Movie Reviews – June 2009

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Angels & Demons

Sony Pictures

In Theaters: 05.15

It’s been three years since Ron Howard and Tom Hanks schlepped audiences around Paris to museum after museum, incessantly chatting about the hidden messages in Da Vinci’s biblical artwork. This time around, Robert Langdon (Hanks––complemented by a new barber) is actually recruited by the Vatican to locate and rescue four missing Cardinals who have been allegedly kidnapped by the Illuminati, an archaic scientific society that was forced into hiding during the 18TH century by the disapproving Catholic Church. Every second counts as Langdon scours the Italian landscape for clues, tips, leads and everything between, as the Illuminati have sworn to sacrifice a cardinal at the top of each hour until the grand finale––a cataclysmic destruction of Vatican City at midnight. While Dan Brown’s novel was the first in the series, this adaptation has been altered for sequel status, which makes for amusing interactions between Langdon and the College of Cardinals in response to his earlier actions. Howard keeps the dialogue to a minimum, the camera frequently moving, and Hans Zimmer’s score booming to heighten the excitement level as the symbolic dots are haphazardly connected to reach the film’s over-the-top climactic conclusion. The ultimate battle for science vs. religion is staged with a production that easily surpasses its predecessor in terms of action, but the script neglects the character development that enticed viewers to care about their existence three years ago. Forget the verbal foreplay, Angels & Demons is an embellished and explosive ride with loops, twists, and turns through the crowds at St. Peter’s Square to the abandoned catacombs of Christianity’s origins. –Jimmy Martin

America at War Megaset

History Channel

Street: 02.26.08

You know America has been in entirely too many wars when the History network can release a 14-disc set spotlighting every major conflict from The American Revolution to former President Dubya’s ongoing attempt to finish his father’s fight in the Middle East. We’re only 233 years old, and we’ve been in approximately 20 major wars. To quote the late, great George Carlin, “This is a war-like country … We’ve got the only national anthem that mentions fucking rockets and bombs in the goddamn thing!” It’s funny, scary and true all at the same time. The in-depth series chronicles personal horrific tales of bravery and courage and controversial reports of military action. Whether you support Ulysses S. Grant’s conservative vision or Horace Greeley’s liberal views, no one can deny the intriguing aspect of the series’ documentation of the progression of weapons development from muskets to laser-guided Tomahawk missiles throughout history. The detailed explanations of vital missions during international battles are not only engrossing, but also informative. However, after hours upon hours of witnessing combat recordings and listening to monotone narrations, you may experience agonizing flashbacks of your 10TH grade history class … I certainly did. Moderation is key with this set. –Jimmy Martin

Army Wives: Season Two

Buena Vista Home Entertainment

Street: 06.02

It was a sure bet that once ABC’s Desperate Housewives soared as a national success, every station would follow suit with their own matrimonial girl-power programming, and the Lifetime Network was no exception. It’s funny, whenever you mention the channel Lifetime, you immediately lose 99 percent of the male audience. Army Wives, based on Tanya Biank’s non-fictional work Under the Sabers: The Underwritten Code of Army Wives, was not created with men as their primary target, but guys have the network Spike, so the world balances out once again. Following the lives of four army wives and an army husband at the fictitious Fort Marshall, stories of heartbreak, abuse, infidelity and terrorism surrounded by the frightening duties to serve in war provide an interesting viewpoint for anyone not directly involved with the military. Lifetime should be commended for expanding and enhancing their original programming series, but the layer of sappiness and clichéd drama plots restricts a full-blown congratulations. Even some of the distressing dramas toss in some good ol’ fashioned comedic antics here and there. The second season finds the wives days after an attack on their base and the attempts to put the pieces of their lives back together. The acting from the major players succeeds on many levels (even if each level involves tears or arguments), but Brigid Brannagh’s and Sally Pressman’s crafts shine amongst the cast as the snappiest gals of the bunch. –Jimmy Martin


Back to the Future IIUniversal Pictures

Originally In Theaters: 11.22.89

Perfect Beer Pairing = Asahi – Because the Japanese are always decades ahead of the rest of us.

Doc Brown is a hypocritical wily-eyed dick. Even though he believes that “no one should know too much about their destiny,” he immediately contradicts himself after he discovers Marty McFly’s kids are complete fuck-ups in the year 2015. Who made him God? Some people are just meant to fail at the game of life. Sure enough, his negligent actions skew the space-time continuum out of control and ruin the 80s. Thanks for that. I love films that semi-realistically envision the future, because it makes life worth living. However, if we’re to reach this technologically advanced prophecy in six years, we have a lot of work to do. Obama needs to put some serious funding into the production of rehydratable pizzas, hover boards (ones that work on water), and Nikes with power laces.–Jimmy Martin

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Paramount Pictures/Warner Brothers

Street: 05.05

Director David Fincher, the visionary mind that welcomed us to the schizophrenic world of Tyler Durden and stuck Jodie Foster in an adult-version of Home Alone, helms the time-spanning tale of Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt), a native Louisianan who has an inexplicable condition that causes him to age in reverse. Born in 1918 as a wrinkled tot with arthritis similar to an 80-year-old, the unique phenomenon progressively sheds his handicaps as the years pass by while he resides in his mother’s nursing home. Appearing as an individual in his 70s, Benjamin meets Daisy (Cate Blanchett) and an instant lifelong bond is formed. Dealing with the horrors of war and journeying the seas on a freighter boat, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is Fincher’s attempt at directing Forest Gump, but with an eerie and gloomy nuance. Along with its perfected direction, set design and visual effects, Pitt and Blanchett reveal an authentic epic of diversity, friendship and love. –Jimmy Martin

Mac and Me

Orion Pictures

Originally In Theaters: 08.12.88

Perfect Beer Pairing = Miller High Life (a.k.a. The Champaign of Beers) – For the down-and-out hobo trying to pretend he’s a socialite … but is clearly not.

Ok, here’s the deal … if you’re going to rip-off a film, please don’t let it be Steven Spielberg’s most iconic film to date. Just because you repeat the tale about a boy and a marooned alien, but awkwardly stick the boy in a wheelchair, it doesn’t make you remotely original. Actually, it makes you look more like a tactless asshole, especially when you toss that handicapped kid off a cliff wheelchair in tow. Financed by McDonald’s (hence the desperately witty title) and Coke, this regurgitated shitfest hawks more crappy products in 95 minutes than George Foreman ever could with his fucking grills. What’s the greatest aspect of the flick you ask? It’d have to be the ending with a superimposed title stating, “We’ll be back!” enthusiastically hinting at a pending sequel … not with those worthless box office numbers you optimistic jackasses. –Jimmy Martin



TriStar Pictures

Originally In Theaters: 03.21.86

Perfect Beer Pairing = New Belgium’s Fat Tire –If I have to explain this one, then you don’t need another drink.

I would love to see someone pitch this movie’s plot today. “Ok, meet Cru Jones. He’s a big fish in a small pond with the greatest BMX skills this side of the Mississippi. But, Cru has a tough decision to make. Will he follow his mom’s advice and take his SATs in order to go to college, or compete in the toughest race on the local Helltrack and hopefully become a professional rider? What’s a boy … What do you mean get out of your office?” By far, the most ridiculous movie of the 80s, this film flew under the radar and defined a bizarre decade with its cult status and elbow pads. Come on, Cru and his girlfriend have a BMX freestyle dance at the prom to Real Life’s Send Me an Angel. You can’t write that type of material! With 15 minutes of an actual plot and the rest set to musical montages, this film has the greatest/cheesiest soundtrack of any movie from the 1980s hands down. –Jimmy Martin


Raising the Bar: Season One

Buena Vista Home Entertainment

Street: 06.02

At first, I thought Heath Ledger had successfully ventured down the deceptive road of Tupac and Notorious B.I.G. and restarted his life as a lawyer on yet another courtroom drama. However, upon further analysis, I realized it was Mark-Paul Gosselaar (Saved by the Bell’s Zack Morris) sans shortened bleach-blonde hair. Creator Steven Bochco (NYPD Blue, Doogie Howser, M.D.) returns to the world of television with an ensemble of talented and believable actors, but with a set of one-dimensional characters incapable of captivating an audience for more than a few episodes. Following the trails and tribulations of New York City’s prosecutors and public defenders, the series seems to present more conflicts in the spiteful Judge Trudy Kessler’s (Malcolm in the Middle’s Jane Kaczmarek) chambers rather than the actual courtroom. The series missed its preferable on-air timeslot by about a decade. With the onslaught of a dozen other current attorney shows that deal with much harsher subject matter and taboo material, Raising the Bar fails to make a permanent mark according to today’s standards. –Jimmy Martin



Orion Pictures

Originally In Theaters: 07.17.87

Perfect Beer Pairing = Squatters Hell’s Keep – After two bottles, you won’t able to feel your arms and legs.

You would think that if your appendages were blown off in the line of duty and you miraculously survived, you’d receive a sweet pension, a fruit cake, and move on with your limbless life. Such is not the case with Officer Alex J. Murphy. As the first test subject for Omni Consumer Products’ (OCP) Robocop program, instead of living out his wheelchair ramp-bound days on his front porch sipping sarsaparilla, he’s forced to continue fighting crime with a giant fucking gun imbedded in his robotic leg. That’s fucking rad and super shitty all at once. After manhandling the goons and street thugs that blasted him into this undesirable predicament, the inevitable epic showdown between futuristic machine and the dad from That ‘70s Show weighs in the balance. I’ll give you three guesses on who wins. –Jimmy Martin


Seth MacFarlane's Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy

20TH Century Fox

Street: 05.12

As Seth MacFarlane and his animated goons continue to seize supreme control over Fox’s Animation Domination, he has simultaneously placed a triumphant strategic assault upon YouTube’s online viral video sensation with his hit channel, SethComedy. The channel’s programming includes segments that resemble Family Guy’s clever cutaways only much more offensive and vulgar and they have now been compiled together on one DVD. The disc contains 50 mini-episodes with unbelieveably ridiculous titles including “A Dog on The $25,000 Pyramid,” “Fred and Barney Try to Get Into a Club” and “Barry Gibb Rides a Roller Coaster.” While some gags may only induce a slight giggle or an uncomfortable silence, the majority will have you bent over laughing while losing your lunch. Many people and other animated programs have criticized MacFarlane for his overuse of unrelated breakaway material in his creations and he has responded the best way he knows how … with a myriad of additional disconnected ruses. –Jimmy Martin


Star Trek

Paramount Pictures

In Theaters: 05.08

Director J.J. Abrams reignites the 43-year-old franchise with a silky smooth prequel complete with a fresh-out-of-the-nest U.S.S. Enterprise crew, but refrains from completely disregarding the tacky characteristics fans have loved and obsessed over for decades. From the first round of stunning intergalactic images, the intensified action fires across the screen and doesn’t stop for 122 minutes. After witnessing the catastrophic events that surrounded the birth of James Tiberius Kirk (Chris Pine), we find the womanizing, playboy hellion years later starting fist fights with active Starfleet Academy recruits in a futuristic Iowan bar. Battered, bloody and bruised, Kirk is informed of his father’s legacy and challenged to do better. Challenge accepted. Three years later (five seconds of screen time), Kirk is well on his way to a prosperous career of galactic exploration and sex with green aliens, but when a distress signal is received from Vulcan (Spock’s home planet), it’s time to trash the books and punch it warp speed ahead. Abrams succeeds on all levels as he has created a production that not only satisfies Trekkies’ challenging demands, but has laid down a welcome mat for newcomers to this world of science-fiction nerdery. An ideal combination of adventure and slapstick, the script continues to appease its eldest fans with deliberate winks to the old days with vibrant colored uniforms, gaudy sound effects and a flustered Scotty shouting, “I’m giving her all she’s got, Captain!” To say the visuals are spectacular is an understatement, but this perfect reintroduction to the series has opened the doors to continue the captain’s log for a set of new high-gloss chapters. –Jimmy Martin


Terminator Salvation

Warner Bros.

In Theaters: 05.21

Rather than exploring the un-chartered territories of the metallic franchise that’s been well polished and shining for over 25 years (minus the bastardized third installment), director McG (a.k.a. Joseph McGinty Nichol) shortchanges audiences and provides a mediocre feature that resembles a filler episode of the recently canceled Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. It’s 2018 and the prophesized Judgment Day has come and gone. Humans live in the shadows as Skynet and its merciless machines hunt for survivors in the concrete rubble of civilization. In the midst of the dust and debris, maverick Resistance soldier John Connor (Christian Bale) spends his time infiltrating the enemy’s subterranean bases and broadcasting nightly radio programs offering hope and leadership to the minute remnants of human existence. However, when Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), a death row inmate executed 15 years earlier, arrives at Connor’s doorstep … stay with me here … the entire foundation of the Resistance’s mission becomes questionable. This remaining certainly packs a punch with gunfire, explosions and menacing metal stomping human skulls, but unexplainably sidelines its superstar from the game leaving the majority of action to be led by an unknown Aussie and a 20-year-old Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin). Not a smart move when you’ve got Batman on your slate. As the first chapter in the series not headlining Schwarzenegger, the crew delivers some interesting callbacks to the glorious days of old (some amazing, some disastrous) in the form of dialogue, song selection and CGI. With the accessibility to the well-crafted characters created by James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd, the shortage of exploration into anyone’s psyche or motivational drive, which was handled so well with Linda Hamilton’s multi-layered Sarah Connor, appeared slapdash and lackadaisical. While the film’s choppy structure and trite plot points, scribed by T-3 writers John Brancato and Michael Ferris, are the key source for its failed moments, the majority of viewers will only find relief through Martin Laing’s beautifully horrific post-apocalyptic production design. –Jimmy Martin