December 24, 2007
Smith is LegendThe Film I Am Legend (IMDb) has two great strengths: First, the convincing portrayal by Will Smith as Dr. Robert Neville, who over time in solitude begins to suffer the affects of isolation. The second is the awesome visuals, depicting an abandoned New York City, which you see right away as Neville races through the City's abandoned streets in a Viper hunting deer, his rifle in his lap, and his only remaining friend, his German shepherd in the passenger seat.
Legend reminded me a lot of the film 28 Days Later (IMDb). In that film, the character Jim wakes up in a hospital after being in a coma resulting from a bike accident and finds himself in what seems to be an abandoned London. But soon discovers that, while he was sleeping, a plague has sept through Brittan rapidly infecting all who come in contact with an infected person; causing them to have extreme rabid and violent behavior – kind of like a modern-day more scientifically believable version of a zombie outbreak.
Legend starts in the relatively near future where a British scientist (Cameo by Ema Thompson) has reveled that she's developed a technique of utilizing modified viruses to cure cancer. Then the film flashes forward three years to a world where the cure has backfired and caused all those exposed to it to experience a similar condition to the infected in 28 Days Later, but also leaving them vulnerable to ultra-violet radiation—a modern day version of a vampire outbreak. Once the virus becomes transmittable by air; the government does its best to maintain order, chaos ensues, followed closely by the end of civilization.
A big difference between 28 Days Later and I Am Legend is in the gradual way that Legend reveals those who have become infected. The film, at first, focuses more on Robert Nevil's day to day experiences. The film tells the story of how society breaks down and the mass exodus of uninfected (including Neville's wife and daughter) through a series of flashbacks that lead up the present situation where Neville, a military scientist assigned to find a cure, and one of the few naturally immune to the virus, is still steadfastly working. His only companion is his dog who helps provide the moments of humor (in a way similar to Wilson for Tom Hank's character in Cast Away).
One of the more compellingly frightening moments of the film, involves Neville's dog, who has chased a wild deer they were hunting into a dark building. Neville is running after him screaming at his dog to stop; not to chase the animal into the dark, but when his dog and only friend goes ahead, Neville follows into the darkness with only the flashlight on the end of his rifle to guide him. The creepiest moment is when he comes across a hive of the infected humans standing in a circle, resting. He quickly covers the light with his hand realizing the danger he is in.
I Am Legend is not an Independence Day kind of blockbuster experience; instead its a much subtler film in the sense that it focuses on the routine details that wear on Neville as a result of being isolated and trying his best to remember his former life.
[BIG SPOILER WARNING] My disappointment with Legend is the tidy and convenient last quarter of the film, and the abrupt and implausible ending. Its annoying that for the majority of the film, Neville is alone, and at the moment when things look the most bleak for him, he's rescued suddenly by other survivors, who show up just at the right moment. The odds of that happening (albeit in a story where you've already suspended so much of your disbelief) are ridiculous. As someone I went to see the film with put it: The first two thirds of the film are amazing, but the ending is very disappointing. Oh well. (Oh and the infected humans look annoyingly a lot like Voldemort from the Harry Potter films).
Other than those gripes, its a pretty good and realistic approach to apocalyptic horror. 4/5
NPR's Bob Mondello has an interesting take on the film, you can listen here.
December 21, 2007
I [heart] Public Radio*.
I really really really love National Public Radio (NPR). (And thats an understatement.) Public Radio speaks to me in a way that almost no other form of media does. Its filled with relevant news, and entertaining and fascinating topics. I become both informed and entertained sublimely while listening.
I was thinking about this because I gave my friend Mike who I work with and who also loves NPR a radio for his birthday so we've been listening to NPR a lot lately work, and what a week it's been...
On Tuesday on The Diane Reams Show, they discussed one of my favorite books from childhood, A Wrinkle In Time, with a panel of experts and call-ins from fans. And later on Fresh Air, Terry Gross interviewed director PT Anderson about his latest film There Will Be Blood (IMDb), for which I'm really looking forward. And Wednesday, Terry Gross interviewed director Ridley Scott about his re-release of a new final version of 'Blade Runner', easily my favorite science fiction, and one of my most favorite films in general.
Blade Runner (IMDb) is a masterpiece that even today is so far ahead of its time. For a comparison with other science fiction films: Blade Runner (based on a novel by Phillip K Dick titled 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep?') was released in 1982, and eight years later another film based on a Dick novel, Total Recall (IMDb) (1990), was released starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, that now seems very outdated compared to Blade Runner.
Other notable science fiction films based on Dick's works include: Minority Report (2002) (IMDb), Impostor (2002) (IMDb), Paycheck (2003) (IMDb), A Scanner Darkly (2006) (IMDb) ... Some of the best science fiction, but Blade Runner is far superior to all of those.
During the interview Gross asked Scott if indeed Harrison Ford's character Decker was a 'Replicant' (which is just a word that means Android), and Scott confirmed that he was. This was interesting because I had just been listening to the latest podcast of TWIT (episode 125) where they were discussing a recent effort to create a computing program that is as well a new form of artificial intelligence and during this discussion (about 4 mins into the podcast) they arbitrarily reference the concept of Replicants in Blade runner and had a tangent conversation about if Decker was a Replicant and basically came to the conclusion that that he probably was.
It seems that from the interview, while Scott contends that Decker was a Replicant (and since he's the director I guess he can assert that), Ford believed that Decker should be a human. As for my opinion, I tend to think that it doesn't matter so much. One of my favorite aspects of Blade Runner is that the Replecants, despite being artificial, are the characters that demonstrate the most human emotions...wanting to meet/confront their creator...desperately wanting to grasp life for as long as possible.
Well enough about Blade Runner; if you're a fan you can listen to the interview here.
Earlier this week on Fresh Air, I listened to David Edelstein's 10 (or so) best films of 2007. I was particularly excited to listen to this segment because by chance I heard his 10 (or so) best films list of 2006 last year; and was surprised by his ability to examine film; and because I discovered two films that were coming out in early 07 that were amazing; they were Pans Labrynth (IMDb), and Children of Men (IMDb).
Besides reviewing films for NPR's Fresh Air, David Edelstein is a brilliant film critic for The New York Magazine, you can read his work here.
So why is their an astrix in the title of this post...well it's obvious that I love Public Radio. But as it turns out, something that I've enjoyed so thoroughly for such a long time for it's informative nature is something I've somewhat misunderstood. For a long time I've confused NRP and public radio as the same thing, but actually public radio is comprised as several different entities.
Come to find out: some of my favorite public radio programming is not actually produced by NRP as I incorrectly assumed it was, but produced by Public Radio International (PRI), or American Public Media, and the like...
This American Life, one my favorite public radio shows, is produced by Chicago Public Radio (WBEZ), and is distributed by PRI. And Here And Now; which is produced by its local station WBUR in Boston but also distributed by PRI. PRI also produces and distributes one of my recent favorite programs, Fair Game with Faith Salie.
But wait! There's even more public radio producers and distributors...
The next biggest public radio producer/distributor is Minnesota Public Radio (MRP) (it's broadcasting/distribution arm is American Public Media). Minnesota Public Radio/American Public Media are responsible for The Prairie Home Companion, Marketplace, The Splendid Table, and my favorite Weekend America.
There are other public radio forums in the US, including Pacifica Radio, which produces the show Democracy Now.
So I guess when it comes down to it: I [heart] NPR, PRI, and American Public Media/MPR, etc...
December 15, 2007
fun on the You TubesYou know what's fun to do when you're bored??? ... Go onto the You Tubes and look up the various versions of the Gummy Bears Theme song!
Swedish (Techno) Don't!
December 14, 2007
Preview: The Orphanage
I was looking through the coming soon section on the IMDb (something I like to do every so often) and I stumbled across The Orphanage (IMDb) comming this Christmas in select theaters (its produced by Guillermo Del Toro, who recently directed Pan's Labrinth (IMDb), a very dark and mature fantasy film). Check out the trailer at The New York Times.com
Labels: The Orphanage
December 3, 2007
No Country For Old Men
No Contry... is a modern day (1980s-ish) old-fashioned morality tale. It's about good verses evil, with humanity caught in the middle. At first it seems that Llewelyn Moss is the main protagonist; but the movie is really about Sheriff Ed Tom Bell reckoning to find his place. The chaos Llewellyn causes when he stumbles across two million dollars at a major drug-trade massacre and decides to keep it is the vehicle used to explore Bell's moral confusion and struggle to understand where God is in regard to Bell's life. The main antagonist, Chigurh, is a highly (if bizarrely) principled sociopath, unbeatable...he represents evil. For the Cohen brothers it's not so important how the story resolves, but how the characters interrelate, and the choices they make. As in many cases, the journey is more important than the destination.
The Cohen brothers are masters of cinematography (or picking good Cinematographers to collaborate with; for this film and many others its Roger A. Deakins). They have an uncanny ability to visually set the tone of a film; effectively creating a modern version of the old west for No Country...
It's hard to say for sure, but this is probably (in my opinion) the best Cohen Brothers film to date. Tommy Lee Jones aught to win an Oscar for his role as Bell.
2007 has been a pretty amazing year for movies from some of my favorite film-makers. Aside from No Contry For Old Men, there was Wes Anderson's The Darjeerling Limited; and still to come, a film by PT Anderson, There Will Be Blood (IMDb) (trailer), that looks like it has the potential to be great...And early next year a film by Michel Gondry, Be Kind Rewind (IMDb) (trailer).