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The current movie “The Lone Ranger” is a real stinker. The buffoons who produce pictures like this should not be encouraged with good attendance figures. You can’t build a movie solely on a sight gag consisting of Johnny Depp with a dead crow on his head. In fact, I’d rather not invest anymore heartbeats on the topic. <end>

Saw Apollo 18 at the cineplex last night. It is filmed in a rough documentary style with “recovered” footage. My recommendation? It’s worth seeing on a big screen. Probably not a good date flick, though.  But that depends on your date.

While at a brew pub in Denver Friday night, I was summoned to a table of 20-something ladies who were obviously celebrating a girls-night-out before a wedding.  The bride-to-be, decorated with a pink faux veil, gestured for me to come answer a question. I walked over and bent down to hear her. It was then that she looked me in the eye and asked a question that most fellows rarely ever hear: “Can I pat your booty?” she said.  I looked at the table of a dozen well coiffed lovelies watching me for some sign of a reaction.  The guest of honor had a list of items in her hand that she needed to check off.  Seeing this, and noting the urgency with which she needed to complete the task, I grinned and “relented”.  At least she asked first. So I stood up, turned around and bent over a few degrees in supplication, and received the pat. With my brief role completed, I turned back around and bid them a farewell. Moments later I found my dinner party and sat down with them, satisfied that I had just participated in an important cultural rite of passage.  Hours later the wife unit assured me that this happened only because I appeared harmless. So it goes.

Big, angry, armored termite soldiers from the Planet “O” land off the coast of SoCal and make an amphibious assault. Luckily for humanity they land near Camp Pendelton. Thus begins Battle: Los Angeles

Filmed in a documentary style, this movie follows the travails of a platoon of Marines on a mission to pick up civilians at a police station in Malibu and take them to a forward operating base (FOB) before heavy bombardment of the coast begins. The aliens take and keep the initiative early in the invasion.

The invaders aren’t misunderstood ET’s with big blue cow eyes.  These bipedal and possibly cyborgish critters are loaded with high velocity rounds and are fiendishly single-minded in their attempt to secure the planet. Aaron Eckhart plays the lead character, Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz.  Along the way the platoon picks up USAF staff sergeant Elena Santos played by Michelle Rodriguez. The casting of Rodriguez was particularly smart from the marketing perspective. Hotties with automatic weapons are irresistable to the male moviegoer. I’m thinking of Ripley making her escape from the Nostromo.

OK, guys, this is not a chick flick. It’s not especially bloody, but it is filled to the brim with male bravado and long satisfying bursts of full automatic gun fire. Wives and girl friends may be unmoved by the machinegun aesthetic. Just thought I’d mention it.

It’s not Academy Award stuff, but it is worth seeing on the big screen.

On a separate topic, for the fans of Dune, there is this link.

I’ll be brief. Having viewed James Cameron’s new 3D  movie Avatar, I have to admit that it was simply stunning. It has all of the elements of a blockbuster movie: strong emotional appeal, a compelling story line, just enough character development, and fantastic visuals. And with production and marketing costs that some are estimating to approach half a gigabuck, it’ll need all the buzz it can get to give a blockbuster return to the investors.

As we filed out of the theater last night I couldn’t help but think that we had just witnessed a paradigm shift in the business and technology of cinema. Going forward, the bar has just been raised in the expectation level of audiences. 

Hmmm. I wonder if Unobtainium occurs as the sulfide or the native element?

Let’s try it again-

I finally saw the movie 300. This picture is a fictionalized retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae (the Hot Gates). I quite enjoyed it, though I can see how others might not. The unique cinematography enhances the highly stylized approach to the story. It is a moving picture graphic novel.

The storyline is Greek Tragedy in motion. The distinctive imagery and staging mimic the style of scenes depicted on Greek pottery. I have no doubt that the great directors of the past would have used the same techniques if it had been available then. This manner of film making would have suited C.B. DeMille or John Ford.

The story is a bit rough on the Persians, however. But critics need to realize that this is a Spartan story about Spartan exploits. No doubt Persian story tellers had their own version.

The movie District 9 opened friday in the US. It is a SciFi action picture with an abundance of aliens and action. The story takes place in Johannesburg, South Africa, and deftly folds in the country’s history of aparteid and cross border dispute into the structure of the storyline.

The style of cinematography is somewhere between Saving Private Ryan and Cloverfield.  Most of the shots are from handheld camera work and the definition is low color density and a bit grainy. I’m guessing that this may be advantageous for CGI rendering, and to my eyes, adds considerably to the realism.

I won’t spoil the storyline. But I will say that it is quite violent with an abundance of Afrikaaner F-bombs and, in my opinion, not suitable for the under 16 crowd.

It really isn’t a “date movie”. Fellows, this is unlikely to make for a memorable evening for your date. After the (n + 1)th Prawn gets wasted, cell phones will come out and text messages will get checked. A sure sign of boredom.

All in all, I recommend that SciFi fans see it on a big screen. It is quite well done with an intriguing story and excellent visuals.

“To boldly go …”.  The worlds most famous split infinitive lives on. Better yet, tatted Romulan skinheads bring doomsday to a theater near you.  To the delight of Trekkies everywhere, the latest incarnation of the Star Trek franchise was just released. Clearly, it was designed  for the Yuppy Trekkie crowd of viewers who were assimilated decades ago into the original Star Trek setting.

Rather than introducing a new crew of characters with a new set of quirks and dynamics, this movie sets the stage for the original cast and crew. The time setting of this episode puts it between Star Trek: Enterprise and the original TV series. The movie is well cast with strong character conformance with the original crew.

The stark difference between this production of Star Trek and the original made-for-TV series is the highly engineered style of film making. The cinematography and editing are best described as frenetic and delerious. Decades of television production are recorded via standard sound stage cinematographic sensibilities where the cameras are firmly planted to dollies castering around on a flat surface. Perfect focus and reference frame squareness and stability were as consistent as the print on a dollar bill.

In this production of Star Trek the camera is an extension of the viewers senses rather than just a means of recording scenes. It’s use is meant to amplify and focus the confusion and danger of the scene. Closely framed scenes of objects in wreckless motion, off-focus shots, and obtuse tilt angles bring the action past your retina and into your brainstem. It is quite effective.

And yes, Kirk suffers from chronic lackanookyitis. He does get a bit of technicolor action, but it is only slightly more racey than the classic shot of him pulling on his boots after a romantic encounter. If you see the movie with your mother, sunday school teacher, or kids it is unlikely that anyone will be too embarrassed.

I attended with a quantum physicist friend and we agreed that some of the physics was deeply flawed. Scotty’s cabbage creature friend was odd and the ending was less than satisfying. Nonetheless, I would rate this movie a strong thumbs up and most preferably viewed in a decent theater with a big screen.

This morning I found out what a “lipid raft” is. All of these years I’ve been in the dark about order and disorder in cell membranes. I didn’t learn about this through any sort of noble quest; I was merely curious about a movie.

Molecular Movies is a website containing links to a marvelous set of animations about cells and molecules. I enthusiastically recommend that the reader visit this site. The movie mentioning lipid rafts is in “The Inner Life of the Cell“.

Having sat through the remake of the classic SciFi movie The Day the Earth Stood Still, I am compelled to set up a warning beacon for those who have yet to see this movie.

Here is the warning- While it may be worth seeing on a big screen, it is definitely not worth the full price of admission. If your local cineplex offers discount tickets for afternoon shows, take the opportunity to see it then. Also, be sure to sneak in as many concession snacks as possible. You want to keep your financial investment in this movie to a bare minimum.

First, a few words about Keanu Reeves. Much like John Wayne, Reeves seems to have a single character that he portrays in every film. In this movie, it’s “Reeves plays Klaatu”.  I will say that Reeves portrayal of Klaatu is fine- his trademark deadpan delivery works well for the part. 

Jennifer Connelly plays Dr. Helen Benson, an astrobiologist who is swept into action by mysterious people with Chinook helicopters. Her part is poorly written and suffers from excessive cliche. Character development is weak as is emotional buy-in. 

Stepchild  Jacob Benson, played by Jaden Smith, is an impish, totally gratuitous angry stepchild trapped in a love-less domestic truce with stepmom Connelly. Smith’s part was poorly written and directed as well. There is little or no opportunity to emotionally connect with his character.

The blackboard scene with John Cleese was conducted like a checkers match rather than a brainstorming session. It was lifeless and unconvincing.  This is one of the few serious roles played by Cleese and I believe it is a step down from Basil Fawlty.

Emotional connection is the lost key to this movie. It is actually part of the plot construction. The movie demands the viewer to accept that Connelly and Smith emotionally connect with Klaatu, but the direction and writing of the movie fails to bridge that gap convincingly or even connect the viewer to the characters.

This movie is written like a class project in preparation for midterm exams in a Cinema 205 course. Cliche parts and story telling devices were taken off the shelf and snapped together.  While I will give a passing grade on cinematography and effects, it is a sophomoric exercise in movie writing.

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