Daily Archives: February 17, 2008

Rabbits, Leapfrog, and Jumper

By the time football season was coming to an end, I had decided to watch Jumper for entertainment, but after I made a friend tell me how it ended, I changed my mind. It screams, “sequel!” according to him. But, I then volunteered to review it for Film Threat. I went in without any hopes for pleasure and came away not completely disappointed. I’m copying and pasting my review.

Based on Steven Gould’s novel of the same name, “Jumper” (Doug Liman) delves into the life of a young man whose super-human capabilities afford him the greatest convenience and burden. David Rice’s mother (Diane Lane) left him under the oppressive care of his father (Michael Rooker) when David was five years old. At age fifteen, David (Max Thieriot from “Nancy Drew”) discovers he possesses the physics-defying ability to jump from one place to another after an incident where he nearly drowned while retrieving from a lake a snow globe present for his friend Millie (AnnaSophia Robb from “Bridge to Terabithia”). One second he’s submerged in the icy water and the next he is in the Ann Arbor Public Library. Not wanting to waste time or squander this newly found talent, David flees to New York City in search of a father-free existence. Eight years later, grownup David (Hayden Christensen), has applied his method of transportation to support his extravagant, globe-trotting lifestyle.Unfortunately, while not meaning any harm, David quickly learns that he should have considered the consequences of his choices. One cannot successfully steal money from banks forever; somebody is bound to get suspicious and know exactly how the crime was committed. This somebody is Roland (Samuel L. Jackson), head honcho of the Paladins, a group of assassins determined to hunt down and exterminate every Jumper. Upon encountering Roland for the first time, David’s jumping talent shifts into overdrive as he simultaneously sight-sees in Rome with his childhood crush Millie (Rachel Bilson), eludes the Paladins, and partners up with another Jumper named Griffin (Jamie Bell) to stop their killers.

The trailers for “Jumper” I saw in theatres presented a premise that I knew would benefit from computer-generated visual effects, but it was actually all the promos and replay graphics from Fox’s NFL and Bowl Games broadcasts that convinced me to watch the film. It’s a grab-bag of high points and low points. The concept of teleportation is brought to visually tantalizing life in Doug Liman’s film. I could almost forget about the delights of flight (a la “Superman”), telekinesis (like “Carrie”), and pyrokinesis (“Firestarter”). Being able to participate in “space-travel,” or essentially real-time elliptical editing, as the film depicts is mind-boggling fun. You’d even get a sound effect—a combination of thud,thunk, and whoosh.

Hayden Christensen narrates occasionally and his non-emotive acting isn’t as bothersome as I had expected because the plot privileges spectacle and suspense over heart-wrenching monologues on his part. His manner of speaking isn’t as strong of a distraction in “Jumper” as it was in the second “Star Wars” prequel. In contrast, Jamie Bell steals the show with a charisma that knows no expiration date. Rachel Bilson performs solidly. Just when I think she should stop asking questions and do as David tells her, the way she resists him begins to make sense (you’d behave as she does if you were in her shoes). Samuel L. Jackson is mean enough as the villain; I just can’t help but think of “Unbreakable”.

The major weakness in “Jumper” is the piling on of action and narrative in the last ten to twelve minutes. It’s as though the editor was rushing to meet a deadline and did the best he could with too much footage. Moreover, as nifty as the jumping tricks are in the last few sequences, couldn’t they have been incorporated into earlier parts of the film?

The ending doesn’t blaze a neon-lit “sequel” sign, but it definitely lets the chimes ring “to be continued.” Given the amount of the information that is addressed and introduced (David’s mother) as well as referenced but unanswered (narrative and thematic significance of the Ann Arbor public library) in the final scene, you’re going to need a “Jumper Two.”

Click here for the Jumper trailer.

Observations & Miscellania:

1. Steven Gould’s novel was written for a teenage audience. There is a sequel that will focus on Griffin O’Connor, Jamie Bell’s character.

2. As a producer, Doug Liman has a pretty diverse and successful track record. His directorial efforts have been fewer in number but impressive too, including films such as The Bourne Identity (2002), Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), and one of my all-time favorites, Swingers (1996). Simon Kinberg, who co-wrote the screenplay for Jumper, also wrote Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

3. Trailers worth noting that played before the film: The Bank Job, Street Kings, The Happening.

4. Product placement and branding: Pepsi, Imacs, Quicksilver, Metlife, North Face, The Coliseum, The Family Guy, Aquafina, Sierra Mist, Mountain Dew. Jamie Bell’s character’s lair is stocked with Aquafina, Sierra Mist, and Mountain Dew. Hayden Christensen’s character has the North Face backpack and two flatscreen Imacs that he doesn’t actually use. In a few years, perhaps the presence of Apple computers in a film won’t be tied to product placement or branding, but they’re so distinctive in appearance and are marketed as being so different from PCs in terms of user-friendliness, systems stability, and applications strength (media editing suites) that I find it hard to believe the production designer and props mistress/master wouldn’t take into consideration what kind of computer a particular character would have. A PC in the background or foreground of a scene can be read as just office equipment. An Apple, on the other hand, isn’t just a tool. It stands out more in appearances and conjures a personality profile for its user, which fits the protagonist in Jumper.

5. There’s a football game on the TV in the bar here Millie works. Judging from the uniforms, one team had to have been the Steelers or Packers (yellow pants).

6. The beginning credits are designed to be inconspicuous against the images on screen.

7. I can’t figure out if the first jumping sequence (from lake to library) is supposed to be underwhelming from a psychological stance. Visually, it’s displayed as not-a-big-deal. After skimming the first few pages of Gould’s book (this particular edition), it’s clear that narrative details were changed in the adapting novel-to-script. The basic idea is intact, though. Interestingly, aside from the specific circumstance that brings about the jump, the first mentioning of young David’s talent is as nondescript in the book as it is in the film. In one sentence he’s about to get get punched by his father and in the next, after a “…,” he’s in the library (but not of Ann Arbor).

8. There’s a brief montage sequence where young David is practicing his jumping in New York City. There could’ve been some gags during this part. For instance, in his attempt to get a better grip on the precision of the actual jumping to where he lands so that he doesn’t cause so much property damage to the surrounding space, David could turn up two feet too far to the left and rather than be sitting on a bench, he’s sitting in a port-o-potty. Though, I suspect this sort of comedy wouldn’t have fit with Doug Liman’s intents or schedule.

9. The film establishes a set of rules or patterns to where Dave turns up on the end of a jump. Firstly, the ability to jump appears to be a defense mechanism, a way to escape (the book probably presents this connection more explicitly). Secondly, destinations or “jump sites” are easily accessed mentally and “sub-atomically” by the Jumper due to familiarity (there has to be a reason Dave landed in the Ann Arbor Public Library–but was he thinking about it in his head or did some unconscious force pull him there of all places?) Thirdly, a “jump scar” is the “wormhole” or trail a Jumper leaves behind in the seconds after he departs. As the film indicates, a Jumper can be followed by going through this space.

10. There’s also a learning curve to this jumping business. It’s not just about thinking yourself from location A to location B without having to take the time to reach your destination. David learns from Griffin that you can move or take objects with you and utilize momentum to knock over adversaries (this one is really cool).

11. The moral dilemma of using jumping for good or evil seems obligatory and arrived by process of elimination. If the major conflict of Jumper weren’t Jumpers vs. Paladins (struggle for self-preservation, the Paladins think only God can have the power to be everywhere at once and break laws of physics), then it’d be turf wars a la Underworld or Blade. With the Paladins as the antagonists, no matter how unlawfully a Jumper lives his life, he’d still be the “good guy.”

Click here for more production stills.

It’s Like a Fairy Tale, Rambo in the Alcoves

Not sports-related, but we can’t be balling all the time.  Gotta wash the jerseys and give the cleats a rest from time to time.

No, Rambo is not like a fairy tale.  Sylvester Stallone’s self-directed film is definitely no picturesque canoe ride under stone bridges connecting banks of cottages and cathedrals dating back to the medieval times.  In Bruges, on the other hand, is quite the fairy tale–at least Ralph Fiennes’s character insists as much.

I saw  In Bruges (written and directed by Martin McDonagh) in the afternoon and then Rambo at night.

 

I watched the former because I was in the mood for a little dark comedy, and though I’m no Colin Farrell fan, the trailers made him out to be appealing (in terms of line delivery).   He and Brendan Gleeson are killers who are instructed by their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes) to lay low in Bruges (hence the title) for two weeks until further notice.  By the end of the ninety-minute-long film, bullets fly, American tourists are made fun of and Canadian tourists are punched.  Such fun.  Comedy I certainly got; I just wasn’t expecting the dark parts to be so dark.

I was going to watch Rambo the day it came out or on my birthday, four days after the theatrical release, but it just didn’t happen.  I decided to see it tonight quite spontaneously–I didn’t feel like staying at home for the night.   I went to the AMC in Alpharetta–I think I was one of three females in the whole audience (which primarily consisted of male friends and fathers and sons of all ages).

The only two Sylvester Stallone films I’ve seen in their entirety are Cliffhanger and Judge Dredd.  Voice-overing for Antz doesn’t count.

A small Christian group from Colorado, led by doctor Michael (Paul Schulze) and church member Sarah (Julie Benz), persuades John Rambo to take them into war-torn Burma to deliver medical supplies to a village.  Michael tells John that this would be their fifth trip, which indicates that he knows about the dangers.  Significantly, though, the implication is that they’ve made it this far, they can make it again.  They reach their destination but don’t exactly make it back home within ten days.  Rambo takes a group of mercenaries (an Aussie (?), an Asian guy, an ambiguously marked ethnic Other, and two white dudes) to rescue the humanitarians.

Over the course of the film, heads detach from necks, limbs somersault through the air, children are impaled–the audience is not spared one drop of blood or squirmy imagery.  I’m glad I saw it.  Click here for Pete Vonder Haar’s review for Film Threat.

If the Sarah character looks familiar to you,

it’s probably because you’ve seen some of her other work: Jawbreaker, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (as Darla), Angel (also as Darla), and most recently Dexter.

Paul Schulze might give you the “hey, it’s that guy” reaction (he circulates widely on the TV circuit).  Coincidentally, I’ve seen him in two different films in the past week, Grind and The Unbelievable Truth–both starring the late Adrienne Shelly.

In Bruges trailer:

Rambo trailer:

The previews that came with Rambo were: Son of Rambow, Doomsday, Midnight Meat Train, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, and Witless Protection.