Sunday, February 28, 2010
However, in unraveling the life of Edward D. Wood Jr., Hollywood's most gleeful "schlocketeer" and perpetrator of incomprehensibly low-rent productions, Burton has plugged into his trademark personality in a different sort of way, portraying the life and work of his subject with the same kind of pervasive, absurdist sense of humor that occupies so much of his work. In a way, Edward D. Wood's world of delusion, ineptitude and cheap thrills becomes that surrealist, fantastical arena that Burton so lovingly embraces.
Written by USC graduates Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, who were attempting to break out from there designation as writers of strictly family films, Ed Wood was taken over by Burton after a scheduling conflict with Michael Lehman rendered him unavailable. The decision to shoot in black-and-white was frowned upon by Columbia Pictures, who then saw Burton and company jump ship to Disney, where it would be released under the Touchstone banner.
Ed Wood sees Burton working at his most efficient, mature and least indulgent. The humor is biting and sharp, the acting from top-to-bottom is magnificent and the overall result is something that certainly resembles and reveals to be a Tim Burton film, yet is nevertheless more grounded in comparison.
It's hilarious, it's endlessly entertaining and yet, in the end, it's a strange kind of rumination on what it means to be an artist - loyal, dedicated and committed to your vision, whether you're Orson Welles, Stanley Kubrick or yes, even Ed Wood.
Of course, it's a sound normally associated with science-fiction films of the 50's and 60's (most people think Bernard Herrmann started the craze in 1951 with The Day the Earth Stood Still), but alas, Rosza is considered the pioneer of the theremin in regards to its implementation in film. He also used it in Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound (1945), but it wasn't as prominent or as seamless as it is in The Lost Weekend.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Waters' revision highlighted the scheme of the Penguin to attempt to capitalize on his manufactured pity and run for the Mayor's office, which of course dissolves into a more direct manner of villainy to be resolved at the film's conclusion - an army of penguins, to be exact.
The first misstep contributing to my overall disdain for Batman Returns - which I fully admit is a minority opinion - begins and ends with Bo Welch, who replaces Anton Furst as Gotham City's prime architect. The sets and the design are impressively-scaled and obviously extremely competent, I just don't like them.
Gone are the steamy, art-splattered streets of Furst's Pinewood Studios, only to be replaced by the snowy, wide-open plazas guarded by the conniving towers of business tycoon Max Shreck (Christopher Walken). The effect is like stumbling into a crowded FAO Schwarz on Christmas Eve.
And yes, it remains an appropriate design choice given the origins and seasonal attributes associated with its main villain, but when said villain is an unthreatening, uninteresting and pitiful nemesis, it makes it all the more tougher to swallow.
What Batman Returns boils down to is a muddied, motionless affair with well-respected actors hamming it up to dialogue so bad it transcends tongue-in-cheek comic-page jabbering. There are moments when Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman sparks genuine interest in a film that otherwise provides none, but in the end, it proves to be the most tedious and driest of Burton's early films.
Essentially a one-man investigative conspiracy potboiler, the lead dog (a hack ghost-writer without a name played by Ewan McGregor) is appointed by a squeaky publishing house (given a face by Timothy Hutton) to continue working on the unfinished memoir of ex-UN Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan). The first ghost-writer tragically died, although the events surrounding his death seem awfully suspicious. Who's up for a mystery, huh?
Taking place almost entirely on a sea-side castle of modernity (the Prime Minister's lovely escape palace on a nameless island off the East Coast), the film shares more than one common link between itself and Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island. Both films are late-career works by legendary filmmakers, they both take place on an island, and they both contain final-act twists which render everything that took place before altered and warped in retrospect.
This kind of rat-in-a-maze thriller (to steal a line from Jackie Earle Haley) definitely shares its foundation with Polanski's own Chinatown, especially in its final moments, although it only seems capable of sufficient imitation opposed to duplication.
It certainly feels wholly competent and perfectly calculated, yet there is an air of falsity and comatose that bubbles to the surface occasionally, resembling the same fallacy as the condemning photographs that our nameless ghost-writer uncovers.
Contrary to Scorsese's film, The Ghost Writer operates on a different level of big-picture politics and global conspiracy, avoiding genre calls and bombastic amplification. It also doesn't really foment the way Shutter Island does, lingering and cultivating in the mind long afterward as something grand and tragic. The Ghost Writer works and it thrills, it just doesn't stimulate.
Friday, February 26, 2010
It's a swedish revenge/mystery thriller that due to its country of origin is garnering comparisons to the now cult favorite vampire film, Let the Right One In. The U.S. seems to be the only remaining territory that it hasn't opened in. I'll be able to see it on March 26th.
During pre-production on Beetlejuice, Burton contacted novelist Caroline Thompson (who would go on to write Corpse Bride and The Nightmare Before Christmas) to adapt Edward Scissorhands for the screen. Although originally intended to be produced at Warner Bros, the studio sold the rights to the film to 20th Century Fox, and thus Scissorhands became Burton's first film under a different studio banner.
Essentially a gothic fairy-tale fused with social satire, the film examines suburban culture and hysteria through the arrival, or rather the discovery of an unfinished experiment - a young man inconveniently conflicted with scissor-blades of various sizes posing as fingers on each hand. (The inventor is played by Vincent Price, a hero to Burton, and thus, Edward).
As inspiration for the story of Edward struggling to face his affliction and find love and companionship. Burton and appointed scribe Caroline Thompson thematically drew upon classic Universal and RKO horror films like King Kong (1933), The Phantom of the Opera (1925), Frankenstein (1931) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939). From a visual perspective, however, Edward Scissorhands is purely one-of-a-kind.
From the now iconic color palette of Burton's fictionalized suburban neighborhood to the lurking and mysterious mansion on the hill, the film draws upon the director's most obvious visual reference - the contrast of the bold and the pictorial with the pallid, charcoal residue of his characters.
Much like how most of the director's sensibilities and influences on later films can be picked up in Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands is perhaps the quintessential Burton film in this regard - not only for its thematic elements, but in the casting of the tormented, confounded and surprisingly loveable title character.
Johnny Depp was an actor looking for a renewal from his teen-choice persona. Fresh off of roles in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Platoon (1986) and "21 Jump Street," Depp was hand-picked by Burton over A-list stars like Tom Cruise and William Hurt. In preparation, the then 27 year-old actor watched a lot of Charlie Chaplin so that he could gain audience sympathy through simple facial gestures and movements.
And although the film is eventually about the inability of society to understand and accept a seemingly inchoate and lesser individual, Edward Scissorhands is a delightfully compassionate, poignant and optimistic work. It's some kind of strange and daintily-shaped masterwork - finely observed, felt and constructed. Burton's sensitivity and relation to the material enlivens and expands upon his visual awareness instead of the other way around.
I don't doubt that Jackie Earle Haley will be really good as Freddy Kruger, but you just can't trust anything that Michael Bay or his Platinum Dunes production house puts its name on. I'm still recovering from Friday the 13th.
Plus, Wes Craven's original 1986 Nightmare on Elm Street is one of the few classic slasher films of the late 70's and 80's that really holds up well.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
And so Tim Burton and his pale entourage of weirdos invaded Hollywood in the summer of '89 with one of the most iconic and successful comic-book adaptations to date. Batman, although now re-imagined by Christopher Nolan, was and still remains a re-defining film, not only for the superhero genre as a whole, but for Burton himself, who crossed-over into the mega mainstream with relative ease and comfort without losing his vision and his personality.
Working in the realm of grand-scale movie making for the firs time, Burton found periods of the production frustrating and problematic. Filming had to be moved from Los Angeles to London to avoid media attention, Sam Hamm's script underwent constant revisions and producer Jon Peters proved to be an active participant in the day-to-day shoot, even changing the climax behind Burton's back to keep Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger) from becoming one of The Jokers' (Jack Nicholson) latest victims.
Regardless of any reported behind-the-scenes turbulence, the film shows no signs of commotion or disarray - in fact, it feels wholly and stylistically like Burton's show from the first frame to the last.
Although Michael Keaton's Batman is tough yet susceptible and Jack Nicholson has fun with his Joker, the real star of the film is the stellar design crew - a seamless and astonishing collaboration between the production, art, make-up and costume departments who bring Gotham City to life using entirely hand-made sets, matte paintings and stop-motion effects. The result is steamy, filthy, glorious Gotham City that not even Christopher Nolan, Wally Pfister and the advantage of cutting-edge visual effects could replicate.
For a 4-month period from '88 to '89, England-based Pinewood Studios was literally transformed into Gotham. Co-creator Bob Kane described his initial feelings towards the design: "I envisaged Gotham the way I see it now at Pinewood. They've got it, every building, every trash can, every brick." At times, the effect of the production exudes the same feeling of and slightly resembles the dystopian streets and skyways of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner - widely regarded as a masterclass in production design.
Anton Furst (production designer on Batman and Full Metal Jacket) described his feelings working with Burton and on designing the city of Gotham: "There was never any problem because we never fought over anything. Texture, attitude and feelings are what [Burton] is a master at." And Danny Elfman, who had to win over some highly skeptical Warner Bros. executives, delivers a flawless, iconic and distinct score - easily on of the greatest feats of his illustrious career.
And although Batman may be light on action and heavy on Prince songs, in regards to translating the atmosphere and the style of comic books to the big screen in an accessible, mass-consumed package - well, no one could say that they've done it much better.
Reed's tirades about the state of film criticism and American filmmaking are overly dramatic and banal, but here goes:
"The hack responsible for this miserable dreck is director Kevin Smith, whose writing on other filmx is so filthy it cannot be quoted in the company of anyone who cares about their I.Q. status...and whose zero stalent as a director of such cinematic brain lesions as Clerks, Mallrats, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and Zack and Miri Make a Porno has made significant contributions to the dumbing down of America in general and the American movies in particular. It gets even dumber with Cop Out."
"There isn't much to say about a movie this stupid, involving a duo of aging stoners in uniform who patrol Brookyln and Queens and call themselves White Lighning and Black Thunder, and who spend most of their time on suspension without pay for obvious reasons."
"...at the screening for alleged critics I attended, one lady reviewer old enough to know better went into hysterics every time the cops described in detail their excrement, flatulence and penis size."
"I guess it could be worse. The sleep-inducing Cop Out was originally called A Couple of Dicks, so be grateful for small favors. An even bigger favor would have been burning the negative before it left the lab."
The current tally is at 17% on Rotten Tomatoes, and Armond White isn't even trying to pass it off as some commentary on post-racial America.
Whether I like or dislike a Coen Brothers' film, I've always thought that they were masters of filling out a cast, everyone from the leads down to the one-shot supporting characters are pitch-perfect. Why should we have any reason to remember the over-the-counter clerks from No Country for Old Men or the Jewish grotesques in A Serious Man?
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
So in limbo, Burton decided to shoot a modestly-budgeted film ($13 million) from an original script by Michael McDowell about a married couple who struggle to deal with the realities of their deaths and the petulant, estranged family who move into their home.
Beetlejuice is essentially Burton's fun-house of horrors and the beginning of the director's fascination with the supernatural, the superhuman and the chimerical. He was perhaps never as kooky, unchained or low-rent and macabre as he was here, and thus the film has a sizeable following and a place in the heart of many.
In essence a ceaseless barrage of stop-motion effects and unfathomable creature designs, it also strongly represents Burton's visual and thematic sensibilities in regards to character alienation and design. It also marks the first great score by Danny Elfman, who is almost as synonymous with the director as his frequent on-screen collaborators, Johnny Depp and his own corpse bride, Helena Bonham Carter.
Additionally, it sets the groundwork for Michael Keaton and Winona Ryder to land roles in Burton's future films, Batman and Edward Scissorhands. Both are simply a joy to watch here - with the latter assuming Burton's fetishistic approach to hairstyling.
Now, Michael McDowell's original script (before going through various rewrites) was apparently far more violent and stern and less of a haunted house. For example, when Adam (Alec Baldwin) and Barbara (Geena Davis) Maitland drive off of a bride to their deaths, McDowell's script originally provided a very descriptive and real account of the tragedy - in Burton's film, in which a dog is the culprit, the scene is almost comical.
And thus, Beetlejuice took on this farcical, tongue-in-cheek, absurdist sense of humor that would dominate the filmography of Burton for the rest of his career - mixing the ghastly and the ghoulish with fun, almost flippant irony.
But where Beetlejuice feels artistically schlocky in the best Sam Raimi kind of way, it has a strange and unfortunate penchant for over-stepping its boundaries. When a dinner table Harry Belafonte sing-a-long breaks out, it's kinda funny, but when Winona Ryder closes the film by apathetically signing and dancing to "Jump in the Line (Shake, Senora)," well that's just a little more than I can stand.
(And the Frank Capra marathon is still very much alive and well, but it's slowing to crawl. Expect one a week.)
Monday, February 22, 2010
Nevertheless, Leonardo DiCaprio gives a performance worth talking about, and especially worth talking about after a second viewing, which as a whole, proves to be a differently rewarding experience itself.
First off, nobody is better at giving off a sense of delusion, confusion or moral turbulence better than DiCaprio, and I don't know any better way to describe the character of Teddy Daniels than as confused or delusional.
And while his squinty-eyed, sour-lemon face is now his go-to breakdown trump card, I think the "revelation" scene at the end of the film is heartbreaking stuff, and on a second viewing, you really notice some devastating facial gestures in his shakedown with Ben Kingsley.
And like the performance, the film as a whole just won't escape my mind. Its portrait of psychological fragility - the difference between man and monster - ringing more and more clearly with each passing moment. I think the more you see it, the more you think about it and the more you digest it, it becomes less and less of the manipulating, peek-a-boo genre trope that so many have denounced it as and more of a really challenging, thoughtful work.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
For all of its explanatory third act revelations, it remains proudly and engagingly ornate - a smokey work full of style and bare-knuckled moodiness that eventually outworks its deficiencies.
For me, Shutter Island is a fully alive and compelling genre piece. It may feel at times like a film that wallows in its own deceptions and technique, trying desperately to surprise the audience, but by the end, it becomes something with more weight, ambiguity and old-fashioned directorial commitment than anything we're likely to see this year. It may not be Scorsese's The Shining - it's too slavish to Dennis Lehane's source novel for that - but after much gestation, I believe it could be the director's greatest work in over two decades.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Riskin co-wrote Capra's previous hit, the newsroom screwballer Platinum Blonde (1931) with Swerling a year prior, but on American Madness, it was Riskin's first solo screenplay for Columbia's most successful director and the beginning of a most noteworthy Hollywood marriage of writer and filmmaker. (The two would clater collaborate on It Happened One Night, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Lost Horizon, You Can't Take it With You and Meet John Doe.)
Friday, February 19, 2010
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Okay, I'll play along. My Top 5 Scorsese:
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
The second reason why I dig it is because I love the ambiguous ending that bookmarks the close of one film while suggesting the start of another. When Harrison Ford's Deckard picks up the origami figure, nods his head and then the camera follows him into the elevator, it feels open-ended yet entirely complete and final. I don't want to mistake ambiguous endings that feel resolute for ambiguous endings that leave you hanging and surprised.
My only reservation with these final scene is the superfluous repeating of Edward James Olmos' final line. You'd have to be mentally impaired to not know what the origami figure represents, symbolizes, suggests. It's an "I'm watching you," "I'll give you a head start," kind of thing and the voiceover is unnecessary, but it's just a minor nitpick.
Essentially a one-man investigative conspiracy thriller (think Jack Nicholson in Chinatown), the film has been generally well-received to this point, with Emanuel Levy, Slant's Ed Gonzalez, and Marshall Fine all modestly approving in their remarks:
Emanuel Levy shares similar remarks in his review: "Ghost Writer" is Polanski's first contempo thriller in 22 years, since “Frantic,” in 1988, with Harrison Ford, which was both an artistic and commercial flop. Based on the novel “The Ghost” (a better title) by best-selling author Robert Harris, which won the International Thriller Writers’ Award for best novel of 2008, the scenario is co-penned by Harris and Polanski."
Monday, February 15, 2010
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Like the film itself, the beast that Lawrence Talbot (Del Toro) morphs into under the light of the full moon is freakishly agile and lightning-quick, almost indecipherable – perhaps in an attempt to smudge up the lackluster visual effects.
The scares are tirelessly jumpy, insincere and computer-generated, with the rare moments that rely on simple make-up effects further serving to enforce the idea into my head that director Joe Johnston and his crew should have had the guts to go old-school with this thing and simply give Benicio Del Toro an un-digitized makeover. (Although as I pointed out the other day, he hardly needs one).
The script by Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self waddles around in an easy-to-predict mold of disorderly family mystery and perceived vengeance amidst tragedy, but the latter attempts are miserably mismanaged.
Benicio Del Toro is a fine actor in the right setting (Che, 21 Grams), and even with a comical physical resemblance to a real-life wolfman, the 42 year-old Puerto Rican actor is either miscast, under-written, or disinterested. There’s no internal struggle in the character of Lawrence Talbot, no definable catharsis, and absolutely zero believability or credence to his relationship with the widowed Emily Blunt.
On the whole, it's too serious and too monotonous to work as pure genre entertainment, and yet in this attempt at self-seriousness, the film wilts under its own ineptitude. Perhaps by giving Talbot (Del Toro) a background in Shakespearean theater, the filmmakers were attempting to highlight the tragedy of Lawrence Talbot, but the real tragedy here is in the telling – in that regard, The Wolfman is a downright catastrophe.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Thursday, February 11, 2010
More ensemble romance and heartbreak which will undoubtedly bear little resemblance to any relationship on this earth. The effect this film has on our world may be to break up more love birds than it attracts - consider it the worst date ever. Nevertheless, it should open huge. 13% RT, 33 Metacritic.
Children of Men, Minority Report, Donnie Darko are no-brainers, musts, but the exclusion of Danny Boyle's Sunshine irks me a little, especially in favor of stuff like Serenity and Timecrimes.
Now everyone and their neighbor knows that Sunshine kind of veers a little off-course in its final act, but it's still a slickly-produced, well-founded and sporadically brilliant end-of-the-world space mission. Plus John Murphy's original score is easily one of the most ingenious, copied, and repeated compositions of the decade - topping his 28 Days Later work.
I can't think of any other potentially worthy sci-fi stuff from the '00-'09 period, any other notable omissions? The list:
Children of Men
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Blue Velvet is a simply-themed yet strangely conceived dreamscape from the mind of David Lynch – primal, dreamy, ethereal, haunting, etc. Beneath its ugly veneer of sexual vulgarities, it's a mush of borderline saccharine statements and obvious symbolism – yet somehow it all works so extremely well.
Or most of all, in the way that the film balances purity (Kyle MacLachlan and Laura Dern) with overt evil (Dennis Hopper) and scenes of schmaltzy philosophy with sadistic repugnance.
The key scene between Jeff (MacLachlan) and Sandy (Dern) in the car, in which she describes her regular dream of robins flying in and ridding the world of darkness wouldn’t work outside of the context of the film, it is after all, maudlin and indulgent. But within the context of the film, it absolutely works. (For some unobtainable reason, I love the scene where Kyle MacLachlan cries, "why is there so much trouble in this world?")
And later, when the robin shows up at the end of the film, perched outside the Beaumont kitchen window, an insect clutched in its beak, as obvious and forced as it may be, it too, somehow works – I love it.This is partly because of the surrealistic and dreary, indelible images of Frederick Elmes’ noir-ish cinematography and Patricia Norris’ production design which turn Dorothy’s red-carpeted apartment (with its long, threatening hallway) into a character unto itself. But anyone familiar with David Lynch can sense the auteur’s overwhelming fingerprints all over this thing and it is his vision that keeps Blue Velvet on track at all times – tense, provocative and lasting.
I don’t know how he did it, but this is one of the finest American films of the past thirty-plus years and in a way, one of the director’s most accessible and personal – a strange world, indeed.
My stance on 3D has always been to use it on certain films in which the viewing experience is enhanced, (i.e. building it from the ground up.) Avatar, despite my reservations for the film itself, implemented the technology beautifully - at times, seamlessly.
But studios throwing out 3D just to do it and doing it just to beef up their returns by preying on uninformed theater-goers expecting something like Avatar is sickening. On a much larger scale, the final two chapters of the Harry Potter saga will also go 3D, in an equally desperate move.
I have yet to see a 3D film in theaters that was originally shot to be projected in two-dimensions, but I can't imagine that it's a pretty sight, not to mention worth the extra $2-4.
Clearly there is a market for 3D, but it exists with the Coraline's and Avatar's of the world - an every 1-2 months kind of thing. I'm worried that more studios will adapt like Warner Bros. and revert to equally (or perhaps exceedingly) desperate measures. Let's hope not.
I'll be seeing Clash of the Titans in 2D, thank you, the way it was meant to be seen.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Surely horror filmmakers know that this is the most convenient, overused and played-out gimmick in the genre, so why do we get 4-5 of these a year? (The Unborn and Orphan come to mind.) Is this like the visual equivalent of the Wilhelm Scream?
Jeff Wells at Hollywood-Elsewhere also took offense, claiming that the grand-daddy of all mirror-shock scenes is the one from Roman Polanski's Repulsion (1965), which is absent from the video.
Monday, February 8, 2010
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Part of the problem - okay, most of the problem - stems from William Sandell's production design and Erica Edell Phillips' costumes, which render the film disagreeable and blank - a dystopian jazzercise class. For a film set in the future, revolving around artificial dreams and interplanetary travel, there wasn't a set piece (aside from the Mars exteriors) that was visually arresting in any way. Earth is gray and concrete, Mars is slummy and constricted - it's just an ugly movie.
The difference is that RoboCop makes its political and social jabs concise and clear-headed, and there's real, definable catharsis in the character of Alex Murphy. (Plus a bounty of nice scathing, satirical blows to mass media and consumerism and an added edge of topicality, seeing as how the flailing Detroit depicted here is all too familiar to the one we know now.)
Total Recall ends up being Verhoeven's schlockier, staler companion piece to the superior RoboCop - a fuller and more well-rounded film in every way. The latter's violence is shocking and yet completely earned, whereas Recall's violence (and the film itself) lack a reason to exist, coming off as excessive and repetitious - its like a whore with three boobs.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
Essentially, the film is a classical fairy tale - no doubt inspired by the numerous family-friendly medieval fantasies of the early 80's - taking place in a world of unicorns, goblins, elves, fairies and a very evil Lord of Darkness. It takes its plot cues from the classic Disney mold, including a singing princess, a magical forest, squatty comic-relief characters and a complete and utter lack of context and scope. (She's the princess of what, the leaves?)
Tom Cruise plays the whey-faced hero who must enter evil's domain to save the princess and rid the land of darkness (and a shitload of snow). Whatever your thoughts are of the film, Cruise's performance - whimpering and puny - is a career embarrassment, there's no denying it.
Nevertheless, Legend endures because of the aces production design, the art direction, the costumes, the make-up and a strange tone of bleakness amongst the fantastical that perfectly highlights the film's central theme of duality - lightness and darkness (and furthermore, good scenes and bad scenes). Also surpassing tedium is Mia Sara, who plays the harmless and victimized princess in her screen debut.Legend is certainly a take-it-or-leave-it kind of film, with those willing to submit to its fantastical imagery and classical storytelling reaping the benefits of an exceedingly well-made if meager and fluffy live-action fairy tale.
It's more of a curiosity than a good film, but I found it endearing enough in places to recommend and, dare I say, watch again down the road. What's happening? I'm starting to like it more and more with each passing minute. As Myrna Loy once said in W.S. Van Dyke's The Thin Man, "It's stiffling, but it's so pretty."
Described as an "adult fairy-tale drama," the film chronicles a fisherman (Colin Farell) as he catches a mysterious woman in his nets who at first appears to be dead before magically springing to life.
This trailer doesn't really stir me one way or the other (besides the fact that I love that cloudy, breezy seaport setting) but it looks like it's coming from the right place. Certainly better than The Brave One, no?
Friday, February 5, 2010
I'm a big dork about the original 1982 Tron, an endearingly dated computer-geek science-fiction fantasy. I love the sound design, the art direction, the light cycles, the disc wars, the villainous Sark, etc. For a 90-minute family friendly film, it draws the viewer deep into its own cyberworld and doesn't speak down. It can be enjoyed as pure entertainment or a Matrix-like excursion, rich in fictional nerd terms and culture.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
DEAR JOHN (Sony/Screen Gems) [2,969]
This looks like your standard Nicholas Barfs adaptation - pretty faces, beach setting, oxford shirts. While watching the trailer, it dangerously approaches the flashback scenes of G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra. If only Sienna Miller showed up to fight Amanda Seyfried.
FROM PARIS WITH LOVE (Lionsgate) [2,722]
The only thing that could be worse than a Pierre Morel action film (Taken) is a Pierre Morel action film starring John Travolta. The goatee, the earring, the bald head, the over-cussing - I can't take it.
FROZEN (Anchor Bay) 
This low-budget genre film about a trio of snowboarders stranded on a ski slope, battling the elements, debuted at Sundance about a week-and-a-half ago to mixed response. Genre fans are digging it, Jeff Wells thought it was okay, everyone else is unimpressed.