Monday, March 31, 2008
You probably assumed since the title of this movie is MICHAEL CLAYTON, that it's all about him. Well it is. But the limelight is also shared by two outstanding roles played by Tom Wilkinson and Tilda Swinton. Along with the main character played by George Clooney, Wilkinson plays Arthur Edens, a guy that had a mental breakdown and rambles a little bit more than Dustin Hoffman did in Rain Man. I'm usually not the type who goes crazy over an actor's role in a film, but Wilkinson's portrayal of the mentally unstable Arthur really grabbed my attention. Tilda Swinton's role as the twisted character Karen Crowder deserved the Oscar she won this year. And Clooney? Well, let's just say he's come a long way from ER. This acting trio, combined with a plot that has more twists and turns than a roller coaster ride made Michael Clayton one of the best films of the year. Now out on DVD, this intense thriller is a film you might have to watch a few times to really "get it". You need to have sharp attention to catch the details that lead up to the surprise ending. And if you watch it again to fill in any missing clues, you get treated to another round of some of the best acting done in a long time.
at 9:30 AM
A Pup Named Scooby-Doo: The Complete First Season
Out now on DVD is A Pup Named Scooby-Doo: The Complete First Season. This 2 disc collection of the entire first season is fun to watch, as you get to hang out with a smaller version of Scooby and the gang for 13 episodes. On this series, the younger gang gets themselves caught in the same "spooky" mysteries as the older gang does in the original show. Other than having a theme song that will get stuck in your head for at least 24 hours, this show has enough humor to keep both kids and adults (considering that you like Scooby Doo) laughing as Scooby and the gang of kid detectives solve each mystery. And you'll also see that just because these are younger versions of Shaggy and Scooby, that doesn't mean their appetite is smaller. They still can eat like a horse, and have room for seconds. From someone who can be picky with his selection of cartoons, I have to say this is a very enjoyable collection. And to confirm that, my son, who I watched the DVD with, gave his approval through much laughter.
at 5:54 AM
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
"Catastrophe equals opportunity..."
That's one of the many lines quoted by Charlie, who is played by Michael Douglas. I've always liked Michael Douglas as an actor. Out of all his films, there are a couple of roles that really show him at his best. For me, those would be William Foster in Falling Down and Grady Tripp in Wonder Boys. Well, after seeing him play Charlie in King Of California, I have to say this is also one of his top roles. After spending time in a mental institution, Charlie is going back to live with his teenage daughter. Charlie is the kind of guy who appears unstable and delusional at times. His teenage daughter Miranda, is not. She's practically the complete opposite of him. Even though she is just turning 17, she took on the responsibility of maintaining their house, and getting a job to pay the bills while Charlie was away. Seeing these two personalities clash together in each scene is quite comical. It gets especially funny when Charlie follows his recent obsession with searching for lost treasure. Thinking that this is another one of his delusional phases, Miranda goes along with him, not taking it seriously. That's up until Charlie claims the treasure is buried under a Costco, and plans on breaking in to find it! This is more than a story about some guy's whacked out idea to dig for treasure in a Costco. It's about an odd (but caring) relationship between a father and daughter, along with the high cost of following your passion, even if you look crazy doing it. Sure, we may laugh at Charlie for pursuing a crazy idea like this. But is it any more crazy than the millions of people who settle for pursuing the "American Dream", and as a result choke whatever passion for living they had? Those are some interesting questions this film raises.
Overall, King Of California pulls off being inspirational, funny, and sad all in one, making it a very clever film.
at 7:59 AM
Friday, March 21, 2008
A person's a person, no matter how small...
That simple line was immortalized by the famous Dr. Seuss story Horton Hears A Who. I've always been a fan of Dr. Seuss books, and still enjoy them up until now. As with most of the popular Seuss classics, Horton Hears A Who was made into an animated special, way before the recent film (which is very good too). This story of an elephant who talks to a speck of dust that contains a another world of people is one of the most popular Seuss titles. Most of the Dr's stories carry a subtle theme. This one sends out the message that "a person's a person, no matter how small". And the animated version stayed faithful to that story as they transferred it from the book to TV. Recently, WB released Horton Hears A Who: Deluxe Edition on DVD. It was great to relive this classic story, as well as the 3 other Seuss animations also included on the DVD (Butter Battle Book, Daisy-Head Mayzie and Horton Hatches the Egg). I remember the days when we used to buy the Dr. Seuss cartoons, one by one on VHS. That got frustrating having to look for a video that only contained one show. Needless to say, to have all these on one DVD is a treasure.
Horton Hears A Who: Deluxe Edition is out now on DVD.
at 11:36 AM
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Up until I recently watched the film The Mist, all I kept hearing about was the ending. "Disturbing" and "shocking" were the words I heard used to describe it. After seeing it, I can affirm that it lives up to those descriptions, with a strong emphasis on it being disturbing. Possibly, the most disturbing ending I've seen. But I'll get back to that later.
Based on the Stephen King story with the same title, The Mist takes place in a small town in Maine (did you expect any other place from King?). An unexpected strange mist makes it's way into the town, and apparently contains something that wipes out anyone in it's path. Luckily for the main character David Drayton and his little boy Billy, they happen to be in a grocery store when the mist comes. A frantic warning by an older man running into the store convinces the people there to lock it up. This man warns them of something dangerous in the mist that took someone he knew. With the eerie mist now surrounding everything in sight, the group holed up in the store is left frightfully wondering what is going on. Suddenly, creatures from the mist hit the store, causing panic to go into overdrive. These are viscious, alien-like creatures that are obviously not from this world. So, where did they come from? Well, that's a mystery that unfolds later on in the film. I would hate to spoil it for anyone by saying how they got there. So let's just say it's worth paying attention to the details for clues. You'll more than likely be shocked when the truth is revealed. The events that unfold show that what's in the mist is not the only thing that's frightening. The other thing is when human nature's dark side rears it's ugly head when confronted with fear. Throw in an over-zealous religious nutcase who is claiming that the mist is God's wrath on earth, you have yourself some paranoid people. The terror is portrayed so well, that it's sure to get your heart rate up a few notches. But what you also see in the film is a great example of a father-son bond between David and Billy, and examples of sacrifice and courage. The fighting spirit of a small bunch who won't give up provides a little hope in this extremely bleak situation. After watching the store get terrorized by these creatures, and seeing the humans turn on each other, we are led up to "the ending". Now, I most definitely will not reveal any spoilers. But I will say that the first word out of my mouth after the final scene was "Fuck!", then repeated about ten more times. I knew it was shocking, but I honestly didn't expect what was coming. I felt like crying, but couldn't from being in shock. After my nerves settled, I realized that this movie was a unique experience that truly captured what it is like to be faced with a horrific situation. Watching the extras on the DVD, you are treated to some info such as how they pulled all this off, and why director Frank Darabont made the film's ending different from the book's. Also, there are some interesting interview clips of what Mr. King thought of the film. There is a lot to be learned from this film, if you look deep enough.
The Mist is now out on DVD.
at 7:16 AM
Monday, March 17, 2008
One of the great things about movies is that the "what if's" in your head get played out in front of you. Day Zero is a film that plays out a "what if" that I'm sure has crossed many minds.
What if the draft got reinstated?
I've had that "what if" cross my mind many times. I always wondered what effect that would have on our society. And I think it's a valid concern, especially with the war we're in. Starring Elijah Wood, Chris Klein and Jon Bernthal in the main roles, Day Zero focuses mainly on how the draft affected the lives of these guys, rather than how it affected the nation (although it briefly touches upon that). These three chacters are as different as night and day, so naturally they each respond with mixed feelings. There's Elijah Wood's character Aaron, who is a neurotic writer. Obviously, you can imagine how he reacts to all this. Then you have Chris Klein as George, a succesful attorney who intent on not going to war. With his wife and career in NY, he is adamant about staying home. Then there's Jon Bernthal's character Dixon, a tough as nails NYC cab driver who appears to be fearless one out of the bunch. He, unlike the other two, believes in the war he is called to fight for. But getting involved in a relationship as the days count down slightly softens his take on leaving. Each of them is unknowingly thrown into a path of self discovery as the time to go to war approaches. With a sensitive topic like this, I thought this film covered the pros and cons of the war argument in a balanced, and subtle way. Overall, Day Zero is a film that dramatically puts the viewer in the shoes of someone who just found out they've been drafted.
at 9:21 AM
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Appleseed Ex Machina
Own it on DVD (3/11/2008)
Warner Bros just released Appleseed Ex Machina, an explosive futuristic action film. Done via next generation CG technology, this film produced by John Woo is a non-stop adrenaline rush. In a world where humans and cyborgs co-exist, Appleseed Ex Machina takes you on a journey led by a heroine named Deunan. As part of an ESWAT team that faces the most dangerous kinds of enemies, she fights with acrobatic moves and advanced weapons that would put Lara Croft to shame. Some of the things she has to face includes an intense opening shootout inside a cathedral and dangerous cyborgs, to name a few. The quality of the animation is so realistic, you start to wonder if we'll get to a point where we don't need human actors anymore! If you're looking to see action done John Woo style, along with cutting edge animation, this film will suit you just fine.
at 8:20 AM
Monday, March 10, 2008
Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium
This is one fun movie. I'm surprised how much I enjoyed watching Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium on DVD. When it came out in theaters, it didn't strike my interest at all. For some reason though, I had this urge to watch it upon hearing of it's DVD release. The eccentric toy maker Mr. Magorium, who resembles a cross between Willy Wonka and The Mad Hatter, is portrayed by legendary actor Dustin Hoffman. Mr. Magorium is a 243 year old toy store owner. And inside his magical toy shop, surprises exist around every corner. Dustin Hoffman's performance really highlighted all the quirks of this character. His lines in the film go back and forth between being silly one moment, and profound the next. With a supporting cast that ironically consists of two former childhood actors (Jason Bateman and Natalie Portman), this whimsical film has just the right formula to inspire the child in everyone. Natalie Portman plays Molly Mahoney, who is Mr. Magorium's store manager, and who's also a pianist that's hit a creative roadblock in life. Anyone who has ever chasen after a dream, only to find themselves stuck in a ditch, can relate to her character. The events that occur in the film can serve as an inspiration to anyone who has ever been in her shoes. There are a lot of important themes in the film, if you look hard enough. Themes like facing death (which Mr. Magorium insists on calling a "departure"), and keeping the child alive inside us, regardless of how old we are. During the special features of the DVD, the filmmakers expand on these themes, and how they worked together to make this very playful film.
at 12:28 PM
Watching The Smurfs: Season 1, Volume 1 on DVD reminded me you can never really grow out of things that mesmerized you as a kid. I'm not ashamed to admit that up until now, I still enjoy watching these little blue creatures. Back in the 80's, I hardly remember a Saturday going by without hearing the "La, la, la, la, la, la...." that introduced the show. That was over 20 years ago. Now, the little blue guys are back for the first time ever on DVD. This is a must have for anyone who grew up watching the series. This 2 disc collection contains the entire first season, along with all the Smurfs' adventures, and troubles they encountered with the evil wizard Gargamel. Seeing the rainbow of colors from the Smurfs' world transferred to DVD greatly enhanced the animation. Not only that, but how cool is it to be able to choose at will the episode you want! Back in the day, we had to wait week after week just to get a new episode. Well those days are long gone. And in our current world of computer animation, it's great to finally have this classic cartoon on DVD, and to revisit the land of the little blue people.
at 7:58 AM
Friday, March 07, 2008
The Black and White Album
It's a black-and-white attack, courtesy of The Hives. No, not the disease. The band. You know, those guys from Sweden who deliver that obnoxious garage rock? I mean that as a compliment when I say they're obnoxiously good. Garage rock seems to be a fading genre. But alas, The Hives refuse to go quietly with their latest album The Black and White Album. Take a peek at the cover. The photo is black and white, as well as their outfits. The sound though, is much more colorful. This is one of those albums you can tell the band had fun making. The sounds are simple, yet never dull, with their brash singer leading the way. The first track "Tick Tick Boom" sets the stage for what turns into a wonderfully chaotic album, done by a band who refuses to fade away. Nice job boys.
at 11:37 AM
Monday, March 03, 2008
He was the icon of Grunge music. Kurt Cobain spoke for a generation through his work with Nirvana in the 90's and unfortunately, his life was tragically cut short when he committed suicide in 1994. Usually when an artist dies, their work instantly becomes legendary. He didn't need to die to get people to notice his music. He already had a massive following with Nirvana. But aside from his musical success, he was a soul tormented with depression. After his death, you could already predict the many book and movie materials to be put out about his life. While there's nothing wrong with autobiographies, they don't really tell the full story. You are getting the info filtered through someone else's work. Rather than rely on material written about him, it's better to hear his story in his own words. The DVD release of Kurt Cobain: About a Son gives a voice to that story. Through old interviews, he plays the sole narrator of this film, which is backed up by stunning visuals. Here, he intimately shares his life going all the way back to his painful childhood. These stories provide a better understanding of the angst through which he sung. These needed to be told, not only about Kurt, but also for the people he spoke for.
at 7:38 AM