REVIEW: ‘The Book of Eli’

Director:
Albert Hughes
Allen Hughes
Cast:
Denzel Washington
Gary Oldman
Mila Kunis
Ray Stevenson
Rated: R

January isn’t usually a month with the best theatrical releases, so it’s always great seeing one that bucks the trend.

“The Book of Eli” follows the titular character played by Washington. Taking place in a post apocalyptic world, Eli is a wandering warrior trying to go out west and deliver a book. Along the way, he has to avoid and fight off groups of other survivors.

As the film goes on, Eli gets into a small town run by a man named Carnegie (Oldman). Carnegie seems to want to partner with Eli at first, but the two eventually enter a conflict as Eli is unwilling to relinquish a prized possession.

“The Book of Eli” fantastically brings western and samurai story aspects into a sci-fi setting, ultimately making an exciting and fresh action picture. There’s the ‘man with no name’ type character, a wandering fighter just passing through a small town with a corrupt leader, it’s simply classic.

The movie also brings up the topic of religion and how different people view it and interperat its use in society. This is mainly seen through the characters Eli and Carnegie and their opposing sides on how to use religion and it adds another layer to the film overall. This isn’t to say the movie is an overbearing religious picture, though, because it’s far from it. The aspect of religion here is used as point to push the plot forward, rather than to convince an audience of something.

This film likely wouldn’t have worked as well as it did, though, if it wasn’t for the performances. Fortunately, the film features Washington who gives a solid performance. While it’s not up there with some of his award worthy material, Washington still has a ton of screen presence, offering charisma, charm and a sense of righteousness to his character.

Oldman was also fantastic as the villain Carnegie, providing a perfect opponent to Eli. In this future, Eli and Carnegie are two of the older survivors and they both have a higher intellect than those around them, but they disagree on a number of matters. Oldman really sells this character, who on the surface seems like a civilized business man but is far more deadly and corrupt.

Another fantastic aspect to the movie is the action. As previously stated, the movie takes elements from western and samurai films, and this includes the combat. Eli both fights with a big machete that’s practically a sword and he also has some exciting shootouts.

“The Book of Eli” is a really strong, exciting action film that pays homage to multiple genres and is raised up more by its veteran actors. 4 out of 5.

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REVIEW: ‘Daybreakers’

Director:
Michael Spierig
Peter Spierig
Cast:
Ethan Hawke
Sam Neill
Willem Dafoe
Rated: R

Vampire fans should certainly be pleased with this new film.

In this alternate reality, the majority of Earth’s population have become vampires and because of the subsequent immortality, the world seems to be at a state of peace.

However, as the events of the film pick up, it’s revealed that the human population has dwindled so much that vampires are running out of blood. For this reason, a government employee named Edward Dalton, played by Ethan Hawke, is curious for a solution, but his search leads him to more unexpected discoveries.

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REVIEW: ‘Crazy Heart’

Director:
Scott Cooper
Cast:
Jeff Bridges
Maggie Gyllenhaal
Colin Farrell
Rated: R

This could easily be the 2009 version of “The Wrestler.”

This film stars Jeff Bridges as a country singer who goes by the name Bad Blake. Blake was once very successful, but time has taken its toll and he now travels the country in an old truck playing smaller gigs.

Because of his state of life, Blake’s health is declining and he is turning to alcohol in many cases. His life seems to get some light, though, when he meets and starts a relationship with a reporter named Jean, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal.

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REVIEW: ‘Avatar’

Director:
James Cameron
Cast:
Sam Worthington
Zoe Saldana
Sigourney Weaver
Stephen Lang
Michelle Rodriguez
Rated: PG-13

The visionary director James Cameron returns with a gorgeous picture, just not a very deep one.

The film follow’s the character Jake Sully (Worthington), a wheelchair bound man who’s legs have been paralyzed after years in combat. Because of a chance to use his legs again, Jake takes an opportunity to go to another planet where humans are digging for a resource and have to deal with a native people to do so.

Jake’s  role in this is to transfer his consciousness into a bio-mechanical suit called an Avatar, a replica of the inhabiting species the Na’vi. At first Jake is apprehensive toward the Na’vi, but as he starts to embrace their culture, he begins to see the humans digging in a less positive light.

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REVIEW: ‘Up in the Air’

Director:
Jason Reitman
Cast:
George Clooney
Vera Farmiga
Anna Kendrick
Jason Bateman
Amy Morton
Rated: R

“Up in the Air” is already getting some Oscar buzz, and it’s certainly for good reason.

The film follows a man named Ryan Bingham (Clooney), who travels all across the United States for his job. It turns out that Ryan works for a company that’s hired by other corporations to assist in layoffs. Despite the depressing nature of his job, Ryan tries to find dignity in it and he loves the aspect of being able to travel.

The film’s events pick up as Ryan has to travel with a young woman named Natelie (Kendrick), who’s supporting an idea to lay people off over a video conference. The film follows the two characters and others as it explores the economic state of America and its impact on people who see it first hand.

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REVIEW: ‘District 9’

Director:
Neill Blomkamp
Cast:
Sharlto Copley
Jason Cope
Nathalie Boltt
Sylvaine Strike
Rated: R

A new director on the scene might have just delivered the best movie of the summer.

Neill Blomkamp’s film begins 28 years after a large alien ship came to Earth in an alternate reality, eventually settling over Johannesburg, South Africa. Eventually, humans went inside and discovered aliens, which they called Prawns living there. As a response, a corporation called Multi National United set up a relief camp for the prawns, but it eventually went into bad shape, becoming more of a slum.

The film picks up with a relocation effort by MNU to move the Prawns to a worse camp. One of the teams sent to do this is led by Wikus Van De Merwe (Copley), an MNU worker. However, while working in the area, he is sprayed with a substance that begins to change his DNA, making him very valuable to MNU for his new ability to use alien tech.

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REVIEW: ‘Julie and Julia’

Director:
Nora Ephron
Cast:
Meryl Streep
Amy Adams
Stanley Tucci
Chris Messina

One biopic isn’t enough? How about two.

“Julie and Julia” follows the lives of titular characters, both famous for their cooking. The film explores Julia Child (Streep) and her adventure in publishing a book on French cuisine as well as Julie Powell (Adams) who cooked all of Child’s recipes and wrote about the experience in a blog.

Both stories, while relatively unrelated, are interwoven by exploring similar issues, challenges and joys as their adventures go on.

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REVIEW: ‘Land of the Lost

Cast:
Will Ferrell
Anna Friel
Danny McBride
Jorma Taccone
Rated: PG-13

You know a movie is bad when it makes you want to stare at the ceiling rather than the screen.

In “Land of the Lost,” a re-imagining of the original 70s TV show, audiences follow the story of Rick Marshall (Ferrell). Rick is a sort of crack scientist who’s discovered another dimension and is trying to make a way to get to it. Eventually one of his fans, another scientist named Holly (Friel) helps him find a portal and the two, along with another man named Will (McBride) get transported to the other world.

However, the dimension they go to immediately shows itself as dangerous and they have to find out a way to return home.

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