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.

Friday, February 15, 2008

TRAILER: Summer Palace

This film looks amazing. It's dealing with one of the most fascinating times of modern Chinese history, both politically and socially. If this was shot in China (which it appears to be), there is no way it was approved by the government. Political unrest and young Chinese women? Count me in.

TRAILER: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

A lot of people are raving about this trailer, but honestly, I'm not that impressed. I was totally sold up until Indy lands in the car and cracks a joke about thinking it was closer. I can understand Indiana Jones making a few wisecracks here and there (especially ones that acknowledge how old he's getting), but that line completely killed the mood for me somehow. Punch the Nazi scum, then crack a joke! The sets, costumes and props look great, but a couple of shots had some very sub-par CGI effects. A few of the action shots look like they have potential, so we'll see. I hope Spielberg doesn't pull a George Lucas and manages to deliver a good Indiana Jones film after nearly 20 years, but all the promotional stuff I've seen leaves me slightly optimistic at best.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


Directors: Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi
Starring: Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Simon Abkarian (voices)
Synopsis: This animated French film follows a young Iranian girl as she lives through the Iranian Revolution and goes to Austria to study.
Thoughts: A fairly interesting look at culture clash and the violence that often comes with political change. The animation style is interesting to look at, if not incredibly complicated, and is effective at telling the story. There are some pretty funny moments, mainly as the protagonist struggles to adapt to the regulations forced upon women after the Revolution. Its only main flaw is that I never felt really connected to the characters and their emotional struggle. Still, if you're looking for a fairly light film or have any interest at all in Iranian culture/political history, give this a shot.

Watch the Trailer.