Friday, August 27, 2010



Greenberg tells the story of Roger Greenberg, a man who recently came out of a mental hospital after suffering a nervous breakdown. After 15 years of living in New York, Greenberg agrees to move to L.A. and house sit for his brother for 6 weeks. While there, he hoped to spend his time relaxing and just maybe find meaning once again in his life by reconnecting with the people of his past. The problem with that is that after years apart, those people don't really want to reconnect with him. The only bright spot is the connection he begins to develop with his brother's assistant, Florence.

Ben Stiller is very good as Roger Greenberg. He does a great job showing Greenberg's vulnerability and how he hides his vulnerability by walling himself off from other people. Greta Gerwig also does a good job as Florence, a 26 year old girl who desperately wants a relationship with a man, but because of the relationship with her father doesn't understand how to find it.

Even though this movie was rather bland at times, I rather enjoyed it. Greenberg's quirks are quite entertaining. He is able to find fault with everything. He is unhappy because he is unable to find happiness with the present. He idealizes the past and is constantly trying to recapture it. In the meantime, he ignores the possibilities in front of him.

Greenburg is an interesting film and is worth a viewing. In a lot of ways it reminds of Lost in Translation. Can two people get past their own insecurities and faults and just love one another? This is a problem that a lot of people face. Greenburg is very slow to watch, but worth your time, if you can get past Ben Stiller in a serious role.

My Rating: 2.5 neurotic guys out of 5

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Survival of the Dead

George A. Romero's Survival of the Dead (Two-Disc Ultimate Undead Edition)

Survival of the Dead is the latest zombie movie from the inventor of the modern day zombie, George A. Romero. This time around, the story centers around a group of AWOL soldiers that head to an island off the coast of Delaware to escape the zombie plague. They arrive on the island only to get involved in another conflict between 2 other groups. One group wants to just kill off the zombie menace and be done with it. The other group wants to rehabilitate the dead and turn them in normal people who just happen to be dead.

This is the sixth movie Romero has done on a different aspect of a zombie apocalypse and, I guess, before he dies he wants to cover every aspect of zombie films. Survival of the Dead returns to the idea started in the Land of the Dead; that the undead may not have lost all of what made them human. This film takes it one step further, to examine the idea of whether or not we could coexist with them. However, this idea is never really explored, but used as a way to drive the conflict between the two groups on the island. I wasn't really a fan of the concept of thinking zombies in Land of the Dead and Survival of the Dead hasn't really done much to improve this idea either.

The cast is B movie at best, the lead character, Sarge Crocket, reminds a lot of the lead character from Office Space, the character is so out of place that he just takes you out of the movie. His apathetic approach to dealing with the various conflicts seemed ridiculous. The main thing that bothered me about the cast was that everyone from the island spoke with an Irish accent. I am not even sure why they went that route. I understand they may have existing regional accents, but this doesn't make sense.

Overall, Survival of the Dead isn't the worst zombie movie ever made, but it doesn't really bring anything new to the table either. Romero has created a fairly interesting concept; however it just could have been explored better with more interesting characters.

My Rating: 2 mindless zombies out of 5

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Letters to God

Letters to God
Based off a true story, Letters to God tells the inspiring true story of Tyler Doherty. Shortly after the death of his father, 8-year-old Tyler was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer. Tyler's way of coping with this difficult time is to write letters to God. Enter the family’s new postman, Brady McDaniels, a man with demons from his past which lead him to alcoholism. As Brady tries to figure out what to do with the letters he gets addressed to God, he is given a path back to the faith that he lost himself.

Now I will start off by saying that this is a religious movie, which you can attach your own preconceived notion of what that means. Tyler Doherty is played by Tanner Maguire. He does a very good job with a difficult role for a child. His mother, played by Robyn Lively, and the postman, played by Jeffery Johnson, are both solid as well. After those performances, the acting goes downhill rather quickly. Specifically, the performance of Michael Bolton (not the singer) who plays the older brother leaves much to be desired. Pun intended, but his performance was mailed in.

Though the acting in this movie for the most part is pretty bad, the story is actually pretty good. The movie has a strong faith based message and ultimately will depend entirely on the viewer’s belief as to whether they will enjoy the movie or not. If you are already a person with faith you will enjoy Letters to God and the message it sends. If not, this film will probably not win you over.

My rating 3 letters out of 5

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

In the far off land of Toronto, young rocker Scott Pilgrim meets the girl of his dreams; literally. He finally convinces her to date him and thinks that she is truly the one. This would be perfect except for one problem; to date Ramona Flowers he must defeat each of her 7 evil exes in a fight to the death.

Right off the bat, I have to say this is the single greatest video game movie ever made. Due to the fact that it is not based on a video game, rather just referencing them throughout the movie thru its design. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is set up like a video game; offering vital stats for its characters and the evil exes representing the Bosses at the end of levels. The fights with the evil exes are also extremely well done. Each with expertly drawn Street Fighter esque fights complete with video game sound effects and text.

The cast of this movie is as close to being a perfect match to the characters themselves that I have ever seen. Michael Cera plays Scott Pilgrim and offers a performance with the most emotional range of his career (not that that's a lot). He is great as Scott Pilgrim, but like in Youth in Revolt I just don't like Scott Pilgrim very much. He is extremely selfish, lazy and only seems to care about his own interests. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Ramona Flowers and does a great job in playing the intriguing love interest worth fighting for. There are also stand out performances by Kieran Culkin who steals the screen as Scott Pilgrim's gay roommate and Alison Pill who plays Kim Pine, the emotionless drummer in Scott's band. Chris Evans and Brandon Routh are really great as evil exes. Finally, Jason Schwartzman plays the main villain, Gideon Graves, an evil record executive with the power to control Ramona Flowers.

Director Edgar Wright has crafted an amazing and rich world in this film. Each character, no matter how small the part, still has an amazing amount of depth. Ever line is delivered at the precise moment for the greatest effect. There isn't much about this film that wasn't done well. My only issue is that; although I am a huge fan of the video game aspect of the film, I do dislike the trendy hipster culture. Regardless, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is still one of the best films of the year.

My rating: 4 trendy hipster kids out of 5

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Expendables

The Expendables: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

After seeing this movie, I honestly believe that Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone were out drinking and came up with idea for the worst action movie ever. Then, in his stupor, Arnold Schwarzenegger asked, “How many washed up action heroes could we get to be in this movie?” Sylvester Stallone replied, “11, including us.” Schwarzenegger then asked, “How many A-list (ish) action heroes would it take to turn this B-movie idea into an A-movie?” After watching the Expendables, the answer to that question would be: 0. No matter the cast, there was no saving this film. The plot of the movie is something along the lines this group of Planet Hollywood owners play a team of mercenaries who are offered a job to remove a dictator from power on a tiny island in the Caribbean. There are some other “plot points,” but they aren’t worth my time to write, nor yours to read.

Of the cast of greats that are in this movie, Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham have the most to do. However, they still play generic characters they have both already personified. The rest of the Expendables: Terry Crews, Jet Li, and Randy Couture are just that, expendable. They aren't on the screen long enough for me to gauge their performance and when they are on screen they are just killing off hundreds of generic bad guys. Mickey Rourke actually gives the best overall performance, which makes you want to remind him that his career is on the upswing and should have just stayed out of it. Dolph Lundgren does a really good job of playing a man broken down by the problems of his life and thus, has a pretty bad drug problem to boot. Wait. Sorry. He isn't acting. Steve Austin plays a racist, skinhead jerk. The same type of character he has been playing as of late. Lastly, we have Eric Roberts. If you are really interested in seeing him perform, but can’t make it to the theater; I suggest you watch his other premiere this week: Sharktopus on the Sci-Fi channel.

Now, I will give the movie a tiny shred of credit. Some of the action sequences are so over the top that they are pretty entertaining. As I mentioned before in my review for Greenzone, the problem with over the top action sequences is the camera work. It is called a steady cam. It lets you get nice clean shots of the action so people can actually see the movie. The whole “looks like it was shot with a couple of camcorders they got from a local Best Buy” film technique does not work for me. Also, STOP using digital blood and gore effects. They are never done well and always end up looking ridiculously fake.

This movie has officially taken what was a very below average summer and turned it into the worst I can remember. I am waiting for Sylvester Stallone to go onto national television next week in the style of a presidential address just to tell us all that we have been Punk'd. I can't wait for the sequel... The Expendables 2: Will Blow Sh$% Up For Food.

My Rating: 1 out of 5

Friday, August 13, 2010

Movie You Probably Missed: Serenity

Serenity [Blu-ray]

Way back in 2002, there was a very good concept for a television show called Firefly. In Fox's infinite wisdom, they put the show in the time slot were all good science fiction shows go to die; Friday nights at 9pm. The show ran for 12 episodes. It got poor ratings and was cancelled before even running the remaining 2 episodes that were already filmed. That would have been the end of it had it not been for Director Joss Whedon's passion. He convinced Universal Studios to turn the failed television show into a feature film; thus creating the 2005 film, Serenity.

The film is set 500 years in the future, long after people have left earth and colonized in many other planets. It is set after a civil war, in which the outlying colonies fought for independence from the central planets and lost. The crew of Serenity is made up of a group of disgruntled former soldiers who lost the war. They take on board their ship a 17 year old girl who is a telepath and was being experimented on by the Alliance. What the Alliance knows and the crew later learn is that she is much more dangerous than she appears and may hold secrets that could shake the Alliance to its core.

The great thing about Serenity is its layers. It has elements of science fiction, horror, western, action, martial arts, drama, and comedy. The universe Joss Whedon has created is extremely detailed. It is a society which is a melting pot of different cultures and one of the best representations of the future I have ever seen on film. The characters all have just as much depth. Joss Whedon was given the option to replace the actors from the TV series, but he decided to keep the cast he had. This was a double edged sword; on one side you can see on film how much they care about this film and on the other side it leaves the film without any big name celebrities in the film. The latter made Serenity less than successful at the box office. I, on the other hand, prefer this because it helps me get lost in a movie.

Serenity is hands down one of the best science fiction movies of the last decade. You owe it to yourself to find it and give it a chance, you will be glad you did.

My rating: 5 out of 5

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Date Night

Date Night

Somewhere in Hollywood there was a movie studio executive who thought Steve Correll and Tina Fey would be really entertaining on screen together. The result of that idea was Date Night. This film seemed nothing more than a vehicle to put these two actors together on screen in a bunch of crazy situations. Steve Correll and Tina Fey play a middle-aged married couple who decide to have a night out in New York City to spice up their marriage. When the trendy restaurant is all booked, they take the reservations of another couple who failed to show. In doing so, they find themselves in a difficult situation; the reservation they have actually taken belongs to criminals who were faceless, until now. Will they survive this sticky situation of mistaken identity? Of course they will; it’s a romantic comedy.

The plot is ridiculous. They are being chased by dirty cops who are constantly shooting at them in public. This movie would be utterly terrible if it wasn't for significantly above average cast. I will give the movie studio executive credit; Steve Correll and Tina Fey are fantastic opposite one another. They are both very clever and a good portion of this movie is ad-libbed. The executive also deserves credit for the cast full of well-known actors. Mark Wahlberg plays a very entertaining take of the suave super spy. Mila Kunis and James Franco are great for the 5 minutes they are on screen as the criminal couple whose reservations were stolen. Top to bottom this film is one of the better casting jobs I have seen in a while.

Date Night is a movie that helps prove why it’s better to have a good cast around a crappy script, than a crappy cast around a good script. Steve Correll and Tina Fey are great around one another. They play off each other’s queues very well. I am sure we will see them together in the future. Although the movie is totally forgettable, it is worth a rent. Then again for Tina Fey, at least it’s not Baby Mama.

My rating 2.5 out of 5

Hot Tub Time Machine

Hot Tub Time Machine (Unrated) [Blu-ray]

Hot Tub Time Machine is a story about 4 guys who decide to go on vacation after one of them, accidentally, almost kills himself. They decide to go back to the ski resort were they experienced Winterfest ’86, when they were at their peak of their lives. After a night of intense drinking they find that their hot tub is actually a Hot Tub Time Machine. They end up back going back in time, back to Winterfest '86 where 3 of their lives changed forever and 1 of them was conceived.

Initially when I began this film, I was thinking it was going to be a satire of movies like Ski School given its location and general theme; the 1980s group of misfits overcoming the popular kids. However, they went more the route of Back to the Future the way actions in the past would affect the outcome of the future. Each of the older characters have to repeat the actions they did that fateful night or the future they are used too, as well as their younger friend, may not exist.

The movie stars and is produced by John Cusack who plays the recently divorced Adam. Channeling the Say Anything, Better Off Dead, One Crazy Summer roles of his past, he is perfect in the lead role. After years of serious roles, it’s nice to see him play the role that made him famous: the straight man in a wacky comedy. I found Rob Corddry as Lou to be way too over the top for my taste. Craig Robinson as Nick and Clark Duke as Jacob are good as well. They are both funny, but in a more subtle way than Rob Corddry.

Ultimately, I admit I was a little disappointed in the Hot Tub Time Machine the first time I watched it. It’s not the laugh out loud movie I thought it would be. However, with time comes understanding. Hot Tub Time Machine is a good movie in fact after a couple of viewings it’s pretty great and I can't wait to add it to my collection.

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Edge of Darkness

Edge of Darkness

Mel Gibson is an angry man. I mean a really angry man. On a totally unrelated note, I am reviewing his latest movie Edge of Darkness. Mel Gibson stars as Thomas Craven, a Boston police detective whose life is upended when his daughter is murdered in front of him. As he investigates her murder, he soon discovers he was never the criminal’s target, but rather a target in a conspiracy involving very powerful people.

Edge of Darkness is Mel Gibson's first lead role since Signs in 2002 and i guess this one was just to shake the cobwebs off. I have seen roles tailored to actors before, but this one take the cake. Det. Thomas Craven is a really enraged man. He is "a man with nothing to lose" who will do anything to get revenge for his dead daughter. Not that he his bad in the role, actually he is pretty good in it, but the horrible attempt at a New England accent should have been avoided. Ray Winstone plays Jedburgh the secret government agent whose loyalty and motives are meant to be shrouded in mystery. Danny Houston plays Jack Bennett the super evil corporate villain in the movie, which brings me to an issue I have. This is the second movie I have watched in the last 2 weeks were the villain isn't just evil, but super, ultra, mega evil. It’s kind of insulting. I think most people can figure out who the villain is without being made this plainly obvious. There is a point in the movie were Det. Craven is just talking to Mr. Bennett and Bennett asks him, "What is it like (to have a dead child)?” I mean come on you are trying to conceal your government cover up, so why are you poking the bear.

The concept for this movie is a touch on the side of far fetched even for crackpot conspiracy people. Edge of Darkness is rather enjoyable under the right circumstances. Unfortunately, the right circumstances would be laughing with a group of friends about how super angry Det. Craven and thereby showing just how super angry Mel Gibson is in disguise. It’s just way too bizarre to be taken seriously as the murder mystery that it’s supposed to be. Not worth your time unless it is in the previously mentioned condition.

My rating: 2 out of 5

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Kick Ass

Kick-Ass (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack + Digital Copy)

What would happen if some regular person, with no real training or powers, decided they wanted to become a superhero? This is the question asked and answered in Kick Ass. Dave Lizewski, played by British actor Aaron Johnson, decides one day that he would like to become a super hero. So, he orders a wet suit online and becomes calls himself “Kick Ass.” After his first attempt at being a hero doesn't go so well, he gains fame thanks to a video of him fighting a group of thugs on the Internet. This ushers "Kick Ass" into a world of real super heroes and villains that he is not ready for. After having his life saved by "Hit Girl", played by Chloe Moretz, and "Big Daddy", played by Nicolas Cage, he must decide if he wants to be a real hero.

Aaron Johnson as "Kick Ass" is pretty good. He embodies the teenage comic-geek very well, but even better is the awkward manner in which he acts as a nervous budding hero is hilarious. The only problem with Aaron Johnson performance is he is overshadowed by "Hit Girl" and "Big Daddy." This is Nicolas Cage’s best role in his last 15 movies. His performance as a disgraced cop after revenge while channeling Adam West's "Batman" is fantastic. Chloe Moretz's "Hit Girl" portrayal is even better. Plain and simple: she is the youngest bad-ass in Hollywood history. No matter who else is on the screen with her, she steals the whole show. Christopher Mintz-Plasse, a.k.a. “McLovin,” as Red-Mist is fine, but nothing in comparison to the other performances. I did, however, enjoy Mark Strong as the head of the crime family. He is a great villain. 75% of the time you will want to see him meet his end; however, the remaining 25% of the time you will just enjoy his villainous.

The what-if premise to this film gets thrown out the window about half-way through for a more standard action movie, but it works. I enjoyed Kick Ass ,the comic, before it became a movie and was quite happy to see that it is very faithful to the source material. Kick Ass could have very easily have been turned into a rated PG-13 piece of crap. That's right! I am looking at you Daredevil and/or Ghost Rider. If the source material is meant for adults, then the movie needs to be meant for adults. So, kudos to MARV for making the movie that the Kick Ass comic deserves. This is a very entertaining movie and well worth your time.

My Rating 4 out of 5

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Runaways

The Runaways

The Runaways is a biopic of the first all-girl rock band to achieve mainstream success in the 1970's. It tells the story of Cherie Currie and Joan Jett as they contend with their sleazy manager, problems with drugs, and struggles with fame at such a young age. I have to admit I didn't have much interest in initially viewing this film. I thought it to be a movie that would not capture my attention, but i will admit when i am wrong. This film is extremely well done from top to bottom.

The performances in this film are fantastic. Dakota Fanning plays Cherie Currie and continues to show great ability for someone who is just 16-years-old. She has given more solid performances before being able to drive than many actresses will be able to give in their lifetimes. Kristen Stewart plays Joan Jett. I was blow away by her portrayal. I don't know if ever other role she has had before has simply prevented her from being able to act, but she is great in this film. I hope she keeps it up. The real stand out though is Michael Shannon as Kim Fowley, the Runaways sleazy manager.

It's kind of ironic that this movie is as edgy as it is. This movie earns its R rating with teens in very adult situations associated with the sex and drugs lifestyle of rock and roll. This is ironic because the lead actress in this movie can't even watch it in the theater unless accompanied by an adult. The Runaways is definitely worth a viewing. It illustrates the music industry better than any film I have seen before and hopefully is the start of Kristen Stewart finally becoming a real actress.

My rating: 3.5 out of 5

Movie You Probably Missed: Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

Digging through my collection of DVDs, I have discovered some films which are great movies that you probably missed. So, over the next couple of weeks I will re-watch and review one film a week for my new segment: MOVIES YOU PROBABLY MISSED.

This week I watched the 2003 film Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. This film is based off of the "true" autobiography of the life of Chuck Barris, the creator of The Dating Game and The Gong Show. The film was made all the more interesting since the television producer was an operative for the CIA or so he thinks.

The lead role of Chuck Barris is played by Sam Rockwell. He gives a great performance; very witty and sharp, with a touch of madness. George Clooney plays his CIA contact and is great as always. The real stand outs are Chuck Barris's two main love interests in the film: Drew Barrymore as Penny in his hollywood life, and Julia Roberts as Patricia Wilson in his spy life.

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is George Clooney's first attempt at directing and he does a great job. He presents Chuck Barris's life from his own perspective and allows the audience to believe what they will. He does a great job showing Mr. Barris's descent into madness. An interesting side note: George Clooney gets a lot of his friends to do cameos in this movie and it is quite entertaining to play ‘find the famous person’ while watching. So if you get a chance, check out this great movie that you may have very well overlooked.

My Rating: 4 out of 5

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Clash of the Titians(2010)

Clash of the Titans [Blu-ray]
Clash of the Titians is the remake of the 1981 film of the same name. The film follows Perseus, played by up and coming actor Sam Worthington, as he quests to discover a way to destroy the Kraken, a horrible sea monster, that will destroy the city of Argos. Now, what this writer doesn't get is why people all of a sudden consider the original movie to be a "classic.” Go back and watch it. It’s not a classic. In fact, it’s pretty bad. As much as I have complained previously about remakes being totally unneeded, that does not apply in this case. This movie is a serious upgrade to the original.

Now, it seemed to me that the performances in this film were quite varied. Sam Worthington in the lead role is just kind of wooden. He has the emotional range of a house plant. Ralph Fiennes, who played Hades, seemed to be simply channeling Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter movies. Liam Neeson is fine as Zeus and about what you would expect from him at this point. There were, however, two real stand outs to me in this film. Gemma Arterton was fantastic as Io. She commanded the screen in scenes with Worthington. Mads Mikkelsen as the lead soldier, Draco, also did a great job. His portrayal of Draco seemed the most real. Draco is a grizzled soldier who just wanted to see the job done.

Clash of the Titans is one of those movies that make me glad I own a Blu-ray player. The scope of the film is top notch. They shoot on location in some the most beautiful landscapes in Spain. Combine that with high quality special effects to create a film that will look fantastic on a 1080p television. If you have high definition you owe it to yourself to watch this movie on Blu-ray. It’s one of the better movies to come out this year (if you can get past the wooden lead).

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5