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-

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Raunchy Comedy Double Feature: Jason Bateman Edition: Horrible Bosses (B+) and The Change Up (D+)

Because of how well my last double feature was received, along with the fact I saw Horrible Bosses and The Change Up within a week of each other, I'm bringing back the "Raunchy Comedy Double Feature" review idea from two months ago. However, this time it's with two less compelling movies, but that's okay. Enough of this opening, here are the reviews...

Review: Horrible Bosses (B+)

Let me begin this review by stating that when I first heard the premise of Horrible Bosses I thought it was an incredible idea for a film: What if you turned Alfred Hitchcock's suspense masterpiece Strangers on a Train into a comedy set in the modern day? Then when the film began casting its roles, the film began to look even better. With a cast of Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Kevin Spacey, Collin Farrell, Jaimie Foxx, and the recurring theme of Horrible Bosses and The Change Up: Jason Bateman, how could you possibly go wrong? Well, they cast Jennifer Aniston.

Most readers do not know this, but Jennifer Aniston might just sit along side Katherine Heigi and Sarah Jessica Parker as one of my three least favorite actresses working today. Nearly every movie I've ever seen her in has been borderline terrible. The reason why I said "nearly every movie" is because Jennifer Aniston might just be the best thing in this movie, and there are plenty of "best things" that she's going up against.

For one, there's Charlie Day from the TV show It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia. To be honest, I've never watched an episode of the show, but this movie definitely made me want to. In the film, he plays a character who's kinda like Michael Cera if he was loaded on cocaine the whole time. His chemistry with Jennifer Aniston, who plays the perpetrator of his constant sexual harassment, is fun to watch, and his chemistry with the rest of the cast is fun as well.

As a matter of fact, the chemistry between the characters is so fun to watch that it's actually better than the storyline I was so excited for. You wait while Jason Bateman collects intel (actually just him chilling out in a car) on his boss for him to return to the conversations with Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day.

Something must also be said for Collin Farrell's portrayal of Jason Sudeikis' coke-head boss, whose role is unfortunately regulated to a cameo because of his (spoiler alert) quick death by the Kevin Spacey character. Every word that comes out of Collin Farrell's mouth is absolutely hilarious, and gives me a surprising reason to seek out the 1985 remake of Fright Night, where Collin Farrell once again gives a comedic role.

Overall, Horrible Bosses is an absolutely hilarious film with great performances around the board. Despite minor plotting flaws, it should without a doubt be seeked out if you want a good laugh. It also happens to be a lot better than...

Review: The Change Up (D+)

Just as much as I thought the premise of Horrible Bosses was great, I thought the plot of The Change Up seemed cheap and seemingly terrible. The trailers (which were also in front of Bridesmaids and The Hangover: Part II to make a connection between the two "double features") lacked any kind of humor, and while I usually like Jason Bateman, I've never really felt any love for Ryan Reynolds.

For those who have some how avoided the hundreds of commercials producer Relativity Media has thrown at both the small and silver screen, The Change Up is about two unlikely friends who while urinating in a fountain confess their love for the other's life. The result of this urination incident is a good ol' 80's style body switch.

Pointlessly dumb movies like this are not usually the type I like to review for the site, but because I put up a mini-review for The Smurfs a few days ago, I didn't think I could sink much lower than that for review filler material. Luckily for me, The Change Up doesn't sink to quite the level of awful that The Smurfs does, but it at some points gets fairly close. Anyway, when a film is getting compared to The Smurfs to begin with, it isn't a good sign.

My main problem with the film, is how there is absolutely no reason for Jason Bateman's character to be any remote type of friend to the Ryan Reynolds character. Towards the beginning of the film, something is mentioned about how they used to go to school together, but I don't even buy that. Jason Bateman looks at least 15 years older than Ryan Reynolds in this film, and that even has nothing to do with my original complaint!

Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman have absolutely nothing in common, lead completely different lives, and both are actively destructive towards the other. The chemistry between the characters become so bad, that I desperately want to get back to the unfunny raunchy scenarios the body switch gets these characters into. Nothing in this film works, other than the occasional joke here and there.

Overall, The Change Up is not a good movie, plain and simple. Without a doubt Horrible Bosses should be seeked out over it.

Grades: Horrible Bosses (B+) The Change Up (D+)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mini-Review: The Smurfs (D-)

Let me begin this review by putting my self-professed film critic card on the line by stating that I saw the latest in the line of 80's nostalgia 3D CGI family comedies, The Smurfs, voluntarily. I had previously mentioned in my review of Quentin Dupieux's tire killer horror/comedy Rubber that I enjoy movies that are "so bad they're good", and no movie seemed to fit this bill better than The Smurfs.

Now let me attempt to redeem myself by stating that The Smurfs is without a doubt the worst movie of 2011 so far, and if another film challenges this blue emperor of awful, I am truly sickened by the film industry. Everything about this movie challenges why people enjoy and go to movies, and the only thing physically worse than this movie is the fact that I voluntarily saw it. Let myself serve as a cautionary tale to those who may consider seeing it for ironic pleasure; do not, under any circumstances, see this movie.

Grade: D-