Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008: The Year in Review

Can you believe it folks? In just a few hours, 2009 will be upon us. You know what that means; time to reflect on the year that was. A year of highs (Robert Downey Jr! Barack Obama!) and lows ("The Love Guru"! The economy!). Despite a failing economy, the box office was better than ever, with "The Dark Knight" nearly outgrossing "Titanic" and even "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" getting to make a few bucks (unfortunately, so did "High School Musical 3" and "Twilight"). A good explanation for this could have that in these dark times, escape was needed. And movies this year provided the perfect paradox of both escaping reality and having us examine it at the same time. 2008 was also the year in which politics more than ever vastly shaped pop culture. Thanks to the election, "Saturday Night Live" suddenly shot back into relevance while Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert further proved themselves to be the voices of this generation. Without further adieu, here are some of the things that shaped the year that was 2008:
Entertainer of the Year: With three Emmys, a hit movie, a brilliant TV show, and a brilliant impersonation, this year all but belonged to Tina Fey. Her "30 Rock" provides the best showbiz satire and example of imagination on TV. Most notably though, was her Sarah Palin impersonation on "SNL." She captured the less fine qualities of the Alaskan governor/Northern Exposure extra by simply taking many of Palin's words verbatim (with a little tweaking) and doing a spot-on voice impersonation. When comparing real Palin to fake Palin, it's impossible to tell who the real thing is. Now, that's good entertainment.
Other Contenders: Robert Downey Jr., Jason Segal, Russell Brand, Sarah Palin, Heath Ledger, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Sarah Silverman, Rob McElhenney & Kaitlin Olson
Best Movie*: This was quite a fantastic year for movies, but after much thought I realized the award goes to "Slumdog Millionaire." This tale of a boy from a Mumbai slum who went on an incredible life journey to become a contestant for "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" is virtually flawless in every way. It contains a great portion of laughs, cries, and thrills that all coincide to create a perfect whole. Plus, the film's great editing and beautiful cinematography make it stunning to look at. Even though the audience might know Jamal's fate from the very beginning, "Slumdog Millionaire" proves that a film is more about the journey, than it is about the conclusion.
Other contenders: Tropic Thunder, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, In Bruges, Dark Knight, Iron Man
Best TV Show: "The Office" and "South Park" both had their ups and downs. I have given up on "Family Guy." Season 3 of "30 Rock" has unfortunately not lived up to season 2 (but I have faith in Fey. "Lost" was at the top of its game, but the true best show of '08 is perhaps the most underrated: "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia." The fourth season of this daring comedy about five of the most self-centered people on the planet went to new lengths to show just how desperate and pathetic (yet...ambitious) these people are. Yet in their misdeeds, creator Rob McElhenney gives us a sort of sympathy for the characters and something so lovable about them that it's hard to change the channel even if they are planning on eating someone or abusing a homeless guy. For it's audacity and sense of humor in the absolutely ridiculous, "It's Always Sunny" earns my love, and hopefully yours too. And one day, maybe the Emmys will finally tune in.
Best Song: No contest. M.I.A's "Paper Planes" was quite possibly the most listened to song on my iPod throughout this year. I am not great at analyzing music, but the upbeat tune had me ready to face anything after listening to it. And it went great in the "Pineapple Express" trailer and in "Slumdog Millionaire." M.I.A has described her music style as being "other" which is exactly what it is, a mix of hip hop, punk, etc. It's a style of her own, and "Paper Planes" defines it.
Saddest Death: The shock of seeing rising star Heath Ledger's name in the obituaries just months before his finest performance in "The Dark Knight" was tragic. But the death of Paul Newman got to me most. I have lived in the same town as him all of my life and even though I never met him, I feel a special connection to him for that very reason. Mainly though, he was just a good man who devoted his life to helping people and forever changed cinema with performances like "Cool Hand Luke" and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." His coolness will never be topped, nor will it ever be forgotten.

So what were some of your favorite things in 2008. This is your last chance to let me know before 2008 concludes. Until then, happy new year and thanks to all who have continued to read my blog throughout the year. A whole new year of posts is yet to come.

*Note: A list of the 10 best films of 2008 will be coming soon, after I get to see Benjamin Button, The Wrestler, Frost/Nixon, Revolutionary Road, Gran Torino, and any other Oscar bait only playing in big cities. But, that's what I get for living in the suburbs.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Movie Review: Marley & Me

Is a dog truly man's best friend? What does that saying even mean? I wondered this after walking out of "Marley & Me" last night. It shows a family dealing with the "world's worst dog", but despite the chaos the dog may cause, it is still someone who keeps them company and makes them happy in times of trouble. A companion always by their side. A man's best friend.
"Marley & Me" is based on the best-selling memoir written by John Grogan. In the movie Grogan is played by Owen Wilson. He has just married Jenifer (Jenifer Aniston) and is settling in to a new job at a Florida newspaper and preparing for married life. The first step? Get a dog. That dog would be "clearance puppy" Marley. He doesn't seem like much at first but within weeks the dog has destroyed the entire garage, ripped apart couches, and eaten dry wall (he doesn't just chew, he eats it). 
The rest of the film chronicles the Grogan's married life. It goes through their ups and downs, good and bad, and children. All of these years of marriage are traced through the life of Marley.
You don't have to own a dog to fall in love with "Marley." It teaches lessons about life and brings laughs that anyone can feel. 
The movie, for the most part, stays very true to the source material. Some key scenes had to be either taken away or shortened but director David Frankel ("The Devil Wears Prada") still handles them well. Unfortunately, what is lost is a lot of Grogan's witty narration and commentary on the scenes that made up most of the book. A lot of his observations have been used in ways to show the scenes, so in that way Frankel does the book justice. The film does display a great use of montages. Montages with Grogan reflecting on the past day for newspaper columns (most including Marley causing trouble) and instructing a dogsitter how to watch the dog are brilliantly done for a great comic effect.
The stylistic techniques used in a film like this are miniscule compared to the actual story. And what a finely told story it is. As a dog owner myself, I could connect with many of Marley's most troublesome acts. I may not be able to name my dog "world's worst dog," but that doesn't mean I've had to wake up to her barking on numerous occasions at 4 am on a school night. But in the way that Grogan can get over the destruction Marley caused, so can I. It's because a dog doesn't seem to understand anything its doing but can truly understand when their owner needs a friend.
I may have said this before but I am not much of a crier during movies (a few exceptions include "Life is Beautiful," and a few sniffles during "Slumdog Millionaire"). I warn you, bring tissues, napkins, or what haveya when you see "Marley & Me." The film is about the life cycle of a dog and it ends exactly where you think. And if you think I'm giving something away believe me, I am not. The concluding act of the film is heartbreaking yet heartwarming, because we've grown to love Marley and the rest of the characters so much that the loss is devastating. 
A large part of what makes this movie works are the central performances by Wilson and Aniston, who manage to be so convincing as a struggling married couple. In the last few moments, Wilson absolutely shines. You can feel the emotion of his connection between him and the dog. In that moment, the connection between the two goes from an animal to human connection to a human to human connection. This is the message that Grogan intended.
When I first heard that "Marley" was being turned into a movie, I hesitated. I greatly enjoyed the book but when I thought of dog movie the first thing that popped into mind was a bunch of dancing chihuahuas. But "Marley" is far from that. It is a serious human story filled with hilarious moments of a dog simply acting like a dog. 
"Marley & Me" is the rare movie for the family that anyone of any age can enjoy and feel something for. It shows that a dog's will love you, no matter what you do to it, so why not love each other the same way? "Marley & Me" will give a new reason to give your dog a treat, just maybe not a "who's a good boy?"
Other Great Dog Movies: All Dogs Go to Heaven, Homeward Bound, Oliver & Company

Thursday, December 25, 2008

What to do on Christmas if you are a Jew (or any religion)...

...Watch the best holiday movie ever, "A Christmas Story" on TBS. And there's no way you can miss it, because you have at least 24 chances to watch it. That's right, 24 hours of "A Christmas Story." And don't feel weird watching it more than once, it's totally acceptable.

Warning: Maybe not too many viewings. You'll shoot your eye out...kid
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

2008: The Year in Quotes

The best way history can be remembered is through the things that people say. Conversation is how the thoughts and ideas of the time are truly communicated. Here is a list (in no particular order) of some quotes from movies, tv, and reality that made 2008 unique:

"My videogame is the most provocative thing since the War on Terror. Yes, I am provocative."
-Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan), 30 Rock

"Wildcard B*****s!"
-Charlie (Charlie Day), It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

"If reality TV has taught us anything, it's that you can't keep people with no shame down."

-Liz Lemon (Tina Fey), 30 Rock

"I can see Russia from my house!"
-Sarah Palin (Tina Fey), Saturday Night Live

"I'm the mayor, I can do whatever I want until the courts tell me I can't."
-(The real) Sarah Palin 

"Yes, I did have three xanaxes and a silver bullet. I'm outta here in a few months so screw it."
-George W. Bush (Will Ferrell), Saturday Night Live

"So what?"
-(The real) George W. Bush, after having a shoe thrown at him

"I watched Boston Legal nine times before I realized it wasn't a new Star Trek!"
-Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan), 30 Rock

"The slumdog's got bite."
-Slumdog Millionaire

"I don't break character until after the DVD commentary is recorded."
-Kirk Lazurus (Robert Downey Jr.), Tropic Thunder

"He told me... that after I left the island, some very bad things happened. And he told me that it was my fault for leaving. And he said that I had to come back."
-Jack Shephard (Matthew Fox), Lost

"F**k you, Miss Daisy."
-Ronnie, Role Models

"Dominique, you banged me, like right away, I hardly had to do anything. Tabatha you did the same. But most importantly you banged each other...and you let me watch. AWESOME."
-Mac (Rob McElhenney), It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

"I would not — I would not be an American worthy of the name should I regret a fate that has allowed me the extraordinary privilege of serving this country for a half a century."
-John McCain

"It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America."
-Barack Obama

What other quotes defined 2008? And can anyone tell me verbatim what Sarah Palin truly said about being able to see Russia from her house?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Someone Answered My Prayers...

A few months back, I reported that Michael Bay's production company was planning an extremely unnecessary remake to the 1968 classic "Rosemary's Baby." Reasons were that the producers behind it couldn't think of a fresh angle to make the movie by. Well, that's partly because the original "Rosemary's Baby" is as fresh and frightening today as it was 40 years ago. Then again, I'm pretty sure Bay can make anything fresh and original just by adding a few explosions to it. Am I right? Am I? (Crickets churp)

Note: This photo represents Mia Farrow's reaction once she found out that "Baby" was being put in the hands of the guy who blessed us with "Transformers."

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Best Political Satire this Year

In an unusually good year for Saturday Night Live, which was boosted by the presidential election, the entire cast really delivered on the political satire. Especially with some help from Will Ferrell and Tina Fey. This sketch here satirizes everything from McCain trying to distance himself from Bush to Sarah Palin to the Asian stock markets. Laughs all around. Please, enjoy this sketch and this very snowy weekend. And please, pray the SNL will do okay even with Amy Poehler leaving...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Best Scene on TV This Year

Well, now is about the time of year when I reflect on the best things to come out of 2008. However, it is difficult to write a final consensus on movies since all of the so called Oscar flicks are too good for the suburbs and are currently only playing in NY and LA. However, you can watch a television show anytime, no matter where you live. So while I wait to report this year's best movie, I'd like to present the year's best TV moment.
I had a wide range to choose from, but I decided to go for a now legendary moment from the season 5 premiere of "The Office" entitled "Weight Loss."
You guessed it; it was Jim's (John Krasinski) proposal to Pam (Jenna Fischer). Not just the fact that it was one of the most anticipated moments of the show since Jim first laid that smooch on Pam at the end of season 2, but the brilliant way it is filmed and approached.
First off, rather than setting the proposal in some typical, romantic, cliche setting like a five star restaurant or tropical resort, this special proposal is set on a dark, rainy day at a gas station off of the highway somewhere in between Scranton and New York. It's not filmed right in their faces, but instead off in the distance, as if the camera is spying from a safe distance of this moment.
"Hey! This is not halfway," an overexcited Pam states.
The rest of her words are hard to determine.
Amongst her excitement, Jim just stands there, silent. Is he angry? Sad? Suddenly, he gets down on one knee, and the viewer's heart races a few beats.
"I couldn't wait...will you marry me?" Jim says.
"Oh my God," Pam repeats. And so does the audience.
Of course she says yes. But, that's not the point. Everyway this scene was approached made it so original and so surprising. Everytime I watch it, I get chills and a big smile on my face.
Paul Feig (creator of "Freaks and Geeks"), who directed this episode, has become the Hemingway of television comedy with his simple and honest approach to such complex events, making them all the more powerful.
Long time fans will cry when they see this, and even people who've never watched "The Office" once might feel something.
Here is the clip in all of its glory:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Man Who Reports the News Right: Jon Stewart

Dismiss him as nothing but a comedian all you want, but "The Daily Show"'s Jon Stewart deserves to be the most trusted name in news. He truly knows how to report the news and not just that, but dig deep into it and get true, thought provoking answers. For proof, watch his interview with Mike Huckabee last night. Stewart challenged Huckabee on his strong opposition to gay marriage and nearly left the man speechless.
See parts 1&2 of this fantastic piece of investigative reporting through interview here:

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Movie Review: Slumdog Millionaire

Exhilarating. Enthralling. Heartbreaking. Stunning. Shocking. Breathtaking. Heart-stopping. These are all cliches. The words journalists loathe and hope their readers do too. However, I unfortunately have a thing for using cliches, and everyone of these words represent "Slumdog Millionaire."
Danny Boyle's "Slumdog Millionaire" is brimming with energy. Every shot, every second, invokes the highest amount of different emotions. Whether it's shock, suspense, sadness, or laughter; "Slumdog Millionaire" takes every emotion up to eleven.
"Slumdog Millionaire"'s flashback flash to present is barely new, but Boyle plans to pull it off in an innovative way. The movie begins in Mumbai, India in the present day. A teenage boy named Jamal (Dev Patel) has for whatever reason, been granted a once in a lifetime opportunity to compete in an Indian version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire." How has he gotten zero question wrong. Did he cheat? Only the flashbacks can tell.
The rest of the film traces Jamal's story through flashbacks that come from the questions he is asked. He began as nothing but a boy in the slums (a "slumdog") with his brother Salim (Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail). The two go from destitute orphans to traveling con artists making money off of tourists and such. Along the way, Jamal falls in love with, and then loses a beautiful girl named Latika (Freida Pinto). He devotes the rest of his life toward finding her again and somehow ends up competing for 20 million rupees on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire." How does he get there? How does he find Latika again? Only the past will tell.
The best way to describe the style of "Slumdog Millionaire" is Tarantinoesqe. It is told in a way that the flashbacks come together to form some sort of coincidences in the future/present and all together fate in the end.
The entire film takes place and was shot in Mumbai. Mumbai is a city that holds over 13 million people crowded into one space. Much of it, are the poorest slums you'll ever see, the kind you could never imagine. Boyle captures the shoddy slums perfectly in stunning air and tracking shots which capture the slums close-in and see the mass scale of them from high above.
As I said, the poverty level is beyond anyone's wildest imagination. For a film about such poor and terrible social conditions, you'd think the director would've chosen a much more gloomy and depressing tone. Maybe something along the lines of "The Constant Gardner." Instead, it's shot with lively colors, a hip soundtrack ("Paper Planes"!!), and fast-paced cinematography. Even the subtitles are bright. Because of this, the movie is never boring, and Boyle shows us that even some of the worst places still have the potential to be alive with energy and optimism. Especially after the very recent terror attacks in Mumbai, that city could some optimism, and this movie would bring it to them. Not to mention, it also has a much bigger sense of humor than I expected. Yes, a movie that has the potential to be a Best Picture nominee contains one of the funniest poop jokes I've seen in a long time.
"Slumdog" is not all joyous however. Along with the brutally honest images or poverty terrible living conditions there are also extremely disturbing stories of violence, sacrifice, and corruption. Boyle manages to mix this together and you can feel the bad morphing into the good. It is that which makes this one of the most uplifting (in a non-schmaltzy way) movies I've seen.
Here is the paragraph where I should say that "Slumdog Millionaire" is far and away one of the best movies of the year and no doubt deserves a best picture nomination. Both of these things are very true. But I don't need to tell you this; you should be telling yourself this, and you will be as the final credits role. 
In these dark times, "Slumdog Millionaire" offers the definition of escapist entertainment for it allows us to escape yet makes us face the real world at the same time.

Recommended for Fans of: City of God, GoodFellas, The Constant Gardner, Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Snatch, Mean Streets, Born into Brothels

Friday, December 5, 2008

Movie Review: Wall-E

The empire has been established for almost two decades, but not until I saw "Wall-E" which was just released this past summer did I realize that Pixar is officially the greatest creator of animation in Hollywood since Walt Disney. And with "Wall-E" they have created their most adult film, for kids.
"Wall-E" takes place over 800 years into the future but takes the queue from other classic dystopia films and makes the future, maybe unrecognizable, seem frighteningly like the present.
In these 800 years into the future, Earth is unlivable and has been completely abandoned by humans. All of the green fields and blue oceans have disappeared and the skyscrapers of giant cities have shaped into giant piles of garbage and the remains of a giant Wal Mart like corporation.
Humans have left Earth on a giant space station called Axiom that's a dystopian utopia. Humans have now gotten so obese and lazy that they can't even walk anymore and instead move from place to place via hover chair. Human interaction is sparse and thanks to robots, you don't even need to get out of bed. All of this is thanks to the Buy N Large, which provides meals to everyone via giant cups that looks like something you'd get at Robeks. Hmmm, this seems relevant.
Back at Earth, the only living things are a few cockroaches, and a robot named Wall-E. Wall-E is a robot that was part of a failed project to clean up the Earth. He now wanders the deserted planet, compacting trash and watching old videotapes. He wanders the Earth in agonizing loneliness until one day another robot named EVE (religious undertone, perhaps?) comes to Earth for unknown reasons. Wall-E immediately falls in love.
Pixar has always been great at giving life to the inanimate and to animals all while dehumanizing people. The toys of "Toy Story" could speak and interact and the mice of "Ratatouille" could outsmart the people around them. The robots of "Wall-E" can love while humans can't even move their legs. However, by the end, "Wall-E" ends up showing sympathy for humans which plays a part in its ultimately hopeful message.
But with all of the religious and political themes, the true heart of "Wall-E" lies in its love story. Director/writer Andrew Stanton ("Finding Nemo") creates a love story between two robots yet makes it seem human by pumping it with life, energy and humor. I am not much of a crier when it comes to movies but the story of Wall-E and Eve nearly had me reaching for a tissue box. Making a relationship between two people in a movie seem believable in a movie is difficult. But making a love story between two robots seem believable, well, takes a lot of talent.
The character of the title, Wall-E, is truly the most lovable part of the movie. In one of the best sci-fi films in years, the robot is quite possibly the most endearing sci-fi character since E.T. No surprise, Wall-E's voice sounds like a mixture of E.T. and R2-D2. Also, like "E.T," "Wall-E" proves that the science-fiction drama isn't all about aliens, predators, and terminators. There is a large amount of room for heart, even if a robot doesn't have one.
"Wall-E" is innovative in everything from its extremely realistic animation to its irregular story structure. It drops the witty banter that is typical of a Pixar film and replaces it with extremely long silences. Most of the time, it feels more like "2001" than "Finding Nemo." Despite the long, dialogue-free sequences, the movie never feels boring. In fact, it is the imagery that makes the movie captivating and where it finds most of its humor. Pixar has found a way to make intelligent humor out of slapstick and visuals. Genius.
"Wall-E" is a definite nominee in the Best Animated Feature Oscar (and probably win) but is good enough that in a perfect world, it would get a Best Picture nomination. Why? Everything. The writing, the story, the characters, and the political messages. It is hard to say which film about the future will become most accurate, but I believe "Wall-E" will come pretty close. And this is coming from a generation of children's films that include such glaring historical inaccuracies as "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs."
"Wall-E" may be rated G but it will probably appeal more to adults than kids. But the message it teaches is crucial to the audience of children it should attract. In fact it is a message universal to any person of any age. It proves that love can exist between any two things, and the promise of hope is very real. Yes, even in an unforgivingly consumerist culture.
The same production company that's poisoning our country with "High School Musical," Miley Cyrus, and the Jonas Brothers is also responsible for a film that could maybe make our world a little better. Maybe they should make more films like this because after all, kids are capable of being mature enough to see a film that doesn't involve a bunch of high school kids dancing and singing.
For sure I can say this: "Wall-E" has earned a true place in my heart. And less your heart is made of nothing but wires and computer chips, you will love it too.
Recommended for Fans of: Toy Story, Ratatouille, Finding Nemo, Monster's Inc, Star Wars, E.T., Blade Runner, A Clockwork Orange, Children of Men, 2001: A Space Odyssey 

Thursday, December 4, 2008

For Your Consideration

During the months of December and January, I will post some people/movies that deserve Academy Award recognition in February. So, if any Academy members are viewing this blog, please take this post into consideration...

With my first "For Your Consideration" post I decided instead of starting big, I'd start small. That's why I'm starting with a category often overlooked: Best Original Song. While it may unfortunately be passed over in all of the main categories, here is the Academy's chance to honor "Forgetting Sarah Marshall." It offered not one, but three fantastic, hilarious, and catchy songs. Oscar is never kind to comedies in the categories that matter, but they have often been kind to them in the song category (ex: "Blame Canada" from "South Park Bigger, Longer, and Uncut").
Here are the three songs from "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" worthy of a nomination:
Dracula's Lament
 
We've Got To Do Something


Inside Of You

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Turkey Day

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! For an extra special thanks to everyone who reads my blog, here's a special Thanksgiving treat you won't soon forget (note: check out my "Quantum of Solace" review below):








Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Movie Review: Quantum of Solace

Two years ago, the ailing Bond franchise, held down by ludicrous plots and over-the-top gadgets, was revived in a big way with "Casino Royale." "Casino Royale" held back on the gadgets, created a more believable story, and most importantly, brought audiences a darker, vulnerable Bond.
"Quantum of Solace" manages to bring back all of these fantastic new qualities of Bond for a satisfying new movie.
While most 007 movies started from the beginning at each movie, "Quantum of Solace" is the first one to pick up from directly where its predecessor left off. Last we saw, James Bond (Daniel Craig) was torn apart by the death of his love, Vesper (Eva Green) and is now swearing a quest of vengeance. 
While tracking down some enemies and conspirators in Vesper's death, Bond finds out that his enemies go far beyond Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen). It's something called Project Greene run by a man named Dominic Greene ("Diving Bell and the Butterfly"'s Mathieu Amalric) who acts like a giving philanthropist but is really sucking the earth dry of many of its resources. The rest of the plot (without giving too much away and showing what I comprehend) has to do with oil. But despite the intimidating Greene, Bond's greatest challenges are M (Judi Dench) and his own recklessness.
Once again, Craig steals the show and proves himself a Bond almost as good as Connery. His comic timing allows him to deliver great one liners and sarcastic remarks perfectly, making him the funniest Bond without making him corny. Beyond the comedy, Craig helps show Bond beyond a man who simply defeats the bad guy and gets the girl at the end. Here is a man who is now seen as human. He can fall in love. He can be hurt. His mission is not always about saving the world, sometimes it's about fixing his broken heart.
Just like "Casino Royale," "Solace" contains no high-tech gadgets or giant rays that can harness the sun's power and melt the earth (or whatever happened in "Die Another Day") but instead contains a plot about a man exploiting all of South America's unstable governments and using them as a way to harness control of all of the world's oil. Sounds more like something ripped from a CNN headline than a Hollywood action movie.
"Quantum of Solace" like its strange title, can sometimes be a little odd and extremely confusing. Viewers looking for a typical simple Bond plot should instead wait for the next Michael Bay movie, because this one won't be for them.
"Solace" doesn't live up to "Casino Royale" for several reasons. Despite its more realistic plot and attention to character like its predecessor, "Solace" lacks the breathtaking action sequences that made up "Royale." The beginning sequence of "Royale" was crazed and everywhere, but it was filmed at a pace so the viewer could take it all in and follow every single movement. That is what made the scene one of the greatest chase sequences ever filmed.
"Solace" contains some great action sequences, but they aren't filmed with the same carefulness and grace as those in "Royale". Instead, the camera jerks too much and everything happens way too quickly. The viewer can barely appreciate any action going on and therefore the movie is nowhere near as thrilling as previous Bond chapters. A big reason for this was the fact that "Royale" was directed by a man who had directed several big Hollywood blockbusters while "Solace was directed by Marc Forster, whose known for directing dramas like "Finding Neverland" and "Monster's Ball." Forster does excellent on the drama and character parts of the movie, but he still needs experience in directing action sequences. If he sticks on for a few more movies, Forster should be able to improve in his action sequences.
"Quantum of Solace" is the next part in not only the revival but transformation of James Bond. And it does well on that. Unfortunately, it lacks some of the grittiness and brilliance that made "Royale" an instant classic but it's an extremely sufficient and even thought provoking two hours of entertainment.
 In a world of brain dead action movies filled with explosions, "Quantum of Solace" gives the world a blockbuster not only with a brain, but also a big, cold heart. If only the action was bette done, "Quantum of Solace" could've been "Dark Knight" of the holiday season.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Worst Job Ever=Best. Movie. Ever

Director Greg Mottola ("Superbad", a few episodes of "Undeclared" and "Arrested Development") is riding his deserving wave of "Superbad" success (yes, someone besides Judd Apatow was involved) for a new movie called "Adventureland." It's based partly of Mottola's real life job he had working at Disneyworld after college. And it stars such new age comic geniuses as Martin Starr ("Freaks and Geeks"), Kristen Wiig (SNL) and that kid from "The Squid and the Whale." Like "Superbad" it looks like it'll mix hilarious gross out humor with a sweet coming of age back story. Also, it'll most likely be a more realistic account of teen life than "The Hills", which I cannot stress enough.
Will this be the next "Superbad?" Judge for yourself with the trailer below:

Friday, November 21, 2008

"Sunny" Season 4 Comes to a Close

Watched it or not, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" had its season finale last night. A bittersweet one, I must say. While I was enthralled to see a musical made out the Dayman and Nightman songs in last night's episode, no more "Sunny" for who knows how long. Nothing at 10 PM every thursday to follow "The Office" and "30 Rock".
But, I'm sure none of you care about my suffering. You want to hear about this season. And what a great season it was. Blessed with a bigger budget and a certified following (which grows bigger by the day), creator/star Rob McElhenney was able to create new stories a bring the gang to new places that could never have been done with the budget of the show's pilot (which was between $85-$200). In this season, the gang sunk to new, strange levels of depravity. They ate and hunted people, waterboarded each other, faked their own deaths, kidnapped multiple people, took advantage of the homeless and worldwide crisis, and even managed to go back in time. These, amongst many other events this season, while tending a bar.
Season four didn't exactly reach the perfection of season three, but that's not to say this season was a new step up for the show, despite some flaws. Some things that bothered me this season was an absence of the McPoyles and an absence of jokes about Charlie's blatant illiteracy (however, Charlie's idiocy was not totally forgotten, thanks to some cat food and a mail conspiracy). As this season progressed, we saw the once successful Frank (Danny DeVito) sink lower and lower). He went from a once successful businessman opening sweatshops in Vietnam to a man disguising himself as Rambo not long before he began pooping everywhere and landing in a mental hospital (a fantastic inside joke on "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest", which DeVito starred in). Nothing however will ever reach his lowest level of depravity in season three when he married his own daughter to get his hands on his wife's will.
Of the cast, I believe this season truly belonged to Kaitlin Olson. As Dee, the only woman of the gang, she managed to stand out and really bring both the character's craziness and vulnerability into full swing. I cringed in painful laughter (yet felt a little bad for Dee) as she dry-heaved her way through a pathetic attempt at standup. If the Emmys ever decide to lighten up a little and consider "Sunny", I think Olson should be a true contender for best actress. Seriously.
So season five, please come soon. If I have any advice for the show, it's that they bring back Charlie illiteracy jokes along with the McPoyles and Bruce Mathis, hit political/social themes even harder, keep bringing the Waitress back, and please bring "Nightman Cometh" to Broadway. But most importantly, please come back soon.
It's difficult to choose the best clip from this season, but here are three scenes that nearly brought me to tears:
value="http://www.hulu.com/embed/-VfkuLpoUvfwRZJX8QSONA">

value="http://www.hulu.com/embed/wGVfz2SJU29LQOPx219Bdg">

value="http://www.hulu.com/embed/5NG1bWL2qnjpKxMnrSHMNA">

Saturday, November 15, 2008

To See or Not to See: Amores Perros Edition

Usually when I write a review, I have a clear opinion of it to provide the audience; whether it is good or not. Whether you should see or not see it. Today I've hit a dilemma, and that dilemma is "Amores Perros" (which translates to "Love's a Bitch", not "Love Dogs" as I originally thought). I am so shooken up and split up by it that I thought I'd try something new. I'm gonna tell you my two-sided opinion on it, and I want you as a reader to decide for yourselves whether or not you should see.
To See: "Amores Perros" was the first feature by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu ("21 Grams", "Babel") and it's a hell of a debut film. Set in smoggy, sprawling, Mexico City it tells interconnecting stories that range from the rich to the homeless. Some characters include Octavio (Gael Garcia Bernal) whose in love with his psycho brother's kind and gentle wife (Vanessa Bauche). Octavio wants to get away with her, but first he must raise money through dogfights (more to come on that) for the trip. There's also a homeless man with strange motives behind a strange murder and a rich model whose been tainted by a car crash. "Amores Perros" contains heartbreak and beauty. The imagery is stunning; from spilled blood sizzling on a grill to that final image. It portrays themes of hope and hopelessness, along with the possibility of change and forgiveness in such a cruel world. It asks us to look beyond stereotypes and into people's hearts. Inarritu's debut film shows the prominance in Latin American filmmaking which has arised this decade and is perfect for those of you who love interconnecting stories like "Crash" (minus the preachiness). But what is that essential flaw in here?
...or Not to See: Each seperate story of Amores Perros contains dogs as an essential part of the story. I love dogs, to a huge degree. So, why am I so hesitant about the use of dogs here. It was those cringeworthy dogfights. Now, I'm not for censorship and I understand the director wasn't condoning dogfighting. But I have a soft spot for animals (especially dogs) and watching them tear each other apart in bloody masses was just too depressing for me, and it's possibly the thing that may prevent me from watching this movie again. So animal lovers, beware.
There are also many flaws in the story itself. For one thing, it's a bit muddled. The lines between who is who can get a little confusing (follow those subtitles carefully, audience). Also, I was extremely bothered by how many characters who seemed so important at first were suddenly dropped and barely had anything to do with the end of the movie. Basically, the stories don't tie together well. While with Inarritu's masterpiece "Babel" not a single character from each story ever met each other, they all still reached some sort of conclusion at the end and you really felt a close connection between each story. Each characters purpose made sense. "Amores Perros" also lacked "Babel"'s stunning epic sweep.
That is the Question: Readers, decide for yourselves whether or not you should see this movie. Filmophiles, dig in. PETA members, step back. And for those of you who have seen this movie, am I right? Or does my love for dogs make my opinion a little biased and unfair? And if you like this movie, it doesn't necessarily make you Michael Vick.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Movie Review: Role Models

Recently, I thought I was beginning to lose faith in the comedy genre. Over the past year, the genre was completely revived. However, in the last few months we got the disaster that was "Sex Drive" and a totally unjust Apatow/Rogen backlash forming. My love of comedy was restored last night with "Role Models".
"Role Models" succeeds because it follows a completely original idea. It only falls into cliche territory a few times, but it mainly stays on course for an inventive and inspired ending. 
"Role Models" gives the audience the usual pair of slackers. Danny (Paul Rudd) is a spokesman for a Red Bullesque energy drink company. Like Peter in "Office Space" he lives a pretty miserable existence which gets worse when he realizes that he's gone nowhere in life. His business partner Wheeler (Sean William Scott) doesn't seem to realize this and just enjoys prancing around in his bull costume.
After Danny starts to loose it, he tries to propose to his girlfriend (Elizabeth Banks) and does some other pretty unlawful acts that land him and Wheeler in community service. To fulfill their hours, they're put into a child mentor program. Danny is assigned Augie (Christopher "McLovin" Mintz-Plasse), a Dungeons and Dragons/WoW geek, while wheeler is assigned to the foul-mouth Ronnie (Bobbe J. Thompson). Mischief, chaos, and a lot of heart ensue.
"Role Models" is directed by David Wain. Some may know him better as David of TV's brilliant comedy "Stella", also a comedy trio consisting of Wain, Michael Ian Black, and Michael Showalter. Wain shows as much charisma and hilarity behind the camera as he did in front of it. "Role Models" contains that random, over-the-top, slapstick humor with a heart that made "Stella" so great. Wain makes a too short cameo as the typical man on a camping trip who tries to play the acoustic guitar.
There are three things that make a great comedy work: writing, directing, and acting. If you have all three, you're set. The performances in the movie make Wain's script and directing even funnier. Rudd has proved that he has what it takes to be a leading man. He has a gift for making dramatic seem funny. He played mopey and depressed flawlessly in "The 40 Year Old Virgin" and brings it to a new level here. Scott shows a comic talent I never thought he had. He could probably make a great career if he sticks to good material like "Role Models" and stays away from any "American Pie" sequels. Mintz-Plasse pulls another fantastic performance here. It is almost identical to his McLovin performance, but two McLovins is barely enough. He brings that extreme awkwardness including stutters and long pauses to make the audience uncomfortable, but he controls it so Augie isn't totally resentable or laughable. Thompson is a new face to look out for.
"Role Models" works better than recent comedies like "Sex Drive" because even its dirtiest jokes don't feel too gross or raunchy. The best dirty jokes are subtle or hidden in innuendos (the best one: "I am here to service these young boys!"). If "Arrested Development" taught us anything about humor, it's that you can never have enough innuendos. 
What also sets "Role Models" apart is that the whole time you feel like you're rooting for the underdog. Not to mention, even if the characters do awful things, we continue to feel for them. The connections that Wheeler and Danny find in the kids they are forced to mentor is something even deeper than you'd expect in an R rated comedy with Sean William Scott.
So if you're in the mood to hear a debate about Kiss lyrics, and see and ending that will make you remember "Freaks and Geeks", go see "Role Models", one of the funniest movies this year.
Recommended for Fans of: "Superbad", "Knocked Up", "The 40 Year Old Virgin", "Office Space", "Clerks", "Freaks and Geeks" (TV), "Arrested Development" (TV), "Stella" (TV)

Friday, November 7, 2008

It Has Arrived: Lost Season 5...

...No, it hasn't started yet (tear), but ABC has released a trailer for "Lost"'s upcoming fifth season which will begin Wednesday January 21, 2009. The last time we saw our favorite castaways, Ben successfully moved the island, Jin and the freighter were blown to smithereens, the Oceanic Six could barely handle life back in the real world, and the mysterious man in the coffin who Jack was so sad about was none other than John Locke. 
Based on this trailer, season five will pick up directly where season four left off. Jack finds out that some very bad things happened after he left the island and Locke said he needed to go back. Ben tells him the only way to return is with everyone else who was rescued. The real question is, what kind of "very bad things" happened after Jack left? Where did the island go?What must they do when they return to the island? How did Locke bite the dust? With the faith vs. science debate that has made up Jack and Locke's bitter relationship throughout the series may be telling in Locke's death? Is it Jack and science, not Locke and faith, who should truly rule the island?
Now that the series finale has been determined, creators Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse now know where everything is going, so these final two seasons will be more directed, and hopefully brilliant. That is, combining the character study of season one with the mythology of season three and hopefully avoiding some of the clunkiness that made up season two.
Here's the moment you've all been waiting for:

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Movie Review: Harold and Maude

"You've gotta make you're own kind of music.
Sing your own special song.
Make your own kind of music
Even when no one's around."
-Mama Cass
These words from the Mama Cass classic "Make Your Own Kind of Music" are a few simple words that define independence and individuality that defines "Harold and Maude", a fantastic little romantic comedy that...
Wait? Did I say romantic comedy? That's a little shaky. Romance? Yeah. Comedy? Sure. Black comedy sounds a little more accurate. All together, romantic black comedy. 
This black comedy begins with Harold (Bud Cort), a teen-something in a fancy room hanging himself. His mother (Vivian Pickles) walks in, notices her son gasping for life and goes back talking on the phone. Somehow, Harold survives. So what does he do after that? He kills himself again. And again. And again. Until mommy sends him to a psychologist who can't do much for Harold.
Harold is actually a rebellious child, a smart boy capable of individuality. However he doesn't really know this, so like "Fight Club"'s narrator and Benjamin Bradock he floats through life and lets it pass by way too quickly. The only thing that makes him feel alive is the many random funerals he attends, and even there he doesn't feel much. This is of course, until he meets Maude (Ruth Gordon).
Maude is close to her 80th birthday, but she's not your typical buby. Sure, she drives like one, but she acts like a 16 year old. She really is Mama Cass's "Make Your Own Kind of Music"; she'll steal a tree to replant it in the wild and outrun cops just to say she's beating it to her own drum. Her and Harold form an incredible connection, change each other's lives, and fall in love, breaking down the age barrier.
There have been so many love stories about two random people meeting each other through coincidence, going through a turbulent relationship, and eventually falling in love, but there have been few to none quite like "Harold and Maude." "Harold and Maude" shows that love can exist in any form, as long as the two people involved love each other. Race, gender, age, who cares? In a year where a man running for president is African American, this test of society's tolerance remains ever the more relevant. 
The film is directed in a style that most likely influenced Judd Apatow (I don't think I can go one review without dropping his name) and "The Office"; it feels like the director grabbed a camera and followed around two random people for a few days and got an honest and candid shot of their lives. We see them first in the middle of an event, and we leave them in the middle of an event. We don't need to see anymore, but we've taken out a lifelong lesson over just a few days in Harold and Maude's life.
It's easy to understand why "Harold and Maude" has grown such a huge cult following. Beyond the extremely quotable dialogue (Harold: You sure have a way with people. Maude: Well, they're my species!) lies a subtext on the passing from life to death and feeling alive for the very first time. Harold keeps trying to commit suicide in order to kill himself from the dead like state he's been living in (Harold looks awfully white throughout the film. Is he dead already? Debate this Lost like theory amongst yourselves as I try not to give much more away).
The anti-hero protagonist of Harold is no doubt inspired by "The Graduate"'s Ben Bradock and has no doubt inspired that theme of re-awakening seen in "Fight Club" and "The Visitor" amongst others.
In these re-awakenings the main character goes from lazy and uncaring to becoming their own person. This is usually triggered by some event or person. Harold's trigger is Maude. If an 80-year-old can live life to the fullest, so can he.
Besides Mama Cass, "Harold and Maude" evokes many other songs, mainly those of Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel. That could be because the movie is like a song and poetry put together. This effect is emphasized by its beautiful score by Cat Stevens (aka Yusif Islam) whose songs perfectly compliment the movie's message of individuality and rebellion. 
In a time when government and media corrupts our country and tries to tell us how to act, a sense of individuality should never be forgotten.
In "There's Something About Mary", Mary states that Harold and Maude is "the greatest love story of our time". And it is, of the time of 1971, and the time of 2008. It feels real because the relationship isn't focused on two way too perfect Hollywood celebrities, the best jokes aren't one liners but people lighting themselves on fire, and the message goes far beyond just true love being more important than anything. It is that love can be found anywhere, if we take risks, try new things, and never conform. Always make your own kind of music, even when no one's around.
I've been so carried away by the movie's powerful message that I really forgot to analyze the movie itself. The way Hal Ashby shows the differences between life and death through imagery (blooming flowers fade to tombstones) is beautiful. Ruth Gordon, who brought humor to her incredibly creepy role in "Rosemary's Baby" brings that same wacky hilariousness to this role but with less creepy and more humanity. Why she wasn't nominated for an Oscar is beyond me.
Recommended for Fans of: "The Graduate", "Fight Club", "The Visitor", "There's Something About Mary", "Knocked Up", "The 40 Year Old Virgin", "Superbad", "This is Spinal Tap"

Friday, October 31, 2008

This Week's Karma Alert

Usually, I take the time out to see what pop culture events are leading to an ultimate global crisis. Last week, it seemed like the end with Hell School Musical 3 debuting at the top of the box office with $42 million. Yuck. But finally, an underrated gem had its day. That is, Tina Fey and "30 Rock". "30 Rock" ran for two brilliant seasons almost completely unnoticed. Thanks to a loyal (but small) fan base, awards, and critical praise, the show stayed out of cancellation territory. At least temporarily. Last night's season three premiere of 30 Rock was a test of whether or not it would last any longer. It passed, with its highest rating yet (8.5 million viewers). It didn't win its time slot but lets take this one step at a time. At least people are finally watching.
Hopefully, this Karma will carry out for Fey and her trio of Emmys and Palin impersonation will earn her entertainer of the year by Entertainment Weekly. For now I say, good luck Tina and good luck "30 Rock". You deserve it.
Check out my review of the season three premiere of "30 Rock" here: http://www.inklingsnews.com/
Bonus Karma: Married couple Will Arnett ("Arrested Development") and Amy Poehler ("SNL") had their first child this weekend, Archie Arnett. Big congratulations to what is likely to be the funniest child on the face of the Earth (but maybe we should give Rob McElhenney and Kaitlin Olson a little time).
Bonus: Happy Halloween! Before you embark on the sugar-crazed holiday, enjoy this spooky scary clip from the aforementioned "30 Rock":

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Lost: Reflecting on Four Seasons of Brilliance, Bewilderment, and Polar Bears

This summer, I was pulled into a show I thought I'd never watch in a million years: "Lost". I began the series in late July and watched the season four finale this past Friday. What I experienced was quiet possibly one of the most incredible experiences I've ever had in both movies and TV. "Lost" made me rethink life, learn about new cultures and literature, and mostly made me ponder how a giant cloud of smoke could symbolize fate and freewill. "Lost" is quiet simply the most important piece of sci-fi to hit American popular culture since "Star Wars".
"Lost" left me with so much left to ponder. Below are some questions, answers, ideas, and other thoughts about "Lost" (Warning: Spoilers ahead):
Questions:
What is that giant cloud of smoke?
Well, we know it's the monster that ate the pilot in episode one. But mainly, what does it represent. One theory is that the many ghosts seen by the survivors on the island are actually forms that monster has shifted to. I believe this theory may be right. It explains why Mr. Eko was beaten to death by the monster moments after seeing the ghost of his brother Yemi. It murdered him out of vengeance and repentance for his sins. The monster helps people look into their subconscious and confront the evil within them.
How did the plane crash?
I could just say simply that there was a technical failure, but J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof want the audience to think deeper than that. Really, I do not know the answer. One theory says it was the smoke monster. Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick) thinks it was a result of the one day he forgot to push the button in the Hatch. Hurley's curse might've done it, so could've Claire's devil baby. Here's a new theory: Could the man who never ages, the same man who tried to bring Locke (Terry O'Quinn) to the island in his youth have been part of a conspiracy to shoot the plane down just as it flew over this island? Debate amongst yourselves.
Why were there polar bears on the island?
This I have an answer to. They were used by the hippie-scientific movement the Dharma Initiative for their experiments. Which experiment it was exactly, I'm not sure, but I believe it might be something to do with the Orchid Station and time travel. Maybe season five will give us a clearer answer.
Is Claire dead?
Hmmmm....that's a good question. That rocket blew her house up pretty good. Even though she's been walking around and talking, she's seemed kind of in a daze at the end of season 4 as if she isn't alive. Sound ridiculous? Just remember, that everyone seems to see ghosts on this island, so it's very possible that everyone is seeing a ghost right now. This could also explain why she was in Jacob's cabin. And speaking of Jacob...
...who (or what) the hell is he?
Is that ghost of Christian Shephard whose always in Jacob's cabin actually Jacob himself, or is he just sitting in for Jacob as he's out wandering the woods. Or maybe Jacob is actually the entire island itself. Will the creators ever reveal this to us. According to my magic eight ball, signs point to...no.

I encourage any of my readers who are "Lost" conspirators to please come forward and share your questions, answers, and conspiracies here. And for now, turn to the almighty Jeff Jensen for some possible answers and tune in February when "Lost" returns on ABC:
http://www.ew.com/ew/allabout/episodes/0,,20000067,00.html

Thursday, October 23, 2008

This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse: The Apocalypse

Some people believe in the Mayan prophecy that the world will end on December 21, 2012. Me, I try to be an optimist (and I hate Fox News or whoever is saying the world's gonna end now) but I think things may be turning around. That's because the world isn't ending on December 21, 2012, it's ending tomorrow. Yes, because High School Musical 3: Senior Year is being released in theaters nationwide. With projections reaching over $40 million in opening weekend gross. Gross, indeed. In a world where 30 Rock can barely get an audience and Stanley Kubrick and The Seventh Seal remain unknown to most, it saddens and sickens me that something like HSM 3 is seen around the country and giving the youth of America the idea that you can solve all of your problems through singing and dancing. Oh, and that you can get through high school by singing and dancing. Oh, and that this what America gets when they're too afraid to see a movie with the word Make a Porno in the title. 
Maybe this is also God's way of punishing America for letting Sarah Palin be a contender for second in command of this country. I just hope this is the last High School Musical ever made.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Movie Review: W.

When a movie like W comes out, many would judge mainly by their political beliefs. The right wingers will think it hit Bush too hard. The left wingers will think it didn't hit him hard enough. Now, I am going to keep my political beliefs (and my hatred for Bush) out of this review because I'm a film critic, not a correspondent for CNN.
I'm here to review W as a movie, and for its portrayal of Bush. On these grounds W succeeds. As a portrayal of man so layered its perplexing. As a portrayal of the politics of our times its fascinating. As a piece of art, it is entertaining. 
Most people will think they know everything about Bush, thanks to 24 hour news and his speeches. However, W shows the audience what they already know, and so much more.
Josh Brolin takes on the role of the man whose led the free world for the past eight years. The film flashes between past and present and reveals the major players in Bush's life throughout the years. The big one: his father (James Cromwell).
As a young man, Bush didn't act like a future president. In fact, it was far from his goal. While McCain served his youth fighting for this country, and Obama made it onto Harvard Law Review, Bush spent his years at Yale getting drunk at Frat parties and occasionally ending up in jail.
"You're a Bush, not a Kennedy," Bush Senior tells him, "start acting like one."
Those were the words that very well may've haunted Bush for the rest of his life from 'ol daddy. Director Oliver Stone knows he can't get into Bush's head, but he does his best to show what exactly goes on inside of it without making him look like a complete fool.
During the rest of the movie, we see Bush quitting, and Bush persisting. We see Bush the alcoholic, we see Bush the hardworking owner of the Texas Rangers. In some ways, W can be qualified as a rise and fall story, but it has no end, as Bush's reign still isn't over. So, like There Will Be Blood, W is a rise story (the fact that they were both wealthy oilmen is a coincidence). 
And how is it that a man with a drinking problem who could barely maintain a C average end up president of the United States. Well, that's where daddy comes along, and pulls a few strings to get you into Harvard Business School. 
With this point, Stone helps to build up some sympathy for Bush. He doesn't use this point to say whether or not he was a good president but what exactly got him to be president, and the basis of many of his decisions. By the end of the film, it is hard to tell whether or not Bush was given a good or bad portrayal in the movie.
Take one of the final scenes, where Bush delivers a speech in front of a large crowd of reporters. He seems nervous, and can barely articulate a sentence, let alone a good response. Some may think this makes him look bad, but like the Palin parodies on SNL, his words are taken nearly verbatim. Yes, this man could barely justify his own actions to the media.
In this one scene, we truly see the brilliance of Brolin in the role. It's not just an imitation of Bush, it's an embodiment of him. Brolin shows that just copying someone's hair and their voice don't necessarily make you them. You have to go beyond. It is the mannerisms and tiny details of the person that can make you them. Brolin embodies Bush with the hand gestures he makes when he speaks, how he acts laid back by putting his feet on his desk while debating whether or not to attack Iraq, or how he licks his fingers constantly after eating. At times, you forget you're looking at an actor. For this, I believe Brolin deserves to be  a shoo in for an Oscar nomination.
Credit should also be given to Oliver Stone. He is known as one of the most outspoken Liberal filmmakers in Hollywood. His angry early works like Platoon and JFK displayed this. He had the chance here to tear the president apart limb for limb, but he makes the daring choice not to, and to instead portray him as he is. Only slight subtle mockeries can be seen. However, these are made mainly to get across the truth of the kind of leader Bush was. Did he really give, what Charlie on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia might call a "once over" to a packet that would allow certain forms of torture to terrorist suspects? Very likely.
Traces of Stone can be seen in the shaky camera angles and constant quick cuts. In many of his movies, this can create nausea and be ultimately unpleasant. In W, it works perfectly as a way to help us get a sense of the chaos of Bush's family issues and his rise to power.
The power of W can be summed up in its opening moments; Bush stands alone in the middle of Arlington Field imagining being introduced as the president. It could be from years before he thought about running, or even a few days ago. What it does say is that Bush never would've made it alone. There was the constant feeling of being under the family name of Bush that put him to the top. It is interesting to think though that Bush never tried to take advantage of his name, but in fact felt cursed by it. He might not have ever wanted all of this power anyway.
W is that movie that stays with you. It dares to incite anger and confusion. It hopes the audience will be shocked, it will make you talk about it until answers are reached. Answers may never be discovered though. Only history will be able to tell whether Bush was a good president or a bad president. And like Bush says in the movie, "well, in history, we'll all be dead."
Whether he is one day determined as either the best or worst president America ever had, W says that no matter which side is taken, George W. Bush will go down as a man who forever changed this country.