Monday, July 14, 2008

A day at the movies.

I've got three reviews for you. You can guess what I did with my Sunday.

The first film I watched was WALL-E at the Rose Theater. The film is set in a world where mankind has literally buried the planet in garbage. A single universal corporation, Buy N Large (BnL), has caused rampant consumerism, and has decided on a mass exodus from the planet on their luxury starliners while a series of robots cleans the planet. These robots, the Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth Class, or WALL-Es, roam the planet. They scoop up garbage, crush it into a cube, and stack the cubes in ziggurat like structures, dwarfing local sky scrapers. This operation lasts until the year 2700, when there is only one WALL-E left in operation. Without being tended by technicians on a regular basis, WALL-E has developed a quirky personality. He hoards objects that catches his eye, like a Rubik cube, an eggbeater, and a hoard of Twinkies. He has a pet cockroach, and enjoys watching Hello Dolly! on his iPod.

WALL-E slaves away on Earth, until one day, a ship lands, and drops off another robot. This robot, EVE, has the mission to find plant life, off which WALL-E has the only known sample. EVE is sleek, fast, and also a godless killing machine. Why searching for plants of a desolate world requires a plasma cannon is beyond me. But WALL-E flirts with her, and they develop a friendship. WALL-E shows her the plant, and her programming kicks in. She sucks the plant into her chest cavity, and seals up dormant, until the ship returns to pick her up. WALL-E jumps on the ship, and catches a ride out to the mother ship containing the human race. Centuries in microgravity, combined with a dependence on servant robots for even the most minute tasks have led to humanity evolving into obese slobs, incapable of even the most basic tasks. WALL-E struggles to catch up with EVE, and help her prove to the humans that the Earth is capable of supporting life again.

In the end, WALL-E gets a little too preachy for my tastes. But if you look strictly upon the character interactions, it's a classic love story between atypical characters.

WALL-E is 98 minutes long, and pulled in a 93 on Metacritic. The film is beautifully rendered, as any Pixar film is. However, the flaw in using a cartoonish CG setup is that it seems a little garish when contrasted with live action setups. Someone at Pixar forgot to point that out. Thankfully, there are only a few such scenes. The product placement of Apple is a little too blatant for my tastes, with WALL-E's iPod sitting on what could only be described as the shrine of his humble abode, several characters are voiced by MacInTalk and Plaintalk, and EVE design being quoted by the director as an extension of the iPod's design. But that's to be expected when the man who sold Pixar to Disney happens to be the primary shareholder in Disney, and the CEO of Apple. The score is well done, and the closing theme, Down to Earth, by Peter Gabriel is quite catchy. WALL-E is well made, and worth seeing, I'd give it an 8/10

Attached to WALL-E is a 5 minute short cartoon called Presto, it's hilarious. Some real Looney Tunes type stuff.

Later on that night, we decided to go see the double feature at the Drive In theater. Drive Ins are a dying breed. This particular theater is nestled in a clearing, surrounded by old growth cedar trees. And bats. There are bats there, and they constantly swoop in front of the screen. But nobody's perfect. The theater was playing The Incredible Hulk and The Love Guru.

First up was The Incredible Hulk. This film is a reboot of the film series in the same vein as Batman Begins. Ang Lee's 2003 directorial belly flop, The Hulk, was widely panned by critics, and bombed at the box office. As such, the new director, Louis Leterrier went to town with a tomahawk. He effectively erased Lee's film from continuity, and despite the two films sharing many roles, he recast all of them.

The story kicks off 5 years after Bruce Banner was irradiated by GAMMA radiation. On the run, he has sought shelter in the favelas of Rio de Janiero, where he works day labor in a bottling plant and studies techniques to control his emotions under a brazillian jiu-jitsu master. After he accidental cuts his hand, his blood spills into a bottle that is shipped to Wisconsin. A poor SOB drinks it, and drops dead from GAMMA poisoning. This alerts the zealous General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross to Banner's location. Banner is corresponding with a mysterious radiation expert, known as Mr. Blue, in an attempt to try and find a way to cure him of his curse.

General Ross sends an elite team to attempt to capture Banner. This group is led by an operative named Emil Blonsky, who is on loan from the British Royal Marines. They find Banner, however, the pursuit forces Banner to transform into the Hulk, a superhumanly strong creature whose power increases exponentially with his anger. The Hulk trashes the factory as he escapes, leaving Blonsky in awe of his power.

Banner heads back to Culver College in Virginia, site of his accident, in search of the data that Mr. Blue needs to synthesize a treatment. There he meets with Betty Ross, the General's daughter, and Banner's partner in the experiment. After obtaining the data needed, Betty's current boyfriend snitches Banner out to the General, and the general pulls out all the stops to try and catch him. This include dusting off the old Weapon I serum that made Captain America into a Super Soldier in WWII. Injecting it into Blonsky, Blonsky soon becomes addicted to gaining more power, and soon sets his sights on the GAMMA power of the Hulk.

Ed Norton replaces Eric Bana as Bruce Banner. Norton provides a more pathetic Banner, as opposed to the somewhat alpha male performance of Bana. This does much better in creating an effective dichotomy between Banner and the Hulk, making it a true Jekyll and Hyde.

The Hulk himself has been redesigned. He's a little leaner, and more defined than in Lee's movie. I think it brings him closer to the ideal man taken to the extreme motif than Lee's did.

Liv Tyler replaces Jennifer Connelly as Betty Ross. Liv is a little more vulnerable than Connelly was, and becomes more of a sympathetic character.

William Hurt takes over the role of General Ross from Sam Elliot. I disagreed with this change. I think Elliot is the better actor, and he did a much better job of channelling the Ahab-like zeal of the character.

Tim Roth plays Emil Blonsky, and does a very good job of portraying a professional soldier who knows he's running out of time.

Leterrier's Hulk is more action and less angst than Lee's movie was. It also does a good job of starting to tie the film in with the greater Marvel continuity. Little things, like the Weapon Plus logo on the cryo tube containing the super soldier serum, and the appearance of Robert Downey Jr, reprising his role as Tony Stark, making a recruiting pitch for the Avengers to General Ross.

I have one major gripe though. PEOPLE OF HOLLYWOOD, HEAR ME! ESPECIALLY YOU PEOPLE AT MARVEL! I am sick of seeing just straight up inaccurate representations of the machinations of the US Army. We do not wear BDU's anymore, exchange soldiers do not wear US dress uniforms, we do not use M-16A2s anymore, a Humvee wheel does not come off that easily. That's to say nothing of the lousy tactics displayed by the soldiers. I let it go in Iron Man, seeing as those were supposed to be Air Force personnel, but this was supposed to be Army Infantry. I will work for a tenth of what other Hollywood military consultants would work for, and I will make sure that you will not make stupid mistakes like those again.

The Incredible Hulk is 114 minutes long, and earned a 61 on metacritic. The movie is fast paced, and intense. However, I think it was spoiled a bit by the trailers. The first 20 minutes of the movie was intentionally setup to have a strong reveal of the Hulk, but everyone had already seen it. The soundtrack was well put together, and included the nostalgic leitmotif from the "Lonely Man" theme from the classic TV show. It's a good film, and worth a shot. I'd give it a 7/10.

After the intermission, The Love Guru started up. There's 88 minutes of my life I'll never get back. The film is a Mike Myers vehicle. Myers plays the Guru Pitka, a love guru in the vein of Deepak Chopra. He is hired on by Jane Bullard, played by Jessica Alba, the owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs. His job is to fix the marriage of the Leafs' star player, Darren Roanoke, acted by Romany Malco. Roanoke has been cuckolded by the goalie of the LA Kings, Jacques "Le Coq" Grande, played by Justin Timberlake, and Roanoke has been in a slump ever since.

The movie has a few moments that will inspire laughter, but even those won't last beyond the parking lot. For the most part it's a cavalcade of distasteful puns and shock humor. Everything is outlandish, from Myer's facial hair, which is like the bastard offspring of Rollie Fingers' mustache and Dusty Hill's beard, to the God awful acting of so many of the films stars.

Myers is mediocre in the film. Alba is still scorchingly hot. Malcos is the stereotypical black athlete, which makes very little sense in a hockey film. Timberlake proved he can't act drama in Alpha Dog, and has proven that he's even worse at comedy. Verne Troyer seemed forced. Stephen Colbert was a high point of the film, but he was seated next to Jim Gaffigan, who just sucks the life out of the scenes they share. Ben Oliver can't act period, and was clearly dying out there. Even the regal Ben Kingsley was reduced to the abyss in this film.

The soundtrack, and film in general, draws too heavily on Bollywood stereotypes to be entertaining. There's a reason why the film garnered a 24 on Metacritic. Stay away from this film, it's not worth your time. It's a 2/10.

No comments: