Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Facing Ali (2009)

A lot better than I had hoped it would be. I didn't think that the fighters they interviewed would be as candid as they were, especially since most of them lost to Muhammad Ali.

The movie chronicles many of the keys fights in Ali's career, and is aided by the interviews of the boxers who played the foil to Ali at the time. Starting out with his Cassius Clay days, Sir Henry Cooper talks about how Clay was perceived as a loud-mouth, no-good, trash-talker who would never be able to win a fight. When they fought in England, the British people wanted Cooper to humiliate Clay...that didn't happen. Fast forward to his fights as Ali with former sparring partner Larry Holmes, the doc gets all the details from the people who know it best.

While it definitely lacked some of the finer touches of Tyson, this still was a really good movie. Boxing fans will love it, as will the casual observer. From Joe Frazier to George Forman, George Chuvalo to Leon Spinks, every former boxer has a story to tell and they are all fun to hear.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

District 9 (2009)

The more I think about this movie, the more I liked it. It was ambitious, inventive and a great action thriller that felt real. I loved the shaky-cam, documentary look of the movie and it helped add depth to the roles.

Wikus van de Merwe (Sharlto Copley) is a mid-level office drone for MNU, a large corporation that is solely in charge of keeping track of and housing the aliens. Aliens, you ask? In 1982, a large spaceship broke down and came to a stop over Johannesburg, South Africa. The aliens mean no harm, their ship just malfunctioned and halted. Some 20 years later, the ship remains and the aliens on board have amassed to over 1.5 million. MNU was hired by the government to keep them out of the public and relegated to a slum village. As one character puts it, "Where there's slums, there's crime." Due to rising public fears, the government makes MNU evict the aliens and move them to a nicer-looking, but smaller village. Wikus has been put in charge. While delivering the notices to some aliens, he comes in contact with a strange liquid substance. Over the rest of the day, he becomes sick and it progressively gets worse. Turns out, the fluid is taking over Wikus' DNA and transforming him into an alien. Now, he's public enemy #1 and on the run for his life, whatever he has left of it.

The physical and emotional transformation Copley portrays and Wikus undergoes is remarkable to watch. You really hate him when he's a jerk to the aliens, then empathize with him when his life is turned upside down. The director makes you feel like this is a current ongoing thing in South Africa, despite its obviously fiction. I recommend this movie to anyone looking for a good time.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

It's Complicated (2009)

This movie was good...and that's about it. There was nothing great or terrible about it, it was just a solid movie. It may have been helped a bit by Alec Baldwin's awesomeness.

Jane (Meryl Streep) is a 60 year old divorce woman who has come to terms, and has a picture perfect relationship with her ex, Jake (Baldwin). She's coming to grips with her youngest child leaving the house for college and the expansion of her business and home. While attending their middle child's graduation, Jane and Jake start drinking and that all leads to a night in bed that gives them the opposite reactions. This tryst continues throughout the next few weeks, all the while, Jane's architect Adam (Steve Martin), who is freshly divorced himself, tries to woo her in the casually nice way that he is. Oh yeah, let's not forget, Jake is now married to a woman who is half his age. Let the romantic comedy begin.

You can just look at director Nancy Meyers' resume on the poster and you will be able to tell what type of movie this is and who its core audience is. John Krasinski was alright in this, if not underused. But the real scene stealer was Baldwin, despite being part Jack Donaghy, his "30 Rock" character. This movie is a good movie. No more, no less.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Be prepared for a rowdy, violent good time when you watch this movie. And when I say violent, I mean violent. It helped move the plot along though. Quentin Tarantino is at his best with a totally fictionalized version of World War II.

There is a lot going on in this, so I'll try to break it down as best I can. Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) is a high ranking member of Hilter's army and is known as "The Jew Hunter," for reasons you can assume. His actions have caught the attention and outraged Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt). Outside of the official rule of the US Army, Raine has put together a band of eight Jewish-American soldiers who sole purpose in Nazi-occupied France is to kill Nazis. Their plan, coincidentally, runs parallel to a plan by a woman who plans to kill all of the German army, especially Hans Landa. Throw in a double agent German actress, "The Bear Jew," and uncle Adolf, and this powder-keg is about to go off.

This is what WWII would have looked like if Tarantino had written it. Smart, sly dialogue with enough violence to make even the most hardened Tarantino-haters enjoy this. And don't be fooled, this movie does indeed follow a straight chronological timeline. This movie was fun to watch and darkly hilarious to boot.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Angels & Demons (2009)

I'm not the kind of person that gets mad when a movie takes liberties with the books they are based off because I expect that to take place. I am the kind of person who gets bored quite quickly when a movie goes nowhere.

Symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) has been called to the Vatican after the Pope's recent death. Though his work has been a burden on the holy city, his help is required because an ancient group, at odds with the church, has claimed responsibility for the death and has kidnapped the four cardinals considered favorites to replace the deceased pontiff. To make matters worse, there's anti-matter floating around in a canister that, once it runs out of battery, will destroy Vatican City and some surrounding parts of Rome as well. Langdon does not have the help he requires from the Swiss Guard but that is irrelevant as time is running out.

This movie has almost zero character development for the supporting cast. Both of the Robert Langdon movies have wasted the talents of Tom Hanks and this one wastes Ewan McGregor, too. After the first 20 minutes, when the audience discovers what's going on, the movie drags it out for two more hours. It is better than The Da Vinci Code, it doesn't help it that much.

Precious (2009)

This was one heavy, heavy movie to watch. It was amazingly directed and choreographed to pick up on the dark tones of Precious' life, but some people are going to have a hard time getting through this film.

Precious (Gabourey Sidibe) is a morbidly obese girl you lives with her physically, emotionally and sexually abusive mother, Mary (Mo'Nique), in Harlem circa 1987. Precious is 16 years old, still in middle school, and pregnant with her second child through incest. She never speaks up in class and once her school finds out she's pregnant again and fighting, they refer her to an alternative school taught by Ms. Rain (Paula Patton). Ms. Rain takes an interest in Precious and begins to show her that she can have anything she wants and be anything she wants with the right education. She must find a way to get out of her mother's house, before she and her kids get beaten to death.

This movie deserves all the kudos it has gotten. Lee Daniels directed a fantastically dark movie that is disturbing, depressing and disgusting, but also uplifting, inspirational and hopeful. The performances, by everyone involved, deserve all the credit they've been given. From Mo'Nique to Mariah Carey to Lenny Kravitz, I saw as shocked as anyone to see that they can act in a drama, let alone give great, award-worthy performances. One that seems to be flying under the radar is Paula Patton. I thought she was terrific as Precious' teacher. This movie will not be for everyone, but I have to recommend it to all.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Brothers (2009)

This movie was a lot better and a lot different than the trailers made it seem. It took the basic "soldier has troubling readjusting to civilian life" plotline and turned it just a little bit to make it more interesting.

Captain Sam Cahill (Tobey Magurie) is about to go back to Afghanistan for his next tour of duty. As he gets ready to say goodbye to his wife, Grace (Natalie Portman), and family, he must also pick up his brother, Tomy (Jake Gyllenhaal), who is released from prison. Grace and Tommy never got along and Tommy is the blacksheep of the family. While flying along the Afghani countryside, Sam's helicopter crashes and the soldier is presumed dead. Tommy takes it upon himself to try and right things with Grace and his family by helping her raise the two daughters Sam left behind. Months have passed and, seemingly out of the blue, Sam is alive. Now that he's back, he isn't the same and won't let anyone in to find out why.

Maguire plays the older brother yet looks younger than Gyllenhaal in real life...despite being five years older than him. Regardless, I enjoyed this movie a lot more than I thought I would. The trailers and commercials made this out to be a movie that it wasn't. It didn't even reach the peaks the trailers made it look like it would. It was a very good plot with some good performances.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Hurt Locker (2009)

This was one of the most intense, suspenseful, and realistic movies I have ever seen. Not to mention one of the best war movies I've ever seen. James Cameron is quoted as saying "This may be the Platoon of the Iraq War." He may be right.

Having just lost their battalion leader, Bravo Company brings in SSgt. William James (Jeremy Renner) to head up the bomb disposal unit. He is now in charge of a three man team, Sgt. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Spc. Eldridge (Brian Geragthy), that goes around the Iraqi war zone getting rid of explosives that are ready to go. The harrowing experience is made more agonizing by the fact that the team only has 38 more days until their tour of duty has ended. Until then, they must stare death in the face and be wary of anything that comes around the corner.

All three of the main characters were different types of soldiers. James is the wild, near-reckless bomb tech. Sanborn is the stubborn, straight-laced soldier. Eldridge is the young soldier who is too concerned with dying. Each played their role with perfection and helped move the film along at a great pace. I felt like I was there with them. I was waiting to see what would happen next and the movie kept me guessing the whole time. I highly recommend this to anyone, war movie fan or not.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Public Enemies (2009)

Michael Mann has a way with the crime drama. Be it Heat or Collateral, his experience in this field does not go unnoticed. This is a fun gangster movie and the time just flew by while watching.

The movie begins towards the end of John Dillenger's (Johnny Depp) bank robbing career. He's still the best, but the banks are running out of money in the midst of the Great Depression. At this time, the Bureau of Investigation has put together a task force, led by Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale), to confront and stop public enemy #1, Dillenger. John's criminal team is beginning to erode around him and with the FBI constantly closing in on him and his goons, Dillenger, more so than he's been before, is on the run. The public respected and considered him a folk legend, but the law is out to get him.

This movie was great and it allowed you to see all the hype surrounding Dillenger. That may have been the most fun about it, how the public fed off of his antics and revered him. The performances were outstanding all around. Underrated were the ones of Stephen Graham as Baby Face Nelson, and Billy Crudup as J. Edgar Hoover. The one problem with the movie is that they expected the audience to know a little too much about these people before they saw the movie. That's fine for Dillenger, but no one remembers Melvin Purvis. In the end though, it was a exciting gangster film.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Funny People (2009)

I am still quite torn about this film. It was funny, it had the necessary components for the plot to work, but the movie just dragged at parts and was WAY too long.

George Simmons (Adam Sandler) is a world famous comedian. Picture a Jack Black or, dare I say, Adam Sandler. Ira (Seth Rogen) is a beginner comedian who has some good jokes but is still struggling to break through. On a pure coincidence, George sees Ira perform at a comedy club and decides to make him his personal writer/assistant. It is at this point where George tells Ira he's got a rare form on cancer and is slowly dying. He begins to make amends to his family and friends, including his lost love Laura (Leslie Mann). Right as he's lost all hope, the experimental treatments start to work and the cancer is fading. The question then becomes "What does George do now?"

There are two parts to the movie and, while I think they are both necessary to the plot, one just seemed to drag out way too long and got a bit annoying at parts. The parts with Jason Schwartzman and "Yo, Teach!" are hilarious and Aziz Ansari's RAAAAANDY was totally underused. I think I'm caught right down the middle on this one, but it was a bit disappointing. I gave this 3 stars but that might be generous. I'm not going to say to see it or not, that's up to you.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Merry Gentleman (2009)

Talk about boring. Michael Keaton, I'm sorry. I understand what you were trying to do with your directorial debut, and I really liked the idea of the movie, but I just didn't care watching this.

Keaton plays Frank Logan, a hit man who is just at the end of his rope. Either it's the job or life, he just does not care about anything anymore and wants it to end. Kelly MacDonald plays Kate. She has recently fled her abusive cop husband in an attempt to start a whole new life. By a crazy happenstance, Kate and Frank come across one another and a friendship blooms. Neither asks the right questions about their pasts and, eventually, they both come back to haunt them.

Here was the problem with this film: Apart for Kate (and that's a big maybe), I didn't care about any one character in this. Not one bit. I had no reason to sympathize with them, or even feel pity for them. This movie was too slow, too dull and just not a good watch.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

(500) Days of Summer (2009)

What a fantastically fun and unabashedly honest movie. The movie tells you upfront that it is not a love story and it really shows what two people go through within a relationship that doesn't work in the end.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Tom, a mid-level greeting card writer who is very much a romantic. He tries to always find the joy in life and manage to come out in love. Then, he meets Summer (Zooey Deschanel). Summer doesn't believe in all. She wants to just flow through life wherever it takes her and won't let love get in the way. Regardless of all that, Tom and Summer spark up a relationship. Not your average relationship, but a relationship nonetheless. As the movie progresses, not in chronological order, you see the good times and bad times of their courtship.

Anyone, at some point in their life, should be able to relate to this movie. It takes a frank look at how people deal with dating and puts it in the guise of a romantic comedy that really isn't one. Don't get me wrong, this movie is not depressing. In fact, I had a lot of fun watching this movie. The performances were fantastic, especially by Gordon-Levitt (whose work in the past few years really needs to be recognized for its brilliance) and the writing better be nominated for something come awards time. It also benefits from a great soundtrack (see: Regina Spektor's "Us"). Watch this movie as soon as you can.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Serious Man (2009)

God bless the Coen Brothers. I have seen and loved almost all of their movies. Yet somehow, this one felt so real. Whether it's The Big Lebowski, Fargo or No Country For Old Men, while all great movies, they all seemed just a bit out of touch with reality. This did not and it was very good.

Set in the 1960s, Michael Stuhlbarg plays Larry Gopnik, a man whose life is just continually crumbling around him. His wife has taken up comfort with another man and is hounding Larry for a divorce. His teaching job may be going nowhere because the tenure board seems to be taking a long time on their decision about him. All he can ask of people and himself is "Why?" His neighbors seem to hate him, his kids won't listen to him and his no good brother won't leave their couch. Larry can't seem to get his head around it all. Then, things start turning around, but not in the way he wanted them to.

Stuhlbarg was great in this role. He really made me feel for his character and want him to succeed in all his endeavors. This was a slow moving comedy but it was one I found myself laughing at a lot. Anytime Larry tried to seek advice from a rabbi had me cracking up. While this was not the best Coen movie like some had suggested, it's on the top half of their success ladder.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Star Trek (2009)

I am, by no means, a Star Trek fan. Not in any way, but this movie was pretty damn good. J.J. Abrams made a cult series, that only appealed to die-hards, an enjoyable movie that anyone can be excited about.

The movie begins with a Romulan attack on Starfleet, particularly the Starship Enterprise, where newly appointed Capt. George Kirk gives his life to save many more, including his wife and son's. Years later, James Kirk (Chris Pine) is a smart, yet abrasive, loner in a rural Iowa town. Per a chance encounter, he is offered a spot in Fleet Academy. Years later, he is still a rebel against authority and begins butting heads with the all-knowing Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto). Now, the Starship Enterprise is up and running again and responding to a distress call on Vulcan where, a stowawayed, Kirk realizes the same distress call is what killed his father. Chaos ensues and the cause of the problem may not be what it seems.

I had a great time watching this. It kept my interest throughout and had a great plot resolution. Abrams managed to make something that has always bored the crap out of me into a movie I can watched over and over again. A great job was done by the supporting cast as well: John Cho, Zoe Saldana, Anton Yelchin, Eric Bana and, my favorite, Simon Pegg. Watch this.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Brothers Bloom (2009)

I liked the performances by all of the actors but I loved Rian Johnson's directing. His other movie, Brick, is one of my favorite movies of the past decade and, while this isn't as good, it's still a fun watch.

Brothers Stephen and Bloom (Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody) have had a very troubled life. They grew up jumping from foster home to foster home before eventually striking out on their own after discovering the amazing world of confidence men. Conning their way through life, Bloom hates how Stephen is always mapping his life and constantly tries to quit the business, only to be pulled back in. As these movies go, it's time for one last score. With their silent partner Bang Bang (Babel's Rinko Kikuchi), they decide on the loner millionaire Penelope Stamp (Rachel Weisz). The con being that they are convincing her to commit a different con. Her ambition and the brothers pasts soon come to be too much to handle.

This movie made not have had the greatest of resolutions, but it was a fun ride. It was basically a mix of The Sting with a little bit of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels thrown in. The humor came from Bang Bang's perfectly-timed facial expressions and Penelope's love for collecting hobbies...and I did write that correctly. It's very noir-ish, so that could throw some people off but I enjoyed it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Up (2009)

Pixar manages to somehow keep making movies that are some of the best of their respective years, and Up is no different. This movie has so much heart for an animated movie that it's almost hard to believe.

Carl (Ed Asner) is a recent widower who lived his whole life with his childhood sweetheart Ellie. Everything they did, they did it together. The one thing they never got to do was visit South America like their hero adventurer Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer). With Ellie's passing and a bunch of suits trying to get his land, Carl has one last chance for an adventure. Naturally, he fills his house with helium balloons and uses it as a flying boat of sorts. His unexpected companion is a boy scout named Russell. Through their adventure, they meet a multicolored superbird named Kevin and a talking dog named Dug.

This movie was fantastic and so full of heart and emotion. You get lost in the animated world and start picturing it in reality. Dug is absolutely hysterical. They made him a talking dog while never forgetting that he is a dog. As great as Toy Story was, Pixar has managed to make their movies smarter and smarter as times goes on. I don't know if it was better than Wall-E, but it's damn close.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (2009)

Tony Scott has a way of directing action thrillers that are just fun eye candy (see: Enemy of the State and Deja Vu). This movie is no exception to that rule.

Walter Garber (Denzel Washington) is a demoted subway dispatcher who starts his day like any other one, by directing trains throughout New York City. His day changes when Ryder (John Travolta) and his band of merry men hijacks the Pelham 123. Once the dispatch realizes there is a problem, they alert the proper authorities. The problem being that once Ryder talked to Garber, he was the only one he wanted to talk. Garber was then the go-between for Ryder, the police and the nameless NYC mayor (James Gandolfini). The hijacking took a lot of planning and Ryder wasn't going to go down without a fight.

This movie was nothing great, but it wasn't bad either. It was your fun, basic action thriller with a couple of nice plot surprises. The reasoning behind Ryder's heist was something new and refreshing. If you're just looking for solid movie, watch this.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Killing Room (2009)

I didn't love this but I didn't hate it either. It's been categorized has a psychological thriller and I can't entirely agree with that. It is not a thriller but definitely psychological.

Four strangers (Timothy Hutton, Clea DuVall, Nick Cannon and Shea Whigham) are all brought into a windowless room for an experiment where they will be paid $250 at the end of the day. The experimenter Dr. Phillips (Peter Stormare) explains the goals of the procedure to the participants and then leaves the room. That's when the psychological part takes over. He says the experiment will consist of four parts with one person getting eliminated after each part. Nobody knows what's going on and, worse than that, they don't know who's next.

I usually try to avoid straight to DVD movies, especially after the August debacle, but the trailer for this looked really interesting. The movie had it's moments, and I did like the psychological part of it, but the movie fell flat as a whole. If you want to watch it, I'll let you judge for yourself.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Away We Go (2009)

I absolutely loved this movie. This indie comedy has two people that are truly in love and not in the basic romantic comedy style. I read a review that said John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph's characters came off as smug, and that couldn't be farther from the truth.

Burt and Verona (John and Maya) are getting prepared for the unexpected little miracle that came to be. The hope is that Burt's parents (Catherine O'Hara and Jeff Daniels) will be available to help raise the child since they live in the same town. When that whole thing falls through, the two thirtysomethings set out to find the best possible place to raise their child. They visit cities across the continent and get help from friends and family. Their journey leads them to find out more about raising a child than they thought existed.

You will have a hard time finding two happier, nicer people in a film. The chemistry the two of them had was spectacular and you almost thought you were watching a documentary of sorts. The supporting cast, especially Allison Janney and Jim Gaffigan, was terrific and the movie made me laugh out loud throughout while being genuine at the same time. One of the best of the year so far. Watch this movie.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Zombieland (2009)

Short, sweet and one hell of a lot of fun. As far as zombie movies go, this is one of the better ones. And as for zombie comedies, those people will be happy because this isn't anything like Shaun of the Dead.

All characters, with one exception that I will not go into because of its hilarity, are named after their hometowns. Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) is out on his own in a world almost entirely made up of zombies. He has since created a list of about 30 rules to help him stay alive in the world that constantly involves movement. While walking down a deserted highway, an SUV with bulldozer-like modifications comes along and out pops Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson). They agree to ride together and help Tallahassee's unending quest to find a Twinkie. On one stop, they meets sisters Wichita and Little Rock (Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin). Love, lust, carnivals and distrust soon follow.

This movie was just an outstandingly fun time. One of the best movies I've seen this year and would be the best comedy of the year if The Hangover didn't exist. Just a great load of fun and I highly recommend it.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Land of the Lost (2009)

This movie was funnier and better than Year One, but not by much. It had too much computer animation for Will Ferrell's comedic style.

Dr. Rick Marshall (Ferrell) has been shunned and ostracized from the scientific community after years of failed testing and an embarrassing national interview. Now stuck teaching middle schoolers, Marshall is approached by Holly (Anna Friel) and she convinces him to retest his equipment that would transport him to alternate universes. After finding the right locale to perform the test, and getting lead out by a rude tourist trapper named Will (Danny McBride), the test goes right and all three are floating through time and space. In the new land, they meet Chaka, Enik and the Sleestaks, and get chased by a smarter-than-your-average dinosaur. Can't get more simple than that.

The reason this was slightly better than the aforementioned Harold Ramis comedy is the teaming of Ferrell and McBride because they work so well off of each other that you can't help but laugh at some of their conversations. The movie as a whole was bloated and rife with spots of boredom, which is why I say nay.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Year One (2009)

So, there was one thing missing from this comedy: Comedy. It just wasn't that funny. Apart from a few one-liners and some sight gags, nothing worthwhile.

Zed and Oh (Jack Black and Michael Cera) are a couple of hunter-gatherers in a pre-civilization tribe. After Zed eats from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, Zed is banished from the group and Oh follows him. On their journey, they come across Cain and Abel, Abraham and Isaac, and Sodom and Gomorroh. Everything begins to intertwine and it's not that hard to figure out.

This just was not that funny, which is disappointing considering the amount of funny people in the movie. Everyone from Harold Ramis to David Cross to Paul Rudd to Bill Hader, should have made this movie watchable, but it was not to be. Hank Azaria as Abraham was the funniest part of the movie, but not enough to redeem it.

Friday, October 9, 2009

State of Play (2009)

This movie was great political thriller that had a gripping plot and terrific acting to boot. I don't know why I kept this sitting on my desk for over a month.

Cal (Russell Crowe) is a grizzled veteran of a newspaper reporter who likes doing stories the old-fashioned way of making source-type friendships with people in every organization. When a sex scandal begins to break about Cal's former college roommate and current Congressman Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck), Cal must act as both a friend and reporter. He begrudgingly brings along Della (Rachel McAdams) who is in charge of the paper's online newsblog. She is only interested in the sex part, at first. When the story begins to twist and turn, and scandal becomes conspiracy, Cal, Della and Rep. Collins all begins fighting for the truth and their lives.

While the twists weren't necessarily surprising, I really enjoyed the road this movie took. The director made sure every aspect of the story was being told, even if words weren't spoken. Bonus points: hearing Helen Mirren, as the editor who only cares about what sells, swear up a storm at points.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Monsters vs. Aliens (2009)

I laughed so hard at certain parts of this movie. This one had so many more adult jokes than any other "children's" movie that I've seen. Most of them hilarious.

Susan (Reese Witherspoon) is about to marry her dream man in a storybook wedding in a hillside church. Out of nowhere, she is hit by a meteor. Once inside the church for the ceremony, Susan begins to glow and enlarge, a clear result of radiation. Soon thereafter, the government comes and takes her away. When she awakens in a holding cell, she meets other monsters BOB, Dr. Cockroach and the Missing Link (Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie and Will Arnett). When an alien craft comes to retrieve the radiation from the meteor that struck Susan, the feds release the monsters to help fight the aliens. Bouts of both humor and full-fledged action commence.

Despite a simple, sometimes dull story line, the huge amount of outstanding voice talent more than made up for it. Aside from those mentioned before, the cast includes: Rainn Wilson, Paul Rudd, John Krasinski, Ed Helms, Renee Zellweger, Amy Poehler, Kiefer Sutherland, Jeffrey Tambor and, what was the best of them all, Stephen Colbert as the President. Anything he said made me laugh.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Observe and Report (2009)

Director Jody Hill (The Foot Fist Way) has been quoted as saying her wanted this to be a comedic version of Taxi Driver. While it wasn't overly funny, he definitely accomplished what he planned.

Seth Rogen is Ronnie, the bi-polar head security guard at the mall. Dennis (Michael Pena) is his #2 man. One day, a flasher runs through the mall's parking lot and exposes himself to numerous women. Ronnie becomes aware of this and warns his dreamgirl Brandi (Anna Faris) to be careful. Brandi brushes it off but then becomes a victim herself. That's when the real police and Det. Harrison (Ray Liotta) are called in to usurp Ronnie's power. A rivalry soon begins between the two to see who can bring the flasher to justice faster.

This movie is violent, vulgar, gross, blubbery, unpredictable and just okay. The movie has a few laugh out loud moments, but it's very inconsistent. I have no real love or hate for this movie, but know this: The last 10 minutes are nuts.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Next Day Air (2009)

Why I wanted to watch this movie, I'm not really sure. It probably had to do with Donald Faison in the lead. That being said, this wasn't good.

There were a few intertwining storylines that went on here, so I'll try my best to sort them out. Leo (Faison) and Eric (Mos Def) both work for NDA (guess what that stands for) packaging service. Leo, per usual, decides to get high and becomes lackidaisical. So, he delivers a big shipment of cocaine to the wrong address. That leads the movie down a particularly unfunny and bloody path, the latter of which didn't even need to really happen. Involved are a drug lord, his drug-mule couple, two incompetent thugs and Mos Def.

This movie just didn't work at all. It had a couple of mildly humorous moments, mainly involving Faison or Mike Epps. All in all, this movie was just stereotypes aplenty and not a whole lot of redemption anywhere. If you plan to watch it, it's not a wise choice.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Sunshine Cleaning (2009)

I did not expect this movie to be laugh-out-loud funny, but I did expect a little more comedy in it. I also expected a thorough plot. Neither of those came to fruition.

Sisters Rose and Norah (Amy Adams and Emily Blunt) could not be more opposite, but what they have in common is that they both need more money than they have. Rose to help her troubled child go to a school where he won't get expelled and Norah to do nothing. They come across an idea to become crime scene cleaners after Rose's married boyfriend Mac (Steve Zahn) suggests it. As the movie progresses, they get better and better at their job. With the help of their father (Alan Arkin), the sisters are starting to make money.

The lack of comedy I could have dealt with because I thought the idea of the story was good. The problem I had was that, apart from one aspect of the movie, nothing got resolved. In the end, you are actually left with questions. That should not happen in a movie like this.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Harold (2008)

Saw this on the shelf at the library and I remember I saw a clip for this somewhere. So, I gave it a shot and got exactly what I expected from it.

Harold (Spencer Breslin) is a 14-year-old who already suffers from male-pattern baldness. Needless to say, this is a problem when his mother gets a new job and has to move him away from his familiar surroundings. At his new school, he is humiliated after being forced to remove his cap. After that, he befriends Rhonda (Nikki Blonsky) and her group of outcasts and dweebs. He also gets help from Cromer, the janitor (Cuba Gooding, Jr). The one thing Harold wants is to take the bullies down a peg and beat them at their own game: Go-Carts.

There was only one thing in this movie that consistently made me laugh, and that was Cuba Gooding, Jr. He took the generic role of the "inspirational janitor" and used it to make a different type of character within those parameters. The rest of the movie fell flat. It was a great idea for an indie comedy that just didn't pan out.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Adventureland (2009)

This movie is not a comedy. The way the marketing was made, you would think this would be another Superbad, but no. Still good though.

James (Jesse Eisenberg) is not a normal college graduate. He studied literature and thought of himself as a more sophisticated person, one who doesn't act like the rest of his high school class. But once his dad gets demoted, James has to work at Adventureland to start making money for grad school. It's there where he meets Em (Kristen Stewart). Em is a girl who has no idea what she wants out of life and doesn't seem to care about that. Throw in an adulterer, two simple bosses, a nerd, a crotch-puncher and the girl who no one expected back, and you got the makings of a 1987 old-fashioned good time.

I felt that this movie was basically the late 80s version of Dazed and Confused. Just not as funny. Most of the comedy came from Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig as the husband and wife bosses. It's a good coming-of-age movie that a lot of people can really relate to. Watch this, just don't expect fall down hilarity.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

You Don't Mess with the Zohan (2008)

Well, this turned out to make me laugh more than I expected. Watched this on a whim and laughed just enough.

Zohan (Adam Sandler) is an Israeli super soldier who can wipe out an entire army using just his bare hands and feet. After numerous encounters with the Palestinian super terrorist Phantom (John Turturro), Zohan decides it's time to hang up the fighting career and come to America to become a hairdresser. He hides out for a while, quickly making friends and begins to work at a salon run by a Palestinian named Dahlia (Emmanuelle Chriqui). But how long can he stay hidden in a country of such diversity? Answer: Not long.

I was really surprised by how often I laughed. Not many belly laughs, but a good amount of humor nonetheless. The supporting cast was great and the cameos, like all Sandler movies, helped make it enjoyable. My recommendation for this movie is: "Sure, why not."

Sweet Home Alabama (2002)

I watched this at Lindsey's house on network TV and it was your basic romantic comedy. To say it was awful would be a stretch, but the term "not good" is fine.

Melanie Carmichael (Reese Witherspoon) has just gotten engaged to the New York City mayor's son (Patrick Dempsey). Problem is, she is still married to her high school sweetheart, Jake (Josh Lucas), in Alabama. So, in order to get her marriage planning going, she needs to travel down to Alabama and get the divorce from Jake finalized. When she gets back to Alabama, however, she finds her roots are harder to get rid of than she would like. What is a girl to do?

Witherspoon was not the problem in this movie, her character was. In watching this closely, there was really no likable characteristics to Melanie. She's a constant user who can't help it. Of course, throughout the movie, that changes. The parts that made this watchable was the supporting cast. Fred Ward, Mary Kay Place, Candice Bergen and Ethan Embry all kept my interest in their respective story predicaments. I'm not going to recommend this, but I'm not going to stop you from seeing it, if your mind so chooses.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tyson (2009)

Mike Tyson is a very deep, thorough and intellectual human being who pulls no punches about the trials and tribulations of his life. He offers a lot of insight into his career and life....Not what I expected.

The story follows director James Toback and his very in-depth interview with Iron Mike. And Tyson obliged him with details galore. The movie is almost entirely in Tyson's own words and he talks about many of the key moments in his life. His childhood, Cus D'Amato, his first title reign, his family life, etc. He saves his harshest words for two people: Desiree Washington and Don King. He calls both of them "wretched" for different reasons. Washington for, in Tyson's mind, falsely accusing him of rape and sending him to jail for three years. King for, well, being Don King. It's sad when he talks about how much he loves his kids knowing that, before the movie was released, his youngest daughter died in a tragic accident.

I was amazed by how much Tyson shared about his life. Had he not done that, this may have been a completely different documentary and, odds are, not as good. He leaves no stone unturned and the audience knows more about him because as a result.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I Love You, Man (2009)

I never thought I would enjoy a bro-mantic comedy, but I have been proven wrong. Reason being, this movie was absolutely hilarious.

Peter (Paul Rudd) has just proposed to his girlfriend of eight months, Zooey (Rashida Jones). The two are extremely excited until they realize that Peter really has no one to be his best man. Soon after, his mother and brother (Jane Curtain and Andy Samberg) start setting him up on man dates to get a best man. After failing, he happens upon Sydney (Jason Segel) at an open house. It's not too long before they are eating dinner and rocking out to Rush together. Oh yeah, Lou Ferrigno is intertwined in the plot. That should hook you right in.

Rudd is just awkward hilarity at its purest form in this movie. Segel is just as funny as the loner who, as successful as he is, doesn't really want to completely grow up. The supporting cast is top notch as well. Samberg as the "gay, but straighter than his brother" sibling, Curtain and JK Simmons as the parents, and Jon Favreau and Jaime Pressly as the couple who hate each other so much, it's love. They tend to steal the scenes they are in. I highly recommend this.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

King of California (2007)

What a quirky, fun dramedy. Much more comedy than drama, but it definitely had heart. Michael Douglas is one of those actors who can create different characters without really changing that much about him.

Charlie (Douglas) was just released from a mental institution and was picked up by his 16-year-old daughter, Miranda (Evan Rachel Wood). Miranda has been looking out for herself and on her own since her father was locked up. She dropped out of a high school to make money. Since being released, Charlie's got a plan to scour California for Spanish explorer Father Juan Florismarte Torres' treasure. As crazy as he seems, he's trying to use this as an opportunity to reconnect with Miranda, who starts to believe him and his ramblings.

This movie was a lot of fun. I had a great time watching these two characters interact with each other and learn to deal with one another. Douglas and Wood have a great father-daughter chemistry on camera. I definitely recommend this movie. It's not too soft to be taken lightly and not too hard to be taken seriously.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)

You know, in writing this and looking up all of Woody Allen's movies, I can't really remember the last time I thoroughly enjoyed one. Well, apart from Antz.

This movie revolves around Vicky and Cristina (Rebecca Hall and Scarlett Johansson). Two friends who go to Barcelona to visit friends before Vicky is supposed to be married. By chance, they meet Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem). He is a tortured sculptor who just got out of a violent marriage to Maria (Penelope Cruz). Juan Antonio decides to try and seduce both Vicky and Cristina, while keeping the psychotic Maria at bay.

An Oscar for this? That may be a stretch, but Penelope Cruz was the best part of this. She was funny and clearly enjoyed playing a raging bitch. Bardem was good, too, but is it weird I just wanted him to kill people with a Dorothy Hamill haircut? For a movie whose characters differ on opinions of cliches about love, that's all this movie turned into...intentional or not.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

This Film Is Not Yet Rated (2006)

This documentary was very interesting and informative. The film ratings system is something that no one can really explain and director Kirby Dick tries to do just that.

The film and Dick try to answer the question of "Why are there NC-17 movies and who determines that a movie gets that rating?" The answer to the latter is the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). They have a group of "normal, average parents" who determine whether certain aspects of a movie is something that could offend the average viewer. It's a little more complicated than that, but that's the gist of it. As for the 1st part of the question, that's a little trickier. It really gets interesting when Dick submits this film to the MPAA for a rating and it comes back as NC-17.

I'm not going to explain much more because it would ruin a fun documentary to watch. This movie is rated NC-17 because it talks about and shows scenes from other movies that got an NC-17 rating. There is a lot of great insight from the filmmakers and actors director Kirby Dick interviews. Watch this movie if you want to know about the making of movies.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Monty Python's The Meaning of Life (1983)

This was so much different than the other two of Python's Big 3 films (the others being Holy Grail and Life of Brian). This was basically a group of skits that all, in some way, revolve around various perceptions of the meaning of life.

Without going into too much detail about the plot, because there is not a linear plot, I'll just briefly describe the movie as a whole. First off, do not miss the open "short feature." It's quite funny. After that, the "feature presentation" begins and then there are 7 parts to the movie; Birth, Growth, Fighting, Middle Age, Live Organ Transplants, Autumn Years, and Death. The Autumn Years is probably the most famous of the skits because of the character of Mr. Creosote. It does get pretty gross but it is very funny.

All in all, it's definitely #3 of the Python flicks but it is still very funny. The lack of a straight storyline didn't hurt the movie in any way. It's a sketch movie but, for the most part, with one theme. Not to mention, the songs are classic.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Watchmen (2009)

This movie was almost 100% true to the graphic novel that it's no wonder it alienated a chunk of moviegoers. Since I read the novel, I enjoyed this loooooooooong movie.

This movie follows an alternate timeline from what actually occurred in the US in the 1940s - 1980s. Nixon is still President, well into his third term. A group of superheroes known as the Watchmen (the Comedian, Silk Spectre, Nite Owl, etc.) have now been outcast from society after a law declares masks illegal. Years later, after one of them is murdered, a whole new crop of problems begins to arise as they try to find who's the killer.

This movie has its problems. The length, some of the pacing, and Malin Akerman (she should stick to comedy). But the movie was so close to the graphic novel that I was pleased with the outcome. Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach was the best part of the movie and probably the character with the most interesting background. I know why people who haven't read the novel don't like this, but those who have should enjoy it.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Kurt Cobain: About a Son (2006)

This is not a documentary like it was advertised. It was an interview Kurt Cobain gave in the early 90s that was heard over corresponding shots of places in his life. In other words, it was boring.

The traditional doc be damned, director AJ Schnack wanted to just basically show the audience, in real pictures, what Cobain's life was like. Of course, you're supposed to forget that 95% of the shots are from nowadays and not the 70s, 80s and 90s when Cobain lived. Cobain explained his life from the great times he had as a child to the bizarre times he had as a teenager. He explained it all to interviewer Michael Azzerad.

While it was very interesting to hear Cobain himself, as incoherent as he was at times, explain his life, the movie just didn't do enough to keep my focus. Kudos to the director for trying something different, but it did not work.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Great Buck Howard (2009)

Based on the life of the Amazing Kreskin, Buck Howard is a magician (excuse me, mentalist) is down on his luck. And to the audience, it's kind of funny. His life is, for lack of a cornier term, wacky.

Howard (John Malkovich) recounts his old days as a mentalist and the times he spent with celebrities from Johnny Carson to George Takei. Troy (Colin Hanks) is a law school dropout who is defying the logic of his father (Tom Hanks) to stay in school, even though he won't be happy. Troy follows his dreams and moves to LA and finds a job as the new road manager for the Great Buck Howard. He is in charge of operations of the various shows that Howard performs in different cities. As Howard becomes more eccentric, Troy starts losing his will to work for him and wants to set out on his own.

This movie proves that comedies don't need to be 2 hours laugh riots. This was a very short, mildly funny comedy that had a good amount of heart to it. The characters seemed genuine and not wacky for the sake of wacky. Hanks and Malkovich had a nice chemistry but the scene stealer was Steve Zahn, who plays a Cincinatti show coordinator. I do recommend this. It won't take much of your time.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Eagle Eye (2008)

This movie had moments where it was fun to watch and a little bit exciting. But I couldn't help notice the similarities between this and a certain 2004 movie. I can't really say which movie, because it may give away some of the plot of this one.

Shia LaBeouf plays Jerry Shaw, a broke Chicagoan who starts receiving a series of mysterious phone calls after his twin brother is killed in a car accident. Michelle Monaghan plays Rachel Holloman, a divorced mother who starts receiving mysterious phone calls after placing her son on a train for a school band trip. The calls lead Jerry and Rachel to cross paths and begin doing the bidding of the mystery voice. They are told to do things that are illegal and they must elude the feds along the way. In between all that is a lot of action.

The movie was more fun that I expected, but the plot was ridiculous and so "out there" at parts that you know it's not possible. Not to mention that certain 2004 movie it's like. It stars an actor whose name rhymes with Sill Wmith.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

Finally, I'm getting around to watching movies not made within the past year and a half. And I picked a classic listed at #149 on the top 250. It did not disappoint.

The story follows an aging Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) and his younger partner in crime the Sundance Kid (Robert Redford) as they realize that they are getting too old for the bank robbing business and are starting to call it quits. They decide to do one last take, so they go after a train carrying a bank's money. After that, people are hot on their trail, making it more difficult to escape.

You have Newman and Redford on screen, so you know the performances you are going to get are going to be terrific. It was kind of slow at parts, but all in all a very nicely paced movie that entertains and entices the audience.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

As with most of the Harry Potter franchise, the movies don't do a whole lot of explaining. They expect you to have read the books beforehand, which I have not. In this movie, I didn't mind the lack of explanation.

Harry and the school chums are back for another year after Harry has a bad summer. He is now being hailed as the "Chosen One" and is getting a lot more attention than he can ask for. Before long, he begins to uncover a plot that sees Draco Malfoy conversing with the death eaters. Only Dumbledore believes Harry at first in his accusations, per usual. Soon enough, the truth is known to all.

While this is not the best of the Potter movies (Prisoner of Azkaban), it is definitely strides ahead of the last film (Order of the Phoenix). I would go as far as to say this was probably the #2 in the pecking order. I was so against these films when they came out and now I find myself invested.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Brüno (2009)

Not quite as funny as Borat was, but leaps and bounds more outrageous and shocking. Sacha Baron Cohen definitely tried to push the envelope a lot farther in this one.

Brüno is a gay, Austrian fashionista who happens to run his own show in Austria. After a series of unfortunate events, he is dropped from his network and decides to head west to the US. He has one sidekick to help him through his journey to become a very famous actor. Brüno has trouble getting started, so he tries to hype up himself by doing all sorts of ridiculous things that he reads about celebrities doing in the tabloids. From adopting African babies to becoming straight. As he meanders his way through the country, he truly finds himself...I guess.

This movie was laugh out loud funny and just kept me wondering what he would do next. There were definitely a few awkward moments that you wish you wouldn't laugh at but did anyways. There was a thought that maybe he was just doing some things to be "out there" and not try and comment on social stigmas. However, when he focused on those stigmas, the film was terrific.

Synecdoche, New York (2008)

This movie got some positive reviews and it also got some very negative reviews. I am on the latter half of that spectrum.

The movie is about play director Caden Cotard (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and his pitiful life. His famous artist wife Adele (Catherine Keener) has left him and taken their daughter with her. Now he's got nothing to really live for. On top of that, doctors think he's dying but aren't really sure from what. So, he decides to make one last play about his life. He buys a warehouse and decides to build a close to lifesize model of NYC in there as the stage for his play. The bad part, he just can't stop making it. The production starts lasting almost as long as his life has.

The main problem with this movie is that you just didn't care about any of the characters except Caden. There was no development surrounding him. Charlie Kaufman, the great writer of movies like Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine..., takes the director's chair in this one and adds his style to the flick. It just doesn't make that much sense. At least in those other two movies I mentioned, you can follow them. This one, you really can't.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Gran Torino (2008)

I'm just going to take a stab at it, but the moral of this movie is that everyone is racist. I may be slightly off.

Clint Eastwood plays Walt, a Korean War vet who is just as curmudgeonly as they come. He finds something to hate in every aspect of life. Some are reasonable, like when his granddaughter dresses inappropriately and texts during his wife's funeral. Some are not reasonable, like his racism. After a Hmong family moves in next door, he realizes that the neighborhood has changed around him to, almost entirely, gang territory with the new neighbors in the middle. Walt eventually grows close to the family, saving the kids, Thao and Sue, from gangs on a couple of occasions. He relies on no one's help but his own and feels his form of justice is justice served.

I thought this was a great movie, with an ending that was mildly surprising to me. I expect a little bit of a shock from all of Eastwood's movies lately, so I was looking for it and I was still surprised. Great performance from Clint and nice performances from the newcomers in the Hmong family. I recommend this film to anyone.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Mamma Mia! (2008)

I will start this by saying I did not see this out of necessity or choice. I mean, it's a musical, and it's not Once. Either way, not good.

The movie follows Donna (Streep) get ready for her daughter Sophie's (Amanda Seyfried) wedding. Unbeknownst to Donna, Sophie has read her old diary and found out there are three gentlemen suitors who could have been her mother. So she invites the three (Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård) to attend the wedding under the guise that Donna invited them. Oh yeah, they break into song on occasion. Donna eventually finds the gents and doesn't know how they showed up. Hijinx do ensue, don't you worry.

This movie was predictable, boring and, you got it, musical. These are the conventional type of musicals that really haven't been good since the 60s and 70s. You want to know what made this movie worse? It was all ABBA songs, and they didn't even sing "Fernando."

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Nothing But the Truth (2008)

This movie was a pretty good political drama chock-full of cover ups, espionage, betrayal and good old fashioned courtroom intrigue. Let me tell you a tale...

Kate Beckinsale plays Rachel Armstrong, a Judith Miller-esque reporter who is on the verge of releasing an article claiming Vera Farmiga's Erica Van Doren is a covert CIA operative responsible for some civil unrest in Venezuela (a la Valerie Plame). After the story goes public, everyone is up in arms. The newspaper loves it, the Defense department hates it, and the White House won't say a thing. Armstrong is eventually jailed and charged with contempt for not giving up her source. Matt Dillon is Patton Dubois, the hotshot new lawyer ready to sink his teeth in and make an example of Armstrong. Through the whole ordeal, Rachel's life, every aspect of it, suffers.

I really enjoyed this film. It kept me on my toes and guessing throughout the entire film exactly what would happen. I knew enough about the Plame/Miller case to see the parallels, but there were some obvious fabrications that I didn't mind. I recommend this film to those who like political or courtroom dramas.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

He's Just Not That Into You (2009)

This movie had a chance and deserved a shot to be good. But it just wasn't. I'm not going to say it's bad, just misguided.

There are too many stories to get into but I will try to just break it down. There's the girl who can't find anyone, the loner guy who hates relationships, the married couple going through a no-sex time in their relationship, the couple who have been together real long but not married, the friends with benefits and the girl too slow to see the bad signs. All of their stories intertwine in some way and the stories all happen as they seem to.

The plots are predictable, apart from a few minor details. The acting was really not the downfall of this movie, it was the time allotment. The movie had too many stories going at once and they didn't give any of them enough time to connect with the characters. Romantic comedy fans will probably enjoy this, but the casual fan won't.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The International (2009)

Wow, what a piece of crap. This movie made no sense and was so hard to follow. There was only one good scene in the movie and it was actually pretty cool. Back to that in a moment.

Clive Owen plays a forgettable character who works for Interpol trying to determine why his partner was just killed by a bank. Yep, that's the plot. Bored already? So was I. Naomi Watts is an agent from New York who meets up with Owen to help. And then there's hitmen, more banks, conspiracies, more banks, etc. Uggh.

This plot was so convoluted and preposterous that you lose interest so fast. The movie's only saving grace is the gunfight in the Guggenheim Museum. That was sweet. The rest was really bad.