Friday, June 30, 2006

The 40 Year Old Virgin

I seem to have contracted Dr. Worm’s illness of using food analogies, but watching The 40 Year Old Virgin is like eating a whole ton of Brussels sprouts. They taste horrendously terrible, and each bite is utter torture, but they’re filled with nutrients, vitamins and minerals, good stuff that your body needs, especially since you just got off that bender of Twinkies and peanut butter cups. The 40 Year Old Virgin has a really good message (though it’s buried), and generally promotes good feelings when it’s over. It’s the “before it’s over” period that’s the problem, and it’s a freakin’ huge problem.

I saw the unrated version, and I think that’s the only version available on DVD. So there was stuff in it that might have been taken out for its theater runs. If there was, I couldn’t actually tell except for in one part. Let me just say that this is the most vulgar, filthy, disgusting, base, and retch-inducing movie I have ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of movies. At the same time, I kinda fell in love with it.

I should rephrase that: I fell in love with the main character. Actually, I should rephrase that, too, since the main character’s a man, and a fictional one at that. Andy Stitzer, played by the hilarious and endearing Steve Carell, is a virgin, meaning that he has never had sex. This is partly from a lack of opportunities, partly from bad luck, and partly from something that separates him from almost every other man on the planet: a slight lack of interest in sex. Don’t get me wrong, he definitely sees it as something he would like to do; it’s just not a high priority in his life, especially at this point. After all, he is 40 years old, and it doesn’t seem all that important anymore.

For the first hour of the movie, he is the only endearing character in the movie. The three guys he works with in a Circuit City/Best Buy type of store, who in desperation invite him as the fifth guy in a poker game, are ASSHOLES!!! Forgive me for my swearing, Stormy Pinkness, but there was no other word to describe their utter lack of any redeeming qualities whatsoever. When it is revealed (through gross but hilarious means) that he is a virgin, the three guys do everything in their power to end his dry spell. They teach him all their techniques, some of which are not only wrong-headed but reprehensible, and give him ridiculously bad advice. He tries it all out, much to the audience’s chagrin, with varying results. Why chagrin? Because we like Andy, and don’t want to see anything bad happen to him. Thankfully, he’s smart enough to let everything roll off him after a while.

His girlfriend, Trish, is great, too. Played with scenery-chewing expertise by Catherine Keener, she’s the perfect yin to Andy’s yang. If only his “friends” would stop interfering! The movie would be a lot shorter and a great deal less interesting if they would just shut up and leave him alone, but Andy is so endearing and we care about him so much that we’re willing to make that sacrifice. Also, Trish has the exact right reaction to finding out that Andy’s a virgin.

The message of the movie, amazingly, and going against everything that we as secular Americans are taught, is that virginity is something to cherish, to hold on to, and is not to be given away lightly. When you do finally give it away, you should make sure that the person to which you are giving it away truly deserves it, as Trish does for Andy. You can probably guess that by the end of the movie Andy is not a virgin anymore, so I’m not giving anything away. It’s very important to note that Andy has sex for the first time AFTER he gets married, because that says something very valuable about marriage as well. It suggests that like sex, the person you marry should truly deserve it as well, and it’s not something to be done lightly.

Iconic lines:
“Wanna know how I know you’re gay? Because you like Coldplay.”
“Andy, for the last time, I don’t want your big box of porn!”
“He’s performing a public colonoscopy. Isn’t that sweet.”

22 Rating: 0

Before now, I didn’t think I could ever give a movie 0, since 0 represents, for me, complete apathy, lack of feeling. Every movie generates some feeling in me, no matter how slight. Now I see another purpose for 0, and that is when a movie balances out. I want to give The 40 Year Old Virgin a 15 for its message and skill with character, but I also want to give it a -15 for it’s unbelievable vulgarity. So I guess it balances out.

Particle Man

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Weather Man

You know, I think we frequently take screenwriters, actors, and directors for granted. With every film they collaborate on, they have to—among other thingscreate protagonists that not only are flawed and real, but are also characters that the audience can root for. And you know what? Most of the time, they do an okay job at this. But that makes it very glaring when that subtle balance is off.
Such is the case, unfortunately, with The Weather Man, a movie that can best be described as good-yet-unsatisfying. It's well-shot, it tackles big and meaningful issues, it's entertaining, it's led by two Oscar-winning actors. And it's still unsatisfying.
Some of that has to do with Nicholas Cage, who plays David Spritz, the titular weather man. Cage sports the exact look you see on the poster in the upper left corner of this review throughout 90 percent of his time on screen. I believe the only time we see him smile in the film is when his character is predicting the weather on television.
But some of the blame must also fall to director Gore Verbinski, who must be either asking Cage to act that way or allowing him to do so. The bigger problem, is that Verbinski and screenwriter Steve Conrad have done everything in their power to make us pity this character: his wife is involved with another man, his preteen daughter is obese and unhappy, he can't live up to the reputation set by his Pulitzer Prize-winning father (Michael Caine), his 15-year-old son (Nicholas Hoult, the kid from About a Boy) has very adult problems, and to top it all off, people occasionally throw fast food at him (again, note the poster). Yet Verbinski and Conradand to a lesser extent Cagedo nothing to make this character likeable: he's shallow, he's simple, he's largely self-centered, he's more or less a schmuck.
This is really disappointing, because the rest of the film is really, really good. It's interesting, it's thoughtful, it's well-shot and well-acted. But all that gets tainted by the unfortunate unlikeability of the main character. To use my second food metaphor in as many reviews: It's a bit like ordering a hamburger where the bun is soft and warm, the lettuce and tomato are crisp and ripe, the condiments are perfectly balanced and deliciousbut the burger itself is burnt to a crisp. So even while you'd love to be enjoying the bun, vegetables, and condiments, every bite you take tastes like ash.
Strangely enough, though, even with all that said, I'd still recommend seeing this movie. Don't rush out to rent it, and don't put it at the top of your Netflix queue, but if you get a chance, have a look at this movie. Just don't go in expecting to enjoy it. Go in expecting to learn from it. Because even with the overcooked main character, all the excellent surrounding elements are still enough to get this movie a 6.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price

Sometimes, a film garners merit not for the quality of storytelling, or how escapist it is, but by the importance of its message. This was going to be a review of Phantasm, but I'm towards the end of a film that appalled me so much, that I have to tell every person I know about it. This is a review of Wal-Mart:The High Cost of Low Prices.
Wal-Mart's first official store opened in 1962, and it has proceeded to become a true juggernaut, today grossing $315+ billion dollors in revenue, and employing 1.5 million employees. The company has however come under fire for such problems as not providing health care to its employees, inadequate safety measures in the parking lots, sexist and racist treatment of its employees, multiple violations of environmental laws, excessive store growth, sub-substandard wages for company employees, terrible pay and deplorable living conditions for overseas factory workers, and the negative impact it has on surrounding businesses. Whew! Did I forget anything? As of yet, Wal-Mart hasn't been found guilty of taking candy from babies (not literally, anyway), or raping people's pets. But give it time.
Wal Mart: The High Cost of Low Price is a documentary in a very simple style. There is no narration, and the director doesn't make his presence known. The story and the facts are told by people interviewed, footage from news stories and other sources, internal memos, and statistics. The tone is quiet, and a welcome respite from flashy Michael Moore style documentary storytelling. We hear about, and see, how 47% of Wal-Mart employees are without health insurance. About how Bill Gates has given 58% of his fortune to charity, and the Walton family (officially the richest family in the world) has given less than 1% of theirs. And so on. We talk to families whose businesses have been put out of business by Wal-Mart, while the city gave Wal-Mart generous stipends to get started in the area. To factory workers in China, who make less than $21 a week. To friends of a young woman who abducted from a Wal-Mart parking lot and later murdered. We are told that Wal-Mart has been fined by the EPA more than any other company in history.
I promised myself that I wouldn't use this forum as a soapbox, but I feel strongly about the problems talked about in this film, and felt even stronger about them after watching it. I feel that Wal-Mart is bad for every man, woman, and child in America. For every dog, cat, and blade of grass. This is important, important stuff that the films talks about, and everybody can benefit from it. The injustices this film discusses made me feel sick and disgusted.
But it's not all doom and gloom here. The last bit of the film focuses on Inglewood, CA, as they (successfully) fight Wal-Mart from entering their community, and touch upon other communities that go through the same thing.
I give Wal-Mart:The High Cost of Low Price a 10 of out 22 for film/quality value, and an 18 out of 22 for the social and civic responsibility it shows by tackling this subject. I urge everybody reading this review to see this film, and to tell everybody you know about it.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


Okay, people, time for a history lesson! This is really Stormy Pinkness’ area, but I’ll give it a whirl. At the place where I work, there’s this guy named Dave. He’s 25, like me, but he was born about 80 years too late. He wears a golfer’s cap, smokes pipes, likes 30’s jazz, and has an infinite store of knowledge about old movies. And when I say old I mean old; think 1915 to 1940. He let me borrow a few DVDs, one of which was Metropolis, from 1927.

If you’re going to watch Metropolis, you have to forget everything that you know about movies. You have to behave like you have never seen a movie, and indeed have never even heard of a movie. That’s the mindset the people who saw this movie when it first came out had. I don’t even know if movies with actual dialogue (called “talkies”) had come out yet. The term “silent films,” of which Metropolis is one, is really a misnomer. These movies are not completely silent; they have a soundtrack, but it is all music. All the words spoken in the movie are spelled out on black screens in between shots. It takes a bit of getting used to, watching a movie with no actual dialogue. In fact, the entire experience of watching this movie, and others from that time period, will be unlike any other movie-going experience you have ever had.

The storyline involves a futuristic society run by the “thinkers,” but that works on the backs of the “workers.” Does this sound like socialism to anyone else? It centers around the son of the head honcho, a boy named Freder. He is having fun and loving life in a place called the Club of the Sons. When it’s entered by a woman by the name of Maria, he is captivated, and goes out to find her when she leaves. Once he leaves the Club of the Sons, he discovers a world of steel and machinery, a harsh landscape that allows him to live his life of leisure. Also in the story are his father, Fredersen, who is in charge of, I guess, everything. There is also Rotwang, the mad scientist, and Josephat, Fredersen’s right hand man, who fails early in the film and attempts suicide. He is saved by Freder, and then becomes Freder’s partner in crime. Maria is sort of a prophetess for the “workers,” and says that there must be a mediator between the workers and the thinkers. She finds it in Freder, and the two become romantically involved. But Fredersen has other plans, and uses Rotwang to capture Maria and make a clone of her, then uses the clone to incite the workers to riots, destroying the Heart Machine, thus flooding the workers’ city and killing them all. Got all that?

Other things happen, but the plot isn’t as important as the foundational aspect of this film. The Mad Scientist, the Identity Mix-Up, the Human-Shaped Robot; all of them come from this. Nearly every other sci-fi movie (The Matrix, 2001, Star Wars, Blade Runner, Independence Day) uses this movie as its foundation, whether they know it or not. It doesn’t seem it now, because we have all these other (and better) movies to compare it to, but Metropolis is really innovative. Fritz Lang made a movie in 1927 when special effects were a thin piece of metal and some peppercorns, and you can’t see the strings. MST3K would have a field day with this movie; not because it’s bad (it’s definitely not), but because it has the potential to be extremely bad. Instead of laughable, it’s terrifying, and instead of kitschy, it’s really kind of beautiful.

Iconic lines:
“Between the head and hands there must be the heart.”

22 Rating: 9

Particle Man

Friday, June 16, 2006

X-Men: The Last Stand (Wicked Little Critta)


Initial Reaction: Well, it goes to show that they’re right when they say “If you love something, kill it.”

I’ll be honest: X-Men and I were never close. We had been acquainted, but I’d never made any efforts to get to know it. I never really cared until, one day, friends told me that I needed to give it a chance because I didn’t know what I was missing. Thankfully I got to know X-Men, and realized its greatness and potential for making my life better and more enjoyable. I’m glad I have X-Men in my life.

However, as with any love relationship, the potential for heartbreak exists. X-Men and I have had a good run. Things just kept getting better and better, and with a new episode coming out, I anticipated a continuation if not improvement of this honeymoon phase. And in some ways, X-Men: The Last Stand met these expectations. For example, while some were better than others, I feel that the cast was exceptional and kept the high level of acting consistent throughout the film. I even have a hard time listing those that clearly stood out, because no one was lacking, in my opinion. But for the sake of this review, my favorites were: Patrick Stewart as Professor Charles Xavier, Kelsey Grammar as Beast, Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde, and Vinnie Jones as Juggernaut.

I also really appreciated the creativity and seamlessness in representing the various mutant powers. It was clear how each could be powerful in some situations while detrimental in others. This gave the audience a constantly shifting and entertaining focus while not distracting us from the storyline or the characters.

Even though I was warned ahead of time, I was surprised to see that X-Men: The Last Stand carried a weight of finality that its genre of film doesn’t usually take on. We’re immediately drawn into the movie with the opening flashbacks. We see the Professor and Magneto as allies, working together to help a young Jean Grey understand her incredible mutant power and wanting to help her control it. We also see a young boy who is crushed with the fact that he’s a mutant and has to face his father with his shame. After this, we’ve been set up for a decent dose of heavy movie-watching.

So, the story: Jean’s back! Surprise to some, anticipated by others, Jean Grey’s return turns this movie upside down. We’re at first left with a question of “what the heck happened to Scott?” after an odd reunion of the lovers at Alkali Lake is cut short. Once Jean is found and brought back to Xavier’s school, all of a sudden we are told about another side of Jean, literally. Xavier gives us this neat and nicely-packaged explanation about her other personality, the Phoenix, essentially saying that he had controlled Jean’s mind for years so that this other powerful personality wouldn’t get out of hand. Huh? Ok, that kinda makes sense. I guess. By the way, has anyone seen Scott?

Anyway, not much time passes before we meet the Phoenix. It’s weird. Overcome with her competing personalities, Jean goes back to her childhood home and is quickly followed by Xavier as well as Magneto. They both realize the potential for disaster, and so Xavier attempts to prevent it while Magneto wants to embrace it. “You killed Scott!” the Professor shouts at Jean in order to help her realize the danger of what she’s toying with. Whoa! Maybe I should’ve seen that coming, but the screenwriters were just so darn dismissive about it that I denied the possibility. This was betrayal number one. Then, practically in the next breath, (in a move that shocked even me,) the Phoenix kills Xavier in anger. While I’m still confused about where I am and what I’m doing, Magneto steps forward and takes Jean with him, we assume, to “the dark side.”

Geez! That was a lot to deal with, and we’re not even halfway through the movie! In short, The Last Stand is filled with these kinds of betrayals and heartbreaks. Mystique’s mutant gene is suppressed by a “cure” and Magneto turns his back on her. Rogue chooses the cure and loses her power as well. Finally, in the last scenes where the Phoenix is practically destroying anything and anyone in her path, Wolverine speaks to her and tries to win her over. He tells her that he loves her, and in an unexpected move (to me, anyway), kills her.

Ouch. Could someone please remove the 15 arrows sticking out of my back? I guess my big problem with this movie was with Jean Grey/the Phoenix. I don’t care how accurate it is according to her history or the comic book, I didn’t buy it. The fact that Jean, the sweet and kind woman who gave the ultimate sacrifice of love in X2 returns to us as a chaotic killer just didn’t work for me. Yeah, I’ve heard the argument about it not actually being “Jean,” but I don’t care. It sucked. Yes, I’m bitter, but I’ve been betrayed here.

Rating: 9

On a different note, The Last Stand had a very different feeling to me, kind of X-Men combined with Armageddon. A little over the top, too much to absorb, and not as purposeful of a plot as it could have had. This balanced with the cast, creativity and fun action prompts me to give this movie a 9. I walked away feeling hurt; the kind of hurt that comes when a relationship is damaged beyond repair. Sure, sometimes you get lucky and things are better than ever before, but usually not. I’m suppose I’m just unlucky in love. Why, Brett Ratner, why?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

X-Men: The Last Stand (Dr. Worm)

Let me start off by proclaiming that X-Men: The Last Stand is a good movie. All three X-Men movies are excellent, in fact, and if you haven't seen either of the first two, you need to stop reading this article and get down to your nearest video rental store posthaste. This article is directed at those of you who have seen the first two installments of the X-Men series and are anticipating seeing the third with this question in mind: Does it hold up?
Fortunately, the answer to this question is yes, for the most part, it does. But the remainder of this review will discuss the various ways that X3 is a minor step back from the first two films, with "minor" being the word to bear in mind here.
As many of you know, the X-Men series had changed directorial hands between films two and three, from Brian Singer to Brett Ratner. Much has been published about this shift, but when all is said and done, it's a fairly inconsequential shift. Ratner does his style-less thing, not ruining the series but not putting his stamp on it either. In fact, if you didn't know beforehand about the new director, I doubt you'd notice the difference.
The less publicized but more consequential change is the change in the writing team. And in truth, this seems the less consequential change: After swapping out Bryan Singer and Tom DeSanto wholesale for Zak Penn and David Hayter between X1 and X2, the shift to X3 seems tamer, with Zak Penn staying on and Simon Kinberg joining him.
Really, I don't know if it's the change from Hayter to Kinberg that made the difference, or if Zak Penn just tried too hard this time, but it's the screenplay itself that left the bad taste in my mouth.
I don't want to give away too much, so I'll describe the difference by analogy. Suppose you go a restaurant and order a clam chowder, expecting it to be just your standard, run-of-the-mill chowder. But when you eat it, it's far more delicious than you ever expected. So you go ask the chef his secret, and he says that he sprinkles a bit of garlic in there just to give it a bit more zip. So you compliment him on his decision and go your way.
Three years later, you happen to have a chance to go back to the same restaurant, andremembering the delicious chowder from last timeyou order it again. But this time, when you dig in, all you taste is garlic. It overwhelms all the other tastes that made the chowder such a sensuous symphony before, and leaves you disappointed, misunderstood, and with terrible bad breath.
You know what happened, of course. The chef figured that if the garlic is the best part, more of the best part can only make it better. But you and I both know things don't work that way. It's the subtle balance that made the initial chowder so savory, and it's the destruction of that balance that made the third X-Men somewhat dissatisfying.
That's the major problem. The other problem didn't affect this movie so much, but will certainly affect X4 if they decide to make it (which, judging by the ending, they certainly want to). And the problem hereto switch metaphors yet againis that they've painted themselves into a corner. Now, judging by the ending, they'll find a way out of that corner, but they'll do so in a way that changes the rules they made in this movie. It's a bit like playing sports with a nine-year-old who insists, whenever something doesn't go his way, that it didn't count. The writers of the fourth X-Men film will find a more creative way to do this, of course, but the end result will be the same: The third movie didn't count.
Now I'll repeat my assertion from the beginning of this review: Despite my critique, this was still a good movie. Given my intricate, 450-word dissertation on its faults, that may be hard to believe, but it really was. Kelsey Grammmer did a perfect job as Beast and Vinnie Jones was very entertaining as Juggernaut, both debuting in this installment of the series. Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, and Hugh Jackman are as awesome as they ever were, and no one else really craps the bed here, actingwise.
In the end, I'm forced to agree wholeheartedly with the average IMDB user rating for all three films.
For the original, it's a 7.3, which becomes a 10 on the 22 scale.
For X2, it's a 7.9, which is a 13 on the 22 scale.
For X-Men: The Last Stand it's a 7.0, or a 9 on the 22 scale.
All good movies, all occupying similar spots on the 22 scale, but X3, with its extra garlic powder, just isn't quite as delicious as its predecessors.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

X-Men: The Last Stand (Stormy Pinkness)

“I don’t remember Patrick Stewart ever being that young! I don’t remember Magneto being that flamboyantly gay in the first 2 movies!” These were my first thoughts during X-Men: The Last Stand. I was very excited to see this movie. I LOVED the first two movies and I figured that this one wouldn’t be any different. As May 26th approached, I started to get really anxious about the movie; I had loved the first two so much that I could not wait to see the third. However, after the movie came out I started to read the reviews, and they weren’t too encouraging. I knew there was a new director on this film, but I didn’t think it would make a difference. Of course, within the first 30 minutes of the movie, I realized the childlike innocence of it all.
X-Men: The Last Stand is the third episode of the X-Men trilogy, which tells the story of Charles Xavier and his school of mutants. This time we find our heroes faced with the dilemma of whether or not to get rid of their mutancy. A “cure” has been discovered that suppresses the gene that causes the mutation. While back at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, Scott and Logan continue to mourn the death of Jean Grey, who sacrificed herself to save her friends, while the others try move on from an invasion of the school (which happened in the second episode). Scott, still haunted by memories of his love for Jean, feels drawn to the site of her death and is met with dire consequences. Unnerved by Scott’s continued absence, Logan and Storm fly to Alkali Lake and find not Scott, but the very friend who helped them escape from being drowned: Jean! Shortly after Jean returns to the Mansion to be treated by the professor, we are introduced to the Phoenix, Jean’s alter-ego. Also introduced to us is Beast, an old friend of Charles and Storm who is the Secretary of Mutant Affairs. Of course, Charles and his students try to find a peaceful way of combating this so-called cure as Magneto and his followers decide to use violence to challenge the same thing. What happens? I guess you will have to see the movie to find out. ; P
My favorite part of the movie was the theme that it had. Should the mutants accept the cure and conform to what everyone else thinks they should? Or should they stay true to how they were created? I loved the resonance it had with our society. We are told that we should all be the same way. Some conform, while others say “Screw it!” Either you way you choose, there are consequences to face. Should we get angry like Magneto and try to make everyone like we are? Or, if that does not work, should we try to hurt anyone in our way? Should we be like Rogue and possibly conform because it would make life easier? The choice needs to be made and there are repercussions for any option.
To put it plainly, I liked the movie, but I did not like what was happening. Throughout the whole movie there were moments of thinking “NO!”, “Wait, maybe……” and “WHAT?!” I saw all of this happening but wanted it not to happen to the characters that I had grown to love. With movie sequels there is always a chance that characters do not hold your interest as much as they once did. Luckily this did not happen in the movie. The characters that were in this movie are the same ones that I have enjoyed watching for the past two movies. The movie was well done, but could have focused a bit more on plot than cool special effects. Mr. Ratner (the new director) either felt that there was no need to expand upon the story or that the budget was already mostly spent on the all-star cast or the special effects. I enjoyed the special effects that were in this movie, but why couldn’t character development and special effects be balanced? All of the characters were developed, but I feel they could have been more. Overall, I give X-Men a 10. It was well done and had a very good ensemble cast. It shows that we all have to make decisions for ourselves, because who knows what kinds of people are out there to make them for us?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

X-Men: The Last Stand (Particle Man)

This recent trend of comic book movies is really hit or miss, with some of them succeeding and a few failing miserably. The Spider-Man movies were pretty good, Sin City was freakin’ brilliant, and V for Vendetta was at least thought-provoking. But then there was Daredevil, The Punisher, and Elektra, which made me wretch as much as Sin City made me cheer. So really, when you do a comic book movie, you’re playing a dangerous game. For people who actually know the source material, they’ll crucify you if you don’t follow the comic book exactly, both in content and in style. But then for the people who don’t know it, you risk alienating them. It’s a difficult tightrope to walk. Luckily, the makers of the X-Men movies satisfied both sets of people.

X-Men: The Last Stand is the best of the three X-Men movies, in my opinion. Every actor was at the peak of their skill for the character, since they had lived with each of their characters for six years. Most of the principals were excellent, with Hugh Jackman and Famke Jansen as standouts. Halle Berry, like in the previous two movies, is so-so as Storm, but massively disadvantaged by the fact that she is simply not right for the role. I know she’s an Oscar-winning actress, but there are so many others who are better than her. Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda) would be a much better choice for Storm. Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart continue to be absolutely stellar in their form-fitting roles, and performances of this caliber are no surprise from these Shakespearian actors. Hugh Jackman was great, but I’ll have difficulty seeing him in any other role but Wolverine. Even the newcomers are great, especially Ellen Page as Kitty (I see blockbusters and astronomical salaries in her future for sure) and Kelsey Grammer as Beast. His performance had multiple layers to it, each equally excellent. When you have an all-star ensemble cast like this, and almost all of them are great, you can expect a review to be a little bit gushing.

Cast aside, the theme of the movie was even more poignant and discussion-provoking than the previous two. Issues like homosexuality, stem-cell research, and abortion all come to light, as well as the morality of expelling or keeping those things. The movie is rich with arguable issues. Are certain behaviors really bred in the bone, and if so, can they be biologically suppressed? Is suppressing them a good thing? Is there really any such thing as “normal,” or is what’s normal just being different from everyone else? In addition to the questions it brings up, it’s very entertaining as well. The action is very involving and clever (particularly the way Kitty outsmarts Juggernaut), and it's not just "blow stuff up." The costumes are only sometimes cheesy, and the most gripping and character-driven scenes are where there’s some sort of action where one mutant’s power is matched up against another’s. This is a different director, yes, but the director is not as important as the franchise he’s directing, and in well-established pop culture items like this one, he can’t be. We learned that lesson with Harry Potter. So in the hit-or-miss world of comic book movies, X-Men: The Last Stand is definitely a hit.

Iconic lines:
“Charles always wanted to build bridges.”
“That was my last cigar!”
“They wish to cure us… and I say we are the cure.”

22 Rating: 14

Particle Man

Monday, June 12, 2006

X-Men: The Last Stand (Your Racist Friend)

When we last saw Charles Xavier and his mutant X-Men, they had weathered an attempt by William Striker to start a war between mutants and humans, but had lost Jean Grey in the process. X3 begins with two flashbacks: Charles Xavier and Magneto visiting a young Jean Grey to tell her about the Xavier Academy, and a young blond boy locked in his family's bathroom, deperately trying to saw off the wings which have started to grow on his back. These images set the tone for the third film about Charles Xavier and his X-Men, the mutant superheroes who have "sworn to protect a world that hates and fears them."
There was a lot of negative buzz surrounding this project, and approximately 98% of it came from internet gossipmonger/misanthrope/"film critic" Harry Knowles of But who would you rather believe, the man who gave glowing reviews to such dire days in the history of cinema such as Godzilla and Blair Witch 2, or me, your friendly neighborhood comic expert and film geek? Yeah, that's what I thought.
The plot of X3 revolves around a "cure" for the mutant gene created by Warren Worthington II, the father of the aforementioned blonde be-winged boy, Warren Worthington III, aka Angel (Ben Foster). He makes the cure available to the public, igniting a controversy and provoking the ire of Magneto (Ian McKellen) and his "Brotherhood." But the X-Men are hardly in a position to respond: Cyclops is shattered over Jean's death, forcing Storm and Wolverine into a more prominent leadership position at the school. Along to help them deal with the crisis is original student Henry McCoy, aka Beast. But Jean mysteriously re-emerges early in the film, and sets into motion a tragic chain of events that come to a head in an epic battle on Alcatraz Island.
But enough about the plot, how was X3, anyway? I thought it was pretty good. Brett Ratner pulls off the handling of directorial reins from Bryan Singer, who left to handle Superman Returns. The thing about Ratner is that he doesn't really have much of a style, so the tone of the film is very consistent with the first two. I think that the plot would have been a bit tighter if Bryan Singer was still at the helm, but these are fairly small details: X3 is great popcorn entertainment, just like the first two. If I had to scale it, then I would say that I enjoyed it more than the first one, but that I don't think it's as good as the second installment.
Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, and Ian McKellen are all still very good as Wolverine, Professor X, and Magneto, respectively. Wolverine is a bit tamer, but that's the writer's fault, not Hugh's. As long as he gets to drop the occasional streetlight, or eviscerate about 10 mutants whilst sneaking into the Brotherhood's camp, I'm happy. Halle Berry is a little better as Storm this time around, thanks to vastly increased screen time and a treatment of Storm in the script that is more in line with the comics version of the character. Kelsey Grammer shines in a letter-perfect performance of Beast, the conflicted Secretary of Mutant Affairs for the U.S. Government. It is also worth noting that Grammer is the 2nd casting of a character in the films that virtually all of fandom clamored for (the first being Stewart as Professor X), and it looks like they were right. Stealing every second of his sparse screen time is Guy Ritchie staple and ex-footballer Vinnie Jones (of Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch) as the unstoppable Juggernaut. I was a little concerned as to how the Juggernaut, a longtime favorite villain would be brought to the screen, but I wasn't disappointed.
This review will be expanded later on, but I had a lot of fun at this movie. The plot doesn't bear quite the significance and weight of the second film, but it moves well and doesn't drag. If anything, I think a few minutes could have been added to flesh out some characters and relationships. I give X3 a 16 out of 22 on the 22 scale.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

X-Men: The Last Stand

X-Men: The Last Stand

Stay tuned for our reviews coming up June 12th-16th!Lucky for you, They Might Be Critics hosts a regular movie of the month. During this exciting time, all (or most) of our critics post reviews of a chosen movie that is due to come out this month. We are all about providing a range of opinions and insights, and allowing for an open forum in which we discuss the film with each other and anyone who desires to participate. So, see X-Men: The Last Stand, and join in!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Da Vinci Code

Hello, all! I'm Your Racist Friend, the newest critic! This is my first of many, many reviews to come, so enjoy!

Unlike a lot of Americans, I didn't get very far into The Da Vinci Code.....the book, that is. I read the first chapter or two, and kind of forgot about it. I do remember thinking "This is pretty darn this what America's reading now?"
Fast forward a few years: A friend lets me borrow Angels and Demons, which I am able to finish. Again with the pulpiness, and it was a quick read, but I had some problems with it. I see Dan Brown as English Professor Wish Fufillment Lit, because of certain elements in his stories. The brainy guy saves the day, because he can speak Sumerian, or something. That brilliant lady scientist? Take her glasses off, and she's a sexy supermodel! That curmudgeonly old guy? Shhhhh, don't tell anybody, but he's secretly the villain!
Fast-forward another year, to the release of The Da Vinci Code film. I planned on not seeing this movie with the rest of America, at first. Not only could I not care less about the source material, but the advance reviews....23% on No, thank you! However, I did get roped into seeing this Memorial Day weekend before a screening of X3, so here it is.
For the five of you in the country who have no familiarity with the story whatsoever, TDVC is the continuing adventure of Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), a Harvard University professor of symbology, who gets mixed up in a conspiracy to cover up the "real truth" about Jesus Christ and his lineage. On the run with him is Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou), and eccentric Englishman Sir Leigh Teabing (Ian McKellen, making himself more invaluable each year). On their trail is albino monk assassin (yes, you read that right....) Silas (Paul Bettany, not doing himself any favors here.)
I should stop for a minute, and address the religious controversy over this picture, especially to Catholics. I will say that I can understand why some people would be upset over the assertations in this movie, but I will address that with two statements.

1) It's a work of fiction, so everything's cool, ok?
2) It's a very ridiculous work of fiction, so that's even more......that. I think if people took a hard look at how laughable some of the source material here is, they wouldn't be so offended. I mean, an albino monk assasin for crying out loud?

Ahem. Anyway, I thought this movie was going to be Plan 9 From Outer Space bad, but it wasn't, it was just merely bad. I would describe it as a slightly smarter National Treasure with a religious bent. Tom Hanks clearly understands the character, and does as good a job as anybody could do. Audrey Tautou does an ok job in her first (I think.....) English language role. Ian McKellen understands that this kind of material calls for a performance that borders on melodrama, and tears into his role with the kind of abandon we really only see from him, Kevin Spacey, Geoffrey Rush, etc. Paul Bettany's performance is truly reprehensible and ridiculous, but I guess he didn't have much to work with in the first place. Still, I hope that those rumors flying about that he's going to play the Joker in the next Batman movie are just that. The dialogue is mostly fine, although there are some lines of dialogue that border on the unbelievable.

Sophie: "You have eidetic memory?" (Photographic memory, for you non-fancy people.)
Robert: "No, but I can bring up things in my mind that I saw earlier."

*smacks forehead*

In addition, there are other things that don't make sense. In one part, it seems like it's curtains for Robert and Sophie in the back of a truck. Robert carefully pushes a spent handgun shell into the groove of the truck door. When the truck door get closed, the shell goes off, whacking the bad guy in the face! But, it's a spent shell? Maybe it was magic......

I really can't give this movie more than a 1 on the 22 scale. Read a good book instead, but preferably not anything by Dan Brown.

Saturday, June 03, 2006


As I understand it, the process that produced this movie as its end result was not the typical Hollywood story. Nikki Reed was going through some massively difficult times, some tumultuous transformations, and some traumatic experiences. Feeling lost, she oddly goes to her father’s girlfriend, Catherine Hardwicke. Hardwicke encourages her to write about her experiences in a diary, but Reed writes a screenplay instead. It’s largely autobiographical. She shows it to Hardwicke, and they fine-tune it and polish it up. About a year later, they shoot the movie, Hardwicke directing and Reed playing one of the leads. In reality, Reed had a friend that got her involved in sex, drugs, theft, lying, and all the other things you don’t want your teenager doing. In the movie, Reed plays the part of that friend.

The part based on Reed is played by Evan Rachel Wood. In the beginning of the movie, neither character is very well developed at all. None of the cast is, really. Because of that, it took a while for us as the audience to buy into the characters’ actions. We get kind of a documentary feel to it, sort of like Kids, but it’s just a little too contrived and perfectly shot to make the feeling 100% like Kids. The similarities between that movie and Thirteen are quite striking, not the least of which is the stylish, MTV quality to the cinematography. All the trappings of teenage-ism are there (irresponsible sex, petty crime, makeshift drugs, piercings, staying out late). They’re not presented as being fun or glamorous, but the great consequences that such actions carry are never brought to full fruition, either.

The biggest problem with this movie is that the plot doesn’t have proper flow, and even worse, rhyme or reason. Instead of being directed on a somewhat consistent path, Thirteen feels like it’s jerking us around. This isn’t the intent of the screenplay, but a lack of skill on the part of the screenwriters. That being said, the performances are anywhere from pretty good to fabulous. Evan Rachel Wood in particular is phenomenal as Tracy. She is totally sold out to her role, and is entirely convincing, perhaps because she was so close to the age that she was playing. Nikki Reed is even more convincing, though significantly less skilled as an actress. Reed’s portrayal of Evie is dead-on because she actually did a lot of the things that Evie does in the movie. Holly Hunter is great as Mel, Tracy’s mom who means well, but has absolutely no control over her daughter. I really appreciated that the central characters didn’t seem like cardboard cutouts, that they actually had a little depth. However, that depth was injected by the actors instead of the screenplay.

Another problem with the film is that it didn’t have a very good resolution. Honestly, I got about halfway through it and started think it couldn’t possibly have a good resolution that wasn’t completely cheesy and unconvincing, two things that the movie definitely was not. The fact that the teenagers in this movie get involved with the things they do is terrifying to me, but not at all surprising. Kids are growing up a lot faster than they used to, but at the same time, they’re not. They are dealing with very adult things and situations, a lot of the time willingly, but not doing it as adults. Nine times out of ten, they are flagrantly irresponsible with the power granted to them (sometimes unwittingly) by their parents. Well, I don’t want this review to turn into a diatribe on parenting techniques, since I have absolutely no grounds to speak on that subject.

In short, this movie had an important thing to say, but I had already heard it from many other sources, not just film. It didn’t educate me, and it didn’t even entertain me all that much. Mostly I was just saddened by seeing a girl go exactly where I knew she would go. I do, however, think this would be a worthwhile film for a parent and a teenager to watch together, and then talk about afterward.

Iconic lines:
“Mothers, lock up your sons!”
“No. Bad. Danger, Will Robinson, danger. You’re jailbait.”
“I love you and your brother more than anything in the world. I would die for you, but I won’t leave you alone right now."

22 Rating: 2

Particle Man