Archive for category Drama

Moonrise Kingdom

Rating: See it in theaters                                                    

Let me start by saying I love Wes Anderson movies.  Whenever I watch one of his movies I find myself laughing or chuckling harder than anyone else watching it with me.  His dry humor just gets me.  That being said, I really enjoyed this movie.

This movie had adventure, explosions, daring rescues, lightning, and precariously placed tree houses (all done in Wes Anderson style obviously), but at its heart it was a fun, quirky romance.  The movie takes place on the New England island of New Penzance in the 60’s.  The island is home to miles of walking trails, a small camp which houses the Khaki Scouts, several rivers, a small town, and not much else.  It serves as the perfect setting for this movie’s melancholy, humor, and story of childhood.  Think back to when you were a child and the world was still fascinating yet confusing.  Some kids were weird just because, and you had a crush on that one special member of the opposite sex.  Everything seemed way more complex than it was, and each day your adventures were only curbed by the limits of your imagination.  Anderson managed to capture all of these elements of childlike wonder into one terrific story.

The story begins with an inspection on the Khaki Scout grounds, lead by Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton).  The inspection goes fairly well but for one big problem.  Sam Shakusky has flown the coup.  The other campers don’t seem too worried about him because he is not very well liked, and is considered emotionally unstable.  Across the island, the Bishop family realizes that their oldest child, Suzy has gone missing.  It probably doesn’t take a genius to realize the two are together.  We find out they met a year earlier, are in love, and running away together.  The rest of the movie follows these two as they adventure through the island, learn more about each other, and try to escape from literally every other character in the movie.  Newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward do a fantastic job as the twelve year old fugitives, and genuinely make you believe they care for each other (as much as a twelve year old can).  By the end of the movie I was truly rooting for them.

The supporting case in this movie was phenomenal.  Mainly because of Andersons genius ability to take huge name stars, have them work well together, and not let them steal the show.  They all do a fantastic job playing their parts, while allowing their younger counterparts to steal the show.  As stated before Ed Norton plays the scout master/math teacher Ward.  He is loyal to his scouts almost to a fault, and is one of the few adults who you actually root for in the movie.  The other main protagonist adult is Captain Sharp, played by Bruce Willis.  He is the police officer trying to track the children down.  He is kind, caring, and even a bit dopey at times.  The cast is rounded out by Bill Murray (more on him later) and Frances McDormand as Suzy’s parents, Tilda Swinton as Social Services, and even Jason Schwartzman and Harvey Keitel show up.  They are all great.

I said I would come back to Bill Murray.  There are some duos on Hollywood whom I feel need to take a break from working together.  These guys for instance.  This is Bill Murray’s sixth movie working with Wes Anderson, and I don’t think the friendship should ever stop.  Their comedy styles just click, and are hilarious every time.  Its subtle, dry, dark humor and I love it.  This movie is no different.  Bill Murray is not in the movie a ton but when he is it is great.

Overall this movie will take you on a great, loving adventure back to childhood.  Wes Anderson’s ever unique style is present, and adds to the fantastically filmed movie.  The actors are great, the story is great, the style/look is great.  I think just about anyone will enjoy this movie.

-Gish

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Snow White and the Huntsman

Rating: Maybe catch it on TV some day.                                                                                       

When I think back to Snow White and the Huntsman two words come to mind.  Pretty and boring.  The visuals were unlike anything I have seen before; and I mean that in a good way.  It was visually as unique as the first time I watched 300.  Unfortunately, even the breathtaking visuals couldn’t save this movie.  I can recall two points in the theater when I was actually entertained.  One included a poop joke from a dwarf, the other included the kid a few rows in front of me doing everything in his power to get the last drop out of his ICEE.  The people who somehow found this movie interesting were annoyed by him, and this was more entertaining for me than what was happening on screen.

The person who deserves the biggest award for this movie is the person who created the trailer.  The trailer looked sweet.  Unfortunately, everything that looked cool was in the preview.  Even still, the movie was very pretty to look at.  The creatures of the Dark Forest were truly creepy, and the non creepy creatures later on in the movie were fascinating and beautiful.  The few action scenes were slow and clunky but keeping with the rest of the two hours and ten minutes looked really cool.  From the first scene the movie gave interesting visuals.  An army was being literally shattered with sword blows and it looked pretty awesome.  Later on in another battle scene creatures made out of what appeared to be metal shards attacked the huntsman and again it looked really cool.  The sound editing here was also really well done with metal scraping and other menacing sounds mixed in.  The movie looked GREAT…ok I think I beat that into the ground enough and won’t say it again.

Unfortunately, despite the beautiful visuals (ok one more time), the movie felt like it was never going to end.  The story was slow torture.  Nothing happened, ever.  Well, a few things happened, but nothing entertaining.  The evil queen (Charlize Theron) has great powers but continues to age and weaken unless she can literally suck the life out of youthful people.  Her mirror then tells her that if she can steal Snow White’s (Kristen Stewart’s) heart, she can live forever without stealing other’s youth.  Fortunately for Snow White she just broke out of the Queen’s dungeon but is lost in the Dark Woods.  The Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) is then sent in to kill her, but instead sides with her and they rise up to fight the Queen.  Then they try and rally people to fight the Queen, or something, I don’t know I was so bored I had a hard time paying attention.  Then they keep rallying and rallying and nothing happens.  They do meet the Dwarves who are boring and forgettable.  I literally didn’t care about any of the characters.  In summary…it was BORING.

The cinematographers deserve several awards, the actors, well…do not.  Kristen Stewart was fine as Snow White but that’s because she had nothing to screw up.  She had maybe ten lines throughout the entire two hours, and one encouraging speech.  Chris Hemsworth was also fine as the Huntsman but again didn’t have much to screw up.  Then there was Charlize Theron.  I keep hearing everyone say she was the best part of the movie, and was brilliant, and will probably get an Oscar nom.  I completely disagree.  Instead of being an evil queen she seemed more like a whiney brat who was given some cool power.  She overacted the whole thing.  I think Theron is better suited for light hearted characters such as Mr. F.  The seven dwarves were very forgettable.  I didn’t care about any of them, and for some reason they used film trickery to make average people look small rather than hire little people to play the parts.  Are you telling me there really aren’t seven talented little people looking for work in Hollywood?

To sum up, the movie looked great (last time I swear!), but was incredibly slow and boring.  I can’t recommend it because I just wanted it to finish the whole time it was on.  If you see it on TV in a year or so watch it just to see how cool it looked at parts.  Otherwise skip it.

-Gish

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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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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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The Hurt Locker

Rating – Rent it some time                                                         

When I sit down to watch a movie that has earned the Oscar for best picture, I have extremely high expectations.  For some reason I tend to be let down, and disagree with the Academy’s decision.  With this movie, I wasn’t really let down, but I still don’t agree with the academy’s decision.  The movie won six Oscars, somehow best cinematography wasn’t one of them.  It deserved this one more than any of the others.  Before I get even more off topic, complaining about the Academy’s choices, I should probably get down to this film.

Great acting: check, great cinematography: check, great effects: check, great editing: check, great score: check, great story: eh.  I go to movies to be told a great story.  Because I don’t work in movies, I feel that a story should be solid enough that I forget to pay attention to all the technical stuff, like editing, cinematography, etc.  With this film I found it to be the opposite.  The movie was suspenseful and had some great scenes but they didn’t really add up to anything.

Sargeant Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) work on a bomb squad in the middle of Iraq.  Their staff sergeant is killed in an explosion, and is replaced by Sergeant First Class, William James (Jeremy Renner).  James is bull headed, arrogant, tends to put his men in unnecessary danger, and damn good at defusing bombs.  The first time they go out together, he throws out a smoke screen (which throws his men off), and doesn’t listen to reason.  Afterwards they get upset with him, even though he is successful in their mission.  The scene is very suspenseful and well shot, keeping tension high the whole time.  Then in the next scene they go out to diffuse another bomb, and basically the same thing happens.  James goes against protocol, the others are put in danger and get angry, it’s very suspenseful.  This basically continues for the rest of the film, which would be fine, but the characters never seem to change, or grow in any way.  Its just the same thing over and over.  James is successful, but angers the others, and its suspensful.  James is successful, but angers the others, and its suspensful.  James is…you get the point.  The only story that seemed to progress was James’ forming a friendship with an Iraqi teenage street vendor.  This story gets really interesting, and emotional at one point, but later the movie’s creators decide to just throw that emotion out when new information is discovered.

Jeremy Renner did a fantastic job, and made you angry with him, while still rooting for him to literally diffuse dangerous situations.  His nomination for best actor was well deserved.  The other actors did a solid job as well, but were not mind blowing or anything.  The strong acting, along with the fantastic editing, and cinematography made this a very suspenseful movie from start to finish.  There was rarely a moment that didn’t leave me tense.

Overall, the movie looked better than fantastic, but for me the story never really took off.  If the story had evolved more throughout, I would absolutely agree with the best picture win, but because the story seemed lacking I have to disagree.  All of that being said, the acting, suspense, and look of the film, definitely make it worth renting sometime.

– Gish

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Netflix Pick: True Romance

Rating: Catch it on TV                                                   

I just finished watching True Romance (1993) for the first time.  I have known about this movie for a while and knew that Tarantino wrote the script, but for some reason never got around to watching it.  The Netflix envelope was sitting on my coffee table for about a week and I finally popped it in the DVD player today.  The opening credits started rolling and I got really excited.  I had no idea how strong of a cast this movie had.  Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper, Brad Pitt, Val Kilmer, Gary Oldman, and Samuel L. Jackson just to name a few.

It was pretty clear from the start that this film was written by Tarantino.  Early dialogue talks about Sonny Chiba as a legend, and includes footage from old Kung Fu movies.  The story never lost its early Tarantino feel, which is typically a good thing in my opinion.  It had some great dialogue, was bloody, and drew out scenes to add suspense.  Despite all of this, when the movie finished, I couldn’t help but feel like it somehow never fully came together.

As stated before, the movie had a fantastic cast.  Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette had the lead roles but they definitely were outshined by their supporting cast.  One of my biggest complaints of this movie, though, is how they actually used their phenomenal supporting cast.  So many great actors, who play interesting characters, but never really interacted with one another and are on screen for about 20 minutes…combined.  I feel like these actors were used more as a way to sell the movie, than to really make the movie great.  Samuel L. Jackson is in the movie for one minute and ten seconds (I went back and timed it).  Gary Oldman is one of the greatest actors ever, and does a phenomenal job… for 5 minutes.  Brad Pitt’s character was so unimportant to the movie that in the credits they realized if they simply named the character nobody would know who the hell he was.  Hence “Brad Pitt  – Floyd(Dick’s Roommate)”.  Val Kilmer plays a blurry, imagined apparition.  If I hadn’t caught his name in the opening credits I wouldn’t have even known it was him.  He also gets about 2 minutes of screen time.  And finally we come to Christopher Walken.  I absolutely loved his character, Vincenzo Coccotti, and he stars across Dennis Hopper in what is easily the best scene in the movie.  At the end of the scene you are left assuming that Vincenzo would become an integral part of the story.  Nope.  Instead he is not only never seen again, but never even mentioned again.  Such a waste of such fantastic character actors.

As I stated before the movie never really came together for me.  At the end I realized I really didn’t care about any of the characters, other than maybe Clifford (Dennis Hopper), the father of the leading role Clarence (Christian Slater).  On the point of Clarence, I couldn’t really figure him out.  He starts off as a kind of dorky loner, who saves a girl, Alabama, from her pimp, and steals some of his drugs.   He takes off with Alabama (Patricia Arquette) to try and find someone willing to purchase the drugs.  The two are unaware that there are some rather nasty people following them, trying to get the drugs back.  Throughout this sequence of events, Clarence evolves from the dorky loner, into sort of an arrogant douche.  Some people would argue he becomes cooler as the story progresses, but I just found him annoying.  Also mixed up in the plot are a couple of cops (Chris Penn and Tom Sizemore) trying way too hard to catch a drug dealer.  They are two of the dumbest, most unaware, unrealistic cops I have ever seen put to screen.

All in all I really wanted to love this movie, thinking maybe I would add it to my DVD collection based on what others have told me.  Unfortunately it didn’t live up to the hype.  It is typically rated very high, and I’m not sure why.  If you had shown me a few scenes here or there, such as Walken interrogating Hopper, I would probably assume the film is terrific, but as a whole it just didn’t do it for me.  I’m sure I’ll catch hell for this review, but it is what it is.

-Gish

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