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Popcorn & A Movie



Adam Elliott blogs about movies, cinema life and other goofy things.





That's A Wrap Folks!

Just some Cliff’s Notes here about the past year of movies.
 
Over the holidays, I caught up with a couple movies I haven’t had the chances to review, plus I am updating my Best of 2011 list. My new Top 10 won’t necessarily be the everybody’s Top Movies of 2011, but rather the ones I felt connected to. Hopefully that will be of some benefit to you, because some will soon be coming out On Demand, or for purchase/rental.
 
Quick Reviews:
 
The Artist: A beautifully filmed homage to film before talking came around. It’s silent, black and white and is like nothing else I saw this past year. It’s also my pick for Best Oscar winner.
 
War Horse: Not a fan. A sweeping cinematographic drama about the life of a horse, with the backdrop of World War I. Could a horse stop trench warfare between the English and the Germans? I don’t think so.
 
Tree Of Life: Finally caught it On Demand. A rather existential story on the subject of life, nature and being human. It was brilliant, but maybe too broad for the average viewer.
 
The Muppets: Jason Segel deserves credit for this revival. The new songs tasted sweet as I relived some nice childhood memories, but I prefer more Muppets, less humans in my Muppet movies.
 
The Best of 2011
(That is to say, the movies that had the biggest impact on me)
 
#10 - Melancholia – A happy tale of the complete destruction of the earth. For better or worse, I can’t get Kirsten Dunst’s latest out of my head.
 
#9 - Super 8 - It’s simply the ET of the new generation. 
 
#8 - Tucker & Dale vs Evil – This low budget, under the radar spoof of slasher flicks was too fun to ignore.
 
#7 - The Descendants – George Clooney makes you remember that good people can still make good decisions. I missed a lot of this one because it was set in Hawaii and shot a several locations that I was at in September. I was daydreaming too much.
 
#6 – Beginners – A beautiful story about coming to terms with the life you have. Also, there’s a talking dog.

#5 - My Week With Marilyn – Michelle Williams pulls off the trick where you don’t see the actress and only her character. She did it the best this year.

#4 - Tree Of Life – The universe in a nutshell. Is that even possible?

#3 - 50/50
– This Joseph Gordon Levitt funny film about getting cancer perhaps drew the most emotion from me.

#2 - Midnight In Paris
– A superb work from Woody Allen about passion for Paris. I was day dreaming again about the setting, but at least I paid close attention to the plot.
 
#1 - The Artist – It is like nothing else I saw in 2011. It answers the question: Can you watch 1h40 long film where no one talks? Yes. Art comes in many beautiful forms.
 
 

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Video Movie Review: The Rum Diary

Adam reviews the new Johnny Depp film/Hunter S. Thompson novel adaptation:

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Movie Review: The Rum Diary

Rated R – 1h59



Looking through glassy eyes, it’s hard to find focus, even if your intentions were to have a good time. It’s the same story for Johnny Depp’s toast to Hunter S. Thompson in The Rum Diary. The heart is in the right place, but this one stumbles around a little too much.

The film is based on the long lost novel of the same name that Thompson wrote in the 1960’s, but didn’t publish until 1998. Depp supposedly found the material amongst Thompson’s things and has since been key in getting the film produced.

The story involves journalist Paul Kemp (Depp) who takes a job at the San Juan Star in Puerto Rico. His sleazy editor Lotterman (Richard Jenkins) immediately sets the tone of the film by asking Kemp if he’s drunk and how much he drinks. Kemp replies in a Thompson-esque voice “The high end of social.”

From there, Kemp is wooed by Sanderson, (Aaron Eckhart) a developer who has plans to get rich by developing the lush island. It’s Sanderson’s attempt to control the media in his favor.

The film is somewhat autobiographical because Thompson did apply at the San Juan Star, but didn’t get the job. It’s completely autobiographical in regards to how Depp, for a second time, entertains by channeling Thompson. It’s a treat to hear the witty dialogue come rolling off his mumbling tongue.

Another standout is Sanderson’s fiancee', played by the luscious Amber Heard. Her character Chenault is like a beautiful tidal wave. She’s literally the girl that talks you into speed racing the brand new car you’ve just been given by daddy.

If there was a main point, it’s how Kemp tries to use his righteous journalistic integrity to save the people of Puerto Rico from a greedy American developer. Still this is more of a rum fueled exercise in functional alcoholism. I feel like they touched on everything that Thompson was, but didn’t deliver that gonzo element.

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Video Movie Review: Paranormal Activity 3

Adam reviews the new spooky movie Paranormal Activity 3.  How scary is it?

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Movie Review: Paranormal Activity 3

Rated R – 1h23



Packed with plenty of gotcha moments, Paranormal Activity 3 will make you jump several times. The problem is, we already know the formula and that takes a lot of the frightful edge away.

Set in 1988, we again get a home video obsessed guy who must catch on VHS, the things in his home that are going bump in the night. The added twist of the backstory of the original Katie from Paranormal Activity 1 is a wasted point.

To set up the scary faux-documentary, we’re to believe that were looking back on real archival footage. Dennis, a wedding videographer, has moved in with hot 80’s mom Julie. They live a happy life with Julie’s two daughters Katie and Kristi. One night, Dennis accidentally catches Kristi’s imaginary friend Toby on camera and becomes infatuated. Things escalate poorly for the family.

With just a few exceptions, I almost never recommend the 3rd chapter in a film franchise. That rule is still in effect here. I will admit to jumping several times. That’s the point of watching a movie like this.

In fact, based on this movie, PA1 makes much less sense. SPOILER AHEAD: In this film, young Katie from 1988 befriends the mysterious demon. Are we to assume that her demon friend is the same one that possesses Katie from 2009? The older Katie is more a victim of her boyfriend’s misguided actions. Did the demon and Katie’s relationship mean nothing all those years?

There was something fun I took away from this film. It was in the technical use of a surveillance style point of view, where the camera pans back and forth. I am a lover of puzzles where you have to figure out the difference between two pictures. In this case, the viewer’s perspective pans to the left, so look for the thing that sticks out in the frame. Pan to the right, then back to the left and see what’s spookily changed. I am a film technique lover, so I actually enjoyed this.

Still, would you go see a movie based on someone’s thrill that the camera panned back & forth? I don’t think so. That’s something for movie nerds like me.

The bottom line is, you will be scared with PA3, even if it’s for the lack of creativity.

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Video Movie Review: The Thing

The Thing? Another remake! Yeah, Adam lets you know if it's worth your time.

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Movie Review: The Thing

Rated R – 1h43



It’s not like the world was begging for a remake of the 1982 John Carpenter film, but in the world of sci-fi horror, it’s not a grave mistake to bring this pronoun of a story back.

The Thing (2011) is set in 1982. Confused yet? Graduate student Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is recruited by a Norwegian scientist for her necropsy skills to a base in the Antarctic. There she and a team of about a dozen recover an alien creature that’s been frozen in the ice. It comes back to life and possesses the power to morph into it’s victim to conceal it’s own identity. It’s a similar plotline to the 1982 version with some detail changes.

Note: The 1982 John Carpenter was a remake of a 1951 movie The Thing From Another World, which was also based on a short story.

There are a few fright factors that work in this movie. The toothy creature is quite gruesome and disgusting, but in a fun scary movie way. Since it also has the ability to hide itself within the group of survivors, paranoia drives the suspense.

One semi-intense moment involves a tooth check of the humans to determine if anyone has been body snatched. The imperfectness of the life and death test ratchets up the intensity mid way through and was enough to keep my interest going.  There’s also a nice dark ending to look forward to.

Where The Thing doesn’t work, is how it all plays out. This is a run of the mill, scary things jump from the shadows movie. The little soldiers fall one by one, building up to a final showdown. The redeeming factor is that creepy aliens are sci-fi gold and it’s fun to watch these kind of scary movies.

Logically speaking, you could easily shred the movie. Why would the alien reveal itself one person at a time? Why would the alien have teeth like the Sarlacc Pit? Why does an Antarctic base have military grade flame throwers? That’s all beside the point.

This is more about a good run-for-your-life gore festival. So, was the remake necessary? No. Is it mindless escapism? Yes. More please.

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Video Movie Revew: The Ides Of March

Adam reviews the new George Clooney political thriller:

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Movie Review: The Ides Of March

Rated R – 1h41



George Clooney delivers what is a really weighty political thriller in his new work The Ides Of March, or as I like to call it "How to become cynical with the political process in one hour and forty-one minutes."

The film is a fictional account of a Democratic presidential primary, set in current times, but makes use of the real news media. Is it a metaphor that the real media Is following a fake election? Probably not.

Ryan Gosling, or as I like to call him “the new George Clooney” plays Stephen Myers , a likable, suave and idealistic top political staffer for Democratic presidential candidate Governor Mike Morris ( Clooney). Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is the campaign manager. Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) i s the rival democratic candidate campaign manager as both side battle  in the Ohio primary.

After Tom tries to recruit Stephen to the other side, a series of events that includes more cruel intentioned double crossings and back stabbings than one could imagine happens. At times, The Ides of March becomes the type of political thriller that only happens in movies, because the details of the misdoings are just too juicy.

Clooney directs and writes the screenplay for the film that also credits Leo DiCaprio with Executive producer credits. With DiCaprio playing J. Edgar Hoover in “J. Edgar,” due out in November, this creates a little buzz. In all though, the story in The Ides of March is strong and the cast all equally deliver command performances.

The good thing about this production is that it is not really a partisan movie. I’m not sure anybody comes out looking good. This is more about strategy and the thrill of the game. I don’t think anyone is going to be surprised by the dark secrets that lurk in our political process, I just hope that someday I don’t become as cynical as some of these characters.

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Movie Review: 50/50

Rated R – 1h39



I have a list of certain actors and actresses that I will see any movie they are part of, simply because they are in it. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is now on that list.

Is latest work 50/50 is based on the true story of a man who is diagnosed with cancer, but still manages to keep his sense of humor. Adam (Gordon-Levitt) is a 20 something employee at a Seattle NPR radio station when he is told that the ache in his back is actually a cancerous tumor. The story revolves around Adam and his friend Kyle (Seth Rogen) and how they find the lighter side of cancer.

From the moment Adam is delivered the news from his cold-hearted masochistic doctor, he tries to keep composure while his world spirals. This all sounds like a major downer, and it is. The magic of this movie is it’s ability to balance the gut wrenching reality with the comic musings between Kyle & Adam. Kyle for one, continually tries to use his friend’s diagnosis as a successful pick up line.

Anjelica Houston plays Adam’s overbearing mother who sports a very distracting wig throughout the film. She’s not only dealing with a son who doesn’t want to talk to her, but also a husband who’s dementia makes him unable to talk to her. Anna Kendrick is Adam’s green psychiatrist that walks the doctor-patient relationship line.

It takes a serious moment in ones life to fully recognize who you are. This is a heartening story of friendship, trust and fighting for your life. For sure on my top 10 list of the year.

I find Levitt to be one of the more impressive and busy actors out there today. He stole many a scene from Leo DiCaprio in Inception and was brilliant in 500 Days Of Summer. I even liked his days as the snarky teen Tommy in the sitcom 3rd Rock From The Sun. He brings out the human nature of his characters and does the basics well, such as getting you to like him.

The story is based on events from the life of screenwriter Will Reiser, who manages to reach into his emotional core and beautifully put words to his experience. Reiser is alive and in remission today.

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Video Movie Review: Moneyball

Adam reviews the new baseball flick Moneyball:

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Movie Review: Moneyball

Rated PG-13 – 2h6



There is not much that I didn’t love about Moneyball. As Brad Pitt says twice in the film: “How can you not be romantic about baseball?”

Moneyball tells the story of the 2002 Oakland Athletics and their General Manager Billy Beane (Pitt). After losing three key players from the previous season, Beane takes the advice of recent Yale economics graduate Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), who uses a statistical approach to winning. “Your goal shouldn't be to buy players. Your goal should be to buy wins. ”

They set out together to form the best team they can with the limited money they have. These days, who of us isn’t used to being told to deliver higher results with fewer resources?

Ostracized by his peers, Beane’s new method proves rocky at first, until things gel and helped lead to a season that includes breaking an American League all time winning streak record of 20 games.

What’s interesting is the movie isn’t about baseball. It’s about strategy. Moneyball is best when it tries to subtract the humanity of baseball into a cold, hard numbers game, but proves itself wrong. That struggle between the pair makes this a genuinely great film. Pitt is distant, but makes you care for Beane and understand his internal conflicts. Hill is completely believable as a numbers geek who is just starting to find his way.

It is curious that Moneyball is somewhat gloomy in the way that it represents baseball as a business. Pitt’s character has several moments where he struggles with it. The fact is all professional sports are businesses first. Fans know all too well about the layers that need to be peeled back to get to the heart of it all. Moneyball does too.

Side note: Who woulda thought two hours of statistical analysis would prove to be so emotional and interesting?

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Video Movie Review: Drive

Adam is extremely conflicted about the new cruising around town movie: Drive

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Movie Review: Drive

Rated R – 1h40



There may not be a movie this year that I am more conflicted about, other than Drive. It’s a clear metaphor that a car can sit idle at one moment, then be screaming out of control at another. That’s the feeling you get from this movie.

Ryan Gosling plays a character with no name other than “Driver.” He’s a Hollywood stunt driver by day and a hired getaway driver by night. He’s got deep emotions, but we don’t know where they come from. He plays the solitary loner. That is, until he meets and falls for his neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan.) Just released from prison, Irene’s husband has a debt to pay off. In trying to protect Irene, the driver chooses to help the husband pull off a heist that spins out of control.

This movie has all the elements of greatness. There is real tension, a great cast and a relentless craving for it’s deeper meaning.  This is a brilliant assembly of talent.  Gosling and Mulligan are pros in their own right, but the additions of Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman and Christina Hendricks is near genius.  I just couldn’t get on board with the pacing of it all. We go through long portions of the film with very little dialogue or action, which is juxtaposed by moments of extreme violence and heart pounding car chase scenes.

In the moments of action, Drive is very effective in putting you right in the passenger seat, exactly where you should be. It’s fast and furious without the steroid injected bravado of the current fast car genre. This is all to say that Drive may be a better movie for what it is not. That’s commendable, but it didn’t feel complete to me.

I can also say that this movie drew out more of a internal reaction in myself than anything else I’ve seen this year. The problem is, it wasn’t always a positive reaction.

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Video Movie Review: The Debt

Adam review the new Helen Mirren spy thriller: The Debt.

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Movie Review: The Debt

Rated R – 1h54



I’m not sure why Helen Mirren is a modern day action hero, nor do I care. I do know that whatever she has going, is working and working well in her new film The Debt.

Set in two different eras, The Debt aims to tell the truth. First in 1965, a young group of Israeli spies are on a mission in East Berlin to find and bring to justice a wicked Nazi doctor who has evaded capture. With the help of a fellow spy Stephan, who has finally tracked down said doctor, Rachel (Jessica Chastain,) and David (Sam Worthington) posing as a young couple trying to have a baby to get close to the doc. Something goes wrong.

The second plot exists in 1997, where the truth of what actually happens comes back to haunt older Rachel (Helen Mirren,) older David and older Stephan (Tom Wilkinson.) They set out to take action to settle their debt.

The film bounces back and forth in time, but in a reasonable way that sews the eras together. The scenes from the 60’s in Berlin are far more tense, action packed and satisfying.

I can fault the film for the same reason. The constant comparisons between the younger versions of the character and the older versions was a disconnect. They don’t look all that similar, therefore my brain couldn’t keep track of all the names and faces.

Still, The Debt has an old school thriller feel to it. Partly because of the solid story line and partly because the cast has the maturity to pull it all off. With spy stories, you often get the feeling that there will be a double agent to throw you the twist, but the essence of this movie is simpler.

As with most good films, you question some of your own thoughts on the subject at hand. Is a lie the best solution if it what’s good for the masses? Is it ever too late to tell the truth? Is forgiveness still an option? I forgive The Debt for its foibles and still feel satisfied after watching.

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Video Movie Review: Our Idiot Brother

Adam reviews the new comedy: Our Idiot Brother.

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Movie Review: Our Idiot Brother

Rated R – 1h30



Maybe this family dynamic hit a little too close to home. Maybe I agree that you should always expect the best from people. Either way, Paul Rudd delivers a grinable performance in his new lead role.

Our Idiot Brother is the story of Ned, (Rudd) a man in a state of eternal hippie arrested development. He makes choices based not out of stupidity, but from a naivete’, idealistic place that has high hopes for the rest of the world. Ned is jailed for selling pot to a uniformed officer who seemingly entraps him, by making Ned sympathetic to the cop’s bad day.

After getting out, we meet Ned’s three slightly dysfunctional sisters (Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel & Emily Mortimer) who take him in. With each sister he seemingly destroys their lives through his man-child ways, but somehow also saves them at the same time.

I feel a little cynical calling out his actions, but it’s hard to believe that someone like Ned actually exists. Are there people so trusting of their fellow man, that they would ask them (on a subway) to hold onto their pocket of twenties, while they clean up a coffee spill? I think there are few, at the most. Then again, it’s hard to criticize a person who only wants good things for and from those around them.

Ned’s sisters seem to be living stereotypically train wrecks of lives, which makes this comedy feel a little contrived. Then again, Rudd’s happy blowtorch of sunshine is a bit too. The thing that saves this movie is it’s good intentions and good nature.

I for one, like Ned.

At one time, I couldn’t say the same for Paul Rudd. From the days of his indie comedy background, I enjoyed his bit roles. That was until he took over broader parts like in “The Ten,” “The Oh In Ohio” and “Over Her Dead Body.” But now, I feel Rudd has grown into a mainstream comical lead. He’s also now one of the guys that I’d go see a movie, just because he’s in it.

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Video Movie Review: The Help

Adam reviews the new period piece The Help:

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Movie Review: The Help

Rated PG-13 – 2h17



If there were someone who came to America and had no idea about our history of racism, this is not the movie I would use to explain it to them. That’s not saying The Help is a bad movie, quite the contrary. It does seem to glaze over the history of race relations in a chick flick friendly fashion.

Set in Mississippi in the 1960’s the help chronicles the creation of a book that tells life stories from the point of view of several black housemaids. It’s a closer look at the racism that lies just beneath the surface. Emma Stone gives a passable performance as the young journalist.

The heart of the movie comes from Viola Davis, who plays Aibileen Clark. It is Aibileen who makes the decision to put her job, life, physical and personal freedom at risk by telling her own story. Her display of courage is what encourages others to tell their story. The underrated Octavia Spencer plays Minnie, another maid who tells her story and provides much of the comic relief.

It’s that comic relief that I found offsetting. It’s hard to go from a scene of blatant racism to another, where we’re supposed to laugh. Overall, it provides the desired effect of brining you back from a tense moment. Still, this movie will be criticized for not staying in that moment and allowing you to reflect on it.

The conclusion to this story leaves something to be desired. Some of the main characters are seemingly left in a worse place than they started, while others might go on to future success. It waters down their triumph of standing up for what is right. There may be some healing from the story, but it’s not guaranteed for some of the characters that we’ve invested in.

I think there is something very powerful that’s said about not only the condemnable treatment of black people, but also of women. These are stories that need to be remembered. Presenting it in a palatable way to modern audiences is a tough sell. The Help manages to present what I think is a “lite” version of true history, but the feeling was there.

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Video Movie Review: Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes

Adam reviews the new hairy situation flick:

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Movie Review: Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes

Rated PG-13 – 1h45



Every once and while, you get a surprise at the movies. Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes is one of them. It takes a sci-fi series that most people could care less about and turns it into something quite entertaining.

Will Rodman (James Franco) is a researcher, motivated by his own father’s Altzheimers, to find a cure for the disease. During the primate testing phase of his research, he finds that his drug not only seems to allow the brain to heal itself, but it also allows it to grow exponentially. Didn’t someone tell him about the recurring storyline in books and movies about tinkering with nature?

In any case, what I expected was a bloodbath of monkey on human violence. That’s not what you get. When our primate friends get superior intelligence, they also gain a higher level of compassion and seem to immediately understand that killing isn’t the best solution.

Even though the plot isn’t Academy Award worthy, all sorts of questions do pop up about human control of nature, human nature and who really is the intelligent species.

There are two noteworthy moments of the film. About half way in, the main ape Caeser, is taken to a primate shelter after he gets out into the real world and causes and incident where animal control is called out. That leads a very curious subplot about life in prison. You’re not expecting a side story about how incarceration can alter a person’s view on the world, but this was an unexpected and welcome twist.

The other spans the entire film and that’s the masterful use of computer generated apes. All of the apes in the movie are made inside a computer, but to my eye, you can’t tell the difference. This movie may stand a testament as to how good that technology is today.

Another note: This is the second film in which Andy Serkis portrays an ape. He previously portrayed King Kong in "King Kong" (2005).  He was also the guy that they based Gollum from the Lord Of The Rings trilogy after.

Another, another  note: no 3D was needed to make this an entertaining film.

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Movie Review: The Change-Up

Rated R – 1h52



It’s kind of hard for me to say anything positive this movie when one of the stars goes on TV the day before it opens and calls it ‘crap” and “garbage.” No joke. Just check out Jason Bateman’s recent visit to The Daily Show.

The Change-Up is a mashup of a body switching “Freaky Friday” movie and the new genre of raunchy comedies. Really, it’s a mashup of gross- out, sometimes cruel-intentioned dirty jokes. It’s not that’s a bad thing for a comedy. The jokes this time just weren’t strung together in a way that’s likeable.

Speaking of likeable, just about none of the cast were. Ryan Reynolds plays Mitch, Dave’s (Bateman) best friend. He’s a self-centered, wake-and-bake man child. Dave is an over accomplishing husband who works so much, he neglects his family life. Dave’s neglected wife Jamie (Leslie Mann) is a stereotypical nagging wife, who although still looks good, has accepted a mediocre existence as a mom.

After a night of drinking and peeing into public fountains, a twist of fate switches Mitch & Dave into each other’s body. A predictable series of events follows as they adapt to the change. At this point, I felt a little confused with the characters. I know each man is supposed to be inhabiting the other’s body, but there were too many examples of how it wasn’t working.

What does work is Ryan Reynolds. I think he does much better playing a low- life, than a superhero or one half of a romantic comedy. He does a good job using his good looks to make you see past the flaws in is characters.

There are a couple of very funny moments. (Imagine the E-Trade baby headbanging in his crib) Most of them are one liners and forgettable. I probably could have done without two grown men urinating into a mall fountain with children standing around and the grown men swearing and dropping inappropriate jokes in front of toddlers. It’s a crutch to think that dropping an “F-bomb” in front of kids is instant comedy.

Even with the comic weight of Bateman and Reynolds, this movie is very thin.

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Movie Review: Cowboys & Aliens

Rated PG-13 – 1h59



I gotta admit. After Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, I was worried that we had lost Harrison Ford into the fray. No. It was just a bad idea to make another Indy movie. He delivers once again with his role as a grizzly old cowboy in Cowboys & Aliens.

I must admit, with that title, the bar is set pretty high. Cowboys and aliens are two great movie ideas. It’s like peanut butter & chocolate. Riggs & Murtaugh. Rocky & Apollo. Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid. I could go on. The casting also puts James Bond alongside Indiana Jones. Maybe this is going a little over the top?

In this case, the setting is the Arizona Old West in 1873. A lone man (Daniel Craig) wakes up in the desert with a weapon of some sorts strapped to his wrist. He can’t remember who he is or how he got there. He slowly starts putting the pieces together as he bands together with a posse of Cowboys and Native Americans to fight off a horde of alien abductors.

Craig plays outlaw Jake Lonergan and needs to do nothing but deliver that icy stare of his to impress. He is a rough and tough hombre and is a lot of the glue that keeps this movie together. Ford plays the brilliantly named Woodrow Dolarhyde who provides the role of mean guy with a good heart. Think his portrayal of policeman John Book from 1985’s Witness.

While you could argue that there isn’t a ton of intriguing dialogue, or that the story doesn’t quite embrace the feel of a true western, I still enjoyed it. Cowboys & Aliens is a silly idea. I expected some campiness. I expect to trade depth for a little more action.

Director Jon Favreau also gets credit for relying less heavily on special effects and more on his characters to drive the movie. The supporting cast (Sam Rockwell, Keith Carridine, Olivia Wilde and Paul Dano) also gives this push in a positive direction. Another toast to Favreau, no 3D. Its a fun movie that doesn’t need it. Well done.

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Movie Review: Captain America: The First Avenger

Rated PG-13 – 2h5



Movie franchises should take notes from the folks at Marvel. Captain America: The First Avenger is a good movie, that’s part of a larger film series.

Set in 1941, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a sickly young man with a sense of duty larger than his body. After repeatedly being rejected to be a US soldier, Rogers volunteers for a top secret research project that turns him into Captain America.

There are several reasons to like Steve Rogers. He takes a licking and keeps on ticking. He continues to learn from his mistakes and he’s always more concerned with the people around him, instead of himself. Pleasantly lacking the ego and bravado of a modern day hero. He’s no cynic.

With the assistance of Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones,) Captain America helps take down a rogue Nazi unit led by baddie Red Skull (Hugo Weaving,) who a developed a occult superpower.

The nostalgia of the Captain America is lost on this remake though. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Captain is reinvented as a patriot, who when asked whether he wants to kill Nazis, responds by saying he doesn’t want to kill anyone. He just wants to serve his country. Another reason to like him. He’s the everyman.

I was not as much impressed with the action as much as the general storyline. That campy feel of a WWII war- action drama is there, but the characters own it. They mock themselves. There’s also a romantic subplot that seems to go nowhere. Still, this is a tale of the little guy facing a bully, so you always know who to root for.

This could have been just another run of the mill origin story, which leads us all to the May 2012 release of The Avengers, but it’s not. This movie is self-contained and that is something we see far too little of.

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Movie Review: Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows - Part 2

Rated PG-13 – 2h10



For as epic as this movie should have been, it just felt like there was something missing. There was certainly some satisfaction in wrapping up the 10-year franchise, but when something that’s lasted 10 years long ends, shouldn’t the end result be bigger?

In the eighth installment of the Harry Potter series, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) finally has his one-on-one with Lord Voldemort (Ralph Feinnes.) The final showdown. The big shabang. Sounds important right? I unfortunately found that high expectation didn’t meet up to the reality. It was anti-climactic.

Keep in mind, this is coming strictly from a movie perspective on the series. I sat with several Harry Potter book fans. They not only cried during the highlights of the film, but afterwards as well, when they found out that the miracle moments in the novel were traded for lesser visually enhanced action sequences.

There isn’t a ton of dialogue. I was expecting at least some grand wisdom on the struggle between good and evil. Some deep thoughts on the rewarding nature of friendship. Something! Instead, we speed past it on the Hogwart’s Express to the moving parts of the film.

I would not say this is a bad movie. There was actually a very rewarding experience. Several big ideas are completed. A dopey character earns hero status. Puzzles are solved. That alone made me quite satisfied.

With movie franchises like these, I always refer back to the initial Star Wars trilogy. Each movie stands on it’s own. They have beginnings, middles and endings. That is the standard set for multi-chapter movies, so that is what I expect. HP7-#2 is literally second half of a story.

Harry Potter 7.2 doesn’t do the best job of standing on its own. In fact, this had a rushed and shrunken feel to it. Am I really asking they should have made a longer movie? Maybe. In a finale situation, I feel a little more explanation is worth it.

If anything, I’m just glad that I don’t have to wait for anymore further explanation in this series. So to this series I say “Expelliarmus.” Stick a fork in it.

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Video Movie Review: Larry Crowne

Adam review the new film directed by and starring Tom Hanks:

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Movie Review: Larry Crowne

Rated PG-13 – 1h39



For what Larry Crowne lacks in depth, he does make it up in heart and feeling.

Tom Hanks directs and stars in the film that tries to capture the emotion of being fired from your job, then having to rebuild. Larry Crowne is a guy who genuinely seems to like his job in retail, until he’s fired for not having a college degree. The story arc was pretty obvious at this point.

He believes getting that education will ensure that it doesn’t happen again, so he enrolls in a local community college. There, he meets Speech 217 Professor Mercedes Taniot (Julia Roberts.) She’s also at a low point in her teaching career and is depressed with her slacker husband, so she dulls the pain with blended mixers.

Larry also meets a free-spirited student, who rearranges his furniture in the Feng Shui style, gets him to join her scooter gang and helps him with a fashion makeover straight off the TLC network. Larry also takes an Economics 101 course, where he somehow learns the ins-and-out of home foreclosures, which transforms him into the master of his financial future. I simply find it hard to believe that one semester of credit courses and transform you that much.

Hanks and Roberts deliver passable performances, but I don’t feel like we really get to the core of their character’s problems. They were pleasant enough to watch, but I was glad when it was all over. This is a movie about overcoming life’s obstacles. But, if all I need to do to find a happy medium with my relationships, job and finances is take a credit at my community college, how hard can life really be?

Somewhere while they were out riding their scooters, the story transforms from one man taking control of his future, to a romantic comedy. In all, this is light fare. That’s OK, because it’ll be palatable to a wider audience. Your Mom will love this.

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Movie Review: Transformers: Dark Of The Moon

Rated PG-13 – 2h27



Ummm, when did the Autobots turn into revenge killers who carry out mafia/gangland style killings? I think I missed that part of the cartoon TV series from the 80’s. I will say that Transformers: Dark Of The Moon is the better of the three Transformers movies that Director Michael Bay has delivered, but that’s not saying much.

In this two and one-half hours of special effects overkill, we are told the real reason for the space race of the 1960’s was because an alien ship had crashed on the moon. Flash forward to the present, where the “good” Autobots discover the well kept secret and have to race “evil” Decepticons to discover its secret.

I use good and evil in parenthesis, because it seems the sides these two robot races once took are much blurrier now. Sure, Decepticons want to enslave the human race, but it’s all in the name of going back home. Their goal is not to fight the good guys, just go back home. The Autobots this time are motivated not only to protect the Earth, but they also carry out intensely violent revenge-style killings of their foes.

So, is that a good thing? It surely adds a darker element to this type of bubble gum entertainment. Once you get through the first 45 minutes of plot build up, the action is quite intense and it doesn’t stop. I hope your ears can take it, mine barely did. I suppose that is the point of a movie that has an otherwise incoherent plot and dialogue that seems was written by a 10 year old.

Also, I’m not really a fan of shoot ‘em up video games, but the appeal of this movie is clearly directed at lovers of first person shooter games. In one battle scene, the audience is given the same perspective of the first person shooter video game. It was a little disturbing for my tastes.

I did find two moments extremely entertaining. I liked the pairing of John Turturro and Frances McDormand. Both are frequently in many beloved Coen Brothers movies. Sadly, even they are unnecessary, just like the rest of the humans in the Transformers movies.

I also loved the settings. Part of the movie is shot at Milwaukee’s Art Museum. Unfortunately the building stays intact. Another scene is downtown Chicago. The same can’t be said for the Windy City, which virtually suffers some severe damage. It’s always more fun seeing landmarks you’re familiar with getting blown up.

In all, I can’t recommend this film for the simple reason that it’s two and one-half hours long. I don’t care what movie it is. No one who just drank a 64oz soda should have to wait that long for a restroom break.

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Video Movie Review: Bad Teacher

Adam reviews the new Cameron Diaz raunchy comedy:

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Movie Review: Bad Teacher

Rated R – 1h32



There are a few truths that I hold to be self-evident. Peanut M&Ms will always be better than Plain M&Ms. Traffic will always jam up on the beltline between 7-8am and 3:30-5:30pm. Cameron Diaz talking like a truck driver is always better than Diaz in a romantic comedy. For some reason, Diaz playing a foul mouthed, cynic also seems a more natural fit for her.

Bad Teacher doesn’t come close to mimicking the uncouth comic genius that was 2003’s Bad Santa, but it tries. Elizabeth Halsey (Diaz) is a discourteous, gold-digging, foul-mouthed junior high school teacher. Dumped by her fiancé’ she is forced to retain her teaching job, which she puts a little effort into as possible.
That is, until she figures out how to monetize off her students academic success.

While there are moments that had the potential for fantastic raunchy comedy, they are matched with just as many weak plot points.

There are a couple subplots of Miss Halsey inappropriately trying to raise money for breast implants, a romantic storyline involving one of the students and Diaz wooing a fellow teacher, but none of it goes anywhere. A rivalry between Elizabeth and a goodie-two-shoes teacher is what feeds most of the story and I think that’s where the focus should have been.

It was impossible for me to separate the attempt to mirror Bad Santa. In that story, Billy Bob Thornton is a disgusting human being because it feeds his criminal behavior. Here, Diaz is just a slacker who wants the easy road to riches. I guess if she worked harder at being terrible, that would be a good thing.

While it’s hard not to focus on Diaz, the supporting male roles did entertain me. I’ve been a fan of Jason Segel for a while. He plays the Gym Teacher at the school who is just as attracted to Elizabeth’s bad characteristics as her good ones. The regular guy who is 20% sleaze-ball, is the character I like to see him play. Justin Timberlake plays a light-headed substitute teacher like he’s playing in a sketch on Saturday Night Live. He’s well aware that he’s being goofy.

Loving the anti-hero is no crime. They’re sometimes more attractive. Diaz is certainly attractive. As Jimmy Buffett says “I’ve read dozens of books about heroes and crooks and learned much from both of their styles. “

Bad Teacher needed more to it. Maybe more tequila.

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Movie Review: Midnight In Paris

Rated Pg-13 – 1h40



I really love this new Woody Allen film, although I am really annoyed that it was too intellectual for me. Maybe that’s the magic of Allen. Even if you don’t get all the references and humor, you can still love his work.

Set in modern times, Gil (Owen Wilson) is a writer on vacation in Paris with his annoying fiance’ Inez (Rachel McAdams.) Gil is attached to the romantic notion that living in 1920’s Paris, would be the best time to have lived. Misunderstood by his fiancé and her conservative parents, Gil one night decides to walk the streets of Paris to get away. At the strike of midnight, he hops a cab that whisks him back in time to Paris of the 20’s.

There, he meets his favorites who are still in their prime. Ernest Hemingway, Cole Porter, Josephine Baker, T.S. Elliott, Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein, Salvador Dali and the list goes on. Gil manages to keep this all on the level and even convinces some of the greats to critique the book he’s working on.

Imagine you’re meeting your favorite rock star for the first time and you play it completely cool. That’s the youthful spirit that Wilson manages to exhibit and temper at the same time. Watching that, you can’t help but feel excited.

Here’s the bad part. This movie is a 110 minute dream fantasy sequence for history of English literature lovers. I am not one of those people, but I can respect them from a distance. If you start quoting prose to me, my eyes may glaze over.

I like this movie because it takes those characters and puts them in personal situations. What would the conversation be like if Salvador Dali invited you to sit down for some coffee. What did Cole Porter’s songs sound like when he sang them at parties? How drunk was Hemmingway?

We know their work, but getting a insider glimpse at what their personal lives might have been like is pure entertainment.

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Movie Review: 13 Assassins

Rated R – 2h6



13 Assassins made its debut at the 2011 Wisconsin Film Festival in late March, and I am still kicking myself for not seeing it then.

This is a machismo period piece about a group of unemployed samurai warriors who come together to stop an evil lord from climbing to power.

As samurai movies go, this one seems to stand out amongst the rest. There are massive battle scenes, but these seem to hold a much grittier and realistic feel to them. Warriors are not flying from rooftop to rooftop on hidden wires. They are duking it out on the ground and you feel their fatigue set in as the battle rages on.

There is much bravado dialogue in the film too. Just like William Wallace spoke to rally his troops before the Braveheart battle scenes, 13 Assassins doesn’t fall short on memorable lines. Upon accepting the task to take down the evil lord, the leader of the samurai Shinzaemon Shimada shouts “I shall accomplish your task, with magnificence.” If only we had that type of motivation every day. Think of how far we’d go in life.

The first act involving the recruitment of the samurai progressed a little slower than I prefer, but the payoff was large. It comes in the form of one of the most detailed and believable ambush fight scenes I’ve seen on screen lately.

13 Assassins is sure to satisfy your battle-born bloodlust and leave you a wiser film viewer. The cinematography is above par. The direction is magnificent because you feel a connection to this group of men. You are rooting for their success and feel heartbroken when things don’t go right for them.

This film is also currently available On Demand on some cable systems. It’s well worth a viewing.

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Video Movie Review: Super 8

Adam reviews the new Sci-Fi thiller Super 8.

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Movie Review: Super 8

Rated PG-13 – 1h52



You can’t help but feel a little nostalgic after this one.

Set in 1979, the Super 8 centers on a massive train wreck that is filmed by a young group of friends. They’re making a home movie and capture and event on their film. Mysterious things start to happen after the crash. The military takes control of the town and the once small town is turned upside down.

Fans of Director J.J. Abrams are treated to several little goodies. The sensational train wreckage brought back good memories (?) of Oceanic Flight 815’s crash from the TV series Lost. The well of sci-fi elements in Super 8 doesn’t run too deep, but is enough to satisfy diehards.

It is notable that the characters largely drive this story, as opposed to the action of the event they are dealing with. That’s a trademark of Abrams’ style and is very welcome in the sci-fi genre today. He also captures the emotional sophistication and tenderness of adolescence and that helps the audience make that important connection to the characters.

Super 8 is reminiscent of films where kids run the action such as E.T., The Goonies, Stand By Me and Gremlins. They’re literally darting around on bicycles. I half expected them to start pedaling into the night sky. That’s most likely because Steven Spielberg, who claims executive producer credits, also has his fingers into most of them as well.

The downside of this film is the third act where all hell breaks loose and the kids scramble to save the day. Once the problem they’re facing is full presented to them, the plot steers low and loose. Revealing the face of your big secret is always a mistake if it comes too early.

While I don’t think Super 8 will go down in movie history like some of the aforementioned titles, it does stand up for some summer time movie blockbuster fun.

BTW…stick around for the end credits for the payoff on the home movie. It’s nearly as good as the feature length.

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Video Movie Review: X-Men: First Class

It didn't take much for Adam to mutate into a lover of this movie.  Check out the review of the new X-Men movie.

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Movie Review: X-Men: First Class

Rated PG-13 – 2h32



Somebody call up George Lucas and tell him that this is how you make a prequel. Honestly, I don’t mean to be obnoxious, but why couldn’t Star Wars 1, 2 & 3 have been as much fun as this X Men prequel?

I do enjoy the plot technique of setting a fictional story around real historical fact. X-Men: First Class set in 1963 around the Cuban Missile Crisis. Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is a new graduate of Oxford and is recruited by the bto stop the Russian nuclear threat. Along the way, he befriends Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender,) a person who eventually becomes his arch enemy.

They discover that Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon,) a fellow mutant is busy at work instigating both nuclear powers into all out war, but for his own benefit.

Amongst the film’s highlights is the rather scary and malicious take that Kevin Bacon puts on his supervillain. Not only does he capture the evil essence of a Nazi that wants to destroy the world with nuclear weapons, his mere presence on the screen simply creeped me out. Remember, that’s a compliment.

The action is fast and entertaining. The battles are near epic. This is good summertime entertainment.

The real fun of this movie is in the discovery. With a good grasp on his own power, Xavier aims to find other mutants, help them discover their potential. Watching a person (or a mutant) discover their own potential is simply entertaining. I think it makes you wonder what untapped super powers are in yourself. If anything, keeping you guessing is a trait of a good movie.

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Movie Review: The Hangover Part II

Rated R – 1h42



The only thing that really surprised me about The Hangover II is how exact they stuck to the formula. Do yourself a favor and skip this one.

The Hangover Part II brings back all the characters from the first movie including Stu (Ed Helms,) Phil (Bradley Cooper,) Alan (Zach Galifinanakis,) Doug (Justin Bartha) and Mr. Chow(Ken Jeong).  Except this time Phil is getting married and it’s set in Thailand. Unfortunately for these once A-List actors, this movie only serves to knock them down a few notches towards has-beens.

The exact same scenario happens, except this time the missing party is Stu’s brother in law. They hop from one stop to another in the streets of Thailand, recounting their hijinks and slowly putting the clues together to solve their missing persons case.

What’s unfortunate is they stick to the exact same formula as the predecessor and nothing feels new.
There are some funny and perilous situations that the boys find themselves in, but in the theater I was in, they barely received a chuckle.

I think the widespread appeal of The Hangover came from the perception that what we were seeing could have really happened to a group of guys. For girls, I think it was that inside look into what happens during a wild bachelor party. After you see that once it’s not as shocking to stare into its eyes again.

With news that there’s already a Hangover III in the works, I don’t have much hope for it. If there’s anything we learn from Hollywood, it’s that if a formula works, you repeat it until all of the money is drained out.   Boo.

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Movie Review: Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Rated PG-13 – 2h17



We as consumers must stand up and not support Hollywood when they churn out trash like this and expect us all to spend our hard earned money on it.  It’s the only way to send the message.

Did I need to mention that Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is weak in all sorts of ways?  I was tired of this series after the second installment.  I will not watch another one again.

After crossing paths with a woman from his past (Penelope Cruz), Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is swept aboard the ship of the pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane) on a mission to find the fountain of youth.

It’s hard for me to express how overdone, draw-out and not fun this movie was.  I caught this one on an Ultrascreen in 3D, because the showtime was convenient.  I’m not a fan of 3D and I don’t think it added anything special this time around.  It did make the movie look darker than when I snuck a peek without the glasses.

First, there’s the time factor.  I want some kind of reward for watching a two hour and seventeen minute movie.  I felt punished for sticking to the end credits.

Then there’s the wasted talent.  I saw fleeting moments of grace from actors and actresses that I know have skills and talent.  Cruz, McShane and 2011 Oscar nominee Geoffery Rush gave little to be appreciated.  I hope it was at least a good payday for them.   I think Depp is often a far overrated actor.  Pirates 4 solidly backs that theory up. There’s a complete lack of chemistry between the players and it’s a bore.

Finally, add in all the work that went into this movie. Director Rob Marshall and Disney were obviously trying to make this look like and epic.  It was a looker, but there was no thought behind it.  Again, the 3D just doesn’t do anything for me.

From what I recall from the other Pirates movies, the quick-witted dialogue was it’s saving grace.  This time around we’re hit with nothing but snappy catchphrases that have no deeper meaning.  To quote Captain Sparrow: “Did everyone see that? Because I will *not* be doing it again.” Lets hope so.

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Movie Review: Bridesmaids

Rated R – 2h4



Call it the female version of The Hangover if you want, but Bridesmaids is really a fantastic and raunchy comedy of it's own, that’s got a lot of heart.

Annie (Kristin Wiig) is a losery Milwaukee girl who hasn’t quite figured it all out. Picked as her best friend Lillian’s (Maya Rudolph) maid of honor, lovelorn and broke Annie looks to bluff her way through the expensive and bizarre rituals with an oddball group of bridesmaids.

I am told by my girlfriend that this movie perfectly and realistically nails the dynamic of women in a group setting. From the relationship between the two best friends to the catty conversations, she felt it was on par. I felt a true nature of the friendship between Annie and Lillian, which made you care about their future. I think it’s also what shifts the film from a basic comedy to a well rounded story.

Even without an unbelievably raunchy scene involving the ladies dealing with food poisoning while trying out bridesmaid’s dresses, this film still works. There were roars of laughter and ewwws of disgust from audience I saw it with.

Wiig gets co-writing credits for the film, but really she deserves more accolades than that. She steps far beyond the limitations of a three minute sketch on Saturday Night Live and earns the title actress.

Much credit goes to Melissa McCarthy. She takes her role as the strong hearted, yet hefty fellow bridesmaid and knocks it out of the park. The film also does a good job of juggling the large group of characters, without making any the lesser. It’s an all around well done comedy.

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Movie Review: Thor

Rated PG-13 – 1h54



Since when did being a superhero get so psychedelic? The latest Marvel comic turned movie is a rather silly creation. What’s more is that Thor, with his cape, hammer and sensible beard may be one of the sillier superheroes there is.

We are shown that Thor (Chris Hemsworth), son of Norse god Odin is an arrogant but effective warrior. On the day the throne is supposed to be passed down to Thor, his realm is attacked by assassins. Instead of heeding his father’s warning to stay cool headed, Thor decides to seek revenge on his attackers.

Turns out that’s a bad decision, because the retaliation sparks what could be a massive war amongst enemies. For his arrogance, Odin banishes Thor to Earth. While this is brewing, Thor’s younger brother takes cues from Shakespeare’s MacBeth in a decades long power struggle to one-up his older bro. Something is rotten on magic space mountain of Asgard.

You are forced to accept that Thor lives on a magic mountain in space that is connected to the other nine realms of the universe by a rainbow bridge. (Did Timothy Leary come up with the scenery?)

While on earth, there is some fun to be had with Thor being a fish out of water. Walking into a pet shop and demanding a horse or smashing your mug of coffee at a restaurant in celebration of its good taste makes for many chuckles.

Still, a very watered down performance from Natalie Portman and mediocre acting from Hemsworth wore me down. I did like the idea that Anthony Hopkins was a god and that Renee Russo was his queen of the world. They were high points in this tale which more or less disappointed.

I think what disappointed me is that I expect my superhero stories to take place here on earth. That’s what makes a hero super. They can do things above and beyond mortal man. Most of the Thor’s story takes place on his magic mountain in space. It felt much less like hero fighting the bad guy and more like a sci-fi fantasy story mixed in with Norse legend.

I was also disappointed in the fact that Thor felt like it was more of a set up for the upcoming Marvel flicks: Captain America: The First Avenger, due out in summer and The Avengers, due out next year.

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Video Movie Review: Everything Must Go

Adam delivers a Popcorn And A Movie review of the new Will Ferrell independent: Everything Must Go.



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Movie Review: Everything Must Go

Rated R – 1h40



There is nothing funny about an alcoholic that loses his job, wife and dignity because of his drinking problem. Even if that person is Will Ferrell. In the context of Everything Must Go, that’s a good thing.

Ferrell throws us a curve ball in his new film that is far from a comedy and more like a dramatic unfolding of a sad life.

Nick Halsey (Ferrell) in one day is fired from his job and come home to find his wife has emptied his possessions onto their front lawn and changed the locks. Unsure what to do, Nick passively guards his stuff by planting himself outdoors in a recliner on said lawn. He also commences with filling the recycle bin with his empties of PBR, giving us a good idea of what a functional alcoholic does.

Kenny, a neighborhood kid befriends Nick in exchange for his salesmanship knowledge as they partner up for a big yard sale. Their relationship is genuine and well handled. From his front lawn seat, Nick also dysfunctionally befriends with his new neighbor Samantha (Rebecca Hall.) Both Nick and Samatha’s problems are living right below the surface, which gave them a realistic feeling.

There are shining moments of humanity in this film. Only having known Nick for a few days, Samantha comes to the aid of Nick’s withdrawal symptoms in a comforting, but non-judgmental way. I guess it’s a little sad that I though getting this close to somebody you hardly knew was a stretch.

I do enjoy it when a performer can transform themself on screen. With Ferrell, you always expect some comedy with darkness around the edges. Everything Must Go dives a little deeper than his more serious tone in “Stranger Than Fiction." It’s rare for a comic actor to be able to pull it off so well. Adam Sandler did a great job in “Punch Drunk Love.” Jim Carrey did it in “Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind.”

This film isn’t perfect, but it does add to the argument that Ferrell has range. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Look closely at the closing scene. It’s hard not to think of the cover art on The Eagles’ “The Hotel California.” I guess in some ways Nick feels that he could check out any time he likes, but can never leave himself.

Bonus musical reference. Kenny, the neighborhood kid is played by Christopher Jordan Wallace. He played his real life father Christopher Wallace (aka Notorious B.I.G.) as a child in the film about the rapper “Notorious.”

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Video Movie Review: Fast Five

Adam reviews the new action flick: Fast Five

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Movie Review: Fast Five

Rated PG-13 – 2h10



It’s not that I didn’t like the Royal Wedding, it’s just that I needed something to wash the taste of it away and Fast Five is perfect for the job.

Somehow this movie franchise manages to keep itself from going into the ridiculous zone that most movies that hit three sequels go into. Maybe it’s the overdose of steroids injected into nearly every scene. Maybe it’s the muscle cars and the edge of your seat driving. Maybe it’s the ridiculous tough guy dialogue. This form of escapism still works for me.

This time, Dominic (Vin Diesel) and his racing buddy Brian (Paul Walker) find themselves in Rio de Janeiro, assembling a crack team of thieves, anxious for a big payoff in one final heist. Yes, that does sound like Oceans 11.   No worries about how they got here. You’re caught up within a minute of the intro credits. There’s a few twists; a pregnant girlfriend, a evil Brazilian power monger and Super FBI bad guy catcher Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) on their tail.

The end credits warn you not to replicate the stunts you see in the movie. That’s good, because I considered jumping my Honda Civic off the side of moving train, then later dragging a gigantic bank vault attached to a wire behind it. Seems like something I could pull off.

Still, you can’t really pick apart the stunt work. Its one piece of a ridiculous pie that has hot chicks, reckless driving, muscle flexing and automatic weapons on the ingredient list. These are all good things. I’m just happy they pulled it all off with a straight face.

Another part of the reason that these super-charged movies work is because of the honor among thieves. When he’s not flexing his muscles, Dom is the patriarch of his band of bandits and his number one rule is family first. You’d think people willing to rob another person of millions of dollars would be more focused on the money. No, Dom raises his bottle of beer and says money will come and go, but his patched together family is more important.

A technical side note. In my opinion, this is not the fifth Fast and Furious sequel. There are five movies that bear a one form or another of the title: The Fast and the Furious (2001), 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003), The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006), Fast and Furious (2009) and Fast Five (2011).

Tokyo Drift featured neither Vin Diesel or Paul Walker, although Diesel had a cameo.  In 2 Fast 2 Furious, Diesel was absent. I say since muscle guys and muscle cars have to go together and since Diesel is the muscle, Drift and 2 Fast don’t count.

Then, calling this movie Fast Five wouldn’t really make sense, but who cares? Just drive the damn car fast.

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Video Movie Review: Water For Elephants

Adam reviews the new romance based on the bestselling novel:

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Movie Review: Water For Elephants

Rated PG-13 – 2h1



If you took the movie Titanic and placed it in the backdrop of the 1930’s circus, that’s essentially what Water For Elephants is. Knowing that, I was still pleased to see that the movie works.

Based on the widely popular novel, Water For Elephants is the story of an old man (Hal Holbrook) looking back on the fantastic moments of his life. In his 20’s, young and sensitive Jacob (Robert Pattison) is a veterinary student when he joins the circus. He eventually becomes smitten with the jealous ringmaster’s wife Marlena (Reese Witherspoon,) the circus’ main attraction and their love grows.

Christoph Waltz is mesmerizing as August, the ringmaster and bossman of the circus. The role of August is a great villain, but is a touch more-human than his other notable role of a Nazi in Inglorious Basterds. He’s abusive to his wife and the animals, which caused some of the people I was with in the theater to gasp. One of August’s favorite hobbies seems to be having his thugs toss the no longer useful employees from his moving train in the middle of the night. So much for job security.

Because of the Twilight films, I didn’t expect much from Robert Pattinson. His performance is sensitive, but pretty stiff. Even when he’s being belted with pies and seltzer water as a type of circus hazing ritual, it was tough for him to crack a smile. I am blind to any flaw that Reese Witherspoon might make. She is always golden in my eyes.

The circus is an odd world, full of duality. From the viewer’s perspective, it can be magical and fantastic. Behind the scenes it can be quite a different story. The film gets credit for representing the dark side of caging wild animals. Outside of the show, their lives looked miserable and depressing.

That’s why even though the story is light, those who commit bad deeds are appropriately punished. Justice is served and the viewer is left with some satisfaction having watched it all go down.

One side note. Look closely at  the circus wagons in the film. Some of them were on loan from Circus World Museum. I recognized a couple, but was surprised they let them use them, considering how much badmouthing of the Ringling Brother’s Circus there was.

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It Hasn't Ended Yet

But that doesn't mean it wont.

If you are a movie junkie like me, you know that according to Terminator folklore, the world is about to end.

According to the most recent timeline Skynet became self aware at 8:11pm last night. That means we have 48 hours before the end of the world.

I think I'd just gonna spend it watching American Idol and eating pizza.

If you have no idea what this means, just disregard.

You could ask a sci-fi movie geek. That's if you want a lecture on network security and robot technology. I suggest you just let it go. If you really what to know. Email me and I'll lay it all out....that's if we have enough time.
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Video Movie Review: Super

Adam reviews the new independent flick about everyday superheroes:

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Movie Review: Super

Rated R – 1h36



If I could tell crime one thing, I guess I agree with what The Crimson Bolt says; “Shut up crime!” It’s a little gritty, but an apt phrase for a superhero.

The Crimson Bolt (Rainn Wilson) is the literal and figurative hero in SUPER, a dark, violent and slightly comedic look at vigilante justice. After everyday drug dealer Jaques (played by a skeleton-looking Kevin Bacon) lures away Frank D’Arbo’s wife (Liv Tyler,) he transforms himself into a Crimson Bolt.

The Crimson Bolt has good intentions, but seems to draw his inspiration from hallucinations of him talking to God. After seeing Crimson and his mild-mannered cover Frank, I believe the pair are mentally unhinged. I know heartbreak can change a person, but someone so bent on justice has to see the wrongdoing in smashing a person over the head with a pipe wrench for butting in line.

Then again, there is a police philosophy that any crime is a violation of the law, therefore jaywalking should be handled with the same severity as a serial murdered. I think the idea of purist 1950’s clean-cut justice still rings true in Frank’s head. What makes him just, also makes him scary.

Frank is later joined by sidekick Boltie (Ellen Page.) Page only hints at the neurotic, insecure, over talkative character she gets typecast as. She also doesn’t stray too far.

Frank is also a likable loser. We see him cry in front of other men, over his wife leaving and feel sympathy for his plight. He seems to take on characters that have significant faults, but make up for them with a sense of good. This film gets credit, because it’s not afraid to show the ugly side of human nature.

Last year, you may remember the widescreen release of Kick-Ass. Each film has a similar idea, showing the dark and comical side of the average Joe putting on a costume and fighting crime. SUPER, has a little more heart and oddly enough, more skull cracking too.

This movie seems to be sold as a superhero comedy. There’s only hints at comedy here. It’s more satire on the comic book culture and playing with the audience’s expectations of what should happen to a superhero.

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I Am Cell Phone Cursed

I should just not have a cell phone.  I am CURSED!

You may recall back in the winter of 2009, when I accidentally dropped my iPhone in a snow bank while shoveling.   I found it 4 1/2 months later, but only after replacing it at a hefty cost.

I've done it again.

This morning while washing my hands, I set my phone on the sink edge and it slid in.  It was under the running water for about 1.5 seconds before I snatched it out.   The damage may have been done.  Instead of being a smart person who turned the phone off and tried to dry it out.  I tried to make a call.

I've lost the speaker that goes next to your ear, rendering the phone mostly useless.  Seems like everything else works, including the external iPod speaker.

After multiple suggestions from my Facebook friends, I have the phone sitting in a box of Instant Enriched Long Grain Premium Minute Rice.  I hope it dries it out.  We'll keep it there for 24 hours and see what happens.

In the meantime, I can't stop looking inside the rice box to see what's happening. I had to tape it shut.  It is too much temptation to keep looking inside.

Also, I wonder if I could use the rice afterward for cooking?
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Video Movie Review: Hanna

Adam reviews the new action-thriller Hanna:

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Movie Review: Hanna

Rated PG-13 – 1h51



In the action-thriller world, it’s hard to think of another teenage girl who I might fear more than Hanna. A surprisingly energetic movie, it manages to satisfy our revenge-lust while making sure justice is served.

16-year old Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) is home schooled by her super spy father (Eric Bana.) He not only educates her with an encyclopedia, he also shows Hanna his training to defend herself in the deadliest of situations. She sets out on a mission to avenge her slain mother and finds out she is more than your average teenager. Marissa (Cate Blanchett) is a rogue agent on their trail.

The shock and draw of this movie is the juxtaposition of the fair-haired, delicate little girl, who can turn deadly on a moment’s notice. Ronan made my eyes bug out in a tremendous escape scene. She is crawling through a ventilation system like a child might crawl through playground equipment, except every once in a while you get a glance of the gun she just took off a guard, that she mercilessly killed.

In the action genre, something big always packs the punch. It’s a bigger gun, a meathead henchman named Jaws or a supped-up car. That’s why Hanna was refreshingly entertaining. It was quite the opposite of what you expect.

Ronan plays Hanna as an inquisitive and smart yet ferocious creature. Blanchett was delightfully playing the evil stepmother type, and Bana, who I tire of quickly, was even watchable.

We eventually find out the details of Hanna’s past and why people are hunting her down. I also felt much sympathy for Hanna’s situation and wondered how she would live in he world after the film stopped rolling? She managed to walk into an internet café and assumingly never having seen a computer before, she manages to hop online for information.

I guess that’s the mindset of a super soldier. Adapt or die is her motto. I’m sure she’ll do fine.

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Wisconsin Film Fest Recap

It was a busy weekend for me at the Wisconsin Film Festival.

In all, I caught eight movies ranging from foreign film to documentaries and animation.

Of the films that I saw, there is one that I can highly recommend.

Troll Hunters (2010) is a mockumentary, in Norwegian with English subtitles.

The basic premise is a group of college students, trying to make a name for themselves in the documentary film world, set out to investigate a much frowned upon bear poaching.

What they find is something beyond their imagination.

That's as far as I'll go without any spoilers. The seemingly low-budget film has action, comedy and a self-mocking nature that was a pleasure to watch. The special effects also stand tall.

While it may seem to mimic The Blair Witch Project at times, Troll Hunters is a unique and entertaining story all to itself. Now, where to find it?

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Video Movie Review: Source Code

Adam reviews the new Jake Gyllenhall sci-fi thriller Source Code:

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Movie Review: Source Code

Rated PG-13 – 1h59



I do love a good sci-fi thriller and I think we’ve found an early year goodie in Source Code.

Source Code is a dark, sci-fi cousin of Groundhog Day. It manages to thrill, make the mind wonder and give us a sense that humanity will deliver us a brighter future. That’s a pretty tall order to deliver on, but Jake Gyllenhaal and Vera Farmiga are able to carry the load.

Colter Stevens (Gyllenhaal) wakes to discover he’s part of a government experiment that allows a person to take over another man’s identity for the last eight minutes of their life. The mission is to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train before they hit a much larger target. Colleen Goodman (Farmiga) is Steven’s contact. In a hidden military lab, she communicates with him through an elaborate Skype setup.

To question the unbelievable logic and fantastic science behind the movie is to look beyond the point. The point of this movie is a man’s struggle to right a wrong. The enjoyment of this movie is to see the story unravel.

One reason this all works is because there are dark themes, which seem to match Gyllenhaal’s style well. All of the people on the train will die. He has to put that aside and find clues to stop the next tragedy. Steven’s also has to cope with his own reality amid the confusion of why he’s a soldier, turned futuristic data-cop.

Because Michelle Monaghan wasn’t in every single minute of this movie, I feel like she may have been underutilized. She plays the girl on the train that Stevens is riding with. It’s hard not to gravitate towards her beauty and acting skills. I’ll watch her in anything.

In the movies, power must corrupt. What seems to be a brilliant tool for fighting crime also has to come with a human cost. I’ll stop there without laying out any spoilers.

I can say that it’s rare to see a modern sci-fi film that’s got a lot of good ingredients mixed in. This film is worth the while.

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Video Movie Review: Sucker Punch

Adam feels like he just got Sucker Punch-ed:

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Movie Review: Sucker Punch

Rated PG-13 – 2h



I would consider it a great accomplishment to tie together a coherent film noir about mental institutions, sword play, epic battle scenes, dragons, robots, samurai warriors, World War II steam-powered automatons, debauchery, corruption and battle ready young women who love to show off their midriffs. The thing is, trying to throw in all those ideas into one film makes it very incoherent.

I’m still not exactly sure what the title means, but bear with me as I try to describe this jumbled mess.

A young woman is accused of accidentally killing her younger sister and is sent to a 1950’s style mental hospital. While there, she introverts into a fantasy world where the goal to escaping an oppressive pimp who make them wear lingerie 24-7 and dance for money. Somehow freeing herself in the fantasy world is also supposed to free her physical self from the mental hospital.

Really, the plot is beside the point. I’m not exactly sure who would like this movie, unless they are fans of video game, anime, sword-wielding female fighters. I can’t really recommend this movie to anyone, because I don’t really know anybody like that.

The stylized violence is the only thing Sucker Punch has going for itself and even with that, the film is weak. While themes from Inception, our lead heroine is in a second level escapism dream, she is engaged in WWII style trench warfare. She and her friends dispatch countless steam powered burn victims while trying to capture a object that will help them escape from the first level escapism dream.

Only consequence-less, bloodless, thrill killings follow. The best thing I can say about it is that they took the time to reload, avoiding the endless-bullet movie cliché.

While Sucker Punch may exceed with eye popping effects, it leaves you wondering of the director has ever actually spoken to an actual woman. None of the cast of scantily dressed women portrayed anything genuine. I think he was too busy playing video games.

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Movie Review: The Lincoln Lawyer

Rated R – 1h59



Just when I thought I never wanted to see another legal drama or Matthew McConaughey on-screen ever again, along comes The Lincoln Lawyer.

Mickey Haller (McConaughey) is a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney who operates out of the back of his late 80’s model Lincoln sedan. He’s spent most of his career defending garden-variety criminals, until he lands the case of his career: defending Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe), a Beverly Hills playboy accused of rape and attempted murder.

The seemingly straightforward case suddenly develops into a deadly game of survival for Haller.

For every legal action-drama cliché that this movie throws out, there is an equally thrilling twist or character tweak that didn’t expect. This movie is smart, exciting and has a strong supporting cast including Marisa Tomei, William H. Macy and John Leguzamo. Each character gets the chance to shine, nobody is overpowering and all are flawed and enjoyable.

The Lincoln Lawyer is not perfect. Like many movies that dabble with the law, grandiose ideas are reduced down to a simple, one-sentence of dialogue. Some characters are unnecessary and arrive at extremely convenient points in the plot. I found it forgivable.

Honestly, I almost forgot that McConaughey could act. He’s been in so many romantic comedies and other lame examples of movies that I had written him off as a hack. He really performs well in dramas. I know actors like to stretch out of their comfort zone, but sticking to the things you are really good can also be a challenge too. Not that he’d take my advice, but I think Matthew should.

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Video Movie Review: Rango

Adam reviews the new animated Johnny Depp movie  Rango.

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Movie Review: Rango

Rated R – 1h45



I think if Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, Pale Rider and the toy animals from Toy Story all got together, Rango would be their baby.

Rango is the story of a domesticated lizard who dreams his life is a stage filled with rich characters. Given a shot of freedom he uses the opportunity to create a new personality, while on the path to finding himself.

In the comic western style of Blazing Saddles and followed by a Greek Chorus of Owls in a Mariachi band, Rango assumes sheriff duties of western town and tries to help them solve their water crisis. Not only is this a tip of the 10-Gallon hat to westerns, Rango also pays homage to films across the board including Apocalypse Now and the aforementioned Pale Rider and Fear and Loathing.

Johnny Depp lends Rango his voice, but is just one of a dozen beautifully defined characters. They look real, and they feel real enough to make a human connection to them.

One of the characters is the amazing desert backdrop where the story takes place. At times I wondered whether the film was merging real life footage with the CGI. Possibly a great sign of advanced animation movie making?

Even though it’s animated and rated PG, I can’t really say this is a kid’s movie. The dialogue is often complex, there’s a lot of deep existential thought and there’s a focus on artistic beauty. No groin shots, no animal farts, no princesses. OK, some animal farts.

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Adam's Oscar Predictions

Here's how I think the pics are gonna play out...

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Movie Review: Hall Pass

Rated R – 1h45



Just one question for the makers of Hall Pass. Why save your most funny ideas for the end credits? The extreme lengths that men will go to, in order to get lucky, is what makes comedies like these funny.

Hall Pass is a social-marital experiment of sorts. Two archetypical suburban men-children feel trapped in married life. Their wives grant both men a week off of marriage. They are allowed to do anything they want, including see other women. The idea is that it will breathe new life into the old relationship and with it’s new found freedom, the old relationship will blossom once again.

The comedy should have come from the extremes that the main characters Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudekis) would take their new freedoms. It’s doesn’t. In fact, most of the plot is boring with enough male-directed laughs to keep you waiting for the next one.

It’s hard to watch when a joke completely falls flat. I counted about five instances in Hall Pass before I gave up. One involved a comic mix up between the group Snow Patrol and the Cuba Gooding Jr. movie Snow Dogs. Owen Wilson is trying to hit on a hot barista, when another man calls him out. Another involves male frontal nudity, which done in a particular way, can be quite funny. This time, they didn’t seem to work and it was like pressing pause in the movie.

Overall this movie fails in its attempt to serve as a raunchy-guys movie, because it tries to walk into the feel-good date movie territory. Choose one formula and stay there. It makes a lot more sense to the viewer.

The Farrlley Brothers, who have delivered us comic gems like Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary, are know to throw some raunch in for fun. I know its not fair to continually judge them according to the success of There’s Something about Mary, but I say either go overboard with it or just keep it to one joke.

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Oscar Picks - Guaranteed

There is no debating. There is no budging. There is no compromise.

Yeesh. I sound like the Governor here.

What I am talking about is not what's going on in downtown Madison. No, my focus is on downtown Hollywood this weekend and The 83rd Annual Academy Awards.

I've taken the Top 10 Oscar categories and locked in what is sure to be guaranteed winners.

How do I know these will be winners? Don't ask such silly questions. Some things must remain unknown.

Best Motion Picture of the Year
127 Hours
Black Swan
The Fighter
Inception
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter's Bone

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Javier Bardem for Biutiful.
Jeff Bridges for True Grit.
Jesse Eisenberg for The Social Network.
Colin Firth for The King's Speech.
James Franco for 127 Hours.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Annette Bening for The Kids Are All Right.
Nicole Kidman for Rabbit Hole.
Jennifer Lawrence for Winter's Bone.
Natalie Portman for Black Swan.
Michelle Williams for Blue Valentine.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Christian Bale for The Fighter.
John Hawkes for Winter's Bone.
Jeremy Renner for The Town.
Mark Ruffalo for The Kids Are All Right.
Geoffrey Rush for The King's Speech.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Amy Adams for The Fighter.
Helena Bonham Carter for The King's Speech.
Melissa Leo for The Fighter.
Hailee Steinfeld for True Grit.
Jacki Weaver for Animal Kingdom.

Best Achievement in Directing
Darren Aronofsky for Black Swan.
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen for True Grit.
David Fincher for The Social Network.
Tom Hooper for The King's Speech.
David O. Russell for The Fighter.

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year
How to Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3

Best Achievement in Visual Effects
Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Hereafter
Inception
Iron Man 2

Best Documentary, Features
Exit Through the Gift Shop
GasLand
Inside Job
Restrepo
Waste Land

Best Achievement in Cinematography
Black Swan
Inception
The King's Speech
The Social Network
True Grit
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Strictly For Movie Geeks

This is something pretty cool that AMC (Star Cinema) is doing next weekend.  The question is...can you stand watching 11+ straight hours of movies?

They're going to show all ten Oscar Best Picture Nominees (five one day, five another day) in a row.  Details.

A two-day pass is $60 and is good for all 10 films divided between both days. To make up for the insane bleacher butt you're gonna get, they're throwing in $10 per day in concession stand gift cards. You gotta over the course of 10 hours! A one day pass is $35 (available online and at participating theatres' box office)

Here's he schedule of films for the two-day event is as follows:
Saturday, February 19
11:00 a.m. Toy Story 3 (103 min)
1:00 p.m. 127 Hours (95 min)
3:00 p.m.The Kids are All Right (106 min)
5:45 p.m. True Grit (110 min)
7:45 p.m. The Fighter (116 min)

Saturday, February 26
11:00 a.m. Winter's Bone (100 min)
1:00 p.m. Black Swan (109 min)
3:10 p.m. Inception (148 min)
6:45 p.m. The Social Network (121 min)
9:00 p.m. The King's Speech (119 min)

They suggest you dress comfortably. Ha! Can I bring a bleacher cushion?

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Video Movie Revew: Sanctum

Adam reviews the new film that James Cameron put his magic touch on.



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Movie Review: Sanctum

Rated R – 1h49



If I were to name three things that bore me; cave exploration, C-List Australian actors and James Cameron might actually make the list. Unfortunately for me, Sacntum has all three.

Based on a true story, Sanctum follows a group of adventerous researchers who are exploring a gigantic cave and have to spelunk for their lives after a rainstorm threatens to flood their only entrance and exit.

This isn’t James Cameron’s follow up to Avatar, because that would be a sad, sad reality for him. He’s got Executive Producer credits on this film, which means little other than that he served as a consultant. Heck, I think my dog has Executive Producer credits on some movies from the early 2000’s.

Sanctum features a cast of mostly unknown actors who deliver cheesy and flat performances. While dealing with the natural disaster they’re facing, they resort to bad dialogue, uninspired drama and awkward Australian phraseology. I would have been happier if somebody said “a dingo stole my baby,” but again, I’m out of luck.

Maybe Indiana Jones could still get away with saying “What could possibly go wrong with diving in caves?” This cast makes the foreshadowing obvious and annoying.

The movie is also shot from a confusing perspective. You never really can grasp whether the cave they are in is 10 feet from the surface or six miles under. Most of the scenes take place in a cramped cave space that doesn’t give you the massive feeling that a cave should give you.

Like Cameron’s last work, the scenery is beautiful in Sanctum. The tropical forests, underground worlds and underwater oceans were a character to themselves. Sadly again, they were the only interesting character. You can dress a movie up and even put it in shiny 3D, but if the story is lacking, there won’t be much to enjoy.

This movie could have been much more with better execution. Being trapped in a cave, miles under the earth’s surface and having to rely on your strengths to get you out is a scary and intriguing premise. I think if Cameron really had his hands on this movie, he would have been able to root out Sanctum’s glaring weaknesses. Putting his name on it only serves to weaken his overextended and no longer welcome pitch for 3D.

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Video Movie Review: The Mechanic

Adam reviews the new action remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson film; The Mechanic.

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Movie Review: The Mechanic

Rated R – 1h32



Let’s be honest. It’s rare to find a good action movie that’s not cliché and predictable. We know countless shells of ammunition will spill on the ground. We know at least a couple tough guy one-liners are inevitable. We know someone will get punched really hard in the face.

You really just hope that the one you’re watching chalks up a low score on the predictability scale. The Mechanic did that for me.

Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham) is an elite hitman, aka a mechanic. Feeling guilty for taking out a close and personal target (Donald Sutherland,) he accepts the target’s son Steve McKenna (Ben Foster) as his protégé. I wonder if the kid is going to find out? Don’t cry that I’ve already pointed out the key storyline. Remember, we’re here for the action.

Though the audience that goes to see this film probably won’t admit it, I find it perfectly acceptable to have a man-crush on the bullet-headed intensity of Statham. He’s leading the game of modern action heroes and in many ways he’s a likable actor.

Of course this is a movie about over-excess. Just look at the movie poster. It’s a picture of a gun, made up of a bunch of little guns.

The only really annoying thing about this movie had nothing to do with the lead actors. In one scene Statham has a friendly old man who serves as his watchman. (Think of him as a Wal-Mart style greeter.) When he is not at his post, it should be clear that something is wrong. Instead, the film dumbs itself down, and highlights the facts that the old man is not at his post, tipping you off that he is missing. Is this not obvious? Did the film editor fall asleep? No, it’s just a ploy to keep everyone up to pace with what’s going on.

Overall, Statham and Foster deliver solid performances in a film that falls victim to action cliché. It’s a remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson movie of the same name, for the new generation.  While it may be easy to point out faults, I find it suited my latent bloodlust for the day.

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Video Movie Review: Blue Valentine

Adam reviews the anti-romantic comedy Blue Valentine. Grab your tissues.

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Movie Review: Blue Valentine

Rated R – 1h52



It’s funny how hard it is to watch somebody’s life completely fall to pieces. Still, I think the draw to watching mistake after mistake until the downward spiral bottoms out, is the cautionary lesson you can hopfully take from it.

Blue Valentine time shifts around the lives of Cindy (Michelle Williams) and Dean (Ryan Gosling.) Quite the opposite of a romantic comedy, we watch the married couple make the heart-wrenching and heavy relationship decisions that we hope we never have to make.

People always wish that they could be young again, but surviving the emotional strife that these two twenty-something go through seems like too far a mountain for me to climb. I could feel the pending sense of doom for this pair from the moment they decided that their song was one that goes “you always hurt the one you love.”

Dean is all heart and no brains. A romantic lunkhead. Cindy is emotionally fragile from a troubled home life. We watch their relationship from beginning to it’s breakdown and worst of all, see them completely forget the reasons they decided to get married.

The viewer is left to piece together what went wrong. Makes you hope that when the time comes, you can do the same.

I personally still find it hard to watch Michelle Williams without having some kind of sad thought about how her family was shattered after the death of  Heath Ledger. They say true art comes from pain. It didn’t take long to become invested in Dean and Cindy. Williams acting made it easy to put aside her real life story and focus on the drama on screen.

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Golden Globe Predictions

I'm not a big fan of the Golden Globes, but I do like make predictions. That's the only reason I'm acknowledging the Oscar's -Lite ceremony on Sunday that everybody else calls the Golden Globes. It's basically a popularity contest instead of a reward for good work.

I poo-poo the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. They are a group of "journalists" whose sole purpose is to cozy up to celebrities. it's well known that they bribe celebrities and throw parties for them. These are the same celebrities who they are supposed to impartially judge and decide which movies are of worth. Anyone else see the conflict of interest here?

So, with that in mind, I make the following picks for Sunday night's show. I have also included a few categories that I think should be added to the ceremony. (We all love how long these dumb shows last...right?)

Nominated Movie Picked Because Of Big Name Stars, But Has No Business Being Nominated
The Tourist - Johnny Depp/Angelina Jolie

Nominated Move Picked Because Of neat Special Effects, But Has No Business Being Nominated
Alice In Wonderland (2010)

Category Where The Judges Obviously Have A Crush On Johnny Depp

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy Or Musical - Depp is nominated like 5 times.

Here's the real categories with who I think will win in BOLD.

Best Motion Picture - Drama
Black Swan
The Fighter
Inception
The King's Speech
The Social Network

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama
Halle Berry – Frankie and Alice
Nicole Kidman – Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence – Winter's Bone
Natalie Portman – Black Swan
Michelle Williams – Blue Valentine

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama
Jesse Eisenberg – The Social Network
Colin Firth – The King's Speech
James Franco – 127 Hours
Ryan Gosling – Blue Valentine
Mark Wahlberg – The Fighter

Best Motion Picture - Comedy Or Musical
Alice in Wonderland
Burlesque
The Kids Are All Right
Red
The Tourist

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy Or Musical
Annette Bening – The Kids Are All Right
Anne Hathaway – Love And Other Drugs
Angelina Jolie – The Tourist
Julianne Moore – The Kids Are All Right
Emma Stone – Easy A

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy Or Musical
Johnny Depp – Alice in Wonderland
Johnny Depp – The Tourist
Paul Giamatti – Barney's Version
Jake Gyllenhaal – Love And Other Drugs
Kevin Spacey – Casino Jack

Best Performance by an Actress In A Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

Amy Adams – The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter – The King's Speech
Mila Kunis – Black Swan
Melissa Leo – The Fighter
Jacki Weaver – Animal Kingdom

Best Performance by an Actor In A Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Christian Bale – The Fighter
Michael Douglas – Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Andrew Garfield – The Social Network
Jeremy Renner – The Town
Geoffrey Rush – The King's Speech

Best Animated Feature Film
Despicable Me
How To Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist
Tangled
Toy Story 3

Best Director - Motion Picture
Darren Aronofsky – Black Swan
David Fincher – The Social Network
Tom Hooper – The King's Speech
Christopher Nolan – Inception
David O. Russell – The Fighter

Best Screenplay - Motion Picture
Simon Beaufoy, Danny Boyle - 127 Hours
Christopher Nolan - Inception
Stuart Blumberg, Lisa Cholodenko - The Kids Are All Right
David Seidler - The King's Speech
Aaron Sorkin - The Social Network

Best Television Series - Drama
Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
Dexter (SHOWTIME)
The Good Wife (CBS)
Mad Men (AMC)
The Walking Dead (AMC)

Best Performance by an Actress In A Television Series - Drama
Julianna Margulies – The Good Wife (CBS)
Elisabeth Moss – Mad Men (AMC)
Piper Perabo – Covert Affairs
Katey Sagal – Sons Of Anarchy
Kyra Sedgwick – The Closer (TNT)

Best Performance by an Actor In A Television Series - Drama
Steve Buscemi – Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
Bryan Cranston – Breaking Bad
Michael C. Hall – Dexter (SHOWTIME)
Jon Hamm – Mad Men (AMC)
Hugh Laurie – House (FOX)

Best Television Series - Comedy Or Musical
30 Rock (NBC)
The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
The Big C (Showtime)
Glee (FOX)
Modern Family (ABC)
Nurse Jackie (SHOWTIME)

Best Performance by an Actress In A Television Series - Comedy Or Musical
Toni Collette – United States Of Tara (SHOWTIME)
Edie Falco – Nurse Jackie (SHOWTIME)
Tina Fey – 30 Rock (NBC)
Laura Linney – The Big C (Showtime)
Lea Michele – Glee (FOX)

Best Performance by an Actor In A Television Series - Comedy Or Musical

Alec Baldwin – 30 Rock (NBC)
Steve Carell – The Office (NBC)
Thomas Jane – Hung (HBO)
Matthew Morrison – Glee (FOX)
Jim Parsons – The Big Bang Theory (CBS)

Best Mini-Series Or Motion Picture Made for Television
Carlos (Sundance C)
The Pacific (HBO)
Pillars Of The Earth (STARZ)
Temple Grandin (HBO)
You Don't Know Jack (HBO)

Best Performance by an Actress In A Mini-series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Hayley Atwell – Pillars Of The Earth (STARZ)
Claire Danes – Temple Grandin (HBO)
Judi Dench – Return To Cranford
Romola Garai – Emma
Jennifer Love Hewitt – The Client List

Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Idris Elba – Luther
Ian McShane – Pillars Of The Earth (STARZ)
Al Pacino – You Don't Know Jack (HBO)
Dennis Quaid – The Special Relationship
Edgar Ramirez – Carlos (Sundance C)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Hope Davis – The Special Relationship
Jane Lynch – Glee (FOX)
Kelly MacDonald – Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
Julia Stiles – Dexter (SHOWTIME)
Sofia Vergara – Modern Family (ABC)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Scott Caan – Hawaii Five-O
Chris Colfer – Glee (FOX)
Chris Noth – The Good Wife (CBS)
Eric Stonestreet – Modern Family (ABC)
David Strathairn – Temple Grandin (HBO)
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Video Movie Review: Season Of The Witch

Adam reviews the new Nicholas Cage film: Season of the Witch

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Movie Review: Season Of The Witch

Rated PG-13 – 1h38



It seems, about this time of year we typically get another mediocre film with Nicholas Cage in it. So much for starting new in 2011.

Season Of The Witch begins with a series of Crusader battles, which somehow are bloodless, and do less than thrill as they strive for epic battle status. Behman (Cage) and Felson (Ron Perlman) are some of the fiercest warriors, until (12 years later!) they decide killing in the church’s and god name isn’t so honorable. Maybe they’re just too old for that stuff.

After ditching, they return to a convenient town that’s become stricken with the plague. It’s no mistake that it’s the same town from the opening sequence that previously hung three suspected witches, but didn’t do the job quite right.

That sets Behman and Felson on a quest to finish the witchhunt. I won’t really give anything away that the biggest twist in the movie is revealed early on. The witches in question are actually witches. When does that ever happen?

In any case, this movie is a scatterbrain. Is it a buddy comedy between Behman and Felson? Is it another weak Nicholas Cage action flick? Is it a period piece? Is it a good guys vs the supernatural horror movie? It’s a bit of each of them, which means the film loses it’s focus and wanders, just like the main characters do.

I’m trying to remember a movie with so many religious themes in it, that isn’t religious at all. Season Of The Witch steers down the road of mythology and dogma, before crashing it’s medieval wagon on the side of the road.

Also, what is going on with Nick Cage’s hair? I couldn’t tell if that was a bad wig, or just a hairdresser who can’t see.

The only redeeming quality of this film if Ron Perlman. He knows how to execute a supernatural action movie (See Hellboy. No, really go watch it.) If not for his one-liners, furrowed brow and smirky expressions, I wouldn’t have even gone to see this.

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Top 10 Best Movies Of 2010- Revised

OK...I'm free to change my mind...right? I caught one more movie this week that's going to change my mind about my Top 10 Movies of 2010 list. Keep in mind I wrote this list while some 2010 movies hadn't been released yet.

Since it's on the books as having a 2010 release date, and its most likely going to be an Oscar contender, I wanted to add it it.

Rarely are there movies that do a beautiful job of showing how people overcome adversity and grow from it. The King's Speech is one of those movies. Here's my revisions:

#10 - Shutter Island - A excellent tale, a dark backdrop and a story that I couldn't quite figure out until the end.

#9 - The Kids Are Alright - I watched it on a 7 1/2" blurry screen on a flight from Detroit to Paris. It was still good.

#8 - True Grit - The Dude does The Duke justice. Brilliant dialogue in a classic western style.

#7 - The Fighter - I apologize for calling this one a modern day "Rocky." It has it's own story and a lot of heart.

#6 - Toy Story 3 - You win this time Disney.

#5 - Inception - Don't tell me it was too hard to follow. This was a fantastic, original, and visually stunning idea.

#3 - (Two Way Tie) 127 Hours & Black Swan- Minus the whole arm cutting off thing, I felt a close connection to 127 Hours love of the outdoors. A great nature movie. Black Swan was just beautiful in every way.

#2 - The King's Speech - Colin Firth and Geoffery Rush pull off a masterpiece. I love movies about people overcoming their disabilities. This one is fantastic.

#1 - The Social Network - Intense, dramatic and topical. Rarely does a movie draw you in this much. I had to check my watch because the two hour run time flew by.

Other winners:
Honors For Being Bumped Off The Top 10 List Version 1.0:
The Town
My Guilty Pleasure Of 2010: Machete
Favorite Close To A Series: The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest
Favorite Comedy: Get Him To The Greek
Favorite Movie That No One Else Liked: Hot Tub Time Machine
Favorite Scary Movie: Devil
Favorite Movie With Flaming Swords Starring Michael Cera: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Favorite Kids Movie If Not For Toy Story 3: How To Train Your Dragon


#10 - The Town - A great crime thriller. Say what you will about Ben Affleck. The dude knows how to make a good Baaaaah-ston movie.

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Top 10 Worst Movies Of 2010

Now for something completely different...is what I wished I could have done with the time I wasted on these movies in 2010.

Keep in mind, it was hard compiling a Top 10 Worst Movies of 2010 list, because there was a TON of crap film out there. Please. Please heed my warnings. If you haven't seen these films, don't waste your time.

#10 - Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows - Part 1 - I really prefer my movies to have a beginning, middle AND and ending. (see Star Wars Trilogy on how to make movies that are part of a series, yet also stand on their own)

#9 - Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps - Is Shia LaBeouf out to wreck every single movie franchise out there. This movie was flacid at best.

#8 - The Last Airbender - Please make it stop M. Night Shyamalan.

#7 - Valentines Day - How many big movie stars does it take to make a horrible and predictable love story? I stopped counting at 18.

#6 - Clash Of The Titans (2010) - Sure it's cool to hear Liam Neeson say "Release The Kracken." That was the only cool thing about it.

#5 - The Twilight Saga: Eclipse - I seriously would rather bang a hammer against a metal bucket that is on my head that have to watch this poor excuse for a film. Complete dribble.

#4 - The Tourist - I really wanted to like this but Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie stunk. Very predictable.

#3 - Avatar: The Special Edition - Really James Cameron?!? You release your movie again with a few extra minutes? I'm glad nobody fell for it.

#2 - Little Fockers - I hate this pun, and I want to punch Ben Stiller in the face. Really America? You went to see this instead of True Grit?

#1 - Grown Ups - 1,000 paper cuts and a vat of lemon would have been nicer. I'd rather watch Eclipse three times, the entire Fockers series and Eclipse again, than watch Grown Ups.

Honorable mentions:
Worst Use Of Will Smith's Kids: Tie: Jayden Smith in The Karate Kid, Willow Smith - Song: Whip My Hair
Worst Epic Movie That Should Have Been Better: Robin Hood
Worst Movie That Was Actually Good: The A-Team
Please Stop Making These: Saw 3D
Worst Movie With A Great Alternate Ending: Yogi Bear - See it here..
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Top 10 Best Movies of 2010

It's time for my annual list of the Best Movies of 2010. There was a LOT of very poorly made movies this year (I'm looking at you Little Fockers,) which is why these ones stood out and deserve a viewing.

Since I'm only picking ten , I also added a few extra made-up categories of other movies worth mentioning below.

#10 - The Town - A great crime thriller. Say what you will about Ben Affleck. The dude knows how to make a good Baaaaah-ston movie.

#9 - Shutter Island - A excellent tale, a dark backdrop and a story that I couldn't quite figure out until the end.

#8 - The Kids Are Alright - I watched it on a 7 1/2" blurry screen on a flight from Detroit to Paris. It was still good.

#7 - True Grit - The Dude does The Duke justice. Brilliant dialogue in a classic western style.

#6 - The Fighter - I apologize for calling this one a modern day "Rocky." It has it's own story and a lot of heart.

#5 - Toy Story 3 - You win this time Disney.

#4 - Inception - Don't tell me it was too hard to follow. This was a fantastic, original, and visually stunning idea.

#2 - (Two Way Tie) 127 Hours & Black Swan- Minus the whole arm cutting off thing, I felt a close connection to 127 Hours love of the outdoors. A great nature movie. Black Swan was just beautiful in every way.

#1 - The Social Network - Intense, dramatic and topical. Rarely does a movie draw you in this much. I had to check my watch because the two hour run time flew by.

Other winners:

My Guilty Pleasure Of 2010: Machete
Favorite Close To A Series: The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest
Favorite Comedy: Get Him To The Greek
Favorite Movie That No One Else Liked: Hot Tub Time Machine
Favorite Scary Movie: Devil
Favorite Movie With Flaming Swords Starring Michael Cera: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Favorite Kids Movie If Not For Toy Story 3: How To Train Your Dragon
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Movie Review: True Grit

Rated R – 1h50



If I only had brought a notepad to watch this movie. Then I would have dialogue that was just as sharp, snappy and brilliant as they lay out in the remake of True Grit.

The Coen Brothers do their storytelling magic once again. In each of their films, they deliver a character that you just can’t seem to get out of your head. Jeff Bridges is that character again, but he’s not The Dude. He’s a grumpy, old curmudgeon of a US Marshall.

After the death of her father at the hands of Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin,) strong-headed youngster Mattie Ross (Hailee Stienfeld) goes out in search of justice. While it seems like she is prepared to kill the man who killed her father, Mattie first enlists the help of Marshall Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn (Bridges) to help her hunt him down. LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) is a dim witted Texas Ranger who’s also on the trail of Chaney for previous crimes he’s committed.

The brilliance of the film lies with its brilliant characters. They have depth, are interesting to watch and you cheer for their success. That said, you can almost smell the BO, whiskey breath and cigarette smoke that comes off of Bridges portrayal of Rooster Cogburn.
Mattie is a girl you are better off having on your side. Her standout performance doesn’t wear you down, although I could easily see this type of character in another film, wearing you thin. The pair’s dark comical tones are a treat.

This is definitely the most palatable Coen Brothers film to date. It’s made to feel just a western, but there are few trademark cringe-worthy moments. Despite the fact they spend much time in the woods, there are no wood chippers. There are cattle, but no air-powered cattle guns. There are grumpy men, but not to the level of an angry outburst of Walter Sobchak.

A note. True Grit (2010) is not meant to be straight up remake of the John Wayne western. It’s based more off the book of the same name and even Damon was told not to watch the original as a starting point. That’s a good move because it doesn’t try to recreate the essence of Wayne. Nobody should try that. The Dude doesn’t try to out-Duke the Duke and that’s why this works so well.

Another note: although Johnny Cash's "God's Gonna Cut You Down" is used brilliantly in the trailer, it does not appear in the movie.

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Video Movie Review: Black Swan

Adam reviews the much hyped new thriller-drama Black Swan.  Does it live up to it?

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Movie Review: Black Swan

Rated R – 1h48



Didn’t anyone ever tell Natalie Portman that pobody’s nerfect? Ironically, in a story that warns about the dangers of perfection, the director and cast nearly achieve it.

Black Swan is the seductive story of Nina Sayers (Portman) whose life is completely surrounded by her job as a ballerina. She’s got drive, technique and a possessive mother, vicariously living through her. With Mommy’s aid, it’s enough to tip the scales of sanity for Nina. Parents who demand perfection seem to do that (see Tiger Woods.)

After landing the lead role in a new production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, Nina’s paranoia and perfectionist ways lead her astray. The story mirrors Swan Lake as Nina loses herself in ballet, but also loses her mind. Tragic, yet compelling to watch.

Being a person that only has anecdotally experienced ballet, I must say it was not difficult watching almost two hours of it. Ballet itself seem excessive, but with the absurd nature of this movie, it seems to fit. Portman is a favorite of mine, because I believe she’s a smart one on and off the screen. You won’t catch her out of character, even for a minute

Director Darren Aronofsky again proves he’s got a knack for piecing together works that seem supernatural yet grounded, all while exposing the psychological flaws of humans. You always want his characters to achieve their own version of success, but they are the only ones standing in their way.

Black Swan shows beauty. It’s in the film’s music, dance and life, even as tragic as it can be.

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270 Films From 2010 In 6 Minutes

Yeah.  I saw most of these. I tend to go to the movies a lot.

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Top Movies of 2010

The American Film Institute has released it's list of the Ten Best movies of 2010. They aren't in any order, nor is there a #1.  Here's what they said:


  • Inception

  • Toy Story 3

  • The Social Network

  • The Town

  • True Grit

  • Black Swan

  • The Fighter

  • The Kids Are All Right

  • 127 Hours

  • Winter's Bone



Side note: here's where I do my annual complaining about how it is unfair for us in Wisconsin.  We don't get movies released on the same schedule as they do on the east and west coasts.  That's why you'll see movies like True Grit, Black Swan and The Fighter on these year end lists...even though you haven't seen or maybe even heard of them.

Since I can't judge those three movies yet, I'll make my top ten movies list for 2010 with one caveat.  These are movies that I've seen, and this list may change by Dec 31st, 2010.


  • Inception

  • Toy Story 3

  • The Social Network

  • The Town

  • The Kids Are All Right

  • 127 Hours

  • Shutter Island

  • Devil

  • Cyrus

  • How To Train Your Dragon



Honorable mentions also going to:


  • The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Next, The Runaways, Machete and Salt



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Video Movie Review: The Tourist

Adam reviews the new Johnny Depp/Angelina Jolie film: The Tourist.

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Movie Review: The Tourist

Rated PG-13 – 1h43



Johnny Depp’s love affair with Wisconsin continues. First, he was here for Public Enemies, now he claims to be a born and bred Cheesehead.

Two of today’s arguably biggest stars (Depp & Angelina Jolie) pair up for this European romantic comedy/crime thriller, but the end results are about as good as the Dollar-to-Euro exchange rate (not great.)

The sparklingly attractive, foreign and mysterious Elise (Jolie) sits next to Frank (Depp,) a random American math teacher, on a train from Paris to Venice. Sorry Frank, it’s a guise to throw the authorities off her trail. Elise has been evading the police, who are after her lover, who is accused of embezzling some big bucks. They couple need to dodge the cops and the mobster from whom the money was stolen.

The Tourist gets and A+ for a beautiful European setting. It’s a treat to look at. Unfortunately, there is a lack of chemistry between our two stars. The plot and action are unbelievable and weak.

I kind of get the feeling that most of this movie was lost in the production. There’s an amazing amount of directorial prowess behind the camera. On screen, we also get a nice array of supporting characters, none of which are used to their potential. The film went through a couple directors. Charlize Theron was originally going to play Elise and Sam Worthington was going to be Frank. Things just got watered down in the mix.

I can say it was a surprise treat that the background story of Frank includes him living in Wisconsin. That being said the two references to America’s Dairyland seem to be delivered with a chagrin and semi-mocking nature. It’s as if the writers brainstormed a place that could be believably common and non-interesting. (Hey! You’re talking about my home state here!)

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Thank You Leslie Nielsen, and stop calling me Shirley

I wanted to take the time today to remember an actor who has had a significant influence on my life.

Roger Ebert once called him the "Lawrence Oliver" of spoof , but I'd go one step further and say he was the King Kong of spoof comedy.

Leslie Nielsen died yesterday at the age of 84 from complications due to a pneumonia.

As a child, there was no greater actor who may have influenced my immature sense of humor other than Leslie Nielsen.  From his deadpan delivery to his ability to make you believe that he had no idea about what was going on, Neilsen always portrayed a character that had a noble heart. You nearly needed oxygen after laughing so hard at him.

He is part of what I would consider one of the greatest comedies of all time, delivering some of the key one-liners from the movie "Airplane."  In memoriam, I will watch it and laugh for Leslie today.  Thanks for the laughs.








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