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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Django Unchained Movie Review via Just Seen It

 
As I am becoming a regular guest reviewer on Just Seen It, I can continue to help by posting the videos.  Here is another post of a guest appearance of mine on the most recent episode, where we discuss Django Unchained.

Here's the official description:
Bounty Hunter King Shultz frees enslaved Django, to he helps him track the deadly Brittle Brothers. So the two team up capture the South's most wanted criminals. All the while, they hunt for Django's enslaved wife.

Starring  Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Written and Directed by Quentin Tarantino.
Produced by Reginald Hudlin and Stacey Sher.
Genre: Western.

Salim, Aaron and Guest Reviewer Aaron Neuwirth review the new Western from director Quentin Tarantino.
 
WATCH US ON PBS SOCAL Saturdays at 6PM or pbssocal.org/justseenit and the official site is justseenit.com
Check out my full review of Django Unchained HERE
 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Out Now with Aaron and Abe: Episode 86 – This Is 40 and Jack Reacher


This week’s episode of Out Now with Aaron and Abe finds the group without Abe for a good majority, but still tackling a double-header review of the new Judd Apatow comedy, This is 40, and the latest Tom Cruise action film, Jack Reacher.  Mark Johnson and Kevin Taft join in this episode, which has plenty to go over.  There is also plenty of time spent on the other segments as well, including “Know Everybody”, “Trailer Talk” (After Earth and Pain & Gain), “Movie Call Back”, “Out Now Quickies”, Box Office Results, and of course Games.  We may not have enough Abe in this episode, but we more than make up for it with talk about Werner Herzog!

So now, if you’ve got an hour to kill…


Monday, December 24, 2012

‘Les Miserables’ Is Bombastic, But Sure To Please Audiences


Les Miserables:  3 ½ out of 5

Fantine: I dreamed a dream in times gone by, when hope was high and life worth living.

Right off the bat, I should say that between the novel by Victor Hugo, the stage play, and previous film adaptations, I am quite familiar with the story of Les Miserables.  The idea of a big-budget film musical, with an A-list set of actors, and an Oscar-winning director certainly sounds like a success story in the making, and I think in a lot of ways this film works and is sure to get a lot of support from audiences.  At least two performances are absolutely wonderful, the music is of course great, and from a production standpoint, there is a lot of ambition to be seen.  Still, it is very clear that director Tom Hooper very much wanted to direct the hell out of this film and goes pretty overboard with his visual touch on this film.  As a result, the film is hindered by its overall presentation, especially as it attempts to rush through so many events during much of its runtime.  It will end up being dependent on the viewer as to whether or not this version of Les Mis does right by them, as it still does have stirring musical numbers.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

‘Rust And Bone’ Presents A Unique Bond


Rust And Bone: 4 ½ out of 5

Ali: A smart boxer knows everything flows off the jab: keeps your opponent at a distance and muffles his offence.
In a year that has given us the French comedy hit, The Intouchables (which I kind of liked) and David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook (which I liked a lot), we have also been given the French/Belgian drama Rust and Bone, which is a fitting sum of each of those films’ parts.  It is certainly not a comedy, but instead a film about an unconventional romance formed by tragedy, which manages to subvert convention and contrived scenarios by becoming more complex in what is presented.  The bonus is that the two lead performances are fantastic, which is matched by some incredible special effects, which are sure to be overlooked, due to the lack of spectacle.  That is no matter though, because Rust and Bone will still stand as one of the year’s best for me, in a year that seems to keep trying to outdo itself.

Friday, December 21, 2012

‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Is A Thrilling Work Of Journalism Come To Life


Zero Dark Thirty:  5 out of 5
George:  I want to make something absolutely clear. If you thought there was some working group coming to the rescue, I want you to know that you’re wrong. This is it. There’s nobody else hidden away on some other floor.  There is just us and we are failing.
Sorry to reiterate the title, but Zero Dark Thirty is in fact a thrilling work of journalism come to life.  This is not a film that relies on sensational action sequences to depict the hunt for Osama bin Laden, nor is it a film that eventually finds the wonderful Jessica Chastain eventually strapping on night goggles, picking up a gun, and joining S.E.A.L. Team Six to raid his compound.  Zero Dark Thirty is an excellent procedural film about methods and process, as it depicts the hunt for Bin Laden in obsessive detail.  This entire film is based on research, but that also does not mean it is the exact version of what happened.  This is a film about a fierce woman’s pursuit to solve a problem and the people involved in the procedural tactics of getting that work done.  It just happens to be that this work is based on the story of the world’s greatest manhunt.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

‘This Is 40’ Features Lots Of Laughs And Unrelatable Problems


This Is 40:  2 ½ out of 5

Sadie:  Why does it say 38 and not 40?
Pete:  Because your mom wants to be 38.  Let’s not mention it again.


I am not sure how concerned with my own age I should be when thinking about This Is 40, but I can say that I have doubts that Judd Apatow’s new film about a couple with two kids living in a mansion in LA, facing financial issues, because Paul Rudd’s record label is not doing too good is going to relate to too many other people either.  It is a purposefully biting opening remark, but it is the biggest flaw of the movie.  Its other flaw is how there seems to be so much material here, which could almost be spread out into a one season-long TV series, but instead the film just has many lingering plot threads.  Putting all of that upfront, I will say that I did laugh quite a bit too, which puts the film in a weird middle-ground for me.  It has likable qualities, but this is supposed to be a mainstream comedy and Apatow’s free form approach to plot structure really is not helping this time around.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Out Now with Aaron and Abe: Episode 85 – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey


This week’s episode of Out Now with Aaron and Abe finds the group going on an unexpected journey into the unknown, as Aaron, Abe, and guests Alex Billington, Mark Hobin, and Adam Gentry discuss Peter Jackson’s return to Middle-Earth with the first part of this new trilogy based on The Hobbit, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  There is also plenty of time spent on the other segments as well, including “Know Everybody”, “Trailer Talk” (Star Trek into Darkness and Pacific Rim), “Movie Call Back”, “Out Now Quickies”, Box Office Results, and of course Games (one of Abe’s favorites).  This is another in depth episode for another film that deserves some heavy attention, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all have fun and argue with each other.

So now, if you’ve got an hour to kill…

‘Jack Reacher’ Puts Cruise In A Tall Position To Act In A Cool Procedural


Jack Reacher: 3 ½ out of 5

James Barr: There's this guy. He's a kind of cop; at least he used to be. He doesn't care about proof, he doesn't care about the law, he only cares about what's right. He knows what I did. You can't protect me. No one can.
Here’s the thing about Jack Reacher – You have to accept a few things in order to get into the film.  For fans of the book series, you will have to accept the physical stature of Tom Cruise.  For people who are iffy on Tom Cruise in general, you will have to believe that he is playing a fairly handsome, charismatic man who can pass through life as a drifter and possess top notch fighting skills.  And for people hoping for an action fest that matches up with the Mission Impossible films, you will have to accept that this is more of a procedural with bursts of fun moments throughout.  Now, I don’t think these are necessarily burdensome qualifiers to enjoy the movie, because I actually do think Jack Reacher is quite good.  It may not be the best movie for the holiday season and it runs bit too long, but it is an entertaining procedural that I wish embraced more of its pulpy elements.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Quentin Tarantino Retrospective via Just Seen It



As I am becoming a regular guest reviewer on Just Seen It, I can continue to help by posting the videos.  Here is another post of a guest appearance of mine on the most recent episode, where we discuss the films of Tarantino.

Here's the official description:

Aaron, Salim and Guest Reviewer Aaron Neuwirth pick their favorite Quentin Tarantino movies and do a ‘preview review’ of Django Unchained. Starring Aaron Fink, Salim Lemelle and Aaron Neuwirth. Directed by Amy Taylor.

Quentin Tarantino has created some of the most memorable stories and characters of the last 20 years. In honor of his new western, we do a retrospective and a preview review of Django Unchained.
 
WATCH US ON PBS SOCAL Saturdays at 6PM or pbssocal.org/justseenit and the official site is justseenit.com

Check out my full review of Django Unchained HERE
 

Continue on to read more of what I have to say about Quentin Tarantino.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

'2012' Is Coming, Let The Destruction Be Seen! (Retro Review)

2012:  3 1/2 out of 5

[Note: with the dreaded 12/21/2012 coming up in days, I figure I would post my review of 2012, which was written before I started doing this on this blog, so try not to mind if the writing is a little sub-par...and yes, I do stick up for 2012 as a genuinely entertaining (albeit goofy) film.]

Adrian Helmsley: I thought we'd have more time. I was wrong.

The be-all end-all of disaster movies. Where can director Roland Emmerich go next after taking on the whole world here? He's made a career out of disaster movies, and this film is truly disaster porn at its finest. There is a ridiculous amount of disasters per minute featured in this film and that all goes along with the ridiculous story that keeps all involved invested. And what's wrong with that? I got exactly what I wanted out of this flick. Its damn fun both in seeing the ways characters either perish or escape certain doom as well as it is hilarious due to the standard disaster movie dialogue that I've come to love.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

'The Hobbit' Brings Back Jackson, Dwarves, And Epic Length

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey:  3 ½ out of 5
Gandalf:  Bilbo Baggins, I'm looking for someone to share in an adventure.

And so it begins; another tale of perilous, fantastical traveling.  I think it is funny that I went into The Hobbit knowing incredibly little about the actual plot, only to find that there was not a whole lot to learn.  I have not read any of J.R.R. Tolkien’s books and have only seen trailers for the film, which seemed very light on story.  Apparently it was because there is really not much there, at least for this first film, in a brand new Middle-Earth-based trilogy.  ‘An Unexpected Journey’ re-introduces us to this world that director Peter Jackson brought to life in his highly acclaimed Lord of the Rings trilogy, with the first part of a new trilogy based on The Hobbit, which proceeds those ‘Rings’ films.  In terms of making things grand, I was once again impressed by the scope of the production, but I was only just happy to have seen a good portion of this story, as opposed to being enthralled all the way through the film’s epic runtime.  There is a lot there, but I am not sure how much was needed.

The Blog of the Year 2012 Award


Okay, so I am continually being flattered this week, especially given that there are other blogs I read, which provide me so much more entertainment.  This week I was nominated as Blog of the Year 2012 by Alexander Diminiano over at TheMovieFreakBlog.com (Cinematic Reviews) and I’d like to thank him for that now.

Here are the rules: 
  • Select the blogs you think deserve the “Blog of the Year 2012″ Award.
  • Write a post and tell about the blogs you have chosen and present them with their award.
  • Please include a link back to this page and include these rules (do not alter the rules or the badges).
  • Let the blogs you have chosen know that you have given them this award and share the rules with them.
  • As a winner of the award – please add a link back to the blog that presented you with the award – and then proudly display the award on your blog and sidebar … and start collecting stars…
So now I'm supposed to name a few blogs that I would nominate, which is incredibly difficult as most of the ones I would have also included have already been nominated.  Still, here are a few more blogs that I would be happy to nominate:
And now I'm going to alert them of this news.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Rorschach Awards Nominated Me As 'Theater Junkie'


I've Been Nominated for an Award! Must be doing something right!

So I love doing this.  I love to write and I love movies.  Having found a way to combine both of these passions has been a great way for me to share my thoughts on the various films that come out every year.  Now I've been nominated by Andy Swinnerton over at Rorschach Reviews for being 'the best source for reviews of new releases,' which is awesome!  I work hard, see a lot of movies, and post as soon as possible about them (assuming I'm allowed to); so it's an honor to have apparently been nominated by people who enjoy my work.  If you think I’m deserving of this award please click here and cast a quick vote. I’d highly appreciate it!



UPDATE: I won! All of you guys who voted really helped me out and I appreciate it very much.  Check out the results here: http://rorschachreviews.com/2012/12/15/the-rorschach-awards-your-winners-for-2012/

'Save The Date' And Enjoy This Film

 Save The Date:  3 1/2 out of 5

[Note: This review was written back in May, 2012, while I was covering the Newport Beach Film Festival for WhySoBlu.com]

Wrapping up my work at 2012’s Newport Beach Film Festival, the last film I was able to attend was the romantic-themed comedy-drama, Save the Date.  Having just watched Lola Versus the previous night, I felt like I found myself more or less in familiar territory, except that Lola Versus took place amongst a hip bunch of New Yorkers, whereas Save the Date revolves around some of the exploits of a hip bunch of Los Angelinos.  It is another independent film that deals with a woman coming out of one relationship and finding her way into another, despite the fact that everyone still hangs around with each other, occasionally.  I can’t hold the film back for timing on my part, though I can be put off by the drastic tonal changes that take hold over the course of the film.  I appreciated the performances, as it starred people I liked seeing, but a lot of the warmth this film has is brought down by the required drama of a film of this type.  Regardless, it is the kind of film that I generally like when it comes to this familiar story and the film had enough in it for me to enjoy it overall.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Django Unchained: A Fistful Of Tarantino

Django Unchained:  5 out of 5
Calvin Candie:  I’ve heard a tale about you. You got me curious.
Django:  I’m curious as to what makes you so curious.
Admittedly, this review may be more straightforward than others, because Django Unchained has been my most anticipated film of the year and it managed to deliver in every respect.  Much like Bond films, a new film by Quentin Tarantino is very much an event for me.  I get really excited, rewatch his past work, and wait in eager anticipation for what is coming very soon.  Django Unchained is the kind of film that Tarantino has been building to, based on many of his previous films, which incorporate many western elements.  This is a film that is rooted to the atmosphere of spaghetti westerns, but true to Tarantino form, feels like a genre film unto itself.  It is just as much a Blaxploitation film as it is a western and it just as much a comedy as it is an action-thriller.  The dialogue and colorful characters are of course a highlight, but there is certainly plenty going on in this lively western opus from the mind of Tarantino.

Out Now with Aaron and Abe: Episode 84 – Anna Karenina (And The Collection)


On this week’s episode of Out Now with Aaron and Abe, the guys are joined by Mark Hobin to discuss the latest Joe Wright/Keira Knightley collaboration, Anna Karenina, the happiest Tolstoy novel ever.  There is also plenty of time spent on the other segments as well, including “Know Everybody”, “Trailer Talk” (The Croods and Oblivion), “Movie Call Back”, “Out Now Quickies”, Box Office Results, and of course Games.  Lots to go over and there is even time for a bonus review of The Collection at the end, with Jimmy O and Jason Coleman for an additional dose of bloody fun.

So now, if you’ve got an hour to kill…


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Brief Thoughts: Smashed

Smashed:  4 out of 5

So hopefully this will be the last of my 'brief thoughts' reviews for a while.  Here it goes - A married couple whose bond is built on a mutual love of alcohol gets their relationship put to the test when the wife decides to get sober.  Mary Elizabeth Winstead stars as Kate, an elementary school teacher who finds herself sinking lower and lower, reaching a point where she is forced to lie to her students and colleagues.  Because of this, Kate decides it is time to get sober, practically to the confusion of her husband, Charlie (Aaron Paul), who continues to get drunk with his friends.  Getting sober is of course not easy and Kate will find challenges involved in this process, but it will be a true challenge to realize the right direction of her life needs to be.

This movie was quite good.  What I liked about this movie is the way it handles an addiction story and strips it bare of pronounced melodrama.  There are of course elements of drama that you tend to find in stories about addiction, but it handles it in a way that feels grittier and more grounded in relatable characters.  As opposed to a film like Flight, which I did not care for do to its handle on the addiction story, Smashed feels more like a film that is getting across its ideas without feeling misguided, unimpactful, and too loose with its tone.  Winstead is very good in the lead role, showing me a very human side of her that I was happy to watch, proving that she is not just a pretty face (as much as I do love Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and her in it).  She is so bare and vulnerable that you can't help but feel sorry for her and hope she finds a way to help herself.  Paul is quite good too, playing his character somewhat unaware of what is going on and what needs to change.  Some fine supporting work from Octavia Spencer as Kate's sponsor and Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally as her colleagues at the school as well.  This is definitely a smaller film that I would like to see get more praise.  It's well acted, has a solid handle on a familiar story, and accomplishes what it needs to without betraying what the film is aspiring to be.

Aaron is a writer/reviewer for WhySoBlu.com.  Follow him on Twitter @AaronsPS3.
He also co-hosts a podcast,
Out Now with Aaron and Abe, available via iTunes or at HHWLOD.com.

Brief Thoughts: Anna Karenina


Anna Karenina:  2 1/2 out of 5

Ok, so now I am just getting rather busy during this holiday season, so again, along with one more post, I have decided to give an abbreviated review for Anna Karenina.

Based on the 1877 novel by Russian author Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina is the latest adaptation of what has been listed on several instances as, "The Greatest Novel Ever Written."  Set in late-19th-century Russia high-society, the married aristocrat Anna Karenina (Keira Knightley) enters into a life-changing affair with the affluent Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), which causes many problems for all associated, which of course includes Anna's current husband, Alexi Karenin (Jude Law).  As the affair continues to have an impact on the high-society setting that all these characters find themselves in, Anna questions her happiness, as change comes to her family, friends, and community.

I was intrigued to see this, based on it being director Joe Wright and Keira Knightley teaming up again to make this movie.  They had previously worked together on Pride and Predjudice and Atonement together and I am quite fond of Wright's incorporation of style, so it made me more excited than I thought I would be to see an adaptation of a Leo Tolstoy novel.  So with that said, it's unfortunate that for all the great work involving production design, costumes, and the novel approach to the structure of the film itself, which is in reference to the fact that nearly the entire film is contained inside of a single theater, I still did not come away liking the film.  The reason is due to the fact that the style may have been great, but the substance did not quite feel 'there'.  I thought most of the performances were quite good, but I never felt like the film was able to ever fully engage me, which is not a great thing for a 2 hour+ film.  I was also irritated by Johnson's performance, who I feel did not capture what Vronsky was supposed to be effectively enough for me to truly care about him as a desirable person for multiple characters.  So on the whole, as good as I did find Knightley to be in this film, I never felt the the characters were truly explored well enough, with more time spent on the film's production.  With all of that said though, I did admire the score by Dario Marianelli, who previously won an Oscar for Atonement.  Lots of great sights and sounds, just not enough to have kept me captivated.

Aaron is a writer/reviewer for WhySoBlu.com.  Follow him on Twitter @AaronsPS3.
He also co-hosts a podcast,
Out Now with Aaron and Abe, available via iTunes or at HHWLOD.com.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Brief Thoughts: A Late Quartet

A Late Quartet:  2 1/2 out of 5

Once again, this is a film that I don't have a whole lot to say about.  It revolves around members of a world-renowned string quartet struggling to stay together in the face of death, competing egos and insuppressible lust.  The film features Christopher Walken as Peter Mitchell, who is now at a point where he must leave the famous quartet he has been associated with for years; Philip Seymour Hoffman as Robert Gelbart, the second chair violinist who is hoping he can make a play for first chair; Catherine Keener as Robert's wife Juliette and another member of the quartet, who finds Robert's thoughts insufferable; Mark Ivanir as Daniel Lerner, the leader of the quartet, who considers himself to be the most talented; and Imogen Poots as Alexandra Gelbart, the daughter of Robert and Juliette, who manages to get caught up in all the drama unfolding.

This is a film that I really did not care for, but at the same time find things to admire about it, as some of the performances were good enough and the low key nature was sometimes entertaining.  I saw it well over a month ago, but never had a reason to really jump into writing a lengthy review.  Admittedly, if it were not for the actors involved, I probably would have hated this film.  Yes, when you have people like Walken and Hoffman as your leads, you are bound to see some good things come from all of that, but the film is so wrapped up in bland melodrama and stalk character types that it is hard to really want to appreciate the performances.  Only Walken stands out, as he is not given anything more to do than play a character ready to accept his fate.  I guess it is fair to say that this film has a fine, classical soundtrack, but in the end it amounts to nothing more than a movie about wealthy white people having problems with handling their fame and egos, resorting to affairs and arguing in order to get through it.

Aaron is a writer/reviewer for WhySoBlu.com.  Follow him on Twitter @AaronsPS3.
He also co-hosts a podcast,
Out Now with Aaron and Abe, available via iTunes or at HHWLOD.com.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Brief Thoughts: Playing For Keeps

Playing For Keeps:  1 1/2 out of 5


I honestly don't have a whole lot to say about this film, because it is terrible, but harmless.  If Gerard Butler wants to keep settling for these kinds of movies, fine, but I know he is capable of more.  In this film, Butler stars as George, a former professional football (soccer) player, who was forced to stop after an injury.  He has faced hard times since, including divorce from his wife (Jessica Biel), despite the fact that they both had a child together.  Now, with few options financially, George takes up the position as his son's head soccer coach.  In doing this, he attracts several of the soccer moms, including Catherine Zeta-Jones, Uma Thurman, and Judy Greer.  During this time, George contends with each of them, along with a soccer dad played by Dennis Quaid.  Going further, George finds himself in a position to get a sportscasting job for ESPN, yet he still has to consider what it would mean for spending time with his son and possibly making up with his ex.

This is the kind of feel good rom-com that I generally don't seek out, but even I was slightly intrigued by the concept.  It is just unfortunate that Dennis Quaid and every soccer mom in this film tried to see who could overact the most.  It does not help that Butler's character is an idiot.  Somehow, despite once being a superstar in the world of soccer, George is overtaken by the idea of people coming on to him and offering him more than he deserves, which leads to some 'hilarious and sticky' situations and unfortunately causes trouble with his own family.  Uh oh, what's George going to do?  Well, a constantly dour Jessica Biel is George's ultimate goal, so hopefully she'll be able to realize that her perfectly acceptable fiance is no match for what scruffy George has to offer.  Not helping at all is the weird shift between movies.  At some points it's a redemption story and other times a sexy farce about crazy soccer moms.  I think the movie even forgets it's about soccer at times.  Try as everyone does, even poor Judy Greer, who I love and wish could do something in a live-action feature that is as good as she is on Archer, this film is just a schmaltzy slog that is dumb and forgettable.  Actually, one last note - Dennis Quaid is embarrassingly bad in this movie and Thurman still tries to top him, just like when she did the same to Arnold in Batman & Robin.

Aaron is a writer/reviewer for WhySoBlu.com.  Follow him on Twitter @AaronsPS3.
He also co-hosts a podcast,
Out Now with Aaron and Abe, available via iTunes or at HHWLOD.com.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Out Now with Aaron and Abe: Episode 83 – Killing Them Softly

This week’s episode of Aaron and Abe, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, the guys bring in Scott Mendelson and Laremy Legal to talk about the film that more people should have seen this past weekend, Killing Them Softly.  Despite low box office returns, the group discuss this Brad Pitt gangster film in detail.  There is also plenty of time spent on the other segments as well, including “Know Everybody”, “Trailer Talk” (Jack the Giant Slayer and Now You See Me), “Movie Call Back”, “Out Now Quickies”, Box Office Results, and of course Games, which makes its heroic return this week.  Lots to go over, which includes gun shots, slo mo, and lots of style.

So now, if you’ve got an hour to kill…

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Walking Dead: Season 3, Episode 8 – ‘Made To Suffer’ Review



Thanks to the encouragement of The Walking Dead TV Podcast, I will be writing weekly episode recaps for this season of The Walking Dead.  Anyone continuing on should expect spoilers.

This is what the first half of The Walking Dead’s third season was building up to; an explosive mid-season finale, which pit Rick’s ragtag group of survivors against the Governor’s goons, and man, was it good.  I could put away almost every nitpick there is in this episode, because it was incredibly exciting, had plenty of great moments, and set the stage for what will be a crazy second half of the season as well.  It even had time to introduce one of my favorite characters from the comics, Tyrese!  Yeah, this was one hell of an episode of The Walking Dead, so now it’s time to dig into it.

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