September 29, 2006

Everything's Gone Green - $7

Ryan is 29 years old and in a dead end job. He is dumped, kicked out of his apartment and fired all in the same day. Faced with the lack of accomplishment and direction in his life Ryan begins to stoop to the level of some of his acquaintances and family; he begins making money in an unethical if not illegal scam. As he begins to make a little more money Ryan wrestles with questions about the world we live in and what it takes to be content.

This movie is Canadian author Douglas Coupland's first screenplay and it succeeds as a comedy. I am a huge fan of Coupland's novels where humour, drama, deep thought and outrageous situations are commonplace. The pieces were all there in Everything's Gone Green but somehow the drama and deep thought did not translate onto the big screen as well as they do in his novels. The humour was great and since this was a comedy that should likely be how it is judged but I expected a little more depth from a Coupland story. I think that the lack of depth may not have been the fault of the writing however, but mainly due to some fairly average performances by some of the supporting cast.

The main character Ryan is played well by Canadian actor Paulo Costanzo and the other major characters were performed convincingly enough to make this movie work. The biggest disappointment to me was a friend of Ryan's in the movie whose character runs a sucessful network of grow-ops. He appeared to have been written with some depth but was delivered fairly one-dimensionally.

Everthing's Gone Green is set in Vancouver and is a simple movie which is one of its charms. This movie is a step in the right direction for cinema in Canada and especially Vancouver where many movies are shot but very few are set.

I recommend this movie as an enjoyable and simple comedy that will make you laugh and especially to anyone who enjoys Coupland and has ever spent any time in Vancouver. Watch for it's release in theatres in early 2007.

I put this movie on my 'Watch It' list and give it a value of $7.

September 24, 2006

Watch It - Best And Worst On TV

I haven't seen a new movie in a while so at the suggestion of a reader I will do a review of a few TV shows since all the premiers are going on right now.

Smith - Watch It

Smith is a professional thief. He steals high priced items at the request of a mysterious older woman who goes by the name Charlie. One assumes that she then sells them to some sort of network of people who like to spend lots of money on stolen goods. Smith is played effectively by Ray Liotta as he leads his team of fellow thieves while working a lame cover job selling paper cups. Smith's wife and two kids seem unaware of his criminal alter ego. This is a well made show that feels a bit like a combination of Ocean's Eleven and every gangster movie Liotta has ever made.

CSI Miami - Don't Watch It

For those unfamiliar with the CSI family of shows they follow specialized crime scene investigators who go through the clues of a crime scene in a detailed way that is both impressive and hard to believe. I've been a CSI fan since the beginning original show, which takes place in Las Vegas, and in recent years I've come to enjoy the first spin off, the CSI Miami series. No longer however. Miami has become more and more far fetched with each season and after watching the premier of the 2006-07 season last week I don't plan to watch it any longer. The characters are becoming unrealisticaly emotional and snipey and the plot holes are gaping.

The Office - Watch It

Michael Scott is an incompetant, socially awkward manager of a regional office of a national paper supply company. Steve Correll plays Michael and is one of many great comedic actors in this histerical show. If you've never seen it you must. In fact you should go to the video store and rent the first 2 seasons. This is the American version of the British show by the same name and is one of the funniest shows in TV history in my humble opinion.

Prison Break - Don't Watch It

As you may have guessed from the title this show is about a bunch of guys who break out of prison. I watched the first season and enjoyed it. The show let you watch the plan to escape come together as it is masterminded by the brother of a prisoner on death row. The escape scheme was detailed and interesting and though the show was full of forced tension it was worth watching. I've watched the first couple episodes of the second season and I think I will keep watching to see how it ends but I do not recommend it to anyone else. The new season is less interesting. The prisoners are out and 'on the lam' and the show seems to be trying too hard to create moments of tension where way too many things go wrong. The plot has become needlessy complicated and the acting unconvincing. Save yourself the time do something else on Monday nights.

September 17, 2006

Watch It - Top 5 All Time

It is a daunting task, attempting to choose the top 5 movies of all time. Nothing could be more subjective than this type of thing and each movie watching experience itself can be affected immensely by factors like the mood I'm in, or the company I watched it with. It would be much easier to compile a top 5 of each genre or to just say these are 5 of my favorite movies ever but I will be bold and unapologetic in my attempt to list the 5 best movies I've ever seen. Bear in mind I've attempted to hit on more than one genre and that these are merely the 5 best movie experiences I've had, I'm not trying to say these are the greatest movies ever made. That is a different list altogether and one that would be impossible to create.

So without further ado here they are:

5) Swingers
Trent thinks he knows everything about life and everything that he wants out of it, Mike is never sure of himself in any way. The two are friends and aspiring actors in LA who spend the bulk of their time trying to find the best party and debating the rules about picking up women. Mike tries to imitate the successful strategies of Trent but slowly discovers himself and realizes along the way he really doesn't want to mimic his shallow friend. This movie made me laugh as much as any movie ever has and it also affected me in a way that is hard to explain. There are moments in this movie where I was so embarrassed for the socially awkward Mike that it's hard to watch. It is these moments that make his eventual self discovery that much more meaningful.

4) Almost Famous
William Miller is a 15 year old aspiring music critic who happens into a job writing for Rolling Stone in the 70's. He is sent on tour with a popular rock band, all the time fooling the magazine and the band into thinking he is much older than he really is. There are some classic coming-of-age elements in this movie which is intertwined with great acting and great music. It is rumoured that this is based on the true story of a summer in writer/director Cameron Crowe's teenage life.

3) The Big Chill
A group of old college friends are brought back together in their adult life, after years apart, by the suicide of a member of their group. After the funeral they all spend the weekend in an old country house and catch up on old times, they wrestle with the big meaning-of-life questions brought on by their attempt to deal with the death of their friend. Nearly every human emotion is experienced and portrayed in this movie. The Big Chill offers what I consider some of the best writing, acting and dialogue in any movie I've ever seen.

2) Unbreakable
David Dunn discovers supernatural powers in himself that he is unaware of when he is the lone survivor of a horrific train crash. In turn he also discovers the purpose for his life, the absence of which had nearly torn his life apart. He is aided in finding his purpose by Elijah Price, a man with a medical disorder wherein his bones are brittle and break easily. Price is obsessed with comic books and a theory that if the human race contains those who are handicapped, there must exist the polar opposite - people with better than normal abilities, essentially real superheros. This movie is slow and thoughtful and I thoroughly enjoyed watching Dunn discover his abilities and wrestle with what he should do with them. I am an unabashed M. Night Shyamalan fan and to me this movie is the best example of his unique style and thought provoking writing.

1) Twelve Monkeys
It is 30 years in the future, a virus has wiped out 99% of human life. Those who survived live underground. Prisoners are used as "volunteers" to go to the surface and gather samples of life. They are also used in attempts to perfect time travel as modern scientists attempt to get a sample of the virus in the time before it wiped out humanity so they can invent a cure. James Cole is one of those prisoners and the movie follows him as he goes back and forth in time attempting to find the origins of the virus. Cole is played brilliantly by Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt gives a dynamic supporting role as a fellow inmate in the mental institution Cole is put in when he is sent back to 1990. I've lost count of the amount of times I've watched this movie and I discover something new each time I watch it. Twelve Monkeys makes you work to keep up with the plot as it bounces between time periods. This is truly a great movie.

September 9, 2006

Ong-Bak - $1

Ting is a kind young man who lives a simple life in a peaceful village. He is forced to venture into the big city after his village's sacred Ong-Bak statue is stolen. Many fights, chases and stunts take place in Ting's pursuit of this statue as he runs into increasingly hokey and stereotypical bad guys along the way. For some reason everywhere he goes people are evil and seem to want to fight him just because he’s nice. The only things in this movie of any entertainment value are the action, amazing stunt work, and fight scenes. This is really the only factor saving this movie from a $0 rating from me. The reality is that even the action gets repetitive and not enough care was taken to make the fights realistic; more than once I noticed a fight opponent wearing a helmet under their wig.

Ong-Bak is also full of cheesy attempts at humour by Ting's sidekick, a distant cousin he stays with in the city whose character is as poorly written as it is acted. The plot in this movie is brainlessly simple, a cookie cutter action movie plot where the good guy fights dozens of bad guys for a noble cause and meets a girl along the way. It would be a challenge to find anything redeeming about this movie other than the occasionally impressive action sequence. The directing is uncreative and dark, and the stunts while impressive, become predictable; oh look those workers carrying a ring of barbed wire just walked directly into Ting's path, whatever will he do?

It is worth noting that Ting is played by an actor named Tony Jaa and despite the many failings of this movie there is little doubt that Jaa is the next Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan. He will never wow us with his acting but action movie fans out there who can overlook a bad plot, bad writing, bad directing and bad acting will surely flock to any movie starring Jaa.

I cannot in good conscience recommend this movie to anyone. My time was wasted by watching it and I came out feeling a little bit dumber than when I pressed play. I urge you, if you are at all curious about this movie, to simply download the trailer, all the action sequences worth watching can be seen there.

I put this movie on my 'Don't Watch It' list and give it a value of $1.

September 3, 2006

V for Vendetta - $9

Much of the world is in chaos and it is the year 2020. A virus has killed many, America is no longer the superpower it is today, and Britain is ruled by a fascist dictator who rules by fear and promises safety but not freedom. One man is fighting the government, that man is V, and he is effectively the hero and at times the villain in this tale. He is intelligent and twisted, kind and cruel. He fights an oppressive 'big brother' power as he attempts to put that power back into the hands of the people.

The best summary of V's belief system is this quote: "People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people." It is this belief that compels V to carry out violent and destructive acts against the government who deems him to be a terrorist. I am one who does not think V has it right; wouldn't the ideal be governments and their people existing in harmony? Fear from either party seems like the wrong idea to me.

Philosophical differences with a fictional character aside, this is a movie that I enjoyed immensely. A truly creative story with images that stuck in my mind for days after. Hugo Weaving gives a great performance as V, especially considering that he is wearing a mask the entire movie so all his acting is done without the audience being able to see either his eyes or mouth, or any facial expression for that matter. The mask is the face of Guy Fawkes, who in 1605 tried to blow up the houses of Parliament. While this had huge potential to be hokey, and was a risky costume choice, somehow Weaving made it work. V pulls a young woman named Evey into his world half by her own choice and half by force. Evey loves and at the same time hates V, trusts and is afraid of him, helps and hinders his efforts, and Natalie Portman as Evey does an excellent job of convincing the audience that these seeming contradictions are possible.

To use a cliche, this was a very Orwellian story and a great example of this genre done right. We see a glimpse into a future that is more of a warning of what could happen rather than a prophecy of what will come to pass.

Written by one of the writers of The Matrix, V is a bit of a comeback for this screenwriter considering how bad the Matrix sequels were.

V for Vendetta's cinematography is engaging and I can't recall a time in the movie where I wasn't interested, involved and entertained.

I put this on my 'Watch It' list and give it a value of $9 out of the $10 it costs to see a movie these days.