Monday, April 4, 2011

Gattaca (1997)

Gattaca (1997)
Directed by: Andrew Niccol
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Jude Law

Gattaca has always been an intriguing movie to me.  Although it is set in the future, this movie depicts a future that is entirely achievable.  Never mind the flying cars, the one piece suits, the apes, the robot uprisings, the faster than light speed travel, and the zombie apocalypse; this future is set in stone.  Whether we want to or not, some health and ecological problems of today need to be addressed in the near future.  That’s kind of where the plot of this film fits in.  Imagine a world where automobiles use only electricity, the Earth’s power comes from the Sun, and genetic engineering has been perfected.  These three simple ideas solve some of the largest problems facing our Earth today.  With Automobiles using only electricity, no greenhouse gases would be emitted.  If we could greatly increase the yield from solar panels, we could phase out Coal, Nuclear, and Hydroelectric power.  With genetic engineering we could get rid of unwanted traits, such as baldness, obesity, and even genetic diseases.  However, the film doesn’t raise the largest issue that would oppose genetic engineering; Religion.  Religion would never support advancements of this nature.  This is probably the only fictional part of the movie, because this could only exist in a world in which Religion doesn’t have an enormous grasp over people.  This is something that is so far off, that it may never happen.  So many barriers to the health and ecological problems exist that it’ll be very hard to achieve what this film suggests.  However, don’t let the genetic engineering of the movie lead you away from the central theme.  The film leaves it up to the audience to determine if genetic engineering is morally and scientifically right.  The film opens up to two quotes, both representing the far ends of biases for and against genetic engineering.

“Consider God's handiwork; who can straighten what He hath made crooked?" - Ecclesiastes 7:13
"I not only think that we will tamper with Mother Nature, I think Mother wants us to." -
Willard Gaylin


The first quote comes from the Hebrew Bible and the second comes from a PhD Bioethicist (Bioethics is the study of controversial ethics that deal with advances in biology and medicine).  The two quotes seem like they represent both ends of the debate on whether gene altering is ethical.  However both actually point out that we should alter who we are, because we were made “crooked” and that “mother nature wants us to”.  Vincent (played by Ethan Hawke) is a person that shakes the morality behind gene altering.  He was conceived naturally, so he is labeled in their culture as a “faith-birth”, “de-gene-erate”, or “God-child”.  Vincent narrates near the beginning of the movie that they have discrimination down to a science.  It doesn’t matter how smart he is, what he looks like, how much money he has; the only thing that matters is his DNA.  So we have Religious, Environmental, Discriminatory, and Political themes all wrapped up into the plot of Gattaca.  The first time that I watched the movie, I didn’t even think about any of these issues, because the movie doesn’t focus on these issues.  It focuses on how Vincent gets around the discrimination and lives his dream.


Perhaps the most peculiar vision behind this movie is that the world portrayed in this film was suggested when global warming wasn’t recognized as much as a global threat as it is today.  Because the movie was made in 1997, we can assume that the director or writers weren’t inspired from an Al Gore book/film or had gone to a UN Summit Meeting on the crisis of our environment.  No, these people may have used their own judgment to picture the world of Gattaca.  To put this peculiarity into perspective, here are some facts about the year 1997 that may or may not have a connection to the film:
1.)    The cost of gas was around $1.10 a gallon
2.)    Scientists announce that an adult sheep named Dolly had been successfully cloned, and was born in July 1996.
3.)    Diana, Princess of Wales, is taken to hospital after a car accident in Paris. She is pronounced dead at 04:00 a.m.
4.)    NASA launches the Cassini-Huygens probe to Saturn.
5.)    The Toyota Prius, the first hybrid vehicle to go into full production, is unveiled in Japan in October, and goes on sale in Japan in December.
6.)    NASA's Pathfinder space probe lands on the surface of Mars.
7.)    Bloomsbury Publishing publishes J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Sorcerer’s Stone for us) in London.
This year was not a huge year for the global warming or energy issues, so it’s pretty interesting that this movie deals with these issues.  It’s also interesting that cloning (mans first step towards genetic alteration) and the Toyota Hybrid were announced the same year that this particular film came out.

The movie’s plot show’s Vincent’s struggle to be Jerome Morrow, a man whose identity he needs in order to live the life that he wants.  The real Jerome (played by Jude Law), is an eccentric immoralist that because of an accident is willing to give up his life for someone else.  The film really builds the relationship that Vincent and Jerome share.  The plot begins and ends with Vincent narrating, and it gives the film the sense of a story being told to us, rather than him saying, “Hey, I was born.  It was hard, here’s how it began…”  The plot has four overlying themes that come together in the end to give the movie its great ending.  The first theme is that Vincent has a heart disease, and was told that he would die somewhere in his thirties.  The only parts of the plot that we see this affecting him is whenever he works out.  This will eventually kill him, and he even hints that he may not make it back during his year long trip to work near Jupiter.   The second theme is that Vincent takes on the life of Jerome and must keep this a secret.  Now I could go into everything he does in order to keep this a secret, but that is a huge part of the plot, so I will let you enjoy that.  The third theme is the murder of the mission director and the eventual discovery of Vincent’s eyelash near the scene of the crime.  Enter the “antagonist” and problem of the movie.  The last theme is the love story between Vincent and Irene (played by Uma Thurman).  Vincent puts it best when he says,
“For someone who was never meant for this world, I must confess: I’m suddenly having a hard time leaving it.  Of course, they say every atom in our bodies was once part of a star.  Maybe I’m not leaving … maybe I’m going home.”
The funny part about the movies love story is that Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke became a couple during the filming of this movie and actually got married (now divorced).


Another part of the film that intrigued me was the soundtrack.  The film was scored by Michael Nyman, and I really enjoyed his particular composing to this film.  Although he is not seen as one of the major classical composers for film (John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Howard Shore, etc.), he does a wonderful job with this film.  The main theme that can be heard in the end fits the scene really well.  Although a bit heavy on the violin, his music has a tone like clockwork.  What I mean by that is that every note seems to begin and end at exactly the moment that they were meant to.  This reminded me of the movie in that the “Valids” were designed; however Vincent was really the one that was meant to be.


All in all, a great movie that takes a more philosophical approach to science fiction rather than the action packed approach.  I would head over and read the trivia section on imdb.com to read some interesting facts about the movie.  For those who are Chemistry Nerds like me and are interested in what the structure of GATTACA looks like, here it is:


Gattaca is a pretty interesting movie to say the least.  This is another example of a movie that I like to watch every couple of months because the actors actually did a great job in the film.  Not just the protagonists of the film, either.  Everyone who had a part performed really well.  From Gore Vidal’s character of the director; to even the doctor that let Vincent get on the shuttle when he knew that he was an invalid (played by Xander Berkeley).  I also enjoyed Alan Arkin’s character of Detective Hugo.  He wasn’t really known until he won the academy award in Little Miss Sunshine (2006), but I thought that he played a great role in this movie as well.  I believe that his character played a “invalid” detective that got his position by his skill and not his genes.  Anton, Vincent’s brother, is his boss probably only because he is a “valid”.  Hugo is really the only one who plays the part of the detective.  Anton is just obsessed with finding his brother just so he can reclaim his superior title that Vincent took away from him when they were younger.


A Message for non-Fans:
I’ve read that a lot of you don’t like it because of the inconsistencies that the movie has.  I should remind you that sci-fi movies in the Nineties didn’t really focus too much on inconsistencies as much as they do today, so consider that before having any skepticism.  I’d also like to address some points that another author brought up that were his/her top inconsistencies of the film:
  • The discrimination is de facto.  It's explicitly stated that there is no law against being an "In-valid" (a term breathtaking in its awkwardness and completely tone-deaf).  So why does everyone act like it is?  If there is no law against being In-Valid, why don't the In-Valids protest their condition?  It's set in the future, after all.  Did all records of the civil rights movement mysteriously vanish?
This point suggests that there are a ton of invalids walking around, and that most of them are unhappy with what they do.  The author does not think that maybe the invalids are happy that people who were genetically engineered to be “perfect” are talking on the more prestigious jobs.  To bring up the point that “it’s set in the future after all” is stating that we know how humans will act in the future.
  • The Gattaca Corporation is right not to give Vincent a job.  He has a heart condition.  Not just a potential heart condition; something that will show up if checked (see the scene on the treadmill).  Space exploration is stressful and that last place you want someone to get a heart attack is a few thousand miles from Earth.  Why is it wrong to protect Vincent from that?  Ultimately, not wanting Vincent to be working there is perfectly reasonable.  This is by far the most blatant example of how little thought was put into the scenario.
“Everyone knows space exploration is super stressful!”  This is probably the one point that makes the most sense, but remember that Vincent is tricking the Corporation.  They do not know that he is an invalid, just as they don’t know that he has a heart condition.  If this movie was set in present day times, then for sure, we would want to protect an astronaut from having a heart attack in Space.  But again, this is set in the future, and is about one man’s dream to get away from his genetic disability.   So by that fact, this can’t be the most blatant example of “little thought”.
  • Everyone spends time and effort supporting a system they don't believe in.  The most obvious case is the doctor, who knows Vincent is an In-Valid, but keeps his secret.  So why does he go along with the system?  More importantly, why doesn't he tell Vincent he knows earlier?  If he sympathizes, then wouldn't he tell Vincent he does, just in case Vincent needs help? And the end makes it clear that no one is particularly upset that Vincent fooled the system; they just shrug it off.  But if it's not that important to them, why do they accept it? (Consider what would happen in the segregated south if a Black man was discovered to be passing for white.)
I’m not sure whether the author actually watched the movie intently, because this is explained in the movie.  He tells Vincent about how his son is a fan of him.  Then the doctor goes on to say that his son isn’t all that they promised, which means that his son is most likely like Vincent.  Therefore he sympathizes with Vincent, and that’s why he lets him go.  He doesn’t find out until the end of the movie as well, so it’s not like he knew the whole time.  This point makes way too many assumptions.
  • The constant genetic testing is pointless and expensive.  Why does anyone bother?  It would make sense under the system to check when hiring someone, but every day?  Every time someone enters the building?  It takes time and costs money to make genetic tests; why bother?  Because the guy who was OK yesterday might change his genes today? Spot checks, maybe, but checking every person every single day?  How many people are you tying up to do all this testing?  How much money do you tie up in equipment to do the testing?  How often are you going to find anything from it?  And, finally, what does it matter if you do, since there is no explicit ban on In-Valids? 
This movie takes place in the future, not present day.  They are a corporation and can do whatever they please.  Again, the author makes too many assumptions.  For all we know the Gattaca program is very exclusive and they want to make sure no one steals intellectual material about their missions.
  • Genetics can only do so much. Everyone seems surprised that the head of Gattaca could commit murder.  But there is no "murder" gene.  Similarly, there is no gene that makes you a better worker.  All you can test for is physical traits.  And Vincent fails on that count due to his bad heart.
Don’t really understand the author’s point.  Is he saying that the movie has an inconsistency because it has genetics in it?  People were surprised that he killed someone, for that very reason.  He tries to cover his tracks by saying he doesn’t have “a mean bone in his body.”  Again, this movie takes place in the future, for all we know, they found an anger/murder gene.
  • Why go through all that rigmarole to make yourself a Valid? Vincent has to keep track of every piece of stray skin, bring sacks of urine and blood and spend hours trying to "prove" he was Valid.  Why do it?  Couldn't someone hack into the database and change Vincent's records?  Better yet, pay someone who works in the records department to make the change (you can bet there would be people who'd do it).  Viola -- no need to go to all that trouble.  No need to worry.  Oh, yeah, that heart condition.
This isn’t a documentary; it doesn’t take place in the present.  This argument is like someone saying that a plot is wrong because it’s not the easiest thing to do.  Wouldn’t that defeat the purpose of having a plot?  No more needs to be said.
  • Huh? There are many little things that just don't work.  For instance, there are records that have everyone's genetic profile.  Yet they leave out important facts like someone is paralyzed in a car accident.  Why?  How was that little detail missed?
Agreed.  The one assumption that is correct.  They are also missing the fact that Jerome has a British accent.  But it doesn’t make the movie unbearable.
I hope this cover’s most points that skeptics have about the film.  If not, I’d be happy to address more.

A Message for Fans:
Watch the movie one more time, and let me know your opinion on the amount of algae in the lake, as well as the style that the future is depicted in.  It seems to be very retro.  Also let me know if you liked the soundtrack as well.

Potential topics to discuss:
Philosophy in Science Fiction
Actors/Actresses in this film
Genetics
Religion
Setting of this future
Ethics


Friday, February 25, 2011

MacGruber (2010)

MacGruber (2010)
Directed by: Jorma Taccone
Starring: Will Forte, Kristen Wiig, Ryan Phillippe, Val Kilmer

Every single review I’ve read about MacGruber said that it was a terrible movie.  I’ve met people that said they hated it, and apart from the few examples of some friends, I’ve never met anyone else who enjoyed the movie.  I don’t know if people refused to see the movie because of the reviewers stigma, or if they just didn’t care to see it.  Honestly I was pretty surprised when I heard that they were making a movie out of this particular SNL skit.  MacGruber as a skit was pretty funny the first time I saw it, and they varied it in some humorous ways.  The formula of the skit was a MacGyver knockoff in which MacGruber is always trying to disarm a bomb in a control room.  The skit varies in who is with him and where the control room is located.  The people with him were always either Kristen Wiig or Maya Rudolph and the person hosting SNL.  Examples of hosts that played a part in a MacGruber skit were Shia LeBeouf (plays MacGrubers homosexual son), Jeremy Piven (plays MacGrubers doubtful Assistant), and Betty White (plays his Grandmother).  Here and the links to Hulu where you can watch the full length skits:


There were also other skits besides these three, which you can also watch online.  They even had the real MacGyver play his father, which was probably my favorite skit of all.  You’ll notice that most of them are basically the same type of skit only varied to a certain extent.  So when I heard that they were making a movie out of these skits, I was pretty skeptical of how the movie would turn out (which is how, I believe, all mainstream reviewers were as well).  Before we continue on to the movie, we should speak about the current Saturday Night Live cast.  Will Forte is no longer on the cast, however, when he was, I actually really enjoyed the cast.  I stopped watching SNL for a long period.  I had followed it all the way to when Will Ferrell was on the cast.  Then I stopped watching the series because it really lost its touch.  Then came the new cast with Andy Samberg, Fred Armisen, Tina Fey, Jason Sudeikis, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Bobby Moynihan, Kenan Thompson, and of course Will Forte.  I’ve left out other great additions to the cast, but these actors really brought SNL back from the dead.  Will Forte skits were pretty original and he really brings a special type of comedy to his acting which we can see in MacGruber.


The movie opens to a desert scene in which a convoy carrying a special type of nuclear weapon is attacked and the bomb is taken by the antagonist of the movie.  The antagonist is named Dieter Von Cunth and is played by Val Kilmer, who plays his part rather well.  This scene sets up the premise of the plot, and shows a typecast bad guy for the film.  The next few scenes involve the resurrection of MacGruber.  MacGruber went into hiding because Dieter von Cunth had killed his wife.  The name of the villain in this movie is a joke in itself.  Pretty self explanatory, but the use of the German name combined with a word that is a homonym for a profanity makes the name rather humorous.  The first time we meet MacGruber, his former colonel and Lt. Dixen Piper (played by Ryan Phillippe ) come to ask for his help.  When Piper describes MacGruber, we get the first sense that this movie is mocking MacGyver and all other Ex-military super soldiers.   Here is Piper’s description of MacGruber:

“The Legendary MacGruber. Former Navy SEAL, Army Ranger and Green Beret. Served six tours in Desert Storm, four in Bosnia, three each in Angola, Somalia, Mozambique, Nicaragua and Sierra Leone. Recipient of sixteen Purple Hearts, three Congressional Medals of Honor, seven Presidential Medals of Bravery and starting tight end for the University of Texas, El
Paso.”
Pretty ridiculous, but it adds to the comedy of the movie.  If you add up all the tours he went on in that statement, it adds up to a total of 25 tours.  The average tour length in the military is 6 months to a year, so he was probably in the military for 12.5 to 25 years.  For those of you that haven’t seen the show MacGyver, the whole basis is that he uses gadgets made out of random items to solve the particular problem that he’s in.  This is the basis for MacGruber, except MacGruber can’t make any of the gadgets he makes work out.  The best gadget he makes is the use of a celery stalk, but you should discover the use yourself.  

The funniest elements of the movie are the situations that occur.  The film has a series of situations that eventually lead to MacGruber fighting the antagonist.  These include getting his outfit and car back, building his team, building his new team, finding out info on Dieter von Cunth, staking out a coffee shop, raiding a Warehouse, crashing a party, hanging out at MacGruber’s house, going to Vicki’s house, and finally the end scene.  Broken down, it sounds pretty simple, but each scene is really treated like individual SNL skits that fit together really well.  A lot of people don’t know this, but Will Forte was actually one of the writers of the movie’s script.  You can see his kind of humor in little additions to the plot.  The best addition that I thought was one of the funniest scenes in the movie is when some guy makes fun of MacGruber’s car.  He gets the license plate number off the car and repeats it over and over to himself.  Later in the movie when MacGruber is crashing Cunth’s party, Ryan Phillippe’s character is flipping through MacGruber’s notebook and it has nothing but sketches of KFBR392 (the license plate number) with creepy childlike voices repeating the numbers.  A small addition to the plot, but it really came out of nowhere which can be the best type of humor.

The sex scenes of the movie are most likely the most awkward and funniest sex scene that I have ever seen.  It starts out with Mr. Mister playing Broken Wings, and the song just fits the theme of the movie perfectly.  The soundtrack of the movie is also part of the whole joke.  The movie may use present day songs, but they are usually cut off to MacGruber playing 80’s songs on his Blaupunkt removable player.  You’ve never seen anyone who loves Blaupunkt as much as MacGruber when he says, “How dare you!  That was a blaupunkt!  You owe me a Blaupunkt!”, after one of Cunth’s men destroys it.

MacGruber’s character has some great one liners that aren’t always funny by themselves; it’s that he repeats them over and over that make them funny.  Of course some of them too are just funny by themselves.  These Memorable ones include some profanity, so be prepared:
1.)  Time to pound some Cunth!
2.)  ...dead at the age of who the fuck cares.
3.)  MacGruber don't play like homie, and homie don't play that game.
4.)  Well, they were fucking great guys. And this is a fucking asshole of a day.
5.)  There's a big difference between winging it and seeing what happens. Now let's see what happens.
6.)  So, my face is a vagina, huh? Well, I bet you wish your nose was a dick... so you could use it to fuck butts.
7.)  Your god can't save you, but I can.
8.)  You're loco, man!  Subtitles: "You're crazy, man!"
9.)  No, leave it….I…like…holes.
10.) Yeah, I’ll take the X5 (slams bartenders head on the counter).  He didn’t know anything.
11.) I got a better idea.  How about no fucking way.


The best part of the movie is the acting by Will Forte.  He real put himself into this role.  I’m not going to say that his acting was something like Oscar worthy, but for this particular role, no one else could have done it better.  When he has just lost his whole team, he is so funny trying to get Piper to join his new team.  That whole scene of the movie is great, and I suggest you watch it multiple times to really enjoy it.  This movie also has you not thinking about any other skits or movies that Will Forte has been in.  You only think of him as being MacGruber.  This is different from say Mike Myers in roles like Wayne in Wayne’s World (1992) and the Austen Powers movies.  When I see Mike Myers, I don’t really see him as a British spy, I can only see him as Wayne Campbell (or Dieter).  Kristen Wiig also plays her part well.  The song she plays is really funny, and you can watch it on youtube:



I would actually like to hear the reasoning behind not liking this movie.  You obviously know my reasoning behind liking it, so hopefully I’ve spread the word for people to go out there and check it out.  This type of humor isn’t for everyone, but if you liked movies like Anchorman (2004), Hot Tub Time Machine (2010), Get Him to the Greek (2010), and/or The Hangover (2009); then I could see you enjoying this movie.  Watch it and let me know what you think!

A Message for Fans:
At the end of the movie, his last line is “I do”.  It’s a little hard to hear, but I heard it the second time watching it.  Next time watching the movie, try to find more one liners than I could.  I’m sure there are other funny ones out there.

A Message for Non-Fans:
I’ve heard that it has cheesy humor.  The reason that this movie didn’t get much attention is because the pretentious reviewers hated it and it spread to other reviewers like a disease.  This is why I stress the point that you should see a movie and judge it for yourself before saying, “It looks stupid,” or “I heard it was stupid.”  I’ll admit that it does have some potty humor, but it still has enough hilarity in it to make it enjoyable.

Potential Topics to Discuss:
Saturday Night Live
Will Forte/Kristen Wiig as an actor/actress
MacGyver
Over the top action films


Monday, February 21, 2011

When Harry Met Sally (1989)

When Harry Met Sally (1989)
Directed By: Rob Reiner
Starring: Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Carrie Fisher

The separation of feminine versus masculine movies has become more and more apparent over the years.  A group of guys can drive to the theatre, watch some TNT-fueled Ass-kicking by watching movies like The A-Team (2010) or The Expendables (2010) and get their testosterone pumpin’.   Or the ladies can have a ladies night out by watching movies like Sex and the City (2008) or the Twilight Saga (2008-?) and scream at the hot boys on the screen.  Given that both cases are huge over-simplifications and I’d never go so far as to label movies as Gender specific, rarely did we have Romance movies that wouldn’t gear towards a specific audience.  Enter the Romantic Comedy genre.  Geared towards no specific audience, what better way to bring in more people than to make them laugh while following a love story.  That is where When Harry Met Sally fits in.  It has its subtle and apparent humor as well as the typical cute romantic story line.  Rob Reiner adds a different blend of directing towards this film with the whole movie progressing forward with intermittent clips of real life couples.  These couples tell their stories about how they met which adds to the overall theme of love in this particular film.  But what separates When Harry Met Sally (1989) from newer Romantic Comedies?  Examples of newer Romantic Comedies are movies like Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008), Knocked Up (2007), etc.  These movies rely on the comedy of the plot to keep the audience entertained and the romance is then understated.  What I enjoy most about When Harry Met Sally is that the movie has a great balance of comedy and romance.


The movie goes through phases in which both Harry Burns (played by Billy Crystal) and Sally Albright (played by Meg Ryan) meet with each other in life.  It starts out with the first time they meet in College, where both are riding together to New York City.  Meg Ryan is driving this old beat up Subaru (classic!)  and waits impatiently for Billy Crystal.  As soon as he’s in the car, the relationship that they share starts to get its foundations.  I found the character of Harry as the funniest because of his modest humor.  When he’s eating the grapes and spitting out the seeds, he spits the first seeds right onto the window, and doesn’t say anything about it.  That is funny to the audience because its something we can relate to.  Its not ridiculous humor, it’s funny for its modesty.  Harry is also a very open person.  He describes his sexuality and his "dark side" very freely with Sally, a person to whom he’s just met.  Now does this describe your average college male?  I’d say probably not.  However, what better way to break the ice then to act like Harry Burns.  His rules for men/women relationships are classic.  Here are the rules:

1.)    Men and Women can’t be friends because the sex part gets in the way.  No man can be friends with a woman that he finds attractive.
2.)    Unless both of them are involved with other people, then they can... This is an amendment to the earlier rule. If the two people are in relationships, the pressure of possible involvement is lifted... That doesn't work either, because what happens then is, the person you're involved with can't understand why you need to be friends with the person you're just friends with. Like it means something is missing from the relationship and why do you have to go outside to get it? And when you say "No, no, no, no, it's not true, nothing is missing from the relationship," the person you're involved with then accuses you of being secretly attracted to the person you're just friends with, which you probably are. I mean, come on, who the hell are we kidding, let's face it. Which brings us back to the earlier rule before the amendment, which is men and women can't be friends.
3.)    There are two kinds of women.  Low Maintenance and High Maintenance.


The second time that he meets Sally is on an airplane, and he appends his rules like they are part of some sort of constitution.  This creates the effect that they continued talking right where they left off in New York.  They still retain their personality, but act more “mature”.  Costume and hair changes represent the advancement of the years, of course.  They both have a significant other in their lives at this point, which leads them away from any type of interest in one another.  It’s only until after both of those love lives leave them that they finally run into each other a third time and become friends.

What happened to Billy Crystal?  I remember watching him throughout the early to mid nineties, watching him host the Oscars for a couple years, and then poof, haven’t seen him in many movies since.  I find that a shame because I always enjoyed watching him act.  I think the last thing I remember him in was Analyze That (2002) or his voice in Monster Inc. (2001).  I mean, are there people out there that exist that didn’t enjoy him acting?  Of course, I’m biased towards him because I enjoy his acting, but maybe we haven't seen him because he decided to retire.  Some actors enjoy acting for their entire lives, while others make a decent buck and a decent flick, and are happy with their lives.  I should say, however, that they are thinking about making another Monsters Inc., and Billy Crystal’s voice works very well for his character.

What happened to Meg Ryan?  Time happened, that’s what.  Some people can take it, others can’t.  I can’t say that she didn’t need surgery.  That is completely her choice.   However, there are some things that you can’t fix.  Age is one of those things.  There are, however, numerous interesting to watch movies out there that suggest the opposite.   Some people actually come out looking years younger after surgery, and what we must realize is that it’s a gamble.  I prefer people to age naturally, but that’s my opinion on the matter.  Otherwise, I think Meg Ryan films ended somewhere after You’ve Got Mail (1998).

The best line of the movie is when Harry realizes that he loves Sally and runs to tell her the following:
“I love that you get cold when it's 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

To end this article, all I have to say is just enjoy watching the movie.  It can be very enjoyable to watch with your significant other or even by yourself.  There is really nothing to notice/pay attention to because it’s a rather simple plot.   Because of this, the article was pretty hard for me to write.  Not personally, but intellectually.  This movie is pretty self-explanatory, I’m sure I could spend maybe 10 minutes and have the entire movie summed up pretty well.  I had to discuss some random aspects, so the article may have jumped around a bit.  So if you’re ever confused while reading this article, ask questions, and I’ll answer them to the best of my abilities.

A Message to Fans:
If you enjoyed this movie, you'll also enjoy You've Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle.

A Message to Non-Fans:
Could be seen as too romantic for some, I can see that.  You may disagree that it has a good balance of humor and romance, however, even after Harry tells Sally he wants to spend the rest of his life with her, he tells a joke about the New Years song.  If you absolutely hate romance films, then take the easy road and stay away from this film.

Potential Topics to Discuss:
Open

Friday, February 11, 2011

Moon (2009)


Be Aware!  In order for me to properly write about this movie, I need to write about the plot; which will contain some major spoilers!




Moon (2009)
Directed By: Duncan Jones
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey

If you’ve ever thought about what it would be like to have “Cabin Fever” or being alone for years, then I’d suggest watching this movie.  Sam Rockwell does an amazing job portraying the effect.  I would say that this movie and Cast Away (2000) were pretty effective at portraying how humans are affected when left alone.  The effect of being by yourself is exemplified more in this film when we see the before and after effect of each clone side-by-side.  We’ve all thought about what it would be like if we were to be alone for years at a time.  Tom Hanks in Cast Away (2000) started talking to a Volleyball and Sam Rockwell learns how to play Ping Pong well.  However Rockwell plays a character far from a Fed Ex Employee stranded on an island.  His character works voluntarily by himself on the Moon.  He is an employee of a multi-national corporation called Lunar Industries that gives Earth all the power that it needs.  This power is called Helium-3 fusion (I know, it sounds like a product that Gillette makes), and surprisingly this type of power has been purposed.  If you know anything about chemistry or physics, you can look up the Wikipedia article on Helium-3 and read all about what has been suggested.  Here is a Scientific American article that provides an overall explanation that is understandable to someone that hasn’t studied chemistry or physics.


Let’s just say that it actually was possible.  Okay, so we learned how to induce two Helium-3 particles to fuse together to make Helium-4 and release energy.  A huge corporation controls this whole process and provides 70 percent of the Earths power.  I think I would be correct in saying that this corporation would probably make a decent amount of money.  So why would a company go through all the trouble to clone and genetically engineer hundreds if not thousands of said clones to die after three years just so they wouldn’t have to go through the trouble of training new people?  I mean come on!  Make a bunch of clones, sure!  But train a new guy every three years, now that’s ridiculous!  My sarcasm aside, here is a graph portraying the only feasible option to use clones:
Note that after a certain time, the cost of training people and sending them to the moon would one day cost more than the original price of cloning one man.  This, however, would probably take years to occur depending on the price of “cloning”.  I hate taking this realistic approach to judging a movie (especially a science fiction movie), however this one loop hole needed to be addressed.  Now that we have that out of the way, we can move on to discussing the actual movie.

Moon is a movie that I never expected to enjoy as much as I did.  I say that because it has a pretty freaking depressing plot.  The movie starts out with Sam Rockwell’s character (named Sam Bell) doing his daily routine.  His beard and long hair suggest how long he has been on the Moon.  It then shows us what he does, how he fills up his time, and the extent the loneliness has affected him.  He is so lonely that when he meets his clone, all he wants to do is touch him because he hasn’t touched another human being in what he believes is years.  We’ll get to what I mean about “what he believes” later.  We see him talking to his plants, to himself, and to his only other counterpart on the base; GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey).  GERTY is an interesting character in this film, because he perpetuates Lunar Industries plot to use clones for their process on the moon.  GERTY’s parallel to HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) was enjoyable, and it was a relief to see a robot that doesn’t end up murdering or plotting against humans.  The best thing about GERTY, however, was “his” use of emoticons (For the layman, an emoticon is a facial expression pictorially represented by punctuation and letters and is usually used to express the users mood; for example; J ).  These emoticon faces with Kevin Spacey’s voice, make GERTY a main character in the movie.  The relationship that GERTY and Sam share is crucial to understanding why GERTY ended up betraying the corporation and helping the newly awoken clone to escape.  GERTY lived with so many Sam Bell clones that he became more and more human.  His emotions force him to want to help out the decaying Sam Bell.  I say decaying, because that is really what is going on with his character.  It looks like radiation poisoning, but I’m sure it’s just his genetic code being unwound or something science like that.

The most confusing scene to me in the movie was when Sam burnt himself with hot water while filling up a cup.  During this scene, he sees a woman sitting a few meters away from him, which is why he burnt himself.  However this woman wasn’t the same actress who plays his wife Tess.  I don’t know if this was supposed to be some sort of hidden message, or just some random girl his mind made up.  He could have potentially seen the same person outside on the moon when he crashed his lunar rover.  I couldn't find a picture on the internet, but the random girl is a brunette that could be played by the same actress who plays his daughter.  I'd suggest watching the scene and letting me know what you think.  The person he saw outside on the moon looked like it had an astronaut suit on, so it could have been another clone or just a figment of his imagination.  Most likely he was just going crazy, but it’s just an interesting thought.  Perhaps he was programmed to go freaking crazy so that he couldn’t have done anything wrong?  (I know, that doesn’t make sense)  Also, it could have been a side effect of genetically engineering clones to die after a certain time, but what would I know; I’m not a cloner.


I would’ve liked to have known which clone he was, or what cycle of clones the base was on.  I thought about it a little bit, and judging from the original Sam being there for three years, and his daughter being born while he was there, we can extrapolate which clone he was.  So when Sam called his daughter near the end of the movie she was 17 years old (the actress who played her was that age).  If we say that his daughter was born near half-way through his contract, then 15-16 years had passed since the original Sam left the moon base.  Now here is the tricky part.  How long do these clones really last?  We could say three years, however GERTY wakes them up and they think that they’ve been in an accident while they’ve been on the base.  The point is that we don’t know how long these clones last.  For closures sake, let us say that they last for two years.  That would mean that the Sam that is dying would be the eighth clone and the Sam that heads to Earth is the ninth.   In the scene where GERTY lets him log on to see his contract, we can see videos of previous clones getting “disposed of”.  I have yet to count them and see how many different clones I can see on the screen, but it’s all just food for thought.

Moon uses two camera shots overlaid to create the effect of two Sam Rockwell’s.  Special mention should be given to Rockwell for acting so well during these shots.  His reactions are perfectly executed and it seems like someone is actually hitting him when his “clone” hits him.  I watched the special features on how they did it, and they used an interesting method to film the part where he is wrestling himself.  The double that they used for Sam Rockwell wore a green mask and then they filmed Sam Rockwell making a “struggling” face.  They then digitally put it over the green mask and voila!  Sam Rockwell has an identical twin.  It’s pretty interesting when movies use the same actor to play identical twins (or in this case clones) and then to put them into the same shot.  Some examples of movies like this are Nicholas Cage in Adaptation (2002), Leonardo DiCaprio in The Man in the Iron Mask (1997), Eddie Murphy in Bowfinger (1999), Lindsay Lohan in The Parent Trap (1998), and Edward Norton in Leaves of Grass (2010).  The interesting thing about older movies is they didn’t have the technology that we do today, so you really have to give credit to those movies.  I have yet to see Leaves of Grass, but I’ll probably watch it just because Edward Norton is in it (We all have our favorite actors). There are numerous other examples, including a handful of fighting/karate movies where the protagonist and antagonist are played by the same person (probably an ego thing; no one can beat me except myself).

All in all, Moon was rather enjoyable.  Who knows if it is a comment on corporate policy, cloning, or a thought about who would win in a game of Ping Pong against yourself?  Moon didn’t really have much advertising in the United States, and that was a shame because this movie deserves more recognition.  I think Sam Rockwell will become more and more of a mainstream actor and will probably stop getting parts as a villain in Iron Man 2 (2010), a villain in Charlie’s Angels (2000), a villain in the Green Mile (1999), a backstabbing con man in Matchstick Men (2003), and a hilarious Guy in Galaxy Quest (1999).  Also, if you haven’t seen Choke, and like author Chuck Palahniuk, then I suggest watching it.

A Message to Fans:
I’m there with you.  I’m not against you.  If you find that I’ve said anything here that offends your vision of how Science Fiction should be talked about, at ease!  I don’t write about movies that I find stupid, ridiculous, or boring (unless I’m writing a special article).  I really liked this movie, so don’t feel threatened.  If you disagree with something I said, let me know your version, I would love to hear about it!  Now that we’ve got that settled, here’s something to notice next time you watch Moon.  When the two clones are wrestling, watch the clone’s face that is in the headlock.  You can barely notice that it’s digitally put into the shot.

A Message for Non-Fans:
Like I have said before, if you don’t like Science Fiction, then I wouldn’t say that this movie isn’t for you.  It focuses more on the depressing nature of Sam Rockwell’s character more than the fact that the setting is on a moon base.  If you liked Sam Rockwell in other movies like Choke (2008), then you’ll enjoy his acting in this movie as well.

Interesting Fact: The director, Duncan Jones, is the son of singer David Bowie.

Potential topics to discuss:
Cloning: A reality?
Sam Rockwell as an actor
Helium-3 Fusion
Flow of the Film
Kevin Spacey as a voice
Cinematography