Thursday, December 31, 2009

Rover Film Review: Avatar


Directed By: James Cameron (Titanic, True Lies, Terminator)
Starring: Sam Worthington (Terminator Salvation)
Zoe Saldana (Guess Who, Star Trek)
Sigourney Weaver (Baby Mama, Alien)
Stephen Lang (Gettysburg, Public Enemies)

Rating: PG-13 (intense epic battle sequences and warfare, sensuality, language and some smoking).
Running Time: 162 mins.

Rotten Tomatoes: 83%

Imagine if you had the best painter in the world, someone who could invoke emotions with his art unlike anyone else in the history of mankind. And you've gotten him to illustrate a book for you. Exciting prospect, right? Just one issue, the book is "See Spot Run". That's James Camerons's Avatar .

I saw this movie in 3-D and would recommend it in that medium as well as IMAX if you can. It's beautiful, the planet Pandora comes to life in vivid colors, the insects feel real, and, if the alien creatures looked like anything remotely terrestrial, the film would feel more life-like than any other production in history. Even with the strange creatures, one can imagine an entirely new ecosystem inhabiting a strange and beautiful world.

This realistic environment is shown in the midst of banal plot which turns Avatar into Dancing with Alien Pocahontas. Marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) comes to Pandora, intergrates with aliens under the tutelage of scientist Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) with a recon mission ordered by his commander ( Stephen Lang ). He becomes part of the alien tribe, falls for the girl ( Zoe Saldana ), and rallies them to defeat the evil humans bent on destroying them and their peaceful way of life.

Besides the heavy-handed liberal agenda which permeates the film, Avatar seems like a retread of so many other films, it drags unmercifully on and on for over two and half hours. The stereotype of the evil corporation, the gun-ho marine, and the peaceful indigenous are central to the plot, draining any originality from the story. In the end, James Cameron gives us a beautiful piece of art, but the story fails to live up to the visuals.

We have a film worthy of being seen in the theaters, but unwatchable a second time, in my opinion. I say this as the Avatar has now grossed 600 million dollars world-wide, so maybe I'm wrong. Regardless, I hope that one day this same technology can be applied to a script and story that more fully fulfills the promise of the beautiful artwork and imaginative production James Cameron has brought to the screen after nearly ten years.

5/5(visual) + 2/5 (story) = 3.5/5.

Rover Film Review: Up in the Air

Up in the Air

Directed By: Jason Reitman (Juno, Thank You for Smoking)
Starring: George Clooney (O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Solaris)
Vera Farmiga (The Departed, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas)
Anna Kendrick (Twilight, New Moon)

Rating: R (Language and some sexual content.)
Running Time: 109 Minutes

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%

Jason Reitman's Up in the Air is a quiet movie. The sounds are those of conversation, quiet hotels, and plane flights. Ultimately, it conveys a good message but one in a film that is not for everyone.

Ryan Bingham ( George Clooney ) fires people for a living. He's constantly on the move and unconnected to his 'home', his family, anyone. Over the course of the film, he encounters two people, Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga) and Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) who challenge his smug detachment from humanity.

The film ends on a sad note, perhaps, and continues one major twist near the end, but ultimately provides some moral fiber. Bingham progresses from a selfish, narcissistic traveler to a relatively decent human being. The audience is lead towards concepts of what and who really matters in one's life. In the end, the human spirit of community is portrayed successfully.

Overall, it's an excellent film, with great acting and directing. However, for those expecting a Michael Bay or, even, Michael Mann film - one filled with action, excitement, explosions or even steady dialogue - Up in the Air will be a disappointment. For those wanting a first-class ride, Jason Reitman doesn't disappoint, building upon his excellent Juno and Thank You for Smoking.