Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Adventures of Tintin 3D (A)

(Extremely positive review coming soon, but having writer's block. Just wanted to quickly share my opinion on the film, because I've already tried writing this review four times unsuccessfully, and doubt I'll be able to put a review up for a while. Sorry about that.)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (A-)

This year has been shaping up to be the least attended year in cinema since 1995. This can be, in part, due to a suffering economy, large increases in ticket prices, an irrational expectation that the casual moviegoer will go see sequels to every mediocre movie they've ever seen, and the lose-lose situation regarding 3D and IMAX that in one format you pay a ridiculous amount and in the other you receive a subpar product. On surface similar to many of the glut of sequels to be released this year, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is the third sequel to a recently ignored franchise which is having itself be released in a premium standard, in this case IMAX. Though the film was directed by Pixar wonder-kid Brad Bird and had a relentlessly cool trailer, my unabashed optimism toward other sequels to be released this year was often met with varying levels of disappointment (Case in point: The Hangover: Part II). Now, though I have seen the third Mission Impossible movie, it wasn't until the film began that my slightly cynical feelings completely dissolved. Simply put: Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol succeeds in the impossible task of taking mostly cynical and low expectations and giving the jaded audience (myself included) one of the best action films this side of Thunderball.

Arthur Christmas (C+)

(I will attempt not to make any holiday related puns over this review, but there are no guarantees. Sincerely, David)

Due to surprisingly high temperatures, a severe lack of snow, my neighborhood's weird inability to put up the smallest form of decoration, and my admitted tardiness in watching any once-a-year T.V specials, this year seems to lack holiday spirit unlike any other. Over the last weekend, seven new movies were released, and not one contained any connection to any holiday; whether it be Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanza, or Christmahanukwanza. To truly access my inner holiday spirit at the multiplex I had to look to a release from a couple weeks back, and the result is this sightly delayed review for (not New Years Eve) Aardman's futuristic CGI animated take on Christmas, Arthur Christmas.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Carnage (A-)

If shoving monkeys in a typewriter filled room will eventually give you Shakespeare, what will happen if you repeat the process with Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, John C. Reilly, and Christoph Waltz instead? Acclaimed director Roman Polanski asks this question with his latest film, Carnage. Adapted from the hit broadway play, the film stars the previously referenced cast as two sets of parents whose children were involved in a playground scuffle set out to make amends; The victims (Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly) and the perpetrators (Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz). However, as the meeting progresses through a series of loaded topics, accidental accusations, off putting marital references, and the deadly combination of warm coca-cola and nausea, what first begins as an awkward apology turns into the degradation of two Manhattanite couples, and the implied implosion of their respective marriages. Think of it as a much more comedic version of Lars von Trier's Melancholia, minus the looming apocalypse and the excessive runtime.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

My 9-Year Old Sister's Review of "Puss In Boots 3D"

For a while now, my little sister has been wondering whether she could write a review for my site, and after a family trip to the movie theater to see the slightly new Shrek spin-off Puss In Boots, the chance has finally arisen. This is an almost completely unedited review written by my 9 year old sister, and whether or not I end up reviewing the film for myself, I really hope you enjoy her take on the film. Okay, that's enough of my mostly unnecessary introductory paragraph, and let's begin her review!

For those who have seen the four previous Shrek movies, Puss in Boots is a familiar character. This film shows his adventures before Shrek. This movie is not as awful as you'd think a Shrek spin-off would be. In this movie, Puss is "brothers" with Humpty Dumpty. The plot revolves around magic beans. Puss falls in love with a she-cat that helps along the way. At first, I didn't recognize Zach Galifianakis as Humpty Dumpty, but after a while you figure it out.

I saw a few places that I didn't understand. One of them was when you see the goose's eyes are red (there is a large goose in this movie). Then after a few minutes the eyes are yellow. Also, cats dance too much in Puss In Boots.

I am happy David let me give a review!

Grade: B

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Catch .44 (C)

Many people say that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. From the mixed up files of Mr. Q.J. Tarantino comes the latest Reservoir Dogs inspired crime film, Catch .44. Although the film is not directed, produced, or written by Mr. Tarantino, his influence on the film is evident in the film's script, characters, and direction. Characters indulge themselves on seemingly pointless tangents while talking, the film follows a non-traditional timeline akin to the previously mentioned Reservoir Dogs, every other word coming out of the character's mouths is profane. The only example of the film not following in the suit of Mr. Tarantino would be the film's soundtrack, favoring more modern pop songs to the 60's and 70's style jams the director is so fond of. Going back to my opening sentence; Many people say that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. Director Aaron Harvey (who also wrote the film's script) clearly admires Mr. Tarantino's work, but does this appreciation translate into an effective and enjoyable film for his audience? The answer to this question is fairly simple in my opinion: Mr. Harvey entertains, but fails to do anything greater.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Melancholia (B+)

Enjoyment and appreciation are two very different aspects to how a film can be classified as "good". Though occasionally a movie can be judged solely on one of these aspects, perhaps a goofy children's movie, usually it takes a combination of the two to create a "good" film. However, if your name happens to be Lars von Trier, this newly created rule does not in any way, shape, or form apply to you. If your name is Lars von Trier, you have full permission if not the expectation to show the audience a film that is almost impossible to truly enjoy on any level, but still be able to honestly appreciate the masterwork of. Lars von Trier is a director unlike any other working today; a man who creates depressing and occasionally downright wretched works of cinema which contain an almost unbearable brutal honesty, whose masterful camerawork forces the viewer to engage themselves in the beauty of the horrors (both physical and emotional) that await. When you are Lars von Trier, enjoyment is only a minuscule detail in the grand scheme of cinema. (If this description of the famed director sounds a bit cruel, regrettably the only two films I've seen by him until now have been Dogville and Antichrist, two of the most troubling films to be released in the past few years. Or at least that I've seen).

Sunday, December 4, 2011

J. Edgar (B)

Because J. Edgar had already been in theaters for a few weeks before my viewing, I knew in advance to slightly lower my expectations toward the film. Originally touted as a surefire Oscar contender, this biopic on the still controversial original face of law enforcement John Edgar Hoover, despite its esteemed cast (most notably Leonardo DiCaprio as the man himself), talented director (Clint Eastwood), and ambitious goals, opened up to middling if not downright mediocre reviews. Critics such as Joe Morgenstern from The Wall Street Journal called the film: "...a partially animated wax work."However, for every four of these blasting attacks, there was one pure glowing review giving the highest imaginable praise. It was almost as if these different critics saw two completely separate films: One a bloated woodenly acted mess and the other a brilliant kaleidoscope portrait of a man few knew. My disappointment grew to curiosity, and now approximately one day after seeing J. Edgar I am officially ready to add my own opinion to the swirling film criticism cesspool. Perhaps it could simply be the slightly lowered expectations, but for the most part this was a compelling though fairly flawed film.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Mini-Review: The Muppets (A)

For around the last hour or so, I've attempted to write a full review for the family Thanksgiving movie The Muppets, but due to a series of incomplete attempts I've settled with myself to write a mini-review of the film. Usually in cases like these, I'll decide not to write a review at all (one example of this would be for Morgan Spurlock's The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, which I've tried to write a review for about four times. It's a good movie though.), but in the case of this film I realized I had to write a review simply to share the soul touching delight this movie is. Though I've never considered myself a "superfan" of the muppets, this film gave me a sense of incredible joy which I have rarely felt in a movie theater before.

Starring Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, every darn muppet you can imagine, and the most tremendous amount of celebrity cameos since The Love Guru, The Muppets takes the traditional "let's put on a show" plot and turns it into a meditative yet all the hilarious take on the fallen icons themselves. Simultaneously hilarious, creative, nostalgic, and thoughtful, The Muppets delivers on all accounts and more. Also to be noted are the songs; before entering the theater I didn't even know it was a musical (though I sort of guessed that it would be, considering the only two other muppet movies I've seen were), but the songs were the added push to make a great film truly outstanding. One of the quotes from "Pictures In My Head," a ballad sang by Kermit goes like this:

"If we could do it all again, just another chance to entertain
Would anybody watch or even care?
Or did something break we cant repair?"

To answer your question Kermit, everything is just like you never left.

Grade: A

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Future (C-)

Miranda July's slightly new film, The Future, is difficult to classify under any specific genre. Is it a drama? Is it a dark comedy? Is it a profound evaluation of the universe like Terrance Malick or Werner Hertzog-lite? Frankly, even after watching the film, I'm not completely sure. For those who have never heard of the film, here is its synopsis from IMDB:

Saturday, November 19, 2011

London Boulevard (C+)

As a screenwriter, there's little denial that William Monahan has a clear skill for minting out cleverly written and well crafted scripts. Evidence for this couldn't be more apparent than his Oscar winning script for the 2006 film The Departed. Now however, he is ditching the crime-ridden streets of South Boston for the equally seedy London underground for his directorial debut London Boulevard. The film stars Colin Farrell as a former gangster trying to break clean from a crime infested past, Keira Knightley as the reclusive celebrity who may be his only shot at redemption, and Ray Winstone as the crime lord who won't let him get away easy. Sounds like a quirky yet slightly compelling story, right? Well, maybe.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

It's Summer In November! 10 Mini-Reviews for 10 Summer Films

The colors of the leaves are changing, the temperature is getting colder, and Thanksgiving seems to be right around the corner. All around the country autumn seems to be upon us, but not here at Film Crazy, where the summer fun has only just begun! Here to bring the summer spirit to everyone experiencing the cool breeze of autumn, I've written ten (count em', ten!) mini-reviews for the summers biggest movies. So pull your Hawaiian shirt out of the closet, go to Goodwill and get the cheapest flip-flops you can find, and grab a beach chair, cause here are the ten mini-reviews of summer!


John Sayles' costume drama set in the Philippine-American War of 1899-1902 despite covering a seldom treaded topic (the only other film I can think of set in the Philippine-American War would be The Real Glory), ends up a surprising result of style over substance. Already doomed by a cheaply melodramatic script written by John Sayles himself, the extreme amounts of overacting give the film more of the feel of a 4:00pm CBS soap opera rather than the Iraq war commentary/war epic it was most likely intended to be. There is a scene in the film where a character is water boarded for no particular reason, and if Sayles excised it, the film's commentary would be subtler and frankly there would be no drastic change in the story. Though I have my complaints with the film's acting and script, there is no denying that this is an absolutely beautiful film to look at. Despite only doing cinematography work on a few short films and commercials, Lee Meily's first attempt of being the cinematographer for a big film is so sensational I cannot wait to see what else he does in his career. This is a film that could easily be nominated for an Oscar for its cinematography, and for good reason: It is strong enough to make this potentially boring slog of a film worth recommending.

Grade: B-

Attack The Block

I almost don't feel the need to write this review, because I pretty much agree with nearly every critic who gave Joe Cornish's mildly new sci-fi mini-buster a positive review. This is a clever and fun film, which uses its minuscule (or minuscule by at least alien blockbuster standards) budget to create creative and unique experience from almost every angle. In my review of Jon Favreau's Cowboys and Aliens, I criticized the film for its severe lack of new, or at least non-generic aliens. For this film, I believe the absolute opposite. Using what I believe to be a combination of inventive puppeteering and very light CGI, Cornish creates a pack of aliens of which I dare anyone in the audience to say they've seen anything like. To quote a character from the film, they're "gorilla wolf motherf*ckers".

The film is also anchored by great performances from a more than willing cast, but the main standout would have to be newcomer John Boyega as the main leader of the gang who starts the intergalactic feud. He brings a type of depth to a role that could've easily just been a generic "teen saves the day" character, but when thinking about the film, little can be considered as generic. This is the kind of movie where if given the chance, it could've been a breakout hit if given a wide release. However, this is an entertaining film that should be undoubtably sought out.

Grade: B+

Midnight In Paris

Imagine Paris in the 1920's. Congratulations, you've just shared the same thought as Woody Allen! Starring Owen Wilson as Woody Allen as Gil, Midnight In Paris is a taxi car entrance into the magical world of 1920's Paris. Though this is an undoubtably flawed film, it also happens to be a ton of sophisticated fun. The film is essentially a neurotic Night at the Museum, which is not entirely a bad thing. Allen throws as many celebrity impersonations of famous writers, artists, and poets at the wall as he can, and most of them stick. It's only toward the end of the film by around the Adrien Brody point where the cameos grow tiresome, but until that point most of the material is "smartly goofy".

Using a very loose plot of Gil's engagement to an incredibly unlikable Rachel McAdams (whose performance along with Kathy Bates are the only real two duds of the film) as a springboard for historical cameos and Woody Allen-esque conversations about the pseudo intellectual. Once the film ends, there really isn't anything to chew on, but that doesn't make the film any less of an entertaining experience. A blockbuster for the history buff.

Grade: B

Our Idiot Brother

I can't tell you enough how desperately I wanted to enjoy this movie. With a cast containing four of my favorite actors working today (Paul Rudd, Zooey Deschanel, Steve Coogan, and Elizabeth Banks), and trailers which made the film look like a hilarious and heartfelt comedy, I frankly couldn't wait for the film to be released. However, once it was, it was impossible to conceal my disappointment. Any movie with the title Our Idiot Brother has no right to attempt to tackle heavy material unless the film's tone is somber enough to match it, which unfortunately, this film does not. Opting to take as many tonal changes as possible rather than to maintain one steady tone, despite containing several well committed performances the film falls apart about halfway through its runtime and never fully recovers. How can you successfully blend the stoner slapstick plot line of a rescue of one's dog from an equally stoned hippie, with the separate plot of a lesbian woman becoming pregnant through an affair with a man? Simply put, unless masterfully executed, you can't.

Though the tones of the film change nearly as rapidly as the jokes are fired off, there is one scene that almost makes the film all worth while. Towards the end of the film, once Ned's (Paul Rudd's happy-go-lucky brother) havoc has already been wreaked upon his sisters, there is a scene in which the whole family, each in their own separate state of turmoil, sits down to play a game of charades. What follows is a brilliant scene, filled with stunning performances from around the board which contains every element the film has been juggling since the beginning: Humor, love, cruelty, kindness, stupidity, tension, and family. It's a near pitch perfect collage of separate themes, and though not enough to recommend the film, certainly extremely well done.

Grade: C

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is, if nothing else, an incredible technical achievement. The apes seen in this film are some of the most detailed and lifelike creations CGI creations I've seen since James Cameron's 2009 Avatar, (Fun fact: Both Avatar and RPA used the same company for special effects), and when interacting with humans it can be difficult to tell that no actual apes were used once when making the film. It's also to the film's bonus that the film itself is just as well made as its CGI chimps.

In Rupert Wyatt's sophomore film, he shows just as much skill with a camera as someone who has been directing blockbuster entertainment for their whole career. He always knows where to put the camera, making scenes which could've been generic blockbuster fluff into genuinely enthralling and edge-of-your-seat battles. In the film's near final scene, a climatic duel between ape and man takes place on the Golden Gate Bridge. In the hands of a director like Michael Bay or Jon Faverau (who is not a bad director, but I really can't think of any standout scenes from his movies), this could've easily turned into "Transformers with Apes," but under Wyatt's direction we are treated to the ultimate climax we truly deserve.

Also notable are the performances by Andy Serkis and James Franco, who both do near phenomenal jobs in their respective roles. The only mediocre performance comes from Tom Felton of Harry Potter fame, who gives probably a wimpy enough reading of "Get you paws off me you damn dirty ape!" to make Charlton Heston turn over in his grave. However, Heston would probably get over it quickly, knowing how otherwise successful the film was.

Grade: B+

Something Borrowed

I think every film critic, self proclaimed or otherwise, is allowed one or two films a year that they are allowed to completely blast in their review. Well, I cashed in my first with The Smurfs, so I guess I'm using up my second on the Kate Hudson and John Krasinski romantic comedy Something Borrowed. If Something Borrowed was an average romantic comedy, I would feel no reason to review it, mini-review or otherwise. However, this film is no average romantic comedy: This is a romantic comedy for people who hate themselves.

Ignoring convention for all the wrong reasons, this is the cinematic equivalent of being humiliated in front of the school on prom night. In other words, this is Saw for romantics. No characters in the film are remotely good people; even our supposedly likable lead (played by Jennifer Goodwin doing her best...actually who cares?) is having an affair with her best friend's fiancee. Do you think she will learn her lesson, ditch the smarmy fiancee who is encouraging her to break her best friends trust, and end up with the guy who is obviously meant for her? If you said yes, you'd be absolutely wrong!

The film ends with her marrying the fiancee, thus destroying her friend's friendship and upcoming marriage, and the nice guy moves to London for no apparent reason. Do you feel satisfied? Of course you don't! Movies like Chasing Amy and (500) Days of Summer have been successful in creating unhappy endings simply because it is apparent the relationship will fail, but creating a generic film but chopping off the final 20 minutes just doesn't work! Just remembering this film makes me angry, and I don't think it deserves anym

Grade: D


I feel guilty for writing Richard Ayoade's British coming of age dramady Submarine as a slightly more clever than average Wes Anderson knock-off, but unfortunately that's where I come off on the film. Armed with enough quirk to make Zooey Deschanel blush, Ayoade attacks us with scene after scene of a building avalanche of quirk. No, Jill Tate's (the main character's mother) ex-lover cannot only just move in next door, but he must also be the leader of an "almost" cult encouraging people's inner colors to be let free. No, not only does the main character's father have to be boring, but he must also constantly speak like he's part of the undead.

Though adding to the overwhelming amount of quirk, the uses of narration and interpretation Ayoade do make the film a more enjoyable experience. Done in a way reminiscent of what a British high school set Scrubs would look like, it adds more to the film than just being a mounting pile of quirk. Though the film is deeply flawed, the performances of Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige as the protagonist and his girlfriend are both fairly good, but it's a light compliment to a mostly mediocre film.

Grade: C

The Devil's Double

If I get one cop out during this set of mini-reviews, it would undoubtably be the Dominic Cooper dual role biopic The Devil's Double. Because of the disturbing imagery, content, and general nature of the film, I couldn't make it past the hour mark. For severe lack of a more sophisticated term, the only way I can honestly describe the film would be: Screwed up insanity oh my god what happened *cringe*. Though clearly not a coherent sentence by any means, there really is no other way to explain the film. Maybe I have a stomach of Styrofoam, but watching this film felt felt like the equivalent of being tortured by Uday Hussain, the film's psychotic and sadistic antagonist. Perhaps the film was meant to be the vile experience it was, and I guess I could give the director some credit for that. Though the film was too hard for me to stomach, credit has to be given to Dominic Cooper for a good job playing Uday sadistic to the point of insanity. Ok, I'm not going to think of this film for a while.

Grade: N/A

The Trip

In Michael Winterbottom's road trip comedy The Trip friends and rival comedic actors Steve Coogan (in his second appearance on the feature) and Rob Brydon go on a tour of England's finest restaurants. This would be the general summary for the film almost anywhere, but while watching the film it's clear the restaurants have little to do with the actual plot. Instead, the film functions as an insightful look into the friendship between two very different yet equally insecure men. Though I understand that both Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan are playing fictionalized versions of themselves, this fact does not dampen the effects of the film one bit. Actually, I'm glad they're playing these fictionalized versions, because otherwise I doubt the film would be nearly as interesting, as both Brydon and Coogan would both probably be much better adjusted in real life than they are in the film.

I have also sadly failed to mention until this point how absolutely hilarious this film is. The dueling impressions of these two actors make for a successfully hilarious running joke, and even the regular conversations usually contain a few good lines. The funniest moment of the film derives from a scene set entirely in a car, using only a funny conversation to generate more laughs than most comedies with much more tools at their disposal for the scene. It really proves how if you can get two actors with enough chemistry, and with a strong enough script combined with fast improvisation, how funny everything can turn out.

Grade: A-

Winnie the Pooh

Like many, I was depressed at how little people went to see Winnie the Pooh over the summer because it was eclipsed by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. Also like many, I was complete hypocrite because I was one of those people who didn't notice Winnie the Pooh because I was caught up in Harry Potter instead. Luckily, Winnie the Pooh's DVD release date wasn't the same day as Harry Potter's, so I wasn't too distracted to see it.

Honestly, Winnie the Pooh was the major reason why I decided to go back and review the old summer movies. It's hard to believe a 30 million dollar widely marketed film based on well known property could be considered a hidden gem, but it truly is. This film is the ultimate counter argument to anyone cynical that all remakes, reboots, or updates are awful. Winnie the Pooh combines nostalgia and pure sweetness to create the quintessential children's film of 2011. Running at only 63 minutes including credits, the film never overstays its welcome, and delivers enough near plotless fun to make even Uday Hussain smile. The film seems to exist in an alternate universe in which Shrek was never created, and cheap jabs and references to pop culture in animation were unheard of. Heartfelt, sweet, nostalgic, and gentle, Winnie the Pooh really is the film of summer 2011.

Grade: A

Friday, November 4, 2011

Margin Call (A-)

Though my memory of the film is a bit shaky, I remember a scene about thirty minutes into Oliver Stone's 2010 semi-bust Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps in which Keller Zabel Investments' (a Lehman Brothers type firm) stocks begin to collapse mid-way through a near average Wall Street trading session. Though I had a lukewarm response to the film itself, this scene very much impressed me. Shot in a fast paced and chaotic style with sharp camera turns and quick editing, Stone created a brutally honest vision of what the collapse of a financial empire would look like. Now, less than a year later, we have first-time director J.C. Chandor's Margin Call. Also set against the 2008 financial crisis, the film chooses to explore the origins which brought about the crisis rather than its repercussions on the economy.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Red State (B)

When I first heard of Kevin Smith's debut into the horrifying world of horror, like many I was surprised. Why was the man who brought us such comedies as Clerks and Chasing Amy suddenly so interested in the polar opposite genre? The only other comedic director I can think of who also directed horror is John Landis, so this discovery piqued my interest. Now, approximately a year and a half later, Red State has officially landed on DVD.

Pearl Jam 20 (C+)

I regret writing this review because I feel like it is unfair for me to review this film. Until viewing Cameron Crowe's slightly new rock-doc Pearl Jam 20, not once had I ever consciously listened to a Pearl Jam song. Clearly, this is not my movie. This is a movie for those who listen to Pearl Jam, grew up to Pearl Jam, and in all way shape or form love Pearl Jam. Cameron Crowe is clearly one of these people. It takes a man of true dedication to search through thousands of hours of stock footage in order to create one sole documentary. Any other director could of easily just recorded a concert and slapped on a few interviews to go with it to create this documentary, but Crowe does not. I appreciate this, because this extreme level of fanboy effort gives heart to a film which could've been a soulless advertisement for the band.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Toast (C)

The greatest flaw of the new Nigel Slater biopic Toast is that the film peaks too early, and by "too early" I mean the film's opening credits. I am not saying this as a backhanded compliment; the opening credit sequence is truly a work of art. Set to a cheesy 60's song about food, a very young Nigel and his mother go stroll through their local market passing by canned goods labeled by the names of the cast and crew. Like Gentleman Broncos before it, this clever appetizer to the cinematic main course (puns absolutely intended) sets the bar so high for the film that matching it would a surprising yet unlikely result. While I am not surprised that the film did not live up to it's credits, I am shocked of how much of a misfire the film turned out to be.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (B)

In a world in which well done smart popcorn entertainment is few and far between, I can't tell you how much I enjoyed the newest dark comedy Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. The film is essentially every backwoods horror film (most notably Texas Chainsaw Massacre) told comedically from the point of view of those committing the horrific acts of violence. However, this is no Lion King 1 1/2. Screenwriters Eli Craig and Morgan Jurgenson inject enough plot, humor, and heart into the story to save what could've been a hilarious short film tediously stretched to feature length.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Bunraku (C-)

I couldn't count the amount of times I've heard the term "style over substance" being used to describe a film, but here, it couldn't be more accurate. Director Guy Moshe's sophomore feature Bunraku is a visually stunning film, which makes it all the more frustrating how jumbled and messy the plot is. Within the opening three minutes, enough exposition into the bizarre world of Bunraku is done to immediately confuse the viewer right from the start. How can you have stakes for the characters if you don't fully understand the world they live in?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Hesher (B+)

When Hesher was originally released back in late May, I chose to skip out on the film due to the overwhelming number of negative reviews. Four months later, the film appeared on DVD, where I was much more willing to watch it. If the film happened to be as bad as it was made out to be, there would no longer be a $9 loss; just an hour and a half of wasted time.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

5 Days of War (D)

I regret having set such incredibly low expectations for Renny Harlin's latest action packed fiasco 5 Days of War, because if I had set high expectations for the film, I would at least understand Harlin's complete inability to match them. This is a film so misguided, so miscast, so incompetently directed, so poorly acted, and so horribly written, that it crosses the line of "so bad it's good" into the oblivion of absolute and utter boredom.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Thank You LAMB Members!

I just wanted to thank all the members of LAMB for such a warm welcome into the film blogging community! Hope you enjoy the site!


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Colombiana (C-)

For the most part, there are two types of action movies: Action movies who a dramatic stance on violence, and action movies who embrace their violence and go completely over the top. Olivier Megaton's new femme fatal action film Colombiana begins with a blissfully insane chase scene in which a nine year old girl uses extreme parkour to escape ten normal aged armed hitmen. However, one who thinks that this over the top chase will set the tone for the rest of the film would be completely wrong. The film has a surprisingly somber tone despite most of its set pieces involving the absolute absurd. In one scene, a corrupt businessman is eaten alive by his own two pet sharks, but in another, it is simply three minutes of Cataleya (played by Zoe Saldana) crying. While the combination of B-Level action cheesiness and character study of mourning and loss may sound interesting on paper, the constant tonal shifts cause the idea to fail on the screen.

The blame for these issues does not fall on Megaton or Saldana, but rather the last person I would expect: Luc Besson. Besson has done a great job writing screenplays for these types of films before (EX: District B13), but he just really dropped the ball on this one. Megaton and Saldana do the best they can with the material given, but this material unfortunately includes lines like: "she's like a mist, you can barely see her" and a romantic subplot which makes borderline no sense whatsoever.

We are expected to believe that Cataleya has a boyfriend who is completely in love with her despite not knowing a single thing about her, while their relationship only seems to involve having sex at night and her leaving in the morning. Cataleya never seems to return any of the affection her boyfriend is giving her, so why does this relationship even exist? I've noticed a recent pattern of action movies bringing unnecessary relationships into their plotline, and movies like this are evidence that it needs to stop.

It's hard to talk about the acting in this film, because there really isn't too much "real" acting. Zoe Saldana shows up, looks hot, kicks ass, does a little cry, and then goes home. The only person who appeared to be doing anything interesting, was Amandla Stenberg, who played Cataleya at age nine. She was able to convey Cataleya's lust for revenge in fifteen minutes better than Zoe Saldana could over the course of the entire film.

Despite hearing in advance that the majority of reviews were negative, Colombiana was still a major disappointment for me. When you enter the theater expecting to be entertained by dumb action if nothing else, and it even fails to deliver on that front, it feels like you've just wasted your time. And for Megaton, Saldana, anyone who sees this film, and me, it probably was.

Grade: C-

*Note: Isn't the last name Megaton the ultimate action director last name? You could get a career of that alone.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Perfect Host (B)

When I first saw the trailers for The Perfect Host way back in early February, I thought it looked like the art house version of a Saw film: A small time crook attempts to lay low after a bank robbery goes horribly wrong by pretending to be the friend of friend of a wealthy socialite who is throwing a dinner party for himself and his psychotic friends in which the crook is brutally tortured for the entertainment of the guests. Because of this off putting premise, (along with the fact that I'm a self admitted scardy cat when it comes to home invasion movies) I waited to watch the film until I was in the comfort of my own home.

After viewing the film, I can honestly say that the off putting marketing campaign was the only way to market this movie to any audience. The Perfect Host is a gleefully deranged black-comedy/horror/thriller/heist/torture porn/cop film. If you've never heard of a movie that contains all of those elements, don't worry; this is a one of a kind type of film. With David Hyde Pierce playing the insane preppy psychopath with a never ending smile scratched across his face, this movie is a delight to watch just for his performance. He has the impossible task to be the bridge that connects these multiple genres together while also being the most compelling villain in recent memory, and he does these two tasks phenomenally well.

Because David Hyde Pierce's performance is so great, it's a real shame that writer and director Nick Tomnay (in his film debut in both tasks) shoves in too many unnecessary twists which muddle the plot. While one great reveal towards the beginning of the film brings the plot into darker and much more surreal territory, it seems that Tomnay wasn't content on ending the twists then. There is a shot where the film could've easily ended on, but it keeps going just so that two more twists can be added. It is because of these final two twists that the film sputters out in a clumsy groan inducing final scene, so bad that it almost knocked my grade of the film down to a C+.

It's hard to discuss too much more about this film, simply because if you know any of the twists that happen in this film, and there are a lot, you're enjoyment will most likely be completely ruined. I went into the film knowing near nothing about it, and it turned out to be a fun ride. If I did know any of the twists, I doubt I would've enjoyed it nearly as much as I did. While it is way too reliant on twists, David Hyde Pierce gives a performance for the ages which made the movie the enjoyable genre mashup it was.

Grade: B

*Just a random note. The actor who plays the crook (Clayne Crawford) looks like a young Ray Liotta to a distracting degree. People reading this should look up a picture of Clayne Crawford and check. It's kinda insane.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sarah's Key (Elle s'appelait Sarah) (C)

Sarah's Key contains two separate plots: A holocaust fairy tale about a french jewish child who dodges concentration camps and nazi soldiers in order to rescue her brother from a certain death whom only she could rescue him from. The other, is a melodrama about a mildly unlikable upperclass woman who desperately wants to keep her unborn baby, and has mild relationship issues with her also mildly unlikable husband. If you were to decide which of these two plots seemed most interesting, I would assume you would choose the first plot involving the holocaust. Unfortunately, if this question was asked to director Gilles Paquet-Brenner he would've chosen the latter option as evident in the ratio between the two plots in Sarah's Key.

Sarah's Key is one third of an incredible film. New comer Melusine Mayance has a star making performance as Sarah during her youth. On her first performance in a feature length film (not including her performance in the 2009 Italian film Ricky, which despite technically a feature length film, was never distributed to more than one theater, and grossed less than $2,000), she pulls off the feat of making the audience desire her to be in every scene rather than veteran actor Kristin Scott Thomas.

The reason why I had said "one third" in the previous paragraph, was because nearly every aspect of the "holocaust" story worked incredibly well. Natasha Mashkevich and Arben Bajraktaraj are both phenomenal in their supporting roles as Sarah's parents, and Jonathan Kerr also does a great job as the concentration camp worker who allows Sarah and her friend (also played very well by another newcomer Sarah Ber) escape from the camp.

Nearly all of my problems with the film came from the second plot that takes place in the modern day. Actors James Gerard and Karina Hin join the ranks of Ken Jeong in The Hangover and Jessica Barden in Hanna playing Kristin Scott Thomas' assistant and daughter respectively. Despite the two of them having (very) supporting roles, every line that comes out of their mouths in this film completely took me out of the story.

Another problem Sarah's Key faces is the lack of any type of dramatic suspense in the story set in the present day. As an example, when Kristin Scott Thomas interviews a member of Sarah's family, she is told that Sarah was killed in a horrible car accident. Unfortunately, director Gilles Paquet-Brenner shows this accident, and because it's so clear that Sarah drove into the truck that supposedly crashed into her, what is supposed to be the climax of the film (that Sarah committed suicide) fails.

Despite having one third of a great film, Sarah's Key is undone by a melodramatic and poorly acted second plot which unfortunately takes up most of the film. If the entire second plot was excised, and the film was released as a short, the grade would probably be an A-. However, it wasn't.

Grade: C

Monday, August 29, 2011

Films Not Eligible For Top 5 Lists

To prevent the obvious victory of one of my favorite films, along with preventing the same 10 films winning every Top 5, here are a few films that are not eligible to be on a Top 5 list:

Duel (1971)
Rear Window (1954)
Stalag 17 (1953)
North by Northwest (1959)
Back to the Future (1985)
The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
Gun Crazy (1950)
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Vertigo (1958)

If a certain film not on this list appears to be on a large amount of Top 5's, then they will join the ranks of these incredible films.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Weekly Top 5: Top 5 Heist Movies

To those who read the update on the "Film Crazy" facebook page (and to those who didn't know there was a facebook page for Film Crazy, go "like" it today!), I'm going to start doing a weekly "Top 5" feature on the site. Usually these lists will be inspired by films in theaters at the moment, so the inspiration for this debut "Top 5" list is the new heist film Flypaper starring Patrick Dempsey and Rob Huebel. The film is going to be playing at my local independent theater starting next weekend, so hopefully I'll have a review for it up onto the site soon.

The rules for this list were very simple: The film had to involve, or circle around a heist. Any film that followed this rule was an open choice. So without further ado, here are my top 5 heist movies of all time...

5. The Town (USA, 2010)

Directed by Ben Affleck, The Town was one of my favorite films to come out last year, and for a good reason. Jeremy Renner received a well deserved Oscar nomination for supporting actor for his work as Ben Affleck's (who also starred in the film) metaphorical brother along with best friend. The film circles around a sect of the Boston mafia which specializes in bank robberies. While I do not want to spoil too much of the film here, as in most heist films, something horrible goes wrong during the heist, and the perpetrators have to figure out a way to get past it whatever the consequences might be. The film contains great performances, great emotion, and an absolutely incredible final heist scene, which is why it is number five on this list.

4. Reservoir Dogs (USA, 1992)

While I may not have fallen in love with Reservoir Dogs like nearly everybody else, there's no denying the fact that it's truly a great movie. Reservoir Dogs redefined the use of violence in film, along with redefining the modern heist film. While Tim Roth's performance in this film has always bugged me, the rest of the cast is spot on, and so is Quentin Tarantino's direction. While I'll admit I can never sit through the entire "Stuck in the Middle With You" scene (and if you've seen the film you'll know exactly what I'm talking about), Reservoir Dogs is number four on this list.

3. The Killing (United Kingdom, 1956)

It's hard to talk about Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs without bringing up Stanley Kubrick's early film noir The Killing. At a Q&A with the 2010 Live Action Short Film winner Luke Matheny, he told the audience: "genius is determined by how obscure your inspirations are". Well, if more people saw The Killing, Quentin Tarantino would receive a whole lot less acclaim. Reservoir Dogs is practically an unofficial remake of The Killing with just more violence and 70's tunes. Most of The Killing is set in the main character's apartment as everyone who took part in the heist waits for their share of the robbed cash. But unlike Reservoir Dogs, the heist in question is actually shown, and what an incredible heist it is. Despite most people reading about this film probably never hearing about it, it should definitely be checked out. For these reasons, The Killing is number three on this list.

2. Inception (USA, 2010)

Christopher Nolan's Inception may not seem like a heist film, but think about it: Leonardo DiCaprio and his team are a group thieves who invade the world of a dream to steal and to plot ideas. The film even follows the traditional heist film narrative:

Step 1: Small heist to show how team works together
Step 2: Receive plan for big heist
Step 3: Get team together
Step 4: Plan
Step 5: Begin Heist
Step 6: Everything falls apart

Inception is one of the few movies that I could just watch endlessly, not only because of it's mysterious ending (though it does help), but because of the dreamworld it creates. Not until this film was released did any film truly capture the "dream" experience, and I doubt another film ever will. The special effects, along with Christopher Nolan's direction, are both nearly flawless. When I discovered that despite the talent at hand (including Michael Caine, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, and the obvious Leonardo DiCaprio) and the special effects, only cost $195 million, I was shocked. Yes, $195 million is a lot of money, but every little bit of it is shown on the screen. It is for these reasons that Inception is number two on this list.

1. Gun Crazy (USA, 1950)

When I chose the heist film as the subject as my "Top 5" list, I didn't realize until I began writing this piece that the very namesake of this site was a heist film. Gun Crazy is an absolutely mind bogglingly incredible film. No adjective can truly describe how much I love this movie. I actually debated with myself if I should even include it on this list because it'd be the obvious number one for me, but the word needs to be spread about this film. Starring Peggy Cummins and John Dall, Gun Crazy is the predecessor and obvious inspiration for 1969's Bonnie and Clyde. Like Bonnie and Clyde, the film circles around a couple who are not only in love, but also rob banks. The film contains a 10 minute uncut heist sequence involving going to, robbing, and getting away from a bank. Let me be frank about this scene, not only is it in my opinion the greatest heist scene of all time, but it is also the greatest long take of all time as well. Gun Crazy is one of my favorite movies of all time, should without a doubt be checked out, and is also number one on this list.

Honorable Mentions:

Ocean's Eleven (USA, 2001)
The Pink Panther (United Kingdom, 1962)
The Good, The Bad, And The Weird (South Korea, 2008)
Office Space (USA, 1999)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Main Street (C-)

There are many rules in the vast world of filmmaking. Examples include the 30 degree rule, and the rule of thirds. The new small-town drama Main Street has proven a new rule in filmmaking: If you cast Colin Firth into your mediocre film, it will be saved by his performance. Coming off the hot streak of two Oscar nominated performances, including a win for his role in The King's Speech, Colin Firth saves this film from entering the depths of "Lifetime Movie" hell with his suave performance as the swindler with a heart of gold from Texas who brings canisters of toxic waste into the small town (Tangent Point: The small town in question never receives a name, so is this film a metaphor for what is happening to small towns across the country?).

This is one of the most weirdly cast films I've seen in a very long time. While Colin Firth plays his Texas swindler, Orlando Bloom plays a lovestruck cop going through law school to impress the girl of his dreams. Obviously quite a stretch from the roles Orlando Bloom as played in the past, perhaps excluding the abysmal Elizabethtown. I don't mind weird casting, but only when it works. Other than Colin Firth's performance, little works in this film, including the acting.

Ellen Burstyn, a character actor who I've seen in bit parts in a few films, plays the "foolishly lovable" aunt of Patricia Clarkson's character. By saying "foolishly lovable", I mean "borderline unintentionally mentally challenged". Every line Ellen Burstyn repeated as this character took me out of the film, and made me pity this character rather than root for her in her struggles.

However, my biggest problem with the film, was that the stubborn "nothing should ever change" ideals popular with the residents of the town were glorified. There is a scene in which Colin Firth's character explains how safe storing toxic waste in government approved canisters can be (we all know that in reality, this actually is incredibly safe), but the local folk don't believe him. Later in the film, a truck carrying the hazardous waste crashes into the side of the road. Even though none of the waste leaks into the forrest surrounding the highway the truck was traveling on, this accident somehow proves the townspeople were right, or at least proves they were right enough for Colin Firth to voluntarily quit his job in order to officially agree with them. The idea that small town stubbornness is more practical than logic combined with science is such a horrifying idea that it shocks me for it to be the moral of the story.

Also inside this film in a pointless subplot involving a one sided love between Orlando Bloom's cop character, and his ex-girlfriend. Let me save approximately 30 seconds of talking about this subplot by saying that this was the worst handled romantic plot involving a cop since Kevin James' Paul Blart: Mall Cop, and that film at least had the charisma of Kevin James to carry it along. Luckily, the film is only 92 minutes and this subplot lasts for less than a third of it. This subplot also had nothing to do with the regular plot, so excising it from the film would have been incredibly simple.

Main Street is, for the most part, a terrible movie whose only saving grace is a great performance from Collin Firth. However, we're talking about Collin Firth, and for better or for worse we always expect a great performance from the guy. If you're a huge Collin Firth fan, or just a fan of Lifetime TV movies, you might get a kick out of this film. But for everyone else, stay away.

Grade: C-

Final Destination 5 (B-)

I honestly believe that this positive review of the latest horror flick, Final Destination 5, might destroy whatever minor fanbase I might have. One reason for this, is that Final Destination 5 is the fourth sequel to a consistently panned horror series. Another reason might be that the reviews for this film have mostly been negative, or that the film was the 3D was competed in post-production. Any of these reasons for why this should be an obviously negative review are valid points, but I throughly enjoyed Final Destination 5.

Final Destination 5 is the ideal "dumb" summer blockbuster: What it lacks in thought provoking ideas and originality it more than makes up in sheer entertainment value. I will go so far as to say that Final Destination 5 is the second most entertaining Hollywood blockbuster I've seen this summer behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. However, when you're comparing a film to Thor, The Hangover: Part II, Cowboys and Aliens, and The Smurfs, that isn't saying a whole lot.

The only other film in the Final Destination cannon I've seen other than Final Destination 5 is Final Destination 3, and that was the TV watered down version, so technically I've never seen a Final Destination film. Despite this, I knew the plot from all the commercials for every one of the films: A teen has a premonition that he/she along with all of their friends are going to die, so because he saves them from this fate, Death seeks revenge. Vast amounts of coincidence related violence ensues.

For those who miraculously avoided the vast amount of advertising for this film, the "premonition" found in this film is the massive collapse of a bridge. This is an incredible sequence directed close to flawlessly by director Steven Quale. Despite sounding like an unknown director, Steven Quale was the assistant director to James Cameron's sci-fi opus Avatar, and was the director of the documentary Aliens of the Deep, which was also produced by Cameron.

It's a good thing Quale is so good here, because the cast of the film is mostly terrible. The lead, played by Nicholas D'Agosto, can't deliver any type of emotion other than mildly upset, and Emma Bell, who plays the potential love interest, falls into the same actuarial trap. Even David Koechner, who has been great in several comedies, falls flat here as the comic relief boss.

Despite its several flaws, because of director Steven Quale's great direction, and the film's sense of entertainment, Final Destination 5 defeats all odds against it to become a fairly good film.

Grade: B-