Showing posts from 2010

Review - True Grit

True Grit (2010), PG-13, 110 minutes - It took a week longer than I had originally planned, but today I was finally able to see one of the movies I had been looking forward to the most this year. And it didn't disappoint.

The Coen Brothers add another excellent entry to their growing catalog of films with True Grit. The do so this time around by taking a classic western, and staying pretty true to form. There are only a couple relatively small differences between their new take and the John Wayne driven original. Having said that, this newer version stands on it's own. When watching, it doesn't play out like a complete re-hash. Credit the Coens for knowing better than to mess with the content and tone of a quality story, as well as for employing the proper cast to bring that story to life.

Excellent performances are prevalent throughout True Grit, with newcomer Hailee Steinfeld leading the way. She more than stands her ground and takes charge in many scenes. Somet…

Review - The Fighter

The Fighter (2010), R, 115 minutes - Another 'based on a true story' movie, The Fighter, while chronicling the trials and tribulations and the rise of Mickey Ward to the world light welterweight championship, is really more about one's family and the drama they can create.

Mickey Ward (Mark Wahlberg) is the younger half brother of Dickey Eklund (Christian Bale), who's 15 minutes of fame came when he knocked Sugar Ray Leonard down in a match. In the time since, Dickey has let fame go to his head and has become a washed up, strung out shell of his old self. He acts as Mickey's trainer and their mother Alice (played by Melissa Leo), Mickey's manager.

While claiming to help Mickey rise through the boxing ranks, the family is really still hung up on Dickey's previous exploits and his supposed come back. The entire family is even being followed around by HBO for a story about Dickey's come back (or so they think). After Dickey ends up in jail due to some …

Review - Black Swan

Black Swan (2010), R, 108 minutes - The latest film from Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan is driven by Natalie Portman's performance as a newly promoted ballerina and her relationship with her theater manager (Vincent Cassel) and a rival dancer (Mila Kunis).

Nina Sayers (Portman) is one of the ballerina's being considered for the lead role in a new staging of Swan Lake (taking over for Beth Macintyre, the long running lead played by Winona Ryder). The theater manager, Thomas Leroy, doesn't believe that Nina has it in her to portray both parts that he requires for this re-invisioning of Swan Lake. She confronts him about it and, after biting him when he makes a pass at her, lands the role as he sees the 'imperfection' in her that he was looking for for the part. Black Swan proceeds from there, exploring Nina's psychological transformation into the ballerina that she needs to become the lead.

Black Swan is full of strong performances. Not only out of Portman, but…

Review - The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (2009), R, 147 minutes - The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is the third and final installment in the Millennium trilogy based on the novels of the late Stieg Larsson. If you have not read the books or seen the previous two movies (my reviews can be found here and here), you'll definitely want to before jumping into this one. There are a handful of flashback sequences that touch on major plot points, but they really don't cover all that you need to know to fully understand what is going on this far into the story.

Hornet's Nest picks up immediately where The Girl Who Played With Fire ends - with Lisbeth being airlifted to the hospital after her confrontation with Zalachenko and Niedermann - and advances through Lisbeth's trial while Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) and the staff at Millennium magazine try to expose the government conspiracy against her.

Noomi Rapace continues her amazing portrayal of computer hacker …

Review - Tron: Legacy

Tron: Legacy (2010), PG, 127 minutes - For the few people who don't know, Tron: Legacy is the sequel to Disney's cult classic about a programmer who gets stuck inside the computer system he is working on. I say 'cult classic' and not 'classic' because I re-watched the original Tron a couple months back and it doesn't really hold up at all. It looks cool considering the time at which it was made (1982), but that's about it. Anyway, this isn't about the original, it's about the sequel, which I feel is a better overall movie. It takes Tron's basic concept and builds upon it, taking place 20 years after the original.

Garrett Hedlund plays Sam Flynn, the son of Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges, retaining his role from Tron). After investigating a page that came from his father's old office, he is transported into The Grid, the same computer program world that his father has been trapped in for 20 years. He learns that his father not only disc…

It's Been A While...

...and I'm not referring to one of Staind's more popular songs. I have somehow managed to not update my blog here in a hair under two months. I'd love to claim that I've been wicked busy and/or just hadn't seen any movies to review. The truth is more along the lines of pure laziness and just not getting excited enough about a movie to sit down and type up a review that same day.

So, since I have no real excuse(s), and I really have no idea who (if anyone) checks in to this blog on an even somewhat regular basis, let me mention the couple of upcoming updates that I do have planned in an effort to get back in the habit of regular review posting:

1) This past weekend was a pretty successful new movie viewing weekend, so reviews of Tron: Legacy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, and Black Swan will be forthcoming. I had originally planned on banging those out this evening, but work was work and it sucked all of the motivation out of me.

2) As the end of the…

Review - Hereafter

Hereafter (PG-13), 2010, 129 minutes - Anyone who has followed any of my reviews in the various locations they have been posted on the web over the last couple of years knows by now that I'm a big Clint Eastwood fan. I was raised that way, blame the parents! So it should come as no surprise that I would be making a point to see his latest film on opening night.

Hereafter follows three diverging story lines while asking the question of what happens to us when we die? The film gets off to a quick start as Marie LeLay (a reporter/journalist played by Cecile De France) gets swept away in a tsunami. She becomes pinned on a fallen tree and a car smashes into her from behind as it is washed away. Two local men pull her from the water and try to resuscitate her with no luck. As they are distracted by a fire breaking out nearby, she comes to, not really sure of what she has just experienced.

The two other story lines follow Marcus and his twin brother Jason (played by Frankie and Geo…

Review - Red

Red (PG-13), 2010, 111 minutes - What do you get when a handful of older highly respected actors and actresses get together to make an action flick? Well, if it's done well, you get Red - an action/espionage flick based on the graphic novel by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner.

Red (Retired, extremely dangerous) is about Frank Moses (Bruce Willis), a retired black ops agent who is having a bit of a tough time adjusting to the retired life. Frank may be retired, but someone wants him dead. The attempt to take him out fails and he goes about trying to figure out who is behind the hit. No, this isn't the most original plot line in the world, but it works quite well with the characters, and more importantly, who plays them. While conducting his search, Frank brings together a group of also retired former associates (played by Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, and Helen Mirren) and a bank representative (Mary-Louise Parker). Richard Dreyfuss and Karl Urban provide some star power t…

Review - The Social Network

The Social Network (2010), PG-13, 120 minutes – In The Social Network (the story of how facebook came to be) Jesse Eisenberg takes on yet another geek role. Only this time around he isn’t the quiet pushover, but instead a quick talking, driven, ‘I’m smarter than you and not afraid to show it’, Harvard student (facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Just as I was afraid that the likeable Eisenberg was going to be stuck in a typecast rut, he shows us the other side of the coin. A geek who is typically socially challenged, but is highly confident in his knowledge and abilities and enjoys showing them off when he can. Eisenberg is easily the star of the film and not just because he’s the main character but because his portrayal commands attention.

The film kicks off with Zuckerberg conversing with his girlfriend Erica Albright (Rooney Mara) over a couple of beers. What should be a casual conversation about his attempts to join one of Harvard’s social clubs turns into an argument that lead…

Review - Let Me In

Let Me In (2010), R, 115 minutes - Let Me In is the first in what seems to be a wave of American versions (remakes, adaptations, take your pick) of recently made excellent Swedish films (see the upcoming David Fincher versions of The Millennium Trilogy). Whether or not these American versions are necessary is an entirely different discussion/debate that I won't get into here. Having seen the original (highly acclaimed) Swedish version - Let The Right One In - I thought that Let Me In was quite good in its own right.

Set in the early 1980's, Let Me In is about the relationship between Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a twelve year old boy, and Abby (Chloe Grace Moretz) a seemingly twelve year old girl who moves in next door with who we believe to be her father (Richard Jenkins). After proclaiming 'I can't be your friend' when they first meet, she warms up to Owen, eventually encouraging him to fight back against the school yard bullies. After a few awkward conversation…

Review - Winter's Bone

Winter’s Bone (2010), R, 100 minutes – Winter’s Bone is a dank and cold drama/thriller that I never would have checked out had my friend Chris not mentioned it one conversation over beers. So when he was back in town almost a month later we decided to give it a look down at the local art house theater, the one place in town that consistently screens such films. And I’m glad we did.

Winter’s Bone is based in the Ozark Mountain region and revolves around Ree (Jennifer Lawrence), a 17 year old girl who gets by day by day supporting her family (mother, two younger siblings) in the absence of her drug peddling father who has recently been arrested. Things get more complex when the local Sherriff (Garret Dillahunt) stops by to inform Ree that her father put up the family house and land in order to post bail. If he doesn’t show up at his hearing, they lose it all. Ree vows to make sure that her father shows up and begins hunting him down by contacting some not so nice family members and…

Review - The Town

The Town (2010), R, 120 minutes - The Town is Ben Affleck's sophomore outing as a director and with it he proves that the ability he showed behind the camera on Gone Baby Gone was not a fluke.

Like Gone Baby Gone, The Town is a crime drama/thriller based in Affleck's hometown of Boston. This time around, Affleck focuses primarily on the criminals, their lives and their motives. Affleck joins Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) as one of two primary characters who are both best friends and partners in crime.

Doug MacRay (Affleck) and James Coughlin (Renner) are residents of Charlestown, MA, which the opening of the film claims has the highest bank/armored car high jacking rate in the country. After one job, James takes a hostage (the bank's assistant manager - Claire Kessey, played by Rebecca Hall). He let's her go unhurt, but decides after wards that she may need to be 'taken care of' as it turns out she is a local resident. He's afraid that she may be able…

Review - Machete

Machete (2010), R, 105 minutes – Remember that big B rate flick Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez dropped on us a couple of years ago called Grindhouse? Do you also remember how the best part of Grindhouse was the fake trailers? Well 3 years later, Rodriguez brings his fake trailer to life with a full length feature.

Danny Trejo retains the role of Machete, a former federale and overall badass Mexican who was left for dead by a drug lord named Torrez (Steven Seagal) after interfering in his affairs. After the film opens with that bit of back story, we find Machete in a small Texas town trying to get by as a day worker. He’s hired by Michael Benz (LOST’s Jeff Fahey), but not for the job he thinks. Benz offers him $150,000 to assassinate the corrupt local Senator McLaughlin (Robert DeNiro) who is running for re-election with an extremely tough immigration platform. The Senator also goes out on late night immigration hunts with an equally corrupt police squad led by Lt. Stillman (Do…

Review - The Girl Who Played With Fire

The Girl Who Played With Fire (2009), R, 129 minutes - It's been a while since my last post due to the chaos of trying to get moved into the house. It has been a slow process, but I'm making headway. So after too much of a delay, here's my latest review:

I had been patiently waiting for The Girl Who Played With Fire to come to the Grandin Theatre back in Roanoke, but was pleasantly surprised this weekend in SC at my parent's house when I learned that it was playing at a theater about 30 minutes down the road. Not knowing when it will show up back home, I was able to sneak away this afternoon to check it out!

The Girl Who Played With Fire is the second installment in the Swedish film trilogy based on the Millennium trilogy of books (the first of which was The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo). If you have not either seen the first film or read the books then don't bother taking two hours out of your day checking this out because you will be completely lost.

If you ha…

Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010), PG-13, 112 minutes - Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is Edgar Wright's (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) film adaptation of Bryan Lee O'Malley's series of manga sized graphic novels (Oni Press). A couple of friends have been ranting and raving about the Scott Pilgrim books for a couple years but I had never read them myself until about two weeks ago. I highly recommend them (buy them here). Should you be any interested, I strongly encourage you to read them all (6 total) before seeing the movie as it covers the entire story. I know, I know, it sounds like a lot, but trust me - these bad boys read very quickly. I was able to knock each one out in about an hour and I'm not a very speedy reader.

Now that I've gotten that out of the way - Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is an absolutely fantastic adaptation of the source material. The film clocks in at just under two hours and covers all of the key points throughout the graphic novels. The trail…

And so it begins...

As most of you already know, I joined the ranks of home owner yesterday. Southwest Virginia has been home since my freshman year at Virginia Tech (with the exception of about 6 months after graduation) and now it's quite a bit more permanent. I've wanted to make the jump from renting to owning for a while now but it just wasn't feasible. Getting student loans paid off in January helped some, but I never could have taken this step without a great deal of help from my Aunt Carol and Uncle Bob. A measly blog post can't even begin to express my gratitude so I will simply say 'thanks' and 'I miss you'.

It's been a hectic past 36 hours, but many of you have already been clamoring for pictures. Here are a handful to get the gist. It's located in the Raleigh Court region of the 'noke and was built in the 1950's. 2 real bedrooms, 1 bath, a den/study, full basement (1/2 finished, 1/2 garage). The finished half of the basement has another ro…

Review - Inception

Inception (2010), PG-13, 148 minutes - Inception is the latest drama/mystery/thriller from the mind of Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, The Prestige, Memento) and deals primarily with security and the dream state of the human mind.

The basis for Inception is that our subconscious is more susceptible in a dream state than if we are awake. The idea being that if someone could enter your dreams that they could extract information from you that you wouldn't normally give up willingly. This is where Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his team (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Dileep Rao) come in. Cobb, according to himself, is the best there is at extraction (entering the minds of others and stealing thoughts and ideas). He is hired by Saito (Ken Watanabe) to plant an idea into Robert Fischer, Jr's (Cillian Murphy) head. This is known as inception. Cobb's associate Arthur (Gordon-Levitt) says that it's impossible but Cobb claims to have done it before and acc…

Review - Predators

Predators (2010), R, 106 minutes - I've been a little torn over the past couple of months leading up to this week's release of Predators. When I had first heard that another installment in franchise was going to be made (and produced by Robert Rodriguez) I was pretty excited. Then I saw the first teaser trailer and my hopes dropped as it was obvious that Adrien Brody was going to be the primary character. It wasn't that I don't like Brody as an actor, I just don't think 'alpha dog, ex-military badass' when I hear his name. That feeling sort of wore off as I began to get excited about the fact that Predators was getting back to the basics of the original classic: following a group of elite killers through the jungle as they faced off with this alien race of superior hunters.

Predators opens with Adrien Brody and a handful of other extremely dangerous individuals being air dropped into a jungle in an undisclosed location. There's an initial 'gett…

Review - Despicable Me

Despicable Me (2010), PG, 95 minutes - I was a little worried when 15 minutes into the movie I had already seen about 3/4 of the footage from the trailers that had been released for Despicable Me (including the teaser that first hit theaters last summer). Luckily though, it manages to be pretty entertaining.

Despicable Me tells the story of Gru (Steve Carell), a 'super' villain who has stolen many 'famous' landmarks in his career. He is outdone by a young up and coming villain named Vector (Jason Segal) who managed to steal one of the great pyramids, leaving in it's place an inflatable replica. Vector interferes with one of Gru's plots by stealing the shrink ray that he is after. Gru quickly realizes that he will not be able to infiltrate Vector's hideout without help. He enlists the help of 3 girls by way of adoption after he sees them gain entrance to Vector's lair by selling cookies.

From there the Despicable Me shows us Gru's attempts at re…

Double Shot Reivew - The Last Airbender and Toy Story 3

It's been a few weeks since I last posted. As some followers of this blog may know, I'm buying a house and have been wicked busy going through that whole process. As a result, I haven't had much free time for movies until the last few days. So anyway, the reviews return today with a double shot:

The Last Airbender (2010), PG, 103 minutes - I've been looking forward to this pretty much since it was first announced. Even more so when the teasers and trailers started to be released. So I was worried at the beginning of the week when every advance review I saw or heard about absolutely thrashed this movie. One of the largest complaints was that inexplicably, a large portion of the cast was Caucasian, which was odd because they were all playing Inuit characters in the Nickelodeon cartoon (Avatar: The Last Airbender) that this movie is based upon.

I decided to just accept this oddity going into the movie. It happened, nothing could be done about it, I was going to try …

Review - The A-Team

The A-Team (2010), PG-13 - Like many people my age, I grew up watching The A-Team on tv. It started in 1983 and ran for 5 seasons. Outside of a few random re-runs seen during my college years, I'm pretty sure I haven't re-watched any of those old episodes. Having said that, I was still fairly leery of this big screen adaptation going into it. Could a movie made almost 30 years later possibly hit on the same things that made the tv show so popular without destroying the fond memories of the show from my childhood? Quite surprisingly, the answer is yes.

The plot isn't anything ground breaking, but it does the job. The A-Team is comprised of 4 Rangers who complete special missions (quite often of the black-ops variety) for the Army. After an operation goes bad, they are wrongly accused, striped of their ranks and imprisoned. The movie then follows their shenanigans as they break out and proceed to attempt to clear their names by proving their innocence.

The casti…

Review - Splice

Splice (2009), R, 104 minutes - Splice is the story of a pair of scientists, Clive and Elsa (Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley respectively) push the edge of accepted legal and ethical practices when they splice human DNA into their latest experiment.

They had previously made a scientific breakthrough when they spliced together DNA strands from a handful of species to create an entirely new species. The goal that they hoped to reach with the new species was to be able to synthesize it's genes to create vaccines for livestock. Clive and Elsa believe that with the inclusion of human DNA, they would be able to instead synthesize genes that could lead to cures for many human diseases. When their financial backers want to focus on the development of the genes for livestock vaccines as opposed to pushing ahead with the ethical question mark that would be working with human DNA, the pair decide to conduct an experiment including human DNA off the books. The result is a creature they come…

Review - Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010), PG-13, 106 minutes - Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was the post HeroesCon movie this year joining the ranks of such classically mediocre films as Superman Returns, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Hulk (Edward Norton), and Terminator: Salvation. It also happens to be the latest video game property to be adapted to the big screen.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays the lead character Dastan, an orphan of the streets of Persia who became the adopted son of the King after the King witnessed Dastan stand up for a fellow orphan when the King's guard's caught him stealing. Dastan grows up to lead what is basically a special forces unit in the Persian Army. Dastan's unit is the group actually breaches the defenses of the holy city of Alamut when Dastan's brother Prince Tus decides to invade because he was told that Alamut had been supplying Persia's opposition with weapons. It is during this invasion that Dastan comes acr…

Bad News for The Hobbit Adaptation...

This is some of the worst movie related news I've heard in quite a while. Due to continuing delays in the production, Guillermo del Toro has withdrawn from directing The Hobbit.

When it was officially announced that Peter Jackson would not be filming the LOTR prequel (or in the film version's case prequels) I was disappointed but not surprised considering all of the financial issues that arose post LOTR. Then I was excited when they announced that Guillermo del Toro would take Jackson's place at the helm of The Hobbit. His work on films such as Pan's Labyrith, the Hellboy films, and to a lesser extent Blade II really showed off his amazing imagination, style and design creation that made him a perfect fit to adapt further stories from J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth.

The only good news that comes from this announcement is that del Toro will remain a co-writer of The Hobbit screenplays (along with Jackson, Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens). Here's hoping that The …

Review - Shrek Forever After (3D)

Shrek Forever After (2010), PG, 93 minutes - The fourth and supposedly final installment in the Shrek franchise focuses on Shrek's life after the events of Shrek the Third. On the day of his children's first birthday we find Shrek having a bit of a mid-life crisis. He loves his family but misses the days when he could do what he wanted, when he wanted, and not be interrupted or distracted. Enter Rumpelstiltskin. He offers to trade Shrek one day like the day he craves so much in exchange for one day from Shrek's childhood that he can't even remember. Shrek thinks this is a good deal and signs Rumpelstiltskin's contract. He then falls into an alternate universe where he never married Fiona, doesn't know Donkey, and can go about his life as a scary old ogre.

As one can imagine, Rumpelstiltskin's deal wasn't on the up and up. Shrek quickly learns that he's been duped and has until the end of the day to trigger the contract's exit clause or el…

Review - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009), NR, 152 minutes - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is based on Swedish author Stieg Larsson's first novel in his Millenium Trilogy titled 'Men Who Hate Women' (we silly Americans found it necessary to change the title). Many good things have been said about this trilogy, but I have yet to read it myself. I found myself having to decide whether to watch the movie then go back and read the book(s), or add the book(s) to my growing list of things to read and then watch the film at a later date. Two things helped me make my decision:

1) an old college friend Kerri (check out her book blog here) both highly recommended the book and thought I should go ahead and see the movie first (this was a good call, as I'm not the world's fastest reader).

2) the Grandin Theatre, which is about a mile down the road (and the only theater around that ever screens such foreign films) began showing it this weekend.

Suffice to say, everything I had …

Rental Review - The Slammin' Salmon

The Slammin' Salmon (2009), R, 90 minutes - The Slammin' Salmon is brought to us by Broken Lizard - the same group that provided us with Super Troopers and Beerfest. While not being as movie quote friendly as either of those two, it is a pretty entertaining restaurant based comedy.

The Slammin' Salmon an upscale seafood restaurant owned by Cleon 'Slammin' Salmon (Michael Clarke Duncan) the heavyweight champion boxer. He ran up a $20,000 gambling debt to the leader of the Yakuza on a recent trip to Japan and has to come up with the money by the next morning. He instructs his restaurant manager that the waitstaff must have a record night so that he can come up with the cash to pay off the Yakuza (the restaurant record is in the neighborhood of $15,000). After the waitstaff gets off to a slow start, he sweetens the deal by offering a $10,000 bonus to the waiter/waitress who brings in the most money. 'Isn't that counterproductive?' you ask? Well, yeah…

Review - Robin Hood

Robin Hood (2010), PG-13, 140 minutes - The latest Ridley Scott/Russell Crowe collaboration is not the Robin Hood story we've all grown up with. Instead it's an alt continuity story of how Robin Hood became the outlaw that robs from the rich and steals from the poor that we are all familiar with. When you get right down to it, Ridley Scott's version is a prequel that mixes up character's histories while they still filling the same roles within the story.

Russell Crowe stars as Robin Longstride. That's right, Longstride. Not Loxley as in previous incarnations. Longstride actually poses as Robert Loxley at Sir Walter Loxley's (Robert's father) request after Robert and his fellow knights were killed in an ambush as they attempted to return the recently deceased King Richard's crown back to the palace (he was killed in battle). It seems like an odd request, but Sir Walter (Max von Sydow) knows that if news of his son's death reaches the public, the…

Great Marvel Omnibus Link - I came across this link today while I was trying to look up the actual release date for the Brubaker/Lark Daredevil Vol. 2 Omnibus (was 5/5/10, is now 6/3/10) and figured I'd share it with those of you who also have an inner comic book nerd.

It's not just a list of all of the Omnibus releases from Marvel, it's also a list of all of the printings and variants that have been available. It also provides links to various retail locations (i.e. Tales of Wonder and Amazon) from which these great collections can still be purchased.

Review - Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2 (2010), PG-13, 124 minutes - Iron Man 2 kicks off the 2010 summer movie schedule with a bang. It's bigger, louder, wittier, and more action filled than the original. Version 1.0 however, is still the superior story.

Robert Downey Jr retains his role as Tony Stark/Iron Man in a film that sees the character struggle with even greater levels of fame (after his admission of being Iron Man at the end of the first film) and deteriorating health (his body has an adverse effect to the element powering the arc reactor in his chest), while trying to stave off a new threat to his 'privatized world peace'. Downey Jr continues to be the perfect embodiment of Tony Stark.

Mickey Rourke (Ivan Vanko) and Sam Rockwell (Justin Hammer) provide the villainous combo hellbent on tearing down Tony Stark and his legacy from the ground up by using variations on his own technology against him. If it sounds familiar, it's because it is. The decision to go with virtually the same t…