Saturday, April 24, 2010

Astonishing visual triumph, but what was that?

A journey with the machines. What horror.

After viewing 2001: A Space Odyssey, I had several options: 1) Pretend I loved it and made up my own interpretations of what I thought the film meant. 2) Pretend I liked it and talk about how interesting the entire puzzling experience was. 3) Just say I thought it was boring and confusing and put on a bulletproof vest.

Well, I have a confession to make...

I will go with option three. I don't understand the greatness of Stanley Kubrick's so-called science fiction masterpiece. Yes, I realize that it's one of the most aesthetically gorgeous films ever made, with a classical soundtrack that I completely adore, but it is also one of the slowest, most sparse films I've ever seen, which I guess must be the point, if there is a point at all.

Of course, there is also the option of re-watching it. Not so soon, though. My brain is still trying to recovering from the massive what-the-bleeps I experienced throughout the entire film.

Spoilers ahead: The film begins with a couple of apes. They go seemingly batshit because of their newfound intelligence. There goes the story of the dawn of man. Jump cut into space. Adventure ensues. They find this monolith that the apes saw. It's loud and has unimaginable transformative powers.

Spoilers continue: Eighteen months later, these astronauts are traveling to Jupiter on a mission. The whole spaceship is controlled by robot HAL 9000. Hal is completely fascinating, though, despite the fact that he's a glowing, talking iPod-shaped antagonist. But all good things must end, which is probably why Hal gets DISCONNECTED half an hour before the movie ends. Which means there is half an hour more of this film without Hal. Then this astronaut travels through different colored lights, I guess. He becomes old, then becomes a fetus, and then becomes a gigantic, floating baby. The movie ends.

I think I'm missing something. No, I'm definitely missing something. I looked up different interpretations of the film and, yeah, I knew it was about life and death and all that good stuff. Some say the book is a good source for answers. But the film itself is certainly a long, methodical explanation for what could be summed up in one good paragraph instead of long scenes of pointless visual supremacy.

Roger Ebert's 1997 review does an excellent job at explaining the enduring wonders of 2001, but I continue to feel emotionally disconnected and disengaged about the film. Everyone scene and shot seemed to last forever. I still didn't turn it off, though. I wanted to see what would happen next. My curiosity is rather masochistic.

Though I'm all for art and philosophy. Just wished I understood them better.

Let's talk about this. It's therapy time. Please explain why this iconic science fiction film is deservingly revered. Or someone out there can be a kindred spirit.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

You can't handle the star power

Cruise, Moore, and Pollak stare into the legal abyss. Serious business.

A Few Good Men
has numerous flaws, but I am willing to overlook each and every one of them because of how incredibly entertaining and energetic the film is.

Directed by Rob Reiner, who always manages to make films with such an endearing old-fashioned flair, this film represents the bare bones of what makes a conventional court drama riveting. Yes, it's entirely too predictable for a film of its nature, which is perhaps due to the structurally faulty script by Aaron Sorkin, yet the journey to the explicit revelation (that most capable audiences are fully aware of by the time that it is actually revealed) is surprisingly intense and enjoyable.

Though the script is structurally flawed, Sorkin's dialogue is consistently brilliant. The characters speak a language that is witty, biting, and wonderfully true to who they are and what they believe in.

Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) is a recent Harvard Law School graduate working in the U.S. Navy. He is assigned to defend two Marines accused of murdering a fellow Marine at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base because of his reputation for arranging plea bargins. Kaffee is assited by his co-counsel, Sam Weinberg (Kevin Pollak), who hopes to carry as little responsibility as possible.

Lt. Commander JoAnne Galloway (Demi Moore), who originally wanted the case, is instead assigned as the case's lead counsel, much to her dismay. But as time passes, Galloway begins to gain some respect for Kaffee and see beyond his razor-sharp cockiness. While Moore may not have been well-suited for the role, her unquestionable chemistry with Cruise, as shown in the scene where she awkwardly asks him out to dinner (no, this is not a unnecessarily romance, though it clearly could have been), complements the film extraordinarily well.

Col. Nathan Jessep (Jack Nicholson), the commanding officer of the two Marines, is a frightening force of nature that is almost impossible to reckon with. He believes in protecting his country and is serious about his duties, yet he relishes the power he has rightfully earned. Nicholson, who has limited screen-time, plays Jessep with a devilish edge and slyness that only Nicholson seem to possess. And, of course, there is that harrowing quote near the end of the film...

Kevin Bacon, Kiefer Sutherland, K.T. Walsh also deliver strong performances in small, but significant roles.

But here is a quintessential nineties film that shows the very essence of star power. An epic battle of persuasion. There is so much high-charged energy radiating from the actors that the film becomes more than a typical courtroom drama. In fact, it's as thrilling as a quality summer blockbuster.

Cruise is particularly excellent here in a lead role that shows off his best qualities as an actor; he manages to give an arrogant hotshot a load of boyish vulnerability and charm, especially in the heart-to-heart conversation Kaffee has with his co-counsel. Kaffee's desperation to live up to his father's name is cliched, yet touching and effective as played by Cruise.

However, the modern film industry no longer depend on star power. Star power, which has been endlessly discussed, is a concept of yesteryear. While big stars are still a valuable asset to any film trying to get financing, it is no longer the primary ingredient to a box-office hit or Oscar winner. Recent box-office moneymakers are not led by an ensemble of big stars, but by innovative technology, word-of-mouth, and a captivating story. As it should be. But I miss the glorious days where star power made a film a must-see, though I bet a viewing of Ocean's Twelve strongly discourages that mindset.

A Few Good Men made me nostalgic for a time where an all-star cast was a prominent subgenre, though that subgenre has long since evaporated into pure silliness. I realize that this is perhaps a good thing, but I sure loved it while it lasted.

While A Few Good Men is admittedly contrived and flawed, its high-wire entertainment value is undeniable. I ignored some of its ambiguities and the obviousness of the inevitable revelation so I could sit back and embrace its awesome cast and stunning genuineness. A

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Teen Movie Trailer Showdown: Eclipse vs. Twelve

Since it's spring break, I have more time to spend my days viewing movie trailers that are relevant to the near-future of my generation.

I just finished viewing the trailer to Eclipse. Is anyone kind of annoyed that Taylor Lautner tells Kristen Stewart that he's going to fight until her heart stops beating? I mean, shouldn't he fight until his heart stop beating? If fighting means keeping her alive?

And is anyone kind of annoyed that neither Taylor Lautner or Robert Pattinson has enough charisma to burn up the screen in a swoon-worthy way? Yeah, I'm sure they go to the gym and work out enough to keep their jobs, but I don't feel any grand magnetism radiating off either of these boys.

Okay, whatever, girls. I didn't even bother to see New Moon, which I'm sure is a great romance about the kind of life-or-death supernatural love triangles typical teenage girls can easily relate to. And Kristen Stewart, I'm sure, is great eye candy, too.

There is also the new trailer to Twelve, a small film that premiered at Sundance to mostly negative reviews. It is directed by BISTF favorite, Joel Schumacher, who also made the unforgettably hysterical (and oddly touching) St. Elmo's Fire and is the brainchild behind the riveting hot mess that is Batman & Robin. However, not to ignore his legitimately finer works, which includes The Phantom of the Opera and Batman Forever.

I spotted the Twelve at a Gossip Girl LiveJournal community because it stars my favorite Upper East Side deadbeat, Chace Crawford. While in Gossip Girl, Chace Crawford plays a clean-shaven slut, in Twelve, he plays a not-so-clean shaven Upper East Side drug-dealer who seems to be constantly haunted by a moderately laughable narration by Kiefer Sutherland. Plus, Twelve is technically Gossip Girl, only darker and more about drugs.

Here, Chace Crawford is in love with Emma Roberts (uh, okay) and deals drugs to the kind of Upper East Side teenage slut that his character in Gossip Girl would love to date, but here, that girl has sex with 50 Cent (no, I'm not kidding) in exchange for drugs? And she gets high around her large collection of stuffed animals (she's so rich!!!), which can actually rival my large collection of stuffed animals? Oh yeah, Rory Culkin is also in this movie.

"Kids" by MGMT plays in the awful trailer. MGMT feels used.

Both Eclipse and Twelve are based on young adult novels.

Eclipse is the third book of the Twilight series (duh). The Twilight series was conceived when author Stephenie Meyer had a dream, which is actually kind of interesting because Mormonism, the religion that Stephenie Meyer is part of, is also conceived from a dream (or vision). Just an interesting parallel I realized, that's all. Completely insignificant to the rest of the post.

Twelve (the book) was written by a 17 year old. Awesome! This is what dreams are made of. I'm sure the book is better, though.

Eclipse will be released on June 30 (a Wednesday) and Twelve will be released on July 2 (a Friday). Of course, Eclipse will dominate the July 4 box-office, so there's no use trying to pit an unnecessary battle between two teen movies of completely different genres aimed partially at the same demographic, but not really.

Anyway. A gun to your head: Which movie (Eclipse or Twelve) would you rather spend your wonderful fireworks weekend watching and why?

Post ends. Just felt like blogging and asking a pointless question.