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News - Sean Connery Retires

Posted by askanison on 2005.08.02 at 13:23
In an interview with a New Zealand newspaper, the elusive Sean Connery, regarded by many as one of the greatest (and hottest) male actors of all time, has announced his retirement from movies, as well as his distaste for the current state of Hollywood.

"I'm fed up with the idiots ... the ever-widening gap between people who know how to make movies and the people who green-light the movies."

That pretty much sums up the article at Scotsman.com. We will miss you, Sean. And remember, you'll always be the man, dog.


Review - The Island

Posted by askanison on 2005.08.01 at 11:57
I have to come clean before I write this review: Armageddon is one of my favorite movies of all time. I know, it's the guiltiest of guilty pleasures, but I just happen to love the movie. Still, after the brainless action of movies like Armageddon and Bad Boys II I can see why people tend to cringe in agony when they hear that Michael Bay is putting out a new movie.

Hopefully The Island can put to rest some of the more, shall we say, troubling qualitites of Bay's past works. In his first film sans-Bruckheimer, Michael Bay stretches his directorial legs with the help of an excellent cast and a story that, unlike many of his past films, is almost entirely worthwhile.

The plot begins as a page straight out of Brave New World, with a strangely utopic society built on the ashes of a great cataclysm. Eventually the story goes on to involve all of the great points of a good science fiction movie: clones, brainwashing, flying vehicles, and Steve Buscemi. In an effort to avoid spoilers, I will have to simply say that the plot is actually quite good in this film; the flow keeps the viewer's attention while presenting a relatively believable story.

It can't go without saying that The Island has a plot that is very derivative of many past works. Including the Brave New World feel that I spoke of before, it also takes cues from Logan's Run (and to an almost extreme extent, it pays homage to this film like no other), Blade Runner, and most disturbingly, it bears many close aesthetic resemblances to Minority Report. However, science fiction stories are generally very derivative anyway; at the very least, this movie at least drew the right parts from the right influences.

Where this film truly shines, however, is in the all-star cast. I'm naturally going to hold this movie to some high standards, since it features two of my favorite actors: Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson. Luckily, both are able to pull off excellent characterizations. While the script in this film looks like Shakespeare compared to the Star Wars prequels, it's obviously not the caliber of some of McGregor's past movies (Trainspotting, Moulin Rouge, and Big Fish come to mind); still, McGregor pulls off his role (which actually becomes a dual-role halfway through the film) with his usual witty excellence. Johansson finally brings her indie street cred to a Hollywood summer blockbuster, and naturally she pulls the role off well, even though her character is sometimes ignorant and at other times, rather underused.

The supporting cast features some heavy hitters who too often get too little camera time. Michael Clarke Duncan, a veteran of the Armageddon cast, easily puts in one of the best performances in the movie, even though his character is on screen for a total of about five minutes. Fellow Armageddon-vet (and veteran of just about every other movie, as well) Steve Buscemi provides his usual sarcastic panache; it's nothing surprising, but his character is as amusing as ever. The villain is played by the first potential usurper of Gary Oldman's villain throne, Sean Bean. Bean has the innate ability to play a remorseless bastard, and his character exhibits this ability to a tee. Dijmon Hounsou (straight from my earlier Constantine review) also provides an emotionally charged and believable performance, despite the underdevelopment of his character.

The aesthetic of this movie is strictly Bad Boys meets Minority Report. High contrast scenery, coupled with Bay's signature long-pan, short-cut style, makes for the usual visual masterpiece. If Bay had veered a bit away from that "blue" look from Speilberg's recent futuristic debacles, I would have been more pleased with the look. The world of The Island is very similar to Blade Runner in that it presents futuristic elements while retaining elements of the modern day, allowing for a more believable environment. Occasionally, however, the inclusion of a Honda Element or H-2 pushes the film into a bit of an anachronism that is based on product placement. Oh, and about the product placement: if you're easily turned off by blatant marketing in movies, this movie will make you gag. It is reasonable to say that many of the corporate logos were placed in the film to gain a sense of realism and attachment with the society, but after the second Aquafina logo (not to mention the virtual XBox fight), I was doubting the "artistic vision" of these product placements.

As far as believability goes, this movie is likely Bay's most believable movie to date, as far as action sequences and strange science-fiction facts go. It seems as if the events in the movie could happen, which adds to the tension of the film. A few of the action scenes are utterly hilarious in that over-the-top style that Bay's films are known for, but they're still each ten million times better than any ludicrous action sequence from the Matrix sequels. It's definitely not as difficult to suspend disblief for this film as it was in Armageddon.

Generally, I have to say that I enjoyed this movie. In fact, this could be better than the original Bad Boys or The Rock, which most would regard as Michael Bay's most competent works. While Armageddon will always keep a warm place in my heart, The Island might be Michael Bay's best movie to date, thanks to the combination of great actors, a decent script, and the same solid action of its predecessors. It's sad that this film has already been considered a financial failure and is now confined to late showings in the smaller theaters, because it's an action blockbuster that you won't have to feel guilty about seeing.

Final Score: 4/5
The Island: Scarlett looks good, Ewan acts well, so let the popcorn flow.


Review - Constantine

Posted by askanison on 2005.07.30 at 04:38
I went into watching the Constantine DVD with the same uncomfortable curiosity that has plagued me since Spawn was released oh so long ago. It seems, however, that my worries were unnecessary; despite the blasphemous title change, Constantine seems to follow in the footsteps of Guillermo Del Toro's take on Hellboy in making a movie that is close to the comic book while still being very entertaining.

While I was never an avid reader of the Hellblazer series from DC Comics, I was instantly greeted by an aesthetic that was very reminiscent of the art style of the series. The gruff, sometimes comedic, sometimes painful dialogue reminded me of what I remembered from the book, and the plot seems to be what I expected it to be. But this is a movie, so I had to put the comic book geek in me aside and evaluate it for its worth in this medium.

The plot in Constantine is generally linear, but it is very strong. John Constantine is a reluctant "hero" who is waging a war on hell in order to basically buy his way into heaven. The whole idea of an anti-hero without hope fighting demons from hell will likely appeal to fans of Stigmata and Evil Dead alike; Biblical references mix with gore and violence in what amounts to be an overall excellent presentation. While it's not exactly always "scary," there's enough thrills and suspense to make it worthwhile. The drama is highly active and suspenseful, thanks to excellent scene setup from director Francis Lawrence. It's hard to believe that the man who directed the video for "Jenny on the Block" could put fulfill the emphasis on the dark, hellish stylism that this movie required. The imagery is consistent and frightening, and the CG is even believable.

While I won't spoil the plot for everyone, it seems that the one real negative it had where a few of those old deus ex machina moments where you just stand up and say "what the hell?" It's not that bad (it's definitely not The Matrix Revolutions), but occasionally the plot meanders into "quick story cleanup" mode. Having said this, I can easily overlook it, simply because the story is about supernatural and metaphysical subjects that make it more reasonable to include such plot devices.

The characters are well done, even if star Keanu Reeves still reaks of Neo and Ted "Theodore" Logan. He manages to pull of the grizzled John Constantine fairly well, even though one might expect him to declare his knowledge of kung-fu at any moment. I guess typecasting has done well for Reeves at least; he is most definitely what I would have expected John Constantine to be. Had he never starred in the sometimes-neat sometimes-awful Matrix trilogy, I would likely have been much more impressed.

Rachel Weisz's dual role is actually quite inspiring; her performance is extremely believable, even when her characters start acting all weird and supernatural. I think Weisz is coming into her own as an actress, and it's likely we'll see some excellent performances from her in the future.

The supporting cast of Constantine is refreshingly thin, allowing the plot to concentrate closely on the lead characters without too much side story. Shia LaBeouf plays Constantine's young and underused sidekick. His character ends up sadly underdeveloped, although his performance is excellent and the role is necessary to the plot. Supporting angels and demons such as Pruitt Taylor Vince, Djimon Hounsou, Gavin Rossdale, Tilda Swinton, and Peter Stormare provide shockingly excellent performances, both on the sides of good and evil. I was impressed with these three actors; although each only had one or two real important scenes, they all were absolutely perfect in their roles and provided incredible atmosphere and background for the story.

Overall, I was very impressed with Constantine. Even after putting the comic fanboy away, I found this to be a very solid film. Fans of thrillers and horror films such as The Exorcist or Stigmata should definitely give this movie a shot. Everyday action movie fans might be put off by the strange story, but generally this film functions as a decent action movie as well. It's a recommended rental; if you're a comic book geek or horror freak, it's a recommended purchase.

Final Score: 4/5
Constantine: This film knows kung-fu.


News - Episode III DVD Release Date and Info

Posted by askanison on 2005.07.30 at 03:57
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith has been lauded by many since its release in May as the absolute best of the formerly mediocre prequel trilogy in the Star Wars saga. Personally, having been a huge fan of the movie (I saw it twice in theaters, despite the outrageous ticket prices and ridiculously large buckets of popcorn), I was excited to hear that Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment has released details on the RotS DVD release.

First off the DVD is set to be released on October 31st, 2005, to coincide with the release of the likewise highly-anticipated Star Wars Battlefront II game for Playstation 2, XBox, PC, and, intriguingly, the PSP. Aside from that, the DVD will include a two-level playable demo of the game for XBox. Naturally, the DVD will include a mountain of extras in signature Lucas style.

Although this is purely speculation based on rumor, I wouldn't be surprised if Lucasfilm puts out a couple of new boxed sets shortly after the arrival of Episode III; we should see a six-episode mega pack and Episodes I-III bundled for your digital enjoyment. This should be a good time for Star Wars fans and DVD collectors alike.

More info about the Episode III DVD can be found at DVD Lard.


Humor - Torque Sucks

Posted by askanison on 2005.07.20 at 06:56
Image hosted by Photobucket.comI just wasted 84 minutes of my life watching what is possibly one of the worst movies that I have ever seen. Since I am a well-known connoisseur of horrendous films, that's saying a lot. What is this movie that makes babies cry and their mothers scream in agony? This movie is called Torque. Torque was so bad that I actually took notes on it just so I could write this review and save each and every one of you the agonizing task of watching this movie for yourself.

First of all, the information blurb on the cable guide said that Torque is from the creator of The Fast and the Furious, which is not surprising, since this movie is basically a dumbed-down version of said action flick. That alone should signify how disturbingly bad this movie is, however it goes so much deeper than that. Upon further investigation at my trusted IMDB, I couldn't actually find a single link between the two movies as far as creators go, so this movie actually just ends up to be a huge ripoff of another terrible movie.

Well, let's begin with the characters. Torque has the basic cast of characters you would expect from a mind-numbing car/bike/boat/kayak/whathaveyou action movie. There's the sexy young up-and-coming actor playing the lead; in this case said actor is the guy from The Ring. While he played a pretty solid role in The Ring, acting takes a backseat to the super-high-contrast permanent sunset shaded EA games style CG sequences and horrible, horrible one-liners. To add insult to injury, his character is named "Ford." Continuing in the theme of cookie-cutter casts is the hot lead girl, who strangely resembles pretty much every other hot lead actress in every other action movie ever. Her and Ford seem almost ready to hump in every scene, but they abstain so that they can keep that edgy PG-13 rating. To round out the cast, we've got a cocky FBI agent, and of course, Ice Cube. Need I say more?

The script, directing, story, and everything else about this movie are so bad that they make me shiver even to recall. Director Joseph Kahn makes Michael Bay look like Fellini. In addition to the aforementioned bad computer graphics, he really loves to overuse that super-dramatic perspective-shifting zoom that you often see during poignant scenes in real movies. Every line of dialogue in the movie is certified crap, the best one being "I live my life a quarter mile at a time," which of course is FROM THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS. Plus, even I, who respects all absurd and unbelievable action sequences, could not help but laugh at some of the most ridiculous and just physically unnatural action sequences that I have ever seen.

There are a few positive aspects of Torque, however bad it may be. The kawaii color scheme and super fast motion led to some decent eye candy, while gear heads will likely enjoy some of the pretty sweet ass bikes. Other highlights include an H2 crushing a Volkswagen, a badass meth addict villain (who oddly reminds me of that drugged up guy from Robocop 2), and a Mountain Dew sponsored chick bike fight.

Seriously, though, if they had just thrown the chick fight on a DVD and sold it, this movie would have been better. Hell, make a whole series and call it "Girls On Bikes Go Wild," and I'd buy it. It's just that the utter crap and mediocrity that this movie put forth were simply intolerable. It made me wish that it was The Fast and the Furious, and that's saying a lot. To prove to you how bad this movie is, I leave you with this thought: The movie ends with the Nickelback song "Someday." Ugh.

Rating: 5 Giglis
Image hosted by Photobucket.comImage hosted by Photobucket.comImage hosted by Photobucket.comImage hosted by Photobucket.comImage hosted by Photobucket.com
Torque: If Chad Kroeger made a movie, it would still be better than this.

I've cross posted this entry from my journal because I think it fits well here.


Review - Million Dollar Baby

Posted by askanison on 2005.07.20 at 06:44
Tags: ,
A certain amount of hype is imparted into any good motion picture ad campaign, because it is necessary to get the word out there about a movie and its content in order for the general public to actually spend their hard-earned cash to see it. It is rare, however, for a movie to actually live up to, or even surpass, the hype that surrounds it. In the case of Million Dollar Baby, it's safe to say that all of the attention is well-deserved.

I was sadly expecting to be disappointed by Clint Eastwood's twenty-seventh directorial outing, simply because of the fact that no matter who I talked to, it was lauded as one of the best movies ever. That's a tough standard to live up to, after all. The gigantic Academy Award Winner label on the DVD case didn't help matters any; I was deterred in every way shape and form from actually watching this movie, simply because I was afraid that it would be a giant letdown.

What Million Dollar Baby manages to do is to be truly captivating in an age where "captivating" often means "big CG explosions." Even though I was aware of the basic premise of the movie (damn you, internet), I still was able to stick with the plot and characters for the whole duration. Each character is very believably rendered, from Eastwood's gruff boxing trainer persona to Hilary Swank's determined yet fun character. Hilary Swank has come a long way since The Last Karate Kid.

Clint Eastwood has come a long way since Firefox, as well. The film noir low-key lighting that seems to be ever-present in Eastwood films of late (Blood Work came to mind a few times when watching this) is back in full-force, and in a movie like this, it has one hell of an effect on the mood. This film seems almost as though it were black and white; the lack of colors (except for a few vibrant key colors in some scenes) makes this movie feel sort of timeless, while giving it a unifying visual theme. Eastwood's choices in this production were excellent. I've heard some reviewers deny that this movie was stylized, but I disagree; I believe this is Eastwood's most stylized movie to date, simply because everything just fits.

The plot in Million Dollar Baby is dramatic, without suffering from some of the boilerplate of other dramatic movies. When there is something which may seem cliche in the movie, the acting of Eastwood, Swank, and Morgan Freeman manage to carry it through. I mean, come on, it's Morgan Freeman. I can safely say that the cast's performances in this film are some of the best I have ever seen. And that's saying a lot.

I sound a bit like a fanboy in this review, but in all honesty, I can't find a single thing wrong with this movie. The only thing that might turn viewers off is the heartbreaking and controversial ending (which I will not spoil). I must say, bring tissues to this one. The characters are too convincing not to care about, and they go through absolute hell in this story. This is definitely one to add to your collection, cherish, and remember for a long, long time.

Final Score: 5/5
Million Dollar Baby: You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll love this film.


Announcement - Welcome to Str8end Slinky

Posted by askanison on 2005.07.20 at 04:22
Current Mood: accomplishedhuzzah!
Current Music: Fall Out Boy - Sugar, We're Goin' Down
Tags: , , ,
Come one, come all, to our festival of movie loving goodness. I created this community with the intent of bringing a good, well-written, often-updated movie-related community to Livejournal. Since I myself have been accused from time to time of being a movie addict (among other accusations), I thought it best to make a community for people like me. If you like to write, watch movies, and combine these two interests in new and different ways, this is the place.

This first entry will serve as a vision statement and set of basic ground rules for this community. By "ground rules," I mean basic guidelines that members of this community should follow in order to keep it at a certain standard of quality. Since my own levels of quality are generally mediocre at best, this should not be a problem. Here, in no particular order, are the guidelines for this community:

  1. Be good. You can write extremely opinionated articles, fervent rants on the state of movies today, and swear up a storm about the latest Blade movie. Just make sure that you're writing them with the spirit of this community in mind, not just to flame Michael Bay for existing (unless, of course, you have a humorous reason as to why he should not that you can write more than a sentence on). Write something interesting, fun, and even provocative, but make sure to keep it in the bounds of semi-good taste and quality.

  2. Be proper. Don't write a single sentence on why you thought Firefox was the greatest Cold War film of all time. Explain it! Take time to flesh out your ideas and make a proper article or review. This community is about movie appreciation (or loathing in the case of some), but that requires some effort on your part. Write good, solid articles. Single sentence entries will not be tolerated, simply because I'd like us to maintain quality in this community.

  3. Follow the style. Just to maintain a sense of continuity and to make the community easier to navigate, make sure your entry titles are prefixed with: "Review" for reviews, "Announcement" for community-related announcements (such as this very entry), "Editorial" for opinion articles, "News" for movie news entries. Here are a few examples of good titles: "Review - Gigli", "News - Keanu Reeves takes acting lessons", "Editorial - Why Keanu Reeves needs acting lessons", "Announcement - Something really neat has happened in the community." If you make your titles like that, everybody will be a whole lot happier navigating this community, and your opinions are more likely to be heard.

  4. I rule. This community is a bit on the autocratic side; I will have the final say over what gets posted here. I'm not about to delete posts due to differing opinions or heated debate, but follow the rules and guidelines for quality or your posts will be removed. I reserve the right to change any of these guidelines at any time.

  5. No nudity. You can post pictures if you want, but make sure you put large pictures behind an lj-cut. Also, make sure said pictures are somewhat relevant to your article. Entries with only pictures will be deleted. And, like it says at the beginning...NO NUDITY.

  6. Laws are good. Anything that violates any Livejournal policies or laws is strictly prohibited in this community. Anybody who violates any website policies or laws will be kicked out.

Also, if you are to write reviews, it would be best to follow a standard rating system for comparison purposes. I will be reviewing movies and scoring them on a scale from 0 to 5. A score of zero would likely mean that the movie is absolute trash, and should be officially deposited on the surface of the sun. A score of 3.5 would be about average; not great, but watchable. A score of five would be excellent; movies rated with a five should be movies that are a must-see, or movies that will be remembered for bringing something great to the medium. If you follow this scoring system, readers of this community will better be able to gauge your opinions numerically.

So, now that I've got that whole rant about rules and such mythical mumbo jumbo complete, I will officially state the mission of this community. That mission is to provide quality articles and reviews of motion pictures. Feature film and short length movie reviews are welcome. Articles about the state of the industry are incouraged. Opinion entries are greatly encouraged. Pretty much anything related to movies, as long as it is posted with a high standard of quality in mind, is fair game in this community. A great deal of humor is also welcome, and encouraged, as well.

Currently membership to this community is moderated. That means you have to join and I'll approve you. I think that this is the best way to keep the community's vision at this point. Only members will be allowed to post new entries. Hopefully, I can get as many people to seriously participate in this community as possible. This should provide for interesting discussion involving opinions of all sorts of people from around the Livejournal globe.

Now that all of that has been said, I invite you all to join this community and get everything hopping! I will be posting the first real article soon, but if you sign up real quick and are itchin' to write, you might be able to beat me to it. In any case, enjoy!