Friday, May 29, 2015

Top Ten Last Words For Movie Characters

Movies have the power to move audiences in hundreds of different ways. When a character meets their end, more often than not, they are given powerful final words. Sometimes the words are amusing-sometimes sad- but too many to count are quotable and have joined the pop culture lexicon. This leads to what I believe is the top ten best last words for characters in movies.

10. “Abracadabra.” - The Prestige
Turn of the century magician, Alfred Borden is arrested for a crime he didn’t commit. Through the twists and turns of the story we learn of his rivalry with magician Robert Angier and how he came to be on death row. This leads to him being led to the gallows and saying his famous last words before meeting his death.

9. “We… Are…Groot.” - Guardians of the Galaxy
Groot, the tree-man of the space faring group the Guardians of the Galaxy, needs to save the universe from an evil alien creature with destruction on his mind. In an act of bravery he protects the rest of the group from what would otherwise be a fatal explosion. Because his vocabulary is so limited, his words are a testament to how much he regards his new companions.

8. “Is that the best you can do, you pansies?” - Sin City
Said by Marv after being sent to the electric chair. Marv goes on a killing spree to find who killed a woman named Goldie who he is in love with. Marv’s thirst for violence, revenge, and primitive justice gets him the killer at the cost of his own life. It takes a couple of rounds of electricity to bring an almost unstoppable hulk like Marv down. 

7. “James, earn this…earn it.” - Saving Private Ryan
World War II and a squad of men are sent to collect Private James Ryan and send him home. Captain Miller and his men need only to collect Private Ryan, however he refuses to leave his comrades defending a bridge. This leads to a violent battle where nearly everyone is killed, including Captain Miller who tells Ryan to “Earn this.” meaning to be a good man. Private Ryan spends the rest of his life doing so to make the sacrifices of the soldiers worthwhile.

6. “Remember what I said about seein’ a light when you die? It ain’t true. I can’t see a damn thing.” – Tombstone
A rival gang of cowboys has shot Morgan Earp. As he lays dying on a pool table he remembers a conversation he had with his brothers about death. He offers his point of view of what it feels like to slip off the mortal coil. This pivotal moment is acted extremely well by Bill Paxton and it brings much of the reckoning on the cowboy’s head’s for their actions.

5. “Why don’t we just…wait here for a little while…see what happens?” – The Thing
After battling a shape-shifting alien in the harsh Antarctic weather, R.J. MacReady is ready to die of exposure. When Childs, another member of the research station shows up unexpectedly, he is unsure if Childs is himself or the monstrous thing as well. Exhausted and letting the cold of Antarctica take him, he has given up the good fight and welcomes whatever may come next.

4. “Clever girl…” - Jurassic Park
Robert Muldoon is hunting the loose velociraptors in Jurassic Park. The dinosaurs show signs of intelligence and he clearly respects their lethal nature as well as their wits. When he thinks he has the drop on one, he aims his gun and is suddenly attacked on the side by a raptor that was using the other to distract him.

3. “Made it, Ma! Top of the World!” - White Heat
Cody Jarrett is a psychopathic criminal with mother issues. After a heist at a chemical plant goes wrong he laughs manically shooting at police and even killing his own surrendering gang members. After shouting his last lines he blows up the chemical tankers he is on creating a massive fireball. Truly an extreme end to an extreme personality.

2. “You fell victim to one of the classic blunders. The most famous is Never get involved in a land war in Asia. But only slightly less well known is this: Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line. - The Princess Bride
Vizzini has kidnapped the Princess Buttercup and has begun a battle of wits with a masked stranger who wants to take her from him. They both have a serving of wine with the goal of inevitably figuring out which goblet contains poison. Vizzini is a Sicilian with a silver tongue and will try to get the masked man to give away where the poison is. After much chatter he laughs in the masked man’s face before dying, not realizing that both glasses were poisoned.

1. I’ve… seen things…you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off of Orion. I watched C-Beams…glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate.  All those moments will be lost… in time…like tears…in the rain. Time to die.” - Blade Runner
This is possibly the best last line for a movie character ever. Roy Batty is a replicant and has a limited lifespan of four years. He is close to his expiration date and is being hunted by a police officer trained to kill replicants. All he wants is to live longer because he has seen so much and has so much more he wants to see. It is a great line that thematically fits the movie’s theme of the brevity of life.

There are many other lines that should also be considered honorable mentions. For example:

"Mein Führer, I can walk!"- Dr. Strangelove from Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

"I can't lie to you about your chances... but, you have my sympathies."Ash from Alien

"What is your major malfunction, numbnuts? Didn't mommy and daddy show you enough attention when you were a child?" - Gunnery Sergeant Hartman from Full Metal Jacket

"You can't win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine."Obi Wan Kenobi from Star Wars: A New Hope

Even though these characters may die on-screen, their iconic last lines ensure they won’t soon die out in our memories. With great writing and witty lines that have been added to the pop-culture lexicon, it is certain that we will be quoting these moments for years to come.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road – review

The Mad Max franchise is one of high-octane action and Fury Road is no exception. After a brief narration the movie takes ahold of your adrenal gland and bites down hard. The action is nearly non-stop, the acting is solid, and the effects are very bombastic and fun.

“Mad” Max Rockatansky, played by Tom Hardy, roams the wasteland of post-nuclear war Australia. He is captured by a strange gang called the War Boys and used as a blood bag for Nux, a War Boy played by Nicholas Hoult. After a daring escape he finds that the War Boys leader had wives that escaped with Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron. Max decides to help out the wives in escaping their tyrannical matrimony.

The acting is fantastic. Charlize Theron is a believable action star.  Nicholas Hoult brings a great performance as a zealous character that is strengthened by war like an ancient Viking. The effects are insane and are as bombastic as a Baz Luhrmann movie. There are flame throwers everywhere, people on stilts, and people that use bungee cords.

The story itself is much like a western. Max could be considered the Clint Eastwood “Man with no name.” The only big flaw is that not much is explained. Why is Furiosa missing an arm? Who is the girl Max always sees in hallucinations? Still, the movie doesn’t seem weakened by not giving definitive answers. It is beautifully filmed and doesn’t let up on the action scenes. If you are a fan of the franchise or action films in general it is a must see. It is stylistic and fun. You don’t need to be familiar with the original material.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Ex Machina – review

The sci-fi genre is rife with films that query about the wisdom of creating computers with functioning artificial intelligence.  Ex Machina seems to ask a lot of valid questions regarding the Turing test when it comes to the nature of programmable behavior. It is a smart film that has some great ideas and will have you pondering long after the movie is over.

Caleb, played by Domhall Gleeson, wins a lottery to spend a week with the CEO of Bluebook, a fictional search engine. He is greeted by Nathan, played by Oscar Isaac, who tells him he has created an android with near perfect AI and he needs Caleb to perform a Turing test on her. The Turing test is a test, which is used when an interrogator is needed to ask questions of a person to determine whether they are a human or computer. The android, Ava, played by Alicia Vikander, meets Caleb and soon develops a strong friendship with him.

The psychology of this movie is fascinating. I couldn’t help but wonder what questions I would ask to determine what makes a human truly human. The philosophical nature bleeds into a psychological story when we realize that some characters might not be as truthful as others and Ava is not the first android to be built.  The acting is great and the small cast really utilizes their relationships together to make this a compelling film. Oscar Isaac in particular is intimidating and yet also the sort of person who has a magnetic personality. The set is also interesting because there is a huge contrast between the home of Nathan, which is bare of nearly all décor and the land surrounding it since it is around some of the most scenic glaciers, forests, and waterfalls.

Ex Machina is a heavy movie. If you are into sci-fi with some content that will lead to conversations then this is for sure a movie you will enjoy. If you are into lighter films or movies with heavy action then it is probably good to give it a pass. There are just some existential questions you will be coming to terms with at some point.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Moose: The Movie – review

Making a movie is a hard and expensive process that takes long hours and loads of teamwork.  It is impressive to see local Alaskans work so hard to make a project that is better than most Syfy channel movies. The Carpenter brothers have made independent films before but not one so “community minded.” Moose: The Movie has the help of many folks from throughout Wasilla and has created a unique fictional town that could rival Mayberry or Green Acres for colorful characters.

Moose: The Movie begins with the native tale of a Moosetaur (a half-man and half-moose) that is banished to the underworld. When two campers disturb the totem pole, which acts as a seal to the underworld, the Moosetaur returns to the small Alaskan town of Gangrene Gulch and begins a killing spree. It’s up to the local deputy and a coroner’s assistant to solve the murders and dispatch with the ancient evil.

The movie is beautifully shot and has some great nature photography. The cast gives you their best and they are clearly able to express themselves comically. The writing is fun and has a charm that that crackles with sparks of wit.  The colorful characters make it an entertaining movie and the tight editing gives it almost cartoonish timing.

My only complaints are fairly minor nitpicky reviewer stuff like small continuity errors. Since this is an extremely low budget movie it is free from a lot of that criticism. They get what they can work with, and the end product is nothing to be ashamed of. If there were one minor thing I would change it would be to remove at least one of the two pairs of bumbling comic relief.

Alaska, this is YOUR movie. Enjoy it. The locals are having fun, the humor is not malicious, and it is clearly a labor of love. If you are from Alaska you should definitely see this movie if you can. If you aren’t from Alaska you should still see it for some good humor and to see that even on a low budget a good movie can be made.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron – review

I hate to say how disappointing this movie was.  Sequels are rarely better than their predecessors and unfortunately this is case. It is not a bad film by any stretch, there is a bank of talent that is still trying to make a decent product, but as a whole the film is weaker than first but a vast margin. The first was impressive because it tied various directors, characters, and properties into a cohesive adventure. This feels like a long filler episode. This review may have some spoilers.

If you watched the events of Iron Man 3 you might remember Iron Man getting surgery to have the shrapnel removed so that he is basically not Iron Man anymore. He destroyed all his suits and drove off to live happily as a billionaire. Well, Tony is back as Iron Man- no explanation there. What about the ending of Thor 2 where we saw that Loki had taken over the throne of Asgard? Never even brought up. Instead of acknowledging the films that came before it like the first did, this movie seems to take great pains to avoid bringing them up.

Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr. and Bruce Banner, played by Mark Ruffalo, create an artificial intelligence in the hopes that they can retire the Avengers and create a force for world peace. The AI-system is called Ultron, voiced by James Spader, and he feels that the best way for there to be world peace is to destroy humanity.  The Avengers must band together again to stop this robot menace and save the world. 

Let’s start by talking about what was good in this movie. James Spader is awesome as Ultron. His line delivery oozes with cold disgust for humanity and smug superiority. The other actors fall into their old rolls well and it is comfortable to see them again. The Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver have ridiculous accents that I personally could have done without, but both Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen play their parts well.

The biggest problem to this movie is that there are too many characters to focus on. They have added several new characters and all deserve a backstory but all are basically glossed over. They instead focus on things that add nothing to the narrative, these include: discovery of Hawkeye’s hidden family, the romance between Black Widow and the Hulk, Black Widow getting kidnapped by Ultron for no reason whatsoever, the trip to Africa, and the fight with the Hulk and the Hulkbuster. I would have gladly given those scenes up in order to have some character development.

The action and CGI is fun to watch but after awhile I felt like I was just watching cartoon characters duke it out. The realism was just lost and it became even more silly than usual. Ultron’s plan for the destruction of humanity is on par with a Bond villain and any amount of physics or logic should have made the plan implausible from the start. I guess they really wanted to make this comic movie seem like it was coming straight off the pages.
The worse offense is the obvious attempt to grasp at the audience’s emotions. There is a character that dies in the film and his death is supposed to be big, dramatic, and meaningful. It would be if the audience cared who the character was. In the first film this was done when Agent Coulson was killed and he united the team in his death. Coulson had been in several other Marvel films and he was well liked. It was a shame when he died. This death just seemed empty and manipulative.

If you are a fan of the first Avengers movie you probably already brought your tickets to this blockbuster. If you are patient enough to wait then I recommend seeing it a rental. It’s a good movie but it doesn’t live up to the hype. An Avengers movie needs to be epic with things at stake and a narrative that isn’t just a mass of quips and action scenes.  This movie falls short where it could have been really unique and interesting. In making a series this epic, mediocrity can be one of the biggest crimes of all.