Monday, July 28, 2008

TRAILER: Watchmen

Watchmen Trailer - The funniest movie is here. Find it

I won't lie. When I watch this trailer, I get a bit turned on. It's about as perfect a transfer from the graphic novel as you can get. Dr. Manhattan (the big blue guy) looks incredible. The costumes look great. Several shots look like they were copied directly from the source material. It doesn't change the fact that the film is probably going to suck, but they get an A for Effort because of the marketing.

BRIEF THOUGHTS: Six Degrees of Separation

Director: Fred Schepisi
Starring: Will Smith, Donald Sutherland, Stockard Channing
Synopsis: The lives of a wealthy couple in New York City become intertwined with that of a con artist who claims to be the son of Sydney Poitier.
Thoughts: A great "small" film that more people should see. Will Smith (in one of his first major acting roles) steals the show as Paul, a con artist who weasels his way into the lives of the rich and affluent. The editing is superb - the audience is shown bits and pieces of certain events, only to have their expectations twisted when the context of the full scene is finally revealed. Not only is this simply a great film, but there are plenty of thought-provoking ideas about life, experiences, and relationships left to ponder afterwards. Look for a cameo by J.J. Abrams, and what might be the first reference to Greg Grunberg ("Heroes") in movie history.

Watch the trailer here.


Director: Lou Ye
Starring: Jia Hongshen, Xun Zhou
Synopsis: The lives of two couples intersect when a courier is imprisoned for the death of his lover, who jumped off a bridge into the Suzhou River. After his release, he encounters a young woman who looks just like her.
Thoughts: Think Vertigo with a Chinese feel. This film helped define Lou Ye as one of the leading "Sixth Generation" filmmakers, and for good reason. It's a technical masterpiece; Ye uses handheld shots to give it a documentary feel, and manages to create beautiful images despite the dreary look of urban Shanghai. The parallel storylines are intriguing and effective, and he injects the perfect amount of surrealism into the plot, so that you're never quite sure what will happen next. A fascinating look at the lives of four Chinese youths looking for love.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Why The Watchmen Film Will Ultimately Fail

If you've been to see The Dark Knight, then odds are you caught the trailer for Watchmen before it. If you've read the original graphic novel the upcoming film is based on, you probably spent most of that two minutes trying not to crap yourself with excitement. If not, you were probably just like, "Oh, shiny stuff! And people in costumes! I have no idea what I'm seeing!"

This film has a lot of people talking, and for good reason. Watchmen is quite simply one of the best novels ever written, period. Not only is it one of my all time favorites, but it's so good, Time magazine even listed it as one of the 100 Greatest Novels Of All Time. And that's actual novels, not just graphic novels. Not many graphic novels have had quite as much influence as this one has.

(In fact, if you're reading this post and you haven't read Watchmen, just stop now and go find a copy. Trust me, you will thank me.)

It goes without saying that this will probably be the biggest release next spring. But as someone who has read Watchmen, and considers himself to be fairly knowledgeable about film and what makes a good movie, I feel pretty confident when I make the following statement:

The Watchmen movie just won't be that good.

I'm sorry, it just won't. Especially when you compare it to the original source material. The best we can hope for at this point is a movie that is fairly engaging and stays relatively close to the plot of the novel. But if you're thinking that this is going to be fantastic, or that it's going to live up to the book, I hate to break it to you, but you're wrong. It's just not going to happen. And there are three main reasons why:

1) Watchman is about as close to an "unadaptable" novel as you can get. Of course, everything can be adapted. But by "adaptable" I mean that a film version can be made that is good and lives up to the source material. Examples of this: Fight Club, Lord of the Rings, and Farewell My Concubine, among many others.

But Watchmen is just not in the same boat as those. It's the kind of story that ultimately can only work best as a graphic novel. Why? Because the author, Alan Moore, wrote it that way. He's directly stated that he wanted to show how the medium of graphic novels could be used to do things that literature and film can't do on their own. And you know what? He succeeded. Watchmen is the perfect mesh of those mediums' strengths. It has a well-developed plot and a level of characterization that even most regular novels are lucky to achieve. But it also has extreme visual depth. Every frame is meticulously crafted, and there are dozens of subtle details that not only make it visually come alive but also add to the overall experience of the novel. For example: certain pages have mirrored frames (where the first and last frames are almost identical, as well as the second and penultimate, and so on). Partially-covered signs and newspaper headlines provide insights into sub-plots and thematic backdrops. There's the recurring image of the smiley face and how it's manipulated... those are just a few examples, and I've only read the graphic novel once. I'm sure if I went back and read it again and looked closely I would discover tons more.

Not only is it near-perfect from a storytelling and visual perspective, but it also deals with complex and abstract themes that most novels and films are afraid to touch, because they're difficult to pull off well. We're talking pretty heavy, complicated stuff here: the meaning of life and purpose, moral objectivity vs. relativism, the meaning of justice, time and causality, human nature, etc. Not to mention that at the same time all of this is going on in the regular story, there's a parallel story in a completely different world and frame of reference developing simultaneously that develops these themes even more.

The bottom line is that Watchmen throws all these elements together and somehow it works. It's a beautifully written masterpiece, and manages to balance all of these elements together without collapsing under its own weight. And a regular 2-hour movie simply can't do that. That's why I say it's practically unadaptable - you would need at least a 3-4 hour period and an extremely talented director if you were even going to attempt to pull it off and do the novel justice. And even then it just might not be doable.

2) Hollywood doesn't have a good track record with other, lesser Alan Moore properties. I haven't seen From Hell, but I've heard it's not that good. V For Vendetta was awful. And don't even get me started on The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I'm quite happy repressing that memory.

3) 99.9% of directors wouldn't be able to pull off a good Watchmen adaptation, and Zack Snyder is not part of that remaining 0.1%. Now, don't get me wrong, Snyder's not the worst filmmaker out there, and he has talent. Dawn of the Dead and 300 showed that he has the technical skills necessary to make a decent film. But does that mean he's right for Watchmen? Absolutely not.

Think about it this way. Dawn of the Dead was a zombie movie. 300, while it kept to the graphic novel, was basically just one big barbarian battle scene. In both of these cases, you don't exactly have a complex plot and a lot of three-dimensional characters to deal with. Yes, visually, they're spectacular. I'm not denying that Snyder knows how to make movies that are gorgeous to look at and stick closely to the graphic novel; that's his main strength. And if the trailer for Watchmen is any indication, he succeeded in that area. But one thing's for certain - if you're looking for complex themes and fantastic characterization, he's not the guy to turn to. He just hasn't matured enough as a filmmaker yet to pull that off.

In fact, if I had to pick someone to adapt Watchmen, there are only two people I can think of that could potentially pull it off. The first is Christopher Nolan. With Batman Begins and The Dark Knight he's shown that he can take comic-book characters and make films with them that aren't just action-packed, they're also very well-written and explore a lot of the same type of themes that Moore likes. And with Memento and Insomnia he showed that he's technically gifted and could probably do a good job of capturing the visual essence of Watchmen.

The other guy, my number one choice, would be Darren Aronofsky. Like Snyder, he's only made a few films, but he's already shown himself to be one of the most gifted filmmakers working in Hollywood today. With Requiem For A Dream and The Fountain especially, he showed he knows how to craft gorgeous imagery that is not only nice to look at, but also expands on the themes of subtleties of the overall work. Like Watchmen, each frame is meticulously crafted for a specific purpose, whether it's for visual parallels and mirror imagery, or to advance concepts and ideas. Also, with Pi and The Fountain, he showed he's able to handle stories and characters that are at times very complex and deal with some heavy, abstract themes. He knows how to layer his stories with different meanings and depth, and that's exactly what makes Watchmen so fantastic.

To sum up: Watchmen would be near-impossible to adapt into a film. That is, if you want to do it well. And if you're going to try, Zack Snyder is certainly not the guy you want at the helm. Yes, he's adapted graphic novels before. But Watchmen isn't just a graphic novel. It's a work of art. It's in an entirely different league altogether. And that is why, great trailer aside, this movie will ultimately fail.

Monday, June 09, 2008

BRIEF THOUGHTS: The Machine Girl

Director: Noboru Iguchi
Starring: Asami, Minase Yashiro
Synopsis: After a gang of bullies kill her brother and chop off her arm, a high school girl goes on a rampage of revenge with a machine gun as a replacement appendage.
Thoughts: A Japanese movie that's out on DVD in the USA before hitting theaters in Japan? What? It's a weird distribution deal, but we're lucky to have it, because this is one fun movie. Think Kill Bill meets Monty Python. This is B-movie making at its finest - the acting is sometimes laughable, the CG effects are cheesy, and the blood gushes like a sprinkler from even the smallest of wounds. Just when you think the plot or the action can't get any more ridiculous, it does, and that's a true testament to the strength of the writing - even though it relies on some conventional plot elements, it somehow comes off as refreshingly original. This is the kind of movie you watch with a bunch of friends after a stressful day at work, and spend the whole time talking back to. If you're in the mood for a cheesy plot and buckets of red corn syrup, it doesn't get much better than this. I mean, come on, it's a Japanese schoolgirl with a machine gun arm fighting ninjas and yakuza! Don't question, just enjoy the ride!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

TRAILER: Beverly Hills Chihuahua

Could this be the best movie ever? I have seen this trailer around ten times now. My brain simply cannot comprehend what my eyes are seeing. This seems like something you see as a fake movie in a show like "30 Rock" or something. But no, I assure you, it is real, and it is coming. The sad thing is that this movie will probably make tons of money and there will be a sequel. In either case, I might actually see this movie, not because I think it will be good (on the contrary, I actually think this could be a sign of the Apocalypse), but because it might make for a fun podcast.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

ARTICLE: Full Frame 2008

As published in The Technician:

The 11th Full Frame documentary film festival -- which attracted filmgoers, press and filmmakers from all across the country for its screenings of more than 100 documentary films, 60 of which were eligible for various awards -- concluded last Sunday in Durham.

The opening-night film selected to kick off the festival was Trumbo, a documentary directed by Peter Askin about famous screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. Based on a play of the same name by Trumbo's son, Christopher, the film follows Dalton Trumbo's struggle to keep working after he was blacklisted in 1947 for being a member of the Communist Party. Christopher Trumbo was present at the festival and participated with Askin in a Q&A after the screening.

"My idea was simply to tell the story of a historical period … in terms of one person and the effect that it had," Trumbo said. "Peter and I wanted to make it into a play, but it was Peter's idea to continue ahead and make a documentary."

Askin said he felt the film's exploration of blacklist and censorship paralleled the current situation in the United States, citing the Patriot Act and the backlash against the Dixie Chicks as an example.

"I think the political relevance is pretty clear," Askin said. "But a lot of it is funny; it's not just a political treatise."

The big winner of the festival was Trouble the Water, which won three awards, including the Grand Jury prize. The film follows New Orleans resident Kimberly Roberts and her husband as they fight to endure Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath in 2005. A large segment of the film consists of home-video footage shot by Roberts during the storm.

Another festival favorite was Man on Wire, which focuses on the planning and commitment of what many have deemed "the artistic crime of the century": a high-wire routine performed between the Twin Towers by Philippe Petit in 1974. Containing archival footage of the event, as well as personal interviews with Petit and many of the other people involved in its execution, the film garnered glowing comments from audience members after the screening.

"After seeing this film, I feel like I'll be able to finally look at pictures of the World Trade Center and instead of immediately thinking of the terrorist attack, I'll think of this," one woman in the audience said.

Man on Wire went on to win the Audience Award as well as a special Grand Jury prize, which it shared with Trouble the Water.

Full Frame staff slightly changed the technical aspects of running a film festival. They used larger venues and set in place new ticketing and logistics systems, which made for an efficient festival-going experience. Early numbers project that more than 29,000 tickets were distributed, a 7 percent increase from last year.

"In 2008, Full Frame set a goal to allow more people access to the films," Israel Ehrisman, director of logistics for Full Frame, said. "The larger venues and improvements to the ticketing and logistics process really made that happen."

Peg Palmer, executive director of Full Frame, expressed her pride in the festival's staff and volunteers, without whom she said it would not have been possible.

"Full Frame 2008 was a huge success," said Palmer said. "The Festival hosted an eclectic audience of filmmakers and film lovers from all over the world who were completely engaged with our program."

Notable films

Up The Yangtze
: Directed by first-timer Yung Chang, this film chronicles the effect the construction of the Three Gorges Dam has on families along the Yangtze River in China. With gorgeous cinematography and emotional revelations, this is a film highly recommended for those interested in foreign countries or the cost of China's growing economy. Winner of two Honorable Mentions.

Man on Wire: This engaging and entertaining documentary chronicles the journey of Philippe Petit as he walks on a tightrope between the Twin Towers in the mid-1970s. Director James Marsh uses never-before-seen footage and photographs of the event from its early planning stages through the final performance. Winner of the Audience Award and Grand Jury Award.

At the Death House Door: Retired minister Carroll Pickett shares his experience as a death house chaplain at a prison in Huntsville, Texas, where he presided over more than 95 executions. This film is a sobering look at the death penalty and an engaging look at one man's transformation from apathy to activism. Winner of the Inspiration Award.

Please Vote For Me: In one of the funniest and most thought-provoking films of the festival, director Weijun Chen examines what happens when a third-grade class in Communist China holds a democratic election for Class Monitor. Bribery, lies and manipulation all come to pass in the lives of three 8-year-olds as they strategize their ways to victory. Is this a pessimistic look at the future leadership of China, or could it perhaps also be a critique of the way democracy works in the United States? Winner of the Working Films Award.

FEATURE: Daniel Karslake and For The Bible Tells Me So

As published in The Technician:

The Film Studies program sponsored a screening last Monday night of the award-winning documentary film For The Bible Tells Me So. The screening was held in cooperation with the Full Frame film festival, which concluded in Durham over the weekend.

The film follows five Christian families and how each responds to the realization that one of their children is gay. It also contains interviews with several prominent religious figures about different interpretations of biblical passages commonly used to condemn homosexuality. Director Daniel Karslake was present at the screening and described the film's examination of faith and sexuality as something he personally related to in his own spiritual life.

"It was actually my faith, ironically, that brought me out of the closet and made me really acknowledge who I was," Karslake said. "Most of the time it's the faith background of gay and lesbian kids that drives them toward suicide and suppressing it."

The audience at the screening consisted of about 70 people, some of whom were students. Afterward, the writer-director participated in a brief Q&A with the crowd.

"I think it was very well received," Karslake said. "Very few people left for the Q&A, and that's always a good sign. … Unless someone says, 'OK, last question,' people could stay forever and talk about this."

In the film, Karslake attempts to bridge the gap between conservative Christian doctrine about homosexuality with real-life stories of religious families that come to accept their gay children. It's a message he said he believes needs to be spread in order to heal the emotional wounds many homosexuals have retained due to negative encounters with religion.

"I get e-mails all the time from gay and lesbian people of all ages who really were in their last weeks before killing themselves and happened to see the film, and have come away actually liking Christians," Karslake said. "It's all about conversation. Silence on this topic is so damaging."

Overall, the audience responded favorably to the film. One of the students present at the screening was Cristina Wase, a senior in social work.

"There was obviously a lot of passion put into it," Wase said. "There was a lot of talk about reading Scripture in context, and I agree 100 percent with that."

Leah Horton, a senior in social work, said she found the film's message corresponded with that of her faith.

"The director stated the film was about transformation," Horton said. "From what I read in the Bible, the Bible is about transformation, too."

The event was supervised by Marsha Orgeron, an assistant professor and director of the film studies program.

"I think it is an incredible opportunity any time students get the opportunity to talk to a director, ask questions and be in the room with someone who's created this thing that we all consume," Orgeron said. "To have that one-on-one opportunity is very rare."

Sunday, March 30, 2008

LIST: My Most Anticipated Chinese Films

As some of you may know, I fell in love with Chinese cinema while studying in Beijing. Since then, I've been doing my best to stay updated on the latest movies coming out of China. Here's my list of my most anticipated Chinese films of 2008, in no particular order. With luck, these will all be imported to the United States or at least get a decent DVD release.

1) Red Cliff - This is John Woo's first Chinese-language film in over a decade, and is the most expensive film to be produced in Asia to date, with a budget of around $80 million. It also boasts an ensemble of some of China and Hong Kong's most famous stars, including one of my personal favorites, Tony Leung. With Woo at the helm, at least one thing is for certain: the action is going to be insane. Count me in!

2) My Blueberry Nights - I'm not really sure if this counts as a "Chinese" film, but it's the first English-language film made by famous Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai. In The Mood For Love is one of my all-time favorite romance movies, and I've enjoyed most of his other films as well. It'll be interesting to see if his style translates well to an American cast and audience.

3) Mad Detective - The latest thriller by famous crime drama director Johnny To. The Election movies were pretty good, and Exiled is fantastic, so hopefully he managed to make another good one. Word-on-the-street is it's one of his better films.

4) Yip Man - Not only does this movie star my favorite Chinese martial artist, Donnie Yen, but it also marks his fourth collaboration with director Wilson Yip. After seeing what they were able to achieve together in SPL and Flash Point (the final fight in FP is probably my favorite hand-to-hand combat scene of all time), I'm definitely excited to see what they do next. Hopefully they'll get the ball rolling on this soon and it'll be out by the end of the year.

5) Fatal Move
- I'm mainly interested in this because it stars Simon Yam and Sammo Hung, both of whom are pretty well-known actors in the East. It also looks like it has a crazy amount of violence and blood.


Director: Ang Lee
Starring: Tony Leung, Tang Wei
Synopsis: In WW2-era Shanghai, a young woman must seduce a high-profile collaborator with the Japanese in order to assassinate him.
Thoughts: This is a good film, and it's unfortunate that many people don't know anything about it other than "it's that NC-17 Chinese movie with the graphic sex scenes." It's true, the sex scenes are very graphic (the Chinese government even officially encouraged people not to attempt some of the sexual positions since they might injure themselves), but unlike most of the even the tamest sex scenes coming out of Hollywood, they're far from gratuitous (trust me, I've seen both the edited and unedited versions). This is a film about acting, and how one actor engages in a battle of wits against the other, each attempting to break through the other's mask to discover his/her true motives. It's a psychologically devastating game, and the sex scenes are the core of the struggle as each character must decide how much of themselves to reveal despite the most intimate of situations. That said, don't be scared off by what you've heard - the sex scenes only comprise about 5 minutes of the movie, and you can always skip them or rent the edited version. However, I recommend the unedited one simply because of how integral they are to the overall portrait of the characters. Though overall I wouldn't call this a "masterpiece", it's certainly a fine piece of filmmaking, with gorgeous cinematography and superb acting by the leads. At the very least, it's better than Lee's vastly overrated Brokeback Mountain.

Watch the trailer.

Friday, February 29, 2008


Director: Kent Alterman
Starring: Will Ferrell, Woody Harrelson, Andre Benjamin
Synopsis: Coach, player and owner of the Flint Tropics basketball team, Jackie Moon tries to lead his ABA team to fourth place so they can merge into the NBA.
Thoughts: Despite the fact that it's getting mediocre reviews, I actually like this the best of all the Will Ferrell sports movies (I wasn't a fan of Talladega). It's nothing spectacular, but it did get me to chuckle fairly consistently, and there were a few moments that had me nearly rolling on the floor with laughter. The film works best when it's parodying an actual organization (the ABA) and an actual event (its merger with the NBA). It lags a bit in the middle when dealing with predictable plot points, notably a romantic subplot (but thankfully this isn't as painfully overdone as in Blades of Glory), but the beginning is strong and the last third contains one of the most creative (and it turns out, hilarious) ideas I've seen in a comedy in a long time. It's worth the price of admission for this part alone.

Watch the trailer.

REVIEW: Jumper

As published in The Technician:

Jumper mediocre at best

Let me start off by saying this: Jumper is a bad film. There is no denying that fact.

That said, it does have a few positive elements, and you'll be hard-pressed to find more creative action sequences.

The film's plot is fairly straightforward: David (Hayden Christensen) discovers he has the power to teleport. Unfortunately, this makes him an unwilling participant in a war between "Jumpers" (people who can teleport) and "Paladins" (people trying to kill them). He'll have to team up with another Jumper named Griffin (Jamie Bell) to take down Roland (Samuel L. Jackson), a powerful Paladin who wants nothing more than to exterminate all those who can teleport. Not to mention David's also trying to win back his high-school sweetheart, Millie (Rachel Bilson).

The biggest problem with Jumper is that it introduces many really interesting ideas, but never does anything with them.

Apparently, Paladins and Jumpers have been at war since the Middle Ages, but the details of how and why this war is playing out is left unsaid. What is Roland's connection to the government? Where did he get all these high-tech weapons? What separates him from the other Paladins?

Also, if this war is so massive and important, why is it that, over the course of the movie, we're only shown half a dozen Paladins and a grand total of three (that's right, three) Jumpers?

This isn't a war -- it's a schoolyard scuffle. There's some interesting mythology just begging to be explored, but the filmmakers leave it aside in favor of a cliched romance that fails to provide any sort of emotional hook and has more holes than a block of Swiss cheese. It's as if they want to tease you with just enough information to dupe you into seeing the inevitable sequel.

The acting is never terrible enough to be distracting, but it's hardly noteworthy. Christensen proves once again that his performance as an actor depends entirely on the strength of the writing and directing, and unfortunately Jumper is weak in both aspects. Bilson never gets to stretch herself, and spends most of the film as a prop pulling the damsel-in-distress routine we've seen a million times before. And as for Samuel L. Jackson, well, he's Samuel L. Jackson, giving the same one-note performance we've come to expect from him. One half expects him to start spouting his Pulp Fiction monologue about the vengeance of the Lord as he grapples with David. Then again, when your character has no characteristics beyond "religious fanatic," it's hard to blame Jackson for seeming shallow.

The only actor worth noting is Jamie Bell, who delivers his lines with perfect comedic timing and looks like he's having a blast. If only the audience had as much fun.

All these problems aside, Jumper does have one thing going for it, and that's the action. The special effects are top-notch and director Doug Liman does an effective job at using teleportation in the film's fight scenes. There's nothing quite like watching characters jump from place-to-place in the heat of battle, and even using their abilities to teleport cars and other objects into the mix. There were more than a few times that I found myself truly impressed by the spectacle I was watching unfold.

If you're looking for an engaging plot and characters you can sympathize with, then Jumper isn't for you. However, if you just want to turn your brain off for 90 minutes, this is the kind of movie you might consider renting one weekend.

It's a bad movie, to be sure, but as bad movies go it's hardly the worst.

Rating: 5/10


Director: Frank Darabont
Starring: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden
Synopsis: In this adaptation of the Stephen King novella, Citizens of a small town are trapped in a supermarket when a mysterious mist containing blood-thirsty creatures envelops the town.
Thoughts: Frank Darabont proves again that when it comes to adapting Stephen King, he's the best of them all (he also directed the fantastic The Shawshank Redemption). Though the first twenty minutes of this film are mediocre, it doesn't take long after that for things to kick into high-gear. This isn't a monster movie as much as it's a film about the power of fear to manipulate and control people. I can't believe the studios let him get away with the ending, but I'm glad they did, because it's a climax that has stayed with me more than that of any other film in recent memory. Frank Darabont has cinematic testicles of steel for going with this ending. This is without a doubt the best horror film I've seen in years, for the simple reason that it explores every aspect of horror, from the physical to the psychological to the emotional. If you're looking for a good thriller, definitely give this one a shot.

Watch the trailer.

BRIEF THOUGHTS: No Country For Old Men

Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen
Starring: Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones
Synopsis: A man flees from an assassin after stumbling upon $2 million in cash.
Thoughts: Though I don't think it should have beaten There Will Be Blood for Best Picture, this is still a really excellent film, and probably the best yet by the Coen Brothers. This is a film about Death, and how it comes for us all eventually. Javier Bardem plays one of the best villains in movie history, who is pretty much death incarnate. If you're looking for an intense film dealing with old-fashioned themes, look no further than this.

Watch the trailer.

BRIEF THOUGHTS: Pennies From Heaven

Director: Herbert Ross
Starring: Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters
Synopsis: Arthur Parker, a sheet music salesman in depression-era Chicago, suffers a mid-life crisis and falls for another woman.
Thoughts: Steve Martin's second movie after The Jerk, and he shows he's capable of doing dark drama as well as slapstick comedy. This movie has some really dark, creepy moments - Arthur has some serious issues that go beyond your average mid-life crisis. This is a film about how in life's darkest times, we long for the idealistic situations and values of old-fashioned songs. Characters express their desires in song; it's almost like a psycho-analytic musical, a psychoanamusical. The juxtaposition of bubbly, happy melodies with moral ambiguity and helplessness is a unique and effective tool. This movie's a bit twisted, but I recommend it if you're looking for something atypical with well choreographed musical numbers. Oh, and Christopher Walken does a striptease while singing and tap-dancing. Could this be the best dance scene ever?

Watch the trailer.


Director: Sean Penn
Starring: Emile Hirsch, Catherine Keener, Jena Malone
Synopsis: Based on the true story of Christopher McCandless, a young man who cast off the shackles of modern society and attempted to live alone in the Alaskan wilderness.
Thoughts: This should have been nominated for Best Picture; Sean Penn has some serious directing chops. The acting is solid, the cinematography is gorgeous, and the story is inspiring. Penn does an excellent job at capturing the spirituality of nature Christopher's search for himself. This movie almost makes me want to burn my Social Security card and go hunt deer to survive. That's how good it is. For an interesting night, watch this and "Grizzly Man" in the same evening.

Watch the trailer.