Thor (2011)

Oh, no… this is Earth… isn’t it?

— Thor

I don’t know if you know this, but the comic book adaptation of Thor is my first time seeing a 2011 release in the theaters. I know! Surprise! I had a unoffical boycott of the theaters since the quality of the movies sucked major elephantiasis balls last year. I heard that the movie was getting some positive reviews. I was like okay. Besides, I want to see The Avengers next year, so I have seen all the components before the geeky movie ever comes out. I went with a friend of mine. She wanted to see Jumping the Broom and I should have went with her.

The only knowledge I have about Thor is that he is the Norse god of thunder and that he talks in Elizabethan language. I knew this because I had read the only copy of Thor that my older brother had when he collected comics as a kid. Thankfully, the movie does not have that. That the only good thing about it.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth), his brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and their father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins) are in a battle with the Frost Giants lead by Laufey (Colm Feore). Laufey tried to invade Asgard before Odin defeated his army and took the Casket of Ancient Winters, which is the source of their powers as their own.

Odin is getting older and needs to chose a worthy successor to weld the hammer, Mjolnir and possess the powers of the Thunder God and lead the Asgardian people as their new king. Thor believes that he is the right one for the job, because he wants to fight to protect his people, not diplomacy. He is very arrogant about what the right thing is for everybody that he is about to swear to protect. Loki wants to have a chose to ascend.

When Thor is about to be crowned the new king, a couple of Frost Giants broke into the palace to try to take the Casket. They are defeated. Loki, Thor,  his childhood friend, Sif (Jaimie Alexander) and the Warriors Three; Volstagg (Ray Stevenson), Fandral (Joshua Dallas) and Hogun (Tadanobu Asano) accompany him to Jotunheim against Odin’s orders to demand how they were able to get in the palace. A battle ensues and Odin comes to rescue.

Odin is disappointed in Thor that he is unworthy of having the powers of Thor and banishes him to Earth. There Thor is found in the middle of New Mexico desert by astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), her assistant Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) and mentor Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård). They want to know where did he comes from. The hammer, Mjolnir is found miles away like Excalibur. Agents from S.H.I.E.L.D., headed by Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) want to find out as well about the circumstances of Thor coming to Earth.

I was expected to be blown away by this movie, but I wasn’t. The movie seemed liked a Nordic soap opera with banishments, finding babies that are not their own, an old man falling into a “Odinsleep”, betrayal and it everything in between. The sequences in Asgard where very over the top, melodramatic and yawn inducing. The only thing that saved this movie was Kat Dennings as Darcy. I would never think that this girl would make me love her for delivering one liners.

Judgment: This makes me worry about the Avengers movie. If Captain America sucks, then you know all of them together is gonna suck times a million.

Rating: 4.5/10

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Memento (2001)

Memory can change the shape of a room; it can change the color of a car. And memories can be distorted. They’re just an interpretation, they’re not a record, and they’re irrelevant if you have the facts.

— Leonard Shelby

It has been a while since I have seen the film that put Christopher Nolan’s name out front and center, the #29 Film of All-Time on IMDb, Memento. It was nominated for two Oscars, including Best Original Screenplay and  Film Editing. The strange thing is that the story is based on Jonathan Nolan’s short story, Memento Mori. Personally, I don’t like movies that go backwards through the narrative. There is something tragically simple about this movie that make me forget about my past grievances with this way of storytelling.

I don’t know how to approach this review without spoiling the ending, which is in the beginning of the movie. Hmm… Be forewarned. A man who has short-term memory loss, Leonard (Guy Pearce) had just shot a cop named Teddy (Joe Pantoliano) in head. He takes a Polaroid for a little reminder that the person that he thinks raped and murdered his wife (Jorja Fox) and lost him with his memories will be documented.

As you know the narrative is backward to retrace the events that lead to Teddy’s demise. The puzzle is slowly being put together. Leonard has an arm full of Polaroids. All of the clues to find the killer has been either in the Polaroids or have been tattooed on his body as a reminder of his ultimate goal of revenge.

Was Teddy telling the truth? Because a person named “John G.” was the person that was there that night his life changes. Teddy is not his real name. Leonard realizes this from Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss), a woman who Leonard befriends while he is investigating. Is she working for him or against him? He cannot trust anybody unless it was written on the back of the Polaroids.

He tries to remember Sammy Jankis (Stephen Tobolowsky), a former case of his when he was an insurance investigator. He thought that Sammy was faking his condition which it is exactly like his. Everything that Sammy remembers before the accident, he knows. He has trouble building new memories like Leonard. His wife (Harriet Sansom Harris) thinks at she could do something to trigger his memories, but nothing happens.

Leonard has to deal with betrayal, manipulation, murder, drugs, and theft all for the ultimate goal of solving his wife’s murder.

The movie is carefully thought out about what happens next. I thought the flashbacks in black and white broke up the movie in a good way to see how Leonard knows certain things and not others. This is probably the best performance of Guy Pearce’s career. I thought that the ending was different from what I remember. It blows my mind that the movie about memories and not making new ones could make me questions how the ending or beginning was.

But I did have some questions about certain elements of the movies that didn’t make any sense to me. What happened to the drug money? How did Leonard get those items that belonged to his wife? I cannot think of how that happened. I went over the movie again.

Judgment: I know that Nolan is capable of making movies outside of the Batman franchise that could still be good.

Rating: 9/10

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

Today and tomorrow I cast out demons and work cures. On the third day, I will be perfected.

— Jesus

 

After the rapture did not happen last week, I wanted to see the controversial Martin Scorsese film, The Last Temptation of Christ. The only thing that I have heard is the controversy of having Jesus portrayed as a flawed mortal and not the savior most people know. I didn’t realize that it received the Criterion treatment, but I knew that it was nominated for a single Oscar for Best Director. I think that I would have had a strong reaction back then instead of now.

Based on the 1960 Nikos Kazantzakis novel, the movie is a fictionalized account of the life of Jesus of Nazareth (Willem Dafoe). Jesus is a mortal living his life as a carpenter living with his mother, Mary (Verna Bloom). He is haunted by bouts of fainting spells, widespread pain all over his body and the voices he hears. He doesn’t know if it’s God or the Devil talking to him.

His best friend, Judas (Harvey Keitel) visits him to ask him why is he building crosses for Roman so they could crucify his fellow Jews. Jesus takes pity on the people that he has sent on the cross. The villagers think that he is a traitor and should be killed for his actions. Whenever he walks across the town with the cross, people throw rocks at him. He is spat upon by Mary Magdalene (Barbara Hershey), the local prostitute.

Jesus continues to hear the voices speaking to him. He is conflicted because he doesn’t want to be the messiah. Jesus tries to make God hate him so he could make another person the messiah. He is afraid of every aspect of his life.

He wants to seek forgiveness from Mary Magdalene before Jesus sets off on his journey for absolution. She doesn’t understand why he couldn’t love her and she does for him. While he was purified on his sins, he tries to preach the word of God, but he is not the best speaker to deliver God’s message.

Meanwhile, Judas is sent to kill Jesus, but he doesn’t. He decides to join him on his ultimate mission with the apostles to preach God’s message to the people of Jerusalem. Jesus makes some selfish decisions that could ultimately effected the course of his purpose on Earth.

My first thoughts of this movie are that , why is Harvey Keitel in this movie? He has his regular accent in B.C. Israel. Say what? Ever heard of a dialect coach? I felt like the story was not intriguing enough for me to invest my time with it. Let me tell you, it was a lot of time. The movie is 2 1/2 hours long. I did not feeling anything with the movie. If you have been a regular reader of my blog, then you know that I am not a religious person. Organized religion bothers me that I have to be this person and not myself.

I wish that the movie would have provoked a response, but I think that people are not as easily offended today then they were twenty years ago.

Judgment: This movie should have been dumped into the Dead Sea where it belongs.

Rating: 3/10

“The Unleashed” Trailer

I was recently contacted by one of the marketers of a small Canadian movie called “The Unleashed.” Not to be confused with the Jet Li movie, Unleashed. It is a supernatural movie about a woman being haunted by her past. Here is the trailer:

 Madison Kennard, a troubled woman dealing with her dark past, must venture home after an 8 year absence following her mother’s death. Almost instantly after her return, Madison must cope with the haunting memories of a childhood best forgotten.

Bizarre and unexplainable events occur within the house after Madison and old friends come together to dabble with the infamous Ouija board. Dark oak wood, round in shape, and with numbers in Roman numerals, this board is unlike any others. Found in the attic of the home, Madison has no idea of the secrets and danger that comes with contacting the dead through this board.

 It will première in Toronto next month and will be released in theaters in August.

The Birds (1963)

Don’t they ever stop migrating?

— Annie Hayworth

You know how much I love Alfred Hitchcock movies. He is the only director that I have reviewed at least five on his movie at the time of the LAMBs in the Director’s Chair series. The Birds is another movie that I crossed off that list. It was nominated for a single Oscar for Best Visual Effects. This movie that did not make me feel the same way about birds as Jaws did with sharks.

Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) goes into a pet shop in downtown San Francisco to pick up a bird that she had ordered. Her bird had not come in the time it was supposed. She had to wait until a dashing young man comes into the store, Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) mistaking her for the a worker there. Mitch asks Melanie about what type of bird is best for his sister, Cathy (Veronica Cartwright). He wanted lovebirds. They begin to chat each other up until he leaves.

Melanie decides to surprise Mitch by buying the lovebirds and leave them out on his apartment. She learns that he is out-of-town for the weekend. He is visiting his family in Bodega Bay. She drives to Bodega Bay to find out where the Brenner house is located. She visits the local schoolteacher, Annie Hayworth (Suzanne Pleshette) to ask her about the family home which across the bay. She charters a small boat to sneak birds into the house.

When she crosses back across the bay, she is attacked by seagull. She and Mitch thinks that it is a fluke until the birds of the town start going crazy and start attacking all the residents of the town. The town becomes under siege with seagulls, crows and blackbirds for neighboring towns.

The movie for the most part is unsettling to watch, but I didn’t completely buy into it. I have to say who the hell get killed by a bunch of birds. What, do they peck you to death? It sounds ludicrous to me.

Did anybody get the feels that there is something more about Melanie and Lydia Brenner (Jessica Tandy)? Did you get the sense of a man being a attracted to a version of his mother? I got that feeling big time.

Judgment: The movie is unsettling to with, but it won’t make you afraid of birds.

Rating: 7.5/10

The Back-Up Plan (2010)

I have a feeling you and CRM-1014 are going to make beautiful babies together.

— Dr. Scott Harris

The only reason why I wanted to see The Back-up Plan is because I wanted to see Alex O’Loughlin shirtless. That’s it. I didn’t care about the ridiculous plot, the cookie cutter storyline or the one dimensional characters. I wanted to see him take his top off. That is all.

Zoe (Jennifer Lopez) is a pet store owner that is tired of going the traditional route of finding a guy, getting married and have a family. She is tired of dating losers. She decides to cut out the middle man and be artificially inseminated by Dr. Scott Harris (Robert Klein) with sperm number CRM-1014.

After leaving the doctor’s office, Zoe has a feeling of euphoria. Like she is living in a world full of rainbows and unicorns, when she tries to hail a cab and another guy, Stan (O’Loughlin) get in the same cab she does. Here is the meet-cute. Isn’t that nauseating to watch? Where the fuck did he come from? He must have flew across the street to not get hit by a car. They fight over the cab until both of them get out in frustration. They bump into each other again at the subway. Coincidence? Hmm…

Zoe joins a support group for single mothers headed up by Carol (Melissa McCarthy). They are content about not  having men in their lives. Zoe had yet another run-in with Stan at a farmer’s market when he at a booth selling cheese from his farm, Little Goat. they have a little miscommunication when they meet again — small world — at a book signing for the Dog Whisper,  Caesar Milan. Stan asks her out on a date.

Things are moving fast when Zoe finds out that she is pregnant– not by Stan, but by the sperm she purchased at the sperm bank. How can Zoe tell Stan about what she has done? Will he forgive her?

The movie is fluff. That’s all it is. I am not surprised that the movie is not good. I expected it. The only good thing about this movie is you guessed it, topless Alex O’Loughin. It is nice to see.

Judgment: I suggest googling Alex’ pics from this movie online. Don’t bother with this movie.

Rating: 5/10

Rashômon (1950)

No one tells a lie after he’s said he’s going to tell one.

— Commoner

I do not know that many Kurosawa’s movies. I have only seen Seven Samurai and have reviewed as part of the LAMB in the Director’s Chair spotlight a while ago. I wanted to see more of Kurosawa’s film because I enjoyed Seven Samurai very much. I wanted the #8o Film of All Time on IMDb, Rashomon. It was nominated for Best Art Direction, but it won an Honorary Award for Foreign Language Film, not the competitive Oscar. It was expected to be blown away, but I felt cheated.

The story takes place in the ruined temple of Rashômon where is a torrential rainstorm. A Commoner (Kichijirô Ueda) seeks refuse from the rain. He sees the Priest (Minoru Chiaki) and the Woodcutter (Takashi Shimura) look visibly distraught. The Commoner asks the men what is disturbing them. The Woodcutter tells him about a terrible that happened in the middle of woods on top of the mountain.

He recounts finding a woman’s hat in a tree branch, then a samurai’s cap, a piece of rope and finally the samurai’s body. He goes to the police. The Woodcutter tells his account to the trial of the bandit, Tajômaru (Toshirô Mifune).

Tajômaru tells his tale when the Policeman (Daisuke Katô) arrested in the woods after the murder. Tajômaru tells why he did what he did, because he wanted to capture the wife, Masako (Machiko Kyô) of her husband, Takehiro Kanazawa (Masayuki Mori), but not kill him. Tajômaru ties up husband to a nearby tree. Masako tries to stab Tajômaru with her pearl inlay. He forces himself upon her. Afterwards, Masako says that he dies or her husband.

The Woodcutter thinks that the story is a lie. The movie gives three other versions of the story. One of them is true, but which one.

The movie’s plot was not what I was expecting. Granted, I went into this completely blind. The premise seemed silly to me. I have to watch an hour and half of people counted stories from different perspectives. That’s it. I felt cheated. I thought it was going to be an epic movie, but it was very quiet and subdued. I didn’t care for it. I started and stopped it at least three times, because I was not invested in the story.

Judgment: The theme is interesting, but the rest is not.

Rating: 5/10

Buried (2010)

I’m buried in a box. I’m buried in a box!

— Paul Conroy

Buried was one of my most anticipated movies of 2010. I never got the chance to see in theaters, because it was so hard to find it. When I saw it on the shelf, I had to picked it up. I thought the concept of one man onscreen for a 90 minutes movie sounded interesting to me especially if its Ryan Reynolds. The movie is enjoyable but it’s not 127 Hours.

Iraq, 2006. A CRT contractor, Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) wakes up in complete blackness. Paul realizes that he is bound and gagged. He manage to get himself free. He pulls out a Zippo lighter to shed light on that he is in a wooden crate. He tries to break the crate open, but he realizes that it is buried underground in the middle of the desert.

Paul hears a cell phone vibrating near him. He picks it up, but the script is in Arabic. He misses the call. He dials 911 and tries to explain to the operator (Kali Rocha) about what happened to him. He was taking kitchen supplies to a community in Baqubah when his convoy was ambushed by insurgents. The rest of the contractors were killed and he is the lone survivor. The operator cannot help, because 911 is US service. No use for the Middle East.

Paul frantically calls his family, but they don’t pick up. Then, he tries his wife, Linda’s (Samantha Mathis) cell. Straight to voicemail. He gets the number to the FBI from 411 and explains his dire situation, but he is constantly being transferred to different people. He finally gets in touch with Dan Brenner (Robert Paterson) that works with the program to help people in Paul’s situation.

There is the problem of him being in the box. Paul calls the missed call and it is from his captor, Jabir (José Luis García Pérez) who thinks that Paul is a soldier. Paul thinks that Jabir is a terrorists. They both have misconceptions of each other. His captor wants to see him suffer and holds another fellow CRT member, Pamela Lutti (Ivana Miño) captive. He has two hours to get 5 million dollars or he will be buried alive. With only a cell phone with half of battery power left, a Zippo, a pencil, a faulty flashlight and a pair of glow sticks, he doesn’t have that much time left.

I thought that it was an interesting concept of all the action happening in a confined space like a makeshift coffin. I felt there was something not right about the way the action went. How could Paul be buried underneath the ground and constantly breathing hard, screaming, yelling? The oxygen would have run out fast by halfway through the movie. There was a moment in the movie where I said, “What the fuck?” The movie lost me for a bit.

Judgment: It was a nice experiment that needs a few tweaks.

Rating: 7.5/10

The Piano (1993)

Jane Campion’s The Piano is one of my favorite movies of all time. I regretted not having reviewed this for the LAMBs in the Director’s Chair with her and Kathryn Bigelow a couple of months ago. The movie won Oscars for Best Actress, Supporting Actress and Original Screenplay. Watching the film again made me marvel at the subtle poetry displayed onscreen.

Ada McGrath (Hunter) is a mute that has not spoken since she was six years old. She is set to be married to Alisdair Stewart (Sam Neill) who she had never seen. She has to move across the sea to New Zealand with her daughter, Flora (Anna Paquin) in tow. The boat she is traveling in is packed with crates of clothes, household items and her cherished piano.

When the ladies arrive on the beach, they have to wait for Mr. Stewart to come and take them to their new home. They had to camp out on the beach overnight until Stewart came with a party of Māori tribe members with his guide, George Baines (Harvey Keitel). Stewart learns right then and there that Ada is mute and only her daughter could interpret the words that she says in sign language.

Stewart wants to take everything on the beach, except for the piano because it would have been too much of a burden to carry. Ada insists on taking the piano with them. It is her only prized possession. It is her way of communicating what she is feeling to the world. Eventually, she realizes that she has to leave the piano behind for the time being.

The marriage is not joyous. There is not love there at all. Ada does not show any affection to Stewart. It really bothers him. When Stewart leaves for a quick trip, Ada and Flora come knocking on the door of Baines to ask to go get the piano. In exchange for getting her piano back into her possession, Baines asks her to teach him how to play. The catch is that he doesn’t want to play, he wants to see Ada plays. Their lessons become increasingly awkward as Baines slowly seduces her.

This movie is beautiful to watch. It’s very moody with the blue wash, the torrential rain and the wonderful score by Michael Nyman. The acting in this movie make it what it is. You think that you are not going to like the love story that is happening, but you are strangely drawn to it. The piano plays a major part of why I love this movie. I have this theory that when a person plays a piano, they win an Oscar. Think about it. Adrien Brody is The Pianist, Jaime Foxx in Ray, Ellen Bustryn in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Geoffrey Rush in Shine, the list goes on.

The one thing that bothers me about this movie is the Sam Neill character. I know that he is supposed to be the other guy, but I wish I could have how did he fall in love with Ada to make him do some of the things he did in the movie.

Judgment: A beautiful movie to watch and marvel.

Rating: 8.5/10

Half Nelson (2006)

Man… I’m sweating like George Bush on Judgment Day.

— Dan Dunne

I haven’t seen Half Nelson in a couple of years. Ryan Gosling received a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his performance. I thought I might revisit the movie to see if the movie is still effective. The answer to that question is no.

A young upstart, Dan Dunne (Gosling) is teaching at an inner city junior high school in New York City. He tries to get his students to think about history and how they should learn from the past to become people in the future. He also coaches the school’s girl basketball team. His life is thrown for a loop with his ex, Rachel (Tina Holmes) comes back to town. She comes to the game, but it was a losing game.

After the game, one of Dan’s students, Drey (Shareeka Epps) comes into the locker rom to find him smoking a crack pipe in one of the stalls. He wants her to kept what she saw a secret. He gives her a ride home when her deadbeat father doesn’t even bother trying to pick her up.

Drey begins to cut Mr. Dunne’s class. Drey’s mother Karen, (Karen Chilton) is concerned for her daughter. So she won’t end up being the wrong crowd that got Drey’s brother in jail. She especially doesn’t want her hanging out with the local drug dealer, Frank (Anthony Mackie) and making her hustle for him.

During time at the teacher’s lounge, Jimbo (Denis O’Hare) express his disgust that a crack pipe was recently found in the locker room. Dan and Drey develop a close relationship that for some people would be perceived as inappropriate.

I think that the movie lost its luster for me. I guess, I couldn’t believe that nobody would have pegged this guy as a crackhead. If he was using regularly, he would look like death. I wouldn’t believe that he and Drey would be close friends. I’m surprised that other teachers or administrators wouldn’t have found out.

I know that the movie won a couple of Spirit Awards for both Ryan and Shareeka. I think the movie felt disingenuous to me. It’s a shame, because I loved this movie a couple of years ago. I don’t know what happened.

Judgment: Ryan Gosling comes into his own in this movie.

Rating: 7/10

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