Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Week Late, But That's OK...UNKNOWN and #4

Yes, we are into the meat and potatoes of the current weekend (Feb 26-27), and here I am posting about two of the main releases from last week.  It has been a crazy stretch at work so I am just happy I have been able to get out and see some of these flicks, let alone post on them.  Unknown took the weekend and I am Number Four was #3, with Gnomeo and Juliet splitting them at the #2 spot.  Last weekend gave us an acceptable weekend for new releases, with my favorite of them being covered in my last post, my bit on Cedar Rapids.

I saw I AM NUMBER FOUR with the infamous Papa Schmer, who is on the verge of becoming Grand-Papa Schmer, as The Kid in the Helmet and his lovely wife are days from ushering new life into this fine world.  I enjoy my film-going experiences with both Papa and The Kid, as they fall into the easily entertained range of opinion that I usually speak from as well.

I Am Number Four tells the tale of a group of aliens living on earth, hiding out from a an enemy race of aliens (Mogadorians) that had previously destroyed their planet.  Alex Pettyfer plays John, the titular Number Four, who is a prodigy from his home planet.  He is one of nine prodigies sent to earth to hide.  They are presented as some sort of protectors, who as they come of age, acquire powers that will help them in their journey.  The Mogadarians are trying to kill the nine prodigies, but the catch is they have to be killed in order.  We enter the flick just as Number Three is meeting his demise. 

John's protector is Henri, an alien from his home world who is played with the skill he brings to every role, Mr. Timothy Olyphant-astic.  Henri gives us most of the exposition which is a bit cliche, but helps keep the viewer in tune with the necessary orientation to the rules of the universe of this story. 

The love interest is presented in the form of Glee's own Quinn Fabray, Dianna Agron, as Sarah, the "normal" every-girl who happens to be smokin' hot and fully equipped with a psycho-ex-boyfriend who plays his part in the vein of  the Karate Kid-ish high school villain.

This film is based on a book by "Pitticus Lore." Pitticus Lore is the pen name for the writing combo of Jobie Hughes and James Frey.  Yes...James Frey of the fraudulent Oprah Book of the Month, A Million Little Pieces.  Apparently Frey has a publishing company in which he mass hires writers to churn out books with the primary intent to turn the books into movies.

I kind of like this idea, although I would imagine the source material may be a bit questionable.  A book need not be Shakespear to craft it into a fine movie, so I guess in a way I commend Frey for this shotgun brainstorming idea.  Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, and Marti Noxon did a decent job of adapting it into the screenplay and the real hero here is D.J. Caruso. 

Caruso is a talented young director who has to some extent, found himself under the wing of Steven Spielberg...that's not such a bad place to be.

This movie is produced by Michael Bay, and that fact is also quite evident.  I drew many parallels to Transformers (2007) including the final scenes of the movie.  This movie has a number of similarities to Transformers, that cannot be denied.  I won't list them here as my comment isn't a criticism as much as it is just is an interesting facet.

The movie spends more time than you would expect building up the characters, which adds to the overall enjoyment of the film.  It isn't just a hollow action film, but you don't necessarily fall in love with these characters either.  The Number Four series has a long way to go before we are talking a Bella and Edward kind of a fan base. 

And who might the Jacob be in this configuration?  That would be Number Six, another of the prodigies who is in constant pursuit of Number Four through the movie...not to hurt him but to help him.  She is a super hot blond played by Teresa Palmer...Palmer was recently the way-too-hot-for-Jay-Baruchel-girl, in Sorcerer's Apprentice.  When Number Six shows up, things get quite interesting.

Other primaries include Callin McAuliffe as Sam, the younger friend to John that plays more a role in the adventure than you would originally think and Kevin Durand as the Mogadarian Commander, the Mogadarians being the badie alien race that is chasing the Numbers and trying to kill them.

There are other facets of the film that are interesting... the outrageous technology they employ to try and cover their tracks as they move from place to place (that would be quite a web crawler indeed!) and the oh so cute yet mysterious puppy that John takes in near the beginning of their arrival in Ohio, which is where most of the film takes place.

When I said earlier that Caruso is the saving grace, I think that the last 35 minutes speak for itself.  For all of the cliches in this film, the last 35 minutes are BALLS TO THE WALL action that is shot in an very watchable manner.

I give I Am Number Four a 4 of 5 horn rating for a welcomed effort into the sci-fi adventure saga genre.  Spielberg and Bay's influences are noted and that I am a huge fan of Spielberg and a noted Bay apologist, I may be more slanted towards this movie than your average bear.


Unknown will be the #2 entry in what I hope eventually becomes the LIAM NEESON bad-ass trilogy.  Of course Taken from 2008 was the first and while this is a different kind of bad ass flick, it counts.  I cannot believe that Neeson is just under 60 years old.  My Dad is 61 and I can't picture him doing wire work or rocking out a couple of terrorist baddies (But he can frame the hell out of a house and he will always be one of my heroes!).  What will be the third point in the crown for Neeson's run at BADASS CINEMA?  He will be in the wild-idea of BATTLESHIP: THE MOVIE, the Peter Berg directed alien adventure fare based on the board game of the same name.  Will he be back as Hannibal in The A-Team the A-Team 2 even a good idea?  Lots of questions...that's what I love about this game...

I really don't want to get too much into UNKNOWN except to say that do not watch the trailer if you haven't seen it yet.  I enjoyed this movie, but all of its secrets were spoiled by the trailer.

I will say this, for his few moments on screen, Frank Langella was as good as ever.  That guy can deliver creepy and mysterious lines like a pro!  While Terrance Stamp is in that club as well, I would very much like to have seen Langella added to the Adjustment Bureau cast as he would have been perfect.  Perhaps, his Arlington Steward from THE BOX was too close to that kind of "Invisible Hand" controlling figure.

None the less, Langella is always fantastic.

Neeson evolves as an ass-kicker through the movie and he starts his adventure, seemingly married to a very wooden January Jones.  Dave Chen from the SLASH FILMCAST has an interesting theory as to why Jones gives us an off-again performance in a mostly on-again run of her last few years.  After an accident, Neeson loses most of his memory and when he goes to find his wife after four days in the hospital, he finds her...but there is someone with her who claims to be him.  

The accident was the cab within which he was travelling, crashing off of a bridge.  He finds an ally after he runs into trouble finding his wife, in the cab driver...a fantastic Diane Kruger.  Kruger was wonderful in Inglourious Basterds and made the National Treasure flicks more enjoyable, and she does a fine job of providing a bit of mysterious support to Neeson's Dr. Martin Harris as he tries to piece together the mystery of his life.

As I said, avoid the trailer at all costs.  Having seen the trailer, I figured this movie out about 15 minutes into the story.  I still liked it enough to give it a 3.5 of 5 horns.

I will be seeing local boy (to Kansas City) Jason Sudekis in Hall Pass and probably Drive Angry this weekend, neither of which has been reviewed very well.  Oh how far the Farrelly's have fallen.  I hope they are both good...Pass for the Laughs and Angry for the pure camp of it.  Cage is full blown hit or miss....let this one be a hit.

Until next time..take care...

The Reel Rhino

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