Movie Round-Up: November 6th, 2009

The Men Who Stare At Goats:

This movie looks bizarre enough to make me laugh. Seriously, a movie about a secret military group trying to kill goats with the power of their minds? I may not rush to the theater to see this one, but it is definitely on my must see list for the future.

A Christmas Carol:

Again?  I suppose Hollywood needs to trot out the Dickens classic every now and then, but I haven’t been a huge fan of the dead-eyed uncanny valley motion capture Zemeckis films so far, perhaps this one will change that.  It is in 3-D, and I love me some 3-D.  However, I might want to wait until a little closer to Christmas to see it.  I just hope its not gone by then.

The Fourth Kind:

I like movies about alien abductions. Fire in the Sky, Communion, and so on. So I am predisposed to like this movie, however, after seeing a screening I found I only sort of enjoyed it.  It was interesting, but felt more like a documentary than a movie.  On the other hand, as a film making experiment I think the movie does very well. Writer/Director Olatunde Osunsanmi used a mixture of “filmed” footage starring Milla Jovovich and “raw” footage consisting of audio and video tapes of the true events the movie is based on.  In addition to that, the majority of the “filmed” footage, taken almost as re-enactments, played in simple stereo sound and had a tinny quality, as if we were listening to the sound through a tape deck, but when important “action” scenes, those concerning contact with aliens, the theater would flood with full high quality surround sound.  It made an impact on the audience, the switch from stereo to full surround, and heightened the experience.  While overall I was a little disappointed in the story of the film, I would definitely recommend seeing this one in the theater if you are at all interested.

The Box:

With the success of I Am Legend a little while back, it was inevitable that other Richard Matheson stories would get to the big screen.  This one, originally titled “Button, Button”, was also previously an episode of the 1985 run of The Twilight Zone.  A half-hour or hour long show seems the right length for the content of this story.  Matheson’s original differed from the Twilight Zone episode, and so this movie differs from both.  It was too long, too slow, and for something billed as a horror and/or suspense film, it lacked both.  The real problem with the film is that it telegraphs its only punch and then never deviates.  If you pay attention in the beginning, after the short conversation with Mr. Steward after Norma Lewis presses the button, you have all the information you need to know how this is going to end.  Sure, the movie throws a few red herrings at you to try to fake you out, but they are all hollow elements, and in my opinion would have been a far more interesting story than what we got if they had been fleshed out.  So, my recommendation, pass on this one.  In fact, don’t even bother with it down the road when its on DVD or cable.

I Am Legend

12 out of 13 nots
for Depiction of Isolation, and One Awesome Dog

For the short version of this review, let me just say that if you are a superfan of Richard Matheson’s book of the same name, and you’ve been itching to see it faithfully recreated on the screen… keep waiting. This movie is not the book. In some ways I was disappointed at that, but overall it didn’t matter. I absolutely loved this movie. The only reason I can’t in good conscience give it a 13 out of 13 is that I think they went a tad overboard with the monsters in this one, they are just on the bad side of unrealistic when it comes to CGI. When the monsters are on the screen, my brain screams “CGI!”. They just don’t blend in. Outside of that though, its a great film. Go see it.

More (and spoilers) after the break.

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I Am Legend

Normally, I am not a vampire guy. Except as bad guys. That whole Anne Rice immortally tortured gay blood sucker thing just put me right off. About the only time I have ever liked a vampire as the hero has been the TV show Angel.

Luckily for me, Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend isn’t about do-gooder or tortured vampires.

The story tackles an idea normally reserved for zombie movies, what if the world were overrun by vampires. A virus of some sort has swept the world and slowly the world succumbed. There are two kinds of vampires, dead ones and live ones, but there is only one man left. Robert Neville is the last man on Earth, and with no end in site, with everyone he loved gone, for some reason he just won’t give up. He keeps garlic on his doors and windows by night and goes out for supplies and to kill sleeping vampires by day.

Given the bleak subject matter, its a true testament to Matheson’s writing that the story doesn’t spiral into a morose somber mess. Instead there is an odd sense of hope, and even humor, in Robert Neville’s life. The end left me a little wanting, I understand what Matheson was doing there, but some part of me just felt a little… cheated. But the rest of the book is good enough that I’ll forgive him.

If you don’t care to read the book, it has been made into a movie a number of times in the past, although always under another name (The Last Man on Earth starring Vincent Price and The Omega Man starring Charlton Heston directly, and I’m sure the story influenced quite a few other films), but this year we’ll see a more direct adaptation in I Am Legend starring Will Smith. I suspect it will deviate from the book much like Mr. Smith’s previous I, Robot did. But I would still recommend reading the book.