3/29/08

Drillbit Taylor: Bums, Geeks, and Evil Bullies

I was reluctant to call this movie a geek movie at first, but after watching it I realize... these kids are just about as geeky as it comes. Drillbit Taylor is about Wade and Ryan who are starting their first day at high school. When they arrive they are promptly hazed and kicked around by the local bully, Filkins. Determined to start a new, popular life in high school, they decide to hire a body guard to keep Filkins in check.

Enter Owen Wilson, aka Bob Taylor, aka Drillbit Taylor, aka Alamo Taylor (I'm still likin' the sound of that...). Drillbit Taylor is a bum. Simple as that. He steals what he eats, begs for money on the street corner and showers naked at a public beach. When he decides he wants to move to Canada, he realizes he's going to need to hit something big. Maybe even possibly get a job. And he finds the perfect one: body guard for a couple of high school freshman geeks. They hire him because... well, he's the only one out of the many they interviewed that they can afford.

Disguised as a substitute teacher, Drillbit infiltrates the kid's school and falls in love with their English teacher who has a problem will falling for bums and thinks Drillbit, aka Dr. Illbit, is exactly the kind of guy she needs to fall away from that destructive habit.

This is your basic "be yourself" and "stand up for what's right" movie, but it's the kind of story that's never really been told. Drillbit is a villainous con artist at first, but finds more to live for than just money and the promise of the frozen north. Wade and Ryan are geeky wusses at first, but learn to stand up for themselves and tackle high school head-on. The story is solid and I'm quite fond of it.

The only problem I found was that, billed as comedy, it could have been a bit funnier. Don't get me wrong - it was hilarious. Especially if you catch subtle, sarcastic humor. The problem is that a lot of people don't. And those people are likely to walk out of the movie with a warm feeling for the story, but the smile on their faces won't be from laughing too much.

Drillbit's a winner for me. If subtle humor is your thing, you'll like it, too. In the end, it all comes down to how awesome your pseudonym is.

21: Sexy Geeks in Los Vegas

21 is based on the true story of Ben Campbell, an MIT student who wants to get into Harvard Medical. The only way he can do that is with a free-ride scholarship. And the only way he can get the free-ride scholarship is if he has an interesting story to tell. Actually, there's another way he can get the money for Harvard... by counting cards in Vegas.

Ben is the kind of guy that has his life all mapped out. And that's the problem. Having obsessed over getting into Harvard his entire scholastic life, he missed out on any life experience that would have been good to write about in his essay for the grant he needs. Luckily for him, he's good with numbers. Very good. His professor at MIT, Mickey Rosa, recognizes this talent and gives him a proposition: come make huge amounts of money with us in Vegas by counting cards in Blackjack and you won't need a scholarship. Ben is reluctant because he has other responsibilities that he set up for himself in Boston so he can't possibly go to Vegas every weekend, but the allure of accomplishing his Harvard dreams and hooking up with the impossibly sexy genius, Jill Taylor, who's also on the card counting team, eventually baits him.

This movie was a great story. Watching someone play cards isn't necessarily all that exciting, but the cinematography used to hype you up over simple math is astonishingly effective. You feel nervous when Ben is nervous and you feel excited when Ben is excited. You fall in love with Jill Taylor just as Ben does and you feel awkwardly embarrassed when she rejects his first kiss. The music, I found, helped a lot with this empathy. A pumping, driving techno beat helped you to feel nervous when Ben was doing nothing more than walking through a security scanner at the airport.

What was really interesting about it, though, was how sexy all the math geeks were. Math geniuses have come a long way from Raymond Babbitt, evidently. The robotics geeks, however, are the ones who look like they should be geeks. These are Ben's real friends with whom he started a project to make a self-driving car.

All in all, the dialog was real, the story was fetching and there was a twist at the end that was both surprising and extremely rewarding. 21 is a movie that not just geeks will like, but pretty much anyone who's looking for some good Vegas fun.

3/7/08

10,000 BC: 10,000 Wins

I don't know where to begin praising this movie.

Let me start by saying that these aren't cavemen. Not only do they not live in caves, but they're a bit more sophisticated than the typical caveman picture. The tribe the hero, D'Leh, lives in has created shelter from the bones and skin of the mammoths which they hunt. This tribe has a spiritual matriarch, Old Mother, who prophesied that a young girl with blue eyes who was found near her tribe would lead them to a new land. The tribe of this young girl, Evolet, was destroyed, the people taken as Egyptian slaves. And from the very beginning D'Leh and Evolet are in love.

The story really gets going when the same "four-legged demons" (men on horseback) that ransacked Evolet's tribe comes for D'Leh's tribe. Most of the tribe is taken, including Evolet, and D'Leh is left with two others to go and find her.

What really wins me over in the telling of this story is how they use the fact that we know more than these primative people to their advantage. D'Leh tells Evolet that she is like the North Star, which he merely calls a "light in the sky." He says "every other light in the sky moves across sky, but that one stays put." He tells Evolet that she will stay with him in his heart. Later in the movie, they are following what the viewer will assume to be the Nile up toward Egypt. They take a short cut through the dessert and end up going in circles for days until D'Leh decides to follow Evolet's star.

The whole story is beautifully woven in this way. Prophesies and spirituality woven together with factual realities in a way that makes you chuckle when you realize you've just learned along with a prehistoric, uncivilized mammoth hunter that demons are just guys on horses. But they also added an element that is sometimes lacking in a rough, rugged hero like D'Leh. They added heart. There is a moment near the end where, for the love of his woman, D'Leh breaks down in front of his entire army and cries. From the very beginning it's clear that D'Leh is not a leader because he wants to be. He is only a leader because of Evolet. He doesn't run off to save his and several other tribes to prove his manhood and gain the respect of all nations. He does it to save his woman. D'Leh could easily have made the ranks of Sparta, but he would have been alienated by 300's pure, unmitigated testosterone. D'Leh teaches modern men that even cavemen cry sometimes.

10,000 BC wins my approval. It has the blood-pumping testosterone levels of 300 with the heart of Cloverfield mixed with a smattering of genius story telling. Also there are Hawkstriders. Big, mean, carnivorous Hawkstriders. So WoW + Cloverfield + 300 = 10,000 BC = Win.

3/6/08

Caption Contest!



Above you see a slide show of all the pics featured here (unless you're using some lame RSS reader that doesn't like Flash). Some of them have captions and some of them don't. It's up to you whether the established caption stays and what any new captions say! Post a caption as a comment on any picture you like and the best caption of them all will be the new one! Your prize is the glory of a thousand Diggs. Not the actual Diggs themselves, but the glory that comes with them.

Thoughts on 10,000 BC

So, tonight I'll be seeing 10,000 BC which, according to the title, takes place in an era of time which, according to fundamentalist believers, is the absolute earliest time earth could possibly have been around. How do you think this movie will impact the debate between evolution vs. creation? And is it me or does the story seem very similar to that of Moses? Discuss!