Archive for November, 2007

Review: Eastern Promises

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

Another movie by David Cronenberg, and usually you have an equal hit-miss chance. But lately his movies seem less controversial and less off-putting (probably because he doesn’t write the screenplay anymore), though he still doesn’t delve too deeply into his characters, letting them brood in silence instead.
Starring Viggo Mortensen (again, see History of Violence) and Naomi Watts means the acting part is well taken care of. The story part though, is somewhat slow and simple. That works well for the budget, but certainly is a few minus points for this movie. Overall though, it’s just average.7+.

Pre-Strike TV Schedule

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

With so few TV reviews coming from me, you might actually think I’ve stopped watching TV. Not true though. While total hours might be down from last year, it’s mainly due to the quality of new entries (reviews will come at a later time).
So here’s my TV schedule before the WGA strike began. Most shows will have a (temporary ?) stop somewhere in the next months.

The Best:
Heroes (S2)
Prison Break (S3)
CSI (S8)
Pushing Daisies (S1 – new entry)
My Name Is Earl (S3)
Grey’s Anatomy (S4)
South Park (S11)
Boston Legal (S4)
King of the Hill (S12)
The Colbert Report (S3)

The Good:
Brothers & Sisters (S2)
Private Practice (S1 – new entry)
Reaper (S1 – new entry)
Brotherhood (S2)

The Okay:
Criminal Minds (S3)
Smallville (S7)
October Road (S2)
Journeyman (S1 – new entry)

As you can see, it’s a lot. But it used to be even more ! Here’s what I don’t watch (mostly new shows):

The Best, But Already Finished This Season:
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (S3)
The Sarah Silverman Program (S2)
Damages (S1)
Weeds (S3)

Only good for a few eps:
Samantha Who?
Bionic Woman
Dirty Sexy Money
Everybody Hates Chris (S3, dropped from last year regular schedule)

Never Made It Past The Pilot:
Women’s Murder Club
Big Shots
Aliens in America

So, if the strike continues, I’ll just have to continue watching the backlog of the “Only good for a few eps:” category. Or do you have a better suggestion ?

Review: SiCKO

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

Third wide released documentary from controversial film maker Michael Moore (first and second being Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11), and he has to be commended for the fact that he makes docu’s that doesn’t induce a deep REM sleep.
That said, quality of this one is a tad bit lower than previous. It runs a bit long, obviously hanging in the middle too much. There are also not too many chain of facts revealed. Confrontation with the other party is also a lacking factor.
Then again, it does make a few points, and it’s quite scary our own health care system (and other social instances) is already half way heading where the States already is, mainly powered by greed from the higher top.
All in all, it’s still enough to whet the appetite for a more in-depth complitated revelations with more head on collisions in his next docu (Fahrenheid 9/11½).7+.

Review: Beowulf

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

The second performance capture movie from Robert Zemeckis (first being the Christmas movie Polar Express), and it works out pretty well. First of all, luckily it’s not a children’s movie any more, more of the opposite. Second of all, more reality based atmosphere. This combined makes it all the more palatable, but it doesn’t magically make this movie a valid blockbuster. Sure, there’s enough eye-candy and gore to go around, but the first few minutes has you crining over the choppy moving characters. But like a computer finishing its boot sequence, it’s not that obvious any more a few more minutes in. Then there’s the story, clearly lacking motives and backstory for both the pro- and antagonists. Story stays a bit flat, never leaving the usual love and war babbling.
So all in all, it’s good enough to see it once if you’re into this, but overall, it’s not a must-see.7+.

Review: Dirty Sexy Money 101 – 103

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

In the midst of the current creative crisis, one of the first series to get a full season commitment. Airing on ABC, it has big names attached to it (exec prods Greg Berlanti (Everwood, Brothers & Sisters) and Bryan Singer (House, X-Men plus sequel)), but actually hasn’t much to show for. I just tried this show because I thought it was time to hoard as much shows as I can with the WGA strike possible causing a TV blackout in the coming months.
Focusing on one family (like Brother & Sisters) and its family lawyer, it quite frankly doesn’t feel that familial. Between all the family members, there aren’t too many interactions. And with the ones shown, it’s pretty superficial. Characters are too far and apart, but doesn’t feel real at all. There’s also an ongoing backstory that might or might not develop into something, but the seriousness of that matter, combined with the strange infusion of humor also clashes in my mind.
All in all, I’m not that positive about it, but it could develop into something nice when there is a blackout (WGA and AMPTP talks resume this Monday, who knows it’ll blow over). If there’s not, I probably won’t continue with this show.

Review: American Gangster

Sunday, November 18th, 2007

After three successful collaboration with Tony Scott, Denzel tries a movie with brother Ridley Scott (both being talented and diverse directors), and this time they’re going for a gangster epos based on true events. Maybe that’s where the problem lies, maybe it’s the lack of embellishment, maybe it’s something else. Because, while the movie is good on its own, it’s not near the head-to-head-butting like Man on Fire or the intensity and in-depth characters of Training Day.
So if you want a movie sticking to the truth (two main characters were consultants after all), with only a slight touch of dramatic flair, this is for you. Just don’t expect too much from it, besides excellent acting jobs (Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe).7+.

Review: Resident Evil: Extinction

Sunday, November 18th, 2007

And the game trilogy comes to an end (or does it ?), and it’s all what you can expect from a game to movie conversion. Quick cuts to action sequences, admirable pacing, and just plain 90 minutes of pop-corn fun. Of course that means the story has to lay back, no character development, and lotsa nitpicking (why this, illogical that) for the sharpminded, but that’s what you signed up for as you knew this would happen before it happened.
For the guys, there are lotsa blond chicks running around, with almost spraypaint accurate make-up jobs. I never found Mila Jovovich attractive, but in this movie, she’s so close. Add Ali Larter and Spencer Locke and another bunch in, and it’s a guaranteed one thumb up for this movie overall.6-.

Review: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Friday, November 16th, 2007

With such a long title, either the movie is a spoof or it’s so serious that the title couldn’t have been named something else at all. Unluckily, none of the two is the case, and it’s just a plain boring nothing saying piece of western bullocks.
Let’s not talk about pacing. Even removing 23 frames per second and speeding up the remaining by a factor 10, it’s still slow. Let’s not even talk about the script. If it was delivered to me, I’d order a hitman to kill the writer (/director in this case, Andrew Dominik), and I’d burn the script along with the bike messenger who brought it to me, just for good measure.
This movie is based on a script with dull meaningless dialogue, uneventful encounters and tries to gain some kind of respect for an ordinary bandit (and fails). Some might adore the visuals delivered (not me), but besides an admirable twitchy Casey Affleck (playing Robert Ford), this is just an endurance test. It’s more difficult than running the 42.195 kilometres marathon, but I made it, just to write this review and warn you.2.

Review: Jimmy Eat World – Chase This Light

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

Having only the opportunity to listen to their last album (Futures, 2004), I know they’re quite a valid rockband with certain qualities. Less than a handful of songs were picked though, mostly dropping them because of their heavy tone and dark mood.
Now comes an album with songs so positive and uplifting, it’s actually depriving older hardcore fans, seeing this as a wrong move. But for me, it’s excellent, only needing to drop one slower song, while the rest features more anthemic (almost poppy) choruses and almost sing-along qualities, but never selling out to their own rock style. All in all, quite refreshing (though some of the lyrics lack depth and don’t make a lot of sense).7½.

Review: Bionic Woman 101 – 106

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

One of the most anticipated series, airing on NBC, the title says it all. With David Eick heading the project, you might think it’s a good sign (Battlestar Galactica), but now, a few episodes further, you see a lot of shortcomings. Even seasoned writers like Glen Morgan (X-Files, Millennium) couldn’t save it (exiting the show early on). Most lacking is basically anything that makes a TV series excel, and comparing it to Battlestar Galactica is a huge mistake (ingredient missing ? Hell yeah, it’s called Ronald D. Moore).
So what can mr. Eick achieve on his own ? Basically a formulaic “lady kicks ass” type of show. First episodes had a few more serious sides to it (maybe even an intriguing antagonist coupled with personal turmoil and ambiguity), but those elements subside pretty quickly, leaving you with a show so easily watched on 10x speed fast forward, it’s just not worth watching anymore.
Depending solely on so-called funny dialogue, nonsensic mission objectives, and short unimaginitive action sequences might satisfy the usual NBC audience, but my standard is quite a bit higher.

Review: Lions for Lambs

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

The first movie coming off the revived United Artists banner (now under Cruise/Wagner productions’ direction, after both got booted by Paramount), focusing on low to mid-budget specialties. This mostly means, story story story. And that’s exactly what I like about movies.
Looking at this movie from a cinematic standpoint, even the $35 million budget seems a bit high, basically filming only in a handful of rooms (only one location shot, which easily could’ve been an on-the-lot trick shot anyway).
So how does the story work out ? Pretty much perfectly. Characters are there, talking their way to a better understanding. Using current topics, it provides thought provoking ideas. With both sides delivering valid arguments, it’s engaging, no matter which side you’re rooting for or regardless what the movie’s politcal message wants to be. The scenes cut through several ongoing story lines and it’s not clear how they’re related (if at all, and in which time line), but slowly it will become clear.
So lotsa kudos to Robert Redford (dir./prod.) and the “new” United Artists production company, focusing on story and characters alone. Some goes for Cruise, stepping down from big-budget box-office-safe blockbusters.8.

Review: 30 Days of Night

Saturday, November 10th, 2007

Movie coming from the Raimi/Tapert production company Ghost House Pictures, which specializes in these horror flicks, and this one is no different. The bad thing is obvious, there aren’t many in this genre that will really stand out, in its own genre or even harder, in all genres. This movie follows the predictable vampire story line, and fails with the rest. There’s no new angle on the story, there’s no background story to explore nor are characters anything special. While the ending might make up for a few points, overall there’s nothing new to tell except for the expected. And that’s a bit strange having David Slade as a director (the intense Hard Candy) and Stuart Beattie as the writer (the character driven Collateral), but showing none of the strong points of their previous movies.6½.

Review: Superbad

Thursday, November 8th, 2007

Another movie from producer Judd Apatow (but not directing), andd featuring Seth Rogen (starring in and producer on 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up), but now tries to pen the script too. Riding on their previous box office success, the script and dialogue style is very much alike Knocked Up, but then on a smaller scale and using no real big stars. The result is still another box office hit, and it means the fun is about the same level. Maybe a bit juvenile fun, with the story not really moving ahead, but dialogue does have enough pace, even though it’s mostly gibberish and quite predictable.7+.

Review: Atonement

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

While technically not a costume drama (1940’s though, close enough), it does have the same feeling to it. Usually, that genre doesn’t fare well with me, but this movie did a decent job not to repel me from the get go. That doesn’t mean it sits totally comfortably though, mostly pacing and not enough story (for the current two full hours running time, that is) are the downsides for this movie. Also, a lot of this true love feeling you’ll have to take for granted, never revealing any backstory on Keira Knightley and James McAvoy characters, and why they belong together.
Taking it for granted might have something to do with the narrative though, which has some nice twists too it, but as a whole movie, it fails to live up to its rave critic and user reviews.7-.

TV or not TV… ?

Monday, November 5th, 2007

A quote from Shakespeare I think, but the basic idea behind it is that a dark hour is upon us. The Writers Guild of America is going to strike, immediately. At stake is a slightly higher portion of DVD (from 4 cents per disc to 8 cents) and new (online) media sales. A total amount of under $100 million a year (divided over some 12.000 writers), that the industry is not willing to budge on (earning $24.4 billion last year alone on domestic DVD sales, so we’re talking about a total of less than %1).
Last time this happened was in 1988 (a 22 week duration), and it left me scarred. For instance, Star Trek: The Next Generation has a 2 month season premiere delay, and produced The Child (a recycled script from ST: Phase II) and the most horrible episode ever in Star Trek history, flashback clip show Shades of Gray. So deservingly, the industry lost an estimated $500 million income (less advertisement sold, 10% declined viewership). And I wasn’t a savvy TV watcher back then anyway.
But now that I am, the direct impact will be:
– Immediately, no more late night shows. Colbert, Jay, Conan, they’ll be off the air, as late night shows depend the most on writers.
– Soon, no more sitcoms, as they rely a lot on on-set rewrites.
– No nicely finished TV seasons. Most shows have some 5 episodes in the post production pipeline, and maybe a few scripts ready to shoot. But come Jan/Feb 2008, it’s bye bye scripted television, hello news, game and reality shows.
– Canceled new running shows. Good shows with low ratings will never get a chance to grow into surprise hit shows.
– Canceled new upcoming shows. Heroes: Origin seems to be a victim already, put on indefinite hold before scripts have been written (but promised to advertisers a few months ago, to lure in advertisement money for a mid 2008 launch)
– If the strike takes long enough, say goodbye to pilot season. Next year will run on current shows, including the horrible ones that should’ve been axed.

tv test screen

Are you as scared as I am ?

Update: It was unclear what multitalented actors/writers/producers/directors would do during the strike (since their added SGA/DGA allegiance), but big names like J.J. Abrams, James L. Brooks and Tina Fey joined the picket lines, while stars like Jay Leno and Julia Louis-Dreyfus showed up for support.

Update2: Next victim: 24. No 7th season for this TV season (about 1/3 filmed though). Fox bets on safe and moves it to the next TV season.