First of all I want to say that I am not a teenager or a twenty-something person but I watched this at the 12:01 a.m. showing on the day it was released with my twenty year old son. From the commercials I was expecting something a little more on the comical side but it was not exactly what I expected. I am not big into the whole zombie thing but since this seemed to be a humorous scenario I decided I would give it a try.
The first half of the show I felt that it was a little too slow but about half way through it picked up the pace. The premise of the show was somewhat like a Twilight vampire flick only with zombies. There was some brain eating involved which sort of turned my stomach even though I am quite sure they were not actually eating brains.
You could tell that the main zombie was a nice looking young guy under all that zombie makeup. The main human was a pretty blond girl toting a large weapon which she was using quite skillfully. I know that if an apocalypse were to actually happen we would probably all get some kind of weapon skills but I am sure that we would not all look so sexy while we were doing it.
Regardless, the movie starts out showing the division between the zombies and the humans. The zombies all lived outside of the encampment of the humans and our main zombie (he goes by the name of ‘R’) lives at the airport. His apartment is an abandoned airplane and he has pretty good taste in music in the form of vinyl records. We hear his thoughts throughout most of the first half of the movie, how he can not remember his name, how the only communication there is between zombies is an occasional grunt, and how he likes to envision what the other zombies were when they were humans.
He has a best friend that grunts more than most and it turns out that this zombie has some of the most humorous lines in the movie, mostly in the form of cuss words. I am not a fan of cussing but when a zombie does not do anything but grunt and then when he actually does communicate it comes out in the form of an expletive it does have the effect the movie makers were looking for.
I am not quite certain even now that I have seen the movie whether ‘R’ falls for the girl (Julie) because she is so skillfully wielding a weapon with her flowing blond hair and sexy shorts or if it is because he just got finished eating the brains of her boyfriend (Perry, whom she calls Per) and through eating the brains of the boyfriend got flashbacks of their romance and thus fell in love with her. Every time ‘R’ eats another bite of Per’s brains it shows him another scene out of Julie and Per’s relationship.
He ends up saving her from the rest of the zombies that are in the pack hunting humans with him by wiping some blood on her from his last victim (which happened to be her boyfriend) and walks her back to his airplane. She, of course, is scared out of her mind and wondering what in the heck is going on. He manages to say a couple of words to comfort her, “You safe.”
She tries to escape while he is off getting her some food and lands right in the middle of a pack of zombies who are attracted to her smell. Luckily ‘R’ gets there first and again wipes on his scent and tells her to act dead. She does a bit of an overkill dead imitation and he says, “Too much.” I have to admit I found this humorous.
‘R’ tells her that she has to stay a few days or the others will get suspicious so she does and they bond. Each day ‘R’ seems to become more and more human. She finally gets tired of waiting and ‘R’ is forced to let her go but then the really bad guys show up. These are the “bonies”, the zombies that have been dead so long there is nothing left of them but skeletons and they have become even more aggressive than the zombies at killing humans. They do not have any qualms about going through a zombie to do it either.
Also, since ‘R’ is becoming more and more human the other zombies around him are suddenly picking up more human feelings as well. After seeing Julie grab ‘R’s’ hand when they were running from the bonies the other zombies feel the “love”. The bonies realize that the zombies are becoming human again and they are after the zombies as well.
‘R’ gets Julie out and while he is trying to get her home she gets away and he loses her because she is still not sure about this zombie guy (even though she is beginning to have feelings for him). ‘R’ gets back to the airport and his best friend tells him that the bonies are after him and Julie so he has to find her to warn her. Since he has her boyfriend’s memories he can see how to find her. Oh, and by the way, he ends up confessing that he was the one to eat her boyfriend. It did not go over well but guess what? She forgave him because she knew he could not help himself.
Julie makes a plan to tell her dad about how the zombies are changing back to humans to get his help with the bonies. Did I mention her dad was the head of the whole human contingent? It must have slipped my mind. Anyway, it did not go over well and he is poised to blow out ‘R’s’ brains, evidently that is the only way to put down a zombie. Julie’s best friend steps in and pulls a gun on dear old dad to give them a chance to escape.
‘R’ saves Julie’s life on multiple occasions because of his love for her and becomes more and more human in the process as they run from the bonies. After the umpteenth time of saving her life he finally works up the courage to kiss her (or remembers how) and his eyes change and you can see he is completely human now. And in that instance dad is back and shoots him through the shoulder and says the next one is for his head.
But guess what? He is bleeding in the water and Julie says, “Dad, zombies do not bleed!” To which dad puts down the gun. But in the mean time the other zombies are all fighting the bonies which are coming towards the humans homestead. The dad had put out the alert for all the soldiers to go and stop both the zombies and the bonies but knew they would lose because there were so many of them and not enough humans.
When the soldiers came upon the zombies and bonies and saw that they were fighting each other one of the soldiers said, “Who do we shoot?” The zombie who is the best friend of ‘R’s’ throws them a bonie and says “here!” The whole scene was pretty comical and needless to say the soldiers and the zombies ganged up on the bonies and won. They called into Julie’s dad and told him what was going on and so he lifted the order to kill the zombies.
The humans let the zombies back in to live with them and the healthy humans were all trying to help the unhealthy, previously zombies, learn how to live normal lives and teach them the things they had forgotten. A very handsome ‘R’ and Julie were together in the end. She asked him if he had ever remembered his name and he said no, then she suggested he make up a new name for himself. He declined and said that he was happy just being ‘R’.
The movie was the top movie the weekend it came out. Lots of people seemed to like it and even some of the critics I read gave it around an eighty percent rating. I guess there are a lot of zombie fans out there or people who like to see romance happen in strange places. I could have waited for the DVD but it wasn’t bad even though it sounds just a bit ridiculous. Differences in taste are part of what makes our world go round, right?
Jack Meyers is a regular contributor for www.nannybackgroundcheck.com. As a detective he wants to spread the knowledge of terrible things that can happen when people don’t fully verify the credentials of a caregiver or any employee. He also writes for various law enforcement blogs and sites.
Les Miserables has been one of the most epic musical plays ever
created and has won millions of fans over. Director Tom Hooper brings the tale
to the big screen with nothing less than some of the finest actors in the movie
industry. Using a unique sound and feel to the musical, this remake of Victor
Hugo’s classical tale accentuates the vocals unlike so many others. Loaded with
an incredible cast of actors, this version of Les Miserables will move
you in ways you never thought a movie could.
1. Vocals - Unlike many other musicals, the singing for this incredible
movie is done live. Meaning it’s not from a track that the actors essentially
lip-sync. This creates a greater impact to those watching the movie as the cast
seamlessly move into a song. The result is a movie that holds the viewers
2. Jean Valjean - Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of Jean Valjean demonstrates
his range of acting as he makes the part his own. His impressive command of the
lyrics during his singing raises the bar for Mr. Jackman versus roles he has
played in the past. Les Miserables could easily become one of the most
memorable moments of his career for those who are fans of his work.
3. Javert - It’s quite common to see Russell Crowe in the role of an
authoritative figure whether he is a good guy or the vendetta carrying officer
in Les Miserables. Mr. Crowe’s vocals in this entrancing movie are
impressive to say the least. Completely different from any performance this fine
actor has been involved in, few could play the part of Javert as Russell Crowe
4. Fantine – Many will remember Anne Hathaway from her "Princes Diaries"
movies as well as a slew of other richly emotional projects. Her portrayal of
Fantine makes for an impressive performance as her range of vocals can win any
heart over. She has a great deal of talent and is an excellent supporting
Since 1913, Les Miserables has been made into movies, television
mini-series, and has been performed at the theater for nearly a century. It is
an epic tale that is sure to put anyone through an emotional roller coaster. Tom
Hooper’s vision of this classic tale brings romance, intrigue, and action.
This epic tale is set prior to the June Rebellion which takes place in Paris in
1832 involving student societies who launched an anti-monarchist stand in
France. It is a story of hard times throughout the lives of these poor souls
culminating to the rebellion. Fans of the original musical will be awed as
characters are brought to life in an amazing display of deeply emotional
performances provided by the entire cast.
Jason Miner plays a vital role for
www.blogcarnival.com. He is an expert in writing topics of different
categories. He is helping the carnival team to grow & working on making this an
even better place for bloggers.
The final installment in the Harry Potter series, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2″, arrive in theaters worldwide this Friday and the reviews are overwhelmingly positive. This review from canada.com’s, David Yates gives the film an unheard of 5 stars. I am definitely going to see this one.
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman, Michael Gambon and Maggie Smith
Directed by: David Yates
PG: Intense violence, frightening images
Running time: 130 minutes
Rating: 5 stars
It’s the quality of one’s convictions that determines success, not the number of followers.” Maybe so, Professor Lupin, but Harry Potter has found success on both fronts.
The seven films to date have earned almost a billion dollars each, so it’s obvious their followers are legion. But this is also a series that takes itself seriously, never more so than in this, the deathly finale.
The story starts quietly. Even in the wizarding world, there’s a time for talk and a time for action, as writer Steve Kloves (with the series since the beginning, save The Order of the Phoenix) and director David Yates (bringing the story home with the final four films) have clearly learned.
Thus, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) spends some time interrogating an ancient wand seller (John Hurt) and a wizened bank teller (Warwick Davis) about magical weapons before vaulting into the film’s first big set piece. It’s an underground bank raid that combines elements of the trash compactor from Star Wars, the sorcery scene in Fantasia, and Indiana Jones’ mine car ride. Also, a dragon.
This being the last stop on the line, Harry and his pals Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) are free to leave rubble in their wake, and they do so spectacularly. The demolition of Gringotts bank is just the beginning of the end.
Horcruxes (bits of bad-guy soul) fall like dominoes, and Hogwarts, their alma mater, takes a shellacking -though not before literally defending itself against the evil hordes of Voldemort -whose name, I’ve only just learned, derives from the French for “fly from death.” Someone’s been studying languages along with the dark arts.
The cinematic story stretches back to 2001, when Radcliffe was just a wee lad of 12. Thank heavens he and the rest of the young cast (no worries when it comes to the likes of Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Michael Gambon, et al) have also grown as actors.
Despite the fact friends and foes still insist on calling him “boy,” this was the first Potter film in which I fully accepted Harry as an adult. “I trusted the man I knew,” Harry tells Aberforth Dumbledore (played by Ciaran Hinds) of his character’s brother, the late headmaster Albus Dumbledore. It’s spoken with the gravitas of a grown-up.
There was some grumbling from fans when Warner Bros. announced that J.K. Rowling’s seventh and final book, The Deathly Hallows, would be split into two parts. The studio was accused of carrying out its own Gringotts raid.
But the final chapter needs the extra time to breathe, and to allow each character a final, fanthrilling close-up. Harry and Ron doff their shirts. (There was some unmanly squealing at the Canadian premiere when it looked like Hermione might do likewise.) Ron and Hermione get a From Here to Eternity lip-lock. Even the faithful Quidditch brooms have one last flight, although the pitch is in flames.
The plot finds Harry, Ron and Hermione racing against time to destroy He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named-But-We’re-Going-To-Anyway, played by Ralph Fiennes. Voldemort is rallying his followers for a final attack on Harry, while the young wizards collect and destroy the last few Horcruxes in hopes of rendering the Dark Lord vincible.
The quest leads them back to Hogwarts, where one particularly difficult-to-find object is hidden. Harry learns that he has -literally -a ghost of a chance of finding it. The action is backed by an amazingly apposite score from Alexandre Desplat, whose work in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The King’s Speech and now here has made him my new favourite composer. (Sorry, James Horner.) Loud when it needs to be, the score is also frequently as quiet as a tomb. Yet there are moments when one can detect almost infrasonic rumblings, as though kettledrum-playing elephants were riding a subway beneath the cinema floor. It’s shiver-inducing.
The film, like the books, ends with a brief coda set 19 years in the future. Let’s just say of it that Ron has finally tamed that mop of hair. Shorter than the interminable farewells in The Lord of the Rings, this final scene feels, like the rest of the movie, perfectly paced and entirely satisfying.
The summer blockbuster season opens with a bang this weekend with Thor.
Thor is an excellent start to summer blockbuster season as it is funny (in a good way) and the character development is excellent. The acting is also excellent as everyone brought their A game to the arena. I can’t say enough about this movie other than it’s a-must-see (and Chris Helmsworth is easy on the eyes ladies).
Will Ferrell and Brad Pitt face off as super-foes in this smartly scripted and philosophically profound piece of kids’ entertainment. The 3-D animation adds even more dimension.
Featuring the voices of: Will Ferrell, Brad Pitt, Tina Fey, David Cross, Jonah Hill and Ben Stiller
Rating: Four stars out of five
The movie is billed as being in 3-D, and you know what? There is genuine truth in that advertisement.
Megamind is a fully realized statement on the nature of good and evil, the superhero’s role in the universe, and our social need for absolutes to structure our daily existence.
Don’t worry: The metaphysical depth is entirely imperceptible. The movie dazzles with its surface perfections, ensuring there isn’t a single moment of gratuitous enlightenment.
It all looks like mere entertainment as Will Ferrell and Brad Pitt face off as Megamind and Metro Man — respectively, supervillain and superhero for Metro City. From the opening sequence, which pays direct homage to the Superman narrative, we watch two alien babies land on Earth as their home planets are sucked into a giant black hole.
One baby is blue with a giant head. The other is humanly formed, and blessed with naturally chiselled features.
One baby lands in the lap of luxury. The other lands in the middle of a prison yard.One baby becomes the handsome hero of his school (Metro Man, voiced by Pitt), and eventually his entire species, while the other (Megamind, voiced by Ferrell) does his best to outdo his rival’s acts of charitable triumph.
Writers Alan J. Schoolcraft and Brent Simons get full marks for playing with the cliches in the genre with just the right amount of jaundice. When Megamind decides to kidnap intrepid broadcast journalist Roxanne Ritchi (voiced by Tina Fey) in order to bring Metro Man to his knees, it’s Roxanne who provides the running commentary on Megamind’s lack of originality — from the alligator pit under the floor to his grand schemes that inevitably fail to meet their cataclysmic ambitions.
It’s funny, well-written and Tina Fey does a fabulous job bringing her intelligent smirk to the pixels through her performance.
Most movies would be satisfied with mere parody and tongue-in-cheek commentary on the conventions it’s tacitly reaffirming, but Megamind cleverly pushes it one step further by recreating the convention and pushing the audience to reconfigure their view of the binary forces that keep the universe in constant flux: Halfway through the movie, Megamind actually succeeds in killing off Metro Man.
The citizens of Metro City are stunned, and so is Roxanne. The poles have been reversed, leaving Megamind to rule as he sees fit. The only problem is that Megamind is not your average supervillain.
Thanks to the digital animation and Ferrell’s signature loser-pathos, Megamind is entirely sympathetic from the very first frames. We like him. We feel he’s been the victim of circumstance, which allows us to see him as a vessel containing both good and evil.
To assert the fuzzy quality of morality, and the idea that good and evil reside within each one of us in equal proportion, is a risky move, given our current affinity for boiling things down to fundamentalist ideals. The beauty of this movie is just how effortlessly this philosophical challenge is presented to the audience.
When Megamind succeeds in removing his rival, he realizes he’s lost his purpose in life. Without good pushing up against his wall of evil, he has no form, no reason to keep hatching villainous plans for world domination. The loss pushes him into an existential state of reflection, which prompts a Eureka moment: What if he recreated Metro Man in another form? What if he took a mere mortal and gave him superhuman abilities so he could once again get back to his drawing board of villainy? Surely then, the universal axes would realign.
He carries out the plan and deposits the seeds of greatness into the gelatinous heart, body and mind of a slovenly news cameraman voiced by Jonah Hill. By the time the Rocky montage is over, and we see the blobby kid reborn as Tighten (sounds like Titan, but as the Megamind character tells us, it wasn’t already subject to copyright), we think we see the happy ending on the horizon, with the balance between good and evil restored.
Yet, when Tighten turns out to be a completely selfish loser who uses his superpowers for his own gain, it’s up to Megamind to reverse his own polarity and use his gifts for good instead of evil.
Questioning the nature of heroism is always a valuable exercise, because it puts us back in touch with everything that is bad and good within us, while reminding us that we have the free will to choose.
All these smart points are packaged in such great lines, and delivered by such clever performers, all we really feel is the pleasure of a great piece of entertainment. But make no mistake: Behind this two-dimensional formula of good vs. evil lurks a three-dimensional view of the human soul.
‘Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole‘ is both visually stunning and compelling and that is due Zack Snyder (’300′ and ‘The Watchmen’). It’s one of the movies opening this weekend so you might want to consider seeing it after reading this review by Todd Gilchrist.
I’m not entirely sure if children needed their own ‘Lord of the Rings’ franchise, much less one starring owls, but now they have both. ‘Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole’ is director Zack Snyder’s adaptation of the first three books in Kathryn Lasky’s acclaimed series of ‘Guardians of Ga’Hoole’ novels, but with the exception that it’s owls and not hobbits who populate its fantastic universe. Snyder’s film follows a trajectory similar to that in Peter Jackson’s trilogy by focusing on untested dreamers who make a perilous journey over unforgiving terrain in order to rescue themselves and their families from death or enslavement. But what’s more remarkable about the film is that its familiarity, to kids and adults alike, is not at all a bad thing.
Snyder, a surprising director commercially (if a perfect one creatively) for material like this, expertly adapts his muscular visual style to the demands of a world filled with warring (if family-friendly) owls, adding another artistic victory with ‘Legend of the Guardians’ to his already impressive track record.
Jim Sturgess (‘21‘) provides the voice of Soren, a young Tyto owl who is beginning to learn how to fly, fueled by stories of the mythical Guardians from his father Noctus (Hugo Weaving) and a healthy sense of competition with his brother Kludd (Ryan Kwanten). When Soren and Kludd are kidnapped by minions of Metal Beak (Joel Edgerton) and his queen, Nyra (Helen Mirren), the two of them are separated and subjected to imprisonment. Kludd throws in with Nyra’s fledgling army, but Soren escapes with the help of an elf owl named Gylfie (Emily Barclay), and the two of them embark on an epic journey to find the Guardians in the hopes that they will be able to defeat Metal Beak and then rescue their friends and family from his oppressive rule.
Somewhat awesomely, this really only describes the first 40 percent or so of the story of ‘Legend of the Guardians,’ and even if all of that sounds narratively familiar, the execution is unlike almost anything you’ve ever seen before. Rather than anthropomorphizing the owls to give them more humanlike reactions or physical attributes, Snyder protectively maintains the integrity and authenticity of owl physiology – or at least 90 percent of it – and makes them beautiful, graceful, agile creatures whose only human qualities are their personalities.
Animal Logic, the production company that animated the equally-accurate penguins of ‘Happy Feet,’ renders every feather and movement with so much meticulous detail that the only way to improve upon it would be to use a high-speed telephoto lens to shoot real owls in their actual habitat. But then, of course, it seems doubtful they would be able to do stuff like battle with one another, at least not with the ferocity that they do here. This is one film that presents its battle sequences with style, but not escapist glamour; notwithstanding the speech that explains how one owl collected his many disfigurements on the battlefield, even the off screen action doesn’t hesitate to suggest that these owls are definitely trying to kill one another.
(Speaking of which, I do think some parts of the film are probably a little too intense for younger viewers: the chase sequences and action set pieces are themselves markedly more aggressive than most family fare, but further, owls are beaten, tortured, defaced and decapitated, although via mostly implied rather than explicit violence.)
That said, the film does capture a genuine, captivating sense of wonder, and maintains a propulsive, sweeping momentum that keeps the story from drowning in the “epic movie” conventions that might otherwise make ‘Legend of the Guardians’ feel too familiar or forced. Snyder’s direction helps significantly in this regard; while his visual style sometimes seems to be a little light on substance, he maximizes the dramatic impact of the moments that need to be emphasized. Shots of owls moving in slow motion through rainstorms are definitely awe-inspiring, but Snyder makes sure that the flourishes serve the story rather than distract from or overshadow it. Moreover, he keeps the rest of the proceedings moving at a brisk enough pace that the story carries weight, but you don’t feel like you’re just waiting for the next “significant” moment.
Click here to read the rest of the indepth review.
Jon Hamm plays FBI agent Frawley, who slowly becomes convinced that Claire (Rebecca Hall) knows more than she is letting on.
If you were sitting on the fence as to whether or not you should see the The Town this weekend this review ought to help you decide.
Ben Affleck plays a reluctant robber in this well-crafted heist film (he also directs and co-wrote the screenplay based on Chuck Hogan’s novel Prince of Thieves). A film with fine performances, firepower, inventive getaways and dramatic tension, resulting in a heist movie that feels fresh, even when it touches the same notes as some of its predecessors.
Starring: Ben Affleck, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner and Blake Lively
Rating: Four and a half stars out of five
If you had a nickel for every movie that featured criminals engaged in one last big score, you could probably afford to mount a Broadway musical production of Avatar. (James Cameron, if you’re reading this — no need to thank me.) The Town adds a slight but important twist, however: The criminal doesn’t really want to do the job.
The reluctant robber is Ben Affleck, who also co-wrote the screenplay (based on Chuck Hogan’s novel Prince of Thieves) and directed the film. This is Affleck’s first writing/directing gig since his well-received Gone Baby Gone in 2007, and the first time he has combined all three talents in one film. If he felt thinly spread, it doesn’t show.
The movie opens with a bang, as Doug MacRay (Affleck) leads a gang of four who attack a Boston bank with brutal efficiency. There are fascinating details right off the bat, as the robbers throw the employees’ collected cellphones into a fishbowl, and bleach the crime scene to kill any trace of DNA evidence.
Later in the film, Affleck’s character jokes, “I watch a lot of CSI. Miami, New York. And Bones.” But it’s clear that, as screenwriter, he’s done more than just study bank heists from other movies.
On the way out the door, there’s an unexpected wrinkle. They grab a hostage, Claire (Rebecca Hall), blindfolding her and letting her go a few blocks away. Fearful she may have seen or heard enough to help the police, Doug decides to shadow her and find out what she knows.
He arranges to bump into her at a laundromat, and she tells him about her recent trauma. “Sorry,” he says. Her response is one of the most ironic “It’s-not-your-faults” ever to hit the screen.
From this point, Doug’s double life is almost certain to cause him grief. His wooing of Claire quickly moves from an act of damage control to one of true affection. Meanwhile, there’s work to be done. Boston’s banks aren’t going to rob themselves, and Doug’s crime boss (a great supporting turn by Pete Postlethwaite) is getting impatient for the next hit.
Affleck’s eye for detail informs the entire film. Take this exchange between Doug and his hotheaded right-hand-man, played by Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker). “I need your help,” Doug says. “I can’t tell you what it’s about, you can never ask me about it later, and we’re going to hurt some people.” Renner fires back: “Whose car we gonna take?”
Later, when an armoured-truck holdup goes wrong, Affleck delivers an extended car chase that’s actually three separate set pieces. The first ends in a shootout, but the bad guys manage to drive off again into chase No. 2, which concludes when they switch cars, only to start again when another cop notices them.
Add to all this the surreal effect of having the bank robbers dressed in rubber nun masks, making them appear like Catholic extras in a Planet of the Apes movie. It’s all very clever — or “smaht,” as the heavily accented Boston characters would say.
It’s all quite believable, too, thanks to the continuing flood of details that place us not only in Boston’s Charleston neighbourhood — the film calls it the bank-robber capital of America — but in the shoes of Doug and his blue-collar cronies. The only cop we get to know is Jon Hamm’s FBI agent Frawley, who slowly becomes convinced that Claire knows more than she is letting on.
Meanwhile, Doug visits his dad in prison (another fine supporting role, this time by Chris Cooper), ruminates about his long-lost mother and his budding romance with Claire, and decides it might be best to skip the town before it swallows him up. Cue the last big score, as Postlethwaite’s character orders him to lead a raid on Fenway Park after a three-game home stand. For its iconic nature, if not quite the take, Doug might as well be robbing Fort Knox.
The Town’s final act ramps up the firepower, the inventive getaways and the dramatic tension in lockstep, resulting in a heist movie that feels fresh, even when it touches the same notes as some of its predecessors. Maybe Fenway Park had an effect on Affleck, convincing him that, even as you swing for the fences, you need to cover all your bases.
Film director Anton Corbijn spent 35 years as a photographer before he went into movies, but he has a musical sensibility, as well. He has directed music videos and designed the stage for Depeche Mode’s world tours, and his film debut was Control, the story of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis.
Now, his second film has arrived, and it is the work of a visual stylist more than a musician. The American is a Euro-thriller about an assassin named Jack (George Clooney) who is fleeing an attempt on his life in Sweden — the latest locale for cold and soulless mayhem — and runs in Italy for what he hopes is his final job. It’s a film in which everything is cropped: the minimal soundtrack, the minimal dialogue, the dun landscapes of the Abruzzo region, and Clooney’s hairstyle, not to mention his thin muscular body and a nearly expressionless performance that nonetheless conveys his character’s watchfulness and (this is part of the Euro-thing) his spiritual peril.
Yes, The American is one of those. Corbijn is not afraid of silence or stillness, and he frames his actors with artful care, walking straight-faced through the labyrinth of an Italian village, in quiet close-up, or sitting at the edge of the frame, at once alienated and well-armed. Jack is alert but at a remove: You learn it in the opening sequence in Sweden, when he sends his girlfriend to call the police about a sudden death and she never makes it to the phone.
The American, based on the Martin Booth novel A Very Private Gentleman, is a violent story with the pace of an art film. One imagines a Hollywood version filled with helicopters and explosions, but in the calm and empty cafes of Italian villages, the tensions come with a more refined air: Jack’s glance to the side, a knotting of his brows, and you’re on full alert.
Jack is hiding in a place of stucco homes that spill along the side of a hill, with stairways running down to a few stores and unadorned streets. “Above all, don’t make any friends,” his boss (Johan Leysen) tells him, but on the first day Jack is approached by a priest (a beautifully, hoarse performance by veteran Italian actor Paolo Bonacelli) who befriends him. The priest sees something disturbing in Jack, and his concern for his soul — an underlying theme of The American — prompts Clooney to almost smile, a major concession for a character who seems beyond joy.
He also meets Clara (the stunning Violante Placido), a prostitute with whom he develops a close relationship, the prostitutes of small Italian villages apparently having not only hearts of gold but breasts of alabaster and the kind of sexual appetites you mostly find in Italian cinema, come to think of it. She’s more than a friend; she’s also a distraction.
And Jack has a job he can’t be distracted from. As well as being a killer, he’s a skilled gunsmith — he tells people, “I’m no good with machines,” but apparently he means “I’m up to no good with machines” — and he has been contracted to make a sniper’s rifle for the mysterious Mathilde (Thekla Reuten). The scenes of Jack assembling the gun and manufacturing its silencer have the clean pleasures of craftsmanship: It’s always a privilege to watch an artist at work, even if it’s making exploding bullets. Jack seems to lose himself in these tasks; his serenity comes in the manufacture of murder, and when he tells people in the village that he’s a photographer (like Corbijn), it’s not so much a lie as a description of a man who stands away from the world and sizes it up before he shoots it.
We don’t know how Jack became what he is, how he can be so merciless and tender; he’s a character from a Western, like the Sergio Leone film shown on a restaurant TV. He is also interested in butterflies — the women in the film call him Mr. Butterfly — and the things in his world inspire a butterfly interest: beautiful women, intricate guns, survival, the machinery of his own body. Those are the matters of many a George Clooney film (his character in Ocean’s Eleven has them, as well) but in The American, they’re in a cocoon, and we’re never sure what’s going to come out.
“If you’re gonna hire Machete to kill the bad guy, you better make damn sure the bad guy isn’t you!”
As uttered in the original fake trailer attached to Grindhouse in 2007, that line sums up the charm of Machete as both a fleeting concept and, now, a feature-length endeavor. Robert Rodriguez has expanded that two-minute dose of goofy Mexploitation thrills into a somewhat ungainly, but mostly fun 105 minutes.
Danny Trejo, second cousin to Rodriguez, returns as the former Federale-turned-freedom fighter, a super-stoic anti-hero with a knack for taking out the bad guys and lovin’ the ladies. In the former group falls Robert De Niro as a Texas senator hellbent on keeping immigrants out of this great land of his, Jeff Fahey as his shady right-hand man, Don Johnson as a proud minuteman and Steven Seagal as the drug lord who cost Machete his family. Among the latter ranks are Michelle Rodriguez as a Che-like leader of the downtrodden, Jessica Alba as the ICE agent on her tail and Lindsay Lohan as Fahey’s incest-inviting dope of a daughter. (And that’s not even to mention the supporting appearances by Shea Whigham, Tom Savini and Cheech Marin.)
As you can see, things are a little more crowded this time around, and Rodriguez is as much a sucker for inventing icons as he’s ever been. In fact, he gets so caught up in including gun-wielding babes donning eye patches and nun’s habits, hot twin nurses, shotgun-shooting priests and henchmen inexplicably wearing wrestling masks that he almost forgets that Machete ought to be the star of his own show. When he’s in the spotlight, Trejo milks his trademark gruff charm for all its worth, deadpanning about how “Machete don’t text” and doing things with gardening tools and human intestines that they weren’t necessarily designed for.
These over-the-top moments help liven things up amid all the politics and plot that one’s left wishing that there were a few more of them, if not a few less minutes in between what’s already there. (How this managed to bloat beyond ninety minutes, I’ll never know.) Rodriguez is credited co-writer and co-director here, sharing respective responsibility with cousin Álvaro Rodríguez and cohort Ethan Maniquis in addition to cranking out a fittingly flavorful score with his band, Chingon
Beyond making sure that every explosion has an adequately cheesy polish and luring all the right friends into town, though, his presence isn’t a deeply felt one. Cheap even beyond its intentions — safety cones meant to re-direct traffic can clearly be seen in shots, the trademark “grindhouse” scratches and dirt disappear once the title appears, and many shots are lifted directly from the fake trailer itself — it’s lacking in his Desperado-era flair. Hell, even Shorts looked like more of a movie than this does
But hey, no one’s asking for much and everyone’s in on the joke: Marin as pot smoker, De Niro as taxi driver, Seagal as Mexican and so on… except for maybe Alba. Whereas Michelle Rodriguez owns her empowered persona, Alba aims for earnest sincerity and reinforces her status as primo eye candy above all else. Lohan, on the other hand, gets to lampoon her public image a bit (with the help of a body double), while Seagal proves to be the best sport in the bunch by following suit. De Niro delivers hokey campaign speeches with ease, Fahey sweats like nobody around, and as the resident redneck, Johnson is merely nibbling on his scenery in comparison to his colleagues.
Like I said: it’s a little ungainly, a bit crowded, but pretty much what you’d expect for a real movie based on a fake trailer. In a summer that’s been all about low expectations, Machete feels like the right kind of goofy high note on which to end the season.
Michael Cera assumes the role of geek king — one more time — in this surprisingly entertaining adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novels from Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright. Despite the mountain of potential cliche and deja-vu, Wright finds novel ground, thanks to a potent visual imagination, a complete understanding of the genre and a sincere heart that pushes through the veneer of cool.
Starring: Michael Cera, Alison Pill, Ellen Wong, Anna Kendrick, Kieran Culkin and Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Rating: Three and a half stars out of five
The world certainly did have an axe to grind with Scott Pilgrim — even before the first frames of this Edgar Wright movie hit the screen. It’s not a specific quibble; it’s a question of deja-vu.
For starters, did the world really need another movie featuring gangly Canadian nerd icon Michael Cera in an awkward romantic lead? Moreover, did we need another adaptation of a graphic novel that’s attained cult status? And really, are we so culturally bored that any film featuring a hip soundtrack and some clever video game-inspired special effects will have us drooling at the corners of our slack mouths?
Even though Ghost World came out close to a decade ago, and the pulp pages of comic books appeal to a decidedly niche market, Wright proves there’s still ample terrain to explore and exploit in the ink-stained genre with this reel that gets the tone spot on.
Wright, the director of Shaun of the Dead, brings so much raw energy to this potentially tired mix that you have to surrender to the wackiness within the first act, because it’s delivered without irritating affectation.
Even Cera, who’s awfully close to parodying his own image, finds a way to transcend his own persona by reformulating his goofiness. He strips away the underlying sense of geek ennui, and, in turn, clears the way for his character to assume the dimensions of Greek myth.
Just in case you aren’t up on Bryan Lee O’Malley’s oeuvre, Scott Pilgrim is a modern character from modern times who shares a lot in common with Perseus, the demi-god of Greek legend.
He appears to be a complete mortal, and suffers the slings and arrows of failed romance, but Scott Pilgrim has a weird brand of super-strength that emerges whenever he’s forced to face off against his enemies.
In this case, those enemies are the seven evil exes who once courted his new girlfriend, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).
Without any long, drawn-out explanation or primer in Hellenic narrative, Wright simply throws us in the tub of make-believe with an inflatable raft and lets us make the call: Do we want to go for this ride or not?
It’s an easy question to answer, because Wright decks out the screen with so much colour, such fun characters and so many great T-shirts, the mix is undeniably seductive.
Best of all, Wright recognizes his entire movie rests on the flimsy shoulders of wilful suspension of disbelief, but he makes no apologies for a single flight of fancy.
At one point, as Scott is sucked into yet another showdown with a former love, he looks to his gay roommate Wallace (Kieran Culkin) and asks: “You’re seeing this, right?”
Wallace responds with a deadpan remark and urges him to fight.
The result is a movie that seems to operate on two completely different levels at the same time. In one plane of experience, Scott Pilgrim is just an ordinary guy who plays bass in a basement band. On another plane, he’s Pilgrim, a righteous avenger who does battle with the forces from the underworld with all the combat aplomb of a video game-addicted teen.
Wright, borrowing from O’Malley, successfully fuses all the pop-culture references with bits and pieces of pagan myth, because he’s not obsessed with the logical weight of the story.
When Scott suddenly assumes the form of a Mortal Kombat-inspired avatar, Wright immediately changes the frame and the look of the film to match what we’re about to see. Even the opening corporate salvo of planet Earth turning in space has been recreated in crude pixel form to give us the right taste of time before the movie even begins.
When things are this zany, you have to surrender and giggle — which is a good place to enjoy obvious entertainments such as these. Perhaps the biggest surprise in this silly and satisfying mix was the fact Scott Pilgrim got to keep his Canadian passport for the voyage.
The graphic novel is a Canadian export, printed in Portland by Oni Press, but the production money behind this movie is largely American, thanks to Universal’s involvement. So are many of the stars, including the Oscar-nominated Anna Kendrick, who plays Scott’s sister, and Culkin, who keeps our logic-based inquiries at bay with declarative statements about the mutable nature of reality — and his attraction to men.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure there was enough novel ground left to tread in the world of offbeat comics and geek chic, but Wright proves genre cliche can be reinvented with imagination, self-awareness and enough courage to be sincere, when it might have been easier to slip into a cocoon of sarcasm.