The Last King of Scotland – Review

Remember the story of Joseph and Pharaoh in Genesis? No? Well, it’s about this guy (Joseph) who becomes Pharaoh’s right hand man after some extraordinary circumstances. The Last King of Scotland is very similar, but instead of Egypt, it’s in Uganda. Instead of 2000BC, it’s in the 1970s. And instead of Joseph and Pharaoh, we get James McAvoy and Forest Whitaker.

Forest won an Oscar last year for his performance as the Ugandan President. Man, did he deserve it. The movie itself is great, but it’s worth watching just for him. He is such a recognizable guy, yet I completely forgot everything else he’d been in as I watched. I can’t say enough good things about how great he is.

Now McAvoy is becoming one of those actors that seems to be in everything. Sort of like Shia LaBeouf. The difference being that McAvoy isn’t freaking annoying (yet). Shia is becoming like Candyman to me. I’m afraid if I say his name too many times, he’ll appear behind me and annoy me to death (“No-no. N-n-n-o”). Not so with James, so let’s stick with him.

It’s a good thing McAvoy is tolerable because the story focuses around his character. He plays a Scottish doctor who heads to Uganda to “do some good.” Things happen and he soon finds himself as the President’s chief advisor. More things happen and the movie ends, leaving you trying to remember the last time you saw a movie so great.

The story is “loosely” based on historical events. I’d tell you what those are, but you’ll just go look ’em up in Wikipedia and completely ruin everything. So I won’t. If you don’t know what the movie is about, keep it that way until you watch it. Trust me on this.

Gillian Anderson also makes an appearance. Remember her from the X-Files? She has a really small (and almost meaningless) part, but her character helps fill in some personality traits of McAvoy’s character. It seemed like they may have had a larger role for her, but it may have got cut due to interfering with the main storyline. Who knows.

Anyway, great movies like this should not be missed. If you missed it, be sure to rent it.

Grade: A+

For Your Consideration – Review

The 2007 Academy Awards airs tonight, so it’s kind of fitting Netflix shipped For Your Consideration this weekend. In the genre he perfected, Christopher Guest mocks the movies and all aspects of its culture.

You may not think you know who Christopher Guest is, but he’s the same guy who did Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, and This is Spinal Tap, the best of his mockumentaries. If you’ve seen any of those, you pretty much know what to expect with For Your Consideration. If you’ve never seen any of them, go get to renting so you can catch up with the rest of us.

Like all his movies, the same cast is in this one (plus Ricky Gervais this time). It’s almost funny just to see what kind of character they pop up as. Guest appears as a director of a “home for the holidays” drama that starts getting some Oscar buzz around it. The movie then follows that buzz around all the news outlets, the critics, and the Hollywood TV shows.

If there’s any problem with the movie, it’s that things might be getting a little formulaic. I don’t care too much about that since every scene is just a joke the characters aren’t intentionally telling. Guest is a genius in putting character quirks into normal situations and making everything hilarious. It’s literary alchemy and few directors have it.

You’re gonna like this movie, or you won’t. There’s really no middle ground. If you saw Spinal Tap and couldn’t understand what was so funny about it, you’ll hate this one. Now it’s not as good as Spinal Tap, but come on, that’s like comparing your second slice of pie to your first.

Oh and when you rent it, be sure to watch the deleted scenes. There seemed to be twenty of ’em, but they are all fantastic. Definitely worth sitting through.

Grade: B+

Juno – Review

Finally, a decent movie.

Juno came out in December right in the middle of the Writer’s Strike. With all the talk shows on reruns, the only place to really hear about this was on the internet. And since most of you were watching the latest “Will It Blend?” you may have no idea what this is about.

Juno is a quirky indie flick about a girl who gets pregnant at sixteen. Think of a John Hughes movie set in today’s world. While teenagers of my generation could relate to Pretty In Pink and Sixteen Candles, today’s teens probably can better relate to getting knocked up and thinking of reasons not to abort it.

In film, you can tackle heavy subjects like that through serious drama or humor. Juno contains plenty of both, yet still manages to bring real emotion out of every scene. That’s hard to do when you’re trying to be funny.

Juno also does a great job of just telling a story and making you care about everyone in it. Obviously, it could have been easy for the director to make judgments about the characters’ actions and try and make a statement or two, but he avoids all that and just tells a story. It’s just part of what makes this one so great.

I don’t want to say much more for fear that I may spoil it. This is one of those movies that’s best to go into knowing nothing about it. But I will tell you that you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll come away with a deep love for everyone close in your life.

This one’s still in theaters, so catch it if you have the time and money. Or wait for it on DVD. Either way, this one is a must see.

Grade: A+

Resident Evil: Extinction – Review

On the whole, I hate horror flicks. But, there are two series that I’ve gotten into: Resident Evil and the far superior 28 Days/Weeks Later. Both have zombies, so maybe there’s a connection. I mean, who don’t love ’em some zombies?

Anyway, I caught the first Resident Evil because I have this unwritten law to watch every movie based on a video game. “But John,” you say, “those are crap. Always.” I know, I can’t explain it, but I have this deep hope that one day I’ll live to see a decent convergence of the medium. And you know what? The first Resident Evil came close. It wasn’t great, but it was a decent zombie flick with an interesting, engaging story mashed between brain maulings. Trust me, go rent it.

But then came the sequels. Number two was one brain stem short of horrid and this latest one makes you wish you could feed your frontal lobe to the zombies through the screen.

I read Ain’t it Cool News every day and the guys on there have this public hatred of Paul W.S. Anderson. Other than the Resident Evil movies, he’s also done masterpieces like Mortal Kombat and Aliens vs. Predator. So the hatred is warranted. Instead of directing RE:Extinction, he wrote it. I find this laughable since I could not find any evidence of writing as I watched it. Sure there’s dialog, but it’s completely meaningless. Everyone could done their best impression of the Peanuts teacher and nothing would have changed. Wa-wah wah. Zombies. Wah wa-wah wah. Zombies. Wa-wah. Super-Zombies.

It’s all horrible and worse yet, they set themselves up for a fourth. And since I continue to watch this drivel, you can bet the review for that one will appear here next year.

Grade: D

Dragon Wars – Review

I know you’re asking why I’m reviewing a straight-to-video movie, but believe it or not, Dragon Wars was released in theaters last fall. It was there for like two days, but you did have the chance to spend $10 on it. Aren’t you sad you missed it?

I knew nothing of this and only rented it ’cause it was in Blu-Ray. But after watching the special features, I learned that Dragon Wars is “based” on the Korean legend of the Imoogi (not to be confused with Unagi). The director had a huge desire to bring the Imoogi legend to the West. And out of this desire we get CGI dragons fighting in Los Angeles. Lucky us!

So let me explain the Imoogi legend. 500 years ago – wait. Why is it always 500 years? Why not 327, or 642? Anyway, 500 years ago a girl (named Yu-gi-oh or something) was born in Korea. Her job was to bond her essence with Imoogi so that he could become more powerful and win the dragon battle waging in heaven (Yes, I had to check the MPAA rating after hearing that. But it’s all innoncent. Consider it something lost in translation). Unfortunately, before this could happen, the evil dragon came down and attacked the girl’s village (well, more like a fortress, really). Now pay attention here. The evil dragon brought his entire army of soldiers, little flying dragons, and lizards with missile launchers on their backs. This massive force (with scenes straight out of Lord of the Rings) attacked the ancient fortress, only to be defeated by ninjas who appeared out of nowhere (duh). The ninja attack gave the girl enough time to escape to a cliff and commit suicide.

OK, I buy that. It was ninjas, after all.

Fast forward to today’s Los Angeles and the girl is resurrected as a reject from “The O.C.” There’s a boy in all this, too, but I could never figure out his point in it. Anyway, he gets resurrected in LA, too. After a string of laughable coincidences, the two find each other just as the evil dragon appears. His army then materializes out of scrolls around the city and all hell breaks loose.

But where’s Imoogi, you ask? Well he just kind of shows up for no reason. You see, the evil dragon’s army kidnaps the two O.C. rejects and takes them to Mordor. Seriously. When they escape they have some charm on their necks that they finally decide to use, and when they do, the entire evil army evaporates. In two seconds, the battle is over. I was kinda bummed they didn’t use the ninjas again. I realize they’re ninjas, but I know of one that shouldn’t have been too tough to find.
Anyway, Imoogi appears, essences are bonded, and everything is restored to normal.

OK, I won’t draw this out. This is a crappy movie. Absolutely horrible. But, it’s laughably bad, so it’s kinda worth watching. Just like “American Idol.”

Grade: F (but an A if watched during a Uwe Boll marathon).