REVIEWS

FROST/NIXON
04.December.2008 by Eric Ford-Holevinski

I'm not sure how I feel about this movie. As a movie -- just a movie -- I think it was good. The actors were all great, the plot grabbed me, the dialogue was lively. But it isn't just a movie, because the Frost/Nixon interviews were real, and anybody can watch the true videos, even on YouTube. We know what Nixon was really like. He is not an imaginary character, like Hamlet, who the actor creates. I did watch some of the real interviews online after seeing the movie, and as such, I didn't like Frank Langella's Nixon. I think the real Nixon was more mean-spirited, bitter, and nasty. Langella was too sympathetic; he portrayed a sad, insecure, even pathetic old man. I found myself liking his character more than I think anybody should. Even the real David Frost, in the original interviews, looked more calm, professional and restrained than the giddy, self-loving Frost of the movie. But that's Hollywood -- things have to get juiced up a bit. People must appear larger than life. Ironically, the most interesting and likeable character in the movie for me was Kevin Bacon as Nixon's chief of staff, the macho true believer. On top of that, watching a movie like this in a theater adds another context to the experience: that the obsessive Bush-haters like to think of Nixon and Bush as one and the same, and that every time Nixon said something sleazy, and every time Nixon was nailed for something, he became a Bush metaphor. It was as if people were living their Bush-impeachment fantasy through Nixon, and there were many annoying sniggers and smug remarks passing through the theater. It was an easy movie to sit through, but ultimately, not a particularly memorable one.

THE DARK KNIGHT
26.June.2008 by Eric Ford-Holevinski

This was the best movie I've ever seen. By early June, thanks to the awesome posters, the critics wetting themselves over Heath Ledger's Joker (my favorite comic book villain, by the way), and the exhilirating trailers, my expectations for this film were already in the stratosphere. I was somewhat concerned that the actual movie could never meet such astronomical expectations, but it did -- even without the aid of Danny Elfman's classic score.

Christian Bale was a total baller as usual. His pecs were bigger than Michael Keaton's ugly little head. He was the most believable Batman yet. The hawk-like nose, the strong jaw, the biceps -- Bale is 100% Batman!! From now on I will call him BatBale. I enjoyed his portrayal of the brooding but good-hearted Bruce Wayne, as well as his growling and prowling as the legendary superhero.

Although I was a little iffy on Heath Ledger at first (after A Knight's Tale, who wouldn't be?), but in this knight's tale -- the Dark Knight's tale, if you will -- Ledger is pure supervillain gold. This is not your grandfather's green-haired, silly Joker! The creators had to depart from the old formulas, especially since Jack Nicholson and Mark Hamill basically own the more traditional interpretation of the character, so this time Joker was deliciously sick, creepy, and... sexy. You heard me right: Ledger's Joker is the new Jack Skellington, a dark romantic antihero, soon to be on teenage girls' backpacks around the world. And Ledger blossomed in this role, showing to all the remaining haters what a talented and promising actor he really was before his tragic yet fascinating death. The executives at Warner Bros. are scratching their heads about how to solve the problem that the Joker -- in a plot twist that surprised even this grizzled viewer -- did not die in this movie. Now, I know it's too early to tell, but rumors suggest that Justin Timberlake has been tapped for part 3.

Chris Nolan and co. have concocted a hypnotic potion sure to cement this as the #1 hit of the year: a classic Batman yarn pitting the dark knight against his archnemesis, who targets not only Gotham but Batman's very reputation! The Joker's grand strategy is to reverse their roles and make Batman feel like the bad-guy. Brilliant and ground-breaking! As if that wasn't riveting enough, we got a sizzling love triangle between Wayne, Harvey Dent (who, newly deformed and calling himself Two-Face, ran screaming into the night at the end), and the gorgeous Maggie Gyllenhaal. Personally, I think BatBale is way cooler than Aaron Eckhart, whose name is eerily similar to that of a fat and crooked cop killed in the 1989 Batman. For the gadget lovers out there, there was a killer Batcycle with laser-guided rockets, magnetic Bat Boots that allowed the dark knight to scale walls, and even a Bat Boat for lovers of the old '60s show. Too cool!

In sum, this is the Batman movie everyone has been waiting for. It is the movie that chubby fans of the comic book who still live with their moms have lusted after ever since Burton and Schumacher nearly destroyed the franchise in the '90s. This is also the Batman movie for civilians who like movies but don't like comic books, don't know anything about the series, and didn't see Batman Begins. It's the movie for Heath Ledger stalkers who want to look at his face and pretend they know him personally. This is even the Batman movie for those middle-aged fans of the '60s Batman who haven't watched any subsequent iterations because they're afraid to see a less-than-perfect re-imagining of their beloved caped crusader. Because this is the perfect Batman movie.

Grade: A+

STRANGE DAYS

This was a movie I kind of liked but that I'll probably forget. It had great potential, but it did not reach that potential. I loved the premise; it was right out of William Gibson. People record experiences onto small discs which others can re-experience, as many times as they want, by wearing a rubber basketball net on their heads and playing the disc. Predictably, the invention becomes a medium for pornography, and also in a twist not likely to surprise anybody, grown men find "the wire" addictive.
Ralph Fiennes delivers an amusing performance as such an addict, who has recorded just about his entire relationship with an ex-girlfriend on wire discs. He can't move on or let go of her, and worse, she's involved in something dangerous, but she won't let him protect her.
The movie takes place on the eve of Y2K, where racial tensions in Los Angeles are spinning out of control. A cop-hating rapper (is there any other kind?) was murdered recently and the whole city is about to explode. The truth about Jeriko's murder is being covered up, and in the process, prostitutes and other friends of Ralph Fiennes' character are being picked off.
*spoilers* The big secret is that two crooked white cops gunned down Jeriko (of course!). In Hollywood's long tradition of unrealistic movies, they go against the reality that most rappers are shot dead by criminals, not lawmen. In another Hollywood tradition, Tom Sizemore is a hilariously gross, sleazy ex-cop who you think is a good-guy, but wait -- he's actually a bad-guy! This plot twist doesn't even faze me anymore. But it's good for a laugh, and chortle I did. The writers did not fail to give us the obligatory cynical, "Oh, you're such a romantic, did you really think heroes still exist?" speech from a crazed Sizemore, nor did they deprive me of a hilarious and cheesy death for his character.
When watching this movie, I couldn't help but think about this column by Tom Sowell, one of my favorite thinkers. In two years here, I've never personally seen the NYPD display racism or beat up on a minority. The only time I saw people get busted (undercover cops busting a drug deal), both detainees were white. When I watched Strange Days, I felt like they were pressing issues that don't really exist, but which many people accept as true because it's indoctrinated in us in school assemblies for 15 years. The cops also murder Jeriko for no apparent reason, other than spite. Supposedly he's trying to expose the injustices of the system and embarrass the LAPD -- but I find it totally unbelievable that two deputies would blow away a celebrity on those grounds. The same cops, at the end of the movie, go on a shooting spree to catch the woman with evidence to show the public what they did, and in the process they shoot 5-10 innocent bystanders. Not even close to realistic. So, the movie felt preachy, especially the last half, and this mixed with too many cheesy Hollywood plays landed things squarely in "average" territory.

WAR OF THE WORLDS (2005)

(spoilers included -- but you wouldn't care if you knew how bad this movie is)
Grade: C
Positive: The opening scene was sufficiently haunting to capture some of the essence of the book. The first scene when the Martians come out of the ground and start icing people almost made me wet my pants.
Negative: Why did they make the aliens look EXACTLY like the Independence Day aliens?
Spoilers (more negative): We've all thought this already, so I'll say it here just to get it said: If the Martians came to Earth to plant their stupid war machines a MILLION years ago, before there were any people, why didn't they just take the planet THEN instead of waiting for human civilization to reach its current peak? And speaking of which, why didn't they realize THEN that we have all these bacteria and viruses that would someday be their only weakness? This is so stupid it makes my eyeballs hurt. Yes, I know the possibility of life on Mars has been debunked so they couldn't be true to the book, but at least that could be considered a fantasy convention or something. It wouldn't -- what's the word I'm looking for? -- defy all common sense and reason?
Verdict: A ten-year-old could have done better than this. The movie "sticks" to the book while lacking everything that made the book so breathtaking. This is just a ripoff of Independence Day. Not that ID4 was worth ripping off, but hey ... even a legendary filmmaker like Spielberg could use a few extra million in his pocket.

LAND OF THE DEAD

Grade: B
Positive: It's Romero, it has all the Romero wit and good dialogue that you'd expect. The zombies look okay.
Negative: The movie has no heart or soul. The people are more sexless than eunuchs. Nobody in the whole movie gives a shit about anybody or anything, except this "sacred" humanity-must-survive baloney. And money and themselves, of course. Romero's directing style is nowhere to be seen. He's been bitten and joined the Hollywood masses.
Verdict: The zombie subgenre needs to be killed -- but ... how do you kill what is already dead?

PREVIEW: MATRIX RESURRECTIONS (MATRIX 4)

So they're currently working on a fourth Matrix film already. The working title is Matrix Resurrections. Agent Smith is banished to the human world to live as a flesh-and-blood man, while the Zion resistance works to clone Neo because no one else can fight him. Trinity is also back, although her presence is yet to be explained. "I cried when I read the script," says actress Carrie-Anne Moss. Busta Rhymes has also signed to star in Morpheus, a television series premiering on the WB next month about the young Morpheus and his adventures in the matrix. "The series is all about keepin' it real, if y'all know what I'm sayin," Rhymes stated.

THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW (aka If Weather Everywhere Was Like Michigan)

B-
Positive: Visually, it was a very cool ride.
But: I knew what to expect from the people who brought me Independence Day: impressive special effects; major US cities being destroyed; schmaltzy dialogue; disparate people coming together to overcome evil, such as poor and rich, white and black, nerdy and preppy, old and young; ensemble cast playing stock characters; cheesy dialogue; and by-the-numbers suspense. One surprise I got was the cliche inclusion of the "crippled/ill yet brave kid." Problem is, he looked kinda like Jason from Friday the 13th.
Speaking of, many people have expressed disappointment at the exclusion of zombies from this film. I cannot disagree.

Movie Review (before it comes out):
ALIEN VS PREDATOR, or AVP

Grade: C-
Plot: A forced-ethnically-diverse gang of stock scifi stereotypes goes to a planet. They find aliens. Some scientist wants the monsters for the military and tries to steal something, so the monsters get pissed. Since people can't aim a gun, they all die except for the comic relief, the big-chinned guy, and the triple-D-cup chick.
Directing: Lots of stupid quick cuts to exude chaos and fear.
Acting: All bad, plus one good, but washed up actor whose dignity has been purchased. The ugly CGI monsters, ironically, will be more convincing than the flesh and blood actors.
After I saw it: Did I call it or what?




Back to my Home Page