Monthly Archives: July 2010

You Mustn’t Be Afraid To Dream A Little Bigger, Darling!

In a season normally reserved for big budget action movies with plenty of explosions and little content, Screenwriter and Director Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight) delivers something just short of a modern masterpiece.

Summer movies are expected by many to entertain audiences without involving them. Your standard summer action movie is full of the same cyclical process that results in the girl being saved and room left open for a sequel, given enough people see the original. Summer movie goers may be in for a surprise with Inception.

This film is set in an alternate reality where it is possible to navigate through the human subconscious while people sleep. In other words, It is possible to invade a person’s dreams. Few people know how to do this, and of those few, there is an even fewer number who navigate through the minds of others in search of profitable information. These individuals are called Extractors. Enter Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), an Extractor who is working outside of the U.S., on the run for a crime he claims he didn’t commit. With his team of specialized dream navigators, He takes one last job that may finally bring him home in exchange for doing the impossible: Inception.

Nolan grasps his audiences attention from the beginning, and holds on to it until the very last scene ( Which in my theater, caused plenty of cheers and gasps). The idea of Inception is fed the audience slowly. Nolan requires that viewers think accordingly and sometimes takes their intelligence for granted. For those who have trouble keeping up, the central theme of the movie is repeated several times throughout.

This is a visually stunning mash up of every type of movie people have come to like. It’s cyberpunk-heist thriller that’s beautiful to look at. With scenes that defy laws of physics with eloquence, It’s hard to not forget ignore the casts performance, at first.

Leonardo DiCaprio gives a convincing performance as a man stuck between the lines of reality, who just wants to go home. Anyone with the slightest powers of empathy can feel for his character in this techincally and emotionally complex film.

Joseph Gordon-Levvitt (500 Days of Summer) gives a cold, distinguished performance as Cobb’s main partner, Arthur. His character is often criticized for not having enough imagination throughout the film, but Gordon-Levvitt fills the role with a quiet intensity. English actor Tom Hardy also portays his role as Eames, The Forger, with a likable flair. He and Levvitt share a few moments of on screen banter over a sour past relationship.

Every heist needs an inexperienced newcomer, and Ellen Page ( Juno) fills that role. Her character, Ariane, is the person who must design the dream worlds in which people are brought into. Though without a particularly dazzling performance, her presence is felt in key moments that help define Leo’s character. The rest of the cast gave solid performances, including Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai), who plays a mysterious investor.

Without a doubt, Inception is the best movie of the summer, so far. It does what so many other summer movies fail to do and invites the audience to think along with it until the final scene. This movie may not be for all, however. Some may deem the concept as too far fetched and others have complained of it being too much like The Matrix meets Oceans Eleven. I however, stand unmoved.

I recommend this movie to anyone who will allow their imagination to be open to the possibilities of Inception.

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Introducing Donald Glover

If you’ve seen an episode of 30 Rock, Community, or watched anything by comedic group, Derrick Comedy, you’ve heard the material of Donald Glover before. However, up until the past year, you may not have known it.

As the face of Troy in NBC’s 30 Community, Donald plays a washed up high school jock, still clinging on to his letterman jacket. The 26 year old began writing for NBC’s 30 Rock , right after graduating from NYU’s Dramatic Writing program. It was at NYU that he started to play around with music and founded the comedic group, Derrick Comedy. While at NBC, he began writing stand up material and subsequently left the show after it’s third season to pursue a career on the stage. Shortly after leaving 30 Rock, however, Donald auditioned and received the role of Troy.

Derrick Comedy is a sketch comedy group that produces a series of Youtube videos, many of which Donald helped write. The group formed at NYU while performing in the comedy group, The Wicked Wicked Hammerkatz. The group released a slew of videos and is now premiering it’s first feature length movie in select cities nationwide.

Now, the entertainer is releasing albums, performing on Comedy Central, and wrapping up his first season on Community – all in the past 6 months.

Donald was recently the subject of a social media campaign to portray the first African-American incarnation of Spider-Man. Fans tweeted constantly for the chance to have Donald Portay the popular webslinger. Although newcomer Andrew Garfield received the role, Donald hasn’t slowed down. On the 16th of July, He flew to Montreal to receive the Rising Star comedy award at the annual Just for Laughs festival. With a year as successful as his, it doesn’t come as a surprise. In The midst of the Community season in March, Donald’s first stand-up special premiered on Comedy Central. This is where I first encountered his standup ability and had to looked him up.

Earlier this month, Donald also dropped his third album, CULDESAC, under the moniker of Childish Gambino. He has repeatedly stated in interviews that he uses the pseudonym to disassociate fans from his comedic efforts. In March, he told New York Magazine the name came from a Wu-Tang Clan name generator he and a few buddies in college were playing around with, and has stuck with the entertainer since. The album is an indie-rap production similar to artists like Kid Cudi or Drake, with wordplay a step below Lil Wayne. Donald infuses indie beats and hip-hop bragging in this unique collection. For those on the fence about it, or are definitely interested, Donald provides all of his music free on his site. There you can find everything from his first mixtape, “ I Am Just a Rapper” to his current efforts.

And as for Community, it’s been renewed for a second season to premiere September 23rd. Glover is set to reprise his role as Troy on Thursdays at 8 CST.

For Donald‘s latest album, go to http://www.culdesac-album.com/

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6 Movies You Should Have Seen Already

By William Johnson

After scanning the list of upcoming movies in the past weeks, none particularly stuck out to me. So, I’ve decided the list a few movies that do stand out from the rest. These are the movies, from recent years, that are on my all time favorites list, and that I suggest you check out.

1. Away We Go (2009)

This film features a couple in search of the perfect place to raise their unborn daughter. Burt and Verona are still struggling to keep the lights on their mid 30’s and want start over for the sake of their child. The couple travels across to country in hopes of finding a place with the right amount of stability, including friends to support them.

Anybody familiar with The Office will recognize a much scruffier version of John Krasinski as the lead role in this comedy-drama, directed by Sam Mendes (Jarhead). This movie features comedian Jim Gaff and actress Maggie Gyllenhaal in supporting roles as well as a cast full of familiar faces.

Singer-Songwriter Alexi Murdoch provides the majority of the movie’s soundtrack with songs from his Time Without Consequence album. His indie-folk tunes direct the mood of this film almost as much as the cinematography.

What holds this movie together for me is the enduring chemistry between the two lead roles, Burt and Verona. Though both have their own dorky quirks and worries about life and people, they are able to confide in each other. Their bond and ways they handle every situation is what attracts me to this movie.

2. Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind (2004)

Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich) explores a notion originally used in Alexander Pope’s Eloise to Abelard. In both stories, a young woman falls for a teacher and wishes the memory of her love be wiped clean once she finds that she cannot have him. Kaufman provides the possibility of memory erasure in his script while director Michael Gondry helped visualize the process in modern cinema.

Eternal Sunshine travels deep into the minds of main characters Joel and Clementine, two estranged lovers who have their memories wiped of each other. Jim Carey (Yes Man) and Kate Winslet (The Holiday) provide the right amount of chemistry for this love/hate relationship gone wrong. Carey is in one of his most serious roles as Joel, who decides that he doesn’t want the procedure done halfway through and fights to keep a hold of his memories.

This film asserts the idea that removing the memory of an act does not change the type person of person you were when you committed the act. Eliminating the memory of somebody doesn’t change your tendency to be attracted to that person. In a film that audience can’t help but to identify with, Eternal Sunshine demands your emotions and your intellect with every viewing.

3. Kingdom of Heaven – Directors Cut (2005)

Ridley Scott (Gladiator) brings his usual hack and slash action elements to this movie, but with a bit of class and beauty. Orlando Bloom portrays the historic figure of Balian, a blacksmith turned defender of Jerusalem against Muslim forces during the Crusades.

The first thing audiences may notice in Kingdom of Heaven is the allure of the landscapes used in this film. Every scene attempts to include the beautiful backdrop. The detail in this film is remarkable. The crew recreated the ancient city of Jerusalem in the Moroccan Desert.

Although the Muslim people are the invading force, they are portrayed with much more respect that most contemporary films. In fact, this film provides criticism to the Christian Crusaders.

I recommend the directors cut because the original film was incomplete. Characters were reinserted to the directors cut make a more coherent story. Although this brings the running time up to 194 minutes, for anybody planning to watch it, this is the only way to truly appreciate it.

4. Anything by Quentin Tarrantino

Whether is be Kill Bill, Reservoir Dogs, Inglorious Basterds or Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino brings cinematic gold to the silver screen every time.

Tarrantino brings a sort of over the top violence and black comedy that most contemporary films are missing. His non linear story telling and over the top dialogue set him apart as one of the decades top directors. His intentional use of cliches and habit of killing off more half of the original cast in him films are trademarks of his style.

5. Up in The Air/ The Hurt Locker (2009)

I combined these two movies because the portray similar lead characters. Both The Hurt Locker and Up in The Air feature men who have been trained to do one thing, and excel in this by dedicating their lives to it. In the process, they lose the ability to live outside of their skill set.

George Clooney (Ocean’s 11-13) plays Ryan Bingham in Up In The Air, a corporate downsizer who travels across the country with his life in his backpack. His job is to lay people off when company managers are too cowardly to do it themselves. This movie follows his travels and the way he perceives people and relationships.

Jeremy Renner (Dahmer) is Sergeant First Class William James in the Academy Award Winning film, The Hurt Locker. James is a bomb specialist with an extensive service history who is assigned as the team leader of an Electronic Ordinance Disposal Unit. The Hurt Locker follows his tour in Iraq, and readjustment to home life.

While these films share similarities, they are quite different movies. I grouped them together because of the similar themes and the way both films made me feel. Up In The Air caries a theme of voluntary detachment, while the EOD unit in The Hurt Locker must find unity to succeed together.

6. Babel/Crash (2006/2004)

Babel is a combination of concurrent perspectives in regards to a shooting in Morroco that fatally wounds an American tourist. The story is shown from the perspectives of those affected and following investigation. Crash is about a car theft that systematically sparks a chain of events.

Babel and Crash have been called large and small scale versions of each other. While similar, the difference between the movies lies in how connected the groups of people are. In Crash, a series of racially charged events affects the lives of several families. Babel is based around one event that has international consequences.

Both movies, however, examine the racism and prejudice that exist in our national and global societies. The harsh realism behind these movies is necessary when discussing these issues.

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The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

By William Johnson

Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner return for the third installment of Stephenie Meyer’s bestselling Twilight series, Eclipse.

After a string of killings in nearby Seattle threatens to implicate the Cullen family, the werewolves and vampires form an uneasy truce to combat a new threat. In the midst of the external conflict, the love triangle with Bella, Edward, and Jacob continues to serve as a distraction. Also, Bella must deal with her high school graduation and what she will decide to do with her life afterwards.

Despite the animosity directed at it from disgruntled fans of the books or those in complete opposition of anything mainstream, this film delivers exactly what it’s audience wants. Director David Slade ( 30 Days of Night) designed a two hour fantasy soap opera that works. By injecting actions sequences throughout the film, Slade is able to both grab and hold on to the attention of movie goers. Intense chases and acrobatic lunges fill this epic with enough energy to keep those who aren’t as concerned with the drama content.

Kristen Stewart gets plenty of practice with her “I’m unsure of what to say” look in scenes with both Pattinson and Lautner, although this can run on a bit too long in some parts. Sometimes the film lagged on in scenes that seemed too long for the point they were trying to make. Also, the muscial score by Howard (Lord of the Rings) Shore did seem unnecessarily cheesy at times.

None of this hurt the movie too bad as it did contain sporadic bits of comic relief sprinkled about in the form of Bella’s father, Charlie. Played by Billy Burke (24), Charlie serves as the Chief of Police for the town of Forks, and as the un approving dad. His blatant dislike of Edward, favoritism towards Jacob, and attempts to make awkward conversation with Bella add some realism to this fantasy story. One liners from Lautner, Burke, other cast members had audience members laughing and cheering in their seats.

As far as the story goes, Eclipse is more of a stand alone tale that doesn’t particularly move the saga any further than New Moon did, aside from the werewolf-vampire alliance. All of the characters stay the same, including Taylor Lautner’s character, Jacob, who refuses to wear a shirt for the majority of the movie.

As the best movie in the series so far, Eclipse is a solid movie that better blends action, romance, and a hint of comedy than it’s predecessors. While there isn’t anything particularly new added to series, this incarnation improves upon a working formula.

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First Impressions of Avatar: The Last Airbender.

By William Johnson

M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense) attempts to translate the entire first season of a popular animated series in his newest film, The Last Airbender.

In a world where the four elements ( Air, Water, Earth, Fire) can be controlled by special beings known as benders, there is one person who can wield them all. The Avatar is a bender who reincarnates in a cycle among the nations through each generation. For example, if he or she were born in the earth nation one century, they would reappear in the fire nation the next century. This person serves as a medium to the spirit world to who keeps the balance of power between the nations. Siblings Katara and Sokka find the avatar in a dormant state and race around the world with him to help him learn all of the elements so he may overthrow the tyrannical fire nation and it’s leader, The Fire Lord.

Fans of the series will make sure notice of the differences between the film and the series immediately. While no film is ever just like the creative entity it’s based on, M. Night Shyamalan makes sure to remove any comedic value from this film. This was something the series relied heavily upon in the character of Sokka, who is represented by Jackson Hale (Twilight). Instead, he opts for a more serious version of the character whose bland love story isn’t presented with the slightest bit of interest.

It doesn’t, however, take a fan of the series to notice the evident flaws in this film. The credit for this underperforming movie doesn’t all belong to Mr. Shyamalan. This film is anchored down by a weak script, unbelievably bad child acting, and poor cinematic presentation. At times, the movie felt unfinished and rough. The acting from newcomer Noah Ringer, as Avatar Aang, felt as pretentious and cheesy as the rest of the film. The movie didn’t involve anyone of the audience who hadn’t seen the original series, thusly alienating anyone who had the misfortune of trying out what they expected to be a coherent movie.

Of all the things this film does wrong, it still has the gimmick of bending the elements. Even in this, the production value felt low like a made for TV film or straight to DVD release. When the movie crawls within the last ten minutes, and the climax is happening, the cinematic quality shoots up as if to reward the audience for having to sit through the first hour and a half.

The one thing done right in this movie are the fight scenes. Choreographed sequences in the film show where all of the effort from the crew was placed, by both the actors and the post production team. The final battle scenes are intense and flashy. They do not, however, eliminate the rest of the movie from my memory.

The Last Airbender proved to be a movie that I could hardly sit through, and much less recommend to anyone besides the most diehard of fans.

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