Monsters vs. Aliens (2009)

Standard issue poster, nothing exciting here.

Standard issue poster, nothing exciting here.

Directed by: Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon (between the two of them, they are responsible for some truly atrocious films, so this is easily their best one)

Written by: Maya Forbes, Wallace Wolodarsky, Rob Letterman, Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger wrote the screenplay based off of Letterman and Vernon’s story.

Starring: the vocal talents of Reese Witherspoon, Will Arnett, Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie, Paul Rudd, Kiefer Sutherland and Stephen Colbert among many others.

What it’s about: a group of monsters are released by the American government to combat an alien invasion

B-Movie Alternate Title: It IS a B-Movie title

Movie Mash Up: The Monster Squad + oh I dunno, any Alien movie minus all the disturbing imagery

What I liked: For the most part I love the vocal cast, I mean look at them all!  There’s a huge “Office” presence, the former awesome real-life couple of Will Arnett and Amy Poehler, Seth Rogen and I guess Reese Witherspoon can be okay sometimes.  The monsters are wonderful, particularly the moronic B.O.B.  Paul Rudd gets to play an asshole for once, and while the role isn’t great, it is decent comedy.  Honestly speaking, I would rather this entire cast were reunited for an R-rated animated version of this exact film.

What I disliked: Well, I didn’t even realise it until the beginning of the film, but with the Russian meteor event of the past week, the entire meteorite sequence at the building was totally unrealistic.  And yes, that is only because of all those Russian YouTube videos that I knew that.  It put me off for the whole film.  I thought it was decent, but it wasn’t on a Pixar level by any means.  Enjoyable, but unless you’re a kid, repeat viewings will probably make it less enjoyable each time around.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Sure, it is not an offensively stupid animated film, and it is decently entertaining for both kids and adults.

Rating: 3 / 5

Probably the most entertaining bit of animation in the entire movie.

Probably the most entertaining bit of animation in the entire movie.

2012 (2009)

Sweet merciful fuck

Sweet merciful fuck

Happy Apocalypse Day everyone!

Directed by: Roland Emmerich (I enjoyed The Day After Tomorrow for what it was, but in my opinion, The Patriot would be his best movie, and certainly not Godzilla)

Written by: Harald Kloser and Roland Emmerich, that disaster-seeking sicko

Starring: John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet, Thandie Newton, Oliver Platt, Danny Glover, Woody Harrelson, Thomas McCarthy, John Billingsley, George Segal, Jimi Mistry, Chin Han and Stephen McHattie.

What it’s about: the end of the world, son, the end of the world

B-Movie Alternate Title: When Waves Attack!

Movie Mash Up: like some sort of unholy hybrid of The Day After Tomorrow and The American President, divided by Con Air

What I liked: I liked that John Cusack had a box office hit.  He seems to be about due for one of those every 10 years or so.  The special effects were pretty great, and this is pretty much the disaster movie to end all disaster movies… without actually being Disaster Movie.  Chiwetel Ejiofor manages to infuse far too much emotion into his performance, and for that he should be commended.  Oliver Platt does his Oliver Platt thing, which I enjoy.  Also, the Queen brought her Corgis with her, and that means that in the future there will still be Corgis.

What I disliked: The running time was so long that I forgot the things that took place at the beginning that I was going to talk about.  It’s a formula disaster movie, which means you can pretty much pick out who will live and who will die when you first meet them.  There’s no real imagination to the movie, just lots of science that seems terrifying.  The shocking violence and destruction in this movie should be goddamn traumatic to young children, but they’re probably already desensitized anyways.  Seriously, millions, probably billions of people casually die in this movie, and pretty much 99.9% of the cast is all “fuck ’em GET ME ON THAT THING!”  So many implausible things take place in this movie, implausible even for the end of the world.  I would suggest that while yes, we should get over “that whole 9/11 thing”, some of the scenes can be construed as remarkably hurtful to the people who went through that.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Well, it would be a great movie to watch on Blu-Ray with a high end system, if you go for that sort of thing.  I guess I’d recommend it so everyone can see the ultimate disaster movie of all time… for now.

Rating: 1.5 / 5

Someone thought this movie wasn't terribly offensive enough.

Someone thought this movie wasn’t terribly offensive enough.

Away We Go (2009)

Throughout this summer of unemployment, I have been re-watching a lot of my TV box sets in between movies and playing Sleeping Dogs.  Lately I’ve been re-watching the US version of “The Office”, so going into watching this movie again, I thought it might be difficult to see John Krasinski as anyone but Jim Halpert.  However, Krasinski is such an affable sort of guy, that it doesn’t matter what movie I see him in, he’s doing the same act, and it’s charming and “everyman”-ish and I enjoy the guy, so if the worst thing I can say is that he just acted like Jim in this movie, well that’s a type of compliment.

Anyways, this film isn’t your usual “heavy” Sam Mendes fare.  It’s more of a smaller movie, not in ambition, but in scope.  It’s basically about a loving couple, Burt (Krasinki) and Verona (Maya Rudolph), trying to find their grown up lives, so to speak.  Verona is expecting their first child, and adamant that she never wants to get married, despite how desperately Burt wants to marry her.  When Burt’s parents (Jeff Daniels and Catherine O’Hara) announce they’re going to be moving to Antwerp for two years, Burt and Verona decide to find a new place to live since the only reason they were living there was so Burt’s parents could help with the baby sometimes.  And Away We er, they Go.

Look, I’ve read some other reviews where it was suggested that Burt and Verona are “self-righteous people that think they’re super special and different than all us other idiots” or something like that.  I can see that point of view, since it seems that every place that they visit in hopes of moving to is populated by buffoonish people in one way or another.  Or sadness.  Or idiocy.  Until they find the right place of course.  I don’t agree with that feeling, I think Burt and Verona are a lovely couple and felt fairly real, not a rom-com couple or anything.

I enjoyed the film, might be a bit slow-paced and navel-gazing for some audiences, but it plays well for me.

3.5 / 5

Zonad (2009)

I’m not really into a lot of cult films, and the ones that I do greatly enjoy seem to have little to no cult fans anyways.  So maybe they’re just overlooked gems or movies that most people don’t “get” or appreciate.  Whatever.  Zonad is one of those movies, co-directed by Kieran and John Carney, the latter responsible for one of my favourite movies of all time, Once.

The titular character, Zonad (Simon Delaney), is found in the home of the Cassidy family, in the small town of Ballymoran which is in the United Kingdom somewhere.  Having just come home from a comet watching, they are all filled with the ideas of alien life and seeing Zonad passed out in his rubber suit, they jump to the conclusion that he is an extra terrestrial life form.  However, Zonad is just an alcohol-dependent escapee from a local penitentiary, but sees an opportunity to take advantage of this well-meaning family, and maybe nail the attractive daughter, Jenny (Janice Byrne).

Zonad isn’t a movie high on production values or action-packed scenes.  Rather, it’s full of absurd situations and the shameless manner in which Zonad takes advantage of the townspeople of Ballymoran.  Think William H. Macy in “Shameless”, except just a bit less disturbing.  It’s a fairly short movie, clocking in at just over an hour, not overstaying its welcome and telling an amusing story.  Not many movies actually make me laugh out loud the first time I see them, and Zonad still finds a way to get that response out of me.  Definitely not for everyone though.

4 / 5

Watchmen (2009)

Goddamn, do I ever hate Zack Snyder movies.  Apparently I’ve been in some form of denial for the past three years, as I had been saying that Watchmen was Snyder’s only good movie ever since watching it in the theatre (I still haven’t seen Dawn of the Dead and probably never will because fuck Zack Snyder).  I am still sort of right, as Watchmen is still his best movie, but I have come to the realisation that it isn’t even merely good anymore.

I have mentioned in other reviews how sometimes you have to disassociate the source material from the filmed material because certain elements might not work thematically.  Having just re-read the comic book maxi-series upon which it was based, I know for a fact that it would never ever ehhhhhhver work as a movie.  It could certainly work as a 12-part HBO series, but no, even as a lengthy movie (162 minutes), it will never work.  So yes, things have to be changed for it to even be filmable, and it is hard for me to say what changes did and didn’t work because I’m predisposed to hating Snyder’s work (Sucker Punch was a fucking abomination of a movie), and Snyder didn’t even write the adapted screenplay.

Look, this could just turn into an extended rage/rant about how fucking wrong the film adaptation of Watchmen was (and I think I’d be perfectly justified in doing so), but I’m going to try and find some positives here.  First, the movie looks pretty great.  The credit sequence that quickly establishes the Watchmen universe as different than ours works quite well.  Everyone looks like the characters they are playing (for the most part, it’s creepily spot on).  I just watched the Director’s Cut, and I can’t remember how different it was than the Theatrical version, but there seemed to be no shyness about displaying Doctor Manhattan’s (Billy Crudup) giant blue dong.  I think that’s about it for the positives.

I mentioned how everyone almost creepily looked like they were born to be these characters, right?  Well Snyder’s hallmark is that his films are all style, no substance, and that adage holds up quite well in Watchmen.  The entire cast (except for Malin Åkerman) are talented actors, but that doesn’t mean they were right for these parts.  It’s great that Patrick Wilson looks pretty close to the comic book version of Dan Dreiberg, but he can’t make me buy him as some schlubby guy.  Crudup is a great actor, but no, he’s no Doctor Manhattan.  Jackie Earle Haley is alright as Rorschach, but whatever direction Snyder was giving him was all wrong.

In fact, there are numerous scenes throughout the film that made me think Snyder thought it was some stupid comedy movie he was making.  Plus, the overall tone of the movie is JUST WRONG, especially the fight scenes.  Other than Manhattan, none of them have any special powers, but based upon how hard-hitting every punch and kick sounds/appears, all these costumed people hit like fucking Superman.  No.  The comic book series established them as fairly regular people that just started fighting crime for their own respective reasons.  And why the hell is the movie so unnecessarily gory?  It’s like Snyder thought it was a horror film too!  GAH so much wrong with this movie.

The first time I saw Watchmen, I left thinking that yup, that’s probably the best version of it that could ever be filmed.  Now I’m angered that yeah, that’ll probably be the only filmed version of it that exists and it certainly isn’t even close to the quality of the source material.  In closing, stop giving Zack Snyder money to make movies.  Give him money to make music videos, and when they stop making those, stop giving him money unless it’s payment for him not to ever make another movie.

1.5 / 5

District 9 (2009)

I used to have a litmus test to see if movies were actually great, or if maybe they were only good and I was perhaps overrating them a little.  I’d get my mom and step-dad to watch them, and if they loved it, I looked for things to pick apart in the movie, because well, they have vastly different tastes than I do.  However, when the parental units said they disliked or even hated a movie, I knew it was great.  No offense mom and Norm, your taste is pretty close to popular opinion, so you’re in the majority while I stew in the critical population of loneliness.

To bring it around to this movie, District 9, well mom and Norm hated it.  I watched it before them, raved about it, and since they love sci-fi stuff, thought it would be right up there alley what with all the aliens and .. sci-fi stuff.  I don’t know exactly why they hated it, but I think it had something to do with the style of the movie and that it wasn’t just a space opera movie, but that it had deep levels to the storytelling.  They might also have been vaguely racist, I don’t know.

Director and co-writer Neill Blomkamp’s picture tells of a time in South Africa when a giant alien mother ship came into the atmosphere and just stayed there, hovering above Johannesburg for over 20 years.  The residents of the craft came to Earth, and since they were non-human, they were essentially put into segregation camps and basically speciesism was the new norm for South Africa, narrowly beating out the pervading decades of racism for first place.  If you’d like to learn more about aparthied in South Africa, watch Lethal Weapon 2 to see how it affected humans in Los Angeles, as well as seeing Patsy Kensit’s glorious boobs.

The film is told through a mixture of documentary style footage and TV reports, eventually dropping both of those without explanation and moving to a handheld camera telling us the tale of Wikus van de Merwe (Sharlto Copley), an agent working for Multinational United (MNU) who comes into contact with an alien substance and begins to mutate into one of the aliens.  Wikus becomes a fugitive as MNU is eager to dissect him and discover more about the alien genealogy.  Desperate to turn the mutation around, he comes back to District 9 and works with one of the smarter ones to reverse the process, and in doing so brings a whole world of hell to District 9.

Almost everything about the movie works perfectly, from the CGI aliens to the highly improvised acting of Copley.  I have a few minor quibbles about the switching from the documentary footage to the traditional film camerawork, but it works for the most part.  It tells a highly intelligent human story that isn’t bogged down with scientific jargon, and makes us radically change our views on the actions of Wikus throughout the film.  It’s easily one of the best sci-fi movies ever made, and one I look forward to re-watching numerous times in the future.  There’s also a sensible case to be made for a sequel to be filmed, which in today’s movie industry, seems to be more of a rarity.

4.5 / 5

Up (2009)

It’s somewhat fitting that I re-watched Up after re-watching Toy Story 3.  Both movies have similar themes, when it comes to letting things go, but while that was the general theme in TS3 (along with “stay the hell away from that psychotic strawberries-smelling-like bear”), it doesn’t readily become apparent in Up until the final few scenes.  What precedes that is an epic, ridiculous and oftentimes hilarious adventure movie from the geniuses at Pixar.  The cherry on top of the sundae is that – at its heart – it’s a powerful love story, about two childhood sweethearts, Carl (Ed Asner) and Ellie, and the life they lived together and finally apart.

Firstly, yes, the story is quite … I don’t know of a word that accurately encapsulates it.  It IS ridiculous, but it’s not.  It’s unthinkable, unbelievable, all these un-words, but not.  As absurd as it sounds to say about a movie where the whole purpose is to fly a house to South America with helium balloons, Up is remarkably grounded.  That’s not to say that there’s no giant suspension of disbelief to get over, because read my previous sentence.  Flying a house with helium balloons.

The motivation behind flying that house to South America, well it’s easily one of the most amazing cinematic sequences in film history.  A wordless montage of Carl and Ellie’s romance, from the good times to the bad times, and it’s achingly beautiful enough to bring tears to your eyes in the first 15 minutes of the movie.  Carl felt like he failed Ellie in life, so in her afterlife he strives to fulfill his promise to her.  It’s heartbreaking.

Also, there’s a long-lost adventurer, dogs that plausibly talk, a funny kid and a wacky bird of paradise.

4.5 / 5

I Love You, Man (2009)

One of the things that I truly love about the so-called Frat Pack or Apatow’s Army or whatever the hell label you want to put on them, is that the large group of actors work with each on project after project and give little throwaway parts to their friends and the entire cast feels like an enormous ball of fame.  I mean, there’s a ridiculous amount of tagged actors for this movie.  Granted, I go a bit crazy with the tagging, and a few of them weren’t really well-known (or known even) back in 2009, but here we are in 2012 and I’d say that the massive audience that watches “Big Bang Theory” weekly knows who Melissa Rauch is.  Anyways, enough about my attempts to get more hits.

I totally have a man crush on Paul Rudd.  I probably write that in every Paul Rudd review that I write (okay, I only have one for Our Idiot Brother so far, well now two I guess), so you’re going to have to get used to it because I think I might go on a Rudd streak here.  Dude’s been in so many good movies, and movies that have been made better just by the sheer presence of him.  Anyways, he plays Peter Klaven, a somewhat introverted wonderfully lovable guy who proposes to his girlfriend, Zooey (Rashida Jones) almost directly after the opening credits.  However, it comes to light that Peter doesn’t really have any close guy friends, leading to the premise of the movie: find Peter a guy friend!  Soon he meets the blunt and charmingly honest Sidney Fife (Jason Segel), and they totally hit it off and Peter’s life undergoes radical changes.

No matter my predilection towards Rudd, I will still be honest and tell you if a movie he’s in sucks or not.  I totally disliked Wet Hot American Summer when I first saw it, but now I’m wondering if I missed something there.  May have to revisit that one sometime.  Anyways, this is a charming and awkward comedy, with Rudd and Segel bouncing off one another wonderfully.  Lots of funny moments from the rest of the massive ensemble-ish cast and it’s a feel-good movie in my books, though I will say that some audiences might just not fall in love with the characters the way I did.  They all know their roles and play their parts to perfection though, no matter if they have to look like a huge asshole doing it, right Jon Favreau?

3.5 / 5

Up in the Air (2009)

This George Clooney streak is one of the easiest streaks of movies to watch ever.  The dude has contributed so many quality movies to the world, that it is nearly unbelievable that at one point he was a character named Booker on “Roseanne”.  I don’t even know what he did on that show, but I remember him being on it, and honestly, if you look at his resume pre “ER”, well it’s downright depressing.  I’m not gonna lie, so is this movie, at least from certain perspectives.

Ryan Bingham (Clooney) travels across America as a hired gun.  All he does is go to companies and fire people, but y’know, in a classy George Clooney way.  When Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) comes up with new ideas about how to handle the process cost effectively, Bingham’s entire lifestyle philosophy choice is put into jeopardy.  Along the way, Bingham connects with a like-minded individual in Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga), and finds himself actually contemplating accepting that lifestyle change.

This is a classy movie, starring classy actors, and directed by a director that isn’t content with making cookie-cutter movies.  Every movie that Jason Reitman has directed (this one, Juno, and Thank You For Smoking) has been a movie that isn’t an easily digestible piece of fast food garbage.  I say that with the most loving of tones.  To Reitman, these movies aren’t just jobs or licensing opportunities, they’re a chance to make a statement or impact on someone.

Movies like these occasionally stir up the snark and snob in me, making me pissed off that there are directors out there that are happy with essentially jerking off their audiences.  This is an excellent movie, and there are so many excellent performances within, from the stars to the blink and you’ll miss them appearances of J.K. Simmons and Zach Galifianakis.

5 / 5

The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)

Look at that title.  The Men Who Stare at Goats.  What the hell do you expect when a movie is titled that?  There better be goddamned men staring at goats and some reason for it.  Thankfully, those men are there and there are plenty of reasons for it.  Much like most of George Clooney’s filmography, it’s a deeply quirky movie with great performances that tell an unconventional tale.  Clooney may be part of a small group of A-list actors that can continuously act in near-unmarketable movies and still maintain his star status.

Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) is a reporter based in Ann Arbor, who goes on a journey of self-discovery after his wife (Rebecca Mader) divorces him.  Through an interview with a local “crazy person” (Stephen Root), he is exposed to a side of the military that involves psychic warfare, which in turn leads to Bob meeting Lyn Cassady (Clooney), a retired soldier from that very same military branch.  Through the adventures the two end up enduring, Bob ends up questioning all that he ever believes in.

This is not a very accessible movie for everyone, and I’m totally cool with that.  I’m also fine with sneering at those that don’t think it’s a good movie, as the performances are brilliant, most notably the very Dude-like Jeff Bridges, and Kevin Spacey stealing scenes as only Spacey can do.  Nick Offerman is also in it!  I liked the movie, and Clooney’s complete acceptance of being able to act in a part that comes across as a dignified buffoon is a big plus.  I can’t think of anything else to say about the movie, mildly recommended for those that are open minded.

3.5 / 5