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.


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


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.
My Zimbio