REVIEW: Sanctum

Sanctum
Directed by: Alister Grierson
Written by: Josh Garvin & Andrew Wight
Starring: Richard Roxburgh, Ioan Gruffudd, Rhys Wakefield, and Alice Parkinson

It’s hard to remember the last time I wished death on a character as badly as I wished it upon Carl (Ioan Gruffudd).  Carl is an unconscionable douchebag; a character so poorly written and acted that to watch him in Sanctum is to experience more agony than any of the characters.

For the most part, that’s how it works in this movie, which is to say nothing really does work.  Like last year’s Unstoppable, this is a monster movie with no actual monster.  Instead, the lame-duck characters swim their way through an unexplored cave network that slowly but surely claims most of them in a series of unfortunate and completely stupid events.  It’s the latest in 3D “event” filmmaking.

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REVIEW: Tron Legacy

Tron Legacy
Directed by: Joseph Kosinski
Written by: Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, and Michael Sheen

To satisfy every little boy’s and possibly girl’s dream of “wouldn’t it be cool if…” comes the film Tron Legacy. At one point or another, or maybe this applies more to Generations X and Y, the curiosity of what it would be like to be sucked inside a computer, video game or live in a digital battleground has crossed millions of minds, including the film’s star Jeff Bridges who admits taking on the role for these reasons. But Tron Legacy, for as zippy, fun and visually creative as it may be, seems to be a tad more analog than anything else.

Nearly three decades after the first Tron film caused financial fiasco for Disney, Tron Legacy returns as a little less of a gamble with a chance to pick up on the 3D dazzling sci-fi business set up by Avatar the same time last year. Continue reading

ARCHIVE REVIEW: The New World

The New World
Directed by: Terrence Malick
Written by: Terrence Malick
Starring: Colin Farrell, Q’orianka Kilcher, Christian Bale, Christopher Plummer

Fairy tales are the ultimate sense of wonder and escapism for our society. With an entire culture fixated on Disney classics, princesses who fall in love with soldiers, forbidden love and foreign romances which are really more Americanized than we think, it is difficult to place realism and authenticity into the mix.

Stories of enchantment often require singing, colors, happy endings and no subtitles to satisfy our desires for fantasy. It is pathetic in a way. Our culture could not be content with a fairy tale didn’t have these elements; otherwise we strip it from the fairy tale genre. Sure the words fairy tale mean magic, fabled or legendary, but must swooning love stories be doused in Hollywood conventions, Americanization, modernization or artistic eye-candy to make it romantic?

In Terrence Malick’s retelling of the classic Pocahontas story, he explores just that concept. Putting realism and authenticity into a classic fairy tale, he experiments with cinematic devices to convey something more raw, something more tangible and something more real. Continue reading

Digital: Cinema’s divisive Phoenix.

A big buzz in the film industry these days, mostly amongst critics and purists, is whether or not, in the age of Pixar and Avatar, traditional cinema still exists.  Does printing your shots on 35mm make them any different than a digital projection?  It enriches the colors, it enhances the experience, and, in my opinion, it limits the audience.  Sure, traditionalists may cry “Off with his head!” at anyone who dares suggest a movie can be enjoyed outside the confines of a movie theater.  However, it’s impractical.  Movie theaters enhance the experience, there’s not doubt about that, but it’s absurd to think a typical person not being shown the movies for free can afford to enjoy every film in a multiplex.  It’s also absurd to think they can’t still enjoy it at home.

Since the invention of such devices as the Beta, VHS, and DVD we’ve been trying to bring the theater experience into the living room, and we’ve gotten progressively better at it.  If you’ve got a dark room, a gigantic television and a Blu-ray player, you’ve almost effectively recreated the experience.

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Complete Oscar Coverage

OSCAR PREDICTIONS

Matt Ersmaper’s Picks

Luke Miller’s Picks

BEST PICTURE NOMINEES REVIEWED

Avatar

Verdict: The film is titanic in every way, from its dazzling images and special effects to its messages and attention to detail. But with big budget comes big demand, meaning Cameron must make a crowd-pleaser. Dumbing down the dialogue, character depth and dynamics, he creates a universal story the whole world can understand and enjoy. Avatar is whatever movie you want it to be, a love story, a message movie, or an visually imaginative heyday, but to sophisticated moviegoers it’s only meh. Grade: B- Full Review Here

The Blind Side

Verdict: John Lee Hancock’s bombastic, preachy and watered down The Blind Side is the one movie nominated for Best Picture this year that didn’t deserve its slot. This is the crowd-pleasing, melodramatic sports movie that moved both the Monday Night Football crowd and Sarah Palin wannabes to tears.  Hancock directs this film with a style right out of the sports film playbook, taking no chances and milking every crowd-pleasing scenario for maximum fluff. Grade: D Full Review Here

District 9

Verdict: District 9 is the greatest display of gritty sci-fi, with its scathing political undertones and pulse pounding action.  Blomkamp is able to mesh aliens seamlessly into a very real human world that echoes our own. While the obvious political undertones make this an allegory for apartheid, more conceptual parallels can be made with our current human rights, terrorism, and corporate moral dilemma. It’s expert movie making from top to bottom.  Grade: A Full Review Here Continue reading

Oscar Predictions: A Second Take

CyniCritcs reviewer Matt Erspamer posted his Oscar predictions and hopefuls a while ago here. For a second opinion on the main categories and a look at some of the technical awards, Luke Miller posts his picks and favorites here.

Best Picture

Avatar

The Blind Side

District 9

An Education

The Hurt Locker

Inglourious Basterds

Precious

A Serious Man

Up

Up In the Air

Will Win: The Hurt Locker. Avatar may have audiences at home swooned away with its big glitzy effects, but with the new preferential voting system in place, The Hurt Locker has a lot less haters than Avatar which makes me believe it will be found on more number two and three place ballots of those who get cut in the early rounds. Avatar winning at this point would be one big upset after losing at the PGA, WGA, DGA and BAFTA which are all huge precursors to the Oscars.

Should Win: Up In the Air. I can’t really summarize how great this film is without ranting into a whole essay. You can read about it here in my review however.

Left Out: The following films that are better than The Blind Side: Star Trek, Away We Go, Moon, (500) Days of Summer, Public Enemies, State of Play, The Road, or Where the Wild Things Are. Personally, I would have chosen a comedy to put in this bunch and Away We Go had the best blend of funny and heart to rank it up with Juno or Little Miss Sunshine. Continue reading

The Hurt Locker vs. Avatar: Stuck Between a Bomb, and a Blue Face?

Image courtesy of New York Daily News

Even though there are 10 Best Picture nominees this year, as usual it comes down to a couple front-runners. As the March 7th air date approaches, two films, one of which is unexpected, have emerged as clear front-runners.

In this corner, the people’s champion; James Cameron’s high budget, jaw-dropping 3D epic Avatar. In the other corner, the critic’s darling; Kathryn Bigelow’s low budget, highly praised, action face-melter The Hurt Locker.  So, how did it come to pass that these two films made it to the top?

Avatar was always a front-runner.  Ten years in the making, big twelve million dollar camera, 3D visuals to die for- combine these three things with James ‘Titanic’ Cameron, and you have yourself a sure-fire hit.  However, it was initially speculated that either Up In the Air or, way earlier in the season, Precious would square off with it.  As the many daunting awards ceremonies have shown though, Jason Reitman’s film is really only going to expect a screenplay award, while Lee Daniels can only expect Mo’Nique’s Best Supporting Actress win for his film. How did Bigelow edge them out then?

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