Day Seventy-Three – Even More New Releases

14 03 2010

These movies came out well after the date that their reviews have been posted, but that’ll give you an idea of how behind I am. Anyway, here are three more reviews.

Hot Tub Time Machine

Movie titles seem to be getting a lot less creative lately, but I’m completely okay with that if the movie transcends the title. Use the title to sell the concept and the film to build character. ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’ doesn’t do much of either. Instead of going somewhere unexpected with the comedy, it’s always the most obvious gag possible. Poo, barf and piss are supporting cast to the F-word. The characters take a backseat to hit and miss jokes. It just feels like it never really gets going.

Rating: 40 (2 Stars)

The Princess and the Frog

Though it doesn’t quite re-capture the magic of the hand-drawn Disney animated classics, ‘The Princess and the Frog’ is a step in the right direction. The twist on the classic story fits well enough and all the expected archetypes are there. Though it’s a staple of any Disney classic, the songs get quite tedious to sit through. None were really memorable as they skipped from one to another. The resolution feels tacked on as Tiana changes her feelings for no other reason than to wrap things up.

Rating: 65 (3 Stars)

Date Night

‘Date Night’ isn’t much of a plot-driven thriller. It doesn’t surprise you much. It’s the typical formula of crooked cops and mistaken identity. The main characters are two unlikely, but believable heroes. They’re the every-couple. When things go south, they react as anyone would, but with the wit and charisma you would expect from the Fey and Carrell. The laughs are well earned as the Fosters react completely in character, even with the short first act to get you familiar with their mannerisms.

Rating: 80 (4 Stars)

I know, Date Night doesn’t come out for at least month after this post claims to be posted. Forgive me and we’ll have some fun. Taking a break from the movie reviews and moving on to some grub reviews! Are you with me? Well, too bad. I’m doing it anyway.


Day Seventy-Two – New Releases

13 03 2010

As the sun begins to shine on Toronto, the movies in the theater start getting better and better in quality. It’s really about time. Here are some of the ones that I’ve seen recently.

Repo Men

‘Repo Men’ is not a movie about exploring or explaining the fantastical world where you can buy organs for exorbitant amounts of money, knowing that if you can’t make the payments, the company that supplied the organ will retrieve it in the most in-humane and gory fashion possible. It asks that you just accept this reality and see what happens when Remy is thrown to the dogs. It’s not about the world, it’s about Remy. It gets a bit crazy before the end, but all those problems are explained away.

Rating: 75 (3.5 Stars)

How to Train Your Dragon

I credit my enjoyment of ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ directly to my avid fandom of ‘The Dog Whisperer’. It’s almost as if Hiccup watched a marathon of Cesar training out of control dogs and tried it on a bunch of fire-breathing dragons. Hiccup’s voice does get on the annoying side at times, but suits his character. The flying scenes smelled of ‘Avatar’, not really adding anything to the plot. Just flying for the sake of throwing things at your face in 3D. The ending was refreshing too. Fun flick.

Rating: 75 (3.5 Stars)

Cop Out

I’m totally up for movies that are totally derivative of other movies. Tarantino made a career of these types of films, but Kevin Smith should stay as far away from the genre. The opening sequence, where Paul says his interrogation style is ‘homage’ to movies, should have been enough. Rather, every time there’s a movie reference, the characters feel the need to footnote it. “That was Robocop!” I got it. An homage includes an original twist on the bit; instead ‘Cop Out’ is just a witless rehash.

Rating: 5 (0 Stars)

It really sucks that Cop Out was as bad as it was. I was really looking forward to it. I spent more than enough time on this blog talking about it, but when all the awful reviews came out, I delayed my viewing by about a month. I wish I had delayed it even longer.

Day Seventy-One – Disappointing Movies of Late

12 03 2010

Here are two movies that I’ve seen recently in theatres and one that I felt I needed to see, after being forced to hear people much older than me quote from it as they would Monty Python and such.

Here we go:

Slap Shot

Every time I would go to a Leaf game, there were always a couple things I could count on. The Leafs would lose and there would be ‘Slap Shot’ trivia. Given this mindset, I was led to believe that ‘Slap Shot’ was the film that got hockey right, not like the ‘Mighty Ducks’ I grew up on. Now I know where ‘Ducks’ got it from. The comedy isn’t my bag. Things are set up with a smirk and the funny gets sucked out of it. ‘Slap Shot’ could have been about a failing pub and that wouldn’t effect the plot.

Rating: 50 (2.5 Stars)

Alice in Wonderland

‘Alice in Wonderland’, directed by Tim Burton, was like one of those super-fights that promises to be legendary, but ends up being a total waste of time and hype. ‘Alice’ and Burton’s styles meshed together so well that anything less than brilliant would be an upset. ‘Alice’ barely decent, let alone brilliant. It’s hard to care what happens to these characters or Wonderland. From the moment you meet, they foresee a big fight at the end. When it finally comes, you’re more relieved than satisfied.

Rating: 15 (1/2 a Star)

Green Zone

I get it. The war in Iraq was a bad idea. ‘Green Zone’ adds itself to the list of too-soon postmortems on the Iraq War, but masks itself as ‘Bourne 4’. Bourne it ain’t. Miller has only one motivation – finding WMDs. When he sees that there are none, he starts asking questions. Apparently, he’s one of only three people to do so. Everyone else is an evil liar or is busy relaxing poolside with the bikini-clad women. It’s hard to be thrilled when you’re being taught a bad lesson in current events.

Rating: 25 (1 Star)

That’s about it for now. Tomorrow, I have 3 new releases on the docket. None of which blew my socks off, but two of them weren’t too bad.

Day Seventy – Some Reviews to Catch Up

11 03 2010

I’m writing this a month behind schedule, so I’m going to use some of my writing from one of my favorite social networking sites, Criticker, to help fill in the gaps.

Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!

I liked the idea of ‘Not Quite Hollywood’. When I read the synopsis. It promised an examination of Ozploitation films and the folks who made them. Instead, you get a lot of “remember when”. They insist we should love their work, yet barely explain, let alone examine, why these movies were made or successful at all. They do a little, but not enough to justify the love they share over the films. I wasn’t around for these flicks, so the nostalgia was completely lost on me and this doc hinges on it.

Rating: 65 (3 Stars)

Wonder Woman

“My name is Zeus and I am the king among gods. Ares, my son, is the god of war. We must fight because we disagree.” That’s not verbatim from ‘Wonder Woman’, but it may as well be. I was rolling my eyes so much during this flick that my eyelids started to hurt. So many exposition dumps. Why tell each other so much information you already know? “You and I are sisters, Athena.” Would you not punch that person? I wish I could. When the plot picks up, it recovers, but not enough to save the film.

Rating: 40 (2 Stars)

Shutter Island

Is it okay to bore you to tears if your ending is good enough? That’s the question that ‘Shutter Island’ had me pondering once I left the movie. This film benefits like no other by watching it in the theater. Unlike at home, you’re captive and forced to see it through. Once you do, the ending almost makes the torturous first hour and some worth it. All the non-sense – explained away in one long expository scene. It had me thinking once I left, but had me steaming when I was left out of the loop.

Rating: 60 (3 Stars)

This is only the beginning. I have a lot of catching up to do and I’ve been writing a lot of reviews of not only movies, but restaurants, stores and books. Stay tuned for all that fun.

Day Fourty-Four – Late Movie Reviews

13 02 2010

If you’re reading this, you clearly know that it has been posted late. I’m going to cop out and post even more reviews for films I’ve seen recently below to catch up.

Funny enough, I gave them all the same ranking for very different reasons.

Youth in Revolt

Just like Nick Twisp, ‘Youth in Revolt’ has a split-personality. A great movie is trying to break free, but it’s interuppted by scenes aching to be quirky. Cartoon driving segments rip you right out of the story. It’s better when it doesn’t hold back on the harsh. Nick Twisp’s alter-ego, Francois Dillinger, is a total and utter jerk. Yet, he’s easily the best part of the movie, but that only takes up 20% of it or so. The rest of the film is spent waiting for Francois to make another appearance.

Rating: 70 (3.5 Stars)

The Book of Eli

Not until seeing ‘The Book of Eli’ have I seen a movie’s ending render almost everything that happened beforehand completely irrelevant. Though ‘Vanilla Sky’ is another example, ‘Eli’ does so without seeming to realize it. It’s upsetting, because the film ‘Eli’ wanted to be was great. It really evoked a sense of a world sent back to the Wild West. Questions raised about religion and belief make an interesting debate, until the ending deems it all irrelevant. What a turn south for this flick.

Rating: 70 (3.5 Stars)


‘Outrage’ is one of those weird examples of how a film can get less entertaining by making your case too well. Everything Kirby Dick has to say in this film is completely valid, and he does so with some overwhelming proof. The only problem is, as a documentary, there is only so much to say about the topic and too much time to do it. It ends up repeating itself, not bringing up any new arguments, just making the same ones over and over. The topic is interesting and the doc is slick, but too long.

Rating: 70 (3.5 Stars)

As always, if you haven’t joined Criticker yet, do so as my Kumpel by clicking the link below.

I’m going to try to stay on time, getting posts done ahead of time. It’s all part of the learning process. We’ll see what happens when my free time dries up even further.

Wish me luck.

Day Thirty-Five – Reviews: Three Docs and a Best Picture Hopeful

4 02 2010

I love documentaries. As much as I enjoy a well written film, I think there’s something to be said for a documentary that gets you thinking. Documentaries have a democratic quality to them, where the events shape the film, rather than the film-maker shaping the events.

I just wish more people would go see them. The more people go see, the more good documentaries will get funded and made.

Here’s a good start.

Today, I have three reviews for docs and one of the best written films of last year.

Up in the Air

There is not one wasted line in ‘Up in the Air’. Every single word uttered sheds light on the main character, Ryan Bingham. As he lives his seemingly happy life, the people around him bring out the true him, opposed to the one he portrays himself to be when in a room full of admirers. He puts up a hard exterior in order to do that job he does, but with each new person he meets, he loses part of his defenses. In the end, he’s still the same person, just a little more aware of himself than before.

Rating: 95 (4.5 Stars)


‘Cleanflix’ is more of an examination of Mormon culture than a story about film piracy. How the customers of these video stores justify what is essentially theft is funny, but how much cutting essential scenes can completely change the context of the film is hilarious. I don’t understand why someone completely against violence, drinking and sex would want to watch a Soderbergh movie, but that’s part of its charm. The twist ending of what becomes the main character couldn’t be written this well.

Rating: 95 (4.5 Stars)


I’m not usually a fan of Bill Maher. He has arrogance to him that I find annoying. Still, I was a big fan of ‘Religulous’. Rather than Maher just going off on religion, he goes to the people, giving them enough rope to hang themselves with. It’s almost as if he wants to be proven wrong. The thesis that faith isn’t actually proof of anything is pretty solid in that sense. Though his argument is for atheism, I think he makes a better case for agnosticism. Disproving a theory isn’t proof either.

Rating: 90 (4.5 Stars)

Bra Boys

A documentary that has a point to make can still be fair and balanced, but ‘Bra Boys’ is not that film. They openly admit to their transgressions, yet take pride in barely legal behavior. At any given time, they blame the police, the government or the locals for putting them in the corner, without acknowledging that their lewd actions are what get them there in the first place. When they talk about surfing, the doc is at its best, but they really need to leave the politics out of it. Just surf.

Rating: 55 (2.5 Stars)

If you don’t want to take my suggestions, you could always get your own Criticker account by clicking the link below.

Cleanflix is an excellent documentary I got to catch at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival, but chances are you won’t be able to see so easily. I’m hoping they get a distributor. Join their Facebook page for updates.

Hopefully they can get this movie out there, it was probably my favorite of the Festival.

Day Thirty-Four – Even More Movie Reviews

3 02 2010

Being the day after the nominees for the Oscars have come out, I feel it’s fitting to post a couple reviews of contenders I’ve seen recently; along with a film that was in the running in 1993.

It just happens to be by chance that they go best to worst.

Crazy Heart

One thing about ‘Crazy Heart’ that makes it different from other movies like it is that Bad Blake is actually a nice guy. He doesn’t blame anyone but himself for where he has ended up and takes what he’s given. There will be comparisons to ‘The Wrestler’ for the same reasons, but I feel that’s a movie about someone who can’t let go. Bad Blake can let go and is forced to at every turn. Yet, the only reason that bad things happen to Bad is because he doesn’t have the respect he should for himself.

Rating: 95 (4.5 Stars)

Julie & Julia

If there is any flaw to ‘Julie & Julia’, it’s that Amy Adams is too damn likeable. She is a self-absorbed person who has been empowered with a blog, but with only a smile, her abrasiveness melts away like butter. Streep does an accurate Julia Child, but that doesn’t make it any less silly. Especially when Julie Powell imitates her. Still, I found myself interested in how their stories match up. Some mistake this as a movie about cooking, but really it’s a movie about finding your muse.

Rating: 75 (3.5 Stars)

The Firm

The key to a good thriller is to have your characters in constant peril. ‘The Firm’ fails to maintain any of the eerie tension created in the opening scenes. The beginning makes the flick seem like ‘The Firm’ is some kind of cult that grows its employees into evil lawyers. Mitch tries to uncover something sinister, but takes his time doing so. Outside of it being morally wrong, they never really give Mitch a reason to act on his impulses. In the end, things are too happy-go-lucky to be credible.

Rating: 60 (3 Stars)

That’s all I have for now. Still have a bunch of reviews to write though. With luck, I’ll have at least 3 more done for tomorrow.

Remember, if you want real-time updates, or just want to have some fun rating movies and getting suggestions on what to rent this weekend – join Criticker as my Kumpel.

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