Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Movie Journal: Labyrinth

Labyrinth is yet another case of what I like to call a flawed masterpiece. While it has it's share of issues, certain subtle qualities retain it's "must-see" status.

Directed and co-written by Jim Henson, Labyrinth tells the story of a teenage, overly dramatic girl(played by none other than Jennifer Connelly in one of her earliest roles). Once again, her parents force her to stay home and look after her baby brother while they enjoy a night out. Sarah takes it all a bit melodramatically, and in a fit of sad angst wishes that the goblins of the far castle would come and take the baby away, turning into a goblin and keeping him within the castle for all eternity. Apparently she didn't at first know that goblins actually existed, but it's too late now, isn't it?

As you can imagine, when Sarah finds out that her wish has come true, she's quite dismayed. She pleads with none other than the Goblin King(played by none other than David Bowie) himself, who finally brings forth a proposal. Surrounding his castle is a gigantic labyrinth, which he himself built. If Sarah can solve it within the next few hours, before the designated time of her brother's transformation, they both can go free.

As the story unfolds, Sarah works hard to navigate the Labyrinth while all around her Jim Henson's bizarre puppet creations come to life.

While flawed in parts, and certainly showing it's age, Labyrinth contains too much genius to be overlooked. For many young kids, and anyone for that matter, Labyrinth is a very valuable story that should be mandatory viewing. Plus, it's just a ton of fun.

7 out of 10

Monday, May 25, 2009

Movie Journal: Say Anything

Don't you just hate it when the title to a romantic comedy has almost nothing to do with the storyline?

No matter. Say Anything may not make much sense as a movie title, but the content of the movie itself is superb.

As for an idea of the plot, I think IMDb sums it up best: "A noble underachiever and a beautiful valedictorian fall in love the summer before she goes off to college."

John Cusack stars in what is probably my favorite role of his, while Ione Skye perfectly portrays the smart and pretty yet unsure girl the main character is trying to win over.

The characters are fun and the sheer complexity of the storyline is quite satisfactory. All in all, it's one of the greater and more moving of the teenage romances of the 1980's, despite some potential ethical issues concerning the very intimate relationship between the main characters. Don't let the unfortunately corny poster above deter you. For any fan of film, Say Anything is well worth your time.

8 out of 10

Movie Journal: Blade II

What possessed me, you might ask? Well, the first Blade wasn't entirely bad, and Del Toro directed this time around. How bad could it be?

Actually, not that bad. Wesley Snipes again returns as Blade, a daywalking vampire who has taken it upon himself to track and kill other vampires. However, a rather interesting twist occurs when the vampires come to him for help hunting a new threat: a hybrid vampire that feeds off of other vampires. Normally, our hero wouldn't care, but it seems that as soon as all the vampires are gone these creatures will turn to the humans for food, resulting in a worldwide catastrophy.

Blade agrees to group up with a special vampire ops team that has been training to kill him for years. They put aside their differences in order to rid the world of a common and much deadlier enemy.

Blade II is almost monumentally better than the first, but it's almost even more shallow. Blade is an awesome character, and he does awesome things, but most everything else going on plot-wise leaves much to be desired.

6 out of 10

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Movie Journal: Spaceballs

When it comes to comedic spoof and parody, who can forget Mel Brooks? He created several undeniably hysterical films in his time, such as History Of The World Part 1 and Young Frankenstein. And Spaceballs.

Of all of Brooks' works, Spaceballs is almost certainly the most popular. Also, it's probably the cheesiest. In this galactic adventure just about every major space-related franchise is almost utterly humiliated, from Star Wars to Planet of the Apes, to even Alien. Shamelessly, too. Still, Spaceballs isn't trying to hurt anyone, it's just trying to share a little fun, and in that it succeeds.

True: it's extremely and unbelievably cheesy. But maybe that's what makes it so memeorable in the first place.

8 out of 10

Movie Journal: Blade

Here we go again. Tell you what; chances are that you already know what I'm going to say, so I'll make this one short and sweet.

Blade features some of the very best choreographed action I've ever seen. When it comes to style, it completely surpasses even The Matrix. In parts. As for the rest of the movie, the pace is slow, episodic, and inconsistent. Also, the plot is totally cliche-ridden, though I have due respect for the original comic's ingenuities.

In the end, if you are looking for a truly satisfying movie, give this one a pass. Yeah, The One was better than this.

5 out of 10

Movie Journal: Ferris Bueller's Day Off

You gotta love the unique style John Hughes was so well known for during the late 1980's, namely in his novel depictions of both youthful bliss and teen angst in his stories; and often together. My favorite of his would probably be Ferris Bueller's Day Off, which he both wrote and directed. It's a masterpiece.

So, what's the plot, you might ask? Well, it's rather hard to say. One of it's qualities is the film is very laid-back and yet very engaging at the same time. However, the one incident that sets everything off is that Ferris convinces his parents he's too sick to go to school, for the ninth time this semester. Knowing he'll have to go to extreme measures to deceive his parents the tenth time, Ferris begins preparations very soon after he has the house to himself. This may be his last day off, and he's going to make it count.

That's the little I'll say on the matter, because it's a movie that has to be seen to be believed. Just know that when it comes to comedic film, this one should be mandatory viewing. It's all but perfect in it's execution.

9 out of 10

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Star Trek Review

Don't you kinda despise the immense hype preceding just about every major summer flick? the worst part is that about half the time the film in question isn't nearly as good as the trailers made it out to be. And what has achieved more hype than Star Trek? Not much else, this summer season. But that's why I feel it's my duty to inform readers of one simple fact: the new Star Trek IS just about everything it's cracked up to be.

Star Trek is an epic prequel taking us back to the very beginning of both Spock's and James T. Kirk's journey. Over the course of the plot every character from the series that us Trekkies know and love meet up in an effort to stop a mysterious and deadly enemy. That is all you need to know without having a perfectly awesome plot being spoiled.

To tell the truth, I didn't appreciate Transformers all that much, which happened to be a film that Roberto Orcia and Alex Kurtzman too wrote. It had the fun, but none of the legitimate drama, or so I felt at the time. But this time the expertise of these screenwriters really shows. They have quite successfully combine the dramatic with the visual stimulation so signature of their past action flicks.

One aspect of the dramatic situations being so believable may be due to the fact that each character's intricacies are mindblowing, though much of that may also be due to phenomenal casting. I now consider the new Star Trek cast to be in many ways the definitive one. There's not a single unwanted choice in the lot, and each actor excells in the portrayal of these classic characters.

As for the action, tension builds steadily to each dramatic situation until the characters are completely and totally unleashed, and push toward their goal unrelentingly until the very end of the film. Contrary to what some misguided journalists have postulated, this is action at it's finest in years.

Star Trek is the funnest and most mindblowingly exciting film of this year yet, and I'd advise that you not miss it. This is Star Trek the way it was meant to be experienced.

9 out of 10

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Movie Journal: Memento

On the day his wife is murdered, a man is injured and wakes up with a case of short-term memory loss. Only able to remember one clear thing(that is, the death of his wife), Leonard is constantly working to track down the killer. Every morning he wakes up in his motel room wondering where exactly he is, and has only bits and pieces of clues to go by that he left for himself to find, such as notes and pictures and tattoos steadily covering his body.

Much like Leonard's disjointed sense of memory, the film's plot manifests itself in bits and pieces of the main character's experiences. Such a plotline is rather hard to characterize. It doesn't really take place in a straightforward and linear fashion, but neither is it nonlinear; rather, the movie shows us every incident in reverse order. Viewers are invited to see for themselves the bizarre things Leonard will never remember he did, let alone understand.

Christopher Nolan writes and directs this masterpiece with true vision. A little tedious to some but gripping to those who enjoy a good psychological thriller, Memento may be the most novel film in said genre ever conceived.

9 out of 10

Friday, May 8, 2009

Movie Journal: Castle In The Sky

Not only is Miyazaki's classic masterpiece of the 1980's instantly captivating, but once the action kicks in things stay in high gear until the final confrontation, thanks to outstandingly structured action. It's like Temple Of Doom for kids. Only better.

The idea is simple, but the execution is not. A young girl who floats down from the sky is on the run from air pirates, who are after her mystical stone, which has been passed down for generations of her family. A boy meets up with her and helps her escape. Turns out that the government too is after the stone, and will do anything they can to obtain it.

That is how the story begins. Sounds simple? Perhaps, but by the story's end more twists and turns occur than I originally thought possible. Cool, charming, and above all nostalgic, Castle In The Sky is one of the very best animated features ever produced.

9 out of 10

P.S. I can guarantee you will enjoy it much more if you see it in Japanese with English subtitles, the way it was meant to be experienced.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Movie Journal: The One

Like many stylized and potential-brimming action flicks before it, this film utlimately falls short of the mark. The action may be incredible, but the plot starts out ambitious and ends up just plain generic. This is a real pity, especially considering the story's stellar premise.

Basically, the world is not made up of a single unified universe, but rather a multiverse. There are hundreds of universes, and chance dictates that every few universes there is an alternate you. So, believe it or not, some psycho in the distant future finds a way to move in between these universes, and thereby begins assassinating all his alternate selves, one by one. It's then up to the members of the interuniversal republic to track down and stop him, before he becomes The One, and throws off the balance of energy between worlds.

Again, it's a cool idea, and the action isn't so bad, either. How they were able to take clearly Matrix-style concepts into a totally new direction is a little beyond me, but it works. Time and again we see Jet Li dodging bullets and running across walls, but he does it in a style entirely seperate from what The Matric accomplished. Kudos to that. Still, there's little that can save a film from a monotonous plot. See it if you must, but just don't expect to be entirely satisfied.

6 out of 10

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Movie Journal: District B13

Did you know that the French are actually well known for their action sequences in film? It's true. A rather recent example is the movie District B13(or Banlieue 13). In it, certain crime-polluted areas of France are being closed off into isolated districts. Cut off from the rest of the civilized world by thick concrete walls, the society slowly degenerates. Chaos reigns.

Things run this course until a gang from district B13 hijacks an armored car and accidentally sets off the timer of the nuetron bomb inside. In 24 hours, it will detonate.

The action itself delivers on this premise outstandingly, and the storyline is essentially eighty minutes of nonstop intensity. The main characters pull off all sorts of crazy stunts on their mission, often without trampolines or wires. Some would say the incredible sense of movement in each action sequence is proportionate compensation for a shallow plot, but District B13 is anything but guilty pleasure. Rather, what it lacks in "complexity" it more than makes up for in intelligent cinematography. In other words, don't get the wrong idea, because the plot is awesome.

District B13 is the best over-the-top action film in years. Wait; scratch that. It's not "over-the-top". The stunts were quite real. Maybe that's a good part of what makes this movie so darn cool.

9 out of 10

Movie Journal: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

Mask of the Phantasm is that Batman movie so often overlooked. What is it? It's an animated feature based on the magnificent Batman TV series of 1992. Written by Alan Burnett, the storyline takes some very interesting turns and has the viewer pretty engaged by the characters quite early on, which is note-worthy for a kids cartoon of the 1990's. 

The age of the cartoon shows in the animation, but to this day it's still cool and visually striking. Any fan of Batman and his movie adventures should give Mask of the Phantasm a shot, and chances are that anyone particularly into the show already has. 

8 out of 10

Movie Journal: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

What can I say; it's Indiana Jones. Only on steroids. After escaping an Asian mob boss and his henchmen by plane, Jones crashlands in India and is implored by a group of poor villagers to retrieve a magic stone that was stolen from them by a secret sacrificial cult. 

Leading lady Kate Capshaw's character is a rather obnoxious one, and Ford has to play a somewhat stereotypical hero this time around, but the young and goofy Asian sidekick "Short Round" brings out a side of Jones we haven't really seen before. Not only that, but Temple of Doom's action is so continuous and intense that by the end of the film you're left far more satisfied than by Raiders' inexplicable dropoff. Indy 2 isn't just a good time, it's a genuinely good movie, and deserves to be remembered as such.  

8 out of 10

Movie Journal: Pan's Labyrinth

I'd be surprised if you hadn't heard of this masterpiece up until now, as it's had quite a lot of publicity for a foreign film. It has been nominateda whopping 58 times and won 3 Oscars, one being for Best Writing/Original Screenplay. Who wrote it? None other than Guillermo del Toro, and I can only conclude that the man is an absolute genius. 

The storyline is an adult-geared fairytale starring a young, immortal princess who attempts to leave the underworld and see what life on earth is like. Eventually, the princess dies a cruel death in the world of mortals. In response, the king of the underworld opens a portal in order to reincarnate the princess. However, the girl, Ofelia, cannot proceed to her father's kingdom until she has passed three tests. Ofelia attempts to complete these tasks, hoping to take her baby brother with her to the kingdom when he is born; an event that is quite imminent. Meanwhile, she's currently staying at a camp of the Spanish military, and rebels hiding in the forest plan a means of defeating the camp's cruel and heartless Captain.

That is a very, very small taste of what the story is like. But know this: finally, an essentially perfect cast of actors have come together to breathe life in a nearly flawless screenplay dealing with the truths of both cruelty and innocence in the world we live in. Few other movies so perfectly chronicle man's yearnful search for immortality, and how it is ultimately attained. Pan's Labyrinth could be the single most powerful movie I've yet seen.

10 out of 10