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Django Unchained (Tremendous)
Quentin Tarantino characters have pretty much always been cowboys anyway, so it’s about time we got a Tarantino Cowboy movie (I’d call it a Western but that’s only in spirit – this is the South). Django himself (Jamie Foxx) is a unique cowboy hero, who we watch transition from sidekick to alpha male. But even more engaging is the alpha male who takes him under his wing – Oscar nominee Christoph Waltz. And Waltz is just part of a great supporting ensemble, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Tarantino stalwart Samuel L. Jackson and Don Johnson – the latest nice bit of Travolta-esque casting in an “A Band Apart” film.
This Is 40 (Tremendous)
…40 minutes too long as it starts getting into the melodrama. Until then – hysterical in how damn true it is. It may be less about being 40 than it is about being 40 and being married, but it just nails it. If by chance you’re reading this in the bathroom in between turns on Words With Friends, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. Pete and Debbie were the best parts of Knocked Up, so the idea of giving them their own movie is actually pretty brilliant.
So much has been said about this movie that I’ll be repeating – but despite the “Tremendous” rating, I’ll point out it goes too long. We kind of know what happens to Lincoln ultimately – there was no need for the little extra epilogue. Now, as to the performances – Daniel Day Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones – no brainers, they were fantastic. So I’m going to use this little blurb to point out how damn good James Spader was as the behind-the-scenes operative with the foul mouth. Any other real stories to be told around that guy?
Silver Linings Playbook (Tremendous)
The ironic thing about Silver Linings Playbook is, unlike Bradley Cooper’s bipolar star, you don’t have to make an extra effort to find a silver lining in what you’re experiencing. It is easily one of the best movies of the year... Silver Linings Playbook is somewhat bipolar itself. It’s a comedy and a drama. It’s a ballroom dancing movie and a football movie (you’ll see)... If there’s a flaw in the film, it’s one Russell, Cooper and Lawrence can pat themselves on the back about. The portrayals of a bipolar man and angry widow are so well-written, so well-acted and so realistically disjointed, the audience can get as frustrated with them as anyone in their support network might.
Full review at upcoming-movies.com
NEW ON DVD:
The Sessions (John Hawkes, Helen Hunt)
A movie about a polio-stricken man who hires a sex surrogate to help him lose his virginity is actually one of the funniest movies out right now. It’s not that it’s a comedy – it’s that John Hawkes’ character is so charming and witty you can’t help but laugh along with him. It helps alleviate the tension in what would otherwise be awkward scenes. It doesn’t hurt either that Helen Hunt is so damn good as the surrogate. She alleviates the tension for us as well as she does for Hawkes, making their sessions perhaps the best non-erotic sex scenes I’ve ever watched. (Tremendous)
Argo (Ben Affleck, Alan Arkin)
It’s amazing how you know the ending already, yet you can watch Argo and be on the edge of your seat the entire time. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a movie this tense. I give credit to Ben Affleck for creating such a harrowing re-creation of the siege of the US Embassy in Tehran. When you’re reminded so vividly of the real life villainy, it reminds you of the real risk Affleck’s CIA agent and the escapees he was trying to get home were actually taking. Affleck also deserves praise for re-creating the period with such accuracy, right down to making sure that when his kid said he was watching Battle for the Planet of the Apes, that that is what he was watching – not just any other Apes film. The Mego dolls and Star Wars action figures on the shelf were a nice touch too. (Tremendous)
The Master (Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman)
Rochester’s PSH nails it again. He is mesmerizing as a the religious leader (con artist?) who may or may not be based on L. Ron Hubbard. But he’s really just the supporting player to Joaquin Phoenix’s disturbed WWII vet looking for a purpose and a direction. You won’t be able to take your eyes off them – which makes Paul Thomas Anderson’s conclusion to thing all the more frustrating. If I was so mesmerized and paid such close attention, how do I not understand the ending? The first two-thirds make The Master a worthwhile experience, but you do end up needing a Master yourself to make sense of it all. I saw Looper within the same 24 hours and was less confused by the movie about a guy who has to kill an older version of himself sent back in time. (Tremendous)
Looper (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis)
We’ll look past the fact that Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s makeup doesn’t make him look like a younger Bruce Willis but instead makes him look like Kirk Cameron – because otherwise Looper is a pretty much flawless work of science fiction. Time travel movies can sometimes make your head spin, but Looper manages to bring it all full circle to an extremely satisfying conclusion. Gordon-Levitt has graduated from Inception/Dark Knight sidekick to his own action leading man. Shia LeBeouf probably wishes he could go back in time and be Joseph Gordon-Levitt. (Tremendous)
Pitch Perfect (Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow)
Pitch Perfect was made by and for people who cringe at Glee and think a cappella singing is just plain goofy – but despite themselves, find themselves singing along. It’s black humor with just a hint of affection. Its spirit is summed up the A Cappella Tournament announcer played by John Michael Higgins who says these kids are about to learn “life doesn’t get better after high school.”... And by movie’s end? Well, “nailed it” would be extreme and “pitch perfect” would be an exaggeration -- but it hits enough notes to let you a-ca-ppreciate it. (It Is What It Is)
Ted (Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane)
The movie from the creator of Family Guy is well, a lot like an episode of Family Guy -- sometimes very funny, sometimes too random in its humor to actually be funny. This movie is not the outright laugh riot Seth MacFarlane fans will tell you it is, but the big laughs it does score makes it worth recommending – especially where Flash Gordon is concerned. It’s one of those times MacFarlane uses an obscure pop culture reference to advance his story and not just show off that he remembers something. (It Is What It Is)
Trouble With The Curve (Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams)
Movie fans though should be upset that after a wonderful performance as a curmudgeon with deep rooted issues in the drama Gran Torino, Clint Eastwood rescinded his retirement to play a curmudgeon with deep rooted issues in Trouble With The Curve. He left us with a great performance and came back with a watered-down version of the same character. Last year, Moneyball proved that a movie could be made about baseball, the people who play it, the people who work for it and the people who love it could tell a compelling story in a whole new way... Traditionalists who don’t want their baseball movies without the standard clichés will take comfort... The trouble with Trouble With The Curve is it never throws us one. (Kept Checking My Watch)
Hope Springs (Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones)
It’s truly an acting dream couple... opposite each other for the first time, team up for a dramatic movie in which… they spend a lot of time sitting on a couch talking to each other. That’s not a bad thing, but we shouldn’t get people’s hopes up too much for big over-the-top drama in Hope Springs. These are funny, subtle, laid-back, realistic performances snuck in at the end of the summer for a more mature crowd that decided to skip The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises... They sit and they talk, like a real couple would. There’s no great moment where Kay or Arnold just stands up and blurts out a great secret. Orchestral music doesn’t blare for an emotional outpouring. There is honesty at a reasonable volume. (It Is What It Is)
Total Recall (Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel)
The original Total Recall veered away from any deep thinking, but if memory serves, that’s OK. It was 1990. It was practically still the 80s, and Arnold was the biggest movie star in the world. We were willing to sacrifice a brainy sci-fi plot for some Schwarzeneggerian fun.... It was “An Arnold Schwarzenegger Movie.” This isn’t “A Colin Farrell Movie" – it’s one any hunky action hero looking for a paycheck could have starred in...Other than a couple of cliché moments where characters yell things at Quaid, like “She’s lying! Shoot her!”, you don’t really question what is the movie’s or Quaid’s reality."
(Kept Checking My Watch) Link to the full review is at my examiner page.
The Dark Knight Rises (Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway)
It’s a little longer than it needs to be, but the payoff is fantastic. When I saw the trailers about the “final chapter,” I asked why it had to be the final chapter. That’s because Christopher Nolan has had a story to tell, and he does it in a trilogy of movies that truly are a trilogy of movies that fit together. Yes, they have made an obscene amount of money, but the two sequels weren’t tacked-on money grabs. These are Christopher Nolan movies, not comic book movies (think about this: the word “Catwoman” is never spoken.) An “Amazing Spider-Man” reboot is inevitable, but I hope Warner Brothers can let this simmer – and let us enjoy the best Batman, the best Commissioner Gordon, the best Alfred, the best Batcave and the best movie Batman ever. (Tremendous)
The Amazing-Spider Man (Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone)
"(New director) Marc Webb goes back to the comic book idea that has Peter invent his web-shooters… the writers realize that in 2012, scientists aren’t necessarily the outcasts they might have been in the 60s. In the age of Facebook, a young guy with that kind of technological know-how can be kind of cool. Andrew Garfield’s re-imagined Peter – while an outsider – isn’t invisible. Other students kind of admire his skills. He has enough confidence to stand up to bullies, even if it means getting his ass kicked. And while some girls may not appreciate his gifts, at least one – the ultra cute Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) notices him. And so we watch a familiar story unfold in a wholly inventive new way, just ten years since we last saw it onscreen. The first moments where Peter discovers his powers are actually very original. And without giving anything away, the new movie even manages to take the dynamic between Peter, Uncle Ben and ‘the burglar” and tighten it up and make it less convoluted.”
Tremeondus) Link to full review at my examiner page. Click here please.
Men in Black 3 (Will Smith, James Brolin)
It’s fitting that Men in Black 3 deals so much with time travel, because one can’t help but watch this third installment and think about how much has changed… and at moments get a little nostalgic... Men in Black 3 is indeed of its time – it’s in 3-D like any movie with “3” in the title has to be now. Sonnenfeld throws in chases, great special effects, and gross-out alien effects. But he still manages to make the film... well... kind of cute... yet I didn’t end up clamoring for Men in Black 4. Men in Black 1 had its nice little moment in time. Men in Black 3 has one too.
(Tremendous) A link to my full review is at my examiner page. Click here please.
Arthur Christmas (James McAvoy, Jim Broadbest)
Be warned: if you take your kids to Arthur Christmas, depending on what you’ve already told them about Santa Claus, you may have some explaining to do. The movie makes some changes to who Santa is in the modern world. That said: that’s your biggest problem if you take your kids to Arthur Christmas, because otherwise, you’ll all enjoy yourself... it is very much of the times with its jokes about GPS’s and Google Earth, so someday, it probably will be dated (sorry, Google Earth, but something else will inevitably come along). But then again, stop-motion animation looks really dated now, and we’ll all watch the Rankin Bass specials year-after-year. As long as its message is timeless, the movie has a chance to be timeless too. (Tremendous)
The Avengers (Tremendous)
My full review is up at my examiner page... click here please.
Assembling The Avengers: The Team That Should Have Been In The Movie
From my Examiner page...
Prometheus vs. Alien: From my examiner page: click here.
Pirates! Band of Misfits (Hugh Grant, Jeremy Piven)
The makers of Pirates! Band of Misfits are a band of misfits indeed. And they’ve done it again with this odd little pirate film. Chicken Run director Peter Lord’s new movie is the story of a pirate captain named… well.. “The Pirate Captain”, whose looting and pillaging is just a means to an end – he’s longing to be recognized by his peers and earn the coveted “Pirate of the Year” award... Even their names are different. It’d be odd to be in a toy store and see dolls made of characters whose names in the credits actually read “The Albino Pirate,” The Pirate with Gout” and “The Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate.” The last one is a favorite running gag – a woman wearing a fake beard so she can be part of the crew. Yet, the movie never spells that out for us. We never see the Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate without a beard. The film trusts that adults and kids will be smart enough to get the joke. (Tremendous)
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson)
"Audiences are probably more familiar with them for their roles in the Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean, James Bond or Batman movies. We probably see each onscreen and think “Oh yeah, I like him/her”... What’s wonderful about this dramedy is that it doesn’t treat these senior citizens as novelties or special miracles – but simply as adults. There are no Cocoon-like moments where we think “oh cute, the old people can swim.” Music doesn’t come up dramatically as each makes a major life change. They never degrade themselves acting younger than they are. They just live their lives. Honestly, this movie could star seven younger actors facing crises and it could have worked. But it’s enhanced by making it about people with some perspective and dignity. (Tremendous)
21 Jump Street (Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum )
When you think of the 80s hit TV show 21 Jump Street, do you laugh? Oh, maybe you chuckle a little at the idea that megastar Johnny Depp actually started on a TV series about a cop posing as a high school student to battle youth crime. But do you really laugh at any moments of great comedy? No, because while there may have been some cuteness, 21 Jump Street was serious in its intent. It was a drama, not a sitcom. It knew what it wanted to be, unlike the new film that shares the 21 Jump Street name... Parody? Stoner flick? Buddy-action movie? 21 Jump Street never chooses a subject to major in. (It Is What It Is)
Wanderlust (Paul Rudd, Jennifer Aniston)
Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston are essentially playing the same characters they do in every movie – which is a good thing since the idea is to take those familiar characters and put them out of their element at a hippie free love commune. They turn in reliable performances in the middle of cleverly written chaos. But the scene stealers turn out be relative newcomer (and Aniston boyfriend) Justin Theroux as the cult leader, and shockingly for an R-rated comedy -- Alan Alda and Linda Lavin (let’s talk reliable!) (Tremendous)
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner)
If you liked the first three movies in the series, it’s impossible not to like the new Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. It has everything the others had – elaborate action scenes, big fights, breathtaking stunts – and Tom Cruise running as fast as he can... The movie is literally a Tom Cruise Production starring Tom Cruise wearing sunglasses, Tom Cruise smiling at the camera, Tom Cruise being intense, Tom Cruise running fast and Tom Cruise doing a lot of his own stunts. Like in the Mission: Impossible TV series there is a Mission: Impossible Team, but like in the other movies, they’re only there to support Cruise’s character Ethan Hunt. It would be annoying if Cruise wasn’t so good at it. (Tremendous)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara)
Fans of the dark tale can be reassured that it’s being adapted by David Fincher, the director who both entertained and disturbed us in Fight Club, Seven and Zodiac... But it’s not the white supremacists and missing girls that give the story its dark edge – it’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo herself Lisbeth Salander, played by Rooney Mara... Mara is a relative newcomer, but a comparison of her publicity head shots to the pale, pierced tattooed Lisbeth lead us to assume she’s immersed herself in the role. It’s not just on the surface – beyond looking like a miniature Marilyn Manson, Mara transforms into a dark and complex emotional creature. She’s cold, blunt and off-putting – except in some moments in the first act where her performance turns astonishingly raw. At the risk of speaking for those who have actually read the book, one can’t help but think readers found their Lisbeth. (Tremendous)
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (Gary Oldman, Colin Firth)
I don't know who was the Tinker, who was the Tailor, who was the Soldier or who was the Spy... but the all sucked and bored me to death. This movie must have been designed by secret agents who want to dispel the myth that they lead interesting lives. (Kept Checking My Watch)
Young Adult (Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt)
A writer of young adult romance books living in the big city, has just gone through a divorce and begins to think maybe she was with the wrong guy all this time anyway. She decides she wants her high school sweetheart back. She packs up her cute little dog (so little he fits in a handbag) and goes back to the small town she always hated and thought she’d left behind. While working to get her sweetheart away from his new wife, she bonds with an old classmate she’d always mistreated and tries to find herself. Because Hollywood has trained/ruined you, you would think this is another predictable chick flick. From My Best Friend’s Wedding to Sweet Home Alabama, it sounds like we’ve seen this before. But we’d expect better of Theron, director Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody – and we get it. (Tremendous)
Hugo (Asa Butterfield , Ben Kingsley)
One would have to have a particularly sharp eye and see all the 3-D films of the last few years back-to-back to really judge whether or not Hugo makes the best use of 3-D since Avatar. It’s certainly one of the best... And Martin Scorsese is certainly the most significant filmmaker to do a 3-D movie since James Cameron... the mastermind behind violent masterpieces like Raging Bull and GoodFellas – has said he wanted to finally make a movie his kids could see. And he certainly did. But be warned – he made it for his kids, and it’s pretty well focused on showing his kids the things that fascinated him as a boy. It’s a masterwork of art by a great artist – that pays tribute to some other pioneering artists. But you have to be into that sort of thing. (Tremendous)
The Descendants (George Clooney, Shailene Woodley)
Alexander Payne hasn’t directed many movies, but when he does, he is the master of showing men at a crossroads... It’s maybe Payne’s heaviest topic, yet he still manages to produce a dramedy as good as or better than his past... Clooney is arguably the best he’s been, yet this isn’t a case of “George Clooney as you’ve never seen him before.” He’s not over-the-top emotional despite his predicament. He’s a tired, awkward guy who probably thought he had everything figured out until now, and when he does show his emotions it’s just right. (Tremendous)
Tower Heist (Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy)
...maybe one of the dullest heist comedies ever. Brett Ratner has a near-dream cast including Stiller, Murphy, Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck and Alan Alda. And manages to steal the real Stiller, Murphy, Broderick, Affleck and Alda from us. (Kept Checking My Watch)
Jack and Jill (Adam Sandler, Al Pacino)
Adam Sandler was never really a great sketch comic – his characters on SNL were always just different levels of goofy, so it’s not like we should have expected his new Jack and Jill to be any kind of return to form... It’s Sandler wearing make-up and a dress. Sandler’s Jill is hideous to look at and obnoxious to listen to. The occasional tear doesn’t make her endearing; it just makes us sympathize with Jack. That’s not what we’re supposed to do though, since this movie shoehorns in a “value of family” message to try and make us leave the theater smiling... If there’s anything good about Jack and Jill, it’s Al Pacino hamming it up as an eccentric over-the-top version of himself. Perhaps the finest actor of his generation is the funniest thing in an Adam Sandler movie. Go figure. (Kept Checking My Watch)
Contagion (Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow)
All one can think while sitting through Contagion is: “why would anyone want to watch this?” There is nothing thrilling about Contagion. Movies about viruses rapidly spreading and threatening to wipe out civilization shouldn’t necessarily be fun, but they should be able to put you on the edge of your seat. Contagion just shows one person after another getting sick, and one researcher after another furrowing their brows worrying... one also wonders “what am I supposed to get out of this?”... the ultimate message is there is nothing you can do if a deadly disease wants to take you out. Unless you’re the doctor who knows how to synthesize an antidote, this movie has no message for you other than: “don’t touch your face so much” and “always be sure to wash your hands.” (Kept Checking My Watch)
The Ides of March (Ryan Gosling, George Clooney)
Watching George Clooney’s political drama The Ides of March, you’ll be able to figure out pretty early why it has that name – but the intrigue will come from figuring out who’s supposed to be Caesar and who’s supposed to be Brutus... One would assume in the jaded and salacious age that we live in that the movie would mostly be about a political scandal – and be patient, there is one. But... moves at a slower pace than we’re used to these days... it’s a political drama, not necessarily a political thriller... puts its characters in situations that make us ask what we would do (“Et Tu, Brute?”) Those of us on the outside hope the political world isn’t like that, but we suspect it probably is. (Tremendous)
Moneyball (Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill)
The baseball drama Moneyball is indeed for all fans of the game, but it may be targeted specifically for a certain type of fan in the stands: the guys who stay sitting the whole time, scribbling notes into the margins of their programs and doing all the math. For them, Moneyball will be bliss... Yes, the first great baseball movie in a long time isn’t about a superstar player winning the big game under the bight lights. It’s about statistics and a winning streak by, of all teams, the Oakland A’s. And yet a lot of baseball fans are anxious to see it. That actually makes sense in the modern sports world. This is not necessarily the movie for guys who fantasize about playing baseball – it’s the movie for guys who play fantasy baseball. (Tremendous)
50/50 (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen)
I like a dark comedy as much as anyone, but don't be fooled -- this isn't a comedy. Casting Seth Rogen as a foul-mouthed sidekick does not a comedy make. It's not a bad movie, but it's a drama about cancer, not a comedy about cancer. You'll spend more time depressed than you will in hysterics. Still, it's tastefully done, and you'll want to stay with it to see if this kid makes it. (It Is What It Is)
Beginners (Ewan Macgregor, Christopher Plummer)
It's Plummer's story about coming out in the twilight of life that is the interesting one. It's told in flashback, which means the "real" point of the movie can get a little dull. (It Is What It Is)
The Tree of Life (Brad Pitt, Sean Penn)
Sometimes beautiful, sometimes hypnotic... ultimately a waste of time. This is stuff you should watch stoned at a planetarium. It's fascinating to talk about, but Terence Malick doesn't so much say anything as he does put on airs that he has something to say. (It Is What It Is)
Dolphin Tale (Nathan Gamble, Morgan Freeman)
The best thing about the movie is Winter the bottlenose dolphin, who plays herself. To do that, director Charles Martin Smith and team (we’ll assume including trained handlers) had to remove the tail to make the scenes genuine. Watching a tail-less dolphin swim is both a curiosity and when you think about it, an inspiration... Kids will marvel, skeptical adults may wonder if everything they’re seeing happened exactly that way or not. Certainly it’s something you can enjoy with your kid – or through your kid’s eyes, but your adult eyes might be better served by The True Story of Dolphin Tale that we can hope someone will produce. (It Is What It Is)
Midnight In Paris (Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams)
How good a writer is Woody Allen? He can compose dialogue for F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway and make it believable. He risks entering Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure territory with a time traveler meets famous people storyline, but instead makes a classically charming Woody Allen movie. (Tremendous)
Our Idiot Brother (Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks)
It’s nice to see a movie about an idiot where the idiot doesn’t cause actual harm through cruelty or where we’re making fun of someone’s disabilities. Instead, we have a genuinely well-meaning guy who’s just too trusting and naïve for his own good (selling weed to a uniformed officer!) I’d say I’d love to have these actresses (Emily Watson, Zooey Deschanel, Elizabeth Banks) as my sisters, but that wouldn’t exactly be accurate. (Tremendous)
Colombiana (Zoe Saldana, Michael Vartain)
If there is one takeaway from Colombiana, it is this: Zoe Saldana has one great body. Make no mistake about it: Saldana and her lithe figure are the stars of Colombiana. Director Olivier Megaton makes a point of capturing Saldana’s figure in the best possible light in every scene, and no matter what may be exploding around her, he makes sure she looks fantastic... no real thinking is required – the murder “plots” are not that complex – in fact, a couple of mysteries from the beginning of the movie remain unresolved. Detail isn’t terribly important – consider: the murder of Cataleya’s parents takes place in 1992. For some reason, the adult action takes place “15 years later.” That would be 2007, not 2011. Yet characters have the very latest smartphones and a CIAagent has a picture of Barack Obama on his wall. Colombiana is less about twists and turns than it is its star’s curves. It’s action movie eye candy. (It Is What It Is)
The Hangover Part II (Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis )
All of your favorites are back for The Hangover Part II… the only character missing that was essential to the first movie: the city of Las Vegas. The first movie’s depiction of Las Vegas made it somewhat relatable. Yes, the first movie had naked men jumping out of the trunks of cars, tigers walking around hotel rooms and Mike Tyson so it’s not 100% true life. But like Phil, Stu and Alan, we probably want to be the same cool guys they do. And like them, we’d probably see things go kind of awry. Raise your hand if you’ve ever received an invitation to a bachelor party in Bangkok. Exactly.
( It Is What It Is)
The Smurfs (Neil Patrick Harris, Hank Azaria)
The Lilliputian-like creatures that are the Smurfs famously substitute the word “smurf” for other more complicated English words.... the word could be good… could be bad; depends on the mindset of the Smurf in question. In that open-to-interpretation spirit, let’s say that The Smurfs is one smurfy smurf of a movie. The little kids of previous generations who want to see this will fall into two groups: the ones that want to share the experience with their kids, and the ones who were fans and maybe keep a figurine on a shelf or wear a Smurfs t-shirt to be nostalgic or ironic. The latter group will go thinking it’s a lot of fun. About ten minutes in, they’ll realize this really isn’t for them and that it was more fun to say you were going to The Smurfs than it actually was to go to The Smurfs. (It Is What It Is)
30 Minutes Or Less (Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari)
What’s great about 30 Minutes Or Less is it gets to the point and wraps it all up in 90 Minutes Or Less. Not that it’s not an entertaining movie – because it is. 30 Minutes Or Less knows what it is – a fairly funny action/comedy with some crude jokes, a hip cast and a clever comedy of errors... The bank robbery itself is the highlight, featuring a slapstick moment that I can’t believe nobody ever thought of before. Other bits are hit-or-miss, but they happen fast enough that you can forgive the ones that make you groan. 30 Minutes isn’t a bad way to spend 90 of ‘em.
(It Is What It Is)
Super 8 (Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning)
There was a time when Super 8 would have been the movie of the summer, and if you’re nostalgic for those times, Super 8 is indeed the summer movie for you. It’s the story of some suburban kids in the late 1970s, trying to figure out an alien secret, sharing an adventure and a friendship, working out problems with their parents, hiding a secret from the government, using bikes as their primary method of transportation – and starring in a film with Steven Spielberg’s name in the credits as a producer. Director/writer J.J. Abrams has created a wonderful homage to the man who produced the man who produced his film. "
Full review is at my examiner page. Click here please.
The Change-Up (Ryan Reynolds, Jason Bateman)
...best friend characters do switch places in a comedy that does have people rolling their eyes. “Boy, we’ve never seen this before,” they say as Freaky Friday and the string of movies in the 80s including Like Father Like Son and Vice Versa. But have you seen it R-Rated, where the magic happens because the stars piss in a magic fountain and broach the idea of having sex with each other’s partners? It’s Bateman who really gets to “change up.” I’ve already written that in Horrible Bosses he plays the same straight man struggling to stay composed that he played in Arrested Development. He’s the same guy here – until the switch. Then he gets to play Reynolds’ slacker playboy failing at being a straight man struggling to stay composed. He is on a roll. (Tremendous)
Crazy, Stupid, Love (Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling)
This summer we’ve seen bridesmaids get sick in their wedding party dresses, grown men have their second big hangover, and three childhood friends plot to kill their horrible bosses. Some of that stuff has been very funny, but now it’s apparently time for a more mature comedy. That’s not to say Crazy, Stupid, Love doesn’t have its share of misunderstandings, comedic twists and even crude humor. It definitely does. But this one is about a family going through a rough patch, and it treats it all with a combination of clever humor and sensitivity.
Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows - Part 2 (Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson)
“We’ll leave it to the diehards to compare all eight movies and tell you whether Hallows Part 2 is the best… It is a considerable improvement over Hallows Part 1… Director David Yates front-loaded story. Part 1 was nearly two and half hours; Part 2 is more reasonable at a little over two. Part 1 had those deathly silences; Part 2 is largely action. And it’s spectacular … They are detailed scenes that look like violent exchanges between people, wizards and monsters – never looking like a video game as so many special effects films do.” (Tremendous)
Captain America: The First Avenger (Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell)
As the title suggests, “Cap” will be one of The Avengers before long, but for now this truly is an adaptation of Simon & Kirby’s story – its World War II setting makes it unique among modern super hero movies. Instead of Foo Fighters music, we get boogie woogie bugle boy-type patriotic songs. It makes for a very fun movie. The scriptwriters are smart enough to know though that a story created in the 1940s has to be adapted to modern audience’s eyes if we’re going to take it seriously. (Tremendous)
More on my examiner page.... click here please...
Bad Teacher (Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel)
It’s as if the makers of Bad Teacher were taking a standardized test full of multiple choice questions. They didn’t know for sure everything that needed to go into a raunchy but good comedy, so they took their Number 2 pencils, took a chance and filled in the blanks as best they could. Sometimes they hit on the right answers, sometimes they didn’t... The end of the movie is way too rushed... as if the scriptwriters were taking an essay test and didn’t know how to wrap it up. Their good teachers should have taught them it’s not good writing to just sum things up with a quick closing sentence that starts with “In conclusion…” (It Is What It Is)
Horrible Bosses (Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis)
They are three horrible bosses, but they are also three hysterical characters. And the titular supervisors in Horrible Bosses are merely the supporting characters backing a trio of likeable losers. Together, they’re the stars of one of the summer’s funniest movies.Together, they embark on a truly inept (and very R-rated) attempt at whacking three people who may just have it coming. And together, they are very entertaining. For three potential murderers, they have a lot of charm – they’re guys you would want to hang out with and be your friends. Amid the slapstick, there is quick dialogue – they bicker and get frustrated with each other, but in the way you do with someone you’re kind of stuck with. They don’t surprise each other – they never cease to amaze one another. (Tremendous)
Green Lantern (Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively)
Campbell has worked on two James Bond and two Zorro films, and now has to take a hero to all new worlds… It’s in Outer Space that we have the most fun. Like this summer’s Thor, the story takes place both on Earth and an out-of-this-world kingdom. Unlike Thor, the hero is the fish-out-of-water when he’s not on Earth - but the fish-out-of water stuff is still the most fun… Those who aren’t huge comic book fans should enjoy Green Lantern but will see some flaws the faithful may be willing to forgive. Chief among them is Reynolds himself. He’s a likeable star whose abs have turned many heads, but he doesn’t necessarily offer anything to the role that any other cocky pretty boy couldn’t have pulled off. (Tremendous)
Zookeeper (Kevin James, Rosario Dawson)
All they really have, though, is a concept, and while it would be nice to lose yourself in a fantasy world of talking animals, you can’t do that during a bland movie. Instead, you have time to think about all of its flaws. But in the era of CGI and Pixar, there is no real excuse for poor special effects to make animals talk. It may seem quaint to simply have mouths moving on real animals, but it doesn’t look convincing enough after what we’ve seen in other movies. I never believed Stallone was the lion. I believed he recorded his dialogue, they pointed a camera at a lion and drew in a moving mouth. (Kept Checking My Watch)
Bridesmaids (Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph)
On the big screen at least, Rochester's own Kristen Wiig has been something of a bridesmaid and never a bride. She’s had some solid supporting roles, but honestly, you’d be hard pressed to come up with them on your own.
Oh, on Saturday Night Live, she’s a standout talent – arguably, the best the ensemble has right now. But off the top of your head, did you remember she was in Knocked Up, Walk Hard or Forgetting Sarah Marshall? Maybe not, which is something of a back-handed compliment to her skills as a character actress. Now, she’s written her own movie – she’s center stage and one senses we’re seeing some glimpses of the real Kristen Wiig. And she’s smart, cute and funny... the type of man who crushes these days on Tina Fey will feel similar pangs for Kristen. (Tremendous)
Thor (Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman)
From “Thorsday” at midnight to this Sunday, the Marvel Comics God of Thunder had a great weekend at the movies. ally, so did those of us who went to see Goldilocks’ big screen debut... Thor was a good movie on two levels: the otherworldly 3-D realm of Asgard was a majestic sight. It may not be as layered or complex as Middle Earth, but a movie completely set there wouldn’t have been awful. But -- Thor was even more entertaining on Midgard, where his Fallen Thunder God routine played great with mere mortals. It bodes well for his interaction with the heroes and villains in the upcoming Avengers movie. (Tremendous)
Full review is on my examiner page... click here please...
X-Men: First Class (James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender)
...not necessarily see a rip-off of the Star Wars prequels (or of TV’s Smallville or of Broadway’s Wicked) since X-Men comic readers have known for years that the X-Men’s leader, telepath Professor Charles Xavier and sparring partner Magneto were once allies who broke apart over their different philosophies – Xavier wants to prove mutantkind can work side-by-side with homo sapiens, Magneto wants mutants to take us over and prove home superior is the genetically-superior species. It’s a great premise that starts with some great promise, especially with the back-story of the Mutant Who Will Be Magneto Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender). But boy, by the time we get to evil mutants like Azazel and the titular and lukewarm First Class, it’s too cluttered. And it takes away from what we should be getting – an in-depth look at what made Xavier and Magneto into the characters we saw Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan portray in the original trilogy... After Last Stand, nobody clamored for an Iceman or Kitty Pryde movie, and there will be no similar demand for the Matt Damon-light Havok or the Ron Weasley-lookalike Banshee movie either. (It Is What It Is)
Full review is at my examiner page... click here please.
Something Borrowed (Ginnifer Goodwin, Kate Hudson)
To Something Borrowed’s credit, since the entire back story and the hookup were spelled out in the trailer, it gets right to that hookup moment and then to the dilemma: now what? Unfortunately (it) gets to the point – and then belabors it. As the characters yell at each other to “make a decision,” we in the audience are silently yelling the same thing to them, because after a while we get it. Rachel is tortured. Dex is tortured... The whimsy of a romantic comedy gets bogged down in whiny drama. (It Is What It Is)
Win Win (Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan)
You may just be “blind sided” by Win Win. Comparisons to The Blind Side have to be made, but whereas that was a big budget movie that hyped Sandra Bullock’s performance and that manipulated us into liking it despite ourselves, Win Win is a humbler project that’s just as good... Giamatti and Ryan aren’t as good looking as Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw. And it probably has less mass appeal because it’s about a high school wrestler not a real-life NFL player. In other words, it’s much more relatable. (Tremendous)
Arthur (Russell Brand, Helen Mirren)
There’s a much loved and much quoted moment in the original Arthur between Dudley Moore’s title character and John Gielgud’s butler Hobson that sums up their relationship perfectly. The soused millionaire announces he’s going to take a bath. Hobson follows with the classically droll line: “I’ll alert the media.” The new Arthur follows the template of the original script fairly closely, yet doesn’t come up with a moment that’s close to as revealing or as funny as that... Arthur’s story plays out in a completely predictable and routine way... Worse than being predictable, the movie is dull –and lacking any edge. Consider yourself alerted by the media. (Kept Checking My Watch)
Battle: Los Angeles (Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez)
It’s like District 9 without the depth, the symbolism or the context. It’s like Independence Day without the fun, the wit or the inspirational leader to get his country through. Battle: Los Angeles is quite simply a big loud battle in Los Angeles between a U.S. Marine unit and an invading horde of aliens.... it’s all very by-the-book and very procedural – too procedural for a movie audience... How long can you watch people fire at an unknown enemy before you feel like you’re just watching target practice?... It’s kind of a futile mission, and ironically, a waste of time. (Kept Checking My Watch)
A freaky online story that may or may not have happened to some of us. See for yourself, it is enthralling. (Tremendous)
Red Riding Hood (Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman)
For the last few weeks at the movies, there have been some snickers in the audience during the Coming Attractions. A dark forest, a menacing figure, attractive young adults, ominous music, and then, in all seriousness, up comes the movie’s title: Red Riding Hood. There are moments you feel a little silly but if you can go with it, you’ll have fun... some of us are more comfortable revisiting childhood memories than teenaged ones. It’s not cool to act like a teeny-bopper girl and choose sides in “Team Blacksmith” or “Team Woodsman.” But taking a beloved children’s story and subverting it? That’s kind of cool. (Tremendous)
True Grit (Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld)
True Talent comes together – The Coen Brothers, Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and an astonishingly good 14-year-old actress named Hailee Steinfeld. It may be the best Western since Unforgiven, and it’s interesting that for a Coen Brothers movie, it’s pretty straightforward. Maybe because Bridges’ Rooster Cogburn is such a no-nonsense guy, the brothers didn’t add too many oddball little moments or make us wonder about how it all ends. (Tremendous)
Just Go With It (Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston)
The movie’s title sure is asking a lot of us... Sandler's set himself up as a successful, rich plastic surgeon – and notorious lothario. Sandler has the tough choice of whether or not to be with Jennifer Aniston or Brooklyn Decker. And this is not played for absurdist laughs. We’re supposed to “just go with it” and buy that the star of Little Nicky and The Waterboy can pull that off... Through his years of womanizing, we’re supposed to believe he somehow never noticed Katherine before they had to pretend to be married. Like a female Clark Kent, her glasses kept him from noticing she looks like – well, Jennifer Aniston. He’s a plastic surgeon who has done thousands of breast operations, yet until she goes swimming, he never noticed she’s built like – well, Jennifer Aniston. (Kept Checking My Watch)
Justin Bieber: Never Say Never
"Never Say Never’s marketing campaign will have you believe this is the story of a kid who’s paid his dues and no matter what the odds against him were, he never gave up. This is actually the story of how one can use the social networking world of 2011 to achieve optimum success... We’re watching a kid who found his success through YouTube and tweeted his way into the hearts of millions. His first album came out in 2009, and he’s already headlining the Garden!... but Bieber never actually sits in front of a camera and tells his own story. Justin’s employees and fans speak for him, and of course, they’re preaching to the choir. One can’t help but wonder if Justin has anything to say about his own success – or if maybe somebody’s hiding something." (It Is What It Is)
The Green Hornet (Seth Rogen, Jay Chou)
Let’s clear up potential market confusion: this movie is not the one starring Ryan Reynolds as an Earthman chosen to be a member of an elite intergalactic police force who wears a power ring that runs on his own willpower... So who and what is The Green Hornet and will the ComicCon attendees that drive market research and movie buzz want to go?.. The movie’s premise seems to be “why can’t an ordinary man become a super hero?” – which is actually the same premise as Kick-Ass, a film executed with much more style, wit, action and modern sensibility. The Green Hornet and Kato come off as a diluted Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl. (It Is What It Is)
Finally, some misspellings of my name that I'm putting here to try and ensure that this site shows up when you search for it:
Hello, and welcome to the site. I'm proud to have kept at doing something I love: writing about movies, TV and pop culture. I admittedly never went to any kind of film school (and if you look at this site, it's pretty obvious I never went to web design school either), but I think through years on Rochester radio as the Go-To-Guy for "Who's that guy in that movie who did that thing...?", I developed a rapport with listeners. I'd like to think you knew me and trusted my opinion.
Some of my reviews are in full right here on the site, while many are at www.upcoming-movies.com (formerly moviejungle.com), where I've joined up as a staff writer. You should be able to find the complete versions under "staff reviews." Thanks for your patience following the links. Still, I'll try to provide excerpts and other fresh content here.
I've got most of the movie reviews I've done for the last few years, some of which I did independently, some I wrote for other sites (links included) and some go back to my radio days. I tend to tack new ones on top, so they're pretty much in order by release date.So please... click around! And offer your own opinions by writing email@example.com!