Find Me At Screen Rant

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Jumper (**)

Anywhere But Here
What if Anakin Skywalker could teleport? The answer is even more banal than you guessed. Jumper sucks, man. It takes the promising idea of people having the ability to teleport and goes nowhere with it. There are two main "jumpers" in the movie, Hayden Christensen and a British guy, and they're both monosyllabic douchebags. I lost count of the number of times they said "Huh?" and "Wha?" Was that actually written in the script or was that shit they added themselves? Turns out there's a war going on between jumpers and people who hate jumpers, lead by Samuel L. Jackson. The Star Wars prequel reunion goes about as well as you think. In the Padme Amidala role is poor Rachel Bilson. She mostly has to stand around looking confused at Christensen. There are no interesting characters, no wit. The action is bland and usually incoherent. There was some interesting stuff in how Jumpers can fight, involving teleporting vehicles and heavy objects at their enemies, but it's not done particularly well. I kind of dug how upon learning he could teleport, Christensen embarked on a career as a bank robber, using his powers to get rich, and quick. That's a more logical thing a high school dropout with superpowers would do than put on tights and fight crime. But Jumper immediately committed two of my biggest pet peeves in movies: 1) voice over narration for no good reason and 2) casting younger versions of the characters in flashbacks who look absolutely nothing like the lead actors. Does AnnaSophia Robb look like a young Rachel Bilson? No. Does this kid look like young Darth Vader? No, he doesn't. Why didn't they hire this kid instead?

Michael Clayton (***)


"I am Shiva, The God of Death." 
Took me long enough to see it but I enjoyed Michael Clayton overall. Didn't think it was great or anything but I thought it was mostly solid, if occasionally dull. Michael Clayton's plot is basically the same as Erin Brockovich, though I rather enjoyed a movie about adults talking about adult problems and doing adult things. The acting was strong throughout. George Clooney was very good, but not Best Actor good. No way he could have beaten Daniel Day-Lewis' performance in There Will Be Blood. Tilda Swinton and Tom Wilkenson were both real good. The worst thing about Michael Clayton to me, besides that stupid line "I am Shiva, the God of Death" (which is said twice and draws unintended guffaws each time), was its structure: Michael Clayton opens with an attempt on Clooney's life that fails. The rest of the movie is a flashback that takes us back to that point, which then plays out in an extended, music-swelling, would-be nail-biting sequence of "Oh my god! Will George Clooney be killed?!" Oh wait, we already know he isn't because we saw he isn't in the first 10 minutes. Kind of let the air out of the balloon. If I may paraphrase Homer Simpson's observation of the famous bomb in the toilet scene in Lethal Weapon 2: Before Michael Clayton, I never knew there could be a bomb in my car's GPS. But now I check every time.

The Other Boleyn Girl (*)


I was warned The Other Boleyn Girl was horrible so I can't say I was surprised, but dude. Dude! It's horrible. I can't remember the last time I saw a movie so staggeringly incompetent on every level. Acting, directing, writing, editing, cinematography, all just fucking horrible. Each department competing with the other to deliver the worst movie they could. How does a studio exective see the dailies of this and not pull the plug immediately? People shit all over Elizabeth: The Golden Age a few months ago, but whatever, man. At least Cate Blanchett and Clive Owen can fucking act. Seriously, if the two lead actresses weren't already established, if they weren't "already acclaimed actresses" Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johannsen, they'd probably never work again. This movie would be a career-killer for actresses not as famous. The casting director should have been the first to be fired, followed immediately by Portman and Johannsen's British accent voice coach. Then everyone else. To cover for the leads' accent troubles, all the British actors in the movie had to turn their accents down and sound more American. The mishmashed result was poison for the ears, the kind that killed Hamlet's father. Eric Bana's Henry VIII was a grouchy, underwritten dumbass. The whole movie he's so irascible, he might as well have turned into the Hulk. It might have improved the movie if he had. But it's not all P, B & J's fault, they got absolutely no help from the crew. The lighting department apparently forgot to bring any lights to the set, creating a gloomy, underlit eyesore. It's edited by a retarded monkey and directed by a blind, deaf-mute. For a sexy tale of Tudor-era adultery based on a trashy novel, where the fuck was the sex? Portman and Johannsen unsuprisingly show nothing, and every time any sex is implied, the movie goes into blurry vision before cutting away entirely. By the end of this turd, they start putting up title cards that added the final insults to the audience's intelligence. My favorites were: "After separating from the Catholic Church, Henry VIII changed the face of England forever." Really? Tell me more. And they don't. The worst was the very last title card: "Henry never got the male heir he wanted but he did give England an heir who reigned for 45 years. Her name was..." Seriously, dot dot dot. Wait for it: "Elizabeth." Holy shit, man.

10,000 BC (*)

10,000 BC

The First Action Zero
Where do I even start ripping on this thing? That in 10,000 BC the cave men had shiny white teeth and stylishly trimmed goatees instead of bushy beards? (Were Gillette and Crest whitening strips invented 10,000 years ago? Apparently.) That everyone spoke the same language, which sounded exactly like English, except the villains, who all had subtitles? How about the ostrich attack? Look out! Giant ostriches! Then there was the big finale in Egypt, where there were no Egyptians. Instead, African slaves and wooly mammonths worked together to build the Sphinx and the Great Pyramids for the main villain, the "god" referred to only as "the Almighty." The Almighty has priests who wandered out of the Kali India set of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Also, the Almighty was an old white guy and went down like a bitch. It's hard to blame the actors for this mess. I actually like the two leads. Steven Strait was Warren Peace in Sky High, a pretty good teen-aimed Disney superhero movie. He plays D'Leh, the hunter who slayed the mighty snuffleupagus. Strait wants to get d'layed by Evolet (Camilla Belle), the only hot, blue eyed girl in pre-history. Camilla Belle gives me a wooly mammoth so I get why Strait chased her across half of Africa, or where ever they were, when she got kidnapped and brought to Egypt. I'd love to see Belle in a good movie one day but who knows when that day will come? The story of 10,000 BC has been told 10,000 times before in 10,000 other shitty movies, and a few good ones. The action involves redundant chases where strategically dirty-looking cave men are attacked by wooly mammonths, giant ostriches and sabre toothed tigers. All the action sequences were already done better in three Jurassic Parks. There are big laughs because the dialogue, characterizations, and well, everything else, are retarded. There's a whole deal where Strait managed to assemble an army of spear-chucking African stereotypes. They watch helplessly as Belle and their friends float down a river on boats. Then they walk through the desert after them and get lost. Hey stupids, why didn't you all just walk along side the river? Later, Strait frees all the slaves in Egypt and they storm the pyramids. There's a giant boat docked in there somehow. So they set fire to the boat. Hey stupids, you could have all gotten on the giant boat and sailed to your homes. Now you all have to walk through the desert. The ending is the biggest laugh riot: Belle is shot with an arrow in the back and dies. Aw, after all that, Belle died?! Strait never even got to do her prehistoric-like. But no, Belle then comes back to life when the old shaman woman from Strait's village the movie kept cutting away to drops dead and magically gives Belle her last breath. Belle opens her eyes and she's fine. Hey stupids, isn't there still an arrow stuck in her back? I didn't see anyone pull it out, is all. The audience at the 10:45am $5 matinee of 10,000 BC hated the movie. (I was the only person in the theatre. It's cold and rainy in Boston and everyone else had the good sense to stay home.)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

With Or Without You

With Or Without You 
March 5, 2008

A funny thing has happened to me recently in regards to my U2 fandom: I've finally come around to liking "With Or Without You."

For 20 years I've hated that song. There are lots of U2 songs I love ("A Sort of Homecoming", "Where The Streets Have No Name", "The Fly", "Ultraviolet (Light My Way)" for example), lots of songs I like a lot ("All I Want Is You", "Elevation", "The Sweetest Thing" for example), and a good plenty of songs I'm fairly indifferent to (half of the "All That You Can't Leave Behind" album, most of the "Pop" album for example). That's right, I don't even hate that electronica shit on "Pop." But since virtually the first day I heard "With Or Without You" 20+ years ago, I've hated it.

"With Or Without You" is arguably U2's signature song. Probably their most beloved when it gets right down to it. (I prefer the similar, anthemic "One", myself, which is probably the band's second most popular song.) "With Or Without You" was the song that launched "The Joshua Tree", the album that made U2 a superband back in 1987. Rolling Stone says it's number 131 on the list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All-Time. (Rolling Stone also says "One" is number 36 on that same list and the #1 song of the 1990's.) "With Or Without You" is also a concert staple, a sing-along anthem for live crowds. It's both a romantic song and a breakup song. Still, I hated it.

For years, I refused to listen to that song. The first time I had to (before U2 3D) was at the 2001 concert for the "Elevation" tour I attended at the TD Banknorth Garden (it may still have been the FleetCenter back then). I was seated one row in front of a couple of muscled up jock dudes. When U2 began playing "With Or Without You", these two jock dudes's faces suddenly lit up and they hugged each other. That was weird. I guess that song really brings out the passion of the jocks. While the rest of the arena sang along to the song, I pretty much stood there impassively waiting for it to end. Boy, did I hate that song.

So why did I hate it so much? My main beef with it is the lyrics. I never understood what the point of the song was. "I can't live with or without you"? What the hell does that even mean? Logically, you can do one or both. People found this notion or this song somehow romantic or touching or tragic. It never made sense to me. "I can't live with or without you"? It sounds like an anthem for quitters.

Anyway, what changed? The first time I noticed that I'd softened on "With Or Without You" was when I watched U2 3D on the IMAX. In my review, I wrote: " was touching to see Bono physically spent, his voice quivering to make the final notes of "With Or Without You", letting the audience do most of the work (which they gladly do)..." And I meant it. I was moved by how the Buenos Aires audience reacted to the song. Funny how I wasn't moved when I was there live but the 3D crowd reaction impressed me. Bono didn't even perform "With Or Without You" very well, and I don't think he puts that much effort into singing it anymore. He might be sick of it. It happens. However, I was impressed with it at U2 3D for whatever reason.

As the universe can often do, it decided to fuck with me. For the entire month of February, whenever I was alone in the car and turned on the radio, I heard two songs for some reason: Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car" (I won't be writing a "Fast Car" essay) and "With Or Without You." Instead of changing the channel on the latter, as I usually do, I listened to the fucking song. And I did it again the next time it came on. Then I started to like it.

I still don't like that one line. But I've come around on "With Or Without You". Did the 180. I don't skip it on my iPod anymore. I don't change the channel on the radio. I won't be scowling with my arms crossed next time U2 plays it in concert. It is a beautifully composed, haunting rock song by a rock and roll band at the very point of achieving their maximum potential. Of course, you already knew that. Deep down, so did I.

And you give yourself away