Thursday, October 28, 2010

Review: Hereafter

Clint Eastwood has become one of the best directors working in Hollywood today. He consistently cranks out quality movie after quality movie (Invictus, Gran Torino, Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River to name a few). Re-teaming with his Invictus star Matt Damon, Clint gives us the new movie Hereafter which to me seemed like a sure thing given the pedigree of the stars involved. The movie deals with supernatural themes and focuses on the one question I always dwell on in my own life: "What happens to us when we die."

Unfortunately that question is never really explored in detail and instead I found out the answer to "can Clint Eastwood actually make a boring and bland movie?" The answer is a resounding YES. Hereafter is a muddled muck of a film that spends far too much time focusing on actors and storylines that we don't care about as an audience. Cecile De France (yes, she's French) plays a TV reporter who nearly dies in a tsunami and questions her own mortality. Two british twin actors play a set of twins (one of which dies suddenly and the other deals with the tragic loss). Two unknown actors play social workers in a Law and Order style look at dealing with a child who has lost his brother and has an alcoholic mom. All these relatively mediocre plot threads clog up too much screen time. The most interesting aspect to the movie, Matt Damon once again delivering a strong performance as a retired psychic who can make connections to the departed, is pushed to the side at times. In fact, the BEST performance in the whole movie is given by Bryce Dallas Howard who plays Damon's flirtatious cooking school partner. Too bad she is on screen for only 5 to 10 minutes and then vanishes without any sort of explanation.

After the meandering and plotting pace of the 2-hour-plus (and it feels like more) runtime I had hoped we would get a solid ending that really explored the theory of life after death. Instead we get an overly cheesy reunion between two characters who had zero connection throughout the movie. I felt like Eastwood and his writing team were making the movie up as they went along.

Please wait for video (or more likely cable) with Hereafter. This is a major speed bump in the stellar directing career of a cinematic legend. Howard and Damon totally carry the movie and make it somewhat worth watching. All in all a very dissapointing 1.5 our of 5 JRs for one of the worst movies I've seen in 2010 in the theater. On the horizon are three movies I am very much looking forward to seeing: Harry Potter 7-1, Tron Legacy and (the ID4 clone) Skyline. I have hopes that Skyline might be this year's District 9 so I'm sure I will be let down.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Review: Jackass 3D

Really if you've seen one Jackass you've seen them all. Going in you know you're going to see a lot of balls getting hit, a lot of bodily fluids spewing out and a lot of stupid stunts that you'd have to be on drugs to attempt. I've seen the previous editions of the franchise on the big screen and all have definitely entertained me. Jackass 3D falls right in line and extends the stunts to a new dimension with some clever 3D camera work.

The usual suspects are back including a toned-down Steve-O, ringleader Johnny Knoxville and Bam Margera. Preston Lacy exposes way too much of his supremely overweight self throughout the movie. His stunts with super glue and hiding apples in bad places make me wish he got paid a greater share over the other "actors" on screen. Several of the stunts take advantage of the 3D cameras (the same ones used by James Cameron in Avatar - believe it or not) and random projectiles can be seen hurtling out of the screen at your face. The 3D is really well done and is not merely a gimmick here.

Some of the stunts do become tired. there's only so many times the audience can laugh hysterically when one of the Jackasses gets racked in the nuts. The final stunt which features a fully loaded port-o-let on a bungee cord is one of the nastiest ever filmed (possibly Steve-O's crowning achievement that will put him in the Jackass hall of fame). I would have enjoyed this more if more of the "actors" had kept their clothes on during the stunts. Some things are not meant to be shown in 3D.

Overall this is exactly what you expected from a 3D Jackass movie. The price tag at the theater for this one was a whopping $15.25 a ticket. I can't believe theaters can get away with charging that much for a 3D movie but I went ahead and paid for it anyways (sucker). I would recommend seeing this in the theater though. This will not play as well at home in 2D. A better-than-average 3.5 out of 5 JRs for Jackass 3D. For some reason I don't think we've seen the end of this franchise. After all, these "actors" don't really have any applicable job skills outside of performing wacky stunts.

*** Bonus props for Beavis and Butthead appearing at the beginning of the movie in a brief introduction skit. I can't wait for their return to MTV!