Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Episode 38

The Terminal - Tom Hanks plays Viktor Navorski, a native of Krakozia, who wishes to visit New York City. Unfortunately, while he is in transit on a flight from his homeland to America, Krakozia's government is overthrown, and the country finds itself in the midst of a coup. When he lands at the airport in New York, Viktor is led to the office of the person who is second in command on the premises: Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci). Unable to understand each others' languages very well, Frank and Viktor have a confusing conversation, but the gist of it is as follows. As Krakozia is currently not recognized by the United States due to the coup in progress, Viktor is temporarily without a home country. Hence, it would be illegal for him to step foot on U.S. soil. Frank tells Viktor that he may reside within the walls of the airport until his country is once again recognized, but that once he exits the building, he'll be breaking the law. His assumption is that Viktor will get tired of waiting after a short period of time and leave the airport, becoming someone else's problem. However, after Viktor agrees not to leave the airport, Frank discovers that this eastern immigrant is a man of his word. Days become weeks, and weeks become months, and as Krakozia's government remains in a state of unrest, Viktor Navorski remains a resident of the currently under construction Gate 67. During his stay at the airport, Viktor makes several friends among the staff including janitor Gupta Rajan (Kumar Pallana), meal cart driver Enrique Cruz (Diego Luna), and baggage handler Mulroy (Chi McBride). Perhaps most importantly, though, Viktor has several chance encounters with a lovesick flight attendant named Amelia Warren (Catherine Zeta-Jones). As time goes by, Frank Dixon begins to regret his decision to allow Viktor Navorski to remain in the terminal, but with a long-awaited promotion looming before him, he mustn't be too hasty to make a scene at the workplace. If only he could figure out what Viktor is keeping in that Planter's peanut jar that he carries around everywhere... The Terminal is the latest in a long line of films directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks. Many people and institutions consider Spielberg to be the best director of all time. While I don't agree with this statement, I certainly am not crazy enough to say that the man doesn't have an incredible talent for telling a story. In most cases his films feel like modern day fairy tales. The Terminal is a perfect example of this. The events in this movie would never happen. Ever. Yet, The Terminal does not tell an entirely outrageous story. There are no dinosaurs or aliens, but you'll have to suspend your disbelief quite a few times while watching it nonetheless. Characters do and say things that real people in their situations would never in a million years do or say. Yet while I was fully aware of the absurdity of the goings on, I never felt that any of it was done in bad taste. A machine ridiculously spewing quarters in Tom Hanks' face and numerous people slipping on wet floors didn't phase me in a way that they may have in another film because of Spielberg's care in crafting a story that can rip your heart out one minute and make you smile uncontrollably the next. Not all the credit goes to the director, though. Tom Hanks (as almost always) gives his standard great performance. In the first few minutes of the film I had my doubts that he'd be able to pull off the Russian accent and "fish out of water" role of Viktor Navorski, but before long he'd won me over. I was also a bit worried when the love interest was introduced because of the incredibly unbelievable circumstances under which she enters the main character's life, but I was very pleased with the way her role was ultimately handled. Another little tidbit that was a bit hard to swallow was the character of Gupta, or rather what part he ends up playing in the overall story. As with the rest of the absurdities in the film, though, Spielberg managed to ease my concerns with nothing more than a few facial expressions on the actors' faces. Perhaps the only problem that I had with the movie that wasn't fully remedied by the time that the climax rolled around was Stanley Tucci's Frank Dixon. The character was played well by Tucci, but it really didn't feel like he should have been so damn upset with Viktor all the time. Of course, as with any light-hearted drama in the vein of The Terminal, there needs to be a bad guy. Yet, I honestly still feel as though there needed to be a little more reason for Dixon to despise Viktor as much as he did. Outside of that, I found The Terminal to be an enjoyable viewing experience. It certainly won't be making my list of all time favorite films, but it's definitely worth a watch.

Skeleton Key - Caroline Ellis (Kate Hudson) has spent the years since her father's death as a hospice worker in New Orleans. However, after losing another in a long line of elderly patients and not being able to do much to help them, she decides to take a job as a live-in nurse on a plantation. Her feeling is that this will be less depressing than her previous job. Her clients are a secretive old woman named Violet Devereaux (Gena Rowlands) and her husband Ben (John Hurt), who was left an invalid following a stroke. Violet immediately disapproves of Caroline, but as the family lawyer Luke (Peter Sarsgaard) explains to her, it's nothing personal. Violet has disapproved of every girl who has taken the job thus far, which explains the number of girls who have previously quit the position. Caroline vows to keep the job though, as Ben reminds her of her own father whom she regrets ignoring in his final months. Before long Caroline becomes suspicious of Violet and all of her secrets involving the house. She doesn't allow mirrors inside, there is a locked room in the attic, and there's something strange going on with Ben. Looking into the mysteries further, Caroline discovers that the house has a history involving hoodoo, an old African American form of magic that only works if you believe in it. She brushes it off as an old wives tale, but when Ben, supposedly suffering from full body paralysis and an inability to speak, begins struggling to talk and attempts to commit suicide, Caroline discovers that there may be more to hoodoo than legends and folklore. Skeleton Key is neither a movie that I ever intended to watch, nor expected to enjoy. As fate would have it, I ended up doing both. In among the horror movie craze of late with films such as The Ring, The Grudge, House of Wax, The Return, and The Amityville Horror among others, Skeleton Key got lost in the fold for me. However, a chance viewing turned my preconceived opinion of this particular film around. Much like House of Wax, which I expected to be an entirely forgettable film, Skeleton Key actually had several redeeming factors. First of all, the acting is better than I would expect from a seemingly standard horror movie. Kate Hudson did a good job in the lead role and Gena Rowlands played the old woman you love to hate perfectly. John Hurt, though unmoving and silent for the duration of most of his screen time, achieves spectacular displays of emotion based purely on his facial expressions alone. Less than spectacular was Caroline's friend Jill, played by Joy Bryant, who is perhaps most recognizable as the girl who yells "Go Spidey, Go!" while jumping up and down in Spiderman 2. Can anyone say "over-acting"? At least she wasn't in the movie for very long. The movie starts out stereotypically enough, setting up a distrust for the character of Violet and introducing us to the creepy locale of the house on the plantation, as well as giving us some less than original back story for Caroline. However, once the concept of hoodoo is introduced to the viewer, Skeleton Key takes a whiplash-like turn for the better. At first the concept of magic is just used as an interesting way to instill terror in the audience along with the evil portrayal of Violet by Rowlands, but when the twist ending hits, it packs a huge punch. Seriously, Skeleton Key may contain one of the best and most unexpected twist endings that I've ever seen. It was so clever, original, and out of left field that I found myself uncontrollably grinning right up until the credits rolled and then some, as I worked out the events in my head again. For horror movie fans, Skeleton Key may not be the goriest or most frightening film you've ever seen, but I kid you not, the ending is reason enough to watch this movie. I can't think of another film with a similar ending to that of Skeleton Key, and that's what really sets it apart from the rest of the pack. Climaxes like this just don't happen every day.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Episode 37 - The Films of Darren Aronofsky

Pi - Max Cohen (Sean Gullette) is a mathematician. He doesn't just work with numbers, though. He's obsessed with them. Max has a theory. His theory is that everything in existence is dictated by and revolves around numbers. By his estimation, there is a number out there just waiting to be found that can explain life itself and be used to dissect everything in nature. A social hermit, Max spends his days in his cramped apartment or quietly sitting in a coffee shop running numbers through his head. He then takes these numbers and programs them into a computer in his home that he hopes will help him discover the mysterious set of digits that he's searching for. His only means of recreation is visiting an elderly man named Sol Robeson (Mark Margolis) who spent the majority of his own life in pursuit of a number and tries to warn Max that nothing good will come of his tireless quest. Then one day a hasidic jew by the name of Lenny Meyer (Ben Shenkman) sits down next to Max in the coffee shop and proposes to him the idea that there is a number that can be used to unlock a secret within the Torah. Considering the similarities between the number that he is searching for and the one which Lenny seeks, Max offers to help him locate the number. Meanwhile, a business woman named Marcy Dawson (Pamela Hart) has been pestering Max to help her business discover the number he's searching for so that they can use it to predict stock trends and make themselves rich. As Max gets closer to finding the number which has ruled his life for longer than he'd care to admit, he begins to realize that some things are better left undiscovered. Pi is a peculiar movie. It was made with an extremely low budget as Darren Aronofsky's first major film project. It is entirely black and white and the film stock is very grainy. If I had to relate it to another film, that film would be Primer. Primer is a movie that is extremely technological, though the technology within the film is fake. The filmmakers get away with this because they've made the technology in the film so confusing that a lay person has no way of understanding what the actors are talking about half the time, making the premise believable since the average person can't disprove it. Pi is a lot like this. Unless you are a mathematician you will hardly ever really understand what exactly the actors in Pi are talking about, but because they sound so convincing you can take the premise with a grain of salt and just enjoy the events that are taking place. It's a very careful balance that the director must maintain. In the case of Primer, director Shane Carruth relies on the science fiction aspect of his film to keep the audience's interest among all the techno-babble. As for Pi, Aronofsky injects numerous visually interesting moments into the movie that keep even the least mathematically inclined person interested. One such example of the flashy visuals that Aronofsky offers up in Pi are known as "hip-hop cuts". Hip-hop cuts are a series of incredibly fast shots shown back to back, usually with some sort of defining, easily recognizable sound effects to accompany them. These shots are a trademark of Aronofsky's filmmaking. Opposing the very cold, confusing world of mathematics in Pi are the deeply personal problems that Max endures. He is obviously a troubled person, and the frequent back and forth between the scenes regarding numbers and the scenes regarding Max's inner struggles help this film to keep viewers on track. Also of great interest is the music which Aronofsky chose for this film. It is primarily electronic, which makes sense considering the technological leanings of the plot. Overall, Pi has a great premise with fingers in not only the science fiction pie, but also political intrigue and dark drama as well. As with all of Aronofsky's films, Pi is certainly not for everyone, but I'd certainly recommend it to anyone interested in science, science fiction, or quality cinema.

Requiem For a Dream - Harry Goldfarb (Jared Leto) is a heroin addict living in Coney Island, New York. To feed their addiction, he hand his friend Tyrone Love (Marlon Wayans) constantly take Harry's mother's television and pawn it for money with which to buy drugs. They then share those drugs with Harry's girlfriend Marion Silver (Jennifer Connelly), who has dreams of becoming a clothing designer. The three of them are living empty lives when they decide to set a goal for themselves. The plan to open a store for Marion to sell the clothes she designs from is innocent enough, but the method of raising the money to do so is less than innocent. Tyrone and Harry hit the streets, buying heroin and reselling it to raise funds. Things seem to be going well until the supply of drugs dries up and the three of them are forced to dig into their earnings to feed their own addictions. From there things only get worse as the three of them discover what their poor judgement has cost them. Meanwhile Harry's mother is dealing with an addiction of her own: an addiciton to television. Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn) is a lonely, elderly widow who spends her days in her apartment watching tv. When she gets a call from a tele-marketer who promises her an appearance on a television show, Sara is ecstatic with joy. She decides to begin dieting to fit into the dress she wore to her son's graduation for her big onscreen debut. Going to a less-than-reputable doctor, she receives a variety of weight loss pills which soon become Sara's new addiction. Requiem For a Dream is, simply put, one of the most depressing movies ever made. As it's characters spiral ever downward it can even become hard to watch. We're told from childhood that drugs are dangerous and that we shouldn't go near them. In my opinion, if schools want to teach children not to touch drugs they should just show them this movie. Depressing, frightening, and disturbing are all good words to describe this film. However, this is not to say that the movie is not worth watching. In fact, it is very much the opposite. Requiem For a Dream is a great movie. Full of trippy visuals and hip-hop cuts, it's obvious from the get-go that you're watching a Darren Aronofsky film. Where Pi's flaws were mostly found in it's acting, such is not the case here. The entire cast of Requiem For a Dream is outstanding. Jared Leto gives a career-defining performance as Harry. Jennifer Connelly is beautiful as usual, but also really brings it to the table as her character falls deeper and deeper under the control of her addiction. Ellen Burstyn, an actress I wasn't previously familiar with, devotes herself entirely to the role of Harry's mother Sara. She offers a haunting performance that will rip your heart out by the time the finale rolls around. Christopher McDonald is darkly comedic as the television personality with whom Sara is obsessed and Keith David has never been so disturbing on film as he is in his role in Requiem For a Dream. However, perhaps most impressive (and surprising), is Marlon Wayans' performance as Tyrone. Did anyone know that he could actually act? I sure as hell didn't. Again, the music in this film is wonderful, almost becoming a character in and of itself. Just as with Pi, Requiem For a Dream isn't for everyone, but it's a damn fine movie.

The Fountain - Tom Creo (Hugh Jackman) is a medical scientist whose wife Izzi (Rachel Weisz) has an inoperable brain tumor. As such, Tom is testing methods by which he might be able to cure his wife. Just when it seems as though all hope may be lost, Tom's team injects a test monkey with a serum containing the sap of a tree in South America that seems to have some healing capabilities. The new drug has some astonishing effects, including apparent anti-aging properties. Time is running out for his wife, though, and in his haste to complete the new drug his co-workers begin to question his judgement. For some time now Izzi has been working on a manuscript called The Fountain, which is one chapter from completion when she asks Tom to read it. As he reads the manuscript the viewer is treated to the story as well. It follows a medieval Spanish conquistador (also played by Jackman) who, at the behest of his queen (also played by Weisz), sets out to search for an ancient temple that is meant to house the "tree of life" that is mentioned in the bible. To complete his mission he must first find the temple, which would be difficult enough on it's own, but also survive attacks from an invading army. Along with these two plot lines, we are also treated to a third in which a bald man (Jackman once again) floats through space in a large translucent bubble with an oddly shaped tree which he consumes the bark of to maintain eternal life. Alright, this is gonna be a tough one. I must begin this review by saying that I didn't completely understand The Fountain. However, I'm not sure if the audience is necessarily meant to understand it or not. If so, writer/director Darren Aronofsky isn't making it easy for us. The three plots of the film are interspersed throughout, making their confusing stories even more confusing. The relationship between the stories is obviously that of the tree which grants eternal life in one way or another, depending on the story. The fact that all of the stories involve both Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz makes sense depending on how you personally view the events of the film. In all honesty, I can't really comment much on the plot of the film as it didn't make a whole hell of a lot of sense to me. However, there are plenty of other things to discuss. The film is visually very beautiful. The lighting in each scene is superb, and the magical imagery of the medieval and outer space stories is all magnificent. Hugh Jackman delivers a damn fine performance in each of his three roles. Rachel Weisz isn't bad, but doesn't reach the same level that Jackman does. The direction of The Fountain is a bit different from that of Pi and Requiem For a Dream. Most notably, there isn't a hip-hop cut to be found. The soundtrack isn't quite as notable as that of either Pi or Requiem For a Dream, but it remains one of the highlights of The Fountain. In conclusion, I personally wasn't a big fan of this film, as I like my movies to make at least a little sense. Now, there are probably people out there who think that The Fountain is a slice of genius, but in my opinion Aronofsky was a bit too ambiguous in getting his point across. If you like his other works you should at least give The Foutnain a try, but in general it is not a film that I would recommend to the average Joe.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Episode 36 - The Godfather Triple Threat Review

The Godfather - Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) is the head of a New York crime family. People in the city come to him for assistance in solving their various problems and in return they offer their loyalty and services to the man whom they refer to as The Godfather. Unlike the common conception of a criminal, Don Vito has a very high and strict set of standards. He yearns to continue the ways of the old country (Sicily). The times are changing, however, and some of the city's other crime families don't have the same visions for the future that he does. Virgil 'The Turk' Sollozzo (Al Lettieri), the head of another family, wants to work the distribution of drugs into the collective business of the New York families, but Don Vito is strongly opposed to this move. As such, Sollozzo orders a hit on The Godfather which results in him being badly wounded by several gunshots to the back. While Don Vito recovers in a hospital bed, his family scrambles to decide what to do. His hot-headed son Santino 'Sonny' Corleone (James Caan), and his recently married daughter Connie (Talia Shire) are quick to go to war with the other families despite the family lawyer, Tom Hagen's (Robert Duvall) advice. Meanwhile, Vito's more level-headed son Michael (Al Pacino) has recently returned from the war. Despite his reluctance to get involved with his family's life of crime, he cannot let those responsible for the act of violence perpetrated upon his father go unpunished. He offers to meet with Sollozzo and his attorney to attempt to settle the conflict while secretly planning to kill them both. After the deed is done, the Corleone family sends Michael off to hide in Sicily, cutting him off from everyone including his girlfriend Kay (Diane Keaton). In Michael's absence things begin to go back to normal, but there is still an uneasiness among the New York families. Something must be done to make things right again and with Don Vito's health waning, the question of what will happen to the Corleone family hangs over each of it's members heads. The Godfather is yet another movie that seems as though it should not have taken me so long to finally see it. It is widely regarded as one of, if not the best movie ever made. For proof of this you can check out it's place on IMDb's Top 250 Films list. While it is certainly a good movie, The Godfather wouldn't make it anywhere near my personal top ten. In general I'm not the biggest fan of mafia/mob films, however The Godfather definitely made me rethink this generalization. The film is much more about the characters involved than some kind of plot filled to the brim with murders and deception. Don't get me wrong, it has it's fair share of those things too, but in my mind The Godfather is about the Corleone family itself more than anything. Each character is thoroughly and perfectly fleshed out and feels like a completely real person. While I honestly couldn't point out anything outstanding about the direction of the film, the writing and acting are, dare I say, perfect. I didn't even recognize half of the actors in the film because they were so much younger than I'm used to them looking, but watching the movie it becomes obvious why they've all had such long and noteworthy careers. Al Pacino, James Caan, and Robert Duvall play wonderfully off of each other and their scenes together are some of the best of the film. However, holding it all together is Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone. People rave about this performance, and there's a reason for it. Brando manages to make Don Vito imposing and demanding of respect and fear one moment and loving or helpless the next, all the while completely convincing the viewer that he is a real person. It is because of the acting, I believe, that such a slow film manages to be entertaining through the entirety of it's two hour and fifty five minute running time. Yet while the acting and writing are great and the pacing is very good, The Godfather is not a film that I am desperately looking forward to seeing again. Nor did it change the way I look at film or have an incredible impact on me personally. I guess that's where I differ from most people. It's certainly a great movie worthy of anyone's time for at least one viewing, but I don't hold it in such a high regard that I'd place it among the list of my favorite films of all time. I'm sure that most people who love The Godfather and/or it's two sequels would scoff at said list of my favorite films, but that's for a later post, I suppose.

The Godfather Part II - Picking up where The Godfather left off, The Godfather Part II begins with Michael Corleone serving as the new head of the Corleone family. He has relocated the family headquarters from New York to Las Vegas in an attempt to expand his business. When an attempt is made on his life and the two men responsible are found dead, Michael begins a search for the truth behind who attacked him. Simultaneously the story of how Michael's father Vito became the original Godfather is told via a series of flashbacks to the 1920's. In these scenes, the young Vito Corleone is played by Robert DeNiro. After his parents were both killed in Sicily, Vito was smuggled into America by some people from his town before the man responsible for their deaths could get to him as well. After arriving, Vito gets a job, however before long he is let go. With no money to support his new wife and child, Vito assists an acquaintance in robbing a rich person's home. Afterward, a man named Don Fanucci (Gastone Moschin) tells them that he wants some of their money in exchange for his protection. Unhappy with this threat, Vito sets out to kill Fanucci and unwittingly becomes the man whom people go to when they need help. As time passes Vito comes to be known as The Godfather and is loved by much of the community because of the fair way that he treats them as opposed to Fanucci's reign of terror. Meanwhile, doing business in Cuba, Michael has discovered that his brother Fredo (John Cazale) had a hand in the attempt on his life. Also, the head of one of the other crime families has agreed to testify to the government against Michael, and his wife Kay has announced that she wishes to leave him. As tensions rise, what lengths will Michael Corleone go to in order to save his family? As mentioned in the review above, The Godfather is viewed by some as the best movie of all time. As such, it comes as no surprise that there are also those who view The Godfather Part II in the same light. It resides a mere two spots below the first film on IMDb's Top 250 Films list at #3 (#2 being The Shawshank Redemption). It is rare that a sequel exceeds the quality of the original, and I don't personally feel that The Godfather Part II is an exception to this rule. Whereas The Godfather felt well-paced despite it's length, The Godfather Part II dragged at some points for me. Of course, it does clock in at a whopping three hours and twenty minutes, topping the previous film by almost half an hour. The acting isn't as noteworthy as that of The Godfather, and the story isn't as interesting. I believe that part of the reason for this is that Al Pacino's Michael Corleone isn't as likable of a character as Marlon Brando's Don Vito. This makes for a very interesting bit of character development when we see how Michael reacts to his empire beginning to crumble around him in the wake of his father's death, but I just wasn't as interested in Michael's plight as I was with Vito's. As a matter of fact, my favorite parts of The Godfather Part II were the flashback sequences starring DeNiro as a young Vito Corleone in 1920's New York. Even portrayed by a different actor, Vito remained a much more likable character than Michael. John Cazale was a good addition to the cast as Fredo, although I couldn't help but wonder why he hadn't played a part in the previous film. His sudden inclusion in the sequel felt a bit odd to me. Another thing that I disliked about the film was the fact that it was set primarily in Las Vegas and Cuba. It didn't feel right to take the Corleones out of New York. The Godfather Part II is not a bad film, but for me it just didn't stand up to the original. I would almost recommend not seeing it if you've seen the first film because I liked the ending of the original so much. However, if you listen to the majority vote you'd be crazy not to see both. Call me crazy, I guess.

The Godfather Part III - The Godfather Part III takes place many years after The Godfather Part II, which makes sense as it was made fifteen years after it's predecessor. Michael Corleone is now in his fifties and his children are grown. The family business is finally on the verge of becoming legitimate, but this doesn't stop Michael from wishing his son Anthony (Franc D'Ambrosio) to be a lawyer. However, despite many years of school in preparation to become an attorney, Anthony wants to become a singer. After some convincing by his son and angry ex-wife Kay, Michael gives Anthony his blessing, and before long he gets a part in an opera in Sicily. Meanwhile, Michael's daughter Mary (Sofia Coppola) has fallen in love with her first cousin Vincent Mancini (Andy Garcia), the illegitimate son of Michael's deceased brother Sonny. The two of them continue to have a not-so-secret relationship despite Michael's disapproval. As part of Michael's plans to legitimize the Corleone family business, he holds a meeting of heads of the New York families to tell them that he's "out" and gives each of them a monetary parting gift to keep them in his good graces. Insulted by Michael's refusal to pay him off, Vincent's former boss Joey Zasa (Joe Montegna) orders a hit that results in the deaths of almost all of the family heads and causes Michael to suffer from a diabetic stroke. With the end obviously nearing for Michael Corleone, he wants merely to see his family continue on. However, with his son's refusal to be a part of the family business, legitimate or not, Michael is left with the decision of who to name the new Godfather. The Godfather Part III doesn't receive the same amount of fanfare that it's two predecessors do, and there's a reason for it. Simply put, The Godfather Part III doesn't hold a candle to the previous two. Michael Corleone has gone from a strong young man to a bitter mafia boss and, in this film, settles into a role as a useless, uninteresting personality. While I wasn't very fond of Al Pacino's character in The Godfather Part II, I found him to be essentially incapable of keeping my interest in this film. More interesting was the character of Vincent as played by Joe Montegna, but he didn't achieve the level of worth that any of the former Corleones had. Not to mention, the subplot of his romance with his cousin was a bit distracting. I'm not sure if their attempt to overcome adversity and be together was supposed to be heartwarming or something, but I just found it odd. Michael's wife Kay was always a bit bitchy, but came off as overly so in The Godfather Part III. Every line she spoke was like nails on a chalk board. Diane Keaton really overdid it in this performance. Really what this film was lacking was exactly what made the first one so good: character. By this point The Godfather series was no longer about showing audiences great characters and the trials and tribulations they endure, but more about stories of revenge and crime. Of course I realize that they've all been mafia films, but this particular mafia film stood out as being more of a cheap grab for appreciation based on the popularity of it's previous installments than a story worthy of being told. If you're going to go to the trouble of sitting through the six hours and fifteen minutes that it will take you to watch The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, you may as well tack on another two hours and forty five minutes by watching the conclusion to the series, but don't expect much from this final chapter.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Episode 35

The Prestige - In the late 1800's Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) and Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) began their careers as magicians working together as part of The Amazing Milton's act. The two of them were similar in that they both had a great respect for and love of magic, but aside from that they couldn't have been more different. During one of Milton's shows, Angier's wife (Piper Perabo), whose hands were tied by Borden as part of the trick, drowns in a large tank of water. After this incident Milton's act breaks up and a rivalry is begun between Angier, who is sure that Borden tied the wrong type of knot around his wife's wrists, and Borden, who claims that he cannot remember which knot he'd tied. Working with Cutter (Michael Cain), he and Borden's old friend and creator of magic tricks, Angier puts together a stage show that draws a fair crowd. However when Borden reappears on the scene after two years with a wife and newborn child, Angier's anger toward Borden grows, seeing his rival enjoying a life that he was robbed of. Over time the two men continue to up the ante, creating and performing better and more amazing feats onstage while plotting against one another outside of the limelight. As their game of cat and mouse becomes more and more dangerous, Angier enlists the aid of scientist and inventor Nikola Tesla (David Bowie) in building a machine that he hopes will provide him with actual magic as opposed to merely another illusion. At the same time, Angier has also placed his stage assistant Olivia Wenscombe (Scarlett Johansson) undercover in Borden's personal and professional life. Tensions rise as the two magicians lose interest in everything except discovering one another's secrets. I saw The Prestige in the theater when it came out in late 2006, however this was before I began reviewing movies on this site. Having just seen the film a second time I feel as though I may have enjoyed it even more than the first. I was originally drawn to The Prestige based on the incredibly mysterious trailers. All that they really revealed was that there was some kind of mystery involving magic and that the film starred Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman. This was enough for me. Much like with the trailer for The Village, it immediately peaked my interest. The Prestige is a wonderfully acted movie with a great cast. Michael Cain is more fitting in this role than that of the other Christopher Nolan film that he's in: Batman Begins. He exhibits a great presence onscreen even as a second-tier character. Scarlett Johansson doesn't do much more in The Prestige than stand around looking pretty, which she does a wonderful job of. David Bowie is great as Tesla. I'd never seen him act before and honestly wasn't very familiar with his physical appearance until I'd seen the movie, so the first time I watched it I had no idea who was playing his role. His performance was all the more impressive knowing that I just viewed him as another actor and he didn't feel out of place at all. Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman are equally outstanding in this film. In the case of Jackman, his role in The Prestige is definitely the strongest I've seen from him. He hits a menagerie of emotions that I was previously unaware that he could pull off, having only really seen him as Wolverine in the X-Men franchise before. I loved him in those films because of the character he was portraying, but after watching The Prestige I truly respect him as an actor. Christian Bale is fast becoming one of my favorite people to see onscreen. After seeing him in American Psycho, The Machinist and more recently Harsh Times, I've become a huge fan of his work. Placing these two men in one film as equally important and polar opposite roles, it's easy to understand why I consider The Prestige one of the best films to be released in 2006 along with Children of Men, Slither, and The Departed. The film begins as a very personal look at the lives of it's two main characters, but as the plot unfolds it becomes a magical (no pun intended) story with so many more angles than those that you'd expected. I personally fell in love with the movie as it neared the climax, taking a sudden and surprising turn into the science fiction genre that will hit you out of left field. Looking back on it though, perhaps the most incredible aspect of the film is the ambiguity of right and wrong. It's like the plot of the movie is a tennis match in which the ball represents "the bad guy", and Bale and Jackman hit it back and forth so that by the end of the game you may be confused about who to root for. I recommend The Prestige to anyone with eyes. If you don't have eyes, get someone who does to watch the movie with you and describe what's onscreen.

Unknown - James Caviezel, Greg Kinnear, Joe Pantoliano, Barry Pepper, and Jeremy Sisto wake up one by one in an abandoned warehouse in the middle of the desert. Well, they don't, but their characters in the movie do. When they awake they discover that they've all lost their memories, so none of them can remember their own names. In the credits of the movie their characters are called "Jean Jacket", "Broken Nose", "Bound Man", "Rancher Shirt", and "Handcuffed Man". Anyway, after waking up, James Caviezel hears a phone ringing and answers it to discover, by talking to the voice on the other end, that some of the men in the building are terrorists and some of them are hostages. The only problem is that not a single one of the five men can seem to remember which of them is which. As their trust is tested inside the warehouse from which there is seemingly no escape, in the outside world the police are attempting to diffuse the situation that put the men in the warehouse in the first place. A large amount of money has been stolen from the government and the people who stole it are on their way back to meet up with their buddies at the abandoned warehouse. While the cops try to apprehend the terrorists with the money and recover the hostages, the five men inside the warehouse attempt to decide what to do with themselves until the rest of the terrorists return. They're each afraid that they may be a hostage and could be killed upon their return, but as they could each just as easily be terrorists themselves, none of them want to trust each other. As their time becomes shorter the men inside the warehouse must begin to make potentially devastating decisions. To my knowledge, Unkown wasn't a widely released film. After seeing and being excited by the trailer I awaited news of it's release. After months of waiting I came to discover that it had already been released on DVD. Unfortunately I couldn't locate the DVD in any stores. A friend who was equally interested in the film and I were eventually forced to acquire the movie from Blockbuster Video. In the end I'm not sure that it was worth all the trouble that we went through to see it. Unknown has a great premise. The concept of having a few people trapped in a confined space and dealing with one another reminded me of such great films as Alien and Cube. In fact, after relating Unknown to those films in my mind prior to seeing it, I was disappointed to find that the entirety of the plot doesn't take place inside the confined area of the abandoned warehouse. All of the scenes within it were interesting while all of the events that took place in the outside world felt unnecessary, forced and cheesy as though a studio executive had forced the filmmakers to throw them in during post production. This is not to say that such is the case, because I doubt that it is. This is also not to say that everything within the warehouse is cinematic gold, either. Despite the great acting talent of Caviezel, Kinnear, Pepper, and Pantoliano, much of the dialogue was unrealistic and just plain poorly written. It's as though even the writer, who came up with the concept of the film, wasn't quite sure how to make it work. This is really too bad as I feel that the idea behind Unknown is a great one. Another problem that I had with the movie is that very early on the men inside the warehouse begin to get their memories back. I was really hoping that there would be more mystery to the story, but it's hard to be mysterious when the director plants obvious flashback sequences revealing each character's involvement in the plot so often throughout the film. It's my opinion that these problems with the writing and directing are the reason that so few people have seen, much less heard of, Unknown. With so many high profile actors I can't think of another reason that the movie was shunned by the public. Try as I might, I find it hard to honestly like Unknown, but if you're willing to give it a chance it's fun to imagine what could have been. In the hands of someone like Christopher Nolan (who directed the somewhat similar Memento), this could have been a great film. However as it stands I have a feeling that Unknown is doomed to remain unknown

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan - For anyone who doesn't know (and really, who doesn't by now?), Borat is a fictional news reporter from Kazakhstan created by British actor/comedian Sacha Baron Cohen. Along with the clueless wannabe gangster character Ali G and the sexually ambiguous personality of Bruno, Borat is a character whom Cohen created for his former television program Da Ali G Show. The concept of the show is that Cohen, disguised as one of these three characters, would interview real people while making a fool of himself to film their reactions. In this way The Ali G Show was a bit like a hidden camera show that didn't need to hide the cameras because they were part of the charade. After the great success of the show and the moderate success of a standard comedy film by the name of Ali G Indahouse, Sacha Baron Cohen set out to make the film Borat by travelling across the United States creating controversy. But as I remarked earlier, who doesn't know all that by now? After seeing Borat in the theater I proclaimed quite proudly that it was perhaps the funniest movie I'd ever seen. Pound for pound I probably did laugh more while watching Borat than I have while viewing any other film that I've seen. I'll never forget that first viewing of Borat. However, upon a second viewing, I may have jumped the gun a little with the whole "funniest movie ever" comment. I rented the DVD not long after it's release and sat down to watch the film in complete silence. I didn't so much as chuckle a single time during my second viewing of the film. It may have been that the theater packed with other people laughing uproariously brought out my own laughter a bit more than it would normally have shown itself, but I don't think that's the case. I fear that the Borat film may just be funny for that initial viewing. I didn't find the experience at all entertaining the second time through. This doesn't change the fact that I laughed my ass off the first time I saw it, but it's a bit disconcerting watching the film again and just not seeing why the last time was so great. Taking all this into consideration, I would say that everyone should see Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan at least once. At this point I'm not sure if I would condone repeat viewings, though.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Episode 34

The Marine - For John Triton (John Cena), being a marine is everything. That's why he feels lost when he's discharged for disobeying a direct order even though in doing so he saved the lives of three fellow marines. Returning home to South Carolina to be with his wife Kate (Kelly Carlson), John takes a job as a security guard at an office building to avoid sitting around the house all day. However when he puts an unruly man through a plate glass window on the first day at his new job, Kate realizes that her husband wasn't cut out to live a normal life. To get away from the city for a while, the two of them hop into the car and leave for a vacation in the mountains. Meanwhile, a diamond thief named Rome (Robert Patrick) and his lackeys have taken it upon themselves to pull a high profile robbery, making off with twelve million dollars in diamonds and blowing up a cop car on a busy street. As they make their getaway, Rome and co. happen to pull over at a gas station where John and Kate have stopped to fill up. When a cop car arrives and one of Rome's goons gets trigger happy the diamond thieves hop into John's car and speed off with Kate inside. Thus begins John Triton's quest to rescue the one thing that still matters in his life: his wife. I won't string you along here...The Marine is a piece of shit. Honestly, I can't believe it got a theatrical release. This movie reminded me of every direct-to-video Steven Seagal and Dolph Lundgren flick that I've ever seen. The acting is terrible, the script is hardly worth the paper it was written on, and the story is completely unoriginal. But who really expected anything more from John Cena's acting debut? The sad thing is that he's not even the worst part of the film, though. All of Robert Patrick's henchmen are terrible. Most notably bad is the character of Morgan as played by Anthony Ray Parker. His character is meant to be the comic relief but he just comes off as ridiculous. Just wait until you hear him describe how a childhood run-in with a camp counselor turned him off to rock candy for the rest of his life. It's hard to watch because it's so horribly written and delivered, and it's as stupid as it sounds. Abigail Bianca is overly bitchy, Damon Gibson has absolutely no purpose in the film, and I've seen lawn equipment with more personality than Manu Bennett. Robert Patrick tries his best to give the events of the movie a little validity, but even he fails to escape the quicksand that is the film's terrible script which drags down everyone involved. The acting aside, anyone who saw this movie was obviously in it for the action. I've got news for you though, it ain't worth it. Considering that it's star is a pro-wrestler, I was expecting a lot of hand to hand combat in The Marine. Unfortunately all this movie really has to offer in the action department are a menagerie of huge explosions. There are maybe four fist fights in The Marine and each of them lasts all of a minute if we're lucky. On the other hand you can expect to see no less than two police cars, a gas station, a shack in the swamp, and a barn full of propane tanks all explode over the course of the film, and admittedly the explosions are pretty impressive. They're all massive and usually involve John Cena diving away from them in the direction of either a pond, a lake, or a river. The first explosion of the movie is particularly interesting because of the close proximity to the blast that the stuntman is standing. You'll see what I mean if you check out the movie (which I wouldn't necessarily recommend doing). There is a car chase scene toward the beginning of the film that isn't bad, but since when are there police cruisers that are Camaros? I would advise against watching The Marine as the best thing about it is probably the trailer for Commando that you can find in the DVD's special features for some reason.

Flags of Our Fathers - Everyone has seen the famous photograph of six men raising an american flag on a hilltop at the battle of Iwo Jima during World War II. Flags of Our Fathers is the story of those men. After the photo was taken and found it's way to America, the men in charge of selling war bonds used the image to inspire people to "buy more bonds". It was an uplifting image that gave people on the home front hope. As the picture graced the cover of every newspaper in the states, the six young men from the photo continued to fight and die in Iwo Jima while their visage spread a not-entirely-true message to their friends and families. As the image became more famous the U.S. government requested that the soldiers from the picture be returned to the states to help promote the sale of even more bonds. By this point only three of the six remained alive: John Bradley (Ryan Phillipe), Rene Gagnon (Jesse Bradford), and Ira Hayes (Adam Beach). The three of them were shipped home and began a tour of the U.S. to inspire the common folk to support the war effort, a task that Rene and John were proud to perform. However Ira, feeling strong guilt over leaving his fellow soldiers behind in the trenches, battled with depression and alcoholism. In the wake of his behavior the men who were responsible for bringing him home wondered if perhaps they'd made a mistake. My grandfather loves Flags of Our Fathers. Of course he does, and why shouldn't he? Not only is it about World War II, which he lived through (though didn't fight in), but it's also directed by Clint Eastwood. Score! Sentimental war film plus old-school cowboy? Sign him up. I'm not as quick to jump on the bandwagon, though. I found Flags of Our Fathers interesting, but I also found it boring. I've seen the photograph that the movie is about plenty of times over the course of my life, but I never knew that there was such an involved story behind it. That's the part of the film that I was most drawn to: the history of the photo. However it was still a rather dull journey. After watching the movie I almost felt as thought I'd have rather seen a fifteen minute high school film reel about the topic than a two hour and twelve minute movie. The real drawback for me was that the filmmakers tried to jam way too much sappiness onto the screen. I understand that it's based on real people and events and that anything involving one of our country's wars is going to have the expected amount of sympathetic scenes injected into it, but all this movie was was one big sentimental cry for attention. As I said, I enjoyed learning the story behind the photograph, but I really could have done without all the cinematic whining. I realize how insensitive and ignorant this makes me sound, but would it have killed Clint to either drop twenty minutes of characters staring teary-eyed at one another or at least throw in some more actual war scenes? I'm not asking for Saving Private Ryan or Full Metal Jacket here, but for a war movie Flags of Our Fathers was way too dull. The sad thing is that toward the beginning of the movie there are a few really cool battle scenes on the beaches of Iwo Jima. The key word here being "few". It seems that as soon as the fighting started it ended, and then after getting you all hyped-up for fighting the movie focuses on drama. Overall I just left Flags of Our Fathers with a feeling of disappointment. It has a good message and a good story to tell, but in my opinion it was told in a poor fashion.

11:14 - A drunk driver hits a pedestrian and panics. A teenage girl, unsure of which of her boyfriends got her pregnant, talks them both into paying for her abortion. Three friends driving around in a van and causing a ruckus make a dire mistake. A father discovers the dead body of his daughter's boyfriend and, assuming she killed him, attempts to dispose of the body. A young man in need of some quick cash convinces his co-worker at a gas station to help him rob the store. What do all of these events have in common? They all occur within a few minutes of one another before culminating in a shocking way at 11:14 PM. Not much of a plot synopsis, I know, but it's nearly impossible to describe what happens in this movie without giving away information important to the plot. 11:14 is yet another film in the vein of Babel, Go, and Crash, in that it follows the stories of multiple people who don't realize that they're affecting each others' lives. However 11:14 plays out a bit differently from the others. The events in Crash play out in chronological order while those in Babel and Go are revealed to audiences in whichever order the filmmakers believe will tell the story in the best manner. 11:14's events play almost in reverse order. I believe that is why after seeing so many movies with the same concept, 11:14 didn't feel like I'd seen it before. The writer/director (Greg Marcks) does a great job of keeping each story ambiguous enough that the audience will be wondering how they all fit together right up until the very end of the film. Also, there are enough humorous and/or uncomfortable situations to really play with the viewer's emotions. All of the actors in the film do a great job with the parts that they are given, including Hilary Swank of whom I'm not a big fan. Speaking of the actors, there are quite a few notable ones in this film. Tom Hanks' son Colin plays a role in 11:14 that I wouldn't have really pictured him in. Rachel Leigh Cook is probably the hottest that I've ever seen her in this movie as a rebellious teen. Even Patrick Swayze hands in a great performance the likes of which I haven't seen from him until now. With the cast that this movie has, I'm not sure why I hadn't heard of it before. If you get the chance, I'd definitely give 11:14 a try. It's a fairly fast-paced, fun story with lots of interesting twists and surprises, and after you see it I guarantee you'll think twice before having sex in a graveyard again.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Episode 33

Atlantis: The Lost Empire - The year is 1914 and a young linguist named Milo Thatch (voiced by Michael J. Fox) has once again had his request for funding turned down by the board members of the university at which he is employed. The funding in question would be used continue his grandfather's search for the lost city of Atlantis. All Milo needs to convince the world that his quest isn't a wild goose chase is an ancient book known as The Shepherd's Journal. Returning home from work that very day, Milo is greeted by a woman named Helga (Claudia Christian) who takes him to meet a former friend of his grandfather named Preston B. Whitmore (John Mahoney). Whitmore gives Milo the very book that he'd been searching for along with all of the resources he needs to go on his mission. These resources include a large submarine and a skilled crew comprised of cooks, engineers, and any other specialists that could help out on an undersea expedition, such as former military man Commander Rourke (James Garner). Using the Shepherd's Journal, Milo is able to lead the team to a giant air pocket beneath the ocean where their numbers are severely depleted when the submarine is attacked by the fabled beast known as the leviathan. After scuffling with the creature, which they discover is a man-made robot as opposed to a historical beast, the remnants of the team continue toward their goal. After braving the harsh depths of several undersea caverns, Milo and co. find what they were looking for: the city of Atlantis. However, it isn't quite the wonderland that they expected. Through primitive means of communication, Milo slowly begins to learn to communicate with the remaining members of the civilization that once thrived in Atlantis before it became the ruined locale that they discovered. As a favor to the beautiful Princess Kida (Cree Summer) and her father King Kashekim (Leonard Nimoy), Milo uses his skills as a linguist to decipher ancient texts that have been indecipherable to the Atlanteans for ages in hopes of discovering not only what happened to their home, but also how the survivors have managed to stay alive for thousands of years without aging. Unfortunately, the more Milo learns about Atlantis, the closer he comes to inadvertently assisting the treacherous Commander Rourke in mining the ancient energy at the heart of the city for his own personal gain. Atlantis didn't do terribly well in theaters when it was released in the summer of 2001 and I honestly never had an interest in seeing the film myself until about three years ago. During my time at the Kubert School I learned that an artist by the name of Mike Mignola, of whom I am a fan, was responsible for much of the visual style and design of Atlantis. What began as an interest in the look of the film grew into a great admiration of the plot and storytelling as well. Atlantis has become one of my favorite animated Disney films. One of the most notable aspects of the movie remains in the design that I had initially been interested in. The undersea city of Atlantis was beautifully designed, as were all of the mechanical devices inside and out of the city itself. The submarine that delivers the characters to the bottom of the ocean is of a particularly interesting and original design. The story of the film is interesting and involves some mildly science fiction-oriented aspects which I really enjoyed. There is also a decent bit of action between the battle with the leviathan toward the beginning of the movie and the all-out chase/fight scene at the film's climax. As with just about all Disney films there is also a proper injection of comedy throughout the course of the tale and a mild love story. While not many of the characters' voices are provided by big names, Michael J. Fox delivers a solid performance as Milo Thatch, and Leonard Nimoy's portrayal of the king of Atlantis is a nice touch. When all is said and done, Atlantis is a fun, exciting, clever movie suited for all ages and enjoyable for (I'd assume) just about anyone.

Find Me Guilty - In 1986 the United States federal court began a trial against twenty members of the Lucchese crime family based on a sixty five page indictment. It would become the longest case in history, costing taxpayers millions of dollars and amassing over eight hundred and fifty pieces of evidence. In an attempt to turn crime family member Jackie DiNorscio (Vin Diesel) against his friends and associates, prosecutors offered to decrease his (at the time) 30 year prison sentence. Jackie refused the offer and opted to stand trial with the rest of the Lucchese family. Even more surprising than that, however, is the fact that amongst a courtroom full of high-priced lawyers, Jackie chose to represent himself. Find Me Guilty is based on a true story. It may not seem that incredible, but once you see the courtroom scenes in the film in which there are twenty defendants, each with a lawyer, all standing trial at the same time, the situation is put into better perspective. This was perhaps one of the most ambitious cases in the history of the United States judicial system, and at the heart of it all is Jackie DiNorscio. DiNorscio was a high school dropout who'd been in and out of prison his entire life, yet in the face of such incredible circumstances he chose to act as his own lawyer. Easily put, Vin Diesel gave the best performance in this film that I've seen from him yet. Honestly he hasn't had too many demanding roles, but even so, this is an impressive performance. You'll actually believe that he can act when he isn't wielding a gun or punching someone in the face. Find Me Guilty was an absolute bomb at the box office. I wasn't surprised to find this out since I'd never heard of the movie until I saw it on the shelf at Blockbuster. Even then, the only reason I gave it a second glance was because Vin Diesel is sporting hair on the cover. Even if I had seen the trailers for this film I most likely wouldn't have had any interest in it, but after seeing it I must say that it is a pretty good movie. Not great, but definitely worth a watch. One of the most interesting things about the movie is that almost all of Diesel's dialogue in the courtroom scenes is repeated verbatim from the manuscripts of the actual court case from the mid-eighties. Knowing this made the film even more enjoyable because otherwise it would seem as though the writers were just having fun writing Liar Liar-esque silly courtroom rants. In my opinion, aside from Vin Diesel himself, the best performance of the movie came from Peter Dinklage, who plays Jackie DiNorscio's friend who just so happens to be a lawyer in the trial. Find Me Guilty may not seem like much, but if you're ever walking the aisles of a video rental establishment and can't find anything to watch, check it out. It mixes a decent amount of comedy and drama in a film that you'll appreciate more with the knowledge that the events described within actually happened.

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events - When their wealthy parents die in a tragic and unexplained house fire, Klaus (Liam Aiken), Violet (Emily Browning), and Sunny (Kara Hoffman and Shelby Hoffman) Bauedelaire learn that they are to inherit their parents' fortune. However, they cannot claim the money until they are of age. In the meantime the three of them are placed in the care of a distant relative by the name of Count Olaf (Jim Carrey). Olaf is an unattractive, greedy older man who maintains delusions of being an actor. Immediately upon their arrival the Bauedelaires are put to work by Olaf, cleaning, cooking, and the like. Before long it occurs to the children that Count Olaf doesn't just intend to mistreat and neglect them, but also kill them and take their money. Minding their own safety, the three youngsters alert the proper authorities to Olaf's inability to properly care for them. Taken from Olaf's home, the children are left in the care of another distant relative named Uncle Monty (Billy Connelly). Everything seems to be going well until Count Olaf arrives on the scene disguised as someone else. It is at this point that the Bauedelaires realize that Olaf doesn't intend to lose his fortune without a fight. One by one the children are shipped to the homes of different relatives, each of which is conned by Olaf into thinking that he's someone else just to get close to the children and their money. As their dire situation sinks in, Klaus, Violet, and Sunny decide that they'll have to take matters into their own hands if they want to rid themselves of Count Olaf once and for all. The first thing that I must mention about this film is the make-up that Jim Carrey dons throughout. It is incredible. The first time I saw the trailer for Lemony Snicket I had no idea that it was him. In the movie itself it's a little more obvious, but the make-up is still magnificent. The look of the film in general reminds me a bit of the works of Tim Burton. Movies like Beetlejuice, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Big Fish, and Edward Scissorhands come to mind when trying to think of those with similar themes and design. There is a very distinct Victorian era feel to the film with moments of dark fantasy scattered throughout. As for the acting, I enjoyed every role except for those of the children. Honestly Sunny was just a baby, so there's not much to complain about there, but as far as Klaus and Violet are concerned, I honestly didn't give a damn about either of them. I really didn't feel like either Liam Aiken or Emily Browning pulled off their roles terribly well. Overall I didn't much care for Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events outside of some of the design and acting (on the part of the adults). The story was very simple and dull with very predictable plot points throughout. The ending was weak and unimpressive, and the entire movie relied too much on the probability that younger viewers would be entertained by the sort of cutesy jokes and imagery that one has come to expect from the more light-hearted moments of the Harry Potter franchise. It did very little to keep my interest and ended up being a rather forgettable experience.

Mirrormask - Helena (Stephanie Leonidas) is a fifteen year-old girl who wants nothing more than to be normal. This isn't such an easy task as her father (Rob Brydon) and mother (Gina McKee) own a circus in which she performs. When Helena's mother ends up in the hospital after the two of them have a particularly ugly argument, Helena begins to feel more sorry for herself than usual. With the circus' business dwindling, pressure is mounting on Helena's family. Then one day Helena wakes up in a strange place. A very strange place. This place is home to opposing queens, odd creatures, and a black shadow that engulfs anything it comes into contact with. Soon Helena learns that she may be the only hope for the dying kingdom and that to fulfill her destiny she must find something called the mirrormask. The longer Helena resides in this strange land, the more peculiar it becomes. There are messages and secrets abound and sometimes when she looks through the windows of buildings Helena sees herself on the other side. Or at least the person she is seeing looks like her. With the help of a masked man named Valentine (Jason Barry), Helena must find the mirrormask and set things right within the troubled kingdom or she may risk being stuck there forever. Mirrormask is a movie that I knew nothing about other than the fact that I wanted to see it. The idea that a movie of this much visual intricacy would be created using so many prosthetics, puppets, and non-computer-assisted effects in this day and age drew me immediately to the film. Also, it was written and directed by the team of Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, who are responsible for a large number of great comic books and novels between them. I had high hopes for Mirrormask, which is why I was more than a little disappointed when I came away from the film having been somewhat bored, confused, and underwhelmed. The film has a very interesting look about it. The magical kingdom in Helena's head is disturbingly beautiful and many of the beings that inhabit it were interesting to look at, but overall I found that the film was not all that visually gratifying to me. I applaud the attempts that the filmmakers made to use conventional methods to create the look and feel of the story, but it came out a bit choppy in my opinion. It was neat to look at, but not entirely convincing. It's hard to explain what I'm trying to say. It just felt like it could have looked "better". The plot was interesting at the start, but very quickly became confusing. At the climax of the film all of the loose ends are tied up and everything finally makes sense, but for more than half of the movie I had no god damn clue what was going on. The characters were trying to find the Mirrormask, but they seemed to just bumble around making no progress for about an hour. Now I admit that when the point of the movie is finally revealed that it is a really clever and original idea that I quite liked, but there was a long stretch during which I was bored to death by the movie because of the lack of direction. Perhaps now that I know what the storytellers were getting at I could enjoy the film more upon a second viewing, but the first one didn't really leave me with a desire to see it again. Maybe someday in the future, but certainly not anytime soon. I'd recommend Mirrormask to people who like to smoke lots of drugs while they watch movies as well as anyone who likes to say that they like weird movies just to be cool. Aside from those two demographics I'm sure that Mirrormask will find it's audience with some people, but I'm not one of them.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Episode 32 - Spiderman Triple Threat Review

Spiderman - Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) was a nerdy high school senior living in Queens, New York with his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) and Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson). He had a knack for all things scientific, a crush on the girl next door named Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), and was best friends with Harry Osborn (James Franco), son of scientist and businessman Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe). He was completely normal until the day that he was bitten by a genetically altered spider in a laboratory while on a school field trip. That night he grew ill, but the next morning awoke to discover that he wasn't quite the same. His slender body had suddenly become muscular and his eyesight improved beyond the need to wear glasses. In addition to that, Peter was now more agile, he could somehow stick to walls, and after some practice he learned how to shoot long, sturdy streams of a spider web-like substance from his wrists which he could then use to tie people up and swing through the streets of New York City. Hoping to use his newfound abilities to earn money with which to buy a car and impress Mary Jane, Peter entered an underground wrestling tournament. Upon defeating his opponent, Peter was screwed out of the prize money by the manager of the event, which is why he then refused to stop a robber who'd just stolen all of the manager's money. Upon returning to where his Uncle Ben had promised to pick him up, Peter discovered that the same robber he'd let go had taken the life of his uncle. From that day on, Peter Parker vowed to use his abilities only for good as per his uncle's advice that "with great power comes great responsibility". Donning a colorful costume adorned with spider-centric designs, Peter became the super hero called Spiderman. Meanwhile, fearing the demise of his business based on poor lab test results, Norman Osborn opted to foolishly try out a new physical enhancement serum his company had developed on himself. The experiment took a bad turn, driving Norman mad; his only thoughts now focused on revenge against those who would threaten his business. When Norman, being referred to as the Green Goblin by the local newspaper (The Daily Bugle), attacked and murdered his enemies during a parade, Peter took action by swinging onto the scene to fight him as Spiderman. After this encounter Norman realized that Spiderman was now a threat to him, and after discovering his foe's identity, decided to make things personal. In the wake of the first X-Men film, word on the street was that Spiderman would be the next comic book super hero to get the cinematic treatment. Rumors spread like wild fire as to who would direct the film and who would play Peter Parker with names like James Cameron and Leonardo DiCaprio being tossed about. It came as a complete shock to everyone when Sam Raimi, known for his low-budget horror films, was chosen to helm the project. Even more controversy was created when he chose Tobey Maguire, who was previously unfamiliar with action-oriented roles, to be his leading man. However, the project pushed ahead and was finally released in theaters to high praise and the fastest grossing of one hundred million dollars in history after just three days (which has since been exceeded). But forget all that mumbo jumbo...what do I think of the movie? Well, I love it. X-Men was exciting because it was the beginning of a new era of comic book movies. It had lots of characters exhibiting cool super powers, but when you get right down to it the story was a bit weak. This is a mistake that Spiderman did not mirror. This film is primarily an origin story. It shows our hero...well...becoming a hero. He goes from nobody to somebody and endures his first big struggle against someone of fairly equal standing in a fight. In regards to the plot and the script, the first Spiderman movie is great. All of the characters are spot on with their funny book counterparts, the birth of the hero was told almost verbatim to the original story that everyone loved, and the movie mixed comedy, action, and drama in a way that very few films have. In a way, what made Spiderman such a great movie was the fact that Raimi and co. stuck to the source material. After all, why change something people already love? I'm looking at you, Resident Evil. The things that I dislike about the first Spiderman film are few, and often trivial. First and foremost: Green Goblin's costume. While I'd have liked to see the tattered rags of the comic book character, I understand the need for change. I can't even complain too much about the body suit because the writers explain early on in the movie that the suit is meant for use in combat (hence all the armor) and is also meant to enable the wearer to properly operate the glider. I'm cool with all that. My problem lies with the helmet. Where the fuck did Norman Osborn get that thing? I can't believe that Oscorp would have designed those for use by military personnel. I know he's called the Green "Goblin", but it was a bit odd to me that Norman would have a scary monster head lying around. And even looking past the face of the thing, why does it have the huge protrusion on the back as though H.R. Giger had designed it? Problem number two: the patriotic New Yorkers. You know the scene during the final battle between Spidey and the Green Goblin when people start throwing shit off of the George Washington bridge at the Goblin while shouting things such as "Why you gonna attack a guy tryin' to save a bunch'a kids?" and "This is New York! You mess with one of us, you mess with all of us!"? I know that 9/11 was a tragedy, but was that really necessary? It's no secret that this scene's existence is directly related to the low number of World Trade Center towers at the time of the filming. This scene by no means ruins the movie for me, but come on...was this really necessary? In actuality, I'm just grasping at straws here because there's not much for me to dislike about the movie (although, let us not forget the cameo by Macy Gray...ugh). As such, how about I list off some more positives? Raimi rocked the damn house with this movie. Had anyone else gotten their grubby mitts on this film and it would have probably turned into a super-serious, gritty action movie. Raimi found a way to direct Spiderman so that even the brutal fight scenes seemed somehow light-hearted. The little quirks in his directing really brought a new level to the movie as well. Little sudden scares such as when Harry asks his father what had happened the night before in the lab and the inclusion of the trippy montage during Peter's transformation into Spiderman were all utilized perfectly. In my eyes Sam Raimi truly invented a new genre of film with Spiderman. While other movies like X-Men, Superman, or Batman may in fact be "super hero movies", Spiderman, under the watchful eye of Sam Raimi, truly became the first "comic book movie".

Spiderman 2 - It's been two years since the death of Ben Parker. Two years since Norman Osborn (aka the Green Goblin) accidentally killed himself while battling Spiderman. Two years since Norman's son Harry vowed to enact vengeance on Spiderman, whom he blames for his father's death. A lot can happen in two years. Peter has moved into New York City, attending college and continuing to take photographs of himself as Spiderman for J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons), the publisher of the Daily Bugle. Mary Jane has begun dating Jonah's astronaut son John Jameson (Daniel Gillies), and is performing the lead role in an off-Broadway play. On the surface things seem to be going alright, but Peter's life is in shambles. He spends all of his time protecting the streets of New York as Spiderman while the woman he loves is engaged to marry another man, his best friend blames his alter-ego for the death of his father, and he can hardly pay the rent. Not to mention, when Peter reveals to his Aunt May (who is being forced out of her home) that he is partially responsible for the death of his uncle and her husband, she becomes distant. With so much pressure mounting on Peter, he even begins to lose control of his super powers. Upon the suggestion of a friend, Peter gives up the mantle of Spiderman to live his own life and worry only about himself for once. Immediately things begin to look up. Peter's grades improve, his relationships with his friends, family, and Mary Jane improve, and best of all, he feels good about himself. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. One of Peter's idols, a scientist by the name of Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), has designed four mechanical arms which fasten onto his back and tap into his brain in order to allow him to perform dangerous experiments with fusion reactions. When one of these tests goes wrong, the accident injures Octavius, melding the mechanical device permanently to his spine and destroying the computer chip that keeps it from influencing his mind. A broken man, Otto, under the control of the advanced artificial intelligence of his four mechanical extremities, vows to recreate his fusion experiment no matter what the cost. After an initial conflict with Spiderman, Otto (now dubbed Doctor Octopus by the Daily Bugle) must go to Harry Osborn to acquire a sample of trillium, the rare material that will allow him to complete his task. Harry agrees to provide Octavius with what he needs if he'll bring Spiderman to him alive, which is just what he does. However, when Spiderman (now revealed to his friend as Peter Parker) explains that the entire city is in danger if Doc Ock achieves his goal, Harry has no choice but to let Spiderman go to save the day. Come 2004, everyone knew that the first Spiderman film would be tough to top. In addition to that, just as Spiderman had to best X-Men, Spiderman 2 now had the unenviable task of standing up to X2. The perfect casting of Alfred Molina as the villainous Doctor Octopus put many people's minds at ease, but it wasn't until Spiderman 2 opened in theaters that the feelings became near-unanimous. Spiderman 2 is better than Spiderman. Spiderman masterfully told the origin of our hero and pitted him against perhaps his greatest foe, but Spiderman 2 stepped it up a notch. With the origin tale out of the way, Sam Raimi was free to run wild with Spiderman 2, and he did just that. The characterization in this film is incredible. Each and every actor is given massive amounts of room to stretch their muscles in developing their already beloved characters. With his son so prominently featured in the film as part of a love triangle with Mary Jane and Peter, J.K. Simmons stole every scene he was in as media mogul J. Jonah Jameson. His comedic timing matched with Raimi's eye for corn-ball humor struck a chord with just about everyone who saw the movie. The laughs don't stop there, though. Sam's light-hearted take on Peter's tortured soul results in multiple scenes where so many bad things pile up that they become that of comedy gold. Perhaps the best humor of the film, though, lies within the music montage scene set to the song "Raindrops Are Falling On My Head" in an obvious nod to the classic film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Comedy aside, Spiderman 2 also delivers action by the boatload. The first Spiderman film had a few memorable moments involving Spidey and his foe, but none of them come close to the bouts between he and Doctor Octopus. There are three fight scenes between these two over the course of the movie's two hours, and they're all outstanding. As much as X2 made up for the lack of proper fight scenes in the first film, Spiderman 2 triumphed in the super hero genre as far as fights were concerned. With the seamless combination of action, comedy, and drama becoming even stronger in the sequel than in the original, Spiderman 2 remains one of the best super hero movies of all time, as well as one of my personal favorite films of all time.

Spiderman 3 - Spiderman 3 begins much differently than it's predecessor. Peter Parker is living the life. He's dating the girl of his dreams, he's got a steady flow of cash from the Daily Bugle for his photographs of Spiderman, and he's continuing to do well in school. The only real problem is that his former best friend still wants him dead because he now knows that Peter and Spiderman (whom he blames for his father's death) are one and the same. However, this hardly seems noteworthy when the entire city of New York has fallen in love with Spiderman after he so selflessly risked his life to save them from doom at the hands of Doctor Octopus. Yet as I mentioned before, all good things must end. Caught up in his own fame and popularity as Spiderman, Peter becomes distant from Mary Jane, leading to their relationship making a decline. Harry has followed in his father's less-than-admirable footsteps and exposed himself to the serum that turned him into a murdering psychopath so that he may enact his revenge on Spiderman. A new photographer by the name of Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) has begun snapping photos of Spiderman for sale to the Daily Bugle, and is impeding on Peter's territory. Meanwhile, information has come to Peter's attention that links a criminal by the name of Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church) to the death of his Uncle Ben. As chance would have it, while running from the police, Flint stumbled into the middle of a particle accelerator on the property of a restricted scientific research facility where his molecules were bonded with those of sand. Now known as the Sandman, Marko has the ability to turn into a being made of sand and morph his body into various shapes. But perhaps worst of all is the symbiote. After a meteorite carrying a black alien slime crashes in New York, the being bonds itself with Peter, becoming one with one of his Spiderman uniforms and turning it black. The symbiote, as Peter's friend and professor Curt Conners (Dylan Baker) reveals, feeds on emotions and makes them stronger. Due to Peter's anger regarding Flint Marko, the symbiote feeds on his emotions and brings out a bad side that Peter never knew he had. Over time he begins to ruin any relationships and progress he'd made with his friends and loved ones before realizing what was going on. After being humiliated by Peter while under the influence of the black costume, Eddie Brock stumbles into the church where Peter is trying to rid himself of the symbiote. When the alien being transfers itself from Parker to Brock, it's no surprise that Eddie's newfound hatred for Peter and the symbiote's current dislike for Spiderman would combine to create one angry individual known as Venom. Spiderman was a fantastic film. Spiderman 2 was even better. Why, then, should I have had any doubt that Spiderman 3 would be great as well? Perhaps because prior to it's official release, Spiderman 3 was bombarded by negative reviews from critics and fans alike. Word came down the grapevine that there were too many villains this time around (three as opposed to both of the previous films' one), not enough character development (due to the introduction of too many new characters), and a weak plot. Regardless of everything I'd heard I held my head high and went to see Spiderman 3 on it's opening night (May 4, 2007). I have only one question: Did everyone else see the same movie that I did? I thought Spiderman 3 was great. I wouldn't proclaim that it topped the second one the same way that it had the first, but it was still an excellent movie. I loved the plot, I loved the characters, and I loved the movie. That said, I have a few complaints. Portions of the film (primarily toward the beginning) seemed a bit rushed. Honestly, there was a lot of story to cram into this movie, which is why it clocked in a full twenty minutes longer than the previous two films at two hours and twenty minutes in length. Even so, I honestly believe that an extra ten minutes, resulting in a nice round two and a half hour length, would have allowed for the correction of the few scenes that I felt were slightly short-changed. I've heard some skepticism about Venom in the film. I loved the way he looked. Many people seem to disagree. What I didn't much care for was his voice. Whenever the symbiote was completely covering Eddie Brock's face, the character spoke much deeper, but the particular voice just didn't do it for me. It's also true that Venom doesn't appear until late in the movie, but this just gave Raimi more time to experiment with "anti-Peter" while he was under the influence of the black costume. Speaking of which, the scenes in which Peter displays his bad side are magnificent. Sam Raimi uses more quirky scenes like those utilized in Spiderman 2 (a la the "Raindrops Are Falling On My Head" scene) to really push the idea that Peter is a whole different person when he's wearing the symbiote. It wasn't all Raimi that made these scenes great, though. Tobey Maguire takes charge of these moments incredibly well. In addition to those scenes, he and Topher Grace really fought for the screen whenever they were together. They played off of each other wonderfully. Topher was a great addition to the cast. Along with him, though, we get Bryce Dallas Howard as Gwen Stacy, a love interest for Eddie and Peter alike. Howard is not only perfect in the role (which blew my mind as I initially thought she was the wrong choice for it), but is also much more beautiful than I've yet seen her onscreen. And let us not forget Thomas Haden Church. This man exhibits so much emotion in every scene that it's sometimes almost unbearable. He has this sad, tortured glare that never leaves his face and really pushes the admittedly simple/cliche story of a man forced into crime by the desire to save his daughter's life. Particularly compelling (although Church isn't actually in the scene) is the point at which Flint Marko first attempts to use his new abilities to reform his body into a human shape. I realize that the character was entirely CG in that scene, but it's heart-wrenching nonetheless. The ending, which I won't give away here, is something else that I hear getting a lot of flak from critics (professional or otherwise), but everything taken into account, I think the ending does it's job quite nicely in tying up the film in a nice little package. So in closing, Spiderman 3 is not the best of the series, but it certainly fits right in with the first two to create one of the best trilogies in existence my opinion, of course.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Look Out, Here Comes The Spiderman!

There are a TON of big movies coming out this summer. Transformers, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Shrek the Third, Ocean's Thirteen, Live Free Or Die Hard, The Bourne Ultimatum, Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End, Ratatouille, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, The Simpsons Movie...the list goes on and on. However, for my money Spiderman 3 is the one I'm looking forward to the most. And with only two more days until it's official release I'm pretty damn psyched. In fact, I already have plans to see it not only on Friday, but Saturday as well.

Now, as I'm sure everyone has heard, Spiderman 3 is getting less-than-spectacular reviews. Every tidbit I read online from someone who's seen the movie, be it an official review or not, is saying that there are too many villains or that there's not as much character development as before or what have you. These reports have placed the slightest bit of doubt in my mind as to whether the film will be up to my expectations. I still can't submit to the belief that Spiderman 3 will be a bad movie, though. And I'll tell you why...

In preparation for the release of Spiderman 3 in theaters, I planned to watch both Spiderman and Spiderman 2 over the next two days. This way I'd be not only primed to see the third installment of the franchise, but also primed to write a triple threat review of the entire series right here on this very blog.

Tonight I got a bit ahead of myself and watched both films back to back. After doing so, and knowing that Sam Raimi, Tobey Maguire, and the rest of the gang are all back for the third go 'round, I just don't see how Spiderman 3 could be a bad movie. Maybe not as good as the second one, or even the first, but I still expect to walk out of the theater after seeing Spiderman 3 with a two hour-old smile on my face.

As I count the hours until the film's release, we can only wait and see...

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

You Have My Sympathies...

Some of my fondest memories from my youth involve watching movies. I'm not really an anti-social person, but growing up on the outskirts of a town with a population numbering somewhere similar to the follicle populace of Homer Simpson's scalp made for many evenings spent in my parents' room watching mid-day film marathons on television channels with fuzzy reception. Today, being sunny and cool, walking around the house with the windows open and nobody around reminded me of a topic that's been finding it's way into my thoughts more and more frequently these days. Where are all the monster movies?

I think it all started with Slither. In late 2005 I began seeing the trailers for Slither, complete with slug monsters forcing themselves down people's throats and terrorizing a midwestern town that never saw them coming. It reminded me of the low budget monster movies that I grew up watching. I can't quite explain what it was that reminded me of the films of my youth, but Slither had a presence that I remembered quite fondly. The odds were stacked against it, but Slither delivered. For me, anyway. The film did horribly in the theaters, and something tells me it's DVD sales have been less than impressive.

Next came Grind House. The obvious draw of Quentin Tarantino aside, Grind House began to stir up some of the same feelings as Slither. Now, Grind House isn't strictly a monster movie. In fact, Tarantino's portion of the film is far from it. Robert Rodriguez's offering, however, is essentially one big wink and a nod to fans of eighties-style action/horror/monster flicks. The day of the film's premier arrived and I was there with eyes wide and expectations high. I certainly wasn't disappointed. The same can't be said for the general populace, however. Grind House, the movie that had everything going for it and that everyone expected to bust the box office wide open, earned just over ten million dollars in it's first week. It's now been almost a month and the film still hasn't come close to making back the sixty-odd million dollars that it cost to make.

Then, out of left field came another contender: The Host. I began reading about this film all over the internet. Word had it that the movie had broken all box office records for a Korean film in and out of it's country of origin. Great! A monster movie finally getting the recognition it deserves. I scoured the web for showings near my home. The closest locale I could find was a forty five minute drive away in Gettysburg, PA. With all the acclaim that the movie seemed to be getting I expected quite a showing, especially considering how few and far between the venues for the film were. A whole ten people were in the theater for the showing, including myself and my movie-going companion. This put into perspective how poorly the film was actually doing despite breaking Korean records (which must not be a very high bar to shoot for).

All these instances taken into account, I sat down and really began looking at the monster movie situation. Allow me to run down a brief history of worthwhile monster movies from the last thirty years.

"Thirty?!" you ask? "That could take forever!"

Actually, it really couldn't. Let us not forget that I said worthwhile, and while opinions on the subject may vary, I think my timeline exhibits a fair standard of quality by which to judge other films in the genre. Here it is in chronological order:

Alien (1979)

John Carpenter's The Thing (1982)

Aliens (1986)

Predator (1987)

Tremors (1990)

Slither (2006)

And there you have it. The eighties had us covered pretty well. The big two (Aliens and Predator) were there in full force, as was cult classic The Thing. The decade was preceded by Alien less than a year earlier and capped off with Tremors less than a year after it's end. Slither, however, clocks in much, much later leaving me to wonder: "What happened to the monster movie genre in the fifteen years between Tremors and Slither?" I recently posed this very question to Sean Dwyer, of the website Film Junk, and his co-hosts on the Film Junk Podcast, Jay Cheel, and Greg Gaspari. Below is the clip in which they address my concerns from the most recent episode of the podcast, dated April 29th, 2007.

The guys made some good points; namely the ever-changing market and the over-saturation of a particular genre when one becomes too popular. Jay and Greg even went so far as to offer some suggestions of monster movies that may quench my thirst for creature features. However, I have to take the stance that while some of their recommendations do in fact involve monsters, they may not be properly labeled as monster movies. Blade, for example, is better referred to as an action movie or even a comic book movie, although it does contain vampires. Generally, unless there is a specific and original twist on zombies or vampires, I hesitate to call them monster movies as opposed to zombie movies or vampire movies.

So the question remains: "Where are the monster movies?" Or perhaps more suitably: "What does the general population have against them?" With the sudden release and seeming failure of such films as Slither and Grind House, I have to wonder why monster movies are viewed so poorly. Is it the gore? I dare say not with the advent of slasher/torture films such as Hostel, Saw, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Is it the horrific beasts themselves that turn viewers away by the truckload? You'd have a hard time convincing me of that in the wake of hugely popular fantasy films populated by inhuman creatures like The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. So what is it then?

Monster movies can bring so much more to the table than just creepy-crawlies mangling unsuspecting country folk and astronauts. When done properly, a monster movie of the particularly science-fiction-oriented variety can raise interesting questions and suggest incredible circumstances that no other genre of film can. If you look past the disembowelings and buckets of slime, films with not-of-this-Earth cast members are just like any other film, but perhaps with a bit more imagination. If you'd like an example of this, there may be none better than The Host, which is more about political commentary, family values, love, and overcoming extreme odds than it is about a giant mutated fish with lots of teeth. It just uses the scare-inducing sea-life to get it's point across.

While we may be a ways off from a revolution in monster movies, or even from deciphering the reason for their disappearance in the first place, I'm positive that there are a few out there that not even a fan such as I have seen. As such, it is you, the reader, that I charge with the mission of searching the depths of your own childhood memories for any films featuring ghastly ghoulies that you may remember fondly, and informing me of their existence. I am, after all, always in search of more movies to review, and why not discover a few more frightening favorites in the mix?

I wouldn't leave you hanging though, and in the spirit of spreading the word, here are a few more creature features to keep an eye out for (in addition to those listed above), along with a couple to avoid at all costs:

Alien3 - Not quite on par with the first two, but definitely worth a watch, and a fine end to the trilogy.

Alien Resurrection - This is the unwanted child of the series that should have been aborted shortly after conception.

Predator 2 - A good idea with a sub-par execution. So much potential, but pale in comparison to the original.

Alien vs Predator - If you appreciate the properties that either of these creatures were birthed from there is no way in hell that you should like this movie. Complete and utter garbage.

Tremors 2, 3, and 4 - They get worse as the series goes on, ending with the sad shell of a film that is the fourth movie. Two and three are watch-able.

The Faculty - If the WB made their own version of John Carpenter's The Thing, this is what you'd get. Look past the similarities and you've got a damn good monster movie.

Phantoms - High concept, low budget. A bit slow and ambiguous, but with a great performance by Liev Schreiber.

Virus - Another good concept with a less-than-breathtaking execution. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. Give it a try.

The Relic - Some people trapped in a museum with a large four-legged creature. Forgettable, but worth a watch.

Mimic - Neat monsters and that's about it. Avoid the sequels at all costs.

Deep Rising - Cool monster and several like-able characters. Deserving of a sequel.

The Stuff - Low budget movie about a substance that tastes good, and when eaten takes over your body. Good luck finding a copy, but if you do you're in for a cheesy treat.

The Blob - Everyone's heard of it, but have you seen it? We're talking the 80's version. Creepy as hell. You'll never look at a sink drain the same way again.

Leviathan - Creature attacks the crew of a deep sea lab. Entertaining until the end when the budget apparently ran out and the special effects ceased to be impressive.

Critters - Little furry bastards from outer space with lots of teeth. Entertaining, but very cheesy. The first one's good, the second is even cornier but still not bad, the third is pretty weak, and the fourth takes place in outer space (in other words it sucks).

Pitch Black - Great concept for a species of monsters that leaves a lot of room for suspense. Unfortunately, the film quickly becomes more about Vin Diesel than the creatures.

Species - This movie gets a lot of flak because of it's infamous nudity and sex, but it's actually a great concept with a great cast. The second one is horrible, and I can only imagine that the third is as well.

Feast - Product of the third season of Project Greenlight. Incredibly fun, fast-paced monster movie. Lots of blood, guts, scares, and laughs.

In closing, I'd like to remind everyone to visit the guys over at Film Junk and give their podcast a listen. Also, I'd like to thank them for taking the time to address my question and help me out with recommendations.

Extra Credit - The first person who can tell me the significance of this post's title to the topic contained within gets a pat on the back next time I see you.