Saturday, December 15, 2007

Review: No Country For Old Men

I am a huge Coen brothers fan. Most people don't really get their movies, and they have had their misses (The Ladykillers to name one) but all in all the Coens are adventurous, and masterful storytellers, so when I saw the trailer for their newest film "No Country For Old Men" I was instantly intrigued. The trailers never reveal too much, but most have come to expect that from a Coen movie. I mainly wanted to see it because it was the Coens, Josh Brolin is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors, and Javier Bodem had a funny haircut. What I got from No Country was not what I was expecting. I know the Coens have taken on the crime movie before with the amazing Fargo, but here they stepped it up. Everybody in the cast gave phenomenal performances, and the haircut was the only thing funny about Javier Bodem. I suppose I'll start with that. Bodem's brooding emotionless hitman left a scar on me. I just recently had a nightmare involving him because his performance is that good. He is evil incarnate and plays it so beautifully with his towering frame and deep voice you almost forget he's just a movie character. This film would have suffered in the hands of any other director, but the Coens have proved one thing over their career. They are good at telling stories. This is no different in No Country, they fit an entire book into a two hour time slot lifting most of their dialog and key events straight from the novel. Another thing Joel and Ethan have shown through their gruesome crime movies is that man is capable of unspeakable things, but what they have shown in their films has been gruesome, but real. None of what they have presented is something I would have trouble understanding and that is truly terrifying. The coens are not afraid to show the darker side of human nature for what it is, disgusting. Not to say that they glorify it by any means, they are just unflinching with their detail to events. No Country For Old Men has been turning heads for award season for good reason. People connect with it. It's a story, it's plausible, and it seems as if it has been lifted directly out of somebody's worst vision of Hell. No Country is incredibly layered and may require several viewings (especially to understand the speech just before the abrupt ending) and is quite disquieting, but one thing is for sure, No Country is some movie.

my rating: 10/10

Review: Dan In Real Life

So, I know it has been well over 2 months since I have posted ANYTHING on this blog, and I apologize for that and will try to post more often. That being said, I have seen a ton of movies over the last few weeks but would like to highlight two. First up is Dan In Real Life. Dan In Real Life is hard to describe. It's plays like an indie flick, but packs the star power of a blockbuster comedy. Dan In Real Life follows the story of a widower (the always hysterical Steve Carrel) who goes to a family reunion and has a chance encounter with a beautiful woman at a local bookstore. Conversation leads to coffee, coffee leads to losing track of time, losing track of time leads to a rushed goodbye where Dan, who has been leading most of the conversation, finds out this dream woman is in a relationship, but convinces her to give him her number anyway. Once back at the reunion Dan meets his brother's (played by comedian Dane Cook) new girlfriend, and surprise! It's the woman from the bookstore! What follows is a tribute to anyone who knows what an awkward situation a new interest in a person can be, especially if they are in a relationship. Dan In Real Life is just that, real life situations played out so well you feel as if you're there. The film is terribly awkward at moments, painfully so actually. There's something about Dan that makes it feel closer to reality than other awkward comedies like Meet The Parents. Maybe it's because the situations are plausible and not over the top, or maybe it's because the character of Dan is so easily relatable for anybody that has had a crush on somebody at some point in their lives. Whatever the reason Dan In Real Life works on every level and for my money has got to be the funniest movie of the year.

my rating: 9/10

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Review: The Host

I've recently started using the online DVD rental service Netflix. And I have to say, Netflix is the Chipotle of the internet meaning it's like crack. And slightly spicy also. Anyway since I don't have the time or money to go see all the movies I would like to in theaters (or i wasn't even alive when most of the movies in my queue came out) Netlfix is a good way to play catch-up. My friend Chris was very confused at the fact that my Netflix queue is continually GROWING instead of shrinking. Anyway I am insanely excited for the upcoming Cloverfield/1-18-08/Slusho/Untitled JJ Abrams Project/whatever else you want to call it film. It's basically going to be a creature feature a la Godzilla, but with a budget. Many people believe that Cloverfield was inspired by a recent creature feature out of Korea entitled "The Host" Now I had been hearing about The Host for a while now and it was all positive stuff so I decided to check it out because I'd like to see the movie that inspired the craftiest man on the planet to produce a film in a similar vein and I haven't seen a good monster movie in I don't know how long. That being said, I begin my review and I have to say, The Host blew me away. Seriously I was expecting a good old-fashioned creature feature and that's what I got, but there is also SO much more going on with this film than a big monster terrorizing a poor town. The film follows a family who loses a little girl to the monster and think she has been eaten until her father recieves a phone call late at night from the desperate girl saying that she has been captured by the creature and taken to a large sewer. The family then goes all Little Miss Sunshine on the hospital they are in and set off to find the little girl. It's a fairly simple set-up, but the dialog and acting bring the film to a new level. You connect with the characters and their plight, and the script is often hilarious. But The Host runs the gamut of emotions, it's funny, sad, deep, brilliant, and most important in a monster movie terrifying. I don't dig on horror flicks that much mainly because they're all shock value and no real terror."BOO!" only lasts a few minutes at most. "WHAT THE FREAK IS GOING TO HAPPEN?!" when done right lasts days after you've seen the film. The creature isn't very large, but he's definetly not natural and he's hungry. It shows up fairly early into the film and I wasn't sure how I had felt about that, but as the movie progressed it didn't bother me as much because the thing was still scary as hell and not in the "ooga booga" sense, but in the sense that this thing was unpredictable, it moved erratically and you couldn't predict it's next move. And THAT is horrifying, you don't know what you're up against even though you've seen it, you can't figure it out. The Host filled me with a sense of dread that only few films I've seen have done. The Host is downright freaky, but doesn't prey on the viewer, it's hard to describe, but it's effective. This is the best monster movie I have ever seen and I am kind of worried about 1-18-08 because I love me some JJ Abrams, but I dunno if even he can pull off a good American creature feature, I lost faith in that after the 1998 Godzilla disappointed fanboys all over the country. So for a really good time with a different sort of feel in the creature feature subgenre check out The Host.

my rating: 8.75/10

Friday, August 10, 2007

Review: The Simpsons Movie

Well folks, it took 18 years and lots of petitioning but, The Simpsons have done it! On July 27 Homer and the gang (and I mean ALL the gang) took their antics to the big screen. Before I begin reviewing this movie, let me say something about it. If you have ever talked to my good friend Emily Barber online via AIM then you'll know one of her favorite phrases (at least when talking to me) is "*headdesk*" which she uses (once again frequently in our conversations) to illustrate frustration/lack of intelligence in response to something one (usually me) says. That being said, The Simpsons takes *headdesk* and then puts it to the power of Pi. The Simpsons movie is a testament to stupidity while also being a brilliant satire of our society. Every writer (except two) that has ever written for the television series worked on the script for the film. And I have to say, it shows! The writing on the Simpsons has always been lettuce-crisp, but in The Simpsons Movie, it's straight from the farm fresh! Some lines/scenes have been added to please fans of outright stupid humor (Spider-pig! Spider-pig!) and the rest are bitingly satirical. All of them are hysterically funny no matter what. The Simpsons movie is what every fan of the show has been expecting for years and to watch it play out is like a dream we never thought would come true. My favorite line? Todd Flanders: "I wish Homer was my daddy!" Ned Flanders: "AAAAAAAAAAAand I wish you didn't have the devil's curly hair!"

my rating: 9/10

Review: The Bourne Ultimatum

Bourne is back and ready to kill the guys that tried to kill him. For good. The Bourne Ultimatum picks up right where Supremacy left off, with Bourne in Moscow still trying to figure out why he's so good at killing people. That's about it. There is really absolutely nothing new about this installment in the Bourne series whatsoever except the fact that all truth is revealed by the end of the film. It's more of the same, worldwide cat and mouse game and Bourne beating (A LOT of) people up and then running away on various vehicles or on foot. Rest assured, I am NOT complaining about this by any means! This is one intelligent action-packed spy thriller and not just a mindless summer action flick. I was on the edge of my seat the entire film wondering if Bourne and his partner in crime Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) were going to make it to their next location. The reason they didn't change anything about the Bourne series is because they paid attention to the old phrase "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." and that's refreshing to see in Hollywood now. The producers/writers/directors knew what worked in the previous two films and used those same elements to make Ultimatum a thrill ride worth seeing. However, there were two problems I had with all of this, first off is the "shaky cam" from Supremacy is back and more motion-sickness inducing than ever which really bothered me at some points in the film. Second, everyone seemed a little TOO eager to act. Everyone overacted to some small event at some-point in the film, luckily it only happened to every character once instead of everybody all the time. While not perfect, The Bourne Ultimatum is definetly a summer blockbuster that shouldn't be lost among the Rush Hours and Transformers and should especially be checked out if you were a fan of the first two or like a good spy-thriller with some crazy action thrown into the mix.

My rating: 8.5/10

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Review: The Hoax

The year is 1971 and author Clifford Irving has landed the book deal of the century. Exclusive interviews with Howard Hughes, the world's most (in)famous recluse. Problem is, it's all fake. And so the story goes with The Hoax, the film portraying the man behind the sham and how he came SO close to getting away with it (if it weren't for those meddling kids and their dog!). This was a cool little history lesson film, full of surprises and fun facts, like the book directly led to the Watergate scandal. I had no clue. While this definetly won't be the big blockbuster con movie of the year (Ocean's 13 is sure to be a smash) The Hoax is definetly a film worth seeing. Fine performances are turned in all around, especially by Alfred Molina as Gere's partner in crime, Dick. I really hope the academy remembers this movie come supporting actor nomination time. So if you want a con movie that tells it straight and doesn't make the con men the "heroes" of the film, The Hoax is for you.

My Rating: 8.5/10

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Review: Rebel Without A Cause

Yea, I know, the film came out in 1955, making it what? 52 years old? Well here's what I have to say to that...WHO CARES?! I caught an airing of this tonight on AMC and it's encoring right now, actually. I've seen it before but this is the first time I really "got" it. This is one GREAT film! I am convinced it is the most socially relevant film ever made and all of the themes in the film are still relevant, if not more so, today than ever before. The film follows Jim Stark (Dean) as he moves into a new town and tries to fit in. From there tragedy strikes around every corner, leading to an emotional night with his new comrades Plato (Sal Mineo) and Judy (the stunning, Natalie Wood). From a youth ministry point of view, I can't think of a film that I have EVER seen that has challenged me this much. The characters are real and engaging, making you think that these very well COULD be kids you know. One of the quotes that stuck with me throughout the entire film was right before a chicken race when Jim asks Buzz "Why do we do this?" and Buzz replies "Hey, we gotta do something, right?" That's the attitude still taken by today's youth with whatever they may be involved in, they're doing it to avoid boredom, and they'll do whatever it takes. Especially at jr. high-high school students. If you are involved in youth ministry in any way, shape, or form check out Rebel Without A Cause.

my rating: 10/10

Monday, April 9, 2007

Review: Grindhouse

Ok so, I know not a whole lot of people "get" Grindhouse so I'll explain it as best I can. In the late 1960's and all through the 1970's the old movie palaces of the 30's and 40's weren't being taken care of since they could only house one or two films at once, and Multiplexes were on the rise. The areas of town that these movie houses were located were getting pretty run-down too, with city growth and such. So independent films would be shown here in double and sometimes triple features. The independent film distributors would "grind" out these films at a fast rate earning the theaters that showed the films the title "Grindhouse" grindhouse cinema didn't have the big budgets or big stars that the mainstream Hollywood films had, so they had to rely on entertainment value or shock value to plant butts in seats. They would have "exploitable" elements, a feminist message, extreme violence, a civil rights message, something that the filmmakers could exploit to get people to buy tickets. This earned the films the title of "exploitation films". However, there would only be several prints of the films made, and they would just travel the country, often losing frames to projector boys that kept collections, and gathering dust on the reels badly damaging and scratching the look of the film. This brings us to Grindhouse. Directors Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino (both icons of modern American filmmaking) grew up with these Grindhouse double and triple features and came up with the idea to do one themselves while watching old exploitation films at Tarantino's house one night. Thus creating Grindhouse. Grindhouse was an ambitious undertaking of two films with fake trailers for other exploitation films in between the two features. Both filmmakers also "aged" their reels giving them a grainy "just traveled from New York to the west coast and everywhere in between" look. Low budget is the name of the game with Grindhouse and that's what you get the whole way through. First a fake preview for "Machete" a film about a mexican hitman played by the great actor Danny Trejo, hired to kill a senator that's against illegal immigration. MAN I want to see this made into a film! Next up is Rodriguez's half of the event "Planet Terror" the story follows a group of people blasting zombies in an infested area of Austin, TX. WOW what a ride! This was one fun movie to watch! It had the low-budget look but the big time action! And I gotta say Rose McGowan turned in a great performance as the machine gun legged go-go dancer Cherry Darling. That leg was too cool NOT to buy a ticket for! She also delivers my favorite line of the entire experience. Ok zombies dead, time for some low-budge trailers! First up Werewolf Women Of The SS Rob Zombie directed this and it's about the Nazis turning women into Werewolves to fight in the army. It looked INCREDIBLY lame but Nicolas Cage as Fu Man Chu cracked me up so hard! Then there was Edgar Wright's (Shaun Of The Dead) offering for a bizarre haunted house flick called "Don't" "If you're thinking about opening that door...DON'T If you're thinking about seeing this film alone...DON'T...DON'T" HAHA! this looked like it'd just be weird if actually turned into a film, but the super cheesy "DON'T" dialogue made this preview HILARIOUS. Next was a random (or so i thought until Death Proof) ad for a fake Mexican restaurant called "Acuna Bros." food looked good but the ad felt like filler. The final fake preview was by director Eli Roth of Hostel fame. He came up with a ridiculously twisted trailer for "Thanksgiving" a slasher flick set in Plymouth, Massachusetts on well..Thanksgiving Day. While this looks like the only film besides Machete that could stand alone as its own movie you can count me out. Hostel was dumb enough. So after 3 fake film trailers we're taken back to Austin to witness "everyman" serial killer Stuntman Mike wreak havoc on the local ladies. Or so I thought. I WAS BORED TO TEARS during this movie!! It was nothing but women talking, and talking, and talking, and talking, and doing MORE TALKING! That's all they did was talk! Until the last half hour when a SUPER long but SUPER awesome car chase began between Stuntman Mike and 3 of his female victims. Despite all the heavy dialogue the end MORE than made up for it. I don't think Tarantino could've ended this better! I just wish I could've seen more of Stuntman Mike played awesomely by Kurt Russell, I've never NOT liked this guy. So if you've got 3hrs. and 5min. to kill and want a quick crash course in film history, and one of the most creative ideas to come out of Hollywood in the last decade. Take a trip to the Grindhouse. It'll Tear You In Two!

my rating: 9/10

Monday, April 2, 2007

Review: Happy Feet

Cute penguins. Singing. Tap-dancing. Themes dealing with global warming and challenging authority. What's NOT to love about Happy Feet? Answer: EVERYTHING. This film was absolutely BORING sure the animation was superb and fun to look at but the plot was absolutely ridiculous and unfunny. The film follows emperor penguin Mumble who was dropped as an egg and can't find his heart song, but is a gifted tap dancer. Mumble grows up and is an outcast among his own for being different from everyone except for Gloria the beautiful female penguin voiced by Brittany Murphy, who sticks by Mumble's side through thick and thin. That's about all I got, the rest of the film is rather muddy in terms of plot, but it has something to do with "aliens" (humans because we're all apparently freaks or something.) that are killing off their food supply. Mumble also blatantly disregards authority by continuing to tap dance after elder penguins express their disgust. Now I understand that we all question authority at one time or another, but Happy Feet seems to ENCOURAGE the children to "do their own thing". Now I have a better understanding as to why this won the Oscar for Best Animated Film, and it can be described in one word...LIBERALISM. Now I'm never one to voice my opinions on bias in film, but this was ridiculous, I mean it was borderline indoctrination for these kids. In short Happy Feet is one sad film.

my rating: 3/10

Friday, March 30, 2007

Review: Stranger Than Fiction

Ok let me preface this with the fact that I have seen this film before but saw it again at a friend's house and let me tell you I can describe it in one word...WOW! This film is absolutely amazing. All of the actors turn in Oscar worthy performances in this movie and a lot of attention was paid to writing an intelligent and engaging storyline. The film follows IRS agent Harold Crick as he goes through his mundane day to day routine until one idle Wednesday while counting brush strokes. He begins to hear the voice of a narrator that is speaking accurately about his thoughts and feelings on everything. Throw in the fact that the narrator drops those little words.."little did he know events had been set in motion starting his imminent death." This sends Harold into a frenzy to figure out what is going on by consulting a professor of literature played by Dustin Hoffman. Through Dr. Hibbert's findings he is forced to track down author Karen Eiffel played BRILLIANTLY by British actress Emma Thompson. Stranger Than Fiction is one of those rare films that gets you emotionally involved with the story and attached to the characters. As well as raising some thought-provoking questions about the narrator of our lives God. Don't miss this wonderful yarn!

my rating: 9/10

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Review: Smokin' Aces

When Vegas magician Buddy "Aces" Israel ends up in hot water with the mob big-wig Primo Sparazza sends 6-hitpeople for his heart. What ensues is an ultraviolent crime-thriller with a very disappointing end. Smokin' Aces starts out like a typical "catch the snitch" hitman flick and then very quickly tries to turn into a human drama where everyone is covered in blood and killing each other. Emotionally the film is all over the place and extremely confusing at times. Every character ends up stabbed, beaten bloody, shot, or otherwise maimed or just plain old dead. The ensemble cast doesn't really work here because they all bring the same thing to the table, lots of moaning in pain from their injuries or just laying there being well...dead. There are 3 elements of this movie that did catch my attention though. First Jeremy Piven was GREAT as Buddy "Aces" Israel he really brought some depth to the role and was one of the only things that kept me watching as the film spiraled into it's bloody finale. Second was Ryan Reynolds actually playing a different character than the lovable dork who can't catch a break from the ladies. He really impressed me as an FBI agent. And finally Matthew Fox in the funniest cameo I have ever seen sporting a mullet and unabomber mustache playing head of casino security, Bill. check out his pic here. So is this Lucky Number Slevin wannabe worth watching? Not on your heart, not even on Buddy Israel's heart come to think of it. If you want an entertaining crime flick that's worth your time intellectually check out Brick or Lucky Number Slevin before this bloodbath that tries to redeem itself with a blatantly obvious twist.

my rating: 5/10

Review: Blood Diamond

Blood Diamond is director Edward Zwick's film about conflict diamonds being mined in Sierra Leone, Africa during the late 1990's and the heartbreaking atrocities that came out of these "blood diamonds". Blood diamonds are diamonds that have been mined for the purpose of purchasing guns or other weapons with them. They then change hands to the smuggler who then sells them to large jewelry corporations thus making it impossible to trace where they came from. This is one powerful film and I'm really surprised that it didn't get nominated for more Oscars (of course in a perfect world, Children Of Men wouldn't have gotten screwed either). The actors all turned in top notch performances especially Leo DiCaprio sporting a think Zimbabwe accent. The film follows a diamond smuggler (DiCaprio) who ends up chasing after a priceless diamond hidden by a now escaped worker of the R.U.F. (Djimon Hounsou). With the help of a female American journalist (Jennifer Connelly) the 2 set out to rescue his son and recover the stone. The film is hard to watch at points because the camera doesn't cut away from a lot of the onscreen horrors (most of which are committed by children no younger than 12 or 13 years old.) Although the war in Sierra Leone is over blood diamonds are still finding their way into the market and this is a rather eye-opening film that gets you thinking what the wedding ring may be costing others halfway around the world.

my rating: 7/10