Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Jennifer's Autopsy

I don't get all the Diablo Cody hate -- especially the sour grapes from unsold screenwriters. Her first screenplay became a hit film that grossed over 200 million dollars worldwide and netted her an Oscar... oh yeah, she used to be a stripper. What's the big deal?

'The dialogue in Juno was unrealistic and annoying!'
'She's just a flash in the pan!'
'Who calls themselves Diablo Cody?'
'She only gets attention because she's an attractive woman.'

Who cares!? Don't you have better things to do, you know, like writing? For the record, I didn't care for "Juno," but I think it's a good thing when *anyone* sells a spec that becomes a critical and commercial success. Increases our odds just a bit. Anyway, the film...

A botched human sacrifice transforms a bitchy teen into a bitchy, demonic teen who feeds on (mostly male) human flesh, and it's up to Jennifer's B.F.F. to stop her before it's too late. Not bad. A throwback to 80s B-movies. Kind of lacking in the suspense department. If you're going to turn the tables on the boys in a horror flick, go all the way. Break out all the old clich├ęs and have fun with them -- I kept waiting for some big, macho football player to twist an ankle while attempting to run away from the hot monster-chick. All in all, Megan Fox doesn't embarrass herself. It's not the best role to showcase her skills, but who in their right mind would turn down the opportunity to star in a flick written by a screenwriter coming off an Academy Award?

Based on the names involved, the Box Office was a disappointment. But I wouldn't be so quick to start dancing on the grave of Cody's screenwriting career. People underestimate how hard it is to market a horror-comedy. With the exception of "Shaun of the Dead," most of the recent attempts have flopped. The trailer should have focused more on scares rather than one-liners. The "R" rating was a huge mistake -- probably the result of one too many (unnecessary) f-bombs. David Goyer's "The Unborn" (PG-13) had a 19 million dollar opening weekend with Odette Yustman (who?) as the lead -- not a good film, but they certainly knew how to sell the goods. JB's budget was around 16 million, so at the end of the day, the film will eventually make a profit. If the DVD has a commentary track with Cody and Kusama, I'll definitely check it out.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Throwback: Unbreakable

Dear M. Night Shyamalan,

You exploded onto the scene with the brilliant "Sixth Sense" and then avoided the sophmore jinx by following up with this fascinating thinking man's comic book film about a hero who rediscovers himself. In the past, you've said that sequels weren't your thing, but after "Lady In The Water" and "The Happening," ever thought about reconsidering? Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying you're washed up or anything like that. I'm sure "Avatar: The Last Airbender" will probably make loads of dough. I'd just like to see you revisit one of your better ideas. I'm pretty sure Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Willis are still game. So how bout it, big guy?

Favorite scene:

Mr. Glass' attempted foot chase. Makes me wince every time.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

District 9

Before seeing the film, I was lucky enough to hear a radio interview with Writer/Director Neil Blomkamp. He described how he wanted to combine his love of Sci-Fi with the experience of growing up in a "crazy" place like South Africa. In that regard, I'd have to say, mission accomplished.

It's incredible what Blomkamp was able to accomplish with a modest budget, under 40 million dollars. Okay, we're not exactly talking about a shoe-string production with Grandma doubling as cinematographer and chief stunt woman, but for the scope of the film, the final result is still pretty impressive. I'm not gonna name names, but a couple of the effects exceeded the work seen in a recent summer blockbuster or two *cough* G.I. Joe *cough*. Stuff gets blown up real good with lots of cool alien weaponry as our "hero" fights to regain his humanity -- it's highly debatable how much he had in the first place.

While entertaining, I didn't think the film had some deep, resonating message. "Alien Nation" already covered the oppressed-minorities-substituted-with-aliens-thing. Here, I don't think the aliens are supposed to represent anything but aliens -- who get high off cat food. There's a good bit of satire in the beginning, but aside from saying that earthlings of all colors are scum, "District 9" settles into your basic Sci-Fi actioner worthy of rabid fanboy adoration. Now it's more than possible that my American eyes didn't pick up on all the nuances, but I think I got the gist of it. I don't foresee a Best Picture nomination in its future, although anything is possible with ten open slots, but one for visual effects certainly wouldn't surprise me.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Perfect Getaway

"A Perfect Getaway" is hardly a perfect film -- couldn't resist that one -- but it aspires to be a thriller of Hitchcockian proportions with lots of juicy twists and unexpected turns, inviting viewers to play along and solve the mystery.

The story goes something like this: Honeymooners in Hawaii become aware of a murderous couple on the loose, cutting off fingers and pulling teeth. Who could it be? The hitchhikers they rebuffed? The friendly Southerner with his over-the-top war stories and perky girlfriend? Or maybe that shady pair from the supply store? Hmmm...

Good concept, but the story doesn't quite deliver. The twists aren't that juicy and the turns are fairly predictable. The trailer gives the impression of an action-packed, suspenseful thriller, which is hardly the case. Lots of walking, climbing and talking for maybe an hour and change. The dialogue just isn't strong enough to carry the film for that length of time. Sure, it wants to be self-aware by talking about red herrings and screenwriting, but that stuff is like death warmed over to non-writers. "Getaway" tries to make up for the slow pace with a knock-down, drag-down last 15 minutes, but it's too late by then.

The big reveal is pretty silly because it hinges on an illogical scene that served no purpose -- except to fool (or outright lie to) the audience. The backstory makes even less sense. Still, I can appreciate the fact that the film tried to be different rather than resort to torture porn or some other inane route.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife

Going in, I knew this was more romance than fantasy flick, but I still wasn't prepared for the extreme fluffiness that assaulted my senses. Based on the popular novel by the same name, "The Time Traveler's Wife" is about a guy with a genetic quirk that causes him to involuntarily jump around in time -- conveniently in places that he's been or going to be -- and the woman who loves him. Kinda sounds like a topic for Dr. Phil. BTW, did I forget to mention that he time travels in the nude? Clothes fall right off. Hilarious, I know. Maybe that's a better topic for Maury, "Time Traveling Husband Paternity Tests!"

So our (nude) time traveler meets a little girl that he'll eventually marry and blah, blah. I just can't do it. This is just not a very interesting story. Not that strong of a romance either. The film does have two very appealing leads in Rachel McAdams and Erica Bana. They're very good together, but the story...meh. No real conflict. No outside obstacles keeping the two apart. They bicker and make up like couples do. Cue romantic music. He disappears at the most inopportune times. Sad music plays. Repeat and rinse. Sure, there are a few bumps along the road -- two to be exact, but you never get the sense that things won't work out. You can't change the future -- except when it comes to the lottery. A pleasant, but mostly forgettable film. For the life of me, I don't know why ABC thinks it has potential as a TV series. "Journeyman" already covered this territory quite well and went nowhere in the ratings. Box office has been solid though. At some point, I'll have to read the script -- I miss the old days, when produced scripts were hard to find. My "read pile" is huge...

Personally, I think "Somewhere In Time" with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour is a much better time-travel romance film. Surprised they haven't attempted to remake that one yet, but give 'em time...

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Throwback: Frailty

One of the most underrated horror films of the past decade. One night, dear old Dad wakes his sons to tell them that he's been chosen by God to slay demons. Now these demons might appear to be people made of flesh and blood, but they're actually nasty demons in disguise. Armed with a trusty axe named Otis and a pair of magical gloves, the family sets off on a strange, dark journey...

Props to James Cameron for suggesting to Bill Paxton that he keep the reveal until the end. No cats leaping out of cuppboards. No one investigating strange noises in skimpy underwear. No gore. Just lots of quiet tension. Feels almost Shyamalanesque -- I'm talking pre-Happening and Lady In The Water. Also reminds me of the CW's "Supernatural" a little bit. Sam and Dean's early years. Really wish Paxton would direct more. Haven't seen much from screenwriter Brent Hanley either. Great DVD as well.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


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