Tuesday, December 20, 2011

RANDOM WEEKLY MOVIE REVIEW: EDITION 17: "THE HANGOVER PART II", "GNOMEO & JULIET", "BAD TEACHER", "COWBOYS & ALIENS," "ILLEGAL", "IF A TREE FALLS: A STORY OF EARTH LIBERATION FRONT," "THE SLEEPING BEAUTY," "THE TEMPEST," "44 INCH CHEST", and MORE!

Happy Holidays to everyone! On top of Awards Season, it's also Holiday Season. Hanukkah, is happening now, and Christmas, Kwanzaa, and about seven other holidays are happening around the world soon. While I caught up on nine films released in the last two years, and that's a lot for me, it's also clear that most of the best films are probably in theatres right about now, if you can find them. That said there's some good DVDs out there, so take a look for them, especially "Midnight in Paris," a film whose praise I've been touting for awhile now, it's finally out on DVD, definitely check that out. Also, I'll be posting a new poll on the site in a few days. Where you'll get to vote which Holiday film I'll post as my latest "Canon of Film," entry. The choices are: "It's a Wonderful Life," "Miracle on 34th Street," (the original version, not the remake), "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," and "A Christmas Story." Be sure to vote, the poll with appear on the right side of the blog, just scroll down to find it. That's it for the announcements, please follow this blog, and follow me on twitter!

 Now, onto the reviews!

THE HANGOVER PART II (2011) Director: Todd Phillipps

1 1/2 STARS

It's weird that "The Hangover Part II", not only doesn't work, but that it fails so badly. It has an occasional funny moment here and there, but even then, it's just a pale retread of the first. I liked the first "The Hangover," although I wasn't the biggest fan of it. My fault with the original was kind of an intriguing problem, that couldn't be avoided, especially after the enormous popularity became apparent. The concept is basically designed to create a situation where literally, anything could happen in the movie, and while that's a good place to be in when you're a writer, as a viewer, while the original was funny, no matter what they did, it would have never lived up to my expectations. Now, what's odd is that, while that was a detriment to the first film, it should've been an advantage for this one. We already saw how one hangover went down, now here's an entirely new slate where they can come up with hundreds of other bizarre and outrageous things that could've happen to this Wolfpack, as they call themselves now, (Not exactly "The Rat Pack," but it'll do) and instead we get, what sometimes literally feels like they took the original script and clicked the replace option a lot. Substiture Vegas for Bangkok, was probably the first thing they did? Why? I don't know, I think they might have thrown a dart on a map. This time around, Stu (Ed Helms) is getting married and her family wants the marriage on this island off the coast of Thailand. Director Todd Phillips uses many overhead shots of Thailand in the beginning, as the Wolfpack is eventually forced back together for the engagement. They promise to have only one drink before Stu's wedding, but they wake up in a hotel in Thailand, Stu has a face tattoo that's noticeably similar to Mike Tyson's, instead of a lion, they've stolen a monkey, one guy is missing, and that guy is apparently missing a finger, and so on and so forth. Even the naked Asian guy in back (Ken Jeong). Apparently he was invited by Alan (Zach Galifanakis, by far the funniest character) as his +1 to the wedding. There's one funny scene inside a monastery where they're returning a monk, and Alan has a recall of the night while meditating. It's explain a lot about Alan, moreso then Phil (Bradley Cooper), who while somebody just named him the "Sexiest Man Alive," I tend to forget his purpose in these and other movies as well. The big problem, the insulting problem is that this could've been an opportunity to really make a funny remake. This is one of the few comedies that really could've been an interesting sequel and could've been as outrageous and ridiculous as imagined. It's comedy writers dreams to have this kind of carte blanche, and instead, they gave me the same movie as before, but not nearly as good.

GNOMEO & JULIET (2011) Director: Kelly Asbury

2 1/2 STARS

It took six different people to come up with the story for "Gnomeo & Juliet," and seven people to write the screenplay, which was based on an original screenplay two guys wrote, which they based on 300-year-old idea from just one guy. Sure, that one guy was William Shakespeare, but still.... The movie smartly begins by informing us that the movie is a story that we've heard a many times before. This version takes place on Verona Street, where the Montagues and Capulets are garden gnomes on different sides of one of those house that connect two house, with each owner caring deeply about their lawn. The garden gnomes are separated by color, red and blue, and apparently the rules of garden gnomes is the same as the rules for the toys in "Toy Story," and they have their own private world where the run, and talk and play and fight each other when people aren't around. Gnomeo (James McAvoy) and Juliet (Emily Blunt), see each other while in disguise as they both try to get a prized orchid for the other's family. They fall in love almost instantly, but they're unable to see each other because... Oh Dear God, why am I retelling this story? I bet a good portion of you can make a decent prediction on how they changed the ending. What's different? Well, when Mercutio and Tybalt get killed, it's from dueling lawnmowers, and that's an okay, albeit strange scene. There's even a statue of Shakespeare (Patrick Stewart, good choice) that explains how he delighted in the story, and it's original ending. You can't exactly avoid it, most people know it by heart, it's not like  "The Scarlet Letter," which no one my age I know has read except for my American Lit Major friends. The use of Elton John songs with altered lyrics is an odd touch as well. The song "Hello, Hello," which he sings with Lady Gaga, probably deserves to give him and Bernie Taupin an Oscar nomination, if the Academy can get their head out of their ass for that category and actually pick decent decent songs to nominate instead of finding one movie with music, and picking all the songs from that movie. ("Enchanted," "Slumdog Millionaire," "Dreamgirls"- you used to be creative in the category Acadamy!) I'm on the fence, but ultimately, there's no real need to see this movie, unless you want your crying three-year old to shut up for half an hour or so, and even then, how many three-year old know who Romeo and Juliet are? (Although, I do hope it's more than the amount of three-year olds that know who Snooki is).

BAD TEACHER (2011) Director: Jake Kasdan

3 STARS

(Note: This review is of the unrated version on the Blu-Ray DVD, although, the scenes with added or altered footage were noted)

Cameron Diaz does about as a good a job as anybody could've in "Bad Teacher." I've always thought Diaz was underrated as an actress. She's incredibly beautiful, and is more willing to take chances than most with roles that are outrageous, and often in outlandish comedies that few other actresses would even approach. The few times she's gone outside of the big budget action or over-the-top comedy, she's been incredible. I thought she should've gotten Oscar nominations for "Being John Malkovich," and especially for "Vanilla Sky," a movie which really doesn't work unless she's perfect in it. There is nothing likable about Elizabeth Halsey (Diaz). She is a terrible teacher who's goal is to find a rich husband so she can afford to shop all day. When her latest sugardaddy dumps her, she has to go back to teaching at JAMS (John Adama Middle School), apparently English Literature, and does nothing but show up hungover and high, and show "Stand and Deliver," "Dangerous Minds," and any other movie she can think of. In the short term, she need money to pay for a boob job, and when she's suddenly aware of the amount of money the Springfield Field Trip earns for their yearly car wash...-, well, remember the Whitesnake video from the '80s?  She soaks up in a tied t-shirt and daisy dukes, and pockets the money to put in her "New Tits" jar, one of her many money-making scams. (It says "Tits" in the unrated version, which is only "Boobs" in the theatrical version, which is ironically what I'd call the person who made that idiotic a determinaton) Elizabeth has her eyes on one of the teachers, a substitute named Scott (Justin Timberlake), who's straight-laced with nerdy glasses and suits, although clearly looks like Justin Timberlake, and he's an heir to an expensive watch company. There's a goody two-shoes teacher, Ms. Squirrel (Lucy Punch), who for other reasons is about as unrealistic a teacher I've ever seen, but she's funny too. Not that this movie was ever gonna be great, but at least it's trying. Enough of the jokes were funny, and frankly Diaz, does everything she can with this part. You can even tell, she's searching for something believable about her character, but their isn't. They try to make her likable with a happy ending where she ends up with the nice guy (Jason Segal) and has learned something about life, but that's totally the wrong ending for this character, and it's disappointing. The title is clearly intended to draw comparison to Terry Zwigoff's great "Bad Santa," one of the funniest films of the last decade. It's got many of the same dark comedy superficial elements, but it's not as funny as that film, but hardly any is. "Bad Teacher," wasn't originally screened for critics, probably correctly so, but since so many other movies are just terrible and don't do anything interesting, I'm glad they at least they attempted something. It's funny, not hilarious, and probably a failure, but an interesting failure is always better than a forgettable success.

COWBOYS & ALIENS (2011) Director: Jon Favreau

1 1/2 STARS

"Cowboys and Aliens," is a piece of pointless Hollywood junk. It's overblown, special-effects riddened, and completely unrealistic outside of a video game. All of that would've been fine, had the movie not been boring though, and this movie was bor-ring! That it was made by Jon Favreau of the "Iron Man," films fame, as well some other entertaining special effects extravangas like the underrated "Zathura," makes this film all the more disappointing. The movie begins with a lone stranger in the middle of the desert, with some kind of metallic bracelet strapped to him. Except for that bracelet, and the brief period of Jason Bourne's I-Don't-Know-Who-I-Am-but-I-Know-How-to-Kick-All-Your-Asses Syndrome, the movie is your most basic of westerns. We find his name, Jake Lonegan (Daniel Craig) on a Wanted Poster. In town, a reckless kid (Paul Dano) starts waving his gun around, robbing the local barkeep and others until Jake confronts, and he accidentally shoots a deputy. He's arrested, but his father is a local outlaw Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford, bored to death), who's hellbent on getting those that got his son. Then, aliens come from the sky and kidnap and destroy half the town. They rope the citizens like cattle oddly enough. Suddenly, everybody comes together and wastes about half an hour more than necessary to find the aliens spaceship and plan their prisonbreak and counterattack. They even run into other rival outlaws and some Apache Indians, who have also lost their people to the aliens. Of course, this is a stupid and absurd premise, but why did it have to be boring? It's two-hours long, and that was the theatrical version; I don't even want to know the extended cut. This is the problem with those "Alien vs. Predator," and "Freddy vs. Jason" type films, you're basically advertising an overbudget episode of "Celebrity Deathmatch", which frankly would've been better than this movie, but even when you're doing an honest heartfelt homage to the classic western, and it's even done well, it's still something doesn't belong in this movie, at least, not for as long as it takes in this movie. There's one interesting development that occurs when the Olivia Wilde character turns out to be more than at first she seems, and even then, the development only makes some sense, and when she walks out of a fire after dying..., well, I guess for some reason they wanted a PG-13 rating. Too many cowboys, too few aliens, way too much waiting around for them to go at it.

ILLEGAL (2011) Director: Olivier Masset-Depasse

4 1/2 STARS



There are few characters that I cared about more this year than the protagonist in "Illegal," a film from Belgium about the process and the struggle those who are placed in Detention centers for not having a legal visa go through. Tania (Anne Coesens) is Russian, but is living in Belgium. She's terrified of being found, and especially afraid for her 13-year old son (Alexandre Gontcharov), who's also with her. She gets some fake passports and cards from a street-level mafia member. Her friend, who's an illegal herself from Belarus (Natalia Belokonskaya) wonders about her even. "Belarus is a dictatorship, you'll get asylum" she says, "They'll send me back to Russia." Soon, after Tania and her son are caught speaking Russian, she's sent to the detention camp. They don't know her real name, and she's burned off her fingerprints. She thinks in five months, she'll be released, but things change, and the detention center is its own kind of hell. She trades off constantly for chore duty in order to get precious phone cards to call her kid, which she won't even admit to having. Soon, her son starts working for the mobster. She's livid and can't do anything about it. Finally, after giving her name, they find out she asked for asylum once before in Poland, and they try to send her there to stand for her crimes first, but she refuses to get on the plain. Her bunkmates and their kids, soon start accepting deportation back. After a while, one of the guards asks her what's so bad about returning to Russia? I was thinking the same thing. We don't get an answer, but Tania is determined to stay in Belgium, it seems even if that means putting her body and soul out there to be destroyed. This is a film about a smart and desperate person trying to outthink an unjust and corrupt system. All would've been moot, if they were just allowed into the country. I don't know what's in Russia that makes her want to stay out of it so much, but somebody who fights like her, I'd rather have in my country. Very good film.

IF A TREE FALLS: A STORY OF EARTH LIBERATION FRONT (2011) Directors: Marshall Curry and Sam Cullen

4 STARS

On the much-maligned short list of this year's potential Oscar Nominees in the Documentary category is the film "If a Tree Falls: A Story of Earth Liberation Front". The Earth Liberation Front, or E.L.F., were considered by the FBI to be the biggest domestic terrorism threat in the United States. They were the ones in black masks that started looting the stores during what's now become known as the Battle of Seattle, in 2000. They've destroyed everything from SUVs to places that were polluting, everything from horse butcherers who's horseblood was contaminating the water supply, to places which were cloning trees secretly (Or so they thought on that one.) We get unprecedented access to the leader Daniel McGowan, who's currently on house arrest as he prepares his federal case. The E.L.F. were finally arrested after one of them turned as agreed to wear a wire to catch others. Before then, nobody knew who they were, including the FBI. McGowan seems the most unlikely of the terrorists. Short and stocky, he worked at a few charities when he was caught. The amazing thing about E.L.F. is that despite over forty bomb attacks and fires, not a single person was killed because of one of their attacks. At times, you could argue that they had more success than any other terrorist group I can think of. Their targets were specific and limited, intended to cause the companies to not only lose money, but to spend extra money rebuilding the places that were destroyed, to the point where it wouldn't be profitable to do so. The movie interviews many members, and many of the FBI agents who finally tracked them down, and orchestrated their arrest, getting the 16 high-ranking members at the same time, despite them being spread out all across the country. Even they look at them sympathetically though. There's some question as to whether or not the E.L.F. were terrorists, and henceforth the punishment by law. "It was property destruction." goes McGowin. "You don't pull off that many attacks and not kill anybody without knowing what you're doing. This was purposeful." I think they were terrorists. That doesn't mean I don't see their point, and there's little that they did that I personally would've disagreed with. Hey, the American Revolution had hired pirates, we just called them privateers. If these are the so-called radical left to the Tea Parties radical right, I think our radicals are better, calmer and smarter. Was it worth it? Probably not. When the group started discussing whether they should start going after those captains of industry that the Occupy Wall Streeters are fighting now, McGowin disbanded the E.L.F. He eventually took a pleas deal and is serving in a maximum security prison for up to seven years, probably out in less than four.

THE SLEEPING BEAUTY (2011) Director: Catherine Breillat

3 1/2 STARS-Conditionally

"The Sleeping Beauty," is the 2nd film is controversial French filmmaker Catherine Breillat's trilogy of fairy tales, however this is the first of these films of hers I've seen, so I'm intending on reviewing this film again in the future after watching them in order, beginning with the first film "Bluebeard." First question: Who's the strange one that gave a go ahead for Catherine Breillat of all people to reinvent fairy tales? I've a huge fan of Breillat's work, so I'm happy that this version of Hans Christian Anderson's "Sleeping Beauty," will have a teenage lesbian sex scene, for no particular reason. Well, there's a reason, but..., well is there a reason? Breillat is one of the greats at examining sexuality, which makes why she'd be interested in some of these fairy tales, most of which, at least when there's a female protagonist, in their original forms especially, are long metaphors for losing their virginity. Of the films of hers I've seen. her great "Romance," which involves a female teacher and her thoughts on sex, as she trembles the line between marriage and the single life she likes, all while giving her own commentary on the place of sex in female society, there's so many bizarre dream sequences in that film, that sometimes its hard for me to even remember the story of that one, but it's exhilarating to watch. I've also seen "Sex is Comedy," where Breillat basically reveals her directing style, as the movie chronicles a difficult film shoot, where the actors have to shoot a sex scene, that one I didn't like much at all, and "Anatomy of Hell," which involves two people, who meet four times according to a deal they make, where the anatomical aspects of both the male and female body are very graphically examined, at one point, there's, I believe a shovel is used in a way that a shovel, was probably not how it was designed to be used. (I think it was a shovel, it might have been a rake. It was something long and wooden) Nobody liked that film, except for me strangely enough, basically 'cause whatever its faults, she did in fact examine the anatomy in a hellish way. In "The Sleeping Beauty," three witches are constantly trying to bring back to life Anastasia (Carla Besnainou, as a kid, Julia Artamanov as forever a 16-yead old), who's been murdered by one of her relatives. The way they do this, is through, I guess what I would equate to a lucid dream, if anybody remember either Alejandro Amenabar's film "Open Your Eyes," or Cameron Crowe's remake "Vanilla Sky," the witches infiltrate her mind, and while she's waiting for this prince to awaken her, she's exploring her sexual identity in this dreams. Many kinds of sexuality awaredness. The kid who finally awakens her, at least metaphorically, Peter (Kerien Mayan) seems like a young, confused adolescent himself, mostly. There's a scene where sex is attempted, (or imagined at being attempted, whatever your interpretation), but with Anastasia still in a century's old girdle, it takes so long to get her out of it, they decide to try again later. As with all Breillat films, this one is strange. Giving her the ability to reinvent fairy tales, well, Walt Disney might be turning in his grave, but while I enjoyed the film, as much as I can make out of it, when she finishes the trilogy, and when I see them in order, I believe I'll have a clearer picture of what she's doing with this film then. In the meantime, I'm recommending it, hoping that it will make more sense once the trilogy is revealed.

THE TEMPEST (2010) Director: Julie Taymor

2 1/2 STARS

I have come to certain conclusions about Director Julie Taymor. She's directed four feature film, this being the third of hers I've seen, the others being the amazing "Frida," which made my Ten Best List the year it came out, and I greatly admired "Across the Universe," which creatively used The Beatles to create a narrative, but she's even more famous for her work in the theatre, most famously, the Broadway production of "The Lion King." Recently, I saw her interviewed on "60 Minutes," as she was preparing the highly-antipated and eventually much maligned Broadway Musical "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark". From that interview, I realized something about her that I never noticed before. Julie Taymor is fucking crazy! I don't intend this to be taken as a negative comment, it isn't. Anybody who can even think of some of the inventiveness she's done in both film and stage, as well as her insistance upon it, well, she'd have to be crazy. Who would undertake such a challenge as turning a movie about animals and turn it into a Broadway show, surely there's dozens of films in the Disney Canon better suited for a Broadway, but she didn't care, she got what she wanted, and she created one of the biggest stage spectacles of all-time. She had the same opportunity with "Spider-Man...." After seeing everything she was going to try with that show, I wanted to see it, and I don't even like "Spider-Man". Of course, actors were damn near losing their lives over the show, which ended up being months delayed, and eventually she was fired, and correctly so, especially since,... well, she's fucking crazy. In fact, you can make a strong argument that her version of "The Tempest," which earned an Oscar nomination last year for Sandy Powell costume design, might just the tamest thing she's ever done, and when you have to go to Shakespeare to do something relatively conventional, that's saying something.  She has some flourishes of interesting choices, most notable, changing Prospero's sex to female, and renaming her Prospera, (Helen Mirren) which alters the dynamic of the relationship with Miranda (Felicity Jones) to mother-daughter, and that actually makes a little more sense interestingly enough. Again, as with "Gnomeo & Juliet," I'm going to presume that most of us kinda know "The Tempest." I think it is one of those tricky ones of Shakespeare; kinda like "A Midsummer Night's Dream", in which the characters are unwillingly and unknowing placed in situations and ways of behaving that's outside their own control. There's interesting creative choice like Ariel (Ben Whishaw) as an andogenous nymph, and casting the great African actor Djimon Hounsou as Caliban. Russell Brand as Trinculo is clearly the most intriguing casting choice, and he gets some laughs, but is he a Shakespeare quality actor, even when paired with Hounsou and Alfred Molina for most of the movie? I think it's more likely that Shakespeare wrote a character thinking that someday there'd be someone like Russell Brand around to play it. There's some wonderous special effects, sometimes they're even spectacular, but it's also overwhelming much of the time. Even with all the spirits and alchemy, I tend to think works better with "The Tempest," instead of lavishness. There's not a bad performance in the film, and there's some great actors in this. I haven't even mentioned, Alam Cumming, David Strathairn, and Chris Cooper, to name a few. I'm happy to say that I've seen it, and that I'm fairly certain that Taymor is happy with it, but I can't quite recommend it. I admire it, but sometimes having too much, is really just too much.

44 INCH CHEST (2010) Director: Malcolm Venville

4 1/2 STARS

"44 Inch Chest," has the feel of one of those British Gangster films. You know the kind, a bunch of old British actors talking in some kind of swear-heavy, sub-Mamet dialogue, most of them preparing some kind of heist, or discussing more trivial day-to-day moments. Some of the oldest of them might have particularly single-minded views, all of them think the younger generation is hopeless? Writers Louis Mellis and David Scinto wrote one of those movies before, "Sexy Beast," which earned Ben Kingsley an Oscar nomination a few years back. Curiously, that's one I didn't care for, but that movie was a heist movie that was predictable and interrupted for almost an hour until they finally killed the Kingsley character. "44 Inch Chest," uses the characters talking, flashbacks and analysis of what's happened, but then slowly lets us in that there's more going on than what meets the eye. Colin (Ray Winstone), is heartbroken after his wife has an affair. He was caught offguard by it, and he doesn't understand why she would leave him. The other guys try cheering him up and discussing they're thoughts, and sometimes meander into telling stories of themselves. There's some great performances here, my favorite being Ian McShane as a homosexual gangster who's the most clear-eyed of the bunch. For a while, the movie feels almost like a play, all the actors sitting in the room, trying to get a reaction out of old Colin. Are they planning something? Maybe this almost could've been a play, but then it becomes clear that it couldn't, and that something else is happening in this room, and then in Colin's mind, as he struggles to determine what exactly his next move should be. There's great performances by everybody in the film, Tom Wilkinson, John Hurt's great, Stephen Dillane as well. "44 Inch Chest," keep me interested, and then continually surprises me, with not only sudden plot twists, but with the layers of depth it brings to its and characters.

MOMMIE DEAREST (1981) Director: Frank Perry

2 1/2 STARS

I kind of figured that "Mommie Dearest," wasn't going to be good, so I was mainly hoping that it was at least entertaining. It was for much of the film. Have you ever noticed that Faye Dunaway seems to only be able to play excessively over-the-top or withdrawn realism? Playing Joan Crawford, she almost had to be over-the-top. The claims made by her daughter Christina, I believe are probably true, but they're still nearly impossible to play believably. That's because either Christina Crawford's claims are so outrageous that they're impossible to be believe, or, they're destructively accurate, and it's practically impossible to play with some of them with that kind of believable dramatic emotion. So, it's become a cult classic after numerous Razzie Awards nominations, and a memorable story that's gonna be repeatedly on numerous "E! True Hollywood Stories" and their clones for years to come, and that's good. I don't quite know if the entire movie deserves such camp stature. I think only part of the movie does. "No Wire Hangers Ever," definitely camp! (Although I actually hate wire hangers too, so I kinda get that.) Moreso those scenes when Christina is a child (Mara Hobel) then so much of those scenes where she's an adult and out on her own (Diana Scarwid). I think it's unfortunate that so much of it is unintentionally funny, 'cause to her, it wasn't. It was destructively realistic. I think the differences between "Mommie Dearest," and "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire," aren't that far apart actually. It's all a matter of tone, and how to showcase the characters. Precious was the key character in her own film, so it showed her point of view. Unfortunately, in "Mommie Dearest," the interesting character is the Monsterous Joan Crawford, so we see follow her around more than the daughter she adopts. However, that'd be a different movie altogether to show Christina's perspective, and one that I probably wouldn't want to see more than once. I can see "Mommie Dearest a few times, even if I can't quite recommend it, if you want to watch something bad, this is the kind of bad that you should watch.

EAGLE vs. SHARK (2007) Director: Taika Waititi

1 1/2 STARS

"Eagle vs. Shark," is a good example of what happens when everything in an independent film goes wrong at the same time. From New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi, it's the story of two, well, weirdos. Or at least they're supposed to be loveable weirdos, but they aren't that interesting. Lily (Loren Horsley) works at a run-of-the-mill burger joint that Jarrod (Jermaine Clement, from "Flight of the Conchords") visits occasionally. She likes him, and they go to a party he's holding. A costume party, she dresses as a shark, he dresses as an eagle, they have a shy makeout in their costumes. I guess it was supposed to be funny. Maybe it wasn't, but there's many versions of this story, I couldn't keep my focus. Jarrod seemed oddly abrasive to be likeable. He's obsessed with challenging, and then beating up his old bully from high school, training for weeks on end in fact. Lily and Jarrod play video games, she's surprisingly good at some kind of fighting game. (After Mortal Kombat, they've all kinda seem to same to me, so whatever the game was, she was good.) I guess this movie was an attempt at some kind of, kitchsy indy humor where you can't tell whether we're making fun of the characters or we actually are trying to sympathy for the characters, but I couldn't feel anything for the characters, and nothing in particular made me laugh. Nothing particular was even romantic. Was their a reason for them to meet at a costume party and dress as an eagle and a shark, other than to give the movie a title?

THE AIR I BREATHE (2008) Director: Jieho Lee

1/2 STAR

I don't even get the tile of this movie. That's not really a requirement for me to like a film, but on top of everything else that sucks about "The Air I Breathe," it's friggin' annoying. "The Air I Breathe," correlates multiple narratives based around a couple different simultaneous events, for no particular reason, probably other than the fact that nothing is good enough to hold up as an entire short story on its own. Even if you ignored the supposed connection incident between these tales, despite a wonderful cast, there's hardly anything interesting or even believable about any of these stories. It takes place in an underworld, where a head gangster named Fingers (Andy Garcia), named such for the most unimaginative reason you could've come up with for naming a gangster 'Fingers', but he seems to have a hand in everything going on. The first story involves Happiness (Forrest Whitaker). Yes, that's his character's name. Some of the character are named after a Chinese Proverb where life is broken into four emotional cornerstones. I think the filmmaker did this in order to have a cheap-way out of creating fully-fledged characters, so he just pinned emotions of them. Whitaker is an investment banker who gets a tip on a horse in a fixed race, and decides to bet big. He then loses, and now owes Fingers, and the only way he can get the money back is to rob a bank. Well, either that, or he could've committed insider trading, because one of his clients, an investor named Pleasure (Brendan Fraser) seems to have an uncanny ability to pick stocks. He also has a strange ability to see the future right in front of him, and can at times alter it. Not always with the positive and intended result, but enough that Fingers trust him to be his bodyguard and watch Sorrow (Sarah Michelle Gellar), a pop artist who's contract ended up in the hands of Fingers after a deal with her agent left her to him. Pleasure and Sorrow, eventually start a relationship, and Pleasure begins hiding Sorrow from Fingers, in an attempt to help her escape Fingers. After that doesn't work, they up in a hospital. Love (Kevin Bacon), is a doctor in the hospital, who has the most absurd of stories. His girlfriend is sick and dying, and needs a blood transfusion, but she has an extremely rare blood type. (A blood type so rare, that when I did an online search for it, the only reference to it was from this movie.) Obviously this screenwriter never took a forensics science class, 'cause there's very few rare blood types such as the kind described in the film, and that's not exactly how blood types work either. Anyway, only Sorrow has that blood type, which he learns of by watching an interview where she reveals this rere blood type to an annoying TV host. These stories don't even make well-done short stories on their own, much less when shoved together. Forrest Whitaker's story, if I had to compare, is the one with the most human element of interest, and since it began the movie, it sucked me in, but by the end of the movie, even what redeeming value that one had was lost by the end. If this is the air the filmmakers breathes, then I'm surprised that haven't died of asphyxiation from film noir poisoning. I've seen more than a few bad films this week, but nothing compared to the pointless dreck that "The Air I Breathe," is. My only consulation, is that this surprisingly strong troupe of actors will and have found themselves in better projects than this one.
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