Saturday, July 31, 2010

Love: The Girl Who Played With Fire

Stieg Larsson's worldwide phenomenon isn't just important because of it's financial impact, but because of what it does for film characters and women everywhere. I have yet to read the books, but Director Daniel Alfredson deserves all the credit in the world for not sexualizing the violence or the heroine, never reducing her power into a shadow in the ways that American directors tend to (and very well might in the American remakes of the Swedish trilogy) all the while somehow creating an engaging mainstream thriller. Alfredson gives Lisbeth (Noomi Rapace) the respect she deserves, making The Girl Who Played With Fire excellent sequel while cementing Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) and Lisbeth Salander into the hearts and minds of everyone out there, once again giving us a female character we can be proud of.
In this second installment of the Millenium Trilogy, Lisbeth Salander, recently returned from abroad with arms full of cash and purchases from IKEA, finds herself in trouble, this time unjustly accused of a triple murder. On the lamb in a high end Stokholm apartment, she again finds herself working with famed reporter and one time lover, Mikael Blomkvist, this time through her hacking into his computer, a one on one meeting between the two never quite occurring. As they did before, the geniuses Blomkvist and Salander fight the good fight, beat up some people, get beat up, and make some love as everything slowly goes to hell.
The Girl Who Played With Fire is not as good as The Girl With Dragon Tattoo. It's editing isn't as tight, and despite the lack of Nazis, many of the plot elements take on a mystical and unbelievable turn (the main bad guy is a six foot + blonde German who can't feel pain due to a genetic disorder, and rambles around Sweden like Frankenstein) while Lisbeth should have been dead after all the stuff that happens to her (SPOILER! most notably when she digs her way out of a grave with her cell phone after being shot multiple times and buried alive). Everybody seems to go it alone in the stupidest of ways, making you want to scream "Will you just call some back-up!" at the screen. The final plot twists, while satisfying, often feel like a stretch. A willingness to suspend your disbelief is mandatory here, which may be a bit of shock to those coming fresh off Dragon which seemed to make a concerted effort to make even it's craziest moments into something totally believable. Luckily, the Swedish setting feels slick to the untrained American eye still won over by bright city lights, minimalist furniture, Nordic club music, and historic backdrops.
But I don't care about any of those problems because I care so much about Mikael and Lisbeth. Noomi Rapace is, as per usual, absolutely incredible. She kicks ass, she shows her vulnerability, she screws her lesbian girlfriend, she sets up her IKEA kitchen, and never once leaves the audience questioning whether or not Lisbeth is an overblown creation, even in those moments that she should be. Rapace is decidedly un-Hollywood and chameleon like, as if her whole form actually shape-shifts when she walks on screen. No one, ever again, will ever be the true Lisbeth Salander (the rumor of Scarlett Johansson being cast in the American version gives me nightmares!). Rapace paints an accurate and full portrait that's never a stereotype, allowing the depth to radiate out of her in the way that it does with a real person you're just getting to know. You can't help but care deeply about what happens to her, not just because she's been through some horrible things and deserves better, but because you fall in love with her.

Michael Nyqvist does the same with Blomkvist (even if his character seems like it would be easier to pull off), allowing his beguiling honesty to become real without feeling preachy or too good to be true. Their relationship is the reason to watch the movie, especially as they volley off one another without meeting, the longing to be in each others' presence both not sexual or the focal point between them, but a raw and subtle emotion underneath the fabric of everything else. They have such mutual respect and understanding of each other despite their differences that not only makes them total equals, but also one of the best couples ever portrayed on screen. SPOILER! When Mikeal pulls Lisbeth's body to safety after she's been nearly killed at the end of it all and says "I'm here," the relief is so great it's an incredible moment, much more justifying and authentic than what we're usually given in Hollywood these days.
Like its predecessor, The Girl Who Played With Fire is an incredibly violent, and often sexual film. But in these unique cases, there is a true agony in the violence. The men raping the women are not attractive, but demons, spit dripping from their wrinkled mouths as their fat bellies slap against the young women's backs. People are brutally hit and shot down in gritty ways that retain the horror without making it stylish or arousing in the way that many horror/thriller movies arguably do. There is no voyeuristic joy to be found here. I am a hard core feminist, and both Lisbeth and Mikeal's characters may be the most important figures to step on the screen ever. Although the violence against Lisbeth is extreme, in many ways it represents the violence and horrible attitudes about women that occur everyday. The intense disgust that pervades the film can only help to change these attitudes, especially considering how their popularity has extended their reach to more unlikely audiences. In one particular scene, Lisbeth interrogates a man that raped a prostitute. She asks him why he did it and he replies, "She was so beautiful, I just wanted her," the subtle implication of "she had it coming," clear in his words. Lisbeth asks him why that gives him the right to tie her up and take her, and he has no answer. It's not a sanctimonius moment, the look in Lisbeth's eyes the knowledge of what's been done to her filling in the emotion where no words could.
 Blomkvist is an equally important character, a man that (reportedly like Larsson himself) is actively trying to right the wrongs against women and is brought to tears when he discovers the horrible truth about what has happened to Lisbeth and the others. More importantly, even though the other characters love to tell us how ugly Lisbeth is (she, of course, is a beautiful woman, just unconventionally so) and how insane and replusive she is, Mikeal respects and loves her in an entirely true way, just as she is. It is that respect from a male that in many ways goes even further than her kung fu moves and surly attitude to changing things once and for all.

I know why American Hollywood is going to remake these excellent Swedish thrillers, the foreign films and books raking in a million dollars a minute. But the remakes, so soon after the release of these excellent films can only cheapen their quality, their message, and their characters. I don't think its possible to pull the same sincerity of Noomi Rapace out of a seasoned Hollywood actress. I hope I'm proven wrong, but let's face it, I'm probably right.


and a 1/4 for being a gamechanger!












Want more? Read Wilde.Dash's review of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Under 250: Greenberg

I missed Greenberg in its theatrical run.  At the time, I was rather upset about this.  I kept tentatively penciling in times to go see it, but I never made it.  Busy times, you know.  I'm a big Noah Baumbach fan.  Squid and the Whale, Kicking & Screaming, the work he's written collaboratively with Wes Anderson (Life Aquatic, Mr. Fox); absolutely love it.  The droll pedant characters, the East Coast atmospherics, the sardonic humor, the soundtrack selections; it typically all works for me.  I even generally enjoyed the much derided Margot at the Wedding.  All that said: I was pretty disappointed with Greenberg.  I've been thinking, since I watched Greenberg a few weeks back, about what it was that turned me off about it, and I still can't quite figure it out.  In pieces, it seems to work.  Ben Stiller plays his toned down role as the titular misanthropic mid-life slacker pretty well.  He's vacant, difficult, absolutely churlish, and unlikeable.  Mumblecore sweetheart Greta Gerwig, too, is irritatingly self-effacing, and good at it.  There's some clever repartee and some bold moves taken in terms of how deep into Greenberg's complete lack momentum...but ultimately, the film hit a sour note for me and was less than satisfying.  Greenberg didn't feel on.  The cultural references failed to resonate and I think, maybe, that I just didn't believe the strange relationship cultivated between Stiller and Gerwig's characters.  It was as if the actors did such a good job of portraying their characters individually that, when they came together, you felt the outside puppeteering hand of the writer/director. It's a strange sensation, to look at a movie and know, just know, that that's just not quite how these people would fall into it...but there it is.  Greenberg's second half picks up a little more than its introduction, but ultimately lacks something in terms of screen presence.  The movie is all about the angst of its characters and fails, perhaps, to really build a structured narrative on which to support them.  They're floundering, but it doesn't feel profound or especially purposeful, not like the searching, desperate floundering of the college graduates in Kicking & Screaming or the Berkman family in Squid and the Whale.  Lackluster, plain and simple.

Under 250: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

You know those rare cases when the movie adaptation is better than the written source material?  This is one of those.  I read the late Stieg Larsson's international bestseller The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo after I saw the film, forced by peer book groups and a *totally obsessed* mother, and was thoroughly disappointed.  Where the first cinematic installment of the Swedish trilogy was a high tension thriller bristling with intriguing characters, sharp cinematography, and the sort of take no prisoners criminality that makes it clear David Fincher is the perfect director for the American remake, the book is a bland bout of facts, figures, and shallowness (sorry mom...).   Solid exposition, limited characterization, poor translation.  I couldn't get into the book (sorry book club...), and perhaps the vivid nature of the film is partially to blame.  Director Niels Arden Oplev takes few liberties with the core of Larsson's story; but what he abridges, edits, and reconstitutes is pitch perfect, allowing the book to transition seamlessly from mass market bestseller terrain to deftly crafted art.  Actress Noomi Rapace takes on vengeful hacker/badass Lisbeth Salander with a quiet, seething rage that makes her screen presence that of a human atom bomb.  She's hard to ignore, and the film is engrossing, easily slipping into the caliber of crime drama inhabited by films like Insomnia (1997) and Se7en (1995).    In short: for the literary snobs amongst us, this time it's ok to skip the book.  Jump straight to the movie.  If you must, proceed from there.






Thursday, July 29, 2010

Reel Round-Up: The Necessary Nordic Movie vs. the Unnecessary Remakes of Nordic Movies

It's been so long since I've done one of these, that I had to pull up an old one to remember the format.

 Were you the guy at the end of Inception that didn't know that there was dreaming involved? (true story) Take a look at this beautifully rendered graphic ------------->

Leo has pulled out of Mel Gibson's untitled Viking movie. If DiCaprio really wanted to punish him for his behavior he should have stayed on board.

Len Wisemen, the great genius behind both Underworld (love) and Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (squalor) may be directing the Total Recall remake.

Daniel Craig is the American (British?) Mikael Blomkvist. We just had the totally awesome Swedish version, do we really need this so soon? No we do not.

Speaking of Swedish remakes...this information doesn't make me feel any better about Let Me In. 

I missed the leaked Thor trailer as I was, you know, at work doing my job, but you can read the description of it here, and see a big buddy buddy photo of the Avengers cast.

J.J. Abrams + Victorian stuff + robots are three of my favorite things, and yet, I'm wondering if he has the matching aesthetic to pull it off.

Lot's of high resolution Tron Legacy photos to get you, and your desktop ready for December.

Lars Von Trier gives more details about the upcoming Melancholia.

Some of the best Vampire posters out there.

The Pros and Cons of Jon Hamm as Superman. I can't believe I never thought of this before. Lois is just the type that Don Draper would go for.

Another Way...

We added the widget to the bottom of our sidebar roughly a month ago, but for those who haven't noticed, you can now follow Love & Squalor (and Pop Candy Arcade, for that matter), on Bloglovin.com.  Bloglovin is kind of like a stylish version of Google Reader, only it lets you discover other blogs as you're reading the ones you already enjoy.  I'm all about this, and I've noticed some of you have already found us there.  The rest of you?  Check it out, and follow us here.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Love: The Kids Are All Right

Every summer all the little indie-darling production company offshoots (Focus, Fox Searchlight, Paramount Vantage, etc.) use some sort of twee cartography to map out the placement of their saleable wares amongst the squalor of superheroes, sequels, and gimmick comedies.  It's a quiet scramble to pin down a sleeper hit.  You want the comfort of a dark, air conditioned box, they serve you a refreshing, often spiked lemonade.  Before the dramatics of award season, we are given their comedic prelude.  These are the money makers that arrive - through word of mouth and expertly timed advertisements - with a glowing nimbus of praise.  First they're in that little city art house theater, then they start appearing in the suburbs, suddenly (a month in to the run), they're everywhere.  The first one I can recall consciously was My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and we all know what a runaway smash that was.  Not every low-budget indie gets its own short-lived network sitcom to fail miserably at.  The most memorable, though, is probably the reign of Little Miss Sunshine.  Since we met the Hoover family in 2006, every summer has brought with it a family-oriented indie dramedy touted as "this year's" model.  Well, ladies & gents, meet this year's model.

The Kids Are All Right is drawing its fair share of attention, largely positive and rightfully so.  It's a successful comedy that blends legitimate laugh-out-loud moments of smart dialogue and clever positioning with genuine bits of emotion and a relatable plot.  Relatable. That's a word you'll hear a lot if you listen to the critical mouthpieces discuss Lisa Cholodenko's film.  See, the supposed key to this story, the thing that makes The Kids Are All Right the exception to movies of its type is that it centers around a family unit headed up by a married lesbian couple.  The 'relatable' bit is thrown in as  the sideways way of reassuring nervous average Americans that this is, in fact, not one of those "gay" movies, and while I think it's rather silly to assume that the sexual preferences of its primary characters indicate something totally foreign or largely "unrelatable" to an average audience, I will admit that there is something about the film's easy-going relatability that makes it one of its strongest suits.  As Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) struggle to raise two decent teenage kids, they are exactly your parents (or, if you are a parent, exactly you).  They bicker and ask too many questions and want to know what you've been up to and tell you that you should really eat your vegetables and are waiting in the kitchen to give you a lecture.  They suffer and question their relationship and want to figure things out and can't stand that their kids are growing up.  You know, just like any other parent.  Ultimately, while there are a couple scenes that lean too heavily on a wink-wink nudge-nudge sexual joke, The Kids Are All Right is just a film about family, about marriage, and about the unexpected strains that outsiders can place on otherwise happy households. 
Fresh off of Alice in Wonderland, up and comer Mia Wasikowska plays 18-year old Joni.  In her last summer before college, Joni takes up her younger brother Laser's (Josh Hutcherson) campaign to meet the anonymous sperm donor his Moms used to conceive him.  Through the agency, they contact the laid-back and willing Paul (Mark Ruffalo).  Paul's an earthy sort of guy, the type who farms and owns his own organic restaurant and beds neo-hippie chicks keen on his natural stench and the way he straddles that motorcycle.  Impressed with the cool, SoCal bachelor ways of Paul, Joni and Laser strike up a relationship based on hangouts, shooting hoops, and outdoor meals.  Partially annoyed with the unexpected arrival of Paul into their tight family, the Moms decide to embrace Paul (and check up on his status as decent human being) with open arms for the sake of the kids.  What follows is a rich portrait of parenthood interrupted, and of unexpected change built around the fickle fluidity of human temperaments and the inclusive, grey areas  ::SPOILER::  that are inherent in supposedly disparate sexual preferences.

The cast, as a whole, is terrific.  While the film would be a joy to watch in part because of its greenery and soundtrack alone, the performances give the story its heart and its teeth.  As the stricter, more tightly-wound Nic, Annette Bening is nearly unrecognizable.  She fluctuates between subtle moods and small joys almost in an instant, indulging in open displays of warmth just before clamming up completely to sit quietly at a dining room table where she has become a pained, miserable outsider.  Yet, where Bening may be stellar, Moore steals nearly every scene she's in.  With a posture so casual and a demeanor so thoroughly guileless, Moore has never seemed more real, more accessible to the viewer.  There were points at which her 30 Rock recurring character, Nancy Donovan, seemed to shine through.  Perhaps Jules is Nancy's west coast, hippie-dippy equivalent or estranged sister, who knows.  All that can be said is that that sort of artfully comedic character works for Moore.  It's a performance that comes across as daring perhaps because it's so simplistically honest and genuinely confused, and the chemistry with which she offsets both Bening and Ruffalo feels perfect and palpable.  Wasikowska, too, is a stand-out who slips so thoroughly into the skin of gentle, teenage Joni that it will be hard to separate perception of Wasikowska the actress from the hopeful, vulnerable girl seen here.

To put it bluntly: I really enjoyed The Kids Are All Right.  It felt like a healthy, well-balanced brunch with good natured relatives.  There's a heaping dose of humor between the bitter bits of regret and melancholy, and while the characters made mistakes, it was easy to see past their flaws and forgive them; to believe that ultimately, the kids and the grown-ups would indeed be alright.  In a summer film that manages both smart and savvy, that manages to raise questions about human nature even as it wraps us in a hug and reassures us, that makes us want to eat fresh salads on the porch instead of feeding us dress-up montages,  that's something to be said.   


Monday, July 19, 2010

Love: Inception

When Christopher Nolan isn't bothering with Batman reboots, he just loves to tackle the terrain of reality fluxing mind- fuckery.  Memento, The Prestige, all those little make-you-think moments of Nolan's celluloid "ah ha" trickery have grown up in the wake of The Dark Knight's spectacular payday to become high-powered action flick Inception.  Those who have experience with slippery cinema realities will see through Inception in its first few moments.  Without knowing the ins and outs of character and plot, a film embedded so firmly in a dream within a dream can really only end one of two ways (I firmly believe that that is not a spoiler), and if you know Nolan, the map of where you're headed should be drawn within seconds.  Do I need to rehash the plot of Inception?  I don't think so, but I will anyhow.  For a film that was initially so shrouded in secrecy and speculation, the construct has become fairly common knowledge:  Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his rag-tag ensemble of extractors and architects (those who construct the dream environment), are masters of the dreamworld.  They deal in the procuring of information from the subconscious (or should it be unconscious?) minds of their targets.  It's risky corporate espionage, essentially, and becomes all the more so when wealthy executive Saito (Ken Watanabe) strikes an deal with Cobb in the event that he succeeds at the reverse of their usual mental hit and run: inception.  That is, the seemingly natural placement of a thought in the target's head.  Cobb assembles a team of dapper, super slick men and one young student (Ellen Page) to tackle the task head-on, no holds barred, as far as they have to dip into the target's (Cillian Murphy) consciousness.  


The clever architect can re-design Nolan's maze outright, but the joy (and the frustration) is in the journey.   Whether your mind is blown or not (admittedly, mine wasn't), there's rarely a dull moment as Inception tunnels deeper and deeper towards the muddled brink of oblivion.  
As with every passing summer of sequels and "based-ons", there's much ado about Inception as the bright spot of originality on the scorching blockbuster calendar.  The flip side of the coin is that there's conversely also a fuss over Inception's pastiche of influences.  Can it be called wholly original?  Yes, but that originality isn't delivered the way you might hope.  Inception is not foreign terrain.  It's re-processed material.  Though you've seen it all before, this is a film where you will nonetheless see it all.  Whether you first cling onto the Matrix-like grasp on the concept of "the Real", the Kubrickian hallways, Marion Cotillard's Edith Piaf connection, a love affair recalling those empty salons, corridors, salons, or something as simple as, "jesus. h. christ, Leo, between this and Shutter Island you're slipping into a niche"...Inception becomes its subject matter.  It is all of these things and more; and in that way, the film exists as a literal waking dream in which the context is alien but everything is startlingly familiar and referentially layered.  You know this movie.  Though it meddles in complex philosophical concepts it's strikingly simplistic.  You don't need the the cliffs notes to parse through what Inception is offering because it doesn't matter, you're comfortable, you've seen it before.  It's a smash and grab job just as it's a tangled web.  It is exactly all those other books and movies and ideas just as it isn't any of them at all.  This is Inception's greatest success: that as you watch it, it does indeed feel as though you (as viewer) are interfering (just as the characters are) in the process between perception and creation. 


Inception is not a perfect film, but it is set up masterfully in terms of plot and substance as that which cannot lose points for plot weaknesses or cracks in its steely veneer.  If it were an action film situated in reality,  detractors would decry the floating logic and lack of explanation employed to move from point A to point B.  In truth, there's a fair amount of things that don't quite add up.  How do the machines work?  How can one person construct the environment for another's foreign consciousness?  Why does Saito want Cobb to work for him after he just failed his previous mission?  Why does Saito have the power to clear Cobb's records overseas?  Why exactly is Cobb assumed guilty for a crime that seems fairly straightforward as, well, not much of a crime at all? These are just a few.  In lesser films these nitpicky little pieces would grow and expand into something impossible to ignore.  Inception dodges that via dream logic.  It is, as you know, a film literally about dreams.  In dreams, we are allowed to glide effortlessly between events.  This is how things progress.  They happen, they materialize, you don't know how, you don't know why.  In Inception, it's the same.  When you don't know where the lines of reality have been drawn, you can't fault the story for not delving deeper into the minutiae.  Thus, when Nolan tells you that this is how something is, you have to believe him even if you'd rather fight him for stringing together pieces so knotted or abundant that you'd rather not give him any credit at all.  When his dream world is a projection of blase reality instead of a fanciful, strobing mass of leaking colors: you can't call him uninspired.  Inception is a bit on the spartan side, yes.  It's beautiful, but in a way derived purely from literal architectural lines.  The spaces are constructed in blueprint topography instead of acid colors.  But, after all, these aren't your dreams: they're the approximations of an actual reality rendered by (what seem to be) supposed architecture students.  Inception is just a reality that can be readily manipulated by what lies beneath Ellen Page's forehead or DiCaprio's furrowed brow.  For some, this will be disappointing. 
For me, my enthusiasm for this world was lessened largely by the insistence on making each scene a trigger to a new shoot-out scenario.  Inception wants to be a cerebral action movie without sacrificing any of the action.  This worked with The Matrix, if only because the reality created was one reliant on gaming culture.  We expected heavy artillery in our RPG program.  In Inception, that is, in dreams, we do not.  The conventional violence here is the bit that feels forced and heavy handed.  There's no need for a good 45% of the firepower.  The flimsiest bit of dream logic in the film will have you believe that in the mind's adaptation of reality,  the mark's 'subconscious' is represented via projections of normal human beings.  These are just folks walking down city streets, driving cars, etc.  The more things are changed (like glitches in the matrix (i'm sorry, but mentioning the two together may be obvious, but it's also inevitable, and that film capitalized on pomo philosophy in a way that Nolan can't even compete with)), the more aggressive the projections become towards the person they deem responsible.  They are, as noted in the film, basically white blood cells. 


Sometimes, if the mark has been trained to defend themselves against extraction, their projections are more militant: snipers, SWAT teams, military, etc.  The result is, of course, that as Cobb and others invade the mind in search of information, they are routinely under siege by nameless, faceless armies of gun toting projections.  In moderation, this is a completely plausible dream device. Yet, Inception clatters noisily through extended clattering scene after explosive scene, detracting from the most intriguing aspects of its plot to attend to a seemingly mandatory quota of summer thrills.  Don't get me wrong...I love a good action movie, and Inception is definitely a good action movie.  But if there's reason for the aesthetic choices of the dream world itself (which there is), there isn't really a great explanation for why the defensive mechanisms within the dream aren't built into the landscape instead of deriving from crude weapons and repetitive stand-offs as the clock ticks down, down, down.  There was enough action pre-established in the story's own labyrinthy caper before the use of so many blanks.



Nolan piles on quite a bit with Inception.  In many respects, the things he piles make for a stunning accomplishment.  It's well cast, well shot, gives you a good deal more to ponder than the usual popcorn flick and is beautifully orchestrated in terms of impermeability and pastiche.  On the other: it hits one note with its destructive action and there's something a little strained about its range of emotion.  Though watching it is an effortless task, and certainly an enjoyable one, it's less mentally taxing than just sort of frustrating for no reason at all.  While I liked Inception quite a bit, I was not excited about it as the credits rolled.   This wasn't disappointment, but something more like ambivalence. I didn't walk out raving or run to tell anyone how awesome it was.  It was sort of similar to what I experienced with The Prestige.  I just sort of shrugged, decided that it was good, and left slightly less than thrilled but not quite reaching the point of thoroughly underwhelmed.  See Inception.  You're going to want to say you have, if only so you can know where you're going when the debate as to its status as contemporary "masterpiece" begins.















PS: Did anyone else notice that parts of Zimmer's Inception score were remarkably close to bits of David Arnold's Quantum of Solace score ("A Night at the Opera")?  I spent a huge portion of the movie trying to figure out where I'd heard it before...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Love: Inception

Christopher Nolan has created his magnum opus, a film that ties the ideas so beautifully articulated in each of his other films (the Batman's included), into one fascinating and mind-blowing examination of the mind, dreams, architecture, art, the soul, and the heart. Inception is a rarity, a film that reinvigorates the conversation, one that voices a true understanding of subjects ancient to human experience while remaining a enjoyable, quality thrill ride at each layer, both slick and sexy. In other words, just fucking awesome.
 Inception is a complicated philosophical tale with so many rich layers, there's not a lot I can tell you that will make sense if you haven't seen it (and for some even if they have) or that wouldn't ruin its many twists and turns. Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is the master of dream manipulation, a man hunted down by the world's most powerful people to extract information from the dreams of their enemies. It's not important how he and his team (comprised of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dileep Rao, Tom Hardy, and Lucas Haas in the beginning) accomplish this, they just do, with the help of a futuristic looking dream machine and some unknown cocktail of drugs. An "architect" will build the dream space, the buildings, objects etc. within the dreamer's mind, the dreamer's own subconscious filling in the gaps and people as the team infiltrates each nook, cranny, and dark recess. Saito (Ken Watanabe), the wealthiest of the wealthy business men approaches Cobb with an offer he can't refuse, promising that in return for his work, that he will insure that Cobb, previously barred from the United States, can return home to his children. The only catch is that Saito doesn't want to extract an idea; he wants to plant one, in the mind of his business competition, Robert Fisher (the surprisingly straight-laced Cillian Murphy). Like Superman and Hannibal of the A-Team, Cobb assembles the best group for the risky job, including a new architect to build the dream space named, of all things, Ariadne (Ellen Page). Thus the tricky work of inception begins, as everyone's minds get up close and personal and various demons (one embodied by Marion Cotillard) come to life.
 Let's get the usual stuff out of the way. The film is gorgeous, filled with the familiar warm wood tones and stark cities that can be found throughout Nolan's body of work, his love and understanding of architecture clear in every shot. Those critics of the dream world that Nolan creates don't really get it, as the dream is created by the architect to be stable and mostly "normal" (as explained by Cobb), not to be the extensive expanses created in What Dreams May Come or the childish cop-out in The Lovely Bones. Regardless, the images are still arresting and evocative. The pacing and editing are dead on, with not a shot wasted, and every single actor, Leonardo included, provides a flawless performance. Hans Zimmer provides the ominous mood music that sets the typical Nolan atmosphere with practiced perfection. This aesthetic, combined with the topics Nolan examines makes each of his films feel like a continuation and expansion of the previous ones without feeling like a one-note disappointment, an ongoing yet varied story that's a treat to be a part of.
 Excellent overall package aside, Inception is the best artistic and philosophical examination of dreams and the mind that has ever been exhibited in recent memory, let alone unleashed upon the masses. Nolan never pretentiously and shallowly investigates the many intertwined subjects in the film, but instead communicates the feeling and the experience in a relaxed way that instantly makes sense, even if you'll never be able to put it into simple words, an interesting balance that allows the dense topics in the film to become accessible to everyone. This is a near impossible feat for an artist, specifically a film maker attempting to inject these ideas into the shell of a mainstream thriller. But somehow, with his images, his actors, the right atmosphere, and some skillful editing, Nolan let's us examine our own dreams, and our own human experience in a familiar way that connects you with the characters on screen, blurring the line between the voyeuristic film experience and the self. For those critics unable to see the real creativity here, it's not that he's talking about something new. Instead Nolan takes the ideas and influences that have clearly been a large part of his artistic life, and like the great composer Johann Sebastian Bach weaves them into a perfection of understanding. It was an utterly magical experience for my little philosophy major heart that left me shivering in delight, unable to stop thinking about it the entire sleepless night.
While the film is an excellent thriller by its own merits, it's not something you can go veg out to. You have to concentrate and see it in a place that will turn the sound up (the dialog was hard to hear where I saw it) and if you don't, chances are you'll be lost. You have to open yourself up and be confused for awhile as the story slowly unravels itself and builds to the point where it all connects. Admittedly, this may be a film that grows its base over time with multiple viewings, a film that you might hate at first until you see it again and catch more of the intricacies or find yourself at a different moment in your life. It's not a movie at its heart, but rather a grand discourse about intense subjects that have plagued our understanding for years, and if you're not into that, chances are you're also not going be interested in the deeper meaning that Nolan's trying to convey. But if you want to have your mind expanded without brain altering drugs, if you want to experience true creativity and artistic examination in addition to some very solid film making, then go check out Nolan's new masterpiece, and see what all the fangirls (and guys) have been obsessed with all these years.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Love: Despicable Me

The Disney/Pixar powerhouse has produced quality film after quality film that all have about the same successful formula; a mix of cheesy yet effective sentimentality, accessibility to both grown-ups and kids, unique animation, and plucky underdog heroes. They are movies made at their very core to win hearts and Oscars. But Universal's Despicable Me does something that Disney will never be able to do, and in the process makes something 100 times more effecting, hilarious, and moving.
The story mechanics of Despicable Me are not all that unrecognizable from your typical Pixar fare. Gru (Steve Carell) the super-villain is a bit down on his luck after discovering that another super-villain, Vector (Jason Segel), has stolen the great pyramid at Giza. Not wanting to let his home-made minions down, Gru decides to fly to the moon, shrink it using a shrink ray, and then steal it, ransoming it to the world. Gru seeks out a loan to accomplish this from the Evil Bank (formerly Lehman Brothers according to the sign above it), but is denied when the bank manager (Will Arnett) tells him he's too old, giving a loan instead to his own son, Vector. After another encounter with Vector in which Gru loses his shrink ray, all hope seems lost, until three little girls from the local orphanage arrive on his doorstep selling cookies. Seeing an opportunity to inflitrate Vector's lair, Gru adopts the girls and has them sell cookies to Vector, stealing back the shrink ray, and in the process falling in love with his three new family members.
Going into Despicable Me, it's pretty obvious, as it is in most of the Pixar films, that Gru is going to end up a changed man after adopting the three utterly adorable little girls, just as you know that the old man and little boy scout in Up will end up best friends. But the journey in Despicable Me is much more innovative, interesting, and organic than the relationships that develop between the characters in Pixar movies. We know these characters not because they are a simple archetype, but because Directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaurd have shown them to us and allowed them to take over, so much so, that it's easy to forget you're watching an animated film. The movie never holds back, showing Gru's disappointing childhood with full on, real life emotion. It's also questionable throughout nearly the whole film whether or not he's going to kill these children or love them, the transition from one to the other subtle and realistic, his more evil characteristics never numbed so that by the end he still feels like the same person, just a lot happier and with three extra little evil super-villains along for the ride. Just like Gru, the three little girls possess a similar demented quality that only makes their sweetness all the more interesting and engaging. And yet it does hold back, when it comes to Vector in particular. His is the most ridiculous character, the one most directed towards kids, the one you expect the crude humor to come from. But Coffin and Renaurd, along with the voice work of Segel, never let him fall into that territory, keeping him funny, but not annoying.
Segel's isn't the only voice work to be appreciated. The voices are also totally pitch perfect, with an all star cast filled with the more unique and depraved comics out there today including Russel Brand as Gru's old side-kick Doctor Nefario (nearly unrecognizable, yet so perfect), Kristen Wiig as Ms. Hattie the head of the orphanage, Will Arnett as the pompous banker, and even my fav Julie Andrews as Gru's mother. Steve Carell is the one that steals the show here, giving Gru a vague Russian accent that recalls the Cold War, showing just how well certain actors are capable of showcasing emotion through their voice while others can't. It's the type of cast Monsters vs. Aliens wished they had.
The film is a mix of the twisted, sweet, and sentimental, all three so expertly entwined they're impossible to pull apart. I love Tim Burton films but find a lot of consistent problems with them. Watching Despicable Me is like watching a Burton film that finally got everything right, that captures the emotion of real life without feeling distant or sappy, that is stunningly beautiful and interesting to look at, and is hilarious in a dark yet intellectual way. It walks a fine line that's just barely on the mainstream, and comes off as far more different and unique than the usual animated cookie cutter, the hilarity off beat and strange in the most delicious of ways. One of my favorite lines was when Gru, dressed as a dentist from anyone's worst nightmares, goes to the orphanage to pick up the girls. There he tells the fat Southern woman that runs it that his "heart is like tooth with a cavity that can only be filled with children." My other is when the youngest, unicorn obsessed little girl named Agnes sees a large stuffed unicorn at the carnival. Her normally light and sweet voice turns into a menacing growl as she yells and points at it, "He's so fluffy I'm gonna die!"
But in addition to all this character development, hilarity, and heart wrenching sweetness, Despicable Me is awesome to look at. Sometimes it feels like Saul Bass had a part in the design and it's a 60's update, others times it feels entirely modern. It's not necessarily pretty in the typical cinematic way I usually enjoy: it's just all in the details. Gru's house is outfitted with an array of nice touches, one being the stuffed head of a lion in his entry way that holds a stuffed dog it's mouth, who holds a stuffed kitten, who holds a stuffed mouse. The girls sleep in beds made from ancient WWI or WWII bombs, which Gru assures them, are too old to explode but warns "you better not toss and turn too much." Gru's house is a dark two story that stands higher and more menacing around the other cookie cutter houses, while Vector's lair is a giant white fortress surrounded by suburbia. The world that the film creates is fully realized and developed, unlike so many of the Pixar films that I enjoy, but that don't necessarily bother to fill in the backgrounds with subtle touches.

Despicable Me is unique, an animated movie that is neither made for adults or kids, or one audience over another, but instead stands by itself, as is, that tells its story not from under the burden of formula, genre, or marketing. Eat your heart out Pixar, and if not, I'm sure Gru can have that arranged.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Yes, Really with Wilde.Dash #11: Red Dawn (1984)

The usual caveat: Believe it or not, for someone totally obsessed with movies, I do a lot of selective editing, snubbing, and ignoring. That is to say: there are a whole lot of well-known movies I've actually never bothered to watch. I've spent a lot of time hunting down obscurities and not quite as much time seeing the movies you've probably been watching since you were 10 years old (for example: I decided maybe I should watch Saving Private Ryan in Winter 2008). Because of this, in conversation I frequently have this interaction. Me: "I've never actually seen that movie" You: "What? I've seen a movie you haven't?" Me: "Yes" You: "How have you not seen that movie?" Me: "I never wanted to" You: "Really?" Me: "Yes, really." Thus: Yes, Really with Wilde.Dash a near weekly feature in which I fill in my pop culture education, watch all the boring basics, and let you know whether or not I decided they were worth my time. Get it? Got it? Good.

Honestly, I've really only started hearing the murmurs about Red Dawn since the remake was announced a few months back.  I'd never looked it up, don't remember ever seeing copies of it floating around on shelves, had literally zero recollection of the cover art as I stared at the double-disc special edition I'd come across in my suddenly urgent need to watch this film.  It's very possible that I've been hearing about Red Dawn for years but had never put two and two together and realized that the movie was actually a teenage paranoia propaganda film.  The title, you see, sounds like any one of those generic Clancy-type thrillers.  If you'd asked me what Red Dawn was about just a handful of weeks ago, I would have been completely stumped and made up something about submarines, Steven Segal, and maybe Sean Connery. 

Now that I've seen it, I have to kind of wonder how it could be that no one ever told me there was an 80's movie that's literally about armed, militaristic teenagers defending the nation from communism?  I mean, let's talk about the first five minutes of the film, alright?  We open on high school kids in a classroom.  The teacher is droning on about political history, the kids are completely bored.  Then?  OMG WTF: parachuters landing outside the window.  LOTS OF THEM.  Everybody stares.  Nobody is worried.  The teacher is like "lemme go check this out."  I don't know what that guy thought would happen when he went outside to see what the camouflaged parachuters wanted, but lo and behold: RAIN OF BULLETS.  Again: OMG WTF.  This scene is awesome. From that point, though, the movie gets significantly more boring and silly patriotic.  Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, and some other sharp shooting gun-crazy teenagers take a cue from my 'what if' playbook (oh yes, I've spent a lot of time in classes constructing 'in case of emergency' plans), escape the school, raid the sporting goods store's armory and run off into the wilderness to wait for things to calm down.  Except, things don't calm down.  No!  This is World War III and Soviet scum is crawling all over Colorado.  Our small army of determined (read: crazy) kids name themselves the Wolverines after their school mascot and decide to go bat shit insane on them commies and remind them that this is 'murrika and they can't just storm onto our land with their tanks and such.           

Watching Red Dawn, I learned that Dirty Dancing was not the first time Patrick Swayze met Jennifer Grey and I think therein lies an important lesson: before you can grind and have the time of your life, you first need to suffer the inevitable bouts of post-traumatic stress that come from being a feather-haired teen toting a rifle through WWIII.  This is a good thing for the youth of 'murrika to hear.  The reasons, I think, are quite obvious (no. they are not).  I also believe that I may have stumbled upon the action film equivalent of watching the talking heads jabber away on Fox News.  Red Dawn is Fox News.  It's Fox News in an easily digestible narrative form. This is the source of Fox News's energy, and the go-to movie to ramp them up into a long-winded diatribe loaded with conspiracy theories and upsets on the second amendment.  Shepard Smith, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck were all right around twenty years old at the time Red Dawn was released in 1984.  Target market!  There's definitely a correlation between this film and the foundations of their uber-conservative leanings.  If they need to find that special scenario that will terrify my aunt to graft onto a particular congressional or presidential decision, they stop what they're doing and think "how would it play out if life were Red Dawn?"

Red Dawn was considered in 1984 to be amongst the most violent films ever made.  This feels like a gross overstatement.  The violence is mostly of the throw-away, high body count variety... which helps explain part of why it's actually relatively boring.  Something goes wrong in Red Dawn.  In summary, it has quite a few of the pieces that would have made it totally appealing to me: kids with guns, uprising, hypothetical revisionist history, 80's outfits; yet, Red Dawn fizzles after its initial "we're the last kids left standing" promise.  Too much of the film feels like blatant, scare-tactic propaganda to be subtly frightening.  There's not much to read into, but there's certainly a lot of spelling out.  When the first citizens thrown into a re-education camp are the "dangerous ones" who own guns, it's hard not to sit back and say "well, I see what you're doing there."   It's not that I completely disagree, it's just that it feels so slanted and fanatic that it wound up bumming me out more than entertaining me.  Those first minutes made a high octane promise that the film couldn't keep.  Disappointment.

The remake of Red Dawn will supposedly feature Michigan teens facing off against Chinese and Russian soldiers.  Chinese?  Do we really want to mess with them?  I don't think so.  I'm not so sure a contemporary version of the film is really what we need. What would be way more fun would be a version set in the 50's, or a 1940's if-Germany-invaded-American-soil  variation.  The Nazis are already the best villains, so why not pit them against Detroit teens with Victory gardens?  Somebody make that movie.  That would be bad ass.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Squalor: The Last Airbender

I am woefully unprepared to talk about this.  I mean it.  While I can judge the film as a film, I know that there's a gigantic amount of information that will be excluded simply because my exposure to the source material is limited at best.  Going into The Last Airbender, I was aware of the general outline of the animated show Avatar: The Last Airbender.  I knew there was a bald kid with a blue arrow tattooed on his head, and that he had magical powers of elemental control.  I knew that there were side characters who were slightly older and slightly taller, that there was a journey, and that people were after the bald kid.  That's it.  Mostly I just really liked Appa, the flying buffalo sort of creature who is so cute in the cartoon.  So cute.  That said, this is what I can tell you about the translation: Appa is not as cute as a CGI beastie. Ta da! M. Night Shyamalan seems to know this, and hides Appa's unnatural looking face almost every time he's on screen.  You should take this as a sign of much bigger problems.  They're there.  Based on the number of people with good taste I know who love the original cartoon, my educated guessing system tells me that it's ok for me to say, with 100% certainty, that the show is better than the movie, and that fans of the show will be hugely disappointed.
If you've been awake for the last decade, you shouldn't be surprised.  The Last Airbender is directed by M. Night Shyamalan...aka: my favorite director slash punching bag.  While this film manages to pull away from Shyamalan's trademark "oooo looky here, a lame twist ending" methods, what it actually does is prove that Shyamalan is indeed, as I had suspected, a gigantic hack.  Am I too harsh?  Maybe.  But come on!  He snagged the world with The Sixth Sense, made a decent showing with Unbreakable, and then cheated audiences out of their dollars with one lame, super flawed, identical to the last "thriller" after another.  It was like a small child who gets a laugh and then pounds the joke into the ground repeatedly, butchering it and making it more unbearable with each retelling.  Signs?  Don't even get me started (water? really? religion? really? showing the alien? really?).  The Village?  Again, you've got to be kidding me (I can't be the only one who knew what was going to happen five minutes in, right?).  I couldn't (still can't) will myself to even bother watching Lady in the Water or The Happening, but I'm pretty sure I'd loathe them as deeply as those others.  You could hope that maybe, with The Last Airbender M. Night Shyamalan would turn over a new leaf, attempt some material that wasn't his own, and prove his artistic mettle.  I hoped that.  I thought maybe, just maybe, being unable to rely on the twist ending would be good for Shyamalan.  Here was a brand new medium: the family actioner.  Here, an entire epic story with a completed narrative arc and supposedly rich characters.   How could you mess that up?  Answer: be M. Night Shyamalan and insist on writing the script, directing the picture, and casting many of the Asian characters as white people.


The script for The Last Airbender is bad.  Really bad.  It relies too heavily on exposition, constantly having its characters deliver the back story or insert unnecessary comments awkwardly into conversation just so that you can piece together exactly what's going on.  There are temporal leaps and illogical gaps from one scene to the next.  Early on in the film, we are given a scrolling prologue (a la Star Wars) that is promptly followed by a scene in which siblings (now newly white!) Katara (Nicola Peltz) and Sokka (Twilight's Jackson Rathbone) fill in all the missing information on their dead parents, their own skills, their character traits, and what exactly is going on.  It feels redundant, but is made worse by the clunkiness of the verbiage and the sheer shallowness of Peltz and Rathbone.  Rathbone stares wide-eyed into space and has all the personality of corrugated cardboard.  Peltz is a non-entity with flowing hair.  Bland, bland and further still, all I could wonder as they spoke was what exactly Shyamalan thought he was going to get when he cast them.   



As the story continues to evolve, it holds on to its rigid dialogue so hard you can see the claw marks.  Everything furthering the story is delivered via flat commentary.  The audience is talked down to, told constantly what is happening in a way that never seems to quite match up with what we're seeing.  Even that isn't always enough to capture the scope and scale of the actual story Shyamalan is working with.  It's like he's written in all these little pieces to try and keep things moving, but the result instead is that characters are rendered dead and immovable.  Of course, what Shyamalan clearly does not understand is that the real story is in the characters.  If he destroys them, he has nothing.  When, for example, all of Sokka's actions and expressions have to be verbalized by his sister, the result is something groan worthy.  There's very little evolution in Shyamalan's script and casting, and even as we are shown action, the film remains empty.  As the titular Avatar (a reincarnated figure who can master all elements) Aang and fire lord Prince Zuko respectively, Noah Ringer and Slumdog's Dev Patel manage to make the best go of it.  Ringer doesn't capture much in the way of humor or childlike wonder, but he can at least look a little intense when conjuring up a wall of water.  Patel seems indignant as a goofy half-villain, and that's a little more than can be said for anyone else in the supporting cast.

As you watch The Last Airbender you can see how things could have gone differently.  A different cast, a revised script, someone else in the director's chair, and you would have had a summer blockbuster to reckon with.  The entertainment value, for example, might have come from the film actually pulling you into its story instead of merely being inadvertently hilarious. There's a lot of potential here, but it's squandered in poor casting and the relinquishing of too much power to one man.  Maybe it sticks too close, maybe it tries to include too much.  As it stands, the thing that keeps this film bearable is that it's lovely to look at.  The special effects, in spite of some clunky, slightly off-kilter movement in the CGI department, are largely well handled and the art direction involved in creating the on-screen world is fairly impressive.  The best I can say is that The Last Airbender delivers its share of eye candy even as it exercises a surprising adroitness in disintegrating your brain cells.  Can we run M. Night Shyamalan out of Hollywood now?  I mean, seriously.

Look how much cuter Appa was when he was a drawing...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Love: The Last Airbender

I'm starting to think it's me.
I keep seeing these movies that everyone hates only to come out of the theater going, wow, that really deserves more than an 8% on Rotten Tomatoes, that was pretty enjoyable, I might even say, quite good. M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender is another one of those movies that everyone is so busy hating ahead of time, that they seem to miss the whole thing.
The movie, based off of the popular Nickelodeon show Avatar: The Last Airbender, sticks closely to its source plot, beginning when Katara (Nicola Peltz), the sole water bender of the Southern Water Tribe and her brother Sokka (Jackson Rathbone) stumble upon the "last" airbender, a boy frozen in ice for 100 years named Aang. Luckily for the world, Aang is also the Avatar, the one that like Luke Skywalker and the blue avatar of James Cameron, will bring balance to the world. During Aang's 100 year disappearance, the Fire Nation (one of four nations, Earth, Air, and Water being the other three), has declared dominance, kidnapping, pillaging, imprionsing, and basically killing everyone else, while the banished Prince of the Fire Nation (Dev Patel) hunts for the Avatar, the only one that can stop the Fire Nation's domination and the only one that the Prince can bring home to his father the king and once again reclaim his honor. Each nation is gifted with the ability to control their element, and they fight with it by "bending" it, hence the airbender, waterbender, etc.
Like many dorky adults, I have been a huge fan of the show since it first aired. The mythology of the it centered around the ideal of balance without ever becoming too preachy, walking a fine line between hilarious and heartbreaking that made it appealing to kids but interesting to and worth respect from adults. Shyamalan recreates this world beautifully, with rich sets and costumes that look appropriately exotic yet lived in. The Fire Nation is particularly well rendered, their war ships menacing, metallic, and belching black smoke and fire.

The effects used to bring this world to life are absolutely stunning, a necessity considering the nature of bending fights that could appear a little silly as each enemy takes several seconds to do a little martial arts routine before an element shoots forth from around them. But fire bursts from candles in long arcs of impressive heat, air swirls in artful patterns around enemies, blowing whole armies apart, while walls of earth grow from the ground as shields and water solidifies like something out of The Abyss. The simulation is so real looking, it never once feels corny, holding the same impact that the fighting scenes in the first Matrix had upon it's release. Appa, Aang's giant flying air buffalo was the thing I was most worried about when it came to effects, but he too looks totally real, adding the perfect amount of interest and fun without become ridiculous.
But yes, not all is perfect in Shyamalan's film, especially when it comes to acting. On one hand, you have Dev Patel as Prince Zuko. His nuanced performance holds the film together, opening up what otherwise could have been a static film. Patel never once feels unjustified, even when his own actions seem evil. He balances and communicates all of his character's many motivations and struggles with very little dialog, his face full of emotion and strength. His interactions with Shaun Toub who plays his Uncle Iroh are some of the best parts of the film, as each struggle with what is right and what is honorable to their nation. Newbie Noah Ringer is acceptable, yet not perfect as Aang, bringing enough goofy looks while he mixes the serious stares that imply he's somebody powerful.
 But Shyamalan's choice of female heroines is sadly lacking. Nicola Peltz breathes no life into Katara, the one that saves and inspires Aang, reading her lines with the emotion of a middle school starlet (to her credit she probably is one plucked right from the gym stage). The Princess of the Northern Water Tribe, Seychelle Gabriel seems equally awkward and one dimensional. And while Jackson Rathbone's Sokka is thankfully lacking the goofy comedic stuff from the cartoon, he just sort of exists as they stripped his character down, coming to life only for a brief moment during the end battle, as if Shyamalan was terrified of the Jar Jar Binks spirit that he could unleash. But all of this leads me not to blame the actors, but to blame Shyamalan himself. He seemed to give them no direction, beneficial in the case of the seasoned and skilled Patel, but disappointing when it came to Gabriel and Peltz.
The beginning and middle of the film are also a bit shaky. Despite the incredible world that Shyamalan creates, he doesn't luxuriate in, breezing through much of the mythology with a simple one sentence explanation. In the show, Katara has been obsessively following the legend of the Avatar, convinced that it could one day save her people. It's no surprise then when she takes him in so readily despite the danger. But in the movie, this passion is filled in with a speech by a very unconvincing grandma after they've found the Avatar, making it seem weird that they'd take him in like a puppy. These important character developments and pieces of the story are often handled as such in the first half, making the film feel rushed before it falls into place for the ending, one of the worst when they first meet the Princess. She glances at Sokka who glances back as Katara explains, "My brother and the Princess became fast friends." It all feels too fast, and when they part emotionally you wonder when that big romance even happened. It's easy to show things like that in a few seconds, easy to make time feel like its passed, but Shyamalan just doesn't pull the pacing off properly.
Oddly, and unlike so many other action films, it's the beginning of the battle that marks that strength of Shyamalan's film. He suddenly relaxes as if the rest of the of the film was a huge race to get to that point. The lacking characters seem to find themselves, the action comes to a head, and the fight ends with an incredibly powerful image of a wall of water reaching high above city walls and over the enemies ships.

The Last Airbender is not for everyone. The mythology is a bit crazy, something that Shyamalan, to his credit, doesn't try to change and make overly accessible to those not into that sort of thing. But despite a few problems, it's not a bad film. It's an enjoyable one, one that fulfills the requirements for good summer fun while paying it's source material enough of a respectful nod, its effects incredible to watch. Do I want the next one to be better? Of course, but when other tripe gets scored highly while other directors like Shyamalan are automatically panned for the good along with the bad, then I'm not sure what we're supposed to expect from them. Shyamalan, like Prince Zuko, we know there is good in you, it's time you used it. And you reader, hunched in front of your computer? Get off the bandwagon of hate and start enjoying yourself once in awhile.

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