12 Years a Slave: A
Wolf of Wall Street: A
The Place Beyond the Pines: A-
Inside Llewyn Davis: A-
American Hustle: B+
Pacific Rim: B+
Star Trek Into Darkness: B
Hunger Games Catching Fire: B
Anchorman 2: B-
Evil Dead: B-
The World's End: C+
Man of Steel: C
The World's End: C
The Wolverine: C-
The Hangover 3: C-
The Great Gatsby: D+
World War Z: D
Thor The Dark World: D
Warm Bodies: D
Iron Man 3: D-
Oz the Great and Powerful: F
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone: F
The summer movie season had begun with two big, ridiculous, style over substance ridden spectacles. It's a shame how Baz Luherman's Great Gatsby makes such little impact on the viewer. A classic story with tons of screen potential is delivered as a soulless romp. I can't say I really expected anything different. The blend of modern music with the classic 20's setting seemed like a bad idea from the start. Why not take the entire film and make it set in modern times? That would have been much more compelling. Dicaprio, Maguire and Mulligan lead the cast and they are serviceable. Dicaprio as Gatsby is a near perfect casting and his performance is the only one that transcends the mockery. And sadly that's how it all is displayed. As if it's just one big parody of other actors and actresses from the 20's. Sure it's fun at times and the visual array of colors and costumes is nice to look at. Where's the heart? The characters and situations are so displaced from reality that literally nothing is relatable. There's just no connection at all. I enjoyed the ending more than anything else in the film and most of it is pulled directly from the novel. Let's hope the second half of May delivers a some better summer blockbusters.
My opinion of this Bond series reboot hasn't changed much since Casino Royale. When you take away all the little things that make up this franchise, you're left with nothing but a hallowed out action hero/spy flick. I know it's a new take on the persona of Bond; it's grittier and much more serious etc, but in the end it's far too lifeless. There are no fancy gadgets, no intriguing memorable villains, and no significant factors that set it apart from other action movies. Even the new Bond girl is boring. The main villain in this film is literally one of if not the worst movie villain of all time. The guy has a cheap, tacky, accent and looks like a World of Warcraft playing geek in a nice suit. I like Daniel Craig in general and as I said when I reviewed Casino Royale, I like his portrayal of the character but he's not given enough to work with. They might as well plug anyone it to this role. Where's the personality? This version of bond comes off as more of sad sack than anything. It's no fun. Bond movies need to be fun. The only thing that keeps this one at a C score for me is beautiful cinematography and crisp visuals. All the locales are wonderfully shot with a certain sense of vibrancy. If you're in the mood for a good action movie with a decent plot and no characterization, then by all means head out and see this. But if you're craving a Bond film that feels like a Bond film you will be disappointed with this sour, flat, take on the series.
When it comes to the Western genre, I tend to ease up on my critiquing approach. The reason is that I believe the structure for these films is inherently straight-laced. Where this could normally be a flaw in other genres, here, it’s accepted because the genre itself embodies it. Plus, there are so few westerns being made these days, it’s refreshing to see one hit the big screen.
There are certain things you expect, and what really makes or breaks the outcome is the performances and dialogue. Both of which are excellent here. Ed Harris directs and takes on the lead role with a terrific supporting cast. It seems like the central idea was a no-frills, old-time, picture that brings about a nostalgic vibe. Harris plays Virgil Cole a gruff staight-shooter with his right-hand-man Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen). The two are hired guns or sorts employed by the town of Appaloosa to drive out a band of criminals led by Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons). Bragg has murdered three lawmen and an entrepreneur from Chicago in cold blood. Cole and Hitch are hired to put an end to him. They’ve been partners for quite some time and they possess an admirable camaraderie among each other. The acting chemistry between them is reminiscent of when they were opposing each other in A History of Violence, of course, this time they're on the same side. Throughout the film, the two characters ability to back each other up and be one’s “ying” to the others “yang” is the glue that holds everything together.
Rene Zellwegger plays Alison French who is nothing more than the typical female distraction/damsel-in-distress. This is one of the weaker aspects of the story in that she rarely adds anything when she appears. Again, this goes back to the western format being cut-and-dry inherently. Her actions are very predictable bogging down a few scenes. The film excels visually with superb costumes and a well-designed set. Harris has done a fine job with his second foray into directing. Viggo’s performance stands apart from the others as he once again delivers a smooth, brooding, portrayal with his unique brand of edginess.
It’s not groundbreaking or overly thought provoking but it does what it sets out to do. I enjoyed watching each scene unfold even if I could predict nearly every outcome. Much of the dialog is infused with comedic undertones making that much interesting. The stand-offs are exciting, especially the finale. Anyone who enjoys the western genre will appreciate this film.
Normally, when something is hyped to the degree of “TDK” there’s a wide margin for potential disappointment. Rarely are such unrealistic expectations met. Heath Ledger’s untimely death added to the mounting hysteria surrounding Christopher Nolan’s sequel thus vaulting expectations to a staggering plateau. When Ledger was originally cast, many reacted with a sense of speculation as to whether this seemingly unfitting actor could really flesh out such an iconic role. Ledger has gone up and above what anyone could have asked for. His show stealing portrayal is utterly haunting. It makes any previous incarnations seem like child’s play. His total dedication to this character presides every scene he’s in, from every eerie movement to each line of razor-sharp dialog he is nothing short of brilliant. In one scene he films himself verbally and physically emasculating a Batman impersonator to threaten and frighten the city. He’s absolutely terrifying in a way that I never imagined The Joker could be. Nicholson did the role justice but looking back his version seems futile. While some could downplay the performance due to the circumstances, I have no trouble calling it the best of 2008. It’s really more of a transformation than a performance. Beyond the cataclysmic rampage of The Joker, there is a deep, complex, brooding story that truly does the mythos justice. Originally, I was skeptical on Nolan’s design for the architecture of the Batman universe. “Begins” was a bit clumsy and came off feeling disjointed at times. The film was enjoyable but I just wasn’t completely sold on Nolan’s take on the series. His follow up thwarts all doubt due to the fact the he tosses aside inhibition and let’s the darkest sides of these characters show.
“TDK” will ultimately be known as The Joker’s film. This is obvious to anyone who has seen the film or paid attention to the viral marketing. Bale returns as Batman/Bruce Wayne and picks up where he left off (raspy Batman voice and all) and he seems to have settled into the role. Maggie Gyllenhall replaces Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes in a definite trade-up actress wise. Holmes’ bland acting was one of the resounding complaints about “Begins”. I can’t say that Gyllenhall is astounding in any way but she gets the job done much less annoyingly than Holmes. Aaron Eckhart portrays the ill-fated Harvey Dent, which, will also likely be overshadowed by Ledger’s performance. Eckhart does a fantastic job with the much-conflicted character. After Tommy Lee Jones and co. destroyed the Two-Face character with his awful rendition in “Batman Forever”; Eckhart steps up to give the character a genuine, proper realization. He’s very convincing as both Dent and the gruesomely disfigured Two-Face. During the story as he’s built up to be Gotham’s true hero or as they call him: “The White Knight”. His fall-from-grace is both heartbreaking and grueling, equating to one of the best comic-book character translations out there.
Nolan has crafted the best Comic-based film to date. This is essentially his unique take on the entire world of batman. It’s not meant to be an exact adaptation. Some fans have complained about The Joker’s redesigned origin story (or lack there-of) but you have to understand that this is Nolan’s interpretation of the character just like Frank Miller and many others have built and designed various outlooks on the characters often taking the series to new levels. His ability to bring the best of this franchise is now eminent. I was never much of a fan of his work before this movie but now I’m sold. How this film managed to remain marketable to kids and maintain a PG-13 rating is beyond me. There are a few scenes involving the age-old Batman gadgets and technology but all in all, it’s a sinister, often sadistic tale that could hold it’s own with many of the best crime drama’s out there. After viewing it twice I feel like I picked up on a few of the plot nuances I may have missed the first time around. “Iron Man” and “The Incredible Hulk” can’t even begin to tread in the realm that this material resides. It’s truly legendary. The last time I felt so enthralled with a film was the groundbreaking “Jurassic Park”. I remember feeling like the cutting edge effects were the absolute pinnacle of movie technology. The feeling is similar with “TDK” in terms of these much beloved characters coming to life. If they choose to make a third installment (judging by the massive box office return it’s almost inevitable) I honestly doubt if this can be topped. The Joker and Two-Face fit so well into Nolan’s dark devise where most of the Batman characters are far too campy and equivocal beyond their typical manifestations. Nolan would really have his work cut out for him for various reasons but as I said, my faith in him is now concrete so I believe he has the potential to make another outstanding sequel.
From the bold and gutsy characterization, to the swooping, large-scale cinematography, “TDK” is all that any Batman fan could ask for. The action scenes are exciting and the intensity is through the roof start-to-finish. Ledger’s final full performance will be talked about for years to come and hopefully will be recognized come award season. Much like Tim Burton’s Batman reinvented the genre back in 1989, Nolan has set the bar for what these movies can amount to, and at the same time, he has successfully delivered 2008’s best film.
+ Great (though way over the top) visuals
+ Cool action sequences
+ I'll give Lebouf his due, he does a good job with what he's given
- Dumb story
- Too chaotic, too much of well.... everything
Remember when I talked about overdone, ridiculous, summer blockbusters in my review of Once? Yeah, Transformers could be the poster-child for everything I was referring to. Lets do a check list here:
(1) Hapless teen who ends up being the hero and getting the girl..... CHECK (2) Way out of the hero's league type girl with a rough past...... CHECK (3) Overly brave U.S. Soldier who's all gung ho about saving the world after surviving an attack..... CHECK (4) One foot after the other plot that's as predictable as Lindsay Lohan going back to rehab..... CHECK (5) Michael Bay antics with everything being insane, crazy, and out of control..... CHECK (6) Last but not least; Typical, overly forced comic relief...... CHECK
Now I bet you're wondering, "Why is the rating at such a not so horrible 7.0?" To be honest, Transformers is pretty damn entertaining. I mean sure it has one of the worst plots I've ever encountered, and almost everything about it is what's viewed as poor in the movie world. But you almost have to expect a certain level of quality when walking into a Micheal Bay film about a goofy 80's cartoon show with robots that change into various vehicles.
Shia Lebouf and his counterpart Megan Fox do a good job as the leading duo. I imagine it being difficult to have to act with nothing but thin air on-screen. Jon Voight shows up as the Secretary of Defense. Again, nothing to out of the ordinary (would have made my checklist but he actually gets a gun and gets knee-deep in the action). There's a few other cameos not worth mentioning and a comical performance by Jon Tuturro that I though took away more than it gave as it overly silly. Now on to the Transformers. They look astonishingly cool, especially Optimus Prime. There's no way to escape that awesome, nostalgic, feeling the first time you see him. The rest of them are equally impressive. Except, when did they have teeth? I don't seem to remember my Transformers toys having teeth..... anyway, visually, the film is definitely up to par. The story is just plain bad. Besides being overly complicated with a bunch of nonsense that feels like it was made up as they went, it's just not compelling at all. At times it's reminiscent of Independence Day, at others it's just too goofy to even care about. Back the action, Optimus battles one of the evil robots on a busy freeway and it's a blast to watch. Along with many of the other battles. Kids will adore this movie. Same with most of this summers big, bloated, offerings. As for the true fans (laughs) I can't really say. I was never really too into the show or toys. I liked Lego's more (sorry).
+ Beautiful music
+ Filming style is both unique and fitting
+ Admirable performances by Glen and Marketa (both with no acting experience)
+ Touching, genuine story
In a summer movie season packed with big-budget often ridiculous movies, it's very refreshing to see an honest film such as John Carney's Once. Glen Hansard and Marketa Iglova play two nameless musicians in Dublin who, upon crossing paths realize that they are both in similar situations. He spends his days fixing vacuums, Hoovers to be exact at his Fathers shop and she sells roses to help support her family. Presumably on his days off or whenever he can, he plays his guitar on the street for some extra cash. This is where they originally meet. He happens to be playing one of his original songs, one about his lost love and she is intrigued. After learning that she plays piano, they attempt to play a song together. On the first try the results are simply beautiful. They play one of his songs called "Falling Slowly" which is the films signature song lyrics wise. It pretty much tells the enture tale. Watching them play this song is truly something, I wouldn't shy away from calling it the single best scene you'll see in any movie this year.
What makes Once work on all levels is its overall simplicity. From the cinematography to the plot everything is genuine and pure. I found the duo to be very charming and plausible, even comedic at times.The soundtrack to this film is simply a must have. I've had it for weeks now and I wish I would have waited till after I watched the film. I would highly advise anyone planning on seeing this to buy it afterward. This film is perfect for anyone who's a fan of the singer/songwriter genre. It's also a great escape from the turbulent, over the top, crop of summer blockbusters clogging theaters right now. Make sure you see this if you have the chance, otherwise, get it on DVD as soon as it's out.
+ Cusack steals the show
+ Intense, creepy, and unsettling
+ Though small by comparison, the supporting cast is very effective
+ Great ending
- A few corny scenes that pull away from the mood
When you hear the scenario of 1408, you may immediately want to dismiss it as another campy, horror flick in the vein of many other similar titles. Let me assure you that this connotation would be a mistake as 1408 is a rare gem under the guise of something much less extraordinary. John Cusack makes this movie. From start to finish his tattered, cynical, disposition perpetuates each moment.
Cusack plays a writer named Mike Enslin who’s recently lost his daughter to cancer and finds himself scouring hotel rooms and other supposedly haunted locations for any sign of the afterlife. This seems to be both a fallback and an excuse to run away from what he believes was his fault. After writing numerous books about haunted hotels and similar ventures he decides to check into room 1408 at the dreary, Dolphin hotel after receiving an anonymous postcard. Sam Jackson plays the hotel manager in borderline campy fashion. If it weren’t for his direct nature it would have come off all wrong, but hey, we’re talking about Sam Jackson here. After being heartily warned the stubborn writer finds himself inside the infamous room for the night.
The icing on the cake is Cusack’s ability to lose control yet remain genuine. The room conjures up excruciatingly painful memories for Mike, which in all honesty pushes the limits at times. If you were ever a fan of The Twilight Zone, you’ll see many similarities here. Walls stretch endlessly, items disappear, and paintings move and come to life. These are the more tame aspects of the room. The room seems to attack Mike from every angle, even in the form of physically attacking him by smashing his hand in a window and scalding him with water. He spirals into the depths of insanity roaring into fits of destruction. At one point he attempts to escape through the heating ducts resulting in an encounter with one of the former victims of the room. It’s definitely eerie and very unsettling, especially the scenes involving his deceased, daughter. Adaptations of Stephen King’s novels are often hit or miss, and this one is actually based on a short story of his. All that you’d want from a story such as this is beautifully rendered on the big screen with Cusack at his best.
+ The Surfer is awesome
+ The campy jokes/dialog aren’t so bad
+ Short run time
- Humdrum, half-hearted plot
- Not enough action
Let me compose myself here, I just realized that F4: Rise of the Silver Surfer is a better movie than Spider Man 3 and POTC 3. Wow, what sick alternate reality is this? I never had the apparent displeasure of watching the first Fantastic Four film. So going into this one I wasn’t really sure what to expect aside from the poor reviews I’d read for both this and its predecessor.
This time the dysfunctional gang goes up against both Dr. Doom and the infamous Silver Surfer all in a refreshingly compact hour and a half’s time. The Surfer is definitely very cool and certainly more entertaining than any character found in the flop that was Spider Man 3. Comic fans will be angry with Galactus being a giant cloud (though I swear I say a shadow of his head/helmet) but then again, when aren’t faithful comic fans upset with these? Otherwise things are pretty standard. You could probably predict each and every sequence like clockwork but that’s not really something that bothered me. Hey maybe I left my brain at the door buy can you blame me after the hearty disappointments of this year blockbusters? I don’t think it can get much worse than Ghost Rider, which came out earlier this year. Sure there could have been more action but for the length of this one, it’s not that lopsided. All in all, I had a good time watching this. The jokes and action are fine and enough to get the job done. Like I said, my expectations for these big blockbusters has plummeted in recent times so maybe I’m willing to cut this one some slack.
How dare I give this album such a low rating, right? If that’s what you’re thinking right now, you should stop reading. Go ahead, click that little box with the “X” up there or go to your “Favorites” list and click on the link to the FBR forums. Seriously. I’m not going to sugarcoat anything here, I’m not going to give this band credit simply because they have a young female vocalist. Let’s get something straight right now; I am not in the least bit sexist when it comes to music. I love releases from artists such as Eisley, Track a Tiger, and even Imogen Heap. All of which have tremendous amounts of talent and ability. Hayley is trying too hard. At least with their debut “All we kow is falling” there was a sense of innocence and validity. Now she’s become a flamboyant mess, which, is heavily influential on their music. Her voice is plain, her look is ridiculous, and worst of all, it seems as if she’s forcing everything she’s doing just to sell records. Can you blame her? No, but it is what it is. I’m sick of people sugarcoating this notion or worse; completely denying it.
The lyrics on “Riot!” are a total embarrassment. Trite pop-ballads about nothing even remotely interesting are all that’s found on this album. But hey 13 year old girls everywhere will flock to these songs “cause um they can like relate and um it’s so true how Hayley is such a rebel!!!!”…give me a break. Everything else is run of the mill, everything. The music couldn’t be more boring. People will call this a guilty pleasure or a catchy, fun, pop album. In reality it belongs at the bottom of an alleyway dumpster. While we’re at it lets toss Hayley’s wardrobe in too.
+ Lots of Edgy, modern, laughs (yes, I said “Edgy”)
+ The whole cast is great
+ Well paced story
- Many of the jokes/sequences feel forced
- Too predictable, spoon-fed
The best comedy in years? It’s not even the best comedy from this year. Hot Fuzz currently owns that title. Clearly, many of the comments/reviews on Knocked Up have been quite exacerbated. I almost feel like you should go read my “40 Year old Virgin” review from 2005 and simply sub out all the names/titles. Judd Apatow has a definite consistency with his past two films, which is a good thing. They’re extremely modern, extremely brash, and often times over the top with outrageous raunchy dialog. Each member of this cast brings a certain element to the table making for a very funny experience. There are laughs from all angles right down to Ben’s (Seth Rogen) Dad. Paul Rudd always provides a bountiful amount of laughs, a sequence involving him and Ben on Shrooms in Vegas is hysterical. Leslie Mann is great as well as the Pain in the ass wife/nosey sister. I was hoping for a few more surprises plot-wise. Though things are well paced for a long comedy, things are often spoon-fed especially in the later half of the movie. Ben’s group of stoner friends is consistently vile though often times their jokes feel a little forced. One of them who’s made a bet to not shave or cut his hair for a year is constantly ripped on from start to finish by nearly everyone in the movie. The actual plot content is surprisingly effective shedding light on very startling reality. Heigl is great as the conflicted future-Mom (though the birth-scenes gave me harsh-flashbacks of Sex-Ed from middle-school). Apatow has another winner on his hands and it seems like he’s found his niche in the comedy genre.
+ Keri Russell is magnificent
+ The plot is genuine and charming
+ Steers clear of clichés
+ Good amount of laughs
- A little too quirky at times
- A bit of a rocky start to the film
I don't think I've ever seen a movie that made me as hungry as Waitress did. Seems like a strange thing to say I know, but there are a large amount of pies in this film and watching the characters talk about how delicious they are is simply mouthwatering. Anyway, Keri Russell plays Jenna, a downtrodden waitress/pie making extraordinary who's recent found out that she's pregnant. She can't stand her verbally and physically abuse husband and has made plans to leave him. She decides to have the baby even though she thinks it will only make things worse. Her new Doctor (Nathan Fillion) begins to develop a crush on Jenna and as you could have guessed, she feels the same toward him. But wait, don't stop reading this due to the notion that this sounds cliché. It's surprisingly not. The late Adrienne Shelly steers clear of any and all clichés by bringing forth an excellent, genuine script. Last year Adrienne was murdered during the production of Waitress, she plays one of Jenna's co-workers in the film as well. If you'd like to donate to honor her memory, you can do so here: http://www.adrienneshellyfoundation.org/. One of the film's funniest characters is Old Joe played by Andy Griffith. He owns the diner that Jenna works at and through his ridiculous demands and blunt conversation makes for some very funny scenes. Though things get off to a somewhat rocky start, the events that unfold are heartwarming. You can't help but succumb to the charms of Russell's character. Though the hapless characters are often times a little too quirky for their own good, honesty and frankness are this movies key ingredients so everything seems to balance out. Just make sure you have some kind of desert waiting at home after you see this. Seriously.
The first thing that pops up in any discussion about Circa Survive is of course, lead singer Anthony Green. Ever since his departure from Saosin, he’s garnered much attention through his outspoken views and arrogant, antics. To his credit, he’s also largely adored for his unique, direct, vocal style. Steve Henderson of Absolutepunk.net awarded Green’s vocals with a 10 out of 10 in his review. This is preposterous to say the least. Green’s performance on “On Letting Go:” hardly warrants a perfect rating or anything near it. His tone is favorable however his range is small and very confined. Many will instantly shy away from his sound as they would with other higher pitched vocalists, this alone discredits a flawless rating. I personally enjoy his singing; I’ve enjoyed it since his Saosin days and needless to say still do with this record. His lyrics are reminiscent of Juturna with a similar Constance and vibe. They’re well articulated and enjoyable enough for a passing grade. Just keep in mind that this “scene” or whatever you’d like to refer to it as is packed full of casual listeners who will spew out endless doses of exaggerated nonsense for just about anyone these days.
Moving on to other aspects of the album, music wise, there is very little that has changed or progressed from Juturna. Before you jump my case for making the same statement that’s been made over and over concerning OLG, let me say this: I think that’s a good thing. One more time in all caps: I THINK THAT’S A GOOD THING. With so many bands changing up their style and failing miserably, I’ll fully accept this familiarity. It’s rather refreshing to see a band find their sound and stick with it. The sonic, often spastic guitars still provide a glaring sense of moody ambiance while the bass and drums measure up very nicely. In fact, I’d say that the bass playing is the highlight of many of the tracks. The production is up to par. Things get a little muddy from time to time but for the most part there isn’t much to complain about. Songs like: “The Difference Between Medicine And Poison Is In The Dose” and “Semi Constructive Criticism” are particularly well done with the production of the bass & drums. If you’ve been a fan of Circa Survive/Anthony Green in the past, you know exactly what you’re in for. There are no surprises, no big changes and no altercations to the initial incentive. If this is something you frown upon you may want to stay away from the album altogether. This is they type of album that will be hailed as the second coming Christ to some and thwarted as ho-hum and hackneyed by others. I am capable of enjoying it casually while knowing that it’s value will ultimately fall short.
+ Visually entertaining
+ Chow Yun Fat as Captain Sao Fang was a solid addition (about the only one)
- Convoluted, silly, storyline
- Looses touch with the essence of the first two
- Lack of action
- Filled with unneeded scenes
Last year, I had nothing but good things to say about POTC: Dead Man's Chest. Finding a valid balance between fast-paced action and an intriging plot, I placed the film atop my list of summer blockbusters. Fast forward to 2007. We have a floundering summer movie season on our hands with two huge disappointments. Far too many of "At World's End's" scenes are wasted on the uninspired, overwrought duo of Kira Knightly and Orlando Bloom who finally seem to have finished what they set out to do in ruining this franchise. Sure I didn’t mind them before; Knightly’s original damsel-in-distress role was fitting, as was Bloom’s with his clueless character. Now that both of them have apparently evolved into full-fledged “Bad Asses” there’s far too many likewise persona’s on screen at one time. We have a new addition with Chow Yun Fat as the ferocious Captain Sao Feng. He does the role justice and momentarily adds some spark to the otherwise ho-hum line-up. I know what you’re thinking…. What about Jack Sparrow? This is the movies number one shortcoming; Jack’s presence is mostly wasted on him being schizophrenic-like seeing multiple versions of himself in this goofy, cartoon-like, set of scenes. He is supposed to be this trilogy’s flagship character and really seems to take a backseat role throughout much of the film. What was good you ask? It’s visually impressive, as you’d expect. Davy Jones and his crew still look great. The opening fight scene is well done though it’s falsely eluding that much more action will ensue. After you get past the imagery and few decent action sequences, there’s simply not much left to salvage (I’ll spare the pirate-lingo). With a plot that’s hampered by one tedious tangent after another, there’s just too much going on and too little focus on anything that’s actually interesting. Even the cool tie-in’s to the Disneyland ride can’t do much to bring this sequel’s rating up out of the below average range. Make that twice this month that a potentially terrific trilogy is thwarted by the later installment.