Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Upcoming Trailers: Round 2

A smaller collection of trailers this time for upcoming flicks (and less 'bootleg-esque' in nature than the last time I posted trailers).

The Incredible Hulk has a new trailer up at and I think it's significantly better than the last one. Despite the 'final cut' battle between director Leterrier, Ed Norton and Marvel studios I have some hope this can be a fun but dumb action movie.

Swing Vote starring Kevin Costner, Kelsey Grammer, Stanley Tucci and Dennis Hopper. It actually looks pretty funny, despite being a silly concept. Here's hoping it turns out better than Robin Williams' Man of the Year
Exclusive: 'Swing Vote' Trailer
Exclusive: 'Swing Vote' Trailer

Outpost starring Ray Stevenson from Rome (and the new Punisher movie). It doesn't look like anything special but I'm always up for supporting Rome alumni and it could be amusing enough in a dumb horror/action sort of way.
EDIT: Evidently this is already played (and bombed) in American theaters...
Note: Trailer refused to embed properly so I linked to it.

Towelhead starring Aaron Eckhart, Maria Bello and Toni Collette. Made a stir at Sundance for being fairly controversial (you'll see why when you watch the trailer), though it does have a decent cast and creative minds behind it (the writer of American Beauty and the creator of Six Feet Under).
'Towelhead' Trailer
'Towelhead' Trailer

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay Review

It takes the approach of throwing varied jokes at the audience rapid fire, some hit and some miss. The film is short and varied enough that the less amusing gags don't pull it down too much. Still there are decent sized stretches with few or, worse, no laughs. As in the first one Kal Penn and especially John Cho give surprisingly solid performances considering the material. It makes you wonder what could've been if some of the dumber gags were a bit refined. Neil Patrick Harris, as in the first, gets by far the biggest laughs here. There's something to be said for actors who aren't afraid to make fun of themselves and NPH is about as fearless as they come in this regard. If you loved the first one you'll enjoy this one too, otherwise it has its moments but is nothing special.

Overall Score: 5/10

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Baby Mama Review

Baby Mama plays out partially as a by-the-numbers romantic comedy and partially as a biting satire of our cultural obsession with babies. The romantic comedy elements, which are applied to the burgeoning friendship between Fey and Poehler's characters (and also on a smaller scale to Fey's relationship with Kinnear), are about as cliche as they come and sort of drag the whole movie down. Where Baby Mama works is the various ways it pokes fun at 'baby culture.' From gags on child-proofing to prenatal vitamins to celebrity baby adoptions Baby Mama's commentary and quips are hilariously on-the-ball and, often, nicely acerbic. The cast here is great across the board. With mostly humorous but adequate turns from Maura Tierney and Greg Kinnear, a tolerable performance from Dax Shepard (I've never thought so highly of him...but I guess that isn't saying much) and a hilarious small role for Steve Martin the supporting players are very strong. Amy Poehler is quite funny here, but the real highlight is Tina Fey. Fey, probably the funniest comedienne working, plays the straight-woman against Poehler's absurd antics extremely well. She has the remarkable ability to crack up the audience just with just a slight facial expression. If only this didn't devolve into such a pit of cliches it could have really been something special, but as it stands it has some really funny moments a bunch of great performances.

Overall Score: 6/10

Friday, April 25, 2008

Romulus, My Father Review

This is probably the most harrowing emotional ordeal of a movie I've seen since Away from Her. Rare is the movie that manage to effectively generate such genuine sadness and emotion without devolving into total melodrama. Eric Bana is one of the most underated and underappreciated actors working today. Though his performances will never have the bombast of someone like Daniel Day-Lewis he has a remarkable way of inhabiting and truly becoming characters, even more fantastical ones like Bruce Banner in Hulk or Hector in Troy. Here he plays a tortured character unable to move on from his troubled unfaithful wife yet still every bit the hero to his son. Young Kodi Smit-McPhee (who will be starring alongside Viggo Mortensen in the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's The Road later this year) is remarkably effective here. He manages to generate believable emotion and gives what might be the best performance by a male child actor since Christian Bale in Empire of the Sun. One of the things Aussie movies are often known for is the constant emphasis on the outback environs. Romulus is no exception as the outback becomes nearly a character, an oppresive reminder of the difficulties of life for this family of European immigrants after World War II. Unfortunately the film's biggest weakness is probably Franka Potenta (who was very strong in Run, Lola, Run and the Bourne series), she fails to humanize and make tolerable her character in a way that would make the whole film that much more effective. Her troubled mother character instead comes off as more a villain and a force of nature impacting Bana and Smit-McPhee instead of the more tragic figure she seems to be meant to be. Lastly, many, myself among them, will likely struggle with the vignette-like nature of the film. Romulus plays out more like a collection of memories and moments without a real compelling thread to hold them together. Though it's difficult to watch and is very un-Hollywood, Romulus is made compelling by the remarkable lead performances.

Overall Score: 7/10

Thursday, April 24, 2008

One Missed Call Review

It makes me sad that these putrid technophobic Japanese horror remakes keep polluting our theaters. This year alone will see One Missed Call, The Eye, Shutter and Possession (and I presume others I've mercifully never heard of). By my count there have been two pretty good J-Horror remakes, The Ring and The Grudge, one made tolerable by good acting, Dark Water, and a whole bunch of trash, Pulse, The Grudge 2, The Ring 2 and pretty much every American rip-off of J-Horror style that isn't a pure remake among others. One Missed Call fits comfortably in the putrid category. I almost feel bad for Edward Burns, I'm not sure what happened to his career. He showed so much promise with a very strong performance in one of the best war films ever made, Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan, but since then has made so many mediocre-to-awful movies that it boggles the mind. He isn't always awful, but he certainly doesn't do anything to elevate the projects. Shannyn Sossamon is a perfectly vanilla actress who isn't particularly talented, but at least doesn't seem to ever give truly terrible performances. There is a scene in Forgetting Sarah Marshall where the characters sit around a dinner table discussing Sarah Marshall's prior role in a horrible film remarkably similar to this one (about a cell phone that kills people who answer it), that scene perfectly encapsulates how I feel about the logic behind this one. Injections of child abuse flashbacks don't really serve to further the story or characters, merely prolonging and convoluding the experience (which is mercifully under 90 minures). I really can't recommend this. It does nothing well: it isn't scary, it isn't technically well made, the writing is awful, the acting mediocre and the plot predictable.

Overall Score: 3/10

The 11th Hour Review

This is, in every conceivable way, a far inferior film to An Inconvenient Truth. While I agree with everything DiCaprio hopes to show here, the film itself is not very effective. Composed of 'talking heads' interspersed with nature and pollution footage it just isn't very watchable. I also question the credibility of many of the experts here, CEOs of environmental companies don't scream unbiased opinions to me. The three most effective talking heads here are the ones with the most general worldwide credibility: Mikhail Gorbachev, Stephen Hawking and former CIA Director R. James Woolsey. The film's most effective segment is in the last third when the focus moves to options to improve the environment, alleviate waste and suggestions for movement towards alternative energy sources. It's a great message, it's just not a very good movie.

Overall Score: 4/10

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Final Season Review

It's about as cliche as sports movies come but it's really earnest and everyone tries hard to make it work. The story itself, culled from a true story (of course), is remarkable as a small town team about to be dissolved with numerous players and their legendary head coach having departed against all odds for a championship. The performances are decent enough, though they actors are reading lines that are so baseball as Americana cliche that they seem to be written by the ghosts in the cornfields in Field of Dreams. I wish I had more to say about this but it's basically just a fairly well done by-the-numbers cliche sports movie. If that's your thing you'll enjoy it, if that sounds terrifying to you then, likely, you won't.

Overall Score: 6/10

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Where in the World is Osama bin Laden? Review

As a fan of Spurlock's Super Size Me and his FX TV show, 30 Days, I was fairly excited for his newest documentary effort. Unfortunately a lack of focus and some jokes in very poor taste/execution really derail Where in the World is Osama bin Laden. In premise Spurlock is supposed to visit various Middle Eastern countries on the hunt for bin Laden, presumably with more success than our military; in reality the film comes off as more of 'can't we all just get along?' sort of message movie. Filled with repetitive interviews beating you over the head with the 'we're not all that different in the Middle East' and 'not all Muslims are terrorists' messages, this docu lacks any real focus or driving force. As opposed to Super Size Me where we could gradually, and fascinatingly, follow the decline in Spurlock's health and his observations about the fast food industry; here we're hampered by biased interviews (Israelis come off particularly poorly throughout) and, since the ending is clear before it starts, a lack of anything to drive the story forward. Beyond that there just isn't really anything particularly new or interesting here. Spurlock's visits to horrid villages in Taliban country in Afghanistan are far more compelling than his more standard interviews, but even still they don't really provide any insight into the region or the complex situations with which we must deal. The film is furthered hampered by Spurlock's misguided attempt to, seemingly, present himself almost like a superhero on the hunt for bin Laden, reflected not only in awful video game inspired sequences but even in the film's poster. I also worry that the side story of Spurlock's wife's pregnancy while he's off in the Middle East will not mean a whole hell of a lot to people who haven't followed his other work. It's not a terrible idea for a documentary, it just seems like Spurlock didn't quite know how to pull off this concept and piece together a working documentary. It is neither the effective and scathing rebuke of American policy in the Middle East like No End in Sight, nor the humorous and exciting adventure the filmmaker's pitch. Spurlock should stick to simpler fair in the future, he manages those stories and realizations far more effectively.

Overall Score: 4/10

Monday, April 21, 2008

Forgetting Sarah Marshall Review

Having already seen an unfinished cut of this I was excited to see what the finished product looked like and it was just as funny as I remember. Since I've already reviewed this ( it's nice to see my concerns about some technical aspects were entirely corrected and none of the big laughs were lost. It still ranks behind 40 Year Old Virgin and Superbad among Apatow flicks (and ahead of Knocked Up and all the others). I really recomment this, it's hilarious. Each performance has great moments and special note still goes to Russell Brand's pop star singer as one of the funniest movie characters in recent memory. I highly recommend this.

Overall Score: 8/10

The Forbidden Kingdom Review

I think I liked this one a lot more than it deserved. The story is a contrived mix of kung-fu movie cliches and homages and of Chinese mythological-type figures and stories. I can't stand the 'flying people' we've had in nearly every martial arts movie since Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon his it big. I don't think Michael Angarano is much of an actor, especially as a martial arts bad-ass either. Yet strangely I had a really good time. Angarano's transformation from wimp to winner is somewhat less intolerable than I had expected but the real reason to see this is, obviously, for Chan and Li. The two martial arts masters have wonderful on-screen chemistry and timing. Chan, utlizing roughly the same comedic martial arts style he made famous in Legend of the Drunken Master, and Li have a wonderful fight scene (before teaming up later in the movie) that director Rob Minkoff wisely leaves alone and let's the two simply go at it with minimal distraction. There's a great joy in seeing Jackie Chan and Jet Li in the same movie; I just find myself wishing it had been in a movie with a more legitimate story.

Overall Score: 6/10

Friday, April 18, 2008

In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale Review

All I can say is thank God I didn't have to watch the European release version of this which is a half hour longer, I don't think I would've survived. Uwe "Toilet" Bowl, a.k.a. the modern day Ed Wood, again manages to scrounge together a fairly impressive cast of recognizeable faces (Jason Statham, Burt Reynolds, Ray Liotta, Leelee Sobieski, Matthew Lillard, Ron Perlman, John Rhys-Davies, Kristanna Loken and Claire Forlani) and an entirely undeserved budget ($60 million) and constructs a total piece of junk. Jason Statham, John Rhys-Davies and Ron Perlman are the only actors who don't seem to be doing the project entirely for a paycheck. Statham brings his usual soft-spoken tough guy performance as the farmer dragged into a grand struggle, who is named (I wish I were making this up) Farmer. Rhys-Davies has such dignity in his delivery that it makes his work tolerable. Ray Liotta is so embarassingly hammy that I don't even know how to react to his performance. Matthew Lillard gives one of the worst performances I have ever seen. Burt Reynolds seems to be happy to collect his paycheck. Really the only thing I can give this credit for is some wonderful filming of the British Columbia forests in establishing shots. Unsurprisingly every other aspect of the film, from the writing to the music to the editing, is absolutely horrific. Uwe Boll once announced that if one million people sign a petition he'll retire from directing forever...please google it and sign on.

Overall Score: 2/10

88 Minutes Review

Well this manages to reach a special place in my icy black heart as the rare movie this year that I'll think is WORSE then 10,000 B.C. I sure as hell hope Al Pacino received a nice huge paycheck for this one, because there is no other reason I can imagine him taking on this atrocious project. Literally every technical aspect of the film, from direction to script supervision, is horrid. The screenplay is so contrived and devoid of any narrative logic that I actually felt physically ill while watching this junk. I'm inclined to believe that all of the mediocre young actors in this (such as Benjamin Mackenzie from The O.C. or Leelee Sobieski) chose this project for the opportunity to work with Pacino and not because they thought it was a good idea. This makes a season of 24 seem like a perfectly reasonable and believable depiction of the day by comparison. I had been very excited for the upcoming film Righteous Kill which reunites Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, but after realizing this garbage and Kill share a director it's fair to say my hopes are dashed. This is likely the worst film Pacino has ever been in and is one of the worst of the year. Avoid it.

Overall Score: 2/10

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The X-Files: I Want To Believe and Other Upcoming Film Trailers

I'm going to try to post trailers for upcoming movies as soon as they leak on the internet, rather than waiting for them to debut in theaters from now on. My first post in this regard kicks off with one of the movies I'm most excited for this year: the second X-Files movie.

The X-Files: I Want to Believe Trailer

Color me officially psyched, it'll be nice to have my all time favorite tv show back... The subtitle is perfect too, great fan service.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars Trailer

Lucasfilm has made the (financially) wise decision to transform the initial episodes of its upcoming Star Wars animated series into a feature film, which is basically a mortal lock to gross over $100 million and sell tremendously well on DVD. The trailer is decent enough and I have fairly high hopes, especially considering the original Clone Wars cartoon show was probably better than the first two films in the prequel trilogy.

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor Behind-the-Scenes Trailer

I'm a bit sad that Rachel Weisz has been replaced by Maria Bello. Likewise I'm a bit disappointed in the downgrade at director from the mediocre Stephen Somers to the pretty poor Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furios). Regardless I still think it'll be a pretty amusing trip to the movies.

Starship Troopers 3: Marauder Trailer

This is probably as excited as I'll ever be for a straight-to-DVD release. With the return of the first film's star, Casper Van Dien, and, more importantly, tone and style and a seeming willingness to (mercifully) pretend Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation (a horrible Alien-esque sequel) never happened, I think this has the potentially to be one of the most guiltily enjoyable movies of the entire year.

Babylon A.D. Behind-the-Scenes Trailer

Well this looks pretty awful, I'm inclined to believe the bad buzz surrounding this one and I expect a dud financially and qualitatively.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Behind-the-Scenes Footage

Not much to say, same director and writer as Order of the Phoenix so it should be fairly similar in quality (which is to say nowhere near as good as Alfonso Cuaron's superb Prizoner of Azkaban).

The Oxford Murders Trailer

Looks pretty middling and poor Elijah has to deliver some God-awful lines...

Coraline Clip

Based on a story from one of my favorite writers, Neil Gaiman, I'm hoping this turns out better than Tim Burton's similar and surprisingly mediocre The Corpse Bride.

Prom Night Review

This is probably one of the best 'produced' movies of the year. I don't mean best acted, filmed, directed, written or anything like that, just that it's the perfect money making project. Budgeted at less than $20 million (and opening to $21 million domestically) Prom Night is not only released at the perfect time of year (prom season) but has all the necessary ingredients of a (financially) successful horror film: good looking people, a slick, creative trailer, a box office friendly PG-13 rating and the use of the long dormant slasher genre. The film itself is a whole other matter, as it's really quite a mess. The direction is horrible and, generally, the film relies on jump cuts or shadows 'wooshing' across the screen for scares rather than actual horror. The writing is piss poor as well. I guess the biggest problem with this one is that, on the whole, it's just pretty damn boring. I give it credit for three reasons. First, the writers actually manage to come up with vaguely plausible reasons for people to be seperated from the prom area (and then, of course, slaughtered). Second, Scott Porter from Friday Night Lights really seems to try to make the best of some awful lines and is the only supporting character that musters any sort of emotional connection. Finally, Brittany Snow is actually quite a good actress and, like Porter, does a good job making the best of a shoddy script. With her wonderfully expressive eyes Snow manages to make her character, more or less, believably damaged by the events of her past (the film's slasher had killed her family years earlier and now is out to get her). I hope Snow uses the financial success of this one to get herself attached to some better projects because I think she has the talent to have a really nice career. By and large all the other supporting performances fall somewhere in the mediocre to terrible range. I found the film's PG-13 rating to be detrimental to the scariness: it makes all the horror less effective when the only effect of being brutally murdered with a knife is four one-dollar-bill-sized red splotches on a victim's shirt or a so-clean it isn't even noticed at first neck wound. The film's other major problem is the climax and ending. Snow has done such a good job creating a character that's believably been damaged by her prior experiences with this killer that what are we to believe happens afterwards? Is there any other potential outcome beyond her becoming a recluse, especially after the deaths of even more friends? It kind of deadens the whole thing that really the only potential outcomes of this are Snow's death or her character's complete emotional destruction. This could have been a decent slasher flick with better writing and direction...alas it's just another junky horror movie with a pair of decent performances.

Overall Score: 3/10

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Smart People Review

It sure isn't as indie as it thinks it is, but even still Smart People has a few laughs and is saved by a really tremendous performance from Thomas Haden Church. Dealing with the pitch that smart people are inherently anti-social and elitist, Quaid really seems to try his best to make his far too quirky misanthrope professor character work. Buried beneath a goofy beard that actually covers up some of his performance, Quaid gets kind of lost here. Sarah Jessica Parker is, at best, mediocre as his love interest; her character is both cliched and underwritten and Parker does nothing in my eyes to improve it. Ellen Page, basically playing a right-wing neocon Juno, is amusing enough but, frankly, we've seen this performance better elsewhere. Thomas Haden Church is the real heart of the movie. His scenes bring life and fun to the otherwise pretentious and stuffy proceedings. Given all the best lines here, I say with some certainty that if the film had focused on Church's not-quite-as-smart adopted brother to Dennis Quaid the whole film would have been far more effective. Despite Church's best efforts everything here feels cliched and by-the-numbers (about as un-indie and as Hollywood romantic comedy as you can get)... tolerable enough but not worth recommending.

Overall Score: 5/10

Monday, April 14, 2008

Day of the Dead (2008) Review

This was one of those movies that's so bad it's almost enjoyable. Filled to the brim with recognizeable but mediocre actors, Day of the Dead is, in name at least, a remake of the George A. Romero classic. In name at least I believe it's supposed to be a sequel to Zack Snyder's FAR superior Dawn of the Dead remake (as was in the case in Romero's series). Miner elects to go with a hybrid zombie: he uses the running zombies from 28 Days Later, but adds in a bit more intelligence and problem-solving skills (ala Land of the Dead), the ability to jump tremendous distances (ala I Am Legend) and to climb on walls (I guess like The Exorcist rerelease); the lack of hard and fast 'zombie rules' here is somewhat frustrating. Nick Cannon is not a good actor, but some of his deliveries are kind of amusing in a so bad it's good sort of way. Mena Suvari is miscast as a hard boiled soldier (as an aside why does the film make a big deal about why she carries an unloaded gun and her drama with her brother throughout the early going and neither is ever resolved?). Ving Rhames has far too small a role, really a glorified cameo, to really do much with it; he was put to far better use in Snyder's Dawn of the Dead (he plays a different character here). The best performances are probably from the typical 'escaping from the zombie young couple,' Michael Welch and AnnaLynne McCord, who at least seem to be trying to put some emotion and effort into their performances (McCord more effectively). Oh well, what else should I expect from a film the studio decided wasn't worth releasing in theaters? Not the worst zombie movie ever made but not even remotely in the class of Snyder's Dawn or the 28 Days/Weeks movies as recent zombie flicks go.

Overall Score: 3/10

Street Kings Review

Well this movie is sort of a mess but I still found it pretty amusing. While the story is both cliched and predictable, and the screenplay is horrific, some decent performances and some nice energy make this a dumb-fun way to spend two hours. To Street King's credit it casts its lead actor very much against type, Keanu Reeves as a hard-boiled loose cannon cop might seem difficult to imagine after most of his other cinematic work but I found him to be surprisingly effective here. The other actors, though they are composed by a pretty large collection of recognizeable faces, are generally terribly miscast or are playing the same sort of roles they always play. Hugh Laurie is playing House as a narc cop, Forest Whitaker is playing Idi Amin as a cop, etc. The one performance that really stood out to me, and furthers my belief that he is a surprisingly solid actor, is Chris Evans'. Evans, who gave a superb turn in last year's Sunshine and has given amusing, if uninspired, performances in the Fantastic Four movies and The Nanny Diaries, shines here. His clean cop looking to fit into a dark dirty world with Reeves is surprisingly believable and affecting, even if his role is far too small. I actually found Evans to be more effective here than Ethan Hawke was in the similar role in Training Day. As an aside the ending is preposterous and foolish. Anyone who wants to see this sort of dirty cop story done right should head back to season one of The Shield and start catching up (the last season airs in the fall). But for an amusing enough film experience that will do nothing for you intellectually Street Kings is fine.

Overall Score: 5/10

Sunday, April 13, 2008

2007 Movie Review List

2007 Movies:
11th Hour, The: 4/10
1408: 6/10
28 Weeks Later: 7/10
30 Days of Night: 5/10
300: 7/10
3:10 to Yuma: 10/10
Across the Universe: 7/10
Aliens vs. Predator - Requiem: 5/10
Alpha Dog: 3/10
Amazing Grace: 7/10
American Gangster: 8/10
American Pastime: 6/10
American Pie Presents: Beta House: 5/10
Arctic Tale: 4/10
Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, The: 6/10
Astronaut Farmer, The: 6/10
Atonement: 9/10
Awake: 3/10
Away from Her: 8/10
Babylon 5: The Lost Tales - Voices in the Dark: 3/10
Battlestar Galactica: Razor: 7/10
Because I Said So: 4/10
Bee Movie: 4/10
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead: 6/10
Beowulf: 8/10
Black Book: 6/10
Black Sheep: 5/10
Black Snake Moan: 4/10
Blades of Glory: 7/10
Blood and Chocolate: 4/10
Bobby Z: 3/10
Bourne Ultimatum, The: 8/10
Brave One, The: 6/10
Breach: 8/10
Breed, The: 5/10
Bridge to Terabithia: 7/10
Bucket List, The: 5/10
Bug: 2/10
Captivity: 2/10
Catch and Release: 3/10
Charlie Wilson's War: 6/10
Closure: 3/10
Condemned, The: 4/10
Contractor, The: 2/10
Cougar Club: 3/10
Dan in Real Life: 7/10
Darjeeling Limited, The: 7/10
Days of Glory: 5/10
Dead Silence: 3/10
Death at a Funeral: 7/10
Death Sentence: 4/10
Devil Came on Horseback, The: 8/10
Disturbia: 7/10
Diving Bell and the Butterfly, The: 7/10
DOA: Dead or Alive: 3/10
Doctor Strange: 7/10
Dragon Wars: D-War: 2/10
Eastern Promises: 8/10
Elizabeth: The Golden Age: 4/10
Enchanted: 8/10
Epic Movie: 1/10
Evan Almighty: 4/10
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer: 7/10
Feast of Love: 3/10
Fido: 6/10
Final Season, The: 6/10
Flying Scotsman, The: 6/10
Fracture: 7/10
Fred Claus: 6/10
Freedom Writers: 6/10
Futurama: Bender's Big Score: 7/10
Game Plan, The: 5/10
Georgia Rule: 2/10
Ghost Rider: 6/10
Golden Compass, The: 5/10
Gone Baby Gone: 10/10
Good Luck Chuck: 4/10
Grace is Gone: 6/10
Gracie: 4/10
Gray Matters: 2/10
Great Debaters, The: 7/10
Grindhouse: 7/10
Hairspray: 6/10
Halloween: 2/10
Hannah Takes the Stairs: 6/10
Hannibal Rising: 3/10
Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix: 7/10
Heartbreak Kid, The: 5/10
Hills Have Eyes 2, The: 2/10
Hitcher, The: 5/10
Hitman: 4/10
Hoax, The: 7/10
Host, The: 4/10
Hostel Part II: 6/10
Hot Fuzz: 8/10
Hot Rod: 4/10
Hunting Party, The: 7/10
I Am Legend: 6/10
I Know Who Killed Me: 1/10
I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry: 5/10
I'm Reed Fish: 4/10
In the Land of Women: 4/10
In the Shadow of the Moon: 9/10
In the Valley of Elah: 7/10
Into the Wild: 9/10
Invasion, The: 4/10
Invincible Iron Man, The: 6/10
Invisible, The: 4/10
Jackass 2.5: 3/10
Juno: 9/10
Kickin' It Old Skool: 2/10
King of Kong, The: A Fistful of Quarters: 8/10
Kingdom, The: 7/10
Kite Runner, The: 6/10
Knocked Up: 7/10
La Vie en Rose: 4/10
Lars and the Real Girl: 8/10
Last Legion, The: 4/10
License to Wed: 5/10
Lions for Lambs: 7/10
Live Free or Die Hard: 8/10
Lives of Others, The: 9/10
Lookout, The: 5/10
Lucky You: 4/10
Lust, Caution: 5/10
Margot at the Wedding: 4/10
Martian Child: 4/10
Meet the Robinsons: 6/10
Messengers, The: 4/10
Michael Clayton: 9/10
Mighty Heart, A: 6/10
Mist, The: 7/10
Mr. Brooks: 7/10
Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium: 5/10
Mr. Woodcock: 3/10
Music and Lyrics: 5/10
Namesake, The: 5/10
Nanny Diaries, The: 3/10
National Tresure: Book of Secrets: 7/10
Next: 3/10
No Country for Old Men: 10/10
No End in Sight: 8/10
No Reservations: 5/10
Norbit: 1/10
Number 23, The: 2.3/10
Ocean's Thirteen: 7/10
Once: 10/10
Open Water 2: Adrift: 3/10
Orphanage, The: 8/10
Paris, Je T'aime: 5/10
Pathfinder: 5/10
Perfect Stranger: 2/10
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End: 7/10
Premonition: 4/10
Pride: 4/10
Primeval: 4/10
Ratatouille: 8/10
Reaping, The: 3/10
Reign Over Me: 6/10
Rendition: 5/10
Rescue Dawn: 8/10
Reservation Road: 7/10
Resident Evil: Extinction: 5/10
Rocket Science: 8/10
Rush Hour 3: 5/10
Savages, The: 7/10
Saw IV: 5/10
Seraphim Falls: 6/10
Shoot 'Em Up: 7/10
Shooter: 6/10
Shrek the Third: 5/10
Sicko: 7/10
Simpsons Movie, The: 7/10
Smokin' Aces: 5/10
Southland Tales: 3/10
Spider-Man 3: 6/10
Stardust: 8/10
Starter for 10: 5/10
Stomp the Yard: 2/10
Sunshine: 7/10
Superbad: 8/10
Superman: Doomsday: 5/10
Surf's Up: 7/10
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street: 8/10
Sydney White: 4/10
Talk to Me: 6/10
Ten, The: 3/10
There Will Be Blood: 8/10
Thr3e: 3/10
TMNT: 6/10
Transformers: 8/10
TV Set, The: 7/10
Vacancy: 6/10
Waitress: 6/10
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story: 6/10
War: 3/10
We Own the Night: 6/10
Wild Hogs: 4/10
Wind That Shakes the Barley, The: 2/10
Year of the Dog: 2/10
Zodiac: 9/10

Current Top 10 for 2007
10. In the Shadow of the Moon
9. Michael Clayton
8. Into the Wild
7. Lives of Others, The
6. Juno
5. Atonement
4. 3:10 to Yuma
3. No Country for Old Men
2. Gone Baby Gone
1. Once

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Shine a Light Review

It's tough to think of Martin Scorsese films without his use of rock music and no band is more a part of this phenomenon than The Rolling Stones. From "Jumpin Jack Flash" in Mean Streets to "Gimme Shelter" in The Departed a link has formed between the two so it's only appropriate that Scorsese here crafts the definitive Stones concert movie. One of the best things Scorsese does here is to collect an all-star assortment of ten Academy Award nominated/winning cinematographers to run the cameras throughout the Beacon; they manage to capture the entire concert with a cinematic flair and verve and an immediacy so often lacking in concert films. Of note also is Scorsese's inclusion of various stock interview and newsreel footage of the bandmates from the 60s and 70s; often serving as transitions between songs I found them to be both insightful and amusing. Also of special note are the three cameos during the concert, Christina Aguilera, Jack White (of The White Stripes) and Buddy Guy. Each of these performances lends a new excitement and life to the show; especially the excitement on White's face to be playing with the Stones is infectious. If you have even a passing interest in The Stones or in Martin Scorsese you owe it to yourself to try to see this in IMAX while you have the chance. And one last thing, I challenge you to tell me that young Charlie Watts and No Country for Old Men villain Anton Chigurh weren't seperated at birth...they're a splitting image.

Overall Score: 8/10

The Ruins Review

I guess the most merciful thing about this was that it was at least a somewhat different take on the typical upper-middle-class tourists exposed to depraved horrors genre. I was somewhat drawn to this because of a collection of surprisingly decent actors, considering the premise. Jena Malone, so enjoyable in Saved!, gives a pretty mediocre performance here but I think it's more due to an underdeveloped character than her failures as an actress. Shawn Ashmore, of X-Men, plays a surprisingly different character here and is somewhat believable in the role. Joe Anderson, who I thought was the most interesting and most effective part of last year's sloppy Across the Universe, is forced to don a silly German accent but otherwise maintains his skill at effective facial acting. The story here, which ends up dealing with creature horror instead of the overabundant (and suggested by the film's trailer) torture porn genre, is at least somewhat interesting and different from the norm of modern horror. Alas the movie is derailed by a poor screenplay, mediocre special effects, a premise that, while somewhat original, is still flawed and plot-hole ridden and poor supporting performances. I think I wish this were more successful at the box office if for no other reason than maybe it would inspire studios to make something other than torture porn or Asian horror remakes.

Overall Score: 4/10

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Leatherheads Review

Not offensively bad or anything, just not very good. All three leads seem to really be trying to make the movie work as well as possible, but there are some deep problems here. The first 60-70 minutes are FAR more enjoyable as the film focuses in on the roughian early years of professional football, nicely juxtaposed with big business college ball, and Clooney's character's efforts to legitimize the sport (economically) by bringing in one of the collegiate game's biggest stars. The film takes a turn for the worse in the later acts when it turns its focus to the legitimacy of Krasinski's war-hero background and the whole movie really suffers for it. I think one of the problems here is that Krasinski is just too likeable an actor for his character here; it's tough to feel fired up for the final showdown between Clooney and Krasinski because of it. I mean, in effect, we have a guy who falsified his war stories and abandons his team to follow the money but Krasinski makes him so likeable that we almost don't care about those things and the climax really suffers for it. George Clooney should've been born 60 years earlier, this film is a pure homage to 40s screwball comedies and he fits the bill perfectly. I was really disappointed in this one but it least it gave me one of the most enjoyable scenes of the year: an inspired and hilarious street fight between the two leads.

Overall Score: 5/10

Monday, April 7, 2008

Justice League: The New Frontier Review

What a great way to craft a Justice League story: turn the clock back to the 1950s and the Golden Age of comics but inbue a bit of a modern sensibility to the characterizations. The writing is surprisingly good with a bunch of humerous quips and '50s in-jokes (though I admit the heroic speeches are groan inducing). With the exception of Jeremy Sisto's far too gruff Batman the voicework is all very strong, especially David Boreanaz. I appreciated the film's focus on a lesser known (to me) character: The Green Lantern - rather than the typical Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash. I didn't quite 'get' the villain, it seemed like a poor man's version of the villain in last year's Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and didn't really seem like much of an actual threat. Regardless, this premise is a nice way to breathe some new life into these characters and was an enjoyable enough experience.

Overall Score: 6/10

Stop-Loss Review

Subtlety is not something found in abundance in Kimberly Peirce's Stop-Loss. For some reason it seems statistically unlikely to me that a squad in Iraq, made up of 10 guys, from which only four survive (the 4 survivors all hailing from the same Texas town): one maimed to the point of looking like the villain in Ridley Scott's Hannibal and the other three emotionally destroyed by the war and suffering from heavy levels of PTSD. Phillippe, an actor I really liked in Flags of Our Fathers and Breach , hits all the notes he's supposed to hear but something about his performance rang false to me. I can't quite put a finger on why exactly but I just couldn't buy a number of moments in the film. Channing Tatum, who starred in Step-Up, is not a good actor and doesn't deserve his role. Abbie Cornish is bland at best. Two performances stood out, Victor Rasuk, who takes center stage in the films most affecting and effective scene, when Phillippe visits his aforementioned maimed comrade in the military hospital. His performance is effective and quite moving. Note also goes to Joseph Gordon-Levitt who has come a hell of a long way since 3rd Rock from the Sun and gives the most believable performance of the shell shocked vets. The ending didn't work for me at all to boot. To be honest, I'm not sure what's wrong with these new Iraq/Middle East movies but I don't blame audiences for staying away. The films all tend far more towards preaching and melodrama than is necessary, it occurs to me that some distance, however slight, might be necessary to make more effective films on this stage of American history.

Overall Score: 4/10

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Hot Rod Review

Pretty much the offspring of Napoleon Dynamite and one of those Will Ferrell man-child sports movies. The early goings are pretty God-awful but a number of funny scenes and nifty little turns from decent character actors make it a tolerable hour and a half. To be honest, I don't really see much in Andy Samberg here. But the supporting performers are of note. Ian McShane steals every scene he's in as Rod's evil-ish step-father and gets all the best lines. Isla Fisher is cute and seems to be trying but doesn't get good lines with which to work. Will Arnett has a hilarious little cameo as Fisher's evil boyfriend, and though he's played the basic role before he's still pretty damn funny. And, finally, Bill Hader, amusing enough in Superbad and quite funny in the upcoming Forgetting Sarah Marshall, who really shows what the Apatow crew sees in him here. The scenes involving Rod and his crew were made tolerable thanks to Hader's dead-pan delivery. To be honest, I wanted to quit on this in the first twenty minutes but it became surprisingly tolerable as it progressed to the point of being mildly funny, despite shameless ripping off a number of (better) comedies.

Overall Score: 4/10

Run Fatboy Run Review

To be honest I think Simon Pegg has become one of my absolute favorite comedians and I've seen only three of his movies now. For my money Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz both rank as two of the funniest movies of the past decade and Pegg's work here, though not as funny, is certainly worthy of his prior accomplishments. The story here is cliched and kind of silly but is, mercifully, not played as ridiculously and ham-fistedly as it could've been (though I feel a need to point out that our hero runs roughly a 4:30 first mile which would never ever ever be possible). Thandie Newton gives a decent enough supporting role but is really not given too much material to work with. Hank Azaria seems to be having a really good time playing the heavy and gives a surprisingly restrained performance in what could've easily become a trite, contrived villain role. Look, a movie called Run Fatboy Run is clearly not out to collect many Academy Awards but this is a really enjoyable mix of British comedy and American romantic comedy and I recommend it.

Overall Score: 7/10

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

21 Review

I'm frustrated because this is just another example of studios taking a perfectly interesting true story and giving it the "Hollywood treatment" and turning the story into a cliche mess. Problems abound here: chief among them might be a brutal screenplay. Also up there are the completely unrestrained performances of Laurence Fishburne and Kevin Spacey who both resort to the worst, most scenery chewing, places in their acting repertoire. I didn't realize Lex Luthor works at MIT and Morpheus is a casino pit boss. It does manage to capture the 'cool' of Vegas nicely, but the real most effective aspect of the film is the strong performance from Jim Sturgess in the lead. Sturgess, who was quite good as well in last year's flawed Across the Universe, does his best to work through some brutal lines and, I think, actually manages to bring something to a heavily cliched character. It's enjoyable enough, just nothing special.

Overall Score: 5/10