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Friday, April 29, 2011

5 Fast 5 Furious 5 Stars (Minus 1)

Fast Five = 4 out of 5
Hobbs:  Alright, listen up. The men we're after are professional runners. We find them; we take them as a team; and we bring them back. And above all else, we never ever let them get into cars.
Vroom!  So this isn’t supposed to happen.  The fifth installment of a movie series is not supposed to be the best one yet, with actual anticipation building up for another.  That is not what should happen, but dammit, Fast Five delivers just that.  Somehow, this film series decided to go all out and deliver a fantastic ride, built for speed, action, and some slick style.  Regardless of previous opinions about this franchise, Fast Five hits its marks very well, evolving the story of the franchise, while bringing in many familiar faces from the previous films.  I can only praise the film for how it stacks up with its previous incarnations as well as action flicks in general, and this is a film that does great service to the genre.  While there are some bumps in the road, this movie is well made and highly entertaining.  And you get to see a faceoff between Vin Diesel and The Rock!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Take A Very Strange Bounce With ‘Rubber’


Rubber = 3 Stars
Lieutenant Chad:  No reason.
Would anyone suspect something serious to come out of a film in which a rubber tire comes to life and kills people, using telepathic powers?  I would not think so.  Why would this happen?  As the movie’s mantra suggests, “No reason.”  It is fitting that I saw Rubber around the same time that I watched Scream 4.  Both films are designed to satirize horror and film culture and subvert audience expectation.  While I think Scream 4 only managed to point out these themes without being clever enough to pull off something more meaningful, Rubber is more of an experiment, made to address the tropes and status of horror films and the audiences that watch them.  While very bizarre, self indulgent at times, and overlong, the film works as a ridiculous meta-horror-comedy pushed to the extreme. 

A Fast And Furious Four Pack

 
So rather than create an all new retrospective about the Fast and Furious films, I have compiled all of my previous reviews (written well before my writing evolved to being slightly better) and put them into one mega article to reflect my evolving opinions on the series as a whole.  This is all, of course, in anticipation for the upcoming Fast Five, which looks to be kind of amazing in a completely silly sort of way.  I mean you have almost every member of the cast from each previous film AND The Rock.  But I will save that for the actual review for that film.  For now, enjoy what I had to say about the previous films in this series.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Out Now with Aaron and Abe - Ep. 6: Water For Elephants


Episode 6 of Out Now may be our best one yet!  Abe and I discuss the film Water for Elephants and also delve into discussion of some upcoming films, including Priest, Dylan Dog, and even a little Fast Five.  Our podcast also features regular segments, including box office results and predictions, a look back at related films to our main feature with our retro review, as well as fun and games in our later segments.  I think the real joy, however, comes from the discussion of Water for Elephants, which marks the second time Abe and I have disagreed about a movie.  Best of all, we now have Intro and Outro music!  That's right, thanks to Abe's mad editing skills and my ear for some fitting sounds, we now have RJD2 tracks to add to the fun of our podcast.  So as always, if you have an hour to kill, give this a listen.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Be Prepared To Run and Play With ‘African Cats’

African Cats = 3 ½ out of 5

I think the aspect I enjoyed most about Disneynature’s third major Earth Day release, African Cats, is how they tried to create a narrative through line for it.  A lot of nature documentaries simply present the facts, while showing you some shots of creatures and environments, but this film (even if it cheats a bit) has a lot of fun with actually presenting a storyline to keep you specifically involved with the ‘cats’ that are presented in this film.  It also helps that you have the cat’s pajamas of acting talents (Samuel L. Jackson) narrating the film.  ‘Nuff said.

Who’s Thirsty For ‘Water For Elephants’?

Water for Elephants = 3 out of 5
August:  Every living creature needs to know who is in charge.  They can sense when a man’s power is at full strength and when a man’s power is not.
A few months ago, in another review, I confessed to never having seen a Twilight movie.  I must now also confess that I have never seen a movie based on a Nicholas Sparks novel.  However, I have read the book by Sara Gruen, which Water for Elephants is based on.  While the first two facts distance me from what I guess were concerns to other people – namely the abilities of Robert Pattinson in non-tween vampire roles and the constrictions of melodramatic romance films, the third fact kept an element of expectation hovering over me, as I anticipated this feature.  Fortunately, I think this is a decent film.  It has some problems that involve fleshing out its characters, but for the most part I enjoyed the film for its setting, use of practical effects, and a performance that seems to have been tailor-made for Christoph Waltz.  Plus it is hard to not care for spunky pachyderm.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Out Now with Aaron and Abe - Ep. 5: Scream 4


Time for another episode of what I believe is probably, by now, a heavily anticipated podcast.  That's right, Out Now is back for episode 5, in which Aaron and Abe discuss Wes Craven's Scream 4.  As always, the show consists of a main feature review, with other segments and discussion about related topics, such as trailer talk, box office results and predictions, retro review - in which there is discussion about similarly themed movies of the past, and other fun and games throughout.  Really though, this episode may be special because it is the first time Abe and Aaron actually disagree about a movie.  While the audio for this episode may not be at its finest, the podcast is still approaching a solid format to stick with for the long haul.  So, if there's time to spare, spend an hour to give this a listen.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

‘Scream 4’ Stabs Its Meta Soul In The Face

Scream 4 = 2 Stars
Charlie: The unexpected is the new cliché.
I had a chance to watch the opening of Scream once I got home, after watching this third sequel.  I think those 10 minutes may be the best thing that director Wes Craven has ever done.  The sequence has a lot of fun playing with convention, ratcheting up the tension, and then paying off in an effectively gruesome manner.  Craven has made other very good films in the past and has created a couple horror icons, but I honestly don’t think he’s made a good film since maybe Scream 2 in 1997.  Despite having made the worst film of 2010, I was holding out a small shred of hope that Craven could revisit his groundbreaking franchise, along with its screenwriting creator, Kevin Williamson, and successfully reestablish it into a new decade of horror satire.  While Scream 4 does find plenty of things to say and have some fun, the film is too self aware for its own good, while still winding up back into traditional clichéd slasher territory far too often.

‘The Conspirator’ Has Been Found Accurate, But Average

The Conspirator = 3 out of 5 Stars
Joseph Holt:  One bullet killed our beloved President, but not one man!
The Conspirator means well, despite only measuring up to being decent.  I majored in History, I am a fan of the subject matter being presented, and I am a fan of director Robert Redford and his cast of very talented individuals.  It is unfortunate that this film could not bring all of these elements together into a more interesting historical drama.  As it stands, the film is anchored by its leading performances and its eye for small, but important details, but the story has a problem of feeling very by the numbers, going through the motions of this period in history, without making the material more engaging or letting us see through the eyes of a more interesting character.  The film is a well intentioned legal drama, but without the punch that makes other legal dramas more entertaining.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Say Your Prayers And Enter ‘Red State’, Kevin Smith’s Decent Into Indie Horror

Red State = 4 out of 5 Stars
Pastor Abin Cooper:  I fear God.  You better believe I fear God.
I enjoyed Red State quite a bit.  That’s the way to start something like this.  Red State is an offbeat, dark thriller that centers on some unfortunate souls who get wrapped up in the world of sinister religious fundamentalists, before taking other twists and turns.  While many feel the need to bring up all of the muck that surrounds Kevin Smith and his supposed “antics” when it came time to unleashing his latest film to audiences, I will be trying my hardest to leave all of that out and focus on the film, which matters most.  So again, I really enjoyed Red State, which is a significant departure for Smith, who has made a career out of foul-mouthed comedies, this time delivering a no-holds barred (and occasionally foul-mouthed) thriller.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

‘Super’ Sticks A Wrench Into Its Twisted, Darkly Comic Tale

Super = 3 ½ out of 5
Frank:  Shut up crime!
So I don’t tend to write about my own process and circumstances when writing very often, but I am going to point out something about James Gunn’s film Super, which relates to me.  I was at a loss for a few days after seeing this film, before finally sitting down to write this review.  It could be related to how busy I have been, but really it has to do with what I thought about this film.  On one hand, it has a darkly comedic take on the story of an ordinary man who becomes a vigilante in an effort to fight crime, which is fairly entertaining, if a bit familiar for a premise these days.  On the other side of things, the film presents a wavering tone that balances these more comedic moments with some very uncomfortable and disturbing violence.  Given that I saw this film during a time in which I saw many films that needed to balance some hardcore violence with other elements, it’s been a challenge to separate each story and provide a proper critique.  With that out of the way, I can now say that I did enjoy Super, as it is well made and tells an offbeat story that has both comedic and dramatic elements, within a world where crime doesn’t just pay, it suffers the wrath of a well placed wrench.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

‘Hobo With A Shotgun’ Is Like Finding A Rose In The Dumpster


Hobo With A Shotgun = 3 ½ out of 5
Hobo:  I’m gonna sleep in your bloody carcasses tonight!
Back in 2007, in anticipation of the horror/exploitation double feature that was directors’ Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse, there was a contest held for others around the world to create their own exploitation film-themed movie trailer, which would be played at the Grindhouse premiere.  Canadian filmmaker Jason Eisner won the contest with his trailer for Hobo with a Shotgun.  Now, as Robert Rodriguez’s own fake trailer – Machete, has gone on to become a film of its own, Eisner also managed to make a full length feature film version of ‘Hobo’.  As a result, Eisner has created a film that is, in some ways, more enjoyable than the other attempts at rejuvenating exploitation flicks.  Style, performances, and overall tone have all come together in the best ways possible that are suitable for a film about a bum going gun crazy.

Out Now with Aaron and Abe - Ep. 4: Hanna


The podcast is coming on strong. We grow stronger with each episode, and this one is no different.  For episode 4, Abe and I discuss the new Chase/Thriller Hanna, starring Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, and Cate Blanchett.  Discussion of a few new trailers as always, followed by the main review of the film, and then more fun to be had afterward.  Again, if anyone has an hour to kill, spend some time listening to this new episode and rejoice in the fact that you can now download it and listen at your convenience, thanks to podomatic.com.  While we are still working out a few more kinks to make it a more pleasurable listening experience, we still hope everyone enjoys what we have to offer.  And feel free to leave a comment about the show if you'd like.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Deadly Little ‘Hanna’ Delivers Style and Thrills

Hanna = 4 out of 5
Hanna:  I just missed your heart.
There is a lengthy, one-take sequence in the middle of Hanna that is a showcase for clever camera work, a solid central performance, intrigue, and a climactic action sequence that delivers on stylish, visceral impact.  All of the descriptors for this scene can be used to describe Hanna as a whole, with another huge shout out going to the fantastic and nontraditional score composed by The Chemical Brothers.  Hanna is a slickly made dramatic chase thriller, featuring some fine performances, well-handled action sequences and direction, and a story that tells only as much as it needs to, as it goes on.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Have A Drunken Laugh Or Two With ‘Arthur’


Arthur = 2 ½ out of 5
Naomi:  You seem to have a lot of fun.
Arthur:  It’s my calling.
Arthur puts itself in a difficult place when it comes to evaluating it.  One of the best things I can say about Arthur is that a lot of people laughed really hard in my theater, and that does not make them wrong.  However, the percentage of those people who had seen the original 1981 Arthur was probably very low.  That film is superior, but this update has some genuinely funny moments.  Honestly, taking away all of the comparisons and mindsets one may feel they need to be in to watch this film, what it comes down to is how much they like Russell Brand’s comedic antics.  There are other factors too, but the film will ultimately rely on how you view this good-natured, drunken billionaire.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Go With ‘Your Highness’ On A Raunchy, Fantasy Ride For The Ridiculous

Your Highness = 3 ½ out of 5
Thadeous:  I shouldn't even be here!  I will probably die on this quest, and Courtney definitely will!
The idea and powers at work behind Your Highness give the impression of a juicy premise.  The film is a different take on fantasy/adventure films, incorporating comedic actors, heavy improvisation, and modern language.  It has the right kind of scope and old school style handling of the action and creatures, yet it is also ridiculous, filthy, and very R-rated throughout.  This film easily functions as a stoner comedy, supporting a lot of both high and very low brow humor.  As it stands, the film is frequently funny, even with its reliance on dick jokes.  It certainly has a lot of hit-or-miss moments, but I always tend to enjoy a movie that is very giggle-inducing.  The fact that this movie managed to blend swords and sorcery with, actor/writer, Danny McBride’s sensibilities was plenty to keep me on board with this film.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

‘Born To Be Wild’ Is Both Beautiful and Brief


Born To Be Wild 3D = 3 out of 5
Morgan Freeman:  This story is like a fairy tale, except it's entirely true.
I feel that there may be too little to talk about here, as the film is both fairly self explanatory and only lasts for 40 minutes, but I will try my best.  Born to Be Wild 3D is an IMAX nature documentary from Warner Bros. Pictures, which has been shot in 3D, using IMAX and 4K digital cameras.  The film is incredibly simplistic, but effective in what it tries to show in such a short span of time.  While very beautifully shot and interesting in its storytelling, the only dilemma I have is trying to distinguish whether it is truly a film worth recommending to see, given IMAX prices.  The experience for viewing this film would be unique to such a theater, but I am not sure if there is enough that requires the attention of all audiences.

Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair

Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair = 5 out of 5 Stars
Hattori Hanzo: Why do you need Japanese steel?
The Bride: I have vermin to kill.
Hattori Hanzo: You must have big rats if you need Hattori Hanzo's steel.
The Bride: Huge.
For a couple weeks in Los Angeles, a particular screening has been taking place, which has been feeding the desires of all film geeks who have attended.  I am speaking of the original, full cut of Quentin Tarantino’s fourth feature film – Kill Bill.  Billed on the marquee as Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair, this is the original print of the film, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival back in 2003 (complete with French subtitles).  This is the version of the film that fans have been waiting to see released onto Blu-ray/DVD, many of whom have yet to even purchase the separate volumes of the film in its anticipation.  Thanks to the New Beverly Cinema (which is now owned by Tarantino, himself) many, including myself, were able to finally see what was originally intended to be a highly stylized, epic revenge saga, starring Uma Thurman as The Bride.  The result is a fully realized version of an already well appreciated slice of superior genre fun.



Monday, April 4, 2011

Out Now with Aaron and Abe - Podcast Ep. 3: Source Code


Hey all, we know have a name for our podcast - it is OUT NOW with AARON AND ABE.  This week, Abe and I discuss Source Code, the new film starring Jake Gyllenhall and directed by Duncan Jones.  Before that, however, we get into a discussion about a couple trailers taking place beforehand.  Following the review of the film, we then have a little fun with a new game, followed by some talk about previous films related to Source Code.  Finally, we discuss plans for next week and then get into some spoiler territory, as we discuss what we thought about the ending of Source Code (which you will be warned to not listen to until after having seen the film).  There are still some kinks to work out in all of this process (including actually making the mp3 downloadable), but we're doing our best to be entertaining enough. So if you have an hour to kill, enjoy:

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Forgive The Logic And Enter The Thrills Of ‘Source Code’

Source Code = 3 ½ out of 5
Capt. Colter Stevens:  It’s the same train, but it’s different.
If Hitchcock, Agatha Christie, and Philip K. Dick walked into a bar, they could come up with the plot for Source Code, a cracking new thriller, starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a time constricted helicopter pilot and directed by Duncan Jones, who previously made the great, sci-fi sleeper - Moon.  The film works as a high concept sci-fi film, with some mysterious elements involved in its proceedings.  While I find some of the logic presented to be problematic, it is the work of the actors, the direction, and the fitting score, which kept the movie at a solid level of B-movie entertainment.

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