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Monday, July 27, 2009

Cody's Film Review: The Hurt Locker

I did not go into this film with high hopes,because I have no interest in films about the war in Iraq. The subject of the Middle East is about as interesting to me as Hurricane Katrina. It's a tired subject and I get enough about it on television. The modern day War Film is in a recession now because there hasn't been a war of interest since Vietnam. Bad asses like Rambo, Riggs, and Kurtz can't exist in a war that consist of suicide bombers and playing watchdog in a occupied territory. Three Kings(1999),Standard Operating Procedure(2008), and Generation Kill(2008) are the films about Iraq that I've enjoyed the most. Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker isn't as good as these films,but it does come close. The story of bomb defusing during a war is a subject I have never seen on screen, and Bigelow makes it interesting and tense. The acting is top notch all around, and Jeremy Renner is outstanding as the lead. Renner and Anthony Mackie have a great repoir and play off each other beautifully. The Hurt Locker has some of the best cameo's that I have seen in a long time. Guy Pierce is so great at the beginning that I wanted more of him, and it just adds to Renner's performance that you don't miss him after awhile. David Morse is extremely intense as Colonel Reed. He straight out frightens you and his scene with Renner is one of the most uncomfortable moments I have seen in a long time.It was great to see the re-pairing of Bigelow and Lenny Nero AKA Ralph Fiennes. Fiennes plays a bounty hunter and is so good I think Bigelow could make a prequel on his character alone,and probably make a better film. The main problem I had with The Hurt Locker was the length.The movie runs about 15-20 minutes too long.I am not sure where to cut,because all the scenes were necessary or too enjoyable to cut. Towards the end you just start to get fatigued and start looking at your watch. All the acting was superb except for the third person of their team Brian Geraghty. I thought he was the weakest link and he had too much screen time without much to contribute. I also (again) had a problem with using hand held camera with the action. Shaky cam is a TV trick for shows that have no budget, and I'm sick of everything trying to look like the Bourne films. It's a fad I wish they would start ending now. I want to see the action and along with crappy CGI films of the last few years is going to look like rear projection of the 40's and 50's. It's just a sign of laziness and I hoped Bigelow would stick with her old school action ways. Overall it's a good film with great acting, but I am not sure how much re-watching value it has. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Cody's Film Review:(500) Days Of Summer

500 Days Of Summer is at times really original and at other times formulaic. It's a great debut for Marc Webb and the writers of Pink Panther 2. What really makes this film work is the impressive performances of Joseph Gorden-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. They have great chemistry and the relationship seems real. Levitt's character acts like a normal person and doesn't follow the usual romantic comedy conventions. He is very likable, has realistic reactions and doesn't fall every five minutes or act like a buffoon. Zooey is great because her character is not a bitch and you never fault her for her decisions. She is cute as a button and has a great personality,so you understand why he falls for her. This movie falters when Zooey and Levitt are not on screen. The entire supporting cast brings nothing to the table. They don't provide comic relief, forward the story, or even apply descent acting.Here is a run down of the supporting cast and why they don't work.Geoffrey Arend plays a drunk and lonely friend who is not funny,and his only contribution is he tells Zooey that Levitt likes her. Arend is the best of the supporting cast, but fails to turn in what could have been the best character.Think of Alec Baldwin in She's Having A Baby or Jim Belushi in The Man With One Red Shoe,and you will know what I'm talking about. Matt Gubler is a married friend who provides no advice of any kind,and seems to struggle with the art of acting.Clark Gregg is Levitt's boss who tries to provide comic relief,but every joke he delivers you see a mile away. The worse is 12 year old actress Chloe Moretz who is the most annoying cliche in film. She is the typical younger sister giving relationship advice, and is the poor child surrounded by moronic adults. Kids ten times smarter than adults does nothing but make me mad.It has been done a million times and is insulting. If you want to find out a Jonas Brothers hit or what Hannah Montana thinks the best soda is, ask a 12 year old. I was shocked how at times the story and acting was flawless followed by conventional and tired cliches. I recommend this film for the two leads who get absolutely no help from the supporting cast, but you do walk away with some nice moments. 3 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Underrated Work of Mel Gibson

I have a soft heart for action films. 
There, I said it, but can you blame me? I grew up on the works of Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme. The first movie I honestly remember seeing was Lethal Weapon 2

And one can only surmise that's when it started. But upon talking with my brother this past weekend, it dawned on me once more—Mel Gibson isn't that bad. And three of his late-career films have proved that he is, in fact, pretty damn amazing. 

Especially at the whole crazy bit. 

1. Conspiracy Theory (1997) 
This mystery/suspense film was a bridge for Richard Donner and Gibson. They had hooked up, of course, on all of the Lethal Weapon movies. And if one were to judge a movie by it's poster, this one seemed to be a bridge of sorts for all involved. A bridge for Donner waiting for the guys at Warner to finish the script for Lethal Weapon 4 (aka, the one with Jet Li). A bridge for Roberts waiting for the next Garry Marshall production. 
But Gibson chews up the screen as the pop-eyed taxicab driver who "pointlessly" and neurotically thinks of government schemes and buys copies of The Catcher in the Rye
Conspiracy Theory is probably the darkest film Gibson or Donner were a part of back in 1997. The lighting crew on this one used two settings—crimson and black. And Patrick Stewart does his best evil grimace. 
It isn't hard to notice that this film is way out of Donner's league. That guy is best when he's making buddy movies. Hell, even 16 Blocks wasn't bad. But this one, it's pretty damn passable. If only for the fact that Gibson does the OCD bit almost better than Jack Nicholson in As Good As it Gets. 

2. Payback (1999) 
Before Tarantino killed Bill, Gibson and the writer of L.A. Confidential, Brian Helgeland, were fighting each other over which version of this pre-millennium gem audiences would see. 
Payback is a revenge flick. It's title says exactly what Gibson's Porter will do—he will payback all those people that tried to kill him. But Porter does this in the most gruesome ways. 
This is Eli Roth-type stuff, before Eli Roth ever thought of writing it down. 
But this isn't Hostel. No, this is badass. Gibson uses this movie to mutter and mope around like an estranged cousin of Clint Eastwood. And he fights none other than Kris Kristofferson and James Coburn. Gibson doesn't take no damned prisoners. He just wants his slim share of money. 
If anyone were to write a film essay on the thesis "violence begets violence," this movie would hold its rightful place in that novel. But I have a feeling naming the flick, Killing Spree, wouldn't have got many Lethal Weapon fans in the theatre. 

3. Ransom (1996) 
I was roughly nine years old when this movie was released. In this movie, Gibson was on the last leg of his popularity, re-teaming with Rene Russo to create a drama about a kidnapping gone wrong. 
This movie was a solidified hit when the trailer ran. Ron Howard was running off the fumes of the magical Apollo 13. Gary Sinese was earning his title as one of the best supporting actors in the business with turns in Apollo 13 and Forrest Gump
Ransom earned Gibson a Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal of millionaire Tom Mullen. The film is worth watching just for his stellar TV-spot he does with a pile of money, asking the kidnappers to give him his child back. 

In conclusion 
In no way does this mean Mel Gibson should be categorized as a saint. He's not the best actor in the world. He's pulled some ludicrous stunts as well. 
And these movies, they aren't perfect. Some might call them merely guilty pleasures. To me, they hint at something more. 
Here's to hoping Gibson quits the detective schtick and comes back with something along these lines. 

Monday, July 20, 2009

top ten

Check these top tens, gave me a little more respect for Diablo Cody

and put yours in the comments (criterion or otherwise)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Doomsday Machine: Episode 6

Bullet time, Shaky-Cam, the double-reverse twist ending…what other movie trends are you sick of? How about the creepy little kid that has appeared in every horror movie since ‘The Shining?’ Or the whacky/funny/off-the-wall best friend that is fabricated into every romantic comedy? What techniques need to be retired? Well, Scott Griffin has come all the way from NYC to discuss this very issue. After seeing ‘Watchmen,’ I think he’s had enough action scenes with intermittent slow motion speed ramping. The technique made popular ten years ago by ‘The Matrix’ is now a staple in action films and it has overstayed its welcome. Join us on this mind blowing adventure as we Skype in Cody from New York. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

R.I.P. Karl Malden

Karl Malden one of Hollywood's greatest character actors died on July 1st at the age of 97. The way he carried himself and also the way he looked always brought realism to his characters, and the films he was in. Malden was born in Chicago in 1912 and in High School was a big Basketball star. He broke his nose several times playing the great game, and thats how he got his signature nose. He started acting in the late '30's on Broadway, but WWII broke that up for awhile. He returned to acting in the late forties and had small roles in some great Noir films like Boomerang and Kiss of Death. Malden, Marlon Brando, and Elia Kazan became good friends on Broadway and in 1947 they stared and directed in A Streetcar Named Desire. Streetcar was a huge success and Kazan reunited them for a 1951 film version,which Malden won the Oscar for best supporting actor. In 1954 Kazan,Brando, and Malden collaborated for On The Waterfront,which Malden's portrayal of Father Barry was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Other highlights of Malden's career are Kazan's Baby Doll(56). A abusive father in Fear Strikes Out(57) with Anthony Perkins. The Warden in Birdman Of Alcatraz(62) with Burt Lancaster. A has-been gambler in The Cincinnati Kid(65) with Steve McQueen. And General Omar Bradley in Patton(70) with George C. Scott,which was his last great film role. In the 70's to 2000 he did television movies and series, with The Streets Of San Francisco(72-77) being his most successful.

ALSO R.I.P. Harve Presnell

He started off as a song and dance man in the early 60's and had some big roles in The Unsinkable Molly Brown(64) and Paint Your Wagon(69). He released a few albums with his singing and has done many TV and film supporting roles throughout the years. The reason I mentioned him here was because of his flawless performance in the movie Fargo(96). Presnell's portrayal of the cheap, angry, and basic hard ass Wade Gustafson is one of many highlights in a great film. Every time he was on screen their was a smile on my face. He was 75.