29 November 2005


Don’t you just hate it when one of your former roommates up and marries into a wealthy family, starts charging you rent after letting you live in a humongous flat for over a year, and tries to hook you up with a steady income? Doesn’t it make you want to have unprotected sex, pursue financially unstable careers, shoot up drugs, and sing emotional rock ballads in the rain/cold? Not really? Well, that’s what happens to those crazy NYC bohemians in Rent, the film adaptation of the award winning play by Jonathan Larson.

I L-O-V-E musicals, but Rent is not your typical musical. It’s very rock ‘n’ roll-ish. It features some pretty dark themes. The 80s fashion is pretty terrible. Frankly, it’s not my cup of tea. However, after seeing the 525,600 minutes [“Seasons of Love”] music video, I mean, trailer, I just had to see it, even if I suspected that I wouldn’t really be into it.

I never saw the stage production, nor did I make it through the entire OST, but I went into Rent hoping that I too would fall in love with the Pulitzer Prize winning musical that everyone’s talking about. Unfortunately, I came away still uncertain of Rent’s greatness.

It’s really hard to make fun of Rent, because

a) It’s a musical about AIDS, societal outcasts, poverty, love & friendship [yay for pro-social messages!]

b) It features a stellar cast including Idina Menzel [Wicked!], Jesse L. Martin [Law & Order!], Taye Digs [hot!], and a bunch of really talented, not-as-widely known actors from the original production of Rent.

c) The writer & composer of Rent, Jonathan Larson, tragically died on the night of the final dress rehearsal.

d) The stage production has won numerous, credible awards (I’m not talking People’s Choice or MTV. I’m talking Pulitzer & Tonys, people).

If you loved Rent, the stage production, you’ll probably love the film (even though Rosario Dawson plays Mimi). If you enjoy musicals but not a Rent fan, you will find the film bearable, if not, mildly entertaining. If you’re not into musicals, then Rent is probably not for you. If you hated Rent, then I don’t know why you went to see the film.

As far as film adaptations go, I think Chris Columbus did a solid job. We’re currently in an era, where, unless you are a Fox animated television series, it’s difficult to break into a meaningful song & dance number without making your audience a little uncomfortable. Columbus does a fine job of balancing the musical’s humor and borderline-campy rock numbers with the sincerity of the story’s themes (AIDs, death, poverty, friendship, and love). Granted that Columbus made a few blunders like filming Roger against the “Santa Fe” canyons while he sings some stirring rock ballad (too much like Britney’s Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman] or his liberal use of table-top dancing to signify joy, overall, I think his adaptation of Rent gives hope to the future of film adaptations of hit musicals (i.e., Wicked).

I can't say that I enjoyed Rent, but I'm definitely glad that I checked it out.

My recommendation: Definitely check out the trailer. As for the film, probably not a good pick for musical haters, homophobes, racists, or the close-minded, but for everyone else, I say it's worth checking out.
Tip: If at any point in the film you start to wonder why you ever heeded the recommendation of my crappy blog, just conjure up the "Seasons of Love" song and all will be better.

22 November 2005


I'd like to take a moment to step away from all the crap & ridicule, and highlight some genuinely enjoyable rentals:

Millions (2004) Don't be turned off by the cheesy cover. It's a heartwarming Brit flick about two brothers who find a bag full of money -- millions! The younger brother, Damian (Alex Etel) wants to donate the money and help the poor. (He goes around his suburban neigborhood asking, "Are you poor?") Savvy older brother, Anthony (Lewis Owen McGibbon) wants to spend and invest the pounds, before England switches over to the Euro. The cast is superb, but most noteworthy is Alex Etel, simply winning as a golden-hearted boy, with a quirky obsession with Saints. The film is chock full of humor, a bit of suspense, and of course, a few tear-jerking moments. In addition to a wonderful story, Millions features a stellar use of special effects, subtley done, yet visually captivating. Don't be a jerk. Go rent Millions.

, TV series (2002), Short-lived, 1-hour show on FOX, cancelled due to poor scheduling and poo-poo head TV execs. I'm addicted. Firefly chronicles the adventures of a noble-hearted crew of space smugglers, led by ex-rebel solider, Captain Malcom Reynolds (Nathan Fillion). Set way in the future, where Earth is no longer existence, and humans have settled far into the "outer" planets, creating a Wild West-like era, Firefly, features a richly developed fictional universe, where prostitution is a legal and a well-respected profession, Chinese culture and language are as prevalent as English, and the central government is corrupt (ala Star Wars). I realize that the show sounds very sci-fi (which it is), but I think it will appeal to all audiences -- if given the chance. It's super funny; full of action & drama, sometimes a little creepy... did I mention that it's funny. Trust me: Watch one disc, then you'll be pissed off that this show is no longer on the air.

Rosewell, TV series (1999-2002), My addiction before Firefly. Basically, about three teen aliens and their life in Rosewell, New Mexico. It's much cooler than I make it out to be. I heart Max (Jason Behr) and you will too after you experience Future Max. Full of romance, humor, action, sci-fi, suspense, and a catchy theme song by Dido.
As long as you stick with Season 1 and Season 2 (Don't go to season 3. It'll just taint your love for Roswell.), you will love the show and it's rich characters.

Batman Begins (2005), Christian Bale rocks, Michael Caine is lovable, and Katie Holmes isn't on screen very much. Action scenes are a little too long for my taste, but Batman Begins is a good reminder of why Batman is so much cooler than Superman. Not as campy as the earlier Batman films, Batman Begins takes the story of Bruce Wayne aka Batman seriously -- yet, in an entertainming manner. Solid movie. Skip the illegal download. Definitely, worth a rental.

Saw II [Somewhere in between the theaters & blockbuster]

If you saw the original Saw movie you probably went into it thinking that it was going to be a big piece of crap, but instead, were pleasantly surprised. If that's the case, you probably went into SAW II thinking that'd it be just as cool, if not cooler. Sucker!

"Jigsaw" is back (despite having lain facedown in a pool of blood for hours and hours in a horrifically dirty restroom), and he's up to his usual shenanigans. Confronted with his impending mortality after being diagnosed with cancer, Jigsaw has taken it upon himself to teach society’s lowlife the value of life by chaining them to some horrifically ingenious contraption of death, forcing them to choose between death and a highly unattractive means of escape with about a minute’s notice. This time around, Jigsaw’s set up a whole house full of idiots: token Latino hothead (Franky G – that’s the actor’s chosen name, I swear), Lucy Camden on Prozac (Beverly Mitchell), token non-threatening black guy (Glenn Plummer), token threatening black guy (Lyric Bent), the ditz from Becker (Shawnee Smith), the doctor with big eyes from Smallville (Emanuelle Vaugier), seedy looking white guy (Tim Burd), and a forgettable, angst-ridden teen . Add in Bai Ling, and you got yourself a United Colors of Benneton ad.

In the first film, the cops weren’t taking the whole Jigsaw drama very seriously. I mean, they put Danny Glover on the case, but come on, Danny Glover hasn’t been the same since that last Lethal Weapon (Come on now, The Cookout!?! Mr. Glover, what are you doing? Do you need some money?) This time, however, they have a whole team on the case, lead by badass cop, played by badass Donny Wahlberg and an alleged “Jigsaw” expert, played by Dina Meyer.

So at this point, you must be wondering, so how exactly is this movie different from the first one? First of all, it’s got a roman numeral two in the title. Secondly, it’s got… did I mention it’s called “Saw II”?

I'm really into supporting the struggling careers of former NKTOB members (I mean, did you catch Jonathan Knight on Oprah? Who would've thought he suffered from some serious stage fright? Okay, I guess it's not that big of a surprise...), but come on Donny, help us out here. You have to lighten up. There’s no way anyone can take you seriously. Jordan and Joey have realized this. There’s no need to try so hard. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but let’s face it: you’re never going to win an Academy Award. Take a cue from Cary Elwes in Saw (the Original). He played it serious, but at the same time, you could tell he knew what he was getting into. He was like, “Wassup, America. I know I gained a lot of weight. I know I look old. I know that this Saw thing may turn out to be a huge flop, but you know what, I was in the Princess Bride, biatches. That’s what’s up.” Donny Wahlberg is how Tyra Banks is with the whole talk show thing. He’s thinking that this is his next BIG thing, when, in truth, all it will get him is syndication on Action 36.

That’s the problem with SAW II. I mean, there are many problems with Saw II, but perhaps most annoying is the bad acting. I saw the first one. I know it’s intense, but can we turn it down a notch every now and then?

I know that Jigsaw is freaking ca-razy. He’s going to kill people. Nobody can really help them. He’s got a really scary puppet thing that rides around on a rusty tricycle. I’d certainly be freaking out if I were one of them, but the problem is, this is a MOVIE, not real life. We don’t need to see two hours of annoying, freaked out people, running around like chickens with their heads cut off. I’m no film expert, but I think movies are much more enjoyable when the audience has at least one character to sympathize with. It’s nothing but slim pickings in Saw II.

Option A: hotheaded detective who doesn’t give a crap about anything
Option B: Annoying expert who claims to have been studying Jigsaw for years yet knows NOTHING
Option C: A stupid lot of victims who couldn’t survive their way out of a paper bag
Option D: Psychotic serial killer, dying of cancer

If you forced me to pick, I guess I’d have to go with option D.

One goes into sequels with the hope that the second film will be just as good, if not better than the original. Perhaps we need to stop deluding ourselves.

I should mention that Saw II opens up the possibility for a Saw III. If you are one of the crazies who makes it out for Saw III, all I can say is: You FOOL! I guess I’ll see you at the theaters next year around Halloween.

My recommendation: So not worth it, but still better than Into the Blue.