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Showing posts from August, 2010

A 2010 Summer Retrospective

My Top 10 Favorite Films of the Summer

So we’ve reached the end of 2010’s summer movie season, and although many are in agreement that this hasn’t been the best summer season, I still found enough films to make a solid list of what I would consider to be my favorite films of the summer. Unfortunately the summer movie season cut off just short of the release of Machete; however, there are still a few wild genre films that managed to make it in here.

A Return Trip to Pandora Continued to Please

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So this is less of a review and more of an extended note, with no spoilers, regarding the newly released special edition of James Cameron’s Avatar (maybe some of you have heard of it).  My actual review of the film can be found here: http://thecodeiszeek.blogspot.com/2010/08/pandora-home-of-avatar.html And the opinions of my fellow reviewers at Why So Blu can be found here: http://whysoblu.com/my-heart-will-go-on-with-avatar/ http://whysoblu.com/avatar-in-3d-stunning-but-tedious/ http://whysoblu.com/james-cameron-keeps-his-crown-with-avatar/ In December of 2009, James Cameron released Avatar to the world.  It was of course met with massive amounts of praise both critically and from audiences, and went on to become, financially, the most successful film ever made.  Success for this film would continue as it managed to garner many awards, including a lot of Oscar and Golden Globe recognition, and would later become the biggest selling Blu-Ray of all time.  Now, the film has been re-released o…

Pandora, The Home of Avatar

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Avatar: 4 and 1/2 out of 5 Stars
Jake Sully: They've sent us a message... that they can take whatever they want. Well we will send them a message. That this... this is our land!This quote is from a scene towards the end of the trailer for James Cameron's Avatar, one of the most anticipated films of 2009, where the lead character, Jake Sully, is giving a speech to the indigenous population of the alien world known as Pandora. At this point, in the trailer alone, the viewer will understand all the themes and essentially know much of how the plot will unfold. That being said, at 2 hours into the actual movie, where this scene occurs, I was completely involved with what was going on, absorbed into the world that Cameron has created, taken effectively into the context of the scene, and not even concerned with how bafflingly amazing the effects work in this film is. This film is exciting, enthralling, and shows just how far filmmaking has come and where it is going.

The Last Exorcism Fails to Expel Quality Horror

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The Last Exorcism: 2 out of 5 Stars

Cotton Marcus: We're looking for the Sweetzer farm.
Caleb: You wanna make a U-turn...and then I want you to go back where you came from.
I don't have a problem with the "found footage" style of film-making. I think, when done well, it's a fun way of telling a story. That being said, there are the other times when one just has to wonder why someone would still be filming, which tends break the tension of the situation. I had this problem during The Last Exorcism. There has to be a solid 40 minutes of movie here, but for the most part, the movie just didn't deliver well enough, with both the problems I had with in the handling of the film style and the really terrible "rug-pull" ending.

A Solid War Doc Can Be Found At Restrepo

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Restrepo: 4 out of 5 Stars
Dan Kearney: The deadliest place on earth, the Korangal valley
It's seemingly tough to get a solid film about the war in the Middle East out there, but more and more are being made, and this is certainly one of the more successful ones. Stemming from an assignment for Vanity Fair, journalist and photographers Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington's spent a year dug in with the Second Platoon in one of Afghanistan's most strategically crucial valleys. The footage captured reveals great insight into the surreal combination of back breaking labor, deadly firefights, and camaraderie as the soldiers work to push back the Taliban and keep the locals at bay.

Take a Wild Journey into Animal Kingdom

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Animal Kingdom: 4 and 1/2 out of 5 Stars
J: After my mom died, this is just the world I got thrown in.An Aussie crime thriller that benefits from fantastic direction as well as marvelous and restrained acting from everyone involved. This is a film that is thrilling, but doesn't rely on slick editing, instead placing emphasis on sequences built around tension, focus, and concentration. The scope of the film isn't large, but even while only centered on a small family, I was never fully aware of the turns this film would take. Less concerned with focusing on the activities of Melbourne crime families on a large scale, this film follows the plights of few a characters and is incredibly well constructed in that regard.

The Last Airbender = The Last Straw for Shyamalan

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The Last Airbender: 1 out of 5 stars
Aang: Is there some place really spiritual, where I can meditate?*sigh* After coming off of what many people considered to be a joke of a film (The Happening) Writer/Director M. Night Shyamalan has returned with his adaptation of the highly praised and popular Nickelodeon animated series: Avatar: The Last Airbender. Unfortunately, Shyamalan has somehow managed to make one of the worst films of 2010. A combination of bad storytelling, poorly written/delivered dialogue, terrible character development, questionable casting choices, and many other elements have resulted in a very big missed opportunity from a property and director capable of so much more.

Year One has Few Laughs

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Year One = 1 and ½ Stars [Zed has eaten an apple from the 'Tree of Knowledge'] Zed: I might know everything. Ask me something? Oh: Where does the sun go at night? Zed: Pass. Next question. Oh: Where do babies come from? Zed: Pass. Next question. Oh: [noticing a snake] There's a snake on my foot. Zed: In the form of a question. Oh: [scared] There's a snake on my foot? Zed: Correct! Harold Ramis is one of the best non-common names amongst comedic talent. Being responsible for writing Animal House, Groundhog's Day, Caddy Shack, Stripes, Meatballs, and Ghostbusters amongst many other works, staring in some, directing some, Ramis has been around for decades, serving as a harness for other talent like Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, and Chevy Chase, amongst others and pushing them into higher stardom. However, Ramis has remained somewhat in the shadow. despite frequently having work, he is not a household name to a general audience, which is unfortunate.

Angels and Demons is a Superior Sequel, But Still Not Very Good

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Angels and Demons: 2 and 1/2 out of 5 Stars
Richter: You said they'd be killed publicly.
Robert Langdon: Yes, revenge. For La Purga.
Richter: La Purga?
Robert Langdon: Oh geez, you guys don't even read your own history do you? In 2006 Tom Hanks, Director Ron Howard, Producer Brian Grazer, Screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, and Composer Hans Zimmer all combined their talents to make one of the most boring thrillers I have ever seen in theaters. I never fall asleep in the theater, but that movie put me damn close. A few years later, this new film combines all of those same talents, and despite its many problems, it succeeded in not boring me. It is still very much about lecturing; zany plot development and twists, and a bland Hanks character at the center of it all, but I enjoyed this movie much more than The Da Vinci Code.

2012 May Be the End of Disaster Films, Because It's Grand In Cheesy Scale

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2012: 3 and 1/2 out of 5 Stars
[Entering the violently shaking house as his family crouches under a table]
Jackson Curtis: C'mon, we have to go now!
Kate Curtis: I think we're safer under here.
Jackson Curtis: GET IN THE FUCKING LIMO  The be all end all of disaster movies. Where can director Roland Emmerich go next after taking on the whole world here? He has 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 hilarious due to the standard disaster movie dialog that I've come to love.

There’s Nothing Fishy about the Joy of Watching Piranha 3D

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Piranha 3D: 4 out of 5 Stars
Mr. Goodman: The piranha hunt in packs. The first bite draws blood, blood draws the pack.There was a time when this film was threatened with the possibility of not being released, only to later be threatened with having a release, but not a 3D release. Fortunately enough, the powers at be made it possible for this film to be release as intended, thus preserving its artistic integrity. Anyway, there is a prolonged sequence featuring a very naked Kelly Brook swimming underwater with her very naked companion, accompanied by the orchestral theme, “Flower Duet from Lakme.” This sequence earns the film its first star. The second star comes from watching Oscar winner Richard Dreyfuss, reprising his role as Matt Hooper from Jaws, be sucked into a whirlpool and devoured by prehistoric, flesh eating piranhas. The third star comes from watching Oscar nominee Elisabeth Shue fend off these deadly piranhas by use of a stun gun. The fourth star comes from watching Go…

The Coen Brothers Deliver a Comedic Tale About a Serious Man

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A Serious Man: 4 Stars out of 5

Sy Abelman: Larry, everything's going to be fine.

A darkly comedic film from the Coen Brothers. That is not something new, but this film certainly casts a very bleak outlook on its main character throughout. Sharing qualities not since one of their earlier films, Barton Fink, this film combines bleakness, ambiguity, and subtle humor into a very, for the lack of a better term, Jewish film.

Pixar Manages Not To Surprise Me By Delivering Another Amazing Film

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Toy Story 3: 4 and ½ out of 5 stars Buzz Lightyear: Hold on, this is no time to be hysterical!
Hamm the Piggy Bank: This is the perfect time to be hysterical.
Rex the Green Dinosaur: Should we be HYSTERICAL?
Slinky Dog: No!
Mr. Potato Head: Yes!
Buzz Lightyear: Maybe! But not right now!

The toys are back in town for another adventure, which should serve as a fitting end for the tales of Woody, Buzz, and the gang. Pixar once again knocks it out of the park by delivering a story that is exciting, funny, witty, good at delivering some strong dramatic punches, and just very enjoyable overall.

Inglorious Basterds Was Easily My Favorite of 2009

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Inglourious Basterds: 5 stars out of 5 Lt. Aldo Raine: You probably heard we ain't in the prisoner-takin' business; we in the killin' Nazi business. And cousin, Business is a-boomin'. 
A damn good movie. It is not a WWII movie directed by Tarantino, it is a Tarantino movie set in WWII. A sprawling, ambitious, violent (although action-light) piece of work that benefits from the various elements that make Tarantino's films so memorable to many, which includes the dialog, the film homages, the soundtrack, and the obscure but well acted characters. This is an original, strange, and engrossing film; set during a war that now has an alternate ending, and I loved all of it.

Just So You Know...

The next few posts will be some older reviews I just wanted to post.

The Third Dimension Brings Out A Solid New Way to Step Up

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Step Up 3D: 3 stars out of 5
Luke: Some people learn to dance... Others are born to.In 2006, we were told that, "every second chance begins with the first step," as Step Up was thrust upon us in theaters. In 2008, the series upped the ante by bringing it 2 the Streets. Now, the series has done the inevitable, stepping up to a whole new dimension; the third dimension...and some how it worked. For whatever faults there are in this film, one cannot argue that the dancing and choreography is fantastic, there is some solid film-making present in capturing said dance scenes, and the (real) 3D is put to great effect. This may not be my type of movie, but I will certainly put credit where credit is due.

You Can Put Some Cheesy Faith Into The Expendables

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The Expendables: 3 out of 5 Stars
Lee Christmas: You sure? You're not as fast as you used to be.
Barney Ross: The only thing faster is light. Leading up to the release of The Expendables, the main joy came from the fact that Sylvester Stallone had managed to pull together a ton of action stars, from multiple decades, all in for one seemingly cheesy action movie. While the film certainly delivered in that respect, I found the overall result to be more fun as an idea to be excited for and to talk about than when actually viewing the film. Both the hard-hitting action and stupidity on display certainly made me enjoy the film overall, but I can't help but think it could have embraced its over-the-top concept for better results.

The Lollapalooza 2010 Experience

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Lollapalooza 2010
Not quite a movie review, but something I put together anyway, enjoy! (And you can click the pictures to enlarge!)
So two things:  I enjoy a good concert, and I have never been to Chicago. In an effort to satisfy both of these things, on the weekend of August 6th - 8th I embarked on a trip to Lollapalooza 2010, located in Grant Park, Chicago, IL.  For those unfamiliar, Lollapalooza is an annual music festival, consisting of a diverse range of bands (though mostly alternative rock), performing on about 8 different stages throughout the day.  Thanks to my former college roommate Mark, who now resides in Chicago, across the street from Grant Park in fact, I was able to have easily accessible lodging for the weekend.  What followed was an awesome set of days consisting of a solid rock and roll experience matched with some sweat inducing humidity.

Tetro Is A Great Return For Coppola

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Tetro: 4 out of 5 Stars
Tetro: You stay away from me, got it?
Bennie: Whatever you say, Angie...
Tetro: Angie is dead. My name is Tetro.
A beautifully shot drama about two people struggling to remain a family. Fantastic cinematography accompanies this wonderfully personal film from director Francis Ford Coppola, who has crafted a film complete with great characters and a rich setting, and some dream sequences not withstanding.

A Prophet Was A Great Vision

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A Prophet: 4 1/2 out of 5 Stars
Luciani: One more thing - Now that you know the plan, if you don't kill him, we will kill you.A very well made film, set behind bars, as we follow a young protagonist who is forced to endure the hardships of prison. Early on a great deal of tension is established for his first year, which is followed up by a more crime family focus, akin to something like Goodfellas behind bars almost the entire time. The film is well made, but brutal; with a solid cast, a great handling of the cinematography, and very well made in all its other aspects.

Kick Ass? Yes It Does

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Kick Ass: 4 1/2 out of 5 Stars
Dave Lizewski: Why do thousands of people want to be Paris Hilton and nobody wants to be Spider-Man?Fun, violent, foul, and messy. Adapted from the comic of the same name, this is a hard R flick about ordinary people taking on the roles of superheroes. We've seen other versions of this premise before, but thanks to a lot of good talent involved, this film succeeds on many levels, most importantly in the fact that it's very entertaining.

Bringing In The Other Guys Was A Solid Choice

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The Other Guys: 3 1/2 out of 5 Stars

Terry Hoitz: Shut. Up.Allen Gamble: Some day I'm going to crawl over your wall of anger.

Here's a genre mix - A fanciful comedy set in the world of a gritty buddy cop film. I say this because this movie never tries to make its world feel real, despite being filmed as if it were from the door steps of a Michael Mann cop drama. Instead, we have a film that deals with the basic tropes of a buddy cop film, and pokes fun at them, as well as injects a good amount of absurdest humor that many Will Ferrell films have been known for.

Scott Pilgrim Achieves an Epic Win

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Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: 5 out of 5 Stars Kim Pine: Scott, if your life had a face, I would punch it.From the fiery depths of geekdom, director Edgar Wright has emerged with a film that dares defy the conventions of both romantic comedies and action films. His adaptation of the Scott Pilgrim series is a wonderful blend of comedy, action, romance, music, and great visual storytelling. This is a film that brings together a hip young cast, plentiful video game references, innovative action sequences, and a strong alternative/indie rock soundtrack, and manages to make it a blast of entertainment for anyone ready to experience a kinetic jolt of fun.

Winter's Bone is Cold but Good

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Winter's Bone: 4 out of 5 Stars
Sheriff Baskin: Jessup signed over everything. If he doesn't show up to trial see, the way the deal works is, y'all gonna lose this house. Y'all got somewhere to go?
Ree: I'll find him.
Sheriff Baskin: Well I've been looking.
Ree: I said I'll find him.
So here's a drama that manages to incorporate some family drama as well as elements of a noir film. And it's set in the Ozarks! This is a very well acted story, that makes great use of its setting and offers up a solid enough mystery of sorts.

An OK Look At Brooklyn's Finest

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Brooklyn's Finest: 3 out of 5 Stars
Captain: Don't you wanna do something useful with your last two minutes on the job?Eddie Dugan: Not really.
Director Antoine Fuqua returns to the cop drama genre that got him much more notice. This time he puts together three stories, which are all well acted, but unfortunately don't come together as well as they could. Still the performances are very solid and the film looks quite good, capturing a gritty tone that fits.

In Brooklyn, amid drug deals, violence, casual racism, poverty, housing projects, and corrupt cops, we follow three officers: Tango (Don Cheadle), African-American, working undercover, believing he's earned a promotion to a desk job but told he has to set up the bust of an ex-con (Wesley Snipes) who saved his life; Sal (Ethan Hawke), who'll commit murder to get cash to buy a house big enough for his family; and, Eddie (Richard Gere), the precinct's oldest beat cop, a week to go before retirement, as…

A Solid Peak Under the Red Hood

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Batman - Under the Red Hood: 4 out of 5 Stars
Red Hood: Just be happy I only killed one of them. They're all assassins!
Batman: And what are you?
Red Hood: I'm cleaning up Gotham. More than you ever did.I had to weigh my Batman fandom against the idea of not having the iconic voices of Batman and the Joker present before watching this film. I am glad to say that it was worth it. This feature brings in a popular story arc involving the Red Hood as well as the infamous moment from "A Death in the Family," in order to put together a tale that is quite dark and fitting in the realm of Batman's animated universe.

Following a dark opening sequence showing the Joker's murder of the Jason Todd Robin, we cut to years later with a new threat present. Batman faces his ultimate challenge, as the mysterious Red Hood takes Gotham City by firestorm. Part vigilante and part criminal kingpin, the Red Hood begins cleaning up Gotham with the efficiency of Batman, but wit…

Flipped Managed to Turn Me the Right Way

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Flipped: 3 1/2 out of 5 Stars

So it occurred to me the other day that Rob Reiner, with the exception of North, had directed a string of very good to great movies up to the mid 90s. After that, he seemed to have lost his way a bit. I am glad to say that this new film of his is a solid coming of age story and a nice throwback to the “coming of age story” genre in general. Adapted from the 2001 young adult novel of the same title, this film is a lean, nicely paced, teen romance story that works well at being entertaining. Bryce: In school, the only thing I totally flunked out in, was understanding girls.Set in the 1960’s, the plot centers on two middle school kids, Bryce (Callan McAuliffe) and Juli (Madeline Carroll), who have lived across the street from each other since Bryce moved in when they were six years old. Ever since then, Juli has been head over heels for Bryce, only to be met with no shared feelings from Bryce’s side. As the two enter the 8th grade, new feelings start to d…

The Kids Are All Right, Very All Right

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The Kids Are All Right: 4 1/2 out of 5 Stars

Laser: Why did you donate sperm
Paul: It just seemed a lot more fun than donating blood.A well balanced comedy/drama about an unconventional family, dealing with the arrival of another member of the family who is related in another unconventional way. The lightness of the tone, mixed with the overall themes involving family and the bonds of marriage, as well as some strong and sharp comedic moments give the dramatic elements of this film an effective weight. Strong performances from the lead characters also aid the film quite well.

The film stars Annette Bening and Julianne Moore as Nic and Jules, a happily married couple. Nic is a busy, working physician, who likes her wine; while Jules is a little more of a free spirit. They have two kids of their own. These children are Joni and Laser, played by Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson, 18 and 15 years old. The two kids were conceived of by each mother, using the sperm donation of …

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