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Catch-Up Reviews for the Week of 9/24:

The Future of Food




Not Rated | 95 mins

Official Website

     Just listening to the bewildered tone in Debra Koons Garcia’s voice during the Q&A which took place after the screening of this film, which is apart of the four-city inFact documentary showcase, allowed me to hear her passion, her radicalism. Garcia’s film, The Future of Food, explores all things concerning genetically engineered food: the supposed corporate greed in America, small town farmers, and the controversy surrounding organism-patenting. The premise is intriguing enough. However, Garcia misdirects her malice towards the genetically engineered food industry, in the faith of patronage to the liberal party. What could’ve been an enlightening experience, once again, has turned out to be a one-sided, politically shallow piece of propaganda.

     GMOs stock the shelves of American Grocery stores, mostly because food corporations are able to patent organisms, putting small-scale farmers out of business. Monsanto Corp., who has created a formula to immunize their crops from their RoundUp product, is the main company that Garcia criticizes in The Future of Food. In essence, she would like GMOs to be labeled. While I think this would ultimately simply postpone the giant-scale effect that the genetically engineered products may have on consumers, and would cost an unreasonable amount of government-money to monitor, Garcia’s thesis is not really the problem. Just like Michael Moore with Fahrenheit 9/11, it’s how she comes to her conclusions that proves to be dangerous.

     Does Garcia ever acknowledge the fact that the real problem is that this organism-patenting bill was passed, in the first place? She barely even touches it. Why? Because it was mandated under a liberal administration. Would she ever even think to blame her own, corrupt league of fellow Democrats? Of course not. As if that wasn’t enough, when it was time for the Q&A, she matter-of-factly mentioned that John Kerry supports labeling GMOs and will do whatever he can to fill their labels in blatancies. This made me want to take a shower. I was in a room full of liberals who wanted to ask questions about “evil” corporations for nearly an hour. The Future of Food was far more logical than any of its viewers in the screening were, and that’s truly saying something.

     If I wanted one-sidedness, I would turn on my radio and kick back to Conservative Talk Show A. At least Republicans manage to be interesting. Debra Koons Garcia can be credited for plodding along at her own measly pace, writing sentence after sentence of a boring political essay, visually. She leaves the stones that she would like to cover up unturned, and pretends to be creating some kind of truthful exposé. But, the real truth is: even if a writer/director/producer finds countless sad and wannabe-insightful subjects and captures them on film, their “documentary” does not instantly become “good”. Garcia tells me that she was a filmmaker before taking up her whole liberal shtick. I was tempted to recommend, to her face, that she go back to making movies about whatever the hell it was she did, before The Future of Food.


Mr. 3000




Rated PG-13 | 104 mins


     Mr. 3000 represents one of the few times in which I had to remind myself that the cinema was created, first and foremost, to generate fun. This movie pushes every cliché in the book to the umpteenth level, forcing itself to reach an utterly foreseeable conclusion. Most sensible audience members will find themselves gagging at its average and unoriginal contents. Yes, I may have enjoyed Bernie Mac’s outlandish mannerisms and the passionate way in which director Charles Stone III treated some of the scenes involving the game of baseball in Mr. 3000, but, for the most part, it is a complete and unabashed dud. If this motion picture isn’t a valid reason to boycott mainstream, throwaway cinematic garbage, I don’t know what is.

     In Mr. 3000, Mac plays Stan, a retired baseball player who has schemed multiple businesses, over the years, using his 3,000-hit-career as a means of marketing. But, when Stan’s statistics are reevaluated, it is discovered that he was mistakenly credited for three hits. In order to keep his Mr. 3000 nickname alive, he has to come back to the major leagues, now chubby and old, to whack a few more balls and reach a few more bases. A 2,997-hit career seems, frankly, unacceptable. It does, of course, prove harder than he expected. Stan’s former one-night-stand, reporter Mo (Angela Bassett), is added into the mix when she interviews him for an exclusive television special. And, as if the story wasn’t unoriginal enough, the execution is, for the most part, even blander.

     The most problematic of all of Mr. 3000’s flaws is that, most of the time, it’s unbearably boring. The few scenes that actually manage to develop a certain amount of exhilaration are those that occur on the baseball diamond, when plays are being made. Nevertheless, had I been watching the latest game in the Padres’ quest for their division’s wildcard on ESPN, I would’ve been happier. That way, experiencing the entirely ho-hum, “romantic”, and “funny” interludes in Mr. 3000 would not have been necessary. Mac and Bassett have a back-and-forth about sex in the movie, for example, that could be compared to the interaction of two random pieces of lint. The entire situation is thoroughly unsurprising, a forgettable part of a completely predictable picture.

     With my less-than-approving reaction to Mr. 3000, I feel tempted to never intentionally see a conventional movie again. I suppose the reason I keep shoving out ticket-money for them is because they usually turn out to be pleasant, in addition to disposeable. It’s too bad that this film can rarely boast the former quality, during its tedious 104 minute running length. What’s even more unfortunate is that the public has bought into formula again; Mr. 3000 debuted last weekend in the number two box-office slot, raking in around ten million dollars.

     Mac is quite genuine and likable, at times. As he recalled baseball-infused moments from his childhood, I thought of my own, lovingly. But, his performance also carries a wicked half, just as everything else in Mr. 3000 does. I would hope that reading the hundreds of words I have written on it will allow readers to realize that its bad side wins out. I do not feel like ending this review on an overly cheesy note, by saying something along the lines of “Mr. 3000 strikes out,” but I will, however, wrap it up with some simple words of warning. Do. Not. By. Any. Means. See. This. Movie. Unless. You. Are. Seriously. Bored. And. I Mean. Seriously. Bored.






Rated PG-13 | 100 mins


     The day after Mr. 3000 force-fed me sports-movie clichés, Wimbledon elegantly served them at me. The likeable Paul Bettany and Kirsten Dunst play its two leads with terrific onscreen chemistry, crafting a funny and involving motion picture together, which actually had me engaged in convention for its entire running length.

     Bettany plays Peter Colt, a tennis player who was once ranked eleventh in the world, but has now fallen past the one-hundred mark. He is competing in Wimbledon for the last time, ready to lose and then retire from the sport. This, unsurprisingly, acts as a queue for Dunst’s Lizzie Bradbury, a thriving newcomer in the sport, to enter his life. Before Peter’s match-up, he mistook his hotel room for Lizzie’s, only to find her completely naked and showering. Afterwards, they see each other again, and sparks fly. They develop a relationship against Lizzie’s father’s (Sam Neil’s) wishes; he fears that her attention will drift away from the game, as a result. And it does, but the romance allows Peter to be in his finest form. The movie leads up to the championship match at Wimbledon, in which he is in contention for the title.

     The plot leaves much to be desired, but it has no impact on the charm of Wimbledon, fortunately. While writers Adam Brooks, Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin stick to normality, in their script, the three come up with some genuinely amusing dialogue. This is all perfectly delivered by the cast; Wimbledon does not have a single weak-spot, in terms of acting. Not only is Bettany a riot and Dunst lovable, but Sam Neill, Jon Favreau, Bernard Hill, and James McAvoy also put on spectacular shows of their own. Wimbledon announces itself on the heels of last years Love Actually, in that it is one of the few good romantic comedies of recent years. Both confide in their supporting casts, heavily, as a means of spicing their clichéd premises up. Does this fact and their apparent quality represent a coincidence? I think not.

     A working knowledge of the game of tennis is crucial to respond to the experience that Wimbledon has to offer, fully. Its tense atmosphere relies a lot on score and players’ control over their games. Over the last year, I’ve found great liking in the sport, and perhaps that accounts for much of the reason why I was so welcoming towards this movie. However, I would still recommend Wimbledon to those who are novice tennis players; it is a treat even when the characters are off the court.

     I’ve observed a trend in Hollywood, as of late, in which writers and directors feel the need to make their mainstream products more complex than necessary. Such a style, albeit more welcome, in my eyes, than standard, dumbed-down fare, only results in utter lameness. There is a reason why independent film exists: to correctly make motion pictures of higher intelligence levels than those of mainstream appeal. While I would love to attend more enriching films at my local multiplex than what I am able to, now, I don’t think it is the big-budget filmmaker’s place to make this happen. Wimbledon’s director, Richard Loncraine, realizes this. As a result, he creates a solid and enjoyable motion picture, which still has more emotional resonance than typical fluff. What more can I say? I liked it.


Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow




Rated PG | 107 mins


     Walking into Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, I was ready for some good, clean fun. It promised to be a PG-rated movie with an A-list cast and an interesting style. Who thought that such a concept would lead to a resulting product as atrocious as this movie turned out being?

     Sky Captain was filmed entirely on blue-screens; the cast had to envision everything happening around them, as they acted each scene out. The movie is full of big explosions, action, and adventure. Its mood is ambitious and director Kerry Conran creates a picturesque look of a fantasized 1930’s, via CGI. On paper, my description makes Sky Captain sound like a movie-lover’s dream. Too bad it is so insanely boring.

     This all goes without mentioning that the film is a style-over-substance extravaganza. This technique can work, when done correctly. Unfortunately, Sky Captain doesn’t have any interesting sense of style. Yes, gazing at the entrancing, bleak visuals is breathtaking, for about thirty minutes, but after that, the look and feel of the movie began to wear on me. It could’ve been saved by a strong story with interesting characters, but those are two assets that Conran clearly feels are unnecessary.

     Some have compared Sky Captain to some of the Batman sequels (probably because they share Gotham City as the setting), but I think that would be too generous. I think that viewing Sky Captain is most similar to the experience of watching another person play “Star Fox” on Nintendo 64. I heard Conran’s rumble-pack vibrating during Sky Captain, as he pushed the A and B buttons rapidly on his controller, but the euphoria he experienced making it was clearly much more enlightening than any emotion I felt, when watching it. I can see why it would be fun to plug a CGI robot into the middle of Gotham City, but I was not enthralled, in the least, by looking at one doing such.

     The very little story that Sky Captain boasts having isn’t involving. The plot chronicles Sky Captain Joe Sullivan (Jude Law) and his ex-girlfriend, reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow), as they try to stop Dr. Totenkopf, a German scientist, from succeeding in his plans of world-domination. And, then, uh, well, that’s pretty much it. During the first thirty minutes of the movie, the idea seemed intriguing to me, but Sky Captain gradually declines, until it hits an abominable low-point at the end of the second act. Even the apparently fun, nostalgic final fifth seemed only mildly amusing to me, after enduring the snooze-inducing majority of the film. Sky Captain may have worked if it was a short-film, but as a seventy-million-dollar-budgeted “extravaganza,” it stands for nothing more (and, really, nothing less) than a failed experiment in mainstream filmmaking.

     I’m not sure if the clouded visuals, which only lunatics will refer to as “dream-like”, covered up the emotions of all of the actors, or if the cast’s work is just plain awful. I can respect leads Paltrow and Law for their daringness, in playing parts, with no sets or major props surrounding them, but that does not excuse their lack of energy. The role of Sky Captain should be an exuberant one; Law barely even manages to change the tone in his voice, on occasion. Imagine what people would’ve thought of Star Wars had Luke Skywalker acted as if he did not care about the outcome of the story. Sky Captain seems like he doesn’t care about Totenkopf; he is just another aimless soul in Conran’s distorted vision. Thankfully, this movie doesn’t represent part one of a trilogy, as Lucas’ masterpiece did. At least supporter Angelina Jolie is able to muster up some adrenaline in her part, albeit eye-rolling.

     When I flipped on my television two nights ago, I was informed that Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is, currently, the most fun movie of the year. There are two possible explanations for this comment. (1) The commercial-narrator needs to be placed in a mental facility or (2) The film industry is desperately lacking in the fun department. While I think both are very true, the second seems more accurate. Yawn.






Rated PG-13 | 94 mins


     In Cellular, Jessica Martin (Kim Bassinger) is mistakenly kidnapped and left in a room with only a broken phone to tinker with. She taps and ties the discombobulated wires together and finally receives a signal, in her efforts of desperation. She picks up Ryan (Chris Evans) on the line, and begs him to keep with her, and have the cops try and help her. Jessica’s son and husband are later abducted too, despite Ryan’s car-crashing, holdup-inducing strategies to prevent such. When he actually does go to the police-station, he is unable to get to the floor in which the homicide detectives work, because he would lose reception in the staircase. Yes; Cellular is that contrived.

     The entire movie relies on improbable event after improbable to get its point across, but it does bear several nail-biting characteristics. For the first two-thirds of it, I was quite riveted, caught up in each and every suspenseful moment Cellular had to offer. With a perfect soundtrack, swiftly crafted action, and some interesting performances, it is one hell of a slick thrill-ride. Unfortunately, by the time its third act commences, Cellular has already become quite exhausting. The fun that it offers for the majority of its duration finally catches up with its quality, come the conclusion. I have a feeling that, if Cellular was twenty minutes shorter, cut to a short and sweet hour and fifteen minutes, it could’ve been a masterful slice of cheese. In the end, it remains a serviceable thriller, but that is not to say that it could’ve been far better.

     Watching Cellular, I pondered the concept of fun in film, and found myself quite fascinated. I think that most would deem it to be validly entertaining. But, for there to be a general consensus that a movie about kidnappings, which includes much violence, is likeable, seems a bit odd. Yes, it is well-made, but couldn’t one reasonably conclude that the majority of moviegoers find excitement in its material, rather than its artistry? Sure, the way in which it is handled makes for a lot of the “fun”, but I think that the attraction to stories like that of Cellular says something about society. (Mind you that this is not necessarily something negative.) I do not mean to be prude, at all; I like films of this sort as much as the next guy. But, one cannot deny that the fact speaks volumes about humanity.

     Part of the magic of Cellular is that it is played completely straight. Kim Bassinger operates her character almost entirely in monotone, even with all of her kicking and screaming. Jason Statham is the classic bad guy, and Owens the standard hero. I bought into the whole thing, no matter how many times I said “Wait up!” and “That could never happen!” to myself. At the end of the day, any logical viewer will realize that Cellular pushes the idea of bending reality. However, I don’t think I’d care about this if it wasn’t for the mediocrity of the messy conclusion.

     Whatever its flaws, Cellular does keep its cool, in all of its preposterousness and implausibility. I cannot deny the fact that it represents some of the most thrilling fare to come out of Hollywood, as of late. Omitting twenty minutes could’ve done wonders, but so the lengthiness goes. I’ll get over it. I hope.


Shaun of the Dead




Rated R | 99 mins


     It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that I loathe parodies. Take any “great” in the genre—Mel Brooks, Weird Al, David Zucker—and I’ll tell you why they don’t represent anything special. Going into Shaun of the Dead, the latest spoof to hit the American market, I was in the mood for something awful. While it thrived in its homeland of Britain, and I am a fan of its source material, my reservations about the group of films it belongs to tugged on my conscience, as I dashed into the theatre, so I wouldn’t be a second late for it. Surprisingly, Shaun of the Dead is a wonderfully human comedy with an abundance in amusing moments. It worked for me.

     Laugh-out-loud moments are few and far between in Shaun of the Dead, but it sweetly executes at a serviceable pace. I grinned in almost every scene; the movie has a spirit that reminisces on George A. Romero’s Dead trilogy with a hypnotically moving sense of nostalgia. The human-side of Shaun of the Dead is something I’ve never seen in a parody before, a true rarity. The reason why the movie is so likeable is because viewers will grow attached to the characters. They are people who we can embrace and sympathize with. Shaun of the Dead’s humor is not simply driven by stupid gags which poke fun at Romero’s pictures. Rather, they treasure them, through a script which carries many of the same themes that the original films did.

     Centering on the title-character, Shaun (Simon Pegg), Shaun of the Dead, like Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, and Night of the Living Dead, focuses on the zombie-takeover of a city. This time around, though, things take place in the United Kingdom. The group of survivors of the zombie plague end up taking refuge in their local pub. Shuan; his friend, Ed (Nick Frost); girlfriend (er…ex?), Liz (Kate Ashfield); two friends; mom; and step-dad are along for the journey. Some live longer than others and some are funnier than others. But, the balance between attachment and comedy in Shaun of the Dead, on the whole, is certainly a winner. Amidst all of the small, wicked chuckles that the climax has to offer, many will be surprised by how poignant the whole experience is. I was astounded that I actually grew to care about the dumb goofball of a protagonist and his crew who were being bitten by the second.

     Shaun of the Dead’s subtle tone was a huge surprise to me, considering how obnoxious it could’ve been. Welcoming a zombie movie, under such circumstances, was not something that I ever expected to do. But, I can appreciate originality in all forms, and this movie proves such. Who would’ve known that a motion picture bearing the tagline “A romantic comedy…With zombies” could be this deep?


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