Friday, December 30, 2011

50/50 (2011)

Seth Rogen has written a movie that completely makes up for the fact I sat through The Green Hornet. This was an honest and intimate portrayal of dealing with a disease that could stop anyone in their tracks.

Adam Learner (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a 27-year-old journalist who works at a public radio station with his best friend Kyle (Rogen). Adam has a solid relationship with his girlfriend Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard) and his family. One day after work, Adam heads to the doctor because of some chronic back pain. It's there that he learns he has a rare form of spinal cancer. Understandably, Adam doesn't believe the diagnosis at first, but then has the unenviable task of coming to grips with it. Rachael and Kyle seem to take the news well, at first, while Adam's mother (Anjelica Huston) isn't as accepting. In order to help deal with the disease, Learner is recommended to take counseling. His case is given to doctoral student Katie McCay (Anna Kendrick). The two of them soon form a bond over the fact they are new to their respective scenarios. Adam's cancer has a 50% survival rate, but he's hoping a good attitude can take him the rest of the way.

I had a great time watching this movie. It took such a devastating topic, one that affects practically every family, and gives looks at it from an emotional and hilarious point of view. Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives a terrific performance, per usual. Anna Kendrick and Seth Rogen also did great in their supporting roles. While at times this film felt like a Wes Anderson knockoff, the engaging plot and characters kept me from losing interest in the style of film making. This almost assuredly has a spot in my year-end Top Ten list. Grade: A-

Bridesmaids (2011)

While this movie didn't totally live up to all the hype surrounding it, Bridesmaids was still a funny movie in the vain of most Judd Apatow flicks. Except this time the characters were girls.

Thirtysomething Annie (Kristin Wiig) is at a crossroads in her life. Her business has recently shut down, she has a menial service job, her roommates are utterly ridiculous and her relationship status is virtually nonexistent. To make matters worse, her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) is getting married and she's asked Annie to be her maid of honor. Of course Annie excepts the offer, but she soon finds out she's in over her head. On top of all that, Annie has to deal with fellow bridesmaid Helen (Rose Byrne). Helen is Lillian's fiance's boss's wife, so naturally she wants to fit in. Helen is constantly trying to usurp Annie's maid of honor role and Annie is slowly but surely starting to crack under the pressure. Her mother, her quasi-boyfriend and the rest of the bridesmaids are no help. What Annie's going to do to get out of her rut is anyone's guess.

One element that did live up to the hype was Melissa McCarthy. She was absolutely hysterical as one of the other bridesmaids. While Ellie Kemper and Wendi McLendon-Covey did well in their roles, the only one who made me eagerly wait for her next line was McCarthy. All that said, there were still problems with this movie. I really could've done without the needlessly ridiculous British roommates and while I appreciate all of the improvisation, some of it dragged on for no reason other than to show the audience "Hey, they're comedians." I liked this movie, but definitely not enough to call it the best comedy of 2011 as most critics have noted. Grade: B+

Monday, December 26, 2011

J. Edgar (2011)

Powerhouse performances can only take a film so far. Cheesy makeup and a disorienting storyline manage to drag this one down. Disappointment, thy name is J. Edgar.

J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) is the young, brash leader of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He's never really been on the front lines, but he makes sure the public believes he has. Hoover's life and career follows an unexpected path, but all of it seems to revolve around how his mother (Judi Dench) feels. He soon hires Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts) as his personal secretary and Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer) as, basically, an assistant and confidant. In the midst of a congressional inquiry, Hoover takes on the now-infamous Lindbergh baby kidnapping. Hoover sees this as an opportunity for the FBI, but the case gets bungled early and a lack of resources ultimately does it in. The result of the Lindbergh case puts a damper on his relationships, both personally and professionally. He may never recover from them. Throw in clashes with presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon, it's amazing Hoover's career lasted as long as it did.

While I thought the plot included several points in Hoover's life that I wanted to know about, it moved around in such a disjointed way that it was sometimes hard to follow, or even care about. DiCaprio was great as usual and Armie Hammer gave a stellar performance that may give the awards recognition he missed for The Social Network. But, again, watching the older Hoover and Tolson act through that terrible makeup and dark lighting was really difficult. It took me out of the movie completely. I can't recommend J. Edgar, but I'm not going to stop anyone from seeing this. Grade: C+

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Contagion (2011)

Sheer terror and utter chaos inside the mind of the average citizen. That's the central message of Contagion, which is one of the best films of 2011.

Day 2: Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) returns home from a business trip to Hong Kong with what seems like a nasty cold. When she collapses two days later, her husband Mitch (Matt Damon) rushes her to the hospital, where she dies almost instantly. This case quickly gets the attention of the federal government after similar cases are discovered around the globe. Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) and Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet), both of the CDC, take different approaches to solving this mystery. Cheever at CDC headquarters and Mears in the field gathering data. As news of more and more deaths start to appear, blogger Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law) starts drudging up stories about the disease that are either half-truths or completely false. But his writings help further a worldwide panic that's set in. People start to look at homeopathic cures or any type of medication that could potentially cure them. No matter what the public does, it's no match for a disease that can't be traced.

I loved almost every aspect of this movie. As the disease spreads, the audience sees it from every angle. Publicly, privately, bureaucratically and online. You watch as the panic spreads day to day and month to month. Jude Law played smug-sonuvabitch to a T and Laurence Fishburne was great as a smart man who was clearly in over his head. Even those with smaller roles, including John Hawkes and Demetri Martin, did great in their parts. But the best storyline involved Matt Damon. As he and his daughter try and survive, you see how even small-town America is falling into anarchy. I could've done without Marion Cotillard's storyline, but it was so minor that I'll remember the movie around it. If you love thrillers, do yourself a favor and watch Contagion. This will definitely make my 2011 Top Ten list. Grade: A

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Young Adult (2011)

Dark comedies are some of my favorites movies, but this one got a little darker than it probably should have. On the other hand, the drama in Young Adult felt like it came from a real place. Fortunately, the good slightly outweighed the bad.

Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) is a professional ghost writer. She helped author a once-popular series of teen literature that dealt with drama in a small town. On a whim, this 30-something decides to leave the bright lights of Minneapolis and head to her hometown in an attempt to get her high school sweetheart once again. Problem is, Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson) is a happily married man. Mavis doesn't care. All she cares about is getting Buddy back. While back in town, she runs into another old classmate. Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt) now needs the help of a crutch after being savagely beaten while in high school. Both of them form this odd friendship that revolves around their past lives. Mavis can't shake the adolescence and downright bitchiness she had in high school, while Matt will forever be labeled as the town cripple. In the end, they can only go so far out of their comfort zone to get past their hangups.

Theron gives a great performance, but that's to be expected of her. The real star of the movie was Patton Oswalt. His subtle bravado and intensity shine through in certain scenes and it's really terrific to see. Patrick Wilson, who I'm normally not that fond of, does a good job at playing flabbergasted. My problems with the movie involved certain aspects of the plot. Certain scenes and certain characters just seemed contrived, or even unnecessary. But those didn't happen often enough to throw me off. Jason Reitman directs another good movie, but this one may be his most polarizing. Grade: B

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Help (2011)

What a happy little film about Civil Rights-era racism. Maybe not how the filmmakers want the movie to be described, but it's not false. And much to my surprise, I enjoyed this The Help very much.

"Skeeter" Phelan (Emma Stone) has returned home to Jackson, Miss., after graduating college with big dreams of becoming a writer. In her return, Skeeter realizes her family has severed ties with her beloved childhood maid. As a progressive-minded woman, Skeeter pitches the idea of a book from the perspective of the help (GET IT). She asks maids Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) and Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer) for any kind of tales they may have that would be good enough to be published. The two black women are very skeptical at first, but circumstances arise that make them want to humiliate their employers. As the maids tell their stories to Skeeter, things are made more difficult when Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard) becomes suspicious of Jackson's and Clark's actions. If Holbrook's pissed now, just wait until the book is actually released.

I really was surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie. I went into it thinking it would be a solid film, possibly leaning towards "chick flick" status, but it kept me interested the whole time. Viola Davis will get an Oscar nomination for her performance, and rightfully so, but also deserving are Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain. Every single scene those two women had together in the film could qualify as the best scene in the movie. While this movie may have been a little too cheery to deal with such topics, it's still a great film. It could very well grab a spot on my 2011 Top Ten list. Grade: A-

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Red State (2011)

Kevin Smith. Not a name synonymous with the horror/thriller/psycho genre but nevertheless, he gave it a go with Red State. Not a bad movie by any means, but he should stick to his comedies.

Travis, Jared and Billy Ray, three high schoolers in search of sex, borrow a car and travel out into the country to meet with a woman offering to them a night they won't soon forget. The teens arrive at a trailer and meet Sarah (Melissa Leo). She tells the boys to drink beer in order to get their treat, but the booze is spiked and the three of them pass out. When they come to, they realize they are at the mercy of Abin Cooper (Michael Parks) and his church of religious nuts. The revelers are prepared to sacrifice one of the boys when a local deputy disrupts the service. Once the law finds something amiss, all hell breaks loose and the boys are running for their lives while the local sheriff calls for help from the ATF. Agent Keenan (John Goodman) and his men quickly realize the situation is going to go from bad to worse if they don't take immediate action. But between the guns, the zealots and the law, what could possibly end up going right?

This movie had enough action and pretty solid dialogue to keep me interested, but the lack of plot really hurt some sections of the film. I loved the idea of a Westboro Baptist Church-type group being involved in a scheme like this, but some of the back stories and characters seemed thrown together just for the sake of having them. Kevin Smith is a talented writer/director, and he navigated the action scenes very well. On a scale of Smith movies though, I'd rank this probably right in the middle, between Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and Jersey Girl. Smith fans should like this, but they may be the only ones. Grade: B-

Monday, September 5, 2011

POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (2011)

Morgan Spurlock has the ability to make immensely entertaining documentaries, and this one is no different. It was funny, insightful and chock full of greed. Where else but Hollywood?

Spurlock has an idea for a documentary film. One about product placement in movies. From indie films to blockbuster popcorn flicks, product placement is everywhere and Spurlock wants in on the action. He decides to make a doc about PP paid for by the companies themselves (hence the title). The hard part, of course, is finding that first sponsor who'd be willing to let their meetings on the subject of PP, as well as their company name, appear in a film by the guy who told people McDonald's makes you fat. But once that first domino (which I believe was Sheetz) falls, the rest follow suit. Companies start trying to outdo and outbid one another and eventually the target is the title. Obviously, POM Wonderful won that battle, but it was fun to watch.

Spurlock manages to intersperse the uniqueness and greed of product placement into a documentary that's easy for the viewer to follow. What else could you possibly ask for? If you've seen any of Spurlock's other works (Super Size Me, "30 Days") then you know how he works. It's very straightforward, yet also has an intensity that shines through at key moments. It's a shame this film didn't make the final cut of candidates for the Oscars. You will enjoy this. Grade: A-

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Rango (2011)

This movie should probably win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. The attention to detail in the animation is outstanding. Compare the reptiles in this to the insects in A Bug's Life and you can see a vast difference in the detail. And yes, I know technology has gotten better since 1998.

When a pet chameleon who calls himself Rango (Johnny Depp) becomes accidentally stranded in the Mojave Desert, he has to use his "acting" skills to make sure he stays alive. After narrowly avoiding a hawk, he comes in contact with Beans (Isla Fisher). She takes Rango to her town of Dirt, which is an Old West community populated by desert animals. When the hawk returns and, by luck, Rango kills it, he is appointed sheriff by the mayor. The currency in the town is water, and the reserves are dangerously low. Beans convinces Rango to investigate the water shortage because she is skeptical of the mayor. After much investigation, Rango realizes the water shortage isn't really a problem, it's just been diverted away from the town. As he tries to figure out who could possibly want to keep water away from those who need it, Rattlesnake Jake returns to run amok and expose Rango for the fraud he is. So much for just trying to survive accidental abandonment.

As I said before, the attention to detail is the first thing you'll notice about this movie. Especially if you watch it on Blu-ray. Beyond that, this is a great western with a great western storyline. Newcomer comes to town, kills the enemy, becomes sheriff and must stop a greater evil. Countless westerns have started this way with worse results. The voice work was great. From Depp to Fisher to Ray Winstone to Abigail Breslin. The only problem I had with this movie was the fact that it's nearly two hours long. That's about 30 minutes more than an animated flick should be. Still great though. Grade: A-

Friday, July 29, 2011

Planet of the Apes (1968)

Clearly I'm late to the party on this one, so let's just get that out of the way. Our tastes in movies are pretty varied, but my wife got me to watch this and I can't complain. Despite it's dated effects and makeup, this is still a great sci-fi movie.

Beginning in the faraway future of 2006, Taylor (Charlton Heston) and three other astronauts embark on a near-light speed mission that, because of a suspended animation malfunction, jettisons 1972 years into the future. One of the astronauts dies in transit, and the others are now wandering through a desert when they come across some odd looking creatures on horseback that capture or kill the men. Some time later, Taylor wakes up inside a cage and is confronted by a talking gorilla named Zira. In this future, humans are the animals and apes are the humans. Once Taylor is able to speak, he begins to convince Zira and her fiance Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) that he's not a threat to them and just wants to get home. The two of them help Taylor escape and they start to run. Knowing full-well the apes will be prosecuted if captured, they still decide to let Taylor continue on his own. But something isn't quite right.

Yes, I did see the 2001 remake with Mark Wahlberg before this, and NO I would not have given it a glowing review. Some people view movies from the 50s and 60s as inferior because they don't have today's graphics and technology, but this was revolutionary for its time. That's why people revere it, and that's why it's somewhat of a cult hit. It wouldn't have spawned so many sequels and remakes if moviegoers didn't want to see them. This movie's not for everyone, but if you go into it knowing you're not going to see stuff like computer animation, then you'll enjoy this flick. Grade: A-

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Take Me Home Tonight (2011)

So much hope for this movie flushed almost entirely down the toilet when I actually saw it. I think Topher Grace is hilarious and not getting enough work, but this just failed. On the bright side, great music.

Circa 1988, recent MIT graduate Matt Franklin (Grace) is stuck working at Suncoast Video because he doesn't know what he wants to do with his life. His best friend Barry (Dan Fogler) and his twin sister Wendy (Anna Faris) are also at life-crossroads, but with differing variations. Now that Matt's back in town, his infatuation with the popular girl from high school, Tori (Teresa Palmer), returns. He heads to a party held by Wendy's boyfriend to try and woo Tori with lies about working for Goldman Sachs. It works. The two begin to hang out and Franklin's lies continue to grow. Meanwhile, Barry is spiraling out of control after losing his job earlier in the day. He's snorting coke and partying out of control. Wendy gets proposed to by her boyfriend and can't figure out an answer. The problems just keep building and building until it erupts for all of them, but at different times. One final night of partying turns into a clusterf**k that only the 80s can deliver.

After all that jumbled mess of a plot, the humor was almost entirely lost. The funny parts that remained didn't come from the main cast, but from supporting roles by Chris Pratt, Demetri Martin and Michael Ian Black. Their characters were practically one-liner machines, especially Martin. But that wasn't enough to sustain a storyline that went nowhere and fast. The music and cultural references were great, despite the fact that the film's namesake song wasn't heard. I still think Topher Grace doesn't get enough work, but I can't recommend this. Grade: C-

Monday, July 18, 2011

Conan O'Brien Can't Stop (2011)

Get ready to enter the hilarious, sometimes unnerving mind of late night talk show host Conan O'Brien. The title of this documentary says it all: Conan O'Brien just can't stop being who he is.

The film starts by explaining O'Brien's trek from "Late Night" to the fall of his stint on "The Tonight Show." Now, he and his crew is out of work and trying to figure out there next step. They decided since they can't appear on television, they'll do a live tour. The group wanted to set it up fast and roll through it as quickly as possible to avoid time lost with their families. In what seems like a short period of time, tour dates are set and tickets begin to sell out much faster than anticipated. When the tour begins, that's when O'Brien begins to lose it. He knows about the time away from his family, he explained it to them, but now he has to deal with the consequences. Will his voice give out? Will he snap and beat the holy hell out of Andy Richter? Will he just quit the tour? If you pay attention to the news, you know none of that happened. However, it's a fun ride to watch sitting shotgun.

The audience sees Conan at his absolute best and his absolute worst. As a fan of O'Brien's since his "Late Night" days, I know a lot of it was his self-deprecating humor. But to an audience unfamiliar with him, Conan comes off as a real jerk sometimes. Whether it's "beating" Jack McBrayer or talking about the downside of meeting new people, Conan hides nothing. That's what I loved about the film. I wish they spent more time showing Conan's connection the live audiences to prove it existed. Other than that, I can't say enough great things about this documentary. Grade: A-

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011)

What a terrific payoff to the Harry Potter movie franchise. I still say both parts of Deathly Hallows would've made a better film as a whole, but this still offered a lot for fans of the movies, books or both.

After Voldemort retrieves the Elder Wand the grave of Albus Dumbledore, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and the rest of the gang need to make their way back to Hogwarts to fight against an impending battle. Before they get there, they need to get into Bellatrix's vault to retrieve one of the final Horcruxes. They break in using their old mainstay, the invisibility cloak. After grabbing the Horcrux, it's time to help Hogwarts. When Snape flees, Professor McGonagall takes control of the situation and begins to fortify the school. She and the rest of those inside the school know the "shields" won't last for long, but it had to be done to prepare. After Neville's initial blockade against Voldemort's crew, the bridge begins to deteriorate and the fight is on. Harry vs Voldemort, The Weasleys vs Bellatrix, Harry/Ron vs Draco/unnamed bad kid, it's all there. The obvious question being: Who will survive?

Obviously, if you read the books, you know what happens. So I won't ruin it for those who haven't read the series. But this was an extremely satisfying ending to the Harry Potter saga. I had no interest in initially watching these movies, but I thank my wife for getting me into them years ago. Were there problems? Hell yes, but nothing that took you away from the central theme of the series. I recommend this movie greatly. While you don't have to watch the whole saga to enjoy this, you must at least watch Deathly Hallows Part 1. Grade: A

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Way Back (2010)

This is an amazing true story about a group of men who traveled hundreds of miles by foot to escape a Russian Gulag during World War II. The movie on the other hand doesn't come across the same way.

A Polish POW named Janusz (Jim Sturgess) is sent to the camp for 20 years after his wife is forced to condemn him. Inside the Gulag, he meets an American named Mr. Smith (Ed Harris), a Russian criminal named Valka (Colin Farrell) and several others who tell Janusz he shouldn't expect to live those 20 years. Janusz decides he needs to get home to make sure his wife knows he bears no ill will over the forced confession. The group implement their escape plan during a massive snowstorm. Thus begins their journey through the Siberian wilderness. They know not all of them will make it, but they also know none of them will make it if they don't keep moving. The party reaches the Russian-Mongolian border and continues across the mountains until eventually reaching a more treacherous task, the desert. By now, some have died, others have turned back and the rest are unsure where to go from here.

This movie builds and builds to a big sentimental moment, and then payoff doesn't deliver. It's a terrific story of survival, determination and love, but the film just glosses over scenes that could've made it have a better impact. Sturgess, Harris and the rest of the cast give strong performances, and the cinematography is amazing, but most of it is wasted. I didn't hate the movie and I didn't love the movie, it just was. Grade: B-

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)

Brace yourselves: I'm about to give a positive review to a Matthew McConaughey movie. Correction, a Matthew McConaughey drama. I know, I'm as shocked as you are.

Defense attorney Mickey Haller (McConaughey) rolls around Los Angeles County arguing for common criminals who wouldn't get the time of day from other lawyers. His work was easy until he lands a case representing a Beverly Hills playboy named Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe). He is accused of practically beating a prostitute to death. Haller thinks Roulet is innocent and begins working on evidence with his investigator. They soon begin to notice holes in Roulet's story and start to dig a little deeper. The case soon begins to bear a striking resemblance to a case he had years earlier that sent a man to jail. But as they go further and further into the old case, Roulet starts becoming suspicious that his lawyer is working against him. He's a lot more dangerous than he looks, but he's still exuding innocence in this particular case. Now, Haller has to find a way around attorney-client privilege and protect himself from a case he no longer wants to take part in.

McConaughey was fine in this role. He's not really a good actor, but this role worked well for him. It was Phillippe that surprised me more. I've never really been a fan of his, but his character was a person I wouldn't want to cross in my life. The supporting cast of Marisa Tomei, William H. Macy and Frances Fisher were all terrific, yet they should have gotten more screen time. My one real gripe was the ending of the movie, which was satisfying but predictable. Fans of a good legal drama with a dash of crime thriller thrown in will like this movie. Grade: B+

Monday, July 4, 2011

RED (2010)

I had a surprisingly fun time watching this movie. As a so-called geriatric spy movie, there was a lot of good action and humor to impress all moviegoers.

Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is a former CIA agent who is living a quiet retired life. Whenever he feels lonely, he calls a pension customer service agent named Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker). When an agency hit squad tries to kill Frank, he travels to Sarah in order to protect her. Now the two of them are on the run and quickly realize someone in the CIA wants to terminate all the members of Frank's old black ops team. They track down Joe, Marvin and Victoria (Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren), and require their assistance in facing the killers. Thus begins a battle involving rouge agents, Russians, torpedoes, and the Vice President of the United States.

There really isn't a whole lot of plot to go around in this film. It's very simple and very easy to follow. But it's also a hell of a lot of fun. Bruce Willis basically played the same role he's played in other action flicks, but just a little more aware of his age. Helen Mirren was great as the killer with impeccable poise. The MVP of the movie was John Malkovich. He played a former agent with a screw loose, and it played right into his wheel house. Action fans will enjoy this, as will comedy fans. All are invited to watch. Grade: B+

Saturday, July 2, 2011

She's Out of My League (2010)

Jay Baruchel is not a leading man, I'm just going to throw that out there. Television? Sure, but not on film. That being said, this movie wasn't half bad.

Kirk Kettner (Baruchel) is a TSA agent at Pittsburgh's international airport along with his best friend Stainer (T.J. Miller). Kirk just broke up with his bitch of an ex-girlfriend, who still hangs out with his family because now she's dating a friend of Kirk's brother. One day, Molly (Alice Eve) leaves her iPhone at a security checkpoint. When she calls it, Kirk answers the cell and the two arrange to meet up. After that the pair start to date and things are going great. But Kirk is constantly asking himself how he's good enough for Molly. Kirk puts her up on a pedestal while subsequently knocking himself down the ladder. His family and friends aren't much help because they seem to agree that she's way too good looking for him. Kirk's a victim of his lack of self-esteem and it soon starts costing him. All of this is done with some funny consequences.

The movie is not made by Baruchel at all. It's a collective of Alice Eve, Krysten Ritter, Nate Torrence, Debra Jo Rupp and especially T.J. Miller that made this movie as funny as it was. This comedy was not without its problems though. For starters, the plot's been done to death, with this one being about the guy who wants the "more attractive" girl. I've seen a lot of the devices used in this done before, but the one-liners kept some moments fresh. A solid movie, nothing more nothing less. Grade: B-

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Real Life (1979)

In 1973, PBS aired what is widely considered to be the first reality television show, "An American Family." This is a satire of that miniseries.

Documentary filmmaker Albert Brooks (as himself) wants to turn the cameras on an ordinary American family that has no ties to Hollywood or the film industry. He chooses the Yeager clan from Phoenix, Arizona. Led by Warren and Jeannette (Charles Grodin and Frances Lee McCain), the family starts with simple interactions with the crew before quickly realizing they're in over their heads. The family is always aware of where the cameras are and are careful of what they say in front of them. The pressure soon starts to boil over. At his veterinary practice, Warren commits a fatal mistake. The death of a family member has a negative impact on Jeannette. All the while, Albert, the cameramen and the scientists studying the family are constantly hanging around, not allowing the Yeagers to lead the normal life they wanted to. Luckily for them, it blows up in the studio's face.

I love this mockumentary more for what it correctly predicted about the future of reality TV than the actual film itself. Everything from the digital filmmaking to media obsession to the get-rich-quick lifestyle to staged incidents, Albert Brooks accurately predicts what is to come in the future of television. The movie itself strays a bit from the central focus and drags at parts, but it had plenty of tongue-in-cheek hilarity to make up for what it lacked. Watch this and you'll realize what I'm talking about. Grade: A-

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Inside Job (2010)

Now, I don't claim to know a lot about business, but this documentary plainly stated the financial inequities that led to the economic collapse in 2008 so even I could understand.

After several questionable and eyebrow-raising loans within the regulatory and subprime lending industries, the world suffered a catastrophic collapse which sent millions of Americans into the unemployment office. For almost a decade, the political movement toward deregulation and the complex derivatives market made way for a systematic risk taken by many in the financial sector. However, when they kept borrowing and borrowing, the bubble eventually burst and led to one of the biggest Wall Street sell-offs in history. Several analysts, politicians, journalists and academics interviewed for this film had various takes on the situation that all pointed in the same direction. The problem being once the culprit was found, very little was done to make sure it never happens again. Even those interviewed who had a hand in those troubling decisions couldn't explain how to avoid similar calamity.

I worked in a newsroom at this time and couldn't wrap my head around a lot of the subject matter. Mostly, I was just thankful to have a job. But now I have a better knowledge of the situation that still lingers three years later. Many valid points were made during the shoot, and even some discrepancies showed up during the interviews. I loved hearing the director ask the questions at times because he pulled no punches. One problem to me, and it could have only been the copy I watched, was that Matt Damon's narration sounded like it was recorded in a tunnel. Regardless, this film deserved the Oscar and is a very informative documentary. Grade: A

Monday, June 27, 2011

HappyThankYouMorePlease (2011)

Remember Garden State? Well, Josh Radnor does. He managed to write, direct and act in a movie that has the same vibe.

Seven people whose lives intersect in New York City try to make their way through life. Each of them isn't succeeding as they'd hoped. Sam (Radnor) is a struggling writer who had his latest attempt rejected by a publisher. His best friend Annie (Malin Akerman) has Alopecia and both is and isn't afraid for it to be seen. Sam is also caring for a young boy who became separated from his foster family on the subway. Meanwhile, his cousin Mary Catherine (Zoe Kazan) and her boyfriend Charlie (Pablo Schreiber) are stuck in a New York/Los Angeles debate that could have negative ramifications on their relationship. These five individuals are the core of a group that wants to stay as close as possible without totally interfering in each others' lives. But every time something good happens for one of them, multiple seemingly bad things follow. Maybe they're just kidding themselves.

This movie was good, but could have been a lot better. Each actor had great moments that were counteracted by some bad ones. The dialogue seemed very stilted and often lazy at times. The best character, hands down, was Sam #2 played by Tony Hale. He had equal parts strength and depth that made him very enjoyable to watch. I liked this probably more than most, but this won't make any top ten lists. Grade: B-

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Battle: Los Angeles (2011)

This is a war movie masquerading as an alien flick, and not a good movie at that. Yet another example of a trailer promising action that delivers on nothing.

In August 2011, several "meteors" begin falling to earth. People begin flock to the oceans to see the spectacle, but they soon learn these are no ordinary space rocks. Aliens rise from the water, march onto shore and open fire at anything in their paths. Time to bring in the Marines. Led by Sgt. Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart), a group of 15ish soldiers wander the streets of Santa Monica for citizens before the entire area is bombed off the map. The outer-world beings are very crafty, using human technology to track the Marines and work to terminate them. Nantz and his crew think they're one step ahead of the aliens, but it could be vice-versa. One thing's for sure, Nantz and the rest of the U.S. Marine Corps aren't backing down without a fight.

This movie is a sad combination of Independence Day, Saving Private Ryan, Avatar, War of the Worlds and Signs. Every plot point and every bit of dialogue seem to be taken directly from those films or other generic war films. I can't say much about the acting, because there really wasn't any. The one thing I liked, and this goes for all alien movies, is that they never stated where the aliens came from. We learn the why, the what and a little of the how, but not the where. Still, the movie just wasn't good. Look elsewhere. Grade: D+

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Tillman Story (2010)

Pat Tillman was a great man, there's no bones about it but, at least according to this film, his legacy will never be completely told. This movie tries to share as much as it can.

Tillman was a standout football player at Arizona State University who was drafted into the NFL by the Arizona Cardinals. The California native received many accolades during his playing career. However, after the 9/11 attacks, Pat and his brother Kevin joined the Army to serve their country in bringing those responsible for the attacks to justice. While doing recognizance work in Afghanistan in 2004, Pat Tillman was killed in action. Initially determined by military officials to be an insurgent ambush, the Army eventually concluded that Tillman had died by friendly fire. That's when all hell broke loose. Pat's family did not accept that as a valid excuse for the coverup. Tillman's mother and father began an arduous journey to determine the truth and, more importantly, get government leaders to admit fault. Easier said than done.

As with all documentaries, The Tillman Story had a clear agenda it was trying to bring to light. But it worked very well here. The facts are stated in black and white and it's up to the viewer to take away what they can. The slight problem I had with this film is it didn't tell me a lot more than what I already knew. It's a commonly held belief the feds covered up the circumstances surrounding Tillman's death, but other than that, only the scenes actually in Afghanistan were new to me. I haven't seen all of last year's Oscar nominated documentaries, but this probably could have made the cut. Grade: B+

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Tron: Legacy (2010)

Cards on the table, I have never seen the original Tron but I was told it wasn't entirely necessary. I'm glad because this movie was solid as is.

Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) has been missing since 1989, leaving behind his young son and a multimillion dollar technology company. More than 20 years later, Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) is out of his element and still affected by his father's disappearance. One day, he gets a page from his father's old arcade. When he investigates, he's subsequently sucked into the Grid the elder Flynn used to visit. It is there that Sam runs into Clu (also Bridges), a rogue Kevin Flynn-lookalike created by Flynn as a way to help the Grid become perfect. After being saved from Clu, Sam finally sees his dad after two decades. Kevin has been trapped in the Grid since 1989 by Clu, who has since led a "coup" to seize control. Kevin, Sam and Quorra (Olivia Wilde) must now find a way to escape the Grid without letting Clu reach the outside world. Such a move would be disastrous.

My star rating may be a bit high for the somewhat hollow plot, but the graphics and feel of the movie were pretty cool. I'm not a fan of 3D movies, but I think this was an ideal project for the technology. Also, the graphics used to make Bridges look 20-some years younger were really impressive. The mouth didn't exactly sync up, but the rest worked well. Garrett Hedlund did a great job recapturing his role as 2005's new "It" actor, and Jeff Bridges basically played The Dude trapped in an alternate universe. A solid movie with great graphics...nothing more, nothing less. Grade: B

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Blow Out (1981)

I have been hearing about this movie forever and it was finally available on Netflix. I can understand now what all the hullabaloo was about this's quite good.

Jack Terry (John Travolta) is a B movie sound technician who just flies by the seat of his pants and doesn't take his work seriously. One night while recording natural sounds on a bridge, he sees a car fly into the water. Terry dives into the water and saves a woman trapped in the backseat. While at the hospital, a man tells Jack to forget everything that happened. The deceased driver of the car was a political bigwig and presidential hopeful. Jack wasn't sure what he was shutting up about, but he does until he finds something shocking. Jack determines the crash was no accident, and now all he has to do is figure out the how and why. While this is going on, a serial killer is on the loose who may or may not be working in conjunction with the cover-up. Jack and the woman are now in an unwitting fight for their lives.

Despite it's very 80s style and music, Brian De Palma directed a great psychological thriller that keeps you guessing. Maybe I should've picked up on the ending sooner, but the pace of the film really helps the audience stay in the moment. I'd read a lot of reviews talking about the ending being lackluster. Without giving anything away, I can understand the argument but I thought the film wrapped up precisely as it should. I love a good thriller, and this is one for moviegoers like me. Grade: A-

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Cedar Rapids (2011)

Ed Helms in a leading role doesn't exactly sound enticing, but he really pulled it off here. He was equal parts goofy, inept, sheltered and hilarious.

Naive insurance agent Tim Lippe (Helms) works for a small agency that has won the prestigious "Two Diamonds Award" three straight years at the annual conference in Cedar Rapids. When the company's top agent tragically dies (albeit in a hilarious manner), Lippe is thrust into the role and heads down for the event. This manboy has never been on a plane let alone to a "big" city like Cedar Rapids. He quickly finds he's out of his element. Lippe meets up with some other conventioneers including Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly). Big Z is the partier of the group. He's the one Lippe's boss told him to avoid. Of course, that wasn't going to happen. On this one trip, Lippe gets beat up, laid, extorted and completely inebriated. All in good fun.

Helms really owned the movie. It was his to control and he never let up. I was very impressed because the trailer for this movie and the reviews just didn't add up. Helms, Reilly and the rest of the supporting cast worked real well together. The biggest surprise was Anne Heche. I've hated her in everything she's done, but she was funny and a great counterbalance in this. I haven't seen much this year, but this could rank as one of the best comedies released. Most should enjoy this movie. Grade: B+

Monday, May 30, 2011

Faster (2010)

This is just a generic revenge flick, but it was great to see The Rock move away from those crappy Disney family movies.

When Driver (Dwayne Johnson) is released from prison, he doesn't hesitate once and immediately sprints into action. For a decade, Driver has been stewing in the joint just waiting for his chance to get revenge on those who wronged him. Driver was sent to prison after being set up with a bank heist, during which his brother was brutally killed by those who set him up. Now that he's out, no one can stop him. On his trail are a grizzled, junkie cop named Humpheries (Billy Bob Thornton) and a straight-laced officer named Cicero (Carla Gugino). The two of them, working side-by-side but not by choice, quickly figure out who Driver is going to target next and how he's going to do the deed. They're going to do what they can to stop him, or maybe they'll just stand to the side and watch the carnage. Either way, Driver isn't going down without a fight.

There was nothing great about this movie at all. A simple plot that could've been no longer one sheet of paper, and a villain that you see coming a mile away. That being said, revenge movies are fun. You know what you're getting when you walk in, and that's what you will have seen when you walk out. The Rock just needs to stick with action or action/comedy movies. Those are his bread and butter. Fans of revenge films will like this, otherwise stay away. Grade: C

Fast Five (2011)

Believe it or not, this really is the best movie of a Fast and the Furious franchise. I was surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did.

After Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) and his crew break Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) out of jail, they go on the lam. They wind up in Rio and quickly get a job boosting cars from a train. Of course, the cars aren't as they seem and the crew gets on the bad side of a major crime lord. Meanwhile, US authorities including Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), are fresh on O'Conner and Toretto's tail. So, the gang decides to play both sides against each other, while at the same time pull off an Ocean's Eleven style heist to take the kingpin's money. They're going to need help, so they enlist the services of their cohorts from the other Fast movies. It may be working, it may not. Then again, maybe that's the point.

"The Rock" was such a boost to this film. With Diesel and Walker having a wooden-acting staring contest throughout, throwing a dose of charisma in there helped immensely. The plot was not perfect, not at all, but it was solid and a hell of a lot of fun. Hopefully, this is the end of the crew's capering because the filmmakers should stop on a high note. Surprisingly, I recommend this movie. Grade: B

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Green Hornet (2011)

Ugh. I don't really have much else to say about this. Let's just get into it.

Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) is the playboy son of a powerful newspaper publisher who does nothing but throw wild parties. When his father suddenly dies, Britt takes control of The Daily Sentinel. Britt also fires all the staff of the mansion except for his maid and Kato (Jay Chou). Kato was the elder Reid's friend/mechanic. Turns out, Kato is also a very skilled martial artist. After a drunken night of thievery, they decide to become superheroes. With Kato's fighting techniques and Britt's money, the two can design and build whatever they need to take down the bad guys, the kingpin Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz). As the Green Hornet and his sidekick start to wage a war on Chudnofsky, they realize it's becoming to much for them to handle. They may be out of their element.

I can't really go into much more detail because, frankly, I don't want to. The movie was colossal disappointment considering the trailer looked so good. Credit where credit is due, some of the fight scenes and choreography were cool, but that's all. And poor Michel Gondry. The director just keeps going downhill since Eternal Sunshine. Don't be surprised if this reigns supreme as the worst movie of 2011. Avoid this flick like the friggin' plague. Grade: D+

Love & Other Drugs (2010)

Just a massive disappointment, even within itself. The movie started out so well and then took a nosedive in the second half that sent it careening out of control. But hey, at least part of it took place in Chicago.

Set in 1996, Jamie (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a womanizing ne'er-do-well who can't seem to figure out a career path. When his parents find out he's been fired, his wealthy brother (Josh Gad) offers him a job as a pharmaceutical sales rep. Jamie reluctantly agrees and begins working for Pfizer, selling Zoloft and other drugs. While talking to a doctor, Jamie meets Maggie (Anne Hathaway), who is suffering from the early stages of Parkinson's. Maggie is a loner who doesn't like to hold down relationships for longer than when the sex goes bad. Of course, this is right up Jamie's alley and the two eventually strike up a dalliance. In the midst of their tryst, Jamie scores the big gig and starts repping Pfizer's new wonder-drug Viagra. The little blue pill blows up and Jamie is living the good life. Only now, he wants to take Maggie with him and she refuses. From then on, Jamie's got to work real hard to prove he's worth her time.

Did you catch that? The little tweak of the story towards the middle about their relationship turning is just dull. I swear I've seen it done better in kids movies. The storyline was what dragged this movie down because the performances weren't that bad. Especially Josh Gad, who got some great one-liners in as the comic relief of the film. I cannot recommend this overrated movie unless you plan on turning it off halfway through. Grade: C-

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Top 10 of 2010

Well, after several unsuccessful attempts to complete a video Best Of... like I did last year, I decided to just write my Top 10 of 2010 list. Since we're 6 months into 2011, I've had plenty of time to catch up on 2010 releases I missed. I've also included my Bottom 5 of the year as well. Here we go:

Top 10:

Honorable mentions: 127 Hours, The Ghost Writer, The Other Guys

10. Exit Through the Gift Shop - What a cool-ass movie. The may-or-may-not-be directed by Banksy movie takes you through the eyes of an aspiring street artist who subsequently proves how easy it could be to become one.

9. Toy Story 3 - It's Pixar. Whatever movie they put out is almost guaranteed to make top ten lists. What I liked about this was the somewhat dark tone it takes about halfway through. Not many kids cartoons have the huevos to do that.

8. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World - This is a basically a video game put on screen. I'm not talking about a video game movie like Mortal Kombat, I'm saying this could literally be a kick-ass video game if put out.

7. Buried - As awesome as 127 Hours was, this movie felt more intense and much more harrowing. Ryan Reynolds played scared to perfection.

6. The Town - Remember when Ben Affleck was just an act-when-he-wanted-to actor? Thanks to this, I'm starting to forget that and think of him as a great director. He knows how to turn a simple story into complex tale of family and trust.

5. True Grit - See, you make remakes of films that weren't terrific the first time around and make them great. The Coen brothers usually do no wrong and True Grit is their best outing in years. Also, how good was Hailee Steinfeld in her FIRST MOVIE ROLE?

4. The Social Network - I think this made practically all Top Ten lists that I've seen, and rightfully so. The fact that a movie about a website could keep me intrigued is amazing. Bonus points because it's Aaron Sorkin.

3. Animal Kingdom - I hadn't even heard of this movie until some of the acting started to get Oscar buzz and, boy, am I glad I watched it. The characters and the story were both so deep and rich.

2. Inception - How long is too long to stay in awe of that hallway fight scene? The graphics, the cinematography and the directing were just phenomenal. Also, the story didn't get nearly enough credit come awards season.

1. Black Swan - Simply put, Darren Aronofsky knows how to direct a film. He takes this movie about ballet and makes it such a deep and twisting thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. And Vincent Cassel deserved an Oscar nod over Mark Ruffalo.

Bottom 5:

Dishonorable mentions: Love & Other Drugs, The Expendables, From Paris With Love

5. The Kids Are All Right - There are worse movies that came out last year, but this made the list because of all the unnecessary hype it got. The acting was OK, but none of the characters stood out or were even likable.

4. Salt - The plot of this movie somehow managed to be both completely predictable and utterly incomprehensible. Salt tries so hard to be Jason Bourne that it's just sad at points.

3. Get Him to the Greek - What a disappointment. I think Russell Brand is hilarious and Jonah Hill is funny enough, but neither did anything. Also, it's weird that Hill played a different character from Forgetting Sarah Marshall, while Brand played the same one.

2. 44 Inch Chest - One guy's wife has an affair and he gets a group of friends together to beat up the male mistress. That's it. It's a 25 minutes movie dragged on for more than an hour and a half. Just plain boring.

1. Cop Out - The biggest problem with this movie is that Kevin Smith directed a flick that he didn't write. Also, the plot sucked...big time.

There you go. Here's to 2011 being a better all-around year for movies. Cheers.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Due Date (2010)

A basic road trip movie made by a director (Todd Phillips) who has a lot of experience making road trip movies. But this one was better than most because of the great performances by the two leads.

Peter (Robert Downey Jr.) is an uptight yuppie who arrives at the airport to make it home in time for his wife to give birth. He's casually making his way in when Ethan (Zach Galifianakis) runs into him...literally. Once they both are kicked off the plane for making "terrorist" threats, they have to embark on a car ride from Atlanta to L.A. in order to make it for the childbirth. Along the way, shit goes down. Car accidents, Western Union beatdowns, an appearance from Ray, and a dog. And Ethan just can get on Peter's good side. Every time he tries, it just doesn't work out. It eventually doesn't become a question of when they'll make it to California, but if they can even stay alive.

Zach Galifianakis is almost always funny, and Robert Downey Jr. is a great actor. These two actors together had a great rapport, but it wasn't a complete match. They definitely had their moments though. Ethan's going to L.A. to get on "Two and a Half Men," and his obsession is hilarious. He even has a superfan website that, yes, actually exists. RDJ's best quality in this is his ability to keep such a straight face in the midst of shenanigans. A good movie that's funnier than you think. Grade: B+

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)

This was a very deep, spiritual movie that had many cosmic undertones to make it a cinematic masterpiece...I can barely write that without laughing. The title says about all you need to know about this flick.

Adam and Nick (John Cusack and Craig Robinson) come rushing to the side of their friend Lou (Rob Corddry) when the hospital thinks he attempted suicide. In an effort to make him feel better, they decide to head back to the ski resort that was party central in 1986. Tagging along is Adam's nephew Jacob (Clark Duke). When the four of them arrive, the town is a rundown mess that no one visits now. Low and behold, they get drunk and into a hot tub that (TAH DAH) sends them back in time. Now, they need to do everything exactly as they did in '86 in order not to disrupt what happens in the future. That means; one night stands, drugs, fights, drinking, musical performances, arm-detachments, etc. Can this foursome of destruction get everything done correctly and in time to make it back to the future?

Funny performances all around with a plot that you'd suspect from a movie named Hot Tub Time Machine. Craig Robinson was the MVP of the film. He had the best story and did the most with it. Props for the bits with Chevy Chase, Crispin Glover and 80s movie bad guy William Zabka. Not the best comedy of 2010, but solidly humorous and genuinely ridiculous. Go into this with a blank slate. Grade: B

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Unstoppable (2010)

This is your basic action movie, but it had enough to keep my interest, and it was better than Tony Scott's last film The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. It captured my interest throughout.

Frank Barnes and Will Colson (Denzel Washington and Chris Pine) have set out to move line of train cars from one end of the track to another. Also, they don't really care for each other. Barnes is a career railman, while Colson took the job as something to do. While they're on the trek, another train carrying cars full of hazardous materials is barreling down the tracks straight toward them. Bigger problem: No one's at the helm of the runaway train. The first step is to make sure they can get out of the way before the cars run straight into them. When the plan becomes a disaster effort, Barnes and Colson decide to take matters into their own hands and track the sucker down. They need to make sure they do it before the train reaches an impossible turn in a densely populated area. Game on.

Again, this was a basic, but very enjoyable action flick. There was enough suspense and intensity to keep me glued to the screen the whole time. Speaking of time, it was also the right length. Any longer or shorter would have detrimentally hurt the film. The biggest problem I have, and it was noticeable, was the amount of moving panoramic shots. I understand they're used to build suspense, but they just made me dizzy. Also, they're unnecessary while people are just talking. That being said, most action fans should enjoy this. Grade: B

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Megamind (2010)

A very funny comedy. I probably would've given this an Oscar nomination over How to Train Your Dragon. The quick wit was there for adults, and there's enough pop and flash for the kiddies.

Megamind (Will Ferrell) had a rough childhood after being sent to Earth when his planet explodes. Unfortunately for him, the same thing happens to Metro Man (Brad Pitt). Thus, a lifelong feud was born. Along with Minion (David Cross), Megamind comes up with another plan to try and stop Metro Man. He kidnaps Roxanne Ritchie (Tina Fey) for the umpteenth time and, what's that, he wins. Metro Man is defeated. Well, now what. His life starts to go on without meaning. He no longer has a battle. So, he needs to create one. But while that's going on, he's starting to fall for Roxanne. Maybe there's more to life than blowing ish up and running a muck. Let's just see if Roxanne has the same feelings toward him as he for her.

I found myself laughing a lot during this movie. The voice acting was very well done, especially between Ferrell and Cross. Honestly, I could have closed my eyes while they had a conversation and just pictured the two of them riffing. The movie probably could have been longer and the plot was relatively basic, but I had fun. One of the shining stars in a surprisingly dull year in animated film. Grade: B+

Monday, March 28, 2011

Nowhere Boy (2010)

Aaron Johnson is a star in the making. Since I watched this in America, this comes fresh off the heels of his great turn in Kick-Ass. Now, he's a teenage John Lennon discovering the world of rock 'n roll.

John Lennon (Johnson) is a troubled youth growing up in the ever-changing times of the mid-1950s. He's grown up in the care of his Aunt Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas) after his mother decided to walk out of his life when he was a boy. But a recent death in the family makes John want to find Julia Lennon (Anne-Marie Duff). As it turns out, she might be pretty cool. Julia teaches John about rock 'n roll and what exactly it means (sex). Lennon decides to start his first rock band called The Quarrymen. As the band starts to actually get good, his life begins to change dramatically again, and I'm not talking about him meeting George Harrison and Paul McCartney for the first time.

Aaron Johnson was terrific as Lennon. As much as I love movies, and try to find out about them, I had no idea he was British in real life. He hid it so well in Kick-Ass. Duff and Thomas were great as Lennon's influences. I may go so far as to say any of them could have gotten an Oscar nod. The movie didn't delve into the music as much as I would've liked, but the relationships developed made it worthwhile. Grade: B+

Friday, March 11, 2011

Jackass 3 (2010)

Was Jackass 3 the same old stuff just shot in 3D, and therefore better looking on Blu-Ray? Yes. Still funny? You bet. Nothing's ever going to top the first movie, but this was still good.

Based on the TV show, this is a movie about roughly 14 people whose plane crashed on a mysterious island that may or may not have supernatural.....wait, wrong show. This is about 9 idiots who are trying to top the pranks and stunts they did in the first two movies. Some are not for the squeamish, including the Toy Train Eruption, Sweat Suit Cocktail and Lamborghini Tooth Pull. All the favorites are there pulling them off. Johnny Knoxville, Chris Pontius, Steve-O, Wee Man, etc. And yes, April and Phil are backed as victims of a hilarious prank at the hands of Bam Margera. Not much else to explain.

Can't explain the plot too well because this isn't a stereotypical movie, but it is a stereotypical Jackass film. It doesn't really add any more or less to the "franchise." Personally, I enjoy the physical stunts as opposed to the gross-out ones because I'd actually consider doing some of the physical ones myself. My favorites were the Roller-skate Buffalo, Midgets in a Barfight and Duck Hunting. I'm not sure how many of these will go down among the best the crew has done, but it's still a fun movie. Grade: B

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Blog Awards

My lovely wife has passed two blog awards on to me, as you'll notice on the right. With the "Stylish Blog" one, I need to give five random facts about myself. Here we go:

  1. I did shot put and discus in high school
  2. I played cello for a year and it bored me to tears
  3. My wife thought I ditched her on our first date because I couldn't find an ATM
  4. I don't care what anyone says, I'm bored by "The Wire"
  5. I was on Wheel of Fortune.
That's my facts. Visit my wife's blog at La Georgia Paperie

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Oscar Picks 2011

Now's the time. Here are my picks for the major categories at the 83rd annual Academy Awards.

Best Picture:
My pick: Black Swan
Probable winner: The King's Speech

Best Director:
Winner: David Fincher - The Social Network

Best Actor:
Winner: Colin Firth - The King's Speech

Best Actress:
Winner: Natalie Portman - Black Swan

Best Supporting Actor:
Winner: Christian Bale - The Fighter

Best Supporting Actress:
My Pick: Hailee Steinfeld - True Grit
Probable winner: Melissa Leo - The Fighter

Best Original Screenplay:
Winner: Inception

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Winner: The Social Network

Best Animated Feature:
Winner: Toy Story 3

Best Documentary:
My pick: Exit Through the Gift Shop
Probable winner: Inside Job

Best Original Score (This was really hard to choose):
My pick: Inception
Probable winner: The Social Network

Best Original Song:
My pick: Toy Story 3
Probable winner: 127 Hours

There you go, without getting into many of the technical prizes. However, I think Inception will take a lot of those. Most of my picks are straightforward and if they don't win, it'll be a surprise. My picks, take them as you will. I hope I'm right.

The 2011 Best Picture Nominees

Now that I've seen all 10 Best Picture nominees for the 83rd annual Academy Awards, I feel I can rank them based on how I liked the list. Here we go:

Top 5

Bottom 5

Now, these are not my Top 10 of 2010, that is yet to come. Also, I will put up the rest of my Oscar picks shortly before the ceremony airs. Enjoy my list and enjoy the show.

The King's Speech (2010)

Rounding out my viewing of the top Best Picture nominees, this movie was pretty good. I know it's the frontrunner, but I wouldn't put it at the top of my list. Had some flaws, but still quite enjoyable.

Prince Albert, the Duke of York, the future King George VI (Colin Firth), has just an awful time speaking. He's had a terrible stammer since he was a small child and can't command a room like a public figure should. After every doctor fails, his wife (Helena Bonham Carter) goes to take Albert to see a speech therapist named Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). Following some initially hesitation, Albert sees Lionel's methods start to work. There's a method to his madness. After his father dies, and his brother abdicates the throne, King George VI takes control of the monarch. Not long after, Britain enters into war with Nazi Germany. This is the time the country needs its leader more than ever. The citizens under the power of the king need to hear from his majesty to make sure that their country won't fall of Hitler. George VI may not be that ruler.

The performances were terrific, and I can see why Colin Firth is the favorite to win Best Actor. Also, if Christian Bale didn't kill it The Fighter, then Geoffrey Rush would easily win Best Supporting Actor. Now, there are two main criticisms of this movie that I'll address. 1) That it's historically inaccurate. Honestly, I don't care. They're making a movie not a documentary. 2) That it looks like an HBO or BBC movie and not a film. This one I do agree with to an extent. While getting Oscar-worthy performances out of the actors, the directing was so uninspired that it did really feel like I was watching it on HBO. Tom Hooper does not deserve Best Director. However, the acting really put this over the top for me. Grade: A-

Monday, February 21, 2011

Remember When...Photo Series

I have decided to participate in my wife's photo series, so here is my entry for:

The theme of my Remember When... is booze! All of the pictures have liquor infused in them somehow. Here we go:

This is a picture taken in 2006 at a winery I visited while in Italy. As some of you may know, I won the trip on Wheel of Fortune the year before and this was one of the stops along the way. The others are mostly Aussies, seeing as the tour company originated in Australia. The best part may have been the drunk dog at the place.

Just look at all the booze in this picture. This was taken at when me and Lindsey spent NYE together in 2008. We decided to keep it low-key at her house, but went all out on the drinks. Notice the killer mustache. It was all about the Peach Andre, if I say so myself.

This is one of the best pictures we have ever taken together, and it just happened to be at a White Sox game. It's actually in a frame on our bookcase. This was part of an outing with some former co-workers of mine back in 2009. A lot of the beer was included in the ticket price, so let's just say we had a good time.

This is one of my best memories and pictures about our wedding festivities. We went to her dad's house after the ceremony for a small lunch. He had prepared bottles Dom Perignon and Lindsey tried to open one. Needless to say, I feared for my life. It eventually was opened with no harm done.

There you go. Go to to sign your blog up and participate. She did a great job on the idea and the blog as a whole. Enjoy.