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I’ve had a good week.  Two sneak previews in two days…  YAY me!  I already sent in a super early Windtalkers review, and this time I’m writing in with a review of Chris Nolan’s new thriller, Insomnia.  This was a pretty interesting deal; the movie was actually simulcast to different universities, with over 30,000 students watching coast-to-coast!  After the movie, we were treated to a LIVE chat with Chris Nolan!  We could call in with questions and if we were lucky we’d actually get to ask Chris a question!


Anyhoo, on with the movie stuff, slight spoilers ahead.  Since the movie was “broadcast” over satellite to one of the lecture halls on campus, we only had one speaker in the front of the hall.  I didn’t get to experience full surround sound and such, but this movie doesn’t rely too heavily on amazing sound.  You guys already know the plot (LA cop comes to middle of nowhere to solve murder, but the murderer is a little too smart and ends up blackmailing him), and know that it is a remake of a 1997 Norwegian film, so I won’t discuss those.  So, on to the dissection…

In this movie, you’ve got the seasoned veteran with some skeletons in his closet, Will Dormer (Al Pacino), the eager rookie Ellie Burr (Hilary Swank), and the bad guy Walter Finch (Robin Williams).  Acting wise, this movie has tons of acting talent.  Al Pacino, is of course, amazing.  According to Chris Nolan’s chat afterwards, Pacino is in every scene in the movie but two, and filmed 52 out of 54 days!  As the days go by without Dormer getting any sleep, hence the title, Al Pacino’s voice and body language get more and more gritty and tired.  I wonder if he is one of those actors who will go without sleep for a while in order to play someone who hasn’t slept for days…  Regardless of his methods, Pacino is great.  Hilary Swank has a much smaller role than Pacino or Williams, but she holds her own against them.  Nothing remarkable about her performance, but the girl can definitely act. 


Then we have God.  Or you may know him as Robin Williams.  Robin’s role as a killer in this movie is considerably smaller than Pacino’s; he doesn’t even show up until an hour into the movie, but #$@$ he’s good!  I have to say, I LOVE Robin Williams.  I got the amazing opportunity to see his new stand-up show at Phoenix’s Dodge Theater on April 23rd, and I laughed for the entire two hours. This man is hilarious.  He is also a great dramatic actor.  I loved The Fisher King, Good Will Hunting, and his recent darker roles in Death To Smoochy and now, Insomnia.  The man has such good presence on stage, and his delivery and facial expressions are flawless.  Even in an evil role like this, I still love watching this man work.  I can’t wait for One Hour Photo


Cinematography was very interesting in this movie.  It’s hard to compare it to Memento however, because of the nature of Memento as a film.  There are some great opening shots of the Alaskan landscape, and Chris Nolan manages to capture the tired feeling of having insomnia throughout the whole movie.  The entire flick takes place in Alaska, so don’t expect a lot of color.  There are a lot of grays and brown, and it all just adds to the atmosphere of the movie.


Overall, I quite enjoyed Insomnia.  It could be a little slow at times, but what do you expect from a movie titled from a sleep disorder?  Not too predictable, and very interesting.  Not as blow-you-away cool as Memento, but a solid outing by Nolan.

The concept of Death To Smoochy might be a dream-come-true for anyone who has ever had the grave misfortune of having the image of Barney travel across his or her optic nerve, or heard his make-you-want-to-shoot-yourself-in-the-face-with-a-bazooka singing. But alas, there is more to this movie than just killing Smoochy.

The movie begins with Rainbow Randolph Smiley, beloved children’s show host, being fired for a nasty payola scandal. After Rainbow Randolph is taken off the air, the network execs scramble to find a squeaky-clean replacement. Their solution: Sheldon Mopes (Edward Norton), a 20-something Ned Flanders wannabe, who sincerely wants to make the world a better place. Before the network execs get to him, Sheldon is making his way in the world by dressing up in a handmade rhino suit and singing to addicts at a methadone clinic.

Overnight, Mopes’ Smoochy the Rhino becomes a huge success, getting Randolph’s time slot, money, and even more ratings. Now this bugs our pal Randy just a little bit, and he vows for revenge against his fuchsia-colored replacement. However, he doesn’t just want plain ol’ “I want my job back” revenge. Smoochy must die.

As much as I hate to do this, I must preface the rest of this review with a warning. THIS IS NOT YOUR NORMAL CHEERY COMEDY MOVIE. This movie is dark, rude, and Robin Williams swears more times than I’ve ever heard him swear in one movie. And on top of that, trailers be damned, Death To Smoochy is not actually a Robin Williams movie. This is an Edward Norton movie, with Robin in not much more than a supporting role, but it’s a damn good one nonetheless.

Like I said, this movie is dark. Well, the first half-hour is REALLY dark. Quite a few people walked out, and I found myself thinking, “Oh man, this is twisted…” almost to the point of not liking it. Well if you can make it past the convoluted and slow-paced first thirty minutes, you are in for a definite treat. This movie is the most unique and imaginative I have seen since Memento, and has some of the most genuinely original humor I’ve seen in a long time.

The best aspect of this movie is the acting. A considerably less-buff Norton (than he was in American History X) is an absolute treat to watch onscreen, like in any of his movies. Sheldon Mopes is a rather pitiful person, at least by normal people standards. He is one of those won’t-do-anything-bad people: soy dogs, gluten-free buns, alfalfa sprouts, no alcohol, so on. However, he is a truly good person, and really wants to help people. His motto is something along the lines of, “I can’t change the world, but at least I can make a dent.” At first I felt bad for him, but as the movie progressed, I found myself liking and admiring him a lot. He may be a naïve sap, but his heart is in the right place.

Now, Robin Williams. Oh. My. God. I think the old Robin Williams is back. Robin has two movies currently out and one about to be released: Death to Smoochy, One Hour Photo, and Insomnia. One Hour Photo, so far only shown at the Sundance Film Festival, with—to my knowledge—no plans for wide release, is about an employee of a one-hour photo lab who becomes obsessed with a young suburban family through their photographs. Due to its limited release, I have not yet seen it, but have heard that Robin plays a very dark and malevolent character. In Insomnia, also starring Al Pacino and Hilary Swank, Robin plays a sadistic killer, very against his norm. Not having seen these two movie, I can easily say that with Death to Smoochy, I have never seen Robin Williams like this. I’ve seen bits of how nasty he can be on Leno and old standup videos, but this is a whole new Mork from Ork. Rainbow Randolph Smiley has some serious issues, and with Robin portraying him, you can see just how warped he is. I have always liked Robin Williams’ movies, even those that weren’t reviewed too favorably. More than once in this movie, Randolph goes from raving lunatic to a bawling infant in a matter of seconds. Most people probably would discard this as Robin Williams playing an idiot really well, but I beg to differ. I personally feel that he is a very fine actor, and his growing versatility in his roles continues to impress me. I just wish he was in this movie more, because when he is onscreen, he just shines.

Now the movie was not all great. There were a few parts where I was a little confused by the editing, and as in all comedies, a few jokes fell flat. However, Death to Smoochy, overall, is a very interesting movie. But, many people will not like it. I quite enjoyed it, but “black comedies” like this often have trouble finding an audience. If you feel that you take this film, I encourage you to go and do so.

Every once in a while, a sequel comes out that absolutely blows the original away, like Aliens, and T2: Judgment Day. Well, unfortunately Blade II isn’t one of them.

Now before the wrath of internet fan boys around the world rains down upon me, let me clarify. I really liked the first Blade. I really did. Yes it had its problems, but I really enjoyed it, hands down. Well, I also really liked Blade II. Really, I did! I spent most of the movie with my jaw open, trying to control the drool seeping out of my mouth. The thing is, these two movies don’t have too much in common.

The first Blade was a cool movie. So was Blade II. It was different that the first, not better or worse, but still damn cool. The first movie, being the first, had to do a lot of things the second one didn’t. It had to spend a lot more time developing characters and explaining things. Well, in the second movie, that’s already been done, so you can just jump right in to the action. And DAMN there’s a lot of it in this movie. Another thing is, if you’re expecting Blade II to be a lot like Blade, you’re in for a big surprise. The second Blade installment is more of an action-horror movie, as opposed to a straight-up action flick. You are supposed to be scared during parts of this movie. And the fights in this one are WAY cooler.

Allrighty then, let’s rundown the plot: Blade is still doing his vampire-killin’ thing, when one day (or night, but the scene takes place indoors, so I can’t tell), he is “approached” by some members of the Vampire Nation. (You’ll understand why “approached” is in quotes after you see the movie.) These vamps inform Blade that there is a new “species” of super-vamp called Reapers who not only feed on humans, but have also developed a taste for vampire blood as well. They want Blade to help them fight these Reapers, so they offer him a temporary truce. Blade reluctantly accepts, of course (or there wouldn’t be a movie), and then the balls-to-the-wall nonstop throw-you-out-of-your-seat action begins. That’s all you get out of me on plot; I am not giving nothing away

Oh, one thing though. I know most of you have probably seen the trailer to this movie. I know you saw Whistler in the trailer, and a good bunch of you are thinking “How the f—k is he in this movie? Didn’t he die?” As much as you may not believe me, Goyer and Del Toro dealt with this pretty well. I won’t give away how he’s reintroduced in this movie, but I’ll give you something to think about: How much exactly did you see in the original Blade regarding Whistler’s demise?

Ok, now let’s touch on the goods and the bad of Blade II. Mind you I can’t possibly list all the goods, but I’ll probably get all the the bad.


The Reapers: The very first scene in this movie shows you exactly what these guys are about. Damn these guys look cool. Wait till you see them eat…

Wesley Snipes: This man is right at home with this character. Now I’ve never read the comic books, but Wes plays one badass Daywalker in my book. Got to love the shades.

The weapons: Yes, Blade has his kick-ass sword. Yes he has his kick-ass guns. But di-ZAMN, the new weapons he’s got rule. You’ve got cool sun-bomb thingies, flying spinning blade thingies, and wrist punchy-injecting thingies.

The fight scenes: Words cannot describe the coolness of these fights. Think of a over-exaggerated version of the sound one makes during orgasm, that’s how I’d vocalize my opinion on these

Most of the CG: I’ll touch on the bad part below, but most of the computer-generated parts of this movie are really solid. The Reapers’ mouth effects blend seamlessly onto the actors.

The Bad:

The parts of the fight scenes that are completely computer-generated: Ok, 99% of the fight scenes in this movie are amazing. Fight choreography is astonishing, and Wes’s skill (that has earned him several Black Belts) shows. However, there are a few sections of one or two fights where it’s all computer-animation, and it doesn’t look too clean. It looks like it’s going too fast, past the point of believability. But, thank goodness, this doesn’t happen too often.

Scattered plot holes: They’re in every movie, oh well.

There are a few moments in the movie where I thought, “Ok, that’s a little much…” or “That’s not realistic…” Like the swishes, swooshes, and hums that Blade’s weapons make when he spins them around. Also, blood is not THAT watery! (You’ll see what I mean near the end of the movie.) But, for the sake of action-movie coolness, they were quickly forgiven. Sometimes, the added swishes and punch “thumps” that don’t really happen in real life are pretty cool in movies.

I really enjoyed Blade II. It’s not a great movie by great movie standards, but it sure is a hell of a lot more fun than some “great” movies. Awesome fight scenes, lots of cool weapons, costumes and vamps. If you want to go to a great action-filled popcorn movie, Blade II is definitely for you. If vampires, lots of gore and blood, or anything else in these kind of movies bothers you, why are you still reading? Go see E.T.