REPUBLIBOT WEEKEND MOVIE PREVIEW: Movies Opening 11-20-09

Republibot 1.0
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As we get started on this week’s Republibot Weekend Movie Preview round up, I just want to reiterate again, for those just joining us, I‘m not really reviewing anything here. Unless stated otherwise I’ve not seen any of the movies in this “Preview”. The only thing that I am doing is quite thoughtlessly passing judgment on films that are scheduled to open this week and that I haven’t researched at all. I am doing this because I find it interesting and because it makes me laugh, and as long as the Republibot site is okay with me doing this I will keep it up as long as it amuses me. All of the film information in these previews, including the plot summary, has been pulled from the Opening This Week page of IMDb (http://www.imdb.com/nowplaying/). In this week’s installment we are taking quick looks at: Planet 51, New Moon, and The Blind Side – among others….

Planet 51
Director: Jorge Blanco Javier Abad
Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Seann William Scott, Jessica Biel
Studio: TriStar Pictures
The Plot: The inhabitants of Planet 51 live in fear of alien invasion. Their paranoia is realized when astronaut Chuck Baker (voice of Dwayne Johnson) arrives from Earth. Befriended by a young resident, he has to avoid capture in order to recover his spaceship and try to return home.

The Republibot Take: This looks a bit like Avatar: The Big Expensive Cameron Movie That No One Is Looking Forward To Seeing. And when I say that it looks like it, I mean that it looks like it except that it takes place in a Leave It to Beaver version of an Alien world. It also looks like Battle for Terra which was surprisingly good (see our own Republibot 3.0’s review here: http://republibot.com/content/movie-review-%E2%80%9C-battle-terra%E2%80%9D). I hate kids movies like this. They feel like they are stamped out in a factory in China during the night shift when the Adidas child-dominated day crew is finished stamping out shoes. There is a template and it en-angers me that absolutely know one working in a decision making capacity on these movies seem to be embarrassed by that fact in any way.

I have the same issues with Wall-E and UP! from Pixar as well. And honestly, Pixar frustrates me the most – those two films started out so beautifully and fresh, but it is like there exists, in animated film, a gravity well for plots – as hard as they try they cannot escape the need to have a trumped up bad guy to increase the drama and threat to our beloved main characters. Isn’t saving the earth and teaching a bunch of fat humans how to take care of themselves drama enough without complicating the matter with an evil Auto-pilot character with a secret agenda? Isn’t an old man and a goofy kid riding a house held up by balloons all the way to a South American wilderness in order to fulfill a dream drama enough without having to add in a mean old explorer that is trying to kill a prehistoric bird for his completely unnecessary collection? Plus, they dropped him to his death!! In a kids’ film!! A senile deluded old man that just needed to be looked after and helped, they dropped him to his death!!

Anyway, Sci-fi quotient on this is probably about 7.5. It is science fiction-y, but I doubt there is much real science or anything strongly thematic in it that would make it true science fiction. I see it being even less science fiction-y than Star Wars or Star Trek if you think that is possible.

The Twilight Saga: New Moon
Director: Chris Weitz
Stars: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner
Studio: Summit Entertainment
The Plot: When Bella's blood is shed at her birthday celebration, Edward's intense reaction to the event causes his parents to pull up stakes and leave Forks, Washington for the sake of the young lovers. Heartbroken, Bella finds a form of comfort in reckless living, as well as an even-closer friendship with Jacob Black (Lautner). Danger in different forms awaits.

The Republibot Take: Man, I am so stoked for this movie, I can hardly wait. This is what my whole year has been leading up to… Okay, that wasn’t as funny as I thought it would be. Mainly because it is hard to satirize something that is already a satire of itself. So, just to level set this discussion on what I think of the whole Twilight thing (I resist calling it a phenomenon), I had a buddy IM me earlier and ask my thoughts on it and I replied, “One day when my life has finally dropped into the very bowels of hell and all the Twilight movies are out, I am finally just gonna suck it up and watch them all on DVD back-to-back-to-back with a shotgun between my legs.”

You see the implication iwas that my own misery coupled with the endless misery brought on by watching those movies all in one sitting would be too much for me to go on with my life, so I would then use the strategically placed firearm to help end it all and gain a peaceful endless respite. Get it? The movies represent such horrid things that they collectively would be the camel that broke the haystack’s back to push me over the edge to suicide.

No Sci-fi quotient, I just can’t get up the energy to bother with this stuff anymore. Our beautiful and once promising society is doomed. Doomed, I tell you. Doomed…

The Blind Side
Director: John Lee Hancock
Stars: Quinton Aaron, Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
The Plot: A disadvantaged teenager is taken in by a conservative family who see tremendous promise in the young man. Despite certain obstacles, the attention and inspiration he receives helps him mature into an athletically and academically successful NFL prospect.

The Republibot Take: Hi, my name is Republibot 1.0 and I am easily seduced by endearing, inspirational and family friendly melodrama when I least expect it.

I don’t know, this movie is everything I hate – clichéd, loosely based on true events, with a cast of solidly tier 2 box office draws, but… Bullock is looking kinda good for the first time in a while, I don’t know who Tim McGraw is other than he has a familiar name and I don’t listen to country music, and Quinton Aaron brought a certain amount of soulfulness to his character in the trailers that I have seen.

I mean really, the Plot synopsis sums the whole thing up – you have basically seen the movie at this point and can figure out everything that happens, but there is something about the warm comfort of familiarity that is hard to deny. Now having said all of that, I will absolutely not be seeing it in the theaters, but when it comes on Starz or Encore, I probably won’t be rushing to turn it off.

Sci-fi quotient will be a 1.0 I guess.

Broken Embraces [limited]
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Stars: Penélope Cruz, Lluís Homar, Blanca Portillo
Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
The Plot: Blind screenwriter Harry Caine (Homar) reveals the secrets of his past to a young associate, from his former life as a filmmaker working under his given name, to the accident which claimed his sight and led to a break-up with Lena (Cruz), a now-famous actress who lives in a gilded cage with her wealthy older partner.

The Republibot Take: Is it just me or does Almodovar’s films all seem to have the same basic structure? That is a serious question because I have never actually gone out of my way to see one of his movies and the times that I have stumbled across them I have never stuck around long enough to get through them. But based on the bits and pieces that I have seen and the trailers that I have sat through and the fact it seems he uses the exact same cast repeatedly, I think it is a fair question.

This is the point when I am writing these previews that I can mentally hear myself being accused of willful ignorance in what I write…

Sci-fi quotient is going to be a 3.5 since the synopsis sounds a bit like a Gabriel García Márquez book, and seriously that dude can write. (Does that get me out of the willful ignorance group?)

Red Cliff [limited]
Director: John Woo
Stars: Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Fengyi Zhang
Studio: Magnet Releasing
The Plot: Set during the end of China's Han Dynasty, two rivaling warlords make a pact to turn their respective armies against a power hungry general bent on taking over their kingdoms.

The Republibot Take: I have heard about this movie for a quite a while, but really haven’t paid much attention because once John Woo started making American films I lost interest in him. I mean he made Mission Impossible 2 and Windtalkers – you would have to be raised in a monastery to maintain hope after those films. If you take the slow motion sequences out of MI II you would have a 30 minute movie. And Windtalkers was barely even about the actual WW II Windtalkers themselves. I actually thought this movie was another WW II movie as I read headlines about thebehind the scenes going ons with it, but since I had given up hope on him I never read the actual articles.

Now having read the synopsis, I am interested. Woo making a period martial arts piece is very interesting. Tony Leung is cool, as is Takeshi Kaneshiro. I don't think I am familiar with Fengyi Zhang though.

Sci-fi quotient is a 2.5 solely on geek cred.

Mammoth [NYC]
Director: Lukas Moodysson
Stars: Gael García Bernal, Michelle Williams, Marife Necesito
Studio: IFC Films
The Plot: Leo (Bernal) is a web entrepreneur on a business trip to Thailand. When his life takes an unplanned turn, the ripples reach back to his family in New York City, where his wife (Williams) and daughter have a close relationship with their Filipino nanny (Necesito).

The Republibot Take: The first thing I think of whenever I hear about a movie taking place in Thailand and things “take an unplanned turn” is either drugs or child prostitution, because that is basically the extent of Thailand in films usually. And is there supposed to be a connection between the Filipino nanny and the Dad getting into trouble in Thailand? I don’t get it. And what is a “web entrepreneur”? And is there a specific reason he would have to be in Thailand? I guess I just don’t get the Thailand thing. And now the whole “web entrepreneur” thing is starting to bug me too. What is he, Mark Cuban, or one of the Google guys? What does the web have to do specifically with Thailand? Is he hiring child PHP programmers for pennies on the dollar and then renting them out for perverse activities to the visiting Americans in the evenings while going on lavish coke binges?

And why is it called Mammoth? Is Ray Romano in it?

Until I have the answers to these questions I will have to maintain a steady 0 for the Sci-fi quotient of this movie.

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans [limited]
Director: Werner Herzog
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Russell M. Haeuser
Studio: First Look Pictures
The Plot: Terence McDonagh (Cage) is a drug- and gambling-addled detective in post-Katrina New Orleans investigating the killing of five Senegalese immigrants.

The Republibot Take: I tried to watch the original Bad Lieutenant that starred Harvey Keitel on several occasions back when it first hit home video, but couldn’t. I would get to the scene where he pulls over two girls and then exposes himself to them and I would be done. I could never stomach anything after that. I have heard the rest of the movie is great. But even I have my limits. The surprising thing is that it had only a little to do with the subject matter. It was the fact that Harvey Keitel was the one involved in that particular subject matter that was too much for me.

I do like Werner Herzog though. I think he is really a pretty sharp guy. I loved Grizzly Man, and he played himself in this weird little fake documentary about an expedition to find the Loch Ness Monster that was pretty cool of him to do. Nic Cage on the other hand is basically turning into Harvey Keitel as he ages. But Eva Mendes is way hot. I don’t know who Russell Haeuser is, sounds like a type of dog. I will probably give this a try once it gets to premium pay or On-Demand, just to see.

Well there you have it. A possibly busy week, especially in those big cities where they get limited release films. Unless you want to see something really good. Next week, join us as we discuss Old Dogs, The Road, and Ninja Assassin among others.

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