WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
The peace-loving population of the serenely beautiful planet of Terra is targeted for destruction by the last survivors of the invading human race who are floating in an ancient spaceship and need a new home. War seems inevitable — even for the pacifists on this unusual planet — but a unique and unexpected friendship forged by a crafty young girl and the human pilot she captures could be the key to saving the day not only for planet Terra but for both warring races.
WHO’S IN IT?
Although Battle for Terra was independently made the producers of this stunning film managed to pull together a first-rate all-star cast led by Evan Rachel Wood (The Wrestler) as Mala the heroic young girl who initially is the only member of her planet to fight back. Luke Wilson has an appealing turn as Jim Stanton the American pilot Mala captures and is nicely balanced by Brian Cox’s (The Bourne Identity) evil General Hemmer who is out to annihilate Terra’s citizens and replace them with his own. Chris Evans (Fantastic Four) plays Jim’s loyal warrior brother Stewart with strong results; Danny Glover is effective as the human President; James Garner movingly voices the wise leader of the Terrians; and Dennis Quaid lends credibility to the role of Mala’s dad. There’s also an amusing turn from David Cross as Jim’s sidekick bot Giddy. Amanda Peet Justin Long and Ron Perlman (Hellboy) round out the impressive voice cast.
Battle for Terra’s 3-D animation is superb especially considering the budget restraints of an indie production. It stands with the very best of its genre creating an astounding visual experience that ought to have audiences of all ages riveted to the screen. More importantly the film’s strong environmental and anti-war messages are expertly weaved into its compelling storyline. This is a movie that has more on its mind than just entertainment (which it provides in spades).
A little more humor might have been injected but this is serious business. Battle For Terra stands apart from other recent 3-D animated experiences as a rip-roaringly fine piece of science fiction that looks impressive next to its live-action cousins.
For sheer pulse-pounding excitement and thrills the big climactic battle is simply breathtaking to watch.
NETFLIX OR MULTIPLEX?
The movie is stunning to look at and the 3-D glasses just add to its impact. Definitely see this on the big screen.
In other words The Holiday probably falls under the “guilty pleasure” category. Its not a classic romantic comedy by any standards but darn it it still makes you smile more often than you want to admit. The story centers on two women: Iris (Kate Winslet) a British newspaper columnist hopelessly in love with a man about to marry someone else and Amanda (Cameron Diaz) a highly successful L.A. career woman who just broke up with her latest cheating boyfriend. Being at the right place at the right time these two gals meet online at a home exchange website and impulsively switch homes for the holiday. Shortly after arriving at their destinations both women find the last thing either wants or expects: A new romance. Amanda is charmed by Iris' handsome brother Graham (Jude Law) and Iris with inspiration provided by legendary screenwriter Arthur (Eli Wallach) mends her heart when she meets film composer Miles (Jack Black). Oh just go ahead and take a big gooey bite. It’s good for the soul. The biggest problem in The Holiday is unfortunately the casting—which is real shame because you really want the chemistry to zing. They get it right with Winslet and Law who are both trying something a little different as romantic leads. Winslet in fact admitted to Reuters this was one of the more nerve-wracking parts she’s ever played because she couldn’t hide behind an American accent or a costume playing someone closer to well herself. But you would think these two Oscar-nominees had been making these type movies all along especially the insanely gorgeous Law who should have every woman swooning with his sensitivity. Where they get it wrong is with the Americans as the Brits just act giant circles around them. Black is clearly out of place. Although being very charming and funny looking like he made Winslet laugh a LOT (and who wouldn’t with that guy around?) their connection on screen is somewhat amiss. Diaz comes off looking even worse. Even though she’s the veteran of the romantic comedy (There's Something About Mary My Best Friend's Wedding) her screechy neurotic klutzy Amanda is in no way appealing. You have to scratch your head wondering why Law’s Graham would fall so hard for her. What does make The Holiday work however is writer/director Nancy Meyers. She’s proven herself quite adept at the genre with films such as What Women Want and Something's Gotta Give under her belt. With The Holiday Meyers skillfully crafts individual moments of refreshing comedy as well as heartening scenes of blossoming romance. The initial seduction scene between Amanda and Graham is particularly sweet and quirky with the crisp dialogue flying at a nice clip. And isn’t it comforting to see a holiday movie minus feuding neighbors commerciality or any sort of mean-spiritedness? But Meyers has the tendency to go more for the superficial rather than dig deep with her characters. The Holiday has a one of those glossy rosy glows whose only aim is to make you feel good. True the film will mostly speak volumes to the women in the audience (that’s a polite way of saying its a “chick flick”) but oh well. It’s fluff may be a nice reprieve during the hustle and bustle of the season.
Guy walks into a bar…and all hell breaks loose! In a saloon in Nowheretown USA the regular Joes and Janes are doing the regular deeds when “Hero” (Eric Dane)--introduced via freeze-frame as all characters are with vital statistics typed out including life expectancy--bursts through the door bloodied and warning that “These things are coming.” Well let’s just say his “life expectancy” was ambitious. Then his er widow “Heroine” (Navi Rawat) bursts through the door with the same urgency. The motley crew of patrons and employees (Krista Allen Balthazar Getty Judah Friedlander Henry Rollins Clu Gulager and Duane Whitaker) are all caught off-guard but soon have to take the threat seriously. The threat as it turns out comes from monsters--as they are technically known in the film--stalking them from outside the bar. Which is never good. Like any true campy horror flick Feast’s cast is decidedly C-list (to put it mercifully). In fact if you watched the most recent season of Bravo’s Project Greenlight show--on which Feast was greenlit and filmed--you’re more likely to think of this group as reality TV stars than movie veterans which isn’t a knock on their talent! Rawat (TV’s The O.C. and Numb3rs) scores the meatiest role but doesn’t always look like the right choice for it. Getty who is slowly creeping towards possible “It” status is likable but snagging all the good lines never hurts. Friedlander is Hollywood’s most notorious “Oh that guy!” guy whom you’ll instantly recognize once you see him. Predictably he plays the doofus but plays it well. (Talk about being typecast!) The beautiful Allen maybe best known as George Clooney’s rumored on/off girlfriend can act but is perhaps too pretty for her own good a la pre-Monster Charlize Theron. And Rollins the aging punk-rock icon who usually plays harder-edged roles cleans up nice here so to speak. Project Greenlight is so much fun to watch but for director John Gulager the televised fishbowl that was his Hollywood directorial debut must’ve been absolute hell. With so much quibbling on the set and in the offices to concoct a product that both makes for great TV and a profitable movie--its quality seemed of secondary importance on the show--is so far from what moviemaking is about; the filmmaker’s (a.k.a. “winner” of the contest) voice if not entire career is automatically stifled in the process. As expected the show also turned Feast into a mess. The intros for each character and their life expectancy are somewhat clever (thanks to writers Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton) but not properly executed. From that point on Feast has moments that are fun in a sleazy way but most notably the director just seems absent or muted--there’s nothing distinctive which is where the director typically comes in. And the graininess hurts the film’s look often coming across as more of a student film than proper B-horror.
Couples therapy is for the birds. Trying to annihilate one another with high-tech weaponry is the best
way to spice up a dull marriage. So say John (Brad Pitt) and Jane Smith (Angelina Jolie) a seemingly ordinary suburban couple stuck in a six-year lifeless marriage. They learn this helpful marriage tip firsthand after discovering each other's "little" secret. Seems they are actually two of the world's most deadly assassins but they work for competing companies. Yeah you'd think something like that would have come up at some point while eating at the breakfast nook. Of course once the secret is out there's no turning back. Now hired to assassinate each other the fun really begins as the once-bitter Smiths discover a newfound source of excitement in their marriage. Oh boy do they ever. So does one of them kill the other to keep their job? Or should the two hottest people on the planet--after shooting up their house and beating the holy whaley out of each other--reconcile and get blood all over each other while having steamy sex? You decide.
OK let's just get it over with. Whatever may have happened off set between Jolie and Pitt there's no denying that they indeed have an immediate palpable connection on screen. From the moment they appear as Mr. and Mrs. Smith sitting in a therapist's office discussing their marriage you can feel the chemistry oozing off of them even in their estrangement. Maybe it's real but it may also be a
testament to their talent. Sure Jolie and Pitt can play professional assassins exchanging rapid gunfire in their sleep. But painting a convincing picture of a strained marriage? That's a different story. Between the bickering the long silences the tense politeness even finishing each other's sentences these highly capable actors rise to the occasion as the married Smiths. And to think Nicole Kidman was originally slotted to play Mrs. Smith. That would have been an entirely different film. For a little extra comic relief there's the always hilarious Vince Vaughn as John's colleague. He's a mild-mannered fellow who lives with his mother because she's the only woman he's ever "trusted." The quippy exchanges between Vaughn and Pitt are classic. "Women. They all try to kill you slowly painfully cripplingly… " he warns John. I wouldn't say all that. Hand me that gun please.
First-time writer Simon Kinberg came up with Mr. & Mrs. Smith for his Master thesis at Columbia University Film School. Several drafts later and with a little help from the Academy Award-winning screenwriter Akiva Goldsman and director Doug Liman
(The Bourne Identity) the real Smith was born. Liman has a good handle on all the action especially in choreographing the penultimate confrontation between the Smiths in their beautifully manicured home. Firing guns throwing punches and knives and blowing stuff up just feels good doesn't it? But you do have to throw logic out the window when you're in the Smith world. Come on the fact that these two highly trained über-killers never knew each other's secret professions seems more than a little farfetched especially if we are to believe they--and the competing companies they work for--are as high tech professional and deadly as they say they are. No matter. The implausibility of it all rarely detracts from watching two of the sexiest movie stars around pound the living crap out of one another--and then kiss to makeup. Good stuff.