Archive for the ‘Featured’ Category

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Posted by ron On August - 1 - 2010


Nicolas Cage takes Jay Baruchel to school in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice was a fancy special effects package loosely based on the short Mickey Mouse animated classic in Fantasia. Mixing sorcery with a college romance might sound like a clever marketing endeavor except the marriage didn’t work. The sophomoric script resembled a doomed marriage between J.R.R. Tolkien and Nicholas Sparks.

Jay Baruchel played Dave, a smart kid and a lousy liar, who had a traumatic experience with the supernatural. Ten years after the incident, Dave still had a crush on his childhood friend Becky Barnes. If that’s not disturbing enough, sorcerer extraordinaire Balthazar Blake played by Nicolas Cage has been searching hundreds of years for a boy like Dave to be his apprentice. If Dave is the one, he will become the Prime Merlinian, a sorcerer charged with keeping the world safe. Unfortunately, this is the 21st century where young people aren’t stupid enough to take on more responsibility without some compensation so Dave walked. Despite Blake’s protest Dave refused to care about the world in peril. He’s too busy obsessing about his childhood crush. Thank goodness Dave had his priorities set.

Director John Turteltaub who brought you 3 Ninjas, Cool Runnings, and National Treasure has a light hearted positive approach to overcoming adversity in life. If he could have tempered the obstacles he had set up for the protagonists, the plot wouldn’t be overshadowed by plasma bolts, morphing effects, and other expensive CGI candy.

No Disney fairy tale can be complete without a love interest. As Becky Barnes Teresea Palmer was fated to be Dave’s dream girl. Too bad she didn’t have any material to work with. She believed anything Dave told her and never seemed to doubt him despite her life being constantly put in danger. I guess, Dave’s a keeper. One baffling scene had Ms. Barnes intervene on Dave’s behalf atop the Chrysler building. How did she know where to find him? More importantly how did two college kids get past security to reach that summit?

The villains are theatrical and having the most fun in the film. Alfred Molina delivered a performance with the panache of a classic Disney villain. From RocknRolla, Toby Kebbell’s character was a comical parody of The Mind Freak, Criss Angel. In this era of desperate sequels, one can only hope he gets his own movie. Unfortunately, not even two great villainous actors going along with the ride aren’t enough to offset this film’s short comings.

In my ode to George Thorogood’s One bourbon, one Scotch, one beer I give the Sorcerer’s Apprentice a lite beer with very little taste.

Cheers,
Ron

Inception

Posted by admin On July - 30 - 2010


The talented Mr. Cobb takes a journey into the subconscious but he might not like what he finds.

In the midst of a dry summer and nostalgic 80s remakes, Christopher Nolan’s multi-layered psychological driven caper stood as a breathe of fresh air because it might be the only movie of the year where the concept overshadowed his collection of incredible young acting talent assembled. Obviously Nolan was as meticulous with his choices  as he was about his film making. Intense focus, restraint, and precision was required on the parts of every actor involved to carefully move such a complex story forward. Every scene was integral to the story. No camera shot was squandered.

One has to wonder, how Christopher Nolan was able to green light such an anti-Hollywood script from the studio producers? Perhaps it involved a certain character with pointed ears? No matter. It’s difficult to say Inception was his best film. While the Dark Knight might be his most resolved and polished film, Inception was his most bold, complex and intellectually provocative work to date.

The story focused on a haunted man with a tremendous gift for understanding the subconscious. It began having explained why  an idea can be the most dangerous, volatile component to the human psyche once it’s released upon the world. Boiled down to it’s most essential ingredients, it was the ultimate price for living in the subconscious. The consequence was an illegal money making endeavor. Thus, a crew was assembled with the difficult task of planting an idea for a corporation in exchange for clearing a haunted man’s name. Whether or not he deserved to, is a moral question each person must ask themselves.

Without tired money wasting gimmicks like 3-D, the action sequences and camerawork were mind blowing, original, and innovative. However, the real genius was how Nolan drew the audience into this detached character who provided us dark secrets about his past. As we went deeper into the psyche of the mark, we also went deeper into the main character played by Leonardo DiCaprio who has come a long way from looking boyishly cute in the film, Man in the Iron Mask. His character’s self torment and guilt were an expression of  Nolan’s fetish for the human psyche with an almost Kubrickian approach. This was film making that should excite audiences and inspire our imagination. Perhaps we are all victims of Inception because it kept alive the idea of cinema as art in this era of overpriced retreads and pricey gimmicks.

In my never ending tribute to George Thorogood’s song of One bourbon, one Scotch, One beer I am giving Inception a rating of a very fine Scotch aged to perfection.

Cheers,
Ron

Splice

Posted by admin On July - 30 - 2010


New credence to the question, what came first the chicken or the egg?

Two arrogant Generation X hipster scientists take their ambitions too far in what was a prime example of why narcissists with t-shirt fashion sense shouldn’t procreate. Splice wasn’t original by any means. The man plays God motif has been recycled more times than I can count. It’s more of a post Roe vs Wade psychological study into why certain intellectuals shouldn’t be parents because they aren’t ready to take the responsibility or give up the control that they exert in their careers.

When the new life form took shape, we learned how the scientist couple was recklessly dishonest with each other from the very start. It’s pretty easy to predict when this experiment went wrong. By the end of this film, it’s pretty clear not only should these two people not have created a life form together but they shouldn’t even be dating.

Director Vincenzo Natali (Cube) is not without a sense of humor. There are two awkward scenes that offer a temporary relief to the cathartic direction of his film. It’s not enough. For all their intelligence, the two scientists lacked common sense and that’s why it was virtually impossible to get behind these characters.

Still, the movie had a chance to end on a note that would have given a hint of character development. Can two people learn from their failures as parents? Can they grasp the concept of unconditional love irregardless of what a child does?

Nope. It de-evolved into the obligatory monster hunt, followed by a rape scene so horribly executed that it induced an eye rolling moment and laughter from the audience. That’s a really bad sign. I also didn’t buy the ending after Sarah Polley’s character had confronted all of her childhood and fertility issues yet, based her decision in the name of science.

In my homage to George Thorogood’s song, One bourbon, one Scotch, one beer…I am giving splice a very disappointing lite beer.

Cheers
Ron

Predators

Posted by ron On July - 30 - 2010

It‘s hunting season, and the hunters are not hunting rabbits.

Predators aspired to be the proper sequel that would hopefully revive a long dormant franchise. By closely adhering to the original premise with a few plot tweaks, its audience should be readily familiar with selectively injected catchphrases, weapons, and strategy. unfortunately it’s not compelling enough to warrant another Predator film. The first film took place on Earth and to be clever, this film was set on a Terra formed planet in a galaxy far, far away.

The unlucky contestants who unwillingly participated in an intergalactic foreign exchange program for hunters more closely resembled the Village People 2010 revival tour than cold hearted killers. We know this by the way each carefully selected Earth race imaginable were thrown into a completely foreign environment and can simultaneously deliver the stupid look. Yet like a newborn, they quickly cling to Maslow’s most basic needs. They quickly trust each other and take orders from someone they have no reason to trust at all. That someone, Adrian Brody is an amoral mercenary who quickly understood the Predators’ game plan as if he was given a manual at the start. If he meets the right woman (cue the cliché gong) he’ll become as sympathetic a character as a hooker with a heart of gold. Since we had to convince the audience a soft expression Brody character was a real lethal killer, he strategically set up each of his ensemble without consequences. Yet, they continue to listen and follow his lead. Well think about it. Would you trust someone who said, “Don’t worry that car won’t hit you..” after the same person got you hit by oncoming traffic? Didn’t think so. In fact, to retaliate you might try to convince that person to unknowingly face oncoming traffic just to send a message. Yet, no one tried to turn the tables on Brody. Cautiously yet cluelessly our rugged band of killers trek onto their inevitable doom.

The talent in this film was wasted on the body count and I was curious if a talented method actor like Brody imagined that the escape ship was a way off the movie set. Laurence Fishburne played a squatter on the alien world who figured out how to use the Predator technology. Too bad no one seemed to care how he learned to use their weapons against them and lived so long to tell the tale. The film failed to explain if or how Predators recognize each other when they are cloaked. Keep in mind, predators don’t attack in groups if we are going by the first two films.

The problems with the film are plagued by inconsistencies attributed to being a fan of the first film and trying to be its own animal. Fishburne’s character spoke how quickly the Predators adapted to the tactics of their prey. Yet, Brody employed a tactic similar to Arnold’s character Dutch in the original with even greater success against the Predator. Maybe he didn’t get the memo that he all he had to do was zone in on Brody’s heart beat and he could grab the earth man with ease. It’s not like the same Predator didn’t use this technological feature in the same scene. Oh wait it is. Of course there are two Predator species and this was the slower thinking tribe.

The first Predator film was a singular creature attracted to conflict dominated species like humans. The suspense was based off the fact that you barely saw the Predator and the tension between the characters. It picked its opponent based on their ability to survive. In this film, there is no tension between the characters. The director would have you believe they are trying to teach human killers all over the world a lesson about themselves. The implausible nature of this paradox becomes stunningly clear when you learn the predictable truth behind Topher Grace’s character. By the way, if the race of Predators was so intent on administering “let the punishment fit the crime” bill you would think they’d make a deal with the governments of Earth to take their overpopulated prison problem off their hands. Instead, its a more convoluted objective than importing ice from Pluto. I guess human beings aren’t the only race willing to waste their resources and energy on a pointless pursuit.

In my never-ending tribute to George Thorogood’s 1 bourbon, 1 scotch, 1 beer I must rate Predators as a very flat beer sitting out on a humid NYC day.

Iron Man 2

Posted by admin On July - 30 - 2010

Tony Stark is running out of options as the troubles in his life close in from every direction.

When Tony Stark’s reach overextends his grasp, he finds himself unable to keep up with the problems of the world. Tony might have the smarts to bring about world peace but not if he can’t deal with problems of his own. Iron man 2 is a case of a super hero celebrity desperately trying to do the right thing but burning himself out in the process and threatening to undo every thing he worked so hard for in order to make the world a better place. This sequel picks up where the first film left off. Iron Man is the top watch dog of the world and all eyes are on Tony. If every faction wasn’t trying to discredit him, his rivals were desperately trying to steal the Iron Man technology for their own purposes. Director Jon Favreau cleverly blended in several of the comic book story arcs: armor wars, demon in a bottle, murder in monaco, and war machine with the Senate hearings involving the legendary Howard Hughes who was the real life inspiration for Tony Stark.
What ends up happening as a result is what every normal human being deals with when they are pushed beyond their limitations, it’s a self destructive process.

Favreau who wrote Swingers understands comic book movies can explore serious subject matter without forgetting to bring the fun, imagination, and uplifting element of redemption. It’s at this point, Tony Stark realized while Iron Man may be invincible, he isn’t. The movie was very clear in depicting that a man-child like Stark needed his friends to nurse maid/stand up to him/hold him up in order to do the right thing. This redemptive moment was where The movie best modeled itself after the comic book. Tony Stark isn’t your typical super hero. He’s an insufferable arrogant bastard with the best of intentions. The unique charisma of Robert Downey Jr emboldens the character to convince us why people would risk their lives for him. Fortunately, the supporting cast has the necessary talent to do just that.

I still believe the forced Avengers/SHIELD nonsense does more to take me out of the film, than serve as some kind of transition point for every act of the film. I am still not convinced Favreau knew how to choreograph a fight scene. He could have used some of the cool armor functions from the comic book such as the chameleon effect, EMP, particle shield, and pulse bolts when Tony upgraded his armor. Still the flaws are a minor quibble. This film was easily the most enjoyable, balanced blockbuster that i enjoyed this summer.

In a homage to George Thorogood’s legendary song, one bourbon, one scotch, one beer….I gotta give this film at least a smooth shot of a 12 year old scotch.

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Thoughts on Cinema is dedicated to film reviews. An uncompromising opinion on the intellectual, artistic, and entertainment value to the consumer. With rising ticket prices, we dedicate ourselves to present to you content regarding what you should or should not be viewing. -Ronald H. Pollock Founder and Editor in Chief

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