Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Review: The American

Grade: A-

Jack is an American assassin working in Europe. When a job in Sweden goes wrong and ends a lot quicker than he would have like, involving the death of an innocent, Jack heads to Rome to meet up with his contact. His contact, Pavel, tells Jack to head to a small town in the Italian countryside and await further orders. Once there, he is informed by Pavel that his next job he doesn’t even have to pull a trigger, just build a custom weapon for a mysterious woman named Mathilda. During his stay in this town, Jack, against his better judgment, befriends a priest and begins to fall in love with a beautiful woman by the name of Clara. After some inward thinking, Jack then decides that this job will be his last.

Right off the bat I feel it is absolutely necessary to tell you to completely ignore the commercials and trailers for this movie. The American is not the Jason Bourne/James Bond stylized action/suspense movie that those ads make it out to be, not one bit. In fact, there is hardly any action at all in this movie. Those ads are trying to get people in the seats, and it will work, but most of those people are going to be sorely disappointed in this movie.

Rather, The American is a slow moving story about a man who is not sure who he truly is or if he likes what he does for a living. This film is a work of art. Every camera shot is done so carefully as to show the beauty of the surroundings of this haunted man. This film focuses on the look and feel of the settings and it delves into the character of Jack himself. This is a very quiet movie, not much going on other than the conversations that Jack has with the few people he allows himself to talk to.

The movie really focuses on the performance of George Clooney (Up in the Air, Burn After Reading) and the character he is playing. Clooney has always been a great actor and he just seems to keep getting better. He plays Jack, or Edward depending on who he’s talking to( we never really find out his real name), who is an assassin. While we never really see him as an assassin, we are shown how good he is with building things. Clooney does such a great job with this character, really showing the different sides of who Jack is. Jack really only ever talks to three or four people, and with each person it’s a different personality. When talking to Pavel or Mathilda, he is strictly business, only asking for details of the assignment and really only speaking when spoken to. When he is speaking with Father Benedetto, he is as open as he’s willing to be, speaking vaguely about what he does but showing that he has remorse for the things he’s done. And when talking to Clara, he is more upbeat and definitely shows signs of being a romantic at heart. Yes, this is definitely one of Clooney’s better performances.

I enjoyed this movie, but I could tell that this was going to be a character study and not the action thriller the trailer is promising. This movie definitely is not for everyone. It is a deep character study and, as I said many times before, it moves rather slowly. By that I don’t mean that it drags on and on, I just mean that the pace of the movie is much slower, much more relaxed than most movies. If you are looking for a great character study with beautiful camera work and great acting, then go see the American.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Review: Get Low

Grade: A+

It’s the 1930s in Tennessee and Felix Bush has been living alone in the woods for over 40 years. One day he gets news that someone he knew long ago has passed. At first, Felix thinks nothing of it and keeps going about his business, but then he realizes that he probably isn’t long for the world anymore either. Knowing his reputation, Felix heads into town one day to speak with a funeral director, Frank Quinn. He tells him he would like to arrange a funeral party while he is still alive so everyone can come and tell the stories and legends that surround him. Seeming odd at first, Frank Quinn and his assistant Buddy agree to help him throw the party as everyone in four counties is dying to learn about the mysterious hermit. As things progress, however, more mysteries seem to arise about Felix’s past and the interest around his funeral party grows wild.

Get Low is an absolutely brilliant movie. Writers Chris Provenzano, C. Gaby Mitchell and Scott Seeke created a wonderful, funny, heartwarming and emotional story. Everything about this movie was absolutely brilliant. Director Aaron Schneider did a beautiful job bringing it all to life. The scenery is beautiful and camera work was great. This is definitely one of the better movies I’ve seen in a while. The story manages to hit all the right notes in all the right places. It is very funny and times and tragic at other but it all flows so smoothly together.

Robert Duvall (The Road, Thank You For Smoking) does a wonderful job playing the movie’s central character, Felix Bush. Duvall’s performance in this role felt so real and was full of emotion. I really and honestly hope that this performance, especially that at towards the end of the movie, earns him some award nominations. This is some of the best acting you’ll see. Bill Murray (Broken Flowers, Lost in Translation) played the role of Frank Quinn, the funeral director. Murray did an outstanding job in this role, hitting all the notes just right. He was laugh out loud funny at times and somber and reserved at others. This is one of the best performances I’ve ever seen of Murray’s. Sissy Spacek (North Country, The Straight Story) played the role of Mattie Darrow, a long lost friend of Felix. She did a great job in the movie, even though she isn’t on screen for too long, her performance was great and a pivotal part of the story. Lucas Black (Legion, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift) plays the role of Buddy, Frank Quinn’s assistant and friend. I have never really cared for Lucas Black in the past but his performance in this movie kind of redeems him, he really does a great job. The movie also features Bill Cobbs and Lori Beth Edgeman.

This movie is an exceptional film that should be seen by all. As I said, this movie is full of laughs and emotion. It is a great movie and, in my opinion, one of the best movies of the year with some of the best performances of the year. If you like quality movies with good stories, I can’t recommend seeing Get Low enough.

Great quote: “We run a funeral home, we run a business that literally everyone in the world requires. If you can’t keep that business going, it’s got to be you, right?”

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Review: The Last Exorcism

Grade: D-

Reverend Cotton Marcus is an evangelical minister. He loves his job and has believes greatly in god. However, he doesn’t really believe in the devil so much. He used to perform exorcisms in a regular basis but has decided to stop doing them because he just doesn’t believe in them anymore. He decides to allow a camera crew to tag along and document his last exorcism so he can show how he fakes them and hopes to expose all exorcisms as frauds. However, when he gets to the Sweetzer farm and performs his fake exorcism on the daughter, Nell, things begin to get a little strange. Cotton is determined to prove that her possession is a fake but is beginning to question if it is.

Why do people keep insisting on making more exorcism movies? Every year we get at least one more and I can’t explain why. Every exorcism movie is exactly the same as the one before it; I have never seen a single one introduce anything new. This one is shot like a documentary and is probably the most boring exorcism movie I have ever seen. Nothing, and I mean nothing, happens for the first 45 minutes to an hour. Then finally a couple random somewhat weird events occur but it’s all still pretty slow going and they do a horrible job of trying to build suspense. The movie hits the usual exorcism queues; weird noises coming from the bedroom, speaking a language she does not know, vomiting, wall/ceiling crawling/walking and of course seemingly unnatural body contortion. Like I said, nothing new. Really, the only mildly interesting and entertaining part of the movie was the last 5 minutes of the movie, which if you pay attention was actually predicted earlier in the movie, which almost made the ending funny instead of creepy and/or tragic. The only somewhat decent parts of the movie are the scene where Cotton Marcus shows how he fakes an exorcism and that last 5 minutes of the movie. The rest of the movie is almost painful to get through because it is uninteresting, slow going and it’s all been done before.

I will admit, Patrick Fabian, who plays Cotton Marcus, did a pretty good job with what he had. Another decent part of the movie would was Ashley Bell, who played Nell Sweetzer. Bell did the best she could with the horrible writing she was handed and came off rather creepy at times but was unfortunately funny at times where she was supposed to be anything but. That’s not her fault though, that is the fault of the horrible writing and direction.

My recommendation is that you under no circumstances watch this movie. Spending $10 on this movie is the only thing about this movie that scares me, and is the only thing that will scare you about it, so please, don’t waste any money ever on watching this movie. Also, even if you can watch if for free, this is 90 minutes of your life you will never get back, so skip it. Spend that 90 minutes doing something more entertaining and well worth your time, like banging your head against a wall.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Review: The Switch

Grade: C+

Wally Mars and Cassie Larson have been best friends for over 6 years. One day, Cassie tells Wally that she isn’t getting any younger and has decided to have a baby. Wally isn’t sure if this is the best idea, especially given how she wants to do it. Cassie has decided to find a sperm donor, not frozen, who she will know and talk to in case any questions arise. She has an insemination party where Wally gets a little too drunk and accidentally spills the donor’s sperm in the sink and decides to replace it with his own. Cassie gets pregnant and then decides to move back to where her parents live. 7 years later, Cassie moves back to New York and introduces her son, Sebastian, to Wally. As Wally spends more and more time with him, he begins to realize that Sebastian is probably his son and tries to find a way to tell Cassie who is now dating the original donor.

The Switch is a mildly entertaining movie that has its funny moments but overall it is very cheesy and not really a great premise, in m opinion, and was hard to get through at times. The movie also couldn’t quite seem to decide what kind of comedy it wanted to be at times. Sometimes it was a serious and somewhat romantic comedy and other times they would make jokes or have gags that you would see in quirky, over the top, aimed at teenagers kind of comedy.

Jason Bateman (Extract, Hancock) plays Wally Mars. Bateman is very funny and was easily the best part of the movie. He brought his slight quirkiness and subtle sense of humor to the roll and actually helped make this movie somewhat worth watching. Jennifer Aniston (The Bounty Hunter, Marley & Me) plays Cassie Larson in the movie. Aniston does a decent job but I’ve never really found her acting all that funny or entertaining. Jeff Goldblum (Adam Resurrected, Jurassic Park) plays Wally’s best friend, Leonard. Goldblum was great in this movie and he and Bateman really played off each other well. He was a lot of fun to watch and was very funny at times. Juliette Lewis (Whip It, Catch and Release) plays Cassie’s best friend, Debbie. I usually like Juliette Lewis but something about her or her character in this movie just really rubbed me the wrong way. I didn’t think she was funny at all and most of the time she was actually pretty annoying.

The Switch is a decent movie and a decent comedy and if you have interest in it, go check it out. I would recommend maybe waiting for DVD for this one. If it wasn’t for Jason Bateman and Jeff Goldblum, this movie probably would’ve been pretty bad.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Review: The Expendables

Grade: B

Barney Ross leads a team of highly skilled mercenaries that call themselves the Expendables. The team includes himself, knife specialist Lee Christmas, martial arts expert Yin Yang, heavy weapons specialist Hale Caesar, demolition expert Toll Road and expert sniper Gunner Jensen. When Barney is hired by a mysterious man who calls himself Mr. Church, the group is told to head to a island in the Gulf of Mexico in order to overthrow the dictator who rules the island with an iron fist. But, when the group get there they quickly realize things aren’t quite what they seem and things go horribly wrong. Ross is then faced with a decision, walk away and try to forget about it or go back and risk his life in order to clear his conscience.

This movie is a fun and exciting straight up action movie. From start to finish there are gun fights, fist fights and explosions. It is everything a man could ask for in an action movie and so much more. The plot and story line are a little weak but those things are really not that necessary in a movie like this. This movie is meant purely for enjoyment, not analysis.

The movie has of course been drawing people in on its cast alone, which comprises of some of the biggest and greatest action stars of the last 30 or so years. To start, the movie is written, directed and stars Sylvester Stallone (Rambo, Rocky Balboa) in the lead role of Barney Ross. Stallone has really still got it for being 64 years old. Pretty amazing some of the things he can still do and that he still has those huge bulging muscles. Jason Statham (The Transporter, The Bank Job) plays Lee Christmas. Statham is at the top of his game for this movie and really did a great job with his role. Jet Li (Forbidden Kingdom, Fearless) plays Yin Yang. Li was good in this role and pretty funny too. Since he is significantly smaller than the rest of the cast in almost every way, he is constantly the butt of jokes but does pretty well dishing it out as well. Probably the part of the cast I was most excited about was the infamous return of Dolph Lundgren (Rocky IV, Masters of the Universe) as Gunner Jensen. It was very entertaining seeing Lundgren back on the big screen and is part of what made this movie worth it. The cast is so great that if I go on like this, it will take forever to get through. So, the rest of the cast includes Terry Crews (Gamer), Eric Roberts (Dark Knight), Mickey Rourke (Iron Man 2), David Zayas (TVs Dexter), Bruce Willis (Die Hard), Arnold Schwarzenegger (Terminator), Steve Austin, Charisma Carpenter, Giselle Itie and Randy Couture.

If you are looking for a fun and action packed movie, Expendables is your movie. This movie is definitely what every guy dreams of in an action movie.

Review: Vampires Suck

Grade: D

Loner, twitchy teen, Becca Crane, has just moved to the mysterious town of Sporks in the Pacific Northwest. When she gets there she makes a few new friends but soon has two boys fighting for her affection, Edward Sullen and Jacob White. But something seems different about these two. She quickly discovers that Edward is a sparkling vampire and Jacob is a werewolf of sorts. As she deals with a number of dramas, everything comes to a head at her high school prom. Who will she choose to be with, Edward or Jacob?

I’m going to start off by saying that this movie is pretty bad, as spoofs are these days. I watched it the one time and I will never watch it again. However, the reason I watched it is because I liked the concept of making fun of the ghastly Twilight movies and the vampire trend in general. The movie does accomplish what it sets out to do and I was laughing pretty much the whole way through. One scene in particular, involving the “wolf pack” showing up then singing “It’s Raining Men” had me falling out of my chair with laughter. There were many great gags in this movie to enjoy. I will also say that the acting is 100 times better than the acting has ever been in the Twilight movies. The movie’s main star, Jenn Proske, is a better Kristen Stewart/Bella than Kristen Stewart could ever be. Another hilarious gag in the movie is Becca’s nervous twitchiness in her speech and her actions and how she brushes her hair behind her ear every 30 seconds. Also, the movie’s writing is 1000 times better than anything Stephenie Meyer could have ever dreamed of writing. This movie was actually entertaining and the characters had… character.

The movie stars Jenn Proske, Matt Lanter, Chris Riggi, Diedrich Bader, Kelsey Ford, David DeLuise, Ken Jeong and many many others.

Like I said, this movie is pretty bad, but it is also good for a good amount of laughs at Twilight’s expense. If you are a guy who has ever been dragged to one of the atrocious Twilight movies by your girlfriend, then I say go ahead and drag her to this movie and make her suffer like she made you suffer.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Review: Scott Pilgrim vs the World

Grade: A+

Scott Pilgrim is a 23 year old bass player in a band with his friends and is currently “between jobs”, he is also still working on getting over a bad break-up with an ex-girlfriend of his. Currently, he is dating a 17 year old high schooler that his friends and band mates do not approve of and can tell he is not happy with. Then, one day, Scott literally meets the girl of his dreams, Ramona Flowers. He begins to put all of his effort into courting her, which actually manages to work. But he soon finds out that the beautiful Ramona comes with a little baggage, a league of evil exes that make it their job to control her love life. In order for Scott to be with the girl of his dreams he must fight, and defeat, her seven evil exes. Can he defeat all seven of her evil exes and get the girl before its game over?

This is director Edgar Wright’s (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) first movie away from his usual collaborators, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and it is amazing. Wright did a fantastic job making this movie and it is understandable why it took so long to shoot. It is filled with complex rapid fire shots and crazy stunts. Wright is looking to make a name for himself with this venture. On top of the amazing and energetic visuals of the movie, it also features a great soundtrack. On top of great underground sounding bands, Scott’s band, the Sex Bob-ombs (one of my favorite video game references in the movie) play, it is actually Beck performing. The music is a big part of the movie, especially considering that many of the battles take place at a battle of the bands event and other concerts.

I absolutely loved this movie, the whole time I was watching it, I had a big smile from ear to ear. I will say upfront that this movie might not be for everybody, it is definitely aimed at the more nerdy/geeky crowd. To start, instead of the usual Universal Studios logo and theme at the beginning of the movie, we are treated to an awesome 8-bit version of both. The whole movie essentially plays out like a beautiful merging of styles between comic books and video games. Throughout the movie you will constantly see onomatopoeia type words flashing on the screen with many noises and sounds. The fight/battle sequences are amazing as well as it looks like you are watching a live action video game in front of you, complete with score, health bars and when someone is defeated they turn into coins. One of my favorite video game gags in the movie is that, whenever we meet a new character a little window pops up with some of that character’s “stats”. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is simply non-stop fun and non-stop energy, it grabs hold of you in the very beginning and doesn’t let go until the credits begin to role.

Michael Cera (Paper Heart, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist) plays the titular character of Scott Pilgrim. Cera does a fantastic job in this movie, breaking away, somewhat, from his usual roles. In Scott Pilgrim, he is actually pretty cool and a bit of a ladies man, not to mention, pretty bad ass. Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Live Free or Die Hard, Grindhouse) plays Ramona Flowers, the woman of Scott’s dreams. She did a great job with this role, playing it as well as anybody could, with a bit of mystery and dry humor. Alison Pill (Milk) and Mark Webber play Scott’s band mates, Kim and Stephen. These two are very entertaining in the movie. Kieran Culkin (Paper Man, Dangerous Lives of Alter Boys) is great as Scott’s roommate, Wallace Wells. Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air) is absolutely hilarious as Scott’s sister, Stacey. The seven evil exes are played by Satya Bhabba, Chris Evans, Brandon Routh, Mae Whitman, Keita Saitou, Shota Saitou and Jason Schwartzman. The movie also features Johnny Simmons, Ellen Wong, Aubrey Plaza, Brie Larson and keep an eye out for a hilarious appearance by Thomas Jane and Clifton Collins Jr.

This movie is excellent and a must see if you are a geek or a nerd of any kind. The movie is absolutely hilarious and it definitely lives up to its tagline, An Epic of Epic Epicness. I have to suggest everybody give it a look at some point, just great, pure entertainment.

Great quote: “When I’m with you, I feel like I’m on drugs, not that I do drugs, unless you do drugs, then I do lots of drugs.”

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Review: The Other Guys

Grade: C+

NYPD detectives P.K. Highsmith and Christopher Danson are superstars on the force. Everybody wants to be them. But this movie isn’t about them; it’s about the other guys, detectives Allen Gamble and Terry Hoitz. Gamble and Hoitz only ever sit at their desks and do the accounting and paperwork of the other detectives in the office. While Gamble is perfectly content with this, Hoitz wants nothing more than to get on the streets of New York and solve crimes. Finally, they decide to look into a seemingly meaningless case that they soon find out there is much more to. As they uncover more and more clues, more and more people seem to be trying to kill them. They realize that this is their shot at being taken seriously as cops and that if they follow through with this case they could be either heroes or wind up dead. Can they do it?

The Other Guys is written and directed by Adam McKay (Step Brothers, Talladega Nights) and stars his favorite actor, Will Ferrell (Land of the Lost, Stranger Than Fiction) as well as Mark Wahlberg (Date Night, The Departed). The way the movie is written is basically an endless stream of one-liners being shot off in every direction that unfortunately only about 15-20% of which are funny to anyone over the age of 14. There are some genuinely very funny moments and gags in the movie though that does help it along. But, unfortunately, this movie follows the same path of McKay’s previous movies of being mostly immature and childish humor that only thirteen year old boys would really find funny. I will admit, there is one scene in the movie that is both hilarious and visually amazing, it's a continuous shot through a freeze frame of a bar showing Ferrell and Wahlberg's characters in different compromising situations with Black Eyed Peas playing in the background, fantastic.

Will Ferrell plays the role of Allen Gamble, a mild mannered cop who is perfectly content at his desk. Ferrell does a typical Will Ferrell performance, dead-panning one-liners (which does tend to make them funny) and then at some point, screaming and running around. Ferrell definitely had his moments in Other Guys that were pretty funny, but not enough. Opposite Ferrell is Mark Wahlberg, who plays Terry Hoitz, an unnecessarily angry man whose career was almost ended after he accidentally shot Derek Jeter. Wahlberg was pretty entertaining throughout the movie and did a good job with this role. I Will admit that one thing that does work in this movie is the odd couple factor of these two characters, makes it pretty interesting.

The movie also stars Michael Keaton (Post Grad, Toy Story 3) as Captain Gene Mauch. Keaton was funny in this movie as he played a man that not only was a police captain but a supervisor at Bed, Bath and Beyond. Steve Coogan (Tropic Thunder, In The Loop) plays David Ershon, a business executive with a secret. Coogan is always funny and does a decent job in this movie. Eva Mendes (The Spirit, Ghost Rider) plays Dr. Sheila Gamble, Allen Gamble’s wife. Mendes was pretty entertaining but she was mostly there to really help the joke that Will Ferrell’s character attracts really hot women. Samuel L. Jackson (Iron Man 2, Soul Men) and Dwayne Johnson (The Rundown, Southland Tales) play detectives Highsmith and Danson respectively. These two were great together in this movie and I wish the movie was about them instead. They were hilarious in general and hilarious together but they are only in the movie briefly.

The Other Guys wasn’t bad but it wasn’t as good as I was hoping it would be. If you are a fan of movies like Step Brothers and Talladega Nights then you might enjoy this movie. For me, the way I see it is that if you aren’t 13 years old, you can skip this movie for now.