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.