Archive for November, 2011

Real Steel

Rating: At least give it a rent.  Probably worth seeing in theaters.     

Picture this in your head.  A fourteen foot tall humanoid robot, that somewhat resembles a small transformer stands in a gated circle.  On the other side of the circle stands a 2000 pound bull.  The two charge at each other and begin to fight.  A fight which includes the robot straight up punching the bull in the face.  That’s one of the first scenes in this movie.  Sound stupid?  It is.  The whole premise of the movie, if you really want to think about it is kind of stupid.  I mean, giant robots have replaced human boxers in the ring, and the event seems as overhyped as the Superbowl?  Fortunately after this stupid, early scene the movie gets better.  And better.  And better.  By the end I was so invested in the characters that I completely forgot about the start of the film when I was regretting the ten bucks I paid to see it.

The movie takes place in a not too distant future where the world of boxing has been taken over by robots.  The robots are not self aware, or capable of fighting without a human controlling them via remote (think living video game).  There is little explanation given as to how boxing turned into a mechanical affair, beyond the fact that audiences wanted more violence and fights to the death, which living boxers would obviously not agree to.  The lack of background story is not really needed though.  Being thrown into the current state of boxing is done fairly seamlessly and I didn’t find myself questioning it much.  The look of the robots in the movie is fantastic.  There are no quick edits, giving the fight scenes between them an incredibly real feel.  There wasn’t a single moment where I remembered I was watching CGI, which is great feat for a movie with such heavy CGI.

Hugh Jackman plays Charlie Kenton, who at the start of the film is, well, kind of a douche.  He is broke and owes people thousands of dollars.  He also seems to only have his interests in mind.  Worst of all he has an 11 year old son, Max (played by Dakota Boyo) whom he hasn’t seen since birth.  He gets news that Max’s mother passed and he now has custody.  At first he shows no interest in being a father to Max, who seems more intelligent and mature than him in several ways.  With no money, broken robots, and the annoyance of a kid around he has nowhere left to turn and breaks into a robot junk yard with Max. The goal is to try and steal parts for his bots.  After a mishap in the junkyard they discover Atom, an old sparring robot.  Max immediately falls in love with Atom, after the robot “saves” his life.  The robot has a special feature that almost no other robot has, allowing him to shadow movements of people and store them to memory (A freaking awesome feature, in my opinion, that should be installed in every boxing robot in the future).  This feature gives Atom an especially human feel, along with some sweet dancing abilities.  Max and Charlie begin to train the robot and eventually work their way up the ranks to the big leagues.  Obviously the father and son duo bond as the plot continues.  The relationship between Max and Charlie seems very real, and is the driving force of the film.  Without it, the movie is just fighting robots.  With it, the movie is actually quite touching and keeps you interested until the end.

Hugh Jackman does a good job playing a character who evolves a lot throughout the film and Dakota Boyo was great as Max.  He easliy shows a large range of emotion from smart alleck, to a kid who just wants his dad to fight for him.  I could go into detail about the supporting cast but I don’t really need to.  They did a good job, and that’s it.  They weren’t the focus and they didn’t need to be.

Overall I would recommend seeing this in theaters (especially if you have a young teen in your family), or definitely renting it when it leaves the big screen.  It starts off a little shaky but improves drastically (which is nice when a lot of movies I have seen lately seem to peter out half way through).  The acting is solid, the special effects are sweet, and the emotional back story is touching.  All around fun.

-Gish

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Tower Heist

Rating: Rent it sometime.                                     

Eddie Murphey is funny again!!  When I first saw the trailer for this movie, I got excited that maybe, just maybe we would be getting some old school Eddie Murphey.  You see, a terrible thing happened around the year 2000, shortly after Bowfinger was made.  Eddie Murphey realized he didn’t have to be funny or make good movies in order to make lots of money.  Tower Heist is finally the resurgence of a comedian whose true genius was in hiding for a decade or so.  While Murphey was definitely funny, he didn’t steal the show, and did well to share the screen with several other talents.

The movie takes place in “The Tower”, a New York high rise that is home to the richest of the rich.  They are paying for the nice homes, and views, but also for Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller) and his staff.  The staff keeps the tower secure, while catering to every whim of its inhabitants.  Josh is exceptionally good at his job managing the tower, along with Odessa the maid (Gabourey Sidibe), Charlie the concierge (Casey Affleck), Lester the doorman (Stephen Henderson), and Enrique the new hire (Michael Pena).  The richest resident of the tower is Mr. Shaw (Alan Alda), a man that Josh Kovacs has become quite close with.  They even play chess together online.

As it turns out a few years ago Josh invested the retirement funds of his crew with Mr. Shaw.  Unfortunately Mr. Shaw was just discovered to be fraudulently investing money, and their funds are gone.  Josh ends up getting himself fired after taking anger out on Shaw, and with no money, no job, and no life (due to the crazy hours he worked at the tower) he decides it is time to exact revenge.  He, along with Odessa, Charlie, Enrique, and former tower resident Mr. Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick) decide their only option is to break into Mr. Shaw’s apartment and steal his safety net of money.  Only problem, none of them are criminals.  Enter Slide (Eddie Murphey).  He is a petty criminal that Josh passes on the street on his way to work every day, but he agrees to take on the heist with hopes of earning a portion of $20 million.  From the scenes where Slide is training the others to be criminals, to the actual climactic heist, the movie keeps your attention and offers several laughs.  There are a few twists and turns as the protagonists realize it will not be as simple as walking into a room and cracking a safe.

As mentioned before, Eddie Murphey is pretty hilarious.  He is not the only source of laughs though.  Matthew Broderick is funny as the down on his luck genius accountant, and Casey Affleck is hilarious as the somewhat eccentric Charlie.  Last but not least is Michael Pena.  He is truly funny in this movie, stealing some of the best delivered lines.

Overall I enjoyed the movie.  It is nothing entirely original, as comedy heists have been done before.  If anything, Eddie Murphey finally being Eddie Murphey is reason enough to go see it.  That being said, a slightly better than decent plot, and slightly better than decent comedic performances lead to a slightly better than decent movie.  It is at least worth a rent sometime.

-Gish

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50/50

Rating:  SEE IT NOW!                                                                 

What can I say, this movie was utterly fantastic.  Director Jonathan Levine managed to do something we don’t see very often and made a movie that is believable, funny, sad, happy, emotional, and moving all at the same time.  I loved it.

Joseph Gordon Levitt plays the everyman character Adam.  Adam follows the rules, even when nobody is looking.  He seems to genuinely enjoy his job of writing radio programs (no the movie is not set in the 30’s), and he has a “safe” relationship with his girlfriend Katherine (Anna Kendrick).  Everything seems to be going well for Adam.  Then he gets cancer.  After heading to the doctor with back pains he is diagnosed with a rare form of spinal cancer, and told he has a 50% chance of survival.

From this point on the film follows Adam dealing with his diagnosis and his relationship with a few of the people closest to him.  He gives his girlfriend, Katherine, a chance to get out of the relationship if she wants, but she decides to stick by his side.  A decision that proves to be more difficult than she imagined.  He has a hard time telling his mom (Anjelica Huston) about the cancer and when he finally does her response is overbearing.  He also is assigned a therapist (Bryce Dallas Howard) who is younger than him and has only seen a few patients.  Their interactions are fairly light hearted while dealing with such a serious issue.  The highlight of the movie, though, is his relationship with his best friend Kyle (Seth Rogan).  It is clear that the two care about each other and each has a hard time dealing with Adam’s health.  While struggling, they are there for each other and create some of the more memorable moments in the film.

The acting in this movie was spot on all around.  Joseph Gordon Levitt made you root for him to overcome his cancer, while feeling sorry for his situation at the same time.  Seth Rogan was absolutely hilarious.  I typically find Rogan funny, but I also feel he is always trying just a bit too hard.  Here the comedy seemed more natural than any other performance I have seen him give.  Even though he plays the main comedic relief, Rogan still does a fantastic job dealing with the serious scenes.  Anjelica Huston is great as the mom, Anna Kendrick does a good job as the girlfriend, and Bryce Dallas Howard is delightful (yes I just described her as delightful) as the young therapist.

Along with the acting, the sound track was solid, the writing was strong, the tone of the movie kept your attention throughout.  I really cant say anything bad about this movie.  Go see it.

-Gish


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