Film Review

Posted in Film, Review on April 9, 2009 by mattcronin

Smart People

Noam Murro’s feature debut, Smart People is a unimaginative adaptation of a crass, close-minded, and condescending script by Mark Poirier. It was very difficult to sit through a film that only set out to show you that some people are beyond arrogant. Smart People sports a cast that should have helped the affability of the film, but aside from Thomas Haden Church, there was very little redemption from the actors.

Lawrence Wetherhold (Dennis Quaid) is a widower, whose very name suggests pomposity, who cannot seem to understand anything colloquial. Friendship, family, and pure common sense go way over this Carnegie Mellon English professor’s head. I guess the plot is supposed to show a transformation from presumptuous to modest? I never saw a change, just a few coincidences that led the script supervisor to believe that he was a changed man.

The characters you are actually able to like, are hated by the ones you aren’t. For example, Chuck Wetherhold (Thomas Haden Church), is Lawrence’s humbly intelligent but ordinary adopted brother who moves in with him after his latest pyramid scheme fails. His few scenes were very humorous and enlightening, yet this was met by Lawrence’s disapproval of him until only about five minutes remained in the movie. At this point, I was so far past trying to like Quaid’s “protagonist” (if you can call it that).

Ellen Page, who I thought was very deserving of her Academy Award® nod in 2007’s Juno, was absolutely irritating as Lawrence’s daughter, Vanessa. I hope it was just how the character was written, but her desperate and conceited game got old after her third or fourth scene, when it stopped being endearing.

Now, I guess this was a romance, but it was so painfully unromantic that I will just label it as a drama. Quaid and Sarah Jessica Parker’s characters are so unbelievably wrong for each other, you wonder why that thread was even included. If this had been a story about two estranged brothers, like it originally played out to be, this would have been a much better film.

I would highly suggest passing on this movie, you’ll feel better about yourself if you don’t see it.

SCORE: 39

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Film Review

Posted in Film, Review on April 7, 2009 by mattcronin

SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK

Synecdoche, New York is Charlie Kaufman’s madness. This is his directorial debut, and unlike his other scripts (which have been directed by the likes of George Clooney, Michel Gondry, and Spike Jonze), you can tell that this is the way he truly wanted his words translated.

Synecdoche, follows small-time theatre director Caden Cotard, who is brilliantly brought to life by Philip Seymour Hoffman, who goes through what is seemingly the early stages of a dementia-infused disease. After experiencing a few life-altering curveballs, receives a grant to produce the play he’s always dreamed of directing. Unfortunately, with the large sum he is garnered, and the increasingly affecting dementia, Cotard unknowingly spends his life trying to produce this play.

Superbly cast, and a well-written script by Kaufman as usual, this movie is not for the faint of heart. Its main themes are loss, loneliness, and despair.  But another common theme is that of creation. Not necessarily the success of a creation, but the attempt. Cotard has a fundamental problem with the women he’s with and with the ideas he tries to put in his play. He always wants more; what he can’t have. This is a very frustrating but realistic notion that the audience is forced to deal with.

After watching a National Film and Television School (NFTS) Script Masterclass with Charlie Kaufman, I was able to finally understand why his scripts are so soundly unsound. He explains that Synecdoche is really a story about the interchangeability of human experience. You’ll understand when you see it. Which you absolutely have to.

SCORE: 84

Film Review

Posted in Film, Review on March 25, 2009 by mattcronin

MR. BROOKS

Mr. Brooks

 

This is an identity-confused tale about a Man of the Year and his murderous alter-ego. Kevin Costner is Earl Brooks, a box-maker, which is apparently an extremely profitable business, is introduced to us as Portland, Oregon’s Man of the Year. Before he delivers his acceptance speech his thoughts mumble what is seemingly a tell-tale sign that he isn’t the man that he appears to be.

Basically, Mr. Brooks transgresses what it means to be a real psychological thriller. Shaky performances by Dane Cook as a curiously murderous blackmailer, and Demi Moore as a ridiculously wealthy detective who has no regard for her own safety, drag the movie down a bit. Costner is fairly believable as both a successful businessman and a deranged murderer, but his character’s strange relationship with his daughter, Jane (Danielle Panabaker), is unnecessary. During a plot twist, his daughter returns home for one of two reasons, and both of them would be devastating to any parent, except for Mr. and Mrs. Brooks.

Aside from the occasional bright spots (well, darkly bright), Mr. Brooks, is passable.

SCORE: 52

Video Game Review

Posted in Review, Video Games on March 23, 2009 by mattcronin

RESIDENT EVIL 5

Chainsaw Majini

 

Capcom’s Resident Evil 5 is an action-packed blockbuster of a game. The gameplay, the cinematic cut scenes, the characters, and everything else you can imagine are simply beautiful and haunting.

The story follows hero, Chris Redfield, and his newly acquainted parter Sheva Alomar on their quest to halt a scheme that may lead to the destruction of humanity. Regardless of every event that has happened in 1-4, this game can be played on its own without any precursor, thanks to countless flashbacks of foreshadowing, and an immersive new campaign that keeps you caught up in the current mission at hand. Redfield and Alomar keep a Blood Diamond-like partnership where Alomar helps Redfield around the seediest (and creepiest) parts of South Africa in a search for supervillain Albert Wesker.

The gameplay is true and unique to the Resident Evil franchise, which is a plus for fans of the series. However, this game isn’t nearly as frightening as its predecessors. Sure, there are a few times when I jumped, but I slept alright after beating the game. One thing that is a must, is playing the game with a friend. There are countless amounts of two-player objectives that would be very tiresome with an AI partner.

All-in-all, this was a fantastic experience. Great character development, and plot twists, along with a few of the most gruesome enemies in gaming, and some of the most advanced and wonderfully-rendered images in video game history, make this game a must-play.

 

SCORE: 91

Film Review

Posted in Film, Review on March 17, 2009 by mattcronin

DEATH RACE

Death Race

 

Paul W.S. Anderson’s Death Race is a restructuring of the 1975 cult-favorite, Death Race 2000 with Sylvester Stallone and the ‘killed Bill’, David Carradine. Anderson wrote the screenplay and directed this fast-paced bloodbath starring Jason Statham.

The story begins in an economically down-trodden, and nearly-apocalyptic, Mayan-predicted 2012, with the murder of Jensen Ames’ (Statham) wife, Suzy. Jensen  is framed for her murder and sent to “Terminal Island” penitentiary where he’ll not only serve his sentence, but race to the death against a highly skilled group of racing prisoners. Orchestrated by the prison’s warden, Hennessey (Joan Allen), “Death Race” is broadcast to tens of millions online in an outrageous and Roman-inspired version of today’s Pay-Per-View. 

While the story contains a handful of loopholes in the story, it contains a plethora of explosions and unlimited ammunition, which make the film a relatively enjoyable experience. If you’re able to look past all that Death Race is not (i.e. brilliant), you can revel in everything it is (i.e. explosive). 

SCORE: 61

Must Hear.

Posted in Music with tags on March 10, 2009 by mattcronin

Artist: The Script

Song: “Before the Worst”

Album: The Script

Film Review

Posted in Film on March 7, 2009 by mattcronin

Watchmen

Watchmen

 

 

Zach Snyder’s Watchmen is an interesting idea for a film, but can never get passed how much information it has to relay to its audience. I’ve never read the graphic novel (which I hear is excellent), but I did see this movie with two people who had. Their insight into how faithful the movie was to the book was very helpful in getting me past all of the details I needed to comprehend in the 155 minutes this movie digressed for.

This stylized reworking of the novel was beautifully done. The scenery, the sound, and the characters were all good fits for a film. It’s not a movie for the squeamish; there is one fight scene where enemies visibly break multiple bones, a jail sequence that was beyond gratuitous, and an unbelievably disturbing sequence involving a comedian. But, this is all adapted from its original idea, which I was able to accept. Snyder is a master of violence, as he showed in 2006’s  300, which makes him seem the right choice for direction. As I say that, there is a serious lack of useful dialogue aside from Rorschach’s (Jackie Earle Haley) play-by-play narrative. 

After doing research prior to seeing this film, it became apparent that this was not a film that was easy to produce. On June 23, 2006, Warner Brothers announced that Snyder would direct this comic book adaptation. On March 6, 2009, Watchmen was released. Directors Terry Gilliam (Brazil, The Brothers Grimm), Paul Greengrass (United 93, Bourne Ultimatum) and Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Requiem For a Dream) have been attached to this film, the graphic novel author Alan Moore has sworn to never see the movie, and the most remarkable statistic, 20th Century Fox bought the rights to the film adaptation in 1986. That’s 23 years ago.

I enjoyed watching this movie as a movie. I haven’t read the graphic novel, and I don’t have any bias against Zach Snyder. It was bloody, sex-filled, vulgar, but expected. A cinematic masterpiece, it was not; it was a fine movie. 

Don’t expect to be enlightened by the desperate attempt to give the plot meaning, because it shouldn’t have meaning. The story is about people who save people, and people who don’t. It’s realism is in the nature that its characters hold. Although, the Watchmen are supposed superheroes, only two of them have actual superpowers. So it seems as if we are supposed to believe them to be brutally violent, but good Samaritans. This is something that you must accept, or else you will not connect with any of the Watchmen. They are all just too grumpy.

Watchmen plays like a disturbing and adult version of Pixar’s The Incredibles, as it’s a story about superheroes that people once counted on, but have since become obsolete. 

I recommend seeing this film, if even just to see how cool the Watchmen really are.

 

SCORE: 68