Some Movies I’ve Seen Recently…

6 06 2010

I’m planning to wake up in about 4 hours to watch Get Him to the Greek. Not quite sure how I’ll manage that, but I have seen these flicks recently enough.

Here are some reviews:

90 Justice League: Crisis on Two EarthsJun 06, 2010
Mini-Review: Though things really had to be cut down in order to make things digestible for an unfamiliar audience, I really enjoyed ‘Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths’. I was able to follow the multiple plot-lines throughout without getting lost. The amount of tension this movie sustains is notable, especially considering most of these heroes are invincible and still have you feeling a sense of dread. The characters all had an impressive depth to them, even with the vast number of heroes involved. Great!
80 Bugs Bunny Nips the NipsJun 01, 2010
Mini-Review: Hearing Bugs dole out racial slurs as he hands the Japanese sticks of dynamite definitely makes it though to watch without cringing a little bit. Still, the comedy is pretty much on par with what you can find in other Bugs shorts. Bugs dresses as a lady. Bugs fools people chasing him by jumping into his hole and appearing behind them. If the Japanese were something less insensitive, people would eat it up. Hard to appreciate it when it’s so blatantly and openly hateful though.
80 Iron Man 2May 10, 2010
Mini-Review: The first half of ‘Iron Man 2’ feels like run-off from the original ‘Iron Man’. This is enjoyable enough, as the original was very well done. Still, this doesn’t allow the film to gain much traction either in the plot or character development. The second half of the film feels like a prequel for the ‘Avengers’ movie coming in two years. This leads to you feeling a little cheated when the movie ends, since you never really get that pay-off until the Avengers assemble in their own film.
0 A Different PathMay 10, 2010
Mini-Review: ‘A Different Path’ is an activist film that is a bunch of hot air. A pedestrian, a bike rider and a kayaker all complain that cars exist. The bike rider, in particular, talks a lot about a world without cars, saying that people should stop driving. He offers no reasons or solutions. He just spouts this non-sense and gets upset when no one does his bidding. These moments are split apart with shots of waves or an angle staring right up the rider’s nose for minutes at a time. Awful, awful stuff.
95 Teenage PaparazzoMay 07, 2010
Mini-Review: Having seen Grenier’s first documentary at the Toronto International Film Festival, I was excited to see ‘Teenage Paparazzo’. Grenier has an honesty when he’s behind the camera. He pulls no punches, making himself an open-book. He realizes his role in the machine of the paparazzi and uses his fame to gain access he otherwise wouldn’t be afforded. The film is completely self-aware, allowing for an introspection about fame and its consequences that few celebrities or media would ever allow.
60 TalhotblondMay 04, 2010
Mini-Review: ‘Talhotblond’ is one of those documentaries that has everything to do with timing. The film-making isn’t at top quality, though they did their best to make text on a screen as exciting as possible. Something much better film-makers have tried and failed themselves. The clumsy film-making almost gets in the way of a story that is so unbelievable, had it not been true, would seem entirely bogus. The “first-person” narration by a murdered teen adds to the unbelievability, but the story saves it.
80 GasLandMay 04, 2010
Mini-Review: I have to admit, I was immediately alarmed when the filmmaker, Josh Fox, started a film about natural gas with a mini-biography. Thankfully, ‘Gasland’ picks up immediately after focusing on the human element, making it easy to place yourself in the situation. The middle does sag, reiterating information from every small town Fox visits, the doc picks up at the end with a decent payoff. I knew nothing about “fracking”, but after watching ‘Gasland’, I felt like an expert – a concerned one at that.
80 Kick-AssMay 03, 2010
Mini-Review: I started my experience with ‘Kick-Ass’ years ago when I picked up the comic. I liked the idea of a kid dressing up as a superhero and paying for doing so. The moment Hit-Girl and Big Daddy showed up – I stopped reading. Here, they add life to the flick that would otherwise be missing. Dave’s tragedy is toned down from the comic, instead emphasizing his lack of a sex life, which isn’t as interesting or original. Still, the over-the-top action and subtle spoofs make ‘Kick-Ass’ a pretty fun ride.
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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 Sixty-Seven – 82nd Academy Award Results: I’m 13 of 24

8 03 2010

Well, I guess this is old news now that I’ve taken a bit of a break from putting up a post a day. I’m going to give myself a pass based on a technicality and say it’s a post “representing” every day.

Given that poorly formed excuse, let’s see how I did with my predictions for the Oscars.

Best Picture

The seating arrangement was so cruel, forcing Cameron watch Bigelow get up and pick up an Oscar he, and I, thought would be his.

My Guess: Avatar
The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
WINNER: The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious
A Serious Man
Up
Up in the Air

I truly believed that Avatar would win this category. Given that it’s the highest grossing film ever and the Oscars wants to seem like it’s “in touch”, I thought they had to go this way. I’m glad they didn’t. I was happy to see The Hurt Locker take this category, but I still think Up in the Air or An Education deserved it more so.

Best Actor
My Guess and WINNER: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart

George Clooney, Up in the Air
Colin Firth, A Single Man
Morgan Freeman, Invictus
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker

Best Actress
WINNER: Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side

Helen Mirren, The Last Station
Carey Mulligan, An Education
Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
My Guess: Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia

I took a risk guessing Streep and I know that. I felt like it would be her and clearly my feeling were wrong. I haven’t seen Bullock’s performance so I can’t argue whether it was worthy or not. What I can say is she did have the best speech of the night, by far.

Best Supporting Actor
Matt Damon, Invictus
Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
My Guess and WINNER: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

Best Supporting Actress
Penélope Cruz, Nine
Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart
Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
My Guess and WINNER: Mo’Nique, Precious

Mo’Nique upsets me. The first thing she says is that she’s happy that the Academy can focus on the work rather than the politics then immediately thanks Oprah and Tyler Perry for helping “get the word out”. It’s so beyond hypocritical it drove me nuts and I fast-forwarded through the rest of her acceptance speech in anger.

Best Director
My Guess and WINNER: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
James Cameron, Avatar
Lee Daniels, Precious
Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds

No surprise here at all, but Barbara Streisand’s “the time has come” was much too corny for my tastes.

Best Original Screenplay
WINNER: Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker

Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman, The Messenger
Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, A Serious Man
Pete Docter, Bob Peterson & Tom McCarthy, Up
My Guess: Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds

This was shocking, but I guess The Hurt Locker has to win in order to get the Best Picture.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci & Tony Roche, In the Loop
Neill Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell, District 9
WINNER: Geoffrey Fletcher, Precious
Nick Hornby, An Education
My Guess: Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air

This upset me for a couple of reasons. Up in the Air truly deserved to win. If not that, An Education. The shock of the loss for those screenplays was enough, but the fact that a writer, whose job it is to put words in peoples’ mouths had the worst speech of the night. Even Steve Martin had to take a jab at it.

Best Animated Film
Coraline
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Princess and the Frog
The Secret of Kells
My Guess and WINNER: Up

The streak continues.

Best Foreign Language Film
WINNER: El Secreto do Sus Ojos (Argentina)

My Guess: Un Prophete (France)
The White Ribbon (Germany)
Ajami (Israel)
The Milk of Sorrow (Peru)

Best Art Direction
WINNER: Avatar
My Guess: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Nine
Sherlock Holmes
The Young Victoria

Best Cinematography
WINNER:
Avatar
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
The Hurt Locker
My Guess: Inglourious Basterds
The White Ribbon

The cinematography in Avatar reminds me of a scene from Entourage where Billy Walsh is upset that the colors look washed out. “It looks like somebody came on the lens!”

Best Costume Design
Bright Star
Coco Before Chanel
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Nine
My Guess and WINNER: The Young Victoria

Best Documentary
Burma VJ
My Guess and WINNER: The Cove
Food, Inc.
The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers
Which Way Home

Best Editing
Avatar
District 9
My Guess and WINNER: The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious

Best Makeup
Il Divo
My Guess and WINNER: Star Trek
The Young Victoria

Best Score
Avatar
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Hurt Locker
Sherlock Holmes
My Guess and WINNER: Up

Best Song
“Almost There,” The Princess and the Frog, Randy Newman
“Down in New Orleans,” The Princess and the Frog, Randy Newman
“Loin de Paname,” Paris 36, Reinhardt Wagner & Frank Thomas
“Take It All,” Nine, Maury Yeston
My Guess and WINNER: “The Weary Kind,” Crazy Heart, T-Bone Burnett & Ryan Bingham

I love this song.

Best Sound Editing
My Guess: Avatar
WINNER: The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Star Trek
Up

Best Sound Mixing
Avatar
My Guess and WINNER: The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Star Trek
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Best Visual Effects
My Guess and WINNER: Avatar
District 9
Star Trek

Best Documentary Short
China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province
The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner
My Guess: The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant
WINNER: Music by Prudence
Rabbit à la Berlin

What’s been dubbed “the Kanye moment” wasn’t as interesting while watching it as it was finding out the back story to it all. Career suicide for her – one would hope.

Best Animated Short
My Guess:
French Roast
Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty
The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte)
WINNER: Logorama
A Matter of Loaf and Death

I am so disappointed by this win. Logorama has no good qualities to it and completely drops the ball in regards to its gimmick. Why is Ronald McDonald a robber? Why not the Hamburglar? Not to mention how annoying the swearing is in this short. It’s clumsy and sounds much too forced. Not a fan of the flick and not a fan of its win.

Best Live-Action Short
My Guess: The Door
Instead of Abracadabra
Kavi
Miracle Fish
WINNER: The New Tenants

I wasn’t a fan of The New Tenants. I thought all the films were great except for Tenants, so I wasn’t so happy to see it win. It’s aching to be a Tarantino movie, but it isn’t. It feels like what Tarantino may write had he suffered a stroke. Really not very clever or entertaining, but not nearly as unenjoyable as Logorama.

That was the Oscars. I think I’ll relax on the movie talk for a little bit now.





Day Sixty – Oscar Predictions: Technical Awards

1 03 2010

It’s a cliché to say “It’s an honor just to be nominated”. That’s usually reserved for those who aren’t voted as Best in their category, but for the technical awards, it holds true.

These awards are voted on by Academy members who don’t necessarily know what goes into good costume design or editing, where the nominations are voted on by their peers within the craft. That results in awards going to anyone who uses their craft in excess, making the artist’s influence on the piece very clear for the voter.

Here are my predictions:

Best Art Direction
Avatar
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Nine
Sherlock Holmes
The Young Victoria

My guess is Imaginarium based in my theory that the most apparent will win. You could also make the case for Avatar and Nine in that respect, but the Imaginarium has so much going on in one single frame that laymen will believe that to be better work than something a little more sublte like The Informant!, which wasn’t nominated.

Best Cinematography
Avatar
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
The White Ribbon

Inglourious Basterds is a choice that I believe deserves to win and I predict that it will. Basterds had a glow to it that was reserved for the movies of Old Hollywood, when most of the films where shot on soundstages exclusively. For a film just as much about film as it was about the Second World War, cinematography becomes a part of the story telling.

Best Costume Design
Bright Star
Coco Before Chanel
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Nine
The Young Victoria

This category follows the theory more than any other. I’m usually able to pick a winner without ever seeing the film. Basically, the film with the most frilly and/or Victorian dresses win. This is a hard year to pick, since the choices are similar in style, but Victoria is just as much a fashion show as it is a film.

Best Visual Effects
Avatar

District 9
Star Trek

Whoever uses the most CG wins this category. Based on that alone, it goes to Avatar, which deserves it. The quality of the environments in Pixar-level good. If it doesn’t win this category, than I wouldn’t expect Avatar to win Best Picture either, since the CG was the main selling point. I’m a little upset that District 9 won’t get it, because the way that the humans interacted with the prawns hasn’t been so spot on since Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Best Editing
Avatar
District 9
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious

The most cuts wins. Action films tend to steal this category based on that and this year will be no different with The Hurt Locker. Avatar could surprise and collect another win here, but the film was a bit long to credit it for being able to cut stuff.

Best Makeup
Il Divo
Star Trek
The Young Victoria

The characters in Star Trek really packed on the make-up, as they always have in the series, and will likely be rewarded for doing so. The make-up was definitely the best of the series so far. Not as obvious as before and didn’t give everyone that vinyl look they have on the TV show.

Best Sound Editing
Avatar
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Star Trek
Up

Best Sound Mixing
Avatar
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Star Trek
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

I’m going to admit, I have no idea why I’m voting for what I voted for here. I don’t understand why these categories are on the big show at all, but they’re here and I’m forced to make a choice. I basically split them between the front runners, but really I have nothing to back it up outside of a blind guess.

Now with the technical awards out of the way, we can jump into the categories where I can make an educated prediction, having seen much of the pictures up for awards this year.

Tomorrow, the Short Category. I’ve already posted my reviews and threw a prediction in for the Animated category. I’m hoping to see the Live-Action shorts tonight and will post my prediction for those tomorrow, along with the Short Documentary, which I’ve only seen a couple of.

Agree or disagree? Feel free to comment.





Day Fifty-Five – A Matter of Timing

24 02 2010

Timing is an important thing. I’m posting this post a day late, and clearly it won’t get the time it probably deserves when I post today’s post. It gets squeezed out.

The same logic could be used for movie releases.

Last year, the tubes of the internet were flabbergasted when Paramount announced that they were pushing the release of Shutter Island to February, effectively taking it out of the running for this year’s Oscars. Having seen the film, I don’t think it would have been nominated anyway, but that’s not why the move was such a good idea.

Shutter Island had the advantage of coming out in February, a time that is generally barren of high-thinking thrillers or prestige films.

Shutter Island opened with a $40 million dollar weekend. The highest on record for Scorsese or DiCaprio. Could this have happened in the “prestige” season of the fall?

I don’t think so. With so many other films coming out, week after week, jockeying for position, Shutter Island could have very well been lost in the shuffle. Given the choices in movies I had every weekend, watching a so-so reviewed thriller would have probably been the last of my concerns with films like Up in the Air and Brothers coming out around the same time.

Instead, Shutter Island is up against When in Rome and Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Not to mention, Shutter Island came out unchallenged, being the only wide release of the weekend.

Not to mention, it had a couple of months to build hype, with people waiting for something they could once again sink their teeth into as they wade through the garbage that is January. Shutter Island had the identity of an Oscar quality movie, without any of the pressures that identity would have. Shutter Island is an okay movie. It definitely has its flaws (like not starting until an hour into the movie), but for February, it’s acceptable.

Avatar could be given the same credit. Would it have broken all the records it did if it was wedged in between Transformers 2 and Harry Potter? I doubt it. People who were missing the summer blockbuster in the cold of winter has their escape, and given the numbers, they did so multiple times at the same movie.

Cop Out is coming out this Friday, but the reviews aren’t looking pretty. They don’t usually for any film by Kevin Smith, so I take it all with a grain of salt. His brand of humor is definitely for a niche market, but what Warner Bros is doing right is releasing it now. Given the cast and the subject matter, an homage to the ’80s buddy cop movie, Cop Out sounds a lot more like a summer release, but would probably get lost in the shuffle. Releasing it now just gives it that much more of a chance to flourish.

Zach and Miri, Smith’s last film, is the perfect example of mis-scheduling. It came out on Halloween; a weekend that people were more interested in seeing Saw V. We’ll see if Cop Out can follow this record of excellent scheduling, but so far I’m impressed by Hollywood’s willingness to finally let go of the release system and just releasing a film when it’s right.