David Blaine: Dive of Disappointment

This blog is primarily used for movie reviews, but after being duped by Mr. David Blaine, I feel I must share my anger.

It has been talked about all week. Magician and stunt expert David Blaine was going to hang upside down for 60 straight hours and then make a "dive of death" over 40 feet to the ground. Memories of past stunts come rushing back to me. I still remember over 8 years ago, when I was still in 4th grade, watching "that crazy guy in a block of ice". Over the course of the years he has done a number of ridiculous stunts, including standing on a 90 foot tall 22 inch wide pole for 35 hours, and escaping from a gyroscope after 2 days of spinning. But his most recent stunt was supposedly meant to be the most controversial of all. Doctors were concerned that hanging upside down for so long could blind Blaine, along with swelling and cramping his internal organs. His heart would be doing too much work to send his blood up into his legs regularly. Even his short breaks every few hours, where he was allowed to stand upright on a crane, would not help. Watching on ABC, there was an interview with a physician that stated it could take 12-24 hours for Blaine to recover fully, even with those breaks. For anybody who thinks Blaine was cheating by doing this, may I suggest hanging upside down for 10 minutes, getting down for 2 minutes, and then going up again for another 10? Let's see if you feel your normal self after a small break.

But it is not with this that I feel tricked by Mr. Blaine. I hold a significant amount of respect for the man who was able to last 60 hours upside down. But that was meant only to be part one of this "miraculous" stunt. David Blaine was supposed to stand 4 and a half stories above the earth, and dive to an unknown fate. Blaine himself stated he had never practiced this dive before so he had no idea what was going to happen. I thought, "I am either going to be blown away by what he will do, or I will see a man fall 44 feet to his death on live television. Awesome." This was well on its way to being one of the coolest things I had ever seen done. Press coverage only made it even more unbearable to have to wait to see what Blaine would do to blow us all away. Watching the clock in the lower left hand corner of the screen, titled "Dive of Death", slowly tick off more and more time made the suspense practically insufferable. In the meantime we were entertained with clips of street magic performed by the magician. We even got to see him catch a bullet with a small steel cup, which he was holding in his mouth. I was hoping these mind bending illusions were only foreshadowing the impending insanity. Unfortunately, these proved to be the best part of the program.

The time finally came. David Blaine was standing right side up on top of a beam 4 and a half stories in the air. He looks down at the crowd, luring us in, riveting our eyes to him so we don't miss a single move he makes. He stands for a minute longer, milking the anticipation as much as humanly possible. Then, an air of excitement as we see him lift his leg! He is about to jump and after hours of waiting we will finally bear witness to the single most daring stunt Blaine has ever done! But wait a minute...what is that? Is that a harness? As Blaine descends to the ground, an extremely visible rope is attached to him, which allows him to gently touch his feet to the ground. I sit, mouth agape, astounded that I stayed awake to see this. Then they begin to lift him and I wonder, "Was that a joke? Are they going to lift him back onto the beam and disconnect him so he can do the real jump? Was that just to keep the suspense going even further?!" Nope. Blaine is pulled even higher into the air, where he is then pulled away, "disappearing" into the night sky. Mr. Blaine, you are a jerk.

How could he do that? It was planted in all of our minds that he would be taking a freefall to the ground, and he would in some way survive. We were all excited to see the "dive of death", but what we got was the "slow, safe descension to the ground before he is obviously carried away by some form of floating device that would have been easily disguised because it was so late at night". When it was all over I thought that maybe something had gone wrong. Perhaps he was planning on doing something, but there was a problem so they just want to the extremely disappointing plan B. I watched the news and listened to the radio the following morning to see if my theory was correct. It was not. Knowing that, I didn't feel as bad that I changed the channel after David Blaine immediately to Criss Angel. My rating of David Blaine's Dive of Death: (1/10)
(UPDATE: There is actually a video on youtube that allows you to see very clearly that he is being carried away by big black balloons. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqRi4QAcJWI&feature=related )

Dead Silence (2007)

If there is one thing in the world that scares the bejeezus out of me it is dolls. Specifically dolls that talk and blink and all that stuff. To me that is one of the most frightening things imaginable. So when I heard that the creators of Saw were making a film about a homicidal ventriloquist puppet, naturally I had to see it. The result was Dead Silence, a movie low on good acting but high on good old fashioned scares. Dead Silence is essentially a ghost story revolving around newlywed Jamie Ashen (Ryan Kwanten). Jamie is still settling in to his home with his new wife Lisa (Laura Regan) when a mysterious unmarked package is delivered to their home. Like any smart couple, the two open it without question. Inside is a ventriloquist dummy, which for some reason does not freak out either of them. That tune soon changes when Jamie discovers his wife's dead body posed on their bed, with her tongue ripped out. Detective Jim Lipton (Donnie Walhberg) is assigned to the murder to gather evidence against Jamie, who is the prime suspect. But Jamie knows that there is something strange going on, so he sets off to his home town of Raven's Fair, a dreary and dingy looking town plagued by pale backgrounds and eerie wind noises. With the help of funeral home owner Henry Walker (Michael Fairman), Jamie begins to unravel the mystery behind Mary Shaw, a ventriloquist that was murdered because she was suspected of kidnapping a boy. Ever since then, Raven's Fair has been cursed with death, people being found without their tongues. With nothing more than a hunch, Jamie must find a way to make the screaming stop, once and for all. Dead Silence is a B-grade ball of cheese that happens to go great with a box of popcorn and a Big Gulp.

I frequently complain that modern horror films have forgotten what real scares are supposed to be about. (See my Halloween review). I am a big fan of being genuinely frightened or at least surprised by a horror film, rather than just grossed out. Whether people like to admit it or not, the first Saw film was not an all-out torture porn. It was primarily a mystery with an original plot and an amazing twist ending. Dead Silence is by no means original nor is the ending as good as Saw's, but it's mystery was good enough to keep me on the edge of my seat. It was also able to take old cliches such as billowing curtains and "the town where businesses are all closed and the people are all pale and hide in the their homes" and make them poignant again. Its special effects were second rate, keeping the film feeling like a small budget horror flick. It never became too extravagant and never did it glorify blood and gore. With a decently small body count, blood and gore take a back seat to suspense and mystery in Dead Silence. Not to give the film too much credit, Dead Silence is after all a mediocre attempt at terrifying film making. The whole idea that right before a victim is claimed, the surrounding noise ceases is a little ridiculous, considering in the film the only thing that would happen was you would hear the background music stop. But the characters in the movie wouldn't hear that, so the title of the movie wouldn't make sense to them. The only thing that makes this film better than a Hostel, Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the recent ones), or The Hills Have Eyes is the idea that it doesn't splatter blood on the camera at every turn. Unlike the makers of those films, James Wan actually tried to make Dead Silence a suspenseful film rather than a bloodbath. For that, I give him credit.

The idea for Dead Silence came from the minds of James Wan and Leigh Whannel who, like I've mentioned, brought us Saw. You can see in the writing of this duo that they really know how to scare people. They bring their own individuality to what they write, trying to outdo themselves with every page. They will not bring about an award nominations with their stories, but in a world of awful horror films the fact that they provide a slight sense of originality makes them elite. Wan's directorial style is also a plus in all of his films. Much like his past work, Wan delivers a genuine nail biter of a film because of his wonderful ability to pace. He doesn't allow films to go limp for very long, a characteristic I wish every filmmaker had. Dead Silence is not his best work, but is an above average film.

One thing that I wish could have been better in Dead Silence was its cast. Australian actor Ryan Kwanten, who can now be seen sporting a terrible southern accent in HBO's god awful series True Blood, plays the haunted lead character Jamie Ashen. In one's quest for truth in the mystery that surrounds their wife's murder, one would probably convey a plethora of emotions. But not Kwanten. He feels that in this situation, the most reasonable response is to look as calm and unenthused as possible. In a B-grade horror film you don't expect a terrific lead performance, but you at least hope for something. At times Kwanten does a decent job of capturing the moment, but more often than not he is a dud as the lead actor. The rest of the film is also littered with melodramatic performances from the supporting cast. Michael Fairman as the funeral home owner was a total bust. His "scared" face was just hilarious, and I basically laughed at everything he said. The one bright spot in the cast was new kid on the block Donnie Walhberg. As the skeptical Detective Lipton, Walhberg provided necessary comic relief to Dead Silence. He is not their for big laughs, but his cynical disposition makes the air lighter in the film, allowing the viewer to have a good time watching it.

The golden age of horror has been passed for a long time and I have learned to accept this. Never again will there be films like The Shining, Psycho, or the original Halloween. I must admit that it is not the absolute fault of filmmakers, because when you think about it, what hasn't been done yet? Then I also think that it is their job to think of new ideas, and I stop feeling sorry for them. The reason I am a fan of James Wan and Leigh Whannel is because they are innovators in their field. Although I am not particularly happy about this, they did pave the way for a lot of modern horror films with the success of their Saw franchise. They showed it was possible to make good and original horror films that were a hit at the box office. Granted, spawning 4 sequels isn't original, but if it hadn't been for those sequels, Saw could've been considered an innovative film. It is also a problem that although they showed you can still make good and original horror films, nobody else has been able to replicate that idea. So whether you love or hate the Saw franchise, you must give credit where credit is due. With the creation of Dead Silence, Wan and Whannel once again prove they are a horror duo for the ages. My Rating (6.5/10)

Definitely, Maybe (2008)

Hey everybody, I've been on break for a while but I am back to review more films. Since school has started I do not have as much time to see new releases, so I will probably review older films for a while, starting now.

Perhaps my least favorite genre of films is the romantic comedy. Not simply because they are primarily "chick flicks", but because they are just so similar to each other. I recall watching 27 Dresses with my girlfriend and I was able to figure out the ending as the opening scene began. In all my years, I have never seen a romantic comedy that had an unexpected ending...until now. Definitely, Maybe is the freshest romantic comedy to hit cinemas in a long, long time. It is the touching and remarkably engaging story of Will Hayes (Ryan Reynolds), who is suffering a divorce while caring for his young daughter Maya (Abigail Breslin). As Will tries to put Maya to bed, she relentlessly inquires to hear the story of how he met her mother. Will reluctantly agrees, and the real movie begins. A young Will Hayes just arrived in New York in 1992 to support Presidential candidate Bill Clinton in the upcoming election. Momentarily leaving his college sweetheart Emily (Elizabeth Banks) in Wisconsin, Will is left susceptible to the dangerous possibility of falling for other women in his new surrounding. One of those women is the beautiful copy machine girl April (Isla Fisher), whom Will becomes very good friends. The two share many comical encounters that are very easy to watch. The other woman testing Will's strength is up and coming journalist Summer Hartley (Rachel Weisz), who is also currently dating world famous journalist Hampton Roth (Kevin Kline), a man of 60 that still likes 'em young. It is also very enticing to learn that Summer possibly shared a romantic encounter with Will's Emily during their college days. With all the characters in place, Maya and the rest of us are left wondering, "who does he end up with?". That, my friends, is why Definitely, Maybe is a terrific film.

Definitely, Maybe was directed and written by Adam Brooks, who also wrote the romantic sports comedy Wimbledon. Coincidentally, that was also one of the very few romantic comedies I actually enjoyed, despite it's predictability. What Brooks did with Definitely, Maybe was take a film genre and set a new standard for it. His writing neglected the cliche conventions of writing a romantic film, and instead twisted it with a mystery theme. With this unique and original plot, the viewer is left with only speculations as to how it will end. Much like I always do with these types of films, I guessed how it would end at the midway point. For the first time ever, I was wrong. Brooks did a superb job keeping me guessing. Whenever I thought I had it figured out, he would throw another curveball. The three woman that swirled through Will's life and time and again knocked him down actually managed to make me feel sorry for the main character. I was able to see his dejection and I was able to feel the love that he felt for all 3 of these women at one time or another. I was also very surprised to find myself willingly engaging in the story, eager to see what would happen next. My first viewing of Definitely, Maybe was with 2 friends, both of which are heterosexual males like myself. I had no problem watching this movie with them because I heard it was good and I wanted to see it, regardless of who I was with. But what shocked me was that one of my friends, who was very unhappy with the idea of watching this film without girls around, was actually bothered by the fact that we had to shut it off midway (we had to go somewhere). Even he was interested in how it ended. That just goes to show you that guys, you don't need to have a girl present to watch this film. It is genuinely good.

With a romantic comedy, who always have to be sure you have good actors to make everything feel authentic. If you go and watch a film like Good Luck Chuck, seeing Dane Cook flirt with Jessica Alba is almost as enjoyable as a trip to the dentist's office (no offense to any dentist's out there). In Definitely, Maybe, every actor did their part to make sure every moment was legitimate. Ryan Reynolds is known to be a very charismatic actor. Even in lesser efforts such as Blade: Trinity, Reynolds always brings charm to his characters. Will Hayes is no different. A delightful and relatable character, audiences will enjoy watching his life unfold and actually root for his happiness. Reynolds also consistently interacts with the films 4 leading ladies believably. Talking to his daughter, played by Breslin, you feel a warmhearted relationship between the two that you could find between a loving father and his child. His heartache is unforgettable as he repeatedly loses those closest to him. Reynolds is also blessed with a wonderful supporting cast, specifically Isla Fisher. I remember in my review of Wedding Crashers I said that Fisher had a very promising career ahead of her and my opinion has not changed. Consistently entertaining and thoroughly amusing, Fisher is a pleasure to watch in any film (except Hot Rod which sucked and horribly underutilized her ability). Elizabeth Banks and Rachel Weisz both put in strong performances, but the only other noteworthy performance from the female cast was the young Abigail Breslin. Although she was nominated for her role in the overrated Little Miss Sunshine, I actually thought she was better in this film. Still not worthy of a nomination, but she showed real talent in this film. (I still don't understand how she was nominated. She wasn't even that good. WHAT DID I MISS!?). Kevin Kline also contributes a very funny effort as the sexagenarian that has a taste for younger women.

When it all boils down, there is really one thing that I am looking for in a romantic comedy, and that is believability. I do not want to watch actors make googly eyes at each other. I want to see people convincing me that their is a such thing as true love. Definitely, Maybe is the only romantic comedy I have ever seen that was both realistic and genuinely entertaining. Not completely without the romance cliches, Definitely, Maybe is not perfect, but is certainly a breath of fresh air for a stupid movie genre. My rating (7/10)

Lack of posts

Hey everybody, in case you were wondering when I was planning on posting another review, it may be a little bit. School has started for me and I am getting back into the swing of things. Thanks for your patience.

Movies given a 10/10

  • Milk
  • In Bruges
  • Slumdog Millionaire
  • The Dark Knight
  • Iron Man
  • No Country For Old Men
  • The Shining
  • A Clockwork Orange