After Earth, aka 2 Hours You Can Never Get Back

Let me start this off by saying how I am not a Will Smith fan. I think he’s mediocre at best and his best is when he’s playing a character that’s basically himself. He is lacking depth – totally evident in his performance in Six Degrees of Separation. But of course, I’m biased. I saw the 1990 play on Broadway with James McDaniel in the part Will Smith brought to screen. Or I should say, failed to bring to screen.

But this post is not about Six Degrees, it’s about a terrible movie, with terrible actors (including Will’s son, Jaden), and particularly terrible directing by the once great M. Night Shyamalan. You thought The Last Airbender was bad? Not even close to this one. And what makes it worse is that the actors are so lacking in skill that they think the bad dialogue will be better if they just stand there with I guess they think is a very pensive look. They look pensive. See picture.They talk pensive. And the audience is bored out of their minds.

After Earth Poster.jpg

It’s a colossal failure. And I hope that the Smiths will take it as a sign that they should stop producing movies for their children to star in. I know. I know. But they were so good in The Pursuit of Happyness. And what about the remake of The Karate Kid?

The former I felt is better because Jaden hadn’t become affected. But by the time his folks came around to producing The Karate Kid as a vehicle for him he has turned into a self-obsessed, narcissistic, egocentric teen. Unable to evoke any emotion other than the pensive face he copies from his dad.  And that is not entertaining.

But the real question is M. Night Shyamalan who for whatever reason hasn’t been able to make a good movie since The Sixth Sense. His surprise endings used to be entertaining and fun. And while watching, I kept hoping I would get that with After Earth. That the whole terrible experience would somehow be redeemed by a sudden unexpected, yet expected twist.

It just wasn’t meant to be.

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Where’d You Go, Bernadette – Funny & Dark

Hello faithful readers – all three of you!

I know. I’ve been away. So much for my declaration that I’m going to diligently post to my little ‘ol blog. All I can say is…I’ll try. Enough of that.

I might not be posting. But I have been reading. And the latest from my local book store – actually I picked it up in the Phoenix Airport because my flight was delayed two hours – is Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple.

Front Cover

Why? Well, I wanted to read something funny and the cover art was engaging. But mostly because I was intrigued that the author used to write for Mad About You and Arrested Development (the very same that has reappeared on Netflix to mixed reviews – including mine – check back later on that one).

The book tells the story of Bernadette Fox, a once brilliant architect that has well…lost it. And I don’t mean the lost it that she’s walking around half naked with a long blond wig Amanda Bynes-like lost it, but lost…IT. She’s pretty crazy – funny but pretty crazy and it’s never really dealt with. The narration is chocked full of pithy, smart, and enviable comments and observations. The plot is propelled forward nicely and the characters are fully formed. But all along you know the title character has some serious issues. Issues that are briefly acknowledged but never solved. And that is…annoying.

I guess I’m just a tie up all the loose ends kind of reader – especially when I’ve got a couple of hours to kill at the airport.

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Beautiful Creatures – Another Book to Movie

Time for yet another YA novel to be adapted to a movie.  Those who loved the Twilight books (great premise, bad execution – said it before) will like this book and will probably like the movie. Unlike the Twilight novels, the writing duo of Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl do a much better job of rich character building and are not afraid to have their characters look bad or do bad things. Unfortunately, the book is written in the overused device of first person – this time from the point of view of a very horny sixteen-year-old body. But at least it’s not the slow, desperate, voice of Bella and is a funny, optimistic, bright voice of Ethan. It provides a much better platform for the world the authors build.

The fantasy aspect is developed from a great premise – the girl of Ethan’s dreams (literally and figuratively) comes from a family of witches (they prefer the name Casters) and has until her sixteenth birthday where she will be “claimed” by either the dark (evil) or the light (good). On top of that, she craves a normal life and finds herself dealing with the ordinary dark and light of high school. Who hasn’t dealt with that? Her family – a cast of characters each possessing a very unique way of manifesting their powers – are interesting and well developed.

There are a couple of plot lines resulting in some later conflict that is really contrived. The same thing happened in the Twilight books. But overall the novel provides an entertaining story – so entertaining that it goes on for three more books.  So, if the movie is remotely successful, plan to see the next three made.

Oh, wait! Plan for the last book to be split into two movies. So plan for four. Isn’t that the way it works?

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Oscar Nom – Beasts of the Southern Wild

It’s award season people! And that means catching up on all the movies you wanted to see when they were first released and didn’t. BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD is one of these movies for me. I had heard from friends and colleagues that it was lyrical and moving and the young lead, Oscar nominated Ouvenzhane Wallis (who was six when she filmed the movie now 9 and has set a new record of being the youngest actress to be nominated, beating out the 12-year-old Keisha Castle-Hughes from WHALE RIDER) is a wonder.

Wallis is good – like a lot of child actors. For her first try at acting she is natural and believable. I think it is due to the close to the last scene in the movie (I won’t include any spoilers so I won’t ruin it for the three people that read this blog, including my mother) that cinched her the nomination, forcing out other actresses such as Marion Cotillard for RUST AND BONE and Helen Mirren for HITCHCOCK.

It’s the story of this movie that doesn’t bode well. Even the script is also Oscar nominated for best adaptation, it was convoluted and the expectation for the audience to fall into the category of suspended disbelief was over estimated. There is some fable-like visuals that are supposed to propel the story forward but stop short leave the viewer wondering whose story is this movie telling?

I will fully admit, when you wait to see a movie as long as I did this one, one’s expectations are likely to grow rigid. I thought this film would be much more whimsical and have more of a fantasy-like built world (like PAN’S LABYRINTH – a beautiful film by Guillermo del Toro – Netflix it today!), but instead it is chocked full of a lot of themes that didn’t have the opportunity to be fully developed, making the story unsatisfying on a lot of levels. This leads to the audience being introduced to a fantasy/fable story line, but with no guide to determine the correct course. I lose my geography in the story more than once, which results in me being totally pulled out and super reluctant to get back in.  The camera work is also a hodge podge of techniques and angles that didn’t add to the storytelling – particularly the hand-held shaky shots.

The first-time Oscar nominated director, Benh Zeitlin, shows great promise, and I think we will see more of him in the future as he hones his talent and decides what kind of director he wants to be. But this movie could have used a more seasoned director who has a healthier grasp on how to lead an audience through a rather shaky script.

What did you think of this movie?

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Breaking Dawn Part 2 – Okay…I Saw It

So, like the rest of the country I have been fighting through this weird flu that seems to NEVER go away. My nose has been stuffed up, my voice has dropped in register making me sound scratchy and little bit like Demi Moore (I know…not such a bad thing), and my head has ached. I also have been housebound.

Needless to say, I got myself out of the house and went to…the mall. Walking around I got tired and found myself near the movie theaters. The only one playing that I could see beginning to end was BREAKING DAWN PART 2. My vow of never paying for a movie ticket to see any film in the TWILIGHT franchise quickly faded in place of a deep desire to sit down.

What can I say? BREAKING DAWN PART 2, aka, the creepy CGI baby movie, is a terrible waste of film. But again, the books – loved by tween girls around the world – are terribly written (I have said this before) and therefore it is difficult to adapt a shitty book into an enjoyable film. But the problem with this movie is way beyond the source material.  Like I stated, it is the creepy CGI baby movie. For some reason the director (Bill Condon –  DREAMGIRLS) applies a weird treatment to the famous half-human, half-vampire child Renesme. It’s just…creepy. And worse it’s badly executed. In the time of AVATAR, to have a special effect so poorly applied makes the movie even more laughable.  Plus, the original story was so lacking in conflict (the author Stephanie Meyers refuses to have anything bad happen to her characters to elicit growth or true crisis) that the ending is be majorly tweaked by the screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg (who is now developing her own show for TV – look what adapting shitty books can do for you) in order for a film audience to sit the 90 or so minutes and not be bored out their minds.

I’m still sorry I spent the money for a theater ticket for this movie. I should have waited until I could Netflix it like I’ve done with all the others, but like in the movie CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE ( a fabulous script written by Dan Fogelman, Netflix it today) “I went and saw the latest Twilight movie – and it was sooooo bad.” That about sums it up.

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Spielberg’s Lincoln – A Solid Movie

We all know the work of Steven Spielberg. Jaws, “We’re going to need a bigger boat.” The Color Purple, “You sure is ugly!” And all the Indiana Jones movies, “Snakes? I hate snakes!” They are flamboyant, vividly driven stories that take the audience on a journey to sometimes familiar and most often unknown places. Spielberg relies on fancy linkage between scenes, and very true to life reenactments, particularly when it comes to battle scenes.

The battle scenes are present in Lincoln, but this time I think Spielberg reins it in – and it works. With a lovely script written by the enormously talented Tony Kushner (a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright for Angels in America), the film feels like a play and it is really refreshing for Spielberg to rely on the written words and the talents of the fabulous actors he has on board instead of his fancy camera work.

Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln is spectacular – an Oscar nomination is definitely in his future. Sally Field plays the long suffering Mary Todd Lincoln and has a great moment where she gives Tommy Lee Jones (playing the abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens) a piece of her (sane at the moment) mind.

It all works and in this trying time of the U.S. government, it is very timely to take a look back at history and see what men in power were once capable of accomplishing.

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Lindsay Lohan in Liz & Dick – Colossal Failure

What else is there to say about poor Lindsay Lohan? The cute youngster from PARENT TRAP is gone and in it’s place is a depressing, sad, and terribly confused adult. She’s crashed and burned so many times that it’s hard to keep routing for her and unfortunately, her turn in Lifetime Television’s LIZ & DICK doesn’t do anything to improve her status.

The story is simple – a timeline arc of the stormy, lustful, love affair between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. But the execution is…well…just wrong.

Lindsay phones in her performance. Her inflection isn’t near the soft, high, impish-like voice of the real Elizabeth. It’s more of a scraggily, smoker’s cough that we have all heard in every interview she’s ever given.  And can we talk about the difference in physiques? Where are the curves that Elizabeth made famous? And the weight fluctuations that made the news? Were you too proud to wear padding, Lindsay? The only thing she does to look remotely like Elizabeth Taylor is slap on a brunette wig and stuff her cheeks like a squirrel stowing nuts.

Poor,  poor Lindsay.

It doesn’t help her that her co-star Grant Bowler (a very cute New Zealander, who you might remember from TRUE BLOOD) who is a least twenty years older than Lindsay, doesn’t come close to exhibiting the booming personality of Richard Burton. He at least tries to convey a believable performance. Lindsay doesn’t. It leaves Grant to try to act by himself and so the movie is a colossal failure.

Overall, Lindsay’s performance is very much like watching a little girl play dress up that has no hope in ever fitting in the clothes. She just doesn’t care and because of that she should step aside for the thousands of young actresses that do. And who will show up. Ready to work.

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