Monthly Archives: February 2012

Another trailer that needs to be seen…

Hey readers,

For those who don’t know me, I am a huge comic book fan (Batman is my favorite and yes, I am beyond excited for The Dark Knight Rises) and many of you know that The Avengers hits theaters this May. The Avengers filmed major action sequences in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, which is just a short little drive from me (less than a half hour). I went downtown to check out some of the filming and I have to say, The Avengers looks mighty impressive. Here is the new full length trailer for the superhero epic that features Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, and Captain America! You’ll watch it twice. Trust me!

-Steve

The Avengers hits theaters May 4th.

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The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

by Corinne Rizzo

The death of an immediate family member can take time to recover from. Weeks, months, years can pass and still one might find themselves just below the lines of reality, almost waiting for the next fucked up thing to happen, but when you’ve got a brother like Francis, played by Owen Wilson in Wes Anderson’s fifth feature, who hides the fact that he’s attempted suicide and executes an elaborate trip to India via rail, all to become close to his two other brothers again, the mourning process expedites and the bullshit habits that have been sliding by since that death are no longer tolerated. As Francis says best, after getting his shoe stolen, “We’re in an emergency here,” and with that, The Darjeeling Limited thrusts these three brothers onto a path of healing that none of them would have taken alone.

The film opens with Adrien Brody’s character, Peter, chasing down a train that he’s about to miss, bypassing Bill Murray as the business man, who was simply casted for this one scene, and this is where the symbolism begins. Yes, all great movies have hidden and blatant attempts at sending a message, but The Darjeeling Limited is defined by these moments without getting cheesy or overworked. Here, Peter is a hair away from missing the opportunity of a lifetime, to recover from a personal tragedy and reconnect with his brothers, though it is apparent, just as it is apparent that he is about to miss the train, that Peter is the one that needs the most convincing. In fact, it’s possible that he wasn’t going to get on that train at all, considering we learn that he never told his wife Alice that we was going in the first place.

When Peter does make it onto the Darjeeling Limited, a character in herself, brightly colored in turquoise and golden yellow, he travels down the entirety of the train, the commuter portion, the economy travel portion, to the compartments of the upper class, where he finds his brother Jack asleep and his brother Francis missing.

The audience can immediately see Peter’s mood change once in the presence of Jack. They celebrate by smoking cigarettes and when Francis gets to the cabin, the phrase “Let’s get a drink and smoke a cigarette,” is used for the first time to signal a state of celebration. Almost as a marker to signify getting over a hump.

The use of painkillers and alcohol in this film are commonly attributed to the three brothers being addicted to these substances, though the use of these drugs is directly related to the family experience and nowhere in the film is anyone fiending or even talking about them other than the one scene where everyone is explaining what they have after a coincidental moment of everyone trying to relieve their own pain. Again, symbolism exists here, even for the most conservative audience member.

Peter is wearing his father’s sunglasses, which have a prescription in them, causing his head to constantly ache. Francis ran his motorcycle into the side of a hill, smashing his face in and Peter…well Peter has a lot of growing up to do. Not that Anti Film School condones the use of drugs, though the use of drugs in film can have an interesting outcome.  We are open to these things.  In film.

Peter, Jack, and Francis stop in what are considered the most spiritual places in India, all coordinated by Brendan, Francis’s only friend and assistant, and while in these spiritual places are overcome by consumerism attempting to track down power adapters, shoes and pretty much anything else money can buy, including a deadly poisonous snake (chosen by Peter), which eventually gets them confined to their compartment, and ultimately thrown off the train, upsetting the plan to find their mother, Sister Patricia Whitman, somewhere out on a mission.

The plan to find Patricia was also masterminded by Francis, and never unveiled to his brothers until just before they were thrown off the train.

The boys go through stages of wanting to kill each other, then stages of unrelenting affection and back again and The Darjeeling Limited is the story of their estrangement and their subsequent bonding, all of which couldn’t happen in a more beautiful setting.  The colors are extravagant and breath taking, the scenes are crisp, the wardrobes, when not stunning, provoke a sense of humor.

Inspired by the films of Satyajit Ray and peppered with the sounds of classic Indian films (and also The Kinks), Wes Anderson kills it in The Darjeeling Limited, bringing again his sense of adventure to the story of family dysfunction and unconditional love. His passion for story telling is apparent in this film more than any other by saturating the story of Francis, Peter and Jack with color, sound, and humor.

Grade: A +

 

Top Five Reasons to Watch The Darjeeling Limited:

1) Adrien Brody’s debut in Anderson films (let’s hope he sticks around).

2) All of Anderson’s films have a sense of antiquity that in this film is broken with the use of an iPod and dock.

3) The music!

4) Kumar Pallana

5) Check out that scene where Peter “goes to pray at a different thing”. What the hell is that kid watching him for and what is he holding?

Anti-Film School Recommends This Film…

Hugo

Hey readers,

If you have checked out my Best Films of 2011 post, you know that Martin Scorsese’s love letter to the history of cinema Hugo ranked as my number one favorite movie of 2011. This breathtaking film is visually stunning, magical, and downright magnetic for those who find themselves wrapped up in all things cinema. It also acts as a call for film preservation! The film cleaned up at the 84th Annual Academy Awards on Sunday night, picking up a slew of Oscars in most of the technical departments. I heavily recommend Hugo to everyone who visits Anti-Film School and I sincerely hope you go out today and pick up the Blu-ray! You will find yourself swept up in the magic of movies.

Click here to read my review of Hugo.

Click here to read my Best Films of 2011.

-Steve

The Dead (2011)

by Steve Habrat

How I was unaware a zombie film like The Dead snuck out without me knowing about it baffles me. The zombie horror genre has been overshadowed by the recent rise of teen vampires and “found footage” ghost flicks, the only life being found in AMC’s top-notch The Walking Dead. Basically, if you are a fan of George Romero’s original zombie trilogy (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead) and Lucio Fulci’s Zombie (or basically any Italian ziti zombie film), then you need to rush out right now and pick up The Dead. You are going to be blown away by this thing. Certainly not a perfect movie but featuring an unmatched beauty, The Dead is for those who long for the days of the shuffling ghouls, not the sprinting, shrieking zombies that were made popular by 28 Days Later. For a fan of this kind of stuff, it was a blast to sit back and spot all the references and nods to Romero and Fulci all while directors Jonathan and Howard J. Ford carve out their own zombie classic. In all honesty, I haven’t been this excited about a zombie flick since 28 Days Later.

The Dead picks up in Africa, where the dead have risen from their graves and started feeding on the living. Everyman Lt. Brian Murphy (Played by Rob Freeman) is on the last plane out of Africa and just shortly after getting airborne, the plane plunges from the sky. Washing up on zombie-infested shores, Brian begins making his way through the beautiful landscape that has been desecrated with death, eager to find a way back to his family in America. He soon meets up with Sgt. Daniel Dembele (Played by Prince David Oseia), who is on a quest to find his son after his village is overrun by the creeping ghouls, and together they set out to protect and aid each other in their quest.

The Dead is simple and straight to the point, picking up in all the chaos that is tearing Africa apart. There is no lead in, explanation to be found, or an abundance of characters that we need to get to know. We just have Brian and Daniel, both men who have to set aside differences to band together and protect each other. There is not much said between the two men and when they do speak, it’s mostly because they have to. They reveal bits and pieces about their lives, enough for us to really pull for them when they get corned by a group of shuffling zombies. There has been much to do over the slow moving cannibals but the Ford brothers understand that if you always have at least two zombies in the frame, you’re implying that there isn’t much hope for refuge and salvation. These zombies are fairly basic, a little dirt smudged on their faces, a few wounds, dead eyes, and torn clothes. It adds a chilling layer of realism to The Dead. They make us think back to the original terrors that pounded their way into the farmhouse in 1968. They reminded me of the ghouls who forced their way into the Monroeville Mall in 1978. They were eerily similar to the cannibals who shuffled around the tropical island in 1979.

It may retain a traditional style, but The Dead also packs plenty of smarts to compliment the old fashioned approach. The film presents multiple moral situations that would be gut wrenching to face. The worst one we see is an injured African woman trying to flee a group of zombies who are closing in on her. She calls for help to Brian, who is reluctant to assist her, but his reluctance is tried even further when the woman hands him an infant whose cries attract the zombies. The woman forces Brian to take the child, and then forces him to put his gun to her head and begs him to shoot her. It’s scenes like this that makes The Dead such a force to be reckon with. It also mirrors our unwillingness to help those in need, those who are poverty stricken. It was never easy to watch Brian and Daniel put the ghouls down, especially in a place where disease and conflict are consistently present. Surely controversial and upsetting to some who watch it, The Dead understands that there has to be more than just gore to get under our skin, something that Romero certainly understands.

The Dead doesn’t reinvent the wheel and I didn’t really expect it to. That credit falls on the shoulders of Danny Boyle and 28 Days Later. There are a few moments where continuity issues are glaring and a few editing choices that may make you scratch your head. One scene in particular reeks of a tight budget, which seemed to force the Ford brothers to sacrifice clarity. At times, the acting from Rob Freeman is a bit hammy and a little too macho for a man in his situation. Prince David Oseia out acts Freeman in almost every scene and his character is infinitely more interesting. In a way, I sort of liked Freeman’s old-fashioned macho hero because he reminded me of Peter or Rodger in Dawn of the Dead. The Dead never lets up on the viewer; constantly keeping your stomach twisted in knots and you’ll find yourself keeping an eye out for the two heroes. With Romero grasping at rotten entrails and hitting rock bottom with Survival of the Dead, it’s reassuring–and terrifying–to know that there is a stripped down, straightforward, and smart zombie flick out there to satisfy the zombie fans.

Grade: B+

The Dead is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.

The Artist wins Best Picture!

Congratulations to The Artist!

Click here to read the Anti-Film School review!

And the Oscar goes to…

Hey readers,

Keep it locked to Anti-Film School tonight! We will be updating the winners as they are announced! Stay tuned!

-Steve

BEST PICTURE
WINNER “The Artist,” Thomas Langmann, producer
“The Descendants,” Jim Burke, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, producers
“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,” Scott Rudin, producer
“The Help,” Brunson Green, Chris Columbus and Michael Barnathan, producers
“Hugo,” Graham King and Martin Scorsese, producers
“Midnight in Paris,” Letty Aronson and Stephen Tenenbaum, producers
“Moneyball,” Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz and Brad Pitt, producers
“The Tree of Life,” Nominees to be determined
“War Horse,” Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, producers

LEAD ACTOR
Demián Bichir, “A Better Life”
George Clooney, “The Descendants”
WINNER Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”
Gary Oldman, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy “
Brad Pitt, “Moneyball”

LEAD ACTRESS
Glenn Close, “Albert Nobbs”
Viola Davis, “The Help”
Rooney Mara, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
WINNER Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady”
Michelle Williams, “My Week With Marilyn”

BEST DIRECTOR
WINNER Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”
Alexander Payne, “The Descendants”
Martin Scorsese, “Hugo”
Woody Allen, “Midnight in Paris”
Terrence Malick, “The Tree of Life”

SUPPORTING ACTOR
Kenneth Branagh, “My Week with Marilyn”
Jonah Hill, “Moneyball”
Nick Nolte, “Warrior”
WINNER Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”
Max von Sydow, “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”

SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Bérénice Bejo, “The Artist”
Jessica Chastain, “The Help”
Melissa McCarthy, “Bridesmaids”
Janet McTeer, “Albert Nobbs”
WINNER Octavia Spencer, “The Help”

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)
WINNER “The Descendants,” Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
“Hugo,” John Logan
“The Ides of March,” George Clooney & Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon
“Moneyball,” Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin. Story by Stan Chervin
“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” Screenplay by Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)
“The Artist,” Michel Hazanavicius
“Bridesmaids,” Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig
“Margin Call,” J.C. Chandor
WINNER “Midnight in Paris,” Woody Allen
“A Separation,” Asghar Farhadi

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
“A Cat in Paris,” Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli
“Chico & Rita,” Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal
“Kung Fu Panda 2,” Jennifer Yuh Nelson
“Puss in Boots,” Chris Miller
WINNER “Rango,” Gore Verbinski

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
“Bullhead,” Belgium
“Footnote,” Israel
“In Darkness,” Poland
“Monsieur Lazhar,” Canada
WINNER “A Separation,” Iran

DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE)
“Hell and Back Again,” Danfung Dennis and Mike Lerner
“If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front,” Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman
“Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory,” Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky
“Pina,” Wim Wenders and Gian-Piero Ringel
WINNER “Undefeated,” TJ Martin, Dan Lindsay and Richard Middlemas

DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT)
“The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement,” Robin Fryday and Gail Dolgin
“God Is the Bigger Elvis,” Rebecca Cammisa and Julie Anderson
“Incident in New Baghdad,” James Spione
WINNER “Saving Face,” Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
“The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom,” Lucy Walker and Kira Carstensen

SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)
“Dimanche/Sunday,” Patrick Doyon
WINNER “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore,” William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg
“La Luna,” Enrico Casarosa
“A Morning Stroll,” Grant Orchard and Sue Goffe
“Wild Life,” Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby

SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)
“Pentecost,” Peter McDonald and Eimear O’Kane
“Raju,” Max Zähle and Stefan Gieren
WINNER “The Shore,” Terry George and Oorlagh George
“Time Freak,” Andrew Bowler and Gigi Causey
“Tuba Atlantic,” Hallvar Witzø

ART DIRECTION
“The Artist,” production design: Laurence Bennett; set decoration: Robert Gould
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2,” production design: Stuart Craig; set decoration: Stephenie McMillan
WINNER “Hugo,” production design: Dante Ferretti; set decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo
“Midnight in Paris,” production design: Anne Seibel; set decoration: Hélène Dubreuil
“War Horse,” production design: Rick Carter; set decoration: Lee Sandales

CINEMATOGRAPHY
Guillaume Schiffman, “The Artist”
Jeff Cronenweth, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
WINNER Robert Richardson, “Hugo”
Emmanuel Lubezki, “The Tree of Life”
Janusz Kaminski, “War Horse”

COSTUME DESIGN
Lisy Christl, “Anonymous”
WINNER Mark Bridges, “The Artist”
Sandy Powell, “Hugo”
Michael O’Connor, “Jane Eyre”
Arianne Phillips, “W.E”

FILM EDITING
“The Artist,” Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius
“The Descendants,” Kevin Tent
WINNER “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
“Hugo” Thelma Schoonmaker
“Moneyball,” Christopher Tellefsen

MAKEUP
“Albert Nobbs,” Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston and Matthew W. Mungle
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2,” Nick Dudman, Amanda Knight and Lisa Tomblin
WINNER “The Iron Lady,” Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)
“The Adventures of Tintin,” John Williams
WINNER “The Artist,” Ludovic Bource
“Hugo,” Howard Shore
“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” Alberto Iglesias
“War Horse” John Williams

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)
WINNER “Man or Muppet” from “The Muppets,” music and lyrics by Bret McKenzie
“Real in Rio,” from “Rio,” music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown; lyrics by Siedah Garrett

SOUND EDITING
“Drive,” Lon Bender and Victor Ray Ennis
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” Ren Klyce
WINNER “Hugo,” Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl
“War Horse,” Richard Hymns and Gary Rydstrom

SOUND MIXING
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Bo Persson
WINNER “Hugo,” Tom Fleischman and John Midgley
“Moneyball,” Deb Adair, Ron Bochar, Dave Giammarco and Ed Novick
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Peter J. Devlin
“War Horse,” Gary Rydstrom, Andy Nelson, Tom Johnson and Stuart Wilson

VISUAL EFFECTS
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” Tim Burke, David Vickery, Greg Butler and John Richardson
WINNER “Hugo,” Rob Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossman and Alex Henning
“Real Steel,” Erik Nash, John Rosengrant, Dan Taylor and Swen Gillberg
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White and Daniel Barrett
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Matthew Butler and John Frazier

Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

by Steve Habrat

Of all the recent films that managed to snag the Best Picture Oscar, the only one that I really thought was undeserving of the award was Slumdog Millionaire. This is in no way me trying to tear the film apart or declaring to the world I disliked Danny Boyle’s tale about fate. In fact, I actually really loved the film, but I just though that there were better films in 2008. I loved Slumdog Millionaire’s energy, it’s appreciation for life and love, and it’s hero who is putting it all on the line for the girl he loves. Boyle is near the top of my favorite current filmmakers, one who managed to sneak into the main stream, and jumps from genre to genre like a frog jumping from one lily pad to another. You never know where he will land and it’s unbelievably exciting when it is announced that he is making another film. Slumdog Millionaire is perhaps his warmest and fuzziest movie, one that your grandmother can sit down and watch. It’s certainly far from films like 28 Days Later and Sunshine, both polarizing works of art but ones that you probably wouldn’t want to watch with granny. Well, unless it was my grandmother, who will watch basically anything, and yes, she saw Slumdog Millionaire.

Slumdog Millionaire follows eighteen-year-old Jamal Malik (Played by Dev Patel), who has found himself as a contestant of the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Jamal is only one question away from a sum of money that will change his life, a life that involved living on the streets. Before he is to answer that final question, Jamal is detained by police and interrogated, the police demanding to know how a kid from the streets is able to answer all of these questions. Jamal recounts a string of memories and events from his childhood that have allowed him to answer the questions. In the memories, he also remembers time he spent with his brother Salim (Played by Madhur Mittal) and Latika (Played by Freida Pinto), a girl who Jamal has been in love with since he met her.

Boyle is the type of director who is just so eager to move his film along, wanting you to get swept up in the zooming story, you practically end up with whiplash by the end. Boyle can’t resist framing images for the audience that are familiar and alien, a trait of his films that are his own cinematic fingerprint. It’s also insanely colorful, a nod to Bollywood films and Indian culture, making Slumdog Millionaire almost seem like an ode to the color wheel rather than a drama. At times, I almost feel like Boyle suffers from ADD, as his films are always so busy. The film’s story is certainly inimitable, putting an updated spin on the rags to riches story that we have all seen and heard before. I think this is what led to the sweep that Slumdog Millionaire had at the Oscars. Slumdog Millionaire was a hip interpretation of the rags to riches tale set to thumping M.I.A. tracks and a lively, hip-hop-py score by A.R. Rahman.

So what is my problem with Slumdog Millionaire winning Best Picture? The short answer is that it was a safe option. It wasn’t threatening to mainstream viewers. Milk turned off the more conservative crowd but I thought it was the second best film of 2009, behind The Dark Knight, which should have been nominated but was ignored. The Reader’s nomination was purchased and everyone knows it. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Frost/Nixon were both very bloated, Frost/Nixon being a little too dark to grab the win and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was a bit too whimsical at times (I liked them both very much but they were never going to win the gold). But I never thought my spirit was captured during Slumdog Millionaire and while I was moved while I watched it, I wasn’t after it ended. Milk was a film that stuck with me, both in style, message, and performance. Perhaps I just wanted the Academy to be a little bit bolder with their decision. I also think there was some bitterness that year, watching the snobby Academy wave off a film that was as defining as The Dark Knight, a towering achievement in blockbuster filmmaking that will live on much longer than Slumdog Millionaire will. People complained last year about The Social Network not winning even though it was a film that defined the current zeitgeist. The snub of The Dark Knight was much more glaring and troubling, hinting that many individuals of the uptight film community weren’t willing to give it a serious look even though it ended up being the highest grossing movie of 2008.

Enough with my ranting and back to Slumdog Millionaire. Not as fulfilling as I hoped it would be but good none-the-less, Slumdog Millionaire was exotic and a worthy entry in the works of Danny Boyle. In a way, Slumdog Millionaire winning Best Picture felt like a nod that was poorly timed. It was heartwarming to see the happiness and excitement burst forth from Boyle when he received the Best Director award, an enthusiasm that matched the enthusiasm of his films. And yes, I was happy for the clearly blown away cast as they took to the stage to claim their Best Picture award. Boyle will go on to make other great films (127 Hours was great) and I feel like there will be more awards in his future, but in a year where there was better and much more important films, perhaps Slumdog Millionaire shouldn’t have taken both of the major awards. History is history and Slumdog claimed it, something that cannot be changed so all we can do is evaluate the finished film. I hate to sound like a Scrooge but looking at things now, it’s how I feel about the 81st Academy Awards. Slumdog Millioniare is a beautifully made film that was, yes, one of the better films of 2008, but it hasn’t had the lasting impact on the medium of motion pictures that many predicted it would. The film is well worth your time even if it did get caught in the crossfire of a controversial year at the Oscars.

Grade: B+

Slumdog Millionaire is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.

Which film are you rooting for to take home the Best Picture Oscar?

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

by Corinne Rizzo

In Bottle Rocket, Anthony falls in love with Ines while swimming in the hotel pool, a pool that was the center of the hotel universe with multiple scenes shot in and around it. In Rushmore, Max plans to build Ms. Cross an aquarium the size of a baseball field and brings additions to the classroom aquariums in the meantime. The Royal Tenenbaums finds Margot in the bathtub for hours every day, while Ethylene practices archeology in the inner city. Similarly, Richie and Margot runaway to live in the public archives for a few weeks to get away from their family. The ocean, water and exploration are major themes in Wes Anderson’s films and in Anderson’s fourth film, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, the filmmaker displays an outward celebration of aquatic life and adventurism, themes Anderson has previously suppressed in earlier films.

Set on the Belefonte (Zissou’s research ship) , and subsequent island locales, Steve Zissou, played by Bill Murray (formerly Raleigh St. Claire), is an aging explorer bent on discovering the shark that killed his best friend Esteban, and rediscovering his edge as a documentary film star.

The film begins at a festival in honor of Team Zissou’s latest documentary in which it is revealed that Esteban has been consumed by an unrecognizable shark he names the Jaguar Shark. It is apparent that the documentary has fallen flat with the audience and in a fit of defeat, Steve swears to make his next documentary the one of exposing this new fish, hoping to regain his strength as an explorer.

During the after party for the documentary, Steve is approached by Ned Plimpton (played by Owen Wilson). Plimpton is at the wrap part y to meet his father, who he believes is Steve Zissou. Steve is unexpectedly warm toward Ned, soon offering him his own last name and suggesting he change his first one also, to Kingsly, what Steve says he would have named him, had he had a say.

The adventure ensues. A motley crew of characters, including Willem Dafoe, all wearing matching light blue uniforms with bright red skull caps, set off to find the shark. In the meantime, the Belefonte is pirated by strangers, Team Zissou breaks into the Hennessey laboratories (Captain Hennessey played by Jeff Goldblum), boats are blown up and three legged dogs are left behind. All lead by Zissou and all conquered as well.

Anderson’s depiction of the sea is magical in this film. It is not a dark scary place down in the depths like biology books would have one believe. It is a place of illumination and Anderson shows that in a very unique way. All sea and island life are clay-mation interjected into the film with neon color. Electric jellyfish, neon trout, Technicolor pony-fish, and even the jaguar shark himself are bright, vibrant creatures that illuminate the sea with a magic that displays an affection for the ocean and the wonder involved in exploration.

In the film, all colors are paired with their contrast, where there are blues there are yellows, where there are reds there are greens. Anderson does an awesome job at creating this world of discovery and adventure that harkens to classic marine biology documentaries one might have seen in middle school—colors heightened to show the viewer an image not witnessed before. Obviously inspired by the deep-sea creatures that illuminate their own way through the ocean and other phosphorescent life forms that glow.

The Life Aquatic is a film packed with sarcastic humor and an almost obligational form of love for exploration.  The relationships that evolve around a Steve, designated as delusional by his peers at the onset of the film, would be impossible without the situations he pulls everyone into. Bill Murray is a most excellent addition to Anderson’s films and his role as Steve Zissou can easily be touted as one of his best. The film mixes his lust for excitement with the reality of his apathy.

Featured also in The Life Aquatic is yet another musical journey set by Mark Mothersbaugh, complimented by Pele played by Seu Jorge, and David Bowie. The multiple renditions of Life on Mars, reminds the viewer that the ocean is a frontier, just like space and there is still so much to know. Wes Anderson in no way hits his peak with The Life Aquatic, but sure does give himself a run for his own money in his next film.

Grade: A

 

Top Five Reasons to Watch The Life Aquatic:

1) The colors. Did you know that Mark Mothersbaugh attended Kent State?

2) The music.

3) The adventure.

4) Willem Dafoe as Klaus!

5) The idea that life’s drama, highs and lows, can occur anywhere, even in the middle of nowhere.

The Hurt Locker (2009)

by Steve Habrat

Despite what you may think of the Academy Awards, I think most who saw Kathryn Bigelow’s Iraq War film The Hurt Locker can agree that it was indeed the best film of 2009. Paranoid and frantic while taking absolutely no stance on the Iraq War, Bigelow masterfully sculpts a beast of a film, leaving us just as shaken up as one of the soldiers is after a bomb blast. It’s tough to wrap your head around the idea that a film dealing with a war that was as unpopular as the Iraq War would have no comments about the war itself. Instead, this is a boys being boys film, one where Bigelow presents three radical personalities (one timid, one by the books, and one who relentlessly lives on the edge), puts them in a bomb suit, and shakes them up violently to see what makes them tick. The film begins with the quote “The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug”. The Hurt Locker turns out to be more than just a psychological study of the toll urban warfare takes on a soldier, but is also a movie about the crippling addiction of pushing the envelop and tempting death.

The Hurt Locker begins in 2004, just shortly after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. After the grisly death of Staff Sergeant Matt Thompson (Played by Guy Pearce), the reckless and testy Sergeant First Class William James (Played by Jeremy Renner) comes in to take his place as a bomb diffuser. James joins Sergeant JT Sanborn (Played by Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Played by Brian Geraghty) and the group sets out on a string of missions including suicide bombers, car bombs, roadside bombs, etc. Sanborn and Eldridge try to keep their small group together and guarded where anything and anyone can become a threat. As James relentlessly tests the patience of Sanborn and Eldridge with his irresponsible behavior, Sanborn and Eldridge begin to fear for their own safety as well as begin to entertain ideas of finding a way to get rid of James. James, on the other hand, gets a thrill out of tempting death and his addiction to the “rush of battle” has caused him to become an outsider when playing the role of civilian.

Bigelow shies away from using familiar faces in her film, allowing the soldiers to seem like actual soldiers serving a tour of duty rather than a bunch of pampered actors sipping bottled Fiji water. This approach gives The Hurt Locker a heavy does of realism and randomness that can’t be matched by many other war films. Her fidgety camera that will unexpectedly zoom in on possible threats adds another layer of anxiety to the experience. Anyone can die at any second and Bigelow doesn’t want you to escape that nail biting dread. Pearce was the only recognizable actor in The Hurt Locker and he is knocked off in the first ten minutes of the film. Hell, if Pearce can get it, than any of these soldiers can bite the dust at any time! The Hurt Locker posses a documentary feeling throughout the course of its runtime, sometimes making you forget that you’re watching a movie. When snipers open fire on the group in one particular scene, you are practically ducking behind your coach and hugging the ground for dear life. Every battle doesn’t descend into quick cut gunfights, but rather embraces drawn out tension mixed with anticipatory trepidation of where the threat will come from next. Can you trust that man holding that cell phone? Is that car loaded with explosives? Are the citizens watching from their windows carrying a detonator or gun?

The Hurt Lockers presents three radical forms of the soldier. Eldridge represents the skittish soldier who fears death above all else, where every day could be his last. Sanborn is the by the books man who views his duty as just another day on the job. James is the one addicted to the “rush of battle” and views war as a drug. He can’t escape the thrill of it. Each performance is heavy and the relationship between the three main characters is never firing on all cylinders. Very rarely do they all click and work hand-in-hand, when they do they are alarmingly efficient. The most complexity lies in James, who cares more about the corpse of a boy who is currently having his guts ripped out and having them replaced with explosives over his own child back on American shores. Rarely does he talk about his wife, only when he is probed and had a little to drink. He struts towards bombs with his chin and helmet held high, loving every step he takes towards possible death. When he finds a bomb that could wipe out a large area, he rips off his bomb suit and goes about disarming the bomb comfortably. If it blows up, the suit won’t save him. But you have to wonder if he would really care if it did blow up. James also symbolically serves as the bottle that Eldridge and Sanborn are dropped into. When a rush shakes up James, the worst and the weakest points emerge from Sanborn and Eldrige

There is never a down moment in The Hurt Locker, one that doesn’t enthrall and hold your eyes to the screen. From the directing all the way to the script, the film is absolutely perfect, an atypical accomplishment for any film that makes its way out of Hollywood. The film opened the eyes of mainstream audiences to the talents of Jeremy Renner, who is finally becoming a household name. I firmly believe that The Hurt Locker is an instant classic, a film that will join the ranks of classics like Apocalypse Now and Platoon. In fact, the movie stills impacts me every time I see it, leaving a crater in stomach. It is a film I will never forget seeing in theaters for the first time and walking out of absolutely silent, verbally paralyzed by the sheer intensity of it. If you have never seen The Hurt Locker before, it may be wise to experience it with someone who already did just so they can have 911 ready. Why? Because you may pass out from holding your breath.

Grade: A+

The Hurt Locker is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.