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.