Thursday, November 27, 2008

Movie Review: Twilight

Took me a while to get to this one. Here's my review for the Twilight movie.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Movie Review: Bolt

Disney's latest animated feature is now in theaters. Here's my review.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Movie Review: Special

"A very select group of people in life are truly gifted. Special is a movie about everyone else." This is the tag line to the independent film Special, starring the tragically underrated Michael Rapaport. Rapaport plays a timid meter maid named Les Franken, who enlists in a drug study for a new antidepressant called Specioprin Hydrochloride, or Special. The drug inadvertently gives Les hallucinations, causing him to believe he has superpowers, including telepathy, levitation, and the ability to walk through walls. He decides to become a superhero, using the logo for the drug as his emblem. Unfortunately, most of the "crimes" he stop were also hallucinated, and all he's doing is tackling innocent people on the street. Add to this that the drug company isn't happy about some loon roaming the streets attacking people while wearing their logo, and are determined to get rid of Les...even if it means killing him. Can Les's friends convince him that he's imagining things before he gets in serious trouble?

The Pros: Earlier this year, a little film you might have heard of, Hancock, purported the be the anti-superhero film. It claimed to present a hero that was everything a superhero wasn't, to break all the comic book rules and be something truly original. And it was...for about 45 minutes. But if you saw the film, you know that halfway through, the film took an unexpected nose dive into the standard cliche, becoming exactly what it said it wouldn't be. Special is, in my opinion, everything Hancock should have been. I'm not saying the story concept was any better than Hancock's, nor the casting, nor the effects. But Special had one thing Hancock didn't: Consistency. It takes a wholly original concept and sticks with it. It knew where it was going, where it would end up, and it never strayed from that path. If only I could've said the same about Hancock, it could have been one of the greatest superhero films ever made.

The tone of Special is hard to describe. At times it is depressing, and at times it is heartwarming. Ultimately this is a film about self-worth. It follows a wholly ordinary man, more identifiable than even Peter Parker ever was. He's an meek but likable person who feels, as I think most people do, that life is passing him by. He spends his free time reading comic books, and dreaming about how wonderful it would be to be able to do something important, something extraordinary. We instantly acclimate to Les, and his desire to be, well, special.

We've seen this setup before. We've seen Luke Skywalker on the boring Ranch, dreaming about adventures in space. We've seen Rocky Balboa duke it out in the slums, hoping to hit it big as a boxer. We've seen characters long for something better. And we all know what happens next. Something amazing happens that takes them on a fantastic journey where they ultimately get their wish. But not in this film. Here, our hero only thinks that it's happening. It's all an illusion. And that's not a twist, we're told that from the get go. And while it may be at times laughable to watch Les run into walls convinced he's running through them, we're also painfully aware of the last that Les's has merely the illusion of happiness.

But unlike Luke Skywalker, Rocky Balboa, or Peter Parker before him, Les is not a ordinary man who becomes extraordinary. Les is and extraordinary man who realizes that he is extraordinary. He realizes that he doesn't need to be a to fly faster than a speeding bullet, or leap tall buildings in a single bound. He may not have superpowers, but his experience brings out qualities in himself that he never knew he had: courage, determination, selflessness. Les is a caring, compassionate person, with friends who care. And that alone, makes him truly special.

That is the heart of Special. It may be an old lesson, but it's one we need to be reminded of every now and then. It's been pointed out that the old phrase "everyone's special" really means no one is. And the truly exceptional thing about this film is that is actually addresses that. In a way the whole film is about addressing that criticism. There's even a point near the end where you think that's the ultimate message of the film, that no one's special. But without spoiling anything, let me assure you, the film ends one an subtle but uplifting note. Without saying a word, this film quietly gets it's point across, in a way that's the complete opposite of preachy and in-your-face.

As I said before Michael Rapaport is a criminally overlooked talent in film and television, and he really is what makes this film work. He's so believable and real. He truly embodies his character, at times making this audience laugh and cry all at once. On a side note it's good too see Josh Peck in this, doing real work instead of that schlock known as Drake & Josh.

The Cons: The only real faults to be found in this movie were no fault of the filmmakers. As is too often with independent films, the budget here is limited, and it shows. While they are clever enough to keep it from being too painfully obvious, it still is noticeable. Though honestly, depending on you, that may not be a bad thing. There's a certain charm to small indie flicks, and Special certainly has that.

The End: This film deserves more attention, just as it's star does. It more than fills the void left by the failure of Hancock. Not only do I consider this one of the best films of the year, but I'm seriously considering giving it a spot on my top ten list. This is not a money-driven Hollywood blockbuster with all the trimmings, it's something more. It's a true film, a piece of art made by people who love their craft and make do with what they have. And they make it well.

Overall, I give Special a Gold Anarchy Coin.

Click here to visit the official website for Special.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Movie Review: Quantum of Solace

Bond film #22 gets its U.S. release tomorrow. Here's my review.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Top Ten Movie Spies

James Bond's latest adventure Quantum of Solace, is almost here (why do these titles never make sense?) While we wait this this spy spectacular, I thought it'd be fun to compile a list of my Top 10 secret agents in cinema history (with the exception of Bond, we all know he's the best).

10. Vin Diesel as Xander Cage in xXx

Yeah, I know this movie wasn't that great. What do you expect when Vin Diesel is your star? But I gotta give this movie credit for at least trying something different. They basically took ever spy cliche in the book and reversed them, kinda like Hancock did for superheroes. Instead of a suave sophisticated British guy, Xander Cage was a crude, anti-establishment American thug. Maybe it's just the anarchist in me, but I had fun with this movie.

I'm sorry, I couldn't help it. I had to include this one, I just had too. Sure it was a lame, campy TV movie. Sure it was corny as all hell. And it was so damn awesome! This baby's one of my favorite guilty pleasures. It's sheer, explosive B-movie fun, not to mention it was written by David S. Goyer (a.k.a. the guy who wrote The Dark Knight). Forget that Sam Jackson stuff, Marvel, The Hoff is your Nick Fury.

8. Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara as Carmen & Juni Cortez in Spy Kids

Robert Rodriguez is famous (or infamous, depending on how you look at it) for making intentionally bad movies as homages to old films. But anyone who says that's all he does has forgotten Spy Kids. I'm not saying this film is a masterpiece any any means, but I will say it's one of the most visually creative children's films since Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The story may be old an cliche, but great actors combined this killer set pieces make for one wild ride.

7. Mike Myers as Austin Powers in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

The sequels may have been awful, but this first one was pretty damn funny. It's really hard to come of with an original spy spoof, since it mostly all been done before, but Mike Myers came of with the bright idea to mix with usual James Bond parody with the psychedelic vibe of the 60's. It's a bizarre, over-the-top combination, but it works, and Mike Myers performance make it knock-down-drag-out hilarious. Not to mention he gave us a near-nude Elizabeth Hurley.

6. Arnold Schwarzenegger as Harry Tasker in True Lies

Schwarzenegger may not be much of an actor, but man does the dude know how to blow stuff up! Harry Tasker acted more like Rambo than James Bond. Why settle for a pistol when you can sport an RPG? Why drive an Aston Martin why you can fly a fighter jet? And let's not forget that he made the scream queen, Jamie Lee Curtis, do a striptease.

5. Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible

I'm not the biggest Tom Cruise fan, but this movie was just too friggin' cool. So often movies based on TV shows are absolute crap. Mission: Impossible was the exception. And since the characters aren't from the series, the film stands on it's own. Sure, Ethan Hunt became just another American ripoff of James Bond in the sequels progressed, but in it was a thrilling suicide mission story, with a great twist ending to boot.

4. Cary Grant as T. R. Devlin in Notorious

Though not really a spy film, this movie was amazing, and my personal favorite of Alfred Hitchcock's works. Cary Grant is perfect in this movie, as was his adversary, the always excellent Claude Rains. Though Devlin may not actually fight anybody, you know he could kick your ass any minute. Besides, James Bond never nailed a woman like Ingrid Bergman.

3. Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan in Patriot Games

Alec Baldwin may have been the first Jack Ryan, but Harrison Ford was definitely the best. As if being Han Solo and Indiana Jones wasn't enough, he had to go and become a super spy too. Going up against the always sinister Sean Bean, Ford proved once again why is is one of the greatest action stars ever. Add James Earl Jones and Samuel L. Jackson too the mix, and you've got one badass spy thriller.

2. Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Identity

Though I do think the Bourne films are a tad overrated, Jason Bourne is still very cool. The first film especially was very smart and well-made espionage thriller/mystery. Aside from the whole brainwashing thing, Jason Bourne is one of the most realistic spies on film. He doesn't have a laser in his watch or a submersible car, no Q to supply his every need, just his own skills and resourcefulness.

1. Clint Eastwood as Frank Horrigan in In the Line of Fire

Why? Two reasons: 1. Nobody was expecting this choice, and 2. it's Clint @#$%ing Eastwood! Even at the rip old age of 63 this guy still kicked ass, and bedded Rene Russo. Playing a Secret Service agent out to protect the President for a psychopath, Clint Eastwood never had too face a foe as insane as John Malchovich before this. Though I gotta wonder why he'd wanna risk his life for a politician?

Honorable Mention: Don Adams as Maxwell Smart in Get Smart, Again!

The reason I'm only giving this an honorable mention is because the actual TV movie wasn't very good, just a rehash of old jokes ans plots for the TV series. But Get Smart was one of my favorite TV shows of all time, and I just had to mention it. The series wasn't the greatest spoof ever, but it's one of my favorite Mel Brooks creations, and Don Adams made the lamest jokes hilarious. And no, I didn't consider give the new Get Smart movie a spot on the list, it was dreck. It disrespected and ignored everything that made the show good. May Steve Carrell and Anne Hathaway rot in hell for their basterdization of those characters.

Bonus: A special no-prize too the first person to tell me how many times I used the name "James Bond" in this blog without looking back.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Movie Review: House

Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti's novel has been given the big screen treatment. Here's my review.