Archive for my spiel on movies

REVIEW: The Last Airbender

Film: The Last Airbender
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Writer: M. Night Shyamalan
Year: 2010

When I first heard about a live-action film version of one of my favorite television series (and yes, it’s animated) Avatar: The Last Airbender, I got chills that were, ahem, multiplying. As much as I am always initially skeptic about film versions of a television franchise because of exploitation, I was intrigued by the story challenge of fitting an entire twenty episode season (book) into a single film and especially the concept of a live-action flying Appa. I mean, if Peter Jackson can compress The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings into a single film, The Last Airbender director M. Night Shyamalan can definitely cram 600 minutes of glorious storytelling into a film slot.

After viewing the first teaser trailer in 2009 and finding out that the two Avatar creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko were involved, I was sold. Luckily, in my eyes, Shyamalan still had that last “free pass card” to prove me wrong that his lucky streak was definitely down the craphole. A few months ago, when casting was finalized, the “race-bending” controversy erupted when the film’s creators casted an entirely non-Asian cast (the Avatar television series’ backdrop is of Asian influenced environments and populated by Asian descendants, unique in American television). However, counteracting the controversy, a recast was announced making Prince Zuko along with many Fire Nation citizens (the bad guys) of Indian descent. Of course, this developed a new flame of controversy, proving that no one ever wins when casting in Hollywood.

Aside from the entire controversy behind the casting and the latest addition of 3D (post production 3D conversion is a no-no, via Clash of the Titans and Burton’s Alice in Wonderland), I was still intrigued and still excited to view the film. I trust the creative heads behind Airbender to entertain me for a good two hours.

Now the review. I leave the theatre two hours later with deep remorse and great disappointment. One minute into the film, I smiled because Shyamalan re-created the martial arts sequence based on the introduction of the series version. Then the slug lines appeared with Kitara’s voiceover, and when she mispronounced the word “Avatar” not once, but twice, I cringed, but as always with this film, I forgave it. And as the film progresses, I slowly but surely lost my patience until a point when I actually wanted to walk out and leave. It’s easy to blame Shyamalan for his mistake in highlighting the wrong entities and story lines based off the series, and so I blame him. I guess cramming 20 episodes into a feature film is impossible to create, but it seems as if Shyamalan did not even try. Many important characters were minimally mentioned or were not present in Airbender at all (like the Kyoshi warriors and Jet). Many vital story plots were thrown off the story table (like the Sozin’s comet prophecy and Aang’s sensitivity during the Avatar state). The main players were not even fully fleshed out as their television counterparts (Prince Zuko did not seem as viciously torn, Uncle Hiro did not have enough screen time to display his wisdom and love for tea, and Aang was plainly not Aang).

It is obvious to say that the film was rushed and too many creative forces (or not enough) dealt with this production. Airbender lacks the quirkiness and likability of characters and the epic features of the series. So what did fill in the two hours of Airbender – mispronunciations of everyone’s names, a unnecessary and short montage of Aang and Co. saving villages, Kitara’s voiceovers illustrating what could have been shown in film, excessive emphasis on the secret library and the spirit world. The reason why I loved the animated series is for it’s lovable three dimensional characters and arcs and for the epic story about adventure and saving the world. The reason I dislike the film is because contained nothing of what I liked about the series.

Concerning the actors, it wasn’t the color of their skin that I disapproved of, it was the entire casts lack of acting ability (except for Dev Patel’s spot on performance as Prince Zuko). Aside from Dev, the actors bluntly annoyed me because of their dry performance. Even the one-liner actors didn’t give their top notch performance. It is as if the entire cast and crew simply gave up during production, and what viewers are seeing in theatres today is a result of laziness and yes, exploitation. What could have been a wonderful film turned out to be the market-fueled film that made me skeptic about franchise movies to begin with.

I am definitely going to try my best to forget about this failure of a film and stick with my beloved animated series. I suggest you all do the same. And for the record, Shyamalan lost his last “free pass card” this week.

Adieu for now cool cats.

Sonny gives this film “1 Aang’s Airscooter” out of “5 Aang’s Airscooters”, a “D+”.


The Hangover

Film: The Hangover
Director: Todd Phillips
Year: 2009

Take 2000’s oddball movie Dude, Where’s My Car and add comedy into the mix. Damn skippy, the “what happened last night” genre finally got it right with this one. The Hangover was a consistently hilarious film all throughout (and that’s typically hard to do). One factor I enjoyed about the movie are the characters and their relationships with each other – all interesting and the cameos weren’t that bad either.

Sonny gives this unexpected comedy surpreso a “B+”.

Julie and Julia

Film: Julie and Julia
Director: Nora Ephron
Year: 2009

Butter. I love butter.

Julia Child and Julie Powell love butter. And I love their movie. I viewed Julie and Julia with no expectations other than how exciting it was to see Meryl Streep and Amy Adams reunited in another film together (they partnered in Doubt). And that goes for the reunion of Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci from The Devil Wears Prada. For all of you “6 Degrees to Meryl Streep” players – you’re welcome.

One minute into the Julie and Julia, I already knew I was going to be blown away. Just hearing Julia Child’s voice possessing the vocal cords of Streep put a confident smile on my face and lifted me off my seat into a world of cooking and hope. Act one was so lively and whimsical and never took itself too seriously because after all, it’s a film about cooking (and when was the last time you saw a movie about cooking that made you sad?). Julie and Julia is constructed with intertwining stories between acclaimed cook Julia Child (played by Meryl Streep) and writer Julie Powell (played by Amy Adams). The story follows their lives from being regular everyday people to their success as American icons.

The film proceeds to a journey of ups and downs with Act two and ends with the grand tie in with Act three; uplifting and making the audience yearning for more.

It’s funny how a movie about blogging can inspire you to blog again yourself. That’s why I’m restarting this site and breathing new life into it. I’ve neglected writing film reviews for many months now and it’s time to get back on it. A fair warning that I may sound rusty at first, but give me some time and you’ll learn to love me (at least my writing).

Julie Powell’s blog site:

Adieu for now cool cats.

Sonny gives this movie a delicious “A”.

random observation

I was watching Vanilla Sky last night and realized that the premise is very similar to one of my favorite films in the entire universe Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Both films revolve around a protagonist who is emotionally disturbed by a recent event involving heartbreak. The protagonist finds no other solution other than either erasing their ex-lover from their memory or freezing themself and reliving a fantasy world that expels only desire. See the similarity?! Okay, this may be a far stretch, but the bridge is actually short – at least in my book.

Sidenote: Vanilla Sky is based off a 1997 Spanish film called Abre Los Ojos, also starring Penelope Cruz.


update with new moving pictures

It’s been a long and weird week. And now that it’s closing, I’m going to leave this work week with a clip from one of my most favorite movies. Many know this film as controversial, eye-opening, and religious-picketing glory, but I call it just plain silver screen gold cinema! The film is “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion” and this is their dance:

sidenote – check out the new videos I posted under the “moving pictures” page; I’m going to add more sporadically throughout the weekend.

Have a tremendously great Friday!

over and oot,

movie review: the go-getter

Film: The Go-Getter
Director: Martin Hynes
Year: 2007

The Go-Getter, aye? More of like, Get-Me Outta here! It wasn’t a disaster film. I can only give you 3 reasons why this movie is worth viewing. Jena Malone’s (constant) unforgettable role (can we say rowing a boat in Cold Mountain?). Zooey Deschanel’s voice and great film presence (show stealer). And Maura Tierney 5 minute role which was a sweet delight. Weak points of the movie include, the protagonist whose role was never well defined and his acting as weak as the trunk of a 5 month old Christmas tree… Oh, and I got one statement for the story… “Stop being something you’re not!”

Sonny gives this movie a sad “C-“


movie review: marley and me

Film: Marley and Me
Director: David Frankel
Year: 2008

You know how sometimes during Christmas, you get that one unexpected surprise gift that you didn’t even know was coming? It could be a diamond ring, a DVD collection, or if your rich/Oprah – a new car. But for me, that gift was “Marley and Me”. Let me give you a brief background story of my journey to the theatres. It may seem naive, but I expected a disaster. I expected a Beethoven 8/Airbud type cross-breed film. I completely did not give this movie a chance, until the critic reviews came a-rolling. Doubt became curiosity and soon enough I found myself purchasing a “Marley and Me” movie ticket. From the hook of the film, I already knew that this wasn’t the mickey-mouse tune, family comedy I had a blind mindset against. You can say that I was foolish and close-minded, because this film is the BEST unexpected christmas gift the movie industry gave to me last year. Like a child, I unwrapped the present with haste and savored every moment, until the gift sits in full sight – pretty, new, and shiny. The film had a solid and perfect cast, wonderful and touching story/pace, and an all together timeless film. Now, let’s all get clearance puppies.

Sonny gives this film a whopping “A”