Friday, February 26, 2010

Tales from the Back-Log

So everything's been pretty hectic over the last few months. I've been able to maintain my reviews for the radio, but haven't been able to transcribe them onto the net in a timely manner, so the next 3 reviews will be a little dated. Now that everything is relatively settled, I should be able to keep everything posting at a normal rate again.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Up in the Air

For a film primarily about air travel, allow me to open with a stupid joke. Jason Reitman totally nails the landing! As far as his directorial career, he's shooting three for three. 2004's Thank You for Smoking was a solid first feature endeavor and despite the problems I had with Juno on a screenwriting level, it was a very well put together movie, as far as teen romance/thinking outside the box comedies are concerned. Up in the Air looks and feels like the perfect tonal follow up to TYfS.

Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a "miles" obsessed travel addict who takes on the seemingly difficult task of laying off individuals when the company they work for is too chickenshit to do it themselves. Though Bingham handles his job with poise and confidence, granting words of wisdom tinged with a poetic grace as he ushers the newly terminated into their new life of future employment. Enter two drastically opposite, though equally valuable females into Ryan's life. Alex, a fellow travel-phile and sometime bed-fellow with which he shares a profound connection in their respective philosophies about life and Veronica, the company's new upstart determined to outsource Ryan's job with the advent of internet video chat.

Interspersed amid the narrative are actual personal accounts of people who have been "let go" of their corporate livelihood. A gutsy move considering the economic climate and massive layoffs taking place in the country. Though it's not a downer by any means, but more of an uplifting snapshot of the human spirit in the face of one of the most devastating experiences we can have in life next to breakups and the death of a loved one. Accenting these asides are brief yet excellent performances by Zach Galifianakis and JK Simmons to anchor these vignettes to the narrative. Jason Bateman also puts in a markedly off typecast role as Bingham's cutthroat boss. If nothing else, this film is the reason why George Clooney is a leading man in the film industry, completely deserving of any nominations that are coming his way. Vera Farmiga (The Departed) does a bang-up (no pun intended) job as Alex, branching out as a newly christened A-lister. The most notable impressive casting choice was Anna Kendrick as Veronica. Best known for her barely supporting role in the Twilight films, she shows range and skill in this emotional roller coaster of a role.

Stepping back into the writer's room adapting the novel by Walter Kirn, Jason Reitman is quickly becoming the voice of his disembodied generation. He doesn't seem at all intimidated by either his father, Ivan's the cultural footprint or extensive catalog of producing and directing credits. The junior Reitman exudes a very plain honesty about character and interpersonal relationships that many modern dramas overlook. Where most films will polish their themes with flashy dialog, and while Bingham is a big talker, Up in the Air's most poignant moments often don't include any dialog at all. It takes a talented director to connect with an audience in these quiet moments onscreen, and is likely by Up in the Air is one of the best movies you're likely to see this year (2010 included.)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

They say lightning never strikes twice. In regard to Percy Jackson and the Olympians colon The Lightning Thief, the true thief is, in fact, Harry Potter himself. It seems the studios have been churning out countless one off duds since Pottermania turned a decent profit almost ten years ago. However Young Adult fantasy franchises seem to hit the big screen and fail to draw an audience, the inexplicable phenomenon that is Twilight notwithstanding. So after star studded failures like The Spiderwick Chronicles, The Golden Compass and Eragon, it's no surprise that Percy Danger and the High Voltage Squad colon Electric Boogaloo fails to gain a foothold in the niche that Potter is so close to vacating.

Percy Daggett and the Olympic Medalists colon Thunderstruck brings absolutely nothing new to the table as far as teen fantasy is concerned. Percy is your run of the mill teen that likes to sit at the bottom of the school pool for drowningly extensive periods of time. He soon finds out he's the cross breeded offspring of the Greek God Poseidon. It turns out Zeus' lightning bolt has been stolen and he blames Percy because… well… Why not? This will cause a war among the gods for an unforeseen and never mentioned reason. Percy gets attacked and is sent to Hogwarts… I mean… God Camp to learn how to be a warrior, since that's what gods do. Pierce Brosnan makes a literal horses ass of himself as his Centaur teacher before Percy and his resident Ron and Hermione clones run off to save his mother from Hades, against Camp Rules, of course. There is a stellar cast, the likes of Uma Thurman, Catherine Keener, Rosario Dawson and UK funnyman Steve Coogan tossed in amid the tepid performances of the three lead adolescent characters who meander through their dialog and character arc cliches. Occasionally, a cleverly re-imagined piece of Greek Mythology will surface, but Potter director Chris Columbus gives it so little attention, it's poignancy is lost to make way for the next pratfall or sight gag. With Potter ending within the following year, the Young Adult fantasy market is due for its next moneymaker, though chances are Perry Nuggets and the Neanderthal Clan colon Storm Chasers is not going to be it.