know those two are going to be trouble.

One of the biggest surprises for me was the portrayal of Paris, played by the plucky Orlando Bloom. I find out that he's really just a boy. He has no battle experience and is basically a pampered prince coddled by his older brother Hector and his father. He's been shagging Helen, wife of Menelaus, right in the middle of peace talks and then he steals her away! For love. What a dope! Hector thinks so too but it's an awful dilemma: return Helen and be killed or continue to Troy and start a war.

I need to talk a little bit about Brad and technical details. I realize why Brad Pitt was chosen for the role: he's a popular actor, hunky, and a draw for male and female movie viewers. But I don't feel he was right for the role of Achilles. The way he spoke his lines didn't ring true for me. I tend to imagine that actors in these epic films have spent time on the stage, honing their skills with Shakespeare. But not Brad. His sentences were clunky as he worked with the formal speech, like he couldn't wrap his mouth around the words. Sure he has a nice body (I mean, really sure) but it didn't seem fabulously warrior special. Achilles is supposed to be nigh invulnerable. Mom dipped him in the river Styx, effectively giving him skin of steel. I really expected him to take an arrow to the chest, and have it bounce off. But the filmmakers never did that. I wonder if they thought it would be too cartoonish. He ran around a lot, and fought, but again, I didn't see any particular skills that were so special. His dyed blond hair was brassy and unattractive, even showing roots in some scenes. They should have kept it natural. There's nothing that says that Achilles must be blond. It was ugly hair.

I'm back again to discussing people's teeth. Specifically, actors with veneers. You can see them! And while I hate to be a stickler for details there were no veneers in ancient Greece! The extent of dental work was pulling out rotten teeth, not covering them up and making them beautiful and white. Agamemnon, played by Brian Cox, has a nice set of choppers. But they were not authentic.

"Cue the dancing slave girls!" Here we go again. Troy had that same MGM old time epic film feel. It was a big undertaking but it missed the mark. The Trojan War was a complicated story and I give them credit for maintaining the threads throughout. But I tried to find a sympathetic character and the only ones I could really like were Hector, played by Eric Bana, and Odysseus, played by my man Sean. It didn't make me laugh, or cry or feel much of anything. The fighting was never really clever, even with the horse. The city of Troy had a soundstage feel to it so I didn't mind when they burned it down. It was just a bad movie. Skip this one.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Layer Cake: Dude's the New Bond?

Huh. I don't know if I'm going to do spoilers or not. If one pops in I'll be sure to put in the warning. I don't like to ruin anyone's fun! I liked this movie. I enjoy gangster films with dangerous situations, clever and not-so-clever criminals, and head-busting scenes. The accents make it fun to listen to if you don't mind thinking over and over: "What? What the heck did he just say?" British films are good for that. Does anyone remember Snatch? I don't and I saw it. I can't remember what anyone said because I couldn't understand it the first time around. And I was a language major!

But anyway. Onto Daniel Craig. We learn about our main character's flaw right up front. He wants to retire from his lucrative drug business and thinks he's clever enough to do so. Oddly enough, he doesn't like violence and doesn't carry a gun. "I hate guns!" he exclaims. He's sort of prissy about the whole thing as if his work was a high paying 9-5 job like anyone else. But bad guys step in and mayhem ensues for poor Daniel. With lots of funny twists!

I really checked out this guy's apartment. I don't know London, but one of the characters makes mention of Daniel's tony neighborhood. One of the things I like to do sometimes is look closely at the sets. This one was austere, almost as if he were an allergy sufferer or cleaned compulsively. The walls and furniture were dark, gray and concrete looking. It was a man's man kind of bachelor pad with minimal but strong furnishings. Remember that commercial where the guy in the scarf is listening to music so loud it starts to blow his champagne glass over? "Is it real, or is it Memorex?" It was like that. Supercool. He had a nice bed, with luxurious looking sheets.

Daniel himself was dressed pretty nattily all the time. He was a little on the metrosexual side, kind of fussy but good looking nonetheless. I worried that he was so lean, though, that folks wouldn't think he was nourished enough to be the next Bond. They might want to fill out those hollow cheeks a bit prior to filming.

I tried not to like Sienna, because she is so beautiful. But they kept her part small enough that it was never annoying. When he asked "what are you doing?" and she said "nuffing" I was amazed at how cute British women can be. I reflected on how I loathed Renee Zellweger in the last "Bridget" movie but then again, she was only faking being British, fat, and annoying.

Colm Meany (what a cool name) deserves a shout out for his portrayal of Gene, a right hand man. He brings a real grittiness to the role and I'm so glad he's moved on from Star Trek. Morty, played by George Harris, was deceptively violent. I didn't think he had it in him, at first. I enjoyed Morty.

See? No spoilers today. Stick Layer Cake on your Netflix queue, or get it from your local library, like I did. It was a fun violent movie that had me exclaiming "NO!" and laughing several times.