Archives ('09-'10)

These are reviews that I wrote between the end of 2008 and April of 2010 when I started this blog.  The first seven dated reviews on this page were originally posted on a short lived, facebook based, media review page that I moderated with a couple of other friends.  The reviews after those were all posted through the Movies/Flixster facebook app.  Due to the formatting available in the app at the time, the majority of thoughts I posted were only a sentence or two each.  I chose not to re-post those here as they are a waste of time and space.  What you will find are the Movies/Flixster based reviews that I felt were worthy of sharing again (most recent to oldest).  Unlike the previous archive page, there are no ratings here.

All 75 of the reviews below have been archived here without altering their original content.  They have been edited only for formatting purposes so that they match the rest of the blog.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Review - Public Enemies

Public Enemies (2009), R, 140 minutes - Public Enemies was one of the most anticipated films of the summer. And with Michael Mann directing and a cast that was led by Johnny Depp and included Christian Bale, Academy Award Winner Marion Cotillard, Billy Crudup and a slew of other recognizable faces, how could it not be?

It’s a film not just about John Dillinger (Depp), his fame and his fall but also about the rise of J Edgar Hoover’s (Crudup) FBI and the strong armed tactics (at least for that time – 1930’s) implemented in order to bring down Dillinger and other ’gangsters’ of the era.

Johnny Depp’s portrayal of John Dillinger is solid enough. He comes across as a man who reeks of confidence, does what he wants, and gets what he wants all while adhering to some semblance of values (i.e. not injuring innocents) while pulling off his heists. Christian Bale’s Melvin Purvis is the man tasked with bringing Dillinger down and you can see how worn down he gets as attempt after attempt fails to result in Dillinger’s arrest. You can understand why Purvis stresses so hard after being given the assignment by Hoover himself and just how intense and determined he was to have his FBI bring Dillinger in. Cotillard has no small role herself as Billie Frechette, the woman that Dillinger targets in a club one night and pretty much wills to be his woman.

It really is quite an entertaining movie. The only real downfall is that after almost two and a half hours you have a sense that something was missing, that there should have been something more. I feel that this is because the film doesn’t show Dillinger’s rise to fame at all. When the movie begins, he’s already on the most wanted list and is masterminding a jail break for some regulars of his crew. We’re expected to accept that he’s already a legend without being shown how or why he achieved that status to begin with. In the end, it falls a bit short of being a summer blockbuster and ends up in the realm of ‘decent gangster flick’.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Review - Repo! The Genetic Opera

Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008), R, 98 minutes - Most anyone that knows my taste in movies could tell you after one look at the case for Repo! The Genetic Opera that it was not a film I would normally check out. However, when an old roommate rants and raves about a film I tend to get curious whether or not the particular genre is my ‘cup of tea’. So here we go. I’m coming from waaaaaaaaay out in left field with this review as Repo! isn’t just a horror flick, it’s also *gasp* a musical.

Repo! The Genetic Opera is an intriguing combination of the two. It’s not nearly as graphically horrific as I had anticipated (maybe my view was slightly skewed by the fact that it is directed by Darren Lynn Bousman – that’s right, the guy who made Saw II, III, IV), but definitely much heavier than your typical musical. Some of the lyrics are definitely operatic (actual opera singer Sarah Brightman stars), but the music itself would fit right in at a hard rock/metal show.

Repo! is set in future timeline in which a global epidemic gives birth to a genetic company (GeneCo) performing surgeries/enhancements for the general public based on payment plans such as one would have for a car or house. Guess what? If you’re late on payments GeneCo sends the Repo man after you to reclaim their property. Throw in a painkilling drug making the rounds on the streets (extracted from the dead) and the world is full of surgery addicts. Amongst the mess that is this alternate universe is a nice plot line in which a father (Anthony Head – Buffy fans stand up and scream) hides his criminal job (GeneCo’s Repo man) from his daughter Shilo, whose blood condition he is trying to cure. The head of GeneCo (Paul Sorvino) coerces Shilo into leaving her bubble-boy like existence at home with promises of a cure to her condition. Dark family histories and betrayals play out and you have an all out bloody rock opera on your hands.

Much of the blood and gore is phony enough that it didn’t get to me, but if you have an aversion to horror flicks I’d steer clear unless you’re just THAT intrigued by the idea of the horror/musical combination. On the other hand, if you don’t have any problems with scary/bloody end of the film spectrum, I’d definitely suggest checking this out. It’s an interesting concept, well done and more importantly entertaining. Oh, I almost forgot - bonus reason for checking out Repo! The Genetic Opera: in a small role, Paris Hilton’s face FALLS OFF. It’s worth taking a gander just for that alone.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Review - Mutant Chronicles

Mutant Chronicles (2008), R, 111 minutes - After watching The Mutant Chronicles two questions came to mind: 1) why haven’t Ron Perlman and John Malkovich ever been in a movie together before? And 2) if they have, why haven’t I heard about it. Well, after a little searching on (greatest webpage ever) I was able to get an answer to my second question: they have not been in any prior films together.

Chronicles is about a futuristic Earth (the year is 2707). It is no longer comprised of many countries, but four ‘corporations’. The movie begins with the corporations at war with each other. The opening battle causes the seal in the ground covering the mysterious ‘Machine’ causing mutants to pour out and decimate the human population. We’re not talking X-Men mutants here; we’re talking grotesque, vicious, monsters that violently kill anything that stands in their way. Perlman plays Brother Samuel, the leader of a monastic order and keeper of The Chronicles, scriptures telling of the history of man’s interaction with The Machine that also included prophecies as to how to rid the Earth of The Machine for good. The Machine originally came to Earth after the Ice Age and had wrecked havoc on its population before but was beaten back by man and sealed deep in the ground in what is currently Europe.

Brother Samuel seeks out permission from Malkovich (Constantine, the of the Capital corporation comprised of what is now North and South America) to take The Chronicles and a team of 20 men on a mission to take out The Machine. Constantine is more worried about evacuating as many people from the planet than he is trying to mount a seemingly pointless offensive against the mutants. He is also a sick, dying man and feels that this may be the one way to help redeem himself for past wrongs he’s committed. He provides Brother Samuel with a ship and evacuation tickets to be used to help recruit the necessary team. Samuel ‘s team doesn’t even start twenty strong – they begin their journey with seven (including Samuel) – and from there the movie follows a pretty formulaic fantasy storyline.

Even though they don’t share much screen time, the interaction between Perlman and Malkovich is strong as it portrays two men (one a man of faith and another who is not) debating the best way to use the resources available to them (to put up a fight against the mutants or to flee the planet). Thomas Jane fills the role of the reluctant (at least initially) hero, and Devon Aoki, Benno Furmann, Anna Walton, Tom Wu and Steve Toussaint round out the team sent to save the world.

The Mutant Chronicles is a movie that I’ve been looking forward to seeing for a while now. It never received a theatrical release here in the ‘noke so I was forced to wait for the dvd release. Despite being formulaic (but then again what fantasy film/story isn’t?) it was an entertaining adventure/sci-fi film and did not disappoint. Unfortunately I am left sitting here without an answer for my first question. Given their past bodies of work and their rabid fan bases one would think that Perlman and Malkovich would have been on screen together previously. I mean, who wouldn’t want to see a movie starring these two?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Review - District 9

District 9 (2009), R, 112 minutes - Since I was not able to see District 9 before leaving for vacation I made it a priority to go see it today on my last day off before returning to work. I was a bit worried that that may not happen as it turned out to be quite a chore getting back to Roanoke from Albany. The best thing about being on vacation on Brant Lake since last Thursday is that I was removed from pretty much everything movie related. I was able to avoid any and all reviews/spoilers beyond the straight forward ‘it’s a must see’ (I haven’t even read Billy’s or Steve’s reviews yet). So while it ended up being 5 days later than I had originally hoped, I finally saw District 9. Not only was I completely satisfied based upon what little I had heard, I was thoroughly impressed. District 9 is easily (in my mind) the best overall film of 2009 to this point.

Neill Blomkamp pieces together what is easily the most original Sci-Fi/Action film in quite some time. He used relative unknowns (i.e. Sharlto Copley – the main character Wilkus Van De Merwe – had only previously appeared in the 2005 short film ‘Alive in Joburg’ which was the basis for District 9 and can be seen here) to piece together a documentary style story in which an alien race – referred to as Prawns - had come to Earth (Johannesburg, South Africa) twenty years ago. A piece broke off of their ship and disappeared, thought to have crash landed somewhere in Johannesburg, leaving the Prawn mother ship dormant. Humans cut their way into the mother ship, discovered the Prawns – many malnourished and dying – and set up a quarantined zone in Johannesburg with the intent to help treat the Prawns medically. Over time, the Prawns took over the area (referred to as District 9) and greater fencing and military security was placed on site, turning District 9 into a ghetto/concentration camp. The meat of the film takes place as the Humans attempt to evict the Prawns from District 9 in order to relocate them to a shiny new District 10 located further away from the human population.

Before this afternoon I felt that Star Trek had been the movie of the summer for 2009. But District 9 takes some of the same pieces that Star Trek did (good action, big time summer time explosions) and added an excellent storyline that isn’t just emotional and action packed, but also a hefty dose of political commentary – which it does without coming across as preachy (at that’s a difficult thing to do). If you’re a sci-fi fan, this is an absolute must see. And if you’re anyone else, you really should see it for its uniqueness. It’s an alien invasion movie without the invasion. They tried to co-exist with us humans even if it was a less than ideal situation. Oh yeah, I almost forgot – District 9 also has what is quite possibly the most well done mech in any sci-fi film to this point. The scenes with it toward the end are worth the price of admission alone.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Review - The Hurt Locker

The Hurt Locker (2008), R, 131 minutes - Originally released in September of 2008 at the Venice Film Festival, The Hurt Locker received a limited United States release the end of June and has been slowly spreading since then. It has come with high praise, already locking up many awards and generating extremely positive reviews. The movie poster alone boasts such statements as ‘A near-perfect movie’ – Time, ‘a full-tilt action picture’ – Los Angeles Times, and ‘ferociously suspenseful’ – The New York Times, and let me tell you, it lives up to each of those.

Kathryn Bigelow (Point Break) does an amazing job illustrating the lives of 3 members of an elite Army bomb squad using lesser known actors (Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty) to carry the film, and using well known actors as supporting characters in appearances that barely qualify as cameos (Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes, David Morse, Evangeline Lilly).

Renner’s Staff Sergeant William James is the heart of the film. He’s the new bomb tech on the scene at the beginning of the movie, joining Sergeant JT Sanborn’s (Mackie) and Specialist Owen Eldridge’s (Geraghty) unit after their original tech (Pearce) is killed in action. James states right off that he has no intention of taking anyone’s place, that he is just there to do the job. What Sanborn and Eldridge don’t know then is that James is more than just a little bit unorthodox for a bomb tech. He frequently ignores standard procedure, and at one point (as seen in the trailer) he takes off his suit, leaving himself completely unprotected and states ‘If I’m going to die, I’m going to die comfortably’. While Sanborn and Eldridge have issues with James’ way of handling things here and again, they both realize that he’s damn good at what he does, which is saving lives (he has successfully disarmed over 800 detonators). He’s so good, he struggles with being back stateside with his wife and son. His sense of duty to both his family and his fellow troops is unwavering. He knows that everyone is safer if he’s the one doing the dirty work. It’s this internal struggle, that is portrayed in small segments throughout the film that really drives The Hurt Locker. I kind of glossed over the roles that Mackie and Geraghty play, but that’s only because I don’t want to give too much away. They are both very good performances and The Hurt Locker would not be as satisfying without them.

After being thoroughly disappointed in a couple of early summer films, this now makes two in the past week that I have seen that more than lived up to my expectations. The Hurt Locker has everything you could want in a film: drama, action, suspense, a touch of humor here and there, and two heaping spoonfuls of emotion. If you can only see two movies this summer, this sure as hell ought to be one of them. And if you’ve read any of our other reviews, you can tell which one the other should be.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Review - Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds (2009), R, 153 minutes - Inglourious Basterds is the long awaited Quentin Tarantino project that brings his uber-violent style to the world of Nazi occupied France during World War II. As most Tarantino films, it boasts memorable characters that are placed in some very trying positions. Basterds does not however focus primarily on Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) and his band of Nazi killing Jewish Americans as one would expect after seeing the trailer.

The underlying theme of hunting down, ambushing, and taking out Nazi soldiers carries the film, but Lt Raine and his ‘Basterds’ are just one small piece to a fairly elaborate puzzle. The three characters that really drive the movie are Col. Hans Landa (Cristoph Waltz), a German SS Officer, Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent), a relocated Jew that had escaped Col. Landa in the past, and Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) a German actress who is a double agent helping the Americans.

Without being too spoilerish, the basic elements of the story are as follows: Shosanna escapes Col. Landa and his men as they raid a farmer’s house in France on suspicion of harboring Jews. Lt Raine assembles his ‘Basterds’ and begins reeking havoc on Nazi soldiers whenever possible, doing their best to wreck Nazi morale. Shosanna inherits a cinema after her aunt and uncle pass away, and after meeting a fellow movie lover - who happens to be a Nazi war hero - her cinema is selected to host the premiere of the new Nazi propaganda film about his exploits. Two plans then begin to fall into place: 1) the Americans see the premiere as the perfect opportunity to take out major players of the Nazi party, and 2) Shosanna decides to sacrifice her cinema by burning it down during the premiere while it’s filled with Nazis.

Inglourious Basterds differs from earlier Tarantino films in that while it still has it’s overly violent moments, they are used more strategically in order to emphasis certain parts of the story. Brad Pitt and the rest of his ‘Basterds’ provide most of the comedic relief for the film, and Cristoph Waltz really makes Col. Hans Landa a creepy, terrifying character as he always knows more than he lets on (Waltz may even garner some Oscar talk for the part). The result is a highly entertaining, witty, over the top hypothetical World War II picture that may be Tarantino’s most commercial piece to date. That’s not meant in a negative way. Basterds has enough Tarantino elements to please long time fans, but tones those elements down just enough to pull in a larger audience.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Review - 9

9 (2009), PG-13, 79minutes9 is the feature length directorial debut of Shane Acker, who earned  an Academy Awards nomination a couple years back for his animated short of the same name (that this film is based upon and can be seen here).   On top of a solid cast of voice actors (Elijah Wood, John C Reilly, Jennifer Connelly, Christopher Plummer, and Marin Landau), Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov (Night Watch, Day Watch, Wanted) lend a little more star power  to the feature length release as producers). 

The film follows 9 sentient rag dolls as they fight for survival while trying to determine what happened to the decimated landscape that they inhabit.  Christopher Plummer voices #1, who is the default leader of the group at the beginning of the film.  He’s the oldest and supposedly the wisest and has the group holed up in a sanctuary avoiding contact with any outside influences.  Elijah Wood’s #9 is the newcomer who just awakened and joins the group when Martin Landau’s #2 is captured by ‘the beast’ while attempting to save the ‘newbie’.  #9 is much more proactive than #1 and questions #1’s desire to stay hidden away instead of venturing off to save #2.  Needless to say, #9 starts out on just such an adventure (bringing John C Reilly’s #5 with him), which leads to the rest of the movie unfolding. 

The animation is absolutely gorgeous.  The world of 9 is very dark and brooding, lending quite well to the portrayal of a post-apocalyptic world.  The emotion portrayed through the stitched faces and lens-like eyes of the ragdolls is amazing.  The one thing that I have read about on line that people have had an issue with is the script.  While the movie as a whole is not meant to be a kiddy animation picture, the script isn’t all that deep, but I don’t feel that it’s the detractor that others online believe it is.  Ok, the script isn’t going to challenge you mentally, and in a couple places it straight up spells out what’s going on, not leaving anything to the imagination, but it conveys the emotion of the film and decently moves the plot along.  The animation alone more than makes up for any lack of script depth.  9 may not rack up any Oscar nominations for its quality as a whole, but it will most likely earn a nom in the animation category (although let’s face it, Pixar pretty much has a strangle hold on that award – Up, earlier this summer).

9 is an entertaining animated film that clocks in at just under an hour and a half – long enough to get the story told, but short enough to stay interesting.  If you enjoy well made animated films, anything with Tim Burton’s or Timur Bekmambetov’s names attached, or flicks with fantasy elements, 9 will be an enjoyable ‘waste’ of 79 minutes.

Undated Reviews from 2009-2010

Review - Clash of the Titans (2010)

Clash of the Titans (2010), PG-13, 106 minutes - Clash of the Titans is a well made re-envisioning of the 1981 classic. The story has been tweaked a little bit (which I think I may actually prefer), and there is a fun tip of the cap to the original as Perseus, Draco and his men prepare for their journey. My one suggestion would be that you don't bother paying to see it in 3D. There just aren't enough scenes where the technology is used effectively and therefore isn't worth the extra expense. I have yet to see a movie that used 3D as well as Avatar, and I fear that most films won't. It's an easy way for Hollywood to create a buzz about films and charge increased admissions.

Review - Harry Brown

Harry Brown (2009), R, 103 minutes - Michael Caine drives this hardcore crime thriller as an elderly ex-marine widower who sets out to clean up the gang and drug problem in the area vigilante style after his best friend is murdered in a confrontation involving the same gang. Harry Brown is quite violent with a couple of graphic gun shot sequences, but is a very strong film from the crime genre. A must see if you enjoy that sort of flick. It is also the source of what may become a new favorite movie quote: 'You failed to maintain your weapon, Sir'.

Review - Green Zone

Green Zone (2010), R, 115 minutes - It will probably get slammed for making a political statement, but if you get past it's setting - American occupation of Iraq - it is a well made war/conspiracy thriller. Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon team up again (Bourne Supremacy, Bourne Ultimatum) to give us another fast paced, action filled ride. Brendan Gleeson and Greg Kinnear add to a solid cast.

Review - The Damned United

The Damned United (2009), R, 98 minutes - Michael Sheen puts forth another strong performance (doesn't he always?) and the supporting cast is also quite good with the inclusion of Jim Broadbent, Timothy Spall, and Colm Meaney. Sheen plays a brash up and coming football (soccer) coach in England named Brian Clough whose idolization of Don Revie (legendary coach) turns into a personal vendetta over a misunderstanding between the two. There isn't much sporting action, but it's an interesting story and film non the less.

Review - An Education

An Education (2009), PG-13, 100 minutes - Carey Mulligan really brings to life a teenage girl from London in the 1960's who is torn between being the non-social bookworm her parents want her to be and the social butterfly that she sees herself becoming if she doesn't take her studies quite so seriously (along with the influences of an older man). Alfred Molina is excellent as the over protective father who is also eventually won over by the older gentleman (Peter Sarsgaard) and who adopts a completely contradictory view of his daughter's future. For pretty much the whole film, you know that something isn't quite right about what is going on between Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard's characters but it isn't quite what you would think. It's a nice little twist that really drives the title of the movie home.

Review - Precious

Precious (2008), R, 110 minutes - This was the last of this year's Best Picture nominees that I watched (mostly because I knew I wouldn't be able to relate to it on any level). It dark, depressing, and a complete eye opener. It also happens to be quite good with more than just a couple good performances (the best of which were turned in by Mo'Nique and Gabourey Sidibe).

Review - Ong-bak 2

Ong-bak 2 (2008), R, 98 minutes - From a purely martial arts action standpoint, Ong Bak 2 is pretty good. Unfortunately it is just Tony Jaa doing much of the same stuff that he did in the original Ong Bak. This is dubbed as a prequel, but I sure didn't recognize any connection other than Jaa playing the main character (different in both films by the way). Worth a watch if you're into martial arts flicks, but the original was much better.

Review - Shutter Island

Shutter Island (2010), R, 138 minutes - Martin Scorsese entertains once again, this time with a psychological thriller based on a Dennis Lehane novel. Lehane novels have gotten pretty decent treatment on the big screen thus far (Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone) and this is no different. Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a US Marshall based in Boston who travels to Shutter Island (of the coast of MA) to the mental asylum (for the criminally insane) to try and solve the case of a patient who has disappeared. As the story unfolds the following question is posed: is Teddy investigating the missing patient and as a result uncovering a secret government testing operation and cover up, or is he himself losing his mind? Ben Kingsley, Mark Ruffalo, Michelle Williams, and Jackie Earle Haley add to a strong cast. Admittedly, I'm a sucker for Boston area based films as I grew up less than two hours away. But if you like Scorsese, any of the actors/actresses mentioned above, or thrillers in general then Shutter Island is definitely worth a look.

Review - Crazy Heart

Crazy Heart (2009), R, 112 minutes - The story of a man who has lived the life of a washed up celebrity has been seen and done before, but Jeff Bridges' excellent portrayal of Bad Blake makes this well worth seeing. Maggie Gyllenhaal, Robert Duvall, and Colin Farrell add good supporting performances. Bridges is the favorite to take home the Best Actor in a Leading Role Oscar this year, and after seeing Crazy Heart it is pretty obvious why.

Review - A Single Man

A Single Man (2009), R, 99 minutes - I saw this the other night as I attempt to get through as many of this year's Oscar nominees as I can. Colin Firth gives an excellent performance as a gay man (George Falconer) who's partner dies in a car crash. We are shown the highs and lows of his day as he moves closer to committing suicide as he has planned out so meticulously (gathering and organizing all keys, insurance policies and other legal documents and neatly arranging them on his desk). With these highs and lows we see the change in his emotional stability both through Firth's performance and a very well executed use of color. The majority of the film is in muted tones (the film takes place in 1962), but when George's emotions take a swing towards the positive, the screen warms up. Gay or not, A Single Man is a good look at the emotional trauma experience by losing a loved one and the loneliness that one can feel as a result of being 'left behind'.

Review - Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (2009), PG, 90 minutes - This is a relatively amusing movie based on the children's book so many of us grew up reading over and over. The animation is well done, as is the voice acting (a surprisingly long list of recognizable names). In the end, it can't decide if it is a film for kids or a film for adults who grew up with the book, which makes for some odd sequences. Either way, it's worth taking a look.

Review - Pandorum

Pandorum (2009), R, 108 minutes - Pandorum is a decent sci-fi thriller. Two astronauts (Ben Foster and Dennis Quaid) awaken from a cryogenic-like sleep on a ship that was sent from a dying Earth to populate a new planet. Once they begin to explore the ship they find that there are other not-so-human (any longer?) inhabitants and the race to reboot the ship's generator before being hunted down begins. There's nothing really original about Pandorum. It's plot really was pieced together from many sci-fi flicks that came before it. Even the fairly rewarding twist at the end is reminiscent of one of my personal favorites (but in the interest of not being too spoilerific I won't name it unless asked).

Review - Stardust

Stardust (2007), PG-13, 107 minutes - Stardust is another movie that I was curious about when it first came out, never saw it in theaters, and read fairly negative reviews about. A couple years later, I finally got to it thanks to NetFlix and it's a thoroughly entertaining fantasy flick. Based on a story by Neil Gaiman, Stardust has a fairly big name and recognizable cast. It's a well told story with entertaining characters (the most memorable probably being Robert DeNiro's flamboyant sky pirate). It's a little surprising that this came from director Matthew Vaughn considering the other films he's been attached to (directed Layer Cake, and produced Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch and Mean Machine).

Review - Whiteout

Whiteout (2009), R, 101 minutes - So I failed in my plan to read the graphic novel by Greg Rucka that this was based upon before actually seeing the movie (which I have always heard very good things about). I was actually a little worried when I read many negative reviews when this came out in the theater. So while it's not the most amazing film, I was pleasantly surprised as it is not nearly as bad as the reviews made it out to be. I am a sucker for Kate Beckinsale though, so that helped out I suppose.

Review - Big Fan

Big Fan (2009), R, 88 minutes - Big Fan is an excellent sports flick from the uber fan point of view. Patton Oswalt is great as the uber fan who's encounter with his favorite football player goes horribly wrong. Kevin Corrigan (the also uber fan best friend) and Michael Rapaport (the @$$hole fan for the other team that we all hate) are also good in supporting roles.

Review - Up in the Air

Up in the Air (2009), R, 109 minutes - Up in the Air is every bit as good as you've heard. Richard Bingham (George Clooney) plays a man whose job is to travel around the country firing people so that their employers don't have to. He lives on the road, has nothing to tie him down, and hates it when he's 'home'. Natalie (Anna Kendrick) is the young up and comer who came up with a system by which they can fire people via video conference (saving the company boat loads in travel expenses). Bingham flips because this would cause him to stay put and he can't stand that. He convinces his boss (Jason Bateman) that Natalie doesn't know the ropes and that as brutal as it sounds, being fired face to face is really the only way to go. He is then tasked with playing mentor and Natalie goes out on the road with him. Through all of this Richard meets Alex (Vera Farmiga), basically the female version of himself, living life on the road, business trip to business trip. Throw in a slightly dysfunctional family wedding and he begins to see the positive side to 'settling down' that he never saw before. I know what you're thinking: 'oh yay, a good old happy ending'. Well, not quite, but it is an excellent film with three excellent performances (Clooney, Farmiga, Kendrick) that runs the gamete of emotions. There are also nice little cameos from both Zach Galifianakis and Danny McBride and Sam Elliott, which, in my book, doesn't hurt.

Review - The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009), PG-13, 123 minutes - Heath Ledger's last film (directed by Terry Gilliam - Brazil, 12 Monkeys, Monty Python) is quite entertaining. Much has been made of Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell completing his role in this film after his death and it actually works really well. Christopher Plummer is Doctor Parnassus, who has a bit of a gambling problem. Not only that, but he gambles with the wrong company (the devil). He finds himself in a race with the devil to collect 5 souls. He partakes in this competition in an effort to win his daughter's freedom (who, was to become the devil's after her 16th birthday due to a previous bet between the two). In the Imaginarium, one's imagination becomes reality so the sequences involving it are visually stunning. I'm not sure where Terry Gilliam dreams up this stuff, but once again, it's well worth a look.

Review - Adventureland

Adventureland (2009), R, 107 minutes - The movie Jesse Eisenberg made before Zombieland. It's pretty entertaining, with real good cameos by Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig. Kristen Stewart still can't act, but someone's got to play the love interest in this mid 80's set 'coming of age' film. Ryan Reynolds also has a supporting role, but it seems sort of out of place. Not so much the character, but him playing that character. Anyway, he added a little bit of star power to a small entertaining flick at the least.

Review - Fast & Furious

Fast & Furious (2009), PG-13, 107 minutes - Well they 'got the band back together' from The Fast and the Furious for this sequel that probably should have been made in place of Too Fast and Too Furious. It's good to see what's going on with the original crew since it was by far the best of the movies in the franchise, but it also seems to be mostly the same old same old. If you like the others you should probably check this out. If not, you aren't missing much.

Review - Extract

 Extract (2009), R, 92 minutes - The latest big screen installment from Mike Judge that takes a peak at what goes on in one's seemingly monotonous life. It's not as successful at doing this as Office Space was, but that's probably not even a very fair comparison to make. Jason Bateman plays the owner of an extract production/bottling plant who's plain, boring life is thrown for a loop after a freak accident injures one of his most loyal employees. Ben Affleck, JK Simmons, and Clifton Collins, Jr all play fairly entertaining supporting roles. And let's face it, Affleck truly shines when he gets to toy with a supporting character.

Review - Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes (2009), PG-13, 128 minutes - Sherlock Holmes is a fun movie. Robert Downey, Jr is very entertaining as the title character and Mark Strong shines as the villain. Jude Law and Rachel McAdams bring some fun aspects to the film as well as Watson and Holmes' love interest respectively. For Guy Ritchie fans, you can definitely tell this is one of his films which is a good thing for those of us who loved Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, and Rocki N' Rolla. Directing Sherlock Holmes also appears to be his shot at more main stream movie making - what else can you call it when a Guy Ritchie movie is preceded by a trailer for Disney's film 'The Tooth Fairy' starring the Rock? Ritchie did find a unique way to showcase Holmes' knowledge and attention to detail - showing an ability to determine just what he needed to do in a fist fight, how to carry it out, and just how much pain he would inflict on his combatant, then allowing it all to play out.

Review - The Book of Eli

The Book of Eli (2010), R, 118 minutes - The Book of Eli is a story of survival, faith and hope for a better future after 'the flash' at the end of 'the war' put the world in a post-apocalyptic state. Denzel Washington is Eli, a man on a mission to deliver a book to somewhere 'west' where it can be used for good and to help rebuild humanity. Gary Oldman is Carnegie, a power crazed man who runs a town in the middle of no where because he controls the water supply. He wants the book that Eli has in tow because he feels it will give him the right words to make the people follow him in his campaign for more land and power. I don't think it's any secret that the book in question is the bible, but there are a couple nice twists throughout the film. Ray Stevenson and Mila Kunis are pretty decent supporting characters. Stevenson as Carnegie's cheif of security and Kunis as a young woman basically enslaved to Carnegie (her mother is Carnegie's mistress) and eventually escapes and falls in with Eli on his journey west. It's easily her best film role to date. And Michael Gambon has a very entertaining cameo as an old man who's weapons stash would make the military envious.

Review - Invictus

Invictus (2009), PG-13, 134 minutes - Invictus is another excellent film from Clint Eastwood. Morgan Freeman channels Nelson Mandela and Matt Damon Francois Pienaar (South Africa's Rugby captain at the time) in a portrayal of real life events leading up to and revolving around the 1995 Rugby World Cup hosted by South Africa.

Review - Avatar

Avatar (2009), PG-13, 162 minutes - Avatar was amazing. Story wise, it plays off the stereotypical 'guy infiltrates group to take them down but can't betray said group after all' theme, but who cares? It is the most visually stunning film that I have probably ever seen. It easily made the best use of 3D technology of any movie I've seen. The imagination and creativity involved is unbelievable. Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, and Sigourney Weaver lead a cast that you really begin to feel and pull for. Go check it out. Cameron works his magic once again!

Review - The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day

The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day (2009), R, 118 minutes - All Saints Day definitely falls under the 'if you liked the first one' category...and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There's nothing amazing here artistically but Troy Duffy put together a sequel that not only brings back virtually all of the characters from the first outing (no small feat considering the ten year gap between films) but gives us a story that picks up eight years later and provides new character history that fits right in with the original. Toss in a couple cameos and nods to All Saints Day's predecessor and you have another very entertaining two hours worth of gratuitous violence.

Review - Paranormal Activity

Paranormal Activity (2007), R, 86 minutes - I'm generally not one for horrorish thrillers and I was very leery after all of the hype that this has received. I was afraid it would be another Blair Witch type of flick, not because of the hand held camera view, but because it was so low budget and had garnered so much press. I was completely underwhelmed by Blair Witch, but this was actually pretty entertaining. Paranormal Activity definitely has a slow build as you see that Katie clearly believes that something is going one while Micah doesn't believe but tries to solve his girlfriend's problem. The last 20 minutes are pretty tense as Micah finally realizes something serious is happening. The hand held camera, 'stuff just happening' feel really heightens the tension and the creepiness.

Review - G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009), PG-13, 118 minutes - I didn't have very high expectations going into this live action adaptation of G.I. Joe which is a good thing because it's just really not that good. As opposed to the shredding I gave Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen I'm going to try and stick with the positives here. - The underwater/under icecap bases where pretty cool (or would be for a ten year old - but that's how old we were when we played with the toys growing up right?) - There were some pretty cool looking special effects. - The Snake Eyes/Storm Shadow sub plot was the best part of the film. - Scarlett (Rachel Nichols) and The Baroness (Sienna Miller) were gorgeous. - After originally being credited on as Cobra Commander, then changed to 'The Doctor', Joseph Gordon-Levitt was in fact Cobra Commander when it was all said and done. - Even if it was a blatant set up for a sequel, Zartan was used just the way he would have been in the cartoon. Those things being said, G.I. Joe just won't hold the attention of anyone old enough to remember the cartoon/toys from the 80's. It's a live action movie made for ten year olds twenty years late. Oh yeah, one last thing - giving Snake Eyes' mask a mouth was the worst idea ever.

Review - Where the Wild Things Are

Where the Wild Things Are (2009), PG, 101 minutes - How do you take a classic children's story comprised of 10 sentences and terrific illustrations into an hour and a half long film? Just like this. Spike Jonze does an amazing job of adapting Maurice Sendak's tale into a live action feature film that explores a child's feelings of loneliness and his use of his imagination not only to cope, but to grow and see things from another perspective. Max Records plays the main character Max and the voice acting (provided by James Gandolfini, Paul Dano, Catherine O'Hara, Forest Whitaker, Michael Berry, Jr, Chris Cooper, and Lauren Ambrose) is very well done, lending a great deal of emotion to the Wild Things. After the 'wild rumpus' begins, the movie slows a bit, but anyone who is a fan of Sendak's story should get a kick out of Jonze's adaptation.

Review - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009), PG, 153 minutes - I have yet to read the Harry Potter books but have seen all of the movies. That being said, I enjoyed the latest installment of the franchise. I'm also probably one of the few people that had managed to avoid word of mouth and internet gossip and had no idea as to who died (I will leave this spoiler free JUST IN CASE I'm not the only one). It's a long movie, and there really isn't much action but the social interaction of the characters really drove the movie and allowed it to not feel like an eternity in the theater. I was a bit shocked at the lack of Voldemort - or at least any sort of appearance by his adult self. He pops up in flashbacks to help move the story along. Half Blood Prince follows in Order of the Pheonix's footsteps as being a darker film in general than the earlier installments, although there are a couple lighthearted scenes (like Ron eating candy meant for Harry and falling under the spell of a love potion). The only reason I can think of for not checking this out would be if you have not ready any of the books AND have not seen any of the movies. You'll be more than a little lost continuity-wise. Not sure there was much point in saying that, I'm not sure if anyone like that exists.

Review - Outlander

Outlander (2008), R, 115 minutes - I was given the following two word statement when I was told to check this movie out: Space. Vikings. That pretty much sums it up. How could that NOT pique your curiosity? And if for some reason that's not enough, John Hurt and Ron Perlman are in this.

Review - Outpost

Outpost (2007), R, 90 minutes - This is a pretty entertaining zombie/undead flick based around an old Nazi bunker and the supernatural/super-soldier experimentation conducted by the Nazi's during the war. Ray Stevenson leads a team of mercenaries who are hired to protect Julian Wadham's character who claims to be 'surveying the property for a recent real-estate deal'. All hell breaks lose from there.

Review - Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009), PG-13, 150 minutes - Ok. Wow. I'm not even sure where to start. I suppose I'd be best served to begin like this: I can understand why this film has already made a s#!t ton of money and why a lot of people like it - it's a typical Michael Bay 'blow everything sky high' summer time action flick. Unfortunately that doesn't even come close to saving this sequel. I saw this last Wednesday night and have been out of town since, so I've had a little time to think about how I feel about the movie. I'm sad to say that after 5 days my outlook hasn't changed at all. I grew up with Transformers - the original G1 cartoon, the toys, the lunchboxes, everything. I even thoroughly enjoyed the first live action adaptation (you can view my review for it here).

Part of me was scared that this would turn into the typical Michael Bay summertime action flick cannon fodder (which it did) and part of me really really hoped it would do the franchise justice - or at least be close to the first film. The only thing that sitting around for 5 days before writing this allowed me to do was come to this conclusion: there are 3 categories of people who will see this movie. Their like/dislike will result SOLELY on their falling into one of these three categories:

Group 1: people who have absolutely no or very little prior knowledge of Transformers. (these people are more than likely going to love this movie)

Group 2: people who have a passing to possibly even above average appreciation of Transformers and its mythos. (these people will also either love this movie or enjoy it for the most part)

Group 3: people who would fall into the 'fanboy' category of the Transformers mythos and have an above average knowledge of characters and their personalities/actions. (these people will tear this movie a new one).

You can probably already guess which category I fall under. I started to make a list of pros and cons during some down time this afternoon at work and this is what I came up with:

- Frank Welker was the voice of Soundwave (as he was in the original G1 cartoon).
- Peter Cullen was once again the voice of Optimus Prime (also as he was in the original G1 cartoon).
- The outline of the super basic story. I actually like the whole 'one of the ancient Primes broke off from the rest and tried to take over everything himself' idea (too bad they screwed it up).
- They introduced more robots than in the first movie (also a con as described below).
- The Rainn Wilson cameo. Once again, Wilson plays his stereotypical character but manages to be entertaining.

And here's the list that just hurts so very much, being a G1 fanboy...Cons:

- 5 minutes into the movie, Optimus Prime blows a whole through a captured Decepticon's head. JUST BECAUSE. This is so ridiculously out of character I was instantly worried about the movie the moment it happened.
- The Autobot 'Twins' - these two characters are (as Billy said it) the two most racially insensitive and stereotypical characters this side of Jar Jar Binks (and we all know how he single handedly killed Star Wars). Guess what Michael Bay? You already had your (and G1 Transformers') token African American character in the first movie (Jazz) and you killed him off like he was the 'token black guy' in some B rate horror flick.
- Megatron would NEVER kiss 'The Fallen's' @$$ the way he did. Even if Megatron did have to report to a higher authority, his M.O. has always been to be the dominant Decepticon and to take over the universe. No way he grovels the way he did throughout 'Revenge of the Fallen'.
- They introduced more robots than in the first movie (which is great except with the exception of the twins), but none of them get any face time and come major battle sequences, you can't tell who is who. What's the point of introducing Sideswipe and Arcee when they're on screen for 4 minutes? Which leads me to...
- How do you NOT make Sideswipe red? They made him silver which basically makes him a stand in for Jazz in this movie. Also, Arcee was ONE motorcycle, not three. And before you tell me that she was part of some elite unit (which she was along with Elita One and a couple of others), they were all separate entities. They even butchered Jetfire (one of the coolest G1 characters ever). How do you make him a crotchety old Spock-like robot? The only thing about Jetfire they got right was that he was a researcher and flip flopped between the Autobot and Decepticon factions.
- Speaking of Jetfire, last time I checked (which coincidentally was this past weekend when I was there) the Smithsonian doesn't open up to a desert airfield filled with aircraft of various types.
- The blonde chic named Alice. Even if you try to say that she's a nod back to the G2 Pretenders, she really doesn't work. She had an entire scene with Sam inside of Bumblebee. How does Bumblebee not tell she's a Decepticon or vice versa? Also, in robot form, she's a total ripoff of Danger from Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men run.
- Too much of the cast is used (too often) for comedic relief. I really enjoyed Sam's parents and John Turturro in the first movie. They are horribly over played in 'Revenge of the Fallen'. Not only that, but they throw in Sam's college roommate and the Autobot twins into the mix as if there wasn't enough comic relief to begin with. Drop all of these under the 'going to the well one too many times' category.
- Devastator is killed way too easily. I understand that they blast him with a rail gun, but please. Devastator is comprised of 6 smaller robots. Even a direct hit on Devastator would have taken out one maybe two of his smaller pieces leaving the other four to battle on. This is because they never came together as one mind, they were always in constant battle over who the dominant personality would be.
- Outside of the rail gun, human firepower is exponentially greater in the second movie over the first without any leaps and bounds in technological advancement. They even go out of their way to state that the Autobots haven't shared Cybertronian technology with the humans for fear of its abuse.
- Megan Fox's finally pronouncing her love for Sam. Never in a million years would I think that I'd be placing her/her character on the Con list. When her exclamation brings Sam back (or at least partially does - the deceased Primes had a little bit to do with it too) it was so terribly cliche I don't know what to say. Yeah that one is on the writers, but still. Other than still being a nice distraction, her character does nothing for the film.

Now I'm the first to admit that I'm probably a bit nit-picky here because I am and always will be such a Transformers geek. Some of the problems are less important than others, but complete disregard for characters that have been around for 20+ years is unforgivable. I am also aware that I probably didn't help myself out by getting my hopes up despite the reviews and comments others had made. Over the past 5 days I've had quite a few people ask me why I thought this installment was a debacle. Well, it's all in the list above. I'm not trying to tell anyone what they should think about the movie, or convince them that it is crap, it's just my opinion. So, anyway, there it is. Hopefully you made it this far. If not, I understand...I probably wouldn't have made it through all of the cons either.

Review - Fanboys

Fanboys (2007), PG-13, 90 minutes - This was more entertaining that I thought it might be. It's worth checking out just for the cameos (William Shatner, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes, Seth Rogen, Danny McBride, Danny Trejo, and Ray Park). Kristen Bell playing a comic book store employee/Star Wars fan doesn't hurt either.

Review - Defiance

Defiance (2008), R, 137 minutes - As it is 'based upon' actual events, I'm sure there were some liberties taken with the story, but I really enjoyed Defiance. It portrays the lives of a group of Jews who sought and fought for refuge in the Belarussian forest during the war. Led by 4 brothers (Daniel Craig, Liev Scheiber, Jamie Bell, George MacKay) who don't always agree on how to go about things, but do agree that survival is all that matters.

Review - Terminator Salvation

Terminator Salvation (2009), PG-13, 115 minutes - This managed to live up to my expectations so I was happy with it. At best I was hoping for something that was better than T3 (not that that would be difficult) AND managed to do the franchise even just a little justice. It turned out to accomplish both. I was a little leary after seeing Anton Yelchin in Star Trek knowing that he was the young Kyle Reese and that those characters couldn't be much different but he portrayed Reese in a way that you can see him growing into the man in Terminator. Sam Worthington was also quite good as the Terminator who believes he's human and the struggle he has to deal with once coming to the realization that he's a machine and a Skynet pawn.

Review - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), PG-13, 166 minutes - The story unfolds very similar to Forrest Gump, but is still it's own movie. The special effects are absolutely amazing. Not just the effects making Brad Pitt age in reverse, but even the make up jobs used to make everyone else age normally.

Review - Angels & Demons

Angels & Demons (2009), PG-13, 138 minutes - Angels & Demons is better paced than the film version of The DaVinci Code. This is partly because there are no seemingly ten minute long dialogues explaining history and/or what is going on. There are a couple unbelieveable scenes, but they are fairly easy to look over. It's been a couple years since I read the book so I can't really remember enough to get nitpicky on comparisons. It's worth checking out before the summer movie schedule gets too crazy.

Review - X-Men Origins: Wolverine

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), PG-13, 107 minutes - The best part of this film was Liev Schreiber's portrayal of Sabretooth. The worst was the absolute disregard for Deadpool. Ryan Reynolds is THE PERFECT MAN to play Wade Wilson/Deadpool but they screwed the character over so royally, I can't even look forward to the now announced Deadpool movie. How could they possibly fix what they were left with!? Also, am I the only one that thought Wolverine's claws looked extremely fake compared to the other 3 X-Men movies? I'm sure the world will love this, but the ruination of my second favorite comic book character ever ruined it for me. I'm being generous by even giving it 3 stars.

Review - Star Trek (2009)

Star Trek (2009), PG-13, 127 minutes - While I cannot claim to be a Trekkie (or Trekker, or whatever the hell they want to call themselves), my appreciation for the classic Star Trek series (and even it's first spin off Next Generation) caused me to be extremely cautious heading into this reboot by J.J. Abrams. Abrams hit a home run with this movie. He managed to bottle the feel of Star Trek while re-introducing the classic characters (as well as their catch phrases). Chris Pine (Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Spock), Karl Urban (Bones), Simon Pegg (Scotty) all peg their characters and Zoe Saldana's Uhura is more than just a little bit fine. The story is helped out by a time traveling Spock (the one and only Leonard Nimoy). And Eric Bana is even a serviceable villain. I'd be willing to guess that most long time Trek fans would be willing to accept this latest installment of the long running film franchise. And I can pretty much guarantee that the rest of you (us) will enjoy it for it's fun, action packed, emotional storyline. Props to J.J. Abrams for not only tackling a such a project, but for delivering an excellent flick in the process (and for slipping in my favorite Beastie Boys song of all time).

Review - Frost/Nixon

Frost/Nixon (2008), R, 122 minutes - Frank Langella was excellent as President Nixon and Michael Sheen almost as impressive as David Frost. If Langella wasn't so amazing as Nixon, Sam Rockwell could have stolen the spotlight as James Reston, Jr. (one of the researchers working for Frost's crew). He's the man that really pushed Frost to get down and dirty with the crooked ex-president.

Review - What Doesn't Kill You

What Doesn't Kill You (2008), R, 100 minutes - I'm not sure if I'd call myself a Mark Ruffalo fan or if I can just appreciate most of what he does but this part just seemed out of place for him. The story is rushed along and by the time you can even begin to feel for his character, the movie is more than half over. Based on a true story, it's not a bad movie, but it had the potential to be better.

Review - State of Play

State of Play (2009), PG-13, 127 minutes - This was a very entertaining conspiracy flick with an excellent cast. Crowe, McAdams and Mirren work well together as an old school journalist, new age journalist, and editor respectively. Affleck is strong in the best type of role for him - one in which he doesn't have to carry the movie. Jason Bateman even channels a little 'Smokin' Aces' as a PR man being interrogated by Crowe/McAdams.

Review - I Love You, Man

I Love You, Man (2009), R, 105 minutes - This is the funniest movie I have seen in quite some time. Paul Rudd really carries the film as the guy without any real close male friends. His awkwardness in many situations throughout are hilarious. Jason Segel is also strong as the guy's guy and Jon Favreau and Andy Samberg are highly entertaining in their small roles.

Review - Man on Wire

Man on Wire (2008), PG-13, 94 minutes - The feat itself (a high wire walk between the two World Trade Center towers in the '70's) was amazing in itself, but this documentary made about 30 yrs later is unbelievable. It does a great job of melding live video footage from back in the day with re-enacted footage and interviews with many of the people involved in order to tell the story. It's also amazing now that we live in a time with such heightened security that anyone would go to such lengths to sneak past security for something so innocent.

Review - Watchmen

Watchmen (2009), R, 162 minutes - I'm a huge fan of the amazing graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons that this is adapted from so I appreciated just how faithful to the original story this turned out to be. Zack Snyder did a VERY good job of adapting what has long been considered an 'unfilmable' story. While I do believe that the Watchmen tale is still at its best in its original graphic novel format, Snyder made a film that is about as faithful as it could possibly be without drastically changing major plot points (let's face it, even though there was no giant squid that part never really made sense in the graphic novel either). The cast did a pretty good job of bringing the wide range of characters to life with Jackie Earle Haley's Rorshach and Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Comedian leading the pack. It's not a movie for everyone (there may be too much violence or iridescent blue wang for many people - this is NOT your standard comic book flick), but that's the way it was in the book. You have to give Snyder major points for staying as true to the graphic novel as possible and creating the movie that Watchmen fans would want to see and NOT making the movie that the general public would want to see.

Review - Rachel Getting Married

Rachel Getting Married (2008), R, 113 minutes - This may be one of the slowest moving films I've ever watched. That being said, Anne Hathaway's performance is great and makes it a film definitely worth checking out. Her character (Kym) really strikes an emotional chord as she deals with trying to reconnect with family and deal with past personal demons around and during her sister's wedding.

Review - The Invasion

The Invasion (2007), PG-13, 99 minutes - This has a long build up and a pretty abrupt ending. It's not one of the better tellings of a classic sci-fi story. One question: why is it that even after it is stated that the 'virus' can be transmitted like most others that the invaders choose to spit/hurl on people to infect them instead of something more subtle? There's a pretty decent cast but it doesn't overcome the shortfalls.

Review - Flash of Genius

Flash of Genius (2008), PG-13, 119 minutes - This is a pretty good look at the life of Robert Kearns (the inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper) as he battles Ford over patent violations they committed when they used his design but would not allow him to produce the mechanisms himself. It doesn't sound all that exciting, but it's an interesting film.

Review - Body of Lies

Body of Lies (2008), R, 128 minutes - It's a little long, but I don't think it could have been cut any without being even more difficult to follow who was setting up who to be used by who (or is that whom?). DiCaprio and Crowe are both good as usual (as is Mark Strong).

Review - Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire (2008), R, 120 minutes - This is excellent. When I first heard the premise of this I was afraid it may come off kind of sappy. Danny Boyle does an excellent job of conveying what is essentially a love story in a very hard and real way. You always wonder how someone knows all of the answers to such random questions to win on a game show like Millionaire. Slumdog shows us that sometimes it is something as simple as one's own unique experiences.

Review - Changeling

Changeling (2008), R, 141 minutes - Angelina Jolie does a great job bringing her everyday mom character to life. You really see the mother next door and not an international superstar portraying the part. It's incredible that a plot like this could unfold even back in the day (before things such as DNA testing) but that lends to the scariness of the situation. This is worth checking out. As always, Clint Eastwood doesn't disappoint behind the camera.

Review - My Name Is Bruce

My Name Is Bruce (2007), R, 86 minutes - Not terrible, but nothing great either. It would have been better if Bruce Campbell really was Bruce Campbell and not Bruce Campbell playing Ash playing Bruce Campbell. 'I can smell her chapstick!' - great line in a so-so movie. But honestly, if it wasn't a so-so flick would it truly be a Bruce Campbell movie?

Review - The Wrestler

The Wrestler (2008), R, 109 minutes - Mickey Rourke's portrayal of Randy 'The Ram' Robinson is every bit as good as you've heard. This is an unbelievable look at the continual draw of the limelight and the need for one's place to 'belong'. Marisa Tomei is also quite good as a stripper trying to change her life so that she can better provide for her son. With The Wrestler, Darren Aronofsky gives us his best film yet which will be considered a classic in the realm of sports flicks.

Review - Underworld: Rise of the Lycans

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009), R, 92 minutes - The third installment in the Underworld franchise goes back and tells the story of how the rift between Vampires and Lycans came to be as well as how Lucian became the leader of the Lycans. Story and character continuity is upheld quite well with the story revolving primarily around Lucian (Michael Sheen), Viktor (Bill Nighy) and Sonja (only seen in flashbacks in the first film, now played by Rhona Mitra). Kevin Grevioux is also back as Raze, and even though he's not mentioned by name, Shane Brolly's Kraven makes a cameo as part of Viktor's guard. They even managed to sneak Kate Beckinsale into the film via an opening narration and an on screen appearance linking back to the first film. This is worth checking out. It's well told and meshes nicely with the original Underworld. It also just happens to be much better than Underworld: Evolutions which is a plus.

Review - Appaloosa

Appaloosa (2008), R, 115 minutes - This western takes a little time to get moving, but right around the time that Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons) is busted from the train taking him to his execution the build up begins to pay off as the character's true values/feelings/relationships really begin to shine. The movie is set up by following Virgil Cole (Ed Harris) and his sidekick Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortenson) as they are hired by a small town to enforce they law and keep the piece as the town has been completely overrun by Bragg and his gang. Renee Zellweger's Allison French shows up in town about the same time and doesn't waste time cozzying up to Cole. The characters are what carry this movie, more so than the actual story itself. They all have depth and you really find yourself rooting for and against them as the story plays out. The best part is that this movie - written, directed, and led by Ed Harris - really turns out to be the story of Viggo Mortenson's Hitch (his intelligence, friendship, loyalty, and growth as a law man).

Review - Gran Torino

Gran Torino (2008), R, 116 minutes - Disclaimer: My family has always been partial to Clint Eastwood flicks. That being said, this latest acting/directing installment is an excellent, hard, heartfelt, and even humorous film. Eastwood's Walt Kowalski is a lonely, bigot of a Korean War vet whose life is an honest (if not brutally so) look at race and family relations. Not only does he struggle with the increasing number of Hmong in his neighborhood (including his new next door neighbors) but he struggles with his wife's passing and his family - sometimes not so subtly - pressuring him about moving into a retirement community and his will. While the subject matter is quite serious, there are quite a few humorous points in the dialogue such as when Walt attempts to 'man up' his young neighbor through teaching him 'how to talk to the guys' by trading racial/religious barbs with his barber then telling the boy that talking like that will get him killed as soon as he imitates Walt. In Gran Torino, Clint Eastwood adds to his legend by bringing yet another bad ass to life on the screen. This time around he shows that this bad ass can learn from and accept others while keeping his edge (when needed). There is an amazing amount of language and racial slurs/comments throughout, so those easily offended should steer clear.

Review - The Spirit

The Spirit (2008), PG-13, 103 minutes - I've never read any of Will Eisner's classic comic character 'The Spirit' but I was highly entertained by Frank Miller's big screen adaptation. I'm quite interested to find out how faithful the movie was to the characters though. The Octopus (Samuel L Jackson) is WAY over the top, but it is Samuel L Jackson in a Frank Miller written role so what would one expect? If you liked Sin City or anything else Frank Miller you should enjoy this.

Review - WALL-E

WALL-E (2008), G, 98 minutes - Pixar continues to show why they lead the pack when it comes to cg animated films with another entertaining, heartfelt story. There are several very simple and humorous scenes such as Wall-E adding to his collection of human items and trying to figure out where to place his new found spork, with the forks or the spoons.

Review - Bubba Ho-Tep

Bubba Ho-Tep (2002), R, 92 minutes - Elvis gives up fame and the spotlight by switching places with an Elvis impersonator only to grow old, and end up in a rest home fighting off a soul-sucking mummy with a fellow resident who believes he's JFK...who else could pull that off than Bruce Campbell!? Pretty entertaining. A must see for Bruce Campbell fans.

Review - Punisher: War Zone

Punisher: War Zone (2008), R, 103 minutes - I was pleasantly surprised by this movie. After having read reviews all weekend about how this was so over the top violent and pointless I was afraid that Marvel had dropped the ball for the first time when producing their own films of their characters. I've come to the conclusion that I couldn't have been more wrong. This installment of The Punisher is extremely faithful to the Punisher comics of recent years as written by Garth Ennis (especially the Max run). While the plot is not pulled from these stories, many characters and scenes in the film are. The most entertaining of which may be the inclusion of Ennis' 'Punisher Task Force' lead by Martin Soap. Ray Stevenson is easily the best Punisher to grace the big screen. He really gets the look and feel of Frank Castle (at least the Ennis version) right. The main villain (Dominic West's Jigsaw) is a little campy for my taste - he almost makes me think of Jack Nicholson's Joker only no where near as well acted. This IS an uber violent movie and however it's not nearly as gruesome as I had anticipated. The Saw movies are much worse than this in my opinion and they don't take the flack that this has about levels of violence. My guess is that this is because Punisher: War Zone ushers in a new film adaptation into the comic book movie world: that of the parental advisory comics, written for and targeting adults.

Review - Day Watch

Day Watch (2007), R, 132 minutes - Less action than its predecessor (Night Watch). This is a good looking, well made follow up that continues the 'Watch' series. Definitely check this out if you enjoyed the first film.

Review - Night Watch

Night Watch (2004), R, 114 minutes - Not as vampirey as I had expected going in. Good story that sets up the rest of the trilogy well. I may have to go pick up the books as I'm always curious as to how faithful movies are to their source material. The way the subtitles fad in and out really adds to the impact of what is being said or how things are being said. Well worth checking out if you're into vampire or sci-fi/fantasy flicks.

Review - Transporter 3

Transporter 3 (2008), PG-13, 104 minutes - 'Rules are made to be broken' - that is what was said to Frank Martin (Jason Statham) time and time again throughout the first two films of this franchise. Well, this time around Frank breaks just about all of his rules. He learns names, opens the package and gets much more emotionally involved than he has in the past. This carries on the Transporter tradition of fun action flicks that don't take themselves too seriously. While there are a couple outrageous action sequences/stunts, they are not nearly as over the top as they were in Transporter 2. Robert Knepper provides possibly the best villain of the three films, Francois Berleand retains his role as Inspector Tarconi, and despite primarily being there for sex appeal Natalya Rudakova (Valentina) manages to crack the 'just doing my job' facade that Frank prides himself in keeping. Better than the second, but not quite as fun as the original.

Review - Quantum of Solace

Quantum of Solace (2008), PG-13, 106 minutes - This is a very good follow up to Casino Royale. It brings closure to the Vesper and Mathis story lines while leaving the door open to Bond continuing the hunt for Quantum and it's leaders - because as we all know 'Bond will return...' . Daniel Craig continues his portrayal of a more vengeful, hardcore Bond (and has signed on for two more films) and Olga Kurylenko plays a pretty good femaile lead in which she doesn't have to take off all of her clothes (i.e. Hitman, Max Payne). She's actually the first female Bond lead in memory that Bond doesn't sleep with - which I kind of like. Judi Dench also turns in her typical tough love 'M' performance that we've all come to expect from a modern Bond flick. There's even a nice tip of the cap to 'Goldfinger'. Well worth checking out but you probably want to be sure that you've seen Casino Royale so that you are not lost by half of the plot lines.

Review - The Happening

The Happening (2008), R, 91 minutes - Ok, so I like M. Night Shyamalan flicks (even the ones that everyone bashes). I also generally like Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel. However, these three don't really fit well together for this film. I can't help but think that a more convincing cast would have helped overcome the plot's shortcomings. It's bad when Shyamalan sticks a plug for his upcoming live action Avatar adaptation into the end of this film.

Review - War, Inc.

War, Inc. (2008), R, 107 minutes - This is pretty much a poor man's Grosse Pointe Blank, from Joan Cusack's being John Cusack's secretary/handler to John Cusack's trying to win over his love interest (Marisa Tomei) despite what he has done as an assassin. This throws in another storyline incorporating Hilary Duff as a sexed up international pop star. If you have a choice, watch Grosse Pointe Blank instead.

Review - Zack and Miri Make a Porno

Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008), R, 101 minutes - I wouldn't put Zack and Miri at the top of the list of Kevin Smith's best films, but it's close. As always, there's a ton of language and a handful of typical Smith gross out moments but it also includes one of life's lessons (in a way only Kevin Smith can provide). If you like Smith flicks check it out. Otherwise you're probably wasting your time. On a side note the sound track pretty much kicks ass.

Review - RocknRolla

RocknRolla (2008), R, 114 minutes - Yet another good 'ole 'fun' heist/mob flick from Guy Ritchie. It's the same formula he's used before, but the dialogue and ridiculous situations he puts his characters in is highly amusing. Gerard Butler, Tony Kebbell, Tom Wilkinson, and Mark Strong all give good performances. 'Don't worry. He can't defend himself - he's got no head.' - good stuff!


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