Monthly Archives: June 2008

Movie Review: Good Will Hunting

Before I saw Good Will Hunting, I pondered the meaning of the title. Was it for the search of someone of good will in this rotten world? Well, it is actually based on the name of the character, Will Hunting. But is he really that good? Well, that’s for you to figure out.

The story, set to the backdrop of Boston, is centered on Will Hunting (Matt Damon) a janitor at MIT from Boston’s southside. He spends his spare time drinking and causing trouble with his best friends (Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck, and Cole Hasuer, a career high for all three actors). One day, a professor stumbles upon some of Will’s mathwork and realizes that he is a genius.  To save Will from jail for a crime, he decides to have him work for him and see a therapist (Robin Williams, in his best performance). Through this, Will finds himself, and what he really wants out of life.
Gus Van Sant (My Own Private Idaho, Drugstore Cowboy) directed this film. Despite the fact that he didn’t write it, Hunting carries all of the trademarks of a Van Sant film. Starting with his usual camerawork of beautiful high up and wide shots. This works from the emptiness of Idaho to the crowdedness of a big city like Boston to show an emptiness existing in the world and the emptiness of the characters. The landscapes become the characters themselves. Mike Waters’ soul is as empty as Idaho itself while Will is as confused and discombobulated as the Boston streets he’s raised on. It is where he lives that defines him and eventually, holds him down. 
In this way, like Van Sant’s other films, Hunting questions the existence of freewill and fate. Does someone have the freedom to set out and do what they want, or is some force around them stopping them and forcing them to a certain, unwanted path in life? Good Will Hunting is slightly more optimistic than Van Sant’s other films and poses that it is possible to choose your future.
One thing that struck me about Good Will Hunting besides the excellent writing was the great performances, many from actors I don’t even admire (Ben Affleck in Gigli, anyone?). Looking at the performances, I was reminded of a part of Team America. The actor, Gary, is supposedly the world’s greatest. What makes him cry: thinking about the saddest moment in his life (when his brother was eaten by gorillas). I realized that this was supposed to be making fun of actors and finding a phoniness in them that their emotions in their performances aren’t real. 
I felt that in Good Will Hunting something about the performances made me think that these people weren’t phonies but were truly emotionally invested in their performances. Maybe because Damon and the Affleck brothers are Boston born and raised or maybe they just care so deeply about their roles in this films. In Williams’ therapist, I was able to believe that he truly cared about Hunting when most others just gave up on him. He could balance his usual sense of humor with just pure seriousness. That Oscar was well deserved. Moreover, they become real people, not characters. And that, is great acting.
What makes Good Will Hunting so great is the balance between the director, writers, and the actors. All contribute equally to a great product. Good Will Hunting is one of those rare films that reaffirms the goodness inside every human and is optimistic rather than pessimistic. Ben and Matt, you’re work behind the camera is great. Why can’t you do it more often?

This Week’s Sign of the Apocalypse

According to Perez Hilton, a sequel AND prequel have been planned for 2007′s mega hit 300. Being one of the only (well, maybe the only) people on the planet who realized this movie sucked am totally against the idea. As cool as some of the action/battles in 300 were I wouldn’t necessarily call it groundbreaking. Not to mention the grotesque historical inaccuracies (yeah yeah sure, it’s for entertainment value) and extremely laughable story. So Hollywood, continue to make sequels to good graphic novels/comic books like Batman and Sin City and leave crap like 300 alone. One was enough. And if you’re still a little angry over my negative review, I’m right over here, come and get me.

P.S. After 300 came out, many seemed to believe that Gerard Butler was something like “the ultimate badass” (that title however, belongs to Anton Chigurh). I disagree for just a few months later he decided to take a starring role in romantic comedy P.S. I Love You. Real badass.

Movie Review: Cloverfield

Oh no New York is being destroyed! Again! This isn’t the first time New York has been destroyed but every generation needs a disaster film to define it. So many big blockbuster/horror/disaster films are either sequels, remakes, or just horrible cliches. Finally, someone has created an original blockbuster to define the so called “Me” generation. And that movie is Cloverfield.

Cloverfield takes place in what seems like real time but is really over the course of one crazy night. The entire film is seen through the eyes of Hud (T.J. Miller) who is filming his friend Rob’s (Michael Stahl-David) going away party on a small hand-held camera. Without warning, a giant earthquake-like rumble shakes Manhattan and sets off a deadly chain of events including balls of fire and an unthinkable gigantic monster that destroys everything in site along with its offspring. Hud, Rob, and a few others, must run from this giant monster to a military helicoptor and flee the destruction. But can they outrun the terror?
If made any other way, Cloverfield would’ve been nothing special. Just you’re typical big studio blockbuster. But it earns major points for the way it is shot, as well as the elements of it that make it an allegory.
Cloverfield seems to be no doubt an allegory on 9/11. The scenes of downtown destruction bring up the haunting images of people, dust-covered, fleeing from the exploding Twin Towers and being trapped in what seems like inescapable doom. Another recent film tried to do this: Spielberg’s War of the Worlds. While that film succeeded on many levels (and is better than most make it out to be) it fails on many. Cloverfield manages to be strong in the areas where Worlds was weak. One place is that the people surrounding the main characters are not simply used to be tossed around. You see very little background of them but their fear and emotions are as clear as the protagonists. 
The truly biggest part of Cloverfield‘s success is in it’s cinematography. The only way to describe it’s style is the camerawork of The Office and Blair Witch Project along with the storytelling of Lady in the Lake. The whole story is told through Hud’s camera and like Lady in the Lake the only things we see are what the main character sees. Therefore, we are totally engrossed in their story. All we want to see is their survival and that helps make the story even more suspensful. However, Hud manages to capture everything going on around him (including the monster) and we therefore see every other person and feel something towards them and understand their troubles. That is, seconds before they perish. 
One review has called this film a disaster film for the “YouTube Generation”. This can also be called the “Me” Generation. Why it’s called the YouTube Generation is because what sites like YouTube have allowed is for any ordinary person (even Sexman) to gain some sort of power. It showed that you don’t have to be a big name director to make a popular movie: all you need is a camera, a few friends, and some good ideas. It is also one where everything is in the palm of your hand from iPods to cell phones to even the internet. 
Hud’s camera work is perfect for the “Me” generation as he has access to incredible footage of a killing machine in his hands. Although, and like Lady in the Lake, the main character is never seen except for a few shots. Everything else is focusing on the soon to be gone Manhattan. 
As well as being a reflection on current American society, Cloverfield also works well as simply a damn good movie. I can’t even remember the last time something has scarred me this much. Only knowing what the characters know makes each random bump and scream all the more scary. Cloverfield proves that you don’t need a $100 Million+ budget to be scary. All it takes is some good, classic scares and some true realism to freak out the audience.
The style of Cloverfield has been done before but the way the filmmakers tackle it helps make it entertaining and original. It never goes into Hollywood comfort zone and stays in the discomfort of the real world. And unlike Worlds, it doesn’t end in the Hollywodd comfort zone. It concludes far from it. Cloverfield is the kind of film that some will love and some will hate but it must be admired for it’s audacity and strange stylistic beauty. And yes, that monster is scarier than Jaws and Godzilla combined.

A Few Questions about the "Disaster Movie" Trailer

Yes, those morons behind every major movie spoof we see today are at it again this time lampooning disaster films with…you guessed it…Disaster Movie. After sacrificing my own dignity and watching the entire trailer, I found myself more confused than I was at the ending of Mullholland Drive. Here are a few questions I have about Disaster Movie:

1) If Disaster Movie is supposed to be mocking disaster films, then why is Iron Man in it?
2) If Disaster Movie is supposed to be mocking disaster films, why is the Hulk in it?
3) Didn’t the duo behind this film already make a movie mocking superheroes called Superhero Movie? 
4) If this is coming out on August 29th that means it was made a few months back and both Sex & the City and Iron Man were released just a month ago so how the hell were they able to spoof two movies that hadn’t even come out yet? Special screenings?
5) How can they spoof a movie which audiences haven’t even gotten a chance to see yet (Hancock)?
6) Since when are Juno and Enchanted disaster films? Once is a Disney musical and the other is about a pregnant teenager…
The list could go on. Like I said once before, another great opportunity to mock such a ridiculous genre has been wasted. In fact I’ve come to believe that creators Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer are being paid billions of dollars by major studios to imitate scenes from their films so they can make more money once released in theaters and on DVD. That, or there is no God. But for now, does anyone have a more logical explanation?
Note: I’ve decided not to post Disaster Movie’s trailer to save your brain cells. Unfortunately, it is already too late for me.

TV Review: Planet Earth

It’s once in a lifetime that we’ll be able to view something like this. Yes, Planet Earth is a once in a lifetime experience. It goes farther, wider, and deeper than any nature show ever has. And it doesn’t stop there. It dares to go to the highest depth just to get that perfect shot. Which it does, every single time.

Planet Earth was an 11 episode season which premiered on the Discovery Channel. It is the product of our brilliant British friends over at the BBC. In each episode it explores a different landscape of the planet: it goes from the tallest peak to the flattest grassland all the way down to the ocean floor. It captures strange animals and plants many never knew even existed. Finding this new life may be difficult, but if you go out there and try to find it, it’s worth the wait because the reward is spectacular.
Planet Earth was shot over the course of five years. To get the great shots they did the newest in HD technology was used which included scanning cameras attached to helicopters and others that moved through the ocean and some that could breath-taking images in slow motion (including one of a Great White Shark jumping out of the ocean while devouring a seal, surely one of the most amazing things ever filmed). Using this technology also helped the crew get great close-ups of the animals from far away without disturbing their habitat. That way, the animals have no idea humans are present.
Planet Earth could’ve been a boring, typical nature show. But many great artistic decisions are what make it so unique. Along with the use of technology, the sweeping musical score gives Earth life and a story. We feel suspense when the gazelle is being hunted down by the lion. But we also realize that the lion needs to eat. This helps give all of the animals human like characteristics and conflicts. The use of multiple different locations shows how animals adapt to their environment and how evolution takes place.
The real message and purpose of Planet Earth is one about saving the environment from the strength of global warming. While most might try to produce a negative message and show how much of Earth is destroyed, Planet Earth decides to take a more optimistic view on the issue and show us the striking beauty still left in this world totally untouched. And yes, there is plenty of it.
Planet Earth gives the viewer a new perspective of the world surrounding them. This is a world that contains much more than you may think. In the end, it is up to us to decide whether or not to save this planet. We must. For all of the camels, elephants, and kangaroos out there. Planet Earth is a show you must watch from start to end and it doesn’t end once you’ve finished. The world shown in Planet Earth is out there, just waiting to be explored. 
See this now, I guarantee you will not regret it, nor forget it.