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|Movie Review – Semi-Pro
|Seeing Will Ferrell do the same thing over and over again is starting to get old. While it worked to great effect in “Old School” and “Anchorman,” it began to stumble with “Talladega Nights” before plummeting in last year’s “Blades of Glory.” On his new sports comedy “Semi-Pro,” Ferrell continues a downward trajectory.|
In keeping with the actor’s propensity for the self-obsessed and ignorant, Jackie Moon (Ferrell) is the pompous owner, coach and star player of the Flint Tropics. Constantly reminding everyone of his one hit wonder “Love Me Sexy,” his fleeting ticket to fame, the part is firmly rooted in his previous personas. While it might be a different sport this time around, it remains Ferrell’s same old shtick.
It isn’t long before Moon learns the ABA is going to be merging into the NBA at season’s end, and the Tropics won’t be making the jump. He convinces league officials to allow the top four teams to advance, giving his last place team a slim shot at survival. After bringing in grizzled veteran Monix (Woody Harrelson), the Tropics begin inching towards the coveted fourth place finish.
Following the bland “Blades Of Glory,” Ferrell needs a winner to reassert his comedic talent. While it can be said “Semi-Pro” offers a laugh here and there, they are too sporadic to amount to much of anything. Most of its attempts at humor fall flat, and almost all the best moments are shown in the trailers.
Nevertheless, with a slew of familiar faces and cameos – many who have already appeared in Ferrell’s earlier work – the film at least maintains some level of amusement. In spite of this, the acting is still far from par. Will Arnett and Andrew Daly, the Tropics’ sportscasters, have ripe and interesting characters but fail to generate laugh out loud hysterics. The same can be said of Jackie Earle Haley’s thankfully brief turn as a dimwitted bum, which is a complete 180-degree departure from his Oscar nominated role in “Little Children.”
The story itself isn’t anything to write home about either. The characters resemble cardboard cutouts seen countless times before, and the audience is never given any reason to care about them or the team’s impending doom. When the movie aims to establish an emotional resonance toward the end, it simply feels forced and out of place.
When all is said and done, “Semi-Pro” is another miss in Ferrell’s turbulent career, which has produced just as many duds as it has hits. It’s a shame that when he does try something new and fresh, like “Stranger Than Fiction,” hardly anybody watches. In the wake of yet another disappointing outing, Ferrell clearly needs to rediscover his “A” game.
The Verdict: C (74%)
|Tags: Semi-Pro, Will Ferrell, Movie, Review
|Concert Review – Switchfoot w/ Tyrone Wells, The Myriad @ Biola University
|On Sunday night, over 1,500 people came to Chase Gymnasium to celebrate Biola’s 100th anniversary, and with festivities the founding fathers never would have envisioned a century ago. Yet for today’s generation, Switchfoot — almost assuredly the most successful band to ever play at Biola — was the ideal candidate to host the party.|
“We’ve never actually played a birthday party for a school, let alone a 100 year type thing, so we figured, ‘Why not?’” frontman Jon Foreman told The Chimes before the show. “It sounded like a fun thing to do.”
After more than a decade of making music, Switchfoot knew exactly how commemorate the achievement. With a set list nearly identical to the one from last year’s “Appetite For Construction” tour with Relient K, the band delivered 11 of their biggest hits with electric precision.
Whether it was blasting off on openers “Oh! Gravity” and “Stars” or slowing things down with “Only Hope” and “On Fire,” Foreman and company proved they have the rock star performance thing down to a T. This was also evident on songs like “This Is Your Life” and “Awakening,” which showed why their music is a natural fit for that big arena setting — or in this case, a gym.
In the midst of it all, Foreman was quite the center of attention. Whether it was spinning around in circles while smashing on a cymbal or waving a banner across the stage, his enthusiasm was contagious. One of the concert’s obvious highlights, to which many students will also attest, was when Foreman went up into the bleachers during “On Fire.” With the crowd singing along, it was a stirring sight to witness.
To close things out, Switchfoot finished with the mighty one-two punch of “Meant To Live” and “Dare You To Move.” The rousing anthems were the perfect way to cap off the night, and their inspiring messages couldn’t have been more fitting as Biola looks ahead to its next 100 years.
Prior to Switchfoot’s appearance, The Myriad got things off to an impressive start with an all-too brief set. These up-and-comers definitely have great things in store and a live show to back it up. Then up next was singer-songwriter Tyrone Wells. While he couldn’t match the performances of the two bands he was sandwiched in between, he still put on an entertaining set which most of the audience seemed to enjoy.
In the end, though, it was clearly Switchfoot who took the cake. Literally. Since this was a birthday bash after all, three songs into the set Foreman brought out a birthday cake and called up Biola’s President Barry Corey. With the clock ticking down to midnight, the crowd cheered as Corey blew out the candles, and a whirlwind of confetti was unleashed. And then it was back to the music.
|Tags: Concert, Review, Switchfoot, Jon Foreman, Tyrone Wells, Myriad, Biola
|Movie Review – Be Kind Rewind
|With technology so readily accessible these days, it is easier than ever to make your own home movies or reinterpret scenes from your favorites. “Be Kind Rewind” takes this DIY view of moviemaking and adapts it into a feature-length film aimed at the YouTube generation.|
After a nasty run-in with a power plant, Jerry (Jack Black) becomes magnetized and erases all the VHS tapes at his best friend Mike’s (Mos Def) video store. Scrambling to solve the dilemma before their boss (Danny Glover) returns from a business trip, the duo are forced to create their own versions of Hollywood films to stay afloat. These adaptations unexpectedly become a smash hit with the community, and their little operation grows to be quite popular. Nonetheless, their ingenuity is soon faced with a new set of problems — copyright infringements and the impending demolition of the store.
The film stems from the insanely creative mind of writer-director Michel Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind”). While it is probably his most mainstream-friendly work to date, it fails to reach the lofty proportions his previous film established. On the one hand, the spoof sequences show off his panache for the quirky and the surreal, but the remainder is often too broadly focused and simple-minded.
Part of this results from the way he relies on the actors to carry the proceedings. Instead of pushing deeper, which resulted in the most heartfelt performance of Jim Carrey’s career in “Eternal Sunshine,” Gondry is content to let the two have at it with their improvisations. Black and Def never stray far from their typical roles — Black is over-the-top zany while straight-man Def tries to be the rational and responsible one. For fans of the actors, this works more often than not throughout the movie, but for those already wary of the two, it likely won’t win them over.
Things also stray downhill during the third act when the film starts to veer off into Frank Capra territory. Relying a little too heavily on a subplot involving local jazz pianist Fats Waller, it never comes together to cohesively gel. A more consistent tone, and, frankly, a better subplot altogether, would have helped the ending from being borderline cheesy.
Despite its shortcomings, “Be Kind Rewind” is a fun and lighthearted frolic. The re-enacted scenes, particularly of “Ghostbusters” and “Driving Miss Daisy,” are easily the highlights, and as a whole, the film delivers a fair amount of laughs. However, this doesn’t prohibit the story from feeling slightly shortsighted and underdeveloped, and it seems like the inherent comic gold of the original idea was never fully mined.
The Verdict: B (84%)
|Tags: Be Kind Rewind, Jack Black, Mos Def, Michel Gondry, Movie, Review
|Even though the musical genre is by far my least favorite, last summer I was taken in by a little film called Once, which was the most “natural” musical I had ever seen and a far cry from the overblown productions of Broadway. Then at the Academy Awards on Sunday, one of the highlights was when Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová performed and then won the Oscar for their song “Falling Slowly,” making it my favorite song to win an Oscar. Irglová’s speech, which was made possible after host Jon Stewart brought her back on stage after she had gotten cut off by the orchestra, was the most touching moment of the night. If you haven’t seen the film or checked out the soundtrack, The Frames, or The Swell Season, you’re missing out on some really great music.|
I don’t know you, but I want you
All the more for that
Words fall through me, and always fool me
And I can’t react
Games that never amount
To more than they’re meant
Will play themselves out
Take this sinking boat
And point it home
We’ve still got time
Raise your hopeful voice
You have a choice
You’ve made it now
Falling slowly, eyes that know me
And I can’t go back
Moods that take me, and erase me
And I’m painted black
You have suffered enough
And warred with yourself
It’s time that you won
Take this sinking boat
And point it home
We’ve still got time
Raise your hopeful voice
You have a choice
You’ve made it now
Sing your melody
I’ll sing it loud
|Tags: Once, Falling Slowly, Glen Hansard, Markéta Irglová, Swell Season, Frames, Lyrics
|2008 Oscar Predictions
|The box office intake from this year’s five best picture nominees sits just north of $300 million, which is the second lowest tally from that group in two decades. While mainstream audiences were slow to embrace the top nominees — except breakout hit “Juno” — the quality from top to bottom is strong. Despite clear frontrunners in almost every major category, the night — led by host Jon Stewart — should be entertaining and exciting, proving why the Oscars are the only awards show left in which the awards actually mean something.|
At this point, it seems like “No Country For Old Men” has this award in the bag. After winning the top prize at the Directors, Screen Actors, Writers, and Producers Guild Awards, it clearly has the momentum and is the film to beat. Critical favorite “There Will Be Blood” and Golden Globe winner “Atonement” are runners-up, but they really don’t stand much of a chance.
The Pick: “No Country For Old Men”
For the fourth year in a row, the winner here is a shoe-in. Daniel Day-Lewis in “There Will Be Blood” was hauntingly explosive, showing why his rare on-screen appearances are so special. In spite of George Clooney’s best all-around performance and the always-entertaining Johnny Depp, this belongs to Day-Lewis hands down.
The Pick: Daniel Day-Lewis
No matter how much I liked “Juno” and its star turn by Ellen Page, this has become a two-person race between Julie Christie in “Away From Her” and Marion Cotillard in “La Vie En Rose.” Christie’s performance, which saw her character succumb to Alzheimer’s, has won the majority of the awards so far and should win this as well.
The Pick: Julie Christie
Best Supporting Actor
In any other year, Philip Seymour Hoffman would be a lock for his second Oscar win with “Charlie Wilson’s War.” However, Javier Bardem was simply superb in “No Country,” creating one of the most memorable villains in recent memory. Sorry friend-o, but this is Bardem’s award all the way.
The Pick: Javier Bardem
Best Supporting Actress
The murkiest category of the year, with three actresses having a legitimate shot at winning. Amy Ryan drew raves for her work in “Gone Baby Gone,” Cate Blanchett won the Globe for “I’m Not There,” and then 83-year-old Ruby Dee won the Screen Actors prize for “American Gangster.” The Academy loves Blanchett, as evidenced by her previous win for "The Aviator" and the two nods this year, so I give her the slight edge.
The Pick: Cate Blanchett
The Coen brothers did an exceptional job in adapting Cormac McCarthy’s beloved novel, “No Country For Old Men,” and in the process created the most engaging film of the year. They’ve practically won every single directing award already and should finally earn their first Best Director statue.
The Pick: Joel and Ethan Coen
Best Original Screenplay
While the Academy rarely awards its top prizes to comedies, stripper-turned-writer Diablo Cody’s script for “Juno” is too good to pass up. The wacky world and eccentric dialogue she created was wholly unique and the driving force behind the film, which charmed audiences all across the country.
The Pick: Diablo Cody
Best Adapted Screenplay
It should come as no surprise that this award goes to the Coen brothers as well. Seriously, if you haven’t already seen this film, what are you waiting for?
The Pick: Joel and Ethan Coen
Best Animated Feature: “Ratatouille”
Best Art Direction: “Sweeney Todd”
Best Cinematography: “There Will Be Blood”
Best Costume Design: “Atonement”
Best Documentary: “No End In Sight”
Best Film Editing: “No Country For Old Men”
Best Foreign Language Film: “The Counterfeiters”
Best Makeup: “La Vie En Rose”
Best Original Score: “Atonement”
Best Original Song: “Once”
Best Sound Editing: “Transformers”
Best Sound Mixing: “Transformers”
Best Visual Effects: “Transformers”
|Tags: Oscars, Academy Awards, Predictions, No Country For Old Men, There Will Be Blood
|Movie Review – Jumper
|Teleporting through the space-time continuum would be a pretty cool thing to do, and the idea makes for an appealing notion to base a movie around. However, in the sci-fi thriller “Jumper,” this amounts to little more than an afterthought as it becomes the latest victim in the style-over-substance ruse.|
The story follows David Rice (Hayden “Anakin” Christenson), who discovers at an early age he has the ability to “jump” to random places. With his “divine insight,” he decides to use this superpower to run away from home and get rich by robbing a bank. Eight years later, David reconnects with his childhood crush Millie (Rachel Bilson), only to be hunted down by Agent Roland (Samuel L. Jackson), one of the Paladins, who have vowed to kill all Jumpers. Meanwhile, Griffin (Jamie Bell), a rogue Jumper, helps David square off against the Paladins.
If you head into this film expecting logical answers, you’ll be sorely disappointed, since the writers never bother to explain what little of the plot there is. How one becomes a Jumper and what makes it even possible is left to the audience’s imagination. A few scattered answers are provided on the Paladin side, but who the Paladins are and why they hate the Jumpers so much is never satisfactorily examined.
These plot holes force director Doug Liman, the man behind such acclaimed films as “Swingers” and “The Bourne Identity,” to use every trick he can think of to distract from the story’s shortcomings. The camera is constantly in a swirl of motion, making sure to show off all of the film’s settings. The visual effects are slickly produced, yet when all is said and done, there is little left to show for them in terms of action set pieces. It’s a telling sign of what the once highly touted Liman has been reduced to.
Liman doesn’t get a whole lot of help from the actors either. Christenson, who only got the part because Fox wanted someone with more “star power” than the actor originally cast, is neither good nor bad — he just is. On the other hand, the white-haired Jackson is never given enough time to sink his teeth into the part, and amounts to little more than a stereotypical villain. Bell is the only one who makes an impression, although his character eventually falls prey to the poor writing as well.
While “Jumper’s” flashy ad campaign tried to exhibit how it was going to be something different, it fails to live up to the hype. It’s not the disaster some critics have been pronouncing; it is simply a sub-par sci-fi romp. In the end, its few entertaining moments make it watchable — so long as you don’t think too hard about it.
The Verdict: C+ (78%)
|Tags: Jumper, Doug Liman, Hayden Christenson, Samuel Jackson, Movie, Review
|Sherwood Use Internet, Hard Work To Achieve Success
|In today’s technological age, it has become increasingly difficult to remember a time when music and the Internet weren’t drastically interwoven. In fact, it is now nearly impossible to break a band based solely on the conventional outlets of a record label and the radio.|
“At this point, a lot of bands have figured out that the first step is to be really visible on the Internet,” Sherwood keyboardist Mikey Leibovich told me before last week’s headlining show at Chain Reaction.
However, when you think about it, this new development didn’t start that long ago.
“We were kind of right there at the right time,” lead singer and bassist Nate Henry admitted.
The cheery pop-rock band formed back in 2002 while the founding members were attending Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, right around the time social networking sites like MySpace were booming and music downloading was skyrocketing. Since then, they have been able to combine their diligent resolve with the Internet’s vast resources to arrive at a recipe for success.
The group, which also includes guitarist/singer Dan Koch, drummer Joe Greenetz and guitarist Dave Provenzano, first garnered exposure on PureVolume, and the positive feedback from the Web site’s listeners led to their first self-booked tour. Around that time, they struck up a relationship with the management behind Long Beach’s SideCho Records, the sister label of The Militia Group, and soon had a one-record deal.
They released their debut full-length album Sing, But Keep Going in mid-2005, and it went on to sell over 20,000 copies. The band spent many months touring in support of the effort, including a stint on the Vans Warped Tour, and saw their status rise as a result. However, once the album ran its course and their contract with SideCho expired, the band’s position was up in the air.
“We were kind of in between a rock and a hard place,” Leibovich explained. “We didn’t really know exactly where the next step to go was.”
In the spring of 2006, Sherwood boldly decided to give away their recently recorded The Summer EP for free on absolutepunk.net. Thirty thousand downloads later, the band had numerous offers from a variety of labels. In the end, they made a surprising move by settling on the newly formed MySpace Records that October.
“We didn’t want to be on a traditional record label,” Henry said. “We figured the best company in the world that can do anything for a band is MySpace. They can work with a thousand companies, let alone they know every band because every band’s on MySpace.”
The band soon headed to San Francisco to record their sophomore album A Different Light with veteran producer Lou Giordano, whose resume included the likes of Sunny Day Real Estate and Taking Back Sunday. When the album was released in March 2007, it sold 4,000 copies during its first week in stores.
In sticking with their DIY attitude, Sherwood spent the remainder of the year on the road, supporting the record with three different tours for Relient K, Motion City Soundtrack and The Academy Is…
Now currently in the midst of their first ever headlining tour, the band is set to head overseas for a run of shows upon its conclusion. Then after a much deserved break, it will be time to gear up for album number three.
“We’re really kind of anxious to get off the road and start actually working on this next record,” Leibovich said, adding that there’s a good chance they might not be touring the States again this year. “We want the next album to start becoming a priority.”
“I think this record’s going to be the most involved record that we’ve ever had,” Henry added. “We’re going to have a lot more time, a lot more money, and we’re all going to have a lot more ideas.”
While there might be a lot riding on the outcome of the group’s next album, they also recognize that sometimes being in a band isn’t always about the music.
“I would like to take the band’s popularity and do something good with it besides music, like start some nonprofit agency or do something that’s more involved with helping people on a basic human need level,” Henry pointed out. “Music’s cool and music’s great, but eventually if that’s all you’re doing it for, I think that you become very shallow.”
In a genre usually known for its lighthearted and carefree habits, that outlook is further proof Sherwood are standing out among their peers.
“I think we’re all pretty tired of this scene we’re in, you know?” Henry confessed. “We’re all like mid 20s, pushing late 20s, and after awhile you’re like, ‘I’m not 19 years [old] anymore.’ You want to challenge yourself… Some things get better with age, and hopefully that’s what happens with us.”
|Tags: Sherwood, A Different Light, The Summer EP
|Movie Review – Persepolis
|“Persepolis” was one of the most critically acclaimed films from last year, picking up the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and numerous nominations during awards season. Its recognition might not be over either, as some believe it might pull off an upset on Oscar night and beat out “Ratatouille” for Best Animated Feature.|
Based on Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novel, the French film picks up in Iran in 1979 in the midst of the Islamic Revolution. The nine-year-old Marjane witnesses the tyrannical government’s rise to power and the harsh rules it imposes on its people, especially the women. Soon thereafter, the country is thrust into the long running Iran-Iraq War, which forces her to move to Austria for safety’s sake. It takes a while for her to fit in there, and a new series of problems aren’t far behind. Homesick, she moves back to Iran only to discover she can no longer take living in such an oppressed society.
Cut from the same cloth as last year’s Juno MacGuff (of the Oscar-nominated “Juno”), Marjane is a rebellious anti-heroine who never shies away from speaking her mind. Whether refusing to wear her mandated veil, lying to soldiers to get other people in trouble or listening to the forbidden music of Iron Maiden, she is a fish out of water searching for a place to belong.
In much the same way “Sin City” and “300” turned Frank Miller’s graphic novels into live action epics, “Persepolis” translates its unique source to a 2-D backdrop. While the animation isn’t intricately detailed, the way it presents itself shows great creativity. Jumping around in both time and setting, it almost insinuates a move from panel to panel. With its camera movements and shot selection, the film — told almost entirely in black and white — also displays a rogue imagination that refuses to pull punches.
While “Persepolis” does hit a few speed bumps along the way and lacks a strong ending, Marjane’s story is a remarkable one. The real life Satrapi, who served as writer and co-director, does quite a job of putting her experiences up on the big screen in her first film project. While it might not reach the high level of “Ratatouille” — which was, after all, the best reviewed wide release of the entire year — it still shows that animation isn’t solely for kids and fairy tales.
The Verdict: B (83%)
|Tags: Persepolis, Movie, Review