Thursday, December 30, 2010

Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)

I am, by no means, an art connoisseur, but this movie seemed really intriguing to me because I've seen these street art images and I wanted to know more about them. I'm glad I picked this documentary because it was great.

Thierry Guetta is a French immigrant who has lived in Los Angeles for the latter half of his life. He is married with three kids and had a successful clothing boutique. Always attached to his hand was a video camera. While on a family trip, he found out his cousin was street artist Invader. Guetta was immediately taken with the movement and began to follow the artists he was introduced to with cameras. Going back and forth between Paris and La for years, Thierry needed to meet the most elusive of street artists: Banksy. One lucky happenstance later, they were traveling around LA together with Banksy believing he was shooting a documentary. At the time, the footage was just being stored in a box. After Banksy realizes this, he suggests that Thierry go out and make his own art. Little did he know, he was creating a monster.

Not a film about Banksy, but a film by Banksy about Mr. Brainwash, Thierry Guetta. This film is as much about the street art world as it is about the ease of spreading commercialism and creating artists out of nobodies. It takes a shot at the notion of celebrity and what it really takes to be an artist. Guetta clearly ruffled some feathers and, whether you like his art or not, his road to artistry is a story unique enough to be shared, and I'm glad it was. I only wish there was more. Enjoy. Grade: A-

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Get Low (2010)

Oscar season tends to bring out the best in movies that are not as good as the performances in them. This movie is again the case with a great performance by Robert Duvall but a slow moving film, to say the least.

Circa 1930, Felix Bush (Duvall) is a hermit. He lives in a house on 20 some acres in the far end of town. He's the type of person children heard stories of as being a monster. The type of person who has a reputation and does nothing to help clear it. After hearing an elderly man in town died, he realizes he must not have that much time left either. He asks the cash strapped funeral director Frank Quinn (Bill Murray) to help him throw a live funeral, so he could hear the stories people had to tell of him. To up the ante, he is also going to raffle off his land during the proceeding. However, when the sister of the woman he used to love shows up, he realizes that this is the time to get a horrible secret of his chest. And he needs her and the whole town to hear it and perhaps change their perception of the crazy old coot who lives in the woods.

Robert Duvall was terrific. Just the speech he gives towards the end alone is Oscar worthy, though I know he may not even get nominated. Bill Murray and Lucas Black were good as the funeral workers who must put up with him. What hurts the actors chances is the slow and almost dull pace of the movie. Not every movie needs to be consistently moving, but there needs to be something gripping you during those down times. This movie did not have that. See it for the performances, but don't expect a whole lot else. Grade: B-

The Town (2010)

What guy doesn't love a good heist movie? Even better when it's a great heist movie, like the exciting, yet poorly titled The Town. This movie just adds to Ben Affleck directing resume.

Doug MacRay (Affleck) is part of the Not F--king Around Crew, a group of criminals in Boston's Charlestown neighborhood who specialize in bank robberies and armored car heists. His best friend is Jem (Jeremy Renner) and he is the out-of-control member of the group. The one who keeps his emotions on his sleeve. After a bank robbery where the alarm is triggered, the group takes the bank manager (Rebecca Hall) as a precaution in case the cops show up. After they let her go, it's Doug's job to follow her and see if she's talked to the FBI. While doing that, Doug strikes up a relationship with her and soon starts to fall in love. It's at that point when he realizes that she has talked to the feds. He's battling his feelings from both sides, while also trying to get out Charlestown and out of the bank robbing business. But it's not that easy. He's going to have to work his way out.

This movie proves that when Ben Affleck is really trying, he's not that bad of an actor. This also continues to follow on the steps of Gone Baby Gone and prove he is a terrific director. While I'll always hold a candle for Gone, I really liked this movie. It's tough to tolerate the Boston accent, but it really felt authentic. Also helping was Jeremy Renner, who is continuing his hot streak of great acting roles. I think he's assured a Best Supporting Actor nod for this. Go see it. Grade: A

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

I had a friggin' blast watching this movies. It's a video game/comic geek's dream. Fast-talking, high-flying with unbelievable effects. Just fun times.

Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is a very poor bass player for Sex Bob-Omb. They have a hard time getting gigs and making any real money. Scott is also coming off a rough break up and begins dating a high-schooler named Knives. Before long though, he sees the literal girl of his dreams in Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). He basically stalks her until she finally agrees to "hang out" with him, leaving Knives in a lurch. Before they've really even started dating, Scott is greeted by Ramona's 1st Evil Ex-Boyfriend. After defeating him, Scott comes find he has 6 other Evil Exes (including Brandon Routh and Jason Schwartzman) to beat before Ramona is all his. The Exes continue to get harder and harder and now he's trying to decide whether it's even worth it at all.

This movie was fun as hell. Be prepared for fast moving action and dialogue that keeps coming and coming. There are also plenty of video game references to go around. You do need to escape reality a bit because they are living in this video game world where people glide around and burst into coins as they die. That being said, the dialogue was a bit weak at times, but that's to be expected from a comic book movie. Cera was perfect for this role but the MVP of this movie was Kieran Culkin as Scott's gay roommate Wallace. Every time he said something I was laughing. Go see this if you want just a great time. Grade: A-

Monday, December 13, 2010

True Grit (2010)

This movie was terrific. It was classic Coen Brothers. Every character was very well developed and, yup you guessed it, authentically gritty. But really, can Jeff Bridges do no wrong?

Fourteen year old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) is on a mission to avenge the death of her father by the coward Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). Since she's a child, she sets out to find help and comes across Rooster Cogburn (Bridges). Cogburn is a fat, drunk, one-eyed Marshall who has a seedy reputation but always tends to get his man...dead or alive. After finally agreeing to Mattie's terms, Texas Ranger La Boeuf (Matt Damon) also joins the manhunt for Chaney. The ranger and Rooster are at odds from the start and Ross is stuck in the middle trying to be the adult of the situation. As they get closer to Chaney, the path gets more treacherous and they take a sneakier approach. But Chaney's now teamed up with a gang of criminals. How are three people going to be able to outsmart that band of misfits? Can they?

Like I said, Jeff Bridges can practically do no wrong. He was terrific in this and I bet is up for another Oscar nod. Damon and Brolin were there usual great selves but I was most impressed by 13 year old Steinfeld. The way she kept her own against all of those seasoned veterans was amazing. She is a sure bet for a nomination. I highly recommend this. Grade: A

Monday, December 6, 2010

Get Him to The Greek (2010)

To put it lightly, this movie was a total disappointment. I love Russell Brand's style of comedy and I don't mind Jonah Hill's, but this just was an unfunny mess.

Ten years after rocker Aldous Snow (Brand) and his band Infant Sorrow rocked The Greek club in LA, he is a solo artist who just produced the "Worst Single of the Decade." Many feel he's lost his edge. Aaron Green (Hill) is a low level talent scout at Pinnacle Records, under the tutelage of Sergio Roma (Sean Combs). He convinces Sergio that an Infant Sorrow reunion show at The Greek is a good idea and so Pinnacle sends him to London to get Aldous out of his binging ways long enough to return to LA. What follows is a mess of run-ins, debacles, drug-mulings and misplaced tomfoolery. The question soon stops being "When," but rather "If?"

While it had some fleeting comedy, the bulk of the movie was such a drag. Brand's usual quick witted sense of humor was lost in a road trip movie. Combs was surprisingly good in his role. He had had smaller roles in other movies (Monster's Ball), but this seemed to fit him. The supporting cast was non-existent despite being the talented Rose Byrne and Elisabeth Moss. All in all, don't see this. Don't waste you're time. Watch the genius that is Forgetting Sarah Marshall again and forget this mess. Grade: C-.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I (2010)

I liked this movie, but I was not thoroughly impressed. I was hoping it would build on the Half Blood Prince, which I thought was the 2nd best of the franchise. It was great to see how dark and subversive the actors can get for a "kids" book.

As Lord Voldemort is gaining power, he is going to use any means necessary to obtain and kill his nemesis, Harry Potter. This means that Harry and his friends must go into hiding. The Dursleys abandon Harry and Hermoine makes it so her parents have no memory of her ever existing. Let the life on the run begin. With the Death Eaters closing in and surrounding the group, the main three decide to run off on their own, disapparating from place to place in an effort to destroy all of the remaining Horcrux. But the effects of the horcrux are beginning to take hold of Harry, Ron and Hermoine. Jealousy and betrayal begin to rear their ugly heads and now they must weather to battle within themselves, as well as surviving a life on the run. All of this is will come to a head in Part II.

Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint have made such strides as actors since this series began that they were more than capable of putting this movie on their shoulders and, with this movie, the standout was Grint. He went through a range of emotions that was both frightening and impressive at the same time. It helped because for long stretches of this, I was bored. The actions and intensity of certain parts made up for it, and I know it's building towards a sequel, but it was still no fun for parts. That being said, I am excited for the conclusion of the franchise. I do recommend this, but heed my previous warnings.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Toy Story 3 (2010)

I'm actually really upset with myself for not seeing this in the theaters. I loved this movie. It was great to see the characters again and it was great to see that they stuck true to the story line. It's been 10 years since the last movie so it's been 10 years for them, too.

Andy is all grown up and getting prepared to head off to college. The things he is leaving behind aren't ready for that kind of separation. Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen) and the rest of the toys need to get ready for life without Andy. Through some of the usual miscommunication and hi-jinks that occur in movies, the toys are donated to a daycare center where they meet Lotso the teddy bear. The toys are excited until they find out they were mislead by Lotso and put into the toddler section of the daycare where they were abused beyond belief. While Buzz tries to negotiate, Lotso's goons take care of him and turn him against his friends. Woody is their only hope of salvation so they can maybe get back to see Andy again before he leaves for good.

This movie had a lot of comedy and a ton of heart. To go with the heart, this was one of the darker animated movies I've seen. There were a lot of heavy moments for the characters in the movie. I won't go into detail, but just be prepared. Back to the humor, Michael Keaton as Ken killed it in this flick. Him and Barbie were fantastic and provided a lot of the comic relief. I highly recommend this movie and I fully expect it to be nominated for Best Picture.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

MacGruber (2010)

There used to be a big stigma with SNL skit based movies being, well, terrible. For the most part, that statement is true. Think of Superstar, The Ladies Man, and It's Pat. This movie isn't quite that bad, but it's not great.

MacGruber (Will Forte) was the best the United States military ever trained. An explosives expert with the skills necessary to rip out a man's throat. But that was 10 years ago. Now, he's the military's only hope against international super terrorist Dieter van Cunth (Val Kilmer), the same man who killed MacGruber fiance during their wedding. He assembles a team which includes his old friend Vicki St. Elmo (Kristen Wiig) and Dixon Piper (Ryan Phillippe), the current best the military's got. Cunth has hijacked the X-5 Missile and is threatening to detonate it in Washington DC during the State of the Union. MacGruber and his team now need stop him before it's too late, but can MacGruber overcome his past demons to make sure this does not become his one defining failure.

I didn't hate this movie, but it was not nearly as funny as I expected it to be. Forte was great at committing to his character, but I was expecting more of his SNL routine to shine through. What was surprising was how good Phillippe was at playing the straight guy to the ridiculousness that Forte and Wiig portrayed around him. There is a fair amount of gross out humor, so be prepared for that,m but I can't recommend this movie unless you are a real MacGruber fan.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Iron Man 2 (2010)

Was this as good as the first one? Absolutely not. But I still had fun watching this. Robert Downey, Jr. is great as Tony Stark, no matter how good or bad the movie.

Now that the world knows that Tony Stark is the Iron Man, they know to avoid him. However, even with international crime down by a substantial margin, Congress calls Mr. Stark in for a subcommittee hearing to try and get him to turn over the iron man suit to the US Army. Tony refuses saying that the technology for people other than himself to make a suit similar is still years away. In Russia, Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) sees the hearing and decides he needs to get revenge on Stark because Vanko's and Tony's fathers worked together before a rift was created. In 6 months time, Vanko creates a machine crudely similar to the Iron Man and gets into an epic battle with Tony in Monacco. After seeing this, Congress demands the suit and gives the contract to make more to Stark's rival Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell). After that, Tony goes into a tailspin and doesn't know what to do. One thing is for sure, he needs to stop Hammer from completing his project. But now that he's gone off the deep end, can he hold it together long enough to stop him.

This was a fun movie. The substance was there for a great sequel, but it was not executed as well as it should have been. Everything moved so fast from Point A to B to C in what seemed like no time. It was visually pleasing though. As for Rourke, his Russian accent was OK. There were times I believed it, and other times it seemed forced. Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson and Don Cheadle were all great additions to the cast, but my favorite may have been Garry Shandling as the Senator who had it out for Stark. All in all, fun but not as good as the first.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wall Street (1987)

I know, I know. I should have watched this movie years ago. I didn't, so deal with it. That being said, I was still not disappointed. The fast talking and fast moving world of the 1980s never looked so...good?

Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) is a young, upstart stockbroker who is just trying to make a buck for his clients and spread the best information to make them the most money. Subtext: He's not very good at it. Bud feels that the one person who can help him get the tips/money/notoriety that he deserves is Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas). Gekko is the king of "don't call it insider" insider trading. Gekko is the man who has a plan to make the the rich get richer, and Bud wants in on the ground floor. After Bud gives Gekko a tip that sort of pans out, Gordon takes him under his wing to make him a Wall Street superpower. Bud gets the money, gets the notoriety, gets the girl (Daryl Hannah). However, one things leads to another and Bud causes a series of events that may result in his father (real life dad Martin Sheen) losing his job after 20+ years. How is Bud going to right his wrong? Better question: Will Gordon let him?

What ever happened to Charlie Sheen acting THIS good in a movie? Or anything for that matter. Either way, this was Michael Douglas' film. He empowered every single frame he was on the screen. Gordon Gekko was not a good man, and Douglas made sure that you knew that. Oliver Stone managed to weave his way from one point to the next so seamlessly. It's a shame his more recent movies haven't been able to capture that as well as this film. I know a lot of you have seen this, but maybe this will spark interest to watch it again.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Waiting For "Superman" (2010)

If you've ever listened to any sort of political ad or debate over the last 20+ years, then you know that politicians and voters believe something is wrong with our education system. This movie takes a look at how much/little people are doing about the problem.

The movie follows five families, 4 of them in the lower class homes but all of them struggling in school. Some are single parents, others are newly laid off, and some just want the best help they can get for their children to be better educated. However, the problem doesn't seem to lie with the parents or the schools, but with the teachers and, more specifically, the teachers unions (dum dum DUMMMMM). While some of the students act like nothing is wrong, all of them are aware that money is the issue that's keeping them from the best education they can have, in one way or another. An ambitious superintendent in the Washington DC school system and a Harlem-based educator are some of the people trying to spearhead particular issues in their respective cities. The movie culminates with all 5 kids having to go in a lottery for their education.

That last sequence, with the lottery drawings, is exciting and heartbreaking at the same time. These kids clearly want to learn and only a certain few are going to be able to based on a bingo ball, index card, raffle ticket, etc. The movie is nothing new about how bad the schools are, but it does show it in a different way. This movie shows the problems and offers solutions, but I'm not quite sure if anything said in this movie will be treated as demonstrated. It was a great documentary and I strongly recommend it to all.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

From Paris With Love (2010)

A good movie this was not, but I did have a mild amount of fun during the action scenes. John Travolta has the distinct ability to not pick out great plots for his movies, but he does have fun with them.

James (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is a top aide to the US Ambassador in France but he's also trying to become a CIA operative at the same time. He lives with his fiance in Paris while trying to balance the job he has with the job he is passionate about getting. One day, the call comes to meet his new partner, Charlie (Travolta). Charlie is not the picture of CIA class. His clothes are as grungy as his crime fighting style. With both James and Charlie trying to adjust to each other and figure out if they can possibly work together, a problem keeps rearing its ugly head: Cocaine. The laws against drugs in France help lead the two towards a bigger problem and now they have to see if they can stop an assassination attempt. Maybe this is the thing that brings them together.

Like I said, the action was fun. It had some very unique and very intense action scenes that managed to use over-the-top violence with a balance of realistic fight scenes. Other than that, there was not a whole lot to offer. The plot was simple and been done to death. It's got some fun parts, but I can't really recommend this.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Social Network (2010)

I went into this movie expecting a great movie and I got that and then some. This is not the "Facebook Movie." This is the movie about how this spy, nervous computer geek got revenge in the most fiscal way.

Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) just got dumped by his girlfriend. She knows he's smart and capable of doing whatever he can to get rich, but he's also a socially-inept ass. As a result, Mark enlists the help of friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) to make, a site dedicated to choosing which Harvard female was more attractive than the one next to her. After that erupts over campus, he's a sensation. He then gets the idea for a social network website that puts all the college experience online...or did he take the idea from the Winklevoss twins who hired Zuckerberg to build a similar site. As expands, Zuckerberg is feeling the heat. Napster co-founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) helps Mark build up the a franchise and subsequently pushes Saverin out. Exactly how many friends will Mark have left?

As good as this movie was, nothing stood out more than the performance of Jesse Eisenberg. He managed to nail the character and kept him moving at the same Aaron Sorkin pace. That means, he kept talking and talking and talking until there was nothing left to discuss. Him and Andrew Garfield are both deserving of Oscar consideration. Director David Fincher as well. He managed to make a movie about computer nerds exciting. Also, kudos for the most exhilarating rowing (I'm sorry, crew) race in the history of film. Go see this movie.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Easy A (2010)

I was pleasantly surprised by this movie. Basically, the same effect was had on me when I first saw Mean Girls. The trailer made this movie look like another generic teenage high school movie. Far from it.

Olive (Emma Stone) is your average high school loner. She's not one of the cool kids. She's not an outcast. She's just there and she likes it that way. However, when she tells of a sexual encounter that never happened, rumor spreads quickly and she's the school's resident tramp. How can she use this to her advantage? She sees this as an opportunity she can't pass up to make her high school days seem less trivial. But when things start to swirl out of control, the school's Christian brigade led by Marianne (Amanda Bynes) feels it's their duty to make sure Olive doesn't go to Hell. Nobody knows she is making this all up and when she starts to tell people, will they believe her?

Stone was fantastic in this. A little hard to believe that she would be the loner with her sense of humor and style, but she pulls it off. The best lines of the movie went to her parents though, played by Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson. Basically, they play the coolest and most understanding parents ever. I recommend this movie because it will exceed any expectations you have.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Date Night (2010)

If this had been any other lead actors, this movie would have failed miserably. However, Tina Fey and Steve Carell were just funny enough to save this from being a complete wreck.

Phil and Claire Foster (Carell and Fey) are just your normal workaday couple who live in suburban New Jersey. Every Friday night, the babysitter comes over and the parents go on a their date night. One week, after seeing their friend's marriage crumble, they stir things up a bit and go to the swanky new restaurant in Manhattan. When they can't get a table, they steal someone's reservation. When two thugs accost them about something they've stolen, the Fosters now realize they probably shouldn't have taken the Tripplehorns spot. After evading the thugs, the couple are now running for their lives in a city they barely visit outside of work. They're going to need help, but don't know where to turn. Personally, I'd consider that to be a good date.

As I mentioned, Carell and Fey save this movie. I'd like to think they knew the script wasn't that strong because there were a lot of improvised scenes in the movie and those tended to be very funny. The supporting cast did what they could. Mark Wahlberg, Taraji Henson, Common, Leighton Meester and Ray Liotta (who seems to be in everything lately) all try their best with their characters. I can't totally recommend this, but fans of the comedians will get a kick out of this.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Other Guys (2010)

I thought this was going to be good, but I didn't expect it to be this great. I haven't laughed this hard at a Will Ferrell movie in a long time. I'd say it belongs in the Top 3 of Ferrell movies.

Highsmith and Danson (Samuel L Jackson and Dwayne Johnson) are the best cops on the force. They always get there man and they never let anything stand in their way. Gamble and Hoitz (Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg) are the other cops. The ones who investigate lighter crimes from their desks. When a bigshot investor gets behind on his contractual payments, Hoitz and Gamble are called. They realize that this may go deeper than they could have expected, which isn't to Gamble's liking. Hoitz wants to get on the streets whereas Gamble is more than fine staying behind the desk. As the hole keeps getting deeper and deeper, they find that they are now the bad-asses on the force and need to get the job done at all costs.

I laughed so hard at this movie, almost from beginning to end. The supporting cast was just as funny as Ferrell was. Even Michael Keaton as the captain of their particular precinct. He may or may not be a TLC fan, it's uncertain. I highly recommend this. Watch it as soon as possible.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Cop Out (2010)

There were a lot of problems with this movie. First, the script was just not good enough for a supposed "buddy cop" movie. Second, who decided to let Kevin Smith direct a movie he didn't write. Mistake!

Jimmy Monroe and Paul Hodges (Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan) are a veteran pair of cops who have been partners for over 7 years. Their cases go a little haywire and they let druglord slip through the cracks. Wallowing from that, Jimmy also needs to pay for his daughter's wedding and decides to sell his most prized baseball card. This card should net him somewhere around $80,000. Just randomly, a couple of no-goodniks rob the card some and take Jimmy's prized possession. Now, they have to find this card so his daughter's wedding can take place the way she wants. As it just so happens, the card soon comes into the hands of the very kingpin they've been trying to catch for years. How exactly can they get it back?

No need to read it again. That hokey plot is almost all there is to this movie. I wasn't expecting a lot from this movie, but I was expecting Tracy Morgan to be a bad choice. Admittedly, I was wrong about that. Morgan was funny and somewhat believable as a cop. The movie suffered because it's such a weak story. I can't recommend this, even for Kevin Smith fans.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Inception (2010)

Holy cow. This lived up to all the hype that I had put on it based on the trailer. The acting was superb, the story was terrific, and the action was unbelievable. The most fun I've had watching a movie in a long, long time.

Cobb and Arthur (Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt) specialize in a very unique form of security/thievery. They do so by invading their subject's mind. However, Cobb has something else on his mind and that's seeing his kids again. Through a serious of events, Cobb is a wanted man in the United States. He decides to take one last job from a wealthy international businessman (Ken Watanabe) in order to get his past crimes erased and so he can see his children. The job he is intended to do is not as easy as it seems. Without getting into too much detail, because it will being to ruin the movie, I will say that things on this job go out of control. The main question is: Will Cobb see his youngsters ever again?

At it's core, this is a very basic action movie plot. Guy needs to do one more job to get out of the biz. It's where the story goes with that plot that I absolutely loved. All of the cast were terrific, but Gordon-Levitt and Tom Hardy really commanded the screen and took over when they were needed. I got bothered by one person leaving the theater early when I went so I will say this: Don't NOT leave/miss this movie. Watch it in theaters if you can, Blu-Ray if you wait. It's well worth it.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Alice In Wonderland (2010)

I was told you love this or hate it and yet I'm caught right down the middle. I really liked some parts of this, while others I didn't. Tim Burton just seemed a shade off his game on this one.

At age 20, Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is set to be engaged to her beau. Problem being, she doesn't want that. It's at that point when she notices an oddly familiar rabbit in a waistcoat. She follows him to a tree and, you guessed it, down a rabbit hole. While down in Wonderland (it's actually Underland, apparently I've misunderstood), she does not believe the sight of it. A talking dormouse, flowers with faces on them and the Bandersnatch that almost kills's all too much to be real. When she meets the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), it's definitely got to be a dream. As her journey progresses, things start to seem familiar to if she'd visited this place before but that couldn't be possible. Once she meets the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), that's when it starts getting real.

I was very intrigued by the idea of Alice returning to Wonderland and this not being and exact copy of the 1950s animated movie. I mean it has the Cheshire Cat and the Tweedles, but there are many differences. The thing that threw me out of it was that it was clearly made with 3-D in mind. Tim Burton's got the talent to make a movie and have 3-D follow him, not the other way around. At least Avatar gave you the feeling of a movie first. The other thing, this is NOT appropriate for young kids. How it got to be PG, I have no idea. Still, I do recommend it, but my mind may change on later viewings.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Invictus (2009)

Clint Eastwood can direct a movie and there is no debate about that. While this was a good movie, it was definitely one of Eastwood's weaker efforts. Not for lack of trying though.

The film begins in South Africa circa 1994. Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) was released from prison after 27 years for opposing the country's segregationist rules of Apartheid and, between 1990-1994, Mandela develops a following and is elected president of South Africa. The country is still racially divided though. The evidence of this is country's rugby team the Springboks, led by Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon), and for now, they suck. But Mandela has hope that they will pull together and unite the country when they host the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Oddsmakers had the Springboks as a good chance to make it out of the first round, but that was it. Since it's a true story, nothing should be ruined for the viewer. For one tournament, the country can forget their troubles.

The "not for lack of trying" that I was talking about was the acting. Great performances from both of the leads which, not surprisingly, led to Oscar nods for Damon and Freeman. The problem with this was that I didn't feel the story was portrayed as inspirational as it clearly was intended. I say watch this, but don't expect the same work you saw from Eastwood in Mystic River, Unforgiven, or even Changeling. It just won't add up.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Kid Stays in the Picture (2002)

Yes, I am aware that most documentaries are one-sided, but none have ever told a single side of a story like this movie. It was still very entertaining.

Super-producer Robert Evans has lived the life that kids dream about when they are young. Be very, very business-savvy, become famous and have your pick of the girls. Evans narrates the movie himself, even imitating the voices of the other people he's talking about. His stories start with his disastrous turn as an actor in the 1950s and 60s...the only reason he got the gigs were because of his looks. He then focused on making movies and proceeded to buy the fledgling Paramount pictures and produce hits like Love Story, The Godfather, and Chinatown. Power struggles ensue and the 80s hit him with a jolt after he's busted for drugs. Evans is very open and honest about his long and successful life.

As much fun as I had watching this movie, I feel I maybe would have appreciated someone else talking about the Evans lifestyle. I know that's not what he or director Brett Morgen were going for, but I'm just saying. This movie was very good and any movie fan will like this look at a producer's life.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Avatar (2009)

I will say this right off the bat, the 4 stars for this movie are, for the most part, strictly based on how beautiful it looked. James Cameron knows how to direct a movie. Writing one, that may be another story.

Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is an ex-Marine who has lost the complete use of his legs. He finds out his brother had worked on the Avatar project with a group of mercenaries, and Jake is subsequently asked to fill his shoes. The point of the project is to disguise various participants as the Na'vi, the native inhabitants of Pandora, in order to retrieve the unobtainable precious mineral Unobtainum (GET IT?!). While on Pandora, Jake meets Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), a warrior who is the King and Queen's daughter. As Jake and Neytiri slowly fall for each other, Jake is finding his allegiances torn between this new land and the people who paid him to use the Na'vi into giving up the mineral. Who should he trust? Who can trust him? One thing is for certain, Jake needs to save his own hide before anything else.

Picture Dances with Wolves, but much prettier...and minus Kevin Costner's ass. That's the basic plot of this movie. It's simplistic, singularly focused and full of political undertones. Maybe if Cameron had spent less time on the technology for the movie, he could have spent more time on the plot. That being said, the movie looked gorgeous. And the fight scenes were phenomenal. I have to recommend it based on those credentials.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009)

While this is proof that Heath Ledger's potential was immense, the movie as a whole was hit and miss.

The ageless Doctor Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) and his traveling band of mystical misfits, which includes his own daughter, take their show across England to try and make some money. Drunkards and roustabouts always tried to hassle the workers, but one wrong step and they traveled into the Imaginarium, where your dreams and nightmares come true. After one show, they travel by a bridge and noticed Tony (Ledger) hanging from the scaffolding. They pull him up and resuscitate him. Tony then joins the group and has a way with women in getting their money. As the show moves on, they begin to suspect that Tony is not who he says he is. Can they trust him, or is he just in this to further his own goals?

Terry Gilliam must do a big batch of acid before he writes a script because the movie just illuminates the eye. Unfortunately, the same can't be said about the plot of the movie. It meanders from point A to point B and gets the viewer lost along the way. After Ledger's death, Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell stepped in to finish the role. That part was written in wonderfully. Watch this for the imagery and the very good performances, not the story.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Mystery Team (2009)

The boys from "Derrick Comedy" made a movie. It's basically just a longer version of all of the internet shorts they've done in the past, and just as funny. I was laughing almost the whole time.

Jason, Duncan and Charlie (the "Derrick" guys) are three high school seniors who have never grown out of their adolescence. They are still trying to solve menial mysteries posed by kids half their age. That is, until a little girl asks the Team to find out who killed her parents. The mystery gets deeper and deeper and the Team continues to get out of their element, but still manage to collect all of the right clues. However, they are unaware of the consequences of their actions. They might have gotten themselves in way too deep.

I'll forgive the last 20-25 meandering minutes or so that seemed to get away from the heart of the movie, because I expected that from a movie like this. It's got some humor that may not be for all audiences, but it worked for me. Some smart and witty, some gross-out and sophmoric. Either way, I had fun.

Monday, May 31, 2010

My Blue Heaven (1990)

How can this movie fail? Steve Martin is my favorite comedian and Rick Moranis is...funny. But, oh my god, did this fail. Massively. Hardly funny and horribly 90s.

Martin plays Vinnie Antonelli, a mob informant who is currently in the Witness Protection Program and has been relocated to the suburbs of San Diego. Moranis is FBI Agent Barney Coopersmith, the agent put in charge of Vinnie's case. As Vinnie constantly starts to blow his cover, the FBI is getting more and more frustrated. After a trip to the court hearing in New York, the mobsters catch up with Vinnie. Now, they know he's been relocated and they are going to catch him.

Short description because I just can't really talk about this movie anymore. It was so bad. Steve Martin was just so unfunny and Moranis just played a schlub, per usual. The directing was awful, the physical and spoken humor was not there. Don't ever watch this.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

44 Inch Chest (2010)

A prime example of a movie looking so good in the trailer and then being so bad as a film. The one redeeming factor was Ray Winstone, the only actor who seemed to be trying. In the end, the movie told me nothing.

Colin (Winstone) is a wreck after his wife says she's leaving him for a younger man after 15+ years of marriage. When his friends arrive to comfort him, they find his house a total disaster and him unable to move from the ground. Meredith, Archie (Ian McShane and Tom Wilkinson) and the rest decide to teach the bloke a lesson in humility. He should know better than to bed another man's wife. They kidnap him from the restaurant he waits tables for, drag him to an undisclosed location and throw him into a chest for safe keeping. After some poking and prodding at the waiter's ego, they let him out. It's then that Colin wants some time with him alone. That may not be a good idea.

Like I said, nothing happened in this. There was no pressing issue in the plot, there was no redeeming message at the end of the movie and, in the end, none of these characters are likeable...even Colin. Winstone did such a good job at trying to stable this movie that his performance really saved a lot of this. Other than that, no thanks.

Monday, May 10, 2010

2012 (2009)

Not quite sure where to begin with this. I knew what I was getting into when I sat down to watch this, but I'm just a sucker for cheesy disaster flicks...and this one ranks right up there in cheesiness. On the plus side, the graphics were very cool.

Jackson and Kate Curtis (John Cusack and Amanda Peet) are separated or divorced, probably divorced although they never say. While Kate seems to be moving on with a new boyfriend, Jackson is just struggling with life as a starving writer. While their seemingly normal life is going on, geologist Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) has discovered the Earth's core temperature is rising and it's only a matter of time before the crust begins to erode. In 2012, that day has come. Helmsley is trying to figure out where and when the disaster is going to hit. Jackson needs to get Kate and his kids out of harm's way and fast. How long can they possibly outrun it? I mean, it is the end of the world.

I'm not going to say I wasted 2 and a half hours of my life on this movie. I'm going to say that only 1 hour and 45 minutes were a waste, the rest was some mild fun. Overacting and green screens and nonsensical dialogue aside, the actors did the best with what they have. Ejiofor is a terrific actor and had an admirable performance. The rest, not so much. I'm not recommending this, unless you really have the time to spare.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Fun, action-packed, British...those are some of the words that can describe this latest Sherlock Holmes foray. In the end, there may not have been a whole lot of substance to it, but it was still a fun time.

Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) is a bit of an eccentric while also being a genius in the process. He has the ability to see 5 moves ahead of any foe that gets in his way. While chasing after Lord Blackwood (terrific character actor Mark Strong), who uses the black arts to "sacrifice" his victims, Holmes and Dr. Watson (Jude Law) use their intellect and wit to get passed anyone who stands in there way. After initially capturing Blackwood, the dark Lord escapes his hanging and is now terrorizing the British government and citizens all over again. Now, Holmes is the one who is a few steps behind and needs to play catch-up before Blackwood proceeds to kill all of Parliament.

Guy Ritchie's directing style seemed to get lost at times in this movie, but that was to be expected. My one problem with this movie is that I wish there was more focus on the detective work Holmes and Watson do as opposed to the fighting and chase scenes. Not to say that those were bad, quite the opposite actually, but if they would have gone just a bit into how they got from here to there to get the bad guys, it would have been better for me. Still a fun ride.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Pirate Radio (2009)

I still like the British title, The Boat That Rocked, better but this still was a very funny movie. It had the characters and music to keep me interested all the way through. Phillip Seymour Hoffman doesn't hurt its chances either.

The ship called Radio Rock is captained by Quentin (Bill Nighy). The DJs include The Count (Hoffman), Dr. Dave (Nick Forst) and "Nut" (Rhys Darby). The story follows Quentin's godson Carl as he joins the ship and is subsequently overcome with a sense of release that has kept him hunkered down in his home on land. While all of the debauchery is going down on board, in the British government, officials are trying to find out how to shut them down. As they get closer and closer, the Radio Rockers are one step ahead of them every time. Can they continue to outrun the force of the British government? They're sure as hell going to try.

The cast is outstanding and they bring their A game throughout the entire flick. From Nighy to Frost to Rhys Ifans to Darby, everyone brought unique characteristics to their portrayal and you could relate to a little bit of each. The ending knocked off a few points for me, but it wasn't necessarily bad, just not what I expected. Watch and enjoy.

The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)

While this movie had its funny moments, the plot was just kind of boring in the end. I was just sort of taken along for the ride and ended up with no place to go.

Bob (Ewan McGregor) is a small town journalist who's determined to be the best at his job to show his wife, who just left him, that he can. He pretends to enlist as a reporter embedded in the Middle East, only to find Lyn (George Clooney). As time goes on, Bob realizes Lyn is part of a secret government initiative called the New Earth Army, a group that attempts to become "psychic spies." (Note: Before you think this is far-fetched, this movie is based on actual events) As Lyn and Bob begin to detail the storied past of the New Earth Army, they must try to avoid Lyn's enemy Larry (Kevin Spacey). Larry has never bought into Lyn's theory of of spying, so he begins to find out ways of taking him down, beginning in the 80s. What follows is a somewhat elementary attempt to stop him.

This movie wasn't awful, but it just didn't have a whole lot to keep me interested in the end. The biggest bright spot of this movie was Jeff Bridges. It was basically "What if The Dude joined the Army and somehow made it to the rank of corporal?" And it was hilarious. While the other actors definitely tried, this movie ultimately fell flat due to the plot. Enjoy it if you must, but I can't recommend it.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Slammin' Salmon (2009)

Not Broken Lizard's funniest outing, but definitely had the best plot for any of their movies. The jokes aren't as spitfire as Super Troopers or as nonsensical as Club Dredd, but they are still there if you like their other films.

Former boxer Cleon "Slammin'" Salmon (Michael Clarke Duncan) opens the Slammin' Salmon restaurant in Miami to try and make it the newest swanky hotspot. The Broken Lizard crew make up the waitstaff along with Cobie Smulders and April Bowlby (both of "How I Met Your Mother" fame). One is the floor manager, one is a faux-playboy, one is an ex-actor, one is sprung on the job last minute, and one is Nuts...literally, that's his name. All of the waitstaff is trying to get a take of $20,000 in one night, but for reasons of which they are unaware.

The reason this has a better plot than the rest, I feel, is because Kevin Heffernan ("Farva" from Super Troopers) is behind the camera his time and not Jay Chandrasekhar, who has directed all the groups previous films. The almost consistently low-brow humor is still there, with some slapstick thrown in. It may upset some, but that's there style of humor and they're staying in their wheelhouse. Good movie, but don't go in expecting top notch stuff.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

In The Loop (2009)

This was one of the better political satires I've seen in a long time. Not quite sure if it was worthy of an Oscar nomination, but still very good and very funny.

I'll try to condense the plot as much as possible since there are a lot of stories going on at once. Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) is a high ranking official in the British government, who is also a bit of a buffoon when it comes to keeping his mouth shut. Privately, the US and England are looking into invading a Middle Eastern country, but no decision has been made. Foster publicly states the war is "unforeseeable," which starts a firestorm. That statement turns Foster and his colleagues into hapless pawns by the US State Department and a war hungry general (James Gandolfini).

Based on a Britcom, this is a very biting satire and one that's consistently pushing out one-liners that are not only funny, but actually keep moving the plot along. While everyone was good, the standout was Peter Capaldi as Malcom Tucker, the foul-mouthed political spin man. Hard to tell if he's ever actually solved a problem or just yelled at them all. A little slow moving at first, but really picks up and gets better as time runs on.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

This movie, despite being animated, had as many Wes Anderson-isms as The Royal Tennenbaums or Life Aquatic. All of which helps this movie turn a great kids book into a great movie that can be enjoyed by kids and adults.

Mr. and Mrs. Fox (George Clooney and Meryl Streep) are former thieves who decide that since she is pregnant, they need a new line of work. Mr. Fox becomes a successful newspaper writer and is looking for a new home. They find the perfect place that just happens to be across the way from three mean and ruthless farmers named Boggis, Bunce and Bean. Mr. Fox gets the idea for one last heist. The heist goes well, but the farmers realize where the critter lives and tracks it down. The ensuing chaos causes the Fox family and others animals to move deep underground until the whole thing dies down. Now, Fox needs to make amends for his reckless decision by taking down the farmers who attacked them. Time for a Danny Ocean-type spectacle.

The cast list was huge, as per usual with Wes Anderson. Clooney, Streep, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, Willem Dafoe, and Adrian Brody to mention a few. They all are recognizable but also bring their A game to this movie. Stop-motion flicks always amaze me in the dedication to the craft at hand. I know these movies must take a long time to make and this film is no exception. I thoroughly enjoyed this, so you should, too.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

48 Hrs. (1982)

One of the earliest film inceptions of the buddy cop genre, this is arguably the best of its kind. It's funny, it's got action and it's got a good plot...even for an 80s movie.

Det. Jack Cates (Nick Nolte) is as hard-assed as they come. He is having trouble with his lady, his job seems to be getting worse and worse as the days go by, and two other cops just got shot while he was the look out. Nobody thinks he does a good job, but he's determined to catch the guys who did this to those cops. He enlists the help of Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy), a convict who has previous ties with the men who shot the cops. He gets him out of jail for 48 hours (get it!) to find the criminals. Constantly tiptoeing the lines of racism, Cates treats Hammond like a ragdoll throughout most of the movie. Will they be able to catch the criminals before Reggie needs to make his way back to the slammer, or will their constant bickering get in the way of the work that needs to be done?

I know I kind of missed the boat on this movie and I should have watched it a long time ago, but I just got around to it there. It brings me back to a simpler time when Eddie Murphy made great movies and Nick Nolte was...sane. In recent years, the buddy cop category has been beaten to death with the cliches created in this movie. Thing is, this movie did it better than the rest. There would be no Rush Hour without this movie. I had a good time watching it.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard (2009)

There was only one part of this movie that consistently made me laugh and that was Craig Robinson. Other than that, this movie was just a fustercluck of bad jokes and an even worse story.

Don "The Goods" Ready (Jeremy Piven) is a gun-for-hire in the car dealership world. He has the ability to move any car to anybody within any amount of time. He's that good. His services are required at Selleck Motors in Temecula, California. The rest of his team (Ving Rhames, Kathryn Hahn, and David Koechner) come along for what seems to be an easy weekend. Selleck needs the cars sold or the dealership will be sold. Within two days time, Ready is able to get his team and the existing Selleck employees excited and prepared for the 3 days work ahead of them, complete with giveaways, markups, a DJ (Robinson), and a celebrity appearance by American Idol runner-up Bo Bice's brother Eric. THE Eric Bice. However, Selleck's daughter, Ivy, is the one that catches Don's attention, and that could have some troubling consequences.

Like I said, it's a bad plot that's been done before with better jokes and better results. Craig Robinson was great because he played DJ Request...who absolutely will not take requests. (Example: he is asked to play something uplifting like "We Are Family" and turns on a song called "Dead Puppies") He would go into these solider-like trances when a song is requested and I loved those parts. The rest of this movie is something I want to forget.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Where the Wild Things Are (2009)

How do you expand on and take liberties with a book that's barely 300 words long? More importantly, how do you do it without ruining the integrity of the book? This is how you do it. This beautiful movie about what it really means to be a child.

Max (Max Records) is a lonely 9-year-old who lives with his mother and older sister. He has a rich imagination though. His mother (Catherine Keener) is the only person who appreciates his mind, but she hardly has any time between work and trying to be in a relationship. His sister doesn't do anything to help him as her friends ruin his igloo. One night, Max throws a fit while his mother is on a date and promptly runs off. Once into the woods, his imagination takes over and goes to where the wild things are (get it?). The "leader" is Carol (James Gandolfini) who is extremely impulsive and bordering on violent. Him and the rest of the wild things take in Max and make him their new king. They go on to build a fort for only the wild things currently in their group. Each of the creatures has a main personality trait that is equal to one of Max's or his family. Before long, they begin to question Max's rules and Max becomes overwhelmed. He wants to stay, but he also wants to return home.

What an extraordinary film. It was unbelievably emotional and completely encapsulated what goes on inside a child's mind. The anger, the happiness, the regret, the wonderment. Kids are not as one dimensional as parents want to think they are. Children watching this movie may not understand that, but the adults will. While being a kids movie, this resonates so much more with the adults in the room who are now able to realize that this is what they went through and this could be what their kids are going through right now. Wonderfully shot, terrifically acted and directed, this movie should be on everyone's must watch list.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Whip It (2009)

This was a fun time at the movies. Nothing great, nothing bad, just a fun time. Drew Barrymore did a fine job in her directing debut. Much better than Michael Keaton and John Krasinski's 2009 ventures.

Bliss Cavendar (Ellen Page) is from a small town in Texas and has ambition to leave that small town. Unfortunately, that probably won't happen. Her mother (Marcia Gay Harden) is constantly making Bliss try and relive her own pageant glory days. Whether it's her fault or not, they never seem to end well. By chance, her and her best friend head out to a roller derby in Austin. It's there where she sees Maggie Mayhem (Kristin Wiig) and the rest of the Hurl Scouts whip around the derby track and leave carnage in its place. Bliss lies about her age in order to try out for the team's open spots and, while shaky and small, her speed lands her a spot. While she's having the best time of her life on the track, it's only a matter of time before her parents find out about the brutality and the team finds out she's not who she says.

There were some trouble spots in the story of the movie, some plotlines that were either glossed over or completely skipped but, that doesn't diminish the fun time I had watching this film. The skating action scenes were well shot and very entertaining. There was no overwhelming quality to this film and I'm sure it won't go down on a list of best movies but, Barrymore's directing skills are on the up & up and she has the talent to make another good movie.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Bronson (2009)

Stylistically, it was a very entertaining movie. The plot just didn't explain enough for this movie to have stretched into the upper tier of 2009 films. Unfortunate for me, since I really wanted to see this. While good, it's not great.

Michael Peterson a.k.a. Charlie Bronson (Tom Hardy) is Britain's most notorious prisoner. Ever since he was a young man, Bronson had been in trouble with the law. Originally being jailed for a simple robbery, he received 7 years. That would turn into 4 with good behavior. That didn't happen. Numerous fights, hostage takings and lack of disregard for human life had the number of years jailed increase substantially. Charlie spent the next 34 years in jail, 30 of which he was in solitary confinement. He was released during that tenure, but the longest stretch he went without committing a crime was only 69 days. As I write this, Bronson is still in jail today with no sign of parole or probation in his future.

This movie is very similar to A Clockwork Orange both in its direction and its glorification of violence done by the lead character. The disappointment came in the lack of back story with Bronson. I wanted to know a lot more about the man's childhood than they showed. They got his characteristics and mannerisms dead on. I know this because there are Youtube videos of one of his fights and one of his hostage takings. Watch this for the style, not so much for the substance.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Oscar Picks 2010

These are my picks for the big awards for the 2010 Academy Awards, as labeled as who should win and who will win. Feel free to comment and comment on your picks.

Best Picture:

The Blind Side

District 9

An Education
The Hurt Locker ***WINNER, HANDS DOWN***
Inglourious Basterds


A Serious Man


Up in the Air

Best Director:
Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker ***WINNER, HANDS DOWN***
James Cameron, Avatar
Lee Daniels, Precious
Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds

Best Actor:
Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart ***WINNER, HANDS DOWN***
George Clooney, Up in the Air
Colin Firth, A Single Man
Morgan Freeman, Invictus
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker

Best Actress:
Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side ***WHO WILL WIN***
Helen Mirren, The Last Station
Carey Mulligan, An Education
Gabourey Sidibe, Precious

Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia ***WHO SHOULD WIN***

Best Supporting Actor:
Matt Damon, Invictus
Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

Best Supporting Actress:
Penelope Cruz, Nine
Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart
Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
Mo'Nique, Precious

Best Original Screenplay:
The Hurt Locker ***WHO WILL WIN***
Inglourious Basterds ***WHO SHOULD WIN***
The Messenger
A Serious Man

Best Adapted Screenplay:
District 9
An Education
In the Loop
Up in the Air

Best Animated Feature:
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Princess and the Frog
The Secret of Kells

Honestly, if all goes down as planned, this will be one of the most predictable Oscars in recent memory. Enjoy.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Informant! (2009)

I thought this was a great movie. This could very well have been thrown into the Best Picture category since there are 10 this year. Matt Damon was at his comic best in this early 90s quasi-caper.

Based on a true story, Mark Whitacre (Damon) is a high level biochemist turned executive at ADM, an agricultural business titan. As the bosses keep telling him to do things, he realizes he may be in over his head. As those things turn illegal, he thinks the company has gone too far. Mark turns to the FBI where agents Shepard and Herndon (Scott Bakula and Joel McHale) start taking his story of price fixing very seriously. The more the FBI sniffs around, the more conscious of them ADM is and they begin to straighten up. But that's not good enough for Mark and he thinks they should pay for all the things he's been forced to do in the past. Can they pay? Will they pay? As the story progresses, the tables begin to turn against Mark. Even after that, the story hasn't even begun to snowball out of control.

Damon was hilarious as Whitacre. He is clearly a very smart family man who knows how to work in a business and be a team player, before eventually turning on them. He is also very stupid. He thinks he's a super spy and just digs his hole deeper and deeper. Steven Soderbergh kept a very low tone to the movie and it kept the feel of it together. This is a very funny movie and you all should watch.

Friday, March 5, 2010

An Education (2009)

Clearly, this movie is all about the acting. Carey Mulligan did a really good as a young girl who extremely naive of the world around her. The movie was just good, though. I've seen 9 of the 10 Best Picture nominees and this is the weakest of the bunch.

England circa 1961, Jenny Miller (Mulligan) is a 16 year old high-schooler who's father (Alfred Molina) is stressing that she concentrate on her studies and her cello so she will get accepted to Oxford. She and her friends are semi-rebellious. They are the "popular" girls and smoke on campus sometimes, but this all never got in the way of her schooling. By chance, she meets David (Peter Sarsgaard). He is at least 10 years older than she is and he is a real charmer. He starts taking Jenny out and buying her lavish things and taking her to locations unknown to her but, this is all getting in the way of her schooling. Oxford may no longer be in her future. However, this new life she has with David may render a tenure at the university moot.

I'd say the age difference between the two was creepy, but the 1960s were a different time. A time when the parents had more of a say in who a teenager dated. That aside, Mulligan played the naivete of the role very well. Does she deserve an Oscar nod for it? Yes, but I don't think she really has a chance to win. The rest of the movie is good, but no more. This movie should have been knocked out of the top prize for (500) Days of Summer, in my opinion. Good, but not great. That's all I can really say.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Paper Heart (2009)

This whole movie, I kept saying how much I liked the quirkiness of the film. In the end, this movie was just ok.

A semi-documentary, semi-love story, this movie follows actress Charlyne Yi in her trying to search for love, while also not believing in it. She asks people what their thoughts on the subject are and what she can do if she ever falls for someone. She also interviews her friends like Demitri Martin and Seth Rogen to see if she is lovable. While at a party with her director, Charlyne meets Michael Cera. After first avoiding the situation, they eventually start dating and the tone of the movie changes. Can their budding love perservere with a group of cameramen following their every move?

It had its moments and was a very unique movie, but after the ending, it just felt alright. Yi and Cera had an odd relationship but there was a chemistry there. The interludes where some of the interview subjects describe their first experience with true love were really good but I wish the film had more laugh-out-loud moments. I can't recommend this, but I'm sure this movie has its audience.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Talk Radio (1988)

I wanted to like this more than I did. It had some really good writing and some great acting, but the movie was just good, not great.

Barry Champlain (Eric Bogosian) is a loud mouthed, annoying and downright mean late night talk radio host who enjoys calling out his listeners and the greater Dallas area citizens for who they truly are. They, in turn, do not wish to hear it. People love to hate him, at least, that's how he sees it. His boss, Dan (Alec Baldwin), has just informed him there are plans in motion to make Barry's show nationally syndicated. He is torn about whether it would be a good thing or a bad thing. He calls on the comfort of both old and new friends to get him through the transition.

Loosely based on the life of Alan Berg, Bogosian plays Barry as a self-obsessed person who cannot fathom his success. He just talks. There was one great monologue towards the end of the movie that reiterates this notion. This movie was just good. In the end, nothing really stood out about it. Working in media, I was hoping it would speak more to me than it did. It was a good movie, so I do recommend it, but don't expect anything great.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Invention of Lying (2009)

It's Ricky Gervais written, directed and acted, do I really need to say more. This movie uses his type of comedy to its fullest and it's really funny.

Gervais is Mark Bellison, a shlubbish screenwriter who doesn't really have any success at it. He lives in a world where lying just does not exist. People are incapable of lying. As Mark has no luck with women, he's just gotten fired and is about to be evicted, he's goes to the bank to get what little money he has out of his account. Then, something clicks in his brain and he says the world's first lie. This leads to more success and a chance to get close to Anna (Jennifer Garner). Through a series of unfortunate events, the movie takes an ideological turn for the worse...and the hilarious.

This movie can definitely draw comparisons to Monty Python's Life of Brian. However, Gervais still keeps the humor all of his own. It's witty, biting and smart. Garner was great as she had to keep playing it straight the whole time. Rob Lowe, Tina Fey, Louis CK and a few other cameos kept the movie's tone and helped make it more enjoyable. I recommend this movie to comedy fans.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Big Fan (2009)

The insanity of sports fandom comes to a head with this movie. This dark dramedy is helped a lot by the presence of a lesser known actor. A big name would not have been able to pull this off.

Patton Oswalt plays Paul. He's a thirtysomething who still lives at home with his mother and has a job that barely gives him enough money to put gas in his car. He's also a HUGE Giants fan. Him and his best friend Sal (Kevin Corrigan) tailgate at the games and watch them from the parking lot. Devotion knows no bounds, except ticket prices. One weeknight, the two see their favorite Giant, Quantrell Bishop, out on the town. They follow him to a strip club where, through some misunderstandings, Bishop pummels the crap out of Paul. After being laid up, Paul is questioned from all sides but doesn't give out answers. He's not sure if he should punish the man who did this to him because that would hurt the team that he loves. The public's on one side, his family's on the other, and he's stuck in the middle.

Oswalt was great. I was surprised as I'm sure everyone was who saw this. He had enough comedy and drama in the role to bring a sense of realism to the movie. You felt torn because he felt torn. What also helped is that this feels like it could really happen. There are superfans out there who are nuts for athletes and their teams. Might be hard to find, but go and watch this movie.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Brief Interviews With Hideous Men (2009)

Call this "The Penis Monologues." Not my quote, but true nonetheless. John Krasinski's directorial debut was disappointing to say the least, even with the talent involved in this movie.

Sara (Julianne Nicholson) is a doctoral or graduate student who is trying to do an experiment on men and what makes them tick. All of the subjects are interviewed on their relationship ability. In particular, the questions revolve around sex and family. This experiment may have been pushed into existence by a recent break up with an unfaithful Ryan (John Krasinski). It has left her with a lot of questions, especially after Ryan's explanation was either too specific or too vague, depending on how you look at it. The hideousness in the title comes from either the inside or outside of these subjects on a case-by-case basis.

Adapted from a David Foster Wallace novel, Krasinski tried to wrap it all into a movie. While this makes me want to read the book, this movie left everything open-ended, and that was unfortunate. From Krasinski to Will Arnett to Christopher Meloni, the talent could have been used much more effectively. There was one great scene though involving Subject #42 "confronting" his father. I could watch that scene over and over. The rest of the movie, not so much.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sophie's Choice (1982)

One of the classic Meryl Streep movies that everyone is supposed to see if you want a great acting performance. I can't disagree with that.

Streep stars as Sophie, a Polish immigrant living in Brooklyn circa 1947. She lives in one of the 2nd level apartments of a boarding house with her boyfriend Nathan (Kevin Kline). We meet them after the newest tenant Stingo (Peter MacNichol) moves in to the big city from the south. The three of them quickly becomes friends and the almost inseparable, to the point where Nathan starts becoming suspicious of Stingo and Sophie. That's how Nathan gets when he drinks, jealous and violent. After every outburst though, the friends would easily patch things up. They all seem to have love for each other, how differently they tend to show it, but things are not as they seem. As the plot unravels, so do the individual stories of Sophie and Nathan. The term "Don't judge a book by its cover" comes to mind.

It's been said, and now I can agree with them, that this is Streep's finest hour. She carries the movie from start to finish and you really can feel for her in her blind love and hidden torment. It should also be said that Kline and MacNichol did a great job alongside Streep. The movie as a whole was a little long and had a few scenes that seemed unnecessary. Other than that, no complaints.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Black Dynamite (2009)

If my top 10 list for the year wasn't already complete, this would definitely jump in there. This was the funniest movie of 2009 for so many reasons.

Black Dynamite (Michael Jai White) is one bad ass dude, hellbent on bringing down the man. After his brother Jimmy is killed by the heads of a drug organization, Dynamite needs to get his revenge on the turkeys who committed the crime. He spares no expense and interrogates every witness or potential lead in his own way. He needs the answers. His old CIA and Vietnam partner O'Leary recruits Dynamite to get him CIA credentials once again. As he is pursuing the person who killed his brother, he finds out the problem goes beyond Jimmy. The drug kingpin is funneling a new drug into the community and worse, into the schools and orphanages. The drug: Smack. Growing up an orphan, Dynamite cannot stand this and now he's madder than ever.

This is a blaxploitation movie that sends up and parodies blaxploitation movies from the 70s. From the bad acting to the missed lines to the visual continuity errors to the bad fight sequences. When it screwed up, it did it on purpose and that made it so much funnier. White was unbelievably funny as the all-too-serious Black Dynamite and it just worked to perfection. Arsenio Hall, Cedric Yarbrough, Brian McKnight and Tommy Davidson all showed up in hilarious cameos as either pimps or pushers. I cannot recommend this movie enough.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Valentine's Day (2010)

This movie helps prove that the only movie to try and use the Love Actually style of storytelling successfully is Love Actually.

There are far too many storylines and characters to go through each of their plots individually, so I'll just get to a couple. Julia Roberts is a Army captain trying to get home and Bradley Cooper plays the guy sitting next to her. Ashton Kutcher just proposed to Jessica Alba. Topher Grace and Anne Hathaway just started dating, but there's a kink in their relationship. And Emma Roberts wants to have Each of the stories all started out good, but then take a turn. Most are pretty predictable, so just think about all the other romantic comedies you've seen and you have the rest of the plot to this film.

I really wanted to hate this movie but I just didn't. Man cred aside, I definitely did not like this movie by any means. It had its moments but they were few and far between. The Grace/Hathaway storyline was the best because it was the funniest. It helps prove that Topher Grace is the best at the awkward humor. Michael Cera and Jesse Eisenberg be damned, they can't match Grace's timing. George Lopez was also funny as Kutcher's best friend. The worst, by far, was the Taylors (Swift and Lautner). Not only can they not act but...they really can't act. Girls will probably like this, guys won't.