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100 Movies [Nov. 18th, 2013|06:53 pm]
Movie Reviews: Write them or Read them

I am blessed with a job that allows me to have a lot of down time. I work nights and need to stay awake. I often watch movies in order to pass the time. Anyway, here is a list of movies that I have seen. They are ranked best to worst. Enjoy!

All Good Things
The Five Year Engagement
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
The Help
Our Idiot Brother
Young Adult
The Iron Lady
We Need to Talk About Kevin
And The Band Played On
I Love You, Man
The Next Three Days
Albert Nobbs
The Hoax
Shattered Glass
Along Came Polly
The Bling Ring
Celeste and Jesse Forever
The Gift (Documentary)
Crazy Stupid Love
Mean Creek
TallHotBlond (Documentary)
Crazy Love (Documentary)
Friends With Kids
The Words
Soul Surfer
The Change Up
Cedar Rapids
Dirty Girl
The Open Road
How Do You Know
I Don't Know How She Does It
The Campaign
The Joneses
The Tourist
Another Happy Day
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(no subject) [Apr. 30th, 2012|06:01 pm]
Movie Reviews: Write them or Read them

The Open Road: Carlton (Justin Timberlake) receives some disturbing news about his mother, Katherine (Mary Steemburgen)
Katherine is refusing a life saving heart surgery until she gets to speak to her ex husband (I don't know about you but I always demand to speak to all my exes before any medical procedure) and baseball legend Kyle Garrett (Jeff Bridges) It's up to struggling baseball player, Carlton to track his father down in Columbus, Ohio (Hey, I've been there) and convince him to come back to Texas to pay a visit to his ailing ex wife. Seems easy enough. Carlton has some help in the form of ex girlfriend Lucy (Kate Mara) who comes along for the ride. While Carlton is trying to come to terms with his feelings toward his absent father, Lucy feels torn between Carlton and her current boyfriend. (What's with all the codependency involving exes in this movie?) Jeff Bridges and Mary Steemburgen always give a solid proformance. Justin Timberlake gives a strong proformance with his first lead role. The weak link is Kate Mara who at times seems to be sleeping walking through her proformance. All in all, it's worth watching.

Another Happy Day: Lynn (Ellen Barkin) is on her way to her home town for her estranged oldest son's wedding. Along for the ride are her emotionally disturbed son, Elliot (Ezra Miller) youngest son, Ben (Daniel Yelsky) and self mutilating daughter, Alice (Kate Bosworth) Lynn has a lot to contend with for the ill-fated weekend, between her harsh ex husband, Paul (Thomas Haden Church) and his real housewife esque and uber bitch wife, Patty (Demi Moore) Not to mention Lynn's over-bearing mother, Doris (Ellen Burstyn)
While some scenes between Demi Moore and Lynn are fun to watch, in general the actors seem to be in their own melodramatic world. Often the proformances are over the top and over dramatic. Ezra Miller's character is meant to be smart, edgy and sarcastic. I find him obnoxious and quite irritating. The movie seems to think it's a lot more clever than it actually is. Can this family work through their issues? A better question, does anyone care? Skip this one. I wanted my two hours back.
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(no subject) [Sep. 23rd, 2011|12:26 pm]
Movie Reviews: Write them or Read them

I watched these movies on Netflix. I think they are worth a rental.

Serious Moonlight: This movie is about Louise (Meg Ryan) who shows up at the vacation home she shares with her husband Ian (Tim Hutton) and finds he's planning an encounter with his mistress, Sara (Kristen Bell) and planning on leaving her. Louise tries to talk to Ian but he just won't listen to reason. So, Louise hits Ian over the head and duct tapes him to the toilet. She keeps him there until he agrees to give their marriage another try. Completely reasonable, right? When I first heard of this movie, I thought it sounded super stupid. But believe it or not, it's an engrossing little movie. Meg Ryan and Tim Hutton make a very believable couple. This movie reminds me the old school Meg Ryan movies. She is very charming but almost in a creepy way. I think it's worth a rental.

Chaos Theory: Super uptight efficiency expert, Frank (Ryan Reynolds) is running late one day after his wife, Susan (Emily Mortimer) attempts to give him more time by setting his clock ten minutes ahead. This seemingly harmless error sets off a series of events. The funny thing about this movie is I thought I was going to watch a comedy, which it is. But it has some really touching moments in it. It's almost a surprise tear jerker.
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Sucker Punch Review [Aug. 20th, 2011|05:01 pm]
Movie Reviews: Write them or Read them

I'm going to discuss the movie Sucker Punch and it's ending so you have been warned.

Seriously, I'm talking about the ending.

Okay, I just got around to watching Sucker Punch directed by Zack Snyder and geez what an ambitious movie.  It's got some of the best visuals I've seen in a while.  Highly imaginative and kinda weird, but the lesson learned from the movie is such a downer it's a wonder it even got made.

But let's start with the story. There are three levels of reality to the story.  The first level in the "real" world that shows up in the beginning and the end.  Where the main character, Babydoll, is put in a metal asylum.  The Second level is Babydoll's perception of the asylum as some sort of brothel where girls dance for the clients. The Third level is where Babydoll goes when she dances.  It is a kind of super fantasy where she fights villains with swords, guns and incredible martial arts moves that would never work in real life.

The third level is the has a kick ass attitude where Babydoll learns in order to get to freedom she needs to collect 4 objects and put them together with mystery object and she is told that will require, "a deep sacrifice and perfect victory.  Only you can find it and if you do it will set you free."  Okay, here's the deep sacrifice and perfect victory: A LOBOTOMY.!   That's right.  Freedom through brain damage.  The movie was sailing along perfectly and then there's the sucker punch.  That's the problem and the moral of the movie: freedom can only be achieved through self destruction. All the fighting and girl power moments are a big joke to a shabby end.

Sucker Punch is a cheat, but it's worth watching for the visuals alone.  It will probably shown in film classes in the future along with movies like Brazil which has a similar message (freedom through madness.)  Babydoll's fate is meant to upset the viewer, but I found the message more upsetting.  If the path to freedom is loss of who you are is that really freedom or something else?
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X-Men: First Class [Jun. 6th, 2011|11:20 pm]
Movie Reviews: Write them or Read them


Back in the 60's Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created a little comic called the X-Men and in that very first issue the X-Men face Magneto and stop him from taking over a missile base. So it makes perfect sense for the movie X-Men: First Class to echo that first issue.

X-Men: First Class  is set around the time of the Cuban Missile crisis and for the first time Professor X has to put together a group of mutants to combat another group of mutants that want to start a nuclear war so that radiation will create even more mutants that will eventually wipe out the regular human race.  Oddly, some of the first mutants Professor X comes across later become his greatest foes, but  all that is for the later movies.

Usually, acting isn't all that important in an action movie, but the creators did something very interesting, by giving Magneto a deeper back-story and more conflicted nature.   Michael Fassbender puts in a name making performance as Magneto, who has to be a hard killer in one scene and sad concentration camp survivor in another.  Jennifer Lawrence who plays Mystique  has to play a lot of the same tones and does a excellent job.  Sometimes having to act practically naked and covered in blue paint.  There's an acting challenge  for you.

Most PG-13 pictures can use the work "Fuck" only once in the movie.  They save it for the funniest cameo in the film.  It is nearly a perfect moment and I have to wonder if most people would even get it since I was the only person in the theater laughing. 

The strange thing about X-Men: First Class is how they pull heroes and villains from different eras of the Marvel Comic and everything is all mixed up.  Alex Summers, for example,  is Scott Summers (Cyclops) younger brother, but this movie would make him much older.   It's like they used the Mission Impossible approach.  Cherry picking visually interesting characters and tossing aside any of the comic's continuity.  The cool thing is it works. 

The only thing that doesn't work is when the Beast shows up and he looks like he just escaped from The Muppet Movie.  Just creepy and unreal make-up.

X-Men: First Class well worth seeing it's faithful to the spirit of the X-Men comics without in any way being faithful to their continuity, 

PS: It's worth checking out the first X-Men film just to see how closely the two tie together. 
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Limitless Review [Mar. 20th, 2011|03:55 pm]
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Back in the 40's there was a comic book hero called Hourman.  What he would do was take a Miraclo pill that would grant him super-human abilities for one hour.  Then in the 80's he was revised somewhat so that the Miraclo pill had addictive qualities and he had to constantly worry about  maintaining without relapsing.  Revise this idea yet again and you have the movie Limitless.

In the movie Eddie (Bradley Cooper) is a struggling writer that gets introduced to a new experimental drug called MDT.  The MDT allows the human brain to access its full potential to make connections and think its way out of problems.  Unfortunately, it is also addictive and without a consistent supply dangerous.  Eddie gets a large stash of the drug and spends the rest of the movie running from people who want it.

There is no better actor for this than Bradley Cooper.  He has always come off on screen as a venal pretty boy with a kind of slimy charm and the part of Eddie is exactly that type of character.  Cooper does a good job and holds the screen well.  Robert De Niro shows up and doesn't have a lot to do in a supporting role, except be De Niro.  Abbie Cornish plays Eddie's girlfriend and the only thing  notable about her is how much she looks like Charlize Theron.

There is a lot of visual effects that the screenwriter (Leslie Dixon)  threw in that show how characters perceive the world when using or abusing and the director (Neil Burger) pulls them off with a creative style.  They visually show what is going on in a MDT user quickly and efficiently. 

Limitless is a drug parable dressed up as an action film.  It mostly works and only after it is all done do you realize there are a lot of unanswered questions.  (Like who killed the guy and girl in the first act?  And why is the drug being distributed the way it is?)  It could make for good after movie discussion, since they only die and exist to give the Eddie character problems to overcome, but it feels a little sloppy. 

Oh, and Hourman. . . He was revised yet again as a totally new character of a time traveling robot from the future, but that's like a entirely different  movie series.

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The Adjustment Bureau Review [Mar. 6th, 2011|03:31 pm]
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What if you met the person you knew you were meant to be with and little things kept messing it up?? You know, missed calls, being a little too late, or losing an important piece of paper with a name and number.  What if they weren't random accidents at all?  Instead, there's  a group who can chart events and make minor changes that separate your from the one you love.  That's the core idea of The Adjustment Bureau.

Matt Damon plays David a promising young politician who on the night of a big political defeat meets his soul mate, Elise (Emily Blunt) and doesn't get her number.  The men of the Adjustment Bureau arranged this one time meeting to inspire David to give an important speech. He was never supposed to see this girl again, but the Bureau can't control everything and just by random chance he runs into her again throwing off the timing of events the Bureau was working on that leads to David finding out about the Bureau's existence.  The Bureau informs him he can never be with Elise and David spends the rest of the movie trying to overcome the Bureau's changes.

Matt and Emily have a really strong on screen chemistry that's easy and believable.  It works well and rooting for them to get together is easy.  In a fine supporting role is Terence Stamp as Thompson the Bureau man who assigned the task to tear them apart.  He is the perfect choice.  The guy radiates an intensity rarely seen on screen and he really shines in parts like this.

Despite the trappings of a fantasy film there is very little in special effects.  Just magic door ant open onto some other location and magic books that chart possible futures.  They all look fine and are just the right amount without being too much.   There's even magic hats that unlock doors, but they required no special effects at all.

The magic hats are mostly 50's and 60's Trilby type hats worn by the Adjustment Bureau men.  They look kinda goofy and on guys that aren't supposed to be notice it makes stand out.  They might as well be wearing Sombreros or Viking helmets and when Matt Damon is running around at the end of the flick with one he looks dopey.

Overall,  The Adjustment Bureau is a fine film really worth watching with a fine lesson that, maybe, if you don't give up you can reach the person you love.  That is if they reach back.
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Inception review [Jul. 20th, 2010|12:53 am]
Movie Reviews: Write them or Read them

Where do ideas come from? Sometimes it's obvious, so if I write, "think about a bell" you think about a bell. It's easy to trace where that idea came from. But the idea that can't be traced. . . That's Inception.

In Inception it is possible for a team of dreamers to enter the dreams of a person to steal some information from the dreamers mind. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Cobb, a dream thief on the run who wants to go home, so he agrees to try to do a dream job no one has done before. Instead of stealing information he has to plant an idea in a dreamer's mind so deep that the dreamer would believe he conceived it himself. To do this requires creating a dream within a dream within a dream. Cobb assembles a team to pull a reverse heist to break in and leave something instead of taking.

The cast is impressive. Many fine actors who are pulling a job on the audience as well as the characters in the movie. Actors playing the parts of dreamers playing actors. They all do a fine job. No one is miscast and everyone gets something to do.

The dreams all look very "real worldish." No hazy stuff at the edges. No Black and White. No weird dream creatures. Most of the cool effects occur early on as Cobb explains the dream world rules to a new recruit. There is a zero gravity fight scene with Joseph Gordon-Levitt that occurs about 2/3rds of the way into the movie that's very impressive.

Since this is a movie about ideas director/writer Christopher Nolan plays around with what's real and what's illusion (and perhaps what appears to be illusion, but is actually real.) There's a lot of different levels that are being explored. It is rare when a movie is both entertaining and illuminating. There's so much going on it's worth seeing more than once.

So, yeah, the bell belongs to me, but deeper ideas may lie in your Inception. Here's an idea I'll cop to: This movie is long, so you better go before you go.
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The Last Airbender review [Jul. 4th, 2010|09:52 pm]
Movie Reviews: Write them or Read them

Animation in the U.S. is rarely viewed as a place for for thoughtful stories, unless the creators are shooting for satire it doesn't happen very often. So it was a breath of fresh air when Avatar: The Last Airbender showed up. It mixes various cultures, ideas and comes up with its own mythology in its own unique world. It's no surprise a movie was put into production simply called The Last Airbender losing part of its title, because of some other Avatar.

The idea is there is a world where people can control (or bend) the four elements of water, earth, fire and air. Groups are built on one of those elements, so there are the Water Tribes, the Air Nomads, the Earthworkers of Ba Sing Se and the Fire Nation. If any of these groups get out of hand the Avatar steps in. The Avatar is the one person who can control all the elements. Unfortunately, the Avatar has been missing for years allowing the Fire Nation to wipe out the Air Nomads and start taking over the world. Two kids from a water tribe wake the Avatar. The problem is he's still a kid named Aang and while he has the potential to control all the elements he has only mastered air. The kids go on a quest to train Aang so he can save the world.

You couldn't put the picture in better hands than M. Night Shyamalan who both adapted his screenplay from the animated series and directed it as well. This is Shyamalan's first real chance to do action and for the most part it's well done. Framing and shots are executed in a compelling manor and there is no doubt he can direct a good action scene. He actually has more problem in the writing area. The movie covers the entire first season of A:TLA and there's a lot of events and plot points that over the course of several episodes that have to be stuffed into a 2 hour movie. Much of which has to be done through exposition.

For exposition you have to rely on the skills of the actors to make sometimes ridiculous lines sound natural. Many of the stars of The Last Airbender are new to acting and they have to do a lot of that sort of thing here. Besides exposition we have a voice over narration by Nicola Peltz (who plays Katara) which is lifeless. Noah Ringer (Aang) has to play a "Once more into the breach" type scene that sounds more pleading than inspiring. Fortunately, acting does not drive this sort of movie action and CGI do.

The CGI effects are the standard well done efforts that most movies do very well these days. TLA could not have been made as quickly and seamlessly even a few years ago. The tech lets any imaginary thing look real. So when fire is thrown at the earth it is very believable.

Those that have never seen the animated series might be lost going to see The Last Airbender. The effects and action make up for it. The picture is enjoyable, but you are probably further ahead watching the animated series. It's rare for animation to beat out live action, but this time it does
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Shrek: Forever After Review [May. 23rd, 2010|11:18 pm]
Movie Reviews: Write them or Read them

Fairy tales are such strange things. They are really tales about real life codified in such a way as to prepare kids for the life ahead. So it's interesting that so many of the earliest forms of these "fairy tales" stories are rarely happy: Little Red Riding Hood gets eaten, The Little Mermaid loses her voice and her home in the sea, Sleeping Beauty gets impregnated in her sleep. The list goes on and on. Is the "happily ever after" ending is just a sweet icing on a bad tasting cake?

Certainly, no movie series tries to twist the "happily ever after" ending more than Shrek. They try to do it once again in Shrek: Forever After. They even use the "happily ever after" motif throughout the movie and even reference it in the title.

In this fourth edition to the Shrek series the title character is deep into Daddy hood with three kids, many friends, and even tourists taking up all his time. He's stressing and longs for his carefree Ogre days, doing Ogrey things like scaring villagers and taking mud baths. When Rumplestiltskin offers Shrek the chance for a single day of his old life back he agrees, but he finds the deal wipes him out of existence and everyone he knew is suddenly very different. Fiona leads a resistance fighter group, Puss in Boots has grown to large for his boots and Donkey is . . . well, pretty much still Donkey. Time is running out for Shrek and he has to set things right or fade out of reality.

Vocally, the Shrek character played by Mike Myers sounds annoyed for much of the picture. That's who the character is but there's so much of it that it starts to be a bummer. In fact most of the cast seems subdued. The only exception is Antonio Banderas as Puss in Boots who seems to be freed by the characters shift to a different direction and seems very lively.

There's a lot of stunt voice casting of the characters, but unless you pay attention to the credits it's almost impossible to tell Kathy Griffen from Jane Lynch. One's an Ogress and one's a witch. Take a guess which is which. But the coolest guest voice is Billie Hayes. Which only means something if you remember H.R. Pufnstuf's Witchiepoo.

The animation style is pretty much locked in like the previous Shrek films and Shrek: Forever After breaks no new ground. It's well done, but CGI wise nothing special, except it's in 3-D. (I'm not sure how other people perceive 3-D, but for me it's really great for about five minutes than you get used to it and it might as well be normal.)

Shrek: Forever After is a sort of fun movie. The Puss in Boots stuff makes it worth checking out and there are some funny bits here and there, but you have to wonder at the end of it whether Shrek is really living a "happily ever after" or if that's just a sweet covering of a bland situation.
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