Archive for November, 2010
Julie and Julia
Posted by benjamin on November 29, 2010
Runtime: 123 minutes
Plot: Julie, the food blog vs Julia the food creator.
For those that know me well, you undoubtedly know that this is not my first selection for a movie to enjoy during the Holiday break. Romantic movies are not my strong suit but when those around you are feeling ill, you go with whatever their heart desires.
Julie and Julia is the story of one woman’s food blog chronicling her journey through Julia Child’s cookbook. The movie could have easily been split into two films: Julie and Julia…get it? Each side is telling the a biographic journey into food, sometimes from completely opposite sides of the room. Of the two sides of the film’s story, the one of Julia Childs is easily my favorite. This has more to do with the actress portraying Julia than that which is portraying Julie.
Meryl Streep is the epitome of what ever actress and/or actor should strive to become. She becomes every role and everyone wants to see her become someone else. Playing Julia Childs is no different. She had her minor nuances spot on and many times I forgot I was watching someone portraying Julia. Of course, we wouldn’t expect anything less. Amy Adams did what she could with her role as Julie, but its hard to really stand out when Mrs. Streep is on the set somewhere.
There isn’t much more that I can speak of within this movie, but I wanted to point out Stanley Tucci, who is an actor that many know by face but just don’t know by name. I’m quickly enjoying seeing him appear on screen regardless if he is with Meryl (The Devil Wears Prada) or without (Easy A). Here’s looking for his next appearance in Captain America.
Posted by christopher on November 26, 2010
Runtime: 107 minutes
Plot: A group of Predators select the baddest mother f*#$ers from Earth to hunt as game. And there’s cloaking.
Predators is attempt to reboot the originally promising Predator franchise which, after Schwarzzenager, has since suffered from a trio of less than stellar sequels and forks into the Aliens universe. Sadly, devastatingly even, Predators continues the downward spiral with a lackluster plot and just plain sad action.
Brought to us by producer Robert Rodriguez–who has a solid track record in the over-the-top action genre–and directed by Nimród Antal–who barely has a notable movie to his name–Predators follows a rag-tag, rough-and-tumble group of mercenaries, black ops, and criminals, with a Yakuza thrown in for good measure, who are dropped on an alien planet as hunting game for a group of Predators. This SHOULD have been a recipe for success in the way of a cloaked, heat vision, explosion ridden, laser targeting, killfest. It was not.
Predators went wrong in two ways. First, it didn’t focus enough on the Predators. We the viewing audience want to see these dreaded, bad-ass, hunting machines suited up and out in the field blowing wholes in people and creatures, or getting blown to hell themselves; so why would you collectively only have about 10 minutes of Predator footage?! The fighting was largely a bore and generally ends quickly. There was actually the potential for an incredible swords duel with the quite underutilized Yakuza, yet the scene itself and the climax were like getting soggy tofu when I was expecting a porterhouse–nothing against tofu, I actually quite enjoy it, but it just can’t satisfy when you’re craving a hunk of steak.
Second, if you’re not going to do an action-for-the-sake-of-action flick, at least give us some story: what are the Predators? why do they hunt tirelessly? who are the people that were brought to be hunted? how did they Predators get them? There are a number of avenues to explore from a story perspective in the film, but everything is either not addressed or glossed over quickly. We are given an interesting insight into a rift in the Predators culture but we get no further exploration. There’s barely enough of a tease to be left wanting more, but still, give me something!
The performances were not spectacular either, but I attribute this more to the source material versus the abilities of the actors and actress. Except mayber Topher Grace; he was, well, Topher Grace, not much in the way of depth we haven’t scene in this role. As I mentioned above, most were underutilized: the Yakuza, a sniper, Danny Trejo, an overgrown Soviet, Morpheus [Lawrence Fishburn]! All of these guys and gal could have made for spectacular competition against the Predators, which is probably why they were chosen, but alas, disappointment. Instead much of the focus was on Adrien Brody’s, Topher Grace’s, and Alice Braga’s characters and the tension that built between them. Brody himself proved a competent and believable actioneer, minus the Christian Bale “Batman” voice.
My comments while harsh come from a perspective of love and longing for a movie that can highlight the Predator legacy in a way it deserves. Predator is one of those movies I remember fondly as just being rad and we all want more of! The inability of hollywood to recreate that magic is crushing. If you want a Predator movie to watch, opt for the original.
The Brothers Bloom
Posted by will on November 23, 2010
Runtime: 113 minutes
Plot: The Brothers Bloom are the best con men in the world, swindling millionaires with complex scenarios of lust and intrigue. Now they’ve decided to take on one last job – showing a beautiful and eccentric heiress the time of her life with a romantic adventure that takes them around the world.
The con artist is one of the most common and classic characters in film. Whether it is Frank Abagnale Jr. in Catch Me if You Can, Professor Harold Hill of The Music Man fame, or Redford and Newman’s Johnny Hooker and Gondorff in The Sting, movies about hoodwinking and bamboozling are big draws. What is so interesting about these type of films? I think, for me, it is the thrill of the hoax. We not only are on the inside of the fraud, but we also get to revel once the wool has been lifted from the victim’s eyes (something that gives us a sense of joy … as long as we are not the ones being cheated).
Naturally, most of the time, the scam artist has the tables turned and we get a moralistic victory. Or, there is a internal struggle to “go straight”. Either way, movies with these snake oil salesmen are normally highly entertaining. I can say The Brothers Bloom is, as well, for the most part.
The Brothers Bloom presents us with Stephen, three years senior, and his brother Bloom – professional con artists since childhood. Stephen creates what he deems “stories”, bizarre and complex scenarios. These tales put Bloom in the forefront to create confidence and trust with their marks.
25 years later, after another successful and elaborate con, Bloom comes to the realization that Stephen has forever, with his cons, controlled the outcome of his life. Essentially, Bloom is going under an identity crisis as well as a problem with reality and what has been constructed for him through Stephen’s cons. With that, Bloom decides he wants out of the game and moves to Montenegro.
Three months go by and Stephen finally hunts down Bloom. The premise – one last hurrah. The con is on Penelope Stamp, a rich but secluded heiress living in New Jersey. As the story plays out, three problems arise: Penelope is much more an eccentric wildcard then the boys thought, Diamond Dog, the brothers mentor-turned-arch-nemesis is back into the picture, and Bloom is finding himself falling in love with Penelope, the one thing he can not do to it compromises the con.
This movie reminded me of a half-as-quirky-not-as-eccentric Wes Anderson film (it is not as pretentious nor is there an epic soundtrack). As quick paced and interesting as the first half of the film is, the second half is a real drag. Rian Johnson wrote a pretty good script, it just should have been condensed.
Ruffalo and Brody are really great and play off each other naturally. Ruffalo is a natural as the smarmy, know-it-all big brother. I have not had a chance to see Ruffalo in a leading role and in Bloom, I liked what I saw.
Overall, the characters are interesting yet somewhat surprisingly, in the end, a bit mundane. Watch it for the performances, hate it for the dragging storyline.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1
Posted by benjamin on November 20, 2010
Runtime: 146 minutes
Plot: “Harry, Ron and Hermione set out on their perilous mission to track down and destroy the secret to Voldemort’s immortality and destruction — the Horcruxes.” — Yahoo! Movies
In order to give you an adequate review, then I need to at least read the Potter books. Check on that one and just let me say that the Deathly Hallows was easily my least favorite of the series. Would the movie follow suit? Let’s see.
These days when watching a Potter film, I find myself more interested in the actors portraying the characters than the characters in the story. Harry Potter, a coming of age story, has essentially become a real life coming of age event for Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe, and Rupert Grint. These kids were around 12 years old when the first film was released and here they are today in front of us on the screen as 20 somethings. As the characters have grown, so have the actors who have portrayed each of them. However, it is this growth that can make certain scenes still awkward for us. Sure, Harry and Ginny are a couple. Sure, Hermione and Ron are a couple, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t still think of them as just kids on screen. The worst occurrence of this is for one scene in the woods where we are shown Harry and Hermione as…more…than friends. Like I said, awkward. (You’ll know the scene when you see it.)
But beyond the coming of age story, there is a family and heart and humor. It is the last of these three that I was most shocked at seeing because this is the point of the Potter series were all hope and happiness is lost as it seems they are facing an unbeatable opponent. But it is this humor that the writers use to keep things interesting and presented in a way that kids would and maybe should face these harsh realities. For a movie that is quite dark, there is a great deal of humor to help you enjoy the long journey and find some hope that everyone will make it in the end.
Visually, the movie is quite stunning. It is probably easy to do so when a franchise makes as much money as the Potter films but there are scenes were I was marvelling at the “magic” of cinema. One in particular is another wooded scene where Ron is facing off against a horcrux. If Lost had that kind of CGI, then maybe many people would not have laughed upon seeing the Black Smoke Monster.
Overall, I wasn’t thrilled with this movie. I realize that more now as I have to see it as a part of the journey and some of the better scenes will await us in Part 2. I’m just hoping in Part 2 that people such as Bill Nighy (Pirates of the Caribbean, Hot Fuzz, Love Actually) and Alan Rickman will be given a chance to shine alongside their dark companions, Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes. Here’s waiting until July 2011 to finish the series.
How to Train Your Dragon
Posted by christopher on November 9, 2010
Language: English / Viking
Runtime: 98 minutes
Plot: The tale of a boy and his dog…errr, dragon.
How to Train Your Dragon. This is one of those movies that makes you want to own movies. It succeeds on so many levels, which I will now go into…
Hiccup is a viking. Hiccup is the son of the Viking king. Hiccup has a crush on Astrid. Hiccup is a runt. Hiccup is understandably a bit down on himself, wanting to both please his father, impress Astrid, and live up to his Viking heritage. So he must, of course, slay a dragon, which attack Hiccup’s village on a regular basis taking lemming-like sheep for food. Toothless is a dragon of the infamous Night Fury variety: fast, precise, and seemingly only motivated by destruction for destruction’s sake. Hiccup, in his own dumb luck, sacks Toothless during a raid and in a failed attempt to prove his Viking prowess, he can’t help but fall for that punum and so the conflict begins.
Any animal lover will instantly melt upon the first scene between Hiccup and Toothless. This is truly the success of the film: the animators have, with such precision through facial and body expressions, turned what should be a violent dragon into a house cat or lap dog. And they delve into and develop the relationship between Toothless and Hiccup, translating that which anyone who has had a pet has experienced.
As an animated film, the graphics are superb. Perhaps more nuanced than most would be impressed by, I was blown away at the realism of the textures. Hiccup’s father, Stoick, understandably has a Viking-sized beard that truly looks rough, scraggly, and dreaded like you would expect in a live-action feature. The dragon’s scales are leathery, their flames splash, more akin to magma that pure fire; the resulting smoke, fog, and clouds are voluminous and misty.
The voice acting is rather on-point. Jay Baruchel (“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” “Tropic Thunder”) is himself a scrawny, nerdy character and so it’s none too much of a stretch for him to portray those characteristics to Hiccup. Gerard Butler is his rough, meaty father which again isn’t much of a stretch. Craig Ferguson, playing Hiccup’s mentor, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, playing Hiccup’s peer, both add a fun, geeky (if you’ve played an RPG or D&D) element which lightens the dialog to the heart warming tale.
Overall I think HtTYD is one of the top, if not the top (I’ve yet to see “Toy Story 3”) movies of 2010. It’s an incredible showing for DreamWorks and has earned a spot on my movie shelf.