Monday, August 22, 2011

Quadruple Feature: Final Destination 5, etc.

Just when I think that my existence sounds depressing enough on paper, I manage to push it just a little bit further. This weekend, I deigned to see four films in the theater on one bright (and thunderous) day, and I succeeded. A quadruple feature! It really loses its ring after "triple feature," I fear.

The day started like any other. I clumsily smacked at my face in the morning to make sure it was still there; I looked out my un-curtained windows to see if others were stirring across the building (always a good measure of what time it is in the morning); I yawned heavily, scooping any residual drool off my chin -- and thought: "Wait, no work today! Wonder what time the first movie starts?!" (10:45 a.m.) The West Village likes old people, or those who eat and sleep like they're old (me).

Now. Mama G wonders where she went wrong with me. Why, say, didn't I think -- let me go shopping! Or, I bet there's a great exhibit at _______. That Borders is going out of business, how 'bout some new books, Grice? Nope. Just movies. Can't change what we are, I s'ppose.

So, I saw: Final Destination 5 (yup); One Day (Nick Sparks knock-off); Harry Potter 77k (should've watched the last one again right before this one ... those names are so hard to keep up with); and, Clash By Night ('52 at Film Forum -- got to keep up with the hipsters).

Final Destination 5. Well, what can I say? After I saw the flick, I went to Best Buy and bought the four preceding films; I figured that if I were going to write anything about the movie, I might as well do my research since my knowledge had some gaping holes since my 16-year-old dreamy girl's crush on Devon Sawa in Final Destination (one), ca. 2000.

In this latest iteration on the same take of the first film's premise, a bunch of young 20-somethings are headed off on a corporate retreat; once they reach the suspension bridge that holds their wilderness-bonding in its grips, our protag, Sam Lawton (Nicholas D'Agosto) has a vision, err, a premonition, a feeling, a sense, a notion that something's off? Well, he sees the traveling bus toppling into the ether, his friends not spared by gut-splintering boat masts or neck-breaking falls -- all delightfully depicted on-screen. Perhaps it's his imagination. We don't know! We haven't seen any Final Destinations before this one!

I will say that this was the most enjoyable FD since the first one; I actually almost wish I'd seen it in 3D - the opening credits, which consist of a series of shattered glass pieces, cigarette butts, pieces of trash, etc. lobbed at you, probably would have been neat - and, there was one set of projectile lower intestines that clearly would have looked cooler in 3D than on my thankless 2D eyes.

The prize of the show was third-billed Miles Fisher, who plays the business-jerk kid amongst his friends, Peter. He's the guy who slaps you on the back and says "Good job!" all the while telling your boss that you're a lout. It's not giving anything away to say that he sticks around for a good 95% of the movie (such is the formula for FD), but, his charm and ability to channel a multitude of personae is very apparent here. I'd dare say, he's one to watch.

Most people on the gods' green earth have seen him here already as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho; or, here as Tom Cruise, the Crazy

And there's a newer installment of Mr. Fisher's inimitable charades: Saved by the Bell, Final Destination-style. Here's "New Romance," a studio-funded track that let MF and cohorts kill each other in a very Final Destination-way, while acting out our favorite themes of SbtB. Very catchy.

More on the yes-I-have-feelings, sigh. "One Day" later.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Double Feature: Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Conan the Barbarian

After about a week and a half of a most awful illness, my Friend took me to the Union Square cinema to celebrate my return to the world of the living. On the agenda were two films I'd had no real intention of seeing, certainly not at the cineplex for fourteen bucks a pop: Rise of the Planet of the Apes and, much (much!) more unfortunately, Conan the Barbarian.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes features actor/oddball James Franco as the idealistic geneticist dead-set on beginning human trials for his Alzheimer's-curing drug, after it's proven to stimulate previously deteriorated parts of the brain in chimpanzees--or enhance healthy apes' brain power without any side effects whatsoever. Of course, as with any movie miracle drug, we learn early on that there may be a few latent side effects after the star experimental chimp bursts into a board meeting, in which Franco is wooing greedy investors to green light the next stage of the drug's development.

After exterminating all remaining apes and closing down the trials, we find that a tiny baby chimp is still alive; Franco takes the little guy home, where he lives with his Alzheimer's-afflicted father (John Lithgow), names him Caesar, and begins to raise him as his intellectually accelerated son. Cute scenes ensue as Father Franco bonds with the baby and for a while, the three are a pretty happy, functional family unit. It's all relative.

The film wastes no time watching Caesar go through his nascent years, and we fly through the first three years, then five years, until the tyke is a ripe 8 years old--though, it's clear that ape-years are something equivalent to dog-years because Caesar is now at least an adolescent if not something of a testosterone-filled, volatile young man of his early 20s. He's beginning to ask questions (he can sign words with Franco, of course), he doesn't want to be treated as a pet, and he evinces some feelings of jealousy when Franco strikes up a relationship with the beautiful veterinarian, played by Freida Pinto of Slumdog Millionaire.

After a particularly egregious show of protectiveness, Caesar lands himself in the ape pound (a thinly veiled ape prison), where he faces bullying by the other apes (who don't like that he wears human clothes--how un-apelike!) and faces some torture at the hands of the ape-prison's sadistic floorwalker, played by Tom Felton (aka Draco Malfoy). And, then the movie follows its few storylines, incorporating the sentimental, the sad, the humorous, the somewhat scary, and, of course, the utter ridiculous.

I must say that my friend and I both giggled the moment we saw a stern-looking Mr. Franco in his white lab coat in the first minutes of the movie. While I think he is a fine--and at times, great--actor, I was unsure if I'd be able to take him seriously as a genius geneticist, albeit in a summer blockbuster about an ape revolution. But, after a while, I got used to Franco, that slight condescending smirk he typically wears replaced with a lot of furrowed brows and angst-ridden faces.

Though she doesn't say too much or steal too many love-romance scenes in the movie, I have always thought Freida Pinto is so gorgeous that it's almost distracting; she doesn't disappoint here.

And, the CGI was extremely impressive. I was very skeptical going into the film, imagining a bunch of apes whizzing around the trees a la Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (admittedly Apes would be spared the ever-annoying presence of Shia LaBeouf); but, the scenes of apes scaling massive redwoods and flipping about were quite stunning. There is a scene of a score of the beasts swinging about the Golden Gate Bridge that is particularly pleasing to watch.

Though the film is ultimately choppy and sometimes a bit emotionally hollow, I had a great time and the movie made me want to sneak into the Bronx Zoo and free all the monkeys, or at least listen in on their conversations.

Conan the Barbarian
was one of the worst movies I have seen in a long time. Period.

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