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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Aaron and His Mom Dissect ‘The Human Centipede’

The Human Centipede: Beyond Star Ratings
Dr. Heiter:  Feed her!
Happy Holidays everyone!  After a year of writing about movies and spending the past week writing up top 10 lists to pick out the highlights (and lowlights) of the year, I figured:  why not end the year with a look at the 2010 film that disgusted the most people simply by creating mental image of its premise (and I’m not talking about Sex and the City 2: Still Bangin’).  The Human Centipede is a film that many are convinced does not even exist, but is just some kind of sick joke film that people hear about.  I can indeed say it does exist, but I have had a lot of trouble coming up with a way to write about it.  However, I came up with a solution.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Aaron’s Top 10 Video Games of 2010


I don’t get a chance to write about video games often, so I am pleased to be able to provide a rundown of the games I have enjoyed playing the most this year.  I may not be a professional game reviewer, but I know what I like vs. what frustrates me in video games; and even in a time where my free time has dwindled (yes, part of my living involves watching movies and writing about them, but it’s still work, dammit!), I still managed to play a lot of games.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Aaron’s Top 10 Favorite Films of 2010

It’s the end of 2010, and with that I have a list of my favorite movies.  The following list contains all of the films that I felt defined what I seek out in most films; namely that they have elements of entertainment, intrigue, or master craftsmanship when it comes to the filmmaking.  Some may only have a few of these aspects covered, others may have all three bases dominated.  Given my lengthy honorable mention section, there were certainly a good number of films that I had to choose from, but this list, I feel, represents the best of what 2010 had to offer theatrically:

Aaron's Top 10 Worst Films of 2010

With all of the films I did like this year, there were plenty of duds that came out as well.  I do not like to relish in how bad a film was, and most of these were not the kind of “so bad it’s funny” movie that I can appreciate; however, it is worth noting these select 10 flicks that I felt were the worst 2010 had to offer:

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Pinch of 'Salt' Goes a Long Way

Salt = 3 out of 5
Orlov: The name of the agent is Evelyn Salt.
Evelyn Salt: My name is Evelyn Salt.
Orlov: Then you are a Russian spy.
After months of an ad campaign asking film-goers, "Who is Salt?" Only to be met mostly with a response sounding like, "who cares?" It's safe to say that the actual film does answer that question, and also manages to be a pretty effective action thriller. It very much goes into hardcore ridiculous territory, but I appreciated Jolie's work as a super spy, along with the very high stakes this movie this movie presents. The solid, over-the-top action matches the ridiculous story.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

‘TRON: Legacy’ Fights for the Users and the Audience


TRON: Legacy = 4 out of 5
Kevin Flynn: Greetings, programs!
In 1982, Disney released an original science fiction film known as TRON.  Despite its unique concept and the presence of Jeff Bridges, the film was only met with moderate success, developing a cult following over the years.  TRON’s most notable aspect, at the time, was in regards to the way it pioneered the use of computer technology to create its special effects.  Despite this notable quality, the film was disqualified from Oscar consideration regarding the special effects, because it was deemed to have cheated.  Now, 28 years later, due to the power young geeks who grew up watching TRON and are now working for Disney, a sequel has been made.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Lot of Great Talent Helps to Deliver ‘The King’s Speech’


The King’s Speech = 4 ½ out of 5
Lionel Logue:  Do you know any good jokes?
Bertie:  … … …Timing is not my strong suit.
 A film like this, with a title like The King’s Speech is one that may suggest something it isn’t.  Due to the awards buzz that a prestige film, such as this, is receiving, it seems like some may just write this film off as another stuffy, period film, which may be very good, but doesn’t have much appeal.  I would really like to emphasize that this should not be the case.  The King’s Speech is a fantastic film, which features great performances by its lead actors, tells a very good (true) story about a man overcoming adversity, and is also very funny.  Essentially, this is the story of how a stiff Brit with a disability learned how to loosen up and help lead a nation.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Delightful 'Micmacs' Translates to Non-Stop Shenanigans

Micmacs = 4 out of 5
Placard: Salvaged Gear!
A funny thing happened. A few weeks ago I watched Yojimbo, the Kurosawa film about a samurai playing two rival gangs against each other. In this film from Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the lead character does a similar thing, playing two different people, who have effected his life for the worse, against each other. I think this is neat to point out, because it's somewhat of a peculiar coincidence, which is what most of Jeunet's films are based around anyway.

Cutesy Minions Didn't Woo Despicable Me

Despicable Me = 2 1/2 out of 5
Gru: I shrink the moon, I grab the moon, I sit on the toilet bowl... what?
[sees a child's drawing in his plans, of himself sitting on a toilet bowl]
While I appreciated some of the original elements and a soundtrack by Pharrell Williams (which was the most enticing element to get me to see this film) the main problem for me with this film was that I was really bored by it. There was a lot of forced cuteness to make sure to get obvious reactions from younger audiences, but nothing beyond few comedic highlights were present to keep me entertained.

Discover the Awkward Dark Delight that is Cyrus

Cyrus = 4 out of 5
Cyrus: It's great to finally have a new dad...[laughs] you really have to get used to my weird sense of humor.
A comedy that functions well based on both its heavily improvised performances and the awkward nature of the situations these characters find themselves in, made better by the subtle glances exchanged by the leads. A humorous movie working off of an old story, but never feeling gimmicky.

There Is No Plan B for 'The A-Team'

The A-Team = 4 out of 5
Col. John 'Hannibal' Smith: I love it when a plan comes together.
This is a summer movie. It's big and loud, silly, full of action, explosions, humor, and it's all a helluva lot of fun. Exactly what a summer film should be. Satisfying in every way a film like this should.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The 21st Annual KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas (Night 2)

Back in August 2010, I was able to write about my journey to Chicago, where I experienced the musical awesomeness that was Lollapalooza 2010.  Despite my inability to critically assess music beyond thinking that some bands sound good in my ear and some do not, I have decided to once again write about a fantastic musical extravaganza.  This time, I was able to attend the 21st Annual KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Coen Brothers Replace The Duke with The Dude and Test His ‘True Grit’


True Grit: 4 ½ out of 5
Mattie Ross: Who's the best marshal they have?
Sheriff: Bill Waters is the best tracker. The meanest one is Rooster Cogburn, a pitiless man, double tough, fear don't enter into his thinking. I'd have to say L.T. Quinn is the straightest, he brings his prisoners in alive.
Mattie Ross: Where would I find this Rooster?
One of the running themes in many films directed by the Coen brothers (Fargo, No Country for Old Men) has revolved around the idea that they do not seem to like their characters (there is also another running gag that their characters are mostly, for lack of a better word, dumb).  As much as we root for them or hope for endings where the protagonist ends up at a shining point in their lives, while the antagonist receives some kind of comeuppance for their wrongdoings, a majority of Coen movies tend to go against the grain in some capacity and function in a more darkly comedic way (Burn After Reading is a good, recent example).  This darkness turns many people off (basically because the audience has just watched the Coen’s push a friend of theirs off a cliff).  Due to this, it is not often that the Coen’s produce a film with mainstream appeal (Barton Fink or last year’s A Serious Man are perfect examples of this).  I have remained a huge Coen brothers fan, but I understand where their objectors are coming from.  With all that being said, their adaptation of the Charles Portis novel True Grit, first adapted as a western staring John Wayne, is perhaps their most accessible and enjoyable film since Fargo.  It has all the usual quirks that one would find in a Coen film, which will easily satisfy their devotees such as me, but it also has the makings of a film that I believe almost anyone could find entertainment in.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Portman Taps into Her Dark Side to Become the ‘Black Swan’

Black Swan = 4 ½ out of 5


Nina:  I had the craziest dream last night about a girl who has turned into a swan, but her prince falls for the wrong girl and she kills herself.

I am sorry to generalize, but this is a fantastic film that functions as a terrifically terrifying ballerina drama.  While not a horror film, this is essentially a psychological thriller about Natalie Portman going insane.  Those who have a tough time not thinking ahead about what the reveals in a film will be, I am sorry if you feel I may have spoiled something (I do not believe I have), but this is a film very much about the physical and emotional stress that a character faces, as she strives for perfection.  Add to that the visual intensity that stems from Darren Aronofsky’s direction, and you have another film that will easily earn a place as one of my favorites of the year.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

‘The Tourist’ should have had its Passport Revoked


The Tourist = 1 ½ out of 5
Frank Tupelo: You're ravenous.
Elise Ward: Do you mean 'ravishing'?
Frank Tupelo: I do
To reference a review I wrote a few weeks ago, this movie has nice shoes.  It is nice to look at, but to be fair, is it really that hard, these days, with a large budget, to not be able to make a movie set in Venice look that good?  Regardless of the answer to that question, it is apparently hard to make a movie set in Venice that features two of the world’s biggest stars, is directed by a talented filmmaker, and written by a couple of Oscar winners any good.  The Tourist is kind of a disaster.  It lacks any kind of momentum, suspense, or entertainment (save for some random quips by an ill-equipped ((or just bored)) Johnny Depp).  This film put me to the point of wanting to rather watch a movie about Paul Bettany’s character dealing with the boring bureaucracy of his job.  But how do I really feel?

The Latest ‘Narnia’ Installment does more than just Tread Water


The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader = 3 ½ out of 5
Edmund Pevensie: Lucy, have you seen this ship before?
Lucy Pevensie: It's very Narnian looking, isn't it?
Of all the recent, popular, fantasy book series that have been adapted into films since the initial launch of the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings films, C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia series is the only one that I have read all the way through.  It has been unfortunate that I have not been very impressed by the first two film entries.  I was disappointed by ‘Wardrobe,’ and while I thought Prince Caspian was better (despite heading into a more disturbingly dark direction, while still being rated PG), I felt it still had problems finding the way to handle the world of Narnia.  With that in mind, I had mixed feelings about what the next entry would have to offer.  ‘Dawn Treader’ is my favorite book of the series, so an adaptation was going to have to work pretty hard to please me.  Fortunately, I found this film to be the best so far in the Narnia film series.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Don't Miss the 3:10 to Yuma

[In a good mood after True Grit, but I wont write about that till later, so I've revisited my thoughts on another favorite, recent western.]

3:10 to Yuma = 5 out of 5

Ben Wade: So, boys - where we headed?
Byron McElroy: Taking you to the 3:10 to Yuma day after tomorrow.
Tucker: Should'nt've told him that.
Ben Wade: Relax, friend. Now if we get separated, I'll know where to meet up.

A Fine, Dark Time in No Country For Old Men

[In preparation for True Grit, I thought I'd post the thoughts I had on 'No Country' from back in 07]

No Country For Old Men = 5 out of 5 Stars
Wendell: You think this boy Moss got any notion of the sorts that're huntin' him?
Ed Tom Bell: I don't know, he ought to. He's seen the same things I've seen, and it's certainly made an impression on me.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Shrek Just Wont Go Away

Shrek Forever After = 2 out of 5 Stars
Villager: Hey Shrek! You used to be an ogre, right?
This series has really gotten stale.  You know its sad when you have to send your main character to an alternate universe in order to keep things fresh.  Another nail in the coffin that started out as a very fresh take on the fairy tale genre.  It always pains me to see creative and funny people do things that just aren't up to their standards.

The Walking Dead - Episode 6: TS-19 (Season Finale Review)

The Walking Dead Episode 6 = 4 out of 5 Busters
Jenner:  What do you want?
Rick:  A chance.
Jenner:  That’s asking an awful lot these days.
[Initial Note:  I am not one to write TV reviews often, but seeing as how I was anticipating this series for a long time and was able to write about the season premiere, I felt it was right to put up my thoughts on the finale of this first season.  That being said, this review will contain some spoilers for the season as a whole, so if you have been watching the series, but have not caught up with every episode, you have been warned.]

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Ninja Assassin Delivers on having An Assassin Assassinate Ninjas

Ninja Assassin = 1 and 1/2 out of 5
Takeshi: Do you still hear the sound she made when I stuck it to her?
I've been having a tough time assigning some sort of rating to my thoughts on this movie, but seeing as how its a very messy film (both figuratively and literally) and I don't really want to see it again, I guess I can give out a shitty rating, despite the hilarity that ensued while I viewed this feature.

Friday, December 3, 2010

It’s Time to Root for ‘The Fighter’


The Fighter = 4 out of 5 Stars
Dickie:  He’s my younger brother.  Taught him everything he knows.  I’m still his trainer
Sometimes it is not easy to come up with titles.  I could have easily said, “The Fighter is a knockout,” but that would have been way too cliché.  I mention this, because in The Fighter, Mark Wahlberg stars as a boxer who did not have an easy path to getting a chance at a title shot.  So you see the titles…oh nevermind.  My poor attempt at a humorous connection aside, this is a strong biopic that features some very good performances, particularly by Christian Bale.  It is a movie that features boxing, but much of that aspect comes second to the more highlighted family dynamic, with two brothers coming to terms with who they are and what they can hope to achieve.  While the film may be a bit unfocused in terms of its overall drive, I found the story to be handled in a very entertaining manner, which tends to happen when I watch boxing movies.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Casino Jack Wins the Hand

Casino Jack = 3 ½ out of 5 Stars
Jack Abramoff:  I’m Jack Abramoff and I work out every day.
Casino Jack is a fact-based biopic that deals with lobbyists, finance, and the shameless fleecing of the American taxpayer.  It is also quite funny, as leads Kevin Spacey and Barry Pepper essentially sleaze their way through this story as real life lobbyists and businessmen Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon.  The film hits a lot of the familiar beats of a biopic and may not be as intriguing as it could be to those more informed on the subject matter, but that does not stop this film from having an entertaining rhythm held throughout.  This is all mainly thanks to the film’s casting and director George Hickenlooper’s (sadly deceased) ability to put together an entertaining feature, while still injecting tons of information throughout.

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