Friday, October 8, 2010

Red (PG-13)

Cast and Credits
Director: Robert Schwentke
Writer: Warren Ellis, Cully Hamner (Graphic Novel) Jon & Erich Hoeber (Screenplay)
Actors: Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, Mary-Louise Parker, John Malkovich

Bruce Willis in an Action Film...Again
Bruce Willis seems to have the tendency to act in movies that are all just recycled stories from the book of how-to-write-an-action-movie. They feature many explosions, shootouts, and witty, sarcastic lines, which are all crowd pleasers. What more could you need than violence and laughter, right? Most of these films are entertaining, and Willis always fits the part of the hero and resident bad ass. But that's it, there never is anything else. They don't leave you wanting more. They are all merely okay. Unfortunately, Red doesn't deviate much from this formula, and the story is no different than the rest.
Frank Moses (Willis) is a retired CIA agent who spending his days talking to Sarah (Parker), who is a customer service representative. His new suburban life is rudely interrupted when a black-ops team comes to his house in an attempt to murder him. Unsurprisingly Moses hasn't lost a whole lot from his spying days and quickly dispatches of the team. He then goes to Kansas City where Sarah lives, picks her up, and begins looking at who wants him dead. Along the way Moses reunites with his former ex-agent buddies (Freeman, Malkovich, Mirren) and together they fight for their lives all while attempting to stop a horrible government coverup. 
Through the first part of Red the movie clips along at rapid pace as Moses goes to ridiculous means to stay alive. Did I mention he has to abduct Sarah to get her to go along with him as the CIA and FBI are shooting at them? But as absurd as much of this is the beginning of the film is quite entertaining. Willis and Parker's characters have an amusing chemistry between them and the close calls they encounter are never short of outrageous.
There are some good, unique characters in the film that add to some amount of originality. None are as hilarious as John Malkovich's character Marvin Boggs. Malkovich continues his run of eccentric characters with Boggs. Who is a highly paranoid former agent that believes that everyone is an operative out to get him. Malkovich gives the film the spunk that it lacks, but he is only reason that makes Red any different from its other action counterparts. And ultimately he is only element that makes it worth any of your time. 
The farther the plot advances the more it continues its drop into absurdity. There are more guns and thugs than the Russian black market, and even the laws of physics are put to the test with some of these explosions and collisions. I couldn't help but get restless and had to keep looking at my watch as what felt like an hour long shootout was still unfolding before me. This is probably because Red is another recycled action flick where everything is predictable. Everything. 
I am confident that after all this Red will still be a hit. People today flock to the theaters to be entertained by mindlessness. I guess, you get what you pay for when you see the previews. Red is action movie with Bruce Willis at the helm leading you on a long, predictable journey to victory over the bad guys. Again, thank you John Malkovich for making this not a complete waste of my time. But  I still can't see this movie as anything else, but frat boy action porn.

Life As We Know It (PG-13)

Cast and Credits
Director: Greg Berlanti
Writer: Ian Deitchman, Kristin Rusk Robinson
Actors: Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel

A Cute, Little Nightmare
What a cute little story, with a cute little baby, which all makes for a cute little film. It's all so cute I almost need to squeal in delight!
 The Novak's are a cute couple with a cute girl named Sophie, and they have two cute friends (played by Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel). Oh No! Their two cute friends don't get along so well. But the Novak's don't seem to care because when they sadly die in an unfortunate car crash their will stipulates that joint custody of cute little Sophie be given over to... guess who? Their two cute friends Holly and Messer! Isn't this story just so cute! 
Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel are just made for these roles. I couldn't see this film better cast than it already is. The chemistry between theses two is undeniable and unforgettable. All of this wouldn't be possible unless these two actors weren't so cute!    
But so many unanswered questions remain. Holly and Messer hate each other, can they come together and raise this child while learning to like each other and get along, all in the effort to create a supportive, caring atmosphere like their friends before them because that is the best thing for cute little Sophie and might they find love in one another that was never thought possible before, all in only 112 minutes?
Back to reality now, this is the most predictable movie I have ever seen. It is hopelessly formulaic, incredibly unrealistic, agonizingly long, and ultimately it's a comedy that is so unfunny I could get more laughs from Requiem for a Dream. Life As We Know It stinks worse than baby poop. 

The Social Network (PG-13)

Cast and Credits
Director: David Fincher
Writer: Aaron Sorkin
Actors: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake

Mark Zuckerberg Needs Facebook.
Mark Zuckerberg is quite an interesting character. The youngest person to ever become a billionaire. He's smart, witty, but totally unaware of other people's feelings and emotions, and this is what we see in The Social Network. A young genius that simply wants to work and build on his creation, but at some point will have to deal with the problems he has created along the way.
Zuckerberg, a student at Harvard in the Fall of 2003, quickly shows off his computer programming ability when one night, after his girlfriend breaks up with him, he hacks into the Harvard network and creates a site that receives enough hits to crash the system. From this Mark soon gains notoriety from many of his fellow students and what Mark has wanted all along, popularity. Popularity, for Mark, is a driving force behind many of his actions.
Because of his expertise with programming, three students ask him to help them build a website for Harvard students to connect with one another. Months later the website Facebook is born with Mark and his best friend Eduardo as the creators. The site quickly becomes a success, spreading rapidly throughout college campuses and soon the entire world, but this success does not come easy as Mark is hit with two lawsuits one even being his best friend and cofounder Eduardo.
The major irony of the film is Mark Zuckerberg's ambition is to create a site that will help people connect with each other while Mark seems incapable of connecting to anyone himself. He is so focused on the task that his friends are thrown by the wayside. As brilliant of a human being as he is, many times he doesn't stop to think about the consequences of his actions. We see at the end of the film, the inventor of Facebook still having to worry over a friend request to his ex-girlfriend. Maybe he is not so different than us. 
The Social Network feels like the 21st century. Information in the film is given at a fast-pace just like it is on an everyday basis in the world today. It has a great understanding of what is it like to live in a society where information, creativity, and popular culture are always right at our fingertips. Because it does this we easily feel as if we are a part of the film, but really, in many ways, we are.
Mark Zuckerberg is not simply the inventor of Facebook, he is an inventor of a new way of life, which is social media. Is he an ambitious jerk that pushed everyone close to him away? That is for each individual to answer. But without question Zuckerberg has changed the way we connect with people, and for that he deserves recognition.
As a story, The Social Network is about creation and invention, but as a film it is a work of history. The Social Network encapsulates the times we live in. It is a piece of art much like a time capsule, that when viewed many years from now, will give a picture of what life was like at the beginning of the 21st century.

Never Let Me Go (R)

Cast and Credits
Director: Mark Romanek
Writer: Kazou Ishiguro (Novel), Alex Garland (Screenwriter)
Actors: Andrew Garfield, Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley
Life is Short
While watching Never Let Me Go I was reminded of the 2005 film The Island, not because of the similarities between the two, but because of the stark differences of two films that deal with many of the same topics. The Island follows two clones who are grown to be organ donors for people in the real world. When they find out the truth of their lives they escape, create havoc, and rebel against this inhuman system. 
In contrast, Never Let Me Go depicts people held to the same fate, but these people react very differently. They understand their fate at a young age and yet they surprisingly seem accepting of it instead of rebellious. They live the lives that are set before them. In a world where we are continually told to stand up against oppressive systems and fight for justice, to our amazement, they don't. Because of this I was struck by a question that I still am unable to answer. Is it honorable that these people simply accept their fate? 
Looking back, Kathy tells us the story of her life with her two best friends Ruth and Tommy. Beginning with their time as children at the English boarding school Hailsham. There is something haunting about Hailsham as the children regularly have doctor's check ups, take classes that aren't what we normally see, and have no understanding of the outside world. The truth comes out to what is going on the school when Miss Lucy tells her students the horrible truth that their only purpose in life is to be organ donors and they will die before they reach middle age. 
As a young girl at Hailsham Kathy befriends an outcast boy named Tommy. Their relationship continues to develop as they live at the school. But Kathy's best friend Ruth soon comes in and takes Tommy to be her boyfriend. The three grow up and at the age of 18 are moved to cottages to live until it is time for them to donate. 
There is such a feeling of nostalgia through much of the film as Kathy is remembering her story. The past is the most present force in their lives because they have no future. It's filmed in a way that keeps our focus on nature, the past, and how those two elements combine to form memories. The scenery throughout is absolutely stunning and it aids what is being said about life.
At the cottages Kathy feels alienated because everyone else including Tommy and Ruth are in romantic relationships. She seems to have a real sense and understanding of what her life will look like, and because of this she carries a heavy weight.
The three childhood friends ultimately separate to move on with the short lives they have left, but they all meet up again near the end. They realize what they had with each other, and Tommy and Kathy again find the love they had for one another when they first met as children. These relationships are so important because they have nothing without them. 
Never Let Me Go isn't about the wrongs of cloning or about the morality of scientific advancement. It's about the importance of relationships, communication, love, the human condition, and the beauty of life. The film moves simply so that you can focus on these people's lives and consider your own. It was moving, thought provoking, and one of the best critiques about human life in a film for a long time.