Monday, October 31, 2011

This week in DVD - October 30th

Captain America

You can read my original review here.

I don't have much to add to my review.  This was one of my favorite movies of the summer and is probably my favorite of all of the superhero movies that came out this year.  I've already purchased it and I recommend it highly.


Attack the Block

Here's another movie I really loved.  It wasn't in the theaters very long in the US, but it's a great, fun movie!  It's what I wish Super 8 would have been.  It's probably one of my favorite films of the year.  I think it might make my top 10 list.

The original review.


Synecdoche, New York

This is one that started off great, but then got too weird for me.  I only stuck with it because it stars the PSH and I can watch anything with him in it.  Overall, it's a good cast, but I think the story is going to lose most people.

It was written and directed by Charlie Kaufman.  I've loved Kaufman's work in the past, but normally someone else directs his movies and I think that needed to happen here.  This was Kaufman's directorial debut, but I think his strength is in his writing.  In the hands of another director, I think this would have worked much better.

I thought it was a tough movie to get through, so I can't really recommend it.  If you really like the PSH or Charlie Kaufman, then you'll probably get something out of it, but for anyone else it's probably going to be too hard to watch.


The Ledge

I watched this because of the strength of the cast (Patrick Wilson, Liv Tyler, Terrence Howard), but this wasn't good at all.  This is a good example of a movie that went straight-to-DVD for a reason.  I'm not even going to bother talking about it.  I've watched this movie, so I can tell you that you never have to.

Pass.


The People Vs George Lucas

This won't have much appeal to you if you're aren't a Star Wars nut like me, so most of you can stop reading now.

Based on the title of the documentary, you'd think this would be more of an attack of George Lucas.  However, it ends up being kind of a tribute to the guy, which I didn't mind.  I mean he did create Star Wars and turn himself into a hugely successful brand.  You can't deny that.  I'll always appreciate that he created this universe and it has meant a lot to me.

They do go into his tinkering with the films.  It's interesting because this documentary was made before the Blu-Rays had come out.  I'd be curious to see if the makers of the documentary, or the people being interviewed, would have felt the same or have gone into that further since there was such an uproar on the latest number of changes in the Blu-Rays.  Seems like a missed opportunity there.  Speaking of, I still need to finish my blog post about my thoughts on the new Blu-Rays.  It's still a work in progress.

Anyway, it's worth a rental for the Star Wars fans out there.


Faces in the Crowd

This was a stinker.  It stars Mila Jovovich as a woman that is injured in an attack and now suffers from 'face blindness'  Yes, face blindness.  First wrap your face around that premise.  Actually, I hear that 'face blindness' is actually a real thing, but this is the first I've heard of it.  I guess you can accept the premise if you know that.  Okay, well then try to get past terrible acting of Mila Jobobovovich.  I was on her case for her bad acting in The Three Musketeers, but I thought she was even worse here.  Then, you get to witness Julian McMahon playing one of the most inexplicably dickhead cops I've ever seen on film.

I could barely finish this.  It's awful.  Do not see it!


Father of Invention

This movie bummed me out a little.  It stars Kevin Spacey, and starts out as a movie making fun of late night infomercials.  I thought the opening sequence was kind of funny and thought that maybe I'd stumbled across a hidden gem.  Unfortunately, it devolves into just a piece of junk movie where he loses everything and spends the rest of the movie trying to get his life back together.  You've seen this all before.  After that opening sequence, it was just boring and unfunny.  This is the total definition of a movie that should have gone straight to DVD, and hey, look at that, it was!  Seriously though, Kevin Spacey deserves a better story and script than this.  Actually, there several people in this that deserve better.  I hope they at least got paid.

Pass.


The Set Up

This was really bad.  It's almost in that 'it's so bad, it's good' territory.  When a movie stars Ryan Phillippe and 50 Cent, you can be pretty sure you aren't in for a masterpiece.  I don't want to slam 50 Cent too much, but he's got a long way to go before he can be considered even an adequate actor.  I don't think Phillippe is all that good either.  He has that same weird, forced quality to his voice that Paul Walker has.  You know, like when someone is trying make their voice sound deeper than it naturally is?

The real surprise here was that they somehow got Bruce Willis to be in this.  He must have owned someone a favor.  He really phoned it in on this one.

Pass.


Winnie The Pooh

Yeah I actually watched this.  I'm not above watching kids movies. :P  There's lots to like about it though.  It's short, sweet and made me nostalgic for when I watched Winnie the Pooh cartoons as a kid.  It's good for the kids and even for adult fans of Winnie the Pooh.  The voice acting by the cast, and narration by John Cleese, was great and I got a kick out of the Huell Houser cameo at the end.

The only thing a little distracting was that most of the songs were performed by Zooey Deschanel.  It's not that she's a bad signer, but her voice is kind of distinctive, so when I'd hear her sing all I could think of was Zooey Deschanel.  This is a minor nitpick though.  Otherwise, I have nothing bad to say about this movie.

High rental recommendation if you have kids or are just nostalgic for Winnie the Pooh.



Margin Call - Movie Review

Margin Call is a movie that's loosely based on the events just at the beginning of our current financial crisis.  The events of the movie take place over the course of just a day.

The movie starts with an investment bank (reportedly based on Lehman Brothers) doing a round of layoffs.  The first casualty is Stanley Tucci, who works in the risk management department.  On his way out the door, he hands a file to one of his co-workers, played by Zachary Quinto, and asks him to look at it.  He warns Quinto to 'be careful'.

Quinto finishes the work and basically figures out that the company is in deep shit, like two weeks ago.  This causes the entire company to scramble with how they intend on dealing with it.  That's about as far as I can go without telling you the whole story.  As I stated before, the events of the movie take place over the course of a single day, so there aren't a lot of twists to this.

I would imagine that finance or investment geeks might understand what's going on in Margin Call more than the layperson. It's funny, because characters are constantly saying stuff like, "I don't know what those numbers/screens mean", or, "Just explain it to me like a normal person."  There's a great scene with Jeremy Irons where he asks Quinto to explain it to him like he's a 12-year-old or a golden retriever.  It just goes illustrate that some of the people involved understand this stuff about as much as anyone else.  The point is that Margin Call makes this all interesting even though you might not have a clue as to what is going on.

Margin Call is all about the actors and performances.  It has a great cast, maybe not as strong as say The Ides of March, but it's still very strong.  The main star is Kevin Spacey, and once again, I really liked him here.  Paul Bettany finally plays a role that doesn't involve him killing monters and reminded me that he's a pretty good actor in his own right.  Quinto, Tucci, Simon Baker and Demi Moore are also all good.  Finally, Jeremy Irons shows up and makes me wish he was more movies.  The second he shows up, you're like, "Here's the big boss!"

Again, I don't understand all of this stuff, so I don't know how accurate or real it is.  Margin Call felt very real though.  Hell, I thought I was going to get fired by the end of the movie.  One of the things I liked about it is that I didn't feel like it tried to assign blame to anyone in particular.  I didn't walk out of this angry like I did after watching something like Inside Job.  You're just watching these people deal with the crisis as it starts.  The movie manages to make the characters sympathetic despite that fact that you should probably hate a lot of these people.

You have to credit the writer and director, J.C. Chandor.  Here's another first time writer/director.  I don't know what it is, but I sure seem to be watching a lot of good movies this year that feature first time writers or directors.  It's a good sign for the future of movies that there are still people out there that aren't complete hacks.  Anyway, Chandor got great performances out of everyone and managed to tell a story that might have been boring in someone else's hands.

As this is a smaller, independent film, you may not have chance to watch this in the theaters.  It's only playing in a few locations.  However, it is currently available on Blockbuster streaming and a few other On-Demand carriers.  I highly recommend checking this out if you want to watch a smart, well-acted film.

On another note, I saw this at The Vine, so once the movie was over, I was able to walk over to their other screen and catch the last three quarters of the Niner game.  I ordered some food and had a few beers.  You can't beat that!  It turned into a pretty good Sunday!


Anonymous - Movie Review

I've always been a sucker for period pieces.  It's one of my favorite genres and I can usually sit through them regardless of the subject matter or quality.  The early reviews of Anonymous seemed to be kind of down on this one, but I'm wondering if this was just more directed at Roland Emmerich.  I don't really have a problem with Emmerich.  His movies can be silly and ridiculous, but I usually find myself entertained by them.

Anonymous is a movie that runs with the theory that Shakespeare didn't write the plays and poems he's credited with.  While I'm aware that these theories exist, I don't have a dog in that fight.  I really don't care one way or another.  I've read some Shakespeare in school and didn't hate it, but what I really care about is if this movie is any good.

The basic story is that Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, played by Rhys Ifans, is a aristocrat that because of his station is basically forbidden to write or publish his work.  According to Queen Elizabeth's advisors, writing and creative work is the devil's work and not honorable.  The Queen herself though seems to enjoy the arts, so I'm not sure why this is an issue.  She's the Queen.  Tell your advisers to shut it!

The Queen is getting up there in age and soon she will be naming her successor and there are different factions who are scheming to get their guy to be named King.  The Earl of Oxford sees how words and plays effect the viewers and then sees this as a way to cause political change and ultimately affect who Elizabeth will name as her successor.  He contacts a writer, Ben Johnson (Sebastian Armesto), to publish his works under Johnson's name.  However, Johnson is reluctant to do this as he's also a writer that wants to succeed on his own merits. An opportunistic William Shakespeare (Rafe Spall) decides to take credit for the work once he sees the crowd's response to one of the plays after it is peformed.

That's about as far as I can get into it without spoiling too much of the plot.  Anonymous is not a great movie.  At times, I thought Anonymous  was kind of all over the place.  It relies heavily on flashbacks in time to tell the story and I thought it jumped around in time too much.  Just when I'd get into a particular sequence, they change times on me again and it would kind of take me out of it.

The look of the movie is great!  You can see where the budget went into making the customes and sets look real and the use of CG for the landscapes  It's done really well and you never feel like you're looking at too much CG or special effects.

The best thing about Anonymous are the performances, Rhys Ifans kills it here as the 'Earl of Oxford'.  This is his film as far as I'm concerned.  Vanessa Redgrage plays Queen Elizabeth I in the 'current' time and she walks that line of regality and senility.  One interesting thing they did with the casting was that they had Redgrave's real life daughter, Joely Richardson, play her younger self in the flashback sequences.  I thought it was a cool casting choice and Richardson was sexy as hell..  Sebastian Armesto was good as 'Ben Johnson' and I didn't even recognize David Thewlis as 'William Cecil'.

John Orloff wrote Anonymous, and I think this would have been a better movie with a more experienced writer.  There are so many characters and names that it's really hard to keep it all straight.  There's too much going on at times.  The movie is a little long due to all of the flashbacks and plot threads and I don't see how they could have made it shorter without leaving you hanging in several areas or not cleaning up certain threads.

If you really love Shakespeare, this movie might really piss you off as they portray him as basically an illiterate baffoon.  It's also not very historically accurrate, so that may bug the history buffs.  I'm not a history buff myself, but I know enough about movies like this to know that there are always multiple inaccuracies when it comes to historical drama.  That just goes with the territory.  Also, considering the whole Shakespeare authorship thing is a theory, you'd have to treat this as a work of fiction.  I would call it an historical soap opera, along the line of something like The Tudors.

Again, I don't really have an issue with Roland Emmerich.  He's done some really bad movies (10,000 BC, Godzilla), movies I've really liked (The Patriot) and then movies that are dumb fun in the guilty pleasure category (2012, Independence Day).  I think this is his second best film behind The Patriot and I guess you can give him credit for trying something somewhat serious again.

I didn't think Anonymous was a bad movie.  I didn't feel bored or like I was wasting my time through it.  At times I found it very entertaining, albeit a little silly.  It's well acted and I really liked the look of the movie overall.  However, if you don't see this in the theater, I don't think you'll be missing out at all.  I think this is something that's better suited for a rental.


In Time - Movie Review

In Time kind of bummed me out.  When I saw the trailer I thought it looked like an interesting concept and was really looking forward to seeing it.  Plus, it's written and directed by Andrew Niccol, who also wrote and directed Gattica, which is a movie I've always had a soft spot for.

Unfortunately, In Time is just kind of a bore of a movie that doesn't really go anywhere.  It's a shame because I really wanted to like this.  This review might be a little spoilery, so be warned.

The premise, which is given an all-too-brief explanation at the beginning, is that humans are now genetically engineered to stop aging at 25.  The catch is that once you hit 25, you have one year left to live.  Time is now the currency.  When you work, you get paid in additional time and you pay for things using the time you have stored up.  Everyone has a display on their forearm that shows you the amount of time you have.

This is where the brief explanation made me start asking questions, and in a bad way.  You see that people still have parents, but if people are genetically engineered now, how does that work out?  Do people still have sex for procreation, or do you just give samples of genetic material with a partner to make a kid?  You don't see anyone pregnant in the movie.  Plus, you see babies with the timers on their forearms already.  Are they born with them?  Are they surgically implanted after birth?  If they are born with them, how was that genetically engineered?  It's hard for me to buy into the premise when it's not very well defined or explained throughout the movie.

One of the things I did like about In Time was how they showed this affected society.  "Poor" people are essentially always in a rush.  They run from place to place, as they don't have any time to waste.  You see that sometimes they only have minutes left on their lives before getting paid again.  You'll see people just die in the middle of the street if they run out of time.  On the other hand, "rich" people move around slowly, taking their time, as they can live hundreds, if not thousands, of years.  Outside of getting killed or getting into an accident, the ultra rich are effectively immortal.  As a result, they are very careful.  Additionally, people now live in 'time zones', which is how different economic classes are separated.

Justin Timberlake is one of the "poor" people.  He and his mom, played by Olivia Wilde, live in the 'slums', which are the nicest slums you'll ever see.  Maybe this is a product of the future, but even the slums are clean. Nothing looks particularly run down and you don't see litter anywhere.  This was also a sequence that kind of weirded me out though.  When Timberlake addresses Wilde as "Mom", it's just was just kind of hard to believe. She embraces him and looks in his eyes, you get a weird feeling like they are going to make out.  It doesn't help knowing that Wilde is 27 and Timberlake is 30.

With all these hot people walking around and not knowing their age right away, you have to wonder about people hooking up.  How does that work out?  Kind of gives a whole new meaning to MILF or DILF, eh?  There's a clever line about halfway through the movie where the creepy dude from Mad Men said someting along the lines of , "Things used to be less complicated.  You're looking at her and you're wondering if she is my daugter or my mother.  You hope she's not my wife."

Anyway, Timbelake sees a rich guy flashing around time (like flashing around money) in a bar and helps him out when a group of thugs are ready to rob him.  The rich guy, played by Matthew Bomer, reveals that he's over 100 years old and is tired of living.  He also talks about how there's basically a conspiracy to keep the rich living forever and keep the poor down, by constantly increasing the cost of living, so that they can't keep up and eventually die.  He gives Timberlake his remaining 100 years.  This allows Timberlake to move out of the slums.  However, rich people notice he's 'new money', as he seems to do things too fast.

In the future, there are 'Timekeepers', which are basically the time police.  The lead Timekeeper (Cillian Murphy) starts to investigate Timberlake as they think he got his new time illegally.  However, the Timekeepers just take it all away from Timberlake's character.  There no investigation or anything.  It's nice to see police work has advanced in the future.  I guess innocent until proven guilty doesn't exist in the future.

So now he's on the run from the cops.  He kidnaps a anime looking Amanda Seyfried, who initially wants to get away from him, but then she needs him to stay alive.  Then the movie takes on this weird Bonnie and Clyde meets Robin Hood thing where they go around robbing time banks and giving all the time away.

I'm probably making this sound more interseting than it actually is.  As I said at the beginning of the review, In Time is actually kind of a bore. It just trudges along, never really feeling like it's going anywhere or what kind of movie it wants to be.  The characters didn't really seem to have any true motivation.  There were weird leaps of logic and people would do things seemingly for no real reason.  The dialog didn't seem organic at all.  Scenes didn't flow from one to the next.  You were never quite sure what was going to happen next, and not in a good way.

The design of the world seemed kind of inconsistent as well.  Despite it being several hundred years in the future, people still drive around in cars and buildings looked like they could have been built recently.  The cars sometimes sounded electric and other times sounded like old fashioned muscle cars.  It didn't look futuristic at all.  In fact, everything In Time seemed very retro.  The cars were retro and even the clothing was retro.  Like the main gang of thugs that basically go around the slums ripping off everyone are all dressed like they just left the swing dance club from Swingers.

Performance wise, I didn't really like anyone in this.  I didn't have a problem with anyone personally, but it just seemed like everyone was miscast.  Outside of one or two people, I didn't think anyone was very convincing.  I'm supposed to believe some of these people are well over 50-years-old and I just never bought into it.  Even though they don't look older, you'd expect some of these people to act older.  You know, act their age.

I've liked Justin Timberlake in other movies, but I don't he's ready to carry a movie like this.  His acting isn't mature enough.  I think if they had re-cast the leads this might have worked a little better.  I know they were limited in that they had to cast people that could pass for mid-20's, but it seems more mature actors would have been a better choice.  Someone like Joseph Gordon-Levitt I think would have been a much stronger choice as the lead.

The sad part was that people applauded at the end of In Time as if they had just watched a masterpiece.  I felt like I had just watched a boring mess.  It wants to be smarter film, but just isn't.  It's a shame, because I think it's a waste of a good premise, but there were too many weird things that took me out of the film and kept me from buying into it.  I advise you to skip this one.  It's a rental.



Sunday, October 23, 2011

This week in DVD - October 23rd

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

As I stated in my original review, I'm not a huge fan of the franchise.  I liked this more than the third one, but it's still not a good film.  I wanted more mermaids and Ian McShane's "Blackbeard", but I'm of the believe that almost any movie would benefit from more Ian McShane.  I guess there are already talking about making a fifth one, so there's no escaping this I guess.  If they made it a prequel about Blackbeard, then I'd be all over it.

Anyway, if you're a fan of the franchise, you'll probably enjoy this enough.  I guess there are worse things to rent, but it's loud and not a few good story.


Bad Teacher

Read my original review here.

I thought this was okay.  It was pretty funny in parts, but not up there with some of the better comedies that came out over the summer.  It just wasn't good enough to be put in the instant classic category or demands repeat watching.  One of my requirments for a classic comedy is to be quotable and I don't think there's a lot here that you'll hear your friends quoting back to each other.

It is an unrated cut, so of course, I'll give it another watch.  It's worth a rental if you haven't seen it, but there are better comedies from this summer that are already out on DVD.  Horrible Bosses beat this to DVD despite coming in the theater out two weeks after Bad Teacher.


Beautiful Boy

The basic story is that you're following a family after the aftermath of a tragedy.  In this case, a couple's college age son goes on a killing rampage at his schoool.  Intially they believe he's one of the victims, only to find that he's the shooter.  They had just talked to their son the day before and he really gave them no indication that anything that serious was wrong with him.  The rest of the movie are the parents dealing with that.

It's hard to watch at times because of the emotions involved and the situation and I found it kind of frustrating, because you never get much of an explanation as to why it happened.

The good part is that the partents, played by Michael Sheen and Maria Bello, really bring it.  This is an actor's vehicle more than it's about the story.  I feel bad in a way for Maria Bello, she's a much better actress than a lot of the movies she's been in.  Small roles from Alan Tudyk (Firefly) and Moon Bloodgood (Falling Skies) round out the cast.  You even get a little Meat Loaf.

Pretty good direction from first timer Shawn Ku.  He also co-wrote the film, but I think he was stronger with the direction.  He got a lot out of the performances with not much of a story.

I think it's worth a rent for the performances alone.


Red State





This is another movie that I almost feel like I should write as a standalone review, as it was barely in the theaters and Kevin Smith caused quite a buzz with how it was promoted.  However, since it came out on DVD this week, I'll keep this in the DVD section.

The basic premise is that a group of friends, led by Kyle Gallner, go out to hook up with a cougar that he's been talking to online.  The promise of sex rallies his friends to go out.  Shortly before this you are shown that there is a religious cult in town that is protesting the suicide/death (I can't remember which) of a homosexual.

From there, it jumps into what almost seems to be a religious horror film, but then it turns into a gun fight with the ATF where politics and PR come into play.  It's actually a pretty interesting story when you think about it.  I'm not going to go into details, since this is a newer movie and most of you haven't heard of this or seen it.  My spoiler rules come into play anytime I like a movie.  This is no exception.

I really liked the performances.  They made this on a small budget, but managed to get a great cast.  Kevin Smith somehow rallied actors like Melissa Leo, John Goodman and Michael Parks, who is great as 'Pastor Abin Cooper'.

I really liked Kerry Bishe (she belongs to the body in the poster...HOT!) as 'Cheyenne', but I'm a little biased as I've had a crush on her since she was on Scrubs.  She shows some emotional range here though and now I take her a little more serioiusly as an actress.

The main kid was played by Kyle Gallner, who was just in Beautiful Boy.  It was kind of weird to watch two movies back to back with the same kid actor not knowing he was in either film.

Red State is a thought provoking movie.  You can look at it as a shot against religious fundamentalism and you can look at it as a shot against the government.  If you want to dumb it down, you can just look at it as horror/action movie.  I think there's a little something for everyone here, except nudity.  There's no nudity.

Red State was written and directed by Kevin Smith. It's a totally different movie from him, but I think it's is best movie since Clerks.  That's saying a lot for me, since I'm a huge Kevin Smith fanboy and I've pretty much liked everything he's done.  I think the only two Kevin Smith movies I don't own are Jersey Girl and Cop Out.

This is a strong rental recommendation.


I watched a few other movies this week, but I'm running out of time and they were older movies, so I'll save them for next week's post.


Oh yeah, click on my Amazon link or buy me something off my wish list, will ya?


Paranormal Activity 3 - Movie Review


I'd like to apologize in advance for the vulgarity and rant that you're about to read.  This movie irritated me and I needed to vent.

Yay for free movies!  It's always good when I can see a movie for free.  Okay, enough on the positive.  Fuck this movie!  What a waste of time!

I've never been a big fan of the series. I thought the first was laughably bad. It's long stretches of watching people sleep, and then a door blows shut! Oooooh!  Scary!

The second wasn't any better.  It was still just a bunch of doors blowing shut, off screen noise, and pots falling down.  At least they tried to tie it into the first film.

So how was the third?  It's more of the same.  It's boring and pointless.  At just a one hour and 24 minute run time, you managed to bore me to tears and make me feel like I've been watching a movie for more than two hours.

I don't really even understand how it's related to the first two films.  Are you telling me it's the same two girls from the other films?  How would I know?  You've barely established any of them as characters.  I defy any of you, right now, to tell me the names of either of the two girls involved in this 'trilogy'.  Come on...I can wait...it's the third film  You should know who the characters are by now.

Based on the trailer, I actually liked the premise. Even for a prequel, I thought it might be an interesting twist.  However, the scene from the trailer, doesn't EVEN OCCUR IN THE MOVIE!  If you're going to make a prequel movie to explain why this is happening, but then remove that scene from the actual movie, then what's the fucking point?  Let me clarify, a similar scene does occur about halfway through, but done from a different angle than the trailer and with different people.  The trailer makes this look like the 'Bloody Mary' scene is the source or origin of whatever is happening to them.  However, whatever it is that's happening to these girls, they show that it's already happening well before that scene, so again, what's the point?

So the movie takes place in 1988.  You wouldn't know it though, based on the quality of the movie.  It looked like it was filmed in HD.  If you want me to buy into your 'found footage' premise, you could at least make it look like you filmed it with the equipment that was available at the time.  Hell, at one point you see the camera in the footage!  So you're telling me that you filmed being filmed?

I get that the Dad was some kind of videographer, but even for 1988 they seemed to have too much video and camera footage.  I think the makers of the film kept forgetting what year it was.  At one point they are looking over a box of VHS tapes and someone says, "I don't even think we have a VCR."  Um...it's 1988, pretty much everyone had a VCR at that time.  What else would you have had?  A DVD player?  Maybe they were early Betamax adopters or something.

The movie itself is full of cheap jump scares and that's just lame at this point.  The climax is the ineffectual father being afraid of his old mother-in-law and a bunch of old people slowly creeping up on him.  Fight, you bitch!  I'm sorry, but if you were afraid for your life and protecting your young daughters, you would have fought until the end, not ran away and hid in closet like a scared little kid. There's nothing compelling about that.

This was directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Shulman, and they should both be beaten senseless.  They are also responsible for directing Catfish, which they now dare to list as a documentary.  If you saw the advertisement for Catfish and then saw the movie, you'd understand why that's insulting.  These guys are scam artists as far as I'm concerned.

This is a terrible movie!  It's not scary and it's a complete waste of time.  It's scary only if you're afraid of invisible, imaginary things.  If that's what passes for scary, then I think you need to grow a pair.  What are you going to do when something actually threatening happens to you?  Skip this movie.  I don't even think it's worth a rental.


The Three Musketeers - Movie Review

Okay, before any of you give me shit for even watching this, I was able to see this one for free for a change.  Like I'm going to pass up a free movie.  Duh!

Look at the poster to the left.  See what a mess it is?  How many people can they cram into a poster?  It's like a bad Star Wars poster.  Oh, on a related note, they showed the trailer for The Phantom Menace in 3D, but as this wasn't a 3D screening, the trailer's benefits were pointless.  Good job Lucasfilm!  I'm getting off track...

So the poster is a mess, right?  Well, so is The Three Musketeers!  Look at it!  Who's the lead?  Orlando Bloom at the top?  The girl in the middle?  Oh wait, that's a dude.  Sorry about that.  Mila Jobovovavich, or whatever her name is?  Nope.  That's part of why this is a mess: There's no lead character as far as I'm concerned.  

I was close to walking out of this within the first 15 minutes of this.  Let me chronicle why:


  • You have French characters speaking with English accents.
  • In the first three minutes, there's a blatant ripoff of a line from The Princess Bride.  Fortunately, it did not get a laugh.
  • Mila Jovovich speaking with neither a English or French accent.  She really is a terrible actress, but you can blame this on the director, Paul W.S. Anderson, who's her husband, so of course he shoehorns her into this.
  • An ineffectual villian yelling, "I want them dead!"  Let's get more cliched!
  • Mila Jovovich's plays "Milady" and she apparently has superpowers.  She's basically playing 'Alice' from Resident Evil in the opening scene. You could argue that I'm nitpicking, but then she does it again later in the movie.
  • There's a really bad effects sequence in the beginning that was likely meant for 3D audiences, but again, I didn't see this in 3D.  Even if I had seen this in 3D, I imagine it still would have looked like shit.
  • A miscast Logan Lerman playing D'Artagnan, also apparently incapable of speaking with any kind of accent.  His character was raised in France, so the lack of accent really made it hard for me to take him seriously.  A stronger actor would have helped here.
  • D'Artagnan's horse is named 'Buttercup'.  The Princess Bride strikes again.  There were one or two more references to The Princess Bride, but at this point, I'm too buzzed to remember them.
  • D'Artagnan inexplicably picking fights with at least 4 different people despite only training with his father.  He was an arrogant shit, but at least the other characters called him out for being cocky or it would have been much more annoying.

Okay, so that's the first 15 minutes.  Do you understand why I almost walked out?

The good news is that it's not all bad.  There are several action sequences that are well done.  The fight scenes  don't feature lots of quick cuts, so you can actually tell what's going on.  There was a lot of Zack Snyder-ish slo-mo though.  Overall, the effects after the opening sequence looked good.

The cast was actually pretty strong.  The "Musketeers" were played by Matthew Macfadyen (Athos), Luke Evans (Aramis), and Ray Stevenson (Porthos).  I thought they worked pretty well together.  I think the movie would have been better if it had focused on them more or been more of a story about their earlier adventures or something.  Stevenson, in particular, I thought was really enjoying himself, but 'Titus Pullo' is always awesome in any movie.  Christolph Waltz I thought was good as the Cardinal.  Even Orlando Bloom as the Duke of Buckingham wasn't a block of wood for a change.  Bloom seemed to be enjoying playing a bad guy.

The Three Musketeers seems like a movie that they wanted to turn into a franchise.  They even hinted at a totally implausible sequel at the end, but I don't think it's going to happen.  You never know with sequels these days though.  Anyway, it looks like they tried to attract the same audience that enjoys the "Pirates" franchise.  It has a similar look and feel to those movies and they even got Orlando Bloom to be in it.  The big difference between The Three Musketeers and Pirates is that you don't have an interesting character that grabbed you like 'Jack Sparrow' and you certainly didn't have anyone with the on-screen charisma of Johnny Depp.

As I said at the beginning of the review, this is a mess of a movie as far as the story.  The writers (I'm not even going to mention them by name) just didn't seem to know what to do with the material.  They also appear to have been watching The Princess Bride while they wrote the screenplay.  A good share of the blame falls on director Paul W.S. Anderson.  Anderson is probably one of the biggest hack directors working today.  He's basically Uwe Boll with a bigger budget and slightly more style. I'll give him credit for making movies that usually look nice, but they are all essentially the same film.

I'd say The Three Musketeers is on par with the last Pirates movie as far as overall quality, which is to say that it's bad.  There were some things I liked about it, but not enough to really recommend it to anyone.  The action sequences are entertaining and the movie looks nice, so I didn't feel like I completely wasted my time here though.  I think that if you rented this you'd probably enjoy it enough, but it's a waste of money to see in the theater.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Blackthorn - Movie Review


Blackthorn lifts a page from other Westerns and presents a story  of a well known historical figure that didn't die when previously assumed.  The premise of Blackthorn is that Butch Cassidy didn't die in Bolivia and went into hiding, taking the name of James Blackthorn.  One day, he decides it's time to return home.  This is that story.

Unfortunately, it's a story that didn't need to be told.  Watching Blackthorn is like watching a story about a legendary athlete that's been retired for 30 years, but decides to have one last go at it.  Instead of seeing him in his prime, his knees are gone and his back is killing him.  It's about as exciting as that.

Plus, Blackthorn seemed to be doing fine just hiding out.  It appears he spent his time in hiding training horses, drinking and hooking up with chicks.  His motivation for returning home is explained, but I would have just stayed there.

Anyway, on his way back home, his horse and money is stolen by a Spaniard, played by Eduardo Noriega.  Noriega is on the run from someone he's stolen money from.  He agrees to replay Blackthorn if he helps him get to safety.

Sam Shepard plays Blackthorn and I actually though his performance was good.  It's just about the only thing that I enjoyed about the movie.  Overall, I was kind of bored by this.  As a fan of Westerns, I was really looking forward to watching Blackthorn, but it was more of a chore.  For a movie about guys on the run, it really seemed to drag.

The movie looks really nice, especially once they reach the salt flats, but it seemed like more than once they used the trick of someone approaching from a distance, but you don't know if they are friend or foe until the last minute.  Of course, they get their weapon ready, cause you never know.  Oooooh!  Tension!

I just wasn't very invested in the story.  Occasionaly they would have flashback sequences with Butch Cassidy (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and The Sundance Kid (Pedraic Delaney) that I liked, but that's partially because of Dominque McElligott's appearance as Etta.  It's not that McElligott is a great actress, but more that I've had a thing for her since Moon and I really liked her in The Guard.  However, these flashback scenes don't happen often enough and some of them aren't terribly interesting either.

Overall, I'm torn on this one.  Sam Shepard's carries the movie, but there just isn't much else to enjoy about Blackthorn.  It seemed like a good idea in theory, but it's just not an interesting enough story.  If you're a huge Sam Shepard fan or must watch every Western, then you might enjoy it as a rental, but I'd advise most people to skip it.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

This week in DVD - October 16th



As with previous weeks, this week in DVD is brought to you by Amazon!  Please click on the link and buy something from Amazon like you normally would.  It would be nice to get something back from my reviews other than satisfaction.  Or buy me something off my wish list...haha...I'm a whore!

Anyway, here we go...


Horrible Bosses

This is a review I'm not particulry proud of. I was kind of drunk when I saw the movie and a little distracted. I do maintain that the movie was funny and I did miss a lot of the jokes because of how hard everyone was laughing.

Here's the original review:

http://angryvader.blogspot.com/2011/07/horrible-bosses-movie-review.html

The DVD is an extended cut, so I'm interested in watching it again.

It's a definite rental if you haven't seen it. I'm probably going to buy it.  I laughed enough I really liked the cast to feel like it's worth owning.


Green Lantern

I wasn't a big fan of this movie. It just didn't work for me. Again, it's an extended cut, so I'm hoping all of the missing character development I heard that ended up on the cutting room floor is back in the extended cut. I've already heard from one person that the deleted scenes included should have been in the original movie, but I don't know if they meant if they were in the extended cut or not.

My original Green Lantern review.

If you haven't seen it yet and have been looking forward to it, then it's worth a rental.  If superhero movies aren't your thing, then Green Lantern isn't going to do anything to make it your thing.  Again, I'll probably be buying it, but that's only because I collect superhero movies and I'm a sucker for the exclusive packing that some stores will have for the movie.


Tree of Life

Here's one I've actually been really looking forward to seeing again since my review. It's a long film and I think might be better suited to watching at home when you can take breaks. I do think it's one of the better films of the year (but not one of my favorites), but understand what you're getting into.  It's a long, art film, without a conventional story.  If you don't have patience for something like that, you probably won't like it. I also think the last 10 minutes might lose you a little bit. It was kind of weird and ambiguous.  I read somewhere that even Sean Penn said he felt a little lost when making the movie.

My Tree of Life review.

I do recommend renting it, but again, be prepared for a long, but beautiful, art film.


The Zookeeper

Kevin James, why do you do this to me?  I know you're better than this.  I want to like you; hell, I do like you, but you need to start picking better films.  I see your name on a movie now and just don't see it as a mark of quality.

The thing is about The Zookeeper, is that it feels like it's a kids film or the target audience was meant to be for kids, as it features talking animals.  However, the plot isn't really something that kids would care about or identify with.  Do kids care about a schlubby guy trying to get his hot girlfriend back?

It's harmless and I hate to admit this, but there were a few times I actually laughed.  Sitting in my living room and laughing out loud at a bad Kevin James movie, is this what my life has been reduced to?  Joe Rogan had a few lines that I thought were funny and there's a point in the movie were Kevin James plays against type and that gave me a chuckle.

If your a huge Kevin James fan, then you'll probably like it, otherwise, I just can't recommend this in good conscience.


The Trip

Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon go on a road trip for a restaurant tour.  "Who are they?", I'm sure many of your are saying.  Coogan you'll likely recognize from various roles (Tropic Thunder, Night at the Museum), but Brydon is more of an unknown.  "Two Brits I've never heard of on road trip.  That sounds boring!"  Well, it isn't.  This is one of the funnier films I've seen this year.

Coogan is hired by a newspaper/magazing to go on a restaurant tour and write about it.  Initially, he had planned on going with his girlfriend, but they've taken a break from the relationship.  He reluctanctly invites his friend  Brydon, to go with him, but only after he finds out that none of his other friends can go first.

This has kid of a mockumentary feel to the movie, as the actors are basically playing exaggerated versions of themselves.

Their conversations are hilaroius!  They quote lines from movies and do many (sometimes awful) impressions.   I wish I could have been in the car with them participating in the conversation.  The movie felt like a lot of improv to me, but I laughed throughout the movie.  When they do stop and eat at the varying restaruants they've been scheduled to go to, even those places looked interesting and the food looked delicious!  This is a vacation I would like to take.

There seems to be a rivalry between the two and Coogan almost seems to be annoyed by Brydon.  I don't think they dislike each other, but it's like that friend you have that you only like hang out with from time to time, but you wouldn't put this guy as one of your top friends.

My only complaint is that it could have been a little shorter. All of the scenes where Coogan calls his girlfriend could have been removed and probably cut ten minutes off the movie.

I highly recommend renting this!


I watched a few Lars von Trier movies this week in anticipation of Melancholia.  This is the Lars von Trier section:

Dogville

Basically a three hour stage play.  It's filled with actors I normally like, but this one is only for the super patient.  At first I was into it and it requires you to use your imagination a bit, but as it went on, I just wanted it to be over.  It's just too damn long!

I'm not even going to go into it.  Nicole Kidman's character gets raped and you see Stellan Skarsgard's balls.  Now I know you want to see it, right?

I can't recommend it as a rental, but if you're really into stage plays, you might like this.


Dancer in the Dark

Bjork plays a immigrant factory worker that is going blind.  The blindness is due to a hereditary defect that her son also suffers from.  She's saving up money for a surgery that will save his sight.  When she's bored or stressed, she daydreams in musical numbers that you see on screen.  It's an interesting concept and Bjork performs all the songs and I believe wrote all of them as well.

Bjork is actually very good in the role.  As with many Lars von Trier films, stuff happens in the movie and it goes to the darkest places.  I can't spoil it, but it was heartbreaking to watch in parts.  The end practically had me in tears.

I think it's a good movie, but it's a little different and might be a little too our there or emotionally dark for most.  Again, it's only for the most patient of movie watchers.

That's it for this week.  Thanks for reading!




The Thing - Movie Review

Let me start of by saying that I'm huge fan of John Carpenter's The Thing.  I remember that movie just freaking me out as a kid and how crazy and real the effects felt at the time.  I watched this again this weekend and I still feel the movie holds up very well and I'd recommend it.  Plus, I wanted to refresh myself on the story.

When I saw that they are making a prequel to the The Thing, I was cautiously optimistic.  I wouldn't mind seeing an update, provided it's faithful to the original or doesn't ruin anything the orginal did.  However, Hollywood doesn't have a very good track record with prequels and remakes these days.  It's one of the reasons I watched the original again, as I wanted to see how much of a prequel this really is.

Note:  When I say 'the original', I'm only referring to the 1982 version and not the 1950's The Thing from Another World.  I've yet to see that film.

The story isn't much different than the original: a group of scientists stationed at a Norwegian research facility in Antarctica find an alien spaceship and bring a specimen back to the station for study.  Shortly after, the specimen escapes and they find it can imitate any organic life form.  People start dying and nobody knows who is real and who is an alien.  It's madness, I tell you!

Even though The Thing is a prequel, it felt more like a remake.  It really didn't do anything in the story that make it stand apart from the original.  There were some good effect sequences, but it felt too CG.  They lacked the creepiness of the original.  However, I will say the guy sitting a few seats over from me was visibly squirming throughout the movie.  He looked he was a little 'off' though, so take that for what it's worth.

The cast wasn't bad.  I thought they all performed well.  I like Joel Edgerton a lot, but he felt kind of underused to me.  It was nice seeing Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Mr. Eko from Lost) in something else and even Eric Christian Olsen wasn't bad.

This is really Mary Elizabeth Winstead's (Scott Pilgrim, Live Free or Die Hard) movie though.  They tried to give her a little bit of a Ripley vibe from the Alien franchise and I think she did a pretty good job.  If nothing else, she's nice to look at.


Directed by yet another first time director, Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.  Woah, that's a mouthful.  I'm going even going to try to pronounce that name.  He did a good job for the most part.

Written by Eric Heisserer, who at first should be criticized for spelling his own first name wrong, but has also written things like the A Nightmare on Elm Street remake and Final Destination 5, so not exactly a great resume for a writer, but this is his best work so far.

In a way, The Thing can't win:  If you've seen the original, this movie will contain no suspense for you.  You know what's going to happen from the first minute and it really doesn't do anything new that the original didn't do better.  If you haven't seen the original, you'll like it more, but won't really understand why it's a prequel.  It being a prequel was kind of pointless, because you don't lean anything new from it.  There's nothing that happens in The Thing that you couldn't have figured out from watching the original.

There was also an inconsistency with the original that was a little off-putting and kind of made some of the final sequence bullshit, but again, this is only if you've seen the original and remember all the details.  You won't even know what I'm talking about if you haven't seen the original or don't remember it well.

I will say they nailed the music though.

Again, I don't think The Thing is a bad movie.  It's a weird recommendation, but I think if you're going to watch it, I strongly recommend you watch the original first.  However, if you haven't seen the original, you'll likely enjoy it more, so it's tough for me to recommend it outright.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

This week in DVD - October 9th.

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Meek's Cutoff.

Good cast, but boring-ass movie.  If you suffer from insomnia, then this is a pretty good movie to watch.  How is a modern movie done in 4:3?  Did I hit the wrong button on the DVD?  Whatever...it's just a bunch of people walking for miles and miles.  It's funny cause when I was watching it, I started thinking of There Will Be Blood and how the first 10-15 minutes of that movie, there's very little dialog.  The different is with TWBB is that it's actually interesting and then movie develops and stuff actually happens.  In Meek's Cutoff, NOTHING HAPPENS!  They walk, then walk some more, then set up camp, cook, drink water, have conversations about nothing, and then repeat the process.  That's pretty much the whole effing movie.  The ending is so what the eff that I can't believe it actually happened.  It's a non-ending if I've ever seen one.

Don't watch this.  I'd mention the cast, but I don't want to tarnish their reputations.


Transformers 3: Dark Side of the Moon

I watched this 'masterpeice' again over the weekend, but you can see my original review here:

http://angryvader.blogspot.com/2011/07/transformers-3-revenge-of-dark-side-of.html

I managed to pick up few things the second time around that slightly addressed some of my nitpikcy issues pointed out in my review.  However,  the sad part is that on a second viewing, I found this movie WORSE.  The characters were more annoying and I found myself going, 'that's stupid' more.  I guess that's a Michael Bay film for you.  Bad movies don't hold up to repeat viewings.  I'm ashamed this film did so well in the theater.  We're just encouragng him.

I'd tell you to pass on watching this, but if you skipped in the theater, you're probably itching to watch it.  It's worth renting and watching...once.


Fast Five

I'd post my old review, but I really didn't write all that much about it.  It's funny when I go back and read some of my old reviews.  My writing sucked even more back then, but at least I say more about the movie and I'm more thorough.  But, I digress...

I actually liked Fast Five, and this is coming from someone that isn't a big fan of the franchise.  In fact, outside of the first one, I've thought these all sucked.  Even the first film isn't great by any means, but it was at least entertaining and had it's moments.  Anyway, with Fast Five I thought they did a good job of transitioning from being just another car chase movie, to more of a heist movie.  It's over the top, but in a fun way.  It was a good start the fun summer movie season where you can shut your brain off, but not feel bad for doing it.  The current DVD release is an extended version, so I'll probably check it out again eventually to see the longer version, as I haven't seen it since the original theatrical release.

It's worth a rental.


Buck


Here's a good example of a short, little documentary that you'll find interesting and care about what's goign on, even it's not really your thing.  Don't get me wrong, I don't hate horses or anything like that, but watching a documentary about a horse traininer doesn't sound all that interesting to me.  However, they did a good job and I ended up being facinated.

This follows Buck Brannaman, who was essentially the inspiration for the main character in The Horse Whisperer novel. They even brought him in as a consultant when they made a movie and show you a few behind the scenes on The Horse Whisperer and Robert Redford tells a few stories about the guy.   Cesar Melan has nothing on Buck!

It's not just about how he trains horses though.  They do go into Buck the man and that's just as interesting.  He had an upbringing that would have affected most people in a much different way.  It's interesting to see how he treats animals and the man he's become as opposed to the household he was raised in.

You see him with the horses and he's able to make them do whatver they want in a matter of minutes.  Their owners are stunned.  Even as you're watching it, you can't believe how he can handle these horses.   Buck really is The Horse Whisperer!

This is one of those movies that if you didn't like it, then you might not have a heart or something.  You might even make you tear up a little at points.

Directed by first time director Cindy Meehl and I think she did a fantastic job.  I'm normally not as engaged and invested in a documenatary as I was with Buck.

I highly recommend renting this.  This is a great documentary!


Scream 4


I was disappointed in this.  It's better than Scream 3, but I think this franchise is on it's last legs.  It just wasn't all that interesting to me.  The kills were very boring and had no imagination.  I'm not expecting Final Destination or Saw here, but everything was a stab to the gut.  This got an R rating, but I didn't see anything here that someone in the 13-17 year old range wouldn't have been able to handle.

I thought the interaction between Ghostface and Sidney (Neve Campbell returning in her role) was fun, and Ghostface in general was funny, but otherwise, it was too long.  The Scream series was never about actually being scary than it was being silly or meta.  I think they overdid it with the meta though and it wasn't quite as funny as I would have hoped.

Still, not a bad rental if you're a fan of the series.


Submarine


Quirky, indie film about a boy that's a bit of an oddball.  He starts dating a girl that's emotionally distant and a bit of an oddball herself.  His parents aren't doing well and things are made worse by the fact their neighbor is an old flame of his Mom.

I like independent films, but sometimes they try to be independent.  I got a little bit of that here.  It's not bad, but there were parts were I wanted to just fast forward through it.

Some funny moments, but the pacing was a little slow.  If you like indy films, then this is worth a rent.


Ides of March - Movie Review

The Ides of March is a story that follows a behind-the-scenes look at a political campaign.  George Clooney plays Governor Mike Morris, a Democratic presidential candidate.  His campaign team centers around his senior manager, played by the PSH (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and a junior campaign manager, played by Ryan Gosling. Hoffman is the veteran, and as a result is more cynical and jaded, where Gosling is young and idealistic and really believes in Morris.

On the opposing side, you have Paul Giamatti, the campaign manager for Miller's primary opponent.  You really don't see much of Miller's actual opponent, as that's really not the focus of the story.

Dirty campaigning and disillusionment ensue.  It's a surprisingly cynical film about politics and the process.  Marisa Tomei plays a reporter for New York Times and sums it all up in a few lines in one of her earliest scenes in the movie.  I'm not really going to get into the politics of the movie, as I'm not much of a political animal these days, but her thoughts echo my thoughts about politics quite a bit.

The first half of the movie isn't terribly interesting, but the great cast makes up for it.  There's something to be said for having a bunch of great actors and just letting them do their thing.  As I mentioned earlier, it felt like a behind the scenes look at a political campaign, and more of a political drama.  Once the movie hits about the halfway point, a few key things happen that make this movie really take off and it almost becomes a political thriller.  I won't really get into what happens, as I don't want to spoil anything.  Fortunately the trailer also does a good job of not spoiling anything.  It really helps coming into this movie clean.

When you have a powerhouse cast like this, you do expect the performances to be top notch and they don't disappoint.  They really stacked the deck here.  The only people missing were Daniel Day-Lewis and the JGL.  Paul Giamatti is more of a supporting role this time around, but was as effective as he always is.  You even have Jeffrey Wright show up for a few scenes.

Even though the movie centers around the campaign of George Clooney's character, it didn't feel like he was in it all that much.  You see him in a few debates and town halls, but he's really not involved much in the backstage dealings and such.  This is really more Gosling's film and I think he carries it very well.  It's another great performance by his, but there was something weird about his accent that threw me off.  You could hear a little bit of the voice he used in Crazy, Stupid, Love.  I don't recall his voice sounding like that before, so I'm not sure what's up with that.

There's a nice two man game between Gosling and the PSH and he continues to be one of my favorite actors.  I've never been much of a Evan Rachel Wood fan, but she really surprised me this time.  I think this is the best work I've seen her do.  The scenes with her and Gosling really worked for me and I almost wanted to see more of them together.

The Ides of March was directed and co-written by none other than George Clooney and I think this is his best effort so far.  I think he's been a little hit-and-miss as a director (Leatherheads?  Blech!), but he did a much better job here.  Again, I think the movie was helped by having such a great cast.  It's like having a coach that comes to a team that already has a bunch of great players and system in place.  You expect him to still do well.

It was co-written by Beau Willimon, and this is based off his play "Farragut North".  Grant Heslov also shares writing credits on this one.  You may recognize Heslov more for his acting work, as he doesn't have a lot of writing credits to his name.

Overall, I think The Ides of March is a pretty good movie.  It's a little slow at first, but the great performances carry this movie until the pacing picks up in the second half.  If you're looking for a good political drama, then look no further.


Real Steel - Movie Review

Okay, let's get this out of the way.  Yes, at first glance, it's Rock'em Sock'em Robots:  The Movie.  Years ago I heard a rumor that they were making a Rock'em Sock'em Robots movie. and I was like, 'Are you kidding me?'  Those rumors just kind of went away. Then, I start seeing info about a movie called Real Steel with Hugh Jackman with fighting robots, and thought this might be that same, rumored movie.  Fortunately, it isn't.  Real Steel is actually based on a 1956 Richard Matheson short story called "Steel".  I believe the story was even used for a Twilight Zone episode.

Real Steel is set in a future where robots have replaced humans in boxing.  I heard this was set in 2020, but at one point thought I heard someone say it was 2027.  Then, there was a scene where they said the second generation of fighting robots were built in 2014 or 2016.  This is a bit of a nitpick, but 2014?  It seems like we are decades away from this kind of robotic technology, not just a few years away.  It would take some kind of huge technological advance in robotics in the next year or two for us to have anything like this.  Maybe if they had set this in 2030, I would have had an easier time with that aspect.  Again, this is a nitpick and you can just say this is an alternate universe or something.

I was also going to jump on the fact that Real Steel states that the reason robots took over fighting is because crowds demanded a more brutal sport.  I would have pointed out that we already have a brutal sport and it's called MMA.  They did kind of explain that away in a single line of dialog, but I don't see crowds watching bloodless robots fight as more brutal.  It would seem that watching robots fight would have less consequence to me.  Sure you see arms and legs get torn off and stuff, but you could still potentially fix the robot or just buy a new one.  It would be like watching remote control cars race instead of real people racing.  If there's a crash, nobody really cares because there's no human element.  Judging by the crowd that turned out at my local Buffalo Wild Wings for the MMA fights last night, I would say that we're a ways off from people demanding something even more brutal or not being into watching humans fight.  There's another nitpick there for you.

Hugh Jackman plays "Charlie", a former boxer that never quite made it before the robots took over.  Now, Charlie is just a small-time robot fighter, who's having difficulty making a living.  Charlie is stubborn, kind of a jerk, makes bad decisions and is pretty bad with money.  Charlie has a son, Max, with a former girlfriend, whom he's pretty much never spent any time with.  You see that Charlie gave custody to the girlfriend after Max was born.  However, the girlfriend has died and Charlie agrees to take Max for the Summer.  Initially, they seem to be annoyed with each other, but Charlie's son thinks the fighting robots are cool and they kind of bond over that.

Did I say "Charlie" a lot in the last paragraph?  That's to illustrate another nitpick I had about the movie.  In once sequence of dialog with Bailey, played by Evangeline Lilly (Lost), she says "Charlie" about 15 times in a conversation that's only about two or three minutes long.  I think it was Albert Brooks that pointed out that it's sloppy writing when characters say each other's names over and over.  It's not a natural way of speaking.  You can talk to someone for an hour and never say their name.  Again, it's a nitpick, and not actors fault, but I noticed it to the point to where I started to laugh every time Bailey said "Charlie".

Back to the movie.  Max just happens to find a perfectly good sparring robot that's been thrown away, as it's an older model  As you see from the trailer, sparring 'bots are built to take a lot of punishment, but never deal any out.  Which also makes you wonder, why not just build a robot that can both take a lot of punishment and deal a lot?  Anyway, they teach the robot, named Atom, to box and get him some local fights.  Atom wins his first few fights and quickly becomes a fan favorite.  It all builds to the finale, which you know is coming.  There are no twists or surprises here.  Real Steel is a pretty standard formula.

I know it sounds like i'm being hard on Real Steel, and I am, but it's not because I didn't like the film.  I was actually pleasantly surprised by it.  The trailers looked kind of corny to me and I thought I was going to see a lot overacting and silly dialog.  I think the trailer was poorly edited, as some of what you see didn't work out of the context of the film.

Based on the trailer, I was expecting Max, played by Dakota Goyo, to be annoying, but I actually thought he wasn't bad.  He develops an attachment to Atom, but I'm glad they didn't give Atom a personality and try to make that relationship cute or turn Atom into a puppy.  I think the movie wouldn't have worked as much if they had gone there.

The effects were actually pretty good and I think that it was due to the use of both animatronic robots and CG.  The fighting scenes were really well done and you don't have a problem following the action.  You can actually tell what robots are fighting each other (take note Michael Bay).  The final fight against the seemingly unbeatable Zeus (No Holds Barred fans might get a chuckle at that), has a very Rocky-ish feel to it.

Despite being over two hours, Real Steel was paced pretty well.  I could have used maybe a little more robot fighting though.

I thought the rest of the performances were fine.  Even though Charlie is a bit of a jerk, it's kind of a tough sell, as I just don't think it's possible to not like Hugh Jackman.  Even when he plays a jerk, it still has a likable charm to it.  Evangeline Lilly's "Bailey" is both the love interest and the spunky gear-head that challenges Charlie.  There's a small role played by Anthony Mackie, but it seems like he was underused.  There's also a small role by Kevin Durand, as a rival of Charlie's.  I thought Durand's casting was interesting, as he was also on Lost and was in X-Men Origins: Wolverine as "Blob".

Real Steel was directed by Shawn Levy, who also directed Date Night, but then also directed borderline unwatchable stuff like The Pink Panther, Cheaper by the Dozen, Just Married and both of the Night at the Museum movies.  Even thought I liked Date Night, Real Steel is I think his best effort yet.  Outside of the sloppy dialog in parts, I didn't think the writing team was all that bad.

Despite all of my nitpick issues, Real Steel is not all that bad.  It's not a great movie by any means, but it's entertaining and it should appeal to a broad audience.  I saw many families in the theater and they all seemed to enjoy it.  If you're going to see one fighting robot movie this year, Real Steel is a much better choice than Transformers.  This is something you could take your son to and he's probably going to love the hell out of it and you'll likely get enough out of it that you won't think it's a complete waste of time.  On that level, it's a matinee.


Monday, October 3, 2011

50/50 - Movie Review

This review might be a little more spoiler filled than normal, so be warned.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (the JGL) plays Adam, a 20-something that finds out he back cancer.  It's a rare form of cancer that even the doctor seemed a little surprised about.  After he gets the news, he looks up the cancer on WebMD and sees the survival rate is about 50%, hence the title of the movie.  One thing that struck me as odd was that his doctor didn't even tell him that.  I remember thinking that his doctor had a terrible beside manner.  He was just throwing all of these complex medical terms at Adam and it was clear he didn't understand what he was talking about.  I was wondering why the doctor wasn't giving it to him in layman's terms.

You find out at the beginning of the movie that Adam has never learned to drive, so he relies heavily on his best friend, played by Seth Rogen, and his girlfriend, played by Bryce Dallas Howard.

Adam undergoes chemotherapy and befriends two other chemo patients, played by Philip Baker Hall and Matt Frewer (Max Headroom!).  The scenes were they are together were actually some of my favorite moments of the movie.  There's a great camaraderie between them.

He also sees a psychologist (Anna Kendrick), that the hospital assigns to him to help him deal with his situation.  Kendrick's character is just starting out in her career, and Adam is one of her first patients.  She appears to be learning as she's going and Adam doesn't really seem all that interested in the thearapy sessions at first.

You also have his parents, played by Angelica Huston and Sergo Houde.  Adam's father is shown to be suffereing from Alzheimer's disease.  Angelica Huston was really great and Houde actually kind of broke my heart a bit.  I think he really sold the Alzheimers and that kind of stuff always makes me a little sad.

The performances were all great.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt continues to give great performance after great performance.  It won't be too long before you start hearing his name consistenly around Oscar time.  He gives his character an emotional weight and you really are along for the ride with him emotionally.  His character is just a normal, boring guy, but you actually see him grow and become a better person.  If there can be a silver lining to getting cancer, it would be the growth he gets out of the experience.

Seth Rogen is basically playing Seth Rogen again.  The guy doesn't seem to have much in the way of range, but it works here and I actually thought this was one of Seth Rogen's better roles as far as I'm concerned.  As you might expect when you see Seth Rogen in a movie, there's a a few scenes of pot smoking and eating food with pot in them.  It happens often enough that I was beginning to think 50/50 was going to turn into another pot comedy.  The use (with the exception of Rogen) did actually appear to be for medical purposes and they didn't really go there with any kind of message about drug use one way or another.

Anna Kendrick just lights up a room.  She gave her performance the right amount of sweetness and insecurity in her job as she's just starting out.  I really like Bryce Dallas Howard, but it's like her presence signaled 'she was going to be the bad guy' from the start of the movie.  This is kind of spoiler-y, but she does something about halfway through the movie and you just knew it was coming.

This is an example of a movie where the trailer is a little misleading.  It's not quite the light-hearted comedy it seems.  There are some very serious and emotional moments.  I actually ran into some friends after the movie that had also just saw it and they remarked on the fact that it wasn't as light as they thought it was going to be. They had a much stronger emotional reaction than I did as well.  However, you can attribute this more to the fact that I'm more machine than man.  Therefore, I don't suffer from the same human emotions that you normal humans have.  Seriously though, there's a good balance of humor being used to balance out the serious nature of what Adam is dealing with.

50/50 was written by Will Riser, and the interesting thing is that the story is based on Riser's actual life.  The funny thing is that Riser's real life best friend is Seth Rogen, so he really is playing himself this time.  I thought Riser wrote a good story and made the characters as real as possible.

Jonathan Levine directed this and I think he did a great job.  It's not his first feature, but another interesting thing is that he directed a movie called All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, which stars Amber Heard.  I saw trailers for that movie years ago, but it appears it never actually came out.  I was reading up on it and it's been in limbo for years and may be coming out soon.  I'm betting the critical success of 50/50 will likely get All the Boys Love Mandy Lane pushed out finally, so that should be interesting to watch, even though it's an older film.

50/50 is a bit of an emotional roller coaster.  You'll laugh and you'll cry.  Fortunately, the movie strikes a good balance between all of the emotions and it doesn't go totally dark.  If it had been darker, I don't think I would have liked this.  I guess it's about as funny as a movie about a guy getting cancer could be.  Overall, it is a really good film filled with great performances.  I recommend checking it out.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

This month in DVD - September Edition.

This is going to be a hugely long post, as I watched a lot of stuff during my vacation.  I need to post these DVD reviews reviews a little more frequently, so you don't have to suffer through such long blog posts.  Plus, starting next month I think I'm going to change it up a little bit, and also mention the new releases have come out during the week that I've already seen, so that way you have better idea of what's out.  If I already have a review up, I'll link back to it in the new posts.  I'm open to suggestions if you have any.

Here we go...

Priest

Set in a weird, post-apocalyptic future, Paul Bettany is somehow typecast as a 'Priest', which are members of the clergy that fight vampires.  Priests also have abilities that exceed that of normal men that appear to be inherited or genetic or something.  I don't recall it being explained where their abilities came from, just that they have them and not the general public.

This is another movie based on a comic. Maybe this is how the comic was, but there was lots of stuff that seemed inconsistent. It's one of those alternate futures where some things are super advanced and then other things seem like from a completely different era.  For example, the Priests drive around on super advanced motorcycles that have all these digital displays and go hundreds of miles an hour, but then you have guys walking around carrying kerosene lamps. Yet, there were normal lights on the wall. They don't have flashlights in the future?  Stuff like that.  It drives me nuts cause there doesn't seem to be any reason for it.

Priest seemed to have a Western feel, which just seemed like a forced stylistic choice.  Again, this might have been how the comic was, but I just didn't think it translated well.

I thought some of the action sequences were pretty good actually, but the rest of the movie was just blah.

I'd only say to rent it if you're dying to see it, otherwise you're not missing much.


The Conspirator

This is a movie about the trials held after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.  For a movie called The Conspirator, there really isn't all that much actual conspiracy in it.  It's mostly courtroom scenes where they have put Mary Surratt, the mother of one of the conspirators, played by Robin Wright, on trial.  They did this because they couldn't find her son, so they tried her, as she ran a boarding house where the conspirators hung out.  It's another one of those based on a true story movies, but I think they were a little more respectful of the source material here.  I haven't studied up on my Civil War era history lately, so I have no clue how accurate this all it, and I'm too tired to look it up on Wikipedia.

The Conspirator wasn't bad, but it's a little on the slow side and it takes a bit to get going. The courtroom stuff is what I enjoyed the most. Also, the movie seemed kind of washed out color-wise.

The performances of Robin Wright and James McAvoy were both good.  I wasn't a big fan of his initially, but I'm really starting to like this guy.  However, there are a lot of people miscast in this. It kind of takes me out a period piece when actors like Justin Long, Alexis Bledel and Evan Rachel Wood show up. They didn't seem mature enough for the roles they were playing.

If you like period pieces, then I think it's worth a rental.  The pace is kind of plodding, so you might not be into it if you're looking for something with a faster pace. I didn't come away from this having strong feelings about it one way or another.


Something Borrowed

This was AWFUL!. Nobody in the movie, save for John Krasinski's character, is likeable. Everyone is a cheating asshole and a bad person.  Even Krasinski's character repeatedly lies and misleads one of the characters rather than tell them the truth.  Every character is both self-absorbed and yet not self-aware.

The movie follows two friends played by Kate Hudson and Ginnifer Goodwin.  They've been friends since they were kids.  That's basically the only thing their current friendship still hinges on, as there's no reason for them to still be friends as adults.  They have different personalities and career paths.  It seems like they should have grown apart during college or shortly after that.  Hudson plays one of those aggressive, domineering friends, while Goodwin is the doormat that just lets Hudson walk all over her.

Anyway, Hudson starts dating a friend of Goodwin's, even though Goodwin was clearly into him, but too much of a chicken shit to say anything.  Eventually, just as Hudson and the boyfriend are about to get married, the boyfriend finds out about Goodwin's crush on him and they start to sleep around.  You see, he's always liked Goodwin, too.  I guess he couldn't have just asked her out years ago?  But you see, it's okay that they sleep around because they are nice and attractive, and Kate Hudson's character is a bitch.

I tried to keep an open mind about this movie, but when I see Kate Hudson as the star of any kind of romatic drama or comedy, I see it as a bad sign.  This was a movie that I hated throughout.  There's almost nothing redeeming about it at all.  I don't know why Hollywood makes movies like this.  Why do they think movies about people that cheat and backstab their friends appeal to people or make for interesting stories?  They try to pass this off as a romantic comedy?  What's romantic about it? What's worse is that it's almost two hours long, so you really suffer through this.

I'd like to take a moment to shame the director, Luke Greenfield, and writer, Jennie Snyder.  You should be ashamed of yourselves for making this atrocity.  What's really amazing is that this is based off a novel by Emily Griffin.  I really hope this is one of those instances where the book was better than the movie.  If not, then she should be ashamed of herself, too.  It makes you wonder how these people view humanity if these are the types of people they make movies and stories about.

Pass. There is no need to ever watch this piece of shit.


Jane Eyre

I've never read Jane Eyre, so I can't say if this was a faithful adaptation or not. I liked the performances and thought the movie was shot well. I really liked Mia Wasikowska as Jane and Magneto, I mean Michael Fassbender as Rochester. I usually enjoy period pieces and I thought they did a good job with the look and feel of the movie.

This was directed by Cary Fukunaga, an Oakland, CA native, and I think he did a good job with this.

It's kind of long, but wasn't bad. Since I liked the cast and performances, it helped me get past that.
This is a good rental, but be warned that it's a serious film. It's not cheery or anything like that.


The Chameleon

"Based on a true story"...oh no...

Sometimes true stories, especially if unresolved, really aren't all that interesting.  This is an example of that.  It's kind of unfortunate because the premise is actually pretty interesting.  A young boy that had been missing for years is supposedly found as a teenager overseas.  He's sent back home to his family, only he seems to not remember anything about where he was from or any kind of meaningful details about his family.  Also, his eye color has inexplicably changed and now has a French accent.

Obviously, it starts to become clear to certain members of his family, and an investigating FBI agent, that this teen isn't who he says he is.  Eventually, it's found that he's actually impersonating the missing child.  Then it's implied that the original son wasn't actually missing, but killed by his family years ago, and that's why certain members of the family always knew he was an imposter.  However, there's no resolution.  They just leave you hanging and tell you that the real case is still unsolved.  Um...okay...

The real imposter actually went on to impersonate several other people.  The press nicknamed him "The Chameleon" because of all of the people he had tried to impersonate.  The movie only focuses on this one instance and the family involved.  Since they never actually found out what happened to the real missing kid, it just seems like that was a bad choice.  The movie should have focused more on the imposter himself and his motivation.

I thought it was really slowly paced. The character's aren't really well defined. I also felt like I came into this movie like halfway through.

I'm going to have to say pass on this one.  It's a real misfire and just not worth watching.


The Beaver

I'm sure you've heard of this one and thought it looked weird and were turned off.  The rest of you were probably turned off just by the mere presence of Mel Gibson.  It actually wasn't that bad though.  It was kind of an interesting take on exploring a person suffering from severe depression and mental issues trying to work through his problems.  I guess in a way, it had a weird, meta-ness about it considering Gibson's character and his real life.

There's an unnecessary subplot, featuring Mel Gibson's son, played by Anton Yelchin and this girl he's into, played by Jennifer Lawrence.  As much as I liked them, there was too much of their subplot and it took away from the main story.  Their story didn't have an real tie in to the main plot and felt kind of thrown in.  Plus, Yelchin looks too old to play someone in high school.  That guy is not aging well.

It was directed by Jodie Foster, who I think did a good job overall, save for needing to dump the Yelchin/Lawrence subplot.

It's worth a rent if you can get past the fact it stars Mel Gibson.


The Ward

Amber Heard plays a crazy chick that burns down a house and is committed to a mental ward.  While she's in the ward, many of the other patients begin to disappear.  Oddly, nobody seems to notice or care (you won't either).  Something is going around killing them.  Throughout the film, they throw this random clip of some hillbilly entering a barn or basement.  You'll spend the majority of this movie wondering what the hell is going on.  There's a twist though.  However, when the big reveal comes, you've already figured it out and won't even care.

It's all cheap jump scares and wusses out on all of the kill scenes. I'm not sure how this earned an R rating.  This could have been on television.  I don't recall the language being bad or anything like that, but that wouldn't have been a difficult thing to work around considering the rest of th story.

It's a shame cause this was directed by John Carpenter, who's a horror legend as far as I'm concerned.  I was expecting more.

Pass on this.  It's not worth renting.


I'd like to take a moment to remind you that if you need to purchase something from Amazon, please click on one of the Amazon links on my blog.  It's just one extra click.  That's all you have to do and I'm supposed to get a little money.  I just signed up the other day.





Skateland

This is kind of a Dazed and Confused knock off, except it's not as good or as funny.  I had a hard time keeping my interest in it.  I'd get up to leave the room, but after coming back, I never felt compelled to rewind the movie and catch up on what I missed.

If you're nostalgic for the disco and roller skating era then you might like it.  I wouldn't go out of your way to rent it though. This felt like the kind of movie that if you were channel surfing on a lazy afternoon, you might stop to watch it, thinking it's Dazed and Confused at first.  You might even be able to finish sitting through it.  That's a wonderful endorsement of the movie, eh?


Peep World

I was really disappointed in this. Based on the cast, I was expecting a lot more.  I see people like Rainn Wilson, Sarah Silverman, Michael C. Hall and Judy Greer and I was really expecting something funny or quirky. Boy was I wrong!  I was bored out of my mind watching this, which is even more amazing considering this is only 79 minutes.

It's basically a story about a dysfunctional family with a bunch of messed up kids (who are now adults) and how they all hate their Dad.  It's centered around them all meeting for their Dad's 70's birthday dinner.  Sometimes a dysfunctional family story can work, but it doesn't here. It's just not funny or interesting. There's nothing to identify with or like about it.

Pass on this.


Made in Dagenham

Another based on a true story movie, only this time it's based on a historical event in Britain from the late 60's.  A group of women working for Ford had a strike demanding equal pay.  It's basically about their struggle and how the strike ended up causing the creation of the Equal Pay Act.

It's an interesting enough story, but it was one that just really didn't grab me.  It might have been the time the movie was set in or the cast, but I just wasn't all that interested in it.  There are actually some good people in the cast like Bob Hoskins, Sally Hawkins, Rosamund Pike and Miranda Richardson, but the rest of the cast you won't recognize.

I wasn't all that invested in this one, so it's tough for me to recommend it, but it's not like it's a bad movie.


Win Win

Paul Giamatti stars as a small-town attorney that struggling to keep his business afloat.  He also moonlights as a high school wrestling coach, but his team sucks, so that's not going very well for him either.  He's clearly not 'winning'.  Get it!

The movie follows Giamatti's character and how he starts to make a series of questionable decisions to try and get ahead.  You see that he's not a bad guy, maybe just a little misguided.  Even though he's flawed, you like his character, and want to see how he's going to get out of the mess he appears to be creating for himself.

I actually loved this! Paul Giamatti was great as he always is.  His wife, played by Amy Ryan, was also good.  The supporting characters, Bobby Cannavale, Jeffrey Tambor and Burt Young all do a good job.  The real surprise here is Alex Shaffer's debut as the wrestling prodigy.  You wouldn't think this is the first movie this kid has ever been in.  He was actually a successful high school wrestler, so it helps sell the wrestling parts of this movie.

Win Win felt real and I thought had some geniuinely funny moments.  This is a strong rental recommendation and one of the better, if not one of my favorite, movies I've seen this year.


Everything Must Go

From the opening moments, you know this movie is going to be a little bit of a bummer, despite starring Will Ferrell.  Ferrell's character is fired from his job and largely due to the fact he's an alcoholic.  He goes home to find he's been locked out with a note from his wife saying she's leaving him.  To make matters worse, his wife threw all of his belongings on the front lawn.  Then, his company car gets repossessed by his company, his wife locks him out from his bank accounts and terminates his phone.

Since Ferrell has nowhere to go, he just says, 'screw it', and decides to live on his lawn.  He befriends a neighborhood kid, played by Christopher Jordan 'C.J.' Wallace, and his new neighbor, played by Rebecca Hall.  Eventually, he's forced to have a yard sale and starts to sell off all of his stuff with the help C.J. Wallace.

I also loved this. It's easily Will Ferrell's best dramatic work since Stranger Than Fiction, but this is a much better movie.  I like when he does dramatic roles like this and I hope that he does these more often.  Newcomer C.J. Wallace also gives a nice performance.  The interaction between Ferrell and Wallace is worked the best for me.  There are small roles by Michael Pena, Laura Dern and Stephen Root that are also nice.

If this movie had been just a tad funnier, or tad darker, I probably would have put this in one of my top films of the year list.  As it stands, it's still another strong rental recommendation.  


True Legend

Here's one for the martial arts fans.  I normally watch these movies strictly for the fighting, as even with subtitles, I sometimes have no idea what is going on in the story.  I'd like to blame it on something being lost in translation, but some of these stories really are batshit insane.  Anyway, as far as the fighting, it didn't disappoint me.  The story was about what I would have expected, which is to say that it didn't make much sense to me.  In fact, I'm not even going to bother trying to explain it.

It's way too long for what it is and it seems like they should have made this into two different movies. The second half of the movie is so different from the first half, that it felt like it was s completely different movie, just starring the same guy.  Make it a sequel. .Also, the second half has an unusual cameo from David Carradine, so it was kind of sad to see him.  It's sad this was one of his last movies.

It was directed by Woo-ing Yuen, who has directed a ton of martial art films like the original Drunken Master, Iron Monkey, and was the action choreographer for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  That should give you an idea of the type of martial arts action you're in for.

If you like martial arts, it's worth renting for the fight scenes. You can fast forward past anything that isn't fighting.


Meet Monica Velour

Boring movie about a directionless nerd that has a fixation on an old porn star.  He's just graduated high school and has no idea what to do.  No job prospects and doesn't appear to have any college plans.  Can you even call this guy a nerd?  He's more of just a loser/slacker in a nerd's body.  Anyway, he finds out that his porn star crush is going to make an appearance at a strip club, so he drives hundreds of miles to meet her.

It's trying to be quirky, but it just wasn't very funny or interesting.  A movie like this only works when you really like the characters.  The lead not only wasn't a good actor, he came off as just a creepy stalker.  You can't really identify with him.  I liked Kim Cattrall's performance, and it was nice to see her in a role that wasn't a retreat of her character from Sex in the City.

The pacing is slow and the movie seems much longer than it's 1 hour and 37 minute run time.  This is movie that really seems like it didn't know what it wanted to be.  If they had done this as a dark comedy, I think it would have been a nice sleeper.  This is another first time writer/director movie by Keith Bearden.  It seems like he could have used some help.  It's not awful, but it was just missing too many things to be worth watching.

Pass


Hesher

I heard a lot of good things about this one, and I've never made any secret about Joseph Gordon-Levitt (hensforth to be referred to as "JGL") being one of my favorite up-and-coming actors.  Actually, can he still be considered up-and-coming at this point?  I think he's arrived.  He's in frigging everything now.  Hell, I'm seeing a movie with him (50/50) this weekend.  Anyway, just based on JGLs appearance in the movie, I was really looking forward to this.  It also stars Natalie Portman and Rainn Wilson, so great cast, right?

The movie follows a father (Rainn Wilson) and his son, T.J., played by Devin Brochu, that are dealing with the death of his mother after a car crash.  They are both dealing with depression and his father just lays around an pops pills all day.  T.J. is having trouble at school and is consistently picked on by a bully.  T.J. one day draws the ire and attention of Hesher (JGL), who's a metalhead that drives around in a van.  He appears to be homeless as well, as we first see him he's squatting in a home under construction.  He follows T.J. home and just moves into their garage.  He doesn't ask, he just moves in.  At the same time, he's exacting revenge on the bully that's tormenting T.J.  It's like Hesher is trying to be his guardian angel.  Eventually, they bring Natalie Portman's character into the mix and they all hang out together.

It's just okay. I thought the performances were good, but I didn't get enough about JGLs motivation or back story. Why is he protecting this kid? Why is he homeless?  I'm going to sound like a broken record, but like I said about Meet Monica Velour above, it just didn't go anywhere.  I think the movie suffered cause it couldn't quite pick a tone.  If this had been more of a dark comedy, I think it would have worked better.  It came off as too serious and depressing.

I still think it's an interesting enough movie to rent thought.  Unlike Meet Monica Velour, it has a much better cast and you get more out of the performances.


Bronson

Tom Hardy plays Bronson, who is known for being one of the UK's most dangerous criminals.  He was born Michael Gordon Peterson, but changed his name to Charles Bronson on the recommendation of his fight promoter.  Before he was in prison, he spent some time as a bare-knuckle boxer.  While some of what you see in Bronson is fiction, the crazy part is that this is a real guy.  He's in prison now as you read this.

Anyway, once in prison he became notorious for routinely fighting inmates and guards, sometimes even taking hostages.  He would consistently spend time in solitary confinement and transferred to other prisons when they  couldn't handle him anymore.  Bronson is brutal and very strange at times. It's one of those movies where you might find yourself laughing at points, but then you aren't sure if you should be laughing.

It features a great performance by Tom Hardy.  It's really his one-man show.  If you have any doubts about his ability to play 'Bane' in The Dark Knight Rises, watch this movie.

Bronson was directed by the same guy that directed Drive, Nicolas Refn.  You can see some of the similarities between the two films as far as his use of violence.  Refn seems like to like to make violent movies that are 'artistic'.  You can feel that here, too.

Bronson is another movie that is an interesting rental, but it's not for everyone.  It's available on Netflix streaming at the moment.  I'll likely find myself watching this again just before The Dark Knight Rises comes out.


Spartacus: Gods of the Arena

If you liked Spartacus: Blood and Sand, then you'll like this. It's basically a prequel to Blood and Sand outlining the backstory of Batiatus and people like Crixus and Oenomaus.  It's set in the same location and house, just a short time before the events of Blood and Sand.  It features the same actors and has the same style, blood and nudity you've come to expect from the Spartacus series.  That's all I really need to say about it.

Fans of Spartacus should rent this.  It's only six episodes, so you can knock it out in a weekend if you wanted to power through it.  If you're interested into getting into the series, start with Blood and Sand and then watch Gods of the Arena.


Prom

Ugh...frigging Disney.  Aimee Teegarden plays the class president that is planning the school's prom, only she doesn't have a date yet.  She's waiting for her friend to ask her to prom and she's all stressed out about it.  Through a bunch of lame events, she's eventually paired up with the school's resident 'bad boy' and they have to work together to finish the preparations for the prom.  They don't like each other at first.  I have no idea where this could be going.  I wonder if they'll get together...

I'm clearly not the target audience for a movie like this, but that doesn't mean the movie can't be good.  It bascially uses every lame cliche in the book.  You've seen it all before.

I also had a hard time getting into Prom because I didn't go to my prom, so this just has no nostalgia for me. At the beginning of the movie, you hear Teegarden's chacter talk about prom like it's this magical event that brings everyone together.  That's not how I remember it.  I remember asking a bunch of girls and not going.  I remember friends telling me about arguments they had with their dates.  Plus, she's talking about an event that she hasn't yet experienced, so how would she know?  Also, Aimee Teegarden is really cute, so I have a hard time believing she'd be hard up for a date for the prom or that she didn't already have a boyfriend.  She's the class president, so it's not like she's that cute girl at the school that nobody's heard of.

It's harmless, but not really worth watching.  The only real audience for this movie are teens and pre-teens.  This is something you rent for your kids or let your kids rent and watch on a slumber party.  Um...not that I'd know anything about that either.

It's a pass for the rest of us.


Barney's Version

Another great Paul Giamatti performance, where he's basically playing Barney: a very flawed, and pretty much unlikeable person.  Maybe 'unlikeable' is the wrong word.  I didn't really dislike him.  Maybe selfish is the word I'm looking for.  Despite his character flaws, you still want to watch what happens to him and see how his life plays out.

The story is told by Barney and covers most of his adult life.  You see how he is at work, his relationship with his family members and his failures in his relationships (you see that he's had three wives over the course of the film).

It's a little long, but I liked it.  As I said earlier, Giamatti is great. How I feel about Giamtti is like the opposite of what I said about Kate Hudson earlier.  Where Hudson's presense in a movie is usually a bad sign, Giamatti's presense is usually that sign that the movie is at least going to be well acted or interesting.  He seems to excel at making flawed characters watchable or even likeable.  This also stars Dustin Hoffman, Minnie Driver and Rosamund Pike, so it's got a nice cast.

I think it's worth a rental, just for Paul Giamatti.


Blitz

Like it or not, when I see Jason Statham is in a movie, I usually don't expect much in the way of a good story.  However, I at least expect a decent action film.  Blitz is neither a good story or good action film.

It felt kind of cheap/low-budget, like it was made for TV.  It just wasn't very interesting.  I started and stopped watching this like three or four times over a week before I finally finished it.  It's also one of those movies were you almost have to watch it with the subtitles on due to the thick British accents.

I did like the opening scene and then ending, but almost everything in the middle just bored the hell out of me.

I would only say to rent this if you're someone that has to watch every Statham movie, like you're obsessed with him.  Otherwise, skip it.


Hobo With a Shotgun


Rutger Hauer plays a hobo...with a shotgun!  The end.  Seriously, he plays a Hobo that has come to a town that is overrun by crime and the local gang.  He originally has plans on buying a lawn mower and starting his own lawn mowing business, but after seeing how out of hand things have become in the town and witnessing the corruption of the local police, he decides to spend that money on a shotgun and take care of the crime itself.

It's not a good movie, but if you like Troma-type films, it had it's moments. Very violent and gory.  It felt like a old 80's horror, exploitation type film.  Much like Toxic Avenger, so if you like that kind of thing, then this is right up your alley.

I enjoyed it enough, but I put this in the category of so bad, it's good.  However, it's clear they did this on purpose, so can you really appreciate it when it's emulating one of those films, or do you call it a tribute to the genre, similar to what Black Dynamite was to blaxploitation films.

It's available on Netflix streaming last time I checked.  Again, worth watching if you like these types of films.


Trollhunter

I really liked this one.  It's a Norwegian film and a different take on the whole found footage thing.  It basically follows a few student film makers that are following some hunters.  The hunters complain about some weird hunter that always seems to follow them around and they believe he's a bear poacher.  They also blame him for some of the weird animal deaths in the area.  The students eventually get an interview with the poacher, who agrees to have them film him and come along.  Only they quickly find out that this guy isn't hunting bears, he's hunting Trolls!  Yes, Trolls!  He reveals that Trolls have always existed and have been covered by up a goverment agency.  His job is to track down rogue Trolls and kill them, while his agency tracks them and works on covering it all up.

I thought the movie was very clever and well made. They really did a lot with the effects on a pretty low budget.  It is a subtitled film though, so I can see people having issues with that.

I strongly recommend renting it though.


Happythankyoumoreplease

Kind of cute movie, but I think it tried a little too hard.  It was really cliched at times.  It basically follows the story of three different relationships, but the central relationship is between the character Sam, played by Josh Radnor, and a foster kid that he randomly meets on the subway.  The foster kid gets separated from his family, so Josh tries to help the kid get back to his family, only the kid has no interest in going back to his foster home and just stays with Josh.  Their relationship was very sweet at times, but at the same time, the whole scenario seemed unrealistic, as you think the guy would have just taken the kid to the police.  While he has the kid he's also trying to start a relationship with a girl, played by Kate Mara.

Another relationship is with one of Josh's friends, played by Malin Akerman.  Akerman probably gives one of the best performances I've seen out of her.  I really thought she was just going to be a Cameron Diaz knockoff after The Heartbreak Kid, but I think she's starting to come into her own.  Initially you think she suffers from cancer, as she's bald, but really she has Alopecia.  She gets tentatively involved with a guy in her office, played by Tony Hale, and it was nice to see him play a character where he's not playing an outright baffoon.

There's a third relationship with Josh's cousin and her boyfriend.  This is the one relationship, I think could have been removed from the film.  It just wasn't developed very well and I didn't really care about either of these two.  Every time the story switched back to them, the movie really slowed down and it just wasn't very interesting.

There are a few parts towards the end that actually kind of got to me emotionally, which I wasn't expecting.  I almost even felt a little bit of a tear coming. It resonanted with me that much.  There's actually a line from the end of the movie that I felt applied to me and need to say to myself a little more, and no, it's not the title.

Josh Radnor wrote and directed this, and I think he did a decent job.  If he had focused more on his relationship with the foster kid and then the Ackerman/Hale relationship, I think it would have been a better movie.

I'm going to recommend renting it.