Occasionally, my theater (Empire Theatres in Sydney) does something right. A great example is that this week – which just happened to be the week I would be away camping all weekend and wouldn’t be able to go to a movie – they brought in a sneak preview of This Means War. So now not only am I able to get a review out this week, but I’m able to get it out BEFORE the film is wide-released, just like a real critic. The story:
Two CIA agents discover they’re daring the same woman and wage an all-out war to sabotage the other’s efforts to win her heart.
… brought to mind a few other movies, like Mr. and Mrs. Smith (for the turning on each other factor) and True Lies (for the date spying/sabotage factor). Fortunately, it turned out not to be a annoying rehash but a hilarious and actioney adventure that was so cleverly written that I ended up jotting down like fifteen quotes.
What the poster really wants to say about this movie is that it’s Spy vs Spy, but Mad Magazine no doubt has that phrase trademarked, so they’ve been using “spy against spy.” I don’t know how they got away with saying “vs” in the trailer. The spy vs spy plot territory has also been covered in Mr and Mrs Smith, though not quite like this. I might be more into this movie if I agreed with Reese Witherspoon’s character that the two guys are both gorgeous, but they’re both really not. The trailer doesn’t make it seem all that funny, either, I mean – they included a crotch joke. That’s should be rule #1 of trailer making (well, rule #2 behind “don’t show the whole movie”) – no crotch jokes. But it’s McG! Maker of Terminator Salvation and Human Target! So… I guess we’ll see.
GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE
Oh God, how did this movie end up with a sequel when the original was one of the stupidest movies of the year? Are they really that hard up for ideas in Hollywood that they need to beat even the bad ones to death? It would have been bad enough on its own, but add in the fact that Nicholas Cage plays the lead and you’ve got a recipe for silliness with a cardboard spine holding it all together. I get the feeling that no one working on this movie was really trying very hard. Acting: blank. Plot: silly. Special effects: look nice, but not even making a token effort to keep within earshot of the laws of physics. I don’t know what Ciaran Hinds – an actor with actual talent – is doing in this movie. Maybe he lost a bet.
THE SECRET WORLD OF ARIETTY
Oh. My. God. The Borrowers! I remember the Borrowers! I loved those books! It even looks like a 90s cartoon, albeit a Japanese one. I don’t remember the daughter having a big person boyfriend, but it’s been a long time since I read any of those books. I always thought it would be so cool to be tiny like that in a big world because then you could repurpose so much stuff into even cooler stuff – fish hooks into grappeling hooks, one M&M into a whole party dish, etc. So I’ll totally see this movie, even though I’m not a fan of Japanese animation. I can only hope they didn’t mess around with the plot/concept too much and ruin it.
Watching the first minute of this trailer, I thought the story sounded oddly familiar, until I realized that of course, this is the story of the brother of the stuttering prince from The King’s Speech. The fact that his brother gave up the throne for his girlfriend was the reason he had to make the speech in the first place. I’d be interested to see the story from the brother’s perspective, though I feel sorry for whoever is playing the stutterer. He’ll inevitably be found wanting when compared to Colin Firth. Divorce isn’t nearly as scandalous now as it was then, so we’ve also got the modern love story to occupy us and give us juicy new details, which is a framing device that worked well in Possession. I’ll see it, when it eventually works its way around to here.
I hate it when they give films names that have nothing to do with what they’re about. I realize they’re trying to go all metaphorical with the buried issues and whatnot by naming it after dinosaur bones, but when I see dinosaur bones on a poster I want the movie to be about archaeologists, not Irish people with anger management issues. I might possibly be able to stand this movie, since the angry guy seems to become not angry over the course of the film, but I might still decide to hold the dinosaur against it. Anyway, I won’t have to make up my mind for months – until it comes out on DVD. This is only a limited release.
No, I did not go see The Green Hornet. I know it was the biggest movie releasing this week. I know it looked cool. It was my original plan to see it this week but if you’ve been following along you’ll know that my plans got thrown off when it took our theater an extra week to get Country Strong. So this week I had a choice: superhero action vs country music. You’d think it was a no brainer, right? It was, but not in the way I would’ve thought if you’d asked me before I saw the Country Strong trailer. It has a story that goes like this:
A young singer-songwriter meets a country music superstar while she’s in rehab and gets invited to open for her on her comeback tour where he witnesses first hand the price of fame.
Add in the fact that it stars Garrett Hedlund and Gwyneth Paltrow, both of whom are on the list, and I had my winner. So was Country Strong worth the wait, worth throwing off my whole schedule? It must have done something right, because even though I hate country music, I love this movie.
There seems to be something of a war going on over Christopher Nolan’s latest film Inception. On one side you’ve got the online critics (like Laremy Legel from Film.com), who seem to be in a competition to get a quote on the DVD box, and the print critics (like Andrew O’Hehir from Salon) who seem to be using the movie as an excuse to unload all their bottled up vitriol on the undereducated internet plebs.
If you haven’t seen Inception, it’s about a team of thieves who steal ideas from people’s dreams. They decide to attempt a supposedly impossible feat – planting an idea. It’s really cool to watch but it had major consistency issues and that’s all I can say to you right now without giving away the plot. If you want to keep reading, go see the movie. I’ll wait.
Back? Well, just to be safe, I’m going to give this warning (cover your ears).
CAUTION! THIS ARTICLE WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS! DO NOT CLICK ‘READ MORE’ UNLESS YOU ARE OK WITH BEING EXPOSED TO SPOILERS!!!!
For those of you who have seen Inception and were confused by it, you may be interested to know that this is not your fault.
Fox has been advertising Human Target since at least September. I came across promos for it while I was compiling my list of new 2009/2010 shows to watch. I thought “meh, looks a bit campy, but maybe I’ll give it a try,” and then mentally filed it away because it didn’t start for like six more months.
By January I’d totally forgotten about it. Then I saw the name of the show listed in the CTV online video library. I had an hour to kill, so I clicked. And it was AWESOME!
You can get the gist of the show by reading the following sentence:
Human Target is a series of weekly hour-long action movies based on the DC comic book of the same name. It follows a former hitman turned undercover bodyguard who infiltrates the lives of clients to draw out and eliminate threats.
Or by watching the trailer. But if you want to know why it’s awesome, you’ll have to watch the show.
In my head, I have a list of film professionals (writers, directors, actors, composers, etc) whose involvement in a project triggers my automatic ticket purchase reflex. It won’t surprise you to learn that Avatar warranted a reflex purchase, but you might raise an eyebrow if I told you it was Sam Worthington’s name, not James Cameron’s, that triggered it. (If you’ve ever seen True Lies you know why James Cameron is not on the list).
I wanted to love Avatar. I went into the theater hoping to come out feeling the way I felt when I saw Star Wars for the first time – awestruck and excited. When it was over, I was forced to admit to myself that I was neither, though I couldn’t shake the feeling that if I maybe went to see it again, it would be better, just because I wanted it to so bad. So I did, but it wasn’t.
I can blame some of my disappointment on the hype. I tried to stay away from it. It was pretty easy in Cape Breton (the theater wasn’t even full on opening night) but impossible on the internet, which was teeming with pictures and videos and articles on James Cameron and his blue people. With so much anticipation built up, if Avatar was anything other than the most amazing and moving film ever made it was going to be a disappointment.
For those of you who are cave dwellers and STILL haven’t heard of it even though it’s made over a billion dollars, here are the cliff’s notes:
Avatar, a movie James Cameron has been working on for something like 15 years, is a full 3D film that blends live action with motion-captured CGI to create lush jungle planet called Pandora and the a race of blue natives that inhabit it.
The story follows Jake Sully, a wheelchair bound ex-marine who is recruited by a ruthless mining company to take over his dead twin’s avatar and finds himself caring more about the clan of natives he’s infiltrating than the interests of the company he works for.
Sounds amazing, right? And it is, sort of. Is it an amazing accomplishment? Yes. Should James Cameron quit now to rest on his laurels/money? No.
First let me say that I’m not a professional movie critic. I actually have to PAY for all of my tickets, so naturally I haven’t seen everything, and I’m not putting movies on my list that I haven’t seen.
I was going to do Top 10 and Bottom 10 in separate articles, but then I realized that nearly half of the movies I’d seen would have to be on one list or the other (I counted, I’ve seen 42 movies this year, five of them more than once), so I pared it down to 5 of each.
There are some films (Hurt Locker and Bright Star in particular) that might have been on the “top” list if I’d seen them, but they never came to Sydney. I also tend to avoid movies if I think they’re going to be bad, so the ones on this list are the ones that slipped through my filters and/or I was dragged to by friends.
That said, on with the best and worst films I’ve seen in theaters in 2009.
Six years after the rather lackluster Terminator 3 came out and one year into the canon-bending Terminator: the Sarah Connor Chronicles improbably named director McG got the go-ahead for a fourth film in the Terminator series: Terminator Salvation.
Terminator Salvation picks up the “John Connor is the hero of humanity” story from the first three Terminator films, but in the future, then the machines rule. Instead of following John this time, our hero is Marcus Wright a convicted murderer who wakes up in post Judgment Day Los Angeles fifteen years after his own execution to find himself in the middle of an all out war between the last remaining humans and the machines controlled by Skynet.
Sounds cool right? Unfortunately some people, even some people who are Sam Worthington have criticized Terminator Salvation for being plot-holey and a little unfocused. (FYI Sam Worthington played Marcus Wright, in case you were wondering why anyone cares what he says).
Click below to read more about that these mythical “some people” say, and what I say back to them.