Wednesday, December 30, 2009

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

Any boy who grew up in the 1980's looked forward to the release of this movie. Others who can't stand to go to the movie theater looked forward to its later release on DVD.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra follows the evil scientist who creates the Cobra organization and his creation of Destro. In this presumably introduction to a series of movies, Cobra gets a hold of Nano weapons that destroy everything in their path the way you'd expect termites to destroy an old house - but really fast. Much of the action takes place in Paris and all of our favorite landmarks fall prey to this destructive weapon. It's up to the top secret Joe organization to seek out the members of Cobra and bring them down.

The movie has a star-studded cast including Dennis Quaid as General Hawk, Channing Tatum as Duke, Marlon Wayans (brother of the many other Wayans), Rachel Nichols (though without her traveling pants), Brendan Frasier, and Sienna Miller.

Now with such a heavy-weight cast, you would think that this would be one awesome movie. However, most of the movie focuses on computer-generated special effects that at times get a bit ridiculous. There's a ton of chase scenes and shooting scenes, though I probably should expect a lot of shooting scenes.

Directed by Stephen Sommers (which explains the appearance of Brendan Frasier - he's directed several of his movies) The Rise of Cobra is 2 hours long and is rated PG-13 for thousands of sequences of computer-animated violence, and as Netflix put it: strong sequences of violence and mayhem. I think that's about right.

I thought it quite humorous that the ladies in the movie were allowed to wear non-standard issue military suits that had zippers that only came up to their cleavage. And they also had on a good amount of makeup and long hair - characteristics of most of the women in our military.

I was not at all impressed with the movie and honestly do not look forward to the sequels. The plot was all over the place and it did not even resemble anything realistic. I was easily distracted during the movie by shiny things and was glad when it ended. I will have to say that I had a promotion code from Red Box allowing for a free rental, so I don't feel too bad. It didn't cost me anything. I give G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra 2 stars.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Goods, Live Hard, Sell Hard

When times get tough in this economy for a car dealership, they call on Don Ready (Jeremy Piven), who's a fast-talking closer who gets the job done. He brings his team of crack commandos with the intention of clearing the lot over the 4th of July weekend.

Ready has his plans in order and everything goes well until he is blindsided by love. Unfortunately, his love interest, Ivy Selleck (Jordana Spiro) is engaged to competing car dealer super dork Paxton Harding (Ed Helms) who is out to destroy the dealership, which is owned by patriarch Ben Selleck (James Brolin).

Don Ready's crew consists of Brent Gage (David Koenchner), Babs Merrick (Kathryn Hahn), and Jibby Newsome (Ving Rhames). Fortunately for Ready, he also has the spirit of McDermott to help guide him in his troubled times. McDermott is a former team member who died in a plane stunt. In the grain of Ron Burgandy, the movie has its totally goofy parts and potty humor.

Also staring in the movie is Alan Thicke as Paxton Harding's father, and Will Ferrell as McDermott. I think you'll get a good kick out of the two of them.

The Goods, Live Hard, Sell Hard is Rated R for sexual situations, language, violence, and nudity, though the nudity, be forwarned, consists of them watching porn on television. The movie is 90 minutes long.

Overall, I had several good laughs, but thought the plot a bit thin and drawn out. If Redbox doesn't have any new releases available, this one's not too bad. I give it 3 stars.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

I Love You, Beth Cooper

When the super-nerd valedictorian Dennis Cooverman (Paul Rust) speaks at a high school graduation he encourages everyone to say the things they've always wanted to say, and he leads by example by telling cheerleader and uber-popular blond Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere) that he loves her (hence, I Love You, Beth Cooper).

In addition to telling Beth that he loved her, he also said that some should admit they are dumb, that they have eating disorders, and that they are gay. No one is identified by name, but everyone seems to know who he is talking about.

Dennis' post-graduation life takes a huge turn when Beth Cooper accepts his invitation and shows up at his house for his graduation party with 2 of her popular friends. Unfortunately for Dennis and his friend (or perhaps fortunately), Beth's ultra-lunatic military boyfriend decides to hunt him down after his little graduation stunt and teach him a lesson. The 5 then jump in the car for an adventure of their life.

Here's the quiz - this movie is a romantic comedy. One character is a super nerd and never gets the girl. The girl, on the other hand, is very popular, but is now confronted with spending a lot of time with the guy that has loved her since seventh grade. What happens in the end?

Being a quasi-nerd myself (shut-up!) I can totally relate to Dennis, though I hope that I am a lot better looking. Wasn't there that girl in school that you so admired but didn't have the balls to talk to? Oh, yeah. That was me.

I Love You, Beth Cooper was directed by Chris Columbus (not the 15th century explorer, but rather the director of several Harry Potter movies in addition to Adventures in Babysitting and Mrs. Doubtfire). The movie is 102 minutes long, slightly longer than the standard 90 minutes for a romantic comedy. It is rated PG-13 for violence, continuous sexual references, drinking, drugs, and a split-second view of Beth's left breast as seen from behind, though no nipple.

Also staring in the movie is Alan Ruck, better known as Cameron Frye in the Ferris Bueller's Day Off movie, Jack Carpenter, Lauren London, Lauren Storm, and Shaun Roberts.

I Love You, Beth Cooper is a decent laugh. I was able to watch the entire movie without distraction or losing interest, so that helps the rating. The plot was a bit thin, but then again it's a teenage romantic comedy. We can't confuse those teenagers with complicated plot-twists and existentialism.

I give this movie 3 stars.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Taking Woodstock

When a young and up-and-coming man in a local no-name town convinces the town council to have a bigger summer concert, he suddenly becomes overwhelmed by the response. A son of Jewish immigrants who operate a run-down motel just outside of town, Elliot Tiber (Demetri Martin), serves on the town council and with a little left-hand behind the back transaction uses the permit to schedule some of the biggest names in music.

After making arrangements with local dairy farm operator Max Yasgur (played by American Pie father Eugene Levy), the organize the festival to use his farm and plans start rolling fast. Jake spends the next couple of weeks getting the hotel and field ready, but as the day approaches, the town soon becomes overwhelmed by hippies and the locals are not happy. Originally scheduled to be a concert requiring tickets, common-sense led them to change it to a free concert. There was no way they were going to be able to control the mass of people that showed up. The festival finally arrives and Jake experiences life at Woodstock and learns more than he ever learned at college.

Also staring in this movie are Imelda Staunton as Jake's mother, Henry Goodman as Jake's father, Live Schreiber as a transvestite (yes, you read that correctly), Dan Fogler as a head of a local theater troupe, and Emile Hirsch as Jake's friend who recently returned from Vietnam.

I'm no historian on the Woodstock event, but this is totally how I pictured events as they played out. Thousands of hippies. Dozens of naked people. Acid. Camping. Rock music. And more naked people.

Directed by Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain), Taking Woodstock is Rated R for nudity, drugs, and yet more nudity. And the movie comes in right at 2 hours.

I liked Taking Woodstock for the seemingly obvious reasons. Not only is it funny (Jake's mother is hysterical), but there's also that good quirky small-town dialog. Not an Academy-Award winning nominee, but not too bad. I give Taking Woodstock 3 stars.

Some interesting facts - the concert was actually in the town of Bethel, New York, about 43 miles from the actual town of Woodstock, NY. Performers at the festival included Ravi Shankar, Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, John Sebastian (Welcome Back Kotter), Canned Heat (Goin' to the Country), Mountain, Grateful Dead. Creedance Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, Sly and the Family Stone, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Joe Cocker, Ten Years After, The Band, Blood Sweat & Tears, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Sha-Na-Na, and Jimi Hendrix. Can you imagine that concert today? It wouldn't happen. Too many stuck-up greedy bands. This was quintessential 1960's.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Bonnie & Clyde

I saw this movie for the first time a few weeks ago and it quickly rose to the top of my list of favorite movies. Made in 1967, this classic film stars a young Warren Beatty, possibly before his horse Naturally won, in addition to a very attractive 26 year old Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman, Gene Wilder in his first movie, and Denver Pyle as Sheriff Frank Hamer. You'll remember Denver as Uncle Jessie from the Dukes of Hazzard.

You probably know of the story of Bonnie and Clyde. It's a true story. You can read about it on Wikipedia. If you're so dumb that you don't know, it's about an outlaw named Clyde who likes to rob people, he befriends a young damsel named Bonnie and they storm across the South raising hell. In the end - they die. Sorry to give away the ending. But come on. If you didn't know that then you need to go back to middle school.

I loved Bonnie and Clyde. The action was hot, the dialog was great, and the acting was superb. Knowing the ending I was getting anxious as the movie rolled along wondering if it was getting ready to happen.

Directed by Arthur Penn, this hour and 50 minutes movie is Rated R for violence and some sexuality, but no nudity. Additionally, the movie received 2 Academy Awards - Estelle Parsons received a Best Supporting Actress Award and Burnette Guffrey received Best Cinematography and Bonnie and Clyde was selected for preservation by the United States National Film Registry.

Without a doubt, Bonnie and Clyde is a 5 star movie!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Inglorious Basterds

I add movies to my movie queue through several methods. My friend Kim is also a member of Netflix, so when I see that she adds a movie, I'll check it out. She likes the artsy stuff, so I have to be careful. Another obvious method is when I see a trailer on TV that is interesting, I'll add it to my Netflix queue. Finally, I'll click on my favorite actors and actresses on IMDB or Netflix and add their new movies.

I'm not sure what I was thinking when I added Inglorious Basterds to my queue. I'm not implying early in the review that it was a bad movie. On the contrary. I thought it was a comedy. That it was not.

Inglorious Basterds stars Brad Pitt, Christopher Waltz, BJ Novak (of The Office), and a bunch of other foreign actors. Mélanie Laurent, a 26 year old French actress, plays the Jewish theater owner. She's easy on the eyes. And speaking of eyes, as is appropriate for her role, her eyes gave off a sense of deep pain. Also in the eye-candy department is Diane Kruger, a German actress.

Three minutes into the movie and I was quite certain that this was no comedy. All the people being shot with a machine gun gave that away. The movie flows like any good historical movie. Until the part where the David Bowie song starts playing. And the hand-written name tags pop on the screen.

The premise of the movie is focused around a German SS officer (Christopher Waltz) who hunts down Jews. One of the Jews in his early hunts escapes and makes her way to Paris where she takes over her deceased aunt and uncle's theater. One day she meets a soldier who turns out to be sort of a war phenom who was cast as himself in a propaganda movie. He tries to proposition her, she is then forced to host a showing of his movie, which gives her an idea.

Meanwhile, Brad Pitt is the horribly quaint Lt. Aldo Raine from Tennessee. I sound more like Carly Shay than Brad Pitt sounds like a southerner. Though I think that is by design. Lt. Raine is leading a crack commando group through France to raise hell. And hell they raise.

The movie is a bit gory and includes all of the expected violence and profanity that you would expect from a Quentin Tarantino movie. Inglorious Basterds is rated R for said violence and profanity, in addition to some sexuality and an incorrectly spelled word in the title.

I found myself drawn to this movie despite its length (2 1/2 hours) and was anxious nearly the entire time. Oh, my gosh! What's going to happen now? Additionally, if Christopher Waltz does not win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, the Hollywood needs to be burnt to the ground. Then again, that might not be a bad idea anyway.

Nonetheless, I think this was a great movie and freely and under no duress give this movie 4 stars.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Four Christmases

This movie is over a year old, but like any good Christmas movie it is released in the theater one year and onto DVD the following year. And best of all, Four Christmases stars Reese Witherspoon, but not her fork, and Vince Vaughn.

Like a lot of couples in America, Brad and Kate are delaying marriage (if getting married at all) and choosing to live in sin instead. And like many American families, both parents are divorced. Rather than having Christmas with their multiple families, Brad and Kate have ventured off to foreign lands each year instead. However, this Christmas, circumstances have changed and they are forced to spend their Christmas with each of their parents - thus they will be having four Christmases. Get it?

Of course, each of their families is crazy, each being situated on the opposite sides of a four-pointed spectrum (if there is such a thing). However, while spending time with each of their families brings out uncomfortable comedy, it also reveals facts that Brad and Kate didn't know about each other, which may threaten their relationship.

Four Christmases also stars a well-known supporting case, including Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Jon Voight, Mary Steenburgen, Dwight Yoakam, in addition to Jon Favreau as Denver and Tim McGraw as Dallas.

The movie is rated PG-13 because it's a romantic comedy and PG-13 is the required rating for generating box office receipts. Additionally, the movie has adult language (though commonly used by Baltimore city children), violence, and sexual humor. Furthermore, the movie is 88 minutes long.

Four Christmases was directed by Seth Gordon, also known for the hysterical comedy King of Kong and the funny TV show Parks and Recreation.

I was a bit disappointed with Four Christmases. I did find it comical that the 9 foot Vince was paired up with the 5 foot Reese. However, as far as the plot was concerned I was actually starting to feel bad for the families. The comedy was a bit over the top and a bit more slap-stick than what I like. Therefore, unfortunately, I am forced to give this Reese Witherspoon movie only 2 stars.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Paper Heart

I tend to not like artsy movies (read: I lose interest several minutes into the film). However, many Indie (independent) movies are very entertaining. Napoleon Dynamite being the most notable. How can I separate independent movies from artsy movies? My dilemma.

Paper Hearts, as I soon learned, is an artsy movie. And it was no Napoleon Dynamite. The movie stars Charlyne Yi in her quest to make a documentary about finding love. She's a skeptic of love having never been in love.

Along comes Michael Cera, who plays young awkward actor named Michael Cera. The two strike up conversation at a party and soon develop a quasi-friendship/relationship. I think Yi tries to avoid the relationship because she's annoying and she doesn't want to put Michael through the pain of dating someone who's timidly obnoxious.

Hark. They develop that relationship anyway. The movie is shot as a movie about making a documentary, so it seems difficult to distinguish between what is real and what is acting. Of course it's all acting, but it's supposed to be real. Confused?

Paper Hearts also stars Seth Rogen, Dimitri Martin (never heard of him), Paul Rust (who's also in Inglorious Basterds and I Love You, Beth Cooper, two movies I hope to see soon), and Martin Starr.

Directed by Nicholas Jasenovec, Paper Hearts is 88 minutes LONG and is rated PG-13 for language, though I didn't notice - probably because I wasn't paying attention to the movie after I lost interest about 35 seconds into it.

Labeled as a Romantic Comedy and a Romance movie, I found little comedy in it. I guess it was romantic because it's about two young people being awkward trying to hook up. If you have a choice between doing laundry and watching this movie, make sure you don't mix the colors with the whites. You want to avoid color bleeding as much as possible. And don't forget to use fabric softener.

I give this movie an inglorious 2 stars. Not for me. However, I'm probably not a big fan of movies that win the prestigous Grand Jury Prize awarded at the Sundance Film Festival.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Funny People

Sometimes you can't tell whether a movie was intended to be a comedy or a drama. Or maybe it's just a funny drama. Is that possible? I think Funny People falls into that undefined category.

Funny People stars Adam Sandler and Seth Rogan, in addition to a plethora of cameos of real stars. You'll see what I mean. In a plot that seems to cross from fiction over into reality, Sandler is a successful comedian named George Simmons who still does some stand-up, but has recently learned that he has a form of cancer and is beyond the point where normal medicines can work, so he begins an experimental treatment. Of course this leads him to become depressed and unable to write comedy for himself.

This is when he discovers struggling stand-up comedian Ira Wright whom he finds very funny. He makes Ira an offer than he can't refuse and Ira begins to write jokes for him. As the two spend time together, Ira learns what a jerk Simmons is, but how hollow and empty his life is.

Simmons begins to go through the phases of grief (anger, anger, depression) and finds himself reflecting upon his life and making amends, including with ex-girlfriend Laura (Leslie Mann).

As Ira and George spend time together, they build that special bond, but will George's arrogance get the best of them?

Directed by Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, 40 Year Old Virgin), Funny People also stars Australian actor Eric Bana, Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman, in addition to cameos by James Taylor, Andy Dick, Charles Fleischer, Paul Reiser, Geroge Wallace, Dave Attell, Norm MacDonald, Sarah Silverman, Eminiem, and Ray Romano.

Funny People is Rated R, though I watched the unrated version. The movie has a lot of adult language, violence, strong sexual situations, and some nudity. The movie is an hour and 45 minutes long.

I enjoyed this movie. I laughed a lot, though the serious parts were very sad and humbling. I give this movie 4 stars.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Night at the Museum 2 - Battle of the Smithsonian

My kids totally enjoyed Night at the Museum. Totally. So, of course, they would totally love Night at the Musuem 2 - Battle of the Smithsonian.

For this installment of the movie, we have Ben Stiller returning as Larry, along with Owen Wilson, Robin Williams, Hank Azaria, Steve Coogan, and new to the series, Amy Adams. Isn't she cute?

In this sequel, Larry has started a new company focusing on his desire to invent and it has become incredibly successful. Larry in now independently wealthy and no longer has to get by as a night watchman at the museum.

However, upon a trip back to the museum he finds that all of this statue friends are crated up in boxes and heading out. They are slated for storage in the Smithsonian Institution's archives - presumably to be lost forever. Larry has decided he must do something about it!

Also in the shipment to Washington, D.C. is the magical tablet that brings everyone to life. And guess what? Everything comes to life! And this includes Amelia Erhardt. Hubba-Hubba!

By the way, I did a Google search on Amelia. Amy Adams makes a much more attractive Amelia Erhardt than Amelia Erhardt. And have I mentioned that Amy Adams is cute? You'll really like her skin-tight flying pants. I did.

Anyway, Larry finds himself in a predicament as one of the statues that came to life knows about the tablet and its powers and is bent on getting a hold of it and using its powers to control the world. Fortunately, he has the backing of all of his New York museum friends and some new ones, like the very attractive Amy Adams as Amelia Erhardt, in addition to George Custer and Abraham Lincoln.

Night at the Museum 2 is rated PG because Amy Adams' pants are so tight. However, my kids laughed hysterically throughout the movie and their laughter was highly contagious.

The movie is an hour and 40 minutes long and was directed by Shawn Levy, who directed the first Night at the Museum, in addition to the remake of Cheaper by the Dozen.

From an adult perspective, I give this movie a solid 3 stars. However, my kids give it 4 1/2 stars. And that's what is important. In addition to Amy Adams being cute.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

I watched this movie back-to-back with The Proposal, so it's sort of like a visual romantic comedy orgy.

Ghosts of Girlfriends past stars Matthew McConaughey's handsome face and quick and funny one-liners, but not his acting ability, in addition to Jennifer Garner, and Michael Douglas.

McConaughey plays Conner Mead, the orphaned nephew of Douglas (Uncle Wayne) who grows up having to raise his little brother Paul (Breckin Meyer). While growing up, Conner has a budding relationship with Jenny Perotti (Garner). However, after spending some time with Uncle Wayne, Conner learns that you need to treat girls like dirt and rack up as many as you can. This will make you happy. Or so he thought.

Conner Mead returns home for his brother's wedding and is reunited with Jenny. The old flame heats up, but Conner plays it cool and smooth. Unfortuantely, Conner being Conner, starts ruining the rehearsal evening and possibly threating the wedding. That night, however, like the Christmas Carol, Conner is visited by the ghosts of girlfriends past, the ghost of girlfriends present, and the ghost of the future. Scaring the crap out of him, he vows to make up for his wrongs.

This romantic comedy, also predictable, has some funny twists that made me laugh, but for the most part is just McConaughey running around trying to be cool, but also acting like a fool. Meanwhile, Jennifer Garner is still a bit of a pretensious woman who wants to find the best in people. I still find her attractive, but not as much as in previous movies.

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past was directed by Mark Waters who also directed The Spiderwick Chronicles and Just Like Heaven (a Reese Witherspoon movie!). The movie is an hour and 40 minutes long, another requirement of romantic comedies. It is rated PG-13 for sexual content, language, and some drug content, all requirements. So it appears that this movie has met the recipe requirements for a romantic comedy, so it passes.

I thought this movie was just average. Nothing thrilling, nothing too funny, no man-women interactions that gave me that tingle. So I'm just gonig to have to give this movie the standard 3 stars.

The Proposal

The Proposal is a fairly new release to DVD with a handful of well-known actors, including Ryan Reynolds, who starred in several movies in the past 2 years (including X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Paper Man, Adventureland, and Definitely, Maybe), Sanda Bullock, Betty White, Mary Steenburgen, and Craig T. Nelson, better known as Coach.

Reynolds plays Andrew Paxton, an aspiring writer who works for dragon lady bitch Margaret Tate (Bullock) at a prestigious editing firm. Upon learning that her Canadian visa is expiring and she's threatened with deportation, she informs her company that Andrew and she are getting married, much to Andrew's chagrin. Fearing losing his position and being black-listed in the industry if he fails to comply with her demands, he succumbs to her threat. Unfortunately, the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) is on to her and they are out to prove that the wedding is a fraud.

In an effort to learn more about each other and pad their story, they head to Alaska for Andrew's grandmother's (White) 90th birthday. However, as Bullock, who grew up without a family, learns more about Andrew and his wonderful family, she starts reflecting upon herself and perhaps sees that some change is in order.

As with any romantic comedy, predictability is key. So if 2 people are forced to fake a marriage in order for one of them to stay in the country, what do you suspect will happen to the real relationship between them? Of course!

The Proposal was directed by Anne Fletcher who also directed 27 Dresses. The movie is an hour and 40 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for sexual content, language, and nudity, which is really just Sandra Bullock running around with one hand over her genitals and another across her breasts. So even though she's technically naked, you ain't gonna see anything. But I'm sure that you're not going to complain either.

I have always been a fan of Bullock and I think she looks pretty darn good for 45 years old. And Ryan Reynolds seems like a pretty cool dude. No, it's not a man crush. This comedy will make you laugh and is generally an enjoyable movie. I'll give it 4 stars.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Brüno

This movie sucks. Don't watch it.

Oh, did you want more of a review? Okay.

Having watched Borat, which I thought was absolutely hysterical, I knew I had to watch Bruno. I thought I knew what the premise was - a homosexual fashion reporter coming to America to try and make a name for himself. He would use his overzealous homosexuality in awkward situations with people that you would expect not to be tolerant of homosexuals. Fair enough. I know what I'm getting. Sacha Baron Cohen is still funny. I can get past the other, right? Not quite.

Bruno is a homo-erotic sexcapade whose only objective is in-your-face homosexuality with intentions of crossing the barriers of decency to the point that people (the ones watching the movie) are uncomfortable. Sure, there were a couple of funny parts. But watching him do the windmill with his penis, simulated oral sex, and ram-rodding, are just not funny. And when it seems to be persistant and pervasive, it is just irritating.

A friend forwarded a review to me written by a gay person that said that even open-minded people would react uncomfortably and that the movie in general is just in bad taste. Another friend said that she was sorry she hadn't given me that feedback either. She saw it earlier and said it was totally not worth watching.

So, for what it's worth, Bruno is rated R (though that was generous) for pervasive and crude homosexual content, graphic penises, and language. Bruno is 82 minutes too long, and has cameos by Ron Paul, Paula Abdul, Elton John, Bono, Harrison Ford, and Richard Bey.

Some reviews have stated that this movie is not appropriate for kids. I say if you let your children watch this movie then Child Protective Services should storm your house and take immediate custody of your children and have you arrested.

My rating system is 1 through 5, so I cannot legitimately give it zero stars, so Bruno earns the dubious 1 star award.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Netflix Delay

Another delay. I dropped My Life In Ruins in the mailbox yesterday, but Netflix has no idea where it is today. Perhaps I should find another mailbox.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Taking of Pelham 123

This is a remake of the 1974 film that had a decent cast including Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw, Dick O'Neill, and future Seinfeld show husband and wife Jerry Stiller and Doris Roberts.

The modern version of the movie, that includes a lot more cussing, includes Denzel Washington, John Travolta, Luis Guzmán, John Tuturro, and James Gandolfini, who goes from the head of the mob in The Sopranos to the mayor of the city.

In the 35 years that have passed since the original, the plot has changed very little. A New York subway train is hijacked (the Pelham 123) and stopped in a tunnel. Through some mechanical wizardry, they are able to take over the communications and begin making their demands to dispatch.

Recently demoted to train dispatcher because of a bribery investigation, Zachary Garber (Denzel) initially makes contact with criminal mastermind Ryder (Travolta). Despite the disparity of their roles in the current situation, they form a bond because they know what it's like when the man comes down on them.

This exciting thriller is full of action and hostile dialog, which means a lot of cussing, much like you would expect from a movie with hostages and a crazed man with guns. The Taking of Pelham 123 was directed by Tony Scott, a well known director who has other thrillers on his resume such as Spy Game, Enemy of the State, Crimson Tide (another Denzel movie), and Top Gun.

The movie is an hour and 40 minutes long and is rated R for non-stop F bombs and violence, which includes shooting and intense car accidents.

I enjoyed watching this movie and having seen the original version recently, enjoyed looking for the parallels between the two movies. There are some differences, but I think Tony Scott did a good job of not deviating too much from the original to make this an entirely different movie.

I give The Taking of Pelham 123 1-2-3-4 stars.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Answer Man

An independent film (Indie Film) originally known as Arlen Faber, The Answer Man stars Jeff Daniels as, hark, Arlen Faber, an author of spiritually-related inspirational books.

Arlen is an intelligent man who has answers to a lot of simple questions. Logic is his ally, though he plays it off as inspiration from God. A pathological jerk, Faber tries to hide from society as he suffers from his own psychoses. However, circumstances, such as a bad back, force him to interact with society and that is when he runs into a single mother (Lauren Graham - Flash of Genius, Because I Said So, & Evan Almighty) who really doesn't give a crap about who he is and he finds that moderately intriguing.

Also staring in the movie is Kris (Lou Taylor Pucci) who is a recovering alcoholic who lives with an alcoholic. Kris owns a bookstore that buys back books and Faber likes to return all of his books for money. Unfortunately for Kris, times are tough and Faber is the thorn in his side at the worst possible time.

Now that Faber is falling in love, he starts to loosen up a bit and without this veil of ambivalence towards society, starts to show some compassion.

This romantic drama is rated R for language and is 97 minutes long. Directed by John Hindman, the movie also stars a couple of really cute girls whom I would not mind seeing again - Olivia Thirlby and Kat Dennings.

I liked this movie a lot and give it 4 stars. I got several good laughs from it. And if you are a weeper, this movie will probably move you to tears.

After having reviewed the movie, I checked Jeff Daniels' movies and realized that I have rated his movies at least 4 stars 6 times. That's pretty darn good.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

How Green Was My Valley

One of things that I am trying to do with my movie watching is pick off the winners of the Best Picture. How Green Was My Valley was the winner in 1941. The movie is based on the book by Richard Llewellyn about life in the mining towns in Wales during the late 1800's or early 1900's from the perspective of young Huw Morgan, though now told through his eyes as an older man.

The movie stars Walter Pidgeon (who has a magnificant voice) as Mr. Gruffydd, a very beautiful Maureen O'Hara as Angharad Morgan, Huw's sister, and Roddy McDowall as Huw Morgan. Roddy is probably better known as one of the apes from Planet of the Apes during its heyday in the 1960's.

Life in the mining town was peaceful, but soon turned sour when talks of unionization started and rumors of communist ties began to be associated with different residents. Huw, appearing to have a higher intelligence than most of his townsfolk, is sent off to another town to attend school, but soon learns of the prejudices and stereostypes that afflict his town. He quickly learns to fight to protect himself and his valley's honor.

Meanwhile, rumors spread of an unholy relationship between Mr. Gruffydd, the new preacher in town, and Angharad. Though not true, the rumors destroy the reputation of the good preacher and he ends up leaving the Church and Angharad's reputation is likewise soiled.

Throughout the movie tragedies strike, mostly at the mine and the Morgan's begin to lose the members of their family and Huw has little interest in staying in the Valley. Eventually, everything good that once represented the town has disintegrated. What was once a green valley is now one covered in the gray and black slag of the mine, and the happy smiling faces of the singing townsfolk are now the quiet saddened & ruined faces of a people whose spirits have been destroyed.

How Green Was My Valley won numerous awards including Best Picture for Producer Darryl F. Zanuck, Best Director for John Ford, Best Supporting Actor for Donald Crisp for his role as Gwilym Morgan, the patriarch of the family, Best Black-and-White Cinematography, and Best Black-and-White Art Direction-Interior Decoration.

The Award for Best Director was significant for John Ford as it was the third year in a row that he had won the award, the others being Stagecoach in 1939, and The Grapes of Wrath in 1940.

The movie is just under 2 hours long and was produced prior to movie ratings, though there is nothing that would garner it anything other than a G-rating except that it wouldn't draw an audience unless it had a PG rating.

I read the book several years ago and admit that it is one of my favorite books. Given that, I criticize the movie for what it is missing, though if it did icnlude everything in the book the movie would be about 6 hours long. I therefore give How Green Was My Valley a hesitant 3 stars.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Whatever Works

I've never been much of a fan of Larry David. Sure, the stuff he wrote for Seinfeld was hysterical. But Seinfeld played the part. When Larry David does the same thing, he's just annoying, gassy, egotistical, arrogant, and whiny. Have you ever seen Curb Your Enthusiasm? Do you really think that's funny?

Whatever Works is David's newest creation. He's not one for movies, but he jumped that barrier, probably in an unapologetic attempt to get some more money. Heck, be basically said so in the movie. He's pretending to talk to the audience in the beginning and he narrates the picture throughout.

David plays Boris Yellnikoff who does a lot of yelling. He eats at the deli everyday and chats with his friends. He doesn't appear to have a job - other than complaining about everything. One night a young vagrant named Melodie St. Ann Celestine (Evan Rachel Wood - The Wrestler) pleads for some food as she hasn't eaten all day. Being young and somewhat attractive, Boris takes her in for just a few minutes so that she can get something to eat. She ends up staying for months.

Boris slowly becomes more attracted to this Southern belle from a strongly religious Christian family. Since Boris is a self-proclaimed genius, he is able to show her the way by complaining about everything and pointing out everything that is wrong - mostly with religion.

Eventually Melodie's mother comes looking for her, but fortunately Boris is there to corrupt her and separate her from her false religious beliefs and into turning into a hedonist. Melodie's mother, on the other hand, has different plans for her.

All plans come to fruition when Melodie's father (Ed Begley Jr.) shows up. In the name of humor, all religious beliefs are bastardized and everyone is happy.

The movie was written and directed by Woody Allen. I found many of the scenes to be funny and even laughed at loud at a couple, something that doesn't happen too often. However, I was a bit dismayed at the constant bashing of religion. Yes, I get that it was the point of the movie. I think Rachel Evan Wood is cute and is a likable character and easy on the eyes, but the fake Southern accent sort of wore on me.

Whatever Works is rated PG-13 for language, extensive complaining by an overly sensitive non-practicing Jew, sexual situations, and a room full of pictures of a naked woman. The movie is just under 90 minutes long, which legally is about as much Larry David as the Federal Trade Commission allows in one sitting.

Also staring in the movie were Patricia Clarkson as Melodie's mother, Christian Johnston, Jessica Hecht, Adam Brooks, Lyle Kanouse, and Michael McKean.

If you are a religious person, I would recommend avoiding this movie. If you don't mind a few low blows at your beliefs and can appreciate the movie for its pathetic humor (this isn't a bash at the movie. Boris is intentionally a pathetic character.), then you may enjoy this movie. I'll give Whatever Works the low-end of the 3 stars.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Netflix Delay

Netflix did not receive the movie I put in the mail yesterday. Is election day not a postal delivery day? Or am I just getting my monthly stiff since I got several new releases in a row?

Clash of the Titans

Having learned that there is a remake underway of Clash of the Titans, I thought it would be a good time to watch the original. I recall this movie from my childhood. During one week in 1981 my brother and sister spent the week at my grandparents' house. I could not go as I had baseball games. However, since my mom worked at night, on the nights that I didn't have a game my dad took me to the movies. We saw The Empire Strikes Back, The Great Muppet Caper, and Clash of the Titans. It was great bonding with my dad at the movies during that week.

The original Clash of the Titans stars Harry Hamlin as Perseus, son of Zeus. Hamlin went onto greater fame with L.A. Law. Also starring were Sir Lawrence Olivier as Zeus, Judi Bowker as Andromeda, Burgess Meredith as Ammon the playwrite, Claire Bloom as Hera, and Ursula Andress (of James Bond fame) as Aphrodite.

Perseus, heir to the kingdom of Argos, is moved by the goddess Thetis during a dream to Joppa where he is to marry Andromeda, but only after he can answer a riddle. If he fails, he will be burned at the stake.

Unfortunately for Joppa, Queen Cassiepeia's transgression of comparing her daughter's beauty to be superior to that of Thetis while in the temple dedicated to Thetis causes the status to come to life and declare that her daughter must be sacrificed to the Kraken, one of the titans. Andromeda must be unknown to a man (i.e. a virgin). If the sacrifice is not carried out, then the Kraken will destroy Joppa. It is now Persues' job to save Joppa.

Perseus' journey takes him to the far reaches of land, first to a visit to the Stygian witches, then across the River Styx to the isle of the dead to face Medusa, and several battles with Calibos, the son of Thetis and former fiancé of Andromeda. Calibos was transformed into a monster for his transgressions against Zeus, including the murder of the herd of flying horses except for Pegasus. To help him along his journey the gods give Perseus several gifts, including the helmet that makes him invisible, the sword that can cut stone, a talking shield that gives advice, sort of like a talking 8 ball, and Bubo, the magical owl.

This 1981 mythology classic is very dated by today's standards. It features double-screening and stop-motion special effects. However, when I was 9 years old, it was quite scary. The movie is rated PG for violence and nudity. And by nudity there was more than I remembered as a child, probably because naked women are less alluring to a 9 year old than a 37 year old. Had this movie been made today it would most likely be rated PG-13.

Clash of the Titans gets a boost because of my fondness for the movie as a child. It also gets a boost from the naked butts of Judi Bowker, and Vida Taylor. I sentimentally give Clash of the Titans 4 stars. Remember to put the remake in your Netflix queue. It stars Liam Neeson, Sam Worthington, Ralph Fiennes, and Alexa Davalos. It looks quite good.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Chéri

I'm not sure if this movie is a fantasy for young men or older women. All I know is that while I was watching the movie I kept thinking that my friend Twinkie would L.O.V.E. this movie. This morning I sent her an email asking if she had seen the movie, she had not, but she replied that she just watched the trailer and she totally agrees that she would love this movie.

Chéri stars Michelle Pfeiffer, the still-attractive 51 year old starlet of Scarface, Grease 2, Dangerous Minds, and Batman Returns fame. Set in the 1920's in France, no longer the 1950's of Los Angeles, and no longer the young Stephanie Zinone of the Pink Ladies, she is now Lea de Lonval, the madame of gentlemen.

Across town, Madame Peloux, played by Kathy Bates, is the mother of Chéri (Rupert Friend), a dandy of a young man with absolutely no ambition in life. Madame Pelous wants de Lonval to take him under her wings, per se, to help him to....become a man, per se.

The arrangement is to last for several weeks, after which time Chéri would be ready to find his bride. However, Chéri ends up spending many years, not weeks, with de Lonval to the point that they are like husband and wife. When time comes for Chéri to leave, de Lonval realizes that she is no longer his teacher, but finds herself in love with him.

Also staring in the movie is Felicity Jones as Edmee, Chéri's bride-to-be, who is quite easy on the eyes.

The movie has a lot of almost nudity, a little real nudity (Chéri), a lot of sex, though never more than a butt, thus giving the movie its R Rating.

Directed by Stephen Frears who is known for The Queen, High Fidelity, and Dangerous liaisons, Chéri is 93 minutes long.

Chéri is just an average movie for me. Though I found the ending a bit humorous, I did think it was a quick out. However, if you are a chick and you like romantic dramas bordering on comedies, you surely would enjoy this movie. If you are into action heroes, explosions, and wild nudity, this ain't your movie. Chéri gets 3 stars from me.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Assassination of a High School President

Assassination of a High School President is a dark comedy staring Reece Thompson as Bobby Funke, pronounced Funky by everyone but Bobby, as the somewhat awkward sophomore who is on the school newspaper and is trying to make a name for himself so that he can get nominated for a prestigous summer journalism program at Northwestern.

Reece learns of a potential conspiracy and gets some quick information and writes the crack story implicating the student body President, resulting in his removal from office. However, things don't turn out as they initially appear and eventually Funke uncovers an even bigger conspiracy and learns a huge lesson in investigative journalism.

His investigation leads him into a relationship with the sultry Francesca Fashini (Mischa Barton). She's the girl of most guys' dreams and he cannot believe that she falls for him. Or has she?

High school principal Kirkpatrick, played by Bruce Willis, is a Gulf War Veteran and runs the private Catholic school like a prison with little tolerance for mischief. By no means are Kirkpatrick and Funke on the same team.

Assassination of a High School President is definitely a teen angst movie that many teenagers will be able to relate, though the movie is rated R, technically making it so that most teenagers cannot watch it until they are out of high school.

The movie is rated R for drug and alcohol use (by minors), language, lots of sexuality, and some nudity, though not close enough to get you really excited, but I'm sure most guys are not going to complain.

The movie is 93 minutes long and was directed by PhD candidate Brett Simon who gets his first big break in films.

Assassination of a High School President certainly has an entertainment value and I found myself relating to Funke (though I'm not sure if that is a good thing). Mischa Barton kept me glued to the screen. I remember her as the shy roommate in the sexually explicit Lost & Delirious movie depicting a graphic lesbian relationship between Piper Parabo and Jessica Pare'. Barton also stared in the moderately successful television series The O.C.

Given my tastes in movies, I give this movie the standard 3 stars. Not too much desire to watch it again, but it entertained me for the time.

The Maiden Heist

In The Maiden Heist, Christopher Walken, Morgan Freeman, and William H. Macy star as three senior security guards at an art museum that have fallen in love with particular pieces of art over the years. However, their love turns to fear upon learning that a young punk curator will be moving their beloved pieces to a museum in Denmark. Distraught, they discover that one another has similar feelings and decide that they must do something to stop this travesty.

The three actors bring their best abilities to the screen, and their respective characters bring their own unique personality to the ultimate heist. Freeman is the calm and collected member, Macy the slightly psychotic former Marine, and Walken is the determined, straight guy.

The movie is not a rip-roaring comedy, but it does have a cuteness factor as we are now watching three of our favorite actors now as old men. Macy's character is definitely the funniest and he plays a similar character to most of his roles.

The Maiden Heist is rated PG-13 for language, violence, and some nudity. Do not get too excited as the nudity is not some hot young 24 year old girl.

Directed by Peter Hewitt, The Maiden Heist is 90 minutes long, the perfect length for this type of movie.

This movie that I got from Netflix was a good filler for a crammed week. I got a couple of good laughs and I didn't have to spend all night watching it. The plot is fairly thin and predictable, but that was okay. I give this movie 3 stars. After you've seen the other good movies that are out, you may get a fair kick out of this one.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

What a tag line. "More Alien Robots. More Explosions. And Much Much More Megan Fox." Who's this movie really about anyway? They certainly know who the target audience is.

The latest installment of Transformers hit the market this week on DVD. I watched this one compliments of Netflix Well, not really compliments. I paid for it. But nonetheless.

The movie has the same cast of characters including the weenie-turned superhero Shia LeBeouf (pronounced wee'-nee), the super-hot Megan Fox (she sure is), and some other actors that most people don't care about.

After the first movie, everyone assumed the Autobots had won the battle against the Decepticons. However, it turns out that Hollywood's insatiable appetite for money-raking sequels to successful movies has proven that the Decepticons were not all eradicated and have come back to Earth for revenge. In fact, for Revenge of the Fallen.

Sam (LeBoeuf) attempts to go off to college, but a magical metal chard has fallen that activates future Decepticons and all hell starts breaking loose. Now it's up to Sam to save the world, and for some odd reason, the United States military fully cooperates with this 18 year old kid because they know he can save the world. And they know that if his hot girlfriend tags along in a spaghetti string top that reveals a lot of her cleavage, he'll have more success.

This Transformers sequel is full of destruction, explosions, violence, explosions, lasers, bombs, explosions, bullets, missiles, rockets, and did I mention more explosions? The Decepticons are very good at said destruction and wreak havoc all over the planet. It's starting to not look good for the human race and world-wide tourists attractions and the Autobots seem to have met their final match. Fortunately, someone always has a trick up their sleeve that can turn the tide of battle.

I'm sure you can figure out how it will end. The good guys all die and the Decepticons take over the world, right?

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is 2 and a half hours long and was Directed by Michael Bay and produced by Steven Spielberg. It is rated PG-13 for explosions, violence, language, some crude behavior, and a sexual situation that will whig you out.

Though a non-stop action movie, the plot of this sequel is thin and at times too convenient. Someone asked me about Megan Fox's acting. Acting? She just runs around being sexy and tough. Not much dialog for her. I doubt that she'll win an Oscar for this one. But she got some good posters out of it.

Additionally, the sound effects, for some reason, didn't capture my attention like they did in the first movie. Perhaps they dummied them down. It seemed like more banging and less metallic, gear-shifting as they changed from vehicles to robots. Furthermore, what should have been heart-thumping explosions from missiles and other artillery were more like muffled tin-like noises that you would expect from the weird kid on the bus that was into Sci-Fi.

Overall, this movie was entertaining, but not of the same caliber as the original movie. If you're looking for fast-paced pure destruction then this is your movie. If you want cerebral science fiction, you'll have to look elsewhere. I'll give this second leg of the series 3 stars.

Stay tuned as the third segment will be out in a year or two. And for the Megan Fox crowd - keep your fingers crossed that the next Transformers movie is a soft-core porn\science fiction.

Year One

What do you get when you cross the underdog, yet witty Jack Black with the underdog Michael Cera? Of course the answer is you get a predictable comedy set in the stone age.

Year One is the latest installment in goofy movies. Black and Cera are early tribesmen who are shunned by their peers for being too lazy. They are too feeble to be good hunters and too interested in the women to be good gatherers. Additionally, they have a 21st century mentality in a 1st century world. Their world radically changes when Zed (Black) decides to eat the fruit from the forbidden tree and is banished from the village.

Forced out of the village, the 2 begin to travel across what turns out to be Biblical lands. Their first meet-up is with Cane and Able (Paul Rudd). For the religious crowd, you're probably wondering how a primitive human can interact with the sons of Adam. Which calendar are they using anyway?

Further travels have them running into the Sodomites, Abraham, being forced into slavery, fleeing slavery, and eventually saving the girls from their original village.

Year One was directed by Harold Ramis, best known for Ghostbusters and Stripes, and produced by Judd Apatow, known for working with Will Farrell in such movies as Anchorman, Talladaga Nights, and Step Brothers, and also several movies staring various cast members of Freaks and Geeks, such as Seth Rogan in Knocked Up, Superbad, and Pineapple Express, to Jason Seigel in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. As you can see, if Apatow touches it, it's usually a big movie. However, there are exceptions.

Year One reads like movie written during recess at a Judeo-Christian middle school by the smart-alec kids trying to poke fun at the divergence of religion, science, and humor. It lacks direction and is only strung together by some funny situations and some good one-liners.

The movie is 97 minutes long and is Rated PG-13 for sexual content and language.

Jack Black can usually make me laugh with his uninhibited low-brow comedy and he hits it about average in this movie. I tolerated this movie, but I certainly wouldn't call it a big hit for the year, and certainly a disappointing notation on Apatow's resume. I give Year One 2 1/2 stars.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Netflix Delay

Either Netflix is pretending to have not received my latest movie which I mailed yesterday, or the mailman swiped it. Looks like I'm only going to get one movie this week.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Ecstasy

How many people request movies from Netflix that were produced in Prague in 1933? I have a list of what I'll call novelty movies that I throw into my Netflix queue when I need a backup. Most of these are significant for one reason or another. My latest Netflix movie was one of those.

Ecstasy, with its soft-core erotic name, is nothing of the sort by modern standards. However, in 1933, this movie blew the doors off of the film industry. The movie was even seized by customs officials when it was imported to the United States. The reason? There were three. Let's understand the plot of the movie first.

The movie is quasi-silent. There is some dialogue, but mostly the movie is music like a silent film. Hedy Lamarr stars and a newly married young bride. She marries an older man and on that wedding night they go to their room. Reason #1 - being their wedding night, there is much foreshadowing that they are preparing to consummate their marriage. There they slowly get ready for that wedding night. However, he shuns her advances and falls asleep. Meanwhile, she seductively falls asleep in bed.

Realizing her mistake she quickly files for divorce, but is unhappy. So one morning she hops on her horse and rides to a creek. You see the horse standing on the shore with her clothes laid upon its back. Then there are several long views of her swimming - naked. There was a 2 second scene of her breasts and a blurry image of her bottomless.

Reason #2 - the next scene was actually comical. The horse hears another horse and is drawn to it, leaving Hedy in the creek without her clothes. She chases the horse exposed bosoms and all, but realizes she cannot catch it. Finally a fine strapping man secures the horse, but he doesn't see her. She scampers into the woods to hide and we catch a 5 second long-view glimpse of her fully naked body. He finally sees her and tosses her clothes to her.

Reason #3 - Later, she lies awake thinking of this young man and decides to pursue him. She walks out at night, through the woods and finds his home. She enters his small hut, they embrace, she falls to the bed, he moves down "there" and the camera moves up to her face where she closes her eyes, begins to breathe heavily, then gives the quintessential silent orgasmic face, a face that graces the cover of the movie, and was briefly stolen by software maker Corel for one of their editing programs.

The movies then loses some of its steam steam. Her ex-husband returns, he meets her new fling, realizes that he cannot regain her, then ex-hubby dies, and finally Hedy tearfully leaves the new guy at the train station while he sleeps on the bench.

The novelty of the movie is that claims to be the first non-stag film to show a woman's pubic hair, though the scene shows her from what must be 100 yards from the camera, she's running from left-to-right, not facing the camera, so you only get a side-view, and the scene was like 2 seconds long. And second, as mentioned before, it implies her orgasm during oral sex.

Again, by today's standards, this movie probably would get a PG-13 rating. We've become numb to nakedness and sexuality. However, in 1933, this was a big deal.

Moreover, Hedy Lamarr made quite a name for herself outside of this film. The is also co-credited with inventing a spread spectrum device, the forerunner to wireless communications. Furthermore, she was mocked repeatedly in Blazing Saddles and even sued Mel Brooks for infringing on her right of publicity, a case that was settled out of court.

Ecstasy is 129 minutes long and did I mention that it's in German with subtitles?

I have to admit that I was more interested in the background of the movie than the actual movie. However, because of it's novelty and my anxiousness to see the movie, I'll give it 4 stars.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Management

Sometimes a movie has one scene that is totally worth seeing, even if the rest of the movie sucks. Management is one of those movies. In fact, I would not blink an eye if the director told me that the movie was originally written around that one single scene. Imagine, write a storyline for a single funny scene, then build a movie around it. It has to happen, right?

Management stars Jennifer Aniston and Steven Zahn, 2 actors that can be hit or miss. You may know Steven Zahn from such monster box office hits as Sunshine Cleaning (which actually wasn't that bad), Strange Wilderness (which was dreadfully horrible), Rescue Dawn, and Daddy Daycare. And everyone knows who Jennifer is.

The premise of the movie is that Aniston is a traveling saleswoman who sells corporate art. Zahn is the night manager for his parents' motel. The owner is Fred Ward. Anyway, Zahn immediately falls in love with Aniston and on his shift struggles to think of a reason to visit her room. He then finds a way. With some persistence, he eventually scores, but Aniston then finds out that he won't leave her alone, and follows her across the country (interestingly all the way to Baltimore and Columbia, Maryland).

After that previously mentioned scene, the movie is unbelievably predictable and uneventful. Think of it - what other movie has the underdog dude go after the attractive sophisticated woman and not get her? It's the fibre of a successful romantic comedy. Without it, it's not funny....or romantic.

Management was directed by Stephen Belber, basically an unknown. The movie is an hour an a half long and is rated R for language and sexual situations. The movie also stars Woody Harrelson as Anistons on-again off-again mentally deranged boyfriend, a role that he has perfected. Harrelson has been a busy woody, staring in nearly a dozen movies in the past 2 years.

If it weren't for that one scene, this movie would have been a dud. However, because that scene made me laugh so hard, it deserves the big 3 stars.

Monday, September 28, 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Another series of movies that are out of order (see Star Wars), X-Men Origins: Wolverine is the prequel to the previously released X-Men movies. Fortunately for this movie watcher, I never saw the others, so watching what should be the first in the series is actually the first one for me.

One of my most recent Netflix rentals, Wolverine is studded with many 1st and 2nd tier actors including Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Ryan Reynolds, and Danny Huston. Lynn Collins stars as the female protagonist who you've probably seen in the Number 23.

The film starts with Wolverine as a young child, then follows his brother and his progression in wars throughout history. The dude never gets old. After a mission that has a disastrous ending, he decides to leave the group and try to live a normal life.

However, after many years, the leader of the group comes back for him with bad news. Someone is killing the X-Men. Unnerved at first, he changes his mind after his girlfriend ends up dead.

The forthcoming battles will not disappoint. It is full of high-tech special affects and non-stop action. And the ending totally leaves the series open for more sequels.

Wolverine, directed by Gavin Hood, is rated PG-13 for almost non-stop violence and some partial nudity, though if memory serves me right it was Hugh Jackman's butt. If that's your thing, you won't be disappointed.

I enjoyed this movie and would watch it again. I give it 4 stars.

Dangerous Minds

Now and then, as previously mentioned, Netflix decides that I've seen enough newly released movies and will send me something from the bottom of my queue. At the bottom of my queue - Dangerous Minds.

I've always had a slight thing for Michelle Pfeiffer. I mean, wasn't she pretty hot in Batman Returns? And who can forget Grease 2? Or Scarface?

In Dangerous Minds, Pfeiffer unknowingly takes the toughest job at the local high school, teaching the kids that are bussed in from the BAD part of town. Intitially dejected, she returns with the will not to be defeated.

Pfeiffer changes her strategy and decides to connect with the kids using some bribery and some unconventional teaching methods, much to the objection of the by-the-book douche-bag Principal. After some more failures, she begins to make some strides. However, there are gang wars putting outside pressure on the students that have the potential to destroy everything that she had gained.

Dangerous Minds is rated R for language and some adult situations. Directed by John N. Smith, the movie is only an hour and a half long.

The plot is a bit thin and in my mind inconclusive. It seems as if the movie ended without any conflict resolution. The best part of the movie is the Coolio soundtrack.

Often considered an "inspirational movie", this movie was only inspired me to give it 3 stars.

Ocean's Eleven

I love watching the original movie of any remake. Ocean's Eleven is the original that was remade into a series of Ocean's movies in the 2000's starring George Clooney.

The original Ocean starred Frank Sinatra as Danny Ocean and, like its successor, had an all-star cast that included the who's-who of the 1960's, including members of the Rat Pack - Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joey Bishop, and Peter Lawford; and also Angie Dickenson, Cesar Romero (the Joker from the Batman series), Norman Fell (from Three's Company), and Red Skelton, the famous clown and comedian.

The premise of the movie is that some World War II veterans get together and decide to pull off the perfect heist in Las Vegas. Not everyone is convinced that this aging group can pull it off, but put to the gun of peer pressure and starring face-to-face with their own mid-life crisis, they all decide to go through with it. Under the veil of the New Year's Eve celebrations, they will hit the major casinos of the day - The Sands, The Stardust, and The Flamingo, among others, and rob them of their booty. But, of course, crimes don't always go as planned.

Ocean's Eleven was directed by Lewis Milestone, known for such other classics as All Quiet on the Western Front, Of Mice and Men, A Walk in the Sun, Porkchop Hill, and the 1962 remake of Mutiny on the Bounty.

Released in 1960, Ocean's Eleven is not rated, but would easily be stamped with a PG rating. At just over 2 hours long, the movie is packed with humor, drama, and a little bit of action.

I give this movie 4 stars and consider it a must-see classic from the 1960's.

As a bonus, in one scene they are walking down the strip past one of the casinos and the marquis displays "Louis Prima and Keeley Smith" as the entertainers, two of my favorites during the era of big band jazz. Check it out!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

The son of a mobster, Arty Bechstein (Jon Foster) has just graduated from college and decides that he wants to spend his summer working with no responsibilities before he goes after that big corporate job - or the one that the mob will give him.

Finding gainful employment at a bookstore, he quickly finds himself in a physical relationship with his boss, Phlox (Mena Suvari). However, Phlox is a bit crazy and uninspiring. His attention quickly turns to a stranger on a motorcycle (Peter Sarsgaard) and his girlfriend (Sienna Miller) Jane who introduce him to a new way of thinking about life.

Unsurprisingly he finds himself attracted to Jane and he begins to question the institutions that have raised him, including his gangster father. Things get interesting, though, when Phlox doesn't go away easily.

In the end Arty finds himself struggling for a new identification and direction in life, while feeling the pressures of his father to end his summer of bliss, get serious, and get on with life.

Because the movie stars Sienna Miller, you know that there will be nudity. However, Mena Suvari gives her a run for her money in the nakedness department.

Nick Nolte does a nice job playing Arty's mobster father. I watched him for a long time before I figured out that it was him. Nolte seems much smaller than I remember him and his hair is dark and slicked back, much like you'd imagine a New Jersey thug to be. Sort of like anyone in a movie that stars Robert DeNiro.

The movie is rated R for said nudity, in addition language and strong sexuality. I am not opposed to these things, obviously, being a guy. However, what they fail to mention is that some of that sexuality is homosexuality. I accept that homosexuality is normal, but it is not something I want to watch. It's sort of like the Real World on MTV. Obvioulsy someone wants to watch it - but I certainly don't want to watch it.

The movie is directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber who also directed Dodgeball.

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh is only 95 minutes long. The story is fairly weak and predictable, but with a cast that includes a couple of young beautiful naked women, I am forced to give this movie 3 stars.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Soloist

The Soloist is a true story about a Los Angeles Times reporter who discovers a mentally ill violinist named Nathaniel Ayers who is living on the streets. The reporter, Steve Lopez, who is played by Robert Downey Jr. - who continues to roll out films after his long cocaine-related stint in prison, is writing a series on this virtuoso, while pushing him to come off of the street and into an orchestra where he can get his due recognition.

The mentally ill artists, played by Jamie Foxx, who many think really is mentally ill after his tirade about teenager Miley Cyrus, has trouble with reality and hides in his own world. Foxx is very convincing in his role and, despite his public indiscretions, continues to prove his value in Hollywood.

I found the story to be controversial. Lopez is writing a story about his relationship with Ayers, though he is manipulating the life of Ayers. Basically Lopez was creating his own story to write. Should a reporter write about life as he views it or life as he makes it? Lopez went on to write several books about the experiences that he helped lead with Ayers.

The movie, which was directed by Joe Wright and also starred Catherine Keener, is an hour and 45 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for "thematic elements", whatever that is, drug use, and language.

The movie moves really slow and it appeared to be longer than it really was. The ending was anticlimactic and just seemed to end without any conflict resolution. Despite his recent exciting movies such as Ironman and The Zodiac, Robert Downey Jr. needs to chalk this one up as a dud. I give it 2 stars.

Watchmen

I'm not much of a comic book kind of guy. Let me rephrase that - I've read one comic book in my entire life - a 1978 Spiderman, which I still have. I'm not a comic book kind of guy at all. So outside of the standard super heroes, Superman, Batman, Aquaman, etc...I really don't know too much about the world of comic villains and their archenemies.

When Watchmen came out a coworker asked if I was getting that movie from Netflix. To be honest, I told him, I had never even heard of the movie. He said I had to get the movie. Not only was it a retro-comic movie, but it also starred Carla Gugino (Night at the Museum). Okay, I haven't heard of her either. So my friend got the movie himself, watched it, and lent it to me.

To me the list of characters reads like a list of famous people from Kenneth City, Florida. I don't know any famous people from Kenneth City. There's Dr. Manhattan, Silk Spectre I & II (mother and daughter), Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley - Bad News Bears & Little Children), and The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, mostly known for romantic comedies like The Accidental Husband and P.S. I Love You).

Anyway, the movie starts in what appears to be the 1940's when superheroism was at its finest. Now it is 1985 and the superheroes are old. When one of them ends up dead, Rorschach is out to find out who killed his co-hero. He's convinced that there's a hitman out there to kill them all. The problem is that everyone thinks he's crazy.

Meanwhile, there's an odd love interest in the cosmic and demigod-like Dr. Manhattan and Silk Spectre II (Sally Jupiter). Dr. Manhattan is able to transform himself and work without his using his hands and he is working on a nuclear bomb that can be used to end the world. Funny - I thought J. Robert Oppenheimer invented the bomb.

Though I didn't know the history behind the comic book characters, I was captured by the epic movie (it's 2 hours and 40 minutes long). The historical storyline behind the movie does an excellent job of building the personalities of the characters. And the fight scenes were pretty cool, too. And I have to give it to Jackie Earle Haley's portrayal of Rorschach - he was definitely my favorite character.

The movie was directed by Zack Snyder, also known for 300 and Dawn of the Dead. Watchmen is rated R for violence, language, some nudity (both male and female, though the male nudity is not as evident on a non-HiDef television), and some sexuality.

If there was a sequel to this movie (and I wouldn't be surprised if there was) I would definitely watch it. I give this movie 4 stars.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Fanboys

The only thing better than a Star Wars movie is a spoof on the movie or the people that are obsessed with the series. Nothing I have ever seen was funnier than Triumph the Insult Dog interviewing fans at the premier of one of the movies. This movie is about those fans.

Fanboys stars Sam Huntington, Chris Marquette, Dan Fogler, Jay Baruchel, and Kristen Bell as the fans. Other than Dan Fogler (Balls of Fury, Horton Hears a Woo, and School for Scoundrels) you probably have not heard of these actors, but they fit the part. Guest staring in the movie is Seth Rogen, Kevin Smith, William Shatner, Carrie Fisher, and Billy Dee Williams.

The premise of the movie is that one of the friends is dying and his wish is to break into the Skywalker Ranch and steal the reel for the new movie, The Phantom Menace, before its public release. This will require them to drive across country in a van.

To make matters even more ridiculous, the gang intentionally crash several rival Star Trek events. Who's cooler? Star Wars or Star Trek? There will be a beat-down!

Eventually they make it to the ranch, but the guards from another movie try to stop them. And if you catch the reference to this older movie, you win a prize!

This movie is mostly a comic adventure, though I was practically rolling on the floor during an interogation to determine if they were truly Star Wars Fanboys. This is where Triumph comes in. Once you see this movie you will totally understand.

Fanboys was directed by relatively unknown director Kyle Newman. The movie is 90 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for crude behaviour, language, sexual references and some drug use.

If you hate Star Wars then this movie is not for you. Fanboys is fairly predictable and some of the sequences are dragged out a bit too long. However, the funny scenes more than make up for this criticism. I give this movie 4 stars.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Uncommon Valor

I recall this being a pretty decent movie from my childhood. I knew that it was about the Vietnam War and that Gene Hackman starred in it. Beyond that I had no recollection of anything about the movie. Unfortunately, my library did not have this movie, so when an opportunity presented itself on Netflix I dropped it in the queue.

Uncommon Valor is not entirely about the Vietnam War, as I learned. The movie is set mostly in 1982, though the lead-up to that point has Colonel Rhodes (Gene Hackman) searching for leads in Southeast Asia for the whereabouts of his son who was left behind during the war. The government refuses to help, but the father of another missing soldier financial backs the operation. In 1982 he leads a group of soldiers who were in his son's unit back to Vietnam in a rescue attempt.

The soldiers make their way back to Southeast Asia along with a young soldier (Patrick Swayze). From there we have lots of shooting, explosions, and cussing.

Uncommon Valor is rated R for violence and language. The movie was directed by Ted Kotcheff, known mostly to the current generation for his work on Law & Order SVU. However, he also directed Weekend At Bernies, North Dallas Forty and another similar 'return to Vietnam' movie, Rambo: First Blood.

My childhood fondness for this movie must have been centered around the helicopters and the shooting. Rewatching this movie as an adult, I see just an average rehash of several other Vietnam-related movies. The movie is not terrible, so I'll give it 3 stars.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Bride Wars

I'm not sure if this movie should be categorized as a romantic comedy or a fighting comedy. Though I guess any movie with "War" in the title is less romantic and more fighting.

Bride Wars stars Anne Hathaway, the attractive brunette with her big irresistible brown doe-like eyes, and Goldie Hawn's daughter Kate Hudson (who looks horrible in bangs - I sounded totally gay there, didn't I?). They have been best friends since childhood and both of them are now getting married. Liv (Hudson) is a type-A personality, go-getter, never loses, and Emma (Anne) is the reserved, shy, but friendly school teacher.

Both brides-to-be want to get married at The Plaza in New York, not to be confused with the condominiums of the same name in Ocean City, Maryland. They schedule their weddings for two non-overlapping days in June. However, when an error is made by the incompetent assistant of Marion St. Claire (Candice Bergan), New York's most sought after wedding planner, the girls end up with their weddings scheduled for the same day. Neither girl will agree to move their date as the next available date is three years away and thus sets off the bride wars.

The girls begin a series of hysterical pranks that get meaner and out of control as the movies rolls along. As you can image from this age of predictability in movies, the pranks drive them apart to the point where they start hating each other. Throughout the movie you will wonder which one will end up caving in first.

Bride Wars is a 2009 movie directed by Gary Winick who also directed the remake 13 Going on 30 and Charlotte's Web. The movie is PG for suggestive content, language, and though not indicated by Netflix, some minor violence and is 89 minutes long.

Despite it's predictability, I found the pranks to be really funny. And it was nice to see Anne Hathaway rut (Brokeback Mountain, Becoming Jane, Rachel Getting Married), though Get Smart was funny. However, because of its overwhelming predictability I will have to give it 3 stars.

Bart Got A Room

Bart Got A Room is one of those teen angst comedies in the vein of American Pie, The Breakfast Club, and Juno, though not of the callibur of any of those three. Without that disclaimer several of my John Hughes friends would be going off on me.

The movie stars Steven Kaplan as Danny Stein, a high school senior who needs to find a date for the prom. Danny, like most of us guys in high school, has that friend of the opposite sex who we really like as a friend, but have no desire for any romantic interaction. And for the prom we wanted that hot girl who would let us get under her dress, just like Danny. And for most of us it didn't work out that way. Just like Danny. And for Danny it's one comedic disaster after another.

The funny thing about the movie is that the title is about Bart and Bart is one of his friends who has a very minor role in the movie. But throughout the movie everyone keeps mentioning that "well, Bart got a room".

In addition to dealing with his own angst about finding a date for the prom, Danny must also deal with his divorced untrusting erratic Jewish parents played by William H. Macy and Cheryl Hines.

Bart Got A Room is rated PG-13 for some language and mild sexual content (like when his female sophomore car ride "friend" (Ashley Benson) gets changed in his car while they are driving (she's actually 20 yrs old, so don't get all bent out of shape). The movie is only 80 minutes long and was directed by Brian Hecker, who's only other movie on Netflix is Celebrating AFI, which is an unknown to me.

The movie is average funny, so I give his a whopping 3 stars.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Johnny Got His Gun

This classic from 1971 is one of those movies that most people have probably never seen, though many Metallica fans may know. Many clips from the movie were used in the video for the 1988 song "One" off of the And Justice for All CD. In fact, the video was ranked 38th on the MTV Top 100 Greatest Videos.

Johnny Got His Gun stars Timothy Bottoms as Joe Bonham, a young man who joins the military during World War I and is sent to the trenches in France. Soon after getting there, Bonham is hit by a shell and ends up in a hospital, only to realize that he has lost his legs, his arms, his sight, his hearing, and his lower jaw, though the song declares that he lost these from a landmine. He now has no way to communicate to with the outside world.

The movie then becomes a series of flashbacks, visits with a helpful spirit played by Donald Sutherland, and dialog with himself in his mind.

As the movie progresses, Joe must learn to adapt to his surroundings. He figures out how to keep track of time. Meanwhile, a friendly nurse has a feeling that there's still a person inside, and she communicates with him through touch.

After a visit to the spirit of Donald Sutherland, he figures out that he can use Morse code to communicate by thrashing his head in code. Doctors soon figure this out, but they do not like the message.

Jason Robarbs stars as Joe's father in this movie that flashes between black and white and color. The movie was directed by Dalton Trumbo, also known for Papillon, Exodus, Spartacus, and probably his most famous work being Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo.

The movie is not the greatest quality, nor does it contain the greatest acting, but it's one of those subjects that really makes you think, "Wow, that would be terrible if that really happened" and perhaps it did. And now when I see the video for One by Metallica, I can say, "I saw that movie!"

Johnny Got His Gun is rated PG as some material may not be suitable for children. I know that the black and white footage of the armless, legless, faceless man were disturbing to me....and I'm 36!

Because of the novelty of this movie I give it movie 3 stars.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

D.E.B.S.

I got this movie out of the library for one reason. Okay, 3 reasons: Sara Foster, Jordon Brewster, and an apparent lesbian relationship between these 2 girls.

The movie is a spoof of Charlie's Angels, (not to be confused with Charlie's Angles, which are right and obtuse). D.E.B.S. is an academy for girls that are trained to be spies and super agents. All are young and beautiful and wear short prep school pleated skirts.

The protagonist in the movie is Sara Foster's character Amy and the villainess is Jordon Brewster's character Lucy Diamond. Lucy has been stealing from banks all over the world and once even tried to sink Australia because she didn't like their attitude. Now the D.E.B.S. girls were out to get her.

A chance meeting during an investigation in a warehouse between Amy and Lucy led to their realization that they liked each other. Now Amy is in a quandary - can she conceal her relationship with Lucy Diamond and protect her at the same time?

This is totally a B-movie with corny dialog and horrible acting. If you're looking for a good movie to watch, look elsewhere. If you're looking for a movie with some hot girls and 2 of them end up in bed, then maybe this movie is for you.

Unfortunately for the voyeuristic set, this movie is Rated PG-13, which means no nudity. However, there is plenty of sexuality throughout and Lucy and Amy do end up in bed in a naked embrace, you just can't see anything.

Moreover, this movie was totally snubbed at the Academy Awards in 2004. At its peak it was showing in 45 theaters and after 3 weeks had already made over $97,446. And that's not in millions. That's in thousands.

I'll give this movie 2 ratings - for the "Oh, yeah" crowd: this is a 4 star movie. For the movie enthusiast, this is a 2 star movie.
 
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