So the Potato watched “Legion”…

The plot in a nutshell:  God has lost faith in humanity. The worst parts of the Bible are starting to come true, and God’s avenging angels have arrived from heaven to make sure this happens.  The Archangel Michael (Paul Bettany) believes humanity isn’t beyond saving and tries to stop said apocalypse.  The key to our salvation lies in a young pregnant waitress named Charlie (Adrianne Palicki), for the baby she carries (for some reason) is humanity’s only hope for survival.  Michael finds Charlie and the rest of the middle-of-nowhere-diner patrons already under attack by humans possessed by angels.  Much chaos, and much more talking ensues.

Paul Bettany shows a different side to his range, playing Michael more crass than saintly.  For an action film with a lot of talking, the lead role would have to be someone who is compelling to watch, and Bettany fills that role effortlessly.  The cast as a whole would be considered an all-star cast, just not major league.  More of a AAA squad than anything.  Lucas “Sling Blade” Black is an actor of a very specific type (read: southern), and he has a strong ability to communicate earnest and pensive emotions.  In “Legion”, Black makes you care for his fraidy-cat character, but fails to connect with any other actor on screen.  Same goes for Friday Night Lights’s Adrianne Palicki.  We care for her unwed-soon-to-be mother-of-the-possible-messiah character, but she makes no connection with the other characters.  It felt like these two actors were starring in different films with the same plot.  Tyrese and Charles “Roc” Dutton both make memorable moments with their limited screen time, and Private Practice’s Kate Walsh gets an honorable mention for turning in a good performance of a character that completely destroys her own likeability by the end.  As the biggest name involved with the film, Dennis Quaid is entertaining but is unfortunately the weak link in the cast. Extra props to “that guy” Canadian actor Kevin Durand for his performance of Archangel Gabriel, and pretty much for making Gabriel the most badass angel ever. If Jesus need bodyguards, this guy’s the one to call.

“Legion” is a film that asks the audience to make gigantic leaps of logic while permanently suspending disbelief.  I am no snob to these types of films.  It’s a very slippery slope when a director attempts to create a universe from the ground up that is separate from our own.  Director Scott Stewart obviously had a vision when making this film, and I give major effort points to him for that.  The special effects are solid and vibrant, if not a bit unoriginal.  We’ve seen this story before in films like Frank Darabont’s “The Mist”, and that film is more effective because Darabont keeps the audience in the dark about the source of the terror.  The premise behind “Legion” seems to be plucked from the pages of an obscure Stephen King short story, but it spends far too much time explaining the pseudo-biblical universe and not enough time with the scares.  It has elements of horror, action, suspense, and drama (believe it or not), but none of them gel together to create a complete film.  Other critics have been harsher, specifically targeting the amount of talking that occurs.  I would agree that there is a lot of talking, but the script and the acting were strong enough to carry the film’s verbosity.  I enjoyed the “follow your dreams” scene between Quaid and Black in the first half of the film.  The scene illustrates the film’s potential for greatness.  As a whole, however, “Legion” is an entertaining talkfest of a horror-action film that will satisfy the action junkie, but will leave everyone else wanting much more.  If you have to see this film in the theater, make it a matinee show.  Otherwise, make this one a rental.

Nice try, guys.


The Potato’s “Best” of The Decade

Ok, so there are too many films.  I wish I had a team of researchers to track down every film I have ever seen so that I could come up with a really awesome list.  In fact, I’m making it one of my resolutions for 2010.  I really do need a team of something…but I digress.  The only two criteria for the list are that the film must have been released between the years 2000 and 2009, and the film must not suck.  That’s it.  I also tried to pick films that hold some sort of significance in the film world/pop culture.  Some of my favorite films didn’t make the list, and other critically acclaimed films didn’t make the list.  I suppose I would need a top 50 in order to capture them all, but who has time for that?  In chronological order, here’s The Potato’s “best” films of the decade list:

Memento (2000)

Christopher Nolan payed homage to the classic Hitchcockian thriller while also managing to reinvent the genre.  With this film, Nolan declared that he would be one of the directors to watch in the coming years, and he delivered on that promise.

The Lord of The Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)

Peter Jackson captured lightning in a bottle three times with his Epic-with-a-capitol-E fantasy series.  In the post-9/11 world, we prefer even our diversions to be as realistic and as dangerous as ever, but LOTR dared audiences to suspend disbelief and use their imaginations once again.

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Wes Anderson was considered a director to watch back when he released 1996’s Bottle Rocket and 1998’s Rushmore, but this is the film that made even the mainstream film fan stand up and take notice.  A director with uncompromising, intricate visions, Wes Anderson has never been better.

28 Days Later (2002)

The film that changed horror, reinvigorated the zombie craze, and the film that made people finally appreciate how great a director Danny Boyle is.  It’s scary, it’s intelligent, and it’s a ride from start to finish.

The Bourne Identity/Supremacy/Ultimatum (2002, 2004, 2007)

The film series that changed spy films, action films, and Bond films.  It also made Matt Damon both an action hero and earned him a spot on the moviestar shortlist.  The Bourne series convinced us that we want our heroes to be recognizable, fallible, and still extraordinary.  They are also action films that film buffs can enjoy openly.  Also, the film Casino Royale, in its current form, wouldn’t exist without this series.

Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind (2004)

Charlie Kaufman is one of the greatest screenwriters working today, and this film is the reason why.  Michel Gondry is one of the greatest directors working today, and this film is the reason why.  Both have had success before and since, but Eternal Sunshine is an achievement that transcends any lines or labels such as “indie” or “mainstream”.  The film immortalized Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey as one of the great complicated screen couples, and it revolutionized the way we think of storytelling and how it relates to human nature.

Spider-Man 2 (2002)/The Dark Knight (2008)

So this is another listing cheat.  I wanted each film to have their own spot, but we all know that superhero films have pretty much blanketed the Hollywood landscape, and we don’t need another reminder.  These two films, however, are both superb and also changed how superhero films are made.  While on both sides of the spectrum (Spidey being more comic-book-ish, Batman being darker and more realistic), both films are the benchmarks of the genre, and have not been topped since.

The Incredibles (2004)

The film that changed mainstream animation.  Pixar and Disney proved with this film that even adults could enjoy PG-rated animated action.  The visuals are eye-popping, the voice talents are awesome (with special shoutouts to Jason Lee and Craig T. Nelson as Syndrome and Mr. Incredible, respectively), and the music is super cool.

The 40 Year-Old Virgin (2005)

The film that changed comedy, and also made the name “Apatow” into an adjective.  The film introduced us to Steve Carell, Seth Rogen, Jane Lynch, and reintroduced us to Paul Rudd.  The film speaks for itself, since nearly every critically acclaimed comedy since has been compared to it, and will be listed as one of the most influential comedies ever made.

No Country For Old Men (2007)

The film that finally made me a forever Coen brothers devotee.  I was always a fan, but had never fully appreciated their genius until this film.  It also introduced us to one of the scariest film icons in decades, in the form of Javier Bardem’s sublime portrayal of assassin Anton Chigurrh.


I’m sorry, Mr. Soderbergh.  If I had a top 20, you’d rule it for sure.  Same goes for Mr. Tarantino, Sr. Del Toro, Mr. Reitman, and Mr. Abrams.

Traffic (2000)

Kill Bill vol. 1 & 2 (2003-2004)

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

Juno (2007)

Star Trek (2009)