Thursday, September 10, 2009

"9" - Gets About A "7"

I will give this film props for being unusual and interesting in its look and approach to story telling. Basically a post apocalyptic tale of a band of little mechanical puppets trying to survive in a barren oppresive world!

The films director Shane Acker teams up with producer/director Tim Burton to deliver this grim tale of hope. The animation and art direction definitely have the Burton stamp upon it, in his typical gruesome but endearing style.

The storyline is based around a various collection of hand made creatures who are only known by the number on their backs. A dying scientist apparently puts his collective mind and spirit into these puppet like creatures, in an attempt to correct the mistakes he made, which caused the ultimate distruction of civilization.

The characters are charming and entertaining, and not surprising the voices for them are provided by some of Hollywoods best. Elijah Woods provides the voice of the hero and the film's namesake. His ninja-esque partner is voiced by the lovely Jennifer Connelly. John C. Reilly, a veteran comic genius plays "9's " friend "5", in a "Sam Gamgee" sort of way to Wood's " Frodo Baggins". Almost an homage in itself to " Lord of the Rings" !

The rest of the talented voices are provided by cinema legends Christopher Plummer, Martin Landua and Crispin Glover. As interesting of a cast as you could find, but it suits the film well.

It is a fun film, full of action, adventure and laughs, but lacking a bit in compelling story telling. But I suppose you can't have everything! But it works well as film for adults and kids alike. A good all around movie, sort of like the Muppets meet the Terminator! Definitely worth seeing in the movies and possibly owning on DVD. I will be eager to see what sort of extras they throw in with the mix?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Taking Woodstock - On A Strange Ride

Well, all I can say about the film is that is slightly entertaining! I can't blame Ang Lee for this. He has directed some great movies like Broke Back Mountain, and Sense and Sensibility. And the film flows well, just not in any particular direction.

You would think from the title that is some comedic portrayal of historical events. But it isn't. It also is not really about the concert itself, it is not even really about the town of Bethel, NY. ( Which if you weren't aware of this fact, is where the concert actually took place. Woodstock was the original spot chosen, but by the time event promotions were under way, the town backed out. )

The film is basically about a Jewish family who ran a seedy run down motel called the "El Monaco". Supposedly based on the true life story of Elliot Tiber, played by Comedy Central's Demitri Martin, who inadvertently opens the door for the concerts promoters, by putting them in touch with the now infamous Max Yasgur and his farm.

In all fairness the performances were solid, Demitri busts his acting cherry in a very convincing performance as Eli, a young Jewish man who seems torn between old school family values, and yearning to experince the rest of the world for himself.

Imelda Staunton, who by now needs no introduction, delivers a hilarious performance as Eli's paranoid and oppressive Russian mother, who cuts corners to save money anyway she can, while being the iron handed dictator of this run down empire.

Sadly, Eugene Levy who is a comic genius, who generally plays annoying passive aggressive characters is only minorly factored into the story line at the beginning , as Max Yasgur, and then once the concert plans are under way is virtually not heard from again.

The rest of the film's cast pretty much blends into the background as does the plot of the film, with a few exceptions. Liev Schreiber delivers a rather intriguing performance as Vilma an ex- Korean War marine. Vilma who is now a transvestite, is there to give a counter balance of Zen wisdom to Eli's overwhelming plight in the middle of this maelstrom that is the organizing of this cultural extravaganza and trying to deal with his demented parents.

Jonathan Groff who has basically down very little other than a few Soap Opera episodes, plays the legendary producer of Woodstock, Michael Lang, the ultimate hippie Zen master. He delivers a compelling performance, but again , since the film is not about the concert itself, you see very little of him, except to occasionally punctuate the fact the Eli's is a long and fantastic journey.

But I suppose that if you were there or even alive at the time, you might get a little sentimental nostalgia for this trip down memory lane, but otherwise I would suggest the use of psychedelic substances. The film has it's moments, but I would recommend watching the actual movie that was made from the actual concert footage, which is available now in a few anniversary formats.

I would say wait for it on DVD, and even then, just rent it.