Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Film Reviews: Prometheus and Cross of Iron


While I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the Alien franchise, I was still thoroughly intrigued by Ridely Scott’s return. The first movie, the original Alien, is a little too high on the old Spook-o-meter for me, but I still liked it and respect what Scott did in the film. The second, James Cameron’s Aliens, is much more to my taste, and I mostly really enjoy it. Mostly. I haven’t seen movies three or four, and don’t plan to, but the first two contain plenty of good material worth revisiting*. So how does Scott do in his long-awaited return to sci-fi?

*However, I actually have seen the Aliens vs. Predators movie (the first one, anyway), which no one seems to dispute is essentially a big-budget fan fiction.

A prequel in the way that X-Men: First Class is a prequel, Prometheus tells the story of two scientists, Shaw and Holloway (Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green) who are able to demonstrate a recurring star pattern among ancient cave paintings that are otherwise unconnected. Funded by the gigantic Weyland Corporation, the two proceed to a star system that matches the pattern on the titular starship, looking for an alien civilization that may have influenced the creation (or at least development) of mankind. Also on the ship are a frosty Weyland representative named Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), the amusingly laconic captain (Idris Elba), and an android named David (Michael Fassbender), whose motives remain murky. The ship finds the target planet without incident, but (unsurprisingly) things start to go awry once they disembark and find a large facility of some sort, stocked with containers of a mysterious black ooze.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Year in Paul: 2002

What I’ve Seen

40 Days and 40 Nights
Austin Powers in Goldmember
Big Fat Liar
Blind Spot: Hitler’s Secretary
Catch Me If You Can
Gangs of New York
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Ice Age
In America
Kung Pow: Enter the Fist
Like Mike
Lilo and Stitch
Men in Black II
Minority Report
Mr. Deeds
Orange County
Pokemon 4
Punch-Drunk Love
Red Dragon
Reign of Fire
Return to Never Land
Snow Dogs
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron
Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams
Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones
The Bourne Identity
The Count of Monte Cristo
The Emperor’s Club
The Lord of Rings: The Two Towers
The Master of Disguise
The Powerpuff Girls
The Rookie
The Santa Clause 2
The Time Machine
The Tuxedo
Treasure Planet
Tuck Everlasting
Two Weeks Notice
Van Wilder
44 Total

2002 is the first year in a unfortunate time that will last for another few after this, during which I was finally old enough (12, for most of the year) to start seeing a lot of movies but not old enough to recognize when a movie is going to be, y’know, good. Consequently, I’ve seen a ton of terrible movies from 2002, and not a whole lot of good ones. I mean, look at that list above again. Yikes.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Film Reviews: 21 Jump Street and Vicky Cristina Barcelona

21 Jump Street

As time goes on, story ideas that were once relatively serious can seem increasingly comical. This is a trend that Hollywood has increasingly noticed; starting with 2004’s adaptation of Starsky and Hutch, it has become increasingly common to repurpose old properties into the new millennium with a fresh coat of irony. Just this year we’ve seen two, Dark Shadows and new Jonah Hill comedy, 21 Jump Street. The new film takes place in the same universe as the 80s TV show, and indeed several of the original cast members have brief cameos. Unlike the original show, however, this installment does not hesitate even slightly going for laughs above all else.

We begin with a brief prologue showing out two main characters, Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum), in high school. Schmidt is the smart dweeb who gets picked on by dumb jock Jenko, but when the two later attend the police academy together, both realize it is in their best interest to work together and they quickly become friends. However, neither is particularly good at the job—Schmidt is not assertive or confidant enough to be much of an intimidating presence to criminals, and Jenko too dumb to master the finer delicacies of the job*. The police chief (played in one hilarious scene by Ron Swanson himself, Nick Offerman) decides that the two nitwits would be better used in the newly restarted Jumpstreat program to infiltrate a local high school undercover and find the source of potent new drug that has found its way to the market. Unsurprisingly, things do not go smoothly.

Film Reviews: Fantastic Four Rise of the Silver Surfer and American Wedding

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
The middle of the last decade was not a good time for superhero movies. The current crop (which started with 2000’s X-Men) had begun to feel stale; the best of the early franchises, the X-Men and Spider-Man movies, were reaching their respective putrid third installments, and as a whole the genre was beginning to feel tired. In 2005, Fox released a Fantastic Four movie that could generously be labeled mediocre. Though already strained for creativity (aside from Michael Chiklis’ touching and energetic take on The Thing), box office returns necessitated a sequel by Hollywood conventional wisdom, so two years later we got Rise of the Silver Surfer. Its acronym, ROTSS, is an appropriate description of the result.

Taking place sometime after the first movie concluded, Rise of the Silver Surfer deals with the immanent threat of Galactus, a major marvel villain (here, somewhat inexplicitly, depicted as a huge cloud) who devours a planet in the film’s opening scene. We transition back to Earth, where we learn that the Four’s mega-celebrity status is getting in the way of the nuptials of Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) and Susan Storm (Jessica Alba). As they get ready for another attempt to tie the knot, strange things are happening worldwide, seemingly connected to a silver streak that appears in the sky. Can our heroes figure out a way to stop the impending threat before it’s too late?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Year in Paul: 2001

What I’ve Seen

A Beautiful Mind
A Knight’s Tale
American Pie 2
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
A Beautiful Mind
Black Hawk Down
Black Knight
Cats & Dogs
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie
Donnie Darko
Dr. Doolittle 2
Enemy at the Gates
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
Legally Blonde
Millennium Actress
Monsters, Inc.
Not Another Tean Movie
Ocean’s 11
Pearl Harbor
Planet of the Ape
Recess: School’s Out
Rush Hour 2
Spirited Away
Spy Kids
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
The Mark of Cain
The One
The Princess Diaries
The Royal Tenenbaums
34 Total