I saw another one today, this time while coming back from the library. I think they fly into powerlines or something. Yet again, it scared the living daylights out of me.

*Popquiz*: Which actor played James Bond in “The Living Daylights”?

Living Daylights

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Mutant mediocrity

July 26, 2006

X -Men: The Last Stand (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0376994/)

X3

Do you remember in elementary school when teachers gave out grades on a scale of “Outstanding, Satisfactory, Unsatisfactory”? It was fairly easy to get the “Outstanding” back then; it took just a little more effort than doing satisfactory work. When you colored within the lines, you did outstanding, and when you crossed the lines occasionally, you got the satisfactory sticker (if there was one). The extra love you put into your coloring book made for a better final product, and in the end Miss Nice Old Teacher took notice.

I think Brett Ratner was the (fat) kid in class who didn’t love his coloring. He settles with satisfactory and took the X-Men film franchise for a dip in quality. His film is quite watchable and entertaining, but at the same time, is only a mediocre film. What hurts X3 so much is its attempt at grandeur – “The Last Stand” – a title fit only for a superb finale, which in the end turns out to be a minor detail. The film is short and tight with constant action to keep you engaged, but it has so many minor storylines that you never really care about a single one. The big climactic battle at the end of the film feels mostly like an excuse to show off special effects of each mutants’ powers rather than an actual resolution. I liken X3 to “Matrix Revolutions” except that it is more entertaining. X3 is also like “Terminator 3,” a movie sequel that tries to feel significant, yet no matter how much drama, sacrifice, and special effect eye candy there happen to be, the movie does not rise to its supposed greatness. With “Terminator 3,” a fun 2 hour diversion was a surprising pleasure since the sequel was doomed to not exist based upon the storyline of the previous film. Unfortunately for Ratner, Bryan Singer’s X-Men and X2 upped the ante, and in the light of those films, X3 is nothing special.

So X3 wasn’t special, but it was still fun, and I have grown to like the X-Men over the years.  This movie aims to please and for the most part it does.  It doesn’t inspire anything else, though, and in the end you may feel a little let down.

Honestly, what the hell was the point of Angel?

3.5 chromosomes of Mutant X gene (.5 extra is only because I liked the other X-Men movies) out of 5

Next time in reviews: Who knows?  I’m all caught up!

Mission: Impossible III (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0317919/)

MI3

I wonder why Tom Cruise went coco for cocoa puffs. Over the years (at least the ones that I’ve seen), he’s made a decent action star out of himself. He’s not a tall guy, in fact pretty short and compact for an action star, BUT the audience loves to watch this man run. I liked Minority Report, War of the Worlds, and the Mission: Impossible movies; I like to watch Tom run, too. And in M:I 3, Tom satisfies our hunger for seeing him dash about.

Now a few words on JJ Abrams: This man is the creator of two hit TV shows, one of which I am a fan and the other I intend on beginning soon. It is clear that M:I 3 is derivative of Abrams’ “ALIAS,” and the entire movie feels very much like an extended “ALIAS” episode. The movie moves at a good pace, and the opening scene builds a lot of tension and suspense that you await to see resolved in the final act. M:I 3 has the flashiness and comradery of ALIAS and is very watchable.

So why didn’t I really like M:I 3? I think the movie started to run out of steam as it neared the end. Sure JJ Abrams is a veteran of television, but with a 2 hour time slot there is only so much you can do to keep our attention. In Shanghai, we don’t actually see the rabbit foot heist; although I felt gypped out of some excitement, this didn’t bother me TOO much. What bothered me most was seeing an anticlimactic Tom Cruise vs Philip Seymour Hoffman match-up. Davian was a complete bad ass villain, and the end of the film kind of wraps things up a bit too quickly and nicely for me. Way too nicely – in fact, I would say that Ethan Hunt does little to save the day in the end.

Now I liked this movie for the most part, but the ending rubbed me the wrong way. I hate it when that happens. So you’re probably wondering, “is it at the least better than the second M:I film?” I don’t know, because it’s hard to compare the two. Every M:I movie has had a different director and a different style, and I think that drawing comparisons between them is a bit useless. While DePalma’s is probably the best conceived “spy thriller action espionage” movie of the tri-bunch, John Woo has his distinctive HK thing going on, and the action in M:I 2 is top notch.

If M:I 3 is in a second run theater nearby, its worth a few dollars to see. The movie is decent and works for the most part. Since it’s not likely to be in theaters anymore, just wait for it to get to the video store – but there’s no rush.

3 seconds left out of 5 on a self-destructing blog

Next time in reviews: MORE CATCHING UP

The Shyamalama Exposed

July 21, 2006

Shyamalan

In honor of the release of “Lady in the Water,” M. Night’s newest creation, I have decided to spill my humble opinions of this acclaimed director. His works are loved by many and also.. not so loved by many others. Of his films that I have seen (6th Sense, Unbreakable, The Village), I’m going to say that “6th Sense” was quite excellent and original way back then. However, the Shyamalama has taken this excellent first work and reworked its framework into making more mundane and less convincing films. People are eating up these “hero’s tale thrown in with a surprise ending” films. But not me.

Although I have heard “Lady in the Water” does NOT have the usual M. Night touch with the whole surprise ending shabang, I haven’t read many good things about it either. Now, before you yell and shout, “I’m a Shyamalan fan, and his films are all original,” let me convince you otherwise. Check out this 6th Sense and Unbreakable comparison:

First things first:

  • Both movies have Bruce Willis in them
  • Both movies have a little white boy actor
  • Both movies have a surprise ending

Looking deeper:

  • Both films create the setup: a main problem. ie. A little boy seeing dead people or Bruce Willis having superhero-like characteristics
  • Both films has a helper character, one who assists the character struggling with the problem. ie. Bruce Willis helps Haley Joel Osmont. Sam Jackson helps Bruce Willis
  • A character or hero, has a revelation/point of acknowledging his problem
  • Both films has a character or hero complete a trial – Little boy listens to and helps dead people, Bruce Willis saves the family from the bad dude
  • Both films has the surprise ending involving the other “helper” character, CATCHING YOU OFF GUARD

This analysis can also be applied to “The Village” loosely. The Shyamalama mixed things up a bit further since it was his 4th film. However, major elements still exist. Bryce Dallas Howard’s journey at the end of the film is the “hero’s trial,” and this time there is not one, but TWO surprises! The major final surprise involves the village elders (Wiliam Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, etc.) who I guess act as “helper characters” in the film.

In conclusion, “The 6th Sense” was cool the first time around.

Family matters

July 21, 2006

Little Miss Sunshine (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0449059/)

Little Miss Sunshine

The dysfunctional family. We’ve seen this before many a time. Sometimes it works a la “Arrested Development” and sometimes it don’t (all that Disney Channel crap). “Little Miss Sunshine” deals with the Hoover family. They’re kind of messed up, check it out:

From http://www2.foxsearchlight.com/littlemisssunshine/

“No one among the Hoovers quite has it together, but it’s not for lack of trying. Father Richard (GREG KINNEAR), a hopelessly optimistic motivational speaker, is desperately attempting to sell his 9-step program for success — without much success. Meanwhile, the Hoovers’ “pro-honesty” mother Sheryl (TONI COLLETTE) is constantly harried by her family’s eccentric secrets, especially those of her brother (STEVE CARELL), a gay suicidal Proust scholar fresh out of the hospital after being jilted by his gay lover. Then there are the younger Hoovers with their unlikely dreams – the four-eyed, slightly plump, seven year-old would-be beauty queen Olive (ABIGAIL BRESLIN) and Dwayne (PAUL DANO), an anger-fueled, Nietzsche-reading teen who has taken a staunch vow of silence until he gets into the Air Force Academy. Topping off the family is the grandfather (ALAN ARKIN), a foul-mouthed pleasure-seeker recently kicked out of his retirement home for snorting heroin.”

So that’s a fun bunch. Anyways, the family is united on a road trip as daughter Olive is elligible to compete in California’s Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant. Suffice to say, a lot of problems occur during their trip. Some of the characters have to face their inner demons and all of the characters have to cope with each other. Additional problems such as car trouble, police, and necessary stops cause the family to unite and bond over their separate and shared obstacles.

“Little Miss Sunshine” is sweet, quirky, and very funny. I felt it only faltered when each stop along trip began to feel like an excuse to address one family member’s problems. This culminates in the teenage son’s tantrum as he calls out each family member, stating each character’s problem loudly (as if we didn’t know).

All this aside, “Little Miss Sunshine” is very funny and has a big heart. My criticisms of the movie are minor, and I recommend you see this film. It’s not out yet, though. Believe it or not, this is a SPECIAL LOOK at this film before its release! I saw the movie at a free screening – it comes out next friday July 28th. Check out the website above and maybe you can catch a screening in your area too.

3.5 or 4 nutty family members out of 5

Next time: Time to play catch up

Totally unrelated to movies:

Today while walking to work, I saw a dead bird on the ground. It scared the bejesus out of me.

What the hobo balls?

July 19, 2006

While walking home from the theater on friday after having seen “A Scanner Darkly,” I passed a very public bum sitting in the streets of Bethesda. I know Bethesda is a nice wealthy town and all, but upon seeing the Bethesda bum sitting under a sign watching a movie on a PORTABLE DVD PLAYER, I was asking myself, “What the hobo balls is going on?” Alas, I do not have a cell phone camera to show you the aberration. Bethesda bums. Damn.