Man on Wire

Phillipe Petit’s 1974 high-wire walk between the two World Trade Center towers is chronicled in this fascinating documentary, Man on Wire. Man on Wire shows us the years that Phillippe Petit trained as a young teenager.

It shows footage of Petit’s walk between the Sydney Harbour Bridge and you see from the get-go that he’s very, very talented. Footage of preparation for the tower walk is intercut with interviews with the accomplices, some people who saw, and Petit himself. It also has re-enactments of the 12 hours before the walk, a very tense, thrilling sequence. And then, fittingly, there are only still photos of the walk between the twin towers itself, of which you must see to believe.

It fascinates, it entertains, we even laugh occasionally. Very wisely, it opts not to mention the horrible fate of the towers, as it would take away from the beauty of the walk. Instead in this movie, the towers are solid, the world is astonished, and you are kind of moved. A-

The Rocker

Rainn Wilson of TV show The Office shows his drumming skills in ‘The Rocker’. Back in 2003, I saw a little movie called School of Rock. It starred Jack Black and it was about a wannabe rockstar using kids to fulfill his dreams. It was great, funny, and clever. A couple of days ago, I saw a little movie called The Rocker. It was about…well, a wannabe rockstar using kids to fulfill his dreams. It was okay, but predictable, rarely funny, and lame.

Back in 1986 Robert ‘Fish’ Fishman drummed for Vesuvius, the latest, coolest band. He had it good, had great friends, was famous. Then he was abruptly kicked out. Flash forward 20 years. Fish works in an office and is pretty miserable. He is fired from his job and goes to live with his brother and his family.

Fish’s teenage nephew plays in a band called A.D.D., and A.D.D. needs a drummer. His nephew reluctantly puts Fish in the band, and soon A.D.D. becomes a huge success nationwide. But complications kick Fish out of the band, can Fish stand up and rock again?

Predictable at every turn, there are very few surprises here. I have a suspicion that deep down inside this movie is a decent one trying to break out, but alas, all the cliches bury that decent movie. It’s odd, even for a comedy, there aren’t even that many cracks at a joke, thus making the good ones even more rare.

It feels like a funny movie thats being held back, and if you walk having seen the trailer, you’ll probably know how it ends. Skip it. D+

Summer in Review

2008 is probably the best summer in film ever. It’s had the awesomeness of Iron Man and The Dark Knight, the hilarity of Tropic Thunder, the animated classics Kung Fu Panda and Wall-E, and the disappointment of Narnia and the Love Guru.

And the sheer awfulness of Camp Rock.

Anyway, I will hand out the First Annual Ryan Michaels Awards of the summer.

Best Visual Effects: Iron Man
Best Three Movies with Robert Downey Jr: The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Tropic Thunder
Best Surprise: Kung Fu Panda
Biggest Disappointment: The Love Guru
Movie That I Didn’t Have Much Hope For Then Suddenly Really Wanted to See It But Ended Up Being Disappointed: The Rocker
Biggest Hairspray Wannabe: Mamma Mia
Best Performance: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Second Best Performance: Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder
Best Cameo That You Didn’t Expect: Tom Cruise, Tropic Thunder
Funniest Movie: Tropic Thunder
Worst Actor: Anyone from Camp Rock
Best Animated Movie: Wall-E
Most Depressing Ending: The Dark Knight
Most Funny Ending: Tropic Thunder
Best Movie: The Dark Knight

Well, that wraps it up for this summer. See you later this year for the Ryan Michaels Academy Awards!

Cheers,

Ryan Michaels

Tropic Thunder

Ben Stiller sends up Hollywood relentlessly in the funniest movie in a very long time – in Tropic Thunder! The send-up here is egoistical actors and of course, Mother Hollywood. It’s really fascinating actually, to see such a clever and witty send-up of Hollywood – that could only be a product of Hollywood.

It starts with a faux ad and three faux trailers to introduce the characters: An ad for the rapper Alpa Chino’s (say that very slowly) energy drink. Then the first fake movie trailer for action star Tugg Speedman’s (Ben Stiller) Scorcher 6: Global Meltdown, a parody of Stallone/Schwarzenegger machisma. Then a trailer for comedian Jeff Portonoy’s (Jack Black) The Fatties: Fart 2, a parody of Eddie Murphy’s fat-suit comedies. And finally, a trailer for dramatic Method actor Kirk Lazarus’ (Robert Downey Jr.) Satan’s Alley, a general parody of “Oscar bait”.

We open with a dramatic war battle. Blood spurts, things blow up, soldiers are mowed down with bullets. Then when a soldier is shot, the commander runs to his body and cries. Then a director yells, “Cut!”. They all actors, now shooting the most expensive war movie ever made, also called ‘Tropic Thunder’. Merely 5 days into shooting, they are a month behind scheduele. The first-time director is going crazy, and the egoistical actors are making the shoot near impossible.

Tropic Thunder is cancelled by the profane, cigar-smoking, hip-hop-dancing, bald studio boss played by the one and only…Get ready for this…Tom Cruise! Yes! This could full well begin the cycle of a career comeback, he left the whole theater in stitches.

The furious director decides to drop the actors in the middle of Vietnam, assuring them that he has rigged the forest with hidden cameras. But what they don’t realize is that they’re in the middle of a real war zone, with local bad guys shooting real bullets at the actors who think that it’s all just guerilla-style filmmaking. Will the pampered actors make it out alive?

This is hilarious and gut-bustingly funny at every turn, not one actor is wasted and everyone, i repeat, EVERYONE, gets their comedic spotlight at one point in the movie. Ben Stiller just has to play, well, Ben Stiller, and he’s funny all the way. Jack Black is funny in everything he does, this is no exception. I’ve already mentioned Tom Cruise, and there’s thousands more of celebrity cameos that I wont spoil. But there’s one force of nature that drives this movie.

Robert Downey Jr. plays Kirk Lazarus, a five-time Academy Award winning Australian actor who is so committed to his role as an African-American sargeant that he undergoes a chemical procedure to dye his skin brown. Now this is the controversal part of the movie that could have been very very very distasteful and offensive. But it never, not once, becomes that. Why? Because it mocks the ridiculousness that actors take to commit to their roles and is also, very, very funny.

Downey’s Kirk stays in character the whole time they are in Vietnam, much to the annoyance of African-American rapper Alpa Chino. Watching these two riff off each other inspires some of the funniest parts of the movie.

The script is top-notch, Ben Stiller after two comedic classics (this and Zoolander) is proving to be a very talented director, even if as an actor he pretty much plays the same character every time. Alas, there is no aspect of the movie that doesn’t satisfy. There is actually much more action than one would expect from a comedy.

And so Tropic Thunder is at once the smartest and the dumbest movie so far this year, how that is you have to see to understand. A

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Hellboy, perhaps the most unlikely superhero around is back, and where the original bored mostly, this moves along at a brisk pace, entertains, and fascinates. With this, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk and The Dark Knight (sorry folks, I didn’t like Hancock), 2008 is shaping up to be the best year ever for superhero movies.

What makes Hellboy II refreshing and rather unique, is that it’s not afraid to admit right up front, it’s pure, unadulterated fantasy. The director, Guillermo del Toro, is an incredible director who’s helmed one of my favorite movies, Pan’s Labyrinth. He’s even directing the upcoming Hobbit and its sequel, which both act as a predecessor to Lord of the Rings.

Hellboy is a demon who hangs with Liz, his fire-controlling girlfriend, and Abe Sapien, an aquatic creature with psychic abilities. Together they work secretly under the FBI to help rid the world of evil creatures.

A backstory concerns The Golden Army, a rumored army forged of gold that could be controlled by a magical crown. An ancient prince comes out of centuries of hiding to kill people and find the crown – can Hellboy stop him?

A great comic book movie that becomes a great fantasy that becomes simply, a great ol’ time at the movies. B+

Journey to the Center of the Earth

Journey to the Center of the Earth is the kind of movie that on terms of acting and plot, normally it’s so terrible and contrived one would never see it. In fact, I’d never see Journey to the Center of the Earth. No, but I would most definitely see Journey to the Center of the Earth 3-D.

Brendan Fraser brings his normal charisma to his role as Professor Trevor Anderson, a professor whose studies on volcanic activity hold little interest to his boss. His brother vanishes 6 years ago, looking for the center of the Earth When his nephew arrives at his home for two weeks around the time he discovers an anomaly in Iceland, he travels to Iceland in the hopes of finding his brother.

He meets young, beautiful mountain guide Hannah there, and they travel up through a mountain and fall through a hole into – who guessed it, the center of the earth. It is a place populated by dinosaurs, carnivorous plants, anti-gravity craters, and actually, a mine-cart track. Can Trevor, his nephew, and Hannah get out alive before they literally burn up?

A silly plot, with silly acting and lame jokes, no doubt about any of those. But it’s simply a rollicking, mindless good time, mind you assuming you have 3-D glasses on. It’s actually the first full-length, narrative film ever to be fully shot in 3-D, which is really incredible.

The effects are the best and perhaps only good aspect of the film, but it’s just too fun and hokey for it’s own good. B-