Tuesday, January 31, 2012

This Week in DVD - January 29th

Real Steel

I was pleasantly surprised by this.  It has some corny dialog and it's a little more kid oriented than I was expecting, but I think it turned out to be a nice family film.  I think I put it this way, if I would have taken my nephew to see this, he would have loved it, and I wouldn't have felt like I completely wasted my time.  It's like a Rocky movie, but with robots.

You can read the original review here.

3 (out of 5) Death Stars.


Emotional, yet funny, story based on the real life experiences of writer Will Riser.  As I mention in my original review, Seth Rogen plays the best friend in the movie, but was also the real life best friend of Will Riser.

It's one of those you'll laugh, you'll cry movies, but I think it was one of the year's better films and anchored by yet another great Joseph Gordon-Levitt performance.  I think JGL, and the movie, might have gotten a slight snub by the Oscars this year, but JGL will get his due eventually.

You can read more about it here.

4 Death Stars.

Paranormal Activity 3

I still think this is a terrible movie.  I really don't get what anyone sees in this series.  It's just a bunch of bad actors reacting to doors slamming shut and noises off camera.  Then, they aren't even consistent with the whole found footage thing in this one.  This is supposed to be a prequel taking place in the 80's, yet the film quality looks current.  Then there are shots in the film where you see the camera, so it's like they kind of gave up on trying to sell you on these being home movies.  Unless you want to believe that they filmed themselves filming themselves.  Right...

I will say it might be the best of the three films, but that's not saying much.

0.5 Death Stars - I still consider this to be one of the worst films of 2011.


Mia Wasikowska stars in a indie film directed by Gus Van Sant basically about two young teens that meet and fall in love, but it's also about how each character deals with death.

It might be a little too cute and twee for some, and it's a little predictable, but it worked for me.  I think the movie suffered by the lead, played by Henry Hopper, in his first role.  I think based on the subject matter, a slightly more experienced actor would have helped sell it more.  I thought his performance was kind of lifeless.  You might be tempted to say that's how he was playing the role, but when I watched the special features, that's how he appeared in interviews as well.  There's an interesting special feature that allows you to watch the movie done as a silent film, but The Artist this is not.

I did really like Mia Wasikowska's performance though and she's one of my favorite young actresses.  It also kind of freaks me out how she's a dead ringer for Aurora Snow.

3 Death Stars - I think it's worth a rental if you like cute, indie films.

That's it for this week.  I didn't watch that much as I'm trying to catch up the shows saved on my DVR.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Grey - Movie Review

You know that Liam Neeson has a specific set of skills, right?  He's a man of many talents, mentor to both Obi-Wan and Batman, can walk into a room full of thugs and destroy them in seconds and rumor has it that he has the biggest unit in Hollywood. The Grey adds wilderness survival and wolf killing to his ever expanding skill set.

I was actually kind of glad to this movie out of the way.  If I had to see the trailer for The Grey one more friggin time I was going to punch a wolf myself. Not that there are a lot of wolves around here, but I'd go find one and punch it. Hell, I watched a DVD the other day that had this as an unskippable trailer before the movie. I was getting the feeling that they were pushing this movie too hard, which is usually a bad sign.

There's not much to the story, and the trailer pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the setup.  Liam Neeson and a group of oil workers survive a plane crash.  As if things aren't bad enough, they are almost immediately attacked by a pack of wolves.  They know that if they don't get moving, they will all be dead within a day.  So Liam, his specific set of skills, and the survivors start heading south.  They hope that as they move south, they'll leave the wolves' territory and they'll get left alone.  Unfortunately, they are stalked by the wolves the entire time.

This is a good example of a movie where the trailer really gives you a different impression of what this movie actually is.  If you think this movie is going to be 'Liam Neeson punches wolves for two hours', you're going to be disappointed.  However, I'm glad that's not how the movie played out.  That's not to say though, that this movie, and all movies, wouldn't benefit from more wolf-punching.  This is why I maintain that Eric Bana's Hulk is better than Ed Norton's The Incredible Hulk.  Bana's Hulk features mutant dog punching, which is awesome.  Ed Norton's The Incredible Hulk features no dog or wolf punching, therefore it is an inferior film. End of discussion!

The Grey starts out like a horror/thriller movie, but turns into a survival film with deep philosophical elements.  It's about man versus the elements (and wolves).  The wolf attacks are sudden and brutal.  You'll jump a lot in the early part of this film.  If you watch this at home and have a good surround sound system, I think it will add to the experience even more.  The film is shot beautifully as well.  While all the snow and trees look great, you understand how deadly it is.

As they press on and you get the know the characters better, it becomes more of a philosophical film.  At what point to you give up?  What keeps these guys pressing on despite the odds?  You'll get to understand all of their motivations.  Eventually, you see these guys questioning their faith.

It's a longer movie, which kind of adds to how bleak and depressing their struggle is.  I was never bored though.  This might be a bit of a spoiler, but the famous scene from the trailer where he tapes bottles to his hands is actually the very last shot of the film.  The ending is kind of sudden and I can see people being disappointed by it, but I loved how it ended. Oh, and stay until the end of the credits.

While this is a Liam Neeson movie, the rest of the cast is great, too.  Dermot Mulroney, Frank Grillo, and Dallas Roberts all stand out in their performances.  You start out not knowing anything about these guys, and in some cases not liking them at all, but by the end you feel for them.

This was written and directed by Joe Carnahan, who has movies like Smokin' Aces and The A-Team to his credit.  Based on those two movies, I wouldn't have expected that he was capable of a movie like The Grey.  It's a totally different kind of movie for him and I think it's easily his best work.  I hope he continues on this path.

I really loved The Grey.  It's not at all the movie I was expecting and I was peasantly surprised by it.  If you can get past that this isn't the action film the trailer shows, you're in for a well made movie about a group's struggle for survival.  I strongly recommend watching it and I'm looking forward to watching it again.

4 (out of 5) Death Stars

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - Movie Review

I have to be honest, I wasn't all that interested in seeing this.  I still think it's a too soon to use 9/11 as a device in a movie.  I think it's a cheap way to give a movie more emotional weight that it didn't earn.

I think I'm still burned by Remember Me, which actually attempted to throw 9/11 into the movie at the last minute as a twist, when it had NOTHING to do with the movie up until that point.  It was one of the most insulting things I've ever seen done in a film.  Fortunately, in this film it's use of 9/11 isn't as clumsy.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close follows the story of Oskar (tell me you aren't Oscar-baiting when the main character is named Oskar), a bright, but socially awkward kid.  At one point they even mention that they tested him for Asperger's, but the results were inconclusive.  You can see that there's just something a little different about him.  Oskar and his dad, Thomas (Tom Hanks), play games that are designed to push Oskar to think creatively and force him to interact with people (something he's not very good at).  As you've seen in the trailer, Thomas dies in 9/11.  This is done at the beginning of the film, so most of the scenes with Tom Hanks are in flashbacks.

Anyway, after Thomas dies, they are understandably having a hard time dealing with it.  One of the main issues for Oskar is that as his dad's death can't really be explained in a way that Oskar can understand.  He needs to it to make sense somehow.  His mother (Sandra Bullock) is trying to help him and connect with him, but it's clear he's rather her not be around.

When searching through his dad's stuff one day, Oskar finds an old key in an envelope that's only labeled with the word 'Black'.  He decides to find out what this key belongs to.  He assumes the word 'Black' is a name and systematically decides to contact all 400+ people in the phone book with the last name of Black.  He's hoping this last mystery will either help him explain his father's death or give him some kind of closure.  This aspect of the movie reminded me of Hugo.  With Hugo you also have a kid dealing with the untimely death of his father and trying to complete a final project in the hopes it will bring him closer to his dad or answer questions.

Along the way, he's joined by the mysterious 'Renter' (Max von Sydow), who comes along with him for much of his journey.  The Renter does not speak because of events that happened in his past and communicates only through scribbling on a notepad.

As you'd guess, it is a very emotional movie.  I didn't find it to be as manipulative as I thought it was going to be though.  Having said that, I still didn't think the use of 9/11 was necessary.  Why does Tom Hanks have to die in 9/11?  Why couldn't it have just been a robbery or a drunk driver?  When they show the flashbacks of 9/11 related stuff, it was just uncomfortable to me.  I think they could have told the same story without using 9/11 and I think it actually would have been better.

What saves the movie are the performances.  Thomas Horn as Oskar is fantastic here.  It's a very believable and mature performance.  I think sometimes his character came off as abrasive, but I think that's more due to the nature of the character, not the performance or actor.

Sandra Bullock also gives one of her better performances and I think I identified with her character the most.  Tom Hanks is good as always.  Is it possible to not like Tom Hanks though?  I don't really think so.

Max von Sydow was great!  Talk about acting without saying anything.  I wasn't surprised to see him get nominated for Best Supporting Actor earlier this week.  I guess 'silent' is the theme for this year's awards.

My only real complaint about the movie, besides the 9/11 thing, is that it's a little long.  It's over two hours long and I think it could have been tightened up a bit.

It's based off the book of the same name by Jonathan Safran Foer.  Apparently, the book received mixed reviews as well as this movie.  The 9/11 element is in the original book and appears to be the primary reason for the negative reviews, so I can't blame the movie for using it.. I just wish they had changed it and gone with a slightly different approach.  The screenwriter, Eric Roth, has written many other good movies and the director Stephen Daldry has directed better movies, but I think they couldn't completely overcome the source material.

I have to say I think I liked this more than the average critic did.  I guess I didn't find it as pretentious and contrived as others.  I'll even admit that I got a little weepy towards the end.  Family dramas tend to do that to me.  I will, however, say that I do not think it deserved it's Oscar nomination for Best Picture.  There are many, many much better movies that were more deserving in 2011.

It's tough for me to recommend Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, because I think most people will be affected emotionally by it.  It's like saying, "Go see it if you want to cry."  At the time time, I can see how people might feel this movie was forced and manipulative.  I do think it's suitable for almost everyone though and the performances do make it worth watching.  If you do go see it, bring Kleenex.

3.5 (out of 5) Death Stars

This week in DVD - January 22nd

Another light week in DVD.  I was a little preoccupied with the Niner game, so I didn't rent as many movies as I normally do.  Between that bitter defeat and my buddy Conan's birthday, I'm lagging a bit more than usual.

Ides of March

Strong cast and nice political drama.  I remember this was getting early Oscar buzz when it first came out, but it didn't get anything come nomination time.  I think a lot of people think Gosling got snubbed.  Clooney, however, got his nominations for The Descendants, which is a much better movie anyway..

You can read my original here.  It's good movie worth renting.

3.5 (out of 5) Death Stars.

Killer Elite

Why is it that whenever I see "Based on a True Story" in the opening credits, I almost immediately call bullshit?  The events in these types of movies are just so far fetched at times, that it's too difficult to believe any of it could have actually happened.  It's based on a book called The Feather Men by Sir Ranulph Fiennes, which he claims are real, but has since come out and said it's up to the reader to decide whether or not it is fact or fiction.  He's also received a lot of criticism from many sources saying it's all bullshit.  So yeah, I'm going to call this a work of fiction.

Anyway, I didn't think the movie itself was that bad.  There's some good action sequences and I liked the setup.  It's a little too long though.  I felt like there were a few scenes that really didn't add much to the story and could have been cut out to tighten the movie up more.

2.5 Death Stars.  This is another example of a movie that if you rented when bored on a rainy day, you'd probably enjoy it enough.


I've been dreading this one for a while.  Sometimes a bad movie can still be entertaining or fun.  This movie was just plain bad.

The first fail is that they immediately establish the lead character as an irresponsible show off with douchebag friends. They are selling fake IDs, drinking underage, calling women 'bitches', etc.  This is supposed to be the hero I'm rooting for?  It's funny because I'm in Blockbuster and I hear the kid behind the counter say that this movie grabbed him from the beginning and was action packed.  Well, I suppose that type of behavior would be interesting to a kid in high school, but for the rest of us?  As for action packed?  I guess he forgot how there were several 15-20 minute sections of the movie where nothing happens at all.

I've said this before, but Taylor Lautner cannot act.  I don't hate the kid and he seems like a nice guy in interviews, but he just doesn't have the chops to carry a film.  Maybe in a few years if he really works at it, gets a movie that's right for him and a director that pushes him, he might become a serviceable action actor.  As of this moment though, he's awful.

Having said all that, even if they had cast a better actor as the lead, it wouldn't have helped all that much.  This is just a plain terrible movie.  It's odd because this does have a pretty good cast, but they are all wasted here.    This is one of the worst stories I've seen in a while.  Nearly every thing that's said or done makes you question it or go 'huh'?  None of it makes sense as far as logic or consistency.  Like at one point Lautner's girl mentions she can't go home and her parents can't protect her because they are in Italy.  Wait, your parents left you alone at home during the school year?  Aren't you a minor?  You have shitty parents!  Plus, there was no real reason for her character to continue to be dragged along in the story anyway, but they needed a love interest, I guess.

Even as an action film, it's not good.  I thought the fight scenes were uninteresting and some of the special effects were terrible.

Oh, and the movie is called 'Abduction' yet no nobody, including the main character, was abducted in the film.  It's even explained as the movie goes on that he wasn't abducted. Why is this called Abduction again?

Wait, this was directed by John Singleon?  The same guy that directed Boyz n the Hood?  Oh man.  What a shame.

0 Death Stars.  Easily one of the worst films of 2011.

Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star

Not to be outdone, Nick Swardson and the morons over at Happy Madison Productions threw together this atrocity.  This is honestly a movie that should have never been made.  It's basically a two joke movie stretched out for 97 minutes.  Worse yet, neither of the jokes were funny in the first place.  Oh, he has giant front teeth.  Hilarious!  He prematurely orgasms just at the sight of nudity.  That's genius comedy!

This was actually written by Adam Sandler and Nick Swardson.  Between this and Jack and Jill, I'm trying to decide if Adam Sandler just hates his audience and thinks everyone is stupid, or he's actually lost his mind and thinks this stuff is genuinely funny.  Maybe he's surrounded himself with yes men.

I normally like Nick Swardson, but I thought he was better than this.  And what did poor Christina Ricci do to deserve this?  She's actually getting cuter as she's getting older, but getting stuck with worse films.

It's unfunny from the opening moments and it was a struggle to get through.

0 Death Stars.  Honestly one of the worst films of the decade, if not of all time.  I'd give this negative Death Stars if I could, but that might cause a singularity and kill us all.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

This was a pretty interesting concept.  It's a Finnish fantasy (I guess I could be a horror) film about an excavation that unearths the original Santa Claus.  The catch is that the original Santa Claus is more of a demon creature that only punishes the naughty.

I thought this was just okay.  I might have had my expectations set too high with this one, as it came highly recommended.  I give it credit for being a foreign film where I didn't really focus too much on the subtitles and I did find it interesting overall.  Again, maybe I wasn't in the right mood for this, but I've heard people call this a horror/comedy, yet I found nothing funny about the movie.

3 Death Stars.  I think it's worth a rental, but if foreign films aren't your thing then this might not be for you.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Haywire - Movie Review

I've been looking forward to this for a while.  There's been a lot of positive hype and I've been seeing previews for Haywire for months.  Haywire did not disappoint me.  Action has a new hero, and her name is Gina Carano.

It's hard for me to talk about this without spoiling the plot. As with all movies I like, I don't want to spoil anything when I think you should just go out and see it.

Haywire follows the story of Mallory, a freelance mercenary that does jobs for a private firm.  Again, I can't go into details, but she's ultimately betrayed after a job and then goes for payback.  It's actually a pretty standard premise.

What you're watching this for is Gina Carano.  As many of you know, Carano is a former MMA fighter and also had a brief stint on the recent American Gladiators show.  I'm not going to get into Carano's fight career as I know there are people out there that know more about it and have stronger opinions about her (I believe she was known for having issues with not being able to make weight for her fights).  I've always thought she was a hot chick that can kick ass.  That's pretty much what she is in Haywire.

If you're not familiar with Gina Carano's look, she basically looks like she could be Rachel Leigh Cook's older sister (despite being younger than her).  Normally in movies, they get an actor and make them learn to fight or at least try to make them look convincing.  A lot of the time this fails.  You wonder why they don't just get guys that actually know how to fight.  However, this also fails, sometimes hilariously, as the fighter cannot act at all.

I was actually coming into this expecting to kind of come down on Carano's performance.  While her performance isn't what you'd call great, I think she did a good job.  She played the role as very direct, which fit the character.  She doesn't mess around.  Steven Soderberg directed her well.  If she works at it, I think there's a real future here as a female action star.  I walked out of Haywire wanting to see more of the Mallory character and hoping they do a sequel.

The fight scenes are great!  It's so nice to see a movie full of fight scenes that are edited well and you can actually tell what's going on.  There's none of that sped up or quick cut bullshit here.  It's funny that last year's Hanna, another action film starring a woman, also had some of the more convincing action scenes that didn't feature lots of quick cuts.  It all felt very realistic, and brutal.  Don't get me wrong though.  This isn't all about the action.  It's actually a smarter action/thriller written by Lem Dobbs, whose written stuff like The Limey, The Score and Dark City.

I think the difference with women, is that the action is a harder sell, as so many of these actresses are painfully skinny or nonathletic, that you don't believe it.  It's why I didn't like Salt.  I just can't believe that the anorexic looking Angelia Jolie can fight any man and win, despite special training.  The guys that she's beating up in the movie had the same special training, didn't they?  I don't buy it.  Haywire makes Salt look like a kids film.  All I'm trying to say is that it's nice they cast someone that can actually pull off the action.  In Carano's case, it helps that she's pretty.  Plus, I have a weakness for women with A-line bob haircuts.

As this is a Steven Soderbergh film, it does kind of have an Ocean's Eleven feel to it with how it wraps up, and I was actually looking forward to the reveals that you normally get as the movie concludes.  The pacing is just right and I loved how this movie ended!  I walked out of this totally satisfied.

Also to be expected with Soderbergh films, he's assembled another great cast.  Soderbergh seems to have a knack for getting good actors across the board, even for the smaller roles.  I've heard this is because he's one of the nicest guys in Hollywood to work with.  Plus, he makes good films.  He is able to get guys like Michael Douglas and Antonio Banderas for smaller roles, managed to make Channing Tatum actually seem decent, and then gets guys like Michael Fassbender, and my nemesis, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) to round out the cast.

This is too good of a film to be released in January.  Maybe they thought with Carano being a relative unknown that they didn't know how it would perform.  Even after watching it and with all the great reviews, I'm fearful that this movie might get forgotten.  The theater was about 3/4 full, so hopefully that's a good sign.

Haywire lived up to the hype and was a great January surprise.  It's too early in the year to call this one of my favorite films of the year, but it's going to get some strong consideration and I wouldn't be surprised to see this up there in my lists.  I think it's a great, smart action/thriller and features some of the better fight scenes I've seen in a while.  I highly recommend watching this.

4 (out of 5) Death Stars

Red Tails - Movie Review

I get a little nervous when I see Lucasfilm attached to anything these days, especially something dealing with race.  Let's face it, Jar Jar Binks put a bad taste in everyone's mouth.  When I saw that Lucasfilm was making a movie about Tuskegee Airman, I thought it might be an attempt at an apology.  As the same time, I was nervous that it could be an offensive film full of bad stereotypes.  I was practically expecting George Lucas to go back and edit in Jar Jar in as one of the pilots.  I'm sure he's saving that for the Special Edition.

Fortunately, I didn't think Red Tails was embarrassing in that sense.  However, it's not a particularly good film either though.

This is going to be a shorter review, as I actually don't have too much to say about the movie.  The story is inspired by the true events of the Tuskegee Airmen.  I'm not a big war historian, so I don't know too much about them other than just a general awareness of who they were.  Like I've said with other historical dramas, it's not a bad thing when a movie interests you into watching other (better) movies or documentaries about that subject or reading up on them.  I think Red Tails will do that for a lot of people, including me.

You start the film following a group of young pilots during World War II that are stuck with lame patrols and missions with little relevance to advancing the war.  Eventually, their commanding officer (Terrence Howard), is able to get them a forward mission guarding bombers.  In the movie they explain that existing fighter escorts were failures due to the (white) pilots going after enemy kills (being 'glory hounds') and abandoning their escort, leaving them exposed to enemy fire.  They ask the Tuskegee Airman to stay with their bombers and not chase after enemy pilots.  At first this sounds like they are asking them to die and I started thinking of the 'human shield' thing from South Park, but it was more that they just wanted the pilots to allow the bombers to do their job as they were losing too many of them.

Naturally, the mission is a great success and they gain the respect of their fellow pilots.  Later on they are even requested by other bomber pilots for future missions (a true fact, from what I read).  It's a feel good movie in that sense as you're rooting for these guys and happy they are succeeding.

That's pretty much all there is to the story.  After each fighter sequence, you are basically just waiting for the next fighter scene.  This is mainly because the characters are very paper thin and one dimensional.  I did like the pilots 'Easy' (Nate Parker) and 'Lightning' (David Oyewolo).   I feel like those were the only two characters that you got to learn anything about or had any kind of character development outside of flying.  Cuba Gooding Jr. is wasted here.  What happened to that guy?  It's all been downhill since Jerry Maguire.

The dialog is pretty corny for the most part.  It's a shame because a better script would have made a HUGE difference here.  At the same time, being a Lucasfilm movie, none of this surprises me.  Even though George Lucas only produced this, all of the trademark bad dialog and character elements are there.  The screenplay writers, John Ridley and Aaron MaGruder, have mainly only written TV shows, so maybe they were a little too far out of their comfort zone.  The director, Anthony Hemingway, also has a lot of TV shows to his credit, so again, I have to wonder if a more experienced feature film director would have helped.

While the flight scenes are done well, you do get too much of a fake feeling from it at times.  Red Tails didn't have as large of a budget as you'd normally expect for a movie like this, so sometimes the CG had a cheap feel.  With the smaller budget it seems like it would have been a  better idea to use old fashioned models instead of over relying on CG effects.  Again, not really much of a surprise here from Lucasfilm.

Despite all of if this, I was still kind of entertained by Red Tails.  It wasn't as bad as I feared it might be, but at the same time I was bummed out that they couldn't have gotten a better script and made the dialog better.  It ends up being a pretty cliched war/action film.  I did see with a packed crowd though and they definitely seemed to be into it and was a crowd pleaser.  I think it's worth a rental, but the effects don't really demand that you go out and see this in the theater.

2.5 (out of 5) Death Stars

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Underworld: Awakening - Movie Review

I've never been a huge fan of the Underworld series.  I haven't hated the previous films, but I thought they were kind of boring.  Going into this, I wasn't expecting much, or even to like it.  I have to say though that Underworld: Awakening is my favorite of the series!

Again, this review might be a little spoilery, but trust me when I say there really isn't all that much to the story, and that isn't the reason why you are going to watch this anyway.

If you aren't familiar with the series, the first few minutes of the movie basically give you a recap of the series' history, which I appreciated because I had forgotten some of the details and that helped get me back into it.  If you're coming into this without seeing the rest, then that first few minutes is really all you need.

Then, the movie shows you that Humans have finally discovered the existence of Vampires and Werewolves (only refered to as Lycans in the Underworld series).  Humans have basically started an all out war to eliminate both species.  Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and Michael (Scott Speedman) are trying to flee the city, but are intercepted by a Human task force.

One flaw in the movie right at this point was that you hear the team say they need to take Michael alive as he is a Vampire/Lycan hybrid, but what's the first thing they do?  Shoot him in the chest.  Oops!  So Selene and Michael are captured and hid in a facility.  Selene is able to escape and realizes that she's been on ice for 12 years.  Initially, she's trying to track down Michael, whom she shares some kind of psychic bond with, only to discover that it's really a child named Eve (India Eisley).  Eve is also a Vampire/Lycan hybrid created from DNA from Selene and Michael.  The Humans want Eve back as her DNA can be used to cure both Vampires and Lycans.  That's pretty much it.

Make no mistake, this movie is dumb, but if you can get past that, you're in for a ride as far as the action.  This is easlily the most entertaining of the series.  Just shut your brain off and enjoy the visuals.  From almost the opening scene this movie is action packed and gory as hell.  Like horror movie gory.  Heads are flying off, people are getting sliced open and there's blood everywhere.  I actually dug that a lot.  When you have Vampires and Lycans that have super-strength fighting each other and using guns and claws and teeth, you should see a lot of blood.  This movie earns its R rating as far as that goes.

The effects, however were a little inconsistent in parts.  One of my pet peeves about CG effects is when the actors don't react to the CG effect that's put in later.  Like, in one scene Lycans are jumping on moving cars and the drivers don't react at all.  They barely swerve or break or look around.  If a large thing just hit the roof of your car, you'd probably react a little.  Then, when the Lycan moves to the front of the car, they still barely react.  As if a Lycan being on your windshield is a normal occurrence or wouldn't affect your driving at all.  No, I'm going to just keep driving at full speed as if nothing is happening.  I'm sure it will all work out for the best.

Another funny thing is that even though this movie takes in the future, everyone seemed to be driving old sedans from the 70's.  When you see old cars in modern movies, you know it means they are going to get totaled.  You even see this in movies like Terminator 2.  I have to wonder if this just a budget thing though.

In another scene where the Vampires and Lycans face off, the (real) Vampires are shooting at CG Lycans and not even shooting in the proper direction or reacting to the most immediate threats.  There's a Lycan attacking this Vampire standing two feet to the left of another and he turns he back to them.  Clearly, they don't see it because they aren't really there, but this seems like it should have been directed better or the CG team should have been paying more attention to what the actors were doing.  Something was off there.

Another pet peeve of mine in movies like this is when powers are inconsistent.  You see a group of Vampires get worked by a group of Lycans in one scene, then later on you see one of the very same Vampires having no issues with dealing with a group of Lycans by himself.  Maybe you could write this off to Vampires being stronger if they've recently fed, but this isn't shown, so you're left to assume these kind of things.  They way they handled feeding was inconsistent and there were a few things involving healing that weren't handled very well, but I'm getting nitpicky at this point.  Let's get back to the action....

I really did like the pacing and how crazy it all was.  Just when I thought they had shown me everything, they'd do something different that would get me interested again.  This movie only has an 88 minute runtime, so it really doesn't waste a lot of time with story.  It's just moving from one frenetic action sequence to the next.

If you're a fan of Kate Beckinsale, there's lots of slow-motion shots of her with her mouth agape.  Underworld: Awakening is all about her in a skin-tight, leather suit and seeing her move around in slow-mo.  They even tease her being naked in the opening sequence.  You'd think that with all the loving shots of her, that this was directed again by her husband, and Fremont native, Len Wiseman, but he only took writing and producing duties this time around.  U: A was directed by the team of Mårlind & Stein, and I think they really nailed the action.  I'd love to see what they could do with an actual story and script.

There's not much I can say about the cast, because there's not much to the performances, but I did really like India Eisley as Eve.  Whatever they did with the effects or makeup really worked in making her look genuinely evil and threatening.  Normally, when you see a kid in this kind of role, even when you're told they are supposed to be super powerful, you just never really get that sense, but I think they did a good job of that here.

I saw this on the IMAX which is too pricey for a movie like this and the 3D doesn't warrant seeing it in 3D either.  It's not terrible, but maybe I'm getting used to 3D in the movies.  I just didn't notice much from it.  The sound of this movie on the IMAX was awesome though!.  At one point I thought someone in the theater was shouting, only to realize it was the surround sound.  It was that loud.

Look, Underworld: Awakening isn't a good movie.  It's silly overall, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.  If you're a fan of the series, I think you'll like this a lot.  Even if you aren't a fan, but like over the top action movies, I think there's enough crazy action here to entertain you.  I went into this not being much of a fan, but actually hoping they make another (and yes, they setup an obvious sequel at the end).  I actually recommend checking this out.

3 (out of 5) Death Stars.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Contraband - Movie Review

I don't have a ton to say about this movie.  It's not really terrible, but it's not really good.  It's the very definition of mediocre.  As a warning, I'm going to get a little spoileriffic here, so be warned or just skip to the end.

Contraband is yet another one of these heist movies where a former 'contraband' runner, Chris (Mark Wahlberg), is forced to come out of 'retirement' and do another run when his brother-in-law gets in trouble with the wrong guy.  His brother-in-law (Caleb Landry Jones), is one of these fuck ups that you wonder how he hasn't already gotten himself killed by now.  When he's included in the heist, you have to wonder why, as you just know he's going to be the cause of some other screw up down the line.

As you'd expect, nothing goes right almost from the very beginning.  Yet, you never really feel any real tension as something always happens just when you think they are going to get caught.

Then, the way it ends, you can see some of it coming from a mile away.  At the same time, some of it is pulled off without any explanation or left you wondering how anyone had time to do any of this.  It tries to be Ocean's 11 with how it wraps up, but dumber.

There's some really bad dialog in this film and I felt most of the attempts at humor just felt flat.  It turns out Contraband is an American remake of an Icelandic film called Reykjavík-Rotterdam.  Director Baltasar Kormákur, both produced and starred in the original, but you'd think being so involved in the original he could have done more with this.  Maybe there was something lost in translation of the adapted screenplay by Aaron Guzikowski.

There were just weird things that you notice that don't make a lot of sense. The movie takes place in New Orleans, except everyone speaks with a New England or non-native accent.  It's not a huge deal, but details like that take me out of a movie.

At one point in the film, Chris gets roped into yet another robbery (because of someone else's screw up), on top of the heist he's going that's already screwed up. This is the scene where you see them wearing duct tape around their faces as disguises.  I thought this was just silly.  When you see it in the trailer, the duct tape would seem to imply that this robbery was improvised, yet it's clear during the movie that this was planned.  You couldn't just get masks for a heist you've been planning for a while?  Don't you realize what a pain it's going to be to take off?  How much hair it's going to rip out or how much it'll hurt?  Then, as they're escaping, one of the guys just pulls the mask off all in one piece like it wasn't even stuck to him.  Plus, it didn't even disguise his chin or jaw line and this was the leader of the heist. The guy that planned it all.  Chris and his buddy don't even bother with the duct tape or disguises.

One of the guys places a charge on a door to blow it off, yet doesn't give himself enough time to get to safety, so he gets killed by his own bomb.  What kind of idiots are you doing robberies with?

Also, in keeping with the nothing goes right theme, during the robbery, the Panamanian swat team shows up in less than a minute and proceeds to kill the entire team within seconds, except for Chis and his buddy, even though they are completely unarmed.  All the bullets magically miss them.  This is what I'm talking about when I say there's no tension.  You know they're getting away.

Contraband actually has a good cast, but they are mostly wasted.  Kate Beckinsale, in particular.  There's nothing about her character other than being the wife that gets threatened by the thugs.  She could have been played by anyone and it wouldn't have made any difference to the story.  I like Ben Foster and I thought he was about the only character I liked as far as his performance.  Giovanni Ribisi felt a little over the top as far as his performance goes.  He gets his ass kicked just about every time he's in the movie, so even though he's the primary villain, you never really feel threatened by him.

Mark Walhberg plays Mark Wahlberg again.  I've never been a big Whalberg fan.  I just don't think he's that good of an actor and plays the same character in every movie.  He doesn't have any range and only seems to have a perpetual scowl on his face.  That's not acting if that's your default expression.  I don't hate him, I just think he's overrated.

If you rented Contraband one night when you were bored or caught it cable one afternoon, you'd probably think it was an okay movie and wonder why this isn't getting great reviews.  It's just that this has all been done before in better movies.  Contraband just goes through the motions and is very forgettable.

2.5 (out of 5) Death Stars.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

This Week in DVD - January 15th

Another slow week in DVD.  Blockbuster and Netflix have been lagging in sending me new releases even when everything I have has been returned for a few days.

Plus, my time has been kind of divided with playing The Old Republic.  I'm really digging playing a Sith Lord.  Imagine that...

Also, I'm on a bit of a high right now due to the 49ers amazing win on Saturday.  That was one of the best playoff games I've seen.  Then, we get lucky and Giants get an unexpected win in Green Bay and now the Niners have a home game for the NFC championship.  Who would have guessed that the road to the Superbowl would go through San Francisco?

Poor Rooney Mara.  She didn't get the Golden Globe tonight (which she deserved) and next week she's going to watch her Giants lose to my Niners next weekend.  There's always the Oscars, cutie pie.

I just finished watching the Golden Globes and I was pretty happy with the results for the most part.  There were so many awards that I would have been happy if they had gone with any of the nominees that it's hard to be disappointed.  The only thing that bummed me out is that they bring Ricky Gervais out, and then after his opening monologue, hid him backstage.  He was barely on the show this year. I know he fought for control over what he was going to be able to say, but it just seems like he was held back somehow.  I really wanted to see him get boozed up and talk some shit, but it didn't happen enough to my liking.

Anyway, on to the movies...


I haven't watched it since seeing it the theaters.  It's has a great script and great performances.  It's a baseball movie that I think even people that don't care about baseball can enjoy as there's really not a lot of actual baseball in the movie.  It's more of a behind the scenes movie.  It's even easier to like if you're an old-school A's fan like myself.  If you are, then you'll enjoy this just for the nostalgia and watching part of the 20 game win streak again.

One of the year's better films and probably one I'll pick up on Blu-Ray once the price drops a bit.

4.5 Death Stars.  Rent it or buy it.  I don't think you'll be disappointed.

What's Your Number?

I was kind of disappointed in this.  I figured with Chris Evans and Anna Faris, you'd have a slam dunk romantic comedy.  While I liked both of them in the movie, it's just too middle of the road.  It's not super funny, or raunchy.  It's just kind of 'meh'.  This is one of those romantic comedies that you know how it's going to end from the beginning.  That's nothing new for romantic comedies, but it still could have been done better.  I think of something like Friends With Benefits that just had a better script.

I will say that Anna Faris has the nicest calves in Hollywood right now.  She's apparently aware of this, too, as there's barely a scene in the movie where she isn't wearing a dress, or short shorts or in her underwear.  Not that I'm complaining though.

2.5 (out of 5) Death Stars.  I don't think it's a complete waste of time, but more of a missed opportunity.

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

Due to Guillermo del Toro's involvement in this, I really wanted to like it.  There are parts I did like, but there were too many things about the movie that I didn't or took me out of the movie.

At first I didn't like Bailee Madison's character, especially how she interacted with Katie Holmes, but she grew on me and I think it's more that Katie Holmes' performance was weird.

Basically the movie is about fairies.  You learn in this movie that fairies are assholes like like to mess with people and they want kid's teeth.  Why do they want children's teeth so bad?  You know those aren't too hard to get, being that they fall out of EVERY kid, and at pretty much the same age.  I mean, there's the whole tooth fairy thing.  Seems like they could have gone with that kind of angle, but they didn't.

Okay, here's where I get all spoilery, so just skip to the end if you haven't seen this yet...

Then, you find out they don't like light, but yet you consistently see them in the daylight walking around and nobody seems to notice them but the little girl.  There's a scene where she's being really distracting during an important dinner and you can see that's something is messing with her under the dinner table, yet not a single person, out of like 20, takes any notice of this or attempts to look under the table.  This just didn't seem real to me.  If I saw a kid apparently playing tug of war with something under the table, I'd check at some point to see what it was.

I really had an issue with the end.  There's a part where Katie Holmes gets her leg broken and it's one of those 'oh shit' moments, but then when I watched the scene again, I realized that it couldn't have happened if you know anything about how rope works.  Then, she gets sucked down into a pit under the house and nobody goes and looks for her?  You know where the cave with all the fairies is?  Why not level the house get a backhoe and dig out the cave.  Do it during the day, so that the fairies can't do shit.

To make matter worse, nobody seems to care that Katie Holmes is gone at the end of the movie or have any kind of emotion about it.  What do they tell her family or the authorities?

Police:  So you're filing a missing person's report.  Can you tell us what happened to her?

Guy Pearce:  Oh, she fell into a pit.

Police:  Where?  We should go get her now!

Pearce:  The pit is under my house...

Police:  What?  Did you go after her?

Pearce:  No...

Police:  Did you hire someone to dig up the pit to get to her?

Pearce:  No, I didn't see any point.

Police:  So, what did you do then?

Pearce:  We boarded up the house and condemned it.

Police:  What!?  We're sending a car to come pick you up now.  Stay where you are.

2.5 Death Stars.  I only give it 2.5 of cause it was kind of creepy and had some good moments, but there were too many things about it I didn't like to give it a higher rating.

Catch .44

I thought this was a mess of a film that tried to be smarter than it actually was.  If you want to see Forest Whitaker make an ass of himself doing a bad Cuban accent, then this is your movie.  And what's with Bruce Willis doing small roles in shitty direct to video films lately?  Does he owe the IRS money?   Is he being blackmailed or owe someone a favor?  The cast of this movie is actually why I bothered even watching it, but the story is awful.

It's one of those movies that starts basically from the end, and then goes back and shows you all the stuff that lead up to that event, except just not done very well.  It's a waste of a good cast.

You could call this movie "Everyone Gets Shot" and that would be a better title.  Plus, they used bad CG blood, which I can't stand and I refuse to believe that CG blood is cheaper or more effective than just using squibs and fake blood.

1 Death Star.  Don't bother with this one.  It's not worth it.

Higher Ground

The directorial debut of Vera Farmiga, who also starred.  I got a really weird vibe from this movie at the beginning.  I think because they decided to age Farmiga's character like 20 years in about 20 minutes, without giving you any idea that's what was going on.

It did kind of grow on me as the movie went on, but ultimately, I have a hard time recommending it to people. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this before, but I'm not a religious guy, so religion based movies don't always interest me if they don't grab me from the beginning.

It's basically about Farmiga's character growing from a child to marrying her high school sweetheart, to growing apart from him and finally starting to question her religion and marriage.  It's well acted, but it's one of those movies that I'll forget that I've seen a week from now.

2.5 Death Stars.  Again, it's well acted film, so it's not that it's not worth watching, it's just that the subject matter isn't for everyone.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

My Week with Marilyn - Movie Review

Here's a good example of a movie that I wasn't all that interesting in seeing initially, but ended up really liking.  I have to admit that I've never actually seen a Marilyn Monroe movie.  Not because of any dislike for her, but more just because she was gone before my time.  We've all seen those iconic scenes and images of her and her influence cannot be denied.

I think one of my issues with not wanting to see this is because while I like Michelle Williams, when I heard she was going to be playing Marilyn I just didn't think it would work.  She's a cute girl, but she's just kind of plain and not the Marilyn type.  My concern about this vanished during the opening scene.  I was hooked!  I think that was Marilyn Monroe's power and Michelle Williams managed to channel that power.

My Week with Marilyn follows the true story based on a book written by Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), a writer and filmmaker that worked on the set of a film that eventually became The Prince and the Showgirl.  Colin is fresh out of college and his first job is as a assistant on the movie.  He had connections to actor and director Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh), who was able to get him the job.  It wasn't quite clear what their prior relationship was, but he seemed to be close with Olivier's wife like they were family friends or something.

Marilyn arrives on set and is frustrating for Olivier to work with due to her consistently being late and her use of method acting, which Olivier isn't a fan of.  Plus, the movie shows a bit of Marilyn's drug and alcohol use, which just compounded those things further.  Marilyn is insecure about her acting and thinks the crew doesn't like her, so she feels isolated.  She eventually forms a friendship with Colin, once she feels that he is the only person on set that's honest with her.

This is another movie that I think is a little bit of a tribute to older movies and how they were made.  The movie is divided between their work on the movie, Marilyn's behavior, and her relationship with Colin.  My Week with Marilyn wraps up pretty much just as filming of the movie wraps up.  It doesn't really delve much into Marilyn's history or what happens to her after.  That I didn't mind though.  There are plenty of other movies and documentaries that are about those things.

You're basically watching this movie for Michelle Williams performance as Marilyn.  While there are other actresses that might have looked the part more, it felt like she just got the essence of Marilyn and you really feel like you know her by the end.  I heard someone say after the movie, "I think she just did Marilyn better than Marilyn."  It's that kind of career defining performance.  Williams makes her likable and sympathetic and it made her life feel all that more tragic to me.

The one kind of bad thing was that it appeared they used varying prosthetics to give the waifish Williams more of Marilyn's trademark bombshell look.  Apparently she gained some weight for the role, but you can still tell there were some things that just didn't look natural.  It kind of took me out of the movie at times, because I would focus on that instead of what was going on.  There was also a body double (reportedly Emma Glover...just Googled her.  DAMN!!) used for the nude scenes.  There's no frontal nudity in the movie, if that's what you're wondering.

This doesn't take anything away from Williams' performance though and my overall enjoyment of the film.  I've said this a few times recently, but I really think this is the best female performance of the year and would not be surprised at all to see her winning the Oscar for this.  Even though I saw this in 2012, this is technically at 2011 film, so I'm going to have to include it in my 2011 lists.  I think Rooney Mara and Williams might have fight ahead of them.  That's I'd pay to see, as well.

Williams isn't the only great performance though.  Kenneth Branagh is great as Sir Lawrence Olivier.  Hell, everyone, notably Dominic Cooper and Dame Judi Dench, is great.  It's one of those movies where the performances are so good across the board, that it almost makes you forget that there's really not all that much to the story.  The story is a little thin, as it's focuses on such a short period of time, but I didn't mind that.

Almost forgotten in this is Emma Watson's first role after Harry Potter.  She plays Lucy, a wardrobe assistant that Colin initially dates, but once he starts to hang out with Marilyn, he quickly blows her off.  Poor Hermione.  You can't blame him though.  When the hottest, most famous woman in the world wants to hang out with YOU, then you might forget about other things for a bit.

This movie actually features several Harry Potter alumni with Branagh (Professor Lockhart from Chamber of Secrets), Toby Jones (the voice of Dobby, and I just saw him in TTSS) and Geraldine Somerville (Lily Potter).

As mentioned before, the movie they were making during My Week with Marilyn was The Prince and the Showgirl.  I wish I could have watched it before writing this review just so I'd have a little more comparison.  I just added it to the top of my Netflix queue though.  I might have to go back and watch some of Marilyn's more notable films.  It's a good thing when a movie can make you interested in a person to the point where you go back and read more about them or want to go back and watch older movies they've been in.

In the end, this movie charmed the pants off me, much like the real Marilyn would have.  I loved almost everything about it.  Whether or not you're a Marilyn Monroe fan, there's a lot to like and enjoy about My Week With Marilyn.  It has a knockout performance by Michelle Williams and it's a nice little drama.  I recommend checking it out.

4 (out of 5) Death Stars

Monday, January 9, 2012

Angels Crest and Roadie - Movie Reviews

These are two smaller movies have gotten limited releases in the past week or so and may or may not ever be in a theater near you.  Since I don't have a lot to say about either movie, I figured I'd just combine both reviews on a post for a change.

The theme of this post seems to be 'good performances in forgettable movies'.  These sneak previews I'm getting seem to be about 40/60 good to bad.  I know they can't all be gems, but it's not hard to figure out why these movies get thrown up On Demand the same week, or even before, their theatrical release date.

First up is Angels Crest.  It stars Thomas Dekker as a young father that leaves his kid in a parked car while he tracks a deer.  He doesn't have any hunting equipment though, so I'm not sure why he needed to track the deer.  Dekker comes back to his car to find his son missing.  This throws their small town into a panic as they search for his son.  I'm sure you have guessed that this doesn't end well.

Right off the bat, it's hard to like Dekker's character, because that's just not a very responsible thing to do.  You then find out that Dekker's ex, is an alcoholic, played by Lynn Collins, who's more of a mess then he is.

The overall tone of the movie very dour and depressing.  They live is a very small, run down town and as you meet their family and friends, you end up not liking anyone all that much.  It seemed like everyone hated their lives and it's very melodramatic.

One funny observation is that it seems like all the women in the movie have nice calves,  Kate Walsh (although you never get to see them), Elizabeth McGovern (who knew) and Mira Sorvino (who's are legendary as far as I'm concerned).  I may have mentioned this before, but I have thing for nice calves, so I tend to notice stuff like that.

This also features Jeremy Piven as the DA that's trying the case.  He's also lost a kid recently, but no details are given, so you just kind of have to assume what he's going through.  He doesn't seem to enjoy doing his job.

The bright spot, besides Piven, is Thomas Dekker's emotional performance.  I feel bad for Dekker (not his character, the actual man). If FOX has a little more vision, we'd be on like the 4th season of The Sarah Connor Chronicles by now.  It's funny, because I always confuse him with Nick Stahl, who also played John Connor.

Anyway, while Dekker's performance is convincing, there's just not all that much else in the movie to sink your teeth into.  It never quite gets over the hump of being able to stand out of from the myriad of depressing indie films dealing with loss.

Angels Crest isn't terrible, there's just not a lot to recommend outside of Dekker's performance.  It's pretty forgettable.

2 (out of 5) Death Stars

Next up is Roadie, not to be confused with the 1980's movie of the same name starring Meatloaf.  It appears the people on HDNET were confused about this, as the program guide still shows this movie as being the 80's version.  Anyway, Roadie is about Jimmy Testagros (Ron Eldard), a roadie recently let go by Blue Oyster Cult after being on the road with them for 25 years.  I don't recall that it's ever said why he's let go.

Not knowing where to go or what to do next, he goes back to his childhood home, which he hasn't seen since high school.  He's been gone so long, that his mom doesn't even seem to recognize him at first.  Initially, I thought this movie might be taking place in the 70's due to the band, the look of the house and how Jimmy has a very 70's look about him.  However, once you see him on a cell phone, that illusion was shattered.

He runs into an old acquaintance from high school (played by Bobby Cannavale), that he used to be at odds with.  He's now married to an old flame of Jimmy's (Jill Hennessy), who's a local singer.

The movie's title is a little misleading, as you'd think this would be about a roadie in action and maybe give you a behind the scenes look at a band.  Instead, Jimmy barely talks about being a roadie to the point where you start to wonder if he ever actually was one.  You don't get any flashbacks or anything like that.  When he does talk about his work, you can tell he's exaggerating heavily about it in order to sound more important to people.  That's actually one thing that you identify with.  Who doesn't fib a little in order to build themselves up, especially to old classmates, exes, or people you haven't seen in a long time.  At the same time, the fact that he won't tell anyone, even his mom, that's he was let go makes you wonder if this guy has been lying about everything.

Anyway, the rest of the movie is about Jimmy trying to deal with not being on the road anymore and hanging out with old friends.  Nothing really happens in Roadie and I think that's the biggest problem with the film.

Ron Eldard gives a nice performance though and you are able to sympathize with him.  Cannavale made me kind of laugh and Jill Hennessy has been hitting the weights or yoga or something cause she's in great shape.  She wrote the song she performs in the movie and I was impressed by that.

Roadie has a interesting 70's soundtrack.  When you hear the name Blue Oyster Cult, most people immediately think of "Don't Fear the Reaper" and the need for more cowbell.  Some of the songs featured on the soundtrack are lesser known songs by BOC that I liked and it made me want to check out more of their stuff.  There are several other songs you hear by artists most of you have never heard of.  It's just nice that the movie introduced me to music I haven't heard before and they didn't get lazy and reuse the same few songs you hear in anything about the 70's.

Overall, Roadie ends up being another small budget character piece with good performances from the four main actors involved.  It's hurt by the the fact that it doesn't really do anything new or anything to stand out.  It's just okay for me, but I do think it's worth a rental for the soundtrack and the performances.

3 (out of 5) Death Stars

This week in DVD - Jan 8th

Shark Night 3D

As I said in my original review, how can you possibly make an effective movie about shark attacks and only have it be PG-13?  It's like they missed the entire point.

0 (out of 5) Death Stars.  There's no point in renting it even as there's nothing entertaining about it.  This movie has a firm place on my 10 worst films of the year list.


I thought this was pretty good.  The story has some flaws and there are too many characters and plot threads that really aren't wrapped up well, but overall I liked it.  You can read the original review here.

3 (out of 5) Death Stars

The Guard

Honestly one of the funniest movies of the year it's been in my top ten since I've seen it.  You can read more about it here.  As I mention in the review, it's a buddy cop movie if it had been written by the Coen Brothers and directed by Guy Ritchie.

5 Death Stars!  Again, it's one of my favorite movies of the year.  They only reason I haven't bought it yet is that I'm waiting for a sale.


This was kind of interesting.  Chris Evans stars as a functional, drug-addicted lawyer trying battling hospitals to force them to buy retractable syringes.  The movie is actually based on a real case involving accidental needle sticks and the risks faced by heath care professionals.

Chris Evans actually gives a pretty good performance and it's nice to see him do something different after Captain America.  However, the movie can't settle on a tone or topic.  It doesn't know what it wants to be and it suffers as a result.  Is this a legal drama?  Is this about watching a man battling addiction?  Is this a about a medical conspiracy?  It's all over the place.

Then, just as it's getting interesting, they wrap it up with a clumsy ending and they just tell you what happened after instead of showing you.  It's frustrating.

2.5 (out of 5).  I think it's a good rental for Chris Evans' performance alone.

I Don't Know How She Does It

I'm on the fence about this one as well.  There are people in the cast that I liked and some moments I thought were funny, but the movie felt kind of dated with its subject and the roles.  The movie itself is very formulaic.  It's basically a working woman trying to balance her career and being a mother.  You've seen it all before, even right down to the lessons learned by the characters, but it's been done better in other movies

The movie's s use of voice over, and the fact that it stars Sarah Jessica Parker, made it feel like it was a Sex in the City movie, only years later after she's had kids and has finally settled down.

I didn't hate it, but it's not a good movie either.

2 (out of 5).  If you really like SJP, then I'd say to rent it, otherwise, it's not really good enough to recommend.

Final Destination V

Movies like this are usually guilty pleasures for me.  I'm a sucker for gore and over-the-top deaths and I like seeing how creative they get with some of them.  However, outside of the opening sequence, I thought many of the deaths this time around were just plain silly.  Like at one point a girl slips and manages to crash through an upper story glass window and fall to her death.  If it were that easy to break a window like that, they wouldn't be able to use them in buildings.  People would fall to their deaths on a daily basis.  In fact, many movies have used the fact that you cannot break them as a gag.

There were other deaths that involved things that just weren't physically possible.  It's best to just shut your brain off when watching a movie like this, but even then, I can't help but notice stuff like that.

I think this franchise is out of ideas and has run it's course.  You don't even care about any of the characters and want to see them die.  Generally the point of horror films is that you want at least someone to survive, but with these movies you root for death.

1 (out of 5) Death Stars.  I can only say to rent it if you absolutely love the series, otherwise, there's just nothing to recommend here.

Atlas Shrugged Part 1

I have to admit that I know nothing about Ayn Rand, but I decided to give this a whirl anyway.  Boy, was this a stinker.  It felt like a TV-movie, but with worse acting.  It doesn't even have unintentional comedy going for it. As bad as it is, it takes a turn for the ridiculous when they involve Atlantis in the plot.  Is this supposed to be a sci-fi film?  I know there's a philosophy behind this, but the movie was so bad that I didn't care about what it was.

Worse yet, it ends on a 'cliffhanger', as if after watching this 90 minute mess, I would have any interest in sitting through another.

0 Death Stars - This is one of the worst films of 2011 and do not recommend it on any level.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - Movie Review

Here's one I've been really looking forward to.  From the previews it's a spy thriller featuring a powerhouse cast.  Sign me up!

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a movie based on a book of the same name by John le Carré.  This was also adapted to a mini-series back in the 70's starring Alex Guinness.  TTSS was released in the UK back in September, so there's a been a healthy amount of hype and positive reviews before it got released here.

TTSS basically follows the story of George Smiley (Gary Oldman), who is brought out of retirement to discover the identity of a Solviet double agent at the top of British Intelligence.  His primary suspects are codenamed "Tinker", "Tailor", "Soldier" and I bet you think the next one is "Spy", right?  Well, you're WRONG!  The remaining two suspects are "Poorman" and then "Beggerman", who is Smiley himself.

Naturally, that eliminates one of the suspects right off the bat, but at the same time, if Smiley is one of the suspects, why was he the one brought out of retirement to investigate?  Was it because since he was retired, he couldn't have been involved in recent events?  It wasn't clear to me.  That's kind of my issue with the movie.  Outside of the initial premise, I can barely tell you what the movie was about or who anyone was.  There are so many characters and code names that I felt like I needed to take notes and draw up a flow chart to keep it all straight.

To muddy it up even more, they jump around in time a lot to tell the story.  They do this without any warning or letting you know when things are happening.  The events of the movie happen during a fairly short period of time, so it's not like the age of the characters let you know when things are happening.  It seems like this was something better suited for a miniseries due to all of the characters and events going on.  If HBO or Showtime would have made this instead of a 2 hour movie, I think it would have been easier to follow.

This is more of a thinking man's spy film, rather than a action-based one.  It's lots of long interviews and people researching things.  Normally, I wouldn't have an issue with that, not everything needs to be 007, but the movie ends up being kind of boring due to the lack of any action..  There's no real emotion or punch to the the film and it lacks any kind of urgency.  Because there are so many characters, you really don't get to know most of them, and don't care about any of them as a result.  When I finally found out who the spy is, I was just, "Um...okay."  It didn't feel like there was any evidence pointing specifically to that guy.  You could have told me it was anyone by the end of the movie and I would have went along with it.

TTSS does have a great cast though and has good performances going for it.  Even some of the lesser known British actors in the movie you'll recognize from other films.  Gary Oldman is great as he always is.  I also really enjoyed Tom Hardy and Mark Strong,  John Hurt stood out for me as well.  Colin Firth and Ciarán Hinds are good, but I felt like they were underused.

This movie has a nice style to it, but again, everything felt bland.  It was directed by Swedish director Tomas Alfredson, who also directed Let the Right One In.  Peter Straughan co-write the screenplay, which is surprising because he also co-wrote The Debt, which I think is a much better spy movie.  Again, I think the issue is that there's too much going on here to do it justice in a 2-hour movie.

While one guy stood up and applauded as the movie ended, I heard many people out in the lobby saying things like "I didn't get it" or "I'm not sure what happened.", so I have a feeling this is how many people are going to feel about it.  You're either going to love the hell out of it, or walk out of it not getting it.

I saw this at The Vine, which was a good idea as they have more comfortable seating and you're going to need it to get through this.  You feel every minute of the movie's run time due to the pacing.  I had to fight from falling asleep at one point.  Honestly, I wouldn't even recommend seeing this in the theater as this is the kind of movie you will likely find yourself pausing or rewinding in order to make sense of it all.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy kind of bummed me out.  Despite the great cast and how much I was looking forward to it, it just didn't do anything for me.  It's well acted, but lacks anything to really grab or wow you.

3 (out of 5) Death Stars.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Devil Inside - Movie Review

So we're only in the first week of the year and I already found a candidate for one of the worst films of 2012.  Seriously!   I'm going to spoil this movie, so if you genuinely interested in seeing this piece of shit movie, then stop reading now because I'm about to spoil the whole point of the movie in the next paragraph.

I'm not even going to waste time, the reason this movie is so insultingly bad is that just as the movie gets interesting, it fades to black and then tells you to go to a website to find out how the story ends.  What?!  I just watched 90 min of a movie to be told to go to the Internet to see how it ends up?  That's bullshit!

This is at least the third film I've seen in the last year that's pulled this crap and I can't believe they are still trying to do it.  It's extremely insulting!  Nobody should pay for this and I have no problem with spoiling this and advising people to avoid it.

That's almost all I really need to say bout the movie, but I'll briefly talk about it just so you understand that I actually sat through this shit.

The movie is about Isabella Rossi, played by Ferdanda Andrade.  While she is an attractive, young woman, she is one of the worst actresses I've seen in a long time.  Her performance reminded me of an android.  If you want me to buy into the found footage premise, you could at least make me believe the performance was from a human being, or at least one that can act.

Anyway, the movie starts with the premise that her mother went insane 20 years ago and killed some people during a supposed, and unsanctioned, exorcism.  They are quick to point out during the opening credits that the Vatican did not approve of this exorcism, or of this movie!  Oh really?  Imagine that!  Anyway, Isabella is going to Rome to visit her mother and figure out if her mother was possessed or just plain crazy.

I have to admit that this movie had me for a bit. There are actually some cool and violent things that happen as the movie goes on.  They actually did a halfway decent job of making me feel like I was watching a documentary about exorcism..  The movie had a good pace and I was genuinely interested in what was going on, despite that you know it's all a setup for something that's fake.  Again, up until the ending it actually worked and it's a shame.

This was written and directed by William Brent Bell, who I think should be beaten to a pulp for this movie.  The fact that he thought it was okay to release a movie like this shows ultimate contempt for his audience.  I didn't see this in a packed movie theater, and even then I heard people complain and ask for their money back as they walked out.  It's that bad.

The Devil Inside is honestly one of the worst films I've seen in years.  While I admit that I was kind of with it, even with a better ending, it still would have been a mediocre film at best. I cannot in good conscience recommend this to anyone.  It's insulting this movie was made the way it was.  Do not see this in the theater and do not rent it.

0.5 (out of 5) Death Stars.  I only give it .5 instead of 0 because there were some points I thought worked.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

This week in DVD - January 1st

Happy New Year everyone!

It's a real light week for new DVD releases because of the holidays, so I'm going to catch up on a few older movies I've been trying to write about.

Apollo 18

December DVD releases often torture me with reminders of shitty movies I saw in August or September.  This is one of them.  It takes the found footage genre just a bit too far, with both overuse of the gimmick and complete lack of believability.

You can read my original review here, but I'll just sum it up for you with this: it sucked.

1 (out of 5) Death Star.  Don't bother with this.  Instead rent Duncan Jones' Moon starring Sam Rockwell.

A Good Old Fashioned Orgy

This didn't get the greatest reviews, but I thought it was kind of funny.  Given the subject matter I thought it pulled some punches and wasn't quite as raunchy as you'd expect, so I was a little disappointed there.  It does have a funny, likable cast, but again, I've seen guys like Jason Sudeikis and Nick Kroll in much funnier things, so it felt like they could have done better.

2.5 (out of 5) Death Stars.  It's worth a rent, but don't go out of your way.

Stay Cool

Initially, I saw the trailer and thought I might be into it.  It features a likable cast (Sean Austin, Winona Ryder, Chevy Chase, Josh Holloway) and looked funny.  However, the lead's, played by Mark Polish (who also wrote this), only distinctive characteristic seems to be that he looks like he could be Tom Cavanagh's brother. Who's Tom Cavanagh, you say?  Exactly.

I didn't like this.  It's a bad sign when a movie was made in 2009 but didn't get released until 2011.  It's seemed like nobody acted like a real person or reacted like a normal person would.

1.5 (out of 5) Death Stars.  Skip it.

Hoodwinked Too!  Hood vs. Evil

I didn't like this either.  I thought the first one was okay, but this just wasn't very interesting.  Even the animation felt kind of generic.  The first one had it's moments, but this didn't have any.  That's really all I have to say about it.

1.5 (out of 5) Death Stars.  Pass.

The River Why

As in 'why' did they make this movie?  The movie opens with narration by the lead character, who sounds like someone learning how to read.  He tells you that his family is a family of fishermen and his Dad is some kind of famous one at that.  He also mentions his parents were polar opposites because one is a fly fisherman and one is a bait fisherman.  That makes them polar opposites?  I guess I don't know enough about the intricacies of the fishing community.  Is this like East Coast vs West Coast rap?

The only good part is that there's this great scene when he insults his parents mercilessly and his mother punches him in the face, and he effing deserved it.  Then he tries to ruin the dinner table by pulling out the table cloth, but he actually does the trick where the plates stay on the table, so then he just has to push all the plates off.  That was hilarious (unintentional or not).  Unfortunately this happens in the first 10 minutes of the film and then it's a giant bore of a movie.

Also, William Hurt speaks with a bizarre English accent for no real reason and it sounded like he was doing a Pierce Brosnan impression.

Overall, it's a terrible movie and a complete waste of time.

1 (out of 5) Death Stars.  Don't rent it, don't watch it on cable, just...don't.

Shotgun Stories

Watched it because of Take Shelter, as it also stars Michael Shannon and was written and directed by Jeff Nichols.  Shotgun Stories has a similar feel to Take Shelter, but is way more rednecky.

It follows the story of two sets of step-brothers that are basically fighting after their father's death.  In a way this felt like a redneck mob movie, in that one attack demanded a retaliation by the other side and then that would lead to something else.

It's an interesting story though.  Good acting, especially from Michael Shannon.  You can see why he's Jeff Nichols' go-to-guy.  They already have another movie coming out called Mud that I'm looking forward to.

3.5 (out of 5) Death Stars.  Give a rent sometime if you're in the market for a good drama.


A remake of the 2005 French film, 13 Tzameti, staring Mickey Rourke, Ray Winstone, Michael Shannon and Jason Statham.  I watched it mainly based on the strength of the cast.

It's basically about an organized Russian roulette tournament.  Why this tournament exists, I have no idea.  While it has some tense moments, I didn't enjoy it all that much.  This might work for some people, but I just wasn't into it.  Plus, it's one of those movies that kept going when I felt like it should have been over already.

1.5 Death Stars.  If you can stream it or catch it on cable, then you might enjoy it a little.

Burke and Hare

Here's another movie I really had high hopes for, but it just disappointed me.  Anytime a movie stars Simon Pegg, I figure I'm going to enjoy it on some level.  It also stars Andy Serkis and Isla Fisher, so I thought I might be in for a treat.

It's marketed as a black comedy, which I normally love, but I just didn't find it all that funny.  The story loosely follows the actual Burke and Hare murders.  It's directed by John Landis, and while not everything he's done has been great, I thought it would have at least gotten comedy part right.  Oh well...

2 Death Stars.  Again, if you caught this on TV one day, you might enjoy it.

The Devil's Teardrop

I started watching this and got a very TV-vibe from it, with how it consistently faded out like it was going to commercial.  Then, I looked it up and found that it was a made for TV movie.  As far as made for TV movies go, it's not the worst thing I've seen.  It had a decent cast for a TV movie (Tom Everett Scott and Natasha Henstridge).

It's basically about the FBI trying to track down a killer.  They are running out of time and only have a handwritten note to go on, so they bring in a handwriting analyst (Scott) to see if he can help them track the killer down.  I found some of the handwriting analysis scenes interesting, but it's about what you'd expect as far as actual tension and drama.

2 Death Stars.  I wouldn't go out of your way to watch this, but since this was a TV movie, you should be able to find it pretty easily.

Another Earth

This is a movie I've been waiting to see for a while. It got a real short theatrical run and even The Vine wasn't able to get it (even after they posted they were going to have it soon).

Brit Marling writes and stars in a movie about the discovery of, you guessed it, another Earth in our orbit.  Marling plays Rhoda, a young girl that was just accepted to MIT.  After driving home from a party and hearing on the radio about the new Earth discovery, she's distracted once seeing it in the sky.  This causes her to get in an accident, killing a wife and kid and putting the husband in a coma.

She gets out of prison around the same time that John (William Mapother) comes out of his coma.  As Rhoda was a minor when she got in the accident, her identity was never revealed to John.  Rhoda decides to go to John's house and confess, but loses her nerve and decides to pose as a maid from a cleaning service and offers him free cleaning of his house.  They eventually form a friendship.

This is not a hard sci-fi movie.  If you can't get past the that premise and how the physics aren't handled correctly, then you'll hate this.  It's another movie that has sci-fi underpinnings, but really isn't a sci-fi movie.  It's more of a character piece, where you're watching Rhoda and John's friendship and how each person is dealing with the events and healing from it.

It's a little too plodding with the pace for me to not give it a higher rating though, but I did like the movie.  It's also kind of painful to watch in points because you really understand the emotional states of both of the leads.

There are some great shots in the movie, especially when you see the second Earth in the sky.  It's a nice looking movie.

3.5 Death Stars.  I recommend renting this.  I think it's a smart film.

The Art of Getting By

A troubled, but smart, slacker tries to get through his last few months of school.  He meets a girl 'out of his league' and forms a friendship.  Obviously, he's in love with her, but she just thinks of him as a friend.  It's one of those type of movies.

Anyway it rolls along and you know where it's all going and how it's going to end.  It's all very cliched.  In the end, you find that you just don't care all that much.

It's a bummer because it looked good from the trailer and I actually liked the cast.  This movie lacked the wit and charm needed to make it work.  It's just not a very good screenplay and would have benefited from some punch-up.  Paging Patton Oswalt, you're needed here.

2 Death Stars.  This is another movie that I wouldn't recommend going out of your way and renting, but if you caught it on streaming or on cable one day, you might like it.