Friday, July 30, 2010

Review: Dinner for Schmucks

Grade: B

Tim is an ambitious and hard worker at a financial firm. One day, an executive at the firm is laid off so big promotion is now up for grabs. The owner of the company, Lance Fender, takes an interest in Tim and says he can have the promotion on one condition: Once a month, Lance and the other executives hold a dinner where everyone finds an idiot and presents them at dinner, the biggest idiot wins. If Tim participates in this dinner and wins, he’ll get the promotion. At first, Tim doesn’t want to participate as he finds the concept a bit atrocious, but when he literally runs into an obvious idiot, Barry, on the street, he decides to give it a try. Barry gets confused and keeps showing up at Tim’s house a day or two before the dinner and begins to slowly destroy Tim’s life.

This movie is actually really funny. Paul Rudd (I Love You Man, Role Models) plays Tim and Steve Carell (Date Night, TV’s The Office) plays Barry in the movie. I really enjoy both of these actors, they are both very funny and they worked well together in 40 Year Old Virgin, so I was pretty excited to see them back together. They really play off each other very well and their dynamic together really helps the movie. The movie definitely delivers plenty of laughs but there are some parts that I just really didn’t care for. One thing that amused me is that Tim has a girlfriend who he wants to marry, he is supposedly in love with her but the movie doesn’t do a great job displaying their relationship as through the whole movie I kept wondering why he was with her, she has rejected his marriage proposal multiple times, she doesn’t trust him and just doesn’t seem to care half the time.

The rest of the cast is hilarious as well. Zach Galifianakis (Youth in Revolt, The Hangover) plays Therman, Barry’s boss who believes he can control people’s minds. I have always thought Galifianakis was funny and it is great to see him doing more movies now, he is hilarious. Jemaine Clement (TV’s The Flight of the Conchords) played Kieran, an eccentric and self obsessed artist. Clement totally steals the show in this movie, his character is absolutely hilarious and I couldn’t get enough of him. Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek, National Treasure 2) plays Lance Fender, the owner of the company Tim works for and host of the dinner. Greenwood is great and his character is very enjoyable in this movie. The rest of the cast includes Ron Livingston, Stephanie Szostak, Larry Wilmore, Lucy Punch, Kristen Schaal and Nick Kroll.

This movie is pretty enjoyable and very funny at times so I recommend anybody looking for a light hearted comedy to go check out this movie.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Review: Salt

Grade: B

Evelyn Salt is a happily married woman who works for an oil company and is getting ready to celebrate her anniversary with her husband. In all actuality, she works for the CIA and is a spy. One day, a Russian spy walks through their doors announcing that he is defecting. Salt is put in charge of interrogating him. The Russian, Orlov, tells her that years ago, during the cold war, Russia came up with a plan to raise and train a bunch of children to be spies that will pass as American citizens who will be activated one day to bring down America. He then goes on to tell her that she was one of those children and is a Russian spy. The CIA then goes on lockdown but Salt escapes, determined to find her husband and make sure that he is ok. After she escapes, she begins to unravel more and more of this mystery finding that it goes farther than she imagined and goes deeper than anyone thought possible.

Angelina Jolie (Changeling, Beowulf) seems to have an affinity for action/spy/assassin type roles. She was great in movies like Wanted and Mr. and Mrs. Smith so I had hope for this movie. She did a pretty good job with this movie and was definitely the most enjoyable part of the movie. Unfortunately though, the writing doesn’t hold strong through the whole movie. The first half of the movie is great. All of the scenes involving Salt escaping from, then running from, the CIA are great and a lot of fun to watch and Jolie handles it all very well. Unfortunately, around half way through the movie, something seems to change in the movie and it kind of takes a turn for the worse. While some of the action stays pretty good and Jolie kicks some serious butt, the story gets a little weird and kind of ridiculous at points. It also gets a little predictable towards the end.

Live Schreiber (Repo Men, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) plays Ted Winter, a higher up in the CIA. Winter is a friend of Salt’s and tries to defend her when she is first accused. I really enjoy Schreiber’s acting and he does a pretty good job with this movie. Chiwetel Ejiofor (2012, Serenity) plays Agent Peabody. Peabody doesn’t trust Salt at first, especially when she runs, but as the movie progresses, and in all honesty things start to look worse for Salt, he begins to doubt his convictions and begins to believe maybe Salt is right. Chiwetel did a great job with this role as he does with all of his roles, and was really enjoyable.

This movie was definitely enjoyable but I was hoping it would have been better. If you like spy action movies with lots of twists in them, check out Salt, it is worth it. Even though the second half isn’t quite as good as the first, it is still all pretty enjoyable. I might have to check out this movie a second time to get a more solid reading on it. Unfortunately, it is hard to discuss this movie because there are some pretty big plot twists I don't want to give away about 30 or so minutes in.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Review: Inception

Grade: A+

In a world where the technology exists to build and enter dreams, Dom Cobb is a thief, of sorts, who is the best at what he does. In a new form of corporate espionage, people hire Cobb and his team to enter the dreams of their competition and steal information and ideas from them. This ability has made him a top player in this new world of corporate espionage, but it has also made him an international fugitive and cost him everything he loves. Then, when a former mark shows up offering him a chance at redemption, Cobb decides to pull one last job. This job will be the hardest one that he and his team have ever pulled off, instead of stealing an idea, they will have to do something considered impossible, they will plant an idea in their new marks mind. This job gets more and more difficult as their mark seems prepared for this kind of subconscious invasion and Cobb’s own subconscious seems to be fighting him and his team as well.

Alfred Hitchcock once said "A good film is when the price of dinner, the theatre admission and the babysitter were worth it.", that film is Inception. This movie is absolutely mind blowing. Writer/Director Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, The Prestige) has done it again and has proved that he is probably the most innovative and creative writer/director in Hollywood today. The visuals in this movie are absolutely stunning. The scenes where you watch the characters build and modify the dreams are breath taking. Not to mention the scenes with paradoxes and where, essentially, some of M.C. Esher’s drawings come to life. One of my favorite things about this movie is the concept of a dream inside of a dream, just amazing. Not to mention how amazing the story and writing are in this movie. The story is really intense and it just grabs you and doesn’t let go. The writing in this movie will make you think, this is not a movie where you can just sit there and be entertained, you do need to pay attention in order to keep up. This is easily one of the smartest movies I have seen in a long time. Also, I’m saying it right here, this is the best movie I’ve seen since The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and I believe that Inception is definitely going to be nominated for best picture this year and stands a very good chance of winning. Every single second of this movie is outstanding.

That’s all not even to mention the great cast this movie has and how good they all were. Leonardo DiCaprio (Blood Diamond, The Departed) plays the central character, Cobb. I usually don’t care for DiCaprio but he did a really good job with this role, showing the inner torment Cobb has over the loses in his life. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (500 Days of Summer, Brick) plays Cobb’s right hand man, Arthur. I am a huge fan of JGL and he just keeps getting better and better with every movie I see him in. Ellen Page (Whip It, Juno) plays Ariadne, the architect. Page is an amazing actress who did a wonderful job in this movie. Ken Watanabe (The Vampire’s Assistant, Batman Begins) plays Saito, a former mark turned client. Watanabe did a really good job with his part in the movie. Tom Hardy (Bronson, RocknRolla) plays Eames, the forger. I have always found Hardy to be a very talented actor and I am very excited to see him landing roles in bigger movies, I hope this continues. Cillian Murphy (Sunshine, Red Eye) plays Robert Fischer Jr., the mark. Murphy was great in this movie and I keep hoping to see him in more things as well. The movie also features great performances by Marion Cotillard, Michael Caine, Dileep Rao, Tom Berenger and Pete Postlethwaite.

I cannot recommend this movie enough. It is absolutely amazing in every way possible. Like I said, it is the best movie I have seen in a while. It is absolutely mind blowing. This is just a review, I might write a critique soon of this movie as I feel that it deserves it. It really deserves a deeper look into the themes and meanings of this movie.

Great quote: “If we are going to perform inception, then we need imagination.”

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Review: The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Grade: A

Balthazar is a great sorcerer, trained by Merlin himself, living in modern day Manhattan. He is on a quest to find a new sorcerer to train and help him fight an evil sorcerer, Horvath, before he frees the most powerful evil sorcerer, Morgana, from her magical prison and attempts to enslave humanity. He comes across Dave, a seemingly average physics nerd but who shows signs of being an ancestor in some way to Merlin, and chooses him to be his protégé. Dave is unsure of it all but reluctantly goes along with Balthazar’s crash course in sorcery. The unlikely partners begin to work together to stop the forces of darkness. As for Dave, it will take every ounce of courage he has to survive his training, save the world and get the girl.

I am a huge fan of the classic Disney movie, Fantasia, and one of my favorite bits from that has always been The Sorcerer’s Apprentice with Mickey Mouse accidently raising an army of brooms and causing mayhem. So I was intrigued by the concept of a live action movie. Well, it was great and I’m going to say it right off the bat, it is awesome to see a live action modern version of the living brooms bit. The rest of the movie is a lot of fun as well. Leave it to producer Jerry Bruckheimer (Pirates of the Caribbean, Déjà Vu) and director Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure, Cool Runnings) to take a concept like this and turn it into a really fun summer movie.

Everything about this movie is great. To start, it has a great cast. Nicolas Cage (Kick-Ass, Lord of War) plays the sorcerer Balthazar. I am a huge fan of Nicolas Cage and I felt he did a great job with this role. Jay Baruchel (She’s Out of My League, Tropic Thunder) plays Dave, and he did a great job in this as well, really keeps showing more and more promise. Alfred Molina (Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, Spider-Man 2) plays the evil sorcerer, Horvath. I have always enjoyed Molina and he does not disappoint in this movie, he really does evil well. The rest of the cast includes Teresa Palmer, Toby Kebbell and Monica Bellucci. The movie is also really funny. Jay Baruchel and Nicolas Cage work really well together and both manage to be very funny at times. Not to mention that the action and sorcery in this movie are a lot of fun.

This movie is just plain enjoyable. Another great summer movie to go check out, if you can. It has it all really, action, comedy and a bit of romance thrown in. Disney just keeps surprising me by taking simple concepts, like a ride at Disney world or a short from an old movie that was about the music so there was no talking, and turning them into really amazing and fun movies to watch. I absolutely recommend that everybody go out and see Sorcerer’s Apprentice, you won’t be disappointed.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Review: Despicable Me

Grade: A-

Gru tries very hard to be the world’s greatest villain, and for a while he was. One day, someone managed to steal one of the great pyramids of Giza. After this, the “Bank of Evil” that funds Gru’s operations begins to lose faith in the villain. So to try to gain their trust back, Gru comes up with a plan to steal the Moon. In order to do so he needs to steal a shrink ray back that was stolen from him by a rival villain, Vector. In order to do so, Gru adopts three young girls he plans to use in order to steal the shrink ray back, then abandon the girls and never see them again. However, he begins to grow rather fond of and attached to the three girls and begins to reconsider his career in villainy.

This movie turned out to be much better than I expected. I thought it might be funny at times but overall uninteresting, especially considering the over-advertising that the movie has been doing. I was wrong, the movie was actually very funny, very entertaining and very heart warming. The humor is great and most of it lies with the girls and Gru’s minions. All the bits with these characters are just great. The minions are fantastic and hilarious and after seeing this movie, I don’t know anybody who doesn’t want some minions like these for themselves. One of the funniest things in the movie to me was when Gru goes to the Bank of “Bank of Evil” underneath the sign is says “Formerly Lehman Brothers”. It is great to see Gru, so determined to be evil, becoming very attached to these three young girls. Speaking of, I find it odd, funny and cute that the three girl’s names are Margo, Edith and Agnes, just very unusual names for three very young girls. The movie is full of heart and it is an absolute joy to watch. I will say that while the 3D was interesting, it is still being used as a gimmick in this movie, instead of being used as a means to make an immersive experience like the 3D in Avatar and Toy Story.

Steve Carrell (Date Night, Get Smart) voiced the lead role of Gru, one of the world’s greatest villains. Carrell did a great job with the role, using an accent he describes as a cross between Ricardo Montalban and Bela Lugosi. Jason Segel (I Love You Man, Knocked Up) does the voice of Vector, Gru’s arch nemesis. Jegel did a good job playing the role of a nerd turned villain. Russell Brand (Get Him to the Greek, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) does the voice of Dr. Nefario, an evil scientist who works with Gru. Brand was very funny with his bits. Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier and Elsie Fisher did the voices of Margo, Edith and Agnes, respectively, and they did a great job with it, really bringing the characters to life. The rest of the voice cast includes Will Arnett, Julie Andrews, Kristen Wiigs, Danny McBride and more.

This movie is great, 2010 is going to be remembered as an amazing year in animation with movies like Despicable Me, Toy Story 3 and How to Train Your Dragon. I really recommend everybody go and see this movie, you won’t regret it.

Great quote: “Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite… because there are literally thousands of them… and there’s probably something in your closet.”

P.S.: If you go see this movie and you have a Droid or iPhone, download the free Best Buy Movie Mode app. You turn it on before the movie starts and as far as I can tell, it uses audio queues to tell when the movie ends. There are some bits during the credits with the minions, this app translates what they are saying, very funny stuff.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Review: Predators

Grade: B+

Royce, who is a mercenary of sorts, wakes up to find himself falling out of the sky, a parachute deploys and he slams into the ground. He quickly discovers that he is not the only person with this experience. The group all quickly discover that they are, essentially, some of the best killers in the world. They begin to work together to find out who kidnapped them and dropped them in the middle of the jungle. They then discover that they are not on Earth, but rather a planet designed as a game reserve, and they are the game. They discover that the alien creatures that are hunting them are superior in every way and that they have been to Earth before. The group must then decide to work together to bring down the Predators that are hunting them.

I was so excited to see this movie because I am a big fan of the Predator movies. Many people think that this movie is a reboot, but actually it takes place after the first two movies. This becomes apparent when one of the characters describes the events of the first movie. This movie was written and produced by Robert Rodriguez (Desperado, Planet Terror) who originally wrote this script in the early 90s. The script was great and I am very glad Rodriguez watched over the production of this movie. It was directed by Nimrod Antal (Vacancy, Control) who did a great job with the movie, it is dark and gritty and action packed with plenty of suspense. I will say there are two rather small things about this movie that I don’t care for: The first is that the Predators that are hunting them on this planet are not quite the same predators from the previous movies. These ones are slightly larger and look slightly different, as one character puts it, “it’s like comparing dogs to wolves”. I like the classic Predators and there was no need to change them. This leads to the second problem I had with the movie: the new slightly larger predators are enemies with the classic predators, leading to a scene of “The enemy of my enemy” which is what bothered me about Alien Vs. Predator. Predators should never friend or work with humans, but that’s just me. I will admit, i do like how the new predators use the bones and skulls of some of their past kills to modify their helmets, that looked great and terrifying.

The cast of the movie is quite the variety of actors. Adrian Brody (The Brothers Bloom, King Kong) plays the lead, of sorts, character, Royce, a mercenary with a mysterious past. Brody did a pretty good job with this role; it is a bit different than what I’m used to seeing him in. Alice Braga (Repo Men, I Am Legend) plays Isabelle, a soldier with a knowledge of the Predators past on Earth. Braga was pretty good in this role and really helped the movie move along. Laurence Fishburne (Mission Impossible III, The Matrix) plays Noland, a man who has managed to survive seven hunting seasons by hiding and scavenging. Topher Grace (Spider-Man 3, TVs That 70s Show) plays Edwin, a doctor dropped on the planet. He did a great job with this role but he is the one character is the one character that seems out of place. The rest of the cast includes Danny Trejo, Walton Goggins, Oleg Taktarov, Louis Ozawa Changchien and Mahershalalhashbaz Ali.

If you are a fan of the Predator movies, like I am, this is a must see. It is a great new chapter in the franchise and I hope that there are more to come. I love the predator character and I do hope they bring back the classic Predator.

Great quote: “They want us to hunt them, that’s how they hunt us.”

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Review: Adam

Grade: A+

Adam is a mild mannered, young, handsome but slightly odd man living in an apartment in New York by himself now that his dad has died. Beth is a young, beautiful and talented writer and school teacher who just moved in to the apartment upstairs. Adam manages to slightly overcome his fear of social situations and begins to talk to Beth. They manage to quickly become friends and that friendship evolves into a relationship. Their relationship involves both of them bravely stretching into unfamiliar and sometimes uncomfortable territory for the both of them that will test their strengths farther than either of them thought.

This movie absolutely blew me away. I remember seeing the trailer months ago and thinking it looked charming and funny. It is so much more. After viewing the movie I feel that it should have been up for some awards but was tragically over looked. The writing is brilliant, the direction is great and the acting is absolutely outstanding. This movie is loaded with emotion. It also touches on a very interesting subject. Adam has Asperger Syndrome, which makes him socially awkward and hard to talk to sometimes. Beth has an amazingly kind heart as she is willing to help him in any way that she can and is always understanding of his symptoms. This movie will make you laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time. It will also fill you with hope and just make you feel good.

The movie stars Hugh Dancy (Confessions of a Shopaholic, The Jane Austin Book Club) as the titular character, Adam. His performance in this movie was absolutely fantastic. He really portrayed this character as perfectly as anybody could. He shows true promise with this performance and I trust he will only get better as an actor. Rose Byrne (Sunshine, 28 Weeks Later) plays Beth, the new neighbor who becomes romantically involved with Adam. Rose Byrne was amazing as well in this movie. She did such an amazing job with this performance that I will now probably watch anything she does, just amazing. The movie also features Peter Gallagher, Amy Irving and Frankie Faison. All of the performances in this movie were top notch.

This movie just came out on DVD and I don’t normally do reviews like this for DVDs but this movie amazed me so much I had to write a review and encourage as many people as possible to watch it. So please, go to your local video store or put this movie on your queue and watch it as soon as possible, it is fantastic.

Great quote: “Chocolates? I’m not Forrest Gump you know.”