Monday, April 21, 2008

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

DAN - Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a romantic comedy directed by Nicholas Stoller (Fun with Dick and Jane) and produced by Judd Apatow (Knocked Up). Jason Segel plays a man who falls into depression after his celebrity girlfriend dumps him. In an attempt to lift his spirits, he takes a trip to Hawaii. When he arrives, he soon finds that his ex-girlfriend is there on vacation with her new boyfriend.

I had a decent time watching this film, but I’d like to preface my review with an observation: the crowd with which you see a movie can have a big impact on your experience. I saw this film at a matinee, and the theater was barely occupied. The audience wasn’t up for a riotous afternoon of laughter, which isn’t helpful when seeing an edgy comedy.

The humor in this film ranges from subtle wordplay and nonverbal interaction to raunchy jokes and full-frontal male nudity. I chuckled a few times, but I couldn’t help wishing I was surrounded by a crowd that could really get into the movie.

The cast does a pretty good job, as they do in any Apatow film. Segel, who also wrote the screenplay, was charismatic and fun to watch, but some of my favorite moments in the movie involved cameo appearances by other actors. Russell Brand, an actor who is well known in England, was great as a carefree musician living the rock and roll lifestyle.

Overall, I enjoyed Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but it really wasn’t anything great. I probably could have benefited from watching it with a better audience, but it was still a good time.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Mist

DAN - The Mist, an adaptation of a Stephen King novella, was recently released on DVD. Directed by Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile), the film takes place in a small town as it is flooded with a thick fog that seems to hide something dangerous. A portion of the townsfolk shut themselves in a grocery store. As they attempt to make sense of the situation, crazy stuff starts happening, both inside and outside of the store.

I’ve enjoyed Darabont’s previous works, and some Stephen King adaptations have been great (The Shining), but something went wrong with this one. The writing, acting, and special effects are all outstanding, but they stand out in the wrong ways.

The characters’ actions and reactions rarely make much sense. They are immediately at odds with one another, but without any apparent reason. They mistrust and condemn each other, but I seldom spotted any understandable motivation for doing so.

The actors’ performances are prominently bland and laughable, though I suppose they did the best they could manage with the screenplay they had. It was especially painful to watch Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden in her role as a self-righteous, hypocritical religious crusader who blames the mist on the sins of mankind. It was ridiculous.

I’ll avoid spoilers by saying that there are computer-generated effects in this film, but they are hardly convincing. Come on people, this is 2008. Jurassic Park did it better 15 years ago.

You’re likely to hear people talking about the ending of The Mist. I was happy to see a non-traditional conclusion; such a thing isn’t popular in modern cinema. Even so, the ending was hindered by the aforementioned lack of believable motivation.

I have more complaints concerning this movie, but not enough room to discuss them in one review. In my opinion, The Mist has few redeeming qualities. But as always, I encourage you to make up your own mind.


STEVE - Writer and Director Frank Darabont is the authoritative figure when it comes to adapting a Stephen King story from novel to the big Screen. After such huge successes with translations of The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, it’s pretty hard to imagine Darabont failing when retelling a Stephen King classic. And when it comes to the mist, nothing has changed; Frank Darabont still writes and directs just the same as his previous Stephen King films… oh yeah, except this time it was bad.

Well no, no bad might be a little too strong in this situation. Let’s see… hmmm… while watching I honestly felt as if I was watching a Sci-fi channel original movie… a “B” movie. And nothing good can come from a “B” movie science fiction adaptation. So I wouldn’t say the movie was bad, but perhaps a little too mediocre.

Not bad, not good, but mediocre. Seriously… just straight up mediocre. Everything in this movie was mediocre. Everything! The acting was mediocre, the script was mediocre, the CGI was mediocre, and the direction was mediocre. Mediocre does not describe writer and director Frank Darabont. The man is better than this.

However, the movie wasn’t a complete lost. The camera work and cinematography was pretty decent. And the ending, oh boy, the ending was nothing short of amazing. If you’re going to watch this film for any reason, watch it for the ending. It almost made up for two hours of medicoreness... almost.

So ladies and gentlemen, it is my recommendation that if you desire to see a pretty cool ending and you don’t mind sitting through two hours of mediocreness, than by all means watch the mist. Otherwise, avoid this film at all costs. And Frank Darabont, if you’re reading this than I have two questions for you. First, why are you reading criticinema, you’re better than this! Secondly, why are you making “B” movies, you’re better than this!

Saturday, April 5, 2008


DAN - Persepolis is a French animated feature co-directed by Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi. Based on the graphic novel of the same name, the film is an autobiographical account of Satrapi’s turbulent life as a young Iranian girl. Satrapi’s world is drastically changed by the Islamic revolution in the late 1970s, and she is forced to mature at an early age.

Although I knew next to nothing about Iran prior to seeing this film, I found no difficulty in involving myself with the story. Persepolis presents the country’s recent history from a first-hand perspective, which I suppose made it easier to take in. The rise and fall of Shahs and Ayatollahs didn’t become a confusing distraction.

The movie’s primarily black and white animation style was simple, yet strikingly effective. Founded on Satrapi’s own drawings, the film is full of images that are beautiful in their use of contrast, composition, and movement. While watching, I often thought, “I want to animate something like this. It wouldn’t be too hard.” I’m not sure how true that is, but the film was inspiring nonetheless.

This version of the film was in the original French with English subtitles, and I recommend it. There’s something enchanting about the French language; even without the subtitles, this movie would be a treat. In my opinion, dubbing should always be avoided.

The score by Olivier Bernet works with the film’s visuals and themes, though at times it sounds synthesized. Some musical cues reminded me of Koji Kondo’s Ocarina of Time soundtrack, which has a certain nostalgic appeal for me.

Persepolis conveys elements of humor, despair, loneliness, and love while simultaneously telling a personal story that is relevant worldwide. This film reminded me that even though people live in a wide variety of strange cultures, we are not entirely different.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie

DAN - I’d like to take a moment to give recognition to one of my generation’s long lost classic films. It has been nearly thirteen years since Bryan Spicer unleashed the masterpiece that is Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie. The film follows the six heroic rangers as they battle Ivan Ooze, the most wretched and purple villain to ever grace the big screen.

The choreography of the battle sequences far surpasses anything that had previously appeared on the Power Rangers TV show, effectively setting the bar for all future kung fu movies; we would not have The Matrix, Enter the Dragon, or Walker: Texas Ranger were it not for MMPR:TM.

The cast delivers stellar performances with no exceptions. David Yost, in particular, delivers a heart-wrenching portrayal of a teen who must simultaneously struggle with the pressures of an authoritarian school system while battling the galaxy’s most venomous foes. Needless to say, Paul Freeman delivers a performance the likes of which had not been seen since his delivery of Dr. Rene Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Truly chilling.

Graeme Revell’s score packs a powerful punch that brings a tear to my eye every time I listen to the soundtrack. This, when combined with Paul Murphy’s immaculate cinematography, creates a cinematic experience that is literally impossible to dislike in any way.

If, by chance, there are any readers out there who have yet to see this consummate piece of art, you must watch it. Right now. Turn off your computer and run (don’t walk) to a video store and buy (don’t rent) this film. You will not regret it. Go Go Power Rangers!

(Note: If it were up to me, I would give this movie 10 out of 5 stars, but that might defy the laws of physics.)