Saturday, September 26, 2009

Review: Surrogates

Grade: C

Surrogates is a sci-fi movie about a future where the technology has been created so people can live their lives through surrogate technology. A company has developed robotics that can be controlled by people's thoughts. This technology evolves so far that they create robots that look just like their human counterparts and 90%+ of the population currently lives their day to day life through their surrogate. This has created crime and disease to drop to virtually nothing. There are factions of humans, however, that believe that living through surrogates is wrong. A detective, Tom Greer, is called to a crime scene where 2 surrogates have been destroyed. When they go to talk to the users they discover they had been killed using their surrogates. Now the heat is on as Tom and his partner try to find out how someone managed to kill a person through their surrogate and stop them.

This movie showed so much potential, pretty much none of which was realized. The concept was amazing, and while there were one or two brief scenes showing how people use their surrogates to live as hard as possible, they didn't do enough with this. Their could have been some amazing action sequences involving surrogates but that didn't really happen. The story and plot start out well enough before just getting weird and kind of confusing at times.

There were good parts of it too. The concept alone did keep me interested throughout the movie. I did like how they would show a couple of the users unplug from their surrogates and show that in real life, they look a lot dumpier (sometimes like meth addicts) and in some cases, completely different than their surrogate. It shows how, given the opportunity, many people live through a surrogate that looks like their idea of perfection. It also did a good job showing the shock it would cause if someone had to disconnect and live their life for a while in the real world.

Bruce Willis (Die Hard, The Fifth Element) plays the lead role, Tom Greer. During his investigation he encounters someone with a powerful weapon and his surrogate is fried and he is forced to live without it. Willis does a great job showing the shock that something like this would cause. Willis really did a great job with this movie. Radha Mitchell (Phone Booth, Pitch Black) plays Greer's partner Agent Peters. She did a pretty good job as well with her role. Rosamund Pike (Doom, Pride and Prejudice) plays Maggie, Tom Greer's wife. She did a good job with this role as Maggie has become obsessed with living through her surrogate and it seems like it has been a while since Tom has seen her real self. The movie also features James Cromwell (I Robot, W.), as the inventor of surrogate technology, and Ving Rhames (Mission Impossible trilogy) as the leader of the human movement, his character is known as "the Prophet".

This movie was good but not great. If you are a fan of sci-fi it is definitely worth checking out. Otherwise, it is kind of a disappointment and not worth rushing out theaters to see.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Review: Big Fan

Grade: A-

Big Fan is a dark comedy about a man, Paul Aufiero, who is the self proclaimed "biggest NY Giants fan". Paul works as a toll booth attendant in a parking garage and still lives with his mother at age 36. He frequently calls into a sports radio talk show to talk up the Giants and has developed a little rivalry with a man who calls himself Philadelphia Phil, an Eagles fan. Paul and his friend go to Giants Stadium for the games but just sit in the parking lot watching the games on a TV. One night, Paul is out with his friend one night when they spot Paul's favorite player and quarterback for the Giants. They decide to follow him in order to possibly meet him. They follow him into a club and when he finally works up the nerve to go meet the player, there is a misunderstanding and the player ends up beating Paul so bad he ends up in the hospital near death. The police want to investigate but Paul doesn't want his favorite player to go to jail because he feels it would cause the Giants to suffer, so he claims he has amnesia. His friends and family keep pushing him to do something and the movie follows his struggle to deal with the reality of the situation.

The movie is written and directed by Robert D. Siegel, who also wrote the award winning The Wrestler. Siegel's second venture into writing is on par with his first. The writing was amazing and extremely wonderful. The whole movie was a brilliant commentary on sports fanaticism and how crazy some people can be all in the support of their favorite team. The direction was authentic and made the whole movie feel very real. He also had one of the most genius and surprising twist endings I've seen in a while.

Patton Oswalt (Ratatouille, Observe and Report) plays the main role of Paul Aufiero. Oswalts performance was simply amazing. I am just amazed at his acting in this movie as I'm used to seeing him doing his stand up routines and popping up in random comedies as secondary characters. His first take at a lead role (aside from voicing the main character in Ratatouille) was great. If for nothing else, see the movie for his performance. I would say Oscar worthy but as the movie is so hard to find I highly doubt it will be considered.

Also in the movie, Kevin Corrigan (Pineapple Express, Superbad) plays Sal, Paul's best friend. Corrigan gives a great performance as a man trying to help and support his friend through a hard time. Michael Rapaport (Hitch, TV's The War At Home) plays Pual's rival, Philadelphia Phil. Granted, most of his performance is just his character calling into the radio station so you only hear his voice, you do see him at the end of the movie.

This movie is only playing for one week at the Chez Artiste and I can not recommend it enough. It was fantastic. If you can't get to the theater to see it, rent it when it comes to DVD. It is a brilliant movie with some of the best writing and acting I've seen all year. I loved it and I don't care about sports. It is, however, a very dark comedy. It will make you laugh, but not often.

Great quote: "It's going to be a great year."

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Review: Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs

Grade: B

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs is an animated movie based on the beloved kids book with the same name. This finger-licking good movie is about a man, Flint Lockwood. Flint has been an inventor since he was little. Unfortunately, all of his inventions have a tendency of going horribly wrong, including his first invention, spray on shoes, that can never come off. His most recent experiment is a machine that converts water into any food you want. At first it doesn't work, but after upping the power going into it, the machine launches into the stratosphere and begins to convert the clouds into cheeseburgers. Everything is great for a while but the machine starts to go haywire and causes chaos and it's up to Flint to stop it.

This movie was actually very enjoyable. It looks great, especially in IMAX 3D which is how I viewed it, and makes your mouth water with delight. This movie is very funny and entertaining for people of all ages. It was a real treat getting to see this great children's book come to life on the big screen.

The voice cast was fantastic. Bill Hader (Adventureland, TV's Saturday Night Live) does the voice of Flint, the inventor with a wild imagination. Hader was hilarious with this role as always. Anna Faris (Observe and Report, Just Friends) did the voice of Sam Sparks, a news station intern who is sent out to investigate a random story on the island only to stumble across one of the best stories of the year. James Caan (Elf, The Godfather) did the voice of Tim Lockwood, Flint's father. Even though he doesn't speak much Caan did a great job. Mr T (TV's the A-Team) did the voice of Earl, a hyper local cop. This role was hilarious and Mr T really brought it to life. The best part was when he takes of his hat he has a bald stripe down the middle of his head where Mr T's mohawk is. Bruce Campbell (Army of Darkness, TV's Burn Notice) did the voice of Mayor Shelbourne. Campbell is great and has a very distinguishable voice and made this character great. The movie also features the voices of Neil Patrick Harris, Al Roker, Andy Samburg, Benjamin Bratt, Lauren Graham and Will Forte.

This movie was really fun and enjoyable for everyone, but if you have kids, rush out to the theater for them to see this movie. If you get the chance also, try to see it on IMAX 3D, it was that much better because of it.

Great quote: "You may have seen a meteor shower but you've never seen a shower meatier than this."

Review: The Informant!

Grade: B

The Informant is a movie, based on a true story, about corporate fraud. It is based around a man, Mark Whitacare, who works in management for a lysine development company, ADM. At one point he starts getting blackmailed by a mysterious man over a virus that's losing the company money. ADM decides to bring in the FBI to overlook the matter and in the process, Whitacare decides to come clean about the company's habit of price fixing. He starts working with the FBI to help record meetings to get some solid evidence and really starts to think that he's a secret agent. After a while though, it is discovered that Mark Whitacare has his own secrets much deeper than anybody could have possibly known.

The Informant is directed by Steven Soderbergh (Ocean's Trilogy) and he did a great job. The movie takes place from the early to mid nineties. The movie looks very authentic and the camera work is great. The story was brilliant and very funny at times, but, at times it had a tendency to slow town quite a bit. It does manage to keep your interest the whole time though so at least there's that.

Matt Damon (Ocean's 11, The Bourne Identity) plays Mark Whitacare, an upper-management corporate body who appears to want to clear his conscience of the wrongs his company is doing. Damon was genius in this role. He did a wonderful job portraying the character's naivete and his obliviousness to how the real world works. Scott Bakula (Star Trek: Enterprise) and Joel McHale (TV's The Soup) play FBI agents Brian Shepard and Bob Herndon. They both did great with these roles as they try to control Whitacare. Melanie Lynskey (Away We Go, TV's Two and a Half Men) plays Ginger Whitacare, Mark's wife. She is a good actress and really takes hold of this role and makes it her own. The movie also features Tom Papa, Tom Wilson, Ann Cusack, Patton Oswalt and Paul F. Tompkins.

This movie was very good and very enjoyable. It's actually really crazy to think that this all happened but at the same time it's not too surprising. I definitely recommend everybody give this movie a try, it is just plain fun to watch.

Great quote: "I haven't been completely honest with you. I'm gonna clear that all up when we get up there."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Review: 9

Grade: A-

9 takes place in a future, post-apocalyptic world where no humans exist anymore. It shows that humans had created an intelligent machine to help make other machines which was, of course, used for military reasons. The machine, and all the other machines it made, turned on the humans and over time ended up wiping out all human existence. Towards the end of human life, A scientist transferred his mind into 9 sack doll/robots. The last one, 9, has decided to take it upon himself to rescue 2 from "the Beast", one of the Machine's hunters. In the process of rescuing 2, they accidentally resurrect The Machine. All nine of the sack dolls must now work together to destroy the Machine.

This movie was amazing and fun to watch, but it's one of those movies I just have to wonder how they pitched it to a movie studio and what made the movie studio agree to allow them to make it. The premise of the movie is that every last human in the world is DEAD. The only things left are one last machine hunter called the Beast and these nine mechanical sack dolls. The planet looks like it couldn't even sustain life anymore. It's really depressing when you think about it but the movie truly was fantastic.

The visuals of this movie were great. It is an animated movie and the animation looked beautiful. The interesting thing was it looked like this war between humans and machines took place in the 40's and 50's. They never say, but I think it took place in France, or somewhere in Europe. Everything just looked so good and you can see some of Tim Burton's influence in the design of some of the characters.

The voice cast for this movie was really good. Elijah Wood (Lord Of The Rings, Happy Feet) does the voice of 9, the main character of the movie. He did a pretty good job of it. Christopher Plummer (Up, Inside Man) did the voice of 1. Martin Landau did the voice of 2. 3 and 4 were silent. John C. Reilly did the voice of 5. Crispin Glover did the voice of 6. Jennifer Connelly did the voice of 7 and Fred Tatasciore did the voice of 8.

This movie is great and could easily be enjoyed by anyone but if you are a fan of stuff like Nightmare Before Christmas and other movies like that, you will probably love this movie. The story and plot were great, even though when you think about it the ending is still depressing. Go out and see 9, it will blow you away.

Great quote: "Sometimes fear is the appropriate response."

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Review: Gamer

Grade: B

Gamer is a sci-fi movie about a futuristic world where humans can control other humans in massive multi-player online gaming environments. A man, Ken Castle, has developed the technology that allows these games to happen. The two games are Society, a Sims like game where people can play whoever they want in any number of settings, and Slayer, a combat game that uses death row inmates as the "i-cons" in an all out battle to the finish line, if an inmate survives thirty rounds, they get set free. Kable is the best "i-con" in the game Slayers and is only three wins away from going home. As Kable gets closer to his freedom and a secret organization known as Humanz, that is against people controlling other people, continues to interfere with the games, Kable realizes that he is part of a bigger conspiracy and makes it his goal to hunt down the creator, Castle.

Gamer was a surprisingly good movie if you're into this type of futuristic sci-fi movie. It is also great if you are a gamer and play first person shooters and Sims. There are many references to gamer in game behavior. I liked the movie a lot because I couldn't help but think, as I watched all that happened, that this movie is exactly what would happen if someone created the technology to be able to control real people in gaming type environments. It would eventually get to the point (especially in our "reality TV" obsessed culture) where we are watching inmates kill other inmates in a gaming type environment, especially if a lot of the profit goes to funding the government and prison systems.

Gerard Butler (300, RocknRolla) plays Kable, an ex-soldier who is on death row for mysterious reasons. I really enjoy Butler in action movies and feel that he really excels in them, and he was excellent in this movie. Michael C. Hall (TV's Dexter) plays Ken Castle, the creator of the technology. Hall's character, Castle, is a very intriguing character, he's got a very big ego and is just plain weird sometimes. The best part, when Castle is in him house and he's surrounded by like fifteen inmates and they're all dancing around him while he sings a Frank Sinatra song, hilarious. The movie also features Chris "Ludacris" Bridges as the leader of the group Humanz, Kyra Sedgwick as a news reporter, Amber Valletta as Kable's wife and appearances by John Leguizamo, Alison Lohman, Milo Ventimiglia, Maggie Lawson, James Roday and Terry Crewes.

This movie was very enjoyable to me. There was only one aspect of it that really bothered me sometimes, the camera work. There where some scenes where the camera work was whipping around and was just plain chaotic, granted, it was just helping show the chaos of the gaming environment but it was too much at some points. If you like movies like Death Race and Crank, then you should like this movie. If you like to play video games like first person shooters and games like The Sims, then you will appreciate aspects of this movie. I can flat out admit, this movie is not for everyone, but I liked it a lot.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Review: All About Steve

Grade: B+

All About Steve is a comedy about a woman, Mary Horowitz, who designs crosswords for a living. Mary isn't quite normal to most people. She is extremely intelligent and never really stops talking. On top of that, she wears thigh high red healed latex/rubber boots. Mary also is always working on designing crosswords that she never goes out and is single. One day her parents set her up on a blind date. When her date, Steve, shows up, Mary becomes completely infatuated with him. She scares Steve off, but doesn't realize this fact, and he tells her he has to go to work. Steve is a camera man for a news network. Mary then decides to follow Steve across the country as he goes from news event to news event, trying to tell him she loves him.

This movie was actually a bit of a surprise to me. Based on the trailers and and other advertising, this movie looked pretty stupid to me. I was wrong, this movie is actually very good, it's funny and sweet and kind of inspiring. The writing was actually pretty good and it had a nice ending that was actually a little surprising.

Sandra Bullock (The Proposal, Speed) plays the eccentric Mary Magdalene Howowitz (I thought the full name was genius). Bullock does very well in comedies and this role was a little different than her usual things. Mary is extremely hyper and just out there and Bullock pulled it all off so well. Bradley Cooper (The Hangover, Yes Man) plays Steve, the camera man who is actually kind of scared of Mary for part of the movie. Cooper is becoming quite the movie star lately and rightfully so, he's very funny and has great delivery. Thomas Haden Church (Spider-man 3, Sideways) plays news reporter and self obsessed Hugh Hartman. Haden Church is hilarious as always in this movie as he keeps telling Mary that Steve does actually love her but is to afraid to admit it. Haden Church had me laughing through the whole movie.

Like I said, this movie is actually very good. I definitely recommend everybody go out and try to see this movie. It's very funny and very sweet and I like the fact that it manages to put out a great message at the end. It's one of those instances where the trailers don't quite capture the essence of the movie properly. Really the only problem I have with the movie is this constant trend lately to hook up Sandra Bullock with guys half her age.

Great quote: "You rest those pretty mouth pillows, you're gonna need them for later."

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Review: Extract

Grade: B+

Extract is a comedy about a man, Joel, who owns an extract plant who goes through a serious of personal and professional problems. At first, things seem to be going well for him as he finds out that a big company is interested in purchasing the plant, this will allow Joel to retire early. Just when he finds this out, there is an accident at the plant and an employee gets injured, this could possibly hinder the deal. At the same time Joel has been having some marital issues with his wife. This issue is made worse when his friend Dean gives him some drugs then suggests, in order to test his wife's faithfulness, that he hire a male prostitute. To top it all off, Joel hires Cindy as a temp at the plant. Cindy just happens to be a scam artist who is trying to milk the company for all they've got. Joel is trying to find a way to piece all aspects of his life back together.

Extract is written and directed by Mike Judge (Office Space, TV's King of the Hill) and he strikes gold again. The writing is absolutely hilarious and the characters are brilliant. This is Judge's first major movie since he brought the world Office Space and it shows that he needs to keep them coming. Judge returns to the American workplace and keeps the comedy coming, Extract will have you laughing from start to finish.

Jason Bateman (Hancock, Juno) plays the lead role of Joel Reynolds, owner and founder of Reynolds Extract. Bateman is great as always and spot on with his delivery that just makes the movie that much finnier. I've always liked Bateman and this movie helps remind me why. Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live, Adventureland) plays Suzie, Joels wife. Wiig is one of the few constantly funny actresses out there right now. Mila Kunis (That 70's Show, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) plays Cindy, the temp/con artist. Mila Kunis just keeps getting better and better as an actress and she did wonderful in this movie. Ben Affleck (Hollywoodland, Dogma) returns triumphantly in Extract. I have always liked Affleck even when the rest of the world despised him. I have always felt that Affleck did much better with comedy and this movie proves that theory. Nobody in this movie had me laughing harder than Ben Affleck's character Dean, Joel's best friend. The movie also features gut-busting performances by J.K. Simmons, Clifton Collins Jr., David Koechner and Gene Simmons as a Frank Azar type lawyer.

Overall I would have to say that this movie is very enjoyable and entertaining. If you like comedies, and specifically if you liked Office Space, you need to go out and see this movie. It is one of the funniest comedies of the year.
Great quote: "I guess when you lose your balls you just really mellow out."