Friday, January 27, 2012

The Grey

My ViewThe Grey (2012) Liam Neeson plays a hunter whose job is to protect the men who work on the Alaska pipeline from wolves. Traveling in northern Alaska, a plane full of workers, including Neeson’s character, crashes into the Alaskan wilderness. Not only are the men low on food and other supplies, they are smack in the middle of the territory of a pack of wolves and the wolves, wanting to get rid of the invaders, start picking off the men one by one. While I enjoyed Neeson’s role, much of the characters in the movie are very predictable, and, at times I found myself even rooting a little for the wolves. If you see this film, be sure to take a sweater, as this film does an impressive job of showing you the harshness of the Alaskan Winters. Just a footnote:  there are very few cases of wolves attacking humans and most occur after humans have been living for quite awhile in their territory. My Rating: Cable   The Grey
My ViewMan on a Ledge (2012) Sam Worthington plays an ex-cop who, after being convicted of stealing a 40 million dollar diamond (which has never been recovered), escapes from prison then steps out on the 20th floor ledge of a hotel to draw attention to his plight of being wrongly convicted.  But there is more to this than meets the eye, and while he captures the attention of NYC, his brother (played by Jamie Bell) and girlfriend (played by Genesis Rodriguez) might be in on a scheme to get Worthington’s good name returned.  I found Worthington a little bland in his role, and Elizabeth Banks is sorely miscast as a jaded NYC cop psychologist who is assigned to talk the ex-cop off the ledge.  What makes this film fun to watch is the bickering couple of Bell and Rodriguez, who make an unlikely pair of cat burglars. My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Man on a Ledge
Indyfest (A Look at a Small, Indie or Foreign Film): Albert Nobbs (2012) Glenn Close plays the title character, a woman, who for the past 30 years, has posed as a man to get work as a waiter in 19th century Ireland. She is quiet, unassuming, and perfect in her job as a butler at a small hotel, but her dream is to own her own Tobacco shop, a goal that she almost has enough money for. But Albert’s world gets very complicated when a new maid (played by Mia Wasikowska) joins the staff and Albert’s dream could come crashing down. Glenn Close deserves her Oscar nomination in a role of a lifetime.  You really root for Albert to succeed, but an even better performance is by Janet McTeer, who plays a painter who befriends Albert, and is a role that got her a Best Supporting Actress nomination.  My Rating: Full Price   Albert Nobbs Website
The 50 (A Movie From My Best/Worst Films of All Time)
27th Best Film
Sullivan’s Travels (1941) A director (Joel McCrea) of light, musical comedies decides he wants to make a serious film about the downtrodden, a film that shows how hard life is. He realizes he can't create this type of film while living the life of a Hollywood director, so he decides to live a hobo’s life, with no money, riding the rails, experiencing the real world. He meets a young woman (played by the beautiful Veronica Lake) who, after trying to make it as an actress, is on her last dime and is headed out of town. After discovering his true identity, she decides to help him on his travels. This is a warm, funny film that pokes fun a the “Hollywood lifestyle” and the men who make films. There is incredible chemistry between McCrea and Lake as their relationship is built on friendship and compassion. Writer/Director Preston Sturges is masterful at writing witty dialogue, and makes his characters seem full, well-rounded, and funny.  In my opinion, this is one of the best films made in the 1940’s and is well worth rediscovering.   Sullivan's Travels Info
Forgotten FilmMy Favorite Year (1982) It’s 1950’s NYC where a popular weekly live variety show is based. A junior writer (played by Mark Linn-Baker) is assigned the task of keeping a matinee idol out of trouble and sober for a week leading up to his appearance on the show. Peter O’Toole plays the actor who is known more for his boozing and womanizing than his acting. This is a very funny comedy that gives you a look into the backstage goings on in the world of 1950’s television, its Golden Age.  O’Toole is truly great as the boozy swashbuckler who tries to get in as much trouble as he can, all with a twinkle in his eye. This film is loosely based on a true story where Woody Allen, a junior writer on Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows, was assigned to make sure that Errol Flynn showed up for the live telecast.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee   My Favorite Year Info
In Case You Missed It (A Film Just Released on DVD)50/50 (2011) I picked this as one of my top ten films of 2011.  Based on a true story, Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a producer of an NPR-like radio station whose life changes when he discovers he has cancer and only has a 50/50 chance of survival. I loved the female leads in this film with Bryce Dallas Howard playing his selfish girlfriend and the very cute Anna Kendrick playing the inexperienced therapist. This is a comedy that has heart and will make you laugh and cry.  My Rating: Full Price   50/50 Website
In Memory of Ed Wood (A Movie I’ve Only Seen in Trailers but Just Looks Like a Bad Idea): Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance  The question is not why was this film made when the first Ghost Rider was such a stinker.  The bigger question is why are studios still making films with Nicolas Cage?

Weird Credits: From the credits of Underworld: Awakening (2012): Automotive Sprayer

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near YouJohn Carter (2012) Pixar’s first live action movie based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel about a man from Earth who mysteriously travels to the war-torn world of Mars. The director is Andrew Stanton who directed some of Pixar’s best films - WALL-EFinding Nemo - and wrote Toy Story and A Bug’s Life.   John Carter Info
Until Next Time!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

My View:  Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2012) A year after losing his father (played by Tom Hanks) who died in the World Trade Center towers on 9/11, a young boy finds a key in his father’s closet. Convinced that his father left him the key, he sets out to discover what the key unlocks and touches many lives on his exploration. This is a moving story that, at times, is very painful to watch as the boy’s mother (played by Sandra Bullock) tries to deal with a son who doesn’t always see the world as it really is. While Thomas Horn does an admirable job as the young boy, his character, whom I feel has Asperger’s syndrome, is not always likeable, especially when he acts up when he doesn't get his way. This film is not the cathartic film that we want (and possibly needed to help us deal with 9/11) and just doesn’t pull the heartstrings.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Website
Indyfest (A Look at a Small, Indie or Foreign Film):  Haywire (2012) Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Contagion, Ocean’s Eleven) directs this film about a private contracted solider who is set up during a mission. Gina Carano, who, in real life is a former Mixed Martial Arts fighter, and plays the soldier who is framed for murder and sets out to get revenge and hunt down the men responsible. I loved this film from start to finish with its terrific sound track, moody cinematography and marvelous fight sequences where you see Carano use every trick in the book to kill the bad guys. The film starts with an impossibly cool sequence at a remote diner, and the non-stop action begins there.  This film has an all-star cast with Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Antonio Banderas and Michael Douglas and the film keeps you guessing right up to the very end. The only thing you won’t be guessing about is that Carano is going to be kicking someone’s butt at every turn.  My Rating: Full Price   Haywire Website
The 50 (A Movie From My Best/Worst Films of All Time)
#27 Worst Film
Popeye (1980) Robin Williams stars in his first film as Popeye, a horrible musical comedy based on the Popeye comic strips/cartons. The film had just about every leading actor attached to it until Robert Altman (MASH) got the directing job - then everyone started dropping out. The film was plagued with problems from the start with a set that took 7 months to build.  They should have, though, spent the time and money on the script.  This film encompasses God-awful songs, a script that barely tells a story and Williams playing the big muscled guy with a mumble and a smirk. The film was halted for two weeks when Williams was hit in the head with a can of spinach, but after seeing this film, you might be the one who wants to be hit in the head.   Popeye Info
Forgotten FilmCreator (1985) Peter O’Toole plays an eccentric Nobel Prize winning scientist who is obsessed with bringing his dead wife back to life by cloning her.  He hires a student (played by Vincent Spano) to help him with the process and, along the way, the hired student falls in love with a fellow classmate (played by Virginia Madsen). What I really enjoyed about this film is that the characters are real, and this film does a outstanding job celebrating life and love. Peter O’Toole is fun as the quirky scientist, and Mariel Hemingway is delightful as the woman who just might give O’Toole a way to see a future without his wife in his life.   My Rating: Full Price   Creator Info
In Case You Missed it (A Film Just Released on DVD)The Ides of March (2011) George Clooney wrote and directed this old fashioned political thriller that tells the story of a Media Strategist (played by Ryan Gosling) who gets sucked into a behind-the-scenes game of cat and mouse of political intrigue.  I liked the film but feel that Gosling wasn’t quite up to the acting challenge of matching the acting talents of Clooney, Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   The Ides of March Website
In Memory of Ed Wood (A Movie I’ve Only Seen in Trailers but Just Looks Like a Bad Idea):  Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012) First off, there was a Journey #1? Any film that has Dwayne Johnson flying on the back of a giant bee just can’t be very good.   Journey 2: The Mysterious Island Website

Weird Credits: From the credits of Haywire:  Stunt Climbers

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near YouSafe House (2012) Ryan Reynolds plays a young CIA agent who is in charge of a remote safe house when a master criminal (played by Denzel Washington) arrives. Things get interesting when the safe house is attacked, and Reynolds must go on the run with a man he has vowed to protect but can’t trust.   Safe House Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, January 13, 2012


My ViewContraband (2012) Mark Wahlberg plays a former smuggler who is now a respectable businessman with a wife (played by Kate Beckinsale) and kids. But, he is pulled back into the game when his brother-in-law (played by Lukas Haas) messes up a smuggling run and owes a drug king pin a ton of money. So Wahlberg gets his old smuggling gang back together to do one last deal, this time smuggling millions of dollars of counterfeit money out of Panama. This film offers no surprises, as you can see each plot twist from a mile away, and the action sequences are few and far between. Adding to this predictable film is one of the most bizarre performances I have seen in years when Giovanni Ribisi plays a tattooed drug lord who is hell-bent on destroying Wahlberg’s family. I have yet to figure out what type of accent Ribisi is using in the film, but I am almost sure he is speaking English.  My Rating: Cable   Contraband Website
Family FareBeauty and the Beast 3-D (originally released in 1991) Disney brings back the timeless tale of Belle and the Beast, but this time re-releasing the film in 3-D. Of course, this is one of the best animated films of the past 20 years, full of incredible songs and glorious hand-drawn animation. The big question - is it worth it to see the film again in 3D? I say it isn’t, as 3D doesn’t add anything to the movie and, at times, it takes something away. When I first saw this film in 1991, I was amazed at the ballroom scene.  The animation was so beautifully done that it almost seemed 3D at the time.  Now, though, the 3D format takes something away from this special scene and makes it not as vibrant and unique as it was in 2D. There is a funny short at the beginning of the film that features the cast from the 2010 film Tangled and uses 3D very well.  My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again (just not in 3D)   Beauty and the Beast Website
Indyfest (A Look at a Small, Indie or Foreign Film): Pariah (2012) This is the story of a black teenager (played by Adepero Oduye) in Brooklyn who leads a double life.  Her parents see her as a book smart young woman who has never grown out of her tomboy phase, but her friends and sister know that she is a lesbian looking for love and companionship. As the teen struggles to find her place in the world, her home life slowly falls apart when it becomes apparent that her father is having an affair, and her mother (played brilliantly by Kim Wayans) refuses to believe that her daughter isn’t interested in men. This is a film that uses warmth, understanding and a bit of reality thrown in to touch on the subject of a young woman discovering her true self.   My Rating: Full Price   Pariah Website
The 50 (A Movie From My Best/Worst Films of All Time)
#28 Best Film
A Night at the Opera (1935) It’s the Marx brothers at their zany best as they help two young lovers break into their chosen profession, the Opera. This is a film that you have to see multiple times as the brothers are so fast and furious with their lines, you are sure to miss one or two. This film contains one of the most iconic films scenes of all time as an impossible amount of people file into a stateroom on a ship, filling it up so much that when the door is opened, a dozen people fall out of the room. How could you not love a movie with the following dialogue between Groucho and Chico: Groucho: “That’s in every contract. That’s what they call a sanity clause.” Chico: “Ha-ha-ha! You can’t fool me. There ain’t no Sanity Clause!”   A Night At the Opera Info
Forgotten FilmBedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) During WWII in England , three children are sent to the country to live with a strange woman, named Eglantine Price (Angela Lansbury). The kids soon discover that the woman is an apprentice witch, and they promise to keep her secret if she performs some magic for them. She places a magic spell on a bedknob that, when attached to the bed, allows the kids to travel anywhere that they wish. This film has imaginative songs, an incredibly talented cast, great sets, and Lansbury is perfect in the role of the witch who leads the kids on a magical journey, a journey that could take them on adventures they never could imagine.  My Rating: Full Price    Bedknobs and Broomsticks Info
In Case You Missed It (A Film Just Released on DVD)Moneyball (2011) Brad Pitt stars in this film about the real life General Manager of the Oakland A’s baseball team, who uses unconventional methods to get his small market team to compete against the Yankees and Red Sox. While Pitt is perfect in his role, the movie is worth seeing because of Jonah Hill, who plays a freshly graduated Economics major who helps re-write the way a baseball team is put together.  My Rating: Full Price   Moneyball Website
In Memory of Ed Wood (A Movie I’ve Only Seen in Trailers but Just Looks Like a Bad Idea)W.E. (2012) The Madonna directed movie that somehow links the affair of King Edward VIII and American Wallis Simpson (remember The King’s Speech?) with a modern day romance between a married woman and a security guard. How can I say this…W.E. don’t care!   W.E. Website

Weird Credits: From the credits of Beauty and the Beast:  Special thanks for the L.A. Zoo.

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near YouThe Woman in Black (2012) A lawyer goes to a remote village where there is a ghost terrorizing the locals. Hey, I just want to see if Daniel Radcliffe is as talented an actor as I think he is.   The Woman in Black Website
Until Next Time!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Tinker Tailor Solider Spy

My View: Tinker Tailor Solider Spy (2011) This film, based on the John le Carre novel of the same name, is about the British Intelligence Agency during the early 1970’s. The agency is in a shambles as its long time leader, Control (played by John Hurt), had to resign due to the death of a British spy in a communist country. Before he leaves office, Control gives a retired spy master (played by Gary Oldman) the difficult task of pinpointing a Russian spy who is one of four people at the top of the British agency. Drink a cup of coffee before you see this film, not because it’s boring, but because you will need to be alert to pay attention to the complex plot that has plenty of twists and turns. This is an incredible cast which includes Hurt and last year’s Best Actor winner, Colin Firth, but it’s Gary Oldman who masterfully plays the man trying to figure out the mystery.  His acting, alone, is worth the price of admission. For those of you who say they don’t make films for adults anymore, here is an intelligent film rolled into a highly enjoyable spy-caper. My Rating: Full Price   Tinker Tailor Solider Spy Website
My Bottom Ten Films of the Year (Please note, I didn’t see every film, so I missed films like Jack and Jill and New Year’s Eve, both of which I sure would have made the list):
1). Green Lantern (2011) This film, starring Ryan Reynolds, has a storyline that appears to have been written in crayon and special effects that make the film look like it’s a Japanese animated T.V. show in the 80’s. It contains one of the most anti-climactic battle sequences I have ever seen to resolve the battle of good guy vs. bad guy.  But, by then, you don’t really care who wins. My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again   Green Lantern Website
2). Sucker Punch (2011) When I saw the trailer, I was excited to see this film.  It looked like a fun comic book-like move about a female action hero. What we got, though, is a depressing film about a young girl who is committed to a mental asylum and uses a fantasy world where she is a super hero to escape the reality of her situation. My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again   Sucker Punch Website
3)Just Go with It (2011) Adam Sandler plays a jilted plastic surgeon who meets the woman of his dreams (played by Sports Ill. swimsuit model, Brooklyn Decker), but he has to come up with lie upon lie to keep her. Aniston plays his office manager who goes along with Sandler's lies and poses as his soon-to-be ex-wife. This is a film where we are supposed to believe that Sandler has never noticed how beautiful Aniston is until they go on vacation. Maybe someone at the studio thought this was going to be funny, but it’s more likely Sandler just wanted to make a film in HawaiiMy Rating: Cable  
4)Alvin and the Chipmunks – Chip-wrecked (2011) The Chipmunks and the Chipettes are on a cruise ship with Dave (Jason Lee) when they are stranded on deserted island. If you are older than the age of ten, you will want to run out of the theatre when they start singing another Lady Gaga song.  My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again   Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked
5). Red Riding Hood (2011) Just skip on to Grandmother's house and pass up this retelling of the folk tale aimed at the Twilight crowd. Amanda Seyfried is the object of affection of her childhood friend, a man she really loves (played by Shiloh Fernandez) and the boy she is betrothed to (played by Max Irons). There is, however, a werewolf in the neighborhood that she may have to sacrifice herself to so she can save the village. By the end of the film, you just want the wolf to eat everyone.  My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again   Red Riding Hood Website
6)Bad Teacher (2011) Cameron Diaz plays an uninspired junior high teacher who gets dumped by her sugar daddy. She then tries to woo a millionaire (played by Justin Timberlake) who happens to be more into public service than having fun and spending his money. There isn’t one person in this film that you root for, and Diaz’s character is really unlikeable.  Also, Timeberlake never finds a way to make his character funny. My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again   Bad Teacher Website
7)Beastly (2011) It’s a modern day telling of Beauty and the Beast. A young man is cursed by a teen witch (Mary-Kate Olsen of all people) and now looks like a biker who won the lottery and spent all his winnings getting tatted up. Vanessa Hudens is the love interest who, while looking cute, can’t act her way out of a paper bag. I was praying at some point that Angela Landsbury would start singing, but much to my disappointment, the movie just kept going on and on. My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it again.   Beastly Website
8)Scre4m (2011) Ghost Face is back and killing again. Other than the first five minutes, this film really isn’t worth watching except for the tension between Courteney Cox and David Arquette, who had just filed for divorce when the film was made. While the original Scream was a good twist on the horror /slasher movie, this film is just more of the same – making it an old, tired, bloody mess.  My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again   Scre4m Website
9)The Catechism Cataclysm (2011) With a name like that, how can it be good? An inept priest comes back to his hometown and talks an old buddy into taking a canoe trip with him. This bizarre film is not funny and is just boring.  But, hey, if you enjoy a dead person getting a rock for a head (I would say that you have to see it to understand how that can happen but you still wouldn't know) then go ahead and watch this mess of a film.  My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again   The Catechism Cataclysm Website
10)Final Destination 5  (2011) Did we really need another reminder that you can’t cheat death? A group of people nearly escape a collapsing bridge only to be killed by such things as death by Lasik and death by uneven parallel bars. My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again   Final Destination Website

The following films almost made it into the bottom tenConan the BarbarianThe Three MusketeersHappy Feet TwoMeek’s CutoffI Am Number FourSomething Borrowed.

I was able to avoid these films but they keep showing up on other critics' bottom ten listsZookeeperJack and JillAtlas Shrugged: Part INew Years EveHuman Centipede IIYour HighnessI Don’t Know How She Does itSmurfs.

Weird Credits: From the credits of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Property Department Translator

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near YouAlbert Nobbs (2011) Glen Close plays a woman who, for thirty years in 19th century Ireland, poses as a man to get work as a butler.   Albert Nobbs Website
Until Next Time!