Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Les Miserables

Django Unchained

The Impossible

Zero Dark Thirty

Based on the actual events involving the biggest manhunt in history, Zero Dark Thirty is as much about the ambition and tenacity of one woman as it is about the tracking and killing of Osama bin Laden.  Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker and Point Break) directs a riveting story of the investigation and tracking of bin Laden.  The story follows the young up and comer agent, Maya (Jessica Chastain) and her determination to enter into the darker side of the CIA and find the most wanted man in the world.

The scenes of torture at the beginning of the movie are disturbing and are designed to provoke an emotional response and trigger a conversation about the use of torture and its effectiveness/legality.  While some critics saw this aspect as political in nature and therefore tainted the credibility of the movie, I saw nothing wrong with this.  Most likely this did occur.  Whether you are ok with it or not is not the issue.  Its part of history and at the time, the US intelligence agency was involved in black ops and had secret bases in Eastern Europe.  The military was involved in secret prisons and some of the most shocking practices were brought to light in Iraq.

In similar fashion to Argo, its the most intense slow movie I have seen.  Everyone knows the ending and knows much of the back story. But it is still an incredible journey and an intense one.  This movie may not be for everyone, but depending on your patriotic and political views, you can definitely enjoy this movie.

The supporting cast while not chalked full of big names included some outstanding performances from Jason Clarke (Lawless), Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights), Harold Perrineau (Lost), Mark Strong (Sherlock Holmes), James Gandolfini (The Sopranos), Mark Duplass (The League) and Jennifer Ehle (The King's Speech).

Great cast, amazing direction, intriguing story.  This was a great movie and while I feel Lincoln and Argo stand a better shot at winning the Oscar, this definitely deserves its nomination. I give this movie 4.5 stars and think most people will enjoy it.

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This Is 40

Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann return a few years later to chronicle the troubles and obstacles of turning 40.  While not an official sequel to Knocked Up, it does follow these two characters from the original movie and their daughters.

As Debbie (Leslie Mann) is about to turn 40, she struggles with the milestone and what it means to her and her relationship with her husband.  What is great about this movie is it speaks the truth.  Pretty much every woman goes through this, and generally every guy acts like this.  That's what makes this movie so funny.  You see yourself either now or headed down that road in these characters.

While the movie is a little long for a traditional comedy, it was hilarious.  I was skeptical going into the movie.  While the previews looked good, I wasn't sold on the angle.  But almost immediately the movie won me over.  Jason Segel was a great addition as the yoga teacher that is sexually enlightened.

Classic Judd Apatow movie.  Real characters, real life situations, and real funny.  I definitely recommend seeing this movie.  I give it 4 stars- definitely a great date night movie.

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Expendables 2

The follow up to the first Expendables adds even more huge action stars to the lineup!  The Expendables 2 sees the original team back in action with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis taking on bigger roles, Chuck Norris in classic cameos, and Jean Claude Van Damme posing as the villain.

Unfortunately this did not stack up as well as the first one. The first Expendables was a great guys action movie.  Not a great movie or one that was snubbed at an Oscar.  Just a classic- kill em all- type movie.  This one, while packed with even more action, was less impressive.  While the first one, Sylvester Stallone looked old, he didn't move that way- he actually was still pretty impressive as an action star.  And there were several very exciting scenes with Jet Li and Jason Statham. This movie had less of that and seeing Arnold still trying was almost sad.  This movie also tried really hard to add comedy with cheeky one liners.  For example, in one scene Arnold steals Terry Crews massive gun.  Arnold says, "Don't worry, you will get it back."  To which Terry says, "I better. Or you're going to be terminated."  Another example, Chuck Norris does a corny line when he tries to deliver a "Chuck Norris" joke.

These guys are not funny.  Well everyone but Statham and Li- they have their moments.  So when they try to deliver one liner jokes it just comes off as awkward and not humorous.

Overall I have to say this was a pretty disappointing follow up.  The action was over the top, unrealistic, and pretty unimpressive in comparison to the original.  And the comedy was a failure and rather annoying any of them thought they had comedic timing down.  I give it 1 star.  Don't even waste your time.  Rather spend two hours watching the original again during guys night.

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The Hobbit

After several years, Peter Jackson has returned audiences to Middle Earth and told the original tale that began the adventure of Lord of the Rings.  As a child, the Hobbit was by far the most interesting book. It had action, adventure, comedy, and really was the starting point of an adventure that only imagination could provide the back drop for.  While the Lord of the Rings Trilogy was incredible, the Hobbit was still intriguing because it launches the story by following Bilbo Baggins from the beginning.

Unfortunately New Line Cinema, MGM, and Peter Jackson wanted to make some money and was thus, in my opinion the downfall of this movie.  The Hobbit was not a long book and could legitimately break down into 2 movies.  However greed took over at the studios and this one story is being stretched out over 3 movies.  The shear greed of stretching this just to make more money starts my experience off soured.  Next classic Peter Jackson gives us not just part 1 of 3, but a 2 hour and 49 minute part 1 of 3.  There are some movies that are long and don't feel that way (Lincoln, Avengers, The Dark Knight), but this one did.  

Visually this movie was stunning.  But let's call it what it truly is- a near 3 hour documentary on how beautiful New Zealand is.  It's like Peter Jackson has never heard of a cutting room.  Important scenes get cut all the time from movies, but not Jackson's.  We experience scene after scene of watching a hobbit and 12 dwarfs walking through a valley, walking on top of a mountain, walking in snow, walking in grass, etc.  Only to come to end of the movie, and almost comically see their goal- still far off in the distance.  While the scenery is beautiful, its just too much fluff.  I will say that the often heard complaint that the way the movie is shot seems like it is more a Bennie Hill show with the characters running around like on fast forward, was not something I experienced.  I thought it looked great.  I saw it on a DLP screen and in 3D and both versions looked really good.

Along with the daunting swoopings of scenery, the opening scene at Bilbo's house was way too long.  It was clear quickly that he was annoyed by the dwarfs, but it just continued on and on and on.  

One thing I loved and thought Jackson did brilliantly, was add in appendices from the other books that explained where Gandalf disappears to.  In The Hobbit, Gandalf would always just disappear, and you couldn't help but think this was the most unreliable wizard ever.  But Jackson spends some quality time following Gandalf's quest which was left out of the Hobbit books.

The main complaint here is that the movie is just way too long, especially when you have 2 more to look forward to.  If each one is almost 3 hours, I am already sure I will be annoyed.  However, there is something to be said about the magic of Middle Earth.  Because even though I was not impressed with this first installment at all, I am determined to see the next too, and in fact, still a little excited.

I give this movie 3.5 stars.  While the large set pieces and breathtaking scenery are incredible, I wouldn't say its a must for theaters.  A good big screen experience at home with a decent surround sound system and a mug of ale.

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