Everyone’s a Critic Part 3: Reviews from FlixChatter’s Readers

Welcome to the third edition of Everyone’s a Critic series! We’ve got a couple of new contributors today, thanks guys! Here they are in their own words:

The Hangover
by Mike Beery (now how appropriate is that??) 😀

It’s uncommon that one seeks out a comedy film a second time, as most of the jokes aren’t as funny twice through. The Hangover happens to be one of those films requiring a second stint – simply because you’re laughing so hard at the constant stream of bits that you miss an awful lot the first time through.

Perhaps the reason there’s so much humor in this comedy is the cast made up of 4 central characters, three of which are hilarious. The plot is simple: best friends head to Vegas for a Bachelor’s Party Weekend that goes a rye. When the three friends wake up the next morning from a night of whooping it up they find that they’ve lost the groom. On top of that they can’t remember a thing about what happened the night before.  This turns the film into a detective story. As they get closer to locating the groom they uncover more and more of their debaucheries behavior. Watching their reactions to their own behavior is priceless.

The character interaction between Phil Wenneck played by Bradley Cooper (the good looking “Player” buddy), Stu Price played by Ed Helms (the weak Dentist controlled by his bitchy girl friend) and the brother of the bride Alan Garner played by Zack Galifianakis (a simpleton ex-pedophile-like guy still living at home) is rich. They each present a different spin on the crazy situations they’re presented with. This comic chemistry is why I had to see it again. You’ll laugh at the initial gag, then if you’re careful, you’ll catch the subtle interactions between these guys as they react to some of the funniest situations caught on film.

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Young @ Heart
by Stanley Prawiradjaja

Instead of giving review on some blockbuster (or not) movies that I watched recently (eg. Inglorious Bastards, Proposal, and Extract). I like to give my two thumbs up for an inspiring documentary that I recently watched called Young@Heart (2007). This documentary was aired free! at your local PBS (this is just to show why we should support our local PBS). This is an inspiring documentary on a group of 70’s-90’s (that’s their actual age, not calendar years) lead by a music director, Bob Cilman.

Started in 1982, the group was organized at an elderly housing project in Northampton, MA. Strive to bring happiness to the elderly through performance arts. The group would sing songs such as Coldplay’s “Fix You” or James Brown’s “I Feel Good”. I laughed and touched through their rehearsal and lost of their group members. This choir group gives them friendship, activities, and challenges as they try to sing some of the hard lyrics from rock songs. If you are looking for a good true story, look this up!

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AVATAR 3-D
by Burke Hegrenes

With three kids, I don’t see a lot of movies in the theatre. And if I do, it’s probably a “family” movie. But the more I heard about Avatar, the more I wanted to see it in the theater as opposed to waiting for the DVD release. But not because of the story. (Fantasy is not my favorite genre. I’ve only seen the first Star Wars, and I haven’t seen any of the Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter movies.) No, the reason I wanted to see it on the big screen was because I heard it was a visual masterpiece – especially in 3D. So I paid the extra $3 for the 3D and was expecting big things … big things coming at me in a way that makes me want to duck my head or reach out and grab something floating in the theatre. But that wasn’t really the case.

Don’t get me wrong … I thought the story was great. A little formulaic at times (it sometimes felt like I was watching “A Bug’s Life;” others have compared it to Dances with Wolves). But I liked it. A lot. And the visuals were great too. But I just got the feeling that watching it on Blu Ray would be just as spectacular.

So I guess this is more of a review about 3D than it is the movie. And I say 3D isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. I saw Ice Age 3D in the theatre with my kids last year, and after the movie, they all said “that wasn’t really 3D.” I agreed, and wondered if it was a bad projector in the theatre or just lame 3D effects. I’m now guessing it was the latter. My son went with me to Avatar, and after it was done he said something to the effect of “Next time we go to a movie, let’s not do 3D.”

If I go to a 3D movie, I expect the 3D gags … the kind you see at the 3D shows at Disneyworld. Yeah, they’re kinda cheesy because they make the action forced. But isn’t the purpose of a 3D movie to trick viewers into wanting to reach out and grab for something that isn’t really there? Or is it just to trick them out of another $3?

Time Traveling with Sam Worthington

Sam Worthington’s got to be the most enviable young actor working today. Though he’s not exactly a novice acting-wise, most US audiences have only seen him recently in Terminator Salvation. Yet, instead of working his way up in supporting roles or ensemble cast type of stuff, Hollywood readily entrusts him to be the next big leading man. Thanks to James “Titanic” Cameron who entrusts him to carry a 200 million blockbuster on his shoulders, offers keep pouring in for the 33-year-old actor. Within the next 12 months alone, he’s set to star in five feature films — two of them huge blockbusters — with meaty roles ranging from period/futuristic pieces to classic drama/thrillers. Now, I haven’t even seen any of his films, other than the trailers and clips of TS & Avatar, but from what I’ve seen so far I can definitely say this guy’s got the manly presence and charisma of a real movie star. Just read his interview with Esquire and tell me if he isn’t the next Aussie brute force since Russell Crowe. Some people may call him arrogant, like they did Crowe, but I say he’s got panache. I have no problem with that, especially if he’s got talent to burn.

Worthington as Perseus and Jake Sully
All armored-up as Perseus and CGI-ed in blue as Jake Sully

In any case, Worthington’s been doing some time traveling lately since his stint in the futuristic world of Terminator. In Avatar, he’s once again transported to a distant future, and next year in Clash of the Titans, he’ll be going back in time to ancient Greece to fight the gods as Perseus. A new batch of stills from two of the most anticipated films have just been released. UK film mag EMPIRE is featuring Clash on the cover (which means I got to make a stop at Barnes & Noble this weekend), and you can see all the photos on their website. He totally resembles Crowe in some of the poses, and the costumes looks somewhat similar to Gladiator as well. As for Avatar, FirstShowing has six new hi-res photos on their site. WOW, the intricate details of the images are quite amazing. As I said in my previous post about Avatar day, this is the kind of movie to fully experience in 3D.

Worthington with Jessica Chastain in The Debt

This busy dude isn’t taking any break any time soon —  but when you get offers like he does, why would you? — he’s got two more flicks out in 2010 that is currently in production. One is a thriller set in the mid 1960s called The Debt, which reminds me a bit like Spielberg’s Munich, about a rebel Israeli Mossad agent hunting down a notorious Nazi war criminal. But before you label him the Aussie action hero, he aims to prove he’s got range by starring in a romantic drama Last Night — a love triangle with Keira Knightley and Eva Mendez, heh, that’s a dreamy gig even for an established actor! He’s even got yet two more flicks slated for 2011, The Candidate (about a DA blackmailed for murder of his one-night-stand). Worthington instead opted to star in – and produce — The Last Days of American Crime. According to MTV blog, the movie takes place in the near future where the U.S. government is about to implement a new technology that will make it impossible for anyone to commit a crime. Worthington will portray Kevin Cash, a safe-cracker recruited by a career criminal who may be a dangerously unstable sociopath.

Whew, I’m exhausted just listing all the projects this guy’s got going. The roles seem pretty diverse, I don’t know how he keeps it all straight! I sure hope Avatar is a good one, but if not, his career is probably going to remain unscathed. Well, with a decade-worth of projects in just the next couple of years, he’ll still be riding his success for a while now.


Thoughts on Sam Worthington? What’s your favorite of his film so far?

My thoughts on AVATAR Day

AvatarQuadPoster

The buzz surrounding James Cameron’s AVATAR flick goes on and on. Whether people like what they’ve seen so far or not, the marketing machine at Fox, including Cameron himself, know that any buzz is better than none at all. According to HDRoom.com, its trailer debut is the most watched on Apple.com trailer site, drawing over 4 million views its first day of availability. Most of you probably already know by now what this supposedly groundbreaking sci-fi flick is all about, I’ve blogged about it around Comic Con time last month and it’s been on my radar ever since.

After the ticket distribution fiasco where the Avatar site server broke down most of the day, I’m surprised that between my hubby and I, we ended up scoring 4 tickets to the free 15-minute sneak peek at the Rosedale IMAX. We arrived exactly 45 minutes prior to the screening as the email confirmation told us to, so I was sort of expecting a long line and hordes of people at the theater, but there’s none of that. It was just another Friday night at the theater, in fact, the place wasn’t even very busy. They’re pretty strict in checking the email confirmation. We had to show our photo IDs and they made sure our names were on their list. They also told us to get our snack or take bathroom breaks prior to going in as they won’t allow us to re-enter once the preview starts. Sheesh, it’s as if we’re about to see some top secret government footage or something.

In any case, once they whisked us in, the preview started with James Cameron’s introduction—in 3D no less—to what we’re about to see. He assured us that most of the footage shown are in the first half of the film, so there’s no spoilers. Thus, I don’t consider my summary below a spoiler, but if you’d rather not know anything about it before you see it in December, then read at your own risk.

The six clips shown were separate scenes much like the deleted scenes in your DVD, instead of a complete scene that runs 15 minutes in length. Here’s the breakdown:

Clip 1:
There’s a military briefing, and the movie protagonist, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) enters in a wheelchair as a Colonel was delivering a speech to warn the soldiers of the dangers in Pandora.

Clip 2:
Jake is in a lab with Sigourney Weaver’s character, where he observes a Na’vi creature in a blue tank, which based on the trailer is what he’d end up looking like. Weaver’s character Dr. Grace tells Jake to lie down in an MRI-like machine. Jake appears agitated or overanxious—well if you were in his shoes, you’d be, too—but the doctor keeps telling him to keep his head down for the procedure to work.

Clip 3:
Jake wakes up as his avatar, in the Na’vi body complete with a long tail, and so excited he could move his legs and walk again he ignores the lab technicians’ orders for him to sit down. In fact, as he’s barely able to control his own body, starts knocking everything over and tells the people on the other side of the glass, ‘this is great!’ before storming out of the room.

Clip 4:
We’re transported to Pandora, a 22nd century world on a distant alien planet filled with 1,000-foot trees, exotic, near fluorescent forests, fearsome predators and an indigenous people known as the Na’vi — tall, blue humanoids who are peaceful until provoked. Dr. Grace and Jake’s avatars are facing a gigantic rhino-like animal. With Grace’s direction, Jake’s able to ‘tame’ the creature, but suddenly a bigger and meaner creature appears and a chase through the jungle ensues. Jake tries as he might to outrun the obviously vexed and hungry beast, and the action sequence is pretty intense and keeps me on the edge of my seat.

Clip 5:
Jake is once again hunted by another creature, this time it’s a wolf-life lizard thing-y. A female Na’vi called Neytiri (voiced by Zoe Saldana) saves him but when he thanks her, she gets kind of irate and tells him in rather primitive English that he’s ignorant and stupid, and that she doesn’t intend to kill the creatures. Asked why she didn’t just let him die, she softens up and tells him that his heart is strong and fearless, but then gets piqued again and tells hims he’s stupid like a child, leaving Jake looking quite perplexed. I guess male/female mixed signals still exists even in a futuristic distant planet, huh?

Clip 6:
Jake, Neytiri and a group of Na’vi people gathers in a path underneath a waterfall as Jake prepares to tame a dragon/pterodactyl. He asks which one of the large group he’s supposed to take, and Neytiri tells him that it’s one that tries to kill him. Just like a cowboy trying to tame a wild horse, Jake undergoes back-breaking struggles to get the creature still enough for him to ride on top of it. The agonizing process is proven worthwhile as he’s finally able to fly off the edge of the cliff, and actually ‘steer’ it to fly straight.

The preview was met with a somewhat reserved applause, not the thunderous enthusiasm Cameron is hoping for, surely. I personally think it’s a much better experience to see it in 3D than seeing the trailer on my Mac. I haven’t seen a lot of movies in 3D, the last one I saw was Superman Returns a couple of years back, but even that was only partly shot in 3D. So I slightly dread that I’d get a headache watching even the 15-minute preview in the 3D environment. Fortunately, I was so immersed in it once the preview started that I actually forgot I was watching something in 3D, that’s how seamless and well-made it was. Not sure how they’ll distribute the movie with less than 400 IMAX theaters in operation worldwide though, or whether people would be charged the IMAX price to see it. In any case, this flick is definitely one that takes advantage of the three dimensional technology to the fullest, and best viewed and appreciated in that environment. No wonder a lot of people, including me, were underwhelmed by its trailer released online last Wednesday, the richness of the visual and the lush color scheme just didn’t translate as well without the 3D aspect. The jungle environment with its fluorescent trees and glowing plants/insects are just breathtaking to look at and the flying sequence is just magnificent to behold. Kudos to Cameron, the whole thing looks pretty darn realistic and blends the real world and CGI seamlessly.

Sam Worthington & Zoe Saldana as Na'vi creatures
Sam Worthington & Zoe Saldana as Na’vi creatures

The expression of the Na’vi humanoids were pretty lifelike and their movement graceful, which is important to help the audience to see them as more than blue cartoon figures. Which brings me to my hope for what the actual movie to be. So far I’m rather indifferent about the Na’vi creatures and there’s little info about them to feel otherwise. But as the story centers on the battle between them and the humans who invade their territory—with Jake trapped in the middle of it—it’s crucial that we care for these characters, or the grandiose of all that computer technology will fall flat. My hope is that in the actual movie, I’d come to understand the journey of Jake and the whole Na’vi race and be blown away by the story as much as the visual spectacle. Based on what I read about James Cameron’s vision of the movie, he too seems to understand there’s got to be more than high tech mumbo-jumbo to get people hooked in this, that it requires a well-written story to take a curiosity-driven hype to something worth watching or further, a memorable epic. So even though this high-tech stuff has been the only angle he’s taken to promote the movie, I expect that the final result will be far more than that.

In conclusion, I was feeling ‘meh’ after seeing the debut trailer, but the sneak peek sort of get me excited and optimistic again about Avatar. So in that regard, it did what it’s intended to do. But for now though, I’ll let this subject rest on Flixchatter until the film actually comes out December 18th.

So those of you who sees the trailer or the IMAX preview, care to share your thoughts?