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 love...at 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.