Archive for February, 2009

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Saw V – We’ve seen this before…

February 5, 2009

Okay, this is Saw V… and anyone reading this review or taking the time to watch this film has to realize we are dealing with the fifth installment in a series that puts out a film annually… so it should be no surprise that the filmmakers are not taking their time with these films and the quality to be expected should be substandard.

Somehow the Saw franchise has managed to survive long enough to spawn five sequels (Saw VI is due out this Halloween season and probably more to come), despite not really doing anything new with the formula. One thing that surprises me about the success of Saw is that they managed to create one of the more interesting horror icons in Jigsaw and prematurely killed him off in the third or fourth film. Granted, Jigsaw’s presence is still seen throughout the film via tape recordings and flashbacks, but the dirty work is being carried on by characters we don’t care about and hardly remember from previous films. I don’t know who Agent Strahm is or what he did in the last film, but he’s a returning character now playing the role of Jigsaw’s successor.

The writers of the Saw series seem to have a misguided sense of pride in their writing abilities. There’s always that moment in the climax of the film when the great theme music starts and viewers get a montage of events that reveal the “bigger picture.” but honestly, these plot devices are hardly creative or groundbreaking… I will admit that Jigsaw’s back story in Saw IV is pretty enlightening, but that is the only time I’ve been impressed with the twists in the Saw series since Jigsaw originally “rose from the dead” at the end of the superb first film.

What it comes down to is this: if you were stupid enough to watch Saw IV and enjoy it, then you’ll be satisfactorily dumb enough to like the latest sequel as well (don’t worry, I’m clearly guilty myself). You don’t get anything new in Saw V and the killers keep getting less interesting. I’d rather see Jigsaw sewn back together and reanimated again then to see another side character take over his mantle.

With that said, the gore is great, the traps are cool, and that’s really what we came to see, right? Just another average entry in a dying horror franchise.

Score: 4.5 out of 10

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Inverse – Future Stars

February 3, 2009

You’re going to be hearing a lot about the hip-hop group Inverse on this blog because they are my boys. I met Tunji and Toby on SoundCircuit.com roughly ten years ago and over the past decade we have become pretty close friends and have hung out a handful of times in real life.

I truly believe that these guys are well on their way to being a very respected and successful hip-hop group and that Tunji has superstar potential. Better to jump on the bandwagon now then in a couple of years when everybody is talking about them.

They have released two discs of music over the past music and I will provide download links to them below. The first one is “So Far,” a collection of unreleased Inverse music and the second is an EP entitled “So True.” Both albums are a precursor to their long awaited official debut album “Long Days Journey” hopefully due out sometime before the end of 2009, though I’m sure the first half of 2010 is probably more likely.

I will be making frequent updates regarding these guys and will repost links to their albums when my site is getting more traffic… but for those of you already on board, check out their music by clicking the links below:

Inverse – So True EP

Inverse – So Far

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Benjamin Button: Forest Gump 2?

February 3, 2009

I want to start by saying that I don’t hate Benjamin Button even though it’s probably going to sound that way. It’s important to know that I went into this film expecting greatness for a variety of reasons: 13 Oscar nominations, Brad Pitt, the concept of a man aging backwards having all sorts of unique possibilities, and finally, director David Fincher is very accomplished (Zodiac, Fight Club, Se7en). I guess anything less than spectacular was going to be a disappointment for me.

The biggest problem I had throughout Benjamin Button is that I kept drawing comparisons to Forrest Gump and thinking about how much better that film executed everything. We have all sorts of familiar elements: our protagonists overcomes physical defects (mentally handicapped vs. aging backwards, Forest breaking out of his braces vs. Benjamin getting out of his wheelchair), we have extended periods of time spent at sea, we have a love interest that flutters in and out of a story that extends over decades, we have mother figures that perish, we have cooky side characters, and we have a long ass running time.

Forrest Gump was just a much, MUCH better film and I couldn’t ignore the fact that I kept thinking about it while watching Benjamin Button. Forrest Gump came out 15 years ago and I still remember Jenny, Bubba, and Lt. Dan as if that film came out yesterday; I can’t remember the name of the love interest or the sea captain in Benjamin Button and I saw that movie a week ago… and I think that’s really at the root of why this movie disappointed me. Outside of Benjamin, I just didn’t care about any of the other characters; and that’s a big problem, especially since the love story is at the emotional center of this movie. I only discovered this past week that Eric Roth, who wrote the screenplay, also wrote Forrest Gump. That gave me a good chuckle when I found that out.

The pacing of the film was also problematic since it has a really long running time. I couldn’t help but look at my cell phone and think that it was moving backwards because the movie was so slow. I think with a shorter run time and a focus on actually developing the characters, would have made Benjamin Button a more pleasurable experience.

I don’t want to give the impression that the film is a total disaster, it does several things well. Brad Pitt gives a very good performance as the main character, though I’m not convinced it’s his best work ever. Also, the cinematography, art direction, make-up, and costumes are all award worthy.

So yes, Benjamin Button is a respectable, if not good, film. The Forrest Gump similarities and poor pacing ruined the experience for me, but I can imagine that plenty of people will still thoroughly enjoy it. I’m just saddened by the fact that David Fincher is receiving all this recognition for this movie, when he’s made plenty of much better films in the past and I definitely don’t think it’s 2008’s critical darling. It’s quite possible that I’m being overly harsh on this movie because of all the hype surrounding, but I can’t deny the fact that I left the theater disappointed.

Score: 6 out of 10 (Recommended)

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Slumdog Millionaire Review

February 2, 2009

This movie is definitely worth of all the hype you’ve been hearing about it. I first got wind of Slumdog Millionaire via some random website’s list of the 25 best films of 2008. I was shocked to see it ranked #2, especially since, at the time, I had yet to hear of the film. The premise sounded promising enough: a young man goes on the Indian version of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” and makes it to the final question only to find himself arrested for cheating and having to explain himself through flashbacks on how he happened to know the precise answers.

The high ranking on that list and the story had me interested enough to propel it to the top of my must see list. I entered the theater with a mixture of excitement and apprehension (how seriously can I take a website that lists Iron Man as the absolute best film of 2008?). I left the theater thinking that it was a good film, but feeling slightly disappointed that I wasn’t blown away. However, over the past month, the more I’ve thought about the film, the more I’ve realized how great everything about it was. In all honesty, I thought the story had the potential to be really hokey, but it didn’t come across very corny at all; some moments are downright chilling. The cinematography is astounding and Danny Boyle is a near lock to win the Best Director Oscar later this month. Also, anyone that fails to mention the effort that was put into the sound and music of this picture is making a mistake. I’m sure once you’ve seen this film a couple of times, you’ll be singing “Jai Ho” unintentionally over the days that follow. Finally, the cast of unknowns did a remarkable acting job and it looks like Dev Patel might be on his way to stardom, as his casting in M. Night Shamylan’s The Last Airbender, due out in 2010, might indicate.

I think when all is said and done, Slumdog Millionaire is taking down the Best Picture Oscar and will be remembered as the best film that came out in 2008.

Score: 8.5 out of 10 (Must Own/Potentially Classic)