Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"Terminator Salvation" poster online

Does this need any explanation?

"I'm like you, Tom. I'm different."

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the best trailer of the year.

I would like "Cypher" and "Teri928" to give their thoughts on this trailer. I'm excited to see what people think.

(Note: I suggest the HD 720 format. It'll pause every once in a while, but it's the perfect size for your monitor._

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

HP6 trailer to arrive tonight

The trailer for the upcoming Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince will be debuting tonight at 9 p.m. eastern standard time. That means around 8 p.m. our time. The following exclamation is the only time it will be used on this site: WOOT! There...savor it.

The Sound of "Thunder"

This will be the best comedy of the year. Here are some beautiful new pics. Can't wait to see it opening night on August 13.

HP6 Photos

These are just amazing.

Harold and Kumar hijack "Speed Racer"

On May 9, 2008, history was made in the lives of "Teri928", "Lucas", "Cypher", and myself. We had gone to see Speed Racer that night at a local theater, thinking that it would be a good movie, a lot of fun to look at, but maybe a little empty. The trailers looked somewhat promising. So we crowded into the movie theater and sat down. The trailers began...the usual...Dark Knight...Wanted...Mummy 3...Pineapple Express...Indiana Jones--wait, I thought, Pineapple Express? An R-rated Apatow comedy's trailer in front of the PG-rated Speed Racer? Whatever. Anyway, moving on...Journey to the Center of the Earth...The Love Guru--wait...The Love Guru? Again, a raunchy comedy's trailer in front of Speed Racer? Hmmm...didn't think anything of it at the time.

So, the movie started. The credits were rolling as swirly, cursive prose faded in and out on the screen, to the tune of Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World". Then the title comes up...Harold and Kumar...ESCAPE FROM GUANTANAMO BAY.

Immediately the sound of itchy-scratchy parents commensed immediately followed by the sudden (and rather random) exclamation by a concerned citizen, "This ain't Speed Racer!" I left the theater in a hurry, as the first line was what the modern AOL-era acronym "wtf" stands for.

In the end, however, that little mistake was better and more memorable than anything in Speed Racer, which is one of the worst movies of the year.

Monday, July 28, 2008


This is a surprisingly good trailer for W., the upcoming biopic about our current president. An all-star cast and an assured (if slightly biased) director makes for what looks like a really good little movie. And man, does Dick Dreyfus look like Dick Cheney or what?

"Terminator" teaser trailer (Oh, and some new pics from "Watchmen")

This looks great. Simply great. Christian Bale is a great, underrated actor, who doesn't get enough credit (The Prestige, anyone?).

And then there is the Terminator trilogy, which remains one of the best series. Ever. Period. Each one has received four stars from me.

Thoughts, anyone?

(Oh, and those Watchmen pics? Here. Enjoy.)

Capsule Review: The Love Guru (***)

The Love Guru is far from a great comedy, but against all odds, it worked for me. I'm a fan of Mike Myers's first Austin Powers film, and The Love Guru has a similar brand of humor (raunch that works because it's never obvious nor does it insult the viewer. Myers stars as the Guru Pitka, who is renowned for reuniting famous movie stars to their wives or vice versa. He is hired by the Toronto Maple Leaves (Leafs?) to get their star player's love life back in order. The Love Guru isn't perfect, and will irritate many, but I enjoyed its shamelessly crude humor and its manic performances, especially that by an unrecognizable Justin Timberlake. In the vein of recent crude comedies, The Love Guru towers over You Don't Mess with the Zohan.

Capsule Review: Wanted (****)

Starring James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie, and Morgan Freeman

Timur Bekmambetov's Wanted is an innovative, exhilarating action classic, featuring mind-boggling and truly imaginative set-pieces that surpass anything in the Matrix trilogy. At this point near the end of the summer season, Wanted stands tall as one of the best films. James McAvoy stars as Wesley Gibson, a bored-out-of-his-mind office worker who wants to take life by the hair and live it. One day that happens when a woman suddenly lures him into the world of The Fraternity, a group of revolutionary assassins. This leads to unexpected and kind of provocative places, something you don't usually see in an action film. I was excited and pumped up after seeing this film, and I talked about it with friends for the next week or so. Imagine my surprise to find Wanted, with its poor ad campaign, to be actually better than both Iron Man and Indiana Jones.

Capsule Review: Space Chimps (1/2*)

Featuring the voices of Andy Samberg, Patrick Warburton, and Jeff Daniels

Vanguard Animation's Space Chimps is probably the worst example of an animated film I've ever seen. I don't know, maybe it's backlash from Horton Hears a Who, Kung Fu Panda, and WALL-E, but this was simply awful. Any one scene from each of those films proves more charming than the whole of Space Chimps, which possibly contains two or three good laughs. Ham III has always wanted to go into space, but there's just one hurtle to overcome: his grandfather has been renowned as the first chimpanzee to journey into space. This is the surprisingly simple story, providing excuses for sour, thinly-veiled crude and sexual jokes that have no place in this very PG G-rated film. Instead of seeing this cowdung, watch any moment from the delightful, dazzling, and breathtaking other animated movies that have been released in 2008.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Live Coverage: At the Movies with Ebert and Roeper

The X-Files: I Want to Believe
Phillips: Skip It
Roeper: See It

American Teen
Phillips: See It
Roeper: See It

Brideshead Revisited
Phillips: Skip It
Roeper: See It

Step Brothers
Phillips: Rent It (slight recommendation)
Roeper: Skip It

Boy A
Phillips: See It
Roeper: See It

Video picks:
Phillips: Shine a Light
Roeper: WarGames (25th anniversary)

Phillips's Three-to-See:
3. Journey to the Center to the Earth
2. Tell No One
1. The Dark Knight

Review: The X-Files: I Want to Believe (***1/2)

Starring Gillian Anderson, David Duchovny, and Billy Connolly
Directed by Chris Carter
Rated PG-13 for violent and disturbing content and thematic material
106 minutes

Like The Happening this summer, The X-Files: I Want to Believe is receiving fatal reviews, and although it is neither as cerebral nor as chilling as the earlier film, it is as underrated a movie in nearly every aspect. Its source material, the 90s television phenomenon of the same name, remains to be one of the smartest and most thought-provoking TV shows ever made, as well as the creepiest.

Following the adventures of F.B.I. agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully was a pastime of many people for nine years, from the pilot episode in 1993 to the equally effective first feature film in 1998 to the cathartic final episode in 2002.

It’s been six years since the trial that forced Mulder and Scully to go into hiding. They’re living together, but their relationship is uneasy. Neither wants to live the old life of solving paranormal crimes.

But the situation that soon develops prevents them from hiding anymore. An F.B.I. agent has gone missing under highly unusual circumstances: A convicted pedophile and former priest claims a psychic connection to the remains of one or more bodies. The Bureau offers Mulder and Scully a deal—they will forgive Mulder for his “crime” and drop all charges, if they help find the missing agent. This leads to a conclusion that may shock some with its bizarre twists and turns, even by The X-Files standards.

Even if you’ve never watched the TV show, you will still be drawn into the involving story and believable characters. If you are familiar with the show and its characters or (like me) have seen nearly every episode, it’ll be like old times.

The movie builds suspense not unlike a Hitchcock film and is wonderfully written by the show’s creators, Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz. Returning composer Mark Snow revamped the original musical score, enhancing the material without being overbearing. Cinematographer Bill Roe perfectly captured the snow-covered hills of West Virginia for the haunting first act.

Then there is Mulder and Scully’s chemistry, which worked so well in the show. This is where the movie sometimes falters. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are better than ever, but their attempts at sad reminiscence fall short.

Despite this quibble, The X-Files: I Want to Believe is effectively involving, much like a very good “standalone” episode of the long-running series. And I believe that is all that fans are asking for.

Upcoming Reviews and Posts

Monday, July 28:
Reviews: The X-Files: I Want to Believe
Capsule Reviews: Space Chimps, Wanted, The Love Guru, The Incredible Hulk, You Don't Mess with the Zohan
Posts: "W." trailer, more Comic-Con updates (I wish I was there...), and more to come!

Tuesday, July 29:
Reviews: probably none
Capsule Reviews: probably none
Posts: On DVD Today, On Meeting Gary Cogill, and more to come!

Wednesday, July 30:
Reviews: probably none
Capsule Reviews: probably none
Posts: TBA

Thursday, July 31:
Reviews: The Mummy, The Mummy Returns
Capsule Reviews: probably none
Posts: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince trailer and discussion

Friday, August 1:
Reviews: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
Capsule Reviews: probably none
Posts: TBA

Saturday, August 2:
Nothing at all

Sunday, August 3:

On the upcoming "Death Race"

This is looking worse by the second. The trailer's awful, the acting looks awful, heck, even the poster is horrible. Now, on Rope of Silicon there are 49 new photos. Look and be amazed. In a bad, bad way.

Is it just me...

...or do these pics of the Nite Owl's ship look like a gigantic, futuristic version of WALL-E's head?

I simply can't wait for this. Like The Dark Knight, everything I hear about it makes me more and more excited.

Thoughts anyone?

"Up" teaser and launch site

This is a great little teaser. Just like Pixar to be humorous as heck within a time span of, oh, 45 seconds. Gives nothing away and makes you wanna see it at the same time.

"Watchmen" Trailer

It's awesome. The best trailer I've seen in a while.

Capsule Review: Journey to the Center of the Earth (***)

Starring Brendan Fraser, Josh Hutcherson, and Anita Briem

It's amazing how little story Journey to the Center of the Earth and Meet Dave have, yet neither are insulting experiences. Meet Dave wasn't successful, but it wasn't very bad, while Journey is successful, but it isn't that great. Brendan Fraser stars as a scientist whose brother recently disappeared and believed Jules Verne's novel was actually fact not fiction. So Fraser's character and his nephew go on the hunt to the center of the earth to find the missing brother. Journey to the Center of the Earth is a lot of fun, despite the enormous plot holes, the corny B-movie level acting and the seeming absence of a story or direction. The length is a zippy 90 minutes, and it feels like it.

Review: Meet Dave (**1/2)

Starring Eddie Murphy, Gabrielle Union, and Elizabeth Banks

It should be stated up front that Meet Dave is nowhere near as bad as its own trailers. It isn't good in any respect, but at times it's quite sweet, despite the horrid, agonizingly painful first act that attempts to set up the characters. Dave is a spaceship that has the size and shape of a human, carrying an identical captain and his crew. They have come to Earth to make sure that a water-sucking ball of alien technology does its job. That's pretty much the limits of the storyline which inspires a lot of slapstick comedy that is neither funny nor inspired. The plot is actually more cohesive than "Hancock" and handled in a less uneven way. Eddie Murphy gives an easygoing performance as both ship and captain. I say, if you have any kind of taste in movies, Meet Dave is not for you. But if you can survive that first thirty minutes, it won't be an awful experience, just a mild one.

Capsule Review: Kit Kittredge: An American Girl (***)

(Note: Capsule Reviews will be paragraph-long critiques for films for which I don't have enough time to write a full-length review.)

Starring Abigail Breslin, Chris O'Donnell, and Stanley Tucci

Patricia Rozema's Kit Kittredge: An American Girl really is a sweet and good-hearted film about the heartbreaks and joys of childhood, not unlike Bridge to Terabithia last year. Though the film certainly isn't as good (Kit Kittredge sentimentalizes, while Terabithia never sentimentalized and only told its story in a straightforward, uncompromising way), it is a nice little movie. Abigail Breslin stars in the title role, as a girl who lives in Depression times and wants to be in print. She and her mother take in boarders (poor travelers) and Kit gets caught up in the mystery of a local jewelry thief. Kit Kittredge: An American Girl is like one of those 90s kid movies that you wore out your videotape watching: a charming film that will be seen as a classic in about ten years, but for right now is only accessible and sweet, nothing great. I liked this film.

Review: The Strangers (**)

Starring: Scott Speedman, Liv Tyler, and Kip Weeks
Directed by: Bryan Bertino
MPAA Rating: R for violence/terror and language
Runtime: 91 minutes

Two years ago a horror film was released that I did not see at the time. It was called The Descent, and even though it was met with rave reviews, I was too young to see it. This year I caught up with it, and it has haunted me ever since. It was nihilistic, terrifying, and unforgettable.

This year the same kind of film was released, just as nihilistic, but hardly as scary and much less unforgettable. It’s called The Strangers and, while it is certainly not the worst horror film of the year so far, one could do much better.

James and Kristen have just left the wedding reception of two friends. It’s sort of obvious at first glimpse that these two had a past relationship. He has proposed; she has rejected him. Things are at a standstill.

Soon enough, however, the two are suddenly terrorized by a man and two women, all three of whom are in creepy masks. They fight to escape his father’s house, where a candlelit dinner was to await the both of them, while the masked intruders concoct ingenious ways to trap them.

All well made and very scary, especially the scenes that build tension by letting us see what James and Kristen cannot. One scene has Kristen pacing her kitchen, drinking wine and smoking, while The Man in the Mask is behind her just watching, face unseen. This is the most well-directed shot in the film, director Bryan Bertino’s camera never wavering. It reminded me of a much better scene in The Descent, as one of the heroines looks around with a green lightstick, while a humanoid watches, unseen by her, seen by us.

That’s the feel of the whole film; been there, been creeped out by that. A shot in the face of a somewhat unimportant character is well done but was better handled in the criminally underrated Saw III. Both are terrible mistakes, but one is not seen as a mistake at first, then comes back to haunt the character later, emotionally investing us in the situation.

That turns out to be what’s missing here: emotion. The Descent and Saw III had all the gore, blood, and nihilism to rattle the cages of the hardiest horror fan, and their filmmakers were smart enough to supply a brain and a heart to go with them; both films had emotional gravity and endings that were logical next steps as a result, not just trying to be clever. By the time the ending comes in The Strangers, we realize with a sinking heart that all it was trying to be, and therefore became, was a clever lead-in for an unnecessary sequel.

Review: Kung Fu Panda (***1/2)

Featuring the voices of Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, and Ian McShane
Directed by Mark Osborne and John Stevenson
Rated PG for sequences of martial arts action
93 minutes
Kung Fu Panda is a downright hilarious, deliriously beautiful film that should regain the confidence of any former fans of Dreamworks that the company can compete with Pixar. That it is their best work since Shrek 2 is a given. There is one notable difference, though, and it’s a refreshing one: this contains considerably fewer pop-culture references, something that crippled their previous films—most notably, Madagascar.

Po is a rather large panda that has always wanted to become a kung fu master, but his father (who, strangely enough, is a duck; this is never explained) wants him to continue the family business of noodle-making. It’s a respectable enough but boring job that Po simply doesn’t want, but he cannot bring himself to tell his father this. So one day, instead of taking his noodle cart to the town square and selling his product to the people there, he watches from outside the doors as the elder kung fu guru, Oogway, and Master Shifu pick the famed Dragon Warrior from a group of five contestants: a tigress, a crane, a monkey, a praying mantis, and a viper. By happy accident, Po is chosen as the Dragon Warrior to battle and defeat Tai Lung, a villainous tiger who has an unexpected past with Shifu. With the ensuing arrival of Tai Lung, who has recently broken out of prison, Shifu teaches Po…well, nevermind; see the movie to find out.
The voicework here is stunning, with Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Ian McShane, Angelina Jolie, and a strangely underused Jackie Chan giving the kind of depth to their characters that audiences aren’t expecting. Everyone here is superb, especially Black and Hoffman.

The story is charmingly conventional. We know what is going to happen, but we have a great time getting there. Po finally overcomes his fears and is able to defeat Tai Lung. This is expected and is what happens, but it’s how he gets to that point that is so interesting. The fight scenes are spectacular, especially Tai Lung’s escape from a deep underground prison; the lesson learned is memorable, especially in the touching scene when Po’s father gives him an invaluable bit of advice.

But what ultimately earns Kung Fu Panda more than a passing glance is its animation. I don’t think there is a word to describe it. I felt the same sense of wonder during Horton Hears a Who and Happy Feet. Maybe it isn’t so great as to deserve four stars, but it is the closest Dreamworks Animation has gotten to Pixar’s greatness in at least four years.

Review: The Happening (****)

Starring Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, and John Leguizamo
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Rated R for violent and disturbing images
92 minutes

At the risk of going against the popular consensus (something I did on M. Night Shyamalan’s critically eviscerated Lady in the Water, a film I consider one of the best of 2006), I’ll just go right out and say it: The Happening is an unnerving and uneasy masterpiece, a film to make you hold your breath. So terrifying and gut-clenching are the first 60 minutes that, when it appeared to be going off the rails in the last 30, I was crushed. Instead, some might say, it took a more conventional direction, but I think it took the most logical one.

There is something strange going on in New York. People are stopping whatever they’re doing, standing still, not able to speak, and then suddenly killing themselves. “There seems to be an event happening,” the principal of a school says nervously. The word “event” doesn’t begin to cover it, but then what word does? At first the government labels it as a terrorist attack by way of an airborne, weaponized neurotoxin. Then it begins to happen in four or five different places at once, sometimes in different states, always in the Northeast.

Trying to categorize The Happening as an infectious virus movie is like saying that Lady in the Water is a bedtime story, or that Signs is an alien invasion movie, or that The Sixth Sense is a zombie flick. With Shyamalan, things are never so black and white; there are always deeper forces at work.

Here the deeper force, which I would not dare give away, is something that Shyamalan has never really used before (Signs was faith, Lady in the Water was calling, etc.), and it’s to great success. As always, he never forces the lesson on us; instead he allows us to learn it ourselves.
The acting is uniformly understated. Mark Wahlberg and John Leguizamo are excellent as two best friends forced to make a decision which could end their lives, while Zooey Deschanel is fine, but perhaps a tad stale, as Eliot’s wife, Alma.

Aside from being emotionally concise—we are always concerned for Eliot, his wife, and the little girl under their care, and the film never panders to us by providing sentiment or soap—the film is also terrifically unnerving. The reason for this is not because there are millions of people committing suicide, but because the culprit is (dare I say it?) eerily plausible. It must be noted that the highly publicized R-rating is deserved: anyone who prefers light, frothy entertainment will be disappointed. This is a very dark and disturbing film; uninhibited suicide isn’t pretty.

This is one of the best, most underrated, most misunderstood films of 2008.

Review: Get Smart (***)

Starring Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, and Alan Arkin
Directed by Peter Segal
Rated PG-13 for some rude humor, action violence, and language
111 minutes

Get Smart is something of a miracle: a spoof film that proves to be as good as some of the movies it makes fun of. Not only is it funny; it’s also exciting, professionally directed, and effectively acted. It’s a pleasant surprise that, like Superhero Movie earlier this year, is in a disreputable genre. The general consensus on parodies is that any film that follows this pattern is unfunny tripe that deserves to be in the bottom of the barrel. Strange, then, that both Get Smart and Superhero Movie are prime examples of the opposite of this—films that are smart, witty, and surprisingly sweet and that deserve better treatment than what they are getting.

Maxwell Smart has always longed to be a field agent with CONTROL, a secret government agency that has been trying to defeat the equally secret KAOS, a group of rebels posing as government. Their demand: two hundred billion dollars from the U.S. government by six o’clock this evening. Their plot: buy nuclear weapons from a bakery in Russia that is secretly making uranium. Their consequence (unknown to the main characters, of course): kill the president at Disney Hall during the annual presidential concert.

At the film’s center is the brilliant comedic talent of Steve Carell, the current master of stony-faced comedy. Like Peter Sellers and Leslie Nielsen, Carell knows inside and out how to tell a joke. From sight gags to pop culture puns, Carell nails his lines every time, all the while giving a strangely affecting performance. You can see the elements of his acting capabilities within brilliant comic timing. The same can be said of Anne Hathaway, with whom Carell has great chemistry as hero to Hathaway’s sidekick.

Peter Segal’s direction is better than you’d expect from a comedy. The action scenes are exciting without being heavy-handed, and when the final set piece takes place, it doesn’t disappoint. One critic complained that it felt like a Michael Bay film, and I agree, but I welcome it, as well. A comedy that contains a Michael Bay-style action scene is worthy of recognition in my book.

Is Get Smart a masterpiece of comedy? No, and truth be told, I could pinpoint at least three this year alone that are better. In fact, Carell is the best thing about the film. In a season that brought us You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, an interminable, annoying piece of cow dung that ranks as the worst film so far this summer, the film doesn’t feel bloated or overhyped, and instead feels comfortable. And that’s just fine with me.

Review: WALL-E (****)

Featuring the voices and voice effects of Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, and Jeff Garlin

Directed by Andrew Stanton

Rated G

104 minutes

Can animated films possibly get any better than this? WALL-E is Pixar’s greatest achievement: a mind-bogglingly beautiful animated film, a conceptually riveting futuristic vision, a side-splittingly hilarious comedy, and a masterfully effective romance, all rolled into one sublime package, that (I might as well say it) ranks as my pick for the best animated film since the genre was jumpstarted with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1939—perhaps even better than that. Never have I been so affected visually, mentally, and emotionally by an animated film as I was in this one. After it was over, my mouth hung open in disbelief - not just that an animated film could be so beautiful, but also that it could step so right any second of its running time.

The year is 2775. Planet Earth has been deserted by leisure-obsessed human pigs, I mean, beings, who, after much use and abuse of our planet, proceeded to move into a gigantic space station, Axiom. Left on Earth to finish Operation Clean-Up were groups of robots, labeled Waste Allocation Load Lifters, Earth-class (thus WALL-E). Seven hundred years later, one lonely robot remains. He spends his days cleaning up, finding treasures, and watching what appears to be the only movie left on the planet, Hello, Dolly! That is, until EVE, an Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator, arrives. (Earth… extraterrestrial, scary, huh?) Eventually, they befriend each other, but not without a few near-death experiences for poor WALL-E, for whom it was love at first sight. That is, until WALL-E finds a plant. Due to her title, she is ultimately bound to take the plant back to her mothership, but neither of them wants her to leave. So, WALL-E boards the ship, as well, where the plot thickens and the adventure continues.

The story is rather thin, but it isn’t the point. Like 2001: A Space Odyssey and A.I. Artificial Intelligence, the plot is rather familiar but necessarily so. Due to long sections with no dialogue, this movie takes a monumental amount of patience to watch. What a daring move for Pixar to make a film aimed at children with little dialogue and no funny quotes. That, however, doesn’t make a difference, as the film is so engaging that you don’t notice after a while.

It might be bold to label WALL-E as the best animated film of all time, but it had that effect on me. WALL-E’s incredibly expressive robot eyes (down to the windshield wipers that clean off the grime when gazing in amazement at EVE), shots of the Milky Way in photorealistic beauty, a haunting vision of a New York City made entirely from piles of trash—all are images that may never leave my head: quiet little images with no corny one-liners or fart jokes.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Review: Hancock (**)

Starring Will Smith, Charlize Theron, and Jason Bateman
Directed by Peter Berg
Rated PG-13 for some intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and language
93 minutes

Every year has its big-budgeted, summer-released disappointment, and in 2008 it is Hancock. It’s overhyped on nearly every level, despite some superb visual effects and an oddly transcendent performance by Will Smith. The movie is strong for at least half of its far-too-short running time, playing like a superhero movie crossed with a good Adam Sandler comedy. It has all the acerbic humor to have been written by Sandler, in fact, giving it an unorthodox tone, but when the twist arrives, the whole movie falls apart.

John Hancock is a washed-out superhero, whose latest acts of heroism have left his city’s citizens in an uproar. After a messy attempt to stop a train from ramming into a car, one angered bystander yells at him, “We should sue you!” Hancock has as much an idea of why people hate him as he does about his past (read: none). He was found beaten to a pulp some 80 years ago, with two movie tickets in his pocket. That’s all he knows, along with the fact that he can’t age.

Things start to look up, when a PR rep, Ray Embrey, and his family bring Hancock into their home, in hopes that he can get his life back on track. After discussing the matter with Ray, Hancock realizes that he needs to turn himself into the police for the civil crimes he has committed in his attempts to do good, resulting in a sentence of seven years in prison.

All of this leads up to the Big Twist, which basically results in two people rolling around all over the city, leaving destruction in their wake. Where it goes after this disastrous five minutes (in which we find out the startling truth about a main character) at least gets points for being unpredictable, but it’s the squirmy kind of unpredictability, to which we should say: “Good, I’m glad I didn’t see that coming.”

I had a lot of fun watching the first 45 minutes, in spite of its startlingly uneven tone; the humorous elements won me over. But all interest was lost when the supposed villain was introduced, discarded, and…well, I don’t know what, but it was awful. I hope the inevitable sequel is the filmmakers’ Spider-Man 2. By that, I mean I hope the film will be longer, more thoughtful, and less chaotic in its ending.

In spite of it all, Will Smith has found a comedic powerhouse of a role in Hancock, who, like Hellboy and Iron Man, is sarcastic and abrasive to everyone, including those whom he saves. However, he’s in the service of flat, ultimately uninspired material. In the end, I liked Hancock, but I didn’t like Hancock.


...the reviews will start to look normal with the next one. Sorry.

Review: Hellboy II: The Golden Army (****)

Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Starring Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, and Doug Jones
Directed by Guillermo Del Toro
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and some language
111 minutes
Like its 2004 predecessor, Hellboy II: The Golden Army is some kind of a bizarre, visionary masterpiece, a film of such daring innovation, visual artistry, and undeniably visceral entertainment, that to see it is to witness the most downright entertaining superhero sequel since Spider-Man 2. Its mix of sarcastic wit, exciting action sequences, and out-of-this-world characters are all spun around with precise accuracy by director Guillermo Del Toro, one of the finest working directors in the business.
Last time we saw Hellboy, he and his muse, fiery Liz Sherman, were hooking up after defeating a warlock from Hellboy’s past. Now they are married, complete with the problems that accompany any type of marriage, especially one between a demon from hell and a girl who controls fire. Despite their differences, they really are the perfect match, and their romance is surprisingly resonant throughout the picture (such as the poignant scene when Liz tells him she’s pregnant). There is also a new member in the team, Johann Krauss, a ghost of a man in a big, old scuba diving suit. They are soon thrown into a plot only known to Hellboy as a myth, a bedtime story that his father told him as a child—that the legendary Prince Nuada, a traitor to his people, has returned for the pieces to a magical crown that enables him to control The Golden Army, an unstoppable force of gold-plated baddies.
The film, while funny and exciting, is also oddly touching and quite beautiful at times. There is a sequence involving a jumping bean that turns out to be a tree god, and while the scene is every bit as exciting as anything that has come out this year, the aftermath results in the most singularly awe-inspiring moment of the film.
As far as performances go, Ron Perlman is virtuoso as the title character, Selma Blair utterly luminous as Liz, Doug Jones quietly brilliant and understated as webbed Abe, Seth MacFarlane (known to “Family Guy” fans as Peter) strangely authoritative as new guy Johann Krauss, and Luke Goss slimy and believable as bad guy Prince Nuada.
If a third installment is released in 2013, as rumored, then I welcome it. The franchise is already wonderfully successful, and if the third is as good, this will be one spellbinding trilogy. At this point, Hellboy II: The Golden Army is one of this summer’s best entries.

Review: The Dark Knight (****)

The Dark Knight
Starring Christian Bale, Aaron Eckhart, and Heath Ledger
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and some menace
153 minutes
More than any other film this year, The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan’s electrifying, masterfully entertaining follow-up to an already startlingly good superhero film, achieves the highest level of complexity and intelligence that a piece of pop entertainment can reach. This is the greatest superhero movie ever made, an epic crime drama on the level of The Godfather or GoodFellas, and a thoughtful rumination on good, evil, and the distinction between them.
Batman has been unpopular lately. There have been “copycats,” semi-vigilantes whose crude attempts to fight crime crusader-style have left Gotham City in a state of unrest. The secret identity of Bruce Wayne may not remain so for very long, and flashy new D.A. Harvey Dent is not helping things. Although he agrees with everything Batman claims to be about, he can’t help but wonder if the caped crusader could do it in a slightly less violent way.
Soon enough, however, a real villain emerges: The Joker. An insane terrorist wearing clown makeup, The Joker likes to terrorize and kill for the sheer sport of it. His demand: Batman’s identity revealed or the death of innocents. “I’m an agent of chaos,” he proclaims. “Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order. Well, then everyone loses their minds!”
Putting to shame the 80s/90s attempts to do the Caped Crusader justice, Batman Begins and now The Dark Knight confirm that Christopher Nolan is the right director for this material. Nolan and cinematographer Wally Pfister make Gotham City a realistic world where no one is safe.
Batman was always the darkest, most haunted of the D.C. superheroes, and Christian Bale’s performance is a revelation, both as Batman and as Bruce Wayne. Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney all worked as either the man or his alter ego, but never consistently as both; Bale does. His costars—Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine—are pitch perfect in their roles, as well, with Oldman coming out on top.
The newcomers, however, are the strongest: Aaron Eckhart and the late Heath Ledger. Eckhart portrays Harvey Dent, a man as passionate in his fight against evil as Batman himself. But life takes an unexpected turn as he loses a loved one, and Dent’s true character is revealed, obvious to anyone familiar with Batman lore but no less tragic.
Then there is Heath Ledger, who has given the performance of his life. Not only does his complete recreation of The Joker stomp on the memory of Jack Nicholson’s overrated take, but it may also be the best performance I’ve ever seen, so seamless I could not distinguish between the actor and his character. I’m not joking, either.

Change of plans

Oh, what the heck...I'll start going backwards with my reviews, starting tonight.

Apologies, and more...

Sorry about that. I had to leave, so I created the page within about five minutes.

Now for the real intro.

My name is Joel, and I review films for a small section of the local paper.

I love film, I love reviewing films, and this is my website.

I will start with the films of 2008. I will review one every week starting August 1st, with the release of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. I am not a "real" film critic. I don't get the screenings that they do. I see the movie within 72 hours of its release, and review within 24 hours of seeing it.

What I will also be doing in the weekdays I am not reviewing films is going back to the reviews for films I saw this year (Cloverfield, 10,000 B.C., etc.). That will most likely start on Monday, August 11, as I will be starting college on August 25 (give or take a day).

Enjoy, dissect, criticize, and most importantly of all, SEE MOVIES!

I am Joel Copling. I am a local film critic.

Sorry for the short intro. Reviews will come later.