Grade: C

Director: DJ Caruso (Disturbia)

Writer: Alfred Gough, Miles Millar and Marti Noxon (based on the novel by Pittacus Lore)

Starring: Alex Pettyfer as John Smith/Number 4, Dianna Agron as Sarah Hart, Timothy Olyphant as Henri and Callan McAuliffe as Sam Goode

We’ve seen it before, and it’s too bad. The young actors in this film, paired with film and television veterans Kevin Durand (LOST) and Timothy Olyphant (Justified), should lead to something spectacular. But DJ Caruso, who helmed the excellent(ish) thrillers Disturbia and Eagle Eye, falls short in an attempt to adapt the successful young teen novel.

John Smith is one of an endangered species of alien who was transported to Earth from his home planet of Lorien to escape the attacking Mogadorians. Eight Lorien children escaped and can only be killed in numerical order. When his leg lights up after the third is killed, John and his guardian Henri move from Florida to Ohio. In Ohio, high-schooler John meets and becomes friends with Sarah, a reclusive amateur photographer whom he falls in love with, and Sam, a conspiracy theorist who is bullied at school. But trouble brews when the Mogadorians discover that John is in Ohio, and an epic adventure ensues.

While this film is incredibly predictable, it serves well for what it was supposed to be: a pre-teen/teenage boy’s action flick in February, where film business is slow. It’s got everything you need: action, cute girls (Number 6 is a girl played by Teresa Palmer, who’s easy on the eyes, if you know what I mean) to fall in love with and aliens. And Michael Bay, one of the producers on the project along with Steven Spielberg. With the effort Bay is supposedly putting into Transformers: Dark of the Moon, he may be gaining a bit of leverage in my book.

I Am Number Four thrives on the teen-alien angst of its lead, Alex Pettyfer, who is becoming a growing name in the film industry. In fact, his other film Beastly came out a mere two weeks later. He will star later this year in Now with other young stars Amanda Seyfried, Justin Timberlake, Olivia Wilde, Cillian Murphy and Matt Bomer. Anyways, Pettyfer does a good job of portraying the material, which is weak enough that you can’t fault Pettyfer’s plastic acting because that’s who the character is. He’s two-dimensional in a two-dimensional character: kicking butt and being angry. Agron, whose turn as the popular-girl-in-school Quinn Fabray on Glee got me excited for this movie in the first place, plays a similar character in that she’s frustrated and screaming, because she’s just an outcast photographer. Olyphant and Durand make the best of their characters who are also weakly written, something we’ve seen before. Palmer’s an accented mess, while Jake Abel plays the school bully and Sarah’s ex-boyfriend to an A, A for average.

That script though. John falls in love with Sarah in a matter of three days or so. What? It’s saving grace that Sam is actually quite entertaining. The best line in the film comes when Sam kills a Mogadorian in the final battle. He says to Sarah, who witnesses that whole thing: “I play a lot of XBOX.”

In the end, that’s what I Am Number Four plays out to be: your average adaptation that would make your average decent action-adventure video game.

 

Grade: B

Director: George Nolfi (writer of The Bourne Ultimatum, directorial debut)

Writer: George Nolfi, based on the short story “Adjustment Team” by Philip K. Dick

Starring: Matt Damon as David Norris, Emily Blunt as Elise Sallas, Anthony Mackie as Harry Mitchell and John Slattery as Richardson


“All I know is, people will do anything to survive. I want to live and I don’t care how.” – Lincoln Six-Echo (Ewan McGregor) from The Island

A few weeks ago, I watched Michael Bay’s The Island. Rotten Tomatoes gives it 40%, which is not bad considering it’s Michael Bay. It’s my favorite Michael Bay film, but that’s not saying a whole lot.

But it was an interesting reminder of a movie I had watched earlier in the day. This film was The Adjustment Bureau, also a film about people trying to survive something that controls their every aspect of life. Fortunately for me, Michael Bay’s film once again paled in comparison to a similar movie.

David Norris (Damon) is a rising New York politician whose partying past prevents him from winning an election. While recovering from the loss in a bathroom, he meets Elise (Blunt), a ballet dancer who inspires him to give the best speech of his career. A few days later, Norris runs into Elise on a bus, falling in love with her like he did in the bathroom. He can’t stop thinking about her until he finds out that a group known as The Adjustment Bureau is trying to prevent them from being together because they have big plans for David. But Norris is determined to be with Elise at any cost.

Blunt and Damon shine as the best part of this film. The last romance film (which is what The Adjustment Bureau is) with a chemistry near this level that I’ve seen is (500) Days of Summer with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. Their scenes together are the best of the film; Damon’s charm works well with Blunt’s accented kidding, creating in the audience a sense of inevitable destiny that Norris himself feels.

Matt Damon and George Nolfi have worked together before, in a smaller context. Nolfi wrote the screenplays for Damon’s films Ocean’s Twelve and The Bourne Ultimatum. One can definitely see bits of each in this film. The banter between the leads Damon and Blunt is similar to that of Brad Pitt and Catherine Zeta-Jones in Twelve and the fast-paced action reminded me of Bourne.

Thomas Newman’s score is an eclectic one, while the supporting cast is probably the best I’ve seen this year so far. Anthony Mackie, Terence Stamp and John Slattery shine as members of the film’s titular Adjustment Bureau. Mackie, who won my Best Actor in a Supporting Role award in 2010 for his performance in The Hurt Locker, especially steps out as the person specifically assigned to Norris.

But really, The Adjustment Bureau is a look at fate and if there really is a “Chairman” watching us and controlling every move we make so things go “according to plan.” While the film never really tries to force an answer on us, it sure makes you think, and does so well enough. There aren’t any particularly fantastic elements about the film other than Blunt and Damon’s chemistry, but it’s better than your average early March thriller.

With the Oscars tonight, I figured it would be cool if I posted what I thought was the best of film in 2010. So, here it is:

Best Picture

The Social Network

Best Director

David Fincher for The Social Network

Best Actor in a Leading Role

James Franco as Aron Ralston in 127 Hours

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross in True Grit

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Christian Bale as Dicky Eklund in The Fighter

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Melissa Leo as Alice Eklund in The Fighter

Best Screenplay

Aaron Sorkin for The Social Network

Best Cinematography

Wally Pfister for Inception

Best Original Score

Hans Zimmer for Inception

Best Animated Feature

Toy Story 3 (Directed by Lee Unkrich)

Best Ensemble

The Social Network (Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Brenda Song, Armie Hammer, Josh Pence, Max Minghella, Rashida Jones, Rooney Mara)

Final Winners Count

The Social Network: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Ensemble

The Fighter: Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress

Inception: Best Cinematography, Best Original Score

True Grit: Best Actress

127 Hours: Best Actor

Toy Story 3: Best Animated Feature

Nominations can be found here.

Justin Bieber stars in this biopic/documentary/concert film in 3D.

Grade: B+

Director: Jon Chu (Step Up 3D)

Starring: Justin Bieber as Himself, Usher as Himself, Scooter Braun as Himself and Pattie Mallette as Herself

Oh/saw so many pretty faces before I saw you/Now all I see is you/I’m coming for you/Don’t need these other pretty faces like I need you/And when you’re mine in the world/There’s gonna be one less lonely girl.

Justin Bieber is an icon. An American icon. An all-American icon reminiscent of Elvis Presley with the way teenage girls fall at his feet when they see him or hear his music. There is no denying it. And whether you, the reader, like it or not, he will be for a long time.

The rise of the guy responsible for what is commonly known as “Bieber Fever” is chronicled in Jon Chu’s biopic-documentary-concert film Justin Bieber: Never Say Never.

The film follows Bieber’s My World 2.0 Tour in the two weeks leading up to his sold-out show at Madison Square Garden, flashing between that, the story of his emergence onto the world stage through YouTube and the show at MSG itself. We learn about Bieber’s mother, who was left by Justin’s father within a year of Justin’s birth, introducing her son to music through friends and later posting him singing on YouTube. We learn about Scooter Braun, Bieber’s manager who found him on YouTube and persisted until he had signed the kid, who was 12 years old at the time. We learn about Usher, who signed Justin to a major record deal at such a young age. But most importantly to Chu, we learn about the 16-year old himself: his life on tour, his life off tour, his family, his friends, his love for music.

The best part about Never Say Never is by far the musical performances taken from that sold-out show at MSG. Not only are the songs beautifully shot, the 3D actually makes you feel like you’re there! Unlike any 3D movie I’ve ever seen, Never Say Never actually puts you on-stage with the Biebs, in the crowd and backstage with Braun and Usher, who attended the concert and made an appearance when Bieber sang his hit “Somebody to Love.”  The music is very well-captured as well; again, it makes you feel like you’re actually there.

The overall presentation of the documentary is great as well. Chu crafts the film so that we see Tweets, YouTube videos, home videos and even a funny mid-film interruption by Bieber and Braun, yet Never Say Never flows smoothly.

What makes up the emotional part of the film is the numerous pre-teen and teenage girls that scream, cry and fawn at the Bieb’s sight or song. This was something that kept me from actually liking the kid when he first got big. But seeing how him looking at them or talking to them made them happy made me realize something. Braun put it best when he said that he and the Extreme Home Makeover guys have the best jobs in the world, making people happy.

So I make this review end with a call to all the haters out there. Yeah, he’s 16. Yeah, he has a somewhat high-pitched voice. Yeah, he may not dress like your normal teenager. But please step off your high horse and realize something. He makes people happy and doesn’t want to let anyone down. Leading up to the MSG concert, he had a throat problem and had to postpone tour dates. It clearly affected him, as he said, “I don’t want to let them down,” “them” being the fans. They showed him going up to a girl playing the violin on the same steps he used to play the guitar and give her money and encouragement. He is still a kid. He still hangs out with his friends from his hometown in Stratford, Ontario, Canada. He plays around with Braun and his security and his posse. He develops relationships with them and his vocal coach, a motherly figure who is firm with him, even though he is a celebrity.

You haters: stop. Please. You make judgements on the kid without knowing. See the movie with an open mind and talk to me again. Until then, I don’t wanna hear it.

Check out Justin Bieber: Never Say Never in theaters now. And make sure to see the 3D, it’s worth it.

Author’s Note: Originally, I gave this film an A-. I changed my grade to a B+ after long consideration. Considering that my top 10 films from last year included 4 or 5 A- films, it only makes sense that I would reconsider.

Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell's master-slave relationship is the conflict in Kevin Macdonald's swords-and-sandals film The Eagle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Eagle

Grade: D-

Director: Kevin Macdonald (State of Play)

Writer: Jeremy Brock (co-writer of The Last King of Scotland)

Starring: Channing Tatum as Marcus Aquila, Jamie Bell as Esca, Donal Sutherland as Uncle Aquila and Mark Strong as Guern

 

Last year, a film was released called Centurion. Directed by horror master Neil Marshall, the film chronicled the demise of the Ninth Legion of the Roman army in Caledonia in ancient Briton. While being a very poorly done film, Michael Fassbender was great and the action was exciting enough.

This year, The Eagle tells the story of a man and his slave who go to find the legion or any remains of them. While not an official sequel, The Eagle is a film with similar poor filmmaking techniques yet fails to entertain with either its script or its actors or its action.

Tatum plays Marcus Flavius Aquilla, a Roman centurion whose father was the leader of the lost ninth Roman legion, symbolized by a gold eagle on a carried standard. In recovery after being seriously injured defending a fort he recently took command of, Marcus saves a slave from death in the gladiatorial ring. The slave, named Esca (Bell), is purchased for Marcus by his uncle (Sutherland). Inspired by Roman Senators who don’t believe the Eagle can be returned and that his father’s failure has doomed Marcus to eternal shame, the centurion and his slave, from two different cultures and classes, take off towards Briton to find the Eagle, which has rumored to have been seen in that northern area.

It is hard to imagine that a film based on historical legend, featuring talented(ish) young actors and a good director like Macdonald could be so dreadful. The problems begin in the script,  a script that deserves a Razzie. Everything that scriptwriter Brock and Macdonald made these poor guys say make me wonder how this movie even got made in the first place. I mean, I know that it’s early February and its a swords-and-sandals epic. Those usually do alright, right? On Saturday and Friday, The Eagle made approximately $8.58 million. That sounds decent, doesn’t it? Well, when the leading box-office draw of the week, the Adam Sandler-Jennifer Aniston comedy Just Go With It, made $31 million in the same time span, you have to wonder.

Maybe it was the timing, maybe it was the poor script, maybe it was the subpar acting. I’ve now seen four movies with Channing Tatum in them, and if I did like them it was not because of him. Jamie Bell won a BAFTA for his titlular role in Billy Elliot and was outstanding in his last film, Edward Zwick’s Defiance (a great film with Daniel Craig and Liev Schrieber set during World War II in Poland). He was maybe the best part of The Eagle, but that’s not saying a whole lot. As I sit here, I’m still trying to figure out if the acting was bad because the actors did a poor job or what the script made them say was horrific.

Regardless, I would recommend seeing something OTHER than The Eagle if you go to the movies. Even if you like action movies. The action scenes in the film were maybe two or three minutes long each time and very anti-climactic.

Down to its core, The Eagle has a tough time deciding exactly what it is. It goes back and forth between being a morality tale about the equality of all men and all cultures and being an action movie with a “touching” father-son storyline. That indecision contributed to the poor script in making The Eagle one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.

 

I have 10 minutes to write a movie review because my next class starts in 10 minutes.

The Illusionist is a French animated film based on an original screenplay by French mime, actor and director Jacques Tati written in 1956. Adapted and directed by Sylvain Chomet (2003 Best Animated Feature Oscar nominee for The Triplets of Belleville), The Illusionist tells of an (Jean-Claude Donda) illusionist who is struggling to make a name for himself in a world of emerging technology such as rock ‘n roll and television. One gig takes him to an island village where he meets a young girl Alice (Eilidh Rankin) who stows away with him when he leaves. With Alice as his assistant, the illusionist struggles to make ends meet as an artisan and a caretaker.

I saw this mostly-French film without subtitles, so I didn’t understand much of what the characters said. Fortunately, the film had maybe 25 lines of dialogue. In an 82-minute film, that doesn’t mean a whole lot of talking. Fortunately, the majority of The Illusionist was dialogue-less, relying on the animation and Sylvain Chomet’s direction to make it click.

And it does. The beautiful hand-drawn animation is reminiscent of the ’60s-70s time period of the film and the characters are simply but beautifully designed. The story was simple and heart-felt. The screenplay is supposedly a personal letter to Tati’s estranged eldest daughter. The relationship between the illusionist and the young girl is simple and beautiful, with the illusionist doting on her despite his awkward economic circumstances. There are a couple of moving establishing shots of the final city, Edinburgh, at night. Chomet composed the score as well and it was perfect.

I love Tangled and thought it was gipped for not being nominated for an Oscar because of this film. After seeing it, I’m not as upset. If you get the chance to see it, I definitely recommend it. It’s not the perfect film by any means; it’s simplicity is also somewhat of a drawback. But it’s simply beautiful.

Grade: B+

When I started writing this post, the video for “I Just Ate Chex” has 3,999 views. It was released on YouTube on January 21, 2011. Eight days later, it is bound to hit 4,000 views. This is an outsider’s perspective of how it came to be.

BTM Productions and Jpuckz.

The song “I Just Had Sex” by The Lonely Island feat. Akon has been a popular one on my floor the past couple weeks. Although I’m not a huge fan of the song, I can see why people like it. First off, it’s got Akon, who has a great voice. Second, it’s SOOO catchy. I don’t like how it talks so much about sex, but…

Anyways, Baden Piland, Todd Leonard and Matt Dowdle had worked on a birthday rap for me, in the tradition of project Halcyon, or pH, also known as four guys on the same hall, Sloan first floor at Elon University. The video (YouTube – Zesty’s Birthday Rap) was a smash hit with me and everyone. They had some talent. After doing a couple more birthday raps, I suppose the group was ready for more.

So they came up with the idea for I Just Ate Chex, parodying the wording of I Just Had Sex.

Guest Jpuckz (Jason Puckett) and Todd Leonard of BTM Productions.

The project was surrounded by secrecy. Some people knew that they were doing a song, but the topic was shrouded in mystery. I was sent out to buy some Chex with my roommate Jason Puckett, who I knew was guesting on the project. I think it was he who told me they were doing a “I Just Had Sex” parody called “I Just Ate Chex.” I was so intrigued by the idea that I was instantly in anticipation of what amazingness was about to come out of this.

Jason is the man and has a great voice, so seeing him get wrapped up in this project was awesome. And the end result, indeed beautiful.

I had little to no connection to the project until the last day of shooting.

Jpuckz and Matt Dowdle of BTM Productions during the "I Just Ate Chex" video shoot.

I just ate Chex/and it tastes so good (tastes so good)/ I was able to put that Chex inside my mouth/ I just ate Chex/ and it was delicious/ no more Cocoa Crispies breakfast meal

The chorus was the first thing I heard. I noticed instantly that it was as catchy, if not more catchy, than the original. The shots they had lined up on the last day were incredible. I was fortunate enough to help out the group by carrying around equipment and sometimes hitting the record button on the camera. I helped with the fountain shots, the overhead shots with Jason and Matt and the shots where Todd is eating Chex on the sofa. Carrying around lights, cameras, cases, etc., is not necessarily the most fun anyone could have. But it was worth it. At the time, I didn’t realize I was helping with a video that would hit 4,000 views on YouTube in a week. And I was graciously credited by Baden as a “Productions Assistant” on the credits on YouTube. Plus, in the crowd of people that is shown twice in the video, I’m on the far right with the black ball cap.

 

Todd Leonard and Baden Piland of BTM Productions.

The video was soft-released at first. Due to some unfortunate circumstances, “I Just Ate Chex” was not known by many at first. Within a couple of days though, BTM Productions decided to “status blast” the video on Facebook. Within a couple days, 1000 hits was reached. Now, up to 4000 on January 29.

I’d like to go more in-depth with the people behind this video and write a full article for this blog. I figure it would be good for my journalism skills. But right now, in celebration of 4,000 hits, this blog post is dedicated to Todd Leonard, Baden Piland and Matt Dowdle of BTM Productions and their guest Jpuckz! Here’s the link to the video one more time:

http://www.youtube.com/video/eg3OXHFmk68

Enjoy and watch it and comment on it! These guys are talented.