Archive for the ‘Jake Gyllenhaal’ Category

MOVIE: Source Code (2011)

April 21, 2011
NOTE: This review does NOT contain anything I’d consider a “spoiler.”  But I can’t vouch for the comments section, where spoilage of the ending may occur.  If you haven’t seen the movie, STAY OUTTA THE COMMENTS!

Most of the reviews I’ve read about this movie have said the same thing: it’s a total blast as long as you don’t think about it too much.

Well, where’s the fun in THAT, I ask you.  I’m a bit of a physics nerd, and you can’t make a movie about time travel and expect me NOT to think about it.  That’s just crazy talk, sirs and madams.

But first, let me say that those critics and I agree about one thing:  this movie is definitely fun.  It’s about an Army helicopter pilot, Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal), who is being attacked in the air over Afghanistan when he suddenly finds himself at rest inside a strange metal pod.  On a TV screen above him comes a woman who identifies herself as Col. Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) and explains he’s been recruited for an experimental mission that involves sending his consciousness back in time to inhabit the body of a young man named Sean Fentress on a Chicago-bound commuter train earlier that morning.

Because of the way the procedure works, she says, Stevens can only inhabit Sean for the last eight minutes of his life — you see, Sean, as well as everybody else on the train, was killed that morning when a terrorist’s bomb exploded on board, and they need Stevens to figure out who the bomber is so they can stop him before he detonates another one.

As Stevens returns over and over to re-experience the same eight minutes, he gradually collects enough information to deduce the identity of the bomber.  He also falls in love with a woman on the train, the first face he sees every time he is sent back.

What I found intriguing about this film was less the mystery about the bomber (which is pretty ho-hum, frankly) and more the mystery about this experimental time travel procedure, which the movie doesn’t even attempt to explain, aside from saying it involves “quantum mechanics and parabolic calculus.”  To the movie, and to most of its viewers, the “how?” is not really important.  But to nerds like me, it’s endlessly thought-provoking, so I will now ramble on for several paragraphs while I work through some of my theories.

There are two possibilities, to my mind.  One is that the time travel Stevens is experiencing involves parallel universes (as opposed to a more Back to the Future-type time travel, where you go back in your own reality and your actions can impact your own future — these are two well-known ideas about how time travel might work, and it’s my understanding that most physicists who believe in this stuff think the parallel universe one is more likely).

There are several elements in the story that suggest this parallel universe thing is at work, especially the ending, but there are also several elements that don’t quite make sense in that context.

For example, my understanding of parallel universes is that they’re not identical (and how could they be, when all it takes to change everything is the flap of a single butterfly’s wings, right?), and that’s suggested here too by the fact Stevens in Sean’s body is obviously altering the events of that time line.  But if that’s the case, and parallel universes are not identical, then how are they so sure the bombing will happen at all, let alone be perpetrated by the same guy?  And why does Goodwin tell Stevens he can’t save the people on the train because they’re already dead (in her universe/time line).  He’d be able to save them in HIS universe/time, right?

That, and other discrepancies like it, bring me to my other theory, which is that the procedure isn’t about time travel at all — the way we think of it anyway. Instead I’m thinking it could be some kind of complex computer simulation.  Professor Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright), the procedure’s developer, talks about the brain being able to store eight minutes of memory after death, as though it were somehow retrievable data.  If it’s a simulation, that explains why Goodwin insists Stevens can’t save anybody (though she may simply have been lying about that for expediency’s sake, I suppose).  BUT, it doesn’t really explain how he could find the bomber. Sean’s last eight minutes were spent sitting in a train car talking to a friend — the only memories he would have would be of that single car, and possibly the restroom and any passengers who happened to walk through.  Yet Stevens is able to go beyond that and to interact with people Sean did not interact with, as well as get off the train and experience events there.

Then again, an advanced computer should be able to accurately extrapolate a lot of information from that original data set.  And so, in that case, maybe this theory works.  Goodwin tells Stevens the bomber is one of the passengers in that car, for one thing, which goes along with the idea that Sean is the perfect person to inhabit (though I’m not sure how she could possibly know the bomber was from that car and not, say, the car next to it — the location of the bomb and the phone the bomber leaves behind suggest proximity, not specificity) (but whatever).  Also, Stevens and the computer simulation are also given more data as Goodwin’s day progresses and her investigators find additional clues, thus providing more variables, leading, potentially, to more, and more accurate, extrapolations.

This is the theory that makes the most sense to me — at least until we get to the end.  Then I start having to go a little more Russell-Crowe-in-Virtuosity to get it to work out.

Oh, heck, who knows?  All I really know is that I wish I’d seen this one with my mom, because we LOVE trying to hash these kinds of things out together after watching movies like this one, and now I’ll have to wait for the damn DVD!  Rats!  (Though if any of you guys saw the movie and want to nerd out with me in the comments, I would love it.  Feel free to talk about the ending there, and if you haven’t seen the film, again, STAY OUT!)

Extremely entertaining flick and a great one for all fans of sci-fi action, nerd and non-nerd alike.  Recommended!

[Prequeue it at Netflix | View trailer]

Genre:  Science Fiction, Action
Cast:  Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright, Michael Arden

Final Four Movies from Thanksgiving

December 12, 2007

The four movies in this post are the last of the bunch I watched while on vacation over Thanksgiving (jeez, finally wrapping up this series at long last!).  I decided to group them all together into a single post because they were all ones I’d seen (and thus reviewed) in the last year or two.  Of the group, I think only Pan’shas a review on this blog — the rest would be in the Yahoo Group archives from back when I was sending out movie reviews to email subscribers. 

I’ve been ranking the movies from my vacation on a scale of 1-9, with 9 being the worst movie we watched (Nextwith Nic Cage!), and 1 being the best.  The numbers next to each movie’s title below represent their ranking numbers. 

#5:  Maximum Velocity (2003).  This is another one of Phillip J. Roth’s movies, a writer/director/producer whose name we always keep an eye out for when renting sci-fi movies, because in our experience, if Roth was involved, the movie is much more likely to be good-bad instead of bad-bad (as a matter of fact, sometimes his low-budget movies are even better than big-budget films about the same subject — for example, Roth’s flick Deep Core, starring the ever-awesome Wil Wheaton and Craig Sheffer, kicked the wussy butt of Hollywood crapfest The Core).  Of all the Roth movies we’ve seen, I think Maximum Velocity probably has the weakest science behind it, but it was still entertaining (both the first time we saw it, and this second time too).   In this one, Dale Midkiffplays a climatologist, Dr. Briggs, who is part of an experimental weather-related project that goes terribly awry and ends up causing the death of his wife.  A couple of years later, a terrible storm hits Earth, and scientists decide the only way to save the planet is to get that old project back out of the scrap heap and use it to alter the storm’s intensity and trajectory.  But, can they convince the project’s original scientist, Dr. Briggs, to come back and help?  It’s not brilliant, but it’s pretty fun, and fun is really the only criteria worth judging when watching low-budget sci-fi movies.  Besides, I’ll watch Dale Midkiff do just about anything, as evidenced by the fact I’ve seen Flight of the Living Dead.  Cast: Dale Midkiff, Michael Ironside, Wendy Carter.  [Netflix me]

#3 The Day After Tomorrow (2004).  Mom and I really enjoyed this movie the first time we saw it (right after it came out on DVD).  So, when both of us caught a scene or two of it on television in early November, it really put us in the mood to see the whole thing again.  Hence, rental.  As I’m sure you guys know, this flick is about a massive storm brought on by global warming that suddenly rages out of control, launching a new ice age and essentially freezing to the core the entire Northern hemisphere.  Struggling to survive the initial wave of the storm are a group of teenagers holed up in the New York City public library, while down in Washington DC, one of their fathers, a climatologist who had predicted the whole disaster, is attempting to walk his way through the blizzard to save his son.  It’s your standard big-budget Hollywood flick, with lots of special effects and a fair helping of cheese (and also, I will confess, an extremely silly scene involving some wolves).  But the science, though exaggerated, is actually not that far off track.  So, yes, it’s a little on the hokey side (okay, okay, a LOT on the hokey side), but it’s still really fun to watch.  See above, re: criteria.  And, of course, it’s always nice seeing Jake Gyllenhaal play a kid who ISN’T a mopey grump.  Way to break out of the mold, Jake!  Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Dennis Quaid, Emmy Rossum, Sela Ward, Ian Holm.  [Netflix me]

#2 Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995).  I had been planning to rent the NEW Die Hardmovie while I was on vacation, but as it turned out, my mom still hadn’t seen the third one.  So, we rented it instead.  I actually saw this movie in the theater — rare for me — and the reason I remember that is because on the drive home, my husband and I spent about ten minutes trying to figure out just how they solved that fountain problem in the movie.  You know that scene where McClane (Bruce Willis) and his reluctant civilian partner Zeus (Samuel L. Jackson) get to a big fountain in a park and learn from the bad guy (Jeremy Irons) that they have to put exactly four gallons of water on a scale he’s left there in order to defuse the bomb stashed underneath it?  He’s left them a 3 gallon jug and a 5 gallon jug and they have to somehow get exactly four gallons?  In the movie, they sort of whip through the solution to this problem really quickly, and we hadn’t quite caught how they managed to do it, so we had worked out the solution ourselves in the car ride home, feeling extremely smart once we had it figgered out.  Watching it this second time, I had forgotten our solution (that WAS 12 years ago, after all!) so we paused the movie right at that point and Mom and I worked it out together.  Took us a solid few minutes, too, despite the fact that once you have the solution, it seems really obvious and you feel like an idiot for not having come up with it sooner!  In any case, I love puzzles like that (in fact, I love logic puzzles so much I took the LSAT in college just so I could spend half a day working on them — nerd alert!).  So, for that scene alone, this is a movie worth watching.  But beyond that, it’s just a lot of fun.  I love Jackson’s character — or, more accurately, I just plain love Jackson (I’ve often wanted to make him a Boyfriend of the Week and have the entire write-up simply consist of the word COOL in twelve-inch letters).  And there’s a nice twist to the plot of this one as well.  Recommended! Cast: Bruce Willis, Jeremy Irons, Samuel L. Jackson, and who cares who else after that?  [Netflix me]

#1 Pan’s Labyrinth (2006).  When I first reviewed this movie last June, I predicted it would be ranked at #1 on my annual top-ten list of favorite movies from the past year.  After seeing it a second time, I not only predict that’ll happen, I knowit will  (I’ve written the top-ten list for the movies — still working on books — and it should be going up on the Boyfriend site next week, so stay tuned!).  I’m not going to bother describing it here, since I already wrote about it on this blog (see original review here!) and will be writing about it again for the Top Ten Movies list.  Suffice it to say if you haven’t seen this movie yet, you are REALLY missing out on an incredible experience.  Go rent this movie RIGHT NOW.  Seriously.  Right now.  Go.  I’ll wait. [Netflix me]

Okay, this wraps up the Thanksgiving Vacation Movie Fest!  Coming up next, reviews of a couple of newly-on-DVD flicks I watched this week, plus the annual Top Ten Favorite Movies, Top Five Favorite Bad Movies, and Top Ten Favorite Books lists on the Boyfriend of the Weeksite.  I also, incidentally, have the first Boyfriend for 2008 picked out — my hiatus from the Boyfriend site ends this January, so expect to start seeing a fresh crop of cute guys showing up in the new year!  Woot!

p.s. You know what’s ironic?  When you run the spellcheck here at WordPress, it highlights the word “blog” as a word it doesn’t recognize.  For some reason, I’m amused by this.

MOVIE: Zodiac (2007)

July 31, 2007

I read the book this movie was based on several months ago and found it pretty intriguing, albeit very clearly written by a cartoonist and not a reporter (it was written by Robert Graysmith, played by Jake Gyllenhaal in the movie, and his writing skills lack, uh, oomph, to put it nicely).

So, I already knew most of what was going to happen in this movie, and was kind of worried that, thus, I wouldn’t get much out of it. But, as it turns out, I did really enjoy it. It’s MUCH too long (I had the same complaint about the book, actually), but it’s still pretty effective, and much of the stuff that happens at the very end was taken, I assume, from Graysmith’s second book, so it was stuff I didn’t know anything about (though, now that I’ve seen this movie, I’m definitely planning to read the second book, despite my somewhat-reserved opinion of the first one).

The story focuses on the infamous Zodiac killer (duh), who killed a number of people in the 1960’s and 70’s in the Bay Area and then sent lots of letters and hard-to-crack ciphers to the local newspapers. When Graysmith overhears the content of the first letter, he becomes obsessed with getting involved with the case, even though it’s completely unrelated to his job as a rookie political cartoonist. He ultimately teams up with reporter Paul Avery (played by Robert Downey Jr.), and the two of them begin working on the ciphers and theories together. Eventually Avery is lost to alcoholism, and Graysmith begins thinking it’s time someone wrote a book on the case. As his investigation deepens, he begins to focus on one suspect in particular — a man who, it seems, has a lot in common with what they already know about the killer. Was that man really the Zodiac killer? We’ll probably never know. But, though movies with unresolved storylines usually drive me batty (damn you, Limbo!), the postscript of this film provides enough information to make it feel fairly satisfying. I felt like it had a sense of closure, even if that sense is somewhat unjustifiable.

In any case, I did enjoy this movie, though I would’ve edited at least thirty minutes of it out had I been in charge (why, oh why, am I never put in charge?). If you like puzzles and thrillers, you’ll probably like both this movie and the original book, I think. Great acting from everybody too — and, of course, it didn’t hurt that it was essentially a little ex-Boyfriend of the Week reunion flick either (Jake, Mark, and Robert have all been featured on the site, see links below to their write-ups). Recommended!

Genre: Thriller / True Crime
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Edwards, Robert Downey Jr., Brian Cox, John Carroll Lynch, Chloe Sevigny