Wednesday, December 26, 2007


A limited release, I heard about Atonement via a radio advertisement on my way to work. The commercial was a montage of hyper-romanticized lines from the film, a voice over done by a deep voiced voice actor (say that 5 times fast) who quoted gushing film critics (“the most achingly romantic movie since Titanic”), and with heart-wrenching, “just let me sob in peace” music playing in the background. Though this film had me at “achingly romantic,” I cringe at the thought of someone rolling their eyes and overlooking this remarkable film at the fault of the advertisers who betrayed this film’s distinct uniqueness. It isn’t all achingly romantic.

Keira Knightley and King of Scotland’s James McAvoy star is the intense, regret-filled film, Atonement, a film that focuses on how one mistake can drastically affect the lives of many. Already at thirteen, Briony Tallis is a writer. She possesses a broad vocabulary and has a preference for the fanciful. Cecillia Tallis, Briony’s older sister (Knightley) and Robbie Turner (McAvoy), the educated and intelligent gardener’s son, are in love, but when an unfortunate incident occurs, Briony accuses Robbie of a crime he did not commit, which forces Cecillia and Robbie apart.

Cinematographically beautiful, Atonement takes this simple story and gives it an editing edge. Many scenes are unconventionally placed on a semi-linear track. Some scenes are shown again from a different person’s perspective rather than editing the scenes together, as 99.9% of movies do, or at a later moment in the film, a sequence will repeat for emphasis. Other scenes are rewound while the scene showing the chaos in Dunkirk continues for 5 minutes without any cuts. The cinematography and editing is interesting and distinct. The mise en scenes of one shot literally made me say “Wow” out loud in the theater (the scene with the family standing on the front steps). The music is amazing, and the type-writer music creates an intense and suspenseful atmosphere during the first half of the film.

The movie doesn't make the 4.5 Goomba mark because the story wasn’t fantastic. I didn’t understand why Cecillia had an initial disregard for Robbie or Briony’s reason for her terrible accusation. Some parts of the movie were romantic enough but not in the melodramatic way that it’s portrayed on commercials. Reality, in the film, was very fuzzy. Sometimes I didn’t know if the scene in front of me was a memory, a fantasy, or the current moment. I still haven’t decided if this is something I liked.

Atonement’s sophistication is what makes it out of the ordinary, and it definitely makes it Oscar bait. Hopefully this film won’t be over-looked.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 6:31 PM 11 comments  

We Are Marshall

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Sometimes I wonder if Matthew McConaughey is on weed. He is so strange. He has really strange, overly exuberant mannerisms, he's constantly exercising and hanging out with Lance Armstrong, and he's always shirtless in his paparazzi photos. I find it hard to take him seriously. Especially with his geeky haircut and bad color job in We Are Marshall.

There is a very good possibility that I could be struck down by lightening right about now for criticizing this movie, even just McConaughey, in the slightest. We Are Marshall is about the unfortunate tragedy that occurred at Marshall University in 1970. Almost all of the Marshall football team died in the plane crash, and the film is a dedication to their memory.

We Are Marshall captured the youthful optimism and hope that the Marshall University team represented, but also the battles they needed to face following such a sudden disaster. The montage of moments leading up to the crash commanded the audience and encompassed the magnitude of the situation; it was very well shot and created interest with the editing. The scene of the school and community coming together to keep the school and team spirit alive gave me the usual sports-themed movie goosebumps. However, it is more than a sports film. It's an actual drama, giving it that potential edge to be something different and great.

Keeping all these good things in mind, We Are Marshall still lacks that extra "Umph." Though the premise and the back-story were excellent launching points for an inspiring, against all odds kind of flick, it really failed the deceased characters. The movie is about how Marshall University rose from the ashes to become the Thundering Herd despite such a great loss. However, the filmmakers made the mistake of giving the audience a personalized glimpse into some of the lives that were lost. I know it was meant to humanize the event, just as Jack and Rose's lives illustrated the sinking of the Titanic, but it sort of did the opposite. This whole new team created after the crash is faceless to me; the new coach, McConaughey, is strange and untrustworthy. There were some survivors who brought us through the end, but basically, I felt no connection to any characters other than those who were directly related to the deceased.

Maybe that is the whole point of the movie; moving on despite what life might bring, but the team of new members was just a huge blob to fill a void. They didn't represent triumph in my eyes. By not distinguishing those new members, they represented what Marshall lost, and by not distinguishing those new members, the team was definitely not a tribute to the boys who died.

The ending is bittersweet, and isn't the uplifting kind of film you hope it is. It's okay, but at the same time, to left me with a weird feeling. Marshall University should be proud that someone thought it important to capture the heartache and hardship that the school and town faced, but as a film straight from Hollywood, it goes on the B list.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 10:54 PM 0 comments  

I Am Legend

Sunday, December 16, 2007


One of the most awful scenarios I could ever picture myself in, other than being trapped in an automobile that is quickly being submerged by water, is being the last person alive in an abandoned, urban ghost town during the day and then at night, having to hide myself from intelligent predators who will surely find me. I would never feel safe.

Will Smith explores one of my greatest fears in his new motion picture blockbuster I Am Legend. Based on the 1954 science fiction novel by Richard Matheson, Robert Neville (Will Smith) is the last man living in New York City. In 2008, the measles was re-engineered into the Krippen Virus to work as a cure for cancer; however, it quickly mutated killing 90% of the people on the planet. 1% of the population was completely immune, but the rest became the Infected, people who exhibit primal, vampire-like qualities (sensitivity to UV light; attraction to blood)and blind rage. It was the Infected who killed the rest of the population, leaving Robert Neville, a military virologist, a lone survivor. Haunted by the memory of his family, Robert Neville obsessively searches for the cure; desperately hoping that his family's death won't be in vain.

This movie had so much potential. It set the perfect back story. It possessed perfect plot inertial. It perfectly developed the characters. It startled you in just the right places, and utilized silence in a strong way. Will Smith's performance was excellent, especially considering his lack of costars. His fondness for his dog is precious and simultaneously heart-breaking, and his comedic talent helps alleviate the stark loneliness and semi-realistic terror. The CG made everything feel real (it must have cost a fortune to edit out all the people in New York City). Everything felt legitimate, and it was kind of disturbing. But when the curtain for the last act went up, the perfectly orchestrated film crumbled.

I can pinpoint it to one moment; the introduction of the Ana and Ethan. They were presented very late into the film, creating no time for the audience to bond with them or trust them, and the whole fate/God bit was really out of place. It was inappropriate for these new characters to play such a large part in the ending, especially without any foreshadowing of their existence. Their role in the anti-climatic climax was weird . . . did Ethan even have a speaking part? I can't remember . . . They had such a huge plot responsibility but they were such flat and unimportant characters. They were unsuitable for the entire film, and I blame the film's downfall on their lack of character.

This movie could have been so good, and although I Am Legend and Will Smith may become box office legends, they unfortunately won't make it to AFI's top 100.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 11:52 PM 1 comments  

Grindhouse: Death Proof

Thursday, December 13, 2007


If you aren't already familiar, Grindhouse is a term used to describe low budget B movies played back to back and were extremely popular in the 1960's and 1970's. These flicks were usually exploitation films that focused on hot chicks, fast cars, and impossible blood baths rather than its storytelling and acting. Often, the picture and audio quality is very poor; the actual film has knicks and scratches with a grainy picture; sometimes it even has a missing reel.

Death Proof is the first film in this double-feature and is directed by gore-lover Quentin Tarantino. Serial killer, Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell), has made his 1970 Chevy Nova “death-proof,” and he uses his deadly automobile to target and murder young, beautiful women despite his seemingly calm nature. His first targets are four tartly women who are on their way to meet some guys at a bar before heading up to a lake house for the weekend. After murdering them (and a fifth innocent girl who agreed to be driven home by Stuntman Mike) with his vehicle he goes in pursuit of four other women who prove to be more of a challenge than he initially thought.

Although Tarantino’s taste in cinematic style may be a bit too outrageous, you have to admit, he’s one of a kind. Death Proof is made to mimic low quality everything; poorly written script, over-the-top situations, insane blood and gut splatters, “girl scenes” that look like they could have been out of a porn movie, and yet, none of this made it feel like a B movie. Who else could have pulled that off? What Tarantino did was camouflage a well thought-out film with poor color, out of sync audio and slutty tramps.

Contrast the two sets of women. The first set is scantily clad, highly sexualized, trashy, and possessed few ambitions. Their conversations consist of men, partying and weed. They grant lap dances, purposely attract the wrong kind of attention, and make decisions as if there is no consequence. The second set of girls is young and beautiful, ambitious and fun loving. Their conversations are about work, interests, and life experiences. They seek adventure, and I don’t think they even mention a boyfriend or male companion once throughout their segment. The actual movie gets better when these girls are on screen (following a transitional gray area (literally) between segments). The shots and angles are stylized and fit the standard rules of film-making, unlike in the beginning where the 180 rule is constantly broken (making me completely irritated). In the second half, the dialog is better, the stunts and editing have quality, and there are hardly any scratches on the actual film. Tarantino is making a statement about women here, and the ending makes it obvious. I could go on analyzing every detail of this film, but I don't want to give too much away.

The bad about this flick: parts of the film were extremely slow. I almost turned off the movie after 20 minutes. I was dying. I’m a really impatient person. Luckily, I stuck through it, and it was completely worth it. Actually, even just the last 30 seconds of the film makes it worth it.

I think Tarantino is disturbed, but he’s an artist. I guess it just goes with the territory.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 10:36 PM 0 comments  

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

Sunday, December 09, 2007


I absolutely hated the second Pirates movie. I entered the theater anxious and excited and left fuming and frustrated. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest made me physically angry and irritated. I couldn’t believe that such an unintentionally awful and corny movie is the predecessor of such an original and creative story. My disgust of the second film prevented me from possibly dumping my well-earned $10 into the trash, but my responsibility as the movieGOOMBA couldn’t stop me from sharing my findings with you.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End continues the saga of our favorite cowardly captain, Jack Sparrow and his frien-imes Elizabeth Swan and William Turner. Now bear with me as I try and explain the plot. I had to read the detailed synopsis after watching the flick to understand what I had just watched. The East Indian Trading Company is taking over the sea and executing all people associated to Pirateism, and the pirates must come together in order to have a fighting chance at maintaining their swashbuckling lifestyle. Their only hope, with the help of the resurrected Captain Barbobsa, is to save Jack Sparrow from Davy Jone’s Locker, so that he can be present at the Brethren Court. Throughout the movie there is some insane deal making and two-timing deal breaking, and it can be really hard to follow. There’s a plot arc about the sea goddess Calypso and tension between Will and Elizabeth. Most of the time I couldn’t tell whose side anyone was on and why anyone was doing what they were doing. Just try and stay with the story, Wikipedia it after. Don’t forget to wait for the scene following the end credits!

Overall, this was a better-produced film than Dead Man’s Chest. It has the eerie quality that the first film maintained, and the plot lacked the corniness that plagues the second film. The opening scene is phenomenal, and it sets the foreboding tone that makes the Pirate films unique. Elizabeth Swan is a bad-ass, Will isn’t such girly man, Jack Sparrow is as drugged as ever, and the even humanity of Davy Jones was quite touching. However, as I’ve already partially mentioned, the plot is extremely hard to follow; especially for a detail-oriented person like myself. Half the time, I couldn’t tell if Will had gone over to the dark-side and if Elizabeth still loved him. The whole green light mythology, curse thing kind of threw me for a loop too (BTW, read the screenwriter intention of the ending).

Worth mentioning is the great fight scenes, the film's authentic, adventurous style, and the romantic, melancholy ending. It was fun to watch, and I felt entirely absorbed in the action. Just be patient with the plot, and you might find yourself enjoying it.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 8:56 PM 0 comments