Slumdog Millionaire

Monday, December 22, 2008

4 GOOMBAS

"Slumism is the pent-up anger of people living on the outside of affluence. Slumism is decay of structure and deterioration of the human spirit. Slumism is a virus which spreads through the body politic. As other “isms,” it breeds disorder and demagoguery and hate. " The words of Hubert Humphrey could be right under most circumstances, but Slumdog Millionaire is about overcoming poverty driven obstacles and the curious and light-hearted energy that can exist in this harsh environment.

Jamal Malik has been arrested for suspicion of cheating on India's version of 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire' because he's about to win. But how can a slumdog, seventeen years old to boot, know enough to win the million? And thus, we're taken through the course of his life by way of intericate flashbacks, and we see for oursleves how life experience can singificantly alter one's present. It's been a long time since I've seen a movie of this caliber.

Shot on the streets of India, Slumdog is full of hope and great story-telling. I was surprised to know that much of this intercrately weaved film was in English, but most of Jamal's youth was told in Hindi. I think that many viewers may find this movie to be eye opening. It isn't everyday that American's sitting in their cushy stadium seating see children living in landfills and fearing organized begging rings. But aside from international awareness, Slumdog is touching and its hero posseses an ironic innocense and unyielding spirit that makes this film unique and touching.

Don't be fooled by the seemingly cheesy premise. I'm guessing that the decision to base it around a game show has something to do with Indian culture in general. India loves light-hearted, sometimes (mostly) corny media (e.g. the Bollywood musical), and I appreciated the thought to add the authentic cultural influence. However, in no way is Slumdog corny.

Slumdog has cinematic style and class - hip but not trendy. Ocassionally, some scenes were shot in documentary style while his happy childhood memories look like nostaligic home movies. It definitely had cinéma vérité influences. The lighting marks each scene's tone, and then, there was the awesome soundtrack filled wth pop music from around the world. And I cannot forget to mention the subtle details in the subtitles, which is telling of the filmmaker's devotion to every component of this film

However, Slumdog's ending isn't as powerful as I hoped it would be, but my only compliant may have little to do with the movie and more to do with how jaded I am. There is remarkable quality found in this film, and it is worth watching - both for its story and for its message.

Sidenote: I thought the young Jamal was absolutely adorable.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 10:59 PM 0 comments  

Speed Racer

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

3 GOOMBAS

Drug addicts of the world, you no longer have a need to take acid. I have found you an alternative. What you need is a DVD player and a copy of Speed Racer, the latest concoction presented by the Wachowski Brothers!

Based on the 1960's Japanese anime series of the same title, Speed Racer stars Emile Hirsch stars as Speed, the world's leading rookie race car driver. Walking in his brother's footsteps, Speed strives to be the best, but when an evil conglomerat, Royalton Industries, tries to recruit him as their new fresh face, Speed finds that refusing their offer doesn't make for such a smooth ride.

Speed Racer is a total visual mind trip. Overwhelming color, anti-gravitational effects, and a motif that's trapped between a cartoon and reality are all trademarks of this latest family flick. It will take about 30 minutes for you to get use to the sheer absurdity of what mostly looks like streaks across the screen, but once you've crossed the overwhelmingness of it all, it's good, fast fun from then on out. Completly jubullant and entertaining, Speed Racer is crazy and surreal. Tim Burton, eat your heart out. I throughly enjoyed the ridiculous, 360 degree, sideway flips the cars would do, and I thought the kiddy action out-weighed any unrealistic tendencies that this film seemed to focus on. There were chase scenes, fight scenes, explosions, and weapons that gave this film a intersting edge, and I think it was something that only the Wachoski Brothers could make cool.

My only two complaints are as follows: first, there is the story of Speed's dead brother. The closure to this piece of the puzzle was lame, and though this film in its entirety can be argued as lame, this part was exhaustively lame. Second, as much as I adore Matthew Fox, he sucks as a baddass, let alone as a supposedly intimidating 'Racer X.'

Speed Racer takes stamina and a little bit of courage. However, in the end, it was quite enjoyable. Sometimes people need a little speed.

Christina Ricci, Susan Surandon, and John Goodman also star.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 10:25 PM 1 comments  

Step Up 2: The Streets

Monday, December 15, 2008

1 GOOMBA

Dance is such a great form of expression, and it's such a great skill to have. People are always impressed if you know how to do any kind of dance, but there are some kinds that I can't find the appreciation for. For instance, I go to a religous conference every few years, and every time I go, they always have these expressionist dancers that I find distracting. I dare say that its kind of corny (God is going to shoot lightning at me now). But ribbon twirler's aside, I also didn't enjoy watching the "street" dancing that Step Up 2 the Streets exposèd.

Back at Maryland School of the Art (MSA), Andie West finds herself in a whole new world. A part of a local gang of street dancers, 4-1-0, Andie has become a common hooligan. So Andie's aunt sends her to MSA school in hopes that she can get her act together and go to college. Of course, her first few months at the art school are rough. She doesn't fit in, and her style of dance is considered beneath the schools standards. With the help of another student (who also happens to be the brother of MSA's school director) Andie finds herself expanding the school's idea of art and finding the confidence to battle at The Streets.

I don't normally care about how bad a dance movie's plot is or how cheesy the love story is - as long as the dancing is good. However, I must say that this was probably one of the worst movies I've seen in a very long time. It's "step up" from Fool's Gold, but still some kind of awful. First, its a sequel - but a Bring it On kind of sequel. Nothing new. Just a regurgitated plot and a new 'villian' to beat. Second, the dancing was so jerky. You know that dude the Britney Spears cheated on Justin with; Wade Robson? I'm sure he's suppose to be an excellent dancer, but something just seems so stiff about the way he dances. Same with the moves in this movie. If that's what street dancing is suppose to be, I'm not a fan. Third, yes the end 'battle' was insanely (in a good way) choreographed, but seriously, the rain and the conspicuous stage lighting? If this movie was suppose mimic street culture, the street is a glamorous place.

There's an energy that draws audiences to see attractive youth and sex with clothes, but I warn you not to succumb to what you may think is a guilty pleasure. So I digress into song: Skip this movie. Skip it, skip it, skippin' and a screamin' and a bop-d-bop. Skip it, skip it, this jingle is a better than the flick hop hop.

Sidenote: Channing Tatum makes a brief appearance as his original character Tyler Gage.
Sidenote: We have a whole lot to look forward to. They're making a thrid movie, Step Up 3: The Pace. Whopp-de-doo.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 10:51 PM 0 comments  

The Visitor

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

4.5 GOOMBAS

When I was a kid, I always wondered what my teachers were like outside the classroom. Though I now realize that teachers are just normal people, like you and me, I still wonder about those older teachers; the ones with strange classroom ticks; the ones who dress frumpy, but are always in a coat and tie; the ones who don't ever seem to really enjoy spreading knowledge to the next generation. What do they go home to everyday?

Walter Vale is a white, east coast, university professor with no personality. He's silently pompous, quiet, and introverted. Sent to New York for a conference, he finds that two immigrants have been living in his New York apartment, his second home. Due to his loneliness, or his curiosity, he asks the couple to stay even though they insist on leaving, and from that moment, he forms a connection with these perfect strangers.

The Visitor is whole-heartedly the saddest movie I have ever seen in my entire life. There is a subtle, quiet but unbearable hopelessness in this film that is not obvious or apparent. Its not emotional or somber. But it's so real, and that's what makes The Visitor so tragic. Despite his conservative, white collared background, Walter becomes enthralled with the African drum that Tarek, one of his visitors, plays professionally. Through percussion music and new friendships, he acutally begins living. But then we are struck with how quickly life can be taken away, and Walter, once again, must go at it alone.

This film examines the conventional definition of 'visitor' and prompts the question, "am I a visitor in my own life?" This movie, is so much and so simple. I highly recommend this independent film, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it nominated for an Oscar.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 1:40 PM 0 comments  

Hancock

Monday, December 01, 2008

3 GOOMBAS

There are benefits and costs for everything in life. In exchange for privacy, celebrities get to be rich and famous. In exchange for more free time and a social life, high ranking executives have power. In exchange for normalcy, super heros have super power. And us normal people wonder why they complain when they've been given a gift, but we fail to realize we have the gift.

John Hancock is a down-and-out, alcoholic bum, who also happens to have super powers. He is the only one of his kind, and because of this, he squanders his powers but often saves lives in unconventional, sometimes humiliating, and inconsiderate ways. His low-life personality and actions make him unfavorable with the public. Yet he somehow manages to garner the pity of the city's Public Relations Representative, Ray Embrey. With his help, Hancock is helped back on his feet, but it becomes apparent that there is more to Hancock's past than even Hancock thought.

A super-powered cast including Will Smith and Academy Award winning actress, Charlize Theron, Hancock had some high points. It had great special effects, exciting action scenes, a good leading actor, and it's just kind of an out-of-the-box concept.

But Hancock was a strange mixture of pathos and comedy. Thankfully, it was more serious than comedic, but this particular combination made aspects of this film feel seem childish and out of place; almost like a Spy Kids movie gone wrong. Yes, it is funny when Hancock throws the whale out into the ocean, and hits the sailboat by mistake. Yes, its funny that Hancock drunk flies. However, poking fun at his difficienceies but to try and simulteanously show that Hancock is a deeply tragic, lonely, and pathetic man gave me an 'off' kind of feeling - almost like I was being chastised for laughing at him in the first place. Plus, it jumped the shark when we found out the real foundations of Hancock's power. It was that point that I officially changed the label for this movie from "action comedy" to "low ranking family flick."

So, in summary, I had some problems with the overall plot strategy; however, everything else was okay. Hancock was great to watch over the Thanksgiving weekend, and it's perfect for a multi-generalition audience, so its both Grandparent and kid friendly. But I still like my super heros tragic and bad-ass. If they're going to be comedians, they need to been in a cartoon.

SPOILER ALERT~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I must digress here to rant a little bit about the whole Will Smith and Charlize Theron relationship.
1.) They have no on-screen chemistry.
2.) If they were suppose to be together since the beginning of time, how were they able to overcome the time of slavery and racist oppresion?
3.) What gives Mary (Theron) the right to give Hancock crap for the way he handles his super hero role, when she hides her powers and leaves the world to rot?

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 12:59 PM 0 comments  

Penelope

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

3 GOOMBAS

Every day, I am shocked by the cynicism and negative energy that surrounds my every day life. College friends and church youth groups didn't prepare me for the lasting anger and sarcasm that I face at work, in the car, or when surrounded by crazed holiday shoppers. Often, optimism, cheeriness and an overall positive attitude is labled "naive" or "gullible." Isn't that sad? Pollyanna and her 'glad game' would have freakin' roasted in this kind of environment. And with that, I belive that excitement for the modern day fairy tale is dead. Happy, feel good movies about love are labled "chick flicks." Romance films, cheesy. So what luck does a movie like Penelope have against a skeptic majority?
Magical and lovely, Penelope (Christina Ricci) is a girl born with a cursed nose. The only way to break the spell is if "one of her own," a blue blood like herself, accepts her as she is. So, when she turned 18, her family began the search for a suitor to fall in love and marry her. When man after man is appalled by her appearance, she loses all hope on love. Penelope becomes an unbeliever, yet she is unaware that her insight and charm inspire, especially the scruffy, yet handsome, Max Campion (James McAvoy).

Produced by Reese Witherspoon, Penelope is vividly colored, sweet, and bold. Though I'm often turned off by Christina Ricci's whiny voice and distracting forehead, she blossoms in this role as a snout-nosed, yet charming, socialite. Her chemistry with on screen hotty, James McAvoy, is swoon worthy, though I'm almost positive that McAvoy could have on-screen chemistry with even a cold potatoe. I also must say that The Nose grew on me. As the film wore on, I became quite fond of The Nose. The make up artists did a good job keeping Ricci's pleasant features and making The Nose cute but ugly all the same.

Penelope is magical, optomistic and delicate, and it crosses genre boundaries that enable it to reach larger audiences; however these larger audiences aren't watching.

Lacking anything distinguishing except for maybe its whimsical cinematography and, of course, The Nose, Penelope doesn't have an audience. So, it attempts to entertain the female watchers and no one else. The curse idea is too weird for general viewers to accept, and it's main theme of social acceptance is overshadowed by the romance (purposely, I'm sure), which marks this movie eternally as a chick flick. Character-titled, Penelope is about the girl, not the love story, but the filmmakers worked the love angle a little too much and unique Penelope lost to the stability of a romance plot line; all because the modern day fairy tale is dead. It could have been so good.

I like Penelope, but it lacks the cinematic openess to become something more than a TBS "Movies and a Make-Over" flick. Look for it there in 2010.

Similar movies that I would also recommend: Edward Sissorhands and Princess Bride.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 9:28 PM 1 comments  

Fools Gold

Friday, November 21, 2008

1 GOOMBA


No!

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 12:17 PM 1 comments  

Rambo

Friday, November 14, 2008

3 GOOMBAS

By the age of 10, Chuck Norris, Charles Bronson, Steven Siegal, and Arnold frequented my living room television set on a regular basis. The MPAA film rating system didn't really mean much to my parents. I'm not sure why, but I turned ok - I think. But for my parents, when it comes to big knives, big guns, big explosions, and testosterone packed, big muscled action, Rambo is usually the only answer. With my parents, I've watched Rambo hung by his arms and dipped into a murky pool filled with leeches; I've watched him struggle with a civilian lifestyle, and now, after the character's self-titled return, I've watched how plastic surgery can turn even Rambo, into a transvestite.

Still haunted by his own deamons, Rambo lives in the rural, polically unstable region of Thailand where he makes a living by driving a boat up and down river. A self-imposed social outcast, Rambo is asked by a group of humanitarians to be ferried through dangerous Burma territory so they can help a terrorized villiage who needs their medical attention. On their mission, they are, of course, captured by corrupt, militant agressors, and a squad of paid militia are sent to rescue them. Then, the militia get their butts kicked. So who comes to save them? You go it - Rambo.

Even though this movie has everything against it (aging hero, lack of creativity, corny plot), I couldn't help but enjoy sitting through it. There are some ridculously over-the-top dismemberment scenes with equally over-the-top computer generated blood; there is a strange protective energy that seems to draw Rambo to a young blonde woman, and it doesn't quite make too much sense (Is it sexual tension? Is it paternal?); And there is the strange ending where he's seen walking toward his parent's ranch home in Arizona. Somehow, I don't think a 60-year-old man going to get the same homecoming as a 20-year-old boy. Yet, despite all that, it was fun as hell to watch.

Totally entertaining with shooting scenes galore, Rambo survives the battle between the film industry's greed verses the film's creative intention. As a character, Rambo is kept true to his original form, at least so far - apparently there's going to be a Rambo V. We'll see if Rambo can survive the war too.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 10:29 PM 0 comments  

La Misma Luna
Under the Same Moon

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

2 GOOMBAS


I have a strong opinion on illegal immigration. I do not support illegal activity, but I do recognize the bravery of human beings who leave their family, friends, community, and culture behind to gain just a chance at making their lives something better than poverty.

One of many movies featuring this political topic, La Misma Luna is a family film about a mother and son seperated by a border. Rosario immigrated to the United States illegally so she could earn money to support her family in Mexico. She left behind her son, Carlitos, at the age of four, but every Sunday for four years, she calls him from a pay phone in the middle of East LA to let him know that she loves him. Back in Mexico, Carlitos, is under the care and watchful eye of his grandmother, but when she passes unexpectedly, his desperation leads him to cross the boarder alone. Along the way, he finds help from those running in the same direction and hopes that he can find his mother before Sunday so she won't worry about him.

Everything a family film should be, La Misma Luna explorers the notions of community, family, and the swaying balance between the American dream and the costs to obtain it. A heartstrings puller, this film does everything possible to enable the viewer to empathize with its main characters. As the young protagonist, Carlitos is an absolutely adorable, round-faced charmer whose innocence and trust in humanity get him through the journey. The movie also does a good job portraying the emotional hardship of a family divided by a border. The addition of some East LA, first-born Mexican American, and immigrant culture adds to the perspective and the wider message.

However, La Misma Luna was, at times, dull and the plot was extremely predictable. Usually, in the family film genre, predictability is good, but in this case I almost felt insulted. It was like the filmmakers tried to hide what the ending would hold. The film wasn't anything new or groundbreaking, and though it makes a great Saturday afternoon watch, I wouldn't think much more of it. Cute but average, Under the Same Moon is just another movie.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 12:49 PM 0 comments  

Inside Darkness

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The BIAS GOOMBA

The Pope, tradition, rosary beads, Purgatory – all prominent images of Catholic culture. In particular, the priesthood has been the subject of documentaries, comedies, and the occasional drama. But have you heard of a priest making the movie? Meet Father Dominic De Lay, writer/director extraordinaire. Aside from celebrating mass every Sunday, he makes movies as his ministry. A part of the Dominican Friar order, De Lay preaches through art, and so he does in his 36 minute short film entitled Inside Darkness.

Just in time for the 2008 Presidential Election, Inside Darkness features three presidential candidates trapped inside a dark room. The three hostages:
1.) Presidential incumbent, Yvette Anderson- Protestant, female, Republican
2.) Senator John Bowman - Catholic, black,[ former Colonel, Democrat
3.) Patrick Weller - atheist, intellectual, Independent
The last thing they remember is being at the presidential debate, and though they share the same last memory, they do not share the same ideas about leading a nation.

Intense and symbolic, Inside Darkness is thrilling and politically charged. The dissonant music adds to the tension, and it churns the paranoia that progressively creeps into the slow shrinking room. The use of lighting is creative and spurs discussion. Why, for example, are some characters cloaked in red light at some points in the film? Why are there single points of light in a room full of darkness? There are other concepts to examine in this short film - Why do the captors keep looking to the sky? Why did the filmmaker choose such diverse demographical representations for his characters? How does religion affect their decision making, both in the room and out? And then, there's that ear. What the heck does that ear mean? The death of listening? One-sided hearing? Who knows? That's for you to discuss.

The analysis of Inside Darkness can go on for hours and hours, and you'll notice that I've listed more questions than anything else. Completely abstract, Inside Darkness is not meant to provide answers, which can be frustrating. This film is not for the artistically narrow-minded. It is, at times, hard to follow. There is no obvious plot, and no obvious message. It is meant to stimulate the exchange of ideas and promote thought, so it is important to keep this mentality in mind prior to watching the film. The episodic format makes this goal easy to obtain, so again, be prepared to watch a movie that is crafted as a visual art piece and generates conversation, not a flick to sit and eat a bowl of popcorn to (however, I'm sure Father Dominic would love for you to eat popcorn with this film).

To watch free, online episodes or buy the DVD, visit www.insidedarkness.com.
For more information on the filmmaker, Father Dominic De Lay, visit www.mudpuddlefilms.com.
For more information on the Dominican Friars visit www.opwest.org.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 10:15 PM 0 comments  

Jumper

1 GOOMBA

. . . and then he could jump through space and time - now we're in London, now we're in France, I can see Rachel Bilson's underpants.

Completely abrupt, haphazard, and crazy, Jumper is a story about David Rice (Hayden Christiansen) and his ability to jump through space - I'm not sure if he can jump through time though. They may not have covered that in the user manual. One day, after being throughly humiliated on the school yard in front of the girl he's crushing on, he falls through a frozen river and is about to drown. Suddenly, he finds himself sopping wet in the middle of the school library. He then realizes that he can go anywhere in the world, which includes a stop over in the middle of a bank vault. As the years pass and he's worked his way up to a luxury apartment, Roland (Samuel L. Jackson), a Jumper Hunter, finds him, and the whirlwind of jumping, running, and electrocuting begins. Somewhere in the mix, David manages to pick up his former childhood sweetheart (Bilson) and meet another Jumper.

Great CG and beautiful destination shots, Jumper is still just a hop, skip, and a jump away from being a zero GOOMBA, a rating I hadn't thought existed before this movie. Poorly acted, cheesy, and continuously dumb, I purposely gave you a thorough synopsis because I know you'll be curious, but don't do it! My synopsis is better! Samuel L. Jackson, a Jumper Hunter - I shouldn't have to say any more.

Aside from plot retardation (like Millie naively following along with no questions asked, or Jackson electrocuting Jumpers just because, or Hayden Christiansen pretending to be a bad ass), the interesting concept for a story was drowned, maimed, and cindered in the span of an agonizing 90 minutes. The movie started out well. I was engaging, and I was curious to see how it would all work out. Then, that great 20 minutes were followed by the introduction of the grown-up David (AKA Christiansen). Throw in the Snakes on a Plane actor, and you've got yourself a flop.

So Jumper is not good. Don't jump!

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 9:50 PM 0 comments  

The Other Boleyn Girl

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

2 GOOMBAS

One of my favorite teachers, Mr. Armstrong, taught AP European History. During the first week of class, I had been listening diligently to one of his lectures, and for one moment I focused on my notes when suddenly, he calls my name. He's waiting for my answer. The last thing he was talking about before I zoned out was Germany. The question was, "Where does he live?" So I answered, "Berlin . . ?" In actuality, the question was "Where does the pope live." And that, of course, was the wrong answer. So from then on, every once in a while, if Mr. Armstrong thought I was drifting off . . . he'd yell "Jennifer! Where's the pope!?!" And I'd answer, "The Vatican, Mr. Armstrong." But aside from learning where the pope lived, I learned about Anne Boleyn and her integral part to the Church of England.

The Other Boleyn Girl focuses on Henry VIII's affair with Mary Boleyn (Scarlett Johansson) and the struggle between two sisters over the same man. Mary is shy and beautiful while Anne (Natalie Portman) is witty and daring. In an attempt to raise their family standings, the Boleyn parents sought to make Anne King Henry's mistress. However, when her first attempt fails to get his attention, he notices the quiet, but stunning Mary instead. Mary becomes his mistress while Anne is sent off to France for some feminine refinement. Anne returns some years later, after the King has grown tired of Mary, and King Henry becomes infatuated with her. And when sisters fight over the same man, things get pretty ugly.

With two strong female leads, its a wonder that this period piece became such a revolting film. Now, I realize that this was just how it was in the olden days, setting your kids up to become royal sex toys for the betterment of the family, but I was absolutely disgusted. But that isn't so much the film's fault as it is history's fault. What was terrible was the indecisive portrayal of Henry VIII. I have no way of knowing how close the role is to the real person, but as a character, he had no depth or complexities. He was basically a sex fiend who got what he wanted or someone died if he didn't. Completely uninteresting. Same with the plot. Same with Anne and Mary. Although, I must recognize Natalie Portman's dazzling performance as the loving, yet dually selfish sister.

I must say that this article is particularly dull. I blame that on the subject. Don't watch this movie unless you want to catch a glimpse of the cute Jim Sturgess, the Boleyn Brother. Unfortunately, he gets beheaded and he doesn't sing a line. If I spoiled it for you - good. Anything to keep you from watching this film.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 10:32 PM 0 comments  

Eagle Eye

Monday, September 29, 2008

2 GOOMBAS

When people fall in love with Shia LaBeouf, they just can’t get enough of him. Spielberg cast him in Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull and he executively produced LaBeouf’s summer blockbuster, Transformers. Now Disturbia director, D.J. Caruso, and star, LaBeouf, team up again for DreamWorks’ new thriller Eagle Eye. Once you go Shia, you can’t go back, but unfortunately for the both of them, Eagle Eye kind of sucked.

LaBeouf stars as a typical, unmotivated young slacker along side the beautiful Michelle Monaghan, who plays an average, over-worked single mother. Both characters are framed as terrorists, and in an attempt to run from a Big Brother-like villian, they cross paths and form an unlikely alliance as they also run from the government and those who framed them. Rosario Dawson and Billy Bob Thornton join the cast as a government agent and FBI Detective trailing the pair.

Shia is Hollywood's current, favorite juvenile delinquent, and I could care less. On screen, he's got a certain dorky, underdog charm that makes my heart melt with sympathetic adoration, and though this is a mediocre action packed, suspense thriller at best, he still exudes distinction and quality acting. But his comedic timing and good acting can't save this flick from a lame story and a thoroughly retarded ending. For a very long while, the movie was cheesy, but absolutely fun - as actions movies should be. The multiple chase scenes were intense and absolutely ridiculous, the mammoth explosions were completely blown out of proportion (a plus sign in this genre), and those great one-liners kept the tone upbeat and amusing. And then, they revealed who the terrorists were. But, no worries. It still made it to the 3 GOOMBA level. And then, Big Brother vaporized a guy by chasing him with a broken power line. Still okay. And then, Bill Bob gave Shia his FBI badge and gun just before [highlight to see] exploding himself (which involved a car and an airplane in a Washington DC tunnel) for the greater good. And so Eagle Eye's fate was sealed. A shaming moment in Hollywood history.

Eagle Eyes was a bad cocktail of The Terminator, Enemy of the State, and Die Hard, all of which are far better movies than the one in question. However, I do recommend this movie for the excellent chase scenes or for a Saturday night movie at home with friends.

LaBeouf is currently filming Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 9:25 PM 0 comments  

Vantage Point

Saturday, September 20, 2008

2 GOOMBAS

I always wonder what it would be like to see through someone else's eyes. When I'm out driving, I sometimes look out my window at another driver and often ask myself, "What is he thinking about?" "Where is she going?" "Who are they?" The idea of seeing through a different perspective is fascinating, but trespassing on someone else's personal thoughts is only something that happens in books, and sometimes in movies.

Vantage Point takes this concept and films it in a Momento-inspired style. Looping through the same 23 minute period, the viewer is taken into the different perspectives of six characters who witness the same attempted presidential assassination. With each loop, more information on the plot unfolds, and the mystery behind the assault is revealed. The ensemble cast includes screen regulars, Forest Whitaker, Matthew Fox, Dennis Quaid, and Sigourney Weaver.

When the filmmakers pitched this idea to the executive producers, I'm sure it sounded innovative and amazingly creative. However, it yields complete frustration to the viewer. I found myself commenting on how "cool" and "cutting edge" it all seemed during the first 46 minutes - and then, it began to drag on, and on, and on, and on. It was exhausting living through the same 23 minutes six times, and then, only moving, what seemed like half a frame, toward the ending was brutally irritating. It's okay to leave a person in suspense, but not to the point where they'd rather turn the TV off than find out how it ends. This editing gimmick completely backfires.

Then, there are the characters. With the impossible stunt scenarios aside, Howard Lewis (Whitaker) and Tom Barnes' (Quaid) characters were thoroughly lame and unconvincing. An American tourist is not going to run after a terrorist in the middle of a Spanish city after he's just been blown up by a bomb - unless he happened to be Rambo. In that same respect, Barnes, a secret service agent, would not have acted as a vigilante, running through the streets all by his lonesome to find the terrorist regime who bombed the President of the United States. His chase scenes and professional demeanor were so far from reality that I can't even use the "movie magic" plea for him.

The positive things I have to say about this film (which are few) are: 1) it actually has a message, 2) it attempts creativity, and 3) it does produces some interest. However, even with these things said, I still suggest you watch this film from a different vantage point; with your back facing the TV.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 10:45 PM 0 comments  

Definitely, Maybe

Friday, September 12, 2008

3 GOOMBAS


SYNOPSIS: Maya Hayes (Abigail Breslin) is in the middle of her parent's divorce. Her attempts to adjust aren't working, so after bargaining with her father, Will (Ryan Reynolds) agrees to tell the story of his past relationships to help cheer her up. To make it interesting, he changes their names and keeps mum on which woman is her mother. Rachel Weiss, Isla Fisher, Elizabeth Banks, and Kevin Kline also star.

The GOOM: Told as a story/stories within a story, Definitely, Maybe is bubblegum cute and filled with hopeful, comedic romance. Breslin is as adorable as ever, and each relationship gives us a better glimpse into Will's character. Though this movie isn't rocket science, I enjoyed watching Will stumble through each relationship and seeing him grow into relationship maturity.

The BA: What's sad is, you really don't want any of those three women to be Maya's mother. However, I pretty much called how it would all play out. Definitely, Maybe is predictable. Its also kind of shallow, but shallow in how High Fidelity is shallow (which may or may not be a bad thing. High Fidelity is a good movie). I found this made Will quite annoying. The only real thing going for him was his cheeky yet sweet daughter and the growth he achieves in the end.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 10:48 PM 0 comments  

The Dark Knight

Monday, September 01, 2008

4 GOOMBAS

Pow! Bam! Wham! The sequel to the most recent Batman redo, The Dark Knight revisits our Caped Crusader as he gears up to fight Gotham's current villain, The Joker. In the same winning, realistic style as Begins, Knight manages to hold the audiences attention and wow the crowd with bad-ass flair.

Christian Bale reprises his roll as Bruce Wayne, Maggie Gyllenhaal fills in for the, then preggers, Katie Holmes, as Rachel Dawes, and the late Heath Ledger is The Joker. Two of Aaron Eckhart's faces also makes an appearance.

Here's the bad news - Christian Bale has a stupid Batman voice. More seriously, though, the story flow is quite misleading, which made for an anxious audience, and an anxious Jenn. I was watching what I thought was the final action scene in the film, only to find that it was only about half way through the flick. Then I had to go through the psychological toils of a whole nother action scene.

Here's the good news though - those toils are totally worth it. What an extravagant and fully loaded ending. And not only is the last scene emotionally charged and perfectly narrated, but Heath Ledger's performance was magnificent and comparable to Anthony Hopkins' performance in The Silence of the Lambs. Ledger was completely unrecognizable, and he put the socio in front of path. His subtle mannerism and creepy, sticky-dry voice transformed him into something mind-blowing on screen.

I also have to mention the CG feat on Two-Face's face. The impact of the reveal made me gasp out loud. I was expecting some burns and disfiguration; not what those animators shocked me with. That's some gruesome creativity right there.

Overall, what a fun and perfect end to the summer movie line up. We need more movies like this to stir up the box office numbers. Kapow!

Side note: I want Bruce Wayne's Lamborghini. I'd be so hot.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 10:18 PM 0 comments  

The Bucket List

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

1.5 GOOMBAS

Morgan Freeman began his acting career in the late 1970's, and he's had steady acting gigs ever since then; averaging 2 movies a year since 1980. His kind eyes, winning narrative voice, and grandfather-ish naivety easily find him work. And Morgan Freeman will eternally be an old man. After all, he didn't start his acting career until his mid 50's. So after being a chauffeur, a convicted felon, the President, God, and a detective (multiple times over), he basically plays himself, an old man, in his latest flick called The Bucket List, which also stars former psychiatric patient and psychopath, but equally old, man, Jack Nicholson.

Aside from being old, Carter Chambers and Edward Cole are sick. They both have cancer, and it doesn't look hopeful. So, while they're in the hospital, they develop a bucket list, a list of all the things they want to do before they die. With the help of Edward's wealth, and each other, both set out to do things they would have never done given other circumstances.

A potentially great movie on friendship, The Bucket List can kick the bucket for all I care. Though both actors are supposedly playing characters, its hard to see a difference between themselves and the real man. They play who you'd pretty much think they'd be in real life - Morgan Freeman, the reserved, but kind grandfather and Jack Nicholson, a dirty old man. And their friendship was just about as believable as the CG. I felt no long lasting bond between them, no closeness or camaraderie, and they might as well have had a moving backdrop.

Meant to be sentimental but instead, ending in mediocre cheese, The Bucket List should have had the word "RV" plastered over its title because The Bucket List is about that bad. Save your Netflix queue for something a little less sob story, but even if you were looking for something like that, the only tears you'd see would be from pity - pity for yourself for watching this flick.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 9:29 PM 0 comments  

The Golden Compass

Monday, August 25, 2008

3 GOOMBAS

I first noticed The Golden Compass at the 2007 Comic Con, and what first struck me was the exquisite use of color and the softness of each still. After a few months, I started hearing the controversy surrounding the religious (or should I say, "non-religious") themes apparent in the story. It turns out that the author of The Golden Compass novel, from which this film is based, was atheist. GASP! Oh the horror! His children's fantasy novel must be filled with immoralities, immodesties, and most importantly, anti-Christian tendencies. We have to boycott! ::rolls eyes:: After watching this film, these are definitely over-reactions to a analytically atheistic story, and this movie's influence is no worse than High School Musical with its promotion of popular teens possessing ridiculously, unattainable beauty.

Lyra is a young girl who lives in a dimension where there are three species; humans, polar bears, and witches. Humans each have a deamon which takes the the shape of an animal and is essentially a manifestation of the human's soul. There's also a thing called Dust - I still don't know what it is. I'm guessing it has something to do with corrupting mankind. Lyra is left behind by her uncle when he goes on a trip, and while he's gone, she finds herself in the middle of an adventure; traveling on a flying ship, befriending an exiled polar bear, and rescuing her best friend from deamon separation all with the aide of a alethiometer.

Visually dazzling, The Golden Compass is compelling and filled with youthful wonder and black and white morality, but its dark and sinister tones created complexities and intrigue. Dakota Blue Richards brings feistiness and courage to Lyra's character, and the world that Philip Pullman created is shared with a generation that may not have known it. However, though an adequate adaption to the novel, the film does not stand on its own. The ending is left open, (presumably for a sequel) with many, many question unanswered, but as of today, there have been no plans to complete the film trilogy. So what will happen to Lyra? What is Dust? This flick felt like the second movie in a series rather than the first, and because of this cinematic choice to tell the story in this way, it becomes a mediocre flick. There's really no excuse to leave so many plot holes.

Its always great to watch a children's fantasy film. It's imaginative, innocent, and usually filled with not-too-bloody action scenes. Yet in this particular instance, I was left unsatiated. Bring on the next installment, and I'll revisit.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 1:28 PM 0 comments  

Rendition

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

2 GOOMBAS

SYNOPSIS: Reese Witherspoon and Jake Gyllenhaal star in this politically charged film, Rendition. Isabella Fields El-Ibrahimi is an American woman with a son and another on the way. As her Egyptian-born husband flies home from a business trip, he's kidnapped, taken to another country, and tortured by the American CIA for information on a middle-eastern terrorist group. This act is known as extraordinary rendition.

The GOOM: Insightful, Rendition is another example of filmmakers and actors voicing their political opinions through film. Witherspoon and Gyllenhaal turned in great performances, and the film tellingly portrays the upholding of American idealism and how it can be demolished.

The BA: It was sort of hard to follow. It reminded me And it's a movie about terrorists and America exerting its dominance by using unprincipled means. It's typical. It's boring. It's un-extraodinary rendition.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 10:29 PM 0 comments  

P.S. I Love You

Monday, August 11, 2008

2 GOOMBAS

P.S. I Love You was advertised as “this year's best romantic comedy” - I can’t help but wonder if that movie critic was on crack. Did he see this movie? What part of having your dead husband leave you post-death, love notes is funny? To whoever wrote that review, you make me angry.

Previous experience has taught me that a fantastic cast does not necessarily equal a quality film. So here is P.S. I Love You, a perfect example, starring Academy Award winners Hilary Swank and Kathy Bates, and former, yet still hunky, Spartan, Gerard Butler. This film follows the life of Holly following the death of her Irish husband Gerry. Before passing, Gerry writes encouraging letters (which are delivered to her throughout the course of the film) to Holly in an attempt to help her cope and begin rebuilding a new life without him.

Simultaneously morbid and romantic, this flick brought on the tears. However, please picture me sobbing as I yell "this movie is so bad!!!" at the TV. Surprisingly, P.S. I Love You prodded the soft spot in my heart and concurrently, promoted irate feelings. Holly is an absolute pest of a character. I have absolutely no idea why Gerry would be in love with her. Second, why in the world did Gerry think that his notes were a good idea? His attempt to help her let go and grieve is completely backward. (Joe, this is not a good idea. You are not allowed to do this.) Some things just need to happen cold turkey. Lastly, the filmmakers' attempt to foster a new love interest is totally insensitive to the intense love story that they've already cultivated and committed to depicting. There's no way the audience will buy any other love story other than that of Holly and Gerry.

Something good I can say about the movie is its ability to evoke heartache. The filmmakers used the brilliant technique of intermingling Holly and Gerry's happy story with Holly's post-Gerry life. This yields the greatest impact to the viewer, as we are able to see/feel what Holly has lost instantly. And when Holly receives a new letter, we are again reminded that loss. P.S. I Love You is in no way a romantic comedy. It did a good job making you feel terribly somber and terribly depressed, and it did great at being just plain terrible.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 10:14 PM 0 comments  

Grace is Gone

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

2 GOOMBAS

Every person has his or her own opinions on the War In Iraq. We'll never agree, but its always interesting to see how others express their beliefs in an artistic way. Film is such a perfect outlet for political statements, and as far right or left as some of these movies can be, the self expression seems unconfrontational. You just have to be aware and open-minded of the filmmaker's intentions in order to appreciate what it has to say.

Grace is Gone blends middle American simplicity with progressive scenarios. Stanley Phillips (John Cusack) is the 100%, middle America family man. Untraditionally, his wife, an American soldier, has been shipped off to Iraq while Phillips is left to care for their two daughters. When he receives a visit from an Army official notifying him of his wife's death, he goes into a state of denial. In an attempt to avoid the harsh and complicated reality, he whisks his daughters away on a road trip to an amusement park in Florida.

Yet I feel no pity for Stanley. I feel no sympathy. He wasn't believable. Cusack doesn't play a good married man. And stripped from his masculinity as the husband who got left behind, his already unconvincing performance made his character uninteresting.

Shot like an indie film, it had the characteristics of a poigniant and thoughtful movie. It had an important message to share, a different perspective to offer, and it resiliently focused on the idea of life after death - which is especially evident in the ending. But (and that's a big 'But'), it was wholly uninspiring. My love for John Cusack has been temporarily stalled by the release of this most recent film. Gone is the lovable, Lloyd Dobbler. Gone is the twisted audiophile, Rob Gordon. Gone is the serendipitously appealing Jonathan Trager. And apparently gone is Grace. As supremely insensitive as this is, I end this blog with a ::shrug::.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 11:48 PM 0 comments  

Wall-E

Sunday, July 27, 2008

5 GOOMBAS

I think we can all agree that most Disney films of the past decade are horrific and I have, on more than one occasion, shouted "blasphemy!" at the latest Disney movie trailer. What Lion King are we on now? Lion King 50, Simbas' Adventures in the Underworld? What was their latest remake? The Swiss Family Robinson In Space? Pollyanna: The Pop Star? ::sigh:: Though a complete sell out to consumerism, Disney has had some successful ventures. Their latest - probably the acquisition of Pixar Studios. And as usual, the always innovative Pixar, has stepped it up a notch in this newly animated film Wall-E.

Wall-E is the last remaining robot on Earth. After 700 years, his counterparts have gone kaput, and he's left alone to complete the job of cleaning up the gargantuan mess humans have left for him; all the while, the rest of mankind grows fat on a cruise ship in outer space. Wall-E is curious, smart, and naive, and as he picks through 700 years worth of junk, he weeds out the last treasured remnants of human civilization and reminisces on the beauties of being a person.

Reasons why Wall-E is good:
- The characters. Wall-E's reminds me simultaneously of a tired, lonely old man and a klutzy, eager 5-year-old. Absolutely adorable, earnest, and stouthearted, Wall-E is a character that you can't help but like. Not to mention the clean freak, M-O, and Eve, the sleek bot with an anger problem.

- The CG. The computer animation is phenomenal; as can be expected from this studio. Pixar's ability to show Wall-E's emotions through his eyes and without using any dialog is nothing short of amazing. Wall-E's ability to bring back the meaning of human interaction and to cross communicational barriers without the use of words is both meaningful and impressive.

-The story. The plot is one of the best I've seen. It is modestly about a girl probe, Eve, who is out of Wall-E's league (in every way) and Wall-E's quest for her heart. Yet aside from being cute, the film is completely hysterical. I just about died every time Eve busted out her "hand gun." It is sad, funny, and sweet; all in one movie!

-The message. The plot is simple yet complex and it spoke to me on so many different levels. There are themes that were readily apparent, but commentary on the human condition not blatant, but to the point.

-The details. The attention to detail blew my mind. My friend Jason (and maybe you) will pick up on the lack of sound during the space scenes. Why? There's no sound in outer space, silly! I also enjoyed the motif for the ending credits, which shows the progression of humanity rebuilding their home on Earth, but illustrated in the progressive styles in art; first starting with cave drawing and ending with van Gough.

Wall-E is a must see. It's visually spectacular, emotionally intriguing, and thoughtfully complex. I don't think I've seen many that are better.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 10:56 PM 1 comments  

Awake

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

1.5 GOOMBAS

So you know those movies where you can figure out the twist after two seconds of the film? Well, this is one of them. But I do have experience with this. I figured out the Sixth Sense after the first five minutes. However, either way, this film is pretty dumb.

Starring Jessica Alba, Hayden Christiensen, Terrence Howard, and anesthesia awareness, Clay Beresford is a high powered capital investment executive in need of a heart transplant. Living a double life between his posh, rich lifestyle (including an overly controlling mother) and a humble dwelling with his sweet-natured girlfriend, Clay attempts to separate himself from the life his mother has laid out for him - starting with choosing his own heart surgeon and his own wife. Once he goes into surgery, however, he realizes that he's still awake. The rest of the movie takes us through his out-of-body experience and the revelations that follow.

Totally predictable and poorly acted, Awake is a sad example of a suspense thriller. There was nothing terribly dreadful in this movie - except, Christiensen. He is such a Nancy boy. I can't stand him. He's such a bad actor. What is equally as annoying as Christiensen is Clay's mother. She is originally portrayed as a flat character; controlling and over-bearing. She maintains her opinion on Clay's choice for a surgeon and for a wife in a completely aggravating and judgmental way. Yet by the end of the film, she's completely vindicated. So, is this film saying that controlling and over-bearing is the way to go when you're a mother? Apparently, yes.

They did do some cool things with lighting, but not enough to commend Awake for anything.

There isn't much to this film. It's meant to target that older teen audience, but I'm sure they'll still find this film equally as annoying as to the average viewer (unless they're a pre-pubescent boy who ogles over Jessica Alba). So in closing, don't believe in this anesthesia awareness baloney. Yes, it's a scary idea, but its not as scary as you enjoying this flick.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 10:43 PM 0 comments  

The Great Debaters

Saturday, July 12, 2008

2.5 GOOMBAS

So I've heard that the reason why Denzel Washington is good-looking is because his face is perfectly symmetrical, which makes it aesthetically pleasing to the eye. I can agree with that rational. I mean, he isn't overtly handsome (to me), but yet he's nice to look at - even when he plays a bad-ass gangster or a corrupt cop. However, something must be said about his performance in his most recent flick, The Great Debaters. His glaringly insensitive and distrustful portrayal of Melvin Tolson definitely made me see the ugly in Denzel.

Set in the 1930's and loosely based on a true story, the 'Great Debaters' are a group of young, educated individuals from the historically black Wiley College. Under the supervision and guidance of Melvin Tolson (Washington), four debaters are chosen for his elite team, James L. Farmer Jr., Henry Lowe, Samantha Brooke, and Hamilton Burgess. This film, produced by Harpo Productions, takes this team through one year of debate competitions with other black colleges in the South. After beating all notable schools in the area, Tolson begins to seek out white colleges to compete against, but in this heavily racist era, this is no easy feat. Throughout this film, their travels and experiences take them through a number of issues that affected the times (lynchings, racism, communism) and adolescence (first love, coming of age). This film also features Academy Award winning Actor Forest Whitaker.

I didn't like this movie. It was a jumble of political and social issues that were suppose to be facilitated by the plot, but actually became the side story to the plot. Or maybe they were suppose to be the side stories? I'm not quite sure . . . and this ambiguity does not bode well. There was just too much going on for it to be any good. It was a coming-of-age story, but then it wasn't. It was a educational film on racism, and then it was a period piece, and then it was a sports film. All these different aspects in a film, but yet all under-developed.

As for Washington's performance, the man is just good. However, his character contributed to the indecisiveness of the plot. He was a underground revolutionary, a Communist to be exact, and yet I couldn't quite tell if the film meant to portray this as a good thing or a bad thing. He had terrible character flaws. He liked to cheat in the debates. He wrote all of the arguments while the team did the research. He was insensitive and at times, cruel. He lies and creates uncomfortable tension, and yet he mentors these young minds and tells them to believe in themselves. He can be kind, but yet is terribly ruthless. He's such a huge contradiction that I can't see him as being a very good role model. So, though Washington gave depth and complexity to this multi-layered character, it deepened the obvious flaws in the already unfocused plot.

This could easily make the Hallmark Classics shelf, but not mine.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 11:14 PM 0 comments  

The Kite Runner

Sunday, July 06, 2008

2.5 GOOMBAS


What's kind of annoying to me is when a genuinely good book gets exploited by blockbuster hype. There it was, a little known, well written novel with its humble cover; tucked away at the bottom corner of the fiction section. Then, someone else in Hollywood realizes what a great book it is and rapes all the dignity from it. Suddenly its a New York Times best seller, its classy matte cover replaced is by a glossy photo of the movie poster. And now, when you re-read the book, the characters suddenly look like the actors who had portrayed them. It can be quite awful to a true book fan. The good thing is, it can get more people to read a book that might have been left forgotten, but it simultaneously makes it trendy, an undesierable characteristic to many.

So The Kite Runner is a novel turned film about Amir and his best childhood friend Hassan during a time when Kabul was still peaceful. The difference is, I didn't think the book was all that fantastic. Different in class and race, Amir and Hassan struggle with the societal convention that decided the unlikelihood of their friendship. Then, one day, something changes their life paths forever, and it takes almost a lifetime for Amir to make amends with his ghosts of the past.

Usually, when novels are altered for the silver screen, screenwriters adapt the story to visually make the story flow smoothly and to trim the plot of story fat. However, in this instance, they kept everything. Nothing was changed, and in my opinion, to the film's detriment. I didn't enjoy the novel, and I didn't really enjoy the film. In both mediums, I never felt that Amir's guilt was ever amended. Even as he risks his life to save Hassan's son, there was always some part of me that didn't believe that he did it for Hassan and Sohrab. I felt he kind of did it selfishly - so that he wouldn't have to feel guilty anymore, and I feel horrible for thinking that. I feel so judgmental.

In regard to the actual performance of the actors. The young Hassan and Amir (Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada and Zekeria Ebrahimi respectively) were fantastic. Their friendship was alive and real. Khalid Abdalla brought humility and a quiet modesty to Amir that I didn't see in the novel. However, other than the performances and learning about a culture I know little about, I thought the plot was quite anticlimactic and plain.

Beautiful though a story is about a childhood filled with innocent kite flying and savoring pomegranates underneath a trees, the beauty lies only in the idea. Its not in this story.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 9:34 PM 0 comments  

27 Dresses

Monday, June 23, 2008

3.5 GOOMBAS

In the middle of planning my own wedding, I have realistic expectations. I do not expect my wedding day to explode with flowers that I can't afford or be driven away in a limousine that's too froo-froo for my own good. I do not expect it to be reminiscent of a fairy tale. I do not expect everyone to enjoy it, and I do not expect it to be perfect. But there is one thing I can be pretty sure about. The likelihood of my bridesmaids wearing their dresses again - slim.

What I thought was hilarious about this movie was the running dress-joke. Each bride kept insisting that the bridesmaids could wear their dresses again and again; "all ya have to do is shorten it!" Oh the ideas we brides delude ourselves into believing.

But aside from poking fun at that anal retentive, spoiled monster that can sometimes overcome a normally even tempered, good natured lady, this movie was super cute. There wasn't very much chemistry between Katherine Heigl and James Marsden, but no matter, this movie was about Jane, the girl who took care of everyone except her self. It was never about their relationship. Ironically, it was only about Jane. Selfish, eh?

Heigl and Marsden star in this romantic comedy about a young woman who has been a bridesmaid 27 times but can't manage to tell that man she loves how she feels. Same deal-io but her character is a little more entertaining than the usual. The fashion is great, and it had everything you could want from a chick flick.

This one is definitely an Jenn-owner. It's already given me a great idea on how I want to wear my hair when I walk down the aisle. Oh, and one expectation that I am most definitely sure about on my wedding day. I expect to be happy.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 8:13 PM 2 comments  

The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep

Monday, June 16, 2008

2 GOOMBAS
It was just about a year ago when I was perusing cnn.com and I stumbled across a link to a streaming video of latest "evidence" supporting the existing of the Loch Ness Monster. Now, I'm not exactly a scholar of good old Nessy, but that video sure as heck gave me a weird feeling. What lives below the water already creeps me out, and to have an unidentified, supposed giant animal in the lake's depths gives me the heebie jeebies. Strangely, it's also kind of cool. It opens up this huge array of imaginative ideas, and it's representative of how the unknown can draws us in.

So The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep. A family film set in Scotland during World War II. Young Angus finds a strange rock out on the shore, and once its found, it hatches into a water horse. As the fable goes, there can only be one water horse in the world at a time, and once its born, it begins to depend on Angus for food and friendship. Eventually, the monster gets too large for the bath tub, and Angus is forced to move it to the lake for more room and food.

There's quite a serious side-plot with the war and Angus's father, and I can't help but sense a kind of abandonment from reality. You know Narnia? Kind of like that. The children are in this horrendous situation, and they venture to a different world where they're not orphans, they're the royal family. Or remember that one Buffy episode where she wakes up and she's actually in a mental institution suffering from schizophrenia and her alternate reality is at Sunnydale/the Hell Mouth? I kind of got that same sense from this film and I thought it was worth mentioning.

The CG was pretty great. Crusoe, the water horse pet, was pretty darn cute as a cub, and it acted as real as a monster could act in my opinion. But I say boo to the story and boo to the Free Willy reenactment. This movie fails as family film. It was sad and kind of shallow as far as character and plot development go. I can't recommend it, and it certainly won't come back as a classic.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 7:25 PM 0 comments  

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Friday, June 13, 2008


3 GOOMBAS

At 2am, on a drive from San Diego to Laughlin, I was convinced that I had seen a flying saucer. Yes, I may have been delirious with sleep deprivation. Yes, I may have had too much sugar. And yes, I am me, but I swear to you, I had seen a UFO. Aliens do tend to inhabit the science fiction genre of film, with an emphasis on fiction, but aliens seem like a very real concept to me. How arrogant are we, the human race, to believe that we are the only living beings in this vast an infinite universe? Yet mixing this concept with an old school adventure flick seems just wrong; even under the supervision of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas.

Resurrecting the classic adventures of Indiana Jones, new kid on the block, Shia Labeouf, joins blockbuster veteran, Harrison Ford in the fourth installment of the series, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Still out for an ass kicking, Indie finds himself kidnapped by Russian Nazi leader, Colonel Dr Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) so he can locate a a highly magnetic crystal skull in an endless warehouse of top secret plunder. He escapes, following a very strange incident involving a refridgerator and a nuclear bomb, and winds up helping a kid find his mother and return the crystal skull.

Now, I applaud Spielberg and Lucas for maintaining the original tone of the series (cheesy, yet adventurous, in the ancient-jungle-oriented, 50's period film kind of way) despite the modern-minded, cell phone ridden audience. It actually worked quite nicely. Even the camera work evoked that nostalgic sense of old-time story-telling. However, the gimic, aliens, was absolutely preposterous. It ruined the ancient, treasure hunting feeling and replaced it with weird, futuristic folklore. These two ideas did not mesh well, and in my opinion, was the downfall of the entire film. Indiana is about ancient, forgotten treasure and a romance forged by faith in its existence, not science and neo-centric notions.

Not to mention how poorly the story was told. I didn't understand how the brain-washed anthropologist fit into the whole plot line, nor do I understand why the marketing team tried to keep the whole "Shia LaBeouf plays Indie's son" a secret. It was kind of obvious.

Again, I loved the way the film was shot, how they maintained the original thematic motifs, and the shot-in-the-80's-but-is-reminiscent-of-the-50's style, but it was just so out of this world. Literally. Shia Labeouf swinging through trees, and men getting eaten alive by giant ants was just too much. Even the king with his ripping-out-hearts fetish seemed believable compared to the stuff they pulled in the Crystal Skull. Plus, was it only me or did Harrison Ford look exponentially old?

This movie is graced with my 3 GOOMBA rating only because it holds the clout of the original series. I don't know what is up with Spielberg and his love for E.T., which basically only leads me to one conclusion. Steven Spielberg is an alien. George Lucas must be his mate. Random, you think? Try comparing it to this movie.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 7:04 PM 1 comments  

Sex And The City: The Movie

Sunday, June 08, 2008

3.5 GOOMBAS

Before Sex And The City, shoes were just things you stuck on your feet to keep them from getting dirty. Before Sex And The City, designers were just people who stuck a hefty price tag on their clothing. Before Sex And The City, sex was taboo. But this show, where some closed-minded folk could synonymize it to pornography, was witty, deep, and it revolutionized television.

The four thirty-something women (who are now forty-something) are back, but this time on the silver screen. All four are still wonderfully fabulous and satisfyingly stable in their relationships. Miranda and Steve are married in Brooklyn, Samantha is living it up with Smith in LA, Charlotte and Harry happily dote over their adopted daughter, and Carrie and Big shop for the perfect Manhattan apartment. However, they're still themselves: Samantha, sex crazed as usual; Miranda, cynical even more so than normal; Carrie, adorably mature and sincere; and Charlotte (my favorite) optimistic, naive, and still the lady. Yet, of course, in any happily ever after, there has to be some unhappily in between.

I absolutely loved the show, so of course, I absolutely loved the movie. Oh, and the clothes! The clothes! Lawsie mercy! The glorious clothes! What I wouldn't give to be the Wardrobe Director's assistant. But aside from the clothes, this movie showed the characters's maturity and growth, and it was well told, well written, and well received. These woman are refreshingly imperfect, and they love and lose just like real women, only with a incredibly lavish and ambitious lifestyles. Their friendship is so concrete and visible in their love for one another that it makes me appreciate the girlfriends I have.

I love these woman, their crazy hysterics with men and sex, and their genuine longing for their ever after. However, if you haven't seen any of the show, you wouldn't know what the heck was going on. The key driver for this film is the history of these woman, how far they've come and who they are now. Without knowing any of that, this film is meaningless and seemingly superfiscial. If I had my way, Sex would be 4.5 GOOMBAS, but Sex and the City: The Movie just doesn't stand on its own. Even still, that doesn't stop me from being a fan of these Manolo Blahnik wearing, Prada purse carrying, Dolche dressed, New York women.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 5:44 PM 0 comments  

La Vie En Rose

Friday, May 30, 2008

3 GOOMBAS

My first experience with French film was Ma Vie En Rose, a movie I had to watch for a gender in culture class, and I must say that I was quite surprised by it's flair. And every French film thus far had been the same, so what a drastic change it was to watch La Vie En Rose, a drab and simple film on the life of Edit Paif.

A biography of the famous 1940s French singer, La Vie En Rose (The Life in Pink) stars Marion Cotillard who won an Academy Award for her performance. At an early age, Edith Paif was left in a brothel to be raised by prostitutes and learns of her talent for song; already strange. As she matures, she begins signing on the streets of France and is soon discovered. After she makes her debut in a modest, but packed bar, the crowd's enthusiasm for her singing ensures her lengthy career in show business. As her success sky-rockets her to the top, her personal life and health become victim to her scrappy and lush lifestyle.

Unrefined and rough, Edith Paif fit my imagined impression of Lucille Ball in real life. She was bossy, fierce, stubborn, and crazy about man who had eyes for more than one. Now, to portray a character with so much personality is a feat unto itself. But have you seen Marion Cotillard as he real self? She seems sweet and delicate, yet even her body language was drastic transformation from her slink down the red carpet. This was truly a remarkable performance.

However, other than this artistic achievement and the believable make up and costume, this movie was pretty boring. Yes, Edith Paif was quite a woman, but Man, could I not wait for this movie to end. It was dark and uncharacteristically French, with its non-hallucinogenic style, and you couldn't wait to get to the subtle climax that is distinctive in biographical films (kind of like a climax in a documentary).

I love to sound cool when I say I've watched a foreign film that no one's really heard about. Sadly, I don't know if I'd actually recommend this film, and sadly I'm not cool either. But I would watch it if you're hip, stylish, live in the Village and just want to brag on your artistic sophistication.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 10:04 PM 1 comments  

August Rush

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

2 GOOMBAS


One time, back in the days of "the WB," I was watching Felicity in the living room, and my mom passed by. I said "Isn't Keri Russell so pretty?" She replied, "Eck, she's too pretty." And from then on, every time I see her, I think she really is too pretty.

So I finally got around to watching August Rush. Of course, Keri Russell was too pretty, Irish import, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, was also pretty, and Robin Williams was pretty janky looking. Lyla and Louis have a highly romanticized one night stand, which inevitably turns into an Evan Taylor. Unfortunately, both Lyla and Louis never found each other after that night, and Evan Taylor was given up for adoption. Extraordinarily, Evan Taylor inherited his parent's musical talent, and as he convinces himself that he can find his parents with his music, he wanders the streets of New York searching for them through song.

So many things wrong with this movie - first, Robin Williams was obviously suppose to be the bad guy. He kind of reminded me of the Diablo. He reels unsuspecting, vulnerable prey in, takes advantage of them in a serpent-esque, a la Adam and Eve, kind of way. And though Williams makes for a very disturbing villain, his portrayal of the creepy homeless, black-market, businessman was just too much for this family centered romance. Then there was the notion that Evan's music could bring his family back together. Now, I realize that this film is meant to portray a larger than life situation where hope, love, and faith are not just present in the music, it is the music. It was just too dang corny for me, Man. And Diablo, over there, played great music too. He even smiled knowingly as he listened to Evan play his final piece in the end. What is that suppose to symbolize? Is Diablo like Frank from Donnie Darko; seemingly the Devil but really God? Who knows, and quite frankly, I don't care.

This movie was too; too warm and fuzzy, too syrupy sweet, too pretty, and two goombas.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 10:59 PM 1 comments  

Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Monday, May 19, 2008

3 GOOMBAS

I wonder if Tim Burton ever gets tired his look; his film look. I mean, it is slightly different each time, depending on its mood. Sometimes it's sad and darkly over exaggerated, sometimes it's happy and darkly over exaggerated, and other times it's madly gruesome and over exaggerated. But the costumes and scenery are always loud and attractively strange. It's almost like M. Night Shyamalan and his necessity to add twists to the ending. I wonder if it ever gets old to him. It surely doesn't get old for me as an audience member, but I guess an artist can only have one style.

Tim Burton's teams up with his #1 fan, Johnny Depp, in his latest, madly gruesome, musically tart flick, Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. In a past life, Benjamin Barker was happily married to a beautiful woman and had a beautiful daughter. Unfortunately for Barker, his wife's beauty attracted Judge Turpin, who then vindictively puts Barker in prison so he could swoop in and take Barker's wife for his own. Upon Barker's return (now calling himself Sweeny Todd) we find, through the magic of music, that he's given up on that life and vows to open up a barber shop on Fleet Street. Eventually, with the aid of his landlady Mrs. Lovett, he begins to kill all his customers via a single blade razor, while Mrs. Lovett turns their remains into meat pies.

I don't know why I laughed. Maybe because it was just so insanely gross and graphic that I must have needed to alleviate my involuntary cringing and repellence. Like always, Burton's attention to detail is stunning, and Depp's ability to look demoniacally crazed while still maintaining the ability to carry a tune is remarkable. And on the killing - the neck is such a delicate area that the chosen method for murder makes it seem more brutal, yet the actual murders were still kind of graceful. Until, of course, he pulled the lever that dropped the bodies down to the basement on their heads; then it was funny.

Sweeny Todd's character is tragic and romantic, yet wretched and pathetically evil. So sad for him. The ending's a dilly. Sweeny Tood will take you into his world and make you see internal struggle splattered across the screen. I wouldn't skip it if you're not into musicals. You can't really tell it is one. I would skip it if you're squimish or if you dislike meat.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 8:39 PM 2 comments  

Ironman

Monday, May 12, 2008

3 GOOMBAS

As the season's first slated blockbuster, it's no wonder the hype for the summer movie line up has been minimal. Cheesy advertisements and a seemingly misfit role for Downey Jr. didn't sure give Iron Man a leg up, that's for sure. It's hard to believe summer has arrived without such a large bang at the box office, and I'm surprised to see how differently the critics feel about the latest super hero flick when many would rather stay at home to their beloved TV set.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), a multi-billionaire and a bona fide genius, owns and runs the leading military weapons industry in the United States. However, after an unfortunate hostage situation in Afghanistan where he played the part of the hostage, he realizes that his weapons are being used against the the great US of A and vows to shut down production and focus the company's energy toward something more hero-ish. Afghanistan (if you hadn't already guessed) and someone close to home are the bad guys. Gwyneth Paltrow also stars as his beautiful, yet timid assistant.

Blatantly patriotic but generally entertaining, this movie wasn't nearly as cheesy it could have been. It was sleek and realistic, just like the Iron Man suit, and it struck the right balance between superhero archetypal themes and realism. It doesn't look comic-bookish, like its Spider-Man counterpart, but it isn't as stark as Batman Begins. Overall, I thought Robert Downey Jr. did an excellent job transitioning his character from a selfish and indifferent billionaire to a selfless superhero. I did have some issues with logical aspects of the film. How, for example, does Stark survive thousand foot drops in his suit? Brilliant and intelligent, he doesn't have super human padding. Also, I'm also sensitive to the fact that he shut down his weapons company only to make himself a weapon. Granted, he trusts himself to do greater good, my impression was that he would eventually create suits for others. How is that different from creating missiles?

This film has all the typical things you'd expect in a film of this caliber; crazy good CG, excellent explosions, interesting technology, and a decent character arch. I'd take the time to see it . . . until the Dark Knight hits the silver screen. I have a feeling that Iron Man will fall like an iron anvil short in that comparison.

On the side: Stay until after the credits. There's an extra scene that you might find interesting.
On the side: I hate how adding scenes after the credits have started becoming trendy. Its like the filmmakers are trying to pre-define a film as a cult flick.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 9:08 PM 0 comments  

American Gangster

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

3.5 GOOMBAS

SYNOPSIS: Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) is part of a group who provides support and protection - through coercsion - to a community dominated by poverty, drugs, prostitution, corrupt cops, and troubled youth. He's an American gangster. Eventually he becomes the leader and raises his gang through the corrupted hierarchy by buying cocaine from the source, smuggling it into the country via the U.S, military, and selling "Blue Magic" at a competitive price. It's up to Detective Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) to catch "the man above the mafia."

The GOOM: I thought this film was very interesting. It did a good job portraying mafia-type politics, and if I were a Political Science professor I would have shown this in my class for fun day. It was easy to follow, provocative, and exciting. An overall quality film.

The BA: No matter what Denzel does, I can't see him as a bad guy. I always see his foe characters as people who make poor choices but can always be redeemed; never just evil for the heck of it. So when Frank Lucas shoots a man straight in the head with no remorse in his eyes, I say "Well, that sucks. It's okay, I'm sure he didn't really mean it."

I also had issues with his wife's character. I don't think the movie illustrated whether she is just a gold digger or if she just doesn't care that her husband is a murder.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 8:10 PM 0 comments  

Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium

Saturday, April 26, 2008

1 GOOMBA

Terrible, nauseating, and not even redeemably corny, Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, features an acclaimed cast who failed to deliver. Molly Mahoney works at Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, a magical toy store in the middle of a bustling city, but her dream is to be a famous pianist and composer. When eccentric Mr. Magorium's lifetime shoe supply has reached its last pair, he decides that its time to go. He is 243-years-old after all. Yet when the store gets wind of the news, it decides to throw a temper tantrum, forcing Mahoney, Eric - the Hat Collector, and Henry - the Mutant to find the magic without Magorium. Natalie Portman, Dustin Hoffman, and Jason Bateman star.

As a family film, I don't understand the message it was trying to send to the younger generation. Could it be, give up all adult responsibility in favor of being a kid? Or to give up your dreams to work at a magical store? Mahoney wanted something else for her life, and instead, she gives that up to be the owner of a toy store with feelings. I still don't understand how that was the better choice.

Don't watch this un-wonderful flick. It will rot your kid's brains out and take away any hope of a bright future they they thought they had.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 9:07 PM 0 comments  

Dan In Real Life

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

3 GOOMBAS

I am so happy that The Office is back with new episodes. After the Gilmore Girls season finale, I didn't know what to do with myself. It was okay for a while. It just seemed like a long summer. Then Heros and The Office came out of hiatus; but my wonderful gleam of excitement was promptly squashed by the unfortunate, but necessary, wirter's strike. I had absolutely nothing to look forward to; nothing at all. No, not even serious, exciting life changes could pull me out of my constant channel flipping stupor. Though, I've had more time to watch movies - but watching Steve Carrell in Dan In Real Life isn't the same as watching pitifully selfish Michael Scott harass his staff.

The trailer for Dan In Real Life was obviously a sales pitch for Steve Carell, the person, not Steve Carell, Dan. Because of his fame from the popular television series and from The 40-Year-Old Virgin, advertisers seem to think that Steve Carell is their best selling point. Rather than sell it as a romantic comedy, which it is, by the way, they pitch it with Carell as a lonely widower who faces the comedic complications of raising three teenage daughters. Quite differently, the meat of the film is about Dan's attempt to control his love for a woman who happens to be his brother's girlfriend.

Patient, protective, pitiful Dan brings his daughters for a long weekend at the shore for an annual family reunion. On his first day, he stops by the bookstore and for the first time in a long time he makes a connection with a woman. However, when he returns to the house to recount his meet cute with the rest of his family, he's shocked to see the woman already there - as his brother's girlfriend.

The quality of this movie was quite surprising. Under the guise of a Tim Allen-like comedy, this movie seemed like it would make a nose dive to the bottom of the bin at the Dollar Tree. Yet it was particularly enjoyable to watch, and I found that the romantic comedy genre suits Carrell. I was taken by his simplicity and earnestness, and I was also completely jealous of his game playing, morning group aerobic exercising, boys vs. girls speed crossword puzzling family. They are totally awesome.

I expect this flick to make it to the small screen sometime in the next year. I also expect TBS to buy the rights to this film fairly quickly. It'll be around soon, so I suggest denying Blockbuster your $5. I think you can stick it out. It's not fantastic, but it'll do. I mean, its real life, so it can't always be good. Sometimes its just okay.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 12:44 PM 0 comments