Sunday, July 31, 2011

My 2011 favs so far

Here we are more than half way through the year so I'm going to take a look back at some of my favorite movies so far.

Source Code

Duncan Jones' follow up to his 2009 hit Moon is just as enthralling and every bit as exciting. D. Jones knows how to tell a story and he tells it very well in this sci-fi thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal, who gives an outstanding performance in a cast of talented actors.


Without a doubt one of my favorite movies this year and probably of all time. Director James Wan (Saw) knows how to set a mood and with the help of a well balanced screenplay from Leigh Whannell, Insidious is the scariest, smartest horror film since the original Scream.


I hold a special place in my heart for whacky, arthouse films and since April Hanna has joined that place along side one of my 2010 favorites, Black Swan. Period piece fanatic Joe Wright directs this wonderfully bizzare thriller about a super soldier who happens to be 16-year-old girl. Pitch-perfect casting is the key to success for this modern work of filmmaking art.

Horrible Bosses

Following the premise of everybody's favorite Danny DeVito-Alfred Hitchcock movie, three men decide to try and boost the moral at the workplace by offing each other's bosses. The result? A comedy that rivals that of the 'Hangover' sequel's comic. Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudeikis work well off each other and with the star-studded supporting cast to bring out the laughs.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II

There have been a lot of 'Harry Potter' films but there is just something... magical about this last enstallment. It could be the fact that it's the last one and we will all miss them, or it could be the Oscar-worthy performances, the smooth storytelling from Director David Yates, the breathtaking visual effects, including some first rate 3D usage, or some combination of these things.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Review: Cowboys & Aliens

For any hardcore sci-fi nerd, cowboys and aliens sounds like a match made in heaven and it may even be while in the form of a graphic novel. As a feature-length film? Not so much.

For the first twenty minutes Cowboys & Aliens is promising. Daniel Craig wakes up in the middle of a desert and doesn't remember a thing, with only a small picture and a shiny new wristband as clues to what happened.

Intriguing, yes?

Anyway, it isn't long before our oblivious hero wanders into a small town where he discovers he may or may not be wanted.

Do I still have your attention?

Well from there it plays out just like any self-respecting Western would: The new stranger in town kicks up some dirt, so to speak, and when push comes to shove, he knows how to kick ass. Sure, he can't even remember his own name but he can take out small armies of ruthless cowboys.

By the title you know it's only a matter of time until we see those lights on the horizon and once we do, it's just down hill from there...

Alien spacecrafts start bombing the small town and snatching up residents. However Daniel Craig shows those alien punks why you don't mess with even nineteenth century America when he shoots down one of the crafts (after which the entire seige on the town suddenly stops because those aliens flew all that way just to get scared).

Apparently the alien escapes the craft without anybody seeing because the next thing you know, it's already inside a building, mauling some poor man to death! The next day Craig and the rest of the survivors are tracking the alien down by his footprints (that's right, they can fly thousands of lightyears with limitless technology but they can't cover up their footprints).

Now I am not going to go through the entire movie with you, but it is full of obvious plot holes and weak explanations. Now I would be fine with no story and just seeing cowboys and aliens do battle, but since these filmmakers attempted a story, I cannot let it go.

Why are the aliens invading Earth? Oh, our resources? Thanks, Olivia Wilde! Too bad she doesn't really explain that either and I just pulled that together from little bits and pieces of her "big reveal". And What the f@&* is up with the gold?

Even the design of the aliens lacks any real originality. In fact, I could sware that these aliens come from the same planet as the one from Super 8 and at least the same sector as the one from Cloverfield.

I like Jon Favreau and I think he is an undeniably talented filmmaker and storyteller; however, not even he seems to make much sense of what's going on as the talented cast wanders from setpiece to setpiece, seemingly waiting for the "Ah ha!" moment where everything comes together... And waiting... And waiting...

Friday, July 15, 2011

Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. II

It's been a decade since since unknown child actor Daniel Radcliffe made his debut as Harry Potter in 'Sorcerer's Stone'. Here we are now in 2011 and Harry is all grown up and ready to take on the evils of the world... In a literal sense.

Hogwarts is under attack by Death Eaters and their leader, Lord Voldemort, looks to finish what he started so many years ago by ending the life of Harry Potter and assuming power over the known world. Unfortunately for you-know-who Harry and company are hunting down and destroying horcruxes. You know, those things that contain bits and pieces of Voldemort's soul?

As you may or may not recall, I actually did not care for 'Part 1'. I thought there was too much focus on setting everything up that it didn't work as a stand-alone film and ended up just being a lot of running around on beautiful set pieces with little to no explanation. I am glad to report that 'Part 2' is a masterful upgrade that surpasses all others in the franchise and even most films this year.

We have all grown up with Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson and seen them grow into talented, young actors. As a general statement: everybody gives great performances here, but a few noteables consist of Ralph Fiennes as the terrifying, and sometimes darkly funny, Lord Voldemort and Alan Rickman as the ever-complicated Severus Snape.

With these last four installments, Director David Yates has shown us that he is capable of some truly emotionally enriching feats, including 'Deathly Hallows 2'. The story is told through some brilliant cinematography combined with astonishing visual effects, some effective 3D, drawing acting, and a quality script that keeps you emotionally and intellectually engaged like few movies this year have.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II is a masterful work of art and a beautiful finale to the most successful franchise in history.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Greatest American Heroes

In honor of our great nation's birthday, I wanted to bring to your attention and celebrate a select group of heroes who make it possible for us to live the free lives we lead here in America.

Duke Nukem

Babes, explosions, and untamed narcissism. Sounds like something straight out of a Michael Bay movie I know, but Duke represents America's testosterone drive as well as its ignorance towards the changing world. Admittedly, "Ignorance" is America in one word, correct?

Captain America

How can your name be Captain America and you don't make the list of top greatest American heroes? Once a scrawny hopeful, now an American icon. From Hitler to Osama, this captain isn't afraid to take the fight to the baddies in order to insure our freedoms. 

John McClane

Just an ordinary cop put through extraordinary circumstances; not once, not twice, not even thrice, but FOUR times he's protected our freedom from terrorists, and counting. A fitting spot for a Fourth of July countdown. Watch any 'Die Hard' movie and you'll see what I'm talking about. Yippee-ki-yay!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Review: Bad Teacher

It's been eight years since the release of Bad Santa and now Cameron Diaz picks up Billy Bob Thorton's role for Bad Teacher.   

Diaz has shown us that she has a sense of humor before, like in comedic gems such as There's Something About Mary. Now this movie isn't exactly a "comedic gem", but there are enough laughs to make Bad Teacher a good comedy.

Diaz plays Elizabeth Halsey, a rude, self-centered, foul-mouthed junior high school teacher who took the job after being dumped by her sugar daddy and now finds herself in need of a serious boob job in order to woo a fellow teacher for his money.

Diaz's real-life ex, Justin Timberlake, just happens to be that fellow teacher. Mr. Scott Delacorte is a shallow loser who unintentionally (or intentionally) ends up in the middle of a feud between Diaz's Halsey and Lucy Punch's Amy Squirrel. Loser aside, Timberlake feels a little self-aware of his goofiness but still puts on a good performance.

The chemistry between Diaz and the hilarious supporting cast, made up of funny people like John Michael Higgins; The Office's Phyllis Smith; and Thomas Lennon, is undeniable and even adds a level of charm come the third act. Perhaps the best part about Bad Teacher is Jason Segel's performance as a gym teacher who actually enjoys life.

I have to admit that at times I found it difficult to root for a character who is so self-centered and even after the cliche third act "change of heart", I still didn't buy into the ending. However, I cannot deny how much I laughed at this movie and how much I like enjoyed the supporting cast.