December 3, 2009

#050: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving weekend. Hopefully you got to spend some quality time with family, and watch some good movies. Unfortunately, I was only able to catch a couple of films over the break, but they were both good. I watched Forgetting Sarah Marshall again. I was really impressed by how funny it was the second time around. Not all of the jokes worked as well as they did the first time, but I also picked up on some things I probably missed on the first viewing. I sill would have to say that it was the best comedy of last year.
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) was the other film that I watched.  I had never even heard of the film just several weeks ago, but it has come up on three or four occasions recently.  I had every intention on renting it from Netflix, but fortunately I didn't have to.  It was on our HD movie channel last week so I recorded on the dvr.  It is always amazing to see such an old film perfectly restored into HD.
I have to confess that I have never seen an entire John Wayne film.  I wasn't sure what to expect going in.  I have a hard time getting into older films.  I am always conscious of the dated style and it prevents me from becoming invested in the story.  I didn't expect this film to be any different.  At first, it didn't seem to be.  After the first few minutes I wasn't confident I could finish the film in one sitting.  Then Branson Stoddard (Jimmy Stewart) starts recounting the story of how he first came to Shinbone, and the film started to pull me in.  I haven't seen a lot of westerns, but we all know the troupes that most every single one of them contains.  In newer westerns this can feel awkward and corny.  However, in this film you almost feel like you are watching the genesis of the cliches.

Both Jimmy Steward and John Wayne have such distinctive voices that it was distracting at first.  Once I had some time to get used to it I didn't notice it anymore. The one thing I wasn't able to get over is how much this film felt like a stage play.  I can't really articulate why, I just always felt like I was watching actors on a stage.  I am not sure that it is a bad thing, but it was noticeable from beginning to end.  Some of the attempted comedy didn't work from me.  I wasn't expecting many laughs from this film.  I was surprised by how many scenes seemed to be going for laughs.  For the most part it was fine, but there were a couple scenes that were pretty horrible.  I won't fault the film too much.  Those scenes were few and far between.  There were enough really strong scenes to more than make up for the few bad ones.

The thing that surprised me most about this film is how engaging and well laid out the story is.  The title alone has so much meaning.  The film doesn't start out with a lot of exposition that tells you who the main character is, who Liberty Valance is, or why somebody shoots him. We go in blind, and have to figure things out as we go along.  There are compelling reasons why several characters would want to put a bullet in Liberty.  This question looms for the entire film, and we don't find out the answer until the ending.  There isn't a lot of action in this film, but it has a subtle yet effective way of creating a lot of tension.

It was great to watch John Wayne and see what his mystique is all about.  He really was as much of a badass as what I imagined him to be.  I really enjoyed Jimmy Stewart in this film after I was able to stop thinking of him as George Baily from It's a Wonderful Life.

I was pleasantly surprised by this film.  If you like old westerns, or quality-made classics, then you should check out The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.


November 21, 2009

#049: Up

The most recent addition to Pixar's beloved lineup is heralded as the best yet. I would definitely not go that far, but I will agree that Up was a really good movie. I don't think Pixar has ever released anything bad. Any Pixar film is head and shoulders better than the average film made these days. In this great Pixar library Up probably falls somewhere in the middle for me. It had moments of brilliance in storytelling, but as a whole just doesn't stand up to the magic of Toy Story or Finding Nemo. I had really similar reactions for both Up and last year's Wall-E. In both films there are sequences of pure genius in the first act, then the films tend to fall apart towards the middle, only to make a slight recovery at the end.  It is really difficult for me to explain why I felt Up came up short of those others, but I will try.

First lets talk about the good.  The first 20 minutes of this film are amazing.  There is almost no dialog, yet somehow we feel such a connection with the characters.  Usually montages seem forced and end up being really corny, but Up is able too pull off one of the best montages I have ever seen.  The beginning of this film feels like a fine work of art.  The creators payed so much attention to detail and every decision seemed calculated and thoughtful. It was wonderful storytelling.  Those nearly silent first 20 minutes are able to illicit more emotion than the entire rest of the film.  I wish it was able to sustain that level of feeling it had at the beginning.  Unfortunately, it wasn't able to, but then again we are talking about a kids movie here.  It didn't start out feeling like a kids movie, but it takes plenty of opportunities to remind of of that fact in the rest of the film. I didn't expect this movie to be anything more than a good animated kids movie, but after that beginning it had raised the bar.  Contrasted against the start, the rest of the film felt a bit silly.  I lost the connection I started out with.

What would The Littler Mermaid be without Ursula?  What would Aladdin be without Jaffar?  What would The Lion King be without Scar?  What would Up be without some old guy searching for a bird?  Wait! What?  Yes, the antagonist in this film is Charles Muntz, an elderly gentleman on a lifelong quest to capture a bird.  Muntz is smart enough to invent a collar that allows dogs to talk, yet he continues to live in solitude because he cannot complete this task.  He is so obsessed with getting this bird and redeeming himself that he has essentially wasted his life and lost all touch with humanity.  This can be paralleled with Carl. He feels like he wasted his life by never giving Ellie the adventure they had dreamed of as children.  Carl has started to withdraw from society. He is content with living out the rest of his life in lonely reflection on what he wasn't able to accomplish.  Unlike Muntz, it isn't too late for Carl.  Little Russel is there to renew Carl's connection with humanity, and give him something to live for.  Up is directed at children, but poses the very adult question of; "What does it mean to live a fulfilled life?"

I did really enjoy Up, while at the same time I couldn't help but feel it was missing something.  I loved the connection between Carl and Ellie that they were able to establish at the beginning.  However, the rest of the relationships don't feel as meaningful or complete.  The driving forces of the movie change and when that happened it lost some of it's heart.   I found the action sequences at the end to be boring, and just wanted to get back to story.  Those sequences made the ending feel frantic and rushed.  I know I am over thinking this movie, but it is what I do.  Despite my complaints, everybody should watch Up.  It is a really well done film that most anyone will enjoy.


November 14, 2009

#048: The Reader

This is another film that I am very late in seeing. The Reader centers around a relationship between mid 30's Hanna (Kate Winslet) and 15 year old Michael (David Cross & Ray Fiennes). Their affair only lasts a summer, but it will affect them both for the rest of their lives. The first half of the film shows us this affair; from when they first met to its abrupt end. The scenes are awkward, but charming at the same time. Michael is young and approaches life with excitement. He is innocent, but now has a secret that sets him apart from his friends and disconnects him from his family. Hanna is more mysterious, hard and unemotional, but also possesses an innocence of her own. Their relationship is obviously wrong, but we can't really hold either of them at fault for what is going on. Once it had started it could not easily be stopped. It was complicated, yet so simple.

     As The Reader goes into its second act we see Michael move on to his college years. Hanna once again comes into his life, this time in a very different setting. He is faced with a decision that will effect the rest of her life. This decision seems simple, but will result in an embarrassing admission for both parties involved. Michael will have to acknowledge that he had an affair with, and cared for, this woman. Any association with her at this time will not be good for him. At the same time he will have to expose a secret about her. A secret she has gone to great lengths to keep. He ultimately makes his decision, and both of them must live with it.

I knew very little about this film going in. For some reason I was expecting to be bored by it. I was very surprised by how much it drew me in over the first half. The scenes in Hanna's apartment are captured very vividly. It is awkward, and shows quite a bit of nudity, but it all serves to make it seem genuine. As a viewer I believed what I was seeing, and that part of the film really worked for me. The second part, which brings in all the Nazi stuff, really didn't work for me. The beginning made these people seem real. The middle made it very apparent they were just characters on a screen. There is a lot more to be dealt with in the second half, so it will undoubtedly become more messy. However I don't feel like it was approached with the same care as the beginning. There are about 45 minutes where Michael is chain smoking with a look of concentrated sadness on his face. This section felt really forced, and I couldn't wait for it to be over. There were parts of the ending that recaptured that feeling and emotion we saw early on. The final scenes may not satisfy our hearts, but I felt they worked with the story.

     I would definitely recommend seeing The Reader if you have not done so already. If you have seen it, let me know what you thought. What did you think about the role of water in the film? For the first hour there is water in almost every scene. Then there is a span where water is decidedly absent. Is it that the water cleans the physical and emotional filth from their bodies? Is it merely a symbol of renewed purity, and forgiveness? Is there more to it? I think the main take-away from The Reader is the consequences of inaction. As children we are told we will get in trouble if we do something. This film is about trouble caused when people chose to do nothing. In water, if you do nothing, you drown. You have to actively move your arms or kick your feet in order to stay afloat. Here we see them do nothing, and the price they must pay for it.


November 7, 2009

#047: Across The Universe

I am a bit late on seeing this film. When Across The Universe was first released I decided that I would probably never watch it. It just didn't look like my kind of movie. Once it had come out on dvd I started hearing more about it. I knew people that hated it, and others that really enjoyed it. I wasn't interested enough to rent the dvd from Netflix, but they had it as a "watch instant" option, so I added it to my queue. I never got around to watching it. Then Netflix made available streaming to the PS3, so I finally decided to give Across The Universe a try. Quickly I could tell this movie wasn't going to be my usual cup of tea. I have never been a big fan of musical theater, and Across The Universe has a lot of the same characteristics. It was very odd to hear these iconic Beatles songs performed by random singers; most accompanied by choreographed dance numbers. It was all very weird, and I didn't know how to react to it. I am a fan of the Beatles, and I am wonder what Beatles purists thought about this film. The musical pieces were loosely strung together by a plot, which wasn't always the easiest to follow. At times the story felt like the central focus of the film, and the music was there to support it. At other times I felt like the music was the centerpiece, and the story merely served to take us from one song to the next. I am still not sure how to react to it all, but I will say that I liked Across The Universe more than I expected to. However, I did have very low expectations. There were some enjoyable performances, along with some pretty stupid ones. I hate to ride the fence on any movie, and this is a tough one. I can totally see why people loved the film, and I can also see why others hated it. Ultimately I got bored with it and my mind was wandering by the halfway point. I wanted to be able to skip to the next musical piece then choose whether to watch it or continue on to the next. For what it was, it seemed pretty well done. However, I don't think I really got it. By this time anybody who had interest has already seen it. I will not attempt to convince anybody to see it that didn't already have an inkling to. If you have Netflix, there is no harm in firing it up on the "watch instantly" and seeing how it strikes you.

November 2, 2009

#046: The Girlfriend Experience

     The Girlfriend Experience received quite a bit of buzz amongst the critics when it was released. If I am going to pretend to be a film critic, I need to watch movies like this. Therefore I added it to my Netflix queue and waited for its dvd release. I got it in the mail the other day and decided to sit down and see what all the fuss was about. Part of the hype was due to the fact that the lead is played by an adult film star, Sasha Grey. Even though she has "appeared" in several movies, I would not consider her an actress... and it showed. While her acting might seem Oscar worthy when compared to other porn stars, it just doesn't hold up in an actual film. The Girlfriend Experience feels like an assignment submitted by college students who spent way too much time trying to make it seem meaningful when there was no substance there to begin with. I hated this movie and got absolutely no enjoyment from watching it. Any guys tempted to watch it just because of Sasha Grey will also be disappointed. The subject matter of this film actually has the potential to be interesting, but it is presented in a awkward style, making it all seem pointless. The movie is riddled with annoying conversations about the economy. Similar, yet likely more interesting, conversations can be heard at coffee shops across the country. It left me wondering what BS the characters would have talked about if this movie were made in a time of economic prosperity. Combine the inane dialog with the horrible acting, and this movie is a perfect storm of unwatchability. I understand that the conversations are meant to be meaningless because she is pretending to talk to her Johns on their "dates". However, this fact does not make them anymore exciting to listen to.


October 31, 2009

#045: Tears

     Some people would say the fact that I write a movie blog calls my manhood into question. Well, I am about to bring it down another notch my discussing movies that make me cry. There are many reasons why a movie might make us cry, and it is largely a personal reaction you have to the characters. There are some movies that are made for the sole purpose of making the audience sad. Take Marley And Me for example. It sucks... the tears from your eyes by making you love this animal, then forcing you to cope with its death. I have never seen it, but that is what I assume happens. It is a technique sure to get the water works going. There is nothing wrong with movies like this, but they don't really earn your tears. There are other movies out there that make some people bawl, and leave others completely unfazed. Juno is a good example of this one. There was no moment in Juno that made me even consider wanting to cry, yet others had a strong reaction to the ending, and cried quite a bit. I have been thinking back on the movies that have made me cry, and why.

     Over the past several years there have been a few movies that have caused me to shed tears. However, they seem to be few and far between. Lots of movies have made me sad, some have made me start to develop a little moisture around the eyeball, but only a few have actually made a tear fall down my face. My most embarrassing admission of crying like a baby is a story from my freshman year of college, with a little movie named My Girl. I had already seen My Girl at least twice. The first time I saw it I was pretty young. I remember being saddened by it, but I don't recall ever crying. I vaguely remember seeing it a second time, this time with even less emotional effect. So here I am, a freshman in college, on a Friday night. All of my friends were going out and for some reason I was staying in for the evening. I was sitting on the couch flipping through the channels and I came across My Girl, and it had just started. I decided to watch it for a bit as I had fond memories of it from childhood. As I watched, I remembered the basic plot points, but this time it seemed so different. I really became invested in what was going on. Long story short, I found myself sitting on the couch crying like a little girl for the last quarter of the movie. I have no clue why, at that moment, My Girl had such an impact on me. I haven't seen it since.

     The next time I remember crying after that was at The Passion Of The Christ.This remains the only time I have cried in an actual movie theater. Surely through the years there have been random tears shed here and there at emotional movies. However, I haven't really cried as the result of a movie for a long time. Last year I watched Young At Heart, a movie about a senior citizen choir. I know that doesn't sound very exciting, but it was a very good movie. It was really emotional, and features a performance of Coldplay's "Fix You" that I will not forget. Every time I hear that song I think about that scene. It was a very sad film and stirred up a lot of emotion, but it didn't make me start to cry. I have been thinking about this lack of emotional response to film,and it made me want to watch a film that just starts the tears flowing.

 I considered watching Marley And Me, but I didn't want to cry about a dog. I heard about a small film named Dear Zachary. It is the story of a man who was killed, and at the time had a son on the way. A close friend made Dear Zachary as a letter to the son, showing him what his father was like. I cried during this movie. However, my prevailing emotion was outrage at the whole situation. This anger tempered my tears, and kept me from really letting loose. At this moment I still feel like I haven't had a good cry. I watch a lot of movies. Every one of them to an extent is designed to garner some emotional response from the viewer. However, I watch them with a critical eye, and it is more difficult for me to let myself get into the story, characters and emotion. I need a movie that is really going to rope me in and make it so I can't hold back the tears. I shared a few movies that made me weep, now I want to know yours. What is the last movie that really made you cry. Give me your recommendations and I will bump them to the top of my Netflix queue. Let's see if I can get some tears going.


October 24, 2009

#044: The Brothers Bloom

     I am not sure why I was so excited to watch this con-man movie written and directed by Rian Johnson. His first film, Brick, is touted by critics as an amazing film and work of art. I could appreciate what he did, and see why it could be considered an accomplishment, but for me the story fell flat. Brick seemed to drag through the middle, and the ending didn't pay off for me. I should probably watch it again, and maybe I will see the magic everybody is talking about. Like Brick, I knew nothing about The Brothers Bloom going in. However, I had a better idea of what to expect this time around.
     From the beginning of the film it is easy to appreciate the style and direction. It starts with a narrator telling us the beginnings of the brothers bloom in a rhyming, fairy tale like manner. I really enjoyed the style. It reminded me a lot of the television show Pushing Daisies, if you have ever seen that. As the movie progressed it was plain to see that it was going to have the same caveats as Brick. The film is focused on creating art with its beautiful scenery and costumes, and its unique dialog. There is an unmistakable look and feel it is going for, and it does that well. However, the story feels secondary, and is more focused on being symbolic and meaningful than interesting. The plot was enough to keep my attention, but it felt messy and I didn't completely follow it, nor did I really care to. The story was tedious at times, and without the amazing visuals it would have been tough to get through. I am glad I watched this movie, but I doubt I will ever watch it again. This movie is designed to appeal to a certain audience that I don't fit in to. I think people that want to seem more cultured and artistic will really get behind this film, but it cannot be a main-stream success. I liked it, appreciated it, and will agree that it was a nice piece of art... however, it wasn't that good of a movie.

October 17, 2009

#043: The Foot Fist Way

     The Foot Fist Way is a small, low-budget comedy that came out in 2008 starring Danny McBride as an over confident taekwondo instructor. If you have seen Napolean Dynamite, this is basically an entire film about that Rex-kwondo guy. In fact, this movie bares a strong resemblance to Napolean Dynamite. It is almost like a mash-up of The Office and Napolean Dynamite... with saltier language. Fred Simmons, our main character, shares characteristics with all of our favorite office personalities: Andy, Dwight, & Michael. Just think of them all put together, and then imagine that person trying to act like Will Ferrell. If you think that sounds like it would be funny, then you might want to check out Foot Fist Way at some point. However, don't get your hopes up too high. I did find it to be pretty funny. All of the humor comes from the performance of McBride. The plot is only there to take us from one uncomfortable or ridiculous scene to the next. Some of the acting by secondary characters is bad, but overall wasn't too distracting. While I liked what it was trying to do, and found some individual scenes to be really humorous, this film just didn't come together for me as a whole. I can't really put my finger on it, but it just seemed messy to me. After watching it I saw that it was shot in 19 days, and that makes a lot of sense. It has a quick, thrown together feel to it. This is one of those movies that surely will have a cult following. A group of friends will quote this movie and laugh heartily. They will remember it being much funnier than what it actually was.
This post is short and sweet, but I don't really have much else to say about it. The Foot Fist Way has enough funny scenes to be worth watching. But be aware that some people(girls), may find it completely stupid.


October 10, 2009

#042: Mosters vs Aliens

 From the beginning of computer-generated animation I have been a huge fan of the Dreamworks/Pixar films. Toy Story 1 & 2 were both amazing, and still possibly my favorite of all the animated movies. However, it is hard to choose when you have other gems out there like Finding Nemo, Shrek, Flushed Away, and most recently Wall-E. They have put out some mediocre movies in the past, but for the most part, the animated movies from these two companies are much better than your average film. From a young age I absolutely loved animated movies. This can be proven by looking at my VHS collection of every Disney movie that came out during my childhood. I could watch them over and over, and never grow tired of them. Each one of them had this magical ability to tap into my imagination, and really pull me into the film. This could have been a result of the subliminal messages hidden in the artwork; but more likely it was their unique ability to create that feeling of excitement and joy in children.

Now as I have grown older they have moved away from hand-drawn animation in favor of computer-generated. I still think these films have that same affect on children. I imagine that if I had been a child over the past several years, I would have begged for a DVD of every animated movie that was released. Now that I am older I am not so taken with every film, but some of them do still inspire that same child-like feeling, just to a lesser extent. Movies like Finding Nemo & Flushed Away make me feel like a little kid again. But some of the others just don't draw me in nearly as much. I think Pixar & Dreamworks did such a good job with their first few movies that the bar was set too high. I think every movie they release should be as good as Toy Story or Finding Nemo, but they can't live up to that every time.

All that being said, Monsters Vs Aliens was one of those films that just didn't get me all that excited. It was a fine movie that I enjoyed watching, but I will probably never see it again. I felt the same way about Bee Movie, another Dreamworks film that came out a couple years ago. They were both kinda boring to watch, and I don't see how kids could be all that interested. If you go back to Shrek The 3rd, Dreamworks is on a streak of mediocre-at-best animated movies. I looked up what they have coming up... 3 more Shrek related movies, a 3rd Madagascar, & a Kung-fu Panda sequel. Its not looking good for them. I am still really looking forward to seeing Up, and I feel Pixar has done a better job at making great animated films. However, looking at what they have in production reveals Toy Story 3 and Cars 2. What is with all the sequels? I will probably be first in line to see the Toy Story movie... I really hope they don't ruin it.
I would give Monsters vs Aliens 2.5 out of 5 stars. See it or don't, it is up to you.


October 3, 2009

#041: Observe And Report

     After watching Observe and Report I sat down to write this blog post and had total writer's block. I liked the movie, but I didn't really know what to say about it. I decided to read some reviews on rotten tomatoes to see what others thought. I was amazed by all the negative reviews. Here is one of my favorites...


by Julie RiggHard on the heels of Paul Blart: Mall Cop, starring Kevin Jacobs as an overweight security guard who wants to be a cop, comes this so-called black comedy with a very similar story.

Seth Rogan plays security guard Ronnie Bernhardt, and he's not only dumb and overweight, he's also racist, foul-mouthed, bipolar, and really, really wants to kill people. When the cops knock him back, he turns vigilante.

Now I don't know what happened here. Maybe director and co-writer Jody Hill decided to go for the dark side and turn one version of the original script into a pastiche of Taxi Driver. And I guess there is no reason why one should not make comedy out of bipolar disorder, or alcoholism, or monumental stupidity.

But this is just sick. One of the nastier scenes has Celia West, as Ronnie's alcoholic Mom, falling smashed from sofa to floor, and later promising to change her life. I'm switching to beer, she beams.

The ugliest is Ronnie's so-called date with Brandi, the hot chick of the mall. She's drunk and wasted on a combination of tequila slammers and Ronnie's bipolar medication. She vomits on his shoes; he takes her home and has sex with her, even though there is more vomit on her pillow.

What actually passes for consent here? I'd like to think the film was opening up this question, but I doubt it. After the Matthew Johns and his five Cronulla team mates scandal, it should be obvious that sexual consent hanging off booze, drugs, testosterone and male bonding is a pretty dubious proposition.

The hideous thing is that the film is modelling behaviour for young men who might still think it's all hilarious.

First off, she didn't even get Kevin James's name correct. I never thought once that Seth Rogen's character, Ronnie Barnhardt(she spelled that name wrong too), is dumb. He is delusional and lacks social skills, but that doesn't mean he is dumb. In a film that features graphic violence and full-frontal male nudity   she describes a woman falling off a couch  as one of the "nastier scenes". I am beginning to wonder if this woman even watched the movie, or went to a writing class for that matter. Her grammar is horrible. I have read a lot of reviews from rotten tomatoes and they have all been much better than this one. However, knowing that people like this have some say in the final score lowers my confidence in the "tomatometer". I am not going to spend a ton of time on Observe and Report, but I did want share that review, and contrast it with my own.

I am going to give this movie a lot more credit than Ms Rigg does. O&R made me laugh enough times to justify it being called a comedy. However, at its core is a sad story about a misguided man-child who can't seem to get his shit together. He isn't dumb, but he is very juvenile in his interactions with others. He seems like his is total jerk, but deep down I think he is good, and he wants to do the right thing, even if its not clear to him what that is. His mother is an alcoholic and I imagine that he had a pretty rough childhood and didn't feel like he was in control. Now as an adult he want to have absolute authority over everything. He is over-compensating by having this cocky, i-can-do-anything attitude. I think Seth Rogen did a great job of playing this character. This may not be his best movie, but it is his best acting job. Rogen is able to make us hate this guy, but at the same time have compassion for him. This character has a lot of depth in a movie with almost none.

Observe and Report seems to have the singular goal of making the audience uncomfortable. It uses vulgar language, graphic violence and male nudity for most of its laughs. A film like this will most definitely divide the audience. As we can see by Ms Rigg's review, she didn't appreciate Rogen's performance as much as I did. It is up to you whether you want to see this movie or not. It exceeded my expectations and I am glad I watched it. It definitely isn't your run of the mill, formulaic comedy, and I was happy to watch something a little different. I would give it 3.5 stars out of 5.


September 26, 2009

#040: Sunshine Cleaning

     Sorry it has been over 2 weeks since my last post. I seriously haven't watched a single movie in the past couple weeks. We went to Kansas City, so I completely missed a weekend of movie watching. I have had the same two movies from Netflix for a long time so I decided to get rid of one of them by watching Sunshine Cleaning last night, and here are my thoughts.
     Amy Adams stars as Rose, a 30 something house-cleaning maid that just can't seem to get her life together. Her married sex buddy slash cop tells her that the people who clean up the crime scenes make lots of money, and suggests she get into that line of business. Rose and her younger sister start up Sunshine Cleaning, and try to make their fledgling business succeed.
     Sunshine Cleaning is one of those indie type movies that played at the Sundance film festival. It had the same feel as Little Miss Sunshine. Alan Arkin was even in Sunshine Cleaning, playing a very similar role. The main reason I watched this movie is to see Amy Adams, and she is definitely the best thing about it. She does a very good job playing her character. I was pleasantly surprised to see it was a departure from her normal role. Emily Blunt, who plays the younger sister, also did a good job. The problem I had with the movie is what these actresses were given to say and do. This movie wants to be serious and emotional, but it came across a little awkward and heavy handed. The ending really wants to elicit feelings, but it wasn't working for me. Overall it was a weak movie that is watchable because of the good acting. It was much more of a "girl" movie than I thought it would be. I mean, a girl would have an easier time connecting with the characters and getting into the story. As a guy, I did not. I would not recommend it; the movie felt kinda pointless. However, if you are an Amy Adams fan I would probably suggest you watch it anyway.


September 11, 2009

#039: Crank 2 High Voltage

I was a huge fan of the first Crank film, so I was eager to see what the second one would bring. If you haven't seen the original Crank yet, you need to do that right away. Most people either love it, hate it, or don't get it. If you fall into either of the last two categories, don't even bother watching the second movie. Crank 2 follows our same main character, Chev Chelios, which might be surprising considering the ending of the last film. This time his heart has been stolen, and an artificial one is keeping him alive. The heart uses an internal battery to keep on ticking and Chev has to make sure he keeps it charged.

This film, like the first one, asks you to abandon rationality for a while and just sit back and go for the ride. I was totally fine with that and really got into the first film, even though it is unrealistic to the point of ridiculousness. It is clear that the filmmakers came in to the 2nd film trying to outdo themselves in every way possible. The first film had sex and violence but it is nothing compared to Crank 2's gratuitous nudity, sex, and graphic violence. There are also some really trippy scenes in this movie that I didn't quite understand. All of this stuff is fine and entertaining, but at some point you don't feel like you are watching a movie anymore. I mean, there are no real characters and there isn't much of a plot. I felt like I was playing a video game, and they aren't subtle about that either. The opening credits basically replay the ending of the first movie in an old-school arcade game style. The sequences in the movie seem more like levels that you have to complete in a video game. Get to the next checkpoint so you can see where you go from here... then kill the main boss at the end. It was all a very odd experience that I am still trying to digest. I liked Crank 2, but definitely not as much as the first one. Crank 2 just kept getting crazier as it went, and towards the end I had pretty much jumped off the roller coaster. I think Jason Statham does another great job, and might be the only reason I kept watching to the finish. I am gonna go ahead and not recommend this one, though it makes me sad to do so. It is just too much. However, if you do see it I would love to hear what your thoughts are.

September 9, 2009

#038: I Love You, Man

I saw I Love You, Man a while ago, but I have put off writing about it cause I didn't really know what to say. This is a comedy that stars two of my favorite comedic actors. I should have loved it. I wanted to love it. However, I did not love it. It is an okay movie, and Seeing Jason Segel and Paul Rudd together is fun to watch. However, it wasn't enough to save it for me.

Rudd plays Peter Klaven, a man who just doesn't know how to interact with other men. He is about to be married, and realizes he doesn't have any male friends that can stand up with him at the wedding ceremony. He embarks on a quest to find a best buddy. Enter Segel's character, Sydney, a total man's man. Peter and Sydney form a quick connection, and we get to watch their budding friendship. I really like Paul Rudd as an actor, but he got pretty annoying in this movie. His character is uncomfortable around men, and how he acts in some early interactions make you almost cringe, but it is kinda funny. As the movie progresses he does the same shtick every time. It wasn't THAT funny at first, and it definitely isn't funny to see the same thing over and over again. He went a little overboard on the awkwardness, and it really didn't work for me. I understand that this is a movie and it is heightened and exaggerated, but doing the same thing time after time doesn't add anything to the comedy. Overall I think Jason Segel did a much better job with the character of Sydney. I thought he was funnier and more relate-able.

 Another complaint I had with the movie is all the distractions and tertiary plot lines it throws at you. The two main actors are great and that is the relationship the whole movie is, and should be, focused on. Why throw in all these other actors and random crap? It only serves to take us out of the main story and disconnect us from the characters. Which brings me to my last point. I never felt like I cared what happened to our main character. He never felt real. They have some really good bits, but overall it seemed incomplete. I felt like the plot was only there to serve the jokes and to give a vehicle for these actors to be funny. I never really bought into the relationship between Peter and his fiance and I also didn't buy into the way Peter reacted in confrontations.

This is a case where I probably had too high of expectations going into the movie. I was expecting something really good, and this film just falls short. I feel that Role Models and Forgetting Sarah Marshall are both funnier, and better made films than I Love You, Man. However, it still has enough funny scenes to make it worth watching. I know most people liked this movie better than I did... I guess I just had the bar set too high.


September 7, 2009

#037: The Proposal

My wife really wanted to go see the movie All About Steve this weekend. I really did not want to see that movie, so we compromised and watched another Sandra Bullock movie, The Proposal. It is a romantic comedy which stars Ryan Reynolds as Andrew, the loyal assistant to his hard-ass, work-absorbed boss played by Bullock. Things get interesting when she finds out she is going to be deported back to Canada because of a mess up with paper work. She basically forces Andrew to pretend they are engaged so she can stay in the country and keep her job. In return, she promises to give him a promotion. It just so happens that the very next weekend he has planned a trip home to Alaska, so she must accompany him to pull off the deception.

It is not difficult to enjoy The Proposal, but it is almost impossible to really appreciate what it is doing. It is filled with cheesy cliches and tons of jokes that just aren't funny. However, Reynolds and Bullock have a lot of chemistry and both do an admirable job giving believable performances in an otherwise flaky movie. I was very much entertained... aside from some truly cringe-worthy moments. Guys, in a few months when your wife/girlfriend wants to rent All About Steve, The Ugly Truth, or Post Grad... just talk her into renting The Proposal instead. I have a feeling you will thank me.

The actual movie wasn't bad, but my overall experience at the theater was horrible. First off, there were two unchaperoned pre-teen girls who thought it would be fun to talk and giggle through the whole thing. Why can't they just text during a movie like all the other kids...LOL? However, they were the least of my concerns. Shortly after the movie started I began to hear this rhythmic rubbing noise from directly behind me. At first I thought dirty stuff was happening. As I listened more closely I changed my mind. It sounded more like somebody was sanding a birdhouse not getting a rub and tug. Then I thought maybe the woman back there was filing her nails.... very slowly and methodically. The cadence was so regular it almost had to be a machine... no human being had that kind of consistency and stamina. Finally I couldn't take it anymore and had to turn around and look. I cunningly turned my head 45 degrees towards my wife as if I were going to talk to her. My eyes were pointed as far left as I could get them. I glimpsed the culprit. A middle aged man had his paw on his wife's inner thigh, and he was rubbing it back and forth. WTF?!? Was he holding a cheese grater? How was this simple action generating this level of noise? Wasn't his hand getting tired? How long could he go before carpal tunnel set in? Why is it so effing loud? Does he practice at home with a metronome? What does this guy do for a job that makes his hands so rough? Is he going to rub right through her jeans before the movie is over? Should I ask him to stop or just stab this soda straw into my eyeball? All of these questions and more were going through my head. If I had more balls I would have turned around and politely asked him to stop. I didn't do that. Instead I started to rub my own leg in the exact same rhythm hoping he would realize how annoying he was being. He of course didn't stop, so I just gave up and tried my best to ignore it.


September 5, 2009

#036: Adventureland

Adventureland was advertised like a Judd Apatow, Superbad-esque comedy. If you go in with that expectation you will be severely disappointed. It is a comedy, but overall I didn't think it was that funny... nor was it trying to be. The movie centers around James, played by Jesse Eisenberg, who is forced to get a job at a crappy theme park to pay for graduate school. He is assigned to work the games, where he meets Em, played by Kristen Stewart of Twilight fame.

 This film is really well made, and it does a ton of things right. However, it also does several things wrong. Bill Hader and Kristin Wigg play roles that just didn't work for me, and I didn't find funny. I also didn't care for the character played by Ryan Reynolds. His acting wasn't bad, he actually did a great job. He just seemed out of place to me. There are a few other minor things I didn't like about the movie, but overall I really enjoyed it. Jesse Eisenberg is perfect for this role. He is a really great actor and he really makes this film work. I have only seen him in one other film, The Squid And The Whale. Ironically, James from Adventureland could almost be an older version of the character he played in The Squid And The Whale. He does a great job in both films. I was just ragging on Amy Adams for always playing the same character, but if Jesse Eisenburg does the same thing I will be happy to watch every one of his performances.

It is really hard for me to describe the thing I like best about Adventureland. It somehow feels honest and heartfelt. It did an amazing job at pulling me into the world where these kids are living. As I watched it I almost felt as though I was reminiscing about something I had actually gone through. I never specifically worked at a park, but this film deals with broad themes that we all have experienced. I felt connected to the characters for the first 3/4 of this film. I had a great time with it, and could watch it several times and it wouldn't get boring.

 I enjoyed the attention the film payed to the interactions between characters. It has several interesting characters and relationships that really add to the film. However, its overall success relies on your acceptance of the relationship between James and Em. I totally bought into it. I felt Kristen Stewart played her character well. She was really charming, and I could believe that our main character was attracted to her, in spite of her faults. That relationship was the key of the film, and I thought it worked really well. However, the ending bothered me a little bit. So often we see the ending where the boy gets the girl and everybody lives happily ever after. That ending gives you a sense of resolution, finality and satisfaction. In Adventureland the boy gets the girl, but it feels very bittersweet. My reaction could be totally unique, but I didn't see it as the happy ending we were all hoping for. The film is about how we all move through this world and grow from our experiences. It contrasts a summer spent traveling Europe to a summer spent working at a shit-hole theme park. James learned more about life from working at this crappy job than he would have by back-packing through France. At the end we see him with the girl, but it didn't feel like a happily ever after. It felt more like a bump in the road that had to be crossed before he could move on to the next stage.


August 26, 2009

#035: Junebug

The first film I ever saw Amy Adams act in was Enchanted; the real-life Disney film where she stars opposite Patrick Dempsey. While I didn't really love the film, I thought she did an awesome job playing that innocent princess character. I found her to be very charming, and pretty cute. I was an instant fan. I wanted to see her in different movies and watch her masterfully act out a wide array of different characters. Therefore, I watched a small film she was in called Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day. I quickly realized she was acting out the same naive girl, but this time a lot more bitchy and annoying. Then earlier this year I heard she was teamed up with Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt. I thought for sure I would see her flex her acting muscles here. However, she once again plays a naive innocent girl, this time dressed up as a nun. Aside from her accent in Miss Pettigrew, she even used variations of the same voice in all three films. I heard mention of another movie she had done back in 2005, before she had been typecast, called Junebug. I put it on my Netflix queue a few months ago, and just this past month it finally made its way to the top.

Junebug is an indie film about a guy returning home after 3 years of being gone. He has broken away from his small town roots and now lives in Chicago. He was recently married to an older woman who owns an art studio, and they are all kinds of classy. She finds a prospective new artist she would like to feature in her gallery, and he just happens to live close to her hubby's hometown. They decide to make the trip together so she can get her first introduction to the in-laws.

Overall this was a pretty good film. It has a good vibe to it and I really enjoyed going along for the ride with this family. It is also very funny. It is definitely not a comedy, but I found myself laughing a lot. It has the indie feel to it, and it is very character driven. The plot will seem like it wanders, and in the end feel incomplete when compared to most movies. The one character that really steals the show in this film is the one played by Amy Adams. Guess what... she plays a naive girl with child-like innocence, this time adding a thick southern accent to her standard voice. Her character here felt like an even more exaggerated version of the other three I mentioned. Looking at the movies chronologically, she is actually toning it down a little bit as time goes on. Her portrayal of her character in Junebug is great. She completely takes over the film and is even more charming than she was in Enchanted. As far as Junebug goes, I liked it a lot, and think it is worth checking out. It has some great scenes, and I really enjoyed watching the family dynamic.

Now back to Amy. From looking at her imdb profile I just realized she is the purse saleswoman from the tv series The Office. I cannot believe I didn't realize that before. I haven't seen her episodes for a long time, but if I remember correctly she plays an attractive, slightly naive girl that Jim goes on a few dates with. I also see she was in Talledega Nights. I can't remember her character that well, but I am pretty sure she played an innocent, most likely naive, "nice" girl that was always there for Ricky Bobby. Amy Adams... what the hell. I have seen you in 6 roles, and they are all essentially the same. Has anybody else noticed this? I see she was also in Underdog and Charlie Wilson's War. I haven't seen either of those but I have CWW on my DVR. In the next few months I am going to watch a couple other movies of her's: Sunshine Cleaning and the new Night At The Museum movie. I wasn't planning on watching Night At The Museum, but I heard Amy's butt is a vision to behold in her Amelia Earhart pants. That is enough to make me sit down and watch, or at least skip through and find her scenes. Is that creepy? Anyway, she also has the new Julie and Julia movie that just came out in theaters. I will probably check that one out on dvd. Has anybody seen these other movies? Does she branch out, or does she play the same role she always does? Does anybody else even think she plays the same character all of the time? Don't get me wrong, I really really like Amy Adams, and she is definitely one of the better actresses out there. She will always be on my radar, and I will always look forward to seeing her on screen.


August 24, 2009

#034: 17 Again

Just by merely writing about this movie I risk losing any movie cred that I may have had. However, I will admit that I did watch it, and it was actually pretty good. I had very low expectations going in. I assumed Zac Efron was going to give an over-exaggerated annoying performance. I have never seen any of the High School Musical movies, but I can just imagine what they were like, and I didn't figure he had the skill to bring anything else to the table. However, I was completely wrong. He does a great job in this film. His performance is far and away the best thing about the movie. 17 Again could have been really horrible if the lead actor did a poor job, but Efron made it entertaining, and enjoyable to watch. He was really engaging, and he earned a lot more of my respect that I thought he would.

17 Again is the pretty much the opposite of the movie Big. Here, a full grown adult goes back into the body of his 17 year old self. He of course befriends his own son and gives him a confidence boost, as well as inadvertently makes his own daughter get a crush on him... all the while trying to keep his wife from divorcing him, which results in a series of uncomfortably creepy scenes. I was impressed that they put those scenes in the movie. Most age-change movies wont touch that stuff, but this movie did its best to make it believable, while not crossing the line into pedophilia. This is still a pretty corny movie, with a lot of comedy moments that didn't really work for me. However, it doesn't pretend to be a serious film with some important message. 17 Again was actually really fun, and I am glad I watched it. It exceeded my expectations by far. I would even recommend this to people as long as they don't expect too much out of it.

August 23, 2009

#033: District 9

I had never even heard about this movie until a few weeks ago when I saw a trailer for it at Bruno. From that very first trailer I could tell I was probably going to see it at the theater. I am not sure why it interested me so much. The trailers show very little about the actual film. You can tell that there are going to be aliens, and they have a big-ass ship floating above a city. You can also gather that the aliens somehow come to live amongst the humans and this is causing some sort of social conflict. Other than that you have no idea what the film is about, or who the actors even are. For those of you who want to maintain your ignorance, you should probably not read the rest of this post. I am definitely not going to spoil anything, but I am going to give a lot more information than what I had before watching it. Some people like to be completely clueless going into a film and I respect that. But I guess those people probably aren't out on the internet reading blogs.

The film starts out with documentary style footage that tells us nothing about where the aliens are from or how they got to Earth. It does however tell us that the ship stalled over the city of Johannesburg South Africa and just sat there. Everybody waited for something to come out, but nothing ever did. Finally, with the eyes of the world watching, the South African government decided to cut their way into the ship and see what was going on. When they entered they found tons of what they described as worker-class aliens starving to death. They were very weak and could not defend themselves. The decision was made to bring them down out of their ship and give them catfood, as well as set up housing for them. This all happened 20 years ago, and the tensions between the aliens and humans have now reached a breaking point. The government has decided the aliens can no longer stay in "District 9" which is a fenced-in slum located in the city of Johannesburg. They must be moved further out of the city so they won't cause anymore problems. We follow the story of Wikus, a somewhat bumbling alien affairs worker who is put in charge evicting the residents of District 9.
District 9 is a great film that does a ton of things right. It was made with less than one fourth of the budget of a normal summer action movie these days... and still looks really really awesome. The lead character is played by an actor who has never been in a movie before. District 9 has this "real" feel to it. I don't really know how to describe it, or how they achieved it, but from the very beginning it felt like all of these things were actually happening. The documentary style footage and the way it was all set up probably had something to do with it. For a sci-fi movie you feel very connected to it from the beginning, like you could actually be there seeing these things happening. There is also this very dark and serious tone to everything. A lot of summer action movies have at least one character who is blatantly there for comic relief. This film does not have that at all, but at the same time it doesn't take itself too seriously. It doesn't rely on in-your-face jokes to lighten things up. Rather, it subtly works things in that are very clearly meant to be funny. Its almost as if the filmmakers are winking at you and saying, "We know what we are doing here, just enjoy." Distict 9 is also a visceral experience. There are some very brutal gross-out scenes that are almost physically painful to watch. I can't remember the last time that I had that sensation while watching a movie, but it is usually a good sign. They did a great job of building tension and then the film makers take you on a thrill-ride for the last half. I had a lot of fun with this film, and could easily sit down and watch it again. I also really liked how focused this movie was. In contrast with a movie like Transformers from this summer, which has tons of characters and tons of things going on simultaneously, District 9 is very simple. The entire time we follow Wikus around and see the story from only his eyes. It made it very easy to be 100% engaged in the story the entire time. Also, I mentioned the actor had never been in a movie before. Well, he does an amazing job with this film. He is the perfect anti-hero, and he plays this role very well.
There are a few criticisms I had about District 9. My main complaint is mostly determined by expectation. The first 20 minutes of this movie sets up for a sociologically driven film that has a lot of depth. However, they never go down that path. District 9 is content to be a summer action movie, and it isn't going to pretend to be anything different. This filmmaker originally made a 6 minute short film called "Alive In Joburg" which District 9 is based on. You can find it on youtube, and I would recommend watching it whether you have seen District 9 yet or not. It has a lot of similarities to the beginning of District 9. From the short I get the feeling that he wanted to make this serious film that was an allegory for apartheid and racism in general. However, when he gets the money to actually make a full-length film, he uses the same setup to introduce us to a all-out, guns a' blazin, action flick. I am not sure why that disappoints me, but it does. I feel like this film had a chance to be a lot more powerful, but the trade off is that it would have been less enjoyable to watch. I don't know if he had to make concessions to actually get it up on the big screen or not, but it kinda feels that way. I also had some issues with some plot points about how the aliens are portrayed. After thinking about the film a little more, some things just didn't make sense. I still would highly recommend seeing this movie. It is one of the best action movies I have seen in a while. I think you will have a lot of fun with it just as I did.

I just realized that I could have embedded the video for Alive In Joburg right in the post.

July 19, 2009

#032: Bruno

Sacha Baron Cohen follows up Borat with another controversial comedy. This time starring Bruno, a flamboyant Austrian fashionista with an appetite for the spotlight. I saw Borat in the theater, but I had no intention of rushing out to the theater to see Bruno. I was willing to wait for it to come out on DVD. However, I read a couple articles describing scenes that were filmed here in Arkansas, and it piqued my curiosity enough to go watch it on opening night with some friends. Yes, that makes 3 trips to the theater in 3 weeks... this is unprecedented. There really isn't a good reason to see this movie in the theater other than to be one of the "cool" kids that can talk about it later.

Bruno is a very funny movie. It made me laugh a lot. However, it is one of those movies that seems awesome right when you watch it, but the more you think about it the more it loses that appeal. This movie uses its shock value to get laughs, but doesn't have anything substantial behind it. It definitely focuses on our society's desire for fame, and points out some of the lengths people are willing to go to in order to obtain said fame. It is almost more about being famous than being gay. While some scenes are shocking... it felt more like a reality show rather than a movie. Bruno actually didn't feel much like a movie at all. It has the same format as Borat. The star conducts real interviews with unknowing "victims" and they are loosely strung together by a fictional plot. I felt the fictional plot in Borat was distracting and actually took away from the interview segments. I think Bruno's plot is just as stupid, but it didn't take me out of the flow nearly as much as Borat's did. The one thing you really have to appreciate about this movie is the performance of Sacha Baron Cohen. He only has one take to do most of these scenes and if he screws it up, they can't use it. He does an awesome job of never breaking character in all kinds of situations. I am not sure how much of it was actually "real", but most of it seemed pretty genuine. I really enjoy watching his style of comedy, but I am not sure movies are the best medium for him to bring it to us. In summary, Bruno is a comedy that was created to make me laugh and it definitely succeeded at that. It also got nasty a few times, but it never offended me. I say wait for it to come out on DVD so you can rent it and watch it with your parents.

July 10, 2009

#031: Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen

Of all the summer blockbusters, I was most excited about seeing the second installment of the Transformers series in the theater. I am not really sure why I wanted to see it so bad. I wasn't blown away by the first one, but I definitely thought the second one would be better. I saw a trailer for Revenge Of The Fallen months ago and it looked epic. That experience got me all fired up to check this movie out on the big screen.
First off, this movie was visually awesome. There were tons of transformers and the attention to detail was amazing. Every nut, bolt and hydraulic piston was rendered beautifully. The robots looks very realistic and just the whole scale of them on screen was really neat to see. The transformation sequences were totally bad-ass. I could probably watch Optimus and Bumble-Bee transform back and forth for the full duration of the movie. The sad thing is, that may have made for a more interesting and coherent film than what they actually put out there. In true Michael Bay style the action sequences were messy and confusing. Most of the time it was hard to tell exactly what was going on. There was no flow or continuity, it was just a bunch of disjointed kicks and punches. That is fine, and almost expected, but it does get old after a while. I felt really bad for the people who had to sit close to the screen.

The plot of this movie is a total mess. It is amazing to me the film studio can pay all these computer artists to render these great images, but they can't find a few creative people to come up with a compelling storyline, and decent dialog. I understand the movie isn't about plot, but you have to have something. I enjoyed watching most of the action sequences, but the storyline was so tedious. I never felt like I understood the significance of what was going on. But more importantly, I never really cared. Towards the end I was so ready for the movie to be over. It was long and it just wore me out. This is one of the few movies where I can honestly say I didn't care what happened to any of the characters. I felt no emotion, positive or negative, for any of them. At least the first movie made me feel sorry for Bumble-Bee.

If I were in anyway responsible for coming up with some of these characters, I would be embarrassed. The creators seemed to have total freedom to create awesome autobots or decepticons, and the offerings are very weak in my opinion. There were a few cool robots, but overall I was disappointed. I found the twin autobots stupid and annoying. Whoever made the decision to put them in the movie was a total butt-hole. This movie introduced us to tons of decepticons, but I can only remember a couple of them. Spoiler alert!... one decepticon can transform into a human. Since when in that allowed? If the only reason these alien lifeforms are transforming in the first place is to hide amongst humans, why don't they all just transform into humans? As for Shia, he does a fine job. He is a funny actor and I like him. He has made enough money now and I wish he would take on some more challenging roles.

In closing, I will probably never watch this movie again. It was nice to see on the big-screen, but it totally will not translate to the small screen. If you want to see this movie, just pay the money and go to the theater. If you miss it in the theater, don't even bother renting it. I feel that you will be very disappointed.


June 27, 2009

#030: The Hangover

Yes! That is correct. I am writing a post about a movie that is still in theaters. I haven't been to the theater since last November, so this is my first movie-going experience of 2009. I am not sure what spurred us to pay matinee prices to go see this film on the big screen. I guess we got sick of sitting in the house, and it was way too hot to do anything outside. I have heard lots of good things about The Hangover, so I was pretty sure I wouldn't be too disappointed with spending $6.50 per ticket. Okay, on to the movie...

I didn't warm up to this film right at first. I like Ed Helms as an actor, but I wasn't sure about the other 3 guys. However, just a few minutes into it I was totally buying the characters, and felt they all did a good job. The only one that didn't do great job was the guy who played Doug, the bachelor. It wasn't that he was a bad actor, there is just something about him. Luckily he isn't in the film very much. After coming home I looked him up and saw he is the same guy who played Nick Cage's sidekick in the National Treasure movies. I have never seen the sequel, but his character in the first movie is right up there with JarJar Binks as "most annoying supporting role." I guess I subconsciously remembered not liking him. Anyway, his part is pretty small, and he does a fine job in The Hangover. The story got my attention pretty quickly and the rest of the time I was glued to the screen; waiting to see what these guys were going to do next. I felt the pacing was really good. There was never a dull moment, but it never felt like it was going too fast. It gave you just enough time to catch all the humor, but then quickly moved on to the next joke.

I really don't have anything negative to say about this movie. It made me laugh a lot, but it was different than a lot of comedies. Even in great comedies there are some jokes that completely don't land. You think to yourself, "that was kinda stupid", but you don't dwell on it, and just move on. I really don't think there were any of those moments in the movie. It felt like everything had been edited very thoroughly, and they spent a lot of time thinking about the scenes that would make up the final cut. The timing of the delivery and the tone of the acting was always spot on. While this makes for a very enjoyable movie to watch, it somehow felt..... I guess unrealistic. That is confusing, cause I am not saying anything that happens in this film is realistic. It is just that a character never stumbles on their words or thinks about what they are going to say. It is as if these people know their emotions exactly, and are poised with the words and facial expressions to portray those emotions. The lines are delivered... and hilarity ensues. The people behind this movie did a great job in really thinking out the storyline and using it to facilitate the jokes. Other comedies have fallen into the trap of having a series of jokes they want to deliver and the storyline is almost secondary; it's only there to get us from one joke to the next. Pineapple express is a very good example of a movie guilty of this. Towards the end of The Hangover, it felt like it was sputtering out a little bit. Things get resolved and I felt like the movie was over, but for some reason moving pictures were still appearing on the screen. Then we get the payoff at the very end, and we are left to walk out of the theater with big smiles on our faces.

I definitely would encourage you to see this movie. You could probably wait for it to come out on DVD, but I am pleased I got to see it in the theater. I will go ahead and say it is the best comedy I have seen this year. Yes, even better than Role Models.


June 25, 2009

#029: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Over three weeks ago Netflix shipped us The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button. It sat on our entertainment center collecting dust as other movies came and went. This past weekend I finally reached the breaking point. We were either watching it over the weekend, or it was getting sent back Monday morning unwatched.

 I am not sure why we kept it so long without watching it. I guess I just couldn't find 3 hours to commit to it. The other night I decided to finally pop it in and give it a try. I was definitely interested by the premise of this movie. Aging backwards seemed like a solid basis for a compelling story. There seemed to be a lot they could do with it. I was looking forward to it even though I hadn't heard a lot of good things about it.

From the beginning the pacing of this movie is extremely slow. The start of the film felt clunky and had a difficult time gaining any momentum. I was waiting for it to pick up pace, but it never really did. It clumsily meandered along for the full 3 hours. I could have put up with the slow pace if the film made some interesting statements, or allowed me to connect emotionally with it. However, it was severely lacking in both departments.

 In hindsight, I am not even sure what this movie was about. Yes, the dude aged backwards, but the novelty of that quickly wore off, and there was nothing left. There was no comedy, it seemed to take itself way too seriously for that. There were a couple quirky characters, like the guy who was always getting stuck by lightning, but there wasn't enough of that sort of thing. It all felt very dry and gloomy, with the feeling of death hanging over everything. This is all fine, but to pull that sort of movie off you have to really allow the characters to connect emotionally with the audience. This is where the movie really failed for me. It completely lacked heart. There were moments, but overall I just didn't get it. It wasn't charming, it wasn't tragic, it wasn't happy, it wasn't sad.... it just really wasn't anything.

 I thought parts of it came across as corny. The Brad Pitt voice-over was lame. Overall this movie just didn't work for me. It definitely isn't worth investing 3 hours of your life. I am wishing I would have just sent it back without watching it. I rarely regret watching a movie, even if I don't like it. This movie was so... "bleh" that I actually wish I hadn't even watched it.

 My thoughts about how the movie would go were so much better than how it actually was. All that being said and I still haven't got to the worst part. The whole movie is told through the reading of a journal as a daughter sits with her mother in the hospital. These scenes were painful to watch. The old woman, aka Granny McStutters, takes forever to speak. I get it that she is on her death bed, but can we move it along a little bit. The movie is slow enough already without having to sit there and wait for old Daisy to choke out a few words.

To sum up my feeling on this movie... I hated it. At first I didn't think I hated it. But now that I have thought more about it, and I hated it.


June 14, 2009

#028: Seven Pounds

I have taken the past few weeks off from blogging, and watching movies in general, but it is time to get back to it. 7 Pounds is the most recent movie I have watched, so I will take a few minutes to share my thoughts on it.

First off, I had very low expectations for this film. I heard it was a lot like Pursuit Of Happyness, which I really didn't like. While the Will Smith character was very similar, for me 7 Pounds was a much better film. 7 Pounds starts out by thoroughly confusing us about what is going on. As the viewer, I wasn't sure if the events I was watching were in the past, present or future. The interactions were confusing, and we weren't sure who our protagonist was, or what the heck he was doing. However, it all starts falling into place pretty quickly, and at roughly the halfway point both me and my wife could tell exactly how it was going to end, even down to certain details. From talking to others I have heard this is not always the case. Some people seemed to have actually been surprised by the ending, which seems almost impossible to me. For me, the movie isn't trying to surprise us with the final scenes. It takes on the much more difficult task of keeping us interested in a story we already know the ending to. With this, I feel the movie really succeeded. Even though I felt like I knew everything that was going to happen, I remained very engaged in the story. There was one scene that I wasn't really expecting, though in hindsight I should have known it was coming. This man has decided his destiny, and set the course to arrive there at the end. He has put a lot of planning into it and is very resolute in his decision. However, there is one scene where we see him question what he is doing. For a few moments we see the fear he must be feeling. I didn't expect to see that, and I felt like it added a lot more depth to the story.

Now that I have sufficiently praised the movie, it is time to belittle it. My first complaint is the acting. I usually don't notice poor acting unless it is really bad. While I am not going to say Will Smith's acting was bad, it was kind of annoying at times. He does these facial expressions all of the time, and it just gets old. In an emotional situation I don't feel like I crinkle my face up and cock my head to the side, so why is this guy doing that same move in every scene. I think it is Will's way of acting out the character saying, "I want to tell you the truth, but I can't. So I am just gong to make faces at you."

Overall it was an enjoyable movie. I am glad I watched it.


May 9, 2009

#027: "I say deliver me from Swedish furniture!"

The other day my wife found a blog. This blogger created a post that was a tour of her living room, and invited everyone else to create a similar post and link to it from her post. There were like 400 women who linked to pictures of their living rooms. I couldn't resist clicking on some of them. Then once I had started I couldn't freaking stop. I was overcome with this very strange feeling. Every time I clicked on a link I saw more and more pictures of these rooms filled with meaningless shit, knick-knacks cluttering living rooms all over the country. These women actually went to a store and gave away money in order to obtain these "cute" decorative vases, pictures, figurines, etc... And not just a couple things... tons of it. It was everywhere. They looked at a magazine picture and bought all that stuff for their own house. How is this creative? Then, they felt so proud of what they had done they posted pictures of it, so other women could comment about how "cute" it all was. After awhile of looking at these pictures I started to feel sick. I wanted to collect all of my own crap and burn it in a pile in the back yard. I wanted to eliminate everything from my life that wasn't necessary for me to continue breathing. This feeling that was coming over me seemed vaguely familiar. I can remember feeling this way at a younger age. Then it hit me... You are not your job. You are not how much money you have in the bank. You're not the car you drive. You're not the contents of your wallet. You're not your f***king khakis. You're the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world. Yes, that is Fight Club and it is one of my all-time favorite movies. I haven't seen it for several years, and judging by all the kitschy decor in my house, I need to watch it ASAP. I am not saying we all need to live our lives with nothing... but we could all probably get along with a little less. Here are some applicable quotes from one of my favorite movies...

Tyler Durden: Do you know what a duvet is?
Narrator: It's a comforter...
Tyler Durden: It's a blanket. Just a blanket. Now why do guys like you and me know what a duvet is? Is this essential to our survival, in the hunter-gatherer sense of the word? No. What are we then?
Narrator: ...Consumers?
Tyler Durden: Right. We are consumers. We're the bi-products of a lifestyle obsession. Murder, crime, poverty, these things don't concern me. What concerns me are celebrity magazines, television with 500 channels, some guy's name on my underwear. Rogaine, Viagra, Olestra.
Narrator: Martha Stewart.
Tyler Durden: Fuck Martha Stewart. Martha's polishing the brass on the Titanic. It's all going down, man. So fuck off with your sofa units and Strinne green stripe patterns.

Narrator: It's just, when you buy furniture, you tell yourself, that's it. That's the last sofa I'm gonna need. Whatever else happens, I've got that sofa problem handled.

Narrator: Look, nobody takes this more seriously than me. That condo was my life, okay? I loved every stick of furniture in that place. That was not just a bunch of stuff that got destroyed, it was ME!

Narrator: Was it ticking?
Airport Security Officer: Actually throwers don't worry about ticking 'cause modern bombs don't tick.
Narrator: Sorry, throwers?
Airport Security Officer: Baggage handlers. But, when a suitcase vibrates, then the throwers gotta call the police.
Narrator: My suitcase was vibrating?
Airport Security Officer: Nine times out of ten it's an electric razor, but every once in a while...
Airport Security Officer: it's a dildo. Of course it's company policy never to, imply ownership in the event of a dildo... always use the indefinite article a dildo, never your dildo.
Narrator: I don't own...

Tyler Durden: Hitting bottom isn't a weekend retreat. It's not a goddamn seminar. Stop trying to control everything and just let go! LET GO!

Tyler Durden: Listen up, maggots. You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You're the same decaying organic matter as everything else.

Tyler Durden: It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything.

Tyler Durden: I say let me never be complete. I say let me never be content. I say deliver me from Swedish furniture. I say deliver me from clever art. I say deliver me from clear skin and perfect teeth. I say you have to give up. I say evolve and let the chips fall where they may.

May 7, 2009

#026: 28 Weeks Later

If you don't already know, I am a wimp when it comes to horror movies.  I have avoided 28 Weeks Later because I knew it was a scary movie, but I have heard a lot of good things about it.  I noticed it was on our movie channel, so I decided to go ahead and DVR it, thinking one day I might get up the balls to watch it.  I was feeling brave the other night so I decided to go ahead and start it up.  From the beginning I could tell I was going to like this movie. It was scary enough to get me amped up, but it wasn't so bad that I wanted to turn it off. The movie kept me entertained the whole way through, and the gore never got too bad. There were a couple scenes that made me cringe, but it was an enjoyable disgust. The thing I liked most about this film is how it contrasted the character's actions throughout the movie. It starts out with a couple trapped in a house that is being invaded by the baddies. The husband makes the tough decision to make a run for it and leave his wife to fend for herself. You can't help but think what a dick he is at the time. However, the rest of the movie people aren't willing to make that sacrificial decision, and it leads to continued pain and death for millions of others. When I think about it, this movies had a lot of deeper themes, and it is probably worth another viewing.

 I really enjoyed it, even though I am not a fan of scary movies. Most of the tension wasn't created because I was waiting for a zombie to jump out at me. It really made me consider how I would react in this extreme situation. Would I even have the composure, or foot speed, to stay alive for more than 5 minutes? The scenes where the military is first trying to contain the re-emerging threat were great. It was compelling to watch, and crazy to think about how the good guys suddenly became the bad guys, but were really still the good guys. There were so many shades of gray in this movie, which you wouldn't think possible in a zombie movie. Most people have probably already seen it, the film has been out for a couple years. If you haven't seen it, I would recommend it. It is a well done horror film that offers more content than just a few scares. If you have seen it let me know what you thought. I would be interested to know what your reaction was, or if you even thought about it as much as I did.