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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Let Me In, Now or Later, to See this Bloody Romance

Let Me In:  4 out of 5 Stars
Abby: Can you hear me through the wall?
Owen: Only sometimes.
 In the fall of 2008, a romantic drama/horror film about two young adults forming a new relationship with one another was released.  Of course, the relationship between these two was different to say the least, as one was just a regular kid at school, while the other was a much older vampire.  This story was based on a novel that found much acclaim from those who read it.  The film was met with mass critical praise and is considered one of the best vampire films out there.  The film I am of course referring to is not Twilight, but the Swedish film Let the Right One In directed by Tomas Alfredson, and written by John Ajvide Lindqvist (who also wrote the original novel).  Now, the English-language remake has been made as Let Me In, by writer/director Matt Reeves, of Cloverfield fame.  As a result, this is a remake that manages to compare favorably with its Swedish counterpart.  While remaining quite faithful to the original, this film manages to distance itself enough by way of the personal stamp Reeves’ direction, among other aspects, gives to the film.  Consequently, this film manages to be a different sort of coming-of-age tale, with solid moments of tension sprinkled throughout.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Iron Man 2 Does Some More Fun Heavy Lifting

Iron Man 2: 3 1/2 out of 5 Stars
Senator Stern: Our priority here is to have you turn over the Iron Man weapon to the American people.
Tony Stark: Well, you can forget it. We're safe. America is secure. You want my property - you can't have it! But I did you a big favor; I have successfully privatized world peace.
The first Iron Man film, in my opinion (along with many others), has the distinction of being one of Marvel's best origin story film. While it had problems in its third act, the film was solid thanks to great special effects, a fun vibe running throughout, and the solid work by the cast involved, namely - Robert Downey Jr. Now, here is the sequel. With superhero movies, for the most part, the origin story film does a good job at setting up the characters, only to have then next chapter one-up the previous film by giving us more interesting stories and further building on the characters (basically being bigger and better). Unfortunately, Iron Man 2 doesn't quite live up to that promise. However, the film is still a lot of fun, looks great, and most importantly, brings us back into the world of Tony Stark.

Iron Man is as Fun as it is Strong

Iron Man: 4 out of 5 Stars
Tony Stark: Is it better to be feared or respected? I say, is it too much to ask for both?
Here's a superhero flick that has plenty of cool, a well developed hero, and a lot of fun to please all audiences. It plays as a very faithful comic book adaptation that is made better by its well done handling as a blockbuster film along with some spot on casting and solid visual effects.

Proceed Forward and Exit Through the Gift Shop

Exit Through the Gift Shop:  4 out of 5 Stars
Shepard Fairey: Keep your eye out for the cops.
An interesting and often quite funny documentary with the realm of street art as its subject. The films starts off with one quirky French man living in LA, filming everything he sees with his camera, only to develop an obsession with capturing the work of street/graffiti artists, then leading to his goal of capturing the legendary street artist Banksy on camera and following him around. Banksy is found by our French hero, only to have the tables turned around, as a certain reveal (in a sense) is made and the subject of the doc takes a new turn.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Humor-Filled Chore to Get Him to the Greek

Get Him to the Greek: 3 and 1/2 out of 5 Stars
Aldous: It's OK, don't stop rubbing the furry wall.
A frequently funny, but sometimes uneven comedy and spin-off from my favorite of the recent Apatow branded comedies, Forgetting Sarah Marshall. This film does a good job of throwing the leads into some very funny situations; however, it never quite agrees on being too wacky of a road trip/buddy comedy or a darker comedy about a rock star coming back from going way off the wagon.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Get Buried in Suspense


Buried = 4 out of 5 Stars

911 Operator: How did you end up in the coffin?
Paul Conroy: I have no idea.
 Buried works with what it has, and it does it very well.  What am I referring to?  This is a film that takes place entirely inside of a coffin, unfolding the desperate situation that star Ryan Reynolds is in, as he faces the task of doing everything he can get himself out of this very dire situation.  Pulling out all of the tricks to make a story set in a very confined location function at a tense level for 90 minutes, this film is a great accomplishment.

Solid Performance from a Solitary Man

Solitary Man:  3 and 1/2 out of 5 Stars
Ben: Here, give me a hug; It'll make her think we're married.
Susan: Yuck, dad!
A drama, or better - a comedic tragedy about a man who has washed away a persona he used to have in order to live his later days in life to the fullest.  Michael Douglas puts in some of his best work as this character, and the supporting cast is quite good as well.  While the film really only functions to give Douglas as much good material as possible to work with, despite the simple structure going on around him, there is enough in the way of what occurs to make it a good film.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Call Your Broker and Cautiously Proceed Onto Wall Street

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps:  3 out of 5 Stars
Gordon Gekko: Someone reminded me I once said "Greed is good". Now it seems it's legal.
Oliver Stone's follow up to his popular 1987 corporate classic, Wall Street, puts me in a tough spot.  On one hand the film has comes at a well chosen time, in true Stone form, by being topical and making observations about the economic world of today.  It also features some very good performances not just from the original film's Oscar winner, Michael Douglas, but from LaBeouf, Mulligan, Brolin, and Langella as well.  On the other hand, the film is awkwardly long, with some unnecessary elements, a weak ending, and a very old fashioned revenge plot that was eye-roll inducing every time the film made sure to point it out to the audience.  The film gets by just enough, and it's because the cast elevates it.

Soaring Visuals in the Owl Legends of the Half-Blood Lightening Thief's Vampire Assistant in the Two Towers

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole: 3 1/2 out of 5 Stars
Grimble: Then you're gonna need to fly a long way to get to the Guardians.
Soren: You mean they're real?
Grimble: Oh, they're real alright.
A fairly standard adventure story about a plucky, young hero embarking on a quest to save those he cares for, aided by his friends while acquiring new skills and learning some lessons along the way.  Like other similar films, this one is based on a bestselling series of novels, but what separates it is the fact that the characters in this film are owls.  Despite its familiar story and fairly cheesy basis, the film does benefit from being a very good looking animated feature, with many well staged flying sequences, some slick action beats, and a solid use of 3D, all of which give the film a nice dynamic feel.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Never Let Me Go Asks You to Hold On During Its Somber Tale

Never Let Me Go = 3 1/2 out of 5 Stars
Miss Emily: Students at Hailsham are special.
Never Let Me Go is a moody science fiction film about love and death. While one not familiar with the popular book on which it is based may believe the film to be a dramatic period piece (which it rather is as well), yes, it is in fact a sci-fi film that really downplays those elements. In addition to this element, the film has a slow and quiet tone, aided by strong performances. Essentially, the film is a very melancholy sort of watch, but functions off an intriguing premise. I can say I appreciated it, but was not fully embraced in the ways it developed.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Robin Hood's Merry Men Get Gritty

Robin Hood: 3 and 1/2 out of 5
Robin Longstride: Rise and rise again, until lambs become lions.
I was unfortunately not looking forward to this movie all that much, which is a shame, given that it's a Ridley Scott epic starring Russell Crowe as Robin Hood. The reasoning comes down to the flavor of Robin Hood that I enjoy. To me, Robin Hood is a more light-hearted tale that doesn't necessarily need the gritty/epic treatment. All that being said, I did enjoy this movie because Ridley Scott is a very good director and the cast is strong; however, this may not be the Robin Hood film that everyone wanted.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Catfish Will Keep You Guessing

Catfish: 3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars
Nev: The 'Facebook family,' that's what we'll call them.
I am going to say write now that this will be spoiler free, only detailing the basic facts that one can learn from the trailer, which also does nothing to spoil the story.  The film is very interesting and engaging.  It's a well made documentary that is essentially a very sad love story.  Don't be fooled into thinking that this is another 'found footage' horror movie, because it isn't.  It's hard to say this isn't a thriller though, as unconventional of a thriller that it may be, the way this film is made certainly lends itself somewhat into that category, before evolving into something else entirely.

The Town is Wicked Entertainment

The Town: 4 out of 5 Stars  
Doug MacRay:  I'm puttin' this whole town in my rear view.
The Town is a very fun bank heist/cops and robbers movie.  The film is Ben Affleck's second time in the director's chair, a follow up to the excellent Gone Baby Gone, and this film proves that he is quite capable behind the camera.  The film is well made, wonderfully entertaining, and backed by a strong cast.  Even as it follows some familiar beats of this genre, it manages to be both a crowd- pleaser and confident in its structure.

An Average Grade for Easy A

Easy A: 3 1/2 out of 5 Stars
Olive Penderghast:  I'm not proud of this.
A high school comedy that tries to be a fun, modern take on The Scarlett Letter.  It features Emma Stone in the lead role, basically working to establish her as a leading star.  While the film is essentially a chick flick, it seems to have aspirations to push in some satirical elements surrounding the effect of gossip and the set up of high school in general.  These elements are quite successfully met, with the script not paying off to be as witty as it thinks.  However, the best parts of this film come from all the adult actors involved, who make the film funny enough to enjoy, as well as the work from Stone.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

"I'm Still Here," Claims Scruffy Phoenix in this Curious Documentary

I'm Still Here:  3 out of 5 Stars
  
[about his music]
Joaquin Phoenix: I want it to be a hip-hop/bohemian rhapsody thing. I want it to be epic.
Mos Def: ...Epic is good. Epic is...epic.

A film depicting the transition that Joaquin Phoenix the actor made into Joaquin Phoenix the bearded and overweight actor. I am not sure what I would have made of this film, had I have seen it a couple of days beforehand, when it was still unsure whether or not Phoenix had truly sworn off acting, but watching it when I did, I have mixed thoughts. On one hand it is kind of compelling to watch what is essentially a large scale method acting performance taken to its extreme. On the other hand, trying to pick apart the film for where it is that sequences are staged and who is and who isn't in on the joke tends to distract and take away from it. Still, as a whole, the film functions as brutal look at an actor trying to reinvent himself, being embodied with traits that make him unlikable but still portray him as vulnerable.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Devil Gets its Due in This Solid Thriller


Devil: 3 ½ out of 5

Young Woman: Don't come near me; any of you.

 To start things off, Devil a solid genre film.  The film is the first of a film series known as “The Night Chronicles.”  The films in this series will all be produced by M. Night Shyamalan, based on stories that he has come up with.  Fortunately, he is not the screenwriter or director of these films.  I don’t want to get into another spiel about the problems with Shyamalan, but suffice it to say that his writing has not been his strong suit in recent years.  Fortunately, the crew involved in the making of this film has done a fine job at creating a short but sweet thriller.  The film is quick paced with enough tension and twists to keep everything engaging before wearing out its welcome.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Red Riding Trilogy is an Ambitious Crime Saga

Red Riding Trilogy: 8 out of 10

Peter Hunter: You don't like the police much, do you?
Martin Laws: No love lost, no.
Peter Hunter: So when someone kicks down your front door, kills the dog and rapes the wife, who you gonna call?
Martin Laws: Well it certainly wouldn't be the West Yorkshire Police - they'd already *be* in there, wouldn't they!

A trilogy of films set against a backdrop of serial murders, including the Yorkshire Ripper case. While they are each standalone films, handled by different directors, they share the same setting and feature some of the same characters and themes throughout. I could review each of these films separately, but this film project was ambitious enough to warrant my viewing of them in quick succession of each other, and in doing so I feel that it would be best to sum up my thoughts in one review.

The Prince of Persia Swashbuckles With Average Filmmaking

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time:  6 out of 10
Prince Dastan: I've seen it's power with my own eyes. Releasing the Sand turns back time. Only the holder of the Dagger is aware what's happened.
Video game adaptations have clearly not been the best source for feature films thus far. I continue to stand by my decision that Mortal Kombat is still the best screen adaptation; however, this big budget adventure movie based on the Prince of Persia series is a close second. While not the strongest in terms of characters/dialogue/narrative, it still manages to be a very an acceptable film that may play it safe, but is still fun.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Resident Evil: Afterlife is Quite the Biohazard to Avoid


Resident Evil: Afterlife:  1 ½ out of 5 Stars

Alice: The Umbrella Corporation feel safe, they feel secure. They're wrong.
The fourth installment in the strangely popular Resident Evil movie series, based upon the original Resident Evil video game series continues to baffle me in its ways of being fairly unimaginative and derivative, yet still managing to get a pass from audiences.  But this time it’s in 3-D!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Machete - He Gets the Women & Kills the Bad Guys

Machete: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Let me start by saying Danny Trejo is awesome. The fact that we are living in a time where he is headlining a movie is great. Trejo has gone from boxing in San Quentin to becoming incredibly prolific, appearing in well over 100 films. He has served mainly as a memorable, tough Mexican in roles ranging from Navajas in Desperado to one of De Niro’s men in Heat to a bartender in Anchorman. Having a movie like this, with Robert Rodriguez’s direction and a very varied cast involved is wonderful. I had a lot of fun with this movie. That being said, having a 105 minute movie stretched from a hilarious (and awesome) 2 minute trailer really only works best if one can keep up that same momentum throughout. Unfortunately, this film doesn’t quite accomplish that. It’s still a lot of fun, but doesn’t cement itself as a “grindhouse” classic.
Luz: Machete, I know the legend.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The American Hits Its Target, but Misses the Bull’s-Eye


The American: 3 ½ out of 5 Stars 
Father Benedetto: A man can be reached, if he has god in his heart.
Jack/Edward: I don't think god's very interested in me father.
Here’s a film that I can easily tell, without looking at comment sections in various areas, will be labeled by more average filmgoers as “boring,” “slow,” or “if it wasn’t for that naked girl, I would have walked out.”  The majority of that credit can probably go to how the film has been marketed, with its fast cutting, bursts of action, and the setting up some of the dialogue as bad ass one-liners.  Being familiar with the director involved and having some sense about what kind of film this is, I knew what I was getting into.  The film is very slow paced, with a minimalist approach to the story and characters, but it is accomplished quite well.  That being said, just because it takes this approach, doesn’t mean I need to shower praise all over it.  While Clooney is quite good as a brooding and slowly unraveling assassin, and the ways this film creates tension are well handled, the overall experience is fairly joyless and works more as an exercise in style.

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