Monday, January 31, 2011

Kick-Ass (2010)

What a fun movie. It's very violent and incredibly profane, so let's just get that out of the way. It's a very fresh take on the superhero genre and I just had a blast watching Nicolas Cage doing his best Adam West-Batman imitation.

Dave (Aaron Johnson) is a normal high-schooler who goes through life getting ignored by girls. He loves comics and visits the comic book store with his friends almost everyday. After getting mugged one too many times, he decides to take matters into his owns hands. He becomes his own superhero: Kick-Ass. The first is the worst. He nearly gets killed trying to stop some thugs from breaking into a car. When he gets out of the hospital, he needs to get serious about fighting crime. He starts training and eventually creates a cult following for himself online. Copycats like Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) start coming out of the woodwork. When things get too real for Kick-Ass, that's when Big Daddy and Hit Girl (Nicolas Cage and Chloe Moretz) coming in guns a-blazin...literally. The main goal is to take down the crime syndicate that runs the town and keeps the citizens in fear. The superheroes can either come together to stop crime, or get too entangled in each others' lives to do any good.

All the actors did a great job in their roles with the standouts being Chloe Moretz and Mark Strong as the main mobster, Frank D'Amico. Strong is good in anything he does, but Moretz takes the cake. Your jaw will hit the floor by what words come out of her mouth. Don't worry, it fits her character. The plot for the movie was a mix of originality and same-old crap you've seen before. The good outweighed the bad, but not enough to make it a top tier movie. I still had a hell of a good time. Grade: B+

Friday, January 28, 2011

Animal Kingdom (2010)

This was a terrific movie and one that flew way under the radar this awards season. Jacki Weaver did manage to get a rightfully deserved Oscar nomination, but the movie itself should have been nominated for something as well.

After his mother dies, J (James Frecheville) goes to live with his uncles and grandmother, Janine (Jacki Weaver). J's uncles are not in line with the law. Pope, Craig and Darrin (Ben Mendelsohn, Sullivan Stapleton, Luke Ford) are criminals. Pope is the one most wanted by the police in Australia. He is constantly on the run and rarely stays in the same place for long periods of time. Craig is a paranoid coke-head who is obsessed with not getting caught by the cops. He is terrified of prison. Darrin is the youngest and only two years older than J. They were best friends growing up. Ever since J moved in with the family, things have been starting to deteriorate, through no real fault of his. One by one, Leckie (Guy Pearce) and the rest of the detectives start going after members of the family with the ultimate goal being to finally get charges to stick on Pope. In the end though, mother always knows best.

This movie was amazing. I cannot say enough good things about it. My only problem with it was that we never really got a glimpse at their previous crimes. I know it's not part of the story, but it's just something I would have liked to see. All the performances were great, but all the praise of Jacki Weaver is well-deserved. She owns every scene she's in and you truly believe she loves her boys no matter what they do. Absolutely go out and see this. Grade: A

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Green Zone (2010)

This movie did not fully capitalize on its great premise. This is the first real warzone movie about the Iraq war and it dealt with WMDs. It had all the elements to be a great movie but it just fell a bit short.

Army Officer Roy Miller (Matt Damon) is the head of one of the units assigned to execute search and seizures of locations that have been identified as warehouses or factories for weapons of mass destruction. However, this is the 3rd place that's come up empty. Increasingly frustrated that his men may be killed on a wild goose chase, Miller tries to get some answers. First, from his commanding officers. Nothing. Then, from Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear). He is an intelligence officer from Washington who is the go-between for all of the intel, whether it's from sources or from either country's government. He gives Miller the run-around, too. When CIA agent Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson) gets to him, Miller starts listening. Brown believes Miller's claim of bad intel and wants to help him. But things start getting too deep and now Miller needs to make sure that he gets the information he needs while also making it out alive.

This film just really failed to grasp its plot. I loved the idea of the movie when I first heard about it and I was disappointed when it did not live up to expectations. It had some redeeming qualities though. The action was good and Damon was great in his role, as usual. However, the action led to nothing and so did the rest of the movie. Meandering back and forth didn't help much either. I cannot recommend this movie but I've definitely seen worse this year. Grade: C+

Monday, January 17, 2011

Machete (2010)

This was incredibly violent, cheesy, disturbing and downright cool. Robert Rodriguez set out to turn the fake Grindhouse trailer into the epitome of a B movie. And he succeeded.

Machete (Danny Trejo) is a former Mexican Federale, and was the only uncorruptable one on the force. His final confrontation with drug lord Torrez (Steven Seagal) on the Mexican side of the border leads to Machete's wife's gruesome death. Three years later, Machete is a day-laborer and is recruited to assassinate Texan Senator and staunch advocate for harsh immigration reform, John McLaughlin (Robert DeNiro). When that goes awry, Machete is on the run. Not only is he running from McLaughlin's people, but he's running from an I.C.E. agent (Jessica Alba), the cops, the man who set him up on the assassination attempt and Torrez. To say Machete has a well thought out plan is so far off base. His only plan is to kill as many people as possible to make sure that his name is cleared and he can finally have closure on his wife's murder. Oh, and Machete don't text.

This was so over-the-top that you can't help but love it. Purposely poorly written and outlandish acting helped make this one of the more fun movies of the year. It's EXTREMELY violent and sexual so be prepared for that. Hell, he uses a guy's intestines as a bungie cord while the intestines' owner is still connected to them. This movie marks the first appearance of Steven Seagal as a full out bad guy, and there was no better choice. Everyone played their part well and with the right amount of cheese. And yes, even Lindsay Lohan was good in her role. Enjoy this movie but prepare for gore. Grade: B+

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Salt (2010)

The action was there, but the plot was ridiculous and predictable. However, Angelina Jolie is a bonafide action star and Liev Schreiber deserves more work because this proves he can do anything.

Evelyn Salt (Jolie) is a CIA agent who goes between undercover field work and interrogative desk duty. Her partner, Ted Winter (Schreiber), has been by her side ever since their first day together. Their unity all comes crashing down when a Russian terrorist is interrogated and names Salt as a working spy for Russia. She freaks out and needs to find her husband for fear of what they've done to him. But the CIA and Central Intelligence officer Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor) can't let her leave without proper questioning. Of course, she's a CIA agent, so she easily escapes the custody of a hundred or so more CIA agents. She begins her life on the run and must constantly elude every available agency in the Washington area while trying to bring an assassination attempt to whoever will listen. The question is: Who is she trying to tell? Or maybe there's a better question: Who's the actual target?

I'm not Angelina Jolie's biggest fan, but I think she is very well suited for action movies. She clearly has the ability to hold her own in the action movie world. But the inconsistent flashbacks and ludicrously hard to fully comprehend plot made this just an average action flick at best. Liev Schreiber is an underrated actor and never gets the credit he deserves, no matter the role. This is more proof of that. There's some good, popcorn-style action but I can't recommend this movie. Grade: C+

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Please Give (2010)

I really liked the writing in this movie, and I think Catherine Keener is a terrific actress, but my problem with this movie is that there really isn't one likable character to hold my interest.

Kate and Alex (Keener and Oliver Platt) own an upscale furniture resale shop where they get all of their vintage pieces from the family of recently deceased elderly people. They get a pretty penny for them, too. At the same time, they know their aging neighbor is on her way out, life-wise, so they are starting to think of what they are going to do when they buy her place after she dies. Both of those things cause Kate to feel a tremendous amount of guilt and she tries to counteract that by giving money/food to homeless people or volunteering wherever she can. Neither of those things always go so well for her. On top of all that, their daughter is a spoiled brat who doesn't understand that $200 or $30 jeans look the same, Alex begins to have an affair with one of the old neighbor's granddaughters (Amanda Peet), and rival boutiques are starting to poach her shop. You know Kate's breakdown is going to come sooner or later, it's just a matter of how she handles it when it does.

The movie was so well written that I can't say I didn't like it, and the performances were very good in it. My problem was that every character was either a bitch or a complete slave to their lack of self esteem that it was really off-putting at times. The story was well-rounded and there was closure for a lot of the characters at the end, but I'm just curious if they learned anything when it was all said and done. I wanted to like this more than I did, but it's nothing more than just a "good movie." Grade: B-

Friday, January 14, 2011

Four Lions (2010)

This was a very smart and ambitious dark comedy, and I do love a good dark comedy. I just wish this had been a little funnier. I really enjoyed the film's subversive wit, though.

Omar and Barry (Riz Ahmed and Nigel Lindsay) are two would-be suicide bombers who can't seem to get on the right page with their targets. They consistently bicker and argue about the members of the group, the real meaning behind their sacrifice and how exactly they are going to make and employ their bombs. The five members of their group are not always the brightest or most understanding so Omar has to bring them back down to earth when they want to act out and brandish their guns in public. A few of them travel to Pakistan to get some real training within a terrorist training camp and, let's just say that doesn't go so well for them. When they get back, they have their target. Now, let's see if they can survive their own amateurism long enough to blow themselves up at the London Marathon.

Like I said earlier, this was a very smart comedy. Lots of totally inappropriate jokes that were absolutely hilarious. My kind of jokes. They just weren't there throughout and that was kind of disappointing. I do appreciate this comedy for what it is, but I do feel it was intentionally made to be provocative, so that knocked it off a bit. In the end, I liked this movie, but not as much as I would have wanted. Grade: B

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Buried (2010)

This movie has an absolutely terrifying premise and its execution is equally as terrifying. You felt like you were along side Ryan Reynolds inside that coffin the whole time...because you were.

Paul Conroy (Reynolds) is an American contractor working in Iraq in the midst of America's war with the country. One day, he wakes up (regains consciousness) inside a coffin at an unknown distance underground. All he has are a cell phone with the language set to Arabic, a lighter, glowstick, flask and flashlight. He must not be far below the surface as he is able to get a limited cell signal and begins dialing whatever he can. His wife, his company, a friend of his wife who he's apparently not fond of. No one answers. He finally gets through to someone: His captor. The man on the other end of the phone demands millions from the American government, or else he will be left there to die. Soon after, a hostage finder who works secretly with the USA, starts to look for him. So now, Paul has a difficult choice: Listen to the man trying to find him or the one who may just keep him buried in the ground.

I was completely spellbound at how Rodrigo Cortes was able to keep my attention inside an enclosed space on one actor for 90 minutes. They managed to give Reynolds' character a complete backstory through all of the phone calls he is able to make. His pain felt real and, while I'm not claustrophobic, I may be after watching this. The edge of my seat is completely worn out after watching it. This is one of the best movies I've seen this year. Grade: A

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Expendables (2010)

This was pure blood-lust fun wrapped up in an awesomely bad movie that no regular should enjoy. Yet, I'd probably watch it again if it was on TV.

Barney Ross and Lee Christmas (Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham) are the leaders of a groups of mercenaries who take on the hardest jobs possible and always have the best outcomes. Things get tricky after one of their group, Gunner (Dolph Lundgren), starts acting apart from the group and is banned. After that, they are one man down and now have a new mission. They are recruited through the CIA to head to a small island nation in the Caribbean to try and kill the ruthless military leader who has taken control. Eventually, they realize the military general is not the one they should be going after, it's the rogue CIA operative who has gone into business for himself in this illegal game. They are reserved in their thoughts about the mission, but take it to help the people of the country. How will they ever get out?

This movie has all the badass action stars you can think of...and Randy Couture, who can't act worth a damn. It's a bloodbath throughout the whole thing, and that part's kind of fun. When they actually try to through meaningless love angles and loyalty plot lines in, I don't care. I was surprised as well as happy to see Terry Crews in this because I think the man is hilarious. To watch this, you need a complete blank slate and expect nothing more than action. Grade: C

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Despicable Me (2010)

This movie was a lot better than I thought it was going to be, but it was just a good flick. It's a perfect family movie with some great voice work and yet, it falls a bit short for the adults.

Gru (Steve Carell) was once a great super villain. His work, while good, is often expensive and with little payoff to the people who bankroll his evil endeavors. After an up-and-coming super villain named Vector (Jason Segel) gains international acclaim by stealing the Great Pyramid, and the bankroller has decided to back him, Gru has to thwart Vector's new found success by stealing his newly acquired shrink ray. After many failed attempts by Gru, three orphans selling cookies manage to get into Vector's house. What's an evil villain to do? Why, adopt the orphans, of course. He sees them as a means to an ends in getting back the notoriety he once had. However, as time wears on, he finds himself becoming more and more attached to them. Will his evil handywork then begin to suffer as a result of his newly formed feelings?

I really like the idea of an anti-hero hero in kids movie like this but, as an adult, I thought the story was way too fast moving and I have no idea how any of the orphans or Gru became so attached so fast. The audience should be able to feel it as well, and I didn't. That being said, this is a great kids movie. Kids will love Gru's Minions and their nonsensical chattering and I did enjoy the action in the movie. Don't expect anything great, but I do say see it. Grade: B

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Ghost Writer (2010)

This movie was slow, methodical, and it still packs one hell of a punch at the end. No matter how much action, thrillers are my favorite genre of movie and this one did not disappoint.

Ewan McGregor is the nameless Ghost for the former British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan). The reason he is brought in is to finish writing Lang's memoirs after the first ghost writer's lifeless body mysteriously washes up on a beach. Now, the new Ghost has his doubts about taking such a project because Lang is an internationally hated figure. He is close to being prosecuted for torture against terror suspects by the International Criminal Court. An enigmatic man who, theoretically, has means of disposing of you and making it look like an accident. However, all of that may not be true. As the Ghost looks more into his past, he becomes more convinced that someone else may be pulling Lang's strings, and has been for years. As deep as the political plot is, could it possibly go any deeper?

Ewan McGregor is terrific as the writer who doesn't really want the job. There is a constant sense of fear he has. Whether it's fear the editors will not like his work or fear for his life. Pierce Brosnan also gives a great performance. He is sharp and fiery in his delivery and actions causing the audience to get scared along with McGregor. The film loses a couple points with me because of Kim Cattrall. While her performance wasn't awful, giving her a British accent was not a good choice. Thankfully, it doesn't ruin this movie. If you love thrillers, absolutely you should give this one a shot. Grade: A-