Monday, September 28, 2009

Box Office. Office Box.

I had many opportunities to get myself to a theater this weekend and yet every time I thought about it, I was not inspired to see anything. Perhaps it was the poor marketing decision of distribution companies to put out TWO sci-fi flicks- "Pandorum" and "Surrogates"- at the same time. Not only am I presented with two science fiction choices, I am left confused by their advertising campaigns because I have no idea what these films are actually about. This got me thinking about all of the times that this happens at theaters- the double booking. I really do not like this because I only want one option, I do not want to have to decide. In most recent memory this happened when studios released "The Illusionist" and "The Prestige" at the same time. Two films about magicians, both with stellar casts, both hard to tell apart. They were each good in their own respects, but why confuse the public? There is only a certain amount of information that can be given away in a trailer and it's not enough to tell films like this apart. What about when "Antz" and "A Bug's Life" went head to head? I know that it has happened more than this. As for the recent sci-fi releases I was just left confused by poor marketing. I know that they are very much different stories, but to make me decide between the two makes me have to pull favorites. Honestly, Bruce Willis is usually the immediate choice (star of "Surrogates"), but I wanted to give Ben Foster a chance in "Pandorum", but those were my only choices this weekend. This dilemma along with lack of excitement for either of the titles left me skipping the theater to catch up on the pile of DVDs that I have at home.

This week, I get "Zombieland", the Cohen brother's new film "A Serious Man" and Drew Barrymore's directorial debut "Whip It". If I get to the theater on Thursday night for zombies, I think I can squeeze in a quirky drama, a cute rollerskating film or maybe one of the sci-fi titles by the latter end of the weekend. Now that is a stellar weekend at the movies. Different films for different moods and different people. What film will you go to?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

DVD Munch. Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

I like hybrid stories. When you take a classic and give it a little twist, perhaps what some might call a “make-over”. I like them because they give you a new perspective or sometimes even make the old, new again. “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” took the skeleton of the popular tale “A Christmas Carol” and applied it to a romantic comedy. In theory this was a good idea, unfortunately for the end product it was far from a fabulous outcome.

We are first introduced to Connor Mead, played by Matthew McConaughey, as a famous photographer that is notorious for all of the women he beds. Even with this kind of reputation, women still throw themselves at him and he loves it. His younger brother is getting married and when he arrives at the rehearsal he is reunited with his old flame, Jenny (played by Jennifer Garner). Immediately they snidely argue back and forth, revealing their touchy past. That night, when Connor is about to sleep with one of the bridesmaids, he is visited by the ghost of his uncle (Michael Douglas) and told that for his own good three ghosts will visit him. To no surprise, we are shown what happened between Jenny and him and ultimately what could happen to him if he continues with his lifestyle. When he finished with the ghosts, he realizes that he must get Jenny back.

“Ghosts” tries to sell itself on its star cast. Combining McConaughey and Garner is supposedly a formula for success. I am not denying that they don’t look good together, but they bring as much depth to their characters as a stale puddle. The best characters in this film include the entire supporting cast. I am so happy for great B-roles. Upcoming star Emma Stone, who made her debut in “Superbad” and to star in the upcoming film “Zombieland” is absolutely charming in this movie. She plays the ghost from the past, the one that shows Connor his entire dating history and where he started to change into what he is now. I don’t think I have seen anyone play an awkward teenager from the 80s so well—she is commanding, purposefully clumsy and hilarious.

We find out that it was Connor’s uncle that trained him to treat women the way that he does after he gets hurt, on his own account. He is taught that he should never let himself feel for women again. I can’t say that I am very fond of the message that women can be manipulated and used only for sex and that it is ultimately the females’ fault that make men so unhappy. Perhaps I am the only one that feels this way, but it portrays Jenny as a hurt and uptight control freak that has never gotten over her first love. Some might think it’s romantic, but it is just pathetic.

The film loses its charm with its message. Connor is happy with his life—unlike Scrooge from “A Christmas Carol”—so why does it matter if he changes? There is no redeeming quality to Connor and he seems to be pretty okay with that, therefore his epiphany is unbelievable and forced. This film should have worked; it had the opportunity to mix fantasy and reality in a very light-hearted way. But much like being visited by one of the ghosts, it is like a bad dream that you can’t wake up from.

The DVD which was released Tuesday, September 22, 2009 contains an option for Widescreen and Full-Screen viewing, Scene selection and Language choices.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Guilty Pleasure: Legends of the Fall

This gem of a film was dropped into my DVD player for the first time last week. I have heard the title frequently before, but I had not been able to see it until a few days ago. The one word that formed and escaped from my open mouth when it finished, was "wow." "Legends of the Fall" blends beautiful landscapes and a marvelous cast into an epic melodramatic tale that will leave you searching for words when the credits roll.

Directed by Edward Zwick (The Last Samurai, Blood Diamond) with a cast including Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins, the film took home an Academy Award in 1995 for Best Cinematography.

"Legends of the Fall" is a story told from a third person point of view, Old Stab, an Indian friend of the family. He says in the beginning "some people hear their own inner voices with great clearness and they live by what they hear. Such people become crazy, or they become legends..." Great, right?

The story begins in the early 1900s and chronicles the story of a family and one great member of that family, Tristan (Pitt). It begins when Tristan's father, Col. Ludlow (Hopkins), has removed himself from the military and tries to raise his three boys on his ranch in Montana. It is understood that Ludlow has a deep respect for Tristan, one that his other boys don't carry. When his youngest son returns to the ranch with his fiance, Susannah, all of the brothers form a close attraction to her, which lays the foundation for later problems in the film. All the boys head off to war, to fight in WWI and here is where the youngest, Samuel, is killed. Tristan believes that it is his fault and after he is buried in Montana, the rest of the film follows the family in the coming years, keeping a close eye on Tristan and how they deal with Samuel's death.

The music and pacing of the film creates something that we are not used to seeing very much of anymore. What may come off as cheesy looks, some might see as important breaths in the film where characters are without words and only left with silence. There is an understood code to this family. "Legends of the Fall" includes family feuds, love affairs, long trips at sea, marriages, bear fights and death; it truly is an epic tale that keeps you captivated until the very end.

If you have not yet seen this film and are ready to yell at the characters from your seat and cry at the sheer amount of tragedy one family can endure, this film is for you. And even if this does not apply or you have already seen it-it's about time you revisited this one.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"Life sure has a sick sense of humor, doesn't it?"- Point Break

It has been greatly publicized, as it should, that Patrick Swayze passed away yesterday at 57 due to pancreatic cancer. Sadly in his battle with cancer over the last few years, the disease won. In times like this I like to remember their art, what they did that had such a lasting affect on me. For Swayze it would have to be his amazing performances in both "Point Break" and "Ghost". Both are different roles, both are timeless. Perhaps I will watch both tonight, but either way he will be remembered.

"Vaya con dios"

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mini Munch: It Might Get Loud

Disclaimer: This film might not be for everyone. If you do not like the guitar, if you do not like music and if you do not enjoy influential musical artists, you will not enjoy this film. That being said- I think almost anyone can appreciate the documentary "It Might Get Loud", musician or not.

The film simply looks at three influential guitar players, from different generations that are still playing in the music community. "It Might Get Loud" brings together Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin, The Yardbirds), The Edge (U2) and Jack White (The White Stripes, The Raconteurs) to talk about their music and play together.

The film mostly focuses on each player individually; there are only a couple of moments where the three of them sit down to play and converse. They each discuss their type of playing, what guitars they enjoy playing and really what playing the guitar means to them. The cuts between them are seamless as the stories bleed together. By looking at these guitarists, you can see why these three were specifically chosen. Staying very focused on their careers with the guitar (sounds strange, but there is not a lot of focus on fame of the bands) each of them bring a different attitude, one that reflects on the time their music was being made. Page plays the guitar with such fluidity that the instrument is truly an extension of his body-he was a child prodigy and continued with his passion. Edge comes from a more engineered side. His fascination and mastering of all the equipment that he can use to create different sounds is incredible. White struggles to make the guitar hard to play, reflecting a generation that has to redefine what this instrument means to them.

Separately they differ in personality, in playing and philosophy but together they are some of the greatest musicians to date and by bringing them together, it shows very simply what the power of music can do.