Monday, September 29, 2008

Movie #74 - X-Files: Fight the Future

"Fight the Future."

I am quite unhappy that I missed the sequel to this film in theatres, but it wasn't in theatres long enough for me to see it. Probably some poor marketing campaign and a stale interest in the television show due to other recent science fiction marvels such as Lost, the X-Files is truly for the nerdy teenager of the mid to late 90's.

Seeing this movie again, I realize how little Chris Carter and company truly understood their fan base back in 1998 and even now with the sequel. They made two films that are strictly movies that only viewers of the show would enjoy, yet they forced national releases and distribution for both films, spending millions in promotions, etc., instead of targeting their key demographics.

X-Files: Fight the Future is a wonderful film, beautifully shot with an exciting plot and a great tie-in to the television show back during its original release. However, many casual movie-goers were deterred from watching this film, as not only would the theatre be filled with sweaty, nerdy boys going through puberty and playing hours of video games, but the plot is somewhat confusing if you don't know any background at all.

The true test of this was getting my father to watch this film - a big fan of action movies and conspiracy films... you'd think that this would be right up his alley. Not at all. Although a big movie fan himself, my father lost interest very quickly and was only impressed by cameos of Martin Landau.

Although I am biased towards the franchise and of course, Gillian Anderson, I have to admit, if someone asked me to watch a movie for a show like 24 for example, after five or six seasons, I'd be lost - even if the film took 10-15 minutes to explain what was happening... I wouldn't know.

Because of this, I would've expected a limited release of the sequel, creating a viral marketing campaign, and a word of mouth buzz. Instead, the 2nd X-Files film was put up against the big boys this summer and lost.

Movie #73 - Airplane!

"You've read the ad, now see the movie!"

One of the earliest entourage spoof films, Airplane is a classic in how bad this film tries to be. Filled with a number of clever cameos, this film even garnered a Golden Globe nomination for best musical or comedy for 1980.

Included in this ensemble cast was Leslie Nielsen, Robert Stack, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Lloyd Bridges. This combination alone is quite impressive, but all do a wonderful job of being serious throughout this silly movie... especially the famous quote of Nielsen's, "Don't call me Shirley," which was part of a recent revival special edition DVD.

Although not a theatrical success, Airplane did start a phenomenon of spoof films. Some of the worst movies made today are these spoof films, and we can all thank Airplane for doing it so well that so many money hungry producers had to copy the idea.

However, the good thing that came out of this movie is the re-invention of Leslie Nielsen's career path. Known prior to this role as a serious actor on both side roles and in television appearances, Nielsen developed a strong niche as the spoof actor. The Airplane role catapulted Nielsen onto his television show, Police Squad, and eventually, to every one's favourite - Naked Gun franchise.

Some may say, because Airplane was the first spoof film to be made, it ranks up there as one of the best ever as it is definitely groundbreaking from that perspective. I would have to agree because some of the recent ones now are just plain stupid and horribly done. They really do not think highly of their audience and although its a spoof, it doesn't have to be idiotic.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Movie #72 - Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

"It's everybody's non-pollutionary, anti-institutionary, pro-confectionery factory of fun!"

Still one of my favourite movies of my childhood, every time I see this film, I have to watch it. After many viewings, I am starting to realize that this movie probably marked when I started to become quite cynical. This movie is filled with sarcasm and has a very dark tone to it, but its wrapped in sugar and chocolate, that you forget what is actually going on behind the scenes.

If you ever read the original books by Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator), there is a dark undertone in both children's books, which Dahl adapted into his screenplay for the 1971 movie.

I am surprised that to this day, Dahl's books have not been banned by those who would be offended by ground-breaking work. Its a goal of mine in 2009 to re-read these books to see if I can catch the difference between how children were intended to understand his writing and what he actually wrote.

In comparison to the Depp/Burton remake, the original film wins out. Call me nostalgic, but the musical scores, the set design, and the performance of Wilder alone make this movie a great film. Plus, you really feel for Charlie and his plight and you root for him to win in the end. I was sorry to discover that Wilder didn't win the Golden Globe that year for his performance here, because despite his wide array of films, this ranks up there as one of his best performances of his career next to probably Young Frankenstein (for which he garnered an Oscar nomination).

In the end - if you watch this film at face value, you'll enjoy the silliness of the factory and the wondrous colours and imaginative set design. If you enjoy the "dark side" of this storyline, then you're in for a treat - no pun intended!

Movie #71 - Air Force One

"Harrison Ford is the President of the United States."

Yes, that is the tagline for this film. As a Sigma Nu brother of Harrison Ford, I am somewhat biased to his films - especially since I own 70% of the Ford VHS movie collection (I stopped when you couldn't buy VHS movies anymore at Wal-Mart).

The bonus of this film is that it stars Gary Oldman. Oldman ranks very high on my list of top actors, especially since his roles are so diverse and you really end up hating him as a villain, which makes the protagonist even better. In this case, Oldman is a terrorist that holds the passengers and crew of Air Force One hostage, including the President of the United States, Harrison Ford.

What makes this film and many of Ford's films funny is that he becomes an action hero as the film progresses... but is still unable to throw a proper punch on screen. Either cast as a lawyer, a surgeon, an IT specialist, or Indiana Jones, all of Ford's films end up the same way. For some strange reason, Ford is always wearing either a suit or a leather jacket... and to throw a punch in either of those is quite difficult - both are very constrictive that you end up throwing what I call a "suit punch." Suit punches are awkward looking and usually miss, unless you rip the elbow of the suit or throw your shoulder out in the process.

Anyways, getting back to AFO, Oldman steals the show here. I remember President Clinton was quoted as saying that this was his favourite movie... but I doubt that would be true, considering not only was he a draft dodger in the 60's, but if a terrorist ever held the first lady and first daughter hostage - Clinton would be the first to jump in that escape pod.

There are some other good cameos here: Dean Stockwell, Glenn Close, J.T. Walsh, and Jurgen Prochnow, however, the real storyline takes place between Ford and Oldman. Although Ford's performance is weak in comparison to Oldman's, it would be nice to see these foes do battle again in a future picture... it would easily rejuvenate the struggling career of Mr. Ford and be a treat to watch for sure!

Movie #70 - King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

"Don't get chumpatized."

For 2008, this ranks as one of the best films that I have seen this year that I know no one else has seen. A documentary about the battle for Donkey Kong arcade supremacy and the hardships that one regular man must endure to win the recognition and validation from his arcade peers.

In the end, its a conspiracy movie portraying previous Donkey Kong guru Billy Mitchell versus a regular Joe named Steve Wiebe in their quest to be entered into the Guiness Book of Records with the highest score in Donkey Kong. This film follows the various efforts Wiebe must do to prove his Kong prowess and the relentless efforts of Mitchell's followers to sabotage and discredit the abilities of Wiebe.

Sounds funny, but you really get caught up in this documentary because Wiebe is the every man and Mitchell is the evil, deceitful man holding the keys to the clubhouse. By the end of the film, you are filled with utter frustration over what one man needs to go through to prove himself. And you also wonder why people waste so much time playing a video game that's older than me?

I feel fortunate to have watched this unique documentary. Its not the best movie out there, but it is definitely entertaining. I thought my hobby was bad - a bunch of adults collecting little pieces of paper and spending thousands of dollars in the process. This hobby takes the cake and it is a documentary that competes with Trekkies for those fans out there that watch this sort of thing.

If you can find it somewhere or have TMN, its definitely worth your time. Not only is it fun to watch men do battle on arcade games, but seeing the vintage machines is an added bonus.

Movie #69 - Without Limits

"Pre - The way he competed...The way he lives his life."

Surprisingly, I am quite entertained by this film. Not because its a 70's time piece or because its a movie starring every one's favourite movie villain, Donald Sutherland, but because watching a compelling story about an athletic legend in terms of distance running was a treat.

Don't get me wrong, I am usually biased against anything affiliated with Tom Cruise (producer), but I was impressed by the overall cast of this biopic. Donald Sutherland gives the cast instant credibility, and is not a villain in this film as some might think. Monica Potter is once again cast in another time piece - seek out Patch Adams and you'll see a very similar performance, and pretty much the same set and costumes.

The real star of the show is the performance of then-unknown actor Billy Crudup. Not only does Crudup capture the essence of Prefontaine, but he conveys the true power inside the real Prefontaine from his rendition on screen. I don't know if Cruise intended to star in this film himself back in 1998, but Cruise and Crudup look very similar in stature and appearance. What's funny is that they appear together in MI:3, guess that's equivalent to coming full circle.

In the end, the movie plays out like every "true" story - you cannot change the ending... which is what makes it compelling. I like movies based on true events, but full adaptations usually turn out better since the events being portrayed actually happened... although glamourized, it is better than any script out there. Check out Pursuit of Happiness and you'll understand what I mean.

Movie #68 - Artificial Intelligence (A.I.)

"David is 11 years old. He weighs 60 pounds. He is 4 feet, 6 inches tall. He has brown hair. His love is real. But he is not."

Conceptually, this movie could've been good. I recently watched a documentary on the life and times of Stanley Kubrick, and based on the script written and the plot and wonderful sets designed by Kubrick - this movie should've been good.

What went wrong you ask? Steven Spielberg. Kubrick entrusted AI to Spielberg as not only did he doubt the computer generated image technology at the time of original production, but Kubrick envied Spielberg's talent and timing to do blockbuster movies - readily accepted by the average movie fan.

Something went haywire with this film and I guess its somewhat ironic since this movie is about robotic lifeforms. In terms of CGI, this movie is top notch for its time. Fantastic images and set design capture Kubrick's original vision. The script itself is good and is believable (in science fiction terms) for about 95% of the film - until you reach the end of the movie, which I hated.

I usually don't dislike anything done by either Spielberg nor Kubrick, but this joint venture was a major disappointment for me. I cannot put a finger on who to blame? Was it Osment or was it Law? Good think Kubrick didn't see the end of this film being made, but I am sure he would've been disappointed too.

I guess in the end, the real culprit are expectations. You have two of the better directors creating a unique partnership to make this movie about the life of robots - great movie idea right. I guess some of these movies should just stay in that little vault, never to be made.

Too bad... maybe in 200+ years, the Earth will freeze over and the new inhabitants will find a copy of this movie on DVD and watch it and think its the greatest thing ever... nah... that would never happen - DVD players 200+ years from now? Who am I kidding?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Movie #67 - Kingpin

"A comedy right up your alley."

My wife will definitely disagree with me on this one, but this film is a gem from the Farrelly brothers. The only film of the resume that competes with the acting and cast of this classic is Dumb & Dumber.

Filled with funny quotes and bowling hyjinx, this film follows Roy Munson and Ishmael Boorg, portrayed by the wonderfully contrast of acting skill - Woody Harrelson and Randy Quaid. Munson wants to prove that he can still bowl, while no longer having a right hand. Boorg wants to earn enough money to save his Amish farm.

Mix in the lovely (back in 1996) Vanessa Angel and a clever performance by Bill Murray, you got the making of a great adventure film. The bowling references are what make this film fun. And before they became redundant in films, the slapstick humor and gross sexual references were well placed throughout the script.

Many critics would say that Bill Murray's performance over-shadowed that of Quaid and Harrelson. Although I must agree, the comedic tone was set very early with the cameo appearance of Lin Shaye, who represented Munson's dysfunctional landlady. Shaye is a recognizable actress in other Farrelly comedies such as There's Something About Mary, and yet, her performance just makes you laugh.

I enjoy this film from beginning to end, so whenever I catch it on television, its a treat. Your better off renting this film or purchasing it from the cheap DVD's section as the edited versions really butcher the comedic script and innuendos. The best part of this film comes near the end when Munson and "Big Ern" Ernie McCracken (Murray) square off in the bowling final... what makes these scenes great are the hair sequences. Just make sure you aren't drinking something when you watch those scenes.

Movie #66 - The World Is Not Enough

"Danger, suspense, excitement. There must be when he's around."

An obvious tagline for James Bond, this is one of the forgettable Bond films in the Brosnan repertoire. This movie is filled with the standard Bond beauties in Denise Richards and Sophie Marceau. However, this movie falls flat as the evil villain, portrayed by Robert Carlyle, doesn't enhance the performance of Brosnan. In the end, you don't hate Carlyle as much as you should and you get confused to why producers want us to believe that Richards is a nuclear weapons specialist.

I don't recall the exact quotations in a late exchange in the submarine, but Richards is trying her hardest to sound smart, which just came off as being stupid. Plus, who really cares what she's saying in this film anyway.

Despite these setbacks, the women cast in this film are quite beautiful and compete highly in terms of the Bond standard, especially when combined in the same film. You might recognize Marceau as Princess Isabelle from Braveheart, where she depicted the stunning Princess of Wales. Despite having a limited acting resume in North America, Marceau is recognized both for her beauty and her prowess on the French silver screen.

As for Richards, a suggestion - don't try to cast her as a nuclear specialist. A double agent would've worked or something of the sort. The movie loses its credibility every time she tries to relay her technical lines, so keep them simple and we'll appreciate her presence more!

Movie #65 - 30 Days of Night

My apologies to many of my readers - I have been quite busy with life, that I haven't been able to keep my blog up to date. However, I am still watching a number of movies each week, so I have many topics to write about.

Watched this film with the wife a few weeks ago. It was one of those highly anticipated films in my list, unfortunately, this is a funny statement to make because I am not a big fan of any films starring Josh Hartnett. I figured, similar to the movie 300, this movie is well-scripted and framed in the comic book storyline... I thought wrong.

The vampires of this film are great. Quite scary and startling in various scenes and the concept of having vampires kill people living in total darkness in Alaska is a great plot. What wrecks this movie for me you ask? You guessed it... Josh Hartnett.

I honestly no longer know who is worse - Hartnett or Keanu Reeves. Both are stellar at giving no emotion in scenes which require at the very least, a pulse. However, with Hartnett, he is capable of over-acting other scenes and thus gives a consistently confusing performance in another flop at the box office.

The only reason to watch this movie is the performance of Danny Huston. This Italian actor is slowly becoming an A-List "That Guy" actor in which Huston is being cast to be a solid role actor in these protagonist centric films. Some of the films on his recent resume where you won't remember seeing Huston is Constant Gardner, Number 23, and Children of Men just to name a few.

Huston's "Marlow" vampire character is the scariest thing in this movie outside of Hartnett's performance. But overall, if you disregard Hartnett completely, you will enjoy this movie for what it was intended to do - to make vampires scary and violent again!