Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sherlock Holmes


Christmas is now officially complete. The presents have been opened and the family time has been shared. But most importantly I've been able to see the flawless Robert Downey Jr. tear up the screen one more time before the new year as detective Sherlock Holmes. The best present a movie goer could have this Christmas weekend.

This is a fast paced, action packed Sherlock Holmes from director Guy Ritchie. It's probably Guy's most hard hitting action packed adventure that he's made thus far, and a good one at that. The script is witty, well written, and smart. Very smart, it keeps us guessing right up until the end and has a brilliant use of flashbacks that reveal just how Holmes is actually solving this crime and the little clues he found along the way that we thought the film had skipped over. The films opens with a bang as Sherlock and Watson are racing against time to save a woman from the evil Lord Blackwood played by the creepy Mark Strong. After Blackwood is caught and then put to death by way of a hanging, questions arise when he supposedly turns up alive and Sherlock Holmes and his dear Watson pursue the case.

There is not a moment of boredom in this take on Sherlock Holmes as the fast talking, inventor/detective, runs, jumps, and smashes his way through to solve this mystery. Robert Downey Jr. may be the best actor of this generation. After Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Zodiac, Iron Man, and Tropic Thunder his comeback has proved that we have missed his presence dearly on screen, the place where he truly belongs. You can tell the man is brilliant because his physical appearance doesn't change much in Holmes. He still looks just like Downey Jr. in the Holmes wardrobe. But yet he completely changes into Holmes. The accent, the movements, the witty dialogue delivery, and the stunning choreography. These are the signs of a best actor Golden Globe winner if you ask me. He's simply brilliant and an absolute pleasure to watch on screen.

The supporting cast were also enjoyable. Jude Law's portrayal as Doctor Watson was right on. Nothing award worthy, but right on none the less The way he played Holmes' friend was very well done. He's annoyed and a bit aggravated at times with Holmes and his stubborn ways, yet he can't help but laugh at him and join him on his destructive missions. He always seems to be there for him when Holmes needs him, a true friend who knows him better than if not better than Holmes himself does. Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler, Holmes' ex, was nothing special but still a pleasure to watch, as Rachel McAdams always is.

Sherlock Holmes would have worked just a well if it were released in the Summer among the huge blockbuster films. But hey, Christmas day works for me. It's just a big fun film with action, comedy, and suspense that will keep entire family entertained. If you think the film can't get any more entertaining the score by Hans Zimmer, who has been my favorite composer since Days of Thunder, makes it just that much more enjoyable. The score is phenomenal, an itunes purchase for sure. The script is smart, the performances are great, the London setting is perfect, and I'm giving Sherlock Holmes a 4 and 1/2 outa 5 because of it. Go watch it and have some fun.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Avatar


Finally, it has come. James Cameron's latest epic, the most expensive film ever made, in digital 3D, yes ladies and gentleman....Avatar!! Man have I been waiting for this film to get released. I must have watched the 3 and 1/2 minute trailer over twenty times while waiting for this, and even the trailer was epic. James Cameron has made a few deep sea documentaries over the past few years but it hasn't been since 1997 when he made Titanic that he's made a feature film. He was WAY over due. All I have to say is, Mr. Cameron, it was well worth the wait my friend.

The story takes place well into the future and centers around it's main character Jake Sully played by the new born superstar Sam Worthington. Jake's a paraplegic war veteran who's been brought to a planet just outside of Earth called Pandora. He's on a team who's mission is to infiltrate and learn the way's of the native race called the Na'vi. They are each assigned their own Na'vi avatars which with the process of sitting in a machine allows them to be transported into their new Na'vi bodies and enter their world without the use of gas masks. Jake is soon torn between helping out with the friendly research of the Na'vi with Dr. Grace Augustine, played by Sigourney Weaver, or finding out ways to get what's buried beneath their sacred land for the gun-ho Marine Colonel Miles Quaritch, portrayed by the amazing Stephen Lange. Jake soon meets and falls in love with one of the Na'vi named Neytiri, played by Zoe Saldana who nails this role to perfection. He grows to love Neytiri, the Na'vi race, and culture more than his own human race. Jake soon takes their side and in a heroic spectacular battle fights with them against the human Marines led by Colonel Miles Quaritch.

With a running time of about 2 hours and 45 minutes I never once found myself bored during this film. It's so well made and so visually stunning to look at it's like being on a ride at Disney Land. The 3D (Real D) only enhances that aspect of the film. Although there aren't too many "jump out at the audience moments", the 3D still makes it an amazing thrill ride. It makes you feel like you yourself are actually transporting into the avatar (since that's where most of the 3D takes place). So when Jake transports into his avatar, we transport right there with him. The 3D also makes the viewing great in the scenes where there are little bugs or ash and embers flying around on the beautiful Pandora. A land more breathtaking and tropical than any island setting I have ever seen.

The story of "man going into a sacred land to fight the natives but turns good hearted and becomes friends with them" has been done before in films like Dances With Wolves, The Last Samurai, and The New World. But hey....I LOVE that story line and although it's been done before, James Cameron executes it very well with Avatar. Seeing the character of Jake Sully change from the moping hard headed paraplegic Marine into the loving adventurous and full of life Avatar is a great achievement from both the script department and actor Sam Worthington. The performances were great all around from Giovanni Ribisi to Sigourney Weaver, to Zoe Saldana to Sam Worthington. But my personal favorite performance was Stephen Lange as the Colonel. He was so bad-ass and so into the part, he wasn't just believable as the jacked up evil Marine but his character did everything that I would expect his character to do, he fights right up until the end of the film. He fights for what he believes in and for what he want's, even if it's wrong, even if he's killing innocent beings along the way, he's got a fucking job to do and he's gonna do it dammit. Let me just say one other thing without giving anything away, the ending was amazing and pleased me in every possible way that a film ending could.

Avatar should certainly win all technical awards that it's nominated for such as best sound, visual effects, etc. as The Lord of The Rings films did and it certainly deserves to. Avatar is a film about greed and passion. A film about doing what's right and protecting and fighting for what you believe in and what's sacred to you and your home. It's about protecting your fellow people and the land that has always been there for you. It's a beautiful ride. Put on those glasses....and take that ride. Avatar 3D gets 4 and 1/2 outa 5.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Precious

I was finally able to see a film that I have been meaning to see for the last few weeks or so called Precious. Director Lee Daniels has been involved in a few very small, yet powerful films. He was the producer on Monsters Ball and The Woodsman as well as director of the somewhat overlooked film Shadowboxer. So with Precious being only his second film that he's actually directed, I can say without a doubt, that Lee Daniels has a very strong career ahead of him and I will be anxiously awaiting his next project.

Precious revolves around the story of a young 16 year old highschool girl from Harlem named Precious. Not only does she have to live with her very physically and mentally abusive mother Mary, played by Mo'Nique, but she has to live with herself being extremely overweight and reliving the nightmares of herself getting raped by her own father who also impregnated her twice. It's a pretty nightmarish situation to say the least and first time rookie actress Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe nails it. As of today she's just earned herself a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress. In her first role ever, the girl earns a Best Actress nomination, now that says something about how talented she is. I actually saw a special on her and watching how cheerful she was during that and then watching Precious you can see that she really did transform into a 16 year old highschool girl who's surrounded by hate and problems.

As the story progresses we see that there's actually a lot of people who really love Precious and want to help her. Her alternative school teacher Ms. Rain, played by the gorgeous and eloquent Paula Patton, soon begins to believe in Precious and will do anything in her power to help her. She takes her in, helps her raise her child, gets her reading level up from virtually non-existent to an 8th grade level, and eventually gets her into a halfway house to prepare her for life on her own.

Mo'Nique's performance as Mary (Precious' mother) was an absolute knockout. I've never been more terrified of a characters family member as I was while watching her. Every time Precious would even go near her apartment I would sit in my seat clenching my fists to prepare for the worst. This woman is so hateful, so abusive, and so downright scary it's going to be hard to get her out of my head for a while. There's one scene in particular where Mary has just realized that she has smashed her tv set and it follows with an intense slow motion shot of her sweating and running up the stairs full speed to tear apart Precious' room. I tell you, it's a scary sight. She deserves a win for her nomination for Best Supporting Actress for Golden Globes.

Precious is a film that should be seen by all people, of all sizes, and of all races. It's a film that will leave you breathless, and will leave you thinking about it long after you leave the theater. Precious may even win Best Picture for Golden Globes. I give Precious 4 1/2 outa 5 stars.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Brothers


Director Jim Sheridan has a wide variety of films under belt from My Left Foot, to In America, to Get Rich Or Die Tryin', 50 Cents semi-autobiography. I like this about a director. It shows that he has a versatile mind and that he's open to making any type of film which is what I think a lot of directors are lacking these days. You can't always put in a Jim Sheridan film and be able to tell it's a Jim Sheridan film as you would be able to with a say Wes Anderson type of director, and that's not a bad thing at all.

Sheridan's latest effort, Brothers, is a character driven drama that rings true to real life situations that one might face while being placed in the situation these characters are placed it. The story centers around Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire), his wife Grace Cahill (Natalie Portman), and his brother Tommy Cahill (Jake Gyllenhaal. Sam and Grace are a young couple who have been in love since they were 16 years old. They have two young daughters and they're happy. Once Sam gets sent back to Afghanistan things take a change for the absolute worst. It's every soldiers wives nightmare and worst possible situation to be in when two officers show up at your door and you just know what news they have for you. After Grace gets the news that Sam is dead Sam's ex-con brother Tommy starts hanging around her house more and more, helping out with the kids, and helping out remodeling the kitchen for her. After spending more time with him Grace realizes that the has been criminal she once hated is actually becoming a great guy both to her and her kids, and her kids simply adore him. Just when things appear to be turning around and the possibility of starting a new life with Tommy is growing more and more realistic things take yet another turn, this time is is for better or worse. These are some questions that are raised after we learn that after months and months of torture and being held in captivity she gets a call saying that Sam is still alive, and coming home.

The film cuts back and forth between showing Sam as a prisoner and Tommy and Graces life thinking that Sam is dead. The scenes with Sam in Afghanistan are real and intense and really gives the audience a true sense of fear. The scenes at home are also realistic and show just how are you supposed to handle a situation like this? Tommy is clearly just trying to be a nice guy with helping Grace and the kids out, he's not trying to sleep with her or anything. But as time progresses situations like that do come around and the film has an interesting approach to dealing with them that I like. It takes it very slow. Because it's hard for the both of them to deal with the situation. Which is real. When Sam returns home he see's that things aren't the same and realizes that neither is he. He's severely messed up in the head and what comes is intense and scary to say the least.

Tobey Maguire offers hands down the best performance of his career and may be a sleeper for a best actor nomination for the Oscars or Globes. He went through a great physical change with losing 30 pounds for the roll and although it's not nearly as crazy as what Christian Bale did for The Machinist or Rescue Dawn, it's still a great accomplishment and makes him look creepy as hell. Natalie Portman is also very good and plays the role of a grieving widow to absolute perfection. I swear that woman can not just cry on command but she knows how much to cry and how to look while crying given the different situations she's in. Going into this I wasn't expecting much form him at all, but it was actually Jake Gyllenhaal that turned out to be my favorite part of Brothers. He did the opposite of Maguire and bulked up for the role, turned scruffy, and sports a tattoo on his neck. He does a great job at playing a quiet, kind of weird guy who you can just tell has had a background in crime and has a difficult time adjusting to life outside of prison. He wasn't really given enough material to work with to deserve a nomination, but he did the best he could've possibly done in my opinion. I wasn't a fan of the films score at all. It was a kind of strange up beat country theme that I thought was a bit out of place. It's a fairly small and quiet film , that is until Sam comes home, and it's good, not great by any means. But it was an interesting and entertaining film, and the performances were what really made this film enjoyable for me. Brothers gets a solid 3 and 1/2 outa 5.

Monday, November 30, 2009

New Moon



When Twilight came out last year I saw it opening night because I knew I had to experience seeing it with a crowd of people who were dying to see it, and that's the same thing I did this year for New Moon and it was pretty nuts to say the least. When Twilight came out I was actually going in expecting the worst but left with seeing an intriguing love story involving vampires and humans. New Moon, the second series installment, certainly continues right along that road but it's a little less effecting than the first one. At least on me it was.

Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) is a year older and a year wiser....kind of. She desperately wants Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) to to turn her into a vampire, now. She wants eternal life with him. She's doing it for the sake of love though, being afraid that Edward will no longer want her anymore when she's old and grey. Edward disagrees with her request to the utmost then hits her with some news, some very bad news for Bella. The Cullens have to get out of town asap. People are starting to notice that they aren't aging and they need to leave before they get caught. Bella begs and pleads and then bam, the Cullens are gone just like that within the first 20 minutes of the film. Now the real story gets started. Bella's childhood friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner) starts coming around more and he's not looking like the old Jacob used too. He's jacked up with muscle, in love with Bella, and he's a werewolf. We new by the end of Twilight that he was a wolf, but in New Moon we finally get to see it. He's not just any wolf either, when he transforms he turns into a raging gigantic blood curdling wolf who will stop at nothing to protect Bella.

Bella starts to fall for Jacob a tad, but she's still got Edward on her mind. After Jacob does everything in his power to be with Bella and lets her know just how he feels, Bella gets a visit from one of the Cullens telling her that Edwards in trouble in Italy and she's the only one that can save him from the Voltori (the original vamps....the O.V.'s) The Italy scenes are by far my favorite in the film and the most well done in my opinion.

The problem I had with New Moon is that it's identical to the book and the book drags on with not much happening, it's kind of a segway into Eclipse, the third installment. I thought the director should've added just a few more action/intense scenes with Jacob along the way and really show us what he's made of, really show him kicking some ass and protecting Bella. Bella's moping around constantly got a tad bit annoying after a while but I guess I understand it, she's just a teenage girl madly in love and she misses her Edward simple as that. With that being said I heard that Eclipse contains a lot more action and with filming almost finished on that, I'm already getting excited for opening night. Call me a 14 year old teeny bopper, go right ahead, I'm not ashamed. The Twilight Saga brings me great pleasure for some odd reason. New Moon gets 3 1/2 outa 5.


Youth in Revolt


I had the pleasure of working at the Virginia Film Festival this year in Charlottesville where I was able to see a few pretty decent films. One of which on the closing night was Michael Cera's Youth in Revolt. Youth in Revolt is based on the much beloved novel of same name. It follows the life and times of 14 year old Nick Twisp and his escape from his trailer trash household and his quest to find his dream girl, Sheeni Saunders, and lose his virginity. The film contains an all star cast of Michael Cera, Zach Galifianakis, Fred Willard, Ray Liotta, Justin Long, and Steve Buscemi.

The film follows 14 year old Nick Twisp (although I think they changed his age to 16 for the film, a more believable age for Cera to play) through his adventures in leaving himself, essentially, and becoming more of a "bad boy" so he can get the guts to win over his dream girl Sheeni Saunders with who he had a minor fling with at her trailer park during a vacation he was on. The nervous fumbling mouthed Twisp soon develops the split personality of Francois, the foul mouthed, take no shit from nobody criminal, also played by Micheal Cera wearing a classy white suit and a sketchy looking mustache. I know at this day in age it isn't hard to do anymore, but I still think the filmmakers did a good job at showing two Michael Cera's playing both characters in the same scenes together.

I was a little disappointed by use of Zach Galifianakis' character Jerry, who plays Nicks mothers trashy boyfriend. I felt there simply just wasn't enough of him. His character had a few great lines in the film but that's about it, and with his recent success in The Hangover, I just wanted to see a bit more of the guy that's all. On the other hand Steve Buscemi who plays Nicks dad is great as the young hussy hounding sleaze who cares more about the well being of his car than his son. Fred Willard probably has the best scenes in the film as the crazy neighbor who's obsessed with illegal aliens and their well-being.

I must say though that this film has a strange kind of quiet feeling to it and moves along at a slow/medium pace. Not that there's anything wrong with that but it takes some getting used to. With that being said I also think that if it wasn't for the split personality change of Nick turning into Francois, this film would be lower than average. But because Cera offers some of his best work to date while portraying Nick and the entertaining Francois simultaneously, I'm recommending this film a little more. Youth in Revolt gets 3 outa 5.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bra Boys - DVD


I've been a surfer since I was about 10 years old. I have family in San Diego and I've been going out there since I was a baby. I have witnessed many crazy and hostile acts in the water and on the beach between surfers who are "locals" and surfers who come into town snaking waves. But I have never seen localism like the way it was displayed in the documentary Bra Boys which is directed by Sunny Abberton and narrated by Russell Crowe.

The film is about one of the most notorious surf gangs in the world, the Bra Boys. They dubbed the name "bra" from their local beach and suburb of Maroubra just outside of Sydney Australia. The "gang" consists of around 50 to 100 members, most of which bare the brotherhood tattoo. They have their own special hand shake as well. But not just anyone can be a Bra Boy. You have to be willing to be there for your "brothers" whenever needed and you better bring it while in the ocean surfing. So if you're sleeping in the middle of the night and you get a call saying a bunch of the boys are brawling with 50 off duty officers at a local pub....you better be willing to haul ass.

At the core of the story and the founders of the Bra Boy gang are the Abberton brothers consisting of Sunny, Koby, and Jai. The side story in the film follows the murder trial of Jai who was accused of murdering a fellow acquaintance who was once his friend. Jai is pleading self defense as he claims the guy made him and his girlfriend get into a car, then pulled out a gun and said lets do this, impllying rape and possibly kill the woman. Jai fought with the guy got a hold of the gun and shot him in self defense. I wont give away the final verdict but it gets really intense as we realize how big of an impact these Bra Boys have on the community both positive and non-positive.

The filmmakers use some great archive footage as well as live footage of the Boys and their crazy antics, whether it be catching a 15 ft barreling wave that's inches away from jagged rocks, punching police, lighting themselves on fire and jumping off of cliffs into the ocean, or jumping on top of moving busses and dancing on them as they drive away. These guys rule the city and do as they please and it's damn entertaining to watch. There's a big scene towards the end of the film that was downright scary as they show a rival gang of about 100 come into town looking for the boys and smashing everything in sight. Another one that shows Sunny and Kobi in suits meeting with another rival gang leader also in a suit, it's right out of a Mafia film and shows that these guys aren't fucking around. But what's so great about this film is that it also has EXCELLENT surf footage. The boys can surf, that's for damn sure. They are some of the best in the world. Bra Boys gets 4 outa 5.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Where The Wild Things Are


Finally one of the most beloved children's books of all time has been brought to life. Spike Jonze who's responsible for directing such odd and artistic classics as Adaptation and Being John Malkovich took on a bit of a different subject matter this time around with this kids classic, although it's not quite as "kiddy" as one might think.

Everyone out there should know the story of Where The Wild Things Are. A kid runs off to a special island and dreams up a bunch of monster friends to play with. That's the basic premise of Spikes version too although things get a little more adventurous, heartfelt, sad, and dark along the way. After Max gets into a fight with his sister, and a screaming match with his mother, he takes off alone down the street during the night wearing his dog suit. He hops in a little boat and sails off to a special island. The moment he gets in that boat is when his imagination runs wild. On the island he meets a bunch of big hairy monsters. Some with horns and one that even looks like a goat, or I think he is a goat. These are the wild things.

The main wild thing is a male named Carol. Right when Max arrives he sees that Carol is unhappy with whatever the current situation on the island may be and he's smashing everything in sight. Max immediately bonds with him. They have so much in common right off the bat. Maybe this is because Carol is portrayed after Max. Max sees things played out in front of him from his own life through the lives of these wild things. He learns lots of life lessons along the way but it's a very dark way. There's lots of crying and fighting, physically and verbally. The way Max and his sisters relationship was portrayed through the wild things was done really well and it was my favorite part of the film.

The set design and the wild things were absolutely stunning in every aspect. The settings and cinematography were both beautiful. The film has a very dark and sort of dirty feel to it. The wild things are these filthy hairy monsters with strange faces and creepy sharp yellow teeth that are sure to give a child under 12 nightmares. But I think that the overall message of the film and Max' power to dream will overcome those nightmares in the end, so take your kid. The wild things were so well done it was amazing. It seemed like it was a mixture of actors in suits with CGI for their faces. The voices were also right on target and casting James Gandolfini as the voice of Carol was freaking GENIUS. He nailed it. Max played by Max Records a newcomer to the scene was really good too, a natural talent already in his young age.

Believe it or not I think that this is one of those films that requires multiple viewings to fully get what's going on. I mean you may know what's going on but I would love to see it again to be able to catch every little detail that's being played out in front of Max with these wild things. This is a story of a boy who's fed up with the world. A boy who just wants to escape and run wild. He wants to play with friends that he wants to play with. He wants to be in charge and he wants to be loved. But Max learns many valuable lessons in the end. How to be a better kid, a better son, a better brother....and a better dreamer. Where The Wild Things Are is sure to get even better with each viewing, but for now it gets a 4 outa 5.

Paranormal Activity


After all the internet hype, the trailers, the clips, the calls, the "demand Paranormal Activity in your area" emails, I was FINALLY able to see it last night. The theater was pretty full and the crowd was into it. So I sat back and got ready to be scared shitless by the so called "scariest film EVER".
Paranormal Activity is filmed like a "fake" documentary which works best for this film considering it's small $11,000.00 budget. There's only four actors in the entire film and two of them are only on screen for about five minutes each, so it's mainly just two. The two main characters are Katie and her serious boyfriend Micah. They're young, in love, have a new house together, and are trying to start a life. Until some really weird stuff starts happening. That's when Micah right from the first scene decides to set up a camera in the corner of their bedroom while they sleep and see if he can catch anything that's happening on camera.

We've seen the whole fake documentary style of filmmaking before with The Blair Witch Project and Open Water (although Open Water isn't from a persons POV) and it's worked. I thought Blair Witch was great and even though you know it's all fake I can still manage to be convinced by it and I can see where a movie of that nature would have a real scary affect on people watching it who are from a small town who don't really know much about filmmaking. They may even think it's actually real which is a great accomplishment for the director in my opinion. What makes Paranormal Activity stand out from Blair Witch is that these things are happening to a specific person for a specific reason. MINOR SPOILERS- We're not quite sure exactly what that real reason is but this "thing" is there for a reason. There are some really cool effects in this film. Some of which, actually most of which I have no idea how they were able to pull off on their budget. There's a really cool scene with a ouija board and another really creepy scene with the powder and the footprints. But I wont give much else away. END SPOILERS.

With a running time of about 90 minutes the film felt a bit too long. It takes a while for things to get going and it's really all build up as more and more stuff starts happening over the course of the nights. The best parts by far are at night when the camera is filming in the bedroom. But another thing that makes this film stand out is that if you think your safe during the day time....think again. I did think it was a bit overrated after all the hype but I have to admit, the film grew on me from the time I left the theater to the time when I was trying to fall asleep in bed. I wasn't TOO scared in the theater but when I got home and tried to go to sleep with the lights off that's when it really hit me. Because of that the film is a success. That's just me. Others were screaming their heads off in fright in the theater, so it definitely worked for them. I will say that after you see this, at least for the first few days, every noise you hear while trying to sleep will freak you out. I must say just one more thing about this. Every film school in the nation should be showing this to their students because this is a perfect example how to make a whole lot out of very little when it comes to the process of filmmaking. Sometimes what you can't see is what scares you the most. Paranormal Activity gets 3 outa 5.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie - DVD


Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie tells the story of two friends, Dallas and Wayne, who are amateur bigfoot researchers in southern Ohio.

I had never heard of this film but I stumbled across it on Netflix and decided to give it a try. The film follows these two guys around as they track down Bigfoot in the Appalachian foot hills. I've always been interested in people that believe in these phenomenon's, whether they're real or not. These two guys live in poverty and they're just trying to make some money to fix up their houses, get the heater fixed in Wayne's van, and have some money to leave for their wives in case something ever happen to them. The main research headquarters is located at Dallas' house. He's got a small office that's packed with equipment and pictures of bigfoot sightings taking up most of the walls. Their days consist of meeting at the office and then heading out into the woods with a video camera/camera to do "research".

What I gathered from the film is that these two guys are really strange individuals. It's weird because I really couldn't tell if they were bullshitting or if they honestly believe in this Bigfoot phenomenon. If they are full of it then they're certainly putting on a good show. I mean why else would they be spending all of their free time out in the woods doing this?? They're clearly not making any money from it and after Wayne slips up on a local radio talk show, which was their big shot at being noticed, they lose all their credibility with the public. But are they out there trying to come up with the best possible fake evidence to try and scam money, or are they looking for that real shot to take?? Again, it's hard to tell. There's a good scene where Wayne is talking to Dallas on the phone after the radio incident asking him if he's mad at him and if he's still his friend. Wayne starts crying and we see right there how much he cares about Dallas and how these two, fake or not, make a good team. But I'll tell you one thing, it's fun watching these two walking around the woods making Bigfoot calls out into the wild.

In the end what I gathered from this film is that Dallas has a lot of mental problems, they both do actually, and that he actually does believe that Bigfoot exists. Wayne on the other hand is along for the friendship aspect of it and seems to be easily convinced at times. Either way they both seem to be good guys who mean well and this Bigfoot research is what keeps them happy and busy. The film itself is only 62 minutes long but after the credits roll stick around for the original 15 minute short documentary by the same director. Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie gets 3 1/2 outa 5.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bigger Stronger Faster - DVD


I've been on a documentary binge lately with Man on Wire, Monster Camp, Dear Zachary (review in progress), and now Bigger Stronger Faster. A really informative documentary is such a great thing for people in this world. It gives us, the viewers, information about a subject that we're either too afraid, too lazy, or just don't have the resources to get. I recently just got into lifting weights and my buddy who has been doing it for years kinda got me going. The synopsis of Bigger Stronger Faster made me want to watch it instantly. Chris Bell examines the lives of his two brothers as well as others who are on steroids and the effects that it has on them pursuing the "American Dream".

Chris Bell grew up as a smaller pudgy kid. His two brothers were kind of the same way. They were all a little overweight. They were active kids, but overweight. The three of them ended up forming a bond over one thing, weightlifting. They all wanted to be like their idols Arnold, Stallone, and Hulk Hogan. Once Chris' brothers became hooked on steroids Chris wanted to learn the real story behind this "illegal" drug and find out....are steroids REALLY bad for you?? He meets some really interesting people along the way. One of them is a bodybuilder in his 50's who's living out of his van in the Golds Gym parking lot in Venice Beach. He remembers the glory days of when Arnold used to work out there and hopes that one day he'll get discovered again as he was once cast in the Stallone film Over The Top years ago. The guy has a great quote that goes something like "This guy over here may be rich, live in a mansion, has everything in the world....but I'm stronger than him, can bench more than him, and can lift more than him....and that's what matters". Later in the film Chris talks with another guy named Greg Valentino. Greg has the worlds largest biceps. They're absolutely fucking HUGE. At one point during the interview he's chewing on a piece of extra rare steak at a restaurant and looks like an animal. But even he admits that when girls see him they think it's gross and he doesn't like looking like that anymore.

Chris interviews tons of officials about the matter and most of the experts are pro-steroids and most of the people who CLAIM to be experts are anti. We see the hardships as well as the good times that his brothers have to go through in their lives knowing that in order to be the absolute best and strongest person, you HAVE to take steroids. Chris proves in the film that it's pretty much a fact. There's a great scene where he talks to a photographer for a major muscle magazine who takes the "before" and "after" pictures of bodybuilders to show what will happen to your muscles if you take these great supplements and life weights. He discovers that many of them are taken on the SAME day. In the before picture they make the guy look all depressed and slouched over, in the after they simply shave his chest, butter him up, and make him flex. It was amazing and scary at the same time knowing that people are being so mislead. But even the photographer says "I can't believe anyone believes it's an actual "before" and "after" picture anyways, I mean look at this (pointing to the picture) this looks ridiculous".

In the end this was a highly entertaining and very informative documentary about the world of weightlifting, steroids, and even sports in America. I must say that this Chris Bell proved his point in that steroids, although having some side effects, really aren't nearly as bad as alcohol and drugs. Do I think it's considered cheating when used in professional sports?? Yes. Do I think it should be legal?? After watching this and with a warning label....yes. Would I personally ever take them?? No. Bigger Stronger Faster gets 5 outa 5.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Monster Camp -DVD


I had heard about the documentary Monster Camp last year and wanted to check it out but was never able to due to it's such limited release. I happened to stumble upon it last night and was pretty excited to check it out, and man was it entertaining.

Monster Camp is about a unique group of individuals who get together and do what they refer to as "LARP" which stands for live action role playing. The game that they play is called NERO. It's in the vein of World of Warcraft and Dungeons and Dragons. These people young and old get together on the weekends for 30-60 bucks, dress up like wizards, demons, zombies, witches, dwarfs, etc, and go into all out battles on camp like grounds that are surrounded by woody areas. This is a true fantasy camp for people to escape their lives from reality and do what they love to do. Even though at times it looks a bit stressful.

I was really surprised at how serious these games get. These people prepare their own wardrobes, weapons, magic powders, and medicine to rebound from such attacks as a "triple sleeper hit". They remember what seems to be hundreds upon hundred of rules, sayings, and plot-lines and they somehow all seem to abide by those rules, sayings, and plot-lines. There's scenes in the film where one of them is getting attacked by several others and everyone is swinging their weapon over and over spitting out NERO jargon so quickly I found it to be unreal how these people even understand what the hell is going on, but they do. They stay up until 5am in the morning and have battles in zero degree weather.

This subject matter of role playing fascinates me because I've always been a bit envious of these people who can just say f u to the world and go get lost in a "LARP" game or a World of Warcraft (W.O.W) game, and have fun while doing it. I remember when I was in high school these are the types of kids that everyone made fun of. A kid in the film is at one point referred to as a "Coke head" due to the massive amounts of Coke he drinks. But these kids and these people don't deserve that. This is just what they love to do. Instead of watching football or heading to the beach on the weekends they play video games or LARP. It's their lives and who's to tell them it's wrong if it makes them happy. Are some of them "goofy" or "nerdy"?? Hell fucking yes. But I actually think that's cool, it's cool to be different. I praise these people.
Monster Camp is pretty much your basic documentary. It doesn't have too much cinematic style to it or anything groundbreaking like that, but for me, just observing these people was entertainment enough. Monster Camp gets 4 outa 5.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Man on Wire - DVD

"Man on Wire" is how they described Philippe Petit in a New York City Police report following his walk across a wire connecting between the Twin Towers in NYC. Why did they simply describe him as this?? Because after what they had seen that day, that magical, special day....those were the only words to describe it, as everyone who saw it was completely wooed.

Philippe Petit ran away from home at the age of 15. In Paris he became a street performer, juggler, mime, unicyclist, and soon tied a rope between two trees in the park to learn how to walk across it. From then on he became obsessed with it and after many great wire walks, an amazing one in Australia which is portrayed in the film, his dream became to wire walk across the Twin Towers of New York City in The United States America.

What was so fascinating to me about the film is the way they described how they actually got into the building, up onto the roof, and set everything up. Philippe and a very small handful of men disguised themselves as construction workers with fake badges and accents. They snuck their equipment up to the very top floor to prepare not just once, but many times while the towers were in their final stages of construction. In one scene Philippe and his friend are on the top floor literally sitting straight up underneath a tarp hiding from a security guard for hours until he leaves.

The entire film is building up the that final moment that we all want to see, but trust me, there isn't a hint of boredom along the way. The film does such a great job of showing us previous footage of Philippe's wire walking, interviews with his friends and girlfriend, and of course the suspenseful mission and planning of getting up into the towers. Throughout the entire film I kept saying to myself "WOW", and by the time the last sequence came....I was speechless. It's beauty and joy is purely overwhelming. The site of Philippe fulfilling his dream and acting it out right in front of you after everything he went through was a site on film that I'll NEVER forget. Philippe Petit is one of the most amazing, enthusiastic, loving, and interesting human beings in the world. DO NOT MISS THIS FILM. 5 out of 5.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Collateral - DVD


"I just shot him. The bullets and the fall killed him". This is a quote that hitman Vincent truly believes in the masterfully shot and acted film by Michael Mann, Collateral.

Vincent, played by Tom Cruise, is a hitman who's in town for just one night with five stops to make. Max played by Jamie Foxx is a man who's stuck in the gig as a cab driver never the wiser picks up Vincent thinking he's just another fare. Vincent needs a driver for the night and when he offers him five hundred plus another hundred if he gets him to the airport on time, it's an offer that Max can't refuse.

To me there are three essential characters in this film. There's Vincent, Max, and the city of Los Angeles. The entire film is shot in digital, at night, in LA, and as we all know, Michael Mann is the king of digital night shots. He uses some of the most gritty downtown alleyways I've ever seen in a film like this. On the dvd special features "behind the scenes" there's a part where Cruise is actually talking about how they were all a little scared to be filming in these areas, but Mann knew he needed them to make the film believable. He really gives the viewer the feel of a new type of LA. We're so used to seeing the Beverly Hills glamour shots or the Santa Monica Pier, but here we're blessed with the opportunity to see the real downtown LA on a night that Vincent, Max, nor the viewer will ever forget.

"Max! I do this for a living!" Tom Cruise went through months of physical hand to hand combat training as well as hands on gun training to prepare for the role of the villainous Vincent. There's another great "behind the scenes" section on the dvd that shows all the training that he went through. It shows Cruise at the gun range doing somersaults through the grass and popping up firing at targets looking like an absolute pro. He learned how to unload and reload as quickly as possible to be able to kill four guys at the same time if duty ever called....and it does. To me this kind of dedication to a role really pays off in the end as it turned out to be one of Cruises best roles in his career.

Collateral is the story of a killer. A killer who believes it's his job, because THAT'S what he was hired to do. Is he wrong to assume this?? Is he wrong to want to be the best at what he does and make no mistakes?? Is there some understanding to this man, to this killer?? Is there ANY good in him?? These are just some of the questions that are asked and answered in Collateral. This is a dvd that will never get old in my collection. I give it 4 outa 5.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Wrestler - Blu-Ray

There are certain movie going experiences that I will never forget. Seeing The Wrestler at a pre-screening in Los Angeles with Mickey Rourke giving a Q & A afterwards was one of those experiences.

Mickey Rourke gives the performance of a lifetime as Randy "The Ram" Robinson, a has been wrestler trying to battle his way through life inside and outside the ring. Between his part time wrestling gigs and his deli counter job, the Ram's barely able to make ends meat. Cassidy, played by the courageous Marisa Tomei, is a stripper at the local club who's befriended by Ram. Their relationship serves as a mentoring devise for the both of them. They're both on stage trying their best to entertain people and make a living. The difference is that Ram love's wrestling. It's the only thing he's ever known, the only thing that he's ever been good at, he IS a wrestler. He's so dedicated to the profession that it let his relationship with his daughter Stephanie, played by Evan Rachel Wood, completely dissolve into almost nothing as he was never around to be her father. When the Ram finds her and tries to make amends it makes for one of the most heartfelt scenes of the year as Mickey delivers a teary eyed monologue to her on the pier.

The entire film is filmed handheld which gives it a raw authentic documentary feel. The opening 6 minutes of the film really shows us who the Ram is as a person and Mickey gives us such a convincing performance that the audience is convinced by it without even seeing Rams face in it's entirety. The camera first shows him sitting in a classroom with his back to us just after a match. He's hunched over and tired. Next we follow him as he makes his way through the lobby, signs a couple of autographs, drives home blasting 80's rock, and ends up home locked out of his trailer and sleeping in his van for the night. We know right away that this guy is not doing well physically or financially. He's a mess, but he's still got a heart of gold and a kind attitude outside of the ring. There's a really great scene where Ram is walking through the halls at work making his way to the deli counter. As he's walking, crowd cheers and chanting is inserted into the scene as if he's walking out to the ring. This shows us again how wrestling is such a big part of his life as this is probably what's going on in his head every time he walks out to the deli counter. If he does this, it keeps him sane. It gets him through the crappy work day.

Mickey was nominated for an Academy award and a winner of the Golden Globe, BAFTA, and Independent Spirit awards for best actor. This was considered his comeback film after fucking up his career in Hollywood and it boosted him back to much deserved stardom and to being a respected actor once again. Mickey Rourke BECAME Randy "The Ram" Robinson and he left a permanent mark in Hollywood with The Wrestler. The Wrestler gets 5 outa 5.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Foot Fist Way - DVD


After reviewing the sub-par Observe and Report last night I just had to watch and review the much much better Jody Hill film today, The Foot Fist Way. I just had to get my mind right. The film was made in 2006 and took a while to get a release into limited theaters, but thanks to Will Ferrell's funding that was all able to happen, and it put Jody Hill and Danny McBride on the map.

The film stars the comedic genius Danny McBride as Tae Kwon Do instructor Fred Simmons. Simmons teaches a motley crew of students ranging from 9 year old black belt and assistant teacher Julio, to a 70 year old woman who almost dies while sparring on the mat. Fred's got a serious attitude problem and takes no crap from anybody. Making it well known to everyone that he's the best fighter that lives on the planet, he also takes his job as an instructor very seriously. After going to a Karate demo with a few of his students to see his number one hero Chuck "The Truck" Wallace played by Ben Best, he gets Chuck to agree to come and perform at his small town demo that's happening in the coming days. Fred soon finds out that Chuck "The Truck" Wallace is more into partying and sleeping with Freds wife than the actual spirit of Karate, and Fred has something to say about that.

The foul mouthed Fred Simmons is somewhat similar to Seth Rogans character in Observe and Report except in the long run he actually does have a heart and he does care about his students and their well being. Well, those who deserve it anyways. Freds wife Suzie is basically cheating on him throughout the entire film and it makes for some great comedic moments. Like when she comes home from her new job and he sees that her "work papers" are actually pictures of her naked breasts on the copy machine. Fred is constantly letting his wife, friends over for dinner, and students know who the man is, and Fred's the man. The film opens up to a great scene with Fred and his class giving a small karate demo in a parking lot. This scene is so funny and lets the crowd know right off the bat that even though Fred can't break all the boards and has no style whatsoever while doing it, that he is....still the man and this is....HIS karate class to run.

The script is very well written and it's low budget filmmaking at it's best. Pretty much all of Freds dialogue is laugh out loud funny and the story is very real to the core and shows us what could actually be going on in these small town karate studios. Fred Simmons thinks he's a real life Tae Kwon Do hero and sometimes that makes him a complete a-hole to the general public. But in the end he's a hero to his students who seemed to believe in him the entire way, and that's what counts. Foot Fist Way gets 5 outa 5.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Observe and Report - Blu-Ray


Director Jody Hill is relatively new to the world of comedy. In 2006 he came out with a small independent film called The Foot Fist Way starring Danny McBride. The Foot Fist Way was hilarious and apparently Will Ferrell thought the same thing because he got the picture into main stream cinemas and put Jody Hill and McBride on the map. Well deserved if I may say so. Hills second feature Observe and Report was a good effort, but just didn't stick with me as much as Foot Fist Way did.

Observe is a very dark and strange film, not what I was expecting. The film stars Seth Rogen as Ronnie, a mall security guard who takes his job way to seriously. He resorts to smashing young kids in the heads knocking them off their skateboards, hanging out at the shooting range buckin off shots, taking out 20 cops with a mag-light, and making out with Anna Faris while puke is drooling out of her mouth. Now DON'T get me wrong, this all sounds really great and funny right?? I thought the same thing, but it's not. It's got a really weird feel to it and it makes it hard to laugh. Once Ronnie is faced with the mission of taking down the flasher that's been causing chaos in the parking lot, he gets "paired" up with Detective Harrison. I laughed really hard a few times (a part where his partner Dennis, played by Michael Pena, is doing heroin in the bathroom had me dying) but not for the most part. I understand Hill's going for the dark comedy, and trying something new with the action and realism, but I just couldn't get into it. I saw it in theaters and thought it was better, but this second viewing I was thanking myself I only netflixed it.

I will say this. Anna Faris was brilliant. Even though she's totally type casted as "the ditzy blonde" all the time, she always brings it in my eye's, and she's flat out funny as hell in this. Ray Liotta is always great and he brings his best Liotta yells and "take no shit" attitude to his role as Detective Harrison. Even at only an hour and twenty minutes running time the film still felt a bit slow at times. Especially the scenes with his drunk mom played by Celia Weston. She's great for the part but it really slowed the film down after a while.

Now don't get me wrong. The film did have it's moments, the overall idea is great, and if Ronnie wasn't so very unlikable in every way this may have worked. If this was done as a balls out funny action comedy this could have and probably would have been the funniest film of the Summer. I mean, I want to watch it again right now, it looks great on blu-ray, and I like the idea of the film, but I put it in and just can't do it. I hope that makes sense in a way. It kinda pisses me off. Observe and Report gets 2 1/2 outa 5

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Public Enemies


Michael Mann is one of my favorite directors out there. He's got an incredible knack for character study as well as a really unique way of shooting his films. He's the master of digital night shots, and he's adapted the use of digital into his own style of filmmaking. I love it. It gives the film so much more of a raw, realistic feel, almost documentary style. When Mann writes or directs, he feels for the bad guy- he lets you see inside the bad guys mind, lets you feel what he's feeling, gives you a glimpse into their heart, and makes you root for him. Very few filmmakers do this, and nobody does it better than Mann. He did this with Vincent (Tom Cruise) in Collateral, with Neil McCauley (Robert Deniro) and Chris Shiherlis (Val Kilmer) in Heat, and he does it again with John Dillinger in Public Enemies.

John Dillinger, portrayed by one of the best most versatile actors of our time, Johnny Depp, robbed banks, shot whomever got in his way, and was the king of the crime wave in the 1930's, and he did it in style. He was a well dressed ladies man with a baby face and a finger with an itch for the trigger. Dillinger only robbed big businesses and banks. He lived among the people in no fear and never harmed them. The opening scene shows Dillinger escaping from jail and from there on out he's pursued by Melvin Purvis played by Christian Bale by the orders of J. Edgar Hoover head of the FBI played by the always great, always underrated Billy Crudup. The 1930's was a time when the FBI was on the rise and really made a stand against crime. As said by Hoover in the film during a speech made to the public it was "Americas first war on crime". It was on every news channel in the country, and so was Dillinger's face, making it for the first time in his life, very difficult to be on the run.

Depp plays Dillinger very stone faced and emotionless. I think this works since this film is really about the fall of Dillinger and the fact that he's finally facing the realities of what he's done. But that doesn't mean Dillinger has lost his "no fear" status, not in the least. There is a great scene towards the end of the film where Dillinger walks into the police station and right into the "John Dillinger investigation headquarters," right past his own mug shot and actually talks to one of the officers without being noticed. We're so used to seeing Depp play the roles of dirty pirates and killer barbers that we forget that he can be a very clean cut handsome man with the ability to still convince the audience of his character. Marion Cotillard did an amazing job as Billie Frechetta, Dillinger's lover, a woman who stood by him, understood him, and trusted him, even though it gets her nabbed. Bale always does a good job with whatever project he's involved with, but here he was just okay. Not bad, just not that impressive. Crudup on the other hand was amazing. He must have gone through some real voice training because he certainly nailed his speech and dialogue to perfection.

There's lots of hand held shots that really give it that documentary feel and seeing a period piece shot in digital was new for everyone I think. I've heard some people say they were annoyed with the way it was shot and that the digital made it look unrealistic, but it certainly worked for me. There is an absolutely extraordinary sequence in the film where Dillinger and his men get ambushed at the house they're staying at in the middle of the woods during the night. This is the biggest most intense sequence in the film as a massive gunfight and chaotic chase ensues. If this wasn't shot in digital we wouldn't be able to see anything, but because it was, Mann is able to deliver the gun battle in epic detail. This scene reminded me of the big gun fight in the streets of L.A. in Heat. Mann knows how to deliver a perfect gun shot sound too. No fake, electric, zipping sounds, these are hardcore real shots we hear. This is by far my favorite part of the film and one of the best sequences I've seen all year. This is another film to watch out for come awards season. I give Public Enemies 4 1/2 outa 5.

Up


I've really been meaning to see Up for a while now and I was finally able to see it last night at a free screening in town. Free screenings are great, however they don't show trailers and in this case they didn't show the usual Pixar short that shows before all their films either. A bit of a loss. I love the Pixar shorts.

Up is the story of a young man Carl Fredricksen voiced by Ed Asner who's obsessed with traveling to South America and searching for the great adventure. He meets a young girl Ellie who shares that same dream. They fall in love and get married, never able to fulfill their dream. After growing old together, a montage that's scored by a beautiful piano piece, Ellie passes away. Carl is then eventually forced out of his home due to town construction and into a retirement home. Carl refuses to leave his house because this is the house where he and his wife met while kids when it was once abandoned. When the retirement home officials come to get him out he decides to rig hundreds of balloons to his home and float away to South America. Shortly after takeoff Carl finds that Russell, a little boy scout trying to get his final badge for helping the elderly, has found his way on board.

The film has some incredible animation and cinematography. The balloons alone and what they go through throughout the film is amazing. Just their colorful look and the sounds of them popping and rubbing against the cliffs are great. Russell has some really hilarious lines in the film and some really really funny stuff happens to him like getting dragged along the outside window of a blimp which was my favorite scene in the film. The film is a little slow moving at times and it's got a much more "sad" tone to it than previous Pixar films. I would have also liked to have seen more shots of the jungle, waterfalls, and wildlife in South America. The idea of the dogs being able to talk with their special collars was great but a tad over used at times. There is a really great fight scene with Carl and the antagonist Charles Muntz voiced by Christopher Plummer that was really well done. It's an epic senior citizen vs senior citizen battle.

To me Up is a film about never letting age get in the way of our dreams, and sometimes we have to let go of things that make us happy in order to do what's right. Up is another amazing picture under the Pixar name and will probably get a best picture nom at the end of the year. Personally my favorite Pixar as well as any animated film is still and probably always will be Finding Nemo. That film is just so amazing in so many ways. Up gets 4 outa 5.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Jennifer's Body


Diablo Cody has done it again. But this time she's seemed to have written a little more closely to her actual style as a human being. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that this script came from the pen of a foul mouthed ex-stripper from Chicago. Trust me- it just doesn't. Diablo has written a much more racy, sexy, scary, and gory script here compared to the independent light-hearted Juno. Let's just say that Jennifer would eat Juno AND her baby if she had the chance.

The film is about Jennifer Check played by the gorgeous and seductive Megan Fox. I don't think anyone in Hollywood deserves to be called seductive more than Fox. Jennifer's a cocky, sexy, bad-girl cheerleader who's best friend Needy Lesnicky happens to be pretty much the complete opposite. It's funny seeing them be "best friends" on screen as Jennifer literally pushes Needy around and forces her to come out to a strange white trash bar one night to watch a young up-and-coming band perform. That's where the shit hits the fan. After the bar burns down and the band takes Jennifer off in their creepy "1969 Rape" van out to the middle of the woods to perform an ancient witch craft sacrificial ceremony on her, let's just say that all does not go so well, for Jennifer that is. After getting transformed into a sucubus, a sexy one at that, she secretly terrorizes the town killing off high school kids until Needy finds out and has to try to put a stop to it after she fears for her boyfriends life.

You can't give all the credit to Diablo here. Director Karyn Kusama has done a pretty decent job creating a creepy looking film that flows nicely throughout without letting a second of boredom able to seep in. We're constantly being entertained with what's going on on-screen. But Diablos script offers such great fright and comedic originality with scenes that have Jennifer drinking the blood right out of a guys stomach, and having the town set in a place called Devil's Kettle. I can't help but being reminded of another film with similar qualities that came out a few years ago called Teeth, another film that I would recommend if you liked Jennifer's Body. If John Waters made a horror film today, it would be like one of these two films.

Finally, I must say that going into this I wasn't really sold on Megan Fox yet. She didn't do too much for me in the Transformers films and with her being in the media so much she really became kind of obnoxious. But Jennifer's body is Fox's film. She carries the film the entire way and adds a lot to the character with her sexy/scary stares and her quirky line delivery. Lets hope she gets more roles of this nature in the future instead of just being the hot chick to stare at. Although a few things with the story still just don't quite add up to me. One being how the bar actually caught on fire, as well as another thing but it would spoil the film if I mentioned it. The good thing is the rest of the film certainly makes up for it. If you go into this film knowing what to expect and look to have a great time, you'll definately have a lot of fun with this picture. As for Diablo Cody, please for the love of god, keep writing more stuff like this. 3 outa 5.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Funny People


Adam Sandler has been going through some tough times lately career wise. I'm sure he's got loads of cash still, that's a given, but his choices in films have been sub-par to say the least and haven't been delivering at the box office. At one point Sandler was the king of comedy. His films like Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer, The Wa Wa Water Ba Ba Boy, and even Big Daddy were once at the top of the totem poll, but he hasn't had anything close to that level of comedy film making since then, and it's sad. I really feel for the guy. Then Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen completely took over the scene and nobody gave a shit about Sandler. Well that's basically what Funny People is about, an aging comedian who's slowly being pushed out of the scene by the new guys, which in the film happens to actually be Seth Rogen and directed by Judd Apatow.

I really took this film in as a character study of Sandlers own life and that's what made the film so interesting to me. Sandler plays George Simmons a seasoned comedian who learns that he's dying and only has a few months to live. After being shown up at the comedy club one night by an up and coming comedian Ira, played by Seth Rogen, George decides to make Ira his personal assistant as well as his friend. George pretty much tells Ira straight up that he's dying and this is why your here. Ira's ecstatic, it's his dream job. But he soon comes to find that working for the legend of comedy isn't all that it's cracked up to be as George treats Ira at times with the utmost disrespect. Other than this aspect of the story the character George really does seem based off of Sandler. There's even a running joke throughout the film about Georges older "Adam Sandler like" films that he's starred in, and the funny film posters that are just laying all around his house. One of them was even about a baby, and George played the baby.

The film was marketed as a drama which turned a lot of people off as it pretty much bombed at the box office considering the star quality it had. But I found the film to be although very serious and sad at a lot of points also very very funny. There is a lot of really great crude humor in this that really works, because these guys are comedians and that's the way they talk. The "dick" word count in this film is an ongoing theme and probably reaches to no joke around forty or fifty. The film does have a weird feeling to it at points though. I just don't understand why George treats Ira the way that he does, especially towards the end of the film which really takes a dramatic turn for the worst. I understand that he's dying, or was dying, that he's being out-shined by younger comedians, and that his family life is in the dumps. But is that a reason to be a complete miserable ass hole?? I mean George is still a multi millionaire. But I do recognize his anger. When you were once one of the best and most popular comedic actors of your time and one day you literally wake up and realize that you're being taken over by a much younger newer group of guys in Hollywood, it's gotta be tough. It's gotta be the toughest thing a guy like George or Sandler can go through, because this is what he's done his whole life, and Sandler delivers that perfectly in his performance with his depressing facial expressions, blah attitude, and his lack of enthusiastic words.

Not a lot of people may know this but Sandler and Apatow were actually roommates growing up. There's a really great heartfelt scene in the opening of the film where we see vintage home video footage of Sandler being filmed by Apatow. Sandler's on the phone making a crank call and he can't even keep it together, he's laughing so damn hard he can barely even spit out his words to finish the call. This scene already says so much to the audience about who these "funny people" really are. They're people who were born with comedic genes, people who were made to make people laugh, it's all they have, take that away from them and they got nothing. This world needs people like that. A solid 3 1/2 outa 5 stars.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I Love You Phillip Morris


I had the absolute privilege of being able to see this at a pre-screening in May of 2009. Having only seen the poster online, I had no idea what to expect from this film. I knew that Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor were in it, that it was based on a true story, and that it was somewhat of a comedy. Two hours later I left that theater saying to myself and peers that that was one of the most incredible true stories that I've ever seen- especially the end. It says something in the beginning of the film like, "this film is based on a true story, I swear....this really happened....really." People were laughing, but this was such a necessary thing to disclose, because, by the end of the film, the entire plot seems totally fanciful.

The film stars Jim Carrey as Steven Russell. Steven separates from his wife early on in the film because well....he's 100% gay. We find this out in an explicitly awkward yet funny scene while Steven is bedding who we think is his wife, then as the head rises we see that it's....yup, a man screaming "fuck my ass!!" The theater was shocked by this; Gasps were heard followed by laughs throughout the crowd. It's from this point forward that we now know exactly what is going on here, and the film really takes off. We soon find out that Steven's also a con man and an impostor. He's one of the best con men I've seen on the silver screen. He's out there conning everybody, and he's addicted to it. He's buying gold watches, lavish cars, boats, and even houses. He even cons his way into landing himself a mid six figure a year job. But it catches up to him. Soon after getting thrown in jail he meets, the one, the only, Phillip Morris played by Ewan McGregor and yes they fall in love. The things that Steven does for Phillip in jail are amazing, going as far as somehow getting himself transfered into the same cell as Phillip, just like that. The film has a very odd feel to it. It's a bit of Catch Me If You Can, a bit of Brokeback Mountain, and a bit of The Truman Show mixed with Me Myself and Irene. It took some getting used to at first. I really want to talk more about what this guy did but I just cant give it away. I will say that as the film goes on Steven escapes from jail MULTIPLE times and does something at the end of the film for Phillip that I still can't believe. Simply one of the best endings I've ever seen. I can't wait until this gets released so that I can take everyone I know and just watch their reactions to it.

Hopefully this will get a proper release date soon. It's best bet would be before Oscar season because Carrey would have a good chance at getting a nom. 4 and 1/2 outa 5.

The Hangover


It's funny how the worse the hangover is, the better the time was the night before. The four main characters in The Hangover are suffering from the worst hangover in their entire lives throughout the last 3/4's of the film. But this film is so funny and well done that, as I was watching it, I couldn't stop thinking about how I wish I was in one of these characters shoes right now experiencing this hangover.

Todd Phillips is best known for directing Road Trip and Old School, two films that have become modern "party film" classics. I love how Phillips is getting more mature with his films in a way that the main characters are getting older but still know how to have a great time-because that's what life is all about in the long run, having a good time, and that's what guys do. The age range for the film is 16-50 in my opinion. You can be a father of two, go and watch this film, and walk out of the theater on your cell planning your next trip to Vegas with the boys. That's how excited this film will make you. Most of the films charm comes from the four main characters, all unique in their own ways, Phil, Stu, Doug, and Doug's soon to be brother in law Alan. They're all going to Vegas a few days before Dougs wedding to have the night of their lives, and it probably would have been, if they could only remember what happened. After they lose Doug, the boys retrace their steps trying to figure out just"what the hell happened last night". It's like Memento after a bottle of whiskey. After dodging death at the little chapel house, getting knocked the fuck out by Iron Mike Tyson, and picking up your stolen cop car from the valet, they somehow figure it all out. There are so many other crazy things that go down, but you'll have to see for yourself.

This film is a huge career boost for Bradley Cooper, previously seen in Wedding Crashers, who plays Phil. He nails the role right on the head as a sleazy school teacher who can't let the party life go. But a family man with a heart as well, as we learn at the end of the film. A man I think many men out there can relate to. The main message in The Hangover is that friends stick together. They stick together through family ties, through sons and daughters, through girlfriends, fiances, good and bad times, and they still know how to have a good time. Cheers. 4 and 1/2 stars.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Fighting (Blu-Ray)


I just got done watching Fighting on Blu-Ray. Being the second film from Director Dito Montiel, I was expecting a lot more, even after reading the bad reviews. Why was I expecting more?? Because his first and only other film, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, was one of my favorite films of 2006. Fighting wasn't even close to the level of Saints.

I will say this, Dito knows New York City. In Saints he gave us the pitch perfect gritty setting of NYC in the 80's, and with Fighting he gives us a pretty good, gritty, as well as classy lifestyle of NYC. The story revolves around Shawn MacArthur, played by 29 year old Channing Tatum. Shawn's a "kid" trying to make it on the streets of NYC selling odd goods such as Harry Potter books along side other street peddlers. When Harvey, played by Terrance Howard, comes across Shawn taking down one of his acquaintances in a street fight, Harvey decides to recruit Shawn as a "fighter" and be his manager, just like that. Even though the story is pretty over the top and has been done before (Lionheart), it could have been much more entertaining than this. Throughout the entire film Shawn only has about three fights, two of which end within minutes. The final brawl is everything you would expect it to be and pretty entertaining actually, I was routing for Shawn and it was the best part of the film for sure. But that doesn't make up for the rest of the films flaws, like Terrance Howards awful character who seems to have some sort of mental illness but it's never explained, to the over acting of the two main fight organizers. It's downright laughable at certain parts. Tatum was pretty decent here though. I liked his role in Saints as the tough guy friend and I think he's found his nitch in Hollywood, but he needs to evaluate his potential projects a little more before committing to them.

I'm willing to let Fighting slide and give Dito Montiel another shot. After watching Saints there is no doubt that he's a talented director, lets just hope he delivers that talent a little more in his next film The Brotherhood of The Rose, also to star Channing Tatum. 2 outa 5.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

500 Days of Summer


At the very beginning of 500 Days of Summer, the voice over tells you straight up, "this is not a love story". Even with that said, I believe that 500 Days of Summer is one of the greatest yet tragic love stories ever told in modern film. A story that I myself can relate to, as the two main characters in this film are also in their mid-twenties, live in Los Angeles (where I lived for 5 years), and it’s told from the males point of view for once. I saw the film with my girlfriend who also really enjoyed it and she too could understand why I took such a liking to it. It’s an independent love story specifically made for a mid-twenties guy.

In the middle of the opening title sequence, I was thinking to myself, this is going to be my favorite film of the year, I can already tell. I somehow got a similar vibe from most of the theater as they went completely silent, being sucked into these two characters’ lives right off the bat as we see an split screen montage of home video clips of the two of them growing up while hearing a great song played over it by Regina Spektor that I still can't get out of my head. We know just from that montage alone that these two young people grew up in happy life styles, as happy normal people, and that this story can, and probably has happened to many of us.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Tom Hanson, a writer for a greeting card company in Los Angeles. He's not a down in the dumps type of guy- he's a guy with a pretty great job, some really good friends, his own apartment, etc. Not really out “searching” for a girlfriend. But then comes along the ever so independent yet sweet Summer Finn, played by Zooey Deschanel. She knows the things she wants out of life and love isn’t one of them. When she's hired as Toms boss’ assistant, he can't help but being around her all the time. He likes her right off the bat, and after a night of karaoke, she begins to grow a liking to him and he immediately falls for her. The film has a nice original way of jumping around from "Day 456" to say "Day 24" and so forth. At first I was thinking, is this concept gonna work?? I kind of just want to watch from the day they meet to day 500. Well that lasted about 30 seconds, because it works so well. It’s a very cool concept in a way that it keeps the story flowing at an original pacing process that the audience has never seen before. It also keeps the audiences emotions jumping from one place to another, as in one scene they’ll be fighting on day 400 and something, and in the next scene it’ll be just the second day they’ve met. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel both offer great performances as they seemingly just coast through their scenes together as if it’s happening in real life right in front of us. There is a great supporting role played by Toms best friend McKenzie, who offers one of the funniest scenes in the film while screaming drunk out of his mind on the karaoke stage at the bar. He continues to be a great comedic balance to the film throughout.

First time feature film director Marc Webb has done such an incredible job directing this film that it's amazing we haven't seen more of him until now. He's dabbled in music videos, and it certainly shows in a few scenes, such as one involving a dance number down the street with a blue cartoon bird that had the theater laughing like crazy. It's another great film under the belt of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who I think is one of the best young actors working in Hollywood today. With Mysterious Skin, Brick, The Lookout, and now this....he's also got one of the best film resumes of any young actor working in the biz today as well. The final scene will make some hold back tears. As Tom and Summer sit on that park bench talking we realize that love does strange things to us all, and that 500 Days of Summer delivers that to us in perfect form. From the acting, to the original script, to the performances, the pleasant looking downtown LA locations, and all the emotions that these things produced while put together on screen is why I walked away form this film thinking that this was definitely my favorite film of the year. With the new rules this year at the Academy having ten Best Picture nominees instead of five, I wouldn’t be surprised is 500 Days earned a spot among those ten.