Monday, December 28, 2009


Release Date: December 18th, 2009

Click Here for the Avatar Trailer.

In the year 2154, after the people of earth have wasted nearly all of their natural resources, new means of energy must be found. Deep in the world of Pandora, a new mineral, unobtanium, that sells for $20 million a kilo is found and is immediately sought out by the RDA mining company headed by Parker Selfridge(Giovanni Ribisi). The only problem is that the native race of Pandora, the Na'Vi, has their village built upon the richest deposit of the mineral on the planet and they don't plan on going anywhere. Diplomacy seems lost until a young marine named Jake Sully(Sam Worthington) is entered into the Avatar program in place of his dead twin brother Tom. An Avatar is a cross breed between human DNA and Na'Vi DNA and can be controlled by the consciousness of the human.

Sam is considered an inadequate replacement for his brother by Dr. Grace Augustine(Sigourney Weaver), a biologist and head of the Avatar program, who reassigns Jake as a body guard while her and Norm Spellman(Joel David Moore), another scientist, take scientific samples of Pandora in their Avatar forms. On their first outing Jake gets separated from the group and is rescued by Neytiri(Zoe Saldana), princess of the Omaticaya clan of Na'Vi and the same clan whose home rests on the desired deposit of unobtanium. Neytiri decides to take Jake back to her village where he is spared by Eytucan(Wes Studi), chieftain of the Omaticaya and father of Neytiri. Neytiri's mother Mo'at(C.C.H. Pounder), who is also the tribes spiritual leader, tells Neytiri that she must train Jake in the ways of the Na'Vi so that he may try and understand their way of life.

When Jake awakens from his Avatar body, his commanding officer Colonel Miles Quaritch(Stephen Lang) tells him that he needs to gain the trust of the Na'Vi so he can get them to move from their home so the RDA can mine the unobtanium. But as Jake learns from Neytiri more and more, he slowly begins to realize that the Na'Vi are not the savages that he has been led to believe. But when Jake's deadline to get the Na'Vi out arrives, he must choose whether he sides with the humans or the Na'Vi in the battle that is undoubtedly going to happen.

Brewing in the mind of James Cameron for over 10 years, Avatar has finally made its way onto film. Cameron has stated on numerous accounts that the reason for the delay in the film is that he did not believe the technology was ready for his envisioning of the film. After seeing this film, I can tell you first hand that the technology is definitely up to par now.

If you come to see Avatar expecting to solely see an all out action movie, you will be disappointed. If you come seeking a straight up drama, you will be disappointed. If you come thinking you are going to solely see a sci-fi epic reminiscent of Star Wars or Star Trek you will be disappointed. However, should you come into Avatar expecting to see a film with portions of each of these film types blended into one beautifully drawn out film then you will find what you are looking for.

Avatar has got to be the most visually stunning movie I have ever seen. Using motion capture technology, Cameron was able to film each individual actor acting out exactly what you see their animated character do on screen. Because of this technology, it is almost impossible to tell that the creatures you are seeing on screen are not, in fact, real living beings. Never have I seen such a beautiful piece of cinema as I did in Avatar. The rich and luscious world of Pandora was brought to live with incredible creatures and magnificent colors that were so beautiful it made you want to live there.

what stunned me the most was the enormous amount of creativity it took for Cameron to create this film. Cameron created an entire race of people, an entire language, hierarchy, planet, ecosystem and creatures among other things all with their own individuality and unique characteristics. I was blown away by the amount of detail Cameron implemented into his film. Every little detail, every little nuance was added to this film which is one of the reasons, I believe, makes it so entertaining.

Cameron also added an all-star cast to finish out his masterpiece with top name actors and actresses like Sigourney Weaver, Giovanni Ribisi. Stephen Lang, Zoe Saldana and Sam Worthington. This marks Weaver's first major film release in a while and she came back with a bang as Dr. grace Augustine. I thought she did a really good job as the scientist used to having things done her way. I was really impressed on how her character interacted with the Na'Vi and thought that Weaver did an excellent job of bridging the gap between the no-nonsense scientist she appeared to be in the beginning and the caring, Na'Vi sympathizer she came out to be deeper in the film. Sam Worthington, who made a name for himself in the recent Terminator: Salvation did an incredible job with his character as well. His chemistry between co-star Zoe Saldana(Star Trek) was very believable and I thought the two of them worked really well together on screen. It made for a very nice transition when they went from Saldana'a character hating Worthington's at first to the two of them eventually falling in love.

Overall, Avatar is a stunning piece of cinematic beauty. No other movie compares to the rich beauty and life that Cameron created on Pandora and no other film has made animated characters feel more alive than the ones in Avatar seemed. If you have the opportunity to see it in 3D or Imax Digital 3D then I strongly recommend it. It will blow you away seeing the beautiful world created by Cameron actually close enough to touch.

I give Avatar 10 Nine foot tall human/alien hybrids out of 10.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Blind Side

Release Date: November 20th, 2009

Click here for The Blind Side Trailer.

Michael Oher(Quinton Aaron) is a homeless 18-year-old from a broken home, struggling to find a place to sleep every night. While living with his friend, Michael is taken to the private school Wingate Christian where he receives a scholarship so he can play sports. Michael is severely unprepared for the high class learning at Wingate and struggles to fit in and pass classes. All the teachers believe Michael to just be a big dumb kid except for his Biology teacher Mrs. Boswell(Kim Dickens). Mrs. Boswell decides to give Michael a verbal exam and realizes that his problem is that he has a very low reading level but that he pays attention in class and absorbs the information he is given.

While leaving a volleyball game for their daughter Collins(Lily Collins), Leigh Anne Tuohy(Sandra Bullock) and her husband Sean Tuohy(Tim McGraw) see Michael walking along the street towards the gym. They stop to ask him if he has a place to stay and when he says no, the Tuohy's invite him to stay in their house. When the Tuohy's awake in the morning, Leigh Anne finds Michael walking down the driveway. Leigh Anne tells Michael that he can stay with the Tuohy's as long as possible. Leigh Anne decides to take Michael to where he thought his mom lived so they could pick up some of his clothes. When they arrive at an apartment on the opposite side of town, Michael sees that his mom was evicted and that he doesn't know where she is now.

Leigh Anne decides to take Michael to a big and tall store to get him some new clothes where Michael picks out an assortment of striped rugby shirts. At the Tuohy's home, Michael begins to form a close friendship with the Tuohy's son S.J.(Jae Head). As Michael begins to live with the Tuohy's, they encourage Michael to go out for football, but before he can do that he has to get his grades up. With the Tuohy's help, Michael is able to get his grades up enough to play football. When try outs begin, Michael does poorly because he had never played before. Leigh Anne is called into school one day after Mr. Tuohy signed off as Michale's medical contact. While at the school, Leigh Anne learns that Michael tested low on his skills test in all categories except protective instincts, in which he got a 98%.

Learning this, Leigh Anne decides to go to football practice to see how Michael is doing. While there she sees Michael struggling and his coach, Coach Cotton(Ray McKinnon), not being supportive. Leigh Anne decides to interrupt practice and fix Michael's problem. she tells him to protect the quarterback like he protected her when they went to the other side of town to find his mother and to protect the running back like he protects S.J. Understanding this concept, Michael does a complete turn around and begins playing like he had been for doing it for years. Coach tells Michael that he is going to have to work hard so he begins training with S.J. non-stop to get into it.

At the first game, Michael starts to play like he did at the beginning of the season because the team runs pass plays and he gets confused. In the stands the Tuohy's watch as Michael gets beat by the opposing teams star linebacker whose father is in the stands making crude comments towards Michael. Michael finally realizes what he has to do and orders the play to run to his side. When it does, Michael hits the linebacker and drives him all the way down field and pushes him over the end field fence as Leigh Anne Tuohy comments that Michael is her son. The rest of the game, Michael dominates and the team goes on to win. S.J., who was filming the game, posts a video of Michael driving the other player down field on the internet and it reaches the offices of some of the best NCAA football programs in the country.

Before long, coaches and scouts from the country's top football programs are coming to Wingate Christian to watch Michael practice. But before Michael can even look at going to play in college, he has to pick up his grades, something he has struggled with all year. To help with his grades, The Tuohy's hire Miss Sue(Kathy Bates), a tutor, who helps Michael study and improve his grades. While trying to become eligible for college football, all of Michael's teachers agree to give him oral exams except for his English professor who tells Leigh Anne that the only way he will pass is by doing well on the written paper due at the end of the year. Michael struggles on what to write about, but with help from Mr. Tuohy Michael was able to find a topic and pass his class.

When Michael is trying to decide on a college to attend he picks Ole Miss, which happened to be the alma mater of both Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy and even Miss Sue. After making his decision, Michael is brought under investigation by the NCAA, who think that the Tuohy's only brought Michael into their family and helped him in school and football so they could convince him to go to Ole Miss. Michael convinces the NCAA that the reason he wanted to go to Ole Miss is because that is where his family, the Tuohy's, went and that he wanted to be more like the family. Michael went on to play four years at Ole Miss and became the number one draft pick for the Baltimore Ravens in the 2009 NFL draft.

Based on the true story of Michael Oher, The Blind Side delivers a powerfully dramatic story and shows that it is one of the best films of the year. True stories always seem to do well in theaters. While people love to watch huge blockbusters, tons of action, major laughs etc... that is typically involved with our movies nowadays, it seems what they like even more are stories about real life. Such is the case with The Blind Side.

The movie is based primarily on the book The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis which documents Oher's rough upbringing all the way through his football career. The movie is being haled as one of the best ones of the year and I can see why. Newcomer Quinton Aaron gave a powerful performance and Sandra Bullock gave one of her best performances of her career.

This film is one of those that finds a nice balance between genres. While primarily a drama about hard times and different walks of life, the film does incorporate other genres, like comedy, into the film. I like that it didn't focus solely on drama. I think it ruins movies if you have a dram overload, like the recent movie Precious. Precious was all drama while The Blind Side was dramatic, funny, heart warming, enjoyable and just all around good. Sandra Bullock was spectacular as Leigh Anne Tuohy. It seemed that Bullock got back to her roots of acting and gave her all for this film, and it payed off. Bullock seemed to really be comfortable in the role and really made the character her own. Quinton Aaron also did an excellent job as the young Michale Oher. The 6'10" actor seemed really comfortable on screen and appeared that he could handle a role like this. I would bet we will see more of Aaron in the future as he continues his career.

As for the story, its hard to critique being as it is a true story and didn't come from somebody's imagination. What I can critique is how it was portrayed and directed however. Coming from director John Lee Hancock who did such films as The Rookie(2002) and The Alamo(2004), this movie was shot really well. The direction of the film was good and it did a good job of showing contrast between the suburban well off lifestyle of the Tuohy family and the run down, hard way of life seen in the ghettos of the film.

Overall I was very pleased with this film. It wasn't on my "must see" list and, to be honest, the only reason I saw it was because I was invited to go by a group of friends. But I can honestly say that I am very happy I went to see it because it truly was a heart warming experience. I have yet to shed a tear over entertainment. Be it on tv or in dramatic movies, nothing really makes me choke up and cry. While a movie may be touching, sad, dramatic, heart warming etc... nothing ever works on me like that. But The Blindside almost, key word being almost, made me shed a tear, which says something about how this movie is. I will say that this movie really is one of the best movies of the year and definitely one you will not want to miss.

I give The Blind Side 9 Blind Sides out of 10