The Hangover: Part II Review

The Wolfpack may be back in The Hangover: Part II, but they did not bring all of the energy, uniqueness and absolute hilarity that they had in the first installment.  The sequel to one of the greatest comedies in history is not a bad film by any means, but to call it a disappointment would not be a false statement.

The Hangover: Part II brings the entire crew of oddball characters (a major mistake by the creative team) from the first installment to Thailand where Stu (Ed Helms) is going to have his wedding with Lauren (Jamie Chung; Heather Graham as Stu's stripper girlfriend from the original is the only actor that doesn't return for the sequel).  The wolfpack (Helms, Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis) reassembles before the wedding for a quick beer on the beach with Lauren's brother, Teddy (Mason Lee; the director Ang Lee's son). Once again something goes terrible wrong as the wolfpack wakes up in a Bangkok hotel with a smoking monkey, Teddy's severed finger, something mysterious under a blanket and no memory of how they got there.

I have to give credit to the creative team (Todd Phillips is back as director and also writes this one with Scot Armstrong and Craig Mazin) for at least having the original intent of making a sequel for creative purposes only (The sequel was green-lit before the first film even reached theaters).  Somewhere between the opening of the first installment and the creation of the second, however, someone decided to make this into a lazily written follow-up that would insure a good opening weekend (at the time of this writing it is actually heading for the best opening weekend of the year).  Not a single risk was made in the creative process of this film.  The screenwriters even go out of the way to include all of the characters (I am looking at the inclusion of Ken Jeong's Chang when talking about this).  Some of the plot lines involving these periphery characters become extreaneous.  Despite this, the film is filled with almost as many great one-liners as the first and continues to develop the central trio into three of the most iconic characters in recent cinema history.

The thing that really saves this film is the phenomenal acting by the main three.  Bradley Cooper has less of a presence in this film compared to the first but he is still the perfect straight man to the other two.  Ed Helms is even better than this one than the first.  Sequels mean bigger and louder story lines and Helm's larger role leads to even more hilarious shenanigans on his part.  Once again Helm has the most diverse role as he sings ("Alan Town" is another hit but not as good as "Stu's Song"), has the main romance (and he has great chemistry with Jamie Chung) and has some dark moments (Helms doesn't fail to make the audience cringe multiple times at some of his antics).  Zach Galifianakis is yet again the film's major scene stealer.  He's so good at stealing scenes in this one that he will steal them away from the other two while they are talking in the fore front and he is in the background (The best example of this involves a boat anchor).  Galifianakis's Alan is also (fortunately) given more screen time as the creators knew what the audience really wanted.  I think it is safe to say that Galifianakis's Alan is on the path to be considered one of the great screen characters of all-time.

The rest of the cast is a no show.  Ken Jeong's schtick was about to wear thin by the end of the first installment so it was a grave error to bring him back and give him an even larger role.  Mason Lee is subpar as the new lost missing friend.  He does not have the chemistry Justin Bartha (who is also back in a small role in this one) had with the main three actors.  The rest of the cameos and small parts don't really do anything for the film.

Many of the behind-the-scene aspects of the film are exact copies of the original (cinematography and score especially).  The editing, of this film, is the only thing about the film that made a deviation from the film.  A car chase and and a crazy hallucination by Alan are prime examples of how good the editing really is in this film.

If you are looking for a good (and a very outrageous) time at the movie theater, then The Hangover: Part II is the film for you.  If you are looking for a great film or something on par with the first installment, look elsewhere.


Lost Review: 1 Year Later

Lost can be described in 4 words: Lightning in a bottle.  Lost was a show that found the perfect combination of science fiction concepts, intense drama, and great character development, and used all of this throughout an amazing (well mostly) six season run.  Lost was a one-of-a-kind show that may have influenced numerous shows but will never be successfully copied.

Lost followed survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 (a plane that crashed on a mystical island) as they tried to survive polar bears, a mysterious group of natives known as the Others, a smoke monster and (of course) themselves.  However, the title Lost is also a double entendre.  These characters were not only lost on an island, but lost (metaphorically speaking) in their own lives.  This is where Lost's great gimmick of flashbacks (and later in the series, flashforwards and flashsideways) came into play.

J.J. Abrams may be given a lot of the credit for Lost (and he does deserve a lot of the credit for "The Pilot" which was something television had never seen before on a blockbuster scale), but the true masterminds behind Lost were Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse.  Lindelof and Cuse (or as Lost fans affectionately call them "Darlton") created a grand epic.  Darlton and the writing staff did at times give us material that was filled with cheesy lines (just look at "Across the Sea" which was filled ridiculous lines that not even the great Allison Janney could pull off) but they never committed the ultimate sin (which most shows of this genre commit) of treating the plot as being more important than the characters.  Darlton and company not only created great characters but never made them serve the plot, the plot served them.  The best example of this occurs early in season 6 when Sawyer breaks off from the main group of characters.  A lesser show of this genre would have him find something that would begin a new plot line for the show.  The character would be serving the plot.  Instead, the episode spends the rest of the episode trying to find some alone time to death with the death of Juliet.  While Lost was a sprawling epic that covered multiple decades (and dimensions) it always followed the characters there.  Sure, some complaint about the ending of Lost not giving us all of the answers to the questions raised during the plot (and they do have a right to be), but Darlton gave all of those characters one helluva ending.

Another impressive feat pulled off by Darlton was that they could at any moment change the nature of the show.  This was a show where anything could and would happen at any given moment.  Gamechanger is probably the most overused word in critiquing television (actually overrated is but gamechanger is up there).  However, Lost was definitely one show that actually deserved the word gamechanger attached to it.  This was a show that completely flipped itself on its head in the season 3 finale, "Through the Looking Glass" when it revealed that what we were witnessing was not a flashback but a flashforward (thus changing the entire narrative nature of the series) and that some of the characters got off the island (something most viewers thought wouldn't happen until the end of the series).  More on "Through the Looking Glass" for a moment: This episode is Darlton's writing at its finest and probably includes the ultimate twist ending in television history.  This was also a show that killed off its second most important character in John Locke (the antithesis to the main character, Jack Shephard) in the third season.  It suffices to say that Lost was a show that was willing to take major risks and most of them worked out.

Not only did the nature of the show change constantly but so did the crew.  Many skilled writers and directors went on to other projects during the first half of the series (J.J. Abrams only involvement in the show post season 1 was writing the season 3 opener "A Tale of Two Cities", David Fury, a two time Emmy winner, left after the first season, and the show's best writer, Drew Goddard, left in the fourth season to work on Cloverfield).  More on Drew Goddard for a moment: This guy wrote what is easily one of my top 3 favorite episodes in the series with "The Man From Tallahassee" and should be the one credited for the season 3 revival of the show as he wrote two of the other most acclaimed episodes with "One of Us" and "The Man Behind the Curtain" so he was a major loss when he left.  Despite all of these losses, Darlton were able to keep the quality going.  They made one of the smartest in television history by making an ABC announce an end date for the series (This move made Season 4 the fast paced and perfectly constructed season that it is).  They also developed a knack of being masters of the twist.  The best example of this is when they revealed in the premiere of season 6 that Locke was actually the Man in Black and the smoke monster.  This was set up way back in the season 5 episode, "Dead is Dead", where Locke suddenly disappears and the smoke monster suddenly appears at the same time.  Surprisingly, and to the writers' credit, nobody caught this until the reveal.

After, J.J. Abrams directed the pilot, you would think the quality of direction would go down (Abrams is one of the best in the business after all).  The directors of Lost (most specifically Jack Bender) proved the audience wrong.  Jack Bender truly deserves to be heralded as one of the best directors in the business.  Just look at who directed all of the best episodes of Lost.  The ones that truly were revolutionary.  "Exodus", "Through the Looking Glass", "The Constant": Jack Bender directed them all.  Despite all of these accomplishments, Bender's true masterpiece of direction is "The End".  Bender takes a script that in other hands would look ridiculous on screen and turns it into a stunning achievement.  He recreates scenes from past seasons with apparent ease (when in fact this is a difficult task to pull off) and creates the most satisfying ending possible with the material.  Scenes such as the waterfall scene, the opening with the casket and, of course" the final scene are true tour de forces of directing.

Despite all of the great work from the creative minds of Lost, the ultimate achievement of this series is the ensemble.  It would be easy to make a case for Lost having the best ensemble in television history.  Let's start with the creme de la creme: Michael Emerson and Terry O'Quinn.  I think it is safe to say that Lost would not be what it is today without Michael Emerson's Benjamin Linus.  The man pretty much singlehandedly saved season 2 by bringing in some much needed ambiguousness and uneasiness.  Following season 2, Emerson turned Benjamin Linus into an icon by deftly portraying a perfect combination of psychopathic darkness and unfulfilled ambition.  Michael Emerson also proved to be the most versatile actor of the bunch as he could in any given scene be funny, scary or even be able to play a noble figure.  Michael Emerson turned Benjamin Linus as the villain we all wanted to root for.  The true MVP of the cast, however, is Terry O'Quinn.  O'Quinn was given the enormous challenge of playing three different characters during the course of the series.  The result was an iconic character in John Locke, a great villain in the Man in Black and a classic tragic figure in the limbo version of John Locke.  O'Quinn also had amazing range on the series (although not as much as Emerson) as he bounced between playing a completely good character to one that was evil and scary.  A true testament to O'Quinn's acting is when the real John Locke once again emerges in the final hour of the series.  The transformation almost feels as if it is an event, as if the true Christ has come back.  O'Quinn has a huge presence and can nail any emotional scene (just look at "Dues Ex Machina", "The Man From Tallahassee" or "The Candidate").  He is a true acting god.  The most important contribution these two actors make to the show, however, is their chemistry.  "Terry O'Quinn and Michael Emerson" should be listed in every dictionary for the definition of chemistry.  These two may be acting gods but when together, they are acting titans.  Daniel Day Lewis would even look puny in a scene with these two.

Another strong performance came from Matthew Fox.  Rarely did O'Quinn and Emerson overshadow the true lead of the show.  Fox received a lot of hate for his performance in season 4 and season 5, but in reality, this was just the writing of the character.  Jack Shephard was written as a heroic character that was not a leader.  He needed to be a man that would make mistakes that caused terrible things because, in the end, he would be the one that found true redemption.  Fox is given the character that is written most symmetrically.  Major credit has to be given to Fox for portraying this character with such subtlety.  Sure, he did have a lot of big, emotional moments (such as in "Through the Looking Glass") but Jack Shephard's greatest moments were the much quieter ones.  "The End" is a perfect example of this.  Jack and Fox's best moments in this episode were the moment of silence where Jack tells Hurley he is going to die (all done with only facial expressions by the masterful Fox) and the moment Jack realizes that he has died and is in some sort of afterlife (impeccable line reading done by Fox in this scene).  Fox was worthy leader of this amazing cast.

The rest of the strong supporting men include Adewale Akkinuoye-Agbaje, Naveen Andrews, Nestor Carbonell, Jeremy Davies, Jorge Garcia, Josh Holloway and Dominic Monaghan.  Adewale Akkinuoye-Agabje may not have been on the show long (his amount of episode appearances probably only amounted to a season's worth) but he left a presence.  This all due to his considerable acting ability.  Agabje played the mystical Mr. Eko and could at times fill Terry O'Quinn's shoes as the island's source of mystery (a monumental achievement).  Naveen Andrews had one of the worst written characters in Sayid (I mean the zombie Sayid was not only ridiculous, but served no purpose in the larger story) so it is to his credit that Sayid was such a likable character among fans and critics.  It is also worth mentioning that Andrews had the most physical role on the show, and he made Sayid a believable tough guy.  Nestor Carbonell's Richard Alpert was always the character that never got enough screen time.  So I was stunned when Carbonell gave a performance for the ages by carrying the screen by himself and speaking in multiple languages in "Ab Aeterno".  Jeremy Davies didn't come onto the show until later in its run but he is still gives one of the most memorable performances on the show as Daniel Faraday.  Some may say that Davies schtick is wearing thin (he has a very quirky and antsy like demeanor in almost of his roles), but he breathes new life into it with this performance as Daniel Faraday is his most relatable performance (and the one filled with the most heart).  Jorge Garcia is perfect as playing the "voice of the audience" for the show.  His Hugo "Hurley" Reyes is the most relatable character on the show and the one character that is completely good.  Garcia got so good as playing the "voice of the audience" that the audience would actually start reacting the way Hurley did to certain events.  I heard of numerous instances after "The Candidate" in which the moment people admitted to getting teary eyed over was the moment when Hurley broke down in grief and not the big deaths of Sun, Jin and Sayid.  I will admit that even I got teary eyed when Hurley realized Jack was going to die in "The End".  The final thirty minutes of "The End" are a tour de force of acting by Jorge Garcia.  Josh Holloway deserved the most improved actor award.  During the first season, Holloway was just visual material (although he could also give out great one liners).  By the end of the series, Holloway was right up there with Emerson and O'Quinn as one of the best performances of the show.  Most of this improvement has to do with the immediate chemistry he was able to develop with Elizabeth Mitchell.  Who would have honestly thought that Sawyer and Juliet would make a good (let alone great) couple?  Holloway turned Sawyer into a multi-layered rogue and deserves much of the credit for the icon status the character receives.  In the beginning, Dominic Monaghan was on the show to pull in the ratings.  By the end of his stint on Lost, Monaghan proved he could change his once annoying character into a painstakingly dead man walking.

The women might not have been as plentiful on the series, but they were just as good led by L. Scott Caldwell, Yunjin Kim, Rebecca Mader, Elizabeth Mitchell and Sonya Walger.  L. Scott Caldwell turned what could have easily been a background character into a fan favorite with Rose. It is easily to find out how this occurred as Caldwell easily displays a motherly-like quality in every aspect of her delivery.  Yunjin Kim might have had the toughest role to pull off in the show with Sun.  She had to speak in multiple languages throughout the entire series, and, at times, she had to play the antagonist to the heroes of the show.  Yet, Sun was always one of the most loved characters on the show.  This is all thanks to Kim pulling off the role.  Rebecca Mader got little screen time (I don't think she even appeared in 20 episodes), but she was able to build up great chemistry with Jeremy Davies in that small time.  Daniel and Charlotte were a great couple.  Mader was also aces at being able to play an ambiguous character.  Elizabeth Mitchell was the powerhouse among the female actors.  As Juliet, she could pull off chemistry with anyone (whether it be Matthew Fox or Josh Holloway or even Evangeline Lilly).  Anytime, she was given one of those Oscar scenes (one of those big time emotional scenes such as many of her flashback scenes with Michael Emerson) she would use it to full potential and deliver a knockout performance ("One of Us" is the best example).  Sonya Walger was part of the best couple on the show (Herny Ian Cusick created the other half but his acting was inconsistent--at times he was amazing like in "Live Together, Die Alone" but at other times he overacted like in most of season 4).  As Penny she had perfect chemistry with Henry Ian Cusick and a great sense of grace.

The rest of the cast was good, but they weren't Emmy worthy.  The only true weak link was Evangeline Lilly who was just bland in every aspect.  Even when the writers gave her great material, such as in "The End", she could not pull anything worth mentioning out of it.

The behind the camera aspects of the show could at times be a mixed bag (though when they were on, they were amazing).  The one true consistency of the show was Michael Giacchino's masterful score.  Giacchino created themes for every character and for every location.  He truly gave life to the series.  Giacchino's score is an instant classic (probably the best ever on television) and the fact that he only won one Emmy (while Sean Callery won for his inferior work on 24 twice in that span) is a grave error by the Academy.  The editing was also pretty good and consistent.  Lost could definitely be confusing at times but imagine what it would be like without good editing.  The cinematography would at times leave much to be desired, but the work in "The Pilot" and "The End" were phenomenal.  The costume design was nothing special but the art direction was aces.  The island really felt like a character on the show.  A lot of that has to do with the writing and directing of the show, but without a distinct look from the art direction, that could not have been pulled off as effectively.  The visual effects started off with amazing quality (the pilot could have been released as a summer movie) but became laughably bad by series end (the submarine in season 5 was an atrocity).  The sound mixing left much to be desired but the sound editing (especially the editing for the monster effects) were phenomenal.

Lost was by no means a perfect show.  Then again, there really is no such thing as a perfect show.  Every show has some sort of imperfection.  What Lost did that made it great was that it found perfection within imperfection.  Lost  took every risk it possibly could and is much better for it.  Could a show like Lost ever exist in the future?  It may be possible to catch "lightning in a bottle" twice but it is very rare.


The Office: Season 7

In recent years The Office seemed like a show that was showing it's age.  There was a big drop off in quality after season 3.  Season 5 did represent a comeback for the show but that was quickly wasted by the atrocity known as season 6.  Season 7 turned out to be an erratic season that had some of the best episodes in the entire series' run but also had some moments that reminded me of season 6.

This season of The Office dealt with the departure of Steve Carell.  Although Michael Scott did announce his departure until late in the season, Carell's departure had a presence from the very beginning.  This entire season really played as a swan song to both Steve Carell and Michael Scott.

Paul Lieberstein (who also plays Toby) and Mindy Kaling (who also plays Kelly) continue to be the show runners of the series and Jeffrey Blitz continued to be the main director for the series.  This creative team was given a huge opportunity with the Carell/Scott departure, and, for the most part, they used this opportunity effectively.  The season really felt like the first season of fellow Thursday night comedy Community.  Both seasons had some phenomenal episodes but never really found a true rhythm.  While I hope that this creative team uses the momentum they now have to make a completely successful season like Community did this year, Community didn't have it's star leave at the end of the season.

Lieberstein and company always made sure that the audience knew that Carell was going to leave this season (hints were dropped at the beginning of the season when Michael said he would rather quit his job than have counseling with Toby).  This was definitely not the most effective way of dealing with the departure early in the season as they hints never developed into anything and it seemed like the series was stalling until it could finally begin the departure arc.  That's not to say the first half of the season had its moments.  "Andy's Play" showed that the hints about Carell's departure weren't the only changes being made to the show this season.  Supporting players were given episodes the centered around them and the most successful of these episodes was this one that centered on Ed Helm's Andy.  Another early episode was the perfect representation of the season.  That episode was "Christening" (the episode centering on the christening of Pam and Jim's daughter and Michael's attempts to get their attention) and it tried some new and interesting story techniques (this episode was notably darker and once again gave Ed Helms a lot of screen time).  However, not all of them worked.  It was a mixed bag.  In the end, I respected the episode (and the season) completely and kind of liked it.

The season really kicked into gear when Holly (Amy Ryan) returned into "Classy Christmas" (one of their best Christmas episodes and a great showcase for Carell's acting) and the departure arc began.  The departure arc was one of the best arcs the show has ever done (right up there with the Michael Scott Paper Company arc).  Some of the highlights included "Threat Level Midnight" (which was a complete love letter to the fans but a good one at that), "Garage Sale" (it turns out that Steve Carell is not only a great actor and writer, but a good director too), "Michael's Last Dundies" (a sequel that actually lives up to the original) and  of course the amazing send-off to Michael, "Goodbye, Michael".  "Goodbye, Michael" was an episode that started off slow with the very distracting Will Ferrell guest appearance but slowly built up until I was floored (and left teary-eyed) by the final scene in the airport.  The writing, directing and acting by Carell and Jenna Fischer are all top notch in this scene (It actually is the best scene in any television series this season).

The last three episodes did suggest to me that this show could, surprisingly, survive without Steve Carell.  "The Inner Circle" actually made Will Ferrell's character watchable. "Dwight K. Schrute, (Acting) Manager" might have been the episode I laughed at the most this season and "Search Committee"was a great showcase for the ensemble (especially Rainn Wilson who really stepped up his game after Carell left and he would definitely be my pick to take his position as the lead of the show).

Some other things I would like to point out:
-This season probably had as many guest stars as guest star crazy (and fellow Thursday night comedy) 30 Rock has and most of them were a waste of time.  Exception has to be noted for Ricky Gervais' first appearance as David Brent (although his appearance in the finale was a great example of a waste of time) and the always great Amy Ryan.
-This was the first season that Jim and Pam really became annoying to me (although Jenna Fischer redeemed Pam with the last batch of episodes).
-Ellie Kemper is definitely the most improved member of the cast.  She changed a character that was the least interesting end of a love triangle into the best female character on the show.

I am still very worried about this next season of  The Office, but the cast and crew proved with this season that there is potential for continued success (and provided a perfect sendoff for one of the best characters in comedy tv ever).  Now we just have to hope Steve Carell finally gets his way overdue Emmy!


Thor Review

Summer movie season has finally begun and that can only mean crazy visual effects, obnoxious action sequences and cheesy dialogue, which (for better or worse) sums up Thor to a capitol T.  Thor has some admirable traits and many great parts.  However, it also has some shameful aspects (such as the atrocious 3D) and has a lot of trouble putting all of its interesting parts together.

Thor follows the titular character (Chris Hemsworth) who is a very arrogant prince of Asgard (the most important and fantastical kingdom in the universe).  However, his arrogance leads him to invade the home of the frost giants and destroys a truce between them and the Asgardians.  His father and ruler of Asgard, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), banishes him to Earth until he truly learns how to be a good king.  While he is gone, evil begins to stir in Asgard.

Thor is directed by ,of all people, Shakespearean actor Kenneth Branagh.  The film is written by Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz (both Fringe writers) and Don Payne (The Simpsons).  Kenneth Branagh's direction of the film is only adequate.  He would definitely be the director I wold have chosen to film the project.  Unfortunately, the script does not help him at all.  Miller, Stentz and Payne's script follows every cliche ever written (a female lead that is in the film only to fall in love with the main character, a side kick character that doles out snappy one liners, etc).  Even worse the script never allows any of the characters to be in any real danger.  They give the characters unlimited power (even when they die they come back to life).  All tension is completely erased with this script.  Luckily, Branagh's expertise with Shakespeare allows the Asgard storyline (which has a lot of Shakespearean qualities and has the best relationship in the movie) to really standout.  Branagh does handle the Earth material so well.

The acting in the film is a mixed bag.  Chris Hemsworth is indeed a star in the making.  This is a very similar performance to that of Chris Pine in Star Trek (Hemsworth actually played the father of Pine's character in that film).  He is able to handle all of the physical and emotional aspects of the character and he is also surprisingly able to handle the comedic aspects.  Hemsworth perfectly creates a larger than life character.  The second standout of the cast is Tom Hiddleston as Loki.  Hiddleston creates one of the better film villains in the past few years.  He makes Loki a creepy and scary figure, yet you still feel for pity for the character (despite many of his despicable actions).  He also has dynamite chemistry with Anthony Hopkins (definitely one of the best father-son relationships on screen in a while).  Natalie Portman, on the otherhand, does not seem like she is an Oscar winning actress.  This is probably her worst role ever.  She has no chemistry with Hemsworth and even worse she cannot handle the cheesy dialogue (many moments recall back the Star Wars days).  Portman is not given a good character to work with but as an Oscar winner she should be able to get past a poor script (something which Anthony Hopkins was able to do).  Stellan Skarsgard is good but is not given much in this film (although a scene after the credits suggests he may get some good material in The Avengers). The final major role belongs to Kat Dennings as Portman's snappy sidekick.  A lot of her comments during the film got big laughs form the audience.  I, on the otherhand, was scratching my head over what they found to be so funny.  Her delivery seemed to be off and her character is poorly written.  The one fun thing about the cast was the cameos.  Stan Lee has the best as a truck driver and it was great seeing Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye.

The behind the camera aspects of the film are also a mixed bag.  The art direction is very well done.  Asgard is a very interesting world as the art directors perfectly combine many medieval aspects with some sci-fi aspects.  What on paper reads as a cheesy and weird combination turns out to be the best part of the film.  There is nothing special about the aural and other visual components of the film.  However, I may not have the best opinion on the visual effects for the film.  They appeared to be very distorted and unrealistic, but that was due to the horrible 3D used for the film.  See this film in 2D.  This is the worst 3D I have ever seen (although I admit I did not see Clash of the Titans in 3D).

Thos is a film I very much wanted to like.  It has a great cast, it has an interesting choice for a director and it is setting up one of my most anticipated films of next year.  However, some horrible 3D, a lackluster script and a poor performance by Natalie Portman prevented me from truly liking it.


Last Night

The relationship drama is a tough genre to pull off correctly.  If you play it to real, it can be boring or off-putting to the average audience member.  If you play it to fake, it quickly falls into terrible melodrama.  Last Night almost finds the right balance, but unfortunately can't bring all of the parts together.

Last Night follows a young, married couple played by Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington.  At a party the couple go to, Joanna (Knightley) sees Michael (Worthington) talking alone to a woman (Eva Mendes).  Joanna becomes suspicious as the woman is revealed to be a coworker of Michael's who is also about to go on the business trip Michael is to leave for the next day.  The next day (with Michael gone), Joanna runs into an old flame (Guillaume Canet).  The rest of the movie follows what may or may not happen between the four characters.

Last Night is directed and written by Massy Tadjedin (The Jacket).  Tadjedin's script is good enough for a viewer to sit through, but, make no mistake, it is barely just good enough.  Not one single risk is taken throughout the entire film, and it is no surprise that this film took a while before making it into theaters.  There is just not a lot for a viewer to see in this film.  However, there is something there that allowed me to sit through this entire film.  Maybe, it is the realistic dialogue.  Maybe, it is the fact that Tadjedin allowed some of the plot to follow into melodrama.  Maybe, Tadjedin actually found that rare balance between the two.  However, Tadjedin makes a fatal error with the ending of the movie.  If I looked at who wrote this film before watching it (and looked at what gender she was), I could have easily figured out the ending.  Might the ending even be a little bit sexist?  Maybe, but there is not enough evidence to accuse Tadjedin about that.  As for her direction, Tadjedin brings nothing to the table, but it was probably a pro for this film that she directed her own material.

The acting ensemble was just okay.  Keira Knightley created a good lead character.  She nailed a lot of the nuances in her character, but she surprisingly struggled with playing the more dramatic scenes.  This is by far not one of her best roles but it is good nonetheless.  With Sam Worthington, I have not been able to decide if he is a good actor or even if he even has acting potential yet.  That is until this film.  I found him to be the best part about Terminator Salvation, but then again it didn't take much talent to stand out from the rest of the acting in that movie.  I found him to be perfectly casted in Avatar but I would not say that was a great performance.  Despite that, I thought Worthington had potential as an actor at that time.  That was until, Clash of the Titans where gave a very poor performance.  Was this just a fluke?  Or were the first two performances the fluke?  I think that Worthington proved it to be the former with this performance.  Worthington fails to create any type of chemistry with Knightley or Eva Mendes and the rest of his acting just comes off as bland.  A robot could have done just as well in the role.  Fortunately, there is a bright spot in the cast: Eva Mendes.  Eva Mendes has long been an overrated actress (star actually might be a better word), but she gives her best performance in this film.  Mendes actually shows that she is trying, and the failed chemistry between her and Worthington is clearly not her fault.  She also displays a lot of mysteriousness and adverseness without having many lines or screentime.  Guillaume Canet brings nothing to the table in the final major role.

Nothing is special about the behind-the-camera aspects of the film besides the editing.  Susan E. Morse does some great work with the two different storylines as she brings some interesting transitions and dramatic cuts to the table.

Last Night  made a near fatal error of deciding to play the story safe with some actors that have no chemistry together.  Fortunately, there are some aspects such as the editing, Eva Mendes and (most importantly) a decent combination of lifelike and melodramatic storytelling that save it.


The Decade of Technology

With this post I am going to veer away from film discussion because, no matter what you do, no matter who you are, we are all Americans (especially this week).  Of course, there may be people of other countries reading this too.  To those I say that what I will talk about here still pertains to you, but it will be done from an American perspective.

There have been three events that have happened in my lifetime, that are immediately so important in American history, that I (and many other Americans) will never forget where they were and what they were doing when they happened.

The first was the events of 9/11.  Over the past 48 hours (and many other times in the past 10 years since the attacks), you have heard countless stories of what people were doing that day and how they found out about the devastating news.  I was 10 years old that day and I specifically remember when and how I was told.  I was in elementary school when I and my fellow students were told that there was to be an emergency assembly.  At the assembly, we were told that a major incident in New York took place and the administrators began giving messages to students from their parents who worked in New York (I live in a town on the Connecticut/New York border and just over an hour away from New York City.)  I didn't discover the real severity of the incident until I got home that day when I turned on the television and saw the horrifying images that covered the screen.  However, the most important part to take away from this (for this blog post at least) was that on September 11, 2001 I learned of one of the most important moments in American history, first, through word of mouth and, second, through the television.

The second event that most Americans will never forget occurred a little over seven years later on November 4, 2008.  On that day, the first African-American president was elected (Barack Obama).  I, once again, specifically remember the moment in which President Obama won the election.  I was watching CNN in my basement as Obama came within striking distance of the magic number of 270 electoral votes.  A minute or two after 11pm that night, CNN called California in favor of Obama to give him his victory and I rushed upstairs to express my excitement with my mother and then with my friends on FACEBOOK.  Only seven years later I was witnessing history, first, on television, and then on a computer (where a phenomenon known as social networking was about to hit its peak).

The third event that most Americans will never forget just occurred two days ago (Eastern Standard Time at least) when Navy Seals killed Osama Bin Laden (the face of terrorism in American eyes).  This only happened days ago so saying that I remember it is nothing really impressive.  However, I can guarantee you that I and many other Americans will never forget the moments when they learned of this development.  This time I not only learned of this development by watching my twitter feed but also experienced the event on twitter.  I was not rejoicing in the streets (all though some Americans were), I was rejoicing with friends and family on Facebook on Twitter.  In the two years that have passed since Obama's election I have gotten my own laptop, I have started this blog, I joined twitter (and since have followed it religiously).  I am now doing things I never would have imagined would be possible ten years ago on that fateful day in September.  The crazy thing is I am not the only one.  People around the world are experiencing this technological revolution too and this fact is made even more amazing when being viewed along with our history.

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