Wednesday, March 4, 4:43 am
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Wednesday, March 4, 4:43 am
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Reviews by Marc Berman and Matt Todd
9 – **
The world has been destroyed in a war between machines and humans. A toy made of burlap named 9 (Elijah Wood) awakes in a strange world, lost and without a voice. As he is exploring the ravaged world around him, he meets another doll named 2 (Martin Landau) who is almost immediately taken by a creature called “The Beast”. 9 comes into the realm of the Doll community lead by 1 (Christopher Plummer). 9 convinces his new friend 5 (John C. Reilly) to head out to save 2 from The Beast. As they are beginning their journey, 9 uses a device that he found when he was first awoken and accidentally wakes the leader of all the machines called “The Brain”. We follow 9 in an effort to save 2 and destroy the evil Brain.
I will start off by saying that this film is truly beautiful to look at, visually stunning. The concept and storyline are a bit weak and after about 45 minutes my attention fled elsewhere. There are great voice talents in the film including Elijah Wood, Christopher Plummer, Jennifer Connelly, John C. Reilly, and Crispin Glover….even with all these talents, “9” is a failure. The fact that Tim Burton produced the film gave it some legs but it is really not very good.
There are a whole bunch of DVD extras on this one but I didn’t bother with them cause I didn’t want to be bored any further.
Also read Kathy Bugajsky’s review of “9” here.
(500) DAYS OF SUMMER – ***1/2
Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a greeting card writer whose real dream is to be an architect. His boss gets a new secretary named Summer (Zooey Deschenel) and Tom is almost immediately smitten. With the help of his friend McKenzie (Geoffrey Arend), he gets the nerve to ask her out and they really hit it off. They seem to have a great relationship. When Summer randomly dumps him he begins to spiral into depression and then decides to pursue his dream to become an architect. They meet up several more times, a wedding, a rooftop party, and their relationship grows, but do they get together or go separate ways?
This was a really great movie, I enjoyed it from beginning to end. Zooey Deschenel has unbelievable charm in everything that she does, I don’t think she is an outstanding actress, but she has a certain quality that makes you pay attention to what she is doing. I thought Joseph Gordon-Levitt did a stand-up job as the lead in this film, I hope he gets more roles as good as this in the future. I have to mention Geoffrey Arend whom I used to know pretty well when we worked together, this was by far the best role that he has landed thus far….good for you Geoffrey!! Overall “(500) Days” pleases in every way from the story to the unusual and creative cinematography…definitely worth the time.
Unfortunately there were no DVD extras here, the only thing offered were some lousy trailers.
ADAM – **1/2
Adam (Hugh Dancy) has Asperger’s Syndrome and lives alone after losing his father. Beth (Rose Byrne) is his new neighbor, and they seem to have some kind of connection. Although Adam has a very difficult time with communicating properly, he manages to charm Beth and they start a relationship. As the relationship continues, Adam loses his job and has to deal with the issues that go along with Beth’s father (Peter Gallagher) being indicted on fraud charges.
I kinda enjoyed this film, it was a simple yet different romantic comedy. Having a lead character that has Asperger’s has got to be a challenge for the actor and Dancy did a fine job as Adam. You can tell that this was a fairly amateur director, it wasn’t finely-tuned like most major films…but still well done. The film also co-stars Mark Linn-Baker and Amy Irving.
DVD Special Features (N/A on Blu-Ray):
Deleted and Alternate Scenes
Creating “Adam”: Behind the Scenes
Audio Commentary with Director/Writer Max Mayer and Producer Leslie Urdang
FOX Movie Channel Presents “Life After Film School” with Rose Byrne
ALICE IN WONDERLAND – ***
Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is about to be engaged to a local lord. When she needs some time to think, she runs into the forest, following a rabbit, and falls into a hole. Upon reaching the bottom of the hole she enters a magical world called “Underworld”. She first encounters the rabbit that led her down the hole as well as Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum, and the Caterpillar (Alan Rickman), among others. Eventually, The Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) fills her in on the fact that the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) is ruling the land in a harsh and cruel way and it is the destiny of Alice to slay the Jabberwocky and return the kingdom to the White Queen (Ann Hathaway).
Tim Burton returns with his familiar crew to direct his extension of the classic Lewis Carroll story. When this project was initially released, I was stoked to see what Burton would come up with, it got panned and I never got a chance to see it in the theaters. I was prepped for a Disney piece of garbage, but I must say that I was pleasantly surprised. I think that the film is visually pretty cool, not the coolest thing I have ever seen, but it is certainly a unique use of various animations interspersed with live actors and lots of color. I think the Alice role could have been cast a bit better, I think I would have liked to have seen the role played by someone a bit more mainstream, but Wasikowska was sufficient. Depp is great as the Hatter, I mean what isn’t this guy great in? Carter is a fantastic Red Queen, Ann Hathaway..um…don’t really understand why anyone would cast her in anything. There are lots of great voices, the best being the very distinctive chatter of Alan Rickman as the caterpillar, very cool.
All in all, I really enjoyed this one, a total suspension of any type of reality from the brilliant mind of Tim Burton. Check it out.
Blu-Ray Special Features include:
Time-Lapse: Sculpting the Red Queen
Stunts Of Wonderland
Also read Steven Lewis’ review of “Alice in Wonderland” here.
AN EDUCATION – ****
Jenny (Carey Mulligan) is a 16-year-old schoolgirl living a mundane life with her parents (Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour) just outside of London. While waiting for the bus in the pouring rain after her cello concert, a man named David (Peter Sarsgaard) pulls up and offers her a ride. After spending some time with David, her life all of the sudden begins to become exciting: eating at fancy restaurants, attending concerts, traveling. David and Jenny’s relationship becomes romantic after only a short time and both her and her family are enamored by his personality and ways. IS Jenny willing to give up her dream of an Oxford education??
Dutch director Lone Scherfig does a great job of creating perfectly-cast characters in “An Education”. Peter Sarsgaard portrays David Goldman as mild mannered, smooth talker who would be impossible to resist by any schoolgirl (and her parents) and Mulligan also creates a perfect Jenny. The film is a fairly simple story that has been told time and time again but it is done with such politeness here that 1.5 hours slips by with the blink of an eye. Emma Thompson sneaks in for a small role as the Headmistress and Sally Hawkins has a small cameo as well. Overall a great film, watch it now.
Blu-Ray Special Features:
Deleted Scenes; Commentary with Director Lone Scherfig and actors Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard; The Making of An Education; Walking the Red Carpet
Also read Paul Preston’s review of “An Education” here.
ARMORED – *1/2
Ty (Columbus Short) has just completed training as an armored car security guard for Eagle Shield Security. Ty’s old friend Mike (Matt Dillon) tells him that they are planning a heist of forty-two million dollars and they need his help if the plan is going to work; Ty immediately refuses. After realizing that his home is going to be repossessed and he needs to take care of his brother, Ty accepts the offer and they put their plan into action. With the help of the rest of the crew, Quinn (Jean Reno), Baines (Laurence Fishburne), and Palmer (Amaury Nolasco), they steal the money until something goes terribly wrong.
I certainly wasn’t expecting much from this film and it met my expectations. With the help of a really great cast and some cool action it managed to keep me entertained for nearly all the 88 minutes of the run time. There just isn’t a lot to say about this film, if you want truly mindless entertainment then check it out.
Blu-Ray Special Features:
Blu-ray Exclusive: movie IQ and BD-Live connect you to real-time information on the cast, music, trivia and more while watching the movie!
Producer and Cast Commentary
Planning the Heist: Making of
Crash Course: Stunts
Armed and Underground: Production Design
A SERIOUS MAN – ****
Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) seemed to have a normal life until things started to go terribly wrong. Within a short amount of time, his wife informs him that she wants a divorce because she is in love with their friend Sy Ableman, he is bribed by one of his students to receive a passing grade, he has neighbor problems, his kids don’t respect him…he has hit what some may call a ‘rough patch’. In an effort to find some guidance, he consults various Rabbis while trying desperately to see the revered Rabbi Marshak.
This is a truly remarkable piece of cinema that keeps the audience glued to the screen and their mouths gaping at what is happening before them. I would say that the Coen brothers have outdone themselves with “A Serious Man’, the cinematography and art direction are impeccable and the casting/performances are beyond great. Stuhlberg, who was a virtual unknown before this piece, is sure to be a Hollywood favorite in the years to come. Richard Kind plays the strange uncle who lives with the Gopniks who is always in the bathroom ‘draining his copious cyst'; Kind seems to always play the strange relative because he fits that role so perfectly. There are lots of good performances by various character actors that you will surely recognize upon seeing them in this movie.
I think that because I come from a Jewish background I was able to understand a few more of the small innuendos and Yiddish phrases that are used throughout, but I don’t think that someone without such knowledge will not get it. I found myself mesmerized by watching these characters interact, almost like I was living with them in their surreal and bizarre world. A great film through and through, check it out.
Blu-Ray Special Features:
Joel and Ethan Coen talk about ‘A Serious Man’, covering many aspects of production. They start off by discussing their ideas for the film’s introduction. The cast and crew involved also talk about the story and production as well. This is certainly an entertaining featurette that any fan of the film will enjoy.
The film takes place in 1967, so they talk about all the big and little details in recreating 1967.
“Hebrew and Yiddish for Goys”
A funny feature, definitions pop up for words such as ‘Bar Mitzvah’. This is jokingly intended for ‘Goys’ which are also known as ‘Non-Jews.’
“My Scenes (BD-Live enabled)”
Bookmark your favorite scenes and return to them later.
AVATAR – ****
Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is a paraplegic Marine who takes over his deceased brother’s role on the world of Pandora. In exchange for his services of helping relocate the indigenous people called the Na’vi, they will restore the use of his legs. Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) is in charge of the Avatar program where scientists are “Implanted” in Na’vi bodies in an effort to learn more about them and help them relocate so that they can collect precious metal from underneath their homes.
As Jake becomes accustomed to his N’avi body, he meets Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), they develop a bond and eventually fall in love. As time goes by, he is accepted more and more into the N’avi culture, participating in all of their rites of passage. In doing so he realizes that he cannot go through with the plan because of his feeling for Neytiri and her people as a whole. What happens next, I am sure EVERYBODY has seen it, so ya’ll know already!
I wasn’t sure if I was going to review “Avatar” ’cause of the fact that everybody across the globe has seen it and maybe even seen it multiple times. What can I say besides it is incredible and if there are people out there that haven’t seen it, then do so immediately. James Cameron creates one of the most beautiful and epic adventures that can only be rivaled by the planned sequel that is supposedly going to take place in the underwater world of Pandora.
There are zero extras on the Blu-Ray, and that is because they are planning a “Deluxe” version that will be coming out shortly, yet another way to sell more than the 6.5 million units they sold on the first four days of its release.
Read Joel Frost’s review of “Avatar” here.
THE BLIND SIDE – ***1/2
Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) is an African-American teenager that has thus far lived an excruciatingly difficult life. With a drug addict mother and a father he doesn’t know, young Michael is completely lost, as well as being homeless. A friend gets him into a prestigious Catholic school even though his grades are terrible due to the possibility that his sheer size and athletic ability will help their Football team. He is a single black face in a sea of white kids and he doesn’t know how to fit in, he is scared and confused; until one day Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) and her family see Michael walking alone on a cold night, she invites him to stay at their home. “Big Mikes”‘s life is about to take a serious turn for the better.
I hate to admit it, but this was a fantastic film, I truly loved it. Great performances all around, including Bullock’s Oscar-winning performance. Make sure you have several boxes of tissues around, cause this one is a real tear-jerker, to say the least. Kathy Bates has a small role as Mike’s tutor, always nice to see her. Jae Head, who played SJ, was fantastic as the energetic mini-coach and of course Mr. Aaron’s performance was incredible and we are sure to be seeing a lot of him in the very near future.
Blue Ray Features:
Michael Oher exclusive: rare interview with the pro footballer whose life the film depicts
Sidelines: Conversations on The Blind Side:
-Sandra Bullock and Leigh Anne Tuohy go one-on-one
-Director/screenwriter John Lee Hancock and author Michael Lewis go one-on-one
Acting Coaches: Behind The Blind Side: Six legendary SEC college football coaches come together
The Story of Big Quinton: Actor Quinton Aaron’s life story
Read Karen Volpe’s original review of “The Blind Side” here.
THE BOOK OF ELI – *1/2
Eli (Denzel Washington) travels throughout a post-apocalyptic world surviving on bartering and living by the word of God. Eli carries with him the Holy Bible and cherishes it more than any of his other possessions. He tries to live by the word of God even though he must do many sinful deeds on a daily basis in order to survive. Upon entering a small village, Eli encounters the ruler of the town called Carnegie (Gary Oldman) who finds out that he has the Bible and will stop at nothing to retrieve it from him. Carnegie’s blind slave and lover Claudia (Jennifer Beals) is being beaten and to make the beatings stop, her daughter Solara (Mila Kunis) reveals that Eli has the book. It is a cat and mouse chase and a duel to the death as Carnegie and his evil gang try and get the book from Eli.
Mad Max, ya think? This was a modern-day Mad Max rip off and a piss poor one at that. Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman are both awesome, did they do this to get a paycheck in a bad economy? Did Denzel think that he could afford to have a stint on Broadway if he did this piece of crap?? I think Mila Kunis is great in things like “That 70’s Show” and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”, but this was a pretty piss poor job for the casting agents. There are a few good action sequences when Denzel has to use his giant Crocodile Dundee knife to slice up some bad guys but otherwise get your remotes ready to hit fast forward.
Blu-Ray Special Features:
Maximum Movie Mode: 40 minutes of picture-in-picture commentary with Denzel Washington and the Hughes Brothers, and 10 Focus Points
A Lost Tale: Billy–animated short covering Carnegie’s backstory
Starting Over: Explore the role we might play in reshaping society after a global catastrophe
Soundtrack: Co-director Allen Hughes and composer Atticus Ross compare notes about the soundtrack’s construction and deconstruction
Eli’s Journey: Probe the historical and mythological roots of the film’s central themes
THE BOYS ARE BACK – ***1/2
Joe Warr (Clive Owen) is a Brit living in Australia with his wife and young son. His wife dies suddenly and Joe is forced to raise his son Artie by himself. Joe’s philosophy is that if he says yes to everything Artie wants, then he will be happy and content. When his son from his previous marriage comes for a visit, they both become very attached to him and they begin to feel a real sense of family. Without a female at the home, they live in a perpetual world of filthiness and recklessness but they love each other nonetheless. When Joe is forced to leave the two boys alone, things go terribly wrong, it takes something bad to bring them together again.
This is a phenomenal film that will make you cry and laugh. Based on a true story, “Boys” brings the viewer into the world of a non-conventional family with a beautiful and gratifying love for one another. Clive Owen gives a fantastic performance in this film which I think is Oscar worthy…lots of other great performances including that of the young boy by Nicholas McAnulty, who is very endearing. You will be happy you took the time to watch this film, it is what cinema should be.
Bonus Features include: THE BOYS ARE BACK: A Photographic Journey With Optional Commentary By Director Scott Hicks, A Father And Two Sons, On Set . Not Available on Blu-Ray.
BROOKLYN’S FINEST – ***
Eddie (Richard Gere) is a cop who is seven days away from getting his pension. Tango (Don Cheadle) is a cop that is deep undercover in the New York drug trade, he is so deep that he has grown to consider the drug lord Cas (Wesley Snipes) as family. Sal (Ethan Hawke) is a narcotics officer who has become obsessed with stealing dirty money in order to provide for his family. These are three separate stories, all happening simultaneously that eventually intertwine.
There is not a lot I can say about that story without giving stuff away. It was great to see Snipes back on the scene. Gotta love Snipes and he does a pretty solid job in his supporting role. Richard Gere, eh….never been my favorite but he pulls it through. Cheadle is amazing in everything he does so no real surprises there. I was blown away by Ethan Hawke who gives an incredibly believable performance as the troubled Sal. There are lots of supporting roles including Ellen Barkin as agent Smith. Antoine Fuqua who also directed such films as “Training Day” and “Shooter” does a stand up job in this modern cop drama.
Blu-Ray Special Features:
– Behind the Scenes Featurette – Conflict & Chaos: Life as an Undercover Cop
– The Boyz In The Real Hood
– From the MTA to the WGA: Writer Featurette
– Deleted Scenes & Audio Commentary with Director Antoine Fuqua
– Three Cops And A Dealer: Character Profile – Exclusive Blu-ray™ Featurette
– iTunes Compatible Digital Copy Of The Film
CLASH OF THE TITANS – ***
Perseus (Sam Worthington) is the son of the God Zeus (Liam Neeson), born from a mortal woman. He was raised by a human family and doesn’t learn of his true lineage until his human family is destroyed by the God of the Underworld, Hades(Ralph Fiennes). In an effort to destroy Hades and avenge his family, he joins an army and begins a quest to complete the impossible – vanquish Medusa and defeat The Kraken. The army is lead by Draco (Mads Mikkelsen), who knows that in order to battle all of the demons and unearthly creatures in his path, Perseus must use the sword given to him by Zeus. With the help of a beautiful DemiGod sent by Zeus, the army (now led by Draco and Perseus) goes on an incredible journey to defeat Hades and the feared Kraken.
I was beyond excited when I heard that they were going to make this film, then it got panned and everyone said it was such a piece of crap. So I skipped seeing it in the theater and that was a monster mistake. From beginning to end, “Titans” was jam-packed with action upon action and I only wish I got to see it on the big screen in 3D. To be honest, this really wasn’t a remake of the original but rather a reinterpretation, and I thought a friggin’ great one at that. I liked the fact that it was a tolerable length and not three hours long, the effects were great, bar none……I just loved it. If there was any complaint to be had, I would venture to say that the script was a little underdeveloped, but it didn’t bothered me at all. Great performances all around, just wish they used the mechanical owl (they did show him in jest, but did not use him). Screw the critics, pop this in on surround sound and you’re gonna love it.
Blu-Ray Special Features:
– Maximum Movie Mode: Harnessing the Gods, with Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, and director Louis Leterrier and enhanced picture-in-picture; enhanced scene breakdowns; enhanced VFX breakdowns; on-the-spot vignettes; close-up views of the Kraken, the Scorpiochs, Medusa, stuntwork, filming locales, and more
– Sam Worthington: An Action Hero for the Ages
– Additional scenes and an alternate ending: Perseus confronts Zeus on Mount Olympus
Also read Paul Preston’s review of “Clash of the Titans” here.
COLD SOULS – ***1/2
Paul Giamatti portrays a saddened version of himself in a quest to seperate himself from his acting role in Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya”. His agent suggests he read an article in the New Yorker about “Soul Storage”. He then finds himself on the Roosevelt Island Tram for an appointment at the Soul Storage Offices. After much deliberation, Giamatti decides to get his soul extracted, but upon trying to rehearse his show, he realizes that acting without a soul is futile; so he returns to pick another soul to be implanted. Giamatti once again tries to rehearse his show but the soul of the Russian poet that he has is also making his acting bad. Upon trying to retreive his own soul back he encounters trouble that sets him on a wild goose chase.
This is certainly not a “Light” film. Giamatti is, once again, amazing in this film…one of the best actors out there today (for those reading this that went to Fredonia, I think Tom Loughlin could easily be a stand-in for Giamatti and play a similar role). I found “Cold Souls” to be thought-provoking in many facets. When Paul’s soul is extracted, it looks like a chick pea and he is told that size and shape of the soul is no reflection of the person (see anything similar in society?). The film is kind of slow-going, but give it a chance, it is kinda cool.
COUPLES RETREAT – *1/2
In an effort to save their marriage, Jason (Jason Bateman) and Cynthia (Kristen Bell) convince three other couples to join them on a “couples vacation”; the other three couples think they are going on an inclusive party vacation. When they arrive at the destination, they quickly realize that they have been had and there would be no partying at this resort that is designed for couples therapy. They all begrudgingly decide to go along for the ride. The other couples are Dave (Vince Vaughn) & Ronnie (Malin Akerman), Joey (Jon Favreau) & Lucy (Kristen Davis), and Shane (Faizon Love) & Trudy (Kali Hawk). While trying to support Jason and Cynthia, all of the couples are thinking about going to the East Resort where the singles party is happening, all while attending daily therapy and yoga sessions.
I am the first to say that “Swingers” is one of my favorite movies of all time. Favreau and Vaughn return as the writing team on this film under the direction of Peter Bilingsley (we all know him from “A Christmas Story”), and he was also involved with Favreau in the fantastic TV Show “Dinner for Five”. In a valiant effort to make another great comedy, this one falls very short.
Back in the day, Vaughn was really funny because nobody had ever acted quite like him, with his long diatribes and hilarious delivery. After many films where he does the EXACT same thing, I think it’s time to say enough is enough. Jon Favreau should stay behind the scenes whenever possible. Jason Bateman does a great job with the lousy script he was provided, and Kristen Bell also does a nice job…she is the new female comedy actress of the decade. Faizon Love is also great in the film, just wish we could have seen more of his antics and less of the wordy bullshit that occurs throughout the film. Pass on this one, folks.
Didn’t see the DVD or Blu Ray of this one, another $5 wasted on Pay Per View cause Netflix Sucks.
Also read Justin Bowler’s review of “Couples Retreat” here.
CRAZY HEART – ****
Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) is a washed-up alcoholic country singer who is broke and has been forced to play in bowling alleys and dive bars. While in Sante Fe, he meets Jane (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who is a small-time reporter for the local paper. Bad agrees to do an interview for her, there is an instant attraction. Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell) is a huge country star who owes all that he is to Bad, but Bad has some sort of bad blood with Sweet. Desperate for money, Bad decides to take a gig opening up for Sweet, they reconnect and let bygones be bygones. As the relationship becomes more serious between Bad and Jane, his hard drinking lifestyle begins to get in the way…
Jeff Bridges deserved the Oscar for his incredible portrayal of Bad Blake in this film, his performance was so true to life that I felt my lungs get heavy with the amount that he smoked. I am sure Bridges realized the power of the script, considering he was one of the executive producers. Another producer was Robert Duvall, who has a small role as Bad’s old friend Wayne, who is great in all that he does as well. I am not a huge Gyllenhaal fan, and by that I mean brother or sister, but I must say that she was perfectly cast in this film and she was pretty good as well. As great as “Crazy Heart” was, it is riding on the coast tails of “The Wrestler” with a very similar kind of story, but is worth seeing for Bridges’ incredible performance.
DVD Special Features:
Deleted Scenes and Alternate Music Cuts: Bad Plays Somebody Else In Santa Fe; Jean Helps Bad Pack Up; Bad Visits Tommy Backstage; Bad and Jean in Taos; Encouragement from Wayne; Bad Relaps
Blu-Ray Special Features:
– “Deleted Scenes and Alternate Music Cuts” (28:22 – HD)
– Featurette: Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Robert Duvall on What Brought Them to “Crazy Heart” (3:02 – HD) is a short interview with the three primary cast members. This proves to be worth the watch but as I said, it’s rather short and abrubt.
– Theatrical Trailer (1:55 – HD) is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 @640kbps sound.
– Digital Copy of the film is included which is compatible with both PC and Mac, Windows Media and iTunes portable devices. This is included on a 2nd disc which is a DVD-ROM.
Also read Joel Frost’s review of “Crazy Heart” here.
DATE NIGHT – **
Phil (Steve Carell) and Claire (Tina Fey) are suburban New Jersey parents. Because of their hectic lives, their marriage has lost it’s spark. On their Date Night they decide to head into the city to eat at the new hip restaurant called, “Claw”. Upon arrival, they cannot get a table, so Phil decides to take a risk by taking the reservation of a couple that hasn’t seemed to show up. While enjoying what is seemingly the best meal of their lives, they are approached by two men who they think work for the restaurant, so they take it in stride and follow them into the alley. Turns out they are thugs who are working for a mobster out to a retrieve a stolen thumb drive that contains some compromising information. The couple manages to escape the thugs and it becomes a wild goose chase as they try and find the real couple that has the thumb drive so that they can prove their innocence and get home to their kids.
I am a huge Steve Carell fan and I expected a lot more from this film. The script was pretty weak, the only reason I even made it through was Carell and Fey as well as some cameos from Mark Wahlberg, Mark Ruffalo, James Franco, Mila Kunis, Will i Am, and Ray Liotta. Besides these performances, the whole thing is a complete waste of time and energy. Skip It.
DEAR JOHN – **1/2
John Tyree (Channing Tatum) is back home in Charleston for a short time while on leave from the Army. After a day of surfing, he dives off a pier to recover a dropped purse for Savannah (Amanda Seyfried); she is thankful and attracted to him, so she invites him to her house for a BBQ. The two immediately hit it off and start a whirlwind romance for the remainder of his two week leave. After their first date, Savannah demands to meet John’s father, whom he describes as “quiet and different” and obsessed with collecting coins; Mr. Tyree (Richard Jenkins) is indeed different in that he is autistic. When it is time for John to go back to the Army and Savannah to go back to school, they vow to write to each other constantly.
Based on the popular Nicholas Sparks novel, “Dear John” keeps true to the book and delivers a simple yet endearing tale of love in its most raw form. I’m not ashamed to say that I enjoyed this film, in fact, I even read the book and enjoyed that too. Sparks is the modern master of these type of sappy love stories, the most well known being “The Notebook”. Tatum gives a rather lackluster performance, but once again Seyfried comes through and is quickly securing herself in Hollywood. Always Elliot to me, Henry Thomas does a great job as the neighbor and family friend (Tim) with the autistic son, who inspires Savannah to want to start a camp for autistic kids to ride horses. The real highlight was getting to watch another awesome performance by Richard Jenkins, who I believe is one of the finest actors of our time..if you haven’t seen, “The Visitor”…you really should. Anyhoo, this is by no means a cinematic masterpiece but it will make you cry…at least it’s not another superhero movie…I am seriously tired of those.
Blu-Ray Special Features:
BD Exclusive: movie IQ+sync™ and BD-Live connect you to real-time information on the cast, music, trivia and more while watching the movie!
Deleted and Alternate Scenes & Ending
A Conversation with Channing Tatum, Amanda Seyfried and Lasse Hallstrom
Military in Movies: Dear John’s Military Advisors
Mr. Tyree, The Mule, and Benny Dietz
The Story of Braeden Reed
DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE MORGANS? – -** (negative two stars)
I started to write a review of this film when I suddenly stopped. This was literally so bad that I refuse to write ANYTHING about it. I made it about thirty minutes into it and realized that I couldn’t spend any more precious life minutes staring at this garbage. You may ask why I even bothered in the first place?? I though that maybe Hugh could pull it off, for some reason I always kinda like his stuff…not this one. There was literally not one redeeming quality in it, I seriously cannot think of one. So here is the deal…do not watch this, do not rent it, certainly don’t buy it…if you get it as a gift, throw it away.
DISTRICT 9 – ****
In South Africa, a giant alien craft hovers over the city of Johannesburg. The aliens inside (called “Prawns”) are stranded and are brought from the ship to live in a makeshift refugee camp. After many years, “District 9″ has become a rough ghetto where the Prawns live in filth and are exploited by gangs of Nigerians. Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley) has been promoted at his job at the MNU (Multi-National United) and it is his job to try and evict the prawns and force them to live in a new tent city that has been created for them. While doing his job, Wikus confiscates an alien tube that accidentally sprays a strange black liquid in his face that immediately makes him sick. Wikus is sought after by the MNU, but he evades them and befriends a Prawn named Christopher who says he can help him if they can retrieve the black liquid from MNU headquarters…..and so the action begins.
The film started with a very cheesy documentary style and slowly built into an awesome film which I truly enjoyed. Sharlto Copley is incredible as the meek and geeky Wikus and he should be amazing in the upcoming “A-Team” film. The CG is totally flawless and believable, the Prawns seem so real that my reality was completely suspended throughout the film. There is a reason Peter Jackson became involved with “District 9″, the reason is because it is GREAT. The film is acted improvisationally, which is one of the main reasons it is so great…..Check it out, it is a winner.
Another Blu-Ray, which I am totally in love with, by the way. Lots of great extras, commentary and a couple of behind the scenes pieces. There is also something on there called “Cinechat” which allows BD LIve members to text chat on the screen while watching a film..very cool concept, nothing I will ever use.
Also read Mark Tucci’s review of “District 9″ here.
EVERYBODY’S FINE – ***1/2
A widower who realized his only connection to his family was through his wife sets off on an impromptu road trip to reunite with each of his grown children.
After planning to have his four grown children home for a visit for the first time since losing their mother, Frank Goode (Robert Deniro) is saddened when they all cancel. Although he is ill, he decides to surprise them all one by one with a visit. He is afraid to fly, so he travels by rail and bus. His first stop is in NYC to visit his son David who is an artist, Frank waits a while but David never returns to his apartment so he continues on his trip. His next stop is in Chicago to see his daughter Amy (Kate Beckinsdale) and she makes various excuses why he can’t stay so he heads to Denver. Once reaching Denver he heads to see his son Robert (Sam Rockwell), who also makes excuses why he can’t spend time with him. His final child, Rosie (Drew Barrymore) resides in Las Vegas so he heads there but misses his bus, almost gets mugged, and loses his medication. What happens next, ya gotta watch it to find out.
If you need a good cry, then you should watch this film immediately. A remake of a 1990 Italian film, “Everybody’s Fine” is a touching story of family and loss. Deniro gives an excellent performance as Frank Goode and an incredible supporting cast makes this film a must watch. I especially enjoyed Drew Barrymore’s Rosie character, I felt a lot of warmth from the character that added to the relationship between her father and her. If you are looking for a heart-wrenching movie where several boxes of tissues are close at hand, then watch this highly-acclaimed film.
Bonus Features include The Making Of Paul McCartney’s (I Want To) Come Home, Deleted & Extended Scenes.
EXTRAORDINARY MEASURES – *
“Extraordinary Measures” is based on the true story of a couple (Brendan Frasier & Keri Russell) and their two children that have been stricken with a rare disease called “Pompe”. In a desperate effort to try and save his kids, Fraser’s character goes to Nebraska to seek out Dr. Stonehill (Harrison Ford), who is making progress in finding the enzyme needed to treat the disease. After trying to raise the money to fund the clinical trials, they decide that they will go into business together and try and develop a product they can bring to market. They go through many trials and tribulations in their effort to save children with this disease.
This movie sucked pretty hard. It was a nice effort to make a film that had some meaning but the script was terrible and the performances pretty bad. Stay away from this film, unless you really want to waste some time.
Blu-Ray Special Features:
MovieIQ™+sync and BD-Live connect you to real-time information on the cast, music, trivia and more while watching the movie!
Behind the Scenes interviews of the cast and also the family whose true story inspired the film. Also includes Deleted Scenes.
FOUR CHRISTMASES – **
Every year during the holidays, Brad (Vince Vaughn) and Kate (Reese Witherspoon) make up some crazy excuse so they don’t have to go to their families’ homes. The couple always goes on a beach vacation, but when they get to the airport, the fog has canceled all the flights; a news crew decides to interview them and since they are exposed to their families, they have to visit them all. Since both their parents are divorced, they have four stops on their holiday adventure.
There were a couple of points in this film where I literally almost pissed myself, but as a whole it was pretty weak, as expected. Vaughn and Witherspoon are not a very believable couple, but they pull off some comedic bits that are uproarious at times. There are a lot of great supporting actors including Robert Duvall, Jon Favreau, Sissy Spacek, Mary Steenburgen, Dwight Yoakam and Tim McGraw. As I mentioned in my review of “Couple’s Retreat” (which sucked), Vaughn always plays the same character, which is true in this as well. The difference is that he is really funny in this one. Overall, this is a pretty weak film but worth watching for some of the great cameos and funny moments.
‘Four Christmases:’ Holiday Moments
HBO First Look: ‘Four Christmases
Seven Layer Holiday Meals in a Flash
THE FOURTH KIND – **1/2
Dr. Abigail Tyler (Milla Jovovich) is conducting research in Nome, Alaska with patients that are suffering from insomnia and are all encountering similar “dreams”. When she puts the patients under hypnosis, they reveal symptoms that make it seem like they are being abducted by some sort of creature. When things begin to get out of control, she is helped by her friend Dr. Abel (Elias Koteas) who doesn’t believe that what is happening to all these people could possibly be real. As time progresses, there is violence and death amongst her patients and her daughter is also abducted by the strange beings.
This film is done in a very cool way that suggests that it is all based on real occurrences. In fact, they have “stock footage” of the so-called real happenings which I found out via the internet is not real at all but rather a story ala Blair Witch. I personally enjoyed watching it and believing it was real for the duration of the film, it was exciting and frightening. I thought it was pretty good, check it out.
Blue Ray Special Features:
FROM PARIS, WITH LOVE – **1/2
James Reece (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) lives in Paris and is an aide for the US Ambassador. He has an incredible apartment, great job, and beautiful girlfriend; he puts it all on the line when taking jobs for the CIA. He is given his first big assignment and goes to the airport to meet his partner Charlie Wax (John Travolta) and he immediately realizes that he is in for quite a ride. Reece and Wax embark on a mission to stop a terrorist cell in Paris.
Luc Besson wrote the story and frankly I love Besson. This is basically the only reason I gave this film a chance. There are all around solid performances by both leads, in fact Travolta is pretty cool as the trigger happy Wax. For the most part, the film is choppy but the almost non-stop action makes up for it in many ways. It’s a fun 93 minutes.
Blu-Ray Special Features:
– BonusView Audio Commentary with Director Pierre Morel – A picture-in-picture commentary with director Pierre Morel.
– From Paris with Love — Making-Of
– Spies, Spooks and Special Ops: Life Under Cover
– Secrets of Spy Craft: Inside the International Spy Museum
– Friend or Foe Trivia Game — Answer trivia questions while watching the film.
– Charlie Wax’s Gun Locker Featurette – An interactive BD-J feature that allows viewers to handle, inspect, and get the specifications on Charlie Wax’s weapons.
– Theatrical Trailer (2.35:1; 1080p/24)
– Digital Copy
GET HIM TO THE GREEK – ***
Spin-off TV shows happen all the time. From Rhoda to Good Times to Fish to The Cleveland Show (just to name a few), we have seen this kind of thing come and go. Spin-off movies are a different sort altogether. In fact, it pains me to think of more than a few. Spin-offs are so rare in film, that the first of its kind to my knowledge is “U.S. Marshals”, a spinoff of the character Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) from the more highly successful movie “The Fugitive”.
The reason why I begin this review with that tidbit of information is because from TV to film, spin-offs NEVER are as funny, innovative or as interesting as the original from which it was spawned. “Get Him to the Greek” is no exception. “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” in my eyes was a perfect comedy from the Judd Apatow factory. So perfect, I’d rank it with “Anchorman” and “Superbad” as the funniest Apatow-produced-but-not-directed comedies.
In “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”, we met a character named Aldous Snow, (Russell Brand) a pop rock star sensation who was dating the titular character. In this movie, Brand’s humor worked to full effect BECAUSE he was the supporting character. That lesson of less is more was obviously lost on “Marshall” director Nicholas Stoller (who wrote and directed “Greek”).
The loose plot involves Aaron Green (Jonah Hill not reprising his “Marshall” character) as a record company lackey, a yes-man to his record producer boss Sergio Roma (Sean Combs in a surprisingly hilarious role) coming up with the idea to help his company get some money: Have Aldous Snow play a concert at the Greek Theatre to celebrate the 10th Anniversary release of the live album recorded there. The only hurdle in their way is that Snow is a reckless alcoholic and drug addict. Getting him from London to Los Angeles’ Greek Theatre will be the hardest part.
This road trip of a movie has its howls as well as its groans. The scene where Sergio tells Aaron about how to “mindfuck”? Hilarious. The scene where Aaron runs around The Today Show set completely wasted? Not so much (although this did provide one really unexpectedly funny cameo from renowned Pulitzer Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman).
On the whole, I found this movie just entertaining enough. Elizabeth Moss gets cast in the thankless role as Aaron’s workaholic ambitious girlfriend. She does the most with what pittance Stoller has given her. Also really good is Rose Byrne as Snow’s former girlfriend and fellow pop star Jackie Q. She was so good in fact I wish that there were more scenes of them together. Jonah Hill is a good awkward character-actor and Brand clearly has star power (He’s even going to star in a remake [another idea that almost never improves on the original] of “Arthur” coming out next year), but this is not their finest hour and a half.
If you are looking for a gross-out, sexed-up comedy that will not make you think too much but will make you feel happy at the end, then this movie’s for you. If you are looking for the first successful movie spin-off, than look somewhere else. I really hope Hollywood can learn to let a good thing rest on its own and not milk it until its udders are empty.
Also read Joel Frost’s review of “Get Him to the Greek” here.
THE HANGOVER – ***1/2
A bunch of friends are taking their friend to Las Vegas for a bachelor party two days before the big day. Doug’s (Justin Bartha) soon to be father-in-law lets him borrow his vintage Mercedes for the trip. Along for the ride are Doug’s buddies Stu (Ed Helms), Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Doug’s very strange soon to be Brother-in-law Alan( Zach Galafianakis). They vow to one another that whatever happens in Vegas is to be forgotten and never spoken of again. After drinking a toast on the roof of Caesar’s Palace, they wake the next day to find their suite destroyed, a tiger in the bathroom, a baby in the closet, and their friend Doug missing. They ensue on a wild chase to find their friend, encountering all sorts of crazy situations along the way.
I’m starting to get a bit fed up with Netflix and the long wait to get the movies I want to watch….so another In Demand feature on this one….”The Hangover” is one of the funniest movies in the past 10 years, I haven’t laughed this much since the first time I saw “Meet The Parents” or “Wedding Crashers”. To me, the film’s star is Zach Galafianakis, who plays the part of the very strange brother…he is hilarious in every scene and really carries the film. Some of the situations that these guys get involved with are ridiculous…here are a few…stealing Mike Tyson’s tiger, pulling out their own teeth, getting married to a prostitute…the list goes on. If you really want to wet yourself..check it out. I almost forgot Ken Jeong as Mr. Chow is totally great…you will definitely start seeing him in more substantial roles in the very near future.
Also read Paul Preston’s review of “The Hangover” here.
HOT TUB TIME MACHINE – ***
This is the story of Adam (John Cusack), Lou (Rob Corrdry) and Nick (Craig Robinson), three friends who decide to go on vacation after Lou attempts suicide. They pack their bags and head into ski country, along with Adam’s nephew, Jacob (Clark Duke). Upon arrival, they are greeted by a one-armed bellhop (Crispin Glover) and soon realize that the entire ski town is practically abandoned and the resort they used to stay at is in disarray. Luckily, the hot tub ends up working and they hop in and start partying. Of course, as stated by the title, it is a time machine and they are transported back to 1984. They encounter the hot tub repair guy (Chevy Chase) who lets them know that while in the past they need to do everything that occurred in the real 1984. The rag-tag bunch fall head first into their younger selves. Some try harder than others to keep to the rules but girls and partying get in the way.
This film is exactly what it should be, a hilarious ride back to the 80s. Rob Corrdry pretty much makes this film hilarious with his outlandish humor and persona; Cusack is the essential 80’s actor so he fit in perfectly (although I became obsessed trying to figure out if his hair was real or not). Craig Robinson from “The Office” does a good job, but I am unsure as to why the world thinks he is so funny, who knows. Clark Duke is kind of a boring guy, but he is OK as the shy and nerdy Jacob. Crispin Glover essentially reprises his McFly role here, a very similar character in many ways…gotta love Crispin Glover. “Hot Tub Time Machine” is a fun piece of kitsch, if you don’t have fun watching it, then you are lame.
Blu-Ray Special Features:
– Deleted Scenes
– Theatrical Promotion Spot
– Production: Acting Like Idiots
– Chevy Chase: The Nicest Guy in Hollywood
– Theatrical Trailer & more
Also read Mark Tucci’s review of “Hot Tub Time Machine” here.
THE HURT LOCKER – ****
The Bomb disposal unit in Baghdad is a group of soldiers including Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty), and Sergeant JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie). With 39 days left in their deployment, the arrival of the fearless and renegade Sergeant Will James (Jeremy Renner) creates problems in the Bravo Company. As they begin working together, they are able to form a functional Bomb squad even though each member is facing their own issues.
Kathryn Bigelow does an incredible job of directing the most realistic war film I have ever seen. The use of the handheld camera and the locations achieve something very powerful, rarely seen in modern cinema. Jeremy Renner gives a once-in-a-lifetime performance as the thrill-seeking Will James. I could go on and on, everybody in this film and involved in the making of it should get some kind of award for outstanding work.
I think most directors today would opt to shoot the bulk of a film like this on a studio lot or sound stage. This was shot predominantly in Kuwait and Jordan, which REALLY makes the audience feel like they are seeing a war-torn Iraq. I highly recommend this film, and think it is a contender for whatever Oscars it has been nominated for.
There are a few extras on the Blu-Ray version, an interesting behind the scenes featurette and some commentaries.
Also read Paul Preston and Matt Todd’s review of “The Hurt Locker” here.
THE IMAGINARIUM OF DR. PARNASSUS – *1/2
Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plumber) has a traveling show in London featuring his daughter Velentina (Lily Cole), his assistant Anton (Andrew Garfield) and the tiny Percy (Verne Troyer). They feature a magic mirror that, if walked through, the participant will enter their own world of dreams. Dr. Parnassus is an immortal, and years before, he fell in love with a mortal woman and had to make a deal with the Devil (called Mr. Nick, played by Tom Waits). As part of his bargain with Mr. Nick, he promises to give him his daughter at the age of sixteen. To offset the bet, he makes another deal that whomever gets five souls first gets Valentina. Along the way, Valentina and Anton find Tony (Heath Ledger) hanging from a bridge, they rescue him and he joins the troupe and soon falls in love with Valentina. It is a quest of time to whomever can get the souls first and to find out the truth about Tony.
Terry Gilliam directs this obscure and strange film, which isn’t a stretch for him. Within the film industry it is known that Gilliam seems to have some sort of curse on him, he always encounters some sort of challenge during production. Unfortunately, the challenge here was the loss of Heath Ledger before they could film a bunch of his scenes. Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, and Jude Law all stepped in to play Ledger’s role. This film was interesting to look at but as far as the story is concerned, it was hard to follow and for the most part kinda dull. I guess it’s worth watching just to see Ledger’s last film as well as the distorted mind of Gilliam…if nothing else.
THE INFORMANT! – ***
Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon) is an executive in rural Illinois for a “Lysine” manufacturing company. He decides it is a good idea to let the FBI know about price fixing that is happening within the company. Whitacre becomes obsessed with the idea that he is a real secret agent. With the aid of agent Brian Shepard (Scott Bakula) and agent Bob Herndon (Joel McHale), they build a case against his company, ADM. As years go by, Whitacre becomes a victim to his own lies that he has created in an effort to become a great secret agent.
Matt Damon did a great job as the quirky Mark Whitacre, a stretch from the action hero he has become. I give credit to the wardrobe and makeup people for giving Damon a look that was really true to the character that he created. Scott Bakula also gives a good performance as he always does. The now famous Tom Papa plays Mick Andreas, the owner of ADM…wish he could have played a more comedic role. Overall this is not a fantastic film, but it is pretty entertaining and definitley worth 1.5 hours of your time.
Blu-Ray features include Commentary by director Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Burns and additional scenes.
Read Joel Frost’s review of “The Informant!” here.
THE INVENTION OF LYING – **
“The Invention of Lying” is set in an alternate universe where everyone speaks exactly what they are thinking at all times. Working as a screenwriter who is about to lose his job, Mark Bellison (Ricky Gervais) lives the same honest life as everyone else until one day he discovers that he can make things up and people will believe him automatically. Mark is hopelessly in love with the beautiful Anna McDoogles (Jennifer Garner) and although she thinks he is a nice guy, she makes it clear to him that she finds him unattractive and that he has a bad gene pool that would be no good for reproduction. Until Mark decides to use his new technique to win Anna, he use it to lie to his dying mother and assures her that the afterlife is a wonderful place where everybody gets a mansion. The hospital staff including the doctor (Jason Bateman) overhear his lies and the next thing he knows thousands of people are gathered outside his apartment looking to him for answers to life after death. He tells his former boss that he has written the best screenplay ever written and that it will make him rich and famous, of course they all believe him and he does. Mark goes on to live his new life, but is it all worth it?
Co-written and directed by Ricky Gervais, you automatically assume that this film would be incredible but it is far from it. It is a totally unique and fresh concept and it is definitely entertaining at points, but overall, “Lying” is underdeveloped and poorly made. Gervais delivers a fairly solid performance as the shlubby Bellison but it is nothing new for him and he is basically playing the same character that he always does. I usually think that Jennifer Garner sucks but I thought that she did a nice job in this film, she is very believable and well cast in this role. There are lots of cameos including Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jonah Hill, Jeffrey Tambor, Rob Lowe…always nice to see some of these folks.
I was pretty bored by the end of this one but I did glance at the extras on the Blu-Ray. The special features include:
Prequel: The Dawn of Lying: documenting a monumental occasion in history
A Truly “Honest” Making-of Featurette: cast members share their admiration for a comedic genius
Meet Karl Pilkington: Ricky’s best buddy and co-host of The Ricky Gervais Show chronicles his travels to the U.S.
Ricky and Matt’s video podcasts: over 10 minutes of insider coverage
More laughter: Corpsing and outtakes
Also read Mark Tucci’s review of “The Invention of Lying” here.
INVICTUS – ***
Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) is the newly-elected president of South Africa, and it his goal to bring together blacks and whites after years of oppressive Apartheid. In an effort to fulfill his dreams, Mandela contacts François Pienaar (Matt Damon) who is the captain of the South African Springboks Rugby team. Mandela believes that if the Boks can win the World Cup, then they will unite the people of his country. They train harder than they have ever trained before, they run through the streets as a team, they even hold rugby lessons in the impoverished areas in an effort to beat the odds and take the championship against the fearsome New Zealand “All Blacks”.
Clint Eastwood takes the helm on “Invictus”, and does a great job. The first hour of the film is fairly boring, but the viewer is drawn in by Freeman’s captivating performance as Madiba (Nelson Mandela). The François Pienaar role portrayed by Damon could have really been played by anyone, but Damon does a pretty good job in the fairly dull character. The rest of the cast are just about all unknown actors, seems like they used a lot of South African performers to make the film more believable. Eastwood makes a great effort in this film and it is thoroughly enjoyable.
Blu-Ray Special Features:
In-depth picture-in-picture: explore the movie’s creation with those who lived the real-life saga as well as the cast and filmmakers
Mandela meets Morgan
The Eastwood Factor: Clint Eastwood looks back at his films and career
Matt Damon plays rugby
Invictus music trailer
Also read Paul Preston’s review of “Invictus” here.
IRON MAN 2 – ***
“Iron Man 2″ is one of few sequels to the comic book genre that fails to exceed the first outing. This is uncommon with the rest of its brethren (see “Superman II”, “X-Men 2″, “Spider-Man 2″, and “The Dark Knight”). The encouraging thing about this sequel is that it’s a lot looser in style than the first movie; the awful thing about this sequel is that it’s a lot looser in style than the first movie.
In the first “Iron Man”, we are given a Tony Stark (played of course, by Robert Downey Jr.) who began the movie as an arrogant spoiled rich weapons manufacturer who, after he is captured by terrorists, builds a prototype Iron Man suit to break free and live another day. We actually were given an emotional investment to his predicament in order to care for Downey’s portrayal of Stark. The story was swift and the pace was crisp. Typical of an origin story, there was a lot of ground to cover in only two hours time.
“Iron Man 2″ (also two hours in length yet this time, it felt a little too long) begins with the same type of storyline of “Rocky III”: Iron Man is an American hero/celebrity and Tony Stark relishes in it. He is holding court at a technology World’s Fair whose rabid fans in the stadium make you think it’s a Lady Gaga concert. Stark then gets called for testimony in front of a congressional committee, and he talks to them like Spicoli talked to Mr. Hand Don’t know what I’m talking about? CLICK HERE!
Also like “Rocky III”, we have Stark losing focus of the fight ahead of him. He’s too busy having house parties and driving at the Monaco Grand Prix to even worry about the Clubber Lang bad guy Ivan Vanko (a.k.a. Whiplash) played wonderfully over-the-top by Mickey Rourke. Rourke is one of the few things this sequel has going for it. In fact, it’s ONLY the new characters to this sequel that are bringing anything fun to the table. Scarlett Johansson plays the Natasha Romanoff (a.k.a. The Black Widow) and brings exactly the two assets you knew she was going to bring to perfection. ‘Nuff said. Sam Rockwell is also new to the franchise and plays a competing weapons manufacturer named Justin Hammer. I have seen Rockwell play a villain better (see “The Green Mile” or even “Charlie’s Angels”, of all films, for proof) but still; I did enjoy him nonetheless, especially in his scenes performing alongside Rourke.
Returning to the fun are Gwyneth Paltrow as Tony’s assistant-turned-CEO/love interest Pepper Potts, as well as the character of James “Rhodey” Rhodes (a.k.a. War Machine), but this time he is played by Don Cheadle, who replaced Terrence Howard from the first movie. Both of these characters were written as also-rans. It doesn’t help that Paltrow’s Potts can’t compete either for our or Stark’s attention compared to Johansson’s Romanoff. Don Cheadle, who has shined in so many other projects, just seems to be cashing a paycheck here; too bad.
It’s for the latter reasons of the character development (or lack thereof) that I am recommending this movie, but not with the same four-star-rating-level of zeal I gave the first “Iron Man”. On the second effort from director Jon Favreau, I give it one less shining star because he seemed to have lost focus on what made the first movie so fucking awesome. Perhaps he lost this focus because he couldn’t stop thinking of how amazing his next movie “Cowboys & Aliens” is going to be next summer. Don’t believe me? Watch this trailer now and try not to drool! Go on, I dare you. .
This is the last we will see of Iron Man until he joins the rest of the Marvel Avengers characters (The Black Widow, Nick Fury, War Machine, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye, and the Incredible Hulk) in “The Avengers”, coming out in 2012. This hopefully will be like the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young of movies: a Supergroup Superhero movie. “The Avengers” will be directed by Joss Whedon of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV) and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog fame. I am already geeked-out with fan boy anticipation.
Also read Paul Preston’s review of “Iron Man 2″ here.
IT’S COMPLICATED – ***1/2
Jane (Meryl Streep) is a successful business owner who has been divorced from Jake (Alec Baldwin) for nearly ten years. During a trip to NYC for their son’s College graduation, they end up having sex, and it is exposed that Jake is unhappy in his marriage to Agness (Lake Bell) and has reignited his flame for his ex wife. Jane is planning an extension on her home and has been working very closely with an Adam (Steve Martin), who is the head architect on the job, they begin to have feelings for each other. There is a conflict of interest between the affair between Jake and Jane and the romantic pursuits of Adam.
This was frigging hilarious, I nearly urinated in my pants on several occasions. Baldwin has become one of the funniest guys around, and I really hope he chooses to do more films in the future, he is really the star of this film. Streep is great as usual and playing opposite Baldwin really makes her funnier than she actually is. Steve Martin must have done this role as a favor to someone because he is basically the straight man, which is sort of a waste for him. John Krasinski plays the skittish son-in-law, who, for me, is always great in everything, although it’s essentially Jim from “The Office”. This film isn’t thought-provoking or filled with special effects but it is totally hilarious…check it.
DVD Special Features:
– The Making of: “It’s Complicated”
– Feature commentary with Producer/Writer/Director Nancy Meyers, Executive Producer Suzanne Farwell, Director of Photography John Toll, ASC and Editor Joe Hutshing, ACE
Blu-Ray Special Features: All the above plus –
– My Scenes
– BD Live
– Pocket BLU App
JULIE & JULIA – ***
In the late 1940s, Julia Child (Meryl Streep) moves to Paris with her husband Paul Child (Stanley Tucci). She finds herself bored and decides to go to cooking school. She enrolls at Cordon Bleu and discovers that cooking is what she was meant to do. In the year 2002, Julie Powell (Amy Adams) has a dead end job, so she decides to cook her way through Julia Child’s book, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” and write a blog about the experience.
“Julie & Julia” goes back and forth between the life of Julia Child in the ’40s & ’50s, and the life of Julie Powell in ‘present day’ 2002. I thought that this was an enjoyable film with an incredible performance by Meryl Streep, she completely captured the essence of Julia Child…almost as if she became her. Adams gives a delightful performance, as she always seems to these days. Nora Ephron directs another feel-good movie that stands up to some of her other classics like “When Harry Met Sally” and “Sleepless in Seattle”
The DVD extras include a commentary and a behind the scenes piece entitled, “Secret Ingredients”.
Watch “To & From: Julie & Julia” in The Movie Guys’ Videos.
THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT – *****
Not since “Made In America” in 1993 have I seen a mainstream Hollywood movie about a youth’s search for their sperm donor father. Of course, that was a comedy (and not a very good one), whilst the movie I’m reviewing is a dramedy (an EXTREMELY good one). “The Kids Are All Right” is about a normal family consisting of two lesbian mothers Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore), along with their teenage kids Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson).
Right off the bat, the movie sets up the family dynamic and does so seamlessly. Nic is the career mother who is a doctor. Jules is a free spirit who throws various career ventures against a wall and goes with what sticks. The first scene they all have together with the kids at the dinner table is straight out of any movie with any family. The mothers are doting on their children, and of course, the teenage children are somewhat rebellious.
Nic and Jules we later find out each got pregnant from the same anonymous sperm donor sample. Joni has just turned 18 and will soon be off to college. Her younger brother Laser wants her to contact the sperm donor just to see who it is and meet him. Turns out it’s an aloof male version of Alice Waters named Paul. Laser eventually tells his moms that he has been in touch with Paul. Immediately, the parents want to meet him. Once this happens, his relationship with the kids and their moms creates interesting new conflicts that I will not disclose as to not spoil the movie for you.
I loved, loved, LOVED this movie! Writer/Director Lisa Cholodenko (whose debut film back in 1998, “High Art” also dealt with a lesbian relationship very honestly) shows her flair for writing really good, believable characters. It should be disclosed that Cholodenko is a real-life lesbian. I mention this to prove a point. The movie does not get bogged down with making the characters’ lesbian marriage a major issue. Cholodenko thrusts it out there and just tells a family story, not a lesbian story. The things that happen to the married couple, good and bad, could have been told the exact same way with a heterosexual marriage. That’s what I loved about it most.
Annette Bening is wonderful as Nic. She took on a more masculine dialect, which is very clipped at times, and the subtlety was interesting to notice. Julianne Moore (who I still find gorgeous) as always is so amazing to watch (and not just because I find her gorgeous). Their scenes together are so convincing that you don’t ever get the feeling that you are just watching two actresses pretending to be lovers; you know they are lovers. When they kissed, cuddled, laughed and argued in the movie, I saw two lovers showing the full range of emotions one would expect from a married couple. If both of them do not walk away with Oscar nominations as Best Actress, then the Academy should be ashamed (oh and ditto for a Best Original Screenplay nod for Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg).
Mia Wasikowska delivers the right notes as a bright young high school graduate who really doesn’t know herself just yet. In certain scenes she reminds me of a young Claire Danes. Josh Hutcherson is equally as good as her younger brother. They both go through a small coming-of-age style growth from beginning to end.
Finally, there is the incomparable Mark Ruffalo. Ever since seeing him in “You Can Count on Me”, I was hooked. He is such a minimalist actor, more so than most any actor of his generation. To watch Ruffalo on film is to watch Bob Ross paint a landscape: you don’t know how it’s going to look in the end, and you don’t see any big strokes; it’s a little here and a little there. His character Paul goes through the most interesting change from start to finish. Watching the scenes where Ruffalo uncomfortably tries to connect with his biological family was like watching a true artist at work. His mannerisms, and tactics are so wonderful and this could be some of his best work yet (again, Academy are you listening???).
Overall, I would recommend this movie a thousand times over. It had everything one could want from a dramedy: good relationships, good conflict, good resolutions, and no filler. The dramatic story worked as well as the comic moments. No emotions were forced or phony; they were all honest and they were all earned.
Also read Maria Markosov’s review of “The Kids Are All Right” here.
LAW ABIDING CITIZEN – ***
After his wife and daughter are viciously murdered, Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) plans an elaborate way to find justice. The Assistant DA, Nick Rice (Jaime Foxx) is the one who didn’t find the justice that Clyde needed, and now is caught in Clyde’s crazy scheme. After years of planning, Shelton finds a way to get back at the system to prove a point to Rice. Shelton being a scholar and inventor finds very creative ways to do what he feels he has to do…
This was a fun film filled with cool twists and turns and unexpected thrills. Seems like Gerard Butler is saturating the market as of late and I have finally figured out why, cause he is really good; I think he is kinda like the new Russell Crowe. As much as I thought Jaime Foxx was great as Ray Charles, I don’t think he has come through on a project since then, I find him mediocre in almost every film (and a ridiculous singer for that matter). All in all this is a fun action thriller that is worth watching, I had a good time with it.
Unrated Director’s Cut – only available on Blu-Ray
Audio Commentary Featuring Producers Lucas Foster and Alan Siegal
The Justice System; Law In Black and White – Behind the Scenes with Director F. Gary Gray, Producer Lucas Foster and Actors Gerard Butler and Jamie Foxx
Preliminary Arguments – The Visual Effects of Law Abiding Citizen
The Verdict – Winning Trailer Mash-up!
LEGION – **
Archangel Michael (Paul Bettany) arrives on earth and immediately slices his wings off, breaks into a warehouse so that he can sew up his wounds, finds a truckload of weapons, steals a police car and hits the road. In a diner in rural Arizona, we meet a couple and their teenage daughter whose car broke down, a pregnant waitress who smokes, a hook-armed line cook (Charles S. Dutton), a father (Dennis Quaid) and son (Lucas Black) who own the diner, and a traveler that stops to use a phone (Tyrese Gibson). Soon after all of these folks are assembled a little old lady comes in and changes into some kind of demon and tries to kill them all. Things start to get out of control. Michael arrives to inform them all that God has lost faith in humankind, but he still has faith and they must not let the other angels get a hold of Charlie, the pregnant waitress’s baby, because if the baby survives then mankind will also survive.
I didn’t expect this to be very good. I got what I paid for, I suppose. The above pretty much tells it all, pretty solid performances all around…Quaid is pretty good in most things he does although I think he is better as a star rather than an ensemble. I thought Tyrese was good as well and Bettany was born to play roles like this. At least this one only cost a modest 26 million to make and grossed over 40 million in the US alone…not bad for such an average movie. It is a cheesy ride, you might have fun with it.
Blu-Ray Special Features:
MovieIQ™+sync and BD-Live connect you to real-time information on the cast, music, trivia and more while watching the movie!
BD Exclusive: Bringing Angels To Earth: Picture-in-Picture
Creating the Apocalypse – Behind the Physical Effects
Humanity’s Last Line of Defense – The Cast and Characters
From Pixels to Picture – A Look at the Visual Effects
LOVE HAPPENS – ***
A Motivational Speaker named Burke (Aaron Eckhart) is in Seattle for a series of workshops on how to deal with grief. Although he is a motivational speaker, he is a loner with a host of problems including a drinking issue. While walking in the hotel hallway, he sees a florist named Eloise (Jennifer Aniston). When he approaches her, she pretends she is deaf and moves along. Eventually, he gets her to have dinner with him and then….Love Happens.
Such a total Girls Movie in every possible way, but I gotta say I liked it. Eckhart plays a great Anthony Robbins knockoff and Aniston plays the same thing she plays in every movie, but she does it well. Not a whole lot to say about this one, it is such a simple film that has been done before, but just check it out, it’s a fun ride.
Blu Ray Details:
Blu-ray Exclusives: BD-Live enabled
Commentary: Yes with the assorted crew including the director/co-writer Brandon Camp
Documentaries/Featurettes: “Giving Romance A New Look” (HD)
Deleted/Extended Scenes: Yes (HD)
Theatrical Trailer: No
THE LOVELY BONES – ***1/2
Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) is a 14-year old girl from suburban PA, she is a happy-go-lucky teenager who is just discovering love and her love of photography. On her way from school one day, she is lured to a “cool place” by her neighbor George Harvey (Stanley Tucci), where she is brutally murdered and her body brought back to his home and put in an old safe. Her parents, Jack and Abigail (Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz), and her siblings are devastated by the loss and work with police investigator Len Fenerman (Michael Imperioli) to try and find answers. Years go by and they have just about given up, until both Jack and his daughter Lindsey (Rose Mclver) become suspicious of Mr. Harvey. Will a series of twists and turns eventually lead police to the killer? Watch and find out.
Peter Jackson does a beautiful job bringing this novel to life. The scenes of Susie in the world in between life and death are an amazing conglomeration of CG effects and startling colorful imagery. All of the actors in this film are perfectly cast, especially noting the brilliant Stanley Tucci who is unbelievably creepy as George Harvey. This film takes the viewer away to several other dimensions and really keeps your interest from beginning to end. If you haven’t seen it yet then rent it today.
Also read Paul Preston’s review of “The Lovely Bones” here.
THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS – **1/2
Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) is a reporter from Ann Arbor, Michigan who decides to go to Iraq to cover the war in order to win back the affection of his wife. While at the hotel overseas, he meets Lyn Cassady (George Clooney), who was part of a secret Army organization called the New World Army, which used psychics to fight in war without combat. The founder of the New Earth Army, Bill Django (Jeff Bridges) is missing and Cassady is on a secret mission to find him. It’s up to Lyn and Bob to track him down and save the day.
This film got panned so I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I found was a strange tale of some obscure characters that was really entertaining. The highlight was Jeff Bridges in a fantastic role as the hippie leader of the New Earth Army. Clooney, McGregor, and Spacey give solid performances as well. It’s an off beat comedy, but it is a bunch a fun. The title comes from the story that Cassady had used his psychic powers to kill a goat and the story kind of revolves around that.
Blu-Ray Special Features:
Goats Declassified: The Real Men of the First Earth Battalion
Project “Hollywood”: A Classified Report from the Set
Audio Commentaries and Character Bios
Also read Joel Frost’s review of “The Men Who Stare at Goats” here.
THE MESSENGER – ****
Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) is a Staff Sergeant with the Army and has recently come back home because of serious injuries abroad. Within a short amount of time, his girlfriend Kelly (Jena Malone) has leaves and he is assigned to the Casualty Notification team. Will’s partner and boss with the Notification Team is Captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson), who teaches Will the ropes of this difficult and precise job. He learns that he is supposed to deliver the news of deceased soldiers only to the next of kin, never show emotion and do not make any kind of physical contact. When they deliver the news of her husband’s death to Olivia Pitterson (Samantha Morton), Will cannot help but become emotional and ends up falling for her almost immediately. Will and Tony embark on a unusual friendship filled with twists and turns that can only come from their unusual jobs.
What a great F’ing movie, from beginning to end GREAT. There is a reason this film had so many accolades, should have had more than one Oscar nomination but whatever. Woody Harrelson gives the performance of a lifetime as the odd but lovable Tony Stone and Ben Foster, who I always remember as the quirky kid from “Six Feet Under”, also gives a solid performance (heck of a lot better than “Pandorum”). Lots of great supporting actors and amazing performances by everybody involved, a MUST see.
MICHAEL JACKSON’S THIS IS IT – ****
I really wanted to experience “This is It” on the big screen, but even watching it in my humble couch (actually I was lying on the floor) was a magical experience. A compilation of rehearsal footage shot over several months at the Staples Center in LA, “This is It” takes us on a journey to the heart and soul of the late Michael Jackson. This footage was originally being recorded for MJ’s personal collection, hence the film opens with interviews from the dancers in the show giving personal messages and gratitude to MJ for being included in this life-changing experience. It is amazing to see how people react when watching MJ perform, even in a rehearsal they are taken to another place, literally carried away to another dimension while they watch the King of Pop become one with his music.
Kenny Ortega was the choreographer of the show as well as the director of the film. The show was intended to showcase all of the hits, a greatest hits show. we see all of the most amazing songs being performed including “Smooth Criminal”, “Billie Jean”, “Beat It”, “Thriller” and “Black or White”. It is almost mind-blowing to think how great the final product was going to be…I would have paid big money to see that show…as a lot of people who had tix already had. I was so close to getting a chance to see his show when I was a kid, so pissed that I never had that chance and never will again.
I loved this film. It captured a true icon in the most raw way. Not a polished show like you would find on Broadway or in a London theater, but rather a rehearsal. We got to see a little glimpse of what MJ saw.
This was a Blu-Ray I watched…there are lots of extras which I didn’t watch. I did log into BD-Live to watch the latest MJ Tribute at a prison in The Philippines…very cool.
Also read Paul Preston’s review of “This is It” here.
MOON – ***
Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) works for Lunar Industries and is stationed on a Moon Station that oversees the harvesting of clean power. Sam runs the entire facility himself with the help of his computer assistant called GERTY (Voiced by Kevin Spacey). He is coming to the end of his three-year contract and is excited to return to earth, especially since the communication system has been down for a very long time. While out checking on the harvesters, he gets into an accident, when he wakes up in the infirmary he finds out that he is not alone and the world as he knew it is completely changed forever.
I happen to be a big fan of Sam Rockwell, he is pretty much great in everything he does. He tends to do some more obscure and artsy films which in today’s world is pretty admirable. “Moon” is definitely a strange film, especially since Sam is the only real person in the entire movie and Rockwell often acts with himself as the other character (which can’t be easy). There are a lot of thought-provoking issues that are underlying in this film, which you will have to see to find out. Anyway, I really enjoyed it…as bizarre as it is.
Blu-Ray Special Features:
– Commentary with Writer/Director Duncan Jones, Director of Photography Gary Shaw, Concept Designer Gavin Rothery and Production Designer Tony Noble
– “Whistle” a Short Film by Duncan Jones
– Commentary with Writer/Director Duncan Jones and Producer Stuart Fenegan
– The Making of Moon
– Creating the Visual Effects
– Science Center Q&A with Director Duncan Jones
– Filmmaker’s Q&A at the Sundance Film Festival
Also read Paul Preston’s review of “Moon” here.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (2010) – **
I really wanted to like this movie. I knew that most all the major critics took a giant dump on it, and I even had acquaintances that told me it stunk. But I didn’t care; I grew up with Freddy Krueger. Out of all the slasher movies, the Nightmare on Elm Street series was my guilty pleasure, and still is.
Having said all that, this movie was such a disappointment. The basic storyline is similar to the original Nightmare on Elm Street but with a few exceptions. In this version, the parents of the children who are tormented in their sleep still murdered Freddy Krueger, but this movie goes into explicit detail as to why they did such a thing.
Some of the famous sequences are here and some have been altered. The scene where the girl gets lifted in her sleep and sliced open, only to have her boyfriend accused of committing a grisly crime? Check. The scene where said girl shows-up in the hallways of Nancy’s (Rooney Mara [a.k.a. the new Lisbeth Salander]) school bloodied in a clear body bag? Check. The scene where Nancy is in the bathtub and Freddy’s clawed hand comes out of the water like a shark’s fin? Check.
Despite all these allusions to Wes Craven’s far superior original, it does seem as if the director (Samuel Bayer) and screenwriters (Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer) wanted a much different tone for their remake. In doing that, they succeed. I actually like the slick update. It is much, much darker (i.e. less goofy) than some of the original, and even has better actors in most of the roles too. Rooney Mara is a tad better than the best thing about the original (Heather Langenkamp). Clancy Brown provides some great supporting character work as a school social worker/psychologist and father of Nancy’s somewhat-boyfriend Quentin (Kyle Gallner, also really good; not Johnny Depp good, but pretty close).
Jackie Earle Haley, who has enjoyed a much-heralded revival in his career since 2006’s “Little Children”, doesn’t come close to mastering the brilliance of Robert Englund’s original portrayal of Freddy. There’s no sense of sinister sarcasm to him, just pure creepy malevolence. That was a part of the joy in what most of us have come to love about Freddy: his sarcasm. Yes, it went to goofy extremes by the fourth movie in the series, but that’s what made Freddy Krueger different than all other slashers.
There were two major problems I had with this movie. The first problem was that there was no sense of ambiguity for the audience if the characters were actually asleep or if they were still awake. We should be fooled from time to time that they were dreaming when we thought they were still awake. This is precisely what made the original series so damn good. The transitions from the real world to the dream world were sloppy and obvious. This is where Wes Craven’s genius is sorely missed.
My second major problem, kind of tagging along with my first problem, is the new obstacles for all the teens trying to stay awake: micro naps. This is a reality-based consequence of trying to stay awake for so damn long. Real medical science has no place in a horror movie where some man with gloved-knives is able to kill you in your sleep! I appreciate the movie trying to be realistic, but this hampers the movie, because it takes away any sense of hope that the main characters can actually stay awake at all. There is even a point where Quentin takes a shot of adrenaline straight into his leg, just to stay awake and that doesn’t prevent a micro nap from occurring shortly thereafter. If director Bayer were more creative with his dream world (another thing that Craven had mastered) then maybe I wouldn’t have as much a problem with it, but every time our troubled teens went to sleep, they wound-up in Freddy’s boiler room; it just got repetitive and boring.
The movie is hell bent (pun intended) on teasing the audience as to why Freddy is doing what he is doing. It does a poor job of this. They allude many times to certain things that happened in the past, and even create an origin scene of Freddy being murdered by the parents. In the end, it doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention. Did the screenwriters actually think they were creating tension with this subplot?
I gave this movie so many chances and I was waiting and waiting and waiting for it to WOW me, but to no avail. Now I see on IMDB that a sequel is in the works with the same director, but this time with Alexis Bledel (Rory from Gilmore Girls) as the lead. I still will force myself to see this, only now I will have a chip on my shoulder.
PANDORUM – *
Payton (Dennis Quaid) and Bower (Ben Foster) wake up after an 8-year hypersleep while on a mission to settle a new planet. When they are locked inside a room together, Bower goes through the ventilation system in search of the reactor that restores power so they can open the door. Payton gives Bower directions via radio transmitter until they lose the connection. Payton discovers that the ship is filled with flesh eating monsters and with the help of two other astronauts that he meets along the way, they try and fight the monsters and restore power to the ship.
This was one of the worst films I have ever seen in my entire existence. I figured, “Hey, Dennis Quaid, pretty good….maybe this will be good.” Turns out Quaid is barely in the film, and must have done it as a favor to someone. Instead, Ben Foster gives a horrific performance. Who made this guy a Sci-Fi action star?? The creatures and the film felt like a poor knockoff of “Aliens”. Please do not watch this film. It sucks.
A PERFECT GETAWAY – ***
Cliff (Steve Zahn) and Cydney (Milla Jovovich) are newlyweds on their honeymoon in Hawaii. On their way to hike to a private beach, they come across some hitchhikers named Kale (Chris Hemsworth) and Cleo and fellow hikers Nick (Timothy Olyphant) and Gina. They meet some girls on the trail that reveal that there is a couple on the loose that is killing people. In a journey to the beach, there are a bunch of twists and turns revealing who the killers really are.
I surely didn’t think that I was going to like this film, but turns out that it was a pretty good ride. Film reminded me of “The River Wild” with Kevin Bacon…same kind of thing…pretty predictable but fun to watch. Steve Zahn is an old favorite of mine, but I really love Timothy Olyphant, who I think is a tremendous actor…if you ever watched “Deadwood” then you know what I mean. Milla Jovovich is adequate in this role….I loved her in “The Fifth Element” and the very underrated “The Messenger”. Anyway, it’s a pretty fun movie…worth checking out.
There are no DVD extras on this one.
Also read Justin Bowler’s YOU MISSED IT! article about “A Perfect Getaway” here.
PIRATE RADIO – ***
“Pirate Radio” consists of a bunch of hippie DJs that broadcast Rock N’ Roll from an old ship that’s moored off the coast of Great Britain in the 1960s. The leader of the bunch, Quentin (Bill Nighy), invites his godson Carl (Tom Sturridge) to come and live on the boat. The experience of living on the ship becomes a chance for Carl to grow up very quickly as he hangs out with a crazy cast of colorful characters including The Count (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and the greatest DJ from the UK, Gavin (Rhys Ifans).
This was a really fun ensemble film with a fantastic soundtrack, I found myself singing along and tapping my toes while watching this film. A great cast includes the great PSH and the others I mentioned above as well as small roles portrayed by the former couple Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson. A lot of fun, check it out.
– Feature commentary with writer/director Richard Curtis, producer Hilary Bevan Jones, actors Nick Frost and Chris O’Dowd
– (HD) 16 deleted scenes with optional intro by director Richard Curtis
– (HD) Six Featurettes
– BD-Live enabled
Also read Paul Preston’s review of “Pirate Radio” here.
PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL “PUSH” BY SAPPHIRE – ****
This is the story of Precious Jones (Gabourey Sidibe), a poor, illiterate teenager who lives in Harlem with her evil mother Mary (Mo’Nique). When her school finds out that she is pregnant with her second child, she is expelled and placed in an alternative school. At the new school, Precious is finally noticed and given the love that she has never been given by her mother. After returning home from giving birth to her child, she gets into a huge brawl with her mother and ends up leaving only to become homeless. Her teacher, Ms. Rain (Paula Patton), finds her a place to live and helps her begin the long road to recovery from a life of abuse.
I loved this film, and found myself with a lump in my throat throughout. There is a reason that Mo’Nique won the Oscar for her role in this film, it’s basically because she is absolutely brilliant. I thought that newcomer Gabourey Sibide was good, but not Oscar-worthy. It has been a while since I have seen something that seems to have really captured the essence of someone’s soul like this story did, a twisted coming-of-age fairytale.
Blu-Ray Special Features:
Audio commentary with director Lee Daniels; “From Push to Precious” featurette; “A Precious Ensemble” featurette; “Oprah and Tyler: A Project of Passion” featurette; A conversation with author Sapphire and director Lee Daniels; Deleted scene: “The Incest Survivor Meeting” ; Audition: Gabourey Sidibe; Reflections on Precious.
THE PRIVATE LIVES OF PIPPA LEE – ***
Pippa Lee (Robin Wright Penn) is a fifty year old woman who is married to a man who is pushing 80. Her Husband, Herb Lee (Alan Arkin), who is a famous publisher, decides it’s time for them to move into a retirement community after having three heart attacks. Fighting childhood troubles about her mother and depression from leaving New York, Pippa begins to slip. After Pippa walks in on Herb with her good friend Sandra (Winona Ryder), she begins to feel a freedom that she hasn’t felt since her youth. She begins a romance with her neighbors’ 35-year-old son Chris (Keanu Reeves) and where it goes from there only time will tell.
I had never heard of this film until I read a blurb about it recently. I’m glad I read that blurb! A great performance by Robin Wright Penn, and Arkin is amazing in everything he does. Haven’t seen Winona in a while and she is OK as the miserable and mousy Sandra. I think the breakout performance was from Blake Lively who played the young Pippa in the flashback sequences, I thought she was really great and can’t wait to see her in more films. Keanu does a good job in this smallish role, nothing mind-blowing but he pulls it off. Pretty good flick, check it.
Only thing here is interviews from the junket with cast members.
THE ROAD – ***
In a post-apocalyptic America, a father (Viggo Mortenson) and his boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) are traveling from the freezing North in an effort to reach the warmth of the South. Most of the survivors that are still alive have either turned to cannibalism or are close to killing themselves in order to find peace. The father will do anything in order to protect his son, even if that means killing hm with his gun if it comes to it. In an epic story about the simplicity of the bond between father and son, “The Road” delivers.
Viggo Mortenson is one of the best actors out there today, fully immersing himself in a role to the point of starving himself in order to make him feel what the character is feeling. “The Road” is a simple story about the love between a father and his son, not much else. It attempts to find humanity in a world where all humanity has vanished, where people are eating each other in order to stay alive. McPhee does an outstanding job in the role of the son, a portrayal that is worth praise for someone so young.
There are few characters in the piece, but there are two people that we meet that are of some significance. The Old Man (Robert Duval) and The Thief (Michael Williams) allows the audience to see the humanity that resides in the hearts of the father and son, the “Fire” as the father calls it. Charlize Theron plays the mother in the beginning of the film, the short amount of time that she is on screen is enough to see how powerful her performance is.
In summary, “The Road” is not a blockbuster action film, in fact it is quite boring at times and slow moving; but it makes you think. A great movie that has been truly overlooked by everyone.
Blu-Ray Special Features:
BD Exclusive: movieIQ+sync™ and BD-Live connect you to real-time information on the cast, music, trivia and more while watching the movie!
Deleted and Extended Scenes
The Making of The Road
SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD – ***
There are movies that come around every now and again that surprise the hell out of you and at the same time frustrate the hell out of you. “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” is one of those movies. Visually speaking, this movie is as creative a movie to be made since “Sin City”. This is no coincidence; like “Sin City”, “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” is a direct adaptation of a graphic novel.
From the moment the film starts, director Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead”) doesn’t let you forget it’s comic book roots. The movie is replete with multi-panels and thought bubbles and onomatopoeias galore from the phone ringing, to the sound of the band thrashing. This film has energy to spare to be sure. Edgar Wright also does a fantastic job of paying homage to all things video game. The soundtrack is so full of 8-bit effects that Nintendo should get royalties from this film. Even the opening shot of the studio (Universal) is done in a mockup that makes you feel you are starting a video game.
Part of this film’s charm is that nobody takes himself or herself too seriously. The plot of the movie is simple: Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) falls in love with Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). In order for him to be able to date her though, he must defeat (kill) all of her 7 evil exes. The violence in the film is played out visually like a comic book, but with video game rules. When one is killed, they materialize into coins.
I suppose my problem for this film isn’t the directing, nor is it the writing (there are some fantastic one-off jokes that are LOL funny). No, I suppose my main concern with the film lies in the casting. Michael Cera is horrifically miscast as the titular lead. To be fair, I haven’t read the source material, but I don’t think Scott Pilgrim is supposed to be a geeky awkward kind-of-guy. I have always been a defender of Michael Cera. When cast appropriately, he works for the material. “Superbad”, “Juno”, and even “Youth in Revolt” are all perfectly fine films that his nebbish awkward persona fit like a glove. Not here, though. This character needed an actor that was a tad more self-assured and a tad cooler. Not for one moment did I buy that Scott Pilgrim could woo a Ramona Flowers. Not for one moment did I buy that he could fight like a superhero either. Yet that’s the conceit the movie tries to convince you of.
There are so many great things about this movie stylistically that I couldn’t not recommend it. It’s not perfect. It’s not even a great film. It’s just pretty cool. I suppose there is nothing wrong with that, so long as you can get over Michael Cera being cast as a romantic lead superhero type.
Also read Paul Preston’s review of “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World” here.
SHERLOCK HOLMES – ***1/2
Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Dr. Watson (Jude Law) are called back into duty after the evil Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) rises from the dead (supposedly). The former lover of Holmes, Ms. Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) is also helping with the case, but under false pretenses. Holmes and Watson must unravel a wealth of clues to solve the mystery about Blackwood.
This was an incredible adventure through old time London with an amazing cast, great CG, beautiful cinematography and excellent direction by former Mr. Madonna, Guy Ritchie. The only suggestion that I have as with all Ritchie films is to put on the subtitles cause the dialogue is wordy and difficult to understand. Downey gives his all as the famous Sleuth, he is such an amazing actor and I truly hope that he is acknowledged for his work. Law is great as Watson and makes a great compliment to Downey’s Holmes. Although her part wasn’t really that developed, McAdams is pleasant as Adler as she is in all her films (frankly it’s nice to see her in something other than a romance).
I want to take a moment to talk about the look of the film. Philippe Rousselot is the DP on “Holmes” and does a truly remarkable job creating shots of old London that are truly breathtaking; he has worked on so many films including “Dangerous Liaisons”, “Interview with the Vampire”, “A River Runs Through It” and so many more. The Special effects department has what seems like over 100 members, so you can imagine how little the actors had to actually work with while on set. The Music by Hans Zimmer is great and gives a mesmerizing eerie quality to the entire film. If you haven’t already seen “Holmes”, grab the DVD or Blu-Ray or push the button on your In Demand.
Blu-Ray Special Features:
Maximum Movie Mode with director Guy Ritchie: picture-in-picture, storyboard comparisons, still galleries, focus points, timeline
Sherlock Holmes: Reinvented
Also read Justin Bowler’s review of “Sherlock Holmes” here.
TERMINATOR: SALVATION – *
Our Hero John Connor is the leader of the human resistance against the Machines after the world as people knew it ended. Marcus is part-human and part-machine, but Connor is unsure whether he is there to kill him or help him. Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), who is Connor’s father, has been captured by the machines, and because Marcus is part-machine, he can gain entrance to the Skynet holding facility. Connor and Marcus are there to save Reese and find out what the machines have in their plans to completely destroy the human race.
Excuse my French but this movie was a piece of shit. It was confusing, poorly acted with lame effects, and a stupid fucking story. Christian Bale is annoying as the omnipresent John Connor, he uses his lame Batman voice which is pathetic and non believable. I though that Sam Worthington did a great job in this role and I’m looking forward to “Clash of the Titans”. Anton Yelchin is also pretty good in this film, I have been a fan of his since he was in “Huff” which was one of the best shows ever made (Didn’t particularly like him in Star Trek). To sum it up, this movie blows…Skip It.
I recently got a Blu-Ray player, so whenever possible I will be reviewing the Blu-Ray version of the film. The only extras on this were on BD-Live, various commentaries etc. I hated the movie, so I didn’t spend too much time with the extra content.
THE TOWN – ****
There are so many movies about bank heists, and most of them at least decent, that the genre has seen every possible story that could be told about them. “The Town” focuses on a group of thieves from Charlestown (a.k.a. The Town), Massachusetts. The opening scene is of a bank robbery. Like the opening scene in “The Dark Knight,” the bank robbers are fast, efficient and knowledgeable in getting everything done in as little time as possible, leaving no possible trace. They microwave the security tapes and pour bleach over everything so as to not leave any detectable fibers from their clothing. They do however take a hostage; a bank manager named Claire (Rebecca Hall).
Ben Affleck (who also directed and co-wrote this film) stars as Doug MacRay who is the head of the bank robber crew. His right-hand man is James Coughlin (Jeremy Renner) who flies off the handle every now and then. Claire was not harmed and was released from the robbers’ custody shortly after being taken hostage. James makes sure to retrieve her license only to find out she lives in the same neighborhood as all the robbers. They’re all worried that they will get pinched so Doug appoints himself to scout her out and throw her off the trail. Trouble is, he falls for her. The rest of the movie deals with Doug trying to pull-off bank robberies while dating Claire and not letting her in on what he does. FBI agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm) and Dino Ciampa (Titus Welliver) are right on the robbers’ tail.
“The Town” is littered with all things Boston, which should come as no surprise to those who watched Ben Affleck’s last movie, his first major film-directing gig “Gone Baby Gone.” It’s a great thing to watch. Affleck has such a passion for Boston, the same passion that Sidney Lumet has for New York. His love for Boston is so fervent that the major robbery in the climatic final third of the movie focuses in the bowels of Fenway Park.
What I loved about “The Town” was it didn’t take time to explain things as it was going along. The exposition was handled very swiftly. We learn about MacRay’s past as well as Coughlin’s. We even get to see MacRay’s father (played by the always reliable Chris Cooper) in jail. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Rounding out the cast is Blake Lively as James’ sister (and Doug’s ex) Krista and the late Pete Postlethwaite as Fergie the Florist.
Affleck seems to know how to direct action very well with a splash of suspense thrown in. The car chase scene in Charlestown after an armored car robbery would make John Frankenheimer proud. The transition shots are convoluted, but never confusing. It’s very clear that Affleck has done his homework in studying the bank heist genre.
The only reason I can’t give a full five star review for this film is probably because of the fact that nothing in this film feels groundbreaking. Unfortunately, when there have been so many great bank heist movies, this probably comes as no surprise. Even the ending, which doesn’t exactly tie-up any loose ends (not that there’s anything wrong with that), feels like a bit of a let down. I almost want some kind of dramatic conclusion, but the film doesn’t provide that.
Also read Adam Witt and Joel Frost’s reviews of “The Town” here.
THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE – ***
Henry (Eric Bana )has a rare genetic defect that allows him to travel through time, but he cannot control when he does the traveling. While working at his job at the Chicago Library, a woman named Claire (Rachel McAdams) comes in and recognizes him, although he has no clue who she is. They go out to dinner that evening and she reveals to him that she knows about the time traveling and that they have known each other since she was six. Soon thereafter they get married and Claire has to come to terms with the ups and down of being married to someone with such an exhausting defect.
The film started off REALLY slow and hard to follow but as it progressed it became really interesting and enjoyable. McAdams is literally made for these sappy love stories, in fact, I’m not really sure she would be believable in any other role. Bana is strong, I love everything he does, and proves himself once again in this film (they should have kept him in the second “Hulk” film). This is a thought-provoking and emotional film that you should all check out, I kind of wish I had read the book first, oh well.
Blu-Ray Special Features:
An Unconventional Love Story: Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana explore the defining moments in their characters’ relationship
Love Beyond Words: Rachel McAdams, Eric Bana, director Robert Schwentke, and screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin recount this popular tale’s journey
TWILIGHT: NEW MOON – *1/2
In the ongoing romance/relationship between Bella and vampire Edward Cullen, Bella (Kristen Stewart) accidentally cuts herself at the home of Edward (Robert Pattinson) and his family, where she is nearly killed by Jasper (Jackson Rathbone). Edward realizes what imminent danger Bella is in and decides to leave town, never to return. Sinking deeper and deeper into a depression, Bella reacquaints herself with Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), who is hiding a dark secret. Bella jumps off of a cliff in the hopes that Edward will return, Jacob becomes distant, Jacob and his clan of Wolves must protect Bella from the evil Victoria who is seeking revenge on Bella, Edward who is in exile in Italy thinks that Bella is dead decides that he cannot live without her and decides to die……..there’s a lot going on.
I will admit that I read the Twilight series of books and moderately enjoyed them. The first film was pretty good and this one took a turn for the worse. Part of the reason this movie failed is because the novel itself wasn’t very good because it is essentially a vehicle for the next book. Another reason it sucked was that there was ZERO chemistry between Lautner and Stewart and that came through in the performances, also Lautner is truly terrible. I found Ashley Greene’s portrayal of Alice Cullen to be really top notch, but other than that no real stand out performances. We are briefly introduced to Jane played by Dakota Fanning which will be something to look forward to in the next film which is opening in June. This film is worth skipping. As a hoot check out this – Taylor Lautner’s Chest Director.
Blu-Ray Special Features:
Audio commentary with director Chris Weitz and editor Peter Lambert
A six-part documentary that takes you behind the scenes
Exclusive band rehearsal footage with Muse
Music videos from Death Cab for Cutie, Anya Marina, and Mute Math
UNTHINKABLE – **1/2
Steven Younger (Michael Sheen) is an American man who has become a Muslim Terrorist. He has videotaped himself in various locations showing three separate nuclear bombs that he has built. The FBI is desperate to find Younger for the slim chance that these bombs may actually be real. Agent Brody (Carrie-Ann Moss) and her team of agents have been tracking various terror cells for a long time, they see something about Younger on TV before it was supposed to go public. They also bring in Henry Humphries, also known as “H.” (Samuel L. Jackson) without knowing that he is part of a secret military organization. Are the agents willing to do what may be morally questionable to possibly save millions of lives?
This was kind of an interesting film, it certainly wasn’t great but I really enjoyed it. Brit actor Michael Sheen is remarkable as the terrorist, one of the best performances I have seen in quite some time. He brought a range of emotion that almost left the audience hoping that he would be OK. Jackson gives a solid performance as the sadistic ‘H.’, but nothing out of the ordinary. Moss is pretty good as the cold and fairly emotionless FBI agent. Overall, it is a entertaining film that is definitely worth checking out. Keep in mind that it is pretty violent and the concepts put forth are fairly disturbing, if you are squeamish then stay away.
Blu-Ray Special Features:
– Commentary with Director Gregor Jordan
– Includes Extended Version of the film with Alternate Ending
UP – ****
Carl Fredrickson (Ed Asner) is a young boy who seeks adventure and idolizes the famous adventurer Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer). Carl is alone in his adventure quest until he meets a young girl named Ellie who shares his interest in exploring the world and visiting Paradise Falls in South America. Carl and Ellie are married and live a wonderful life together (we also learn that Carl is a balloon salesman), until Ellie dies and Carl loses his spark for adventure. Carl’s house is the last in the neighborhood, as skyscrapers are being built all around him, he just wants peace and quiet. One day, a young Boy Scout named Russell knocks on his door and wants to help an elderly person to earn his final badge that will elevate him to the next level of the scouts. In an effort to keep his and Ellie’s dream alive, he devises a way to make his house fly by attaching thousands of balloons to it with a special steering contraption. Carl later realizes that Russell was under the house and is now a stowaway and is along for the adventure. Together they make it to South America where they have the adventure of a lifetime together!
I thought this was one of the best films I have seen in a very long time. It was an emotional story of adventure, love, and friendship. The film started off a bit slow but worked up into a fantastic adventure that included some of the most unique characters in film today. Kevin is a giant flightless bird that Russell befriends and turns out to be a great friend. Dug is the dimwitted talking dog that was such a great character that I kind of wish they would make a spinoff film with Dug as the main character. Great Voice over talent by the great Ed Asner and Christopher Plummer. Overall, a great experience in this film. If you haven’t seen it, do so and you won’t be disappointed.
Once again I had to watch this on Pay Per View cause Netflix keeps on screwing me over, so no DVD extras to talk about…sorry.
Also read Paul Preston’s review of “Up” here.
UP IN THE AIR – **
Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) flies all over the the country for his job, which is firing people from their jobs. Living his life on the road and firing people for a living has made him devoid of real emotion, and that’s just the way he likes it. While at one of his many stays at a Hilton, he meets Alex (Vera Farmiga), who seems to be the female version of himself, they vow to meet each other on layovers and the such. Ryan’s Boss, Mr. Gregory (Jason Bateman), has called in all of his people from the road to introduce them to Natalie (Anna Kendrick), who has come up with a plan to save the company lots of money. She plans on cutting out travel and firing people via the internet. In fear of losing the life that he loves, Ryan puts up a stink…Mr. Gregory sends Natalie on the road with him to teach her the ropes. As Natalie learns how difficult this job is, Ryan begins to have strong feelings for Alex…everybody starts to change.
I was so psyched to see this film, everybody said it was sooo amazing…lots of Oscar nods and the like. I’m not going to say that it was awful, but I will say that it was pretty lame and uneventful. There is a great cast and the story is a cute concept, but it just didn’t hold my interest. I think Vera Farmiga is beautiful and does a great job, even Clooney is pretty good (certainly not worth a nomination). I can’t even say that it is a chick flick cause I don’t think it is. It is moderately entertaining, that’s about it.
Blue-Ray Special Features:
Commentary by Writer/Director Jason Reitman, Director of Photography Eric Steelberg and First Assistant Director Jason Blumenfeld
Featurette: Shadowplay: Before The Story
Music Video – “Help Yourself” by Sad Brad
Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Jason Reitman
Featurette: American Airlines Prank
Also read Joel Frost’s review of “Up in the Air” here.
WHEN IN ROME – *
Beth (Kristen Bell) is a curator at the Guggenheim museum in NYC, her job is her life and her relationships seem to not work out because of it. When she heads to her sister’s wedding in Rome, the last thing she expects to do is meet a man she likes. After meeting Nick (Josh Duhamel), who is the best man at the wedding, she is instantly attracted to him and they spend most of the night together until she sees him kissing another woman. In her despair, she goes into the “Fountain of Love” and removes some coins and a poker chip, and a curse begins. Upon arriving back in NYC, she is overwhelmed when several men become instantly obsessed with her…besides Nick. The story of the curse goes that when someone’s coins are removed from the fountain, they instantly fall in love with the person who removed them. Beth does everything in her power to try and break the curse.
This film actually started out funny, I was chuckling quite a bit in fact. It then took a dramatic turn for the worse, all the way down to “sucksobadville”. It was literally torture to watch this film in it’s entirety, why I bothered I’m not quite sure. I think Kristen Bell is really good, she has great comic timing and she is pleasant to look at but this film SUCKED. Great array of supporting actors thrown into terribly written crap roles – Will Arnett, Jon Heder, Danny DeVito and Dax Shepard. The ONLY redeeming thing in the film was a scene that reunited “Napoleon Dynamite” stars Jon Heder and Efren Ramirez who played Pedro (otherwise Heder was dreadful in this). Please don’t watch this film, which I am pretty sure you won’t anyway.
Blu-Ray Special Features:
– Alternate Opening and Ending
– “Mischief From the Set” Featurette
– Extended Scenes: Pain With The Suitors
– More Deleted Scenes, Bloopers and music videos
WHITEOUT – *
At a research facility in Antarctica, U.S. Marshall Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale) is researching a body that has been found in the middle of the Tundra. Upon investigating, more bodies turn up and she comes across UN Agent Robert Pryce (Gabriel Macht), who arrives out of nowhere to help with the investigation. Stetko encounters a crazed killer that nearly takes her life at the Russian Station, and the investigation continues….
This movie SUCKED. Don’t watch this piece of shit, it has lousy acting and a stupid plot that leaves you aching from how bad the whole thing is. It’s been dubbed as ‘The Coldest Thriller Ever Made’ because it was filmed on location in the tundra’s of Canada. Beckinsdale is great in the “Underworld” franchise, but this film does her wrong and she does it wrong. Tom Skerritt plays a very likeable Dr. Fury, just about the only thing that is good about the film. STAY AWAY.
Blu-Ray extras are:
The Coldest Thriller Ever
Whiteout: From Page to Screen
Also read Kathy Bugajsky’s review of “Whiteout” here.
THE WOLFMAN – *
After one of his performances of Hamlet, Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) receives a visit from his brother’s wife Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt), informing him that his estranged brother has gone missing. Upon returning to his family estate in rural England, they find his brother’s mangled remains in the forest. When he was a young boy, Lawrence came upon his father Sir John Talbot (Anthony Hopkins) holding the bloodied corpse of his mother in an apparent suicide. Since then, he has suffered mental illness and vowed never to return to the town on Blackmoor or Talbot Hall. While going to gain some insight into the murder of his brother, Lawrence visits a Gypsy camp to speak to Maleva (Geraldine Chaplin); while speaking to her a strange creature attacks the camp and he rushes into the woods after it. Lawrence is bitten by the creature and the locals believe that he is now infected and they believe him to be a Werewolf.
Such an amazing cast, an 85 million dollar budget…..BAD script. Not even sure how a script like this actually gets backed by the studios these days. I’m pretty sure I could have written something more substantial. The first hour of the film gives us the lame back story about the Talbots and lets us get to know Lawrence, who is played by an extremely lackluster Del Toro, who as I remember used to be a fantastic actor…what happened to this guy? His performance had about as much depth as a store brand ice cream sandwich, such a disappointment. Emily Blunt was pretty good as Gwen, at least she made some kind of attempt instead of just collecting a hefty paycheck. Hopkins is also acceptable as Sir John, but the script doesn’t allow the audience to get to know him..arggghhh did this film frustrate me.
The few sequences that actually have the monster in it are actually quite entertaining, the final scenes were well thought out but there were times I thought that MJ’s “Thriller” had better makeup and effects and that was in 1983. In summary, this movie is lousy..if you are going to spend the time and watch it, have your remote in hand cause you will desperately want to fast forward.
Blu-Ray Special Features:
Deleted and extended scenes (Includes 2 exclusive alternate endings)
“Return of The Wolfman”: See how Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt and director Joe Johnston tapped into the tragic roots of the legend and cinematic lore to unleash a new terror
“The Beast Maker”: A detailed look at how legendary make-up wizard Rick Baker transformed a classic monster into a modern nightmare
“Transformation Secrets”: Whether transforming werewolves, producing hallucinogenic nightmares or recreating the fog-covered streets of Victorian London, we’ll see how the visual effects team created a haunting world of moonlit monsters and unsettling thrills
“The Wolfman Unleashed”: The team behind the stunt and action units shares with us the physical challenges of bringing “The Wolfman” to life, including the climatic werewolf battle at Talbot Hall
THE YOUNG VICTORIA – *1/2
As Victoria (Emily Blunt) is about to become the Queen of England at a very young age, there are many who are opposed to her Monarchy, feeling that she is inexperienced. Living a sheltered life (never being allowed to even walk down the stairs without holding someone’s hand) has turned Victoria into quite a righteous young woman. Victoria’s cousin from Germany, Albert (Rupert Friend), is at first forced to try and win her affection to politically advance that side of the family. After some time, they fall in love and get married. Albert and Victoria try to bring about reform in England and rights to the working class.
I usually like period pieces, but this film was friggin’ boring and useless. The story of Queen Victoria’s life isn’t that exciting in the first place, so why turn it into a feature film?? I suppose the acting is OK, Emily Blunt is pretty good and Friend is adequate. There is a good supporting cast including Paul Bettany as Lord Melbourne and Jim Boradbent as King William. Other then some OK performances, the only other things this film had going for it were great costumes and beautiful locations. If you are in the mood to be bored out of your skull then check out this film, if you would like to laugh, check out my next review.
Blu-Ray Special Features:
– Movie IQ and BD-Live – For those who have their Blu-Ray player connected to the internet and can access real-time information on the cast, music, trivia and more while watching the film.
– Deleted and Extended Scenes – Featuring 17 deleted/extended sequences not included in the final cut of the film.
– Making of “The Young Victoria” – (5:42) The talent talk about how much Victoria loved Albert and the things she had created and left in memorium for her husband. Producers talk about Victoria and wanting to make things convenient for the audience and a story they can relate to.
– Lavish History: A Look at the Costumes and Locations – (7:20) An interview with Sandy Powell and creating the costumes for “The Young Victoria” and replicating what Victoria wore. Using paintings as a reference such as the wedding dress but also adding things of her own to make the costume look right for this film.
– The Coronation – (2:46) Historical advisor Alastair Bruce talks about how the coronation segment and making sure the details of the coronation are correct.
– The Wedding – (2:35) Writer Julian Fellowes discusses the marriage and compatibility of Victoria and Albert. Sarah Ferguson talks about wanting to portray Victoria as a beautiful young woman in the film.
– The Real Queen Victoria – (7:28) The cast talk about Victoria and her life with Albert. Featuring excerpts from Victoria’s diary and to show us a little about the real Queen Victoria.
YOUTH IN REVOLT – ***1/2
Nick Twisp (Michael Cera) is a teenage virgin who lives with his promiscuous mother (Jean Smart) and her insane boyfriend Jerry (Zach Galafianakis). When Jerry sells a bunch of sailors a car with a banana in the tailpipe, they come looking to get their money back. In an effort not to be killed, Jerry takes his little family on a vacation to a friend’s cabin that ends up being a dilapidated trailer. While heading to the communal bathroom to take a shower, Nick encounters Sheeni (Portia Doubleday). Nick soon develops an alter ego of what he imagines Sheeni will like. He then goes to live with his father (Steve Buscemi) (closer to Sheeni). In a bunch of hilarious twists, Nick tries desperately to keep the affection of Sheeni.
This movie was hilarious. Although we see the attributes that make Cera successful in all of his roles, this is a platform for him to show off the fact that he is capable of playing a character that is a bit more in-depth (just a little). A great bunch of actors come together in this ensemble. Besides the aforementioned names, the cast also includes the hilarious Fred Willard, Justin Long, M. Emmet Walsh, and Mary Kay Place from “Big Love”. It’s a fun movie with lots of surprises, check it out.
MovieIQ™+sync and BD-Live connect you to real-time information on the cast, music, trivia and more while watching the movie!
Commentary with Director and Michael Cera
ZOMBIELAND – ***
Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) is on his way to Ohio to see if his parents have survived the world that has been overrun by zombies. On his way, he encounters Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson). While Columbus is the soft-spoken and nerdy-type, Tallahassee is a wild Outlaw-type who is in search of finding the last Twinkie on the planet. Along the way, they meet up with two sisters named Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). They have heard that there are no zombies in a theme park outside of LA, so they decide to head there, what happens when they finally arrive???
I gotta say that I liked this movie, I was entertained from beginning to end. Ya gotta love Woody Harrelson, he is just great..he can do no wrong by me. Eisenberg is really great, I think I mentioned something like this in my review of “Adventureland” (He is essentially the same as Michael Cera in every way; this is OK cause I think both are great). Emma Stone, who is most famous for her role in “Superbad”, is pretty good in this film and Breslin, which we all know from “Little Miss Sunshine”, is also tolerable. At one point, the bunch decides to hide out in a celebrity’s home, leading to one of the greatest cameos of all time.
Although this is a comedy, the horror genre aspect is pretty vivid. The zombies themselves are pretty grotesque, and the scenes of them eating people are damn graphic. The zombie sequences were enhanced with CG and looked pretty cool, much like a video game with slow-motion stuff and blood flying everywhere. The film is NOT great but it is fun, well worth watching.
Blu-Ray Special Features:
– Exclusive to the Blu-ray: “Beyond the Graveyard” – Behind the Scenes Picture-in-Picture Track
– Commentary with Actors Woody Harrelson & Jesse Eisenberg, Director Ruben Fleischer, Writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick
– “Zombieland is Your Land” – The zombification of the United States
– Deleted Scenes & theatrical Promo Trailers and more.
Also read the Point/Counterpoint review of “Zombieland” here.
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