Mega Movie Review
It?s fall semester, and you know what that means: cheap summer movies replayed in McConomy Auditorium! However, instead of spending my summer money on worthwhile, spend-savvy items, I decided to go all out and see as many summer movies as I could. These movies will probably be showing up in the University Center this semester, at the bargain price of one dollar each. So be sure to check out Pillbox each week for ?$ movie?, a feature in which we preview the films that will be showing in the upcoming week.
[BOLD]Land of the Dead[/BOLD]
The lesson of George A. Romero?s newest undead flick is that Pittsburgh is a safe bastion for humanity in case of zombie apocalypse. [ITAL]Land of the Dead[/ITAL] follows the story set forth in [ITAL]Dawn of the Dead[/ITAL], in which zombies rise and wreak havoc across the nation. In this installment of the series, the zombies begin to learn and problem-solve in order to gain access to the high-class human settlement in what we know as downtown Pittsburgh. While the movie is obviously a zombie movie, it?s nice to see familiar locations; and comfortingly enough, the film?s moral ends up along the lines of ?zombies are people too.?
[ITAL]Crash[/ITAL] is a film about the desperation and loneliness that urban America creates in those who dwell within it. Starring Oscar nominee and all-around really cool guy Don Cheadle, as well as a metric ton of other famous faces (including Matt Dillon, Sandra Bullock, Brendan Fraser, Rosario Dawson, Ryan Phillipe, and even Ludacris), the movie follows six main sets of characters as their lives intertwine. [ITAL]Crash[/ITAL] would generally be classified as an arty sort of film, but it?s also one of those movies that will leave you thinking about it long after the movie ends. It?s powerful and will make a good date movie ? if you both like depressing, arty flicks.
[BOLD]Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith[/BOLD]
Let?s be honest, anyone who hasn?t seen [ITAL]Revenge of the Sith[/ITAL] yet probably doesn?t care about seeing it. However, it was one of the biggest movies of the summer, and it was certainly the best movie in the new Star Wars trilogy. Unfortunately, the lovely Natalie Portman was [ITAL]Sith?s[/ITAL] acting low point ? simply because her role wasn?t important enough and George Lucas couldn?t write a script to save a puppy. The effects and action scenes were great, though, even if Darth Vader totally loses any of the evil gravitas he once held. Nevertheless, expect this one to make a big splash when it comes to McConomy this fall ? we do go to Carnegie Mellon, after all.
[BOLD]War of the Worlds[/BOLD]
In what is definitely one of Steven Spielberg?s darkest films, [ITAL]War of the Worlds[/ITAL] lets us watch as Martian forces invade Earth and systematically eradicate the human race. The visual feel of the movie is far more interesting than its characters are, and Spielberg works in scene after scene of unsettling and sometimes downright disturbing imagery ? dozens of corpses flowing down a river, people being vaporized in the streets of Newark, human blood turned into an aerosol fertilizer, Martian war machines, and massive tripods that Spielberg kept under wraps until opening night. Dakota Fanning and Tom Cruise are both pretty believable, but as with many Spielberg films, the real stars are the effects. Quite the stars they are, though, because [ITAL]War of the Worlds[/ITAL] is by far one of the most unsettling alien invasion films in recent years.
[BOLD]The 40-Year-Old Virgin[/BOLD]
The last great summer movie sounded like it was going to be terrible. ?A movie about a forty-year-old virgin?? you say. ?It?ll probably be another gross-me-out waste of time like all those Farrelly Brothers movies.? Oh, how wrong you are. Steve Carell, best known as Brick Tamland from [ITAL]Anchorman[/ITAL] and from [ITAL]The Daily Show with John Stewart[/ITAL], plays a 40-year-old virgin so believably that the movie has an intense sense of reality. There are plenty of gross gags and abrasive banter, but it?s all really freaking funny. Plus, gut instinct says that many Carnegie Mellon students will appreciate this movie more than standard theater audiences.
Nicole Kidman gets to exercise her wonderful accent in [ITAL]The Interpreter[/ITAL], in which she plays a translator for the UN who stumbles upon a plot to destabilize the already unstable regime in a fictitious and embattled African country. Sean Penn takes her case as the prototypical burnt-out FBI agent with a haunted past, and becomes the father figure she never had. Although the film is extremely formulaic, it?s an enjoyable watch, and Nicole Kidman is totally hot with the sultry librarian look. The film is composed nicely, too, with good use of tension through camerawork and musical cues ? and it?s certainly worth a dollar on a slow Thursday night.
[BOLD]Mr. and Mrs. Smith[/BOLD]
Most men can admit that Brad Pitt is as hot as fresh pancakes and not feel weird about it. He?s just that cool. In [ITAL]Mr. and Mrs. Smith[/ITAL], he and Angelina Jolie are a married couple who are also both spies, unbeknownst to each other. The movie progresses at an enjoyable pace, with the entire second half of the film becoming an extended action sequence. [ITAL]Mr. and Mrs. Smith[/ITAL] is totally and happily devoid of any sort of substance, but you get to see attractive people blowing things up. Who?s really going to complain?
Oh, Batman. This movie has single-handedly saved superhero movies for another few years. [ITAL]Batman Begins[/ITAL], which was a ?franchise reboot? ? throwing off the shackles of Joel Schumacher?s cinematic travesties ? ended up a legitimate film, with stirring performances and fantastic filmmaking by Chris Nolan, the director of [ITAL]Memento[/ITAL]. Christian Bale ([TAL]Equilibrium[/ITAL], [ITAL]American Psycho[/ITAL]) plays Bruce Wayne almost perfectly, and the supporting cast keeps the standard of quality high throughout the film. Liam Neeson and rising star Cillian Murphy both put out memorable performances, and Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman lend class to their small roles. The action sequences are decidedly Batman-esque (no ?pow!?s and ?snuh!?s, though), and the new Batmobile is the coolest car to be in a movie since [ITAL]Back to the Future?s[/ITAL] DeLorean.
[BOLD]March of the Penguins[/BOLD]
This is a movie about penguins. Let?s reiterate this: [ITAL]It?s a movie about penguins![/ITAL] The documentary was made by a French film crew chronicling the mating cycle of emperor penguins in Antarctica. There?s really nothing bad to say about this movie, though. It?s short and touching, and its originally ridiculous French narration (which even included giving the penguins voiceovers) was replaced by the always-sobering Morgan Freeman. The best part? You just cannot say no to a bird in a tux.
For every hit there is a miss. While [ITAL]Batman Begins[/ITAL] gave new hope to the superhero movie genre, [ITAL]Fantastic Four[/ITAL] reminded many moviegoers exactly how superhero movies can flop like flapjacks. The movie takes a lame premise ? the Fantastic Four have always been sort of boring, since they were created before Marvel had come up with the real superhero greats like Spiderman and the X-Men ? and it can?t really be saved after that. Chris Evans (whose last big movie was the under-the-radar [ITAL]Cellular[/ITAL]) is the most fun to watch as the Human Torch, because he?s selfish, mean, and really the only interesting character in the movie. In the grand scheme of things, though, it?s probably worth a dollar ? Jessica Alba does strip down to her underwear at least once.
Cillian Murphy and Rachel McAdams have both had good summers. Rachel McAdams had a starring role in [ITAL]Wedding Crashers[/ITAL], which has been one of the most successful movies of the summer, and Cillian Murphy gained tons of attention with his creepshow performance in [ITAL]Batman Begins[/ITAL]. In [ITAL]Red Eye[/ITAL], the two pair up to tell the tale of a yong woman and the handsome stranger who threatens to kill her father unless she aids his plans. The film is very clearly separated into three acts ? the first act sets up the action extremely well, and the second act begins to drip with tension as it unfolds. The final act is typical fare for director Wes Craven, with jack-in-the-box-style scares and a [ITAL]Scream[/ITAL]-style standoff at home. Craven delivered a perfectly serviceable thriller with a bit of unpredictability and very watchable stars, and it is a fantastic way to waste the evening ? even at full theater prices.
Smart comedies are fun. Especially smart comedies that also make jokes about steroids in backyard football, Klingons, and forbidden homosexual love. Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson are at the top of their form as they show up uninvited to wedding after wedding in a perennial search for girls. But when Wilson falls for a bridal sister at their wedding and the other sister falls for Vaughn, their strategy fails and hijinks ensue. Vaughn?s over-the-top comedic desperation makes [ITAL]Wedding Crashers[/ITAL] worth watching on its own, but the performances all gel together extremely well ? and Christopher Walken actually manages to avoid stealing the show during his scenes, a problem that plagues many of his movies.