Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Go See This

Terrence Malick's fifth feature film, The Tree of Life, is due out May 27 in limited release.

Tell me this doesn't look like the most beautiful film ever put together.

Okay, so I'm not promising a cohesive narrative, but anyone who knows Malick's work knows to expect a sensual montage, not a formulated unfolding of events.

By the way, if you haven't seen The Thin Red Line (1998), go see it.

Happy viewing,


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Blu Recommendation: AMC's The Walking Dead season 1

That, uh... that sound you hear is God laughing while you make plans.

Cable network AMC has clearly gotten into the modern television game, leaving behind its horrendous early-millenium malaise of unexceptional movie airing, and producing cutting edge dramas. Everyone loves Mad Men, which I couldn't care any less about, and Breaking Bad is exceptional. Then along stumble The Walking Dead, pushing the bounds of what can be shown on standard cable and creating more credibility for TV shows as art; this series has the pacing and quality of a major motion picture.

First airing in October of 2010, this continuing series is based on a series of Image graphic novels by Robert Kirkman. The great Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption) deserves the credit for getting this on screen, serving as the series mastermind, producing and even directing some of it. The series stars Andrew Lincoln, John Bernthal, and Sarah Wayne Callies as zombie apocalypse survivors trying to make their way through Georgia with their limbs, and humanity, intact.

The blu-ray is awesome, filling your HDTV screen with its 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The series was shot on 16mm film, and the resulting image is beautiful, maintaining a grain veneer when the shots are dark but being clear and detailed during the bright shots. There is a lot of facial detail to see here, whether it consists of the stubble of a sweaty Lincoln or the abrasions of some demented walker. It also comes with a very satisfying Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track to take full advantage of your HD-compatible home theater.

While there are no commentary tracks, the blu-ray does have some good extras, including a behind-the-scenes documentary on the entire creation of the show, mini previews for each of the six episodes, a San Diego Comic-Con panel with the creators, and HD trailers for other shows and movies. The only technical problem with the 2-disc set is that there is no way to select specific chapters within any of the episodes, something even DVD's have been doing for ten years.

Violent and upsetting, The Walking Dead is also extremely compelling, and 99% of viewers will pound through the short first season and want more. AMC is going to continue the series in 2011, so those of us safe in the real world can continue to watch these very human characters struggle through their threatening world.

Happy viewing,


Okay, Maybe I'm not so Happy Anymore...


This trailer looks absolutely horrible. I love Chris Evans (Sunshine, Fantastic Four), but this is ridiculous, and his CG-emaciated body looks like a bad joke.

Director Joe Johnston, who hasn't made a piece of celluloid crap since last year's The Wolfman, looks like he has no idea what he is doing; an exaggerated production design and silly tone is not the way to win over modern audiences.

I used to love comic book movies, but now I'm waving the red, white, and blue flag.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Movie Review: Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch

All flare, no care.

I probably cold write for a month and still never address all the different ways critics hate director Zack Snyder's (300) new movie, Sucker Punch. Snyder is one artist whose work it is currently en vogue to hate on, but I have never felt that he deserved the derision until now.

Snyder shows virtually no restraint in any way here, except that the exploitative presentation of the film's young, female antagonists never quite reaches R-level, and I will give him credit for restraining himself from falling into Tony Scott-like hyper cutting to round out the obnoxious presentation, but that was probably only avoided to allow for the exceedingly long takes of CGI cartoonery.

The lovely Emily Browning (Lemony Snicket's a Series of Unfortunate Events) plays Baby Doll, a girl forced into a mental institution in Vermont after her mother dies and she accidentally kills her sister. The institution's cruel master, Blue Jones (Oscar Isaac), plans to lobotomize her. Doll and the four friends she earns (Abbie Cornish, Jenna Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, and Jamie Chung) plan a way to escape, but that way is through their own imaginations.

It is all a mess from here, as the mental institution is immediately re-presented as a burlesque, the girls now trashed up, dancing whores and Blue their pimp. Within this more colorful world, Baby doll uses her dancing to gain power over her audience, the same trick Snyder apparently wanted to pull. But even when the girls dance, we don't see it; the metaphorical battle against sci-fi enemies in video game locales becomes our reality.

Sucker Punch is inane and derivative, three levels of Inception deep in a trashy Christina Aguilera video, by way of anime action leftovers. You never have time to care about the characters, and the action scenes fail to entertain, but they annoy with their excessively loud pop music remix soundtracks. Almost the entire film is an enigmatic daydream, and the total running time in what you could exhaustedly call the real world- or what Christopher Nolan would call zero levels deep- is probably about 20 minutes.

The film is outright ugly, as a smog renders all things brown and even the (mostly animated) fight scenes look blurry. A faithful DVD/Blu-ray transfer in a couple of month's time will not be fun to look at, though it will shake your house non-stop, so if you want to own this movie you had better find something worthwhile in its content. If you are a teenage boy, I am not judging.

Happy viewing,