Saturday, July 31, 2010


Based off of the novel, The Emerald City, Greenzone chronicles the accounts of Chief Miller, played by Matt Damon, and his journey to discovery the truth during the second Iraq War. After yet another failed mission to uncover WMD's, Chief Miller begins to question the validity of the Intel they are receiving regarding the locations of WMD's. As Chief Miller gets closer to the truth, he finds answers that the truth is far worse than he thought.

Matt Damon's performance in Greenzone is as straight forward as you can get. Not that he is just mailing it in to collect a paycheck, but rather just nothing special. Chief Miller seems very similar to Damon’s portrayal of Jason Bourne in The Bourne Identity, merely as a soldier rather than spy. The same thing can be said about Greg Kinnear as the slime government official who orchestrated the whole war. Kinnear and Damon are better actors than this film allows them to be. The story just isn't that good.

My main issue with this film is its cinematography. I really do enjoy the work that Micheal Mann has done; however, the style of filmmaking he has developed in films like Man on Fire and Miami Vice is ruining action movies. The last 20 minutes of Greenzone looks like it was shot using night vision goggles. I have invested a great deal of time and money in my high definition home theater set up to see it deemed completely useless for action films shot like this.

Greenzone is based off of a true story, but it is a story that American’s already understand or will choose to never believe anyway. There just really isn't anything here to make it worth more than a rental.

My Rating: 2 out of 5

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Youth in Revolt

Youth in Revolt [Blu-ray]

Youth in Revolt is the story of Nick Twisp, played by Michael Cera, a somewhat geeky, but lovable kid looking for love in all the wrong places. When the man shacked up with his mother gets into trouble, the whole family "goes on vacation" to a trailer park. There, he meets the girl of his dreams, Sheeni Saunders. As he heads back home, the only way to win back the love of his life is to create an alter-ego that will do whatever it takes to win her back.

The plot to this film is not terrible, but it’s not great either. My main issue with this film is in its execution. Sure Nick Twisp has a terrible life with horrible parents, but once he creates his alter-ego he becomes a terrible person himself. I pretty much had disdain for every single character in this film. Each of their quirks is what made me despise the cast and, therefore, despise the movie.

The other thing I just can't shake from this movie is how bland it feels. There are moments were you will laugh out loud, but they are few and far between. Most of the time, watching this film will be spent simply disliking everyone. Youth in Revolt is totally uninspired and just an attempt to capitalize off of other films which have already done similar things much better.

My Rating 1.5 out of 5

Thursday, July 22, 2010


I’m not going to lie; this summer has been filled with crap sequels and remakes. That is why it makes it all the more miraculous that the most original film I have ever seen would come out now. Inception is a film about a group of thieves that use people's subconscious to steal their secrets. Cobb, the lead thief played by Leonardo DiCaprio, has one last opportunity at redemption, but not by stealing an idea rather implanting one. This film will make you think. Even its layers have layers. Therein lays the genius. Not a single frame in the entire film is wasted. Every moment, every layer, and every plot, helps to support the rest of the film.

The performances in Inception are nothing short of absolute top notch. The actors in this film are ALL perfectly cast and showcase some of the best and brightest up and coming actors today. Ellen Page continues to prove more and more versatile with each role she takes on and is a fantastic female lead. Joseph Gordon-Levitt may not be a name you know right now, but in a year you will.

Inception is written and directed by Christopher Nolan, who previously directed some of the best films of the last 10 years. Aspects of each film he has directed were used to help enhance this picture. From the fractured story telling of Momento to the vivid madness-inducing feeling conjured in Insomnia. Inception is Nolan's master work, a radiant blend of a multitude of film genres.

Too often these days we go the movies and see a film driven by the special effects. It is a desperately needed breath of fresh air to have a film that requires you to use your mind. If you don't like this movie, it was simply just over your head. Seriously, you need to go see this movie in the theater. It is the best movie of the year so far. Internally, I am debating whether Inception is the best movie period.

My Rating: 5 out of 5

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Book of Eli

The Book of Eli is the story of a lone man’s journey across a post-apocalyptic America in order to protect a sacred book which holds the secrets to save mankind. It’s made pretty clear very quickly that the book in question is the Bible, but it is pretty simple minded to say that this is just a simple movie about religion. Far from it, The Book of Eli focuses more on the manner in which the book can be used. In the hands of Eli it will be used to help people regain the civilization lost after nuclear war. In contrast if Carnegie, the villain, would gain control of the last Bible he would use it to control others through fear.

The film stars Denzel Washington as Eli and Gary Oldman as the villain, Carnegie. Due to the casting of these two very talented actors, the film gains legs. In the hands of lesser actors, The Book of Eli would be mediocre at best. The only casting that seemed out of place to me was Carnegie's step daughter, Solara, played by Mila Kunis. I am still not sold on her as a dramatic actress and her performance is easily overshadowed by either one of the more seasoned actors.

The Book of Eli is well shot with some very good and interesting action sequences. As long as you understand the underlying message, which is that faith can be used many ways, then it is a quality film and worth a viewing. I do have one gripe, though. I understand how product placement can provide extra financing for a film, but the first 15 minutes are ridiculous. This is 30 years after a nuclear war and in one scene you get plugs for Ipods, KFC, and Beats headphones. Product placement is fine, but do a better job at being a little more nonchalant with it, please.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 (would have been a 3.5, but i docked a half point for the in movie commercials)

The Losers

Based off of a DC Vertigo comic of the same name, The Losers tells the story of a CIA Black Ops team who seek revenge on the man who betrayed them. Clay, played by Jeffery Dean Morgan (The Comedian in Watchmen), leads a group of misfit soldiers each with their own unique quirks and traits. A mysterious operative Aisha, played by Zoe Saldana (Avatar, Star Trek), offers them all the help they will need to put their words into action.

The characters in the film are generic at best. There is nothing particularly special about them other than they have been ripped from a thousand other actions movies. For the most part the same is true about the plot. The only real stand out in the movie was Chris Evans who continues to show why he will make a good leading man. This writer however was not a big fan of Jason Patric as Max, the villain in the film. I have seen evil bad guys in movies before, but this was overdone. I half expected to see him kicking a puppy at some point; I didn't need the constant reminder of how evil he is.

In the end, The Losers is a well put together, all be it, generic action movie. I found it entertaining and will be able to watch it more than once. With that being said, there just isn't anything special about it either. One additional note, I hate it when movies go out of their way to set up a sequel.

My rating: 3 out of 5

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Precious: Based on the novel 'Push' by Sapphire

Precious is one of those rare films where you don't just finish it entertained, but rather changed. The film centers around a 16 year old girl named Precious, played by newcomer Gabourey Sidibe, who lives a very hard life. Her mother, played by Mo'Nique, abuses her constantly both physically and emotionally. Her father molested her and is now pregnant with her second child by him. After her school becomes aware of her newest pregnancy they kick Precious out and send her to a school for troubled girls. Even through all of the hardship she faces, Precious still manages to pick herself back up time and time again. I have never seen the message of 'make the best with what you got' presented so strongly.

The acting in this film’s cast is terrific throughout the whole film. Mo'Nique’s performance as the abusive mother is amazing and well deserving of the Oscar she won for it. For being her first movie, Gabourey Sidibe showed tremendous range. In some scenes you can feel her vulnerability and in others she commands the screen with her strength. Most surprising to me was the performances of Mariah Carey as the social worker, Ms. Weiss, and Lenny Kravitz as Nurse John. I wish more musicians who wish to act, would do so in this manner then to be the center piece in a bad movie, i.e. Glitter.

This is the second film by Lee Daniels and should guarantee him the ability to direct more pictures. He will have a long career, if he can produce films of this depth. However, the camera work needs some improvement. It pulled me out of the moment at certain points when there would be a sharp focus change. It gives it a documentary feel, but is totally not needed. It is minor gripe in what is otherwise a very powerful film. This isn't an easy film to watch, but still deserves the effort. You will be better off because of it.

My rating: 4.5 out of 5

Friday, July 16, 2010

Paper Heart

Paper Heart is a romantic comedy disguised as a documentary. Charlyne Yi, played by Charlyne Yi, is on a quest to discover what love really means to her. Along her journey she starts a relationship with Michael Cera, played by (get this) Michael Cera. In doing my research for this film I discovered that in the years leading up to this film these actors were in a real relationship.

There are really no characters or performances to speak of, because everyone is playing themselves. Charlyne Yi and Michael Cera are both likable enough characters/actors and have an obvious chemistry, due to their real life relationship. The only real source of conflict in the film is the difficulties the new couple faced in trying to develop a relationship while being on camera.

This film is truly a case of art imitating life. It parallels the couple’s real life problems, which is trying to be a couple in the public. I get what they are trying to say about being young and famous. The issue to me is that it almost comes off as criticizing the audience for being enthralled with celebrity’s personal lives. To those who watch Paper Heart and don’t get this message, the movie will merely come off as boring and pointless. Either way you should just pass.

My rating 1.5 out of 5

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Whatever Works

Whatever Works is what happens when you combine the very dry humor of Woody Allen's Directing with the incredibly dry humor of Larry David's acting. You get a film so slow that it almost feels like it stops time. Larry David plays Boris, a genius suffering from both OCD and a very bleak outlook on life. Everything in life is worthless to Boris and nothing good can come of it. After a chance meeting with a young girl from the south named Melody, played by Evan Rachel Wood, his life will drastically change forever. Her positive attitude and pleasant outlook on life make them polar opposites. Even though both Boris and Melody have settled into a marriage of convenience eventually their differences were bound to press through.

Whatever Works reminds me a lot of Annie Hall. From the nervous and somewhat neurotic examinations of life to the way that Boris breaks the 4th wall and talks directly to the audience. The difference is where Woody Allen's performance in Annie Hall as a neurotic and insecure ex-boyfriend is easy to identify with, Larry David's depressive know-it-all attitude just comes off as a jerk. Boris isn't a happy person, but in watching this you will be glad he's unhappy. The underlying message is that you shouldn't settle and always look for something that will make you truly happy.

Woody Allen is still a very intelligent director. There are some very sharply written lines that will make you laugh out loud throughout the film. In the end, however, it is just not enough to save this film. For the most part this movie is bland and feels much longer than its 92 minute run time. Whatever Works plain and simply just didn't work for me.

My rating: 1.5 out of 5

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Shutter Island

Set in 1954, Shutter Island is a psychological thriller. Teddy Daniels, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, is a US Marshal investigating the disappearance of a murderess who escaped from the hospital for the criminally insane located on Shutter Island. Teddy pushed for this assignment in the hopes of finding the man who murdered his wife. Upon his arrival Teddy begins to discover that all is not well on the island. He discovers that the whole hospital is being used by the government to conduct mind altering experiments to create super spies and soldiers. The closer he gets to the truth, the closer he gets to a truth that he may not want to realize.

Leonardo DiCaprio's performance in this film continues to show why he is one of the best actors of this generation. You feel for him greatly. You are pulling for him to uncover the truth. After a string of poor movie choices, it is nice to see Ben Kingsley remind us all what a great actor he is. As Dr. John Cawley, Kingsley proved just that. Mark Ruffalo and Michelle Williams also lend strong performances to this film as well.

Shutter Island was made with great care. The setting is spot on. It feels like a mental hospital with something to hide. Each room expertly crafted to show a place in 1950's America where anything may be possible. The films run time is 2 hours and 18 minutes and there lies my only real issue with the film. Some scenes either drag on too long while others don’t seem necessary to the plot. If this was even just under 2 hours it very well may have been a better film. Even so, Shutter Island is a very good film with a twist you won't see coming.

My Rating 4 out of 5


Moon is one of those 'interesting' films. It is technically classified as an independent film. However, it has a pretty decent budget and a fantastic, all be it small, cast. Set in the not so distant future, dwindling natural resources have forced humans to work on the moon to harvest solar energy. Sam Bell, played by Sam Rockwell, is the lone employee on a corporate mining facility on the moon. His sole source of direct communication he has with Earth comes from prerecorded messages. The only thing that keeps him company is the facilities artificial intelligence named Gerty (voiced by Kevin Spacey). With 3 weeks left to go before his 3 years of solitude on the moon is set to expire his mind begins to break down. After an accident on the grounds of the facility, Sam sets out to find a crashed rover. He not only finds the crashed rover, but discovers a lone survivor as well. The survivor happens to be Sam Bell.

Going into this film, you can see the retro futuristic feel of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I kind of expected a movie based around an individual's deteriorating sanity in the wake of spending 3 years alone. What I got instead was an entirely different film based around an entirely different ideology. Moon explores what it means to be human and to what depths a corporation would go to earn high profits.

Sam Rockwell's performance is very powerful in this movie. Just about any person watching this will be able to identify with him. He is your classic 'every' man, just looking to get home to his family. The manner in which both versions of Sam Bell deal with what is a very horrific situation is both completely believable and completely different. Added to that, Kevin Spacey's voice of the facilities artificial intelligence is almost chilling. You will spend half the movie wondering if he is a villain or an ally.

This is the directorial debut of Duncan Jones of an original story he wrote. I will not be surprised to find more good things to come from him. Moon is very well shot and the production designs are very reminiscent of great science fiction films of the late 70's. This works perfectly to aid the overall feel of the film. Moon is a film that has slid under many people's radars, but is one that should not be missed.

My Rating 4.5 out of 5

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Find out what happens when 8 vicious killers are stuck on a planet. They stop being polite and start being real. That's how Predators opens, with a rather exciting opening sequence. It begins with Royce, played by Adrien Brody, awaking to find himself free falling. At the last second, a parachute opens and he lands in a very hot, thick jungle. Shortly after landing he finds seven other people in the same position as he. Seven of the jungle's newly found guests are some of our planets most vicious killers. The eighth is a doctor, who just seems out of place, Edwin, played by Topher Grace of That 70's Show. As they explore their new surroundings they discovery two very disturbing truths. The first: they are not on Earth any more. The second: they are being hunted.

Predators sits somewhere between remake and sequel. In a summer filled with both it is refreshing to see one done this well. In watching this film you can tell that director Nimrod Antel truly respects and cares for the source material from which his film is based. The actors are very committed to the project and you can feel that watching the film. Adrien Brody is completely believable as a mercenary after his own survival. The remaining characters are all vicious killers and yet you feel for each and find yourself pulling for all of them to survive.

For this writer, the highlight of Predators is how they not only kept the underlying theme of the original in tack, but how they expanded the idea as well. The original Predator examined the dynamic between the hunter and the hunted. Dutch, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, had to get to a point of utter defeat in order to find the instincts to hunt his hunter. Predators takes this a step further. It examines what makes people into predators across all walks of life. Royce (Brody) is a mercenary. He has been a soldier for so long that he became a mercenary just to continue to hunt and kill people. Even Edwin(Grace), we discover, isn't so out of place and is a predator in his own right.

Predators is not an Oscar contender, but it's not trying to be. It's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. There is a sword fight that is totally unnecessary and part of the third act is a little thin. With that being said, it is still a rather good movie and, in my humble opinion, the only true sequel to the original Predator.

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Crazies

The Crazies is a remake of the 1973 George A. Romero film of the same name. The film revolves around a small town sheriff, David Dutton, played by Timothy Olyphant and his wife, Judy, who just so happens to be the town doctor, played by Radha Mitchell. Their small town begins to fall apart as the townspeople begin to go into a state of homicidal madness. Once the military arrive and quarantine the town we discover a biological weapon had been introduced into the town's water supply when a plane crashed near the town. Those who are infected will be killed. As the last of the survivors, Mr. and Mrs. Dutton are trying to escape the town before the military or The Crazies get to them first.

The film, in general, just seemed off to me. Olyphant's performance as the town sheriff reminded me of his performance as Sheriff Bullock in the HBO series Deadwood. Where his steady, tight-lipped, always angry lawman portrayal worked in that series, it failed in this endeavor. Horror films, to this writer, center around their ability to make you identify and relate to the characters. Thusly, when they get into a life or death situation you feel fear. Not only because what you are watching is scary, but because it feels like it could be you. I couldn't feel for him merely because I didn't feel like he had any real feelings himself. In addition, the film lacked flow. It bounced back and forth from horror set piece to suspense set piece without much cohesion.
In the end, The Crazies felt as if some film studio executive stumbled upon the original film and figured that could make some money off of it. Sadly, it felt generic and cookie-cutter-esque much like a lot of other Hollywood remakes. This particular genre has always been plagued by too many sequels and remakes. The Crazies is a perfect example of a film that should have just sat tucked away in obscurity and never been heard from again. It is not a terrible film by any means, but it is not worth anything other than a single viewing.
I give it 2 out of 5.

She's Out of My League

It's funny when you go into watching a film with low expectations you can be pleasantly surprised. That's how I felt watching She's Out of My League. The studio described it as "this year's Hangover" which it most certainly is not. It is better described as a raunchy romantic comedy and makes for a good stay-at-home date movie. I enjoyed it thoroughly and found myself laughing more than I thought I would. However this film is not without its flaws, the main characters for one. Kirk played by Jay Baruchel is playing the same character as he did in both Knocked Up and Tropic Thunder, which doesn't carry a whole movie. Molly played by Alice Eve is the ironically "Flawless" girl in the film. She is beautiful, smart, rich, understanding and completely boring with absolutely no depth of any kind. My other big issue brings me back to my "flawless" comment. There are two main conflicts which drive the two main characters apart. The first conflict, although kind of gross, is creative and very entertaining. The second deals with her being too "flawless," which is so utterly foolish and unrealistic it made the rest of the film, which I rather enjoyed, almost unwatchable. It felt tacked on. It was almost as if the director felt obligated to follow the romantic comedy formula. Overall I enjoyed it, but it is nothing special. I give it a 2.5 out of 5.