Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Movie #23 - Mission Impossible 3

Mission Impossible 3 is a strong action film that invigorates the theater audience. As compared to the poorly done sequel by Hong Kong director, John Woo (MI-2), Mission Impossible 3 actually delves into attempting to create characters and consists of a better cast and plot lines.
MI-3's plot follows a semi-retired Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) who is serving as a Impossible Mission Force (IMF) agent trainer. But to his fiancee and friends and his "new" life outside of the IMF, Hunt is attempting to live life as a mild mannered Traffic Analyst, somewhat of a Superman / Clark Kent persona. This works well and follows the concept of the spy lifestyle portrayed in other films such as True Lies and Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

The plot gets kicked into high gear when Hunt is recruited by his previous boss, Musgrave (Billy Crudup) to rescue Hunt's prized pupil, Lindsey Farris (Keri Russell). It was a breath of fresh air seeing Crudup and Russell cast into these roles, as both are not known for their action star resumes and both fit in quite nicely.

Director J.J. Abrams of Lost, Felicity, and Alias fame took a number of casting risks with his team of actors for this film. Phillip Seymour Hoffman portrays the maniacal arms dealer Owen Davian, while Abrams elects to reprise Luther's character played by Ving Rhames. I disliked the casting of Laurence Fishburne, as he seemed somewhat out of place and became the predictable internal villain halfway through the movie - maybe that was the point. However, I did enjoy the casting of Maggie Q (Zhen), Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Declan) and Simon Pegg (Benji) for comic relief.

Abrams masterfully attempts to create characters and develop Ethan Hunt's life outside of IMF quite well. This is somewhat overlooked in most action films as explosions, body counts, and weapons are the first priority. Abrams brings life back to the Hunt character and to the villainous secret plots found in the classic spy movies. He enlists a little bit of the "trust no one" attitude in this film as it moves along.
The only thing missing from this film is the reprisal of Henry Czerny, a great Canadian actor, who captured the menacing lead character of Eugene Kittridge in the first Mission Impossible (1996). Czerny was on a role with his evil Washington slash CIA roles in other films such as Clear and Present Danger. As an avid movie fan of the villain, I would have liked to see Czerny in this sequel.
Overall, this movie is not the best action movie ever made, but it sure jump starts the MI genre again, opening the door for future sequels. Abrams should be retained as Director if another film is to be made, but he is quite busy with Lost and the upcoming Star Trek prequel. However, the Hunt character now has some roots and some background, something that the audience craved in the first two films and now knows in this one.
Thank you to J.J. Abrams for doing a solid job in this film and we all look forward to the many projects that you have on the go in the future.
Reference: I originally published this article on Helium.com

Movie #22 - Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is a wonderful film with some unique plot twists and is visually stunning. The plot is set in 18th Century France following the life of Jean Baptiste Grenouille, a troubled boy born in the poor fish market of France.
Through various tribulations in his life, Grenouille is blessed with a special gift - a tremendous olfactory sense, able to decipher between the world of smells and odors. As the film progresses, Grenouille's character further develops and enhances his innate gift.
What was a repetitive theme in the film was that every character that attempted to take advantage of Grenouille in some way came to an untimely death. Whether it be his mother after birth who left Grenouille for dead, the keeper of the orphanage he was sold to, his tannery owner for which he worked for, and even his perfume mentor played by Dustin Hoffmann. Each character seemed cursed by dealing with Grenouille and that was a comical way of progressing through the film.
In his work with Hoffmann's character (Giuseppe Baldini), a down and out perfume maker who takes in Grenouille to teach him the workings of the industry, Grenouille learns the myth about the "12 perfume notes" and how these notes were able to change the world in one combined scent. The key was that there is a mythical thirteenth scent, which Grenouille becomes obsessed with obtaining.
This movie takes a strong turn towards the dark side of Grenouille's character. What the audience doesn't know with this tragic hero is that Jean Baptiste is in fact a sociopath. He has no remorse in what he is doing and justifies everything for the sake of obtaining his "12 perfume notes."
Grenouille travels to another area of France in which he learns how to create scents through other means outside of distillation. He learns of a method used in developing soaps and scented oils, which requires the subjects being covered in animal lard and wrapped until the lard absorbs the scent, then is boiled off to produce the scented oils. In Grenouille's case, these oils consist of 12 young women of different scent, thus producing his coveted 12 perfume notes.
In the process, Grenouille stumbles upon his mythical thirteenth scent, played by Rachel Hurd Wood. The film follows Wood's character of Laura as her father attempts to protect her from the menacing predator who is preying on the young women of the small town. Despite his efforts, Laura becomes the final piece of the perfume notes and thus the movie takes a weird twist.
During his trial and inevitable execution for the murder of 13 women, Grenouille conjures up a mixture of the 13 notes into the wondrous perfume that can control the world. By using the perfume, Grenouille is able to turn a mass crowd of hatred into an odd mass orgy. This ending seemed out of place and quite fantastic, but I guess the movie makers were bound by the plot provided by the novel, Das Parfum - by German writer Peter Suskind. Although this ending was definitely not tacked on, it did seem out of place and was a disappointment as compared to the entire movie as a whole.
Overall, this movie is visually beautiful and there are some great scenes of suspense and intrigue. By the end of the film, you are hoping that Grenouille can overcome adversity and make the 12 perfume notes, while at the same time you realize that he is just a cold blooded killer. This contrast of character development is worth watching on screen.
Reference: I originally published this article on Helium.com

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Movie #21 - Monster House

There are some positives to discuss about this film. First of all, the animation style achieved in this movie are quite impressive. I remember the first time that I watched Toy Story, I was taken aback by how well that movie was done. Special effects and animation, this movie is top notch based on the current technology available.
However, on the movie side - especially from the child's perspective, I didn't really like this film. Although I am not a child and I do not have any children, I believe I can discuss this movie from an objective perspective. I have seen many children's movies and have watched countless hours of cartoons and kids shows over the years to know which films are hits and which ones are misses.
This film is a major miss.
I was excited to see this film when I saw the trailer for it last Christmas. The plot reminded me of how many of us used to be like when we were young, bratty pre-teens or "tweens." We used to spy on the neighbors and gawk at the girl next door. We all used to believe that there was one haunted house in our neighborhood or an crotchety old man who would never give back our stuff when it landed in his backyard - or in this case, his property.
However, despite those nostalgic moments, there are too many adult scenes in this film and not enough good-hearted fun for the kids. I know that this film is rated PG-13, so it was probably written for the older crowd, but since it is a cartoon and was promoted otherwise, I was surprised that there weren't more kid friendly scenes.
I completely understand that these movies are viewed by children with their parents, but whose to say that many a young child wasn't scared by some of these scenes. Also, there are some adult undertones in this movie that definitely deserve the PG-13 rating.
The film was cast with some key cameo voices - Steve Buscemi, Catherine O'Hara, Fred Willard, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Lee, Kevin James, Nick Cannon, John Heder, and Kathleen Turner. However, halfway through this film, I found it quite boring by the ending. The ending seemed tacked on and everything was resolved in the final 10 minutes of the film, something that you only expect in live action movies.
Writers Dan Harmon and Rob Schrab had the opportunity to create a great cast of characters here while Director Gil Kenan could have taken advantage of the unique technology being used in this film's creation. The plot line was strong, but the film itself was in the dark most of the time and had no sense of direction.
From the kid's perspective, this might have been a joy to watch and a fun night out with Mom and Dad (depending on the age of course), but its no Lion King.
Reference: I originally published this article on Helium.com

Movie #20 - Epic Movie

There are many films that I have watched over the years that have been poorly done. Whether the film was poorly written, bad direction, or an overall rotten plot, there have been choices that I have made as a movie fan that have been questionable. Movies that I have regret seeing over the years mainly range in the made for television category, however, sometimes these disastrous gems make it on the big screen.

I give no excuses to any of the films that make this list. Money grabs for example - movies where the actors are playing the roles to get paid, are inexcusable reasons to make a lack luster film. Flopping blockbusters - big budget movies that are billed to be the next great action movie, are not to be outdone.
However, a film that is made, released, and is expectedly bad should never be made in the first place. This is the category in which Epic Movie ranks. Don't get me wrong, I like brainless humor and the gratuitous use of nudity or fart jokes, however, this movie is terrible from start to finish.
Before Epic Movie, the worst movie I had seen in recent years had to have been Wesley Snipes and Robert De Niro's The Fan. Lets just say, that was a "money grab" movie, but overall quite bad. Yet although The Fan was intended to be a noir thriller, Epic Movie just lost me from the beginning.
Spoof films are supposed to be funny. They are literally poking fun at the movies that are successful and are banking on the fact that the whole audience has seen the films and know all of the subtle nuances and inside jokes. Yet, this film is strictly geared to the 13 year old male audience - and yet, even that generation as a whole probably thinks this movie is bad.
I know that the annual Razzie Awards usually recognize films that are mainstream but are major stinkers or tremendous flops, however, the Razzie board should make an exception with this film.
The plot circles around The Chronicles of Narnia, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Superman Returns, X-Men 3, Harry Potter 5, Da Vinci Code, and Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Man's Chest. There was a great opportunity to achieve a number of spoofs sub plots with these major blockbusters, but none are comedic enough to evoke a personal response.
There is only one clever scene utilizing Fred Willard in which Willard is battling Silus from the Da Vinci Code. What makes this scene hilarious is that the stuntman is very muscular and quite Asian and the scenes are blatantly showing his face. I thought that was quite comical, but a far cry considering this movie is almost 2 hours long.
There are a number of key cameos - David Carradine, Carmen Electra, Crispin Glover, and Jennifer Coolidge while the main headline actor is Kal Penn. Let's just say that Penn has stamped any hope of him ever being taken seriously in acting. He's tried with recent attempts on television appearances on Law & Order SVU, House, and 24. Penn even had a role as a thug in Superman Returns in which he has no speaking lines. Yet, Penn is greatly known from his role in Van Wilder and Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle and with more roles like Edward in Epic Movie, he deserves all the White Castle burgers in the world.
Reference: I originally published this article on Helium.com