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Monday, November 29, 2010

Knight and Day is Fine and Breezy

Knight & Day = 3 and 1/2 out of 5 Stars 
Roy Miller: Some people are gonna come looking for you now.
June Havens: Why?
Roy Miller: They'll tell you I'm mentally unstable and violent and dangerous and it will all sound very convincing.
June Havens: I'm already convinced.
An adventure-comedy-romance that takes you all over the world from the perspectives of Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. The film is less about strong plot and action and more about how much do you enjoy seeing these actors working together. If you are a fan of the persona of these two actors tend to have in films, then you're likely to have the light, breezy fun that this film supplies.

You Will Find Dark Delights 'In Bruges'

In Bruges = 5 out of 5
Ken: You have to be the worst tourist of all time.
Ray: Well, if I'd grown up on a farm and was retarded, Bruges might impress me, but I didn't, so it doesn't.
A hit man comedy set in the most well-preserved medieval city in Belgium, Bruges...a shit hole...as referred to by the characters...frequently.  This is a fantastic film that is both darkly funny and very well done as a character drama.  The central performances are all wonderful and the filmmaking present here is fantastic, establishing a great look for the city of Bruges.  Very well made film that gets better and better with repeated viewings.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is Delicious Great Fun

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs = 4 and 1/2 out of 5
Joe Towne: These taste significantly better than sardines.
A highly entertaining animated feature. Despite having a marketing campaign that really undersold me on the film, this movie turned out to be hilarious, as well as very good looking, working well as a 3D animated feature.  Having watched this film several times now, I can easily say that this is one of the funniest films, in general, that has come out in recent years.  It is consistently entertaining, and I would easily recommend it to anyone.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

I Was 'Tangled' in Disney’s Charming Film


Tangled = 4 out of 5
Flynn Ryder:  Alright Blondie…
Repunzel:  Repunzel.
Flynn Ryder:  …Gesundheit.
How about a big, broad statement to start?  Anyone who is a fan of films like Aladdin or The Little Mermaid, for example, should be very pleased with Tangled.  In what is, for now, the last Disney animated princess movie, people are in for a film that looks great, is quite funny, tells a familiar but well handled story, and feels right at home with other popular films of this type.  It has the same kind of appeal that many of these past animated Disney films have, and even the 3D is put to good use.  It always helps when I am genuinely surprised at how much I enjoy a feature, and this was one that had that effect on me.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Enjoyed the Cuss out of the Fantastical Film that is the Fantastic Mr. Fox

Fantastic Mr. Fox = 4 and 1/2 out of 5 Stars
Mr. Fox. That was pure wild animal craziness.
I'm just gonna say it. This movie is fantastic. Director Wes Anderson moves into stop motion animation territory and manages to bring his idiosyncratic style with him. Based on the children's book by Roald Dahl, this is a film that blends Anderson's indie style into a very neat looking world filled with fun and quirky characters, all of this enveloped inside of what is being sold as a kids film.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Love and Other Drugs Has Some Unfortunate Side Effects

Love and Other Drugs = 2 ½ out of 5
Jamie:  You have beautiful eyes.
Maggie:  That’s the best you got?
Love and Other Drugs is a simple romantic comedy-drama that tries to break away from its simple mold by having deeper parts of a story to explore as well as a hard R-rating.  Despite these elements, the film has problems with breaking away from the traditional formula along with balancing its tone.  Fortunately, both Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway bring enough talent to the film to keep it entertaining and sold on its performances.  These two make a good pair and do the film a service.  Still, the movie is fairly forgettable when all is said and done, because nothing much happens to create something more meaningful.

Faster Maxes Out at About Average

Faster = 2 ½ out of 5
Driver:  I’m going to kill all of you.
I was very close to giving this flick a pass simply because Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has finally come back to the action scene, after pushing hard in the family-friendly film territory.  Unfortunately, this revenge/thriller does not quite reach a passing grade for me.  It does come close however.  I admired this film for its simplicity, especially when we get what we would want in a film like this:  The Rock moving through town, hunched forward, gun in hand, with killing on his mind, as 70s rock plays in the background, and not giving a damn about anything in his path.  However, for all those satisfying sequences with that sort of vibe, there are also other subplots that really get in the way of this film having more fun with what it is.  This is a film that wants to be a gritty revenge flick more than it actually is a gritty revenge flick.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Harry Potter and the Ominous Mood and Intriguing Setup: Part 1


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 = 3 ½ out of 5 Stars
Lord Voldemort: I must be the one to kill Harry Potter.
In a game such as Chess, the player progresses through by strategically moving their pieces into specific locations, one by one, hoping to reach a particular attack point.  Once all of the pieces are set, a series of actions could take place leading to the end of the game.  For this chapter in the Harry Potter saga, all of the pieces are being setup and moved into their appropriate locations.  This film is based on the final novel in the series.  As the novel is quite large, the only way to seemingly make this into a satisfying ending for the film series was to divide it into two parts.  As a result, we get a film that is very well made, loaded with talented actors, and certainly looks the part of a matured Harry Potter film reaching its endpoint.  Still, this film is all about setting itself up for the checkmate that will come in July, 2011.

Friday, November 19, 2010

'The Sorcerer's Apprenctice' Uses Nic Cage To Keep Things Barely Interesting

The Sorcerer's Apprentice = 2 and 1/2 out of 5
Dave: Go team magic stuff!
This one is a bit tricky. I enjoyed this silly movie and I always enjoy Nic Cage, because, suffice it to say, no matter how bad the movie may be, it's never due to Cage, he brings his weird energy to anything. Still, it's not like I want to watch this movie again anytime soon. But then again, I don't want to watch Prince of Persia (the other Disney/Bruckheimer production of 2010) again anytime soon, but recommended (barely) that film. I've gone back and forth on the star rating a couple times now, since writing this, but that's what the actual written review is for. What I can say is that this movie is silly, simple, and breezy...and magical.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Clash of the Titans Delivered Its Kraken...Eventually

Clash of the Titans = 2 and 1/2 out of 5
Spyros: One day, somebody's got to make a stand. One day, somebody's got to say enough.
The idea of remaking the 1981 Greek myth/adventure flick Clash of the Titans was a good one. That film was certainly no classic in terms of being a good movie, but its enjoyable and features great (for its time) stop motion effects by the legend, Ray Harryhausen. The original also featured a talented cast...and Harry Hamlin, who were all giving pretty hammy performances. This included Lawrence Olivier as Zeus, who has now been replaced by Liam Neeson, who could easily unite an audience with the simple command of releasing the Kraken. Well, by the time this remake got to the immortal quote at an hour and thirty minutes in, it was about the only thing to have looked forward to in this pretty mediocre film.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Half Blood Prince Prepares for the Storm That's Coming

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince = 4 out of 5 Stars
Albus Dumbledore: You must be wondering why I brought you here.
Harry Potter: Actually sir, after all these years I just sort of go with it.

The sixth film of the Harry Potter series. It manages to bring in some more darkness to the series, despite going back to the PG rating. Its a great looking movie in terms of its atmosphere and blending of the fantastical elements with the darker special effects. What certainly stands out is the continuing growth and maturity of the main, young actors, who continue to have great chemistry together and add depth to their characters. The film meanders a bit and certainly caters towards those very much caught up on the series, however, continuing to see a who's who of English actors working on such an involved story does keep the whole thing compelling.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Christmas Carol - Zemeckis-Style

Disney's A Christmas Carol = 3 and 1/2 out of 5
Ebenezer Scrooge: What do you want with me?
Jacob Marley: You will be haunted by three spirits.
Ebenezer Scrooge: I'd rather not.
Director Robert Zemeckis once again ventures into the world of motion capture animation to retell the classic Dickens' tale 'A Christmas Carol,' featuring Jim Carrey. While not bringing much new to the classic tale, the film serves as a very literal retelling of the story, mixed with some fun visuals once the ghosts get on the scene.

Monday, November 15, 2010

You Can Dig a Lot of Holes The Next Three Days


The Next Three Days = 2 out of 5 Stars
John:  I promise you, this will not be your life.
I hope some comments answer the question I am going to start this off with.  Why this film is called The Next Three Days?  After sitting through this silly thriller, which consists of a lot of empty entertainment that can easily fall apart for the viewer if they try to step back and think about it for even a second, I still found myself wondering what the title of the film was actually referring to.  We are presented with a number of title cards during the film, which give us a rough time on how things are progressing, but never one that actually says “The Next Three Days.”  I hope this doesn’t intrigue anyone to see this movie, because as I have said, it is not very good, but after thinking about all the other points I will make concerning this film, the title is the only one that is still nagging at me.  [Note:  It’s been pointed out to me that there may be an actual meaning to this title, but if that reason is true, it is both a very arbitrary meaning and one that obviously had little bearing on my appreciation for the film.]

Penn and Watts Have a Good, Fair Game


Fair Game = 4 out of 5 Stars
[Addressing an assembly of students]
Joe Wilson:  How many of you know the sixteen words in Bush’s State of the Union address that put us into war with Iraq? None of you?  How many of you know my wife’s name?
[All hands are raised]
Fair Game is both a drama centered on politics and a character study about the struggle of a marriage.  The story is based on true events, involving the Bush administration’s attempts to discredit an American ambassador by revealing his wife’s status as a covert CIA agent.  The film is very much skewed towards a certain audience, but for those interested in a film like this, it is very well made.  The direction and editing are solid enough to make note of, as the film constantly moves forward, while dealing with all of the information presented.  Naomi Watts and Sean Penn star in the lead roles, and both give very good performances.  The film deals with events that only happened a few years before this film was produced, so it does feel a bit close, but those interested can get an interesting look at this story.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Rise and Shine for Morning Glory

Morning Glory = 3 ½ out of 5

Colleen Peck:  Excuse me, who’s going to say “good bye”?
Becky Fuller:  Oh, well that doesn’t really matter.  Mike, do you mind if Colleen says “good bye”?
Mike Pomeroy:  Well who do you think the public would rather hear from last?  Someone who’s one every broadcast award on the face of the planet, or the former Ms. Pecoima?
Colleen Peck:  It’s Arizona!
Something has been gnawing at me about this cutesy, romantic comedy, based around a morning news program.  It has nothing to do with its leads, who are all charming in their own ways, whether it be Rachel McAdams bubbly, yet spunky personality, or Harrison Ford’s ability to play bull-headed and grumpy (yes, he’s “acting”) for comedic effect.  It also does not have anything to do with the story, which is a pretty standard script, delivering a good amount of laughs, before settling into familiar plot territory.  No, what is gnawing at me has to do with how strangely well made this film is.  Maybe that has to do with J.J. Abrams having a producer’s credit on this film, but I was quite impressed with how this simple story managed to be so effectively put together.  All that being said, what you have here is a pleasant romantic comedy with enjoyable performances.  It’s nothing special, but the talent involved doesn’t hurt.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

All Aboard for Watching Unstoppable

Unstoppable = 3 ½ out of 5 Stars
Connie:  We’re not just talking about a train; we’re talking about a missile, the size of the Chrysler Building.
Unstoppable is the new action thriller from director Tony Scott and star Denzel Washington and presumably the second part of their “Train Trilogy,” which began with the tepid The Taking of Pelham 123, and will hopefully conclude with an adaptation of red-light/green-light taking place on a monorail and reuniting Denzel with his Man on Fire costar Dakota Fanning.  Seriously though, this was an entertaining film that managed to be better than I thought it could be.  It is a solid B-movie that audiences should be able to enjoy.  It uses its two leads well, provides plenty of train-related action, and never turns its characters into more than ordinary people.  This is probably the best blue collar working man action movie I have seen in quite some time.

Skyline’s Blue Light Special is Terrible

Skyline = 1 and 1/2 out of 5
Jarrod:  Once you look, it grabs hold.
If Skyline was a person you would complement their shoes, because of how unappealing the rest of that person is.  Basically, yes, this movie does some nice work with the effects, but really fails to deliver in any other category to make you like the movie.  Directors Colin and Greg Strause (billed as The Brothers Strause) are special effects guru’s who have done work on films such as Avatar and Iron Man 2 and also directed Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem.  For this film, they enlisted a few pretty, but low-profile actors and filmed a very cheap movie within their own apartment building.  After the live-action filming, many more millions of dollars were added in order to create the visual effects needed for the alien invasion premise.  The story of them making this movie is way more interesting to me than what the results of this film were.  If some people had problems with other alien invasion films or big monster movies of the past, this is the example of how to really not do one.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest Got Me Stung

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest = 2 ½ out of 5 Stars
Dr. Jonasson: That seems like quite a large tattoo you have on your back. Why did you get it?
Lisbeth Salander: That's personal.
Dr. Jonasson: Sorry. It just seems like it hurt and it took a long time.
Lisbeth Salander: Well you're right. It did hurt, and it did take a long time.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is the final Swedish film adaptation of Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy, which was preceded by The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire.  Unfortunately, the series has delivered in diminishing returns.  This film is in fact the weakest of the trilogy for obvious reasons.  While the first two films delivered upon having both an incredibly interesting lead female character and intriguing mystery elements, this film robs us of both those aspects, delivering instead a merely average thriller.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Grown Ups Is Childish, but Not Funny

Grown Ups = 2 out of 5
Lenny Feder: Higgy!
Marcus Higgins: Hey, what's up, Lenny? Buddy, I thought you were gonna start working out.
Lenny Feder: What does that mean?
Marcus Higgins: Um... you're fat.
I like Adam Sandler, and I like Adam Sandler movies, but somehow, combined with a good amount of comedic talent, this still managed to be an aggressively unfunny movie. Some bursts of humor here and there, but for the most part the film is very poorly directed in terms of showing how to make a joke work and really under utilizes the talents of a very solid cast.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I Got Burned By The Girl who Played with Fire

The Girl Who Played With Fire = 4 out of 5 Stars
Mikael Blomkvist: I will find out the truth. I will catch the real murderers. And I will write and article about it that will make the police very uncomfortable.
The girl with the dragon tattoo returns in this second film of a trilogy, involving the unlikely relationship between a goth, bisexual, computer-hacker and a minor celebrity publisher, as they are once again pulled into a murder mystery. I would say this is a minor step down from the previous, but only because some of the freshness of learning about the characters is gone. This is still a well made and taut thriller, featuring a wonderfully intriguing lead actress.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Could Easily Kick My Ass

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo = 4 and 1/2 out of 5 Stars
Morell: This is the first lead we've had in 39 years.
Mikael Blomkvist: Well, it's a good start.
Currently, as far as foreign films go, anything coming out of either Korea or Sweden is gonna be getting my attention. The films that have been breaking out of these two areas are consistently turning out to be very well made and interesting. The film here is based on the first novel of a very popular trilogy of books by Swedish author Stieg Larsson, involving a murder mystery and a young woman with a troubled past. It's exceptionally well made and acted.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Megamind Makes it Good to Be Bad…and Blue

Megamind = 3 out of 5 Stars
Megamind: No matter what happened, I was always the last chosen, the odd one out, the black sheep... the bad boy. Was this my destiny? Wait. Maybe it was! Being bad is the one thing I'm good at! Then it hit me: if I was the bad boy, then I was going to be the baddest boy of them all!
Megamind is the second animated feature this year (next to Despicable Me) to focus on the villain's side of things. It comes from Dreamworks, whose animated features tend to range from satisfying, sweet, clever types to forgettable, pop culture-heavy, jokey types. This film falls somewhere in the middle, but on the positive side. It features top notch animation and some of the best 3D effects work that I have seen this year (alongside How to Train Your Dragon and Jackass 3D, respectively). There is a stellar voiceover cast present as well. The story has some fun and clever moments, but it does not go quite as far with its premise as it potentially could, settling for a lot of easier jokes, instead of exploring more satire with its characters.

You Can Pass Due Date and Make It Up Later

Due Date = 2 ½ out of 5 Stars
Ethan Tremblay: My father always had a saying "When a day starts like this it's all uphill from here.”
Peter Highman: Uphill? No, it's all downhill from here.
Ethan Tremblay: But everybody wants to be up, nobody wants to be down, so it's all uphill from here.
Peter Highman: But it's easier to go downhill. So your dad didn’t know what the fuck he was talking about.
So I guess I was expecting better here. I did not necessarily expect to see a comedy classic in the making, but I did think that the talent involved in this film would have provided me with a consistently entertaining movie. Instead, what I observed was a film that was only occasionally very funny. I certainly laughed at some key scenes and chuckled at others, but the film as a whole really didn't click into place as well as I was hoping it could have, which is a shame.  What could have been a clever retread of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles for a new generation instead turns into a pretty standard road movie, with two quality actors in the lead roles.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Thrills, Tension, and Inspiration: All within 127 Hours

127 Hours = 4 ½ out of 5 Stars
Aron: All you have to remember is that everything will be okay.
127 Hours is a fantastically made dramatic thriller about survival and reflection. Based off of a pretty amazing true story about a mountain climber getting stuck in a horrible situation, this film does a great job of taking the viewer through this experience by injecting it with lots of energy, slick photography, a great soundtrack, and a wonderful lead performance from James Franco. The film has its share of thrilling moments, with one particularly hard to watch scene, but it is still well worth it, because the whole film is both gripping and poignant.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Walking Dead Rises to the Occasion

The Walking Dead
Morgan:  Hey mister, what’s that bandage for?  You tell me, or I will kill you.
I am not normally one to review television, but this is a special case, so I will give it a shot.  The acclaimed graphic novel series, The Walking Dead, which also happens to be one of my favorites, has been adapted into a television series, airing Sunday nights on AMC.  I was stoked to learn of this upon its first announcement.  Not only have I been continually satisfied by AMC’s television series output (Mad Men and Breaking Bad are two of my favorite shows currently on television), I have also been very pleased with all the talent involved in getting this series made.  Having now watched the premiere episode this past Halloween, I can safely say that not only has this series exceeded my expectations in terms of the quality of production and the adaptation process from comic to screen, but it is one that I certainly hope many will check out.  The series’ premise may revolve around zombies, but it is very much focused on providing strong characters and affecting story beats.  Of course there is plenty of thick horror atmosphere and some gory mayhem as well.

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