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.

Movie poster from: http://www.flicksandbits.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/the-expendables-2-movie-poster.jpg

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.

Movie poster from: http://www.thehobbitblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/HAUJ_Bus_Dwarves_DOM.jpg


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama bin Laden



Seal Team Six showcases the story of how the Intelligence Community found bin Laden, received the green light, and the Seal team accomplished its most important mission ever.  This movie seems to be a prelude into the more Hollywood version coming out this December in theaters.  This film is a straight to DVD film and is clearly low budget.  But the film is not bad.

The film showcases a B-level cast including Cam Gigandent (Priest, Easy A, The O.C.), William Fichtner (Dark Knight, Prison Break, Armageddon), Robert Knepper (Prison Break, Transporter 3), and Xzibit (Derailed, XXX2).  The acting was solid with enough strong mid level performances without any clear star or poor performances.  The director used an interview style to narrate the film and give some of the back story and inner emotions of the team. While this has been used a lot lately, it was not very effective in this film.  It seemed to constantly stop momentum in the story telling.  Using it as a bookend tool would maybe have worked better than constantly dispersing the film with random interviews with the Seal Team and lead analyst.

Overall not a bad film.  I would call it one of the better direct to dvd action films.  The subject matter helped since it was the first time the subject hit the screen.  However I am sure Zero Dark Thirty directed by Kathryn Bigelow and starring Chris Pratt, Jessica Chastain, Mark Strong, James Gandolfini, and Kyle Chandler will exceed this film in every way.  I give this film 2.5 stars.  Not bad for an afternoon rental and as a great way to learn the basic subject matter before the blockbuster this December.

Movie poster from: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2095605/

Bernie



The last few days I decided to catch up on a few movies I had missed in theaters.  The first one I watched was Bernie starring Jack Black and Shirley MacLaine.  I had heard very good things about this movie during its run at the SXSW film festival which is premiered at.

Bernie is the story of a overly kind man who found his calling as a mortician who takes great pride in his work of preparing the recently deceased for a peaceful and beautiful passing into the afterlife while being presentable and easier for families of those they leave behind.  He took his job so far that he would actually stay in contact with the families of those he had prepared burials for to make sure their grieving was slightly alleviated.

His kind turn found himself befriending the local towns hag and who most people in the town called a "complete bitch".  She was horribly mean to everyone, but Bernie became her friend and they built a nice relationship after her husband died.  Her rudeness began to show again though and he finally snapped and killed her.

This is based on an actual true story of a real mortician in Carthage, Texas who killed a rich woman that he had befriended and eventually was caught and stood trial.  This is one of those dark comedies which you have to be able to really appreciate that type of comedy to enjoy the film.  It definitely had its funny parts but most of the film was filled with just awkward moments.  Jack Black was perfect for the role and portrayed the man the film was based on very well.  Shirley MacLaine was so perfect, she was almost adorable at times before you realized, no you are supposed to hate her.

As far as independent films go, this was pretty good.  While not a favorite by any means, it had its moments of humor and was worth a free watch on Netflix.  Great for a random afternoon when you can't find anything else to watch. I give it 3 stars.  Check it out- the main characters are the best part of the film and keep you engaged for the hour and a half running time.


Movie poster from: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1704573/

Lincoln



The road to the Oscars's starts here!  Lincoln was one of those movies that you walk away from thinking there is no way another film could beat it this awards season.

Lincoln follows Abraham Lincoln at the beginning of his second term and his struggle to end the civil war, pass the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery, and healing a broken nation.  In the months before his death he struggled with House Democrats who refused to sign anything saying slavery was an abonomation and an affront against God.  The House Democrats were also skeptical of the President negotiating with the south and how those negotiations with the south would be tainted by the passing of a bill outlawing something that seemed inherent in the traditions of the south.  The Republicans opposed the President negotiating with the south seeing as how they were rebels and not a separate nation to negotiate with.

The movie is more like an epic West Wing episode than the story of the Civil War or the assassination of the President.  The story follows Lincoln and his allies as they try to persuade opponents in the House to sign the 13th Amendment while also secretly planning a sit down with the leaders of the south to negotiate a truce.

Daniel Day Lewis, President Lincoln, delivers an outstanding performance.  While no one knows what Lincoln sounded like or how he walked or moved, Lewis portrays him exactly as you would think Lincoln would be.  Sally Field delivers a powerful performance of Mary Todd.  Most people do not think too much of her when they think of Lincoln, but she was an important partner and obstacle in his legacy and Field portrays her flaws and odd sense of love in an incredible way.  Tommy Lee Jones plays grumpy old Thaddeus Stevens who battles Lincoln at every turn and has earned the scorn of Mary Todd.  However when it comes to slavery, the two men see eye to eye and he works his "charm" to convince members of his party to defect with him and side with the President to abolish slavery.  Jones' performance ranks amongst his greatest ever.

Steven Spielbergs direction was impeccable as ever.  The movie came in at about 2 and a half hours but Spielberg keeps the story moving so well, you almost could sit there for another 2 hours.  The sets were outstanding, the cinematography breathtaking and playing an important role in building the enormity of the situation and time.

The only adverse feeling to this film I had was the ending.  While this will not spoil anything, of course Lincoln's story ends in his assassination.  There were several moments at the end of this film I think would have been incredible finales to an outstanding film.  I had hoped that the assassination would not be the ending since the film was not about his assassination or the hunt for the killer.  We had already seen that in The Conspirator.  While the assassination was handled nicely and did not ruin the movie, I felt like it detracted from what he had just accomplished and think the film would have been just as good if not even better leaving it with his political success rather than his assassination.

This movie should be an oscar sweep based on other possible nominations I have seen so far.  From Best Movie to Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and many other artistic awards, we should see a big night for this film.  I highly recommend seeing this film and give it 5 stars.

Movie poster from: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0443272/?ref_=fn_al_tt_2

Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 2




The Twilight series finally concludes with Breaking Dawn Part 2.  This is one series I cannot understand how the 2nd movie ever got made, much less 4 more sequels.  My wife read the books and so I got suckered into seeing the first movie.  The first movie- Twilight- was quite possibly one of the worst mainstream films I have ever seen.  The story had a lot of potential but that potential was absolutely destroyed by a ridiculous director and horrendous acting.  Each movie since, I got excited when I saw the previews.  Each preview showed so much action and suspense but then every movie was a let down.  All the action was slammed into the 2 minute trailer and the rest of the movie still dealt with annoying teen angst and a weak vampire story really.  While each movie was progressively better than its predecessor, this series would need to really get to about 10 before you started really getting an audience past the readers of the Twilight series.

With all that negativity being said, I have to admit, Breaking Dawn Part 2 was pretty good.  The acting has become considerably better.  Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson have really improved and become much more natural and believable in their roles.  Kristen also finally seems to have learned to keep her mouth shut which was always so annoying in previous films.  The direction of the film was also much better and epic than previous films.

Most of the action was tightened into just the last 30 minutes of the film, but that was ok because the action was pretty incredible.  The action in the movie had finally lived up to the anticipation built by the trailers.  The final scene even departed slightly from the books ending so that fans of the novels were given a twist and spin, which I think is important.  As long as the twist does not change the story or the basics of the story, it is smart to keep the audience surprised and on their toes even if they have already read the ending.

While still leaving some to be desired from a vampire/werewolf movie, this was by far the best in the series and a pretty good film overall.  I give it 3.5 stars.  If you haven't suffered through the other films, I wouldn't recommend seeing this one- it won't make much sense.  Definitely check it out though as a nice ending to wasting those hours watching the first 4.  The epic battle should be seen on the big screen- it was impressive.

Movie poster from: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1673434/

Skyfall



Skyfall is the 23rd official James Bond film in the series and it proves there are still opportunities to make amazing films, shock and thrill audiences, and make more money than any previous Bond film- even after 22 other films.

Skyfall has been the most critically acclaimed Bond film in recent memory- maybe since the Connery days.  While Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace were good, they had been such a sharp departure from the traditional Bond (or the one we had dealt with for the last 3 decades) some fans were still skeptical.  Skyfall puts fears to rest.  Daniel Craig has eased into this role with a charm that only a true James Bond could do.  While the first two Craig films were gritty and dark, this one begins to bring some of the Bond charm we had come to expect from previous Bonds.

The premise of Skyfall is that someone very powerful has obtained a list of all the undercover agents that NATO allies currently has in the field.  The leak of this information is embarrassing to Britain because they were not even supposed to have such a list of their allies activities.  The villain knows how MI-6 operates and is able to anticipate every move Bond and M make leading the obvious that this is an inside job.  Bond's investigation takes him all over the world (as usual) to Turkey, Shanghai, and Japan, but most of the film takes place in London and Scotland.  While most Bond movies pride themselves on how many locations they film at, Skyfall proves that bad guys are sometimes closer to home and that London and Scotland have just as many exotic locations as any other place in the world.

This film introduces Q for the first time since Craig took over as well as many other characters that have been seen in previous films.  Skyfall notes many famous previous Bond moments. I won't spoil anything in this review, but suffice to say- keep an eye out for all kind of hidden easter eggs and tongue in cheek jokes that relate to previous Bond movies.

I would agree with some out there that Skyfall can now be considered one of the best Bond films ever.  The modern take on James Bond makes it difficult to compare it to the charming, comedic Bond films like Goldfinger, Goldeneye, and other fan favorites.  I give this film 4.5 stars and highly recommend seeing it in theaters.  It will be hard to wait to see what happens in the next Bond film as Craig has two more in his contract before the Walter PPK is handed to another.

Movie poster from: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1074638/

Argo



Argo is another movie based on a true story.  However unlike Flight, most of this movie is true.  Argo is the name of a fake movie the CIA created in Hollywood to shoot in Tehran, Iran.  The director, CIA Extraction Expert, Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), travels to Tehran to scout for filming his sci-fi film.  At least that is his cover.  His real mission is to get six American embassy workers out of the country after the embassy was overrun by revolutionists.  These six escaped the embassy during the protests that ended with Iranians taking over the embassy and taking the remaining Americans hostage.  These six were taken in by the Canadian Ambassador and hid in his residence until they could be safely taken out.  The movie revolves around the CIA and American Intelligence community trying to determine the best way to get the Americans out safely.  Mendez's plan of creating a fake film is shot down until they determine that its the "best worst idea they have".  Ben Affleck's character teams up with John Goodman and Alan Arkin to start developing the movie and get it to a stage where he could legitimately head to Tehran as a Canadian filmaker and "meet" his other 6 pre-production crew members there.

While there is very little actual action in this film, it is filled with intensity.  Ben Affleck does a stellar job of directing while also delivering an excellent acting performance.  The supporting cast was quite large and talented as well.  As usual Alan Arkin and John Goodman do an incredible job and are quite believable as 70's Hollywood big shots.  Bryan Cranston also does a phenomenal job further cementing his ability to play both crazy meth drug dealer (Breaking Bad) and a convincing CIA operative.  He continues to showcase his acting talents and grown.  Everything was very timely- something I find very important in movies from certain time periods.  Everything from clothes, cars, planes, newspapers, everything was set firmly in that period around 1979.  The casting was spot on.  While Ben Affleck's character was slightly off- all the other people were spot on from their pictures.  At the end of the movie they do a photo match from the real people and the actors that portrayed them in the movie.

This was an incredible movie and one definitely to go see.  A terrific story that is not well known, amazing acting, and beautiful directing make this in my top 10 for the year.  I give it 4.5 stars.  While I am not sure this movie could win best film or actor, it very well has a shot at winning best director and best supporting actor- Goodman, Arkin, or Cranston.

Movie Poster from: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1024648/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

Flight


I love movies that seem impossible but have "Based on true events" at the beginning of the film.  Like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre- how on earth is that based on true events.  Flight has the same effect.  It raises the question, is it even possible to turn a commercial airliner upside down and fly it so for several minutes?

Well for starters this story is loosely based on terrifying stories of drunk pilots who project sob stories while they put thousands of lives at risk.  The "true" part only refers to pilots who have flown drunk and a loose connection with one particular alcoholic pilot who fought his addiction after he was imprisoned for flying intoxicated.  The incredible flight at the beginning of the movie in which Denzel Washington turns the commercial airliner upside down to keep it from crashing out of the sky never happened.

The first 45 minutes of the film was incredible.  Denzel's character while flawed, does something so incredible you forget how bad of a person he is.  After saving almost everyone on board, Denzel goes into hiding and struggles to fight his alcoholism   Denzel Washington's performance was absolutely incredible.  Not surprising- its what we have come to expect from the talented actor.  His performances always leave you feeling strongly one way or another about his character.  John Goodman's character was also quite entertaining.  However about half way through the movie, Denzel's character takes a bad turn and the character reverts back to his drinking habits.  The movie at this point seems to drag a little.  The momentum really slows down and you are really just waiting for the ending.

There were some subtle faith aspects to this film which I also thought was interesting.  The overarching question seemed to be was the issue that brought down the plane an act of God, was it God that gave Denzel the power to do something no other pilot alive could have done- drunk or sober, or was it simply the fact that Denzel was a remarkable pilot?  It always seems to me that faith really is a strong factor in flight whether you pray before take off, pray as you crash to the ground, or ask why God would do such a thing after a horrific crash.

Overall the film was good.  Denzel definitely deserves a nod for an Oscar however there are other actors that beat him this time around (more on that soon!).  While the flight catastrophe was impressive on the big screen, I don't see any reason not to wait for dvd.  Its worth a watch if only for Washington's excellent performance.  I give the film overall 2.5 stars though.

Movie poster from: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1907668/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Halloween Movies!


Check out my Halloween movie page to the right side!  I review some of the Halloween movies I am watching this month and let you know what will have you sleeping with the lights on and what are just downright ridiculous and an affront to film making.  The reviews will be short by highlight some classics like Poltergeist, Halloween, Friday the 13th and more!



Movie poster from: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-JNaGVd3BroA/UCTgxzzogSI/AAAAAAAABmY/KT1I_y1hAK4/s1600/trick_r_treat_poster-425x578.jpg


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Looper




Looper is currently being hailed by some as the time travel movie that redefines time travel movies.  Since opening last week it has taken over the #1 spot in the box office and has over a 90% ranking on  Rotten Tomatoes  But is it that good?

Looper does have an interesting and new take on time travel.  Jeff Daniels says it best, "This time travel crap, it fries your brain like an egg".  Very true.  Trying to understand a time travel movie and the mechanics and reality behind it is almost as exhausting as creating the world, rules, and consequences.  Really Rian Johnson probably deserves the most credit out of the whole cast and crew for being able to not only direct this movie, but also write a movie that, in my opinion, has very few holes and does a great job explaining the physics of a world where time travel is possible.  Rian Johnson really hasn't done anything else other than write and direct a little known movie, The Brothers Bloom, and direct a few episodes of Breaking Bad.  But this movie underscores his potential as both a writer and director.

Looper is about a future in which time travel has been invented but outlawed.  The most dangerous mobs in the future use it now to dispose of people they want dead.  Apparently in the future, murder is much more difficult to get away with due to an advanced tracking system.  So the mob sends the victim back to the past where they have an assassin, or Looper waiting to kill them.  Sometimes when the mob sees fit, they want to seperate themselves from their current Looper.  They do this by sending back the Looper's future self, and the Looper kills themself from the future, effectively closing the loop.  They are paid very well and then have the next 30 years to enjoy life before the mob kidnaps them, sends them back to the past and they get killed.  Confused?  Yeah, its a movie you have to see.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, a top-notch Looper who one day is forced to close his loop when his future self appears as the target played by Bruce Willis.  Future Joe has come back on purpose to the past to change the past and prevent his loop from being closed.  The two then embark on a mission from opposite ends and different goals which is weird since they are the same person.

While the story was great and the action was good, my one flaw I felt the movie had was the makeup on Levitt. I feel like they used a lot of makeup and prosthetics to make him look more like Bruce Willis.  It was weird to kind of see a familiar face but then not.  I don't feel like any of the changes they made to Levitt's face really made him look more like Bruce Willis, other than contacts to change his eye color. And sometimes I felt like the makeup was harsher than other times. Another words it wasn't consistent the way he looked in every scene. I feel like they could have left that out and it would have been better.

Overall I really liked the movie.  I think it was great and different and entertaining.  I do not think it revolutionizes time travel movies though like Terminator, Bill and Ted's, 12 Monkeys, or Back to the Future did.  But I do think it was a fresh take and well done. I give the film 4 stars and definitely recommend taking a look at it in theaters.



Movie Poster from: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1276104/

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Lawless



Lawless is the true story of the Bondurant boys who were legends in the bootlegging business in Franklin County Virginia.  The story follows the three Bondurant brothers who could not be more different.  The leader of their group, Forrest Bondurant played by Tom Hardy, was a simple minded, brutal but quiet, businessman.  The middle brother, Howard played by Jason Clarke, was addicted to his own product- the crazy alcoholic.  And the youngest brother, Jack played by Shia Lebeouf is the dreamer that romanticizes everything about their lives but is harmless and shy's away from violence.

The story revolves around these three brothers trying to continue their illegal operation after a special deputy, Guy Pierce, shows up to take his share of all bootlegging operations or shut them down.  Forrest is the only bootlegger who stands up to this insanely violent government official.

This was a great movie with some great acting.  I think this continues to prove Tom Hardy can be Bane, an architect for dreams, or a 1920's bootlegger whose life becomes a legend.  Shia Lebouf also did very well.  Gary Oldman's character of Floyd Banner was great however he did not seem to play much of a role in the movie.  I was surprised that such a big actor would really only have 2 scenes that could have easily been edited out.

I also found it very interesting that the novel this movie was based on was written by Matt Bondurant, the grandson of Jack Bondurant.  It lent a sense or truth to the movie even in it's most outlandish scenes.  The movie was great and very entertaining, but be forewarned- extremely violent!  It's one of those movies that does not need to be so violent and at times it is very disturbing and difficult to watch.  While the movie was incredible, it does remind me of how movies used to simply put the idea of violence in our head and let our imagination go as far as we felt comfortable going.  That may sound weird but I feel like such extreme violence simply targets shock factor which takes away the incredible talent of the actors, writers, director, and the incredible story being told.

Overall I really liked Lawless and would definitely recommend seeing it.  It's one that doesn't need to be seen on the big screen but I would still recommend checking it out in theaters if you can.  Based on the story and acting I give the film 4 stars out of 5.




Movie poster from: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1212450/

Friday, September 7, 2012

Total Recall (2012)



Colin Farrell, Jessica Alba, Kate Beckinsale, and Bryan Cranston all star in the new remake of Total Recall.  After watching the original 1990 version with Arnold Schwarzenegger, I have to say it does not stand the test of time.  What used to be a decent sci-fi flick is actually quite bad when watching it now.  The new Total Recall will probably have the same effect in 20 years.

The new Total Recall was very entertaining and action packed.  The story is similar but not exactly the same.  Colin Farrell plays a factory worker who is bored and unhappy with his life (even though married to the incredible Kate Beckinsale).  He goes to an underground place called Recall which implants memories into their clients brains so they can experience things they may have not been able to do in their real lives.  He chooses a super spy program with excitement, betrayal, and action.  However after the program, it becomes unclear to him whether he is still in the program or if he really was a spy before in his real life.

The one real surprise for me was how great Bryan Cranston was as the villain.  For me Cranston will always be associated with Malcolm in the Middle.  But after seeing his character here I am sold on him being a late comer to the big show.  For those of you already watching Breaking Bad, you know how great of an actor he can be.  I will definitely start watching this show now to see more of his brilliant work.

As I said the action and special effects were entertaining.  While this is certainly not the best movie of the summer, it was fun to watch.  Nothing was so big and over the top I would say you have to see it in theaters.  But when you are at home wanting to watch a good action flick, this definitely fits the bill.  I give this movie 3 stars out of 5.

The Bourne Legacy



The Bourne Legacy is the fourth installment in the Jason Bourne series and the first one replacing Matt Damon with Jeremy Renner.  Renner plays Aaron Cross, another, more advanced version of Jason Bourne that was a product of the Treadstone project.  As Edward Norton starts to shut down the entire program from the top to bottom, Renner and the scientist that developed the genetic enhancements on him, go on the run fighting to find out who was behind the shut down and find a way into hiding.

While all three of the Matt Damon Bourne movies were good, I really started seeing flaws in each one after the first one and really haven't thoroughly enjoyed one since the Bourne Identity.  The Bourne Legacy is an even further departure from the novels and while Aaron Cross is the main character, it is actually a cover name for Jason Bourne, not a totally different person as in the movie.

This movie had 3 major problems which made it by far the worst in the series.  1) The script.  The script  was not good and did not allow the audience to really witness impressing performances from the main acting team.  It further failed with too much technical jargon.  The story and entire "Bourne" process was totally changed and therefore needed way too much explanation for a 4th installment.  A lot of the explanation was incredibly scientific so that 99% of the audience seeing this movie probably did not understand any of the science behind this whole story.  I am not someone who thinks movies or scripts should be dumbed down for the audience but can indeed actually educate the audience.  But in this instance, we just needed an incredible action movie.

2) This was not an action movie.  There was action, but none of it overly impressive.  Matt Damon's character had some incredible fight scenes that just was incredible to watch.  This movie did not have anything overly impressive.  Some fight scenes were cool, but nothing fantastic.  Jeremy Renner was impressive as the character and did well.  But based on script and directing, he did not have the chance to really become "Bourne".  Even the final chase sequence was not overly exciting.

3) It seemed to really have an end.  Each of the other Bourne movies left the end open for a next installment.  While they all stood on their own and could have ended at any point, I felt that this one had a definite ending which kind of stops the story.

While this was not a good Bourne movie, it wasn't horrible- it just could have been a lot better.  I hope Universal does not stop with this 4th one as the final Bourne movie.  I feel like if they go back to the original story and build off that, it could continue as a lucrative franchise.  I give it 3 out of 5 stars.  I would recommend checking this out on DVD.  Its entertaining and if you enjoyed the first 3 Bourne movies, this will be entertaining as long as you realize, its only loosely a Bourne movie.

Drive



So I missed the boat on this movie.  Drive came out last year featuring Ryan Gosling, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, and Ron Perlman.  When it came out, people went crazy over it and commented on how great of a movie it was.  Incredibly violent but in a very indie, quiet way.  While this was not the film that really launched Ryan Gosling's career (girls still oogle over him from The Notebook), but it was his first movie that solidified him as a interesting action hero that could act, kick butt, and look good.
As I said, I somehow missed this movie and while it has been on my list of movies to see, I just now got around to it.  It was not my favorite.  I think the hype definitely does not match the film.  The story revolves around a driver (Ryan Gosling- nameless) who is paid to be the getaway driver for thieves, robbers, and all around bad guys.  He befriends a woman next door whose husband gets sucked in for "one last job".  Ryan's character decides to help by being his getaway driver but through a web of deceit and double crossing gets caught up in a pretty sticky situation with some of the highest elite criminals.
The story was very unique but the film just seemed a little too independent.  There were times that the movie was so slow and I just lost interest.  I also did not find any of the actors all that likeable.  Even Ryan's character seemed very distant and one dimensional.  I did not feel involved in any of the character's development or problems.
Not a bad movie, but I had just been told to expect so much more.  Maybe this rare, bad review of the movie will allow others to enjoy it more than I did.  I give the movie 2.5 stars out of 5.  So many people talked about this movie which is why I watched it, but I definitely could have saved my time and watched something better.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Double



Netflix has completely lost their edge and most of their movies are now B level or old- no new hot summer blockbusters.  While this is disappointing and a lot of the movies are horrible, every once in a while you find a gem- one that almost everyone overlooked.

The Double seems to be a 2011 straight to dvd or limited release movie.  On the outside it looks good- spy thriller starring Richard Gere, Topher Grace, and Martin Sheen.  As Hollywood shovels out more remakes, sequels, and CGI infested blockbusters, movies with a small budget but great story are getting overlooked.  This is one of those films.

Richard Gere plays an ex-CIA agent whose career was chasing down a international assassin who has fallen off the map and seemingly quit his calling card killings.  When the assassin returns and kills a US Senator, Richard Gere gets called back in to help the CIA catch him and put an end to the killings once and for all.  FBI profile specialist, Topher Grace, gets called over to assist in the investigation.  Topher made it into the FBI due to a phenomenal dissertation on the killer and has become obsessed with catching him.

This movie has some great acting, solid script, great twists and turns as a spy thriller.  Even with a low budget, the final car chase scene is really impressive.  I recommend checking this movie out.  It may have not been worth a whole $15 in theaters, but its definitely worth an hour and a half of your time on Netflix.  I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

Prometheus



Prometheus is the "unofficial" prequel to Aliens.  Ridley Scott, who started off the whole franchise in 1979 has made claims that this is not really a prequel just a different story.

The movie is breathtaking visually.  While, even in 3D, it does not create the entire environment to experience like Avatar did, its similar in the sense, you really feel transformed to a whole new world.  The set pieces were breathtaking and the overall feel of the movie was great.  In line with the other Alien movies, this one is not really a horror movie.  There are a few intense scenes that cause you to flinch or clench up, but its overall just an intense thriller about these unfortunate people.

Prometheus begins with scientists on Earth making cave drawing discoveries.  They believe the drawings prove that man did not descend from apes, but rather from aliens.  The two scientists use a private corporation, The Weyland Corporation (same from previous movies) to fund a search mission to a moon they believe these aliens are on.  Once they arrive they see that all (or most) of the aliens they believe to be mankind's ancestors, are dead.  Horror ensues as other aliens infect the bodies of the scientists and security team and they learn their ancestors dark secrets.

My problem with this movie is that everything sets up to be a sequel in Alien.  Without giving anything away, much of the last 30 minutes of the movie looks eerily familiar, and then they mess it all up.  Things are not where they are supposed to be anymore.  The ship that they find in Alien is the same one they explore in Prometheus.  It is in the exact same location, but there is something missing.  Its hard to describe without spoiling anything, but it just does not make sense.  The director dismisses this with the simple claim, "this is not a prequel", but clearly it is.  Too much matches up, for it not to be a prequel.  I think this was rushed through pre-production or for whatever reason they thought this would be sufficient.  But fans of the Alien stories will be disappointed.  Regular movie goers will probably be entertained.  As a stand alone movie, it was pretty good.

I give this film just 2.5 stars.  As a fan of the original Alien trilogy, I found this to be promising but overall a let down.  Watch it in 3D if you are a visual person, otherwise a rental would do.

Spider-Man versus The Amazing Spider-man

There are no spoilers in this review that were not shown in previews. The only spoiler is in the final point and there is a large warning before it- so read only if you dare!! I will compare 6 different categories and announce my pick for winner between Spider-Man (2002) and The Amazing Spider-Man (2012):

1) Spider-Man- While the Raimi Spider-Man's suit was more traditional, the Amazing Spider-Man utilized web-shooters which was more true to the comics. While at the time the organic web shooters was something many fans were able to swallow as a necessity to main stream the movie, this proved equally effective and believable. The Amazing Spider-Man spent less time showcasing his powers and more time having them actually use them. Raimi's Spider-Man was very corny. Webb's Spider-Man was darker and had more issues, but still made wise-cracks while attacking the bad guys. Winner- The Amazing Spider-Man

2) Peter Parker- Maguire's Peter Parker was much dorkier than Garfields. Maguire portrayed Parker as a true nerd- one that liked science and was picked on at school. Garfield was less nerdy, more emo-Twilight-esque. He had problems, he wasn't popular, Flash Thompson still picked on him, but it wasn't the same. He had a certain ease talking to Gwen Stacy that lacked the awkwardness you felt when Maguire talked to Mary Jane (Dunst). Garfield was just not as dorky as Maguire was. Winner- Spider-Man (minus the 3rd one, "Dancing Maguire"

3) Relationships- Gwen Stacy or Mary Jane? Emma Stone or Kirsten Dunst? Kirsten annoyed a lot of people and most did not like her. I felt like her portrayal of Mary Jane was great. Was she the best actress for the part? Maybe, maybe not. But I thought she really looked the part. What's interesting is both of these on screen couples were also behind the scenes in relationships. Emma Stone had less screen time, but the relationship is a more interesting one. Mary Jane's story in the comics is more of a supportive character for Spider-Man. Whereas Gwen Stacy drives story development. Her father is the chief of police hunting Spider-Man. Her story in the comics is one of legend and one that is much more interesting than Mary Janes. Hopefully they will stay loyal to that storyline and explore it through to the end. Winner- The Amazing Spider-Man

4) Web Slinging- When Spider-Man came out in 2002, everyone fell in love with the idea of swinging about in New York City. The scenes were beautiful and breathtaking and looked very realistic. Spider-Man 2 added a lot of high flying action which combine the beauty of web-slinging with Spider-Man's ability to use it as a tactical advantage fighting Doc Ock on the metro rail or the top of buildings. But nothing compares to seeing the Amazing Spider-Man in IMAX 3D. The web-slinging looks even more realistic now and this movie really captures the beauty from the comics. Its one thing to draw a person all contorted flying over NYC- its another thing to put it on screen. The final shot of Spider-Man web slinging in Amazing, was breathtaking and reminiscent of many comic book shots. Winner- Easy- The Amazing Spider-Man

5) The Villian- In Spider-Man, the villan was the Green Goblin which offered a story arc that would carry through to the end of the trilogy with the son taking over the fathers secret identity. The Green Goblin was crazy, but had many dimensions as a character and adding the vengeance of his son, best friends with Parker and soon to be arch-nemesis of Spider-Man, he was a very complex and interesting character. The Lizard was less so. Rhys Ifans did a great job of Dr. Connors, but the Lizard just did not seem as sinister as the Green Goblin. The Lizard was done very well and the action scenes were great, but the character just did not seem as evil and dangerous to Spider-Man's very existence as the Green Goblin did. There is also a scene where the Lizard has an inner monologue fight with the Connors alter ego. This was annoyingly reminiscent of both the Green Goblin and Dr. Octopus's inner dialogue. Sony- Take note- not every villan has an evil inner voice! Winner- Spider-Man


---SPOILER ALERT---SPOILER ALERT---SPOILER ALERT---SPOILER ALERT--- 

6) The End- The end of Spider-Man alluded to Mary Jane being in danger again due to her relationship with Spider-Man. Harry Osborn vows vengeance on Spider-Man for his fathers death. In Spider-Man 2, Harry Osborn discovers the Green Goblin's toys behind his fathers office alluding to the final chapter where Harry would finally attack Spider-Man. These were great and subtle preludes to the next movie. This movie did not have that. There was no clear picture of who the Lizard was talking to at the end. And even the most loyal comic book fans cannot figure out who it was. There are allegations to Norman Osborn, Mysterio, or just Lizards evil inner voice. In order for the director to excite fans with these post-credit clips- you have to give just enough to get the fan boys to know whats happening and then educate the rest of the theater. This was just a waste of time. Winner- Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man

With only a ten year gap between the Raimi/Maguire Spider-Man, the Amazing Spider-Man seemed like a redundant mistake by Sony Pictures. Retelling an origin story that most people have already seen is risky. I went into the movie with low expectations. I expected to be bored by the retelling of a story I had already seen more than a dozen times. However the Amazing Spider-Man was an amazing movie and a great retelling of the Spider-Man story. It does not take away from the long-awaited first appearance made by Toby Maguire but it allows us to enjoy a different vision.
Since there was such a minimal timeframe between the original and remake, I thought I would take the approach of comparing the two to review what was better and what was worse than the original in a separate post. Here, I will give my overall review here to avoid any spoilers in the comparison. The Amazing Spider-Man is a great movie and especially in 3D at the IMAX. The action scenes are much more complex and the web-swinging looks incredible. The chemistry between all the characters is spot on. And the cast was well chosen- everyone excels at playing their part within the Spider-Man mythos. There were several changes in this movie from both comic book history and the original Spider-Man movie, but there were also somethings that brought Spider-Man's true story back from some liberties in the Raimi series. While there were some things done better in the original, this movie stands on its own and offers a great parallel vision so that both movies can still be enjoyed for what they are. I give it 4.5 stars.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Haywire

Haywire was one of the most boring action movies I have seen. Even with an all star cast, the movie was destined to fail because of its director. Nothing against Steven Soderberg. I loved Traffic and the Oceans movies, but Steven does not make fast paced movies. Even with an all star cast with Gina Carano, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Channing Tatum, and Bill Paxton, the movie fell very short of entertaining.
Gina Carano plays a private firms assassin who is set up and then hunted down by her own company. Its like a female version of the Bourne Identity. The fight scenes were cool and she was very convincing as an expert assassin.
The acting was of course very good. I would expect nothing less than the best from this caliber of cast.
However it was the slowest action movie I have ever seen. For example there was a chase scene on foot for about 10 minutes with very little other than showing Gina running and a few wide shots of both of the actors running. There just wasn't anything happening during this chase. It also did not help that rather than suspenseful music trying to impress the importance of catching the guy upon the audience, we listened to basically the Oceans 11 theme song, leaving us bored and uninterested. This chase scene was also a whole in the story that made no sense and did not serve the overall purpose of the film.
I really wanted to see this in theaters and am now very glad I did not. Unfortunately I still spent $5 renting it. I wouldn't even recommend seeing this for free because it would still amount to a waste of time. 1 star- and that's generous.

Snow White and the Huntsman

Snow White and the Huntsman is a new vision of the classic Snow White story starring Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, and Charlize Theron. The movie was a solid 2 hour plus action event. The story itself was very interesting. I loved the changes and how they made the story more adult but kept the basic elements still there. Overall the movie had a good pace and stayed intriguing the entire 2+ hours.
Visually the movie was stunning. Wherever they shot this movie, they picked some amazing locations. Aside from the breathtaking natural scenery, I found the sets to be very detailed and added depth to the story. The troll bridge in the dark forest was absolutely incredible.
In regards to acting, it was not bad. Everyone, including myself, had concerns going into this movie with Kristen Stewart. The movie looked great but was Kristen going to be the annoying, angst filled, vampire lover that annoyed us all so much in the Twilight films? The answer is not quite. Her acting was much better and she did not annoy me very much at all. She did have her classic open mouth constantly. Maybe she just has really bad allergies and cannot breathe with her mouth closed. The action and acting from Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron hid her shortcomings which were few and far between.
While the movie was very entertaining and had many high points, there were a few things that bothered me. There was one fight scene with the dwarves in which one of the Queen's henchmen pulls a Matrix style move. I know the director is trying to make impressive fight scenes, but a man wearing chainmail and armor simply cannot do crazy leaps and aerial acrobatics. That annoyed me. The other was the end of the film. In an effort to stay spoiler free, I will just simply say, the end was not satisfactory and did not feel like a real ending. Not in the sense that there could be a sequel, just in the sense, it left things untied. There was also a massive failing of continuity with a door being closed and then showed closing.
Overall the film was good and entertaining. The story was incredible and interesting, the cinematography breathtaking and impressive, and the acting was decent. I give the movie 3 stars. Entertaining summer blockbuster, but definitely not one of the bigger summer movies. It would be possible to save a few bucks and enjoy this at home.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Avengers

Can anyone say, "Best Movie Ever!"? Unfortunately it took me three times to see this movie before I was ready to write this review. I thought maybe the excitement of The Avengers would finally regress and I could find flaws in this movie. But after the third viewing this weekend, I now know, I will never tire of watching this movie! It is simply amazing! At already almost $1 billion, this movie has made more money quicker than any other film ever! It is on course to making more money than Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America combined! I draw similarities to the recent James Bond reboots. Quantum of Solace is impossible to watch and understand without seeing Casino Royale first, but once you watch Casino Royale, Quantum is a great action packed conclusion. Avengers finally draws together 4 characters that already received their own movies to develop their back story. Having this part of the story already developed allows Avengers to be a non-stop action packed thrill ride. Action begins literally after only about 2 minutes of prep and stays fairly strong all the way to the very end when they Assemble against Loki. The core characters were as usual phenomenal. After we already learned of their talents in their solo films, we now see them form together to make quite an unpredictable team. The great thing is the story continues to build around Black Widow (Scarlett Johansen) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). This type of sub-development helps open the door to future movies showcasing more SHIELD agents with Black Widow, Hawkeye, Maria Hill (Cobie Smuthers), and Nick Fury (Sam Jackson). The film was actually very funny. The humor seemed more in line with the Iron Man movies. While all of the previous movies had funny parts, Avengers really capitalized on irony and the hilarious moments of trying to create a team from a narcissist billionaire, an old relic from World War II with old morals, a god from another world, and a uncontrollable monster. The humor was one of the most enjoyable and surprisingly parts of the film. I did not expect the humor to be as robust or well written. This movie was different in the sense there were not any obvious nods to fan boys hidden within the film. Obviously Stan Lee made his cameo (that guy is awesome!)and there is a mid-credits scene that hints towards a future villain. It was a little disappointing there weren't more cameos but nonetheless, the nod at the end is intriguing. Speaking if endings- please stay until the very end- after all the credits!! Even in the latest, 3rd viewing, most of the theater up and left. If you really want to leave with a lasting memory of the film- this is the scene to end the experience with! I watched the movie in 2D and 3D, in the IMAX and in the regular theater. Its great in any forma but if you do see it in 3D, see it in the IMAX. The 3D just adds another layer of awesome- but the 2D was also really good! I give this movie the rare and coveted 5 stars! I really would not change a thing. This is a must see in theaters. It deserves to be enjoyed on a bigger than life screen, because this is a bigger than life movie! How will later summer movies fare against this incredible start!? Stay tuned to find out! Movie poster from: http://cdn.ifanboy.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/newavengersposter.jpg

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Five Year Engagement

The Five Year Engagement is another Jason Segal classic! As in many of his movies as of late, he co-wrote the script and used a lot of improvisation throughout the film to create a genuinely funny movie. Jason Segal plays Tom who proposes to his girlfriend, Violet (Emily Blunt). The two are very excited and madly in love, but an opportunity at the University of Michigan for Violet to get her post-doctorate forces them to propose their wedding during their relocation and adjustment from sunny San Francisco. The adjustment period turns to be longer and harder than either had anticipated and Tom's lack of opportunities as a professional chef begins to wear on the couple's relationship.
Not to diminish the film's hilarious moments or great chemestry between these two and Tom's best friend, Alex (Chris Pratt), but the film does indeed follow the traditional plot line for romantic comedies. (Small rant on romantic comedies follows:) 90% of romantic comedies follow a basic plot line: guy meets girl, guy falls in love with girl, happiness ensures, guy screws up (or girl screws up), couple breaks up and enters sad and lonely time, couple gets back together and lives happily ever after. Once again, this movie was very funny, but in order to really be considered unique, romantic comedies have to break this mold of commonality. We all know what to expect and about what time to expect it.
That rant standing aside, the movie is very funny. I was worried at the beginning to learn that it was a little over 2 hours long, which is extremely long for a romantic comedy. However, the pace of the movie was very quick and I never looked at my watch or wondered, how much longer is this movie?! The cast was very entertaining and capturing.
Overall I liked this movie and think it makes a great date night movie- especially if your girl likes Jason Segal's butt! One of my friends commented that he must have a contract stating he gets to show his butt in every movie, cause I can't think of one Jason Segal film we haven't seen a little too much of him!! Definitely check this movie out as a rental for a nice Friday night date night. I give this movie 3.5 out of 5 stars!
Movie poster from: http://collider.com/wp-content/uploads/the-five-year-engagement-movie-poster.jpg

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Lockout

Lockout opened last week as a much needed "guy" movie made its way into the summer run-ups! Most movies coming out in April have been comedies, romance movies, dramas, and documentaries. 7 out of the top 10 movies in theaters right now are comedies.

Lockout has an interesting premise- something unique. A maximum security prison in space. What more do you need for an awesome action flick? Guy Pierce plays CIA Agent Snow who is set up for conspiracy against the US government as a traitor. He is sentenced quickly to 30 years in the maximum security prison floating in orbit above the Earth. Meanwhile the daughter of the U.S. President heads to the prison to do a humanitarian check on the prisoners who are kept in suspended animation (frozen) during their sentence. She is there to inspect the prisoners for mental issues or illness arising from being in suspended animation for extended periods of time, when her luck runs out and the prisoners unthaw and break free, taking over the prison.

Of course this story has been done before- prison break, prisoners take daughter of someone important hostage, kills other hostages leading up to the dramatic rescue of that one woman. The difference this time is that THIS IS IN SPACE!! Adding a whole new element of danger and consequences.

Guy Pierce is a pretty convincing tough guy. This seems to be his first blow em up, kick butt movie. He has been brilliant in many dramas and independent films, but never the action star. Clearly he is an accomplished actor, but this proves he can also not act and just be tough. Maggie Grace (Lost) plays the President's daughter, Emilie. She was also surprisingly good. She was the annoying girl in Lost who had that brother when they first landed on the island- she ended up dying pretty quick as did her brother. This was a much better performance and she too was able to keep up with the action and be a little believable. There is one scene when she picks up a machine gun and starts going to work on the prisoners. Just as the audience starts thinking, "Ugh- mistake, how does this prissy girl know how to use a machine gun", Guy Pierce makes a comment in an almost self-depricating way towards the film- "Thought you were a democrat!"

Overall a pretty good movie. Very entertaining and while nothing to put on an Oscar list, it was a much needed action filler before the summer blockbusters! This was very enjoyable if you are looking for a good story, intense action, and lots of dead bodies and explosions- you will want to see this. Great movie- fun to see on a big screen but not really necessary. Definitely check it out for a Friday night movie night though.

Movie poster from: http://thegamefanatics.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Lockout-Movie-Poster-602x928.jpg

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Hunger Games

The popular book series hit theaters this last weekend and made some impressive accomplishments at the box office. It is the most successful movie to open outside of the typical summer blockbuster season at an incredible $214 million worldwide. It is also the most successful movie ever that was not a sequel or a continued part of a series. It is the 3rd highest opener of all time behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows and the Dark Knight. The Hunger Games is based on the book series by Suzanne Collins. The first book center around a future in which the government has cracked down on a rebellion and created 12 districts in charge of producing goods and materials and supplying them to the capital. The districts are kept poor and powerless in order to prevent another uprising. As a reminder of the governments power, every year they take a male and female child from each district to fight to the death in an arena created by the game makers. The winner will receive food and wealth for the remainder of their lives and bring pride to their district. This story fallows the chosen two from district 12, Katniss and Peeta as they are taken to the capital and showboated as celebrities before being thrown into an arena with 22 other children and forced to fight and kill each other until there is only one survivor. The movie lived up to my expectations as a fan of the book. While many characters and nuances were left out, the movie was incredible. The small pieces that were changed for the film, I believe were done so that general audiences could enjoy the movie and not be too lost. The film also made some interesting changes by including a few tidbits from the next book. For example, in the book, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) played a very, very small role. In fact he was hardly in the book at all and his character was not memorable at all. But in the movie, he played a slightly more predominate character and included some aspects of his character development in the second book. The cast was great. I had not read the book before the previews came out for the movie so its hard to say they fit exactly what I pictured. Even though I knew Woody Harrelson played Haymitch (the mentor), I still had seen a short, fat man when I read the book. But Woody played the part of drunken bum very well! Jennifer Lawrence was also great! I am looking forward to a lot of good things from her. I thought she did well in X-Men: First Class, but seeing her carry a movie and show so much emotion was really impressive. Josh Hutcherson was good as Peeta too. Without changing the love story between he and Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) it was presented slightly different than in the book. It will be interesting how they develop that part of the story in the next movie. I really thought the marketing of this movie was brilliant. The previews never once showed the actual Hunger Games,just the lead up. The games did not disappoint and made the movie that more captivating. You never knew what to expect visually even if you already knew what was about to occur. There was a lot of fear leading up to this movie that it would be another Twilight movie. A great book, but on film it was just a dumb teenie-bopper movie which featured sub-par acting and an annoying love story filled with drama and teen angst. I have to say those fears were squashed completely. This will be a fantastic franchise and while I have not read the next 2 books yet, I am on pins and needles to know what happens next. I highly recommend seeing this movie. Check this one out in theaters, its a fun experience. I give this movie 4.5 stars out of 5. The only thing I did not like about the movie was the depiction of the love story between the two main characters. I don't know if it was the chemistry between actors or the script, but it was less interesting than in the book. Other than that, the movie was great. Movie poster from: http://www.imdb.com/media/rm2868031744/tt1392170

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Eden


Its strange that two of the best films of the SXSW festival had depressing and disgusting themes, but in the spirit of the excellent movie Wolf, Eden takes its place at the top of this years films. Eden is the story of a 19 year old South Korean girl in the mid- 1990's who is abducted by a underage girl prostitution ring. The girl, Chong Kim is played by Jamie Chung (Hangover Part II, Sucker Punch). Beau Bridges plays the head of this particular unit, although the movie hints at the organization having several locations and businesses. And Matt O'Leary (In Time, Live Free or Die Hard) plays Vaughn the second in command who deals with the girls on a daily basis.

What really makes this story intense is that its true. Chong Kim was abducted in the mid-1990's and went from victim to accomplice to avenger to advocate. During her 3 1/2 + years in captivity she was able to convince her captor that she was too old and undesirable to work with customers (she is 19, but most of the girls are between 10-15). She proves herself worthy of helping Vaughn collect money and keep track of the girls. By getting close to the operations side of the shadowy organization she is able to position herself in a way that will assist her to attempt to escape.

The movie is gut wrenching and disturbing. Of course we all know that human trafficking occurs, but seeing it in this manor really makes you sick as you watch it. The movie does a great job though of not showing gratuitous nudity or sex. With a theme that is based around sex, it is unique to build a story without showing explicit acts. This movie does not need that shock value to make you feel the pain and turn your head on multiple occasions in disgust.

As I stated previously, this rates with the top films of the festival. During the Q&A we learned more about Chang's struggles after she escaped, her trepidation of turning to the police after seeing so many of them as clients, how true the film was to the real story, and that the film has not been picked up yet! This is one of those movies which need a lot of help to get to the screen and a lot of word of mouth. With the exception of Beau Bridges the movie doesn't show case any A-list actors, nor does it have special effects or a quick pace. But this movie is good. When it gets picked up- go see this. As one audience member put it today, this film will force you to ask "What can I do" when the credits role. I give it 4 stars out of 5. Great film!

Movie poster from: http://d1oi7t5trwfj5d.cloudfront.net/fe/ed7f3069da11e19987123138165f92/file/Eden%20poster.jpg

Lovely Molly


The writer/director of the Blair Witch Project debuted his new horror film Lovely Molly at SXSW this week. The story centers around newlywed couple Molly (new comer Gretchen Lodge) and Tim (Johnny Lewis- Alien vs. Predator Requiem) who move into Molly's parents old house. Unfortunately the house saw the tragic fate of her mother at presumably the evil and possibly possessed father. The spirit lives on and begins to torment Hannah until it completely takes her over and possess her to do unspeakable things.

The movie was nothing really new as far as possession movies go, but still had some good scares. The acting was acceptable and believable. But I do not feel like it was an extraordinary movie. It was by far the scariest movie of the festival but I could only see this as a straight to dvd type movie. I give it 2.5 stars out of 5. Its not a waste of time by any means, but don't expect a mind blowing horror film.

Movie poster from: http://twitchfilm.com/news/LovelyMollyPoster.jpg

The Last Fall


The Last Fall made its world premiere at SXSW in Austin, TX this week. The story involves an NFL receiver who after only 3 seasons is being forced into retirement with no one interested in picking him up. Kyle Bishop (Lance Gross- Meet the Browns) returns home after being forced into retirement and struggles with re-learning how to live a normal life. He seeks a job at a local gym through an old high school friend, starts dating his old high school girlfriend, and has to deal with the disappointment of letting down his family.

The acting was well played and the story interesting, especially since it was loosely based on director Matthew A. Cherry's own experience in the NFL. However it was hard to really connect to the character and care about what he was going through. Even during the Q&A, Matthew Cherry discussed how he "only" made $250,000 a year and how thats really not that much money. I am sorry that after 3 seasons of professional football, you squandered all your money on drinking and partying instead of saving and investing. Yeah, that's rough. But you know what, most people will never even make $150,000 a year in their lifetime. It simply is not heartbreaking when his brand new Mercedes gets repossessed. Should have sold it when you lost your job, etc. It was difficult because the actors did a very good job, but I just didn't care about the characters in the film. I give this movie 2 stars out of 5. It was not the worst film of the festival by any means, but I just did not enjoy it or think general audiences really would.

Movie poster from: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1986161/

Wolf


Wolf may be one of the best films of the SXSW Film Festival this year. Director's Ya'Ke Smith's feature length directoral debut is an emotional powerhouse about a family going through the difficult trials of faith and justice. Jordan Cooper plays Carl, a young boy who is molested by his local Bishop (Eugene Lee). The young boy becomes confused and thinks it is an act of love and accepts the bishop's improprieties. When the bishop attempts to separate himself from the young boy and fight his inner demons, Carl takes the "break-up" hard and tries to kill himself. The story develops around Carl's struggle to come to grips with his molestation at the hands of a trusted man, his feelings of what love is or should be, his mother's enduring love, and his father's frustration and guilt. The story is as much about the family as the crime which makes it a touching movie, not just a sad and depressing one.

The story was very good and very well written (also by Ya'Ke Smith). It touched on the struggle the families of these tragedies go through and how they make it to the other side with love. It also explains the unending circle of violence and sickness through child molestation and how the cycle continues for people who refuse to deal with it or have the love of family to help guide the victim back to the light.

The acting was incredible. During the Q&A, it was revealed that the director had the family, Jordan Cooper (Carl), Mikala Gibson (mom), and Shelton Jolevette (dad) spend about a month doing "family outings" and picnics to get to know each other. When they would meet they would all set into their roles in the family. This type of training worked beautifully and you could really feel true love between the cast members and what seemed like real pain. This type of closeness conveyed to the screen and made for a powerful ride.

I would highly recommend this movie, and have. I truly hope this gets picked up by a studio. Either way, I think the cast and the director have an exciting road ahead of them and I look forward to seeing more of their performances. I give this movie 4 stars out of 5. Go see this movie!


Movie poster from: http://d1oi7t5trwfj5d.cloudfront.net/d8/90dc70640211e19987123138165f92/file/wolf.jpg

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Gayby- SXSW World Premiere


Gayby had its World Premiere yesterday at the Stateside Theater during SXSW in Austin, TX. Director and cast member Jonathan Lisecki was there to introduce his new odd comedy.

Gayby is about two best friends, Jenn (Jenn Harris) and Matt (Matthew Wilkas). They have been best friends since college and Jenn starts to feel like she is ready to have a baby. Her problem is she hasn't been the luckiest when it comes to relationships. She pitches the idea of having a child with her best friend Matt. Not an unheard of scenario (as is pointed out by other gay stand-in fathers in the movies). The catch is Jenn wants to do it the old-fashioned way outside of the labs and turkey basters! What ensues is a fairly funny look at two best friends who want to have a baby together while their external relationships start to pick up. Matt finds love unexpectedly in a new customer at his comic book store. Jenn never really finds a real partner, but does meet some interesting prospects through an online dating service.

The movie was made up of a bunch of unknowns. You may recognize some of the people but without doing a imdb search on them, you probably won't place the few places they've been seen. The acting wasn't too bad and unfortunately the worst acting and most annoying voice came from the director. Clearly he had something vested in this film and loved being a part of it behind the camera and in front of it. I think if he had shrunk his character down to just a few lines making cameos it would have worked better. There was something about his voice and the quality of sound that just hurt your ears somehow. It caused a weird high pitched hum when he would say certain things. The story was fairly entertaining till the end. I think this director and the cast have a future making some great quality comedies- however this falls short of being really memorable. I give this 2.5 stars out of 5. Not a bad watch on tv.

Movie poster from: http://www.traileraddict.com/content/unknown/gayby.jpg

Sellebrity- SXSW World Premiere


The World Premiere of Sellebrity was last night at the SXSW film festival in Austin, TX. The documentary centers around the two sides of the paparazzi- the photographers and the consumers. Through interviews with stars like Jennifer Aniston, Elton Jon, Selma Hayek, Kid Rock, Jennifer Lopez and Marc Antony, the film describes the actors' frustrations with the professional paparazzi and every other person with a cell phone camera. The actors all acknowledge that their profession requires some degree of photos to tell the story of their lives and careers but that the paparazzi take it too far by photographing them at home, invade their personal space, chasing them dangerously in cars, and attacking their children. They use examples of the Britney Spears meltdown, the death of Princess Diana, the break up of Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt, and the stalking of little baby Siri.

The movie points out that in capitalist America, we the consumer, drive such recklessness and have a duty to change the moral outlook of this country based around our buying habits. The Paparazzi only attacks celebrity's and hunts them because they can make a lot of money from those pictures. They make a lot of money from the magazines who are willing to pay large sums to get that picture in their magazine. They do this because the American consumer eats it up and will buy it every month or every other week to find out what America's royalty are doing now. If the American consumer stops supporting such reckless behavior, then the magazines will learn that these shots are not what will sell their magazine anymore. Thus stopping the support of the paparazzi and their dangerous and annoying methods.

The film does an excellent job of staying neutral. In addition to having magazine editors interviewed, they also have some of the most aggressive paparazzi members interviewed to understand their point. They are here to make money and make a living. In a capitalist society, value is determined by how much money someone will pay for your product. These guys have a sought after product and therefore they sell it.

The Q&A afterwards was almost as interesting as the movie. The world premiere brought the director, producer (whom we sat next to and accidentally called out her mom for recording the movie on her I-Phone!), the primary interviewer, the main paparazzi who was interviewed, and Italian who is considered the oldest Paparazzi alive. The discussion was very interesting as people started to ask what the solution should be (we don't know), what was the point of the film if they did not explicitly call for the end of the paparazzi (to start a conversation- get people thinking about their power and influence as a consumer), questions about total footage (well over 80 hours paparazzi footage alone), and the interviews (Jennifer and J-Lo gave hours of their time whereas Elton John ran late and then only had 5 minutes before his party started!). The Q&A really got interesting when an audience member called out the director for just blaming the American consumer (clearly she reads these magazines and has a guilty consciences). The movie never directly blames the consumer for anything but says that the consumer plays their part just as the paparazzi plays their part. Everyone has a part to play, but the great thing about consumerism is that we can use our democracy and freedom to boycott any action or product we do not agree with. This is a unique power and something fairly new.

I really enjoyed this movie and the Q&A. The movie had a quick pace to it that kept you interested the full 89 minutes. It had a great message but allowed us to determine what we do with that message. It was not judgmental or one-sided but created an atmosphere for an honest discussion about how do we protect privacy or do we simply think these people shouldn't have privacy. I would definitely recommend seeing this. At this point we don't know if it will get picked up and have a limited release in theaters, but I think this would fit well in an E! channel lineup!

There is not a movie poster or images from the movie unfortunately- the image above is from: http://s3.amazonaws.com/auteurs_production/images/film/sellebrity/w448/sellebrity.jpg?1329680604

Sunday, March 11, 2012

We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists


We Are Legion takes the audience inside the world of Anonymous, the radical hacktivist collective that has redefined civil disobedience for the digital age. Through interviews with past and current members of Anonymous and other hacker groups as well as just normal individuals, this film describes the evolution of hacktivism, a new way to stand against big corporations and corrupt governments. This film asks the primary question, how will America handle the future of activism, protest, and free speech. When people run their lives, businesses, and banking online, what role does the American government have in protecting its citizens rights that exist outside of the digital world.

This movie was very intriguing and while clearly biased served up some very valid information that describes the true intentions of the group known as Anonymous. The history of the group including its founding, first missions, and splinter groups that separated from the core community was intriguing and different from the portrayal that CNN or other news agencies cover. The idea that this is just one group with a single leader directing the chaos is simply not true and there is so much more to understand about this group and their purpose.

The moral question of how do we move forward is what I felt was the compelling issue of the film. While the story of Anonymous was interesting in and of itself, it only serves to illustrate what is a very important issue which has yet to be addressed adequately. How do we balance security and freedom? How do we protect consumers' information from being leaked while at the same time not forcing government censorship?

While hoping this doesn't land me on a government watch list or the Church of Scientologists hit list, I have to say I really enjoyed this movie. Its a social commentary and an important one that we all have to answer in this digital age. We need to as individuals discover to what extreme do we want protection on the internet and then move to change the government and laws that define it. Anyone who enjoys documentaries, technology, or current affairs, I recommend this movie. Check it out as a good dvd rental to learn more or watch it on HBO. I give it a 4 out of 5 stars.

Once again, no one - sheet yet for this film so here is just a picture of the famous mask: http://www.google.com/imgres?q=anonymous&num=10&hl=en&gbv=2&biw=1269&bih=680&tbm=isch&tbnid=X5SVIHGqRij8NM:&imgrefurl=http://www.extremetech.com/computing/121153-hackers-give-anonymous-a-taste-of-their-own-medicine&docid=aUTTriUI3NdCNM&imgurl=http://www.extremetech.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/anonymous.jpg&w=599&h=399&ei=umxdT5mVKIn02QWEu-XrDg&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=178&vpy=200&dur=1014&hovh=183&hovw=275&tx=88&ty=87&sig=107657995355174378887&sqi=2&page=1&tbnh=143&tbnw=191&start=0&ndsp=18&ved=1t:429,r:6,s:0

See Girl Run- SXSW World Premiere

The world premiere of See Girl Run was shown this afternoon at the Stateside Theater in Austin, TX at the SXSW film festival. This hilarious film features Robin Tunney (Prison Break, The Craft), Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation), and Josh Hamilton (J. Edgar). Robin Tunney and William Sadler (Fringe and Hawaii Five-O) who plays her father both attended the premiere.

The story follows Robin Tunney as she struggles to come to terms with her life as a married woman and her continuing curiosity in her high school boyfriend who she "never broke up with". She disappears one day to head back to her home town and stalk her high school boyfriend to determine whether or not she would be happier with him than her current husband. She stays with her mom and dad who seem to be examples of her dismal, boring, and unhappy future with her current husband and her alcoholic, seriously depressed brother. Nothing like a screwed up family to put your rich girl problems in perspective.

This movie is the type of comedy that is reminiscent of the classic Garden State. Its funny, but not in a hilarious way. There are funny moments mixed with touching moments. Its a coming of age story, just a little late! I really felt that this film was similar to Garden State and was a great film. The only complaint I have is the sound track really. I feel like Garden State was not only a great movie, but was supported by an amazing sound track. This sound track had a few decent songs, but I feel like better music could have been chosen. If the movie does get picked up by a studio (and I really hope it does), I would suggest spending some money on music and getting some songs that help move a long the film and enhance the story.

I really do hope this film gets picked up. I think it would be very successful. I give the film a 4 out of 5 stars and would suggest if this hits theaters to go see it.

The included picture was of the Q&A after the film with Robin Tunney and director Nate Meyer. The film does not currently have a one-sheet or any screen shots available.


The Hunter- SXSW U.S. Premiere


Willem Dafoe and Daniel Nettheim presented the U.S. premiere of The Hunter at SXSW this afternoon in Austin, TX. Willem Dafoe plays Martin who is hired by a shadowy biotech company looking to kill the mythical and supposedly last Tasmanian Tiger in existence. The biotech company believes that the organs and blood from the Tasmanian Tiger can be utilized and sold. After Martin arrives he begins to discover that he was not the first hunter hired by the biotech company, and that his predecessors have all gone missing. As he begins to hunt the animal he forms relationships and makes enemies in the remote area of Tasmania. While the movie is not based on a true story it is based on the mythical sightings of local residents of the supposedly extinct animal. There is still no confirmation whether the animal is truly extinct or if these sightings are a rare glimpse into a miraculous repopulation.

The cinematography in this film is absolute breathtaking. Tasmania is quite an incredible land and has been preserved as a tropical paradise. While the movie was incredibly slow up until the last 30 minutes or so, the story was very interesting and had just enough mystery to keep the audience engaged. The acting was very good including supporting cast member Sam Neill and Frances O'Connor. I enjoyed this movie and the attention it brought to Tasmania in general and the possibly extinct and unique animal. I give this movie 3.5 stars out of 5 mostly due to some of the slowness of majority of the film meaning this would be a great rental.

Movie poster from: http://www.imdb.com/media/rm3348476160/tt1703148
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