Inspired by actual events, The Men Who Stare At Goats delves into an experimental
First of all I want to dispel the ugly rumors that have been circulating regarding the fact that Jeff Bridges is reputed to have agreed to do TRON: Legacy because several members of his family had been kidnapped by Disney personnel. That is flatly untrue. They are all back and doing fine. I think that there had to have been substantial compensation involved, as well. Also, I think there was a
Tron: Legacy picks up 20 years later after the original with Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) still trapped in his digital utopia and his son Sam now the heir of his technology company Encom. Sam is a bit of a rebel into extreme sports and visiting his company once a year to prank the uptight suits who are running things in his absence. During the setup of the movie, Kevin Flynn’s original partner Alan (still played by Bruce Boxleitner) mysteriously gets a “page” from Flynn’s old office number in the arcade where the first movie was based. He relates this info to Sam who goes to investigate and is ultimately sucked into “The Grid”.
They say the devil is in the details. Apparently this notion escaped Disney as they seem to have put most of their estimated $300,000,000 budget into effects and less so in quality of writing as the holes in the storyline make this hard to watch at times. A page? Really? From a number and a business that hasn’t been open for 20 years, seriously? And who the hell carries around a pager? It seems to me that there are about 20 other ways off the top of my head that could’ve been used to get Sam into that arcade that would’ve worked better than the weak premise they employed here.
Once in the grid, Sam is immediately picked up by a security force working for CLU who has taken over fully since the downfall of Flynn and Tron in the first installment. Sam is thrown in with a bunch of “programs” and is assigned to the games. Amazingly, Sam instinctively picks up the games extraordinarily quickly and is easily able to beat his more experienced foes with relatively little problem.
Sam’s rescued from the games and reunited with his real father who’s now become a bit of a monk since CLU has been trying to hunt him down and steal his information disk. During their reunion, Flynn hugs his son, and after a brief exchange decides that they’ll catch up on the last 20 years “after dinner”. WOW. If I had just found my father after 20 years of him just disappearing with no explanation, I’d be damned if was going to wait until after dinner to find out what the hell happened.
The rest plays out from there in a somewhat predictable manner so I won’t spoil it for you in case you plan on seeing it…
My two biggest gripes about this film are the writing and directing. I’ve pointed out some of the many obvious holes in here so I’ll leave it by saying that it’s like that throughout the whole film. The directing is disappointing too…An example is when the father and son reunite, there’s very little impact or emotion, the scene just kind of brushes the surface and then it’s back to the business at hand. The setup is poorly executed here as I mentioned before and the characters are just kind of generically slotted in without much exploration or depth. Granted, this is supposed to be a sci-fi action kind of picture but this could’ve been done better.
Speaking of action/effects – while the animation and effects elements are beautiful, the supposed 3-D was not. In fact, the 3-D was tragically under-utilized considering what they COULD have done with this and didn’t. So where the hell did the money go? It’s BS like this that could kill 3-D movies, again.
The performances acting wise are ok but not groundbreaking. Jeff Bridges is back and is ok but not nearly as compelling as he was in True Grit as Rooster Cogburn. The film also features Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde with soundtrack work by Daft Punk.
If you really want to see it in the theater, don’t bother with the 3-D as it’s not worth it. You might just want to wait to rent it on Blu-ray although I wouldn’t bend over backwards either way to see this movie.
reviewed by Sean McKnight
True Grit follows the story of Mattie Ross, a 14 year old girl whose father was murdered by a farm hand named Tom Chaney. Mattie shows up to claim the body of her father for burial and at the same time hire someone to track down the killer. She crosses paths with Texas ranger LaBoeuf who is tracking Chaney for crimes committed in Texas as well as US Marshall “Rooster” Cogburn who she ultimately hires to hunt down and bring Chaney in. Since all parties have interest in Chaney, they reluctantly join forces with Mattie forcing in her own presence and participation where it’s not necessarily wanted.
One of the things I love is how the Coen brothers craft characters in their films. True Grit is just another great display of brilliant character exploration and development. The characters and the story immediately hooked me and kept me in my seat throughout the entire 90 minutes of the film. A big part of this was Jeff Bridges’ portrayal of Rooster Cogburn, which was absolutely amazing. Cogburn’s rough exterior, slovenly demeanor, tough as nails badass is endlessly fun to watch.
Matt Damon plays the ranger LaBoeuf with passion and skill. His flaws, confidence and pride flow seemlessly from moment to moment.
Josh Brolin is the killer Tom Chaney and isn’t seen nearly enough in here (my only real complaint about the film). Brolin continues to exhibit his great range filling the shoes of the dullard yet dangerous Chaney easily.
The one who almost steals the show here is Hailee Steinfeld who plays Mattie Ross. The girl is talented and it shows in the film as she could’ve easily been the weak link here vs. Bridges, Damon and Brolin but holds her own with the best of them. Her character is cocky and headstrong but not to a point where it gets on your nerves. She plays this character juuuuusssst right dancing on the edge of taking it too far without quite falling over the side.
The Coen’s screenplay of the Charles Portis novel is more online with the book than the first film that starred John Wayne (the only movie he won an Oscar for). I grew up with the first version and really loved it as a kid but have to say I think this latest version is actually stronger, which I found pleasantly surprising. The Coens do an excellent job steering the ship and guiding the passengers along the way.
True Grit is a great western with compelling characters and top-notch performances across the board, I highly encourage seeing it.
reviewed by Sean McKnight
WALL-E tells the story of a small, garbage-collecting robot who’s task it is to clean up trash on Earth. Unfortunately, mankind has turned the planet into one giant garbage dump and left long ago…Aside from a cockroach pet, it appears that WALL-E is the last inhabitant, perpetually cleaning up long after all his fellow robots have ceased functioning. The beginning of the movie takes us through a typical day for our little hero as he does his job compacting and stacking the mess while collecting artifacts he finds interesting.
Eventually, a spaceship arrives and drops off a visitor in the form of a reconnaissance robot named Eve who’s mission it is to find out if there’s any sustainable life left on terra firma. Eve and WALL-E cross paths and after a rocky introduction, get to spend some time getting to know each other back at WALL-E’s bachelor pad. Eve becomes fascinated with the various knick-knacks that WALL-E’s collected including a plant that he shows her. She abruptly takes the plant and goes into a sleep mode awaiting for a ship to arrive since this is part of her prime directive. The ship arrives, collects Eve and WALL-E jumps in for the ride since he’s developed a love interest in Eve.
So there’s the set up! I don’t want to spoil the rest for you in case you’re planning on seeing it (which I would highly recommend).
One of the things that’s interesting about this film is not only how things play out, but the statements about mankind and how it ended up. What’s kind of scary about it is that there are some dark overtones regarding our possible future and how we could actually go in the directions being implied here, we’re already on our way in some areas in fact. The redeeming thing is that there is hope for the future, so that’s a good thing!
Pixar as usual does a brilliant job with the writing, the animation, the directing and always manages to set the bar in different ways with regard to computer animated stories. They’re also great at building the tension and delivering the happy…You know it’s going to turn out to be OK but you still get those “oh no!” moments along the way to keep you on your toes.
Included in the cast are Jeff Garlin (from HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm), John Ratzenberger (a Pixar staple), Kathy Najimy, Fred Willard and Sigourney Weaver. The real actors though are the robots who emanate an amazing amount of emotion without seeming cheesy or forced in a cartoony way; just another testament to the talent of the animators at Pixar.
For some great family fun and an uplifting spacey adventure, pop in WALL-E!
reviewed by Sean McKnight
The way this film came to be was initially as a trailer in the midst of Robert Rodriquez
Jeff Bridges channels Kris Kristofferson big time in this film chronicle of the less glamorous aspects of a musician
I just caught this again recently and wanted to write it up for the blog, so here we go…
Mark Wahlberg plays Izzy, the singer of a local tribute band that covers his favorite band named Steel Dragon. The story is supposed to be roughly based on Judas Priest, who went through a situation similar with their singer (Rob Halford) when he left the band; they filled the vacated slot with a singer from a Judas Priest tribute band. The story of Rock Star follows the same premise.
Once Wahlberg is in the band, the story turns in more of a sex, drugs and rock and roll direction with a behind the scenes view of the women, the tours and the over the top lifestyle so many people have dreamed of through rock and roll. Of course the ultimate destination of this lifestyle doesn’t turn out so well and drama ensues. The relationship between Wahlberg and his girlfriend (Jennifer Aniston) is put to the test through the process of them dealing with events that are consequence of the formulaic rock star lifestyle.
All-in-all a pretty well told story and entertaining to watch. It’s a bit typical with no surprises but is still worth checking out. The ending is a bit cliche’ but is pulled off well.
The cast does great in their roles and includes Jennifer Aniston as Izzy’s girlfriend, Timothy Spall (Peter Pettigrew/Wormtail from the Harry Potter films) and the rest of Steel Dragon including: Jason Bonham (son of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham), Jeff Pilson (Dokken, Foreignor), Zakk Wylde (Ozzy, Black Label Society) and Dominic West (300, HBO’s The Wire), the only other actor in the group next to Wahlberg.
The music is a large part of the experience and includes a healthy dose of heavy metal / hard rock some of it even sung by Mark Wahlberg who does a great job with the vocals surprisingly. I say surprisingly because during some of the behind the scenes footage, Wahlberg complains about metal and mentions how much more he’s about hip-hop. Personally I’d take his vocals in Steel Dragon any day over Marky Mark (seriously dude, Marky Mark? Really? Let it go.).
reviewed by Sean McKnight