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DVD Review – Nim's Island

Movie Poster

Children’s movies normally aren’t my thing. I’m not a kid (although some people might disagree), I don’t have any kids, I don’t hang out with any kids, so the movies aren’t marketed towards me. I hold no disdain towards kids movies, but normally the films I watch demand more from me as a viewer.

Nim’s Island came out on DVD yesterday, and I had the opportunity to watch it instead of work. Which I did. In all honesty, I was glad I took the opportunity to do so.

Nim’s Island is about Nim and Alexandra. Nim (Abigail Breslin) lives on a volcanic island in the South Pacific with her father, marine biologist (and occasional contributor to National Geographic) Jack Rusoe (Gerard Butler). Jack homeschools her, and she pals around with a sea lion named Selkie, the pelican Galileo, and a marine iguana she dubbed Fred. Jack goes away for a couple days to gather plankton from a nearby atoll, leaving Nim behind to help a sea turtle lay eggs and to read a new adventure novel. They talk by satellite phone for the first day, but a storm damages Jack’s boat and breaks the phone.

On the other side of the world, in San Francisco, agoraphobic adventure writer Alexandra Rover (Jodie) is having one heck of a block. She writes a series of books featuring an Indiana Jones-esque character named, oddly enough, Alex Rover (also played by Gerard Butler). She’s written herself into a corner, giving Alex over to a volcanic sacrifice, with no way to get him out. After discussing the matter with the version of Alex that lives in her head (Butler), Alexandra searches for information about volcanoes and comes across one of Jack’s National Geographic pieces about living on a volcanic island. She sends Jack an e-mail (signed Alex, not Alexandra), Nim answers (thinking that Alex Rover is the action hero, not the author), and the story is off.

I’m not going to spoil the rest of the movie, but needless to say it’s a lot of fun. No real scary bits, and the story clips along at a nice pace. A couple times Alexandra vomits (motion sickness) but it’s offscreen. There’s a lot here for the kids, but a few scenes (particularly one in an airport) that the parents/adults can relate to. The acting is good; Breslin in particular shines in some scenes. Jodie Foster is great, giving us the impression that she really is an agoraphobe, and overcoming her illness feels like a real process rather than a switch being flipped. Butler is less impressive, better as the fictional action hero than intrepid scientist.

The plot’s pretty simplistic, but I wasn’t expecting much. There’s no underlying political message here, just a good story about self-sacrifice and heroism. A great fart joke, as well. At around 90 minutes, it’s probably the perfect length for a children’s movie. If you’re looking for a movie with a convoluted plot and intense character drama, this ain’t it. This is a fun, easy movie to digest for both kids and adults.


Herzog and Lynch to collaborate

NOTE: I know Edward usually posts the news, but this jumped out at me and I really dig these two guys.

Herzog and Lynch

CANNES — Werner Herzog and David Lynch are teaming for “My Son, My Son,” a horror-tinged murder drama based on a true story.

Herzog and his longtime assistant director Herbert Golder co-wrote “Son,” loosely based on the true story of a San Diego man who acts out a Sophocles play in his mind and kills his mother with a sword. The low-budget feature will flash back and forth from the murder scene to the disturbed man’s story. A guerrilla-style digital video shoot on Coronado Island is tentatively set for March.

In a separate development, Lynch’s Absurda production company has attached Asia Argento and Udo Kier to star with Nick Nolte in Alejandro Jodorowsky’s metaphysical gangster movie “King Shot.”

Marilyn Manson is touted to appear as a prophet in the “Sin City”-style film, which producer Eric Bassett said has enough sex and violence to guarantee an NC-17 rating.

Lynch is executive producing both projects, and Absurda is repping their sales rights in the Cannes market.

“Son” is produced by Eric Bassett, who also is producing “King” with his Absurda colleague Norm Hill and Clavis Films’ Simon Shandor.

Herzog, repped by Gersh, is having a busy 2008. He was set to film “Son” in the summer but postponed it to direct Nicolas Cage in a remake of Abel Ferrara’s “Bad Lieutenant” starting in July. In the fall, he will shoot the Victorian-era drama “The Piano Tuner” for Focus Features.

SOURCE: Hollywood Reporter

Text Reviews Theatrical Review

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Indiana Jones. The name alone brings up images of whip-swinging, leather hats, and religious artifacts. 30s pulp at its peak. The newest film, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (what a mouthful), is set twenty years into the future, in the late 1950s. The change is rocky, and doesn’t succeed in my opinion.

I saw this film with my roommate at a midnight showing. I’m a fan of the previous Indy films, and came into this one with moderate expectations. I’d seen the trailer once before Iron Man and enjoyed it, but had done no other digging about the film. The theater was packed, and I was cracking jokes to my roommate through the whole movie, making several “Legends of the Hidden Temple” references, and after the plot exploded, expressing my dismay.

The shift from the 30s to the 50s is most noticable in the change in Indy himself. He’s older and stouter, and several scenes make a joke at his expense, notably one near the beginning of the film when Indy is swinging on his whip and misses his target. Despite this, Harrison Ford has a ton of fun with the role, and you can tell. Also, the enemy has changed. In the previous films, Indy took on German Nazis. Two decades later, the Reds take the spotlight, led by KGB operative Dr. Irina Spalko. Played well by Cate Blanchett, Dr. Spalko is a specialist at getting information out of people, and she plays the dominatrix-esque doctor well. Overall, I was impressed with the performances of the actors, save Mutt’s mother. She annoyed the crap out of me.

The plot (which is impossible to delve into much without spoiling the experience for the viewer) is perfect for a 50s pulp movie, but it didn’t work at all for me. At the point where it’s revealed (about an hour in), I completely lost interest in the story and did my best to block it out. It just didn’t fit my vision of what an Indiana Jones film should be. I know it was Lucas’s idea, which makes it worse. It’s a growing trend in Spielberg’s films now, as well. It’s getting tired.

Speaking of George Lucas, the special effects are great. ILM really pulled out the stops for this flick. However, it’s a problem here. Green screens are used to excess, and the CGI doesn’t fit the aesthetic of the older Indy flicks. The action sequences and the places where Indy is being Indy are awesome, and Mutt has his fair share of bad ass moments as well. Despite this, several scenes take this to a ridiculous extent, especially one involving Mutt and some spider monkeys, and another featuring a series of waterfalls. I don’t have a problem suspending my disbelief during a film, especially one as over-the-top as Indiana Jones, but this was ridiculous.

The biggest problem I have with the movie is the ending. There was absolutely no payoff once the McGuffin is taken to the place of power, no great moral choice that has to be made. Add that to my other problems with the plot, and that makes this movie a waste of my money and my time, despite the coolness of the scenes featuring Indy and Mutt together, and the fight sequences.

It’s hard for me to recommend this film to anyone, because of my extreme distaste towards the plot and gratuitous use of special effects, but all the action (save a couple of ridiculous scenes) is great. If you can just put on a tinfoil helmet that blocks out the subpar plot as well as Mutt’s mother (who will remain unnamed (but still annoying) in the review), you will really like this movie. Otherwise, go see Iron Man again.

DVD Review Text Reviews

Alien Nation: Dark Horizon

It’s 1999. An alien race known as the Tenctonese lost a transport ship full of slaves five years ago. They crash-landed onto the third planet of a solar system, and haven’t been heard from. Until now. A beacon has been transmitting a hailing frequency, and the Overseers (the higher class of Tenctonese) send a reconnaissance officer named Ahpossno to investigate and reclaim the slaves.

The planet they’re landing on? Earth. However, the Tenctonese have internalized American culture, and enjoy being members of a free society. Anything’s better than being slaves.

That’s the premise of the TV movie Alien Nation: Dark Horizon, an extension of the FOX-TV series Alien Nation. It was created because fans demanded a continuation of the show, since it was cancelled after just one season. Five years later, after a change of leadership at FOX, they released this, the first of five TV movies made to sate the fans of the original series.

I wasn’t one of those. Being an infant when the original series was broadcast, I kinda missed the boat. Therefore, I’m going into this one with a clean slate. My expectations are pretty low, just like they will be with any other TV movie.

I didn’t expect brilliant acting, and I didn’t get it. I didn’t expect a deep, convoluted storyline, and I didn’t get one. There’s not a whole lot of character development, but I really didn’t expect that either, being the extension of a TV show.

What I got was a reasonably good, reasonably acted, buddy movie. No one really stood out, but I immediately recognized Scott Patterson as Ahpossno in an early role, long before Gilmore Girls.

The story was pretty predictable, mostly because they show the story from both Ahpossno’s point of view as well as the view of the two detectives, George Francisco (a Tenctonese, known on Earth as Newcomers) and Matthew Sikes (a human). The movie (and I presume the TV show) mainly has the themes of racism and bigotry, and they show it relatively well, if a little heavy-handedly.

There’s nothing really outstanding to this film for me, but keep in mind that I’m really not part of its intended audience. Fans of the TV show will find a lot to love in this movie, and probably in the entire collection. If you’re not familiar with the show, you probably won’t enjoy the movie. They just don’t make you like the characters enough, and the story’s kinda lackluster for a full feature. However, for what is essentially a 2 hour long season opener, Alien Nation: Dark Horizon will do just fine.

Text Reviews Theatrical Review

Theatrical Review: Funny Games

“Fiction is as just as real as reality – because you can see it.”

This line, spoken by one of the main characters of Funny Games, Michael Haneke’s 2008 remake of his own 1997 film, sums up the message of the film pretty nicely.

I had pretty high expectations walking into the theater. The original was fantastic, and forced me to consider the way I view media, which no film I had ever seen did before. I was thrilled when I sat in the back row, in my favorite seat, with about 8 other people in the theater with me. No screaming children, no one on cell phones. Because of this, I was really able to get into and enjoy the movie.

I’ll preface the rest of the review by saying this: This movie is definitely not for everyone. Four of the eight other people in the theater with me walked out within the first 45 minutes of the film. It definitely polarizes its audience.

Funny Games is about a upper middle-class family who are accosted by a pair of Abercrombie and Fitch psychopaths at their summer home and forced to play humiliating “games” in order to stay alive. The opening scene, to most people’s surprise, is extremely serene. Ann (Naomi Watts) and George Farber (Tim Roth) are driving with their son George Jr. (Devon Gearhart) to their summer house. They play guessing games with opera CDs, and then, abruptly, John Zorn’s song “Bonehead” blasts over the soundtrack, and in red, block-style lettering the title of the film is emblazoned onto the screen.

The film’s a scene-for-scene remake of the original, so it’s not treading new ground as far as the direction. The sets look exactly as they did in the 1997 version, and everything’s essentially the same. Where this film truly shines over the original is the casting. Naomi Watts and Tim Roth play the traumatized parents brilliantly, and the pairing of Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet as the perfectly polite psychopaths Paul and Peter is awesome. Their innocent looks contrast their sociopathic tendencies.

There’s a cloud of nihilism that overcasts the entire film. There’s nothing wrong with the Farbers. They haven’t committed any real crimes, and they have a great familial bond. Paul and Peter chose them because they were next door. There’s an interaction that occurs between Paul and George Sr. just after the “games” begin. George asks, “Why?” and Paul replies quickly, “Why not?”. This is indicative of the message the film is trying to portray.

Funny Games is putting a mirror to the faces of the viewers, using the tropes of the genre to manipulate our feelings towards the film. Paul’s breaking of the fourth wall throughout the movie indicates this more than anything else. When Ann is searching for the family dog, Lucky, playing the ‘cold, warm, hot’ game with Paul, he looks at the camera and smirks. This fazed me the first time I saw the film, and took me out of the movie for a moment, forcing me to review what I’d watched so far, and more specifically, why I was watching it. What motivated me to come and watch this particular movie?

These are the questions Haneke is evoking when Paul acknowledges the film, saying things to the camera like “You’re on their side, aren’t you?”, making the audience look at who they were really behind. They came to a thriller to see the protagonists go through hell and come out the other side, so in a way, the viewer wants the villain to torture and harass the protagonists. His objective is to show you that by enjoying the film, you’re a part of it. The viewer is helping turn violence into entertainment, and Haneke delights in making his audience uncomfortable about watching his film.

My biggest problem with Funny Games is that I’ve seen it before. The message hasn’t changed at all. Although it’s still relevant today, it’s lost some of its force in the ten years between the films (especially with the success of the Saw series and its stance towards violence). Haneke’s retreading old ground here, and the question I kept asking was “Why?” There’s no reason, in my eyes, to remake this film. He’s said what he wanted to say already.

I enjoyed this movie pretty much from start to finish, but the message has been told before, by Michael himself in the original, as well as Kubrick in A Clockwork Orange. He’s not doing anything fresh, and as a fan of his work, I’m a bit disappointed that he isn’t putting his energy into new and more interesting projects. This is the only flaw I saw in this film, and were it not a remake, I would give it my full and uncompromising support.