Friday, October 29, 2010

Review: Middle Men

Grade: B

Jack Harris was a happily married family man living in Houston, Texas in 1995. He makes a decent living fixing problem companies. One day, a lawyer he knows suggests that he goes out to California to meet with two men who seem quite idiotic but may have just started the most successful business ever. The internet was a relatively new discovery when Wayne Beering and Buck Dolby decided to put porn on the internet and charge for it. Within weeks they had made hundreds of thousands of dollars. Problem was they didn’t quite know what they were doing, in comes Jack to help them out. Before he knows it, Jack is mixed up with drug addicts, mobsters, porn stars, conmen and the FBI and is getting sucked into a new lifestyle as he makes million with the internet industry.

I have been looking forward to this movie for a while, and it was pretty good. One of its only faults though, is that it can’t really tell what it wants to be. It starts as a comedy based on a true story and in an instant it turns into a kind of serious drama and then ends on a sentimental almost Disney-esque moment. Outside of that, it is great and very enjoyable. When it’s funny, it’s really funny. Watching the antics of some of the characters is absolutely hilarious. Some of the serious moments are pretty interesting. The writing and storyline is actually very enjoyable, in my opinion. Of course, since it is at its heart a movie about the internet porn industry, it is a very R rated movie.

The cast of this movie is very entertaining and ranged. Luke Wilson (Death at a Funeral, Henry Poole is Here) plays the lead role of Jack Harris and narrates the movie. Wilson was great in this movie and hit all the notes of the movie just right. I really like Luke Wilson and actually like him more than his brother, Owen, and wish Luke had a bigger career. Giovanni Ribisi (Avatar, Flight of the Phoenix) plays the role of Wayne Beering. Ribisi was great in this movie, he was funny when he needed to be, and really pulled off the part of a crazed drug addict very well. Gabriel Macht (The Spirit, The Recruit) plays Buck Dolby, a former rocket scientist who helped introduce porn to the internet. Macht did a great job with his role as well and was very enjoyable in the movie. The movie also features great performances from James Caan, Jacinda Barrett, Rade Serbedzija, Laura Ramsey, Terry Crews, Kelsey Grammer, Graham McTavish and Kevin Pollack.

Middle Men is a great and fun movie to watch. It tells a bizarre story about how the porn industry started on the internet that is so strange, it has to be true. I found the story rather interesting and if you are interested in this subject, you’ll probably like it too.

Great quote: “If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that business is a lot like sex. Getting in is easy, pulling out is hard.”

Friday, October 22, 2010

Review: You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger

Grade: B

Follows a pair of married couples and their marriage woes. To start, Alfie and Helena have recently gotten a divorce. Since the divorce, Alfie has put himself back on the market hoping to pick up a young attractive woman. Helena has dipped into depression and does not know what to do with her life know so she goes to a friend of hers who is a psychic and follows everything she says. Their daughter, Sally, and her husband, Roy, have been having some problems as well. Sally just wants to be a mom but Roy does not seem to like this idea. Sally, becoming increasingly frustrated, begins to have feelings for her boss, Greg. Roy can’t keep a job and is determined to be a writer but no one will pick up his books. After a while he begins to fall for his attractive neighbor, Dia. The movie follows these characters troubles and passions as it all leads them out of their minds.

You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger is the latest from writer/director Woody Allen (Whatever Works, Manhattan Murder Mystery). While this isn’t Allen’s best work, it is better than almost everything he put out during the mid-nineties through most of the 2000s. The story is actually very entertaining and enjoyable to watch. The humor, while it may not always be laugh out loud funny, is still very amusing. A lot of the jokes are rather subtle but very entertaining. One of my favorite gags in the movie I barely caught, Helena’s psychic friend, Cristal, at one point is giving her a tarot reading, but she is using a normal deck of playing cards. The movie is narrated and I still have mixed feelings about that. At times the narration is helpful and entertaining and at other times it’s annoying and distracting, especially since it’s not narrated by anyone in the movie.

The cast of this movie is just fantastic. Anthony Hopkins (The World’s Fastest Indian, Silence of the Lambs) plays Alfie, a man going through a mid-life crisis a little too late in life. Hopkins was just great in this movie, as he always is. It was definitely one of his more subtle performances but still very enjoyable. Gemma Jones (Harry Potter, Bridget Jonse’s Diary) plays Helena, who seems a little bit crazy. She was great and very funny in her role. Naomi Watts (The International, King Kong) plays Sally, Alfie and Helena’s daughter who’s experiencing marital problems herself. Watts was very enjoyable in this movie and it was great to see her talking with her normal accent. Josh Brolin (Milk, No Country For Old Men) plays Roy, a washed up writer who falls in love with the girl next door. Brolin was fantastic in this movie, one of the better performances in the movie, in my opinion. The movie also features performances by Antonio Banderas, Freida Pinto, Ewen Bremner, Pauline Collins, Lucy Punch and Anna Friel.

You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger is a very enjoyable comedy, in my opinion. It tells a good story and throws in a few laughs. The ending is great, in my opinion. If you are looking for a comedy that actually requires a little bit of thought and doesn’t rely on gross stunts and people getting hit in the groin 100 times over in order to attempt to make the audience laugh, then this movie is for you. I definitely recommend checking out this movie at some point.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Review: RED

Grade: A

Frank Moses is a retired CIA agent living what he has come to think of as a dull existence in retirement. One day, his quiet life is disturbed when a hit squad descends upon his house. Furious and determined to get to the bottom of who is trying to kill him, he meets up a woman, Sarah, whom he has been talking to on the phone a lot, and explains his situation. Then in order to go even further into his investigation and to fight back against those trying to kill him, he seeks out some old friends who are retired assassins and spies. Together they all uncover a deep secret that goes much higher than they could have imagined.

This movie is fantastic and pure entertainment to watch. RED, which stands for Retired Extremely Dangerous, is based on a DC graphic novel by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner. The story is a lot of fun and the action is top notch. Not to mention that the movie is full of laughs. All of the characters are just great. It is a lot of fun to see what retired life might be like for people who used to lead very dangerous and exciting lives. The story is very enjoyable and the writing is fantastic. This movie really manages to balance all of the action, suspense and comedy just right. I can’t wait to go see this again. There are moments in this movie that will make you want to get out of your seat and cheer.

One of the reasons that this movie is so great is the casting choices. Bruce Willis (Die Hard, Cop Out) plays ex-CIA operative, Frank Moses. Willis is great as he has always been the best at mixing action with comedy. Somehow this man just manages to get more badass with age. Mary-Louise Parker (Solitary Man, TVs Weeds) plays Sarah Ross, a call center worker whom Frank has feelings for. She was great in this movie and was a lot of fun to watch in this type of movie, she really held her own. Morgan Freeman (Invictus, The Dark Knight) plays Joe Matheson, a former CIA operative himself now living in a retirement community. Freeman was great in this role and it was nice to see him to something a little different. He nailed the action and the jokes so well. John Malkovich (Burn After Readin, Being John Malkovich) plays Marvin Boggs, a very paranoid former CIA op. Malkovich was probably the funniest part of the movie. He was absolutely perfect for this role and kept me laughing in every scene. Helen Mirren (The Queen, State of Play) plays Victoria, a retired assassin. For some reason, Mirren’s presence in this movie is part of what made it so great. Something about a magnificent actress like her known more for playing rather sophisticated and proper characters, running around in this movie with a huge sniper rifle and firing a machine gun… priceless. The movie also features Carl Urban, Richard Dreyfuss, Brian Cox, Ernest Borgnine, Rebecca Pidgeon and more.

If you like action and you like comedies, RED is the movie for you. The whole cast is just great in it and the movie is just plain fun to watch. It’s movies like this that make it worth it to go to the theater.

Great quote: “I never thought I’d say this but… I’m getting the pig!”

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Review: Let Me In

Grade: A

In the early 1980s in Los Alamos, New Mexico lives a boy, Owen, who is the constant victim of bullies at his school. He therefore keeps to himself for the most part until one day, a mysterious girl, Abby, moves in next door with her guardian. At first the girl tells him they cannot be friends, but this soon changes. Their friendship grows quickly and becomes something a little more. However, at one point Owen learns that Abby is not all that she appears to be, Abby is a vampire. Owen is scared at first but gets over it and they become even closer. One day though, her caretaker dies and she must make the decision to leave in order to survive.

This is a remake of a Scandinavian movie called Let the Right One In, which was a brilliant movie. This Americanized version is actually really good and holds up to the original. As a warning, to anyone that is going to see this because they think it is a horror movie, it is not. In fact the whole vampire aspect of the movie is all background. The main story focuses on the relationship between Owen and Abby and it is a beautiful thing at times. Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) did a great job adapting the screenplay and directing this movie. The writing and the dialogue is just great and all the camera work is excellent.

Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road) plays the young boy Owen. He did a great job with this role and shows promise for a strong career later in life. He did a great job showing the torments that Owen lives with because he is bullied everyday and to such a high degree too. Chloe Moretz (Kick-Ass, (500) Days of Summer) plays the young vampire, Abby. Moretz is absolutely amazing. She is only 13 and is already promising to be one of the best actresses of our generation. She was perfect in this role and I cannot wait to see her in more. The movie also features Richard Jenkins, Elias Koteas and others.

This movie was just amazing. If you like movies with great story and plot and a dash of vampires, this one’s for you. One great thing about the vampire in this movie, she doesn’t sparkle. It also has a bit of vampire lore in it that hasn’t been in movies or writing for a very long time, and is the reason for the title of the movie.

Great quote: “I’m 12… more or less.”

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Review: The Social Network

Grade: A+

At Harvard in the fall of 2003, computer genius Mark Zuckerberg sits down at his computer and heatedly begins to blog and create a website that compares the female undergrads at Harvard based solely on appearance. The website explodes and Zuckerberg quickly gains attention of everyone at Harvard, for the better and worse. He then comes up with a new idea and quickly goes to work on it. The idea is simple, create a website that is exclusive to Harvard students that people can go to check on what their friends, or people they’ve just met, are up to. As soon as the website goes live it spreads like wildfire across the Harvard campus and the website quickly begins to grow and expand. However, with all of the success that the Facebook brings to Zuckerberg, it also brings a fair amount of trouble, both personal and legal.

When I first heard that they were making a movie about Facebook, I scoffed at the idea and figured it would be of no interest to me. I was wrong. When I found out that it was going to be directed by David Fincher (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Fight Club) and written by Aaron Sorkin (Charlie Wilson’s War, TVs The West Wing) I got very interested in the movie. The Social Network isn’t about Facebook, it’s about the people and controversy behind its creation. I figured I might enjoy it a little bit but I ended up being completely fascinated with it. Fincher did a great job with the direction of this movie, flashing between the litigation and the story was a great idea. The writing was superb, I absolutely loved the dialogue in this movie, it was very quick paced, smart and rather witty and funny at times. The movie grabbed me at the start and managed to keep my attention all the way through, and at the end it left me wanting a little more. Now, I’m not saying there should be a sequel, there shouldn’t, I’m just saying the movie was very effective.

I was also a little bit surprised at how neutral, for the most part, the movie was. It seems that Fincher and Sorkin didn’t want to make a movie that bashes the people who created Facebook, as many early reviews had implied that it did, just as they didn’t want to paint them as saints. With pretty much all of the character, they did a good job of showing the individuals good and bad sides. The only person that I got the movie had a problem with it Sean Parker, inventor of Napster and co-owner of Facebook. The movie didn’t really seem to have anything good to say about Parker, painting him as an immature, drug addled party boy, and nothing else.

Jesse Eisenberg (Zombieland, Adventureland) plays the main character of the movie, Mark Zuckerberg. I felt that Eisenberg did an amazing job with this role as it took a lot of work. Throughout the movie Zuckerberg talks very quickly and with purpose, throwing comments out so quickly that it can be hard to catch if you’re not paying attention. Eisenberg definitely proved himself as an actor in this movie. Andrew Garfield (The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Red Riding Trilogy) plays Zuckerberg’s best friend Eduardo Saverin. Garfield did a great job with his role as well and is proving himself as an actor as well, I’m sure we’ll be seeing great things from him in the future (after the Spider-man reboot of course). Justin Timberlake (Alpha Dog, Southland Tales) played Sean Parker. I have always been impressed with Timberlake as an actor and he was great in this movie as the egocentric creator of Napster. Relative new comer Armie Hammer had an interesting task of playing two roles as the twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. Hammer did a great job with the role and was very enjoyable in the roles. The movie also features Rooney Mara, Max Minghella, Barry Livingston, Rashida Jones and many others.

The Social Network was a great fast paced drama about the creators of Facebook. It has some of the best writing I’ve heard in a movie in a long time. I found it very enjoyable and would recommend this movie to just about everyone.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Review: Secretariat

Grade: D

Penny Chenery was a typical housewife and mother living in Denver with her family when one day her mother died. She went to her parent’s horse breeding farm and decided to take over operations as her dad was very sick and unable to do any of the work anymore. Originally, she was just going to sell off all the horses until she figured out that one of the new horses about to be born would probably make a great race horse. With the help of legendary trainer Lucien Laurin, they raise the horse to become one of the most famous race horses of all time and ultimately go on to be the first horse in 25 years to win the Triple Crown.

I am going to say this upfront because it may be skewing my opinion of the movie, but I really don’t care about horse racing. I still think though that despite that, this was just an extremely boring movie. On top of that I felt the story and characters lack any depth. The impression that I got from the trailer was that the family, the whole family, was in dire times and if they didn’t get one of their horses to start winning some races they were going to lose everything. Not the case at all, Penny and her husband are very well off living in Denver. Penny decides to help out around the farm after her mother dies because her father is no longer mentally capable of doing any of the work. She has a fondness of horses and decides to take a chance on a newly born horse. She is determined and lucks out with the help of some other people who really do all the work with the horse while she reaps the benefits of the horse’s winnings. I never once felt anything for any of the characters and I never felt the need to cheer them on, simply another story of the rich get richer, in my eyes. On top of that, the race sequences drag on far too long. For instance, at one point the horse is racing at the Kentucky Derby, which tends to last around only 45 seconds, but in the movie the race goes on for more than 5 minutes.

Diane Lane (Hollywoodland, Unfaithful) plays the role of Penny Chenery. Lane did a good job with her performance, it’s not her fault that her character was uninteresting. John Malkovich (Burn After Reading, Con Air) plays the role of Lucien Laurin, the famous horse trainer. Malkovich was by far the best part of this movie and if it weren’t for his performance in this movie I probably would have fallen asleep. The movie also features Scott Glenn, James Cromwell, Dylan Walsh, Margo Martindale, Kevin Connelly, Nestor Serrano, Dylan Baker and more.

Secretariat is, in my opinion, a very boring movie full of unsympathetic characters. It is also very cheesy with the ways that it tries to be inspirational, which really only comes off as laughable. If you have interests in horse racing, maybe you will like it, but I just didn’t care about a rich upper class family getting even richer by paying people to do all the work with the horse but getting all the fame and recognition for the horse winning.