Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Twilight: New Moon - a tale of shirtless boys and mopey girls

Early in "New Moon", Edward, having decided to leave Forks with the Cullen clan in tow, tells Bella "Don't do anything reckless". I wondered if he remembered who he was talking to. This is Bella Swan, Forks' resident lady of infinite sorrows who exudes teen angst from her pores. Of course she goes off the deep end. After a reasonable period of music video like moping, she realizes that she can have visions of Edward if she is in danger. Don't worry, this is based on a Twilight book, so the self destructive behavior stays in reasonably safe teen territory - motorcycle riding and cliff diving. The visions themselves are a bit awkward. Done in an Obi-Wan sort of way, Edward delivers wooden lines that might as well be "Fasten your seatbelt" or "Don't play with matches". Relief is on the way though. Bella develops a deep bond with friend Jacob Black ( Taylor Lautner). This relationship is soon on the rocks too when it appears that Jacob has dropped Bella to join a homoerotic, Native American, Abercrombie & Fitch gang ( now that is a mouthful). It turns out his secret is a bit more mundane, at least for Forks. He is from a long line of werewolves who protect humans from vampires. Events conspire to bring Edward and Bella back together and we are all set up for her having to choose between the two.

This has been written with tongue firmly in cheek mainly because I recognize that I am not exactly the target audience for these movies. I can appreciate them in some ways but ultimately find the Lifetime movie teen melodrama a bit heavy. I have not read the books, so I may be wishing in vain but I do have a list of things I would like to see more of in the future movies:

(1) Let the adults come out and play more often. The scenes set in Italy featuring the "vampire council" were really good. I can never get enough Michael Sheen ("The Queen", "Frost/Nixon", "Underworld", "Alice in Wonderland") who literally chews up the scenery as Aro.

(2) More vampires and more vampire action! Dakota Fanning as bloodthirsty psychopath = good thing (Yes that's her all evil and red-eyed in the above trailer). Victoria becoming an actual threat would be nice. Oh, and the tourist "buffet" was a great touch.

(3) Let Kristen Stewart have some range. Reviews of "Twilight" often take shots at Kristen Stewarts acting. I don't know how much of that is based on her mumbling, deep sighs acting style in Twilight but she has done much better. I would suggest checking out "Speak" (2004), "The Cake Eaters" ( 2007) and "Adventureland" ( 2009).

(4) Get rid of Bella's almost invisible friends from school or use them more. They appear to be starring in "Degrassi Jr. High" while Bella is in a big teen blockbuster. Hello, producers you have an Oscar nominee in the cast now - Anna Kendrick. Certainly she can be used a bit more than a couple of scenes where her main role is to roll her eyes and look at Bella like, "how did I end up with this freak as my friend".

"Twilight: Eclipse" is out later this summer; so let's see if this story can mature a bit along with the characters.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The animated movie continues it evolution - "Up"

Ok, this is what I am going to do. I've got to put the "mock" in MockingMovies; so I will shortly poke fun at "Up". I'll start out though with a little gushing praise. Pixar has produced a complex story that blends heartfelt sincerity with the illogic and humor available in animation. I won't bore you with a plot description because I imagine everyone is familiar with the story of Carl Frederickson and his improbable journey to Paradise Falls.
In a sequence completely absent of dialogue (think Wall-E) we are shown the complete life of a marriage that includes a miscarriage and the eventual death of Carl's wife, Ellie. This portion alone could have been an amazing short film. Once Carl has teamed up with the ever helpful Wilderness Scout, Russell, we are treated to a more conventional Pixar/Disney story with the happy ending right around the corner.

Here is my, "What I learned from Up" list:

-Due process does not exist in a Disney/Pixar world. Carl accidentally commits what would be a minor crime one day and the next he is kicked out of his home and somehow forced to move to the friendly neighborhood old folks home.

-When going on an adventure, always go armed, but if a Disney movie make it something non lethal like pepper spray. You never know when you might run into a childhood hero turned madman.

-When a talking dog says, " I was sleeping under your porch because I love you" it's funny. If a person says that to you, call 911.

-Russell, as cute as he is, appears to be at risk for juvenile diabetes.

-It's ugly when really really old guys try to fight each other.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Crazies are coming..

The set up: The Crazies opening scene is of an anonymous main street somewhere in America in flames and ruins. Flashback two days and we are in Ogden Marsh, IA. Johnny Cash sings We'll Meet Again over scenes of cornfields and the town folks getting ready to attend a high school baseball game. In other words we are in Hollywood's version of fly over country where the town sheriff (Timothy Olyphant) is married to the beautiful town doctor (Radha Mitchell) . The peaceful facade doesn't last long. The first hint of violence to come is in the form of the former town drunk stumbling onto the ball field with a shotgun. The sheriff is forced to shoot him in front of the what is more than likely the entire town's population. I couldn't help but think what would have happened if Sheriff Andy had been forced to shoot Mayberry's lovable Otis instead of locking him up overnight to sleep it off. Needless to say things go downhill fast and the residents of Ogden Marsh soon realize they are all slowly going "crazy" and cut off from the rest of the world.

The Good: The Crazies was number three at the box office this weekend behind the Avatar juggernaut which weighed in as number two. I expected as much because it is really a very solid horror movie. I won't dwell on the acting as it was neither great nor sub par. I don't think Timothy Olyphant has ever risen to the level of his performance as the charming, sleazy drug dealer in 1999's GO. I was impressed by Joe Anderson's performance as the deputy desperately fighting to hold onto his sanity. I looked him on IMDB and still cannot place him precisely even though he has been in movies I have seen. The Crazies also managed to impress by what was left out. There is violence a 'plenty but it never reached the level of torture porn that saturates movies like Saw. It's just enough to give you nightmares.

The Bad: I'm over the government conspiracy plot device. I lost some of my interest in this movie when it moved from the small story of the town slowly unraveling to scenes of the government swooping in with a classic cover-up. I would have preferred the dark menacing story taking place among the town's residents. Interesting scary things happen when you put things like power tools in the hands of "crazies". I won't even try to describe the creativity of the funeral parlor director when he catches the "crazy". Let's just say I would have liked more of that and less of quarantine camps and abusive soldiers. Also in the end the lengths the government went to seemed over the top.