Monday, August 31, 2009

Review: Taking Woodstock

Grade: A

Taking Woodstock is a movie inspired by the true story of the events that started the concert that defined a generation. It is the story of Elliot Teichberg, a man who is trying to help his parents for the summer at their motel. He is trying to save the motel as they aren't making any money. As the banks are about to foreclose and Elliot is desperately trying to find ways to get people to the small town, he hears about a neighboring town that has pulled the permit on a hippie music festival. In order to drive business to his parents motel, he calls the producers of the event to ask them to have it down the street at his neighbors farm. Three and a half weeks later, a half a million people show up to White Lake, New York for three days of peace and music at the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival.

This is Ang Lee's (Brokeback Mountain, The Hulk) latest endeavor and it is probably his best movie to date. I'm not usually a fan of Ang Lee's work, they tend to be overly serious and boring, this includes Hulk. The direction of this movie was very good and very beautiful. He did a wonderful job showing the essence of the "Woodstock Nation". All of the visuals in this movie were great. The soundtrack, however, was kind of lacking in my opinion, especially considering the music of the event that the movie is based around.

Demetri Martin (TV's Important Things with Demetri Martin) plays the lead role of Elliot Teichberg and does a wonderful job. This is Martin's first attempt at serious acting and given what I'm used to seeing him do with his stand up, he was astounding in this role, really a fantastic job. The best part is that the haircut Demetri Martin has all the time fits right in with the 1969 era. Eugene Levy (Best In Show, A Mighty Wind) plays Max, the dairy farm owner who allows the concert to be held on his land. I have always like Levy and he did a wonderful job with this smallish role. Imelda Staunton (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) and Henry Goodman play Elliot's parents, and they do a wonderful job. Goodman's character was supposed to be a quiet old man who is ready to burn the motel down but his life is reinvigorated by the Woodstock Nation. Staunton did a wonderful job as the very aggressive and at time money hungry mother. Emile Hirsch (Milk, Speed Racer) plays Elliot's old friend Billy, who just recently got back from the Vietnam War. Hirsch is an amazing actor and probably one of the best of our generation. He does an excellent job with this role as his character has random flashbacks and really helps motivate Elliot to go forward with the music festival. Liev Schreiber (Defiance, Wolverine) plays Vilma, a cross-dressing man who helps Elliot out with many things around the motel. Liev just keeps getting better and better and this role was fully enjoyable and fun to watch.

This movie was just simply amazing and fun to watch. Granted, Ang Lee drags some scenes out farther than he should, the acid trip scene could have been removed entirely in my opinion, it slowed to movie way down out of nowhere. Outside of that, this movie is great and really shows what went on around what is considered the greatest concert of the century. I recommend that everybody try to get out to see this if you can. It is well worth it.

Great quotes: "I saw bob fill a bottle with water and charge some kid a dollar for it. Can you believe that? A dollar. For water!"

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Review: Halloween II

Grade: B-

Halloween II is the sequel to the remake of Halloween made in 2007. This sequel picks up right at the end of the events in Halloween. Lorie Strode has shot and killed Michael Myers and is taken to the hospital to treat her wounds. Her friend, Annie, had survived the attacks from the first movie as well. After picking up Michael Myers body, the coroners are on their way to the morgue when they get into an accident. At this point, Myers comes back to life and disappears. It is now a year later. Lorie Strode continuously has nightmares about Michael Myers, is in therapy for this problem and is living with her friend Annie and her dad, who is the town sheriff. Michael is now on his way back to have a sort of "family reunion" as his hallucinations of his mother keep telling him. Also, thanks to Dr. Loomis' book, Lorie discovers that she is Michael Myers' sister and is now trying to deal with that piece of information.

Rob Zombie's remake of Halloween in 2007 was really good to me. I liked the fact that he made Michael Myers an actual person. To me it makes it more terrifying, the fact that Michael was just some boy who snapped. His follow up was less than great. It seemed to follow a relatively typical slasher storyline. The kills were far less than the first movie and less interesting. The hallucination scenes were confusing and dizzying at times. However, I really liked Zombie's idea of showing how Lorie is coping with the fact that most of the people she was close to were killed by this monster, then on top of that, when she finds out that she is Michael Myers sister, it was interesting showing how she dealt with that fact. I, unlike most people apparently, liked the fact that Michael Myers didn't always wear the mask. He had it on most of the time but he only put it on when he was going to kill people. Really kept to the double personality that Zombie set up in the first movie.

Scout Taylor-Compton played Lorie Strode again for this movie. I feel that she did a pretty good job at portraying the different aspects of the character. Malcolm McDowell is back as Dr. Samuel Loomis. Granted, Loomis wasn't the greatest of people in the first one, but in Halloween II he is absolute scum. All he cares about is money and selling his book. He also keeps yelling at people who believe Michael Myers is still alive as his body was never recovered. McDowell is great in this role and really helped make the movie.

If you are a horror movie fan, a fan of the series or a fan of Rob Zombie's directorial work then you will probably enjoy this movie. For me, while I really enjoyed the first one, this one was a little sub-par, but still good and enjoyable.

Great Quote: "If I want your opinion, I will beat it out of you."

Monday, August 24, 2009

Review: Post Grad

Grade: C

Post Grad is a movie that tells a very familiar story. Ryden Malby has worked very hard for most of her life working on her plan. Step one, get great grades in high school so that she can get a great scholarship. Two, go to a good college. Three, get great grades in college. Lastly, four, get a job at a great publishing company. Well, she's done steps one through three and is now working on four but she doesn't get the initial job she wants. Then, despite having a college degree, she can't find a job anywhere. The movie is all based on the similar experience I know that most college grads go through: They graduate from college and get the degree they are supposed to but when they go to go find a job so many other people have just done the same thing that there are no jobs available, at least any you want.

Alexis Bledel (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Sin City) plays the main character, Ryden. She is a very smart and ambitious girl who aced high school, did great at a good college and is a big time book nerd. If this sounds familiar it should. This is basically the exact same character as her character Rory Gilmore from the TV show Gilmore Girls. In fact, this movie is basically Gilmore Girls the movie, except Lauren Graham isn't playing her mom and it takes place on the west coast.

Michael Keaton (Batman, Beetlejuice) played Ryden's father. It was nice to see him in something as I haven't seen him in anything in close to a decade I think. He was pretty good and very funny at times. Jane Lynch (Role Models, 40 Year Old Virgin) plays Ryden's mother. She is great and pretty funny as always. Carol Burnett played Ryden's grandmother. Burnett was hilarious as always and it was great to see her in something as well. The movie also featured Zack Gilford as a Duckie type character, the friend who wants to (and should) be more than a friend. Catherine Reitman played Jessica Bard, who is Ryden's "own personal Darth Vader". Reitman is probably one of the biggest, if not just the biggest, over actor I think I've ever seen. The movie also had appearances from J.K. Simmons, Craig Robinson and Rodrigo Santoro.

This movie was actually pretty decent. It had it's moments where it was very honest and the story was actually pretty good, it also had it's moments where it was kind of funny. However, it really wasn't great and is a pretty by the book movie, very predictable. If your looking for some cheap entertainment check this one out.
Great quote: "What do I have to do to get you in one of my coffins today?"

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Review: Inglorious Basterds

Grade: C-

Inglorious Basterds is Quentin Tarantino's latest movie to hit theaters. It takes place in Nazi-occupied France in 1944 towards the end of World War Two. It is mostly about a group of Jewish-American soldiers who call themselves "the Basterds" who are in Nazi-occupied France to strike fear into the Third Reich. How do they do this, by brutally killing and scalping Nazi soldiers. The movie also tells a story about a young woman who escapes bring killed by the Nazis and a couple years later is living in France under a new identity and is running a movie theater. Through some interesting circumstances the Nazis decide to hold a movie premier at her cinema. The Basterds are simultaneously assigned to attack and bomb the same movie premier as it will have all the key members of the Third Reich in attendance as well as Hitler himself.

Quentin Tarantino seems to be trying too hard, again, to be cool. The trailer for this movie gave me some hope. I thought that the movie would mostly focus on Brad Pitt's character and his basterds, but they're kind of secondary in this movie. It seems that the majority of the movie focuses around the character of Shosanna Dreyfus who had escaped being killed by the Nazis and is now running a cinema in France. On top of that he takes too long to get to the point and then there is this long, almost endless buildup to the climax at the theater and then it's over in a flash. Tarantinto, again, fills the movie with kind of random and, at times, almost useless dialogue. The movie started to lose my interest at a couple points because of it. He also decided to kill off some of the better characters pretty quickly. The movie did, however, look great, I will give Tarantino that, he knows how to make a movie look good. Also, I liked the fact that for once, somebody made a WWII movie that completely disregards history, that made it a little more enjoyable.

Brad Pitt (Burn After Reading, Ocean's trilogy) was great as Tennessee born and raised Lt. Aldo Raine. This is one of the best characters that Tarantino has written, which is why I was upset that he's only on screen for probably 20-25 of the 152 minute run time. Brad Pitt played this character perfectly and he really helped make the movie, again, despite the fact that the movie doesn't focus on him like the title, posters and trailers imply. Eli Roth (Director of Hostel) plays Sgt. Donny Donowitz, another brilliant character we don't see enough of. Diane Kruger (National Treasure, Troy) plays a German actress by the name of Bridget von Hammersmark, who is helping the Basterds. She did a great job with this role. French actress Melanie Laurent plays Shosanna Dreyfus, the main focus of the movie. As I mentioned, Shosanna escaped being killed and the man who killed the rest of her family is the one asking to have the movie premier at her cinema. She is an amazing actress who shows great promise after this movie. German actor Christopher Waltz played Nazi Col. Hans Landa. He was great and quite hilarious in this movie. The movie also stars some great people such as Til Schweiger, B.J. Novak, Mike Myers, Julie Dreyfus, Sam Levine, Paul Rust and is partially narrated by Samuel L. Jackson.

This movie is pretty violent and has a lot of language so if your really squeamish, be warned, you do see them scalping some of the Nazis. This movie wasn't bad and if it looks interesting to you go see it, but I can only really recommend this movie to fans of Tarantino's work. If you like the rest of his movies, you will like this movie. If you don't really care for his work, you will be let down.

Great quote: "Quite frankly, watching Donny beat Nazis to death is the closet we ever get to going to the movies."

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Review: The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard

Grade: C

The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard is a movie about a dieing car dealership in Tamecula, California that hires a "mercenary" to come in for a big three day weekend 4th of July sale. The mercenary is Don "The Goods" Ready and his team. The dealer, Ben Selleck, is considering selling the dealership, which has been in the family for over 40 years, to a guy who wants to use it for a rehearsal studio for is "man band". Don then makes a deal that he will sell every car on the lot in the three days so he can keep his dealership or Don will quit the business forever. The rest of the movie just shows all the ridiculous ways in which they try to sell cars.
The movie stars Jeremy Piven (Smokin' Aces, TV's Entourage) plays the main character Don Ready. Piven was actually pretty funny in this role and gave several hilarious motivational speeches. Ving Rhames (Dawn of the Dead, Mission Impossible) plays Jibby Newsome, one of Don's teammates. Rhames can be a very funny guy and this was no exception really. David Koechner (Waiting..., Thank You For Smoking) plays Brent Gage, another member of Don's team. Koechner is always funny and his role in this movie was ok. Kathryn Hahn (Step Brothers, Anchorman) plays Babs Merrick, the last member of Don's team. Hahn is hilarious in everything I've seen her in. The movie also features James Brolin, Ed Helms, Ken Jeong, Alan Thicke, Craig Robinson, Rob Riggle, Kristen Schaal and Will Ferrel.

This movie was ok. If you're looking for some cheap laughs and really don't care about quality or plot then this movie is for you. I can admit, it was pretty bad but it did make me laugh... a lot. I'm almost ashamed to say that because the humor is even pretty dumb but I just couldn't help myself. The cast is great but the jokes are a little off but like I said there are still plenty of moments that made me laugh. I would recommend waiting for DVD for this one none the less, it is worth seeing as it is quite funny at times but it's not really worth the ten bucks you have to shell out at the theater.
Great Quote: "I'm Don Ready, I've got hair on my balls and I sell cars.... The end."

Review: When The Dragon Swallowed The Sun

Grade: I will not be giving this movie a grade as it is not completed, we saw the first test screening of it last night.

When the Dragon Swallowed the Sun is a documentary by Dirk Simon that has been in the making for six years about the internal struggles of the Tibetan Freedom Movement.
The movie, that we saw, was actually really good. It had many interviews with activists and the 14th Dali Lama. The interviews were very thorough in describing some of the problems with the movement. They went over the history of the movement and discussed why being violent will not help their cause but at the same time if they do not get violent people in the rest of the world won't really pay attention. They discussed the political problems with the movement specifically the fact that other countries politicians refuse to support the Tibetan freedom movement at risk of losing China as an ally. The film also discusses the controversy surrounding the Beijing Olympics and the protests that were going on around the world at the torch running and a the Olympics themselves.

The cinematography was beautiful. A large portion of this film was shot in Tibet which is probably one of the most beautiful countries in the world as a large portion of it is in the Himalayas. The shots of the mountains and the towns and cities with all of the ancient architecture was amazing.

The movie still needs some work, as was discussed by the director himself. It is currently a little long and they will probably be cutting it down a little before it's official release. Other than that it was great and I would recommend this movie to anybody interested in learning more about the Tibetan freedom movement.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Review: District 9

Grade: A+

District 9 is a movie about an alien race that came to Earth over twenty years ago and stopped their ship over Johannesburg, South Africa. Three months after they arrived there was no sign of them as they never emerged from their ship so some military groups went up to the ship and forced their way in. They discovered over a million alien creatures and took them down from the ship and put them in what turned into a slum called District 9. A corporation calling themselves Multi-National United, or MNU, was formed to watch over District 9 and it's inhabitants. It's now been 28 years ago and the slum has become too small to hold all of the "prawns" (a slur that humans call the aliens because they tend to look and act like bottom feeders) so they have built a new district well outside Johannesburg city limits to move them all to. The movie centers around a man, Wikus Van De Mewre, who is picked to lead the operation of evicting and relocating all the aliens. In doing so at one shed Wikus discovers a silver tube filled with a mysterious fluid that he ends up accidentally spraying himself with. He finds out that this liquid is fusing his DNA with alien DNA and he is slowing turning into a "prawn". MNU is searching for Wikus so they can try to duplicate this result so they can use the alien technology that only responds to alien contact. Wikus then decides to help one of the aliens help save his species by returning home after discovering the alien has a way to reverse the effect and return him to normal.

This movie was simply amazing. The story is fantastic in every way. The way the movie is shot was fascinating as well. It starts out like a documentary showing the alien ship showing up and giving background to the story and showing how the humans have treated the aliens, then it goes into a more natural movie style for the rest of the movie. The whole movie was shot beautifully and looked truly amazing, especially considering every alien "prawn" in the movie is CG.

The story is actually quite amazing and touching at times. The movie, in a very interesting way using the aliens, discusses racism and human rights. The aliens are basically dragged from their ship and thrown into slums where they have virtually no rights. Everybody constantly uses the slur "prawn" when talking about the alien race. It is shown that there is little respect for the lives of the aliens when they are evicting them and shooting many of them for simply getting too close, also there is a scene where they discover alien sacks containing alien new borns in one of the shacks, they "take care of it" by setting the place on fire and the humans show an imense amount of joy almost while hearing the younglings burn and pop. This story and the whole movie is again, simply amazing.

Sharlto Copley plays the main character Wikus Van De Mewre who is also the main focus of the movie. Copley has never acted before but did a truly amazing job. I feel that his lack of acting experience actually helped him in this role. The character is very naive at times and seems to have a certain amount of innocence during the first half of the move. Peter Jackson made a great decision by funding this movie. The movie was written and directed by Neil Blomkamp and is based on his own experience growing up in South Africa during apartheid

I truly have to recommend that everybody go out to see this movie. It is one of the best movies of 2009 so far. I must warn you though, do not take your kids to see it as it is rated R for a reason. It is very violent and disturbing at times, I lost count of how many people and aliens I saw get, literally, blown up. I understand that this movie is a little on the weird side but it is ever so worth seeing.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Review: (500) Days of Summer

Grade: A+

(500) Days of Summer is a movie about boy meets girl then boy loses girl. The boy is Thomas and he has what some might consoder a misconception about love that has been instilled in him by (as the movie puts it) listening to too many pop songs and watching The Graduate, that there is only one woman out there for him. The girl is Summer, who is quite has quite the opposite views on love as Thomas, she doesn't believe in true love and doesn't believe in "the one". Thomas studied to be an achitect but works at a greeting card company writing cards, and he's actually pretty good at it. Summer just moved to LA from Michigan and just started to work at the greeting card company as Tom's boss' assistant. From the moment that Tom first sees Summer he falls in love with her. Over the course of a couple of weeks Tom gets to know Summer and they eventually start a relationship of sorts. After a while things go sour and they end up breaking up. Tom then tries to get her back and spends a lot of time trying to get over her.

This movie was fantastic. It's as simple as that. It's shown in a very interesting style. It starts around day 280 and then jumps around a bit going from day 1 to day 290 and just continues to hop back and forth through time, before the break-up to after the break-up. It makes the whole experience that much more interesting and enjoyable. The writing was brilliant and really properly portrays the heartbreak that can occur after a berak-up. This movie also starts with the second best disclaimer I have ever seen in front of a movie (the first being Dogma, of course).

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Lookout, Brick) plays the main character Thomas. I have always liked Gordon-Levitt and am so glad to see him get better and better roles recently. This movie truely shows his talents as an actor. He really makes you feel both his joy, especially in scenes like the one where he is dancing on his way to work and people are joining him, a truely geat and hilarious scene, as well as his pain, like the scenes where he's lying in bed simply pining for Summer. Zooey Deschanel (Yes Man, Elf) plays the titular character Summer. Again, I have always liked Zooey and she just keeps getting better and better. Her portrayal of this girl, Summer, who just doesn't believe in love and relationships any more was great. She does a great job showing how this girl kind of strings him along with no real intention of letting the relationship blossom into true love. Both of these actors are great and movies like this prove to me that these two will be some of the greatest actors of our generation.

If you like a good movie, go see (500) Days of Summer. If you like good acting, go see (500) Days of Summer. If you like to be entertained and leave a movie feeling good, go see (500) Days of Summer. This movie is easily one of the best movies of 2009. It is simply brilliant from start to finish. I can not reccomend seeing this movie enough.

Great quote: "Here's one you wrote last week: Roses are red, violets are blue... f*** you w****."

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Review: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

Grade: B

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is a movie based on a toy line and TV show, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero. The movie mostly centers around two characters, Duke and Ripcord, who are set with the task of protecting and delivering a case if stolen war heads that contain a new advanced technology of nanobots that destroys all in it's path (similar to the G.O.R.T from the new Day The Earth Stood Still) until a killswitch is activated. They are ambushed by a woman known as the Baroness. Duke and Ripcord are rescued by a covert team of elite fighters known as G.I. Joe and help protect the case. They are them put through rigorous training and testing in order to join the group. At this point the warheads ends up being stolen by the Baroness and her troops. It is discovered that she works with arms dealer James McCullen and that he has plans to use the warheads on heavily populated cities. As the G.I. Joe team goes from the states to Paris to the north pole in order to stop them from using warheads we learn about Duke and the Baroness' past and we see the rise of a group known as Cobra.

I would like to start by saying that after some rumors I had heard and some problems I had read about during the production of this movie, including a little bit about the script being rushed in a couple of weeks so the movie could go into production during the writer's strike, that my expectations were very low for this movie. Good news is this movie really surprised me and turned out to be a fun summer popcorn movie. There were some really corny parts and some very dumb lines (the Baroness complementing a woman on her shoes as she's shooting her gun trying to get people to exit a building) and some kind of ridiculous parts but overall it was fun and the action was good. This movie is loaded with CGI and special effects which both made the movie interesting and kind of hurt it as well as they weren't always the best effects.

I am also glad that the "accelerator suits" weren't used that much in the movie. These suits look like Iron Man rip offs and were one of the dumber parts of this movie.

Channing Tatum (She's the Man, Fighting) played the role of Duke. He's not the best actor, actually he's really not that good at all, but he looks the part so oh well. Marlon Wayans (Little Man, White Chicks) plays Ripcord, the comic relief who just won't stop hitting on Scarlett who seems to have no interest in him. I guess since Ripcord is the "comic relief" this casting was ok but I still can't believe Marlon Wayans tried to do action. Dennis Quaid (Vantage Point, In Good Company) plaed the role of General Hawk, the leader of team G.I. Joe. The movie also featured Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Heavy Duty, Christopher Eccleston as James McCullen, Sienna Miller as the Baroness, Rachel Nichols as Scarlett, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as "The Doctor", a quick appearance by Brendan Fraser and Ray Park as Snake Eyes, easily the best part of the movie.

If you want a good action flick and don't really care much about acting or plot go see this movie, as I said before it is just a fun summer popcorn movie.
Great Quote: "............................"

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Review: Funny People

Grade: A-

Funny People is about the life of a comedian, so to speak. George Simmons is a very successful comedian and actor who has recently learned he has a deadly disease and normal treatments aren't working anymore, his doctor puts him on some experimental treatments but tells him his chances of success are slim and he might not have too much longer to live. George then decides to go back to the stand-up business. After crashing a stand-up club and bombing he decides he needs to hire someone to help him write new jokes. Ira Wright turns out to be just that person. Ira works at a deli but wants to be a stand-up comedian, he followed George at the comedy club and George liked his material enough that he wants Ira o help him. After successfully helping George with some gigs, George decides to hire Ira as a personal assistant. Then George's disease goes into remission and after an old flame enters his life he decides to reevaluate his life and figure out what's really important to him.

Funny people is Judd Apatow's (40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up) third shot at directing and it just might be his best yet. His first two movies he directed were straight up comedies with bits of drama and great stories, Funny People is really more of a drama about people who happen to be funny, or at least think they are. It is brilliant and beautiful. The story that Apatow wrote is very real, very deep and very good.

Adam Sandler (Bedtime Stories, Big Daddy) plays George Simmons and really does a great job. George's career is very similar to Sandler's including some weird and bad movies and they even used actual footage of Sandler's early days in the comedy clubs at one point. Sandler gives a great performance and proves that he can do more than his usual shtick. Seth Rogen (Zack and Miri Make A Porno, Knocked Up) plays Ira Wright, a man who wants to make it as a comedian but has a very hard time capturing the audience until Geroge helps him. This is Seth Rogen's best performance to date as well. He really does a wonderful job showing the different aspects of this character and also manages to be genuinely funny at times. Leslie Mann (Knocked Up, 40 Year Old Virgin) plays Geroge Simmons old love interest Laura. Mann is wonderful and charming as always in Funny People. She delivers an amazing performance and is very moving at times as well. The movie also stars Jonah Hill (Superbad, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and Jason Schwartzman (Walk Hard, The Darjeeling Limited) as Ira's roommates and fellow comedians. They do a great job at portraying people who aren't that funny but really think they are. Apatow and Mann's daughters Aubrey and Maude so a great job playing Laura's daughters. Eric Bana (Troy, Hulk) does a great job as Laura's husband. The movie is also loaded with cameos from great stand-up comedians including Paul Reiser, Ray Romano, Andy Dick, Mark Schiff, Norm MacDonald, Dave Attell and Sarah Silverman. It also includes hilarious cameos from James Taylor and Marshall Mathers aka Eminem (in a performance that I think accurately depicts how he is in real life).

This movie is extremely well written and has a great story. As a fair warning do not expect a straight up comedy from Funny People, it is a drama that centers around people who happen to be funny. It is a wonderful movie and I highly recommend everybody go out and see it if you can.
Great quote: "Is your set designed to guarantee you don't get laid?"