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The Descent (2005)
Its not Alien, but it leaves The Cave(2005) in the dark
The Descent really captures the true terror of being trapped and essentially being led into certain death. And not since Alien has this been so well presented. This time instead of a space craft, we find people fighting their way out of a cave, while fighting off cave predators that live on flesh and have evolved over the years, killing everyone that has attempted to go through the cave.
Unlike most horror movies, this movie provides us with great character development and what true terror goes along with being alone..in the dark. And from that we see them evolve and the movie becomes a fight for survival.
The story begins with a group of women who live for adventure that set out to explore an unknown cave. The first problems that arise have nothing to do with the gollum-like predators, but they slip, fall, and break legs in the cave that was not meant to be explored. When they first encounter the creatures, the creatures are relentless in their attack. Some of the girls fight and some of them run. As one is brutally eaten, one of them decides to fight back.
As the movie progresses they all figure out for themselves that they can't outrun the beasts, and that they only way the might survive is to fight back. It really takes a toll on one of the women, who had lost her daughter and husband only a year prior to this, the movie really shows her relentless struggle for survival as she transformers mentally from woman to beast. It is that very thing that allows her survive.
Like most horror movies there is only one survivor, and the movie basically comes a survival of the fittest as we see all the women turn into hunters in order to survive. As woman who survives fights off the creatures that separate her and freedom, she realizes she can trust no one and leaves her friend behind to die. A decision that will haunt her the rest of her life. The movie is great in the sense that it shows the will people will go through in order to survive, even if it means sacrificing another human, no matter how good of a friend, in order for yourself to survive. The movie is about decision making, and the outcomes that go with. The movie feels like Silence of the Lambs and Alien had a baby, the overall feeling was Alienish, but a few night vision scenes while being trapped in utter darkness while fighting for survival was very Silence of the Lambs-esk. Although it is not as great as either of the movies, it is a solid movie that should rank up there with the Ring as great modern horrors.
Clerks II (2006)
A lude, crude, and above all great Kevin Smith movie..with a heart?
Let me just say all is forgiven for Kevin Smith making Jersey Girl, with the soon to be Smith classic, Clerks II.
Like all Kevin Smith movies, you have the many references to pop culture, hilarious sexual explicit jokes and language, new terms the audience obtains, in this case "pillow pants", and all the Jay and Silent Bob you could ask for.
But for Clerks II, it is a different story. It has the things all great things a Kevin Smith movie would have, but it has so much more than that, behind the sex jokes, LOTR versus Star Wars, the donkey show, pillow pants, and Jay and Silent Bob, is truly a movie with a heart. First off, we see a new side of Randall. Behind the foul mouth, rude, and Star Wars loving fan, is a guy that deep down truly loves his best friend(in heterosexual way..of course). We this at the end when Randall finally tells how much Dante truly means to him.
Smith also shows a lot of heart by a memorable go-cart scene, in which Randall blow off some steam with his good buddy Dante, truly revealing what a great friendship they have.
Problems arise from the beginning of the movie when we find the Quick Stop on fire. The movie flash forwards a year to the last day that Dante is in town before he moves to Florida a becomes a car wash owner with his fiancé. The day is for the most part is like any other day in the life of the Clerks, making daily preparations, feuding over pop culture, lude..and racist jokes, hilarious and jackass customers, and of course the antics of Jay and Silent Bob. During their year at Moobys, like Mcdonalds on crack, they work for their sexy boss Becky, who Dante develops a deep bond for, and of course feuds with Randall. Alongside Becky, is Elias, the virgin who is a god/LOTR/transformer loving dork, who like any LOTR dork wears the ring across his neck. There is a great scene where Elias and Randall debate with customer and fellow LOTR freak, who also carries a ring, played well by Kevin Weisman, about LOTR versus Star Wars.
Things really get sticky when Becky, during the hilarious bollywood dance sequence that she is in fact, in pregnant with Dante's kid. She wants to keep on the low down, but Dante reveals it to Randall, but of course Randall spills the beans, and Becky takes off. Randall, who had been preparing a donkey show..or an interspecies erotica show for a going away gift, tells Randall to give it an hour to go look for her while he sets up the donkey show, telling him that he is going to need him to help close up. Dante drives around to find Becky, but he doesn't find Becky, he finds himself. He realizes that he may be just a tool to his wife and that he is just trying to fit the mold of a normal lifestyle, and above all he loves Becky..and Randall.
In light of this, Dante comes back to a smoking Moobys, he thinks it is another fire so he calls the fire dept. When he walks in he is struck with the donkey show. Much to the guys' chagrin Kinky Kelly is the donkey, and instead of woman and a donkey, it is a man and his donkey. In an unforgettable scene, we see once again Dante shaking his head at Randall, Jay and Silent Bob being themselves, and Elias getting plastered. Becky walks in to discover the donkey show and Dante. Her and Dante make out, only to discover that Dante's fiancé had walked in and saw the whole thing. She throws her ring at Dante. The police show up (the fire) and arrest the guys for the show.
In jail Randall and Dante become truly enlightened. Dante reveals that Randall may have ruined his life, and that he continues to be a loser. Dante decides that he will try to make things up with his soon to be wife and move to Florida..and lead a happy Randall Graves free life. After a few shots back and forth, Randall reveals how much Dante truly means to him and that Dante is the only person that would ever tolerate him and be his friend. Randall suggests that they buy the old Quick Stop and video store, and with a little help from Jay and Silent Bob they do. Dante proposes to Becky in the drive-threw and she of course, accepts. Dante and Randall fixes up the Quick Stop, where Dante and Randall spent the best years of their life, as owners. They give Elia a job at the video store and the two go back to work in the place the love most. In the end, Randall says it is the first day of the rest of their lives. Revealing that they do not need to fit the mold of everyone else, and that change is not always for the better. Through this they finally become successful and happy losers, Jay and Silent Bob, Dante and Becky, and Dante and Randall, start to live out the happiest years of their lives.
So maybe Jersey Girl was a good thing in the since that Kevin Smith had a little practice with trying to tell a love story. Now, he did give us Chasing Amy, but for Clerks II it seemed different. We saw everything we would ever see in any Kevin Smith movie, into one great closing movie on the Jersey saga, that leaves characters we love and know restarting their lives into something great. Although much different from Clerks, chapter II is sure not to disappoint. Its Clerks with heart.
Superman Returns (2006)
Why the world should see Superman.
And..why not see the greatest superhero of all time? Truthfully, there is no reason why anyone should not see this movie.
First off, the people who bashed Singer for leaving the X-Men franchise might cool off when they see this masterpiece. Singer's wonderful adaptation of this beloved figure will never be forgotten and will soon pass the great Richard Donner films as 'the' Superman movie(s).(Assuming Singer makes magic again..which in my mind, he will.) The Donner films, although great, still depicted Superman in a 'cheesy' light, and this is one of the edges Singer had over Donner. Singer also gave us wonderful high-def visuals and effects that will 'wow' audiences. But most of all it was his storytelling that was so brilliant. The way he portrayed the triangle of man, as Superman battled between being Superman, Kal-El, and the goofy, yet lovable Clark Kent, was just brilliance. Most of all the other triangle between Lois, Clark, and Superman. And unlike the Donner films, it did not feel cheesy, it felt real, and Singer is to thank for really gripping emotion that was brought to screen.
And sorry Brandon Routh. Because you did such a wonderful job as Superman, you will forever be remembered for that roll, and it may be hard for people to depict you anywhere else, bravo. As I recall it was Singer's idea to cast an unknown. Well, bravo. How about Kate Bosworth as a beautiful Lois Lane? Who knew the surfer chick from Blue Crush could act so well? Parker Posey, a comic relief, playing alongside Lex Luthor. And well...the best for last...an absolutely brilliantly mesmerizing performance by Mr. Kevin Spacey. His humor mixed in with brilliance really captured the true villain that is Lex Luthor. By playing true to the comics with the bald head, Spacey truly embodied Lex Luthor and made it his own. Sorry Gene. Also great side rolls in the always funny Jimmy, Lois' fiancé, played by James Mardsen, and the cute little man that almost stole the show.
As for the effects and story. Do not worry, it is all there. Whether you are a die hard comic fan, a popcorn movie loving guy, a chick flick gal, or someone who just wants to see a greatly directed movie, Superman Returns is the movie for you. Hats off to this new classic. Sorry Roger Ebert, America disagrees. The world needs Superman.
Batman Begins (2005)
Nolan is the real superhero
To tell the truth, I thought the Batman franchise could never be saved, and I was really let down that I may never see my favorite superhero in a good movie ever again. Then I saw the preview to Batman Begins, I didn't really know what to think. New Batman. New Alfred. New story. New style. I wasn't sure why I wanted it 'the old way', but maybe I wanted to the actors in the Batman films I grew up with, to revive themselves and make a good Batman movie. I wanted Robin and sadly, Batgirl, alongside Batman saving the world from another familiar villain.
I heard Batman Begins, and I thought great, this was called "Batman" in 1989, selfishly I said, "I want something new!".
But, of course being a big Batman fan, I went opening night to Begings. 2 and half hours later, like the rest of the audience was completely blown away. It was the only movie I had ever been to (and yes I have been to some great ones) where the crowd claps and the end. This was not just golf claps for a popcorn clip, this was a standing ovation for 10:30 pm show in a crowded theater in Austin, Texas.
I never would have thought this would have worked, even with Nolan directing. But I was wrong, so wrong. After seeing the X-Mens and Spidermans, I clearly thought Marvel had the upperhand and DC was just simply trying to keep up, again, so wrong.
Nolan gave us a dark, gritty, and pleasantly realistic, view of Batman. Bale gives a tremendous performance as both Batman and Bruce Wayne. Michael Caine was a fabulous Alfred, and Morgan Freeman almost stole the show as Luscious Fox.
Even though X-Men and Spiderman(all of them) are wonderful superhero movies, Batman Begins, is just a good, no, great movie. And I think that is what blew people away, that it wasn't just some superhero, special effect, hero gets girl, good guy wins movie, it was a truly dark and well crafted movie, and it maybe stupid to say, but it didn't even feel like you were watching a superhero movie.
I don't even think Burton, and his animated style(which works), could have revived this troubled series, that Schumaker wrecked, because like Fantastic Four and Daredevil, tried over do it and give us the latter part of things.
So, here is to you Chris Nolan. You saved a franchise. You made an unforgettable movie, that will be remembered as the best superhero movie of all time, but just an all around great and unforgettable movie classic.
Eight Below (2006)
What a surprise!
Wow. When I first heard of a Disney movie with dogs and Paul Walker, I thought, wow, they really must be running out of material. By taking an action 'star', I use the word star very loosely, I thought it was going to gonna be another "Pacifier". Then I heard Jason Biggs was in it, so then I thought, wow (again), this is the end of Jason Biggs. After a while I forgot about 8 Below and just put in the back of my mind with Snow Dogs, as just dogs in the snow movies.
Then a week ago, I was on an airplane and the airline was showing it. So it was a long flight, so I thought, "why not?".
I have not been that surprised in a long time. I would not call it great, but defiantly a good to see, no matter how old you are. (I am 17).
Frank Marshall, along with a pretty decent script, which was surprisingly not corny, directed this film wonderfully. The mild humor mixed in with surprisingly good acting from Biggs and Walker made this film worth a watch. The scenes when the dogs were in the wild were shot beautifully, and actually very interesting, and yes, touching. The dogs were obviously trained pretty well, which showed that Disney cared enough to make it the best it could be.
For anyone that is doubting this movie, please, give it a chance. Do not be like me. Sit down for about 2 hours and enjoy this heartwarming(Not cheesy) tale of survival and friendship. Well acted by all, people and dogs alike.
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
Not Singer's X-Men, but a worthy coda to a fantastic trilogy.
It is safe to say that every X-Men fan, or any movie fan for that matter would have much rather seen Bryan Singer finnish out his first two X mens into a brilliant trilogy. I was very unsure that Brett Ratner, who has directed some pretty decent movies, not great, but not terrible could do a good job. Much to my chagrin Brett Ratner exceeded my expectations on how well he could direct the final chapter of this comic masterpiece.
Although I feel a comic book movie has yet to top Batman Begins, I feel that all superhero movies owe it to the X men for 'relaunching' this superhero craze that we have been blessed with, and for that we have to thank Singer.
For those who have seen the movie you can agree with me that Ratner did not give us the in depth character build up that Singer gave us. Instead, giving us a fun action packed movie, with a little character glimpse at Wolverine and a touching moment between Kitty and Bobby. However, that is not the director that Ratner is. Ratner is 'an action' director, one who focuses mainly on fight sequences and explosions mixed in with some mild humor, and that is what made this movie work.
Although Singer's genius was deeply missed in this third chapter, I do not feel we need to be ashamed at the third movie. I know we all feel that Singer could have given us a better close on his trilogy, Brett Ratner still needs to be applauded for giving us his different yet great take on the wonderful and never to be forgotten X-Men series.