Saturday, December 31, 2011

John's Top 10 of 2011

Well 2011 has come to a close, Before I reveal my top 10 I want to reveal some honorable mentions
War Horse
Tinker Tailor Solder Spy
The Muppets
The Descendants
Super 8
In Time
Crazy Stupid Love

Now for the big reveal

10. Midnight In Paris

9. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

8. Drive

7. Hugo

6. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

5. 50/50

4. Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2

3. The Tree Of Life

2. The Artist

And the best film of 2011 is...........


There you have it folks 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

John's DVD pick of the week (12/20/11)

Once again I'm sorry for being MIA. This week I chose a film fighting for a spot in my top 10 it's

Midnight In Paris
That's right the Woody Allen directed film is my pick this week. Other choices are the sports drama Warrior, the action film Colombiana, Glee: The Concert Movie, the family film Dolphin Tale, and the thriller Straw Dogs.

My Vintiage pick is, in honor of this weeks releases of Both The Adventures Of Tintin and War Horse, I'm recommeding my top 5 Speilberg films of all time they are ET, Jaws, Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan, and Schindler's List.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Review: Shame (****)

Steve McQueen made a real impact in the film world with his powerful debut Hunger. But like with musicians, there is always the risk that a director's second film will not live up to the high expectations the first effort sets. Yet McQueen has a good go with his dark exploration of human character in Shame.

Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is a successful and well off man living in New York City. He is also a sex addict who constantly picks up women, hires prostitutes, views internet porn daily and masturbates at any given opportunity. It affects his day to day life and he lives a lonely existence. His life is made more complex when his singer sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan), a woman with obvious problems, crashes at his place. She interferes with his life, including sleeping with his boss, David (James Badge Dale) and sets Brandon off to tackle his addiction.

Brandon is depicted as a really despicable character, but he is a man struggling with an addiction. There is a number of sexual scenes throughout Shame, but there is no eroticism as Brandon explores more depraved and disgusting acts and his life spirals out of control. Shame plays as a drug addition movie, similar to Requiem for a Dream as someone struggles to give up something hazardous.

Fassbender offers a powerful performance as a dark, sinister man with strong interplay with Mulligan as he becomes threatening towards her. Compare him to Mulligan, a much more brittle character, on the edge for different reason. She gives a heartbreaking performance as a woman who does not know how to do deal with problems and has a sadness in her eyes. Their scenes were enhanced by McQueen's direction, using hand held cameras to follows Fassbender and the conversations stick to one point, making you feel like you are really watching them in a voyeuristic matter. This makes the movie more tense as the tone changes in an instant.

McQueen employs a grainy filter, giving Shame a dark, grim look which is perfectly fitting considering the atmosphere of the movie. The visuals have a similar feel and tone as other gritty and grim New York set films such as Taxi Driver, Midnight Cowboy and American Psycho, all of which follow the horrible underbelly of the city. He has shown that he is a great actors' director, but McQueen also had some great visuals, such as a long tracking shot of Brandon jogging and Brandon watching two people having sex in their apartment.

There are many moments in the movie that have little dialogue, relying on Fassbender superb abilities as an actor, particularly key in the beginning and during a long montage of Brandon wandering alone in New York, playing like a scene in the great novel Last Exit to Brooklyn. This is a movie about Brandon's continuing descent and self-sabotage and Fassbender should hopefully gain an Oscar nomination to back up his award buzz in Europe.

Shame continues McQueen's reputation as being one of the best emerging directors around, sticking to his no holds barred, brutal style which keeps a stage play quality to the presentation. Shame is tough, but worthy just for Fassbender's performance and keeps to a tradition of grim New York based film. 

It's the best film this year.

Review: Hugo (***1/2)

If I can describe this film in one word, it would be beautiful. This film has inspired me in ways that I can't even begin to explain. It's been a while since I've seen a film that spoke to me as personally as this film did. I'm a fan of Martin Scorsese and he's crafted a beautiful ode to not only cinema but also imagination and in a way, it celebrates all the things that help us escape. The world is a scary place and everyone goes through pain and suffering but if you just try and learn to dream, find your voice and not be afraid then you would be surprised what could happen.

I love how this film tells the amazing story of pioneer filmmaker Georges Melies who many of today's directors such as Steven Spielberg and James Cameron owe everything to. I love his films and I own a box set of his work, it's wonderful to see more people be introduced to him and the magic he created that continues to capture the imagination of many.

So if you love the cinema and magic then I highly recommend this masterpiece. Hugo is really something special I think.

Review: My Week With Marilyn (**1/2)

Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), an employee of Sir Laurence Olivier's (Kenneth Branagh), documents the tense interaction between Olivier and Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) during production of The Prince and the Showgirl.

Michelle Williams makes a great attempt at capturing the essence of the magnetic Marilyn. There are moments when you could imagine it was the real thing - unfortunately, they are fleeting moments. Monroe was a complex figure and the portrayal here attempts to address it - not necessarily successfully. Kenneth Branagh too gives a top class performance - believable, but not quite as waspish as I imagine Olivier was in real life. It was Monroe's ability to play to an audience - specifically to play to the lens of a camera that is absent in this movie biopic. This production could have been about any actress - not one who truly was exceptional. Nevertheless, a fair attempt at depicting a real story.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

John's DVD pick of the week (11/29/11)

Hey guys sorry I've been on MIA These past few weeks. This week I chose a fun Indie It's

Our Idiot Brother
That's right the Paul Rudd leading esamble is my pick this week. The other big releases are The Jesse Eisenberg action comedy 30 Minutes Or Less, the romantic comedy Friends With Benefits, the kids flick The Smurfs, and the Anne Hathaway drama One Day. I have not seen any of these four but I'll see the first two at some point.

My vintage pick is... In honor of this week's release of Shame, I'm recommending Steve McQueen's (that's the director's name) previous film it's Hunger, so pick it up at some point.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Review: The Muppets (***1/2)

It's difficult not to get swept up by the hype of the first theatrically-released Muppet movie in 12 years. The preview trailers have been going viral since this past summer, and the Muppets & their human co-stars have been hitting the talk show circuit like never before. Audiences who don't catch on to this Muppet fever will be missing a refreshingly entertaining movie.

"The Muppets" lives up to most of its hype. It's a solid, stand-alone movie with a great storyline. While the film may be considered a tribute, which in many ways it is, very rarely does a tribute make a great movie. Any TV show can put the Muppets on proverbial pedestals using archive footage. "The Muppets" succeeds by breathing new life into characters we've known for years, and bringing them back down from their high pedestals so they're easier to see.

It really takes a Muppet fanatic to reintroduce these classic characters about whom the movie alleges everyone forgot. In the movie, that fanatic is Walter, who is himself a Muppet that the world treats like a human being, albeit a very short human being. When Walter accompanies his best friend and roommate Gary (Jason Segel) and his longtime girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) to Los Angeles, Walter's ultimate goal is to take a tour of the famed Muppet theater. He soon finds that the theater's glory days are long gone, and the Muppets themselves have since gone their separate ways.

In reality, it's Jason Segel who is the Muppet fanatic. Segel co-wrote the screenplay with Nicholas Stoller (director of "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" (2008)), and also served as executive producer. He does a good job acting in the movie, knowing precisely when to take a step back and have the film's real stars take center stage. As a screenwriter, he also allows virtually every classic Muppet to have their screen time, as the Muppets are brought together the same way Jake and Elwood reunited the old band in "The Blues Brothers" (1980). Each character's appearance reminds us why they were so revered way back in "The Muppet Show" days.

While the plot about a Texas oilman wanting to demolish the Muppet theater because they're oil underneath has been done before, but Chris Cooper, as villain Tex Richman, lives up to his clever name. He's funny while also being a convincing villain. He performs a rap number (yes, Chris Cooper raps) that is desultory, but amusing if only for its randomness.

If the thought of Cooper rapping alone makes you cringe, there are plenty of other highly original songs that will wash out that memory quickly. All the songs, most of which were written by Bret McKenzie (one half of the band/comedy duo, Flight Of The Conchords), are well-written. My favorite was "Life's A Happy Song. 

"Pictures In My Head", sung by Kermit, is also surprisingly touching, with Kermit's walking through a hallway of Muppet paintings adding to the sentiment. It could rank as the best Muppet movie song since "Together Again" from "The Muppets Take Manhattan" (1984). The aforementioned songs, and perhaps even "Life's a Happy Song", have strong possibilities to be nominated for Best Original Song at the upcoming Academy Awards.

With all these original tunes, it's a wonder why they wasted precious royalty money on the terrible Starship song "We Built This City". Alas, this is the chosen song the Muppets sing while renovating the Muppet theater. 

While the songs add heart to a movie that makes the term "franchise reboot" seem too myopic, the movie would not be worth watching if it was not funny. Fortunately, most of the Muppet gags are gut-bustingly hilarious. Some gags are self-referential with characters breaking the fourth wall without even have to look at the camera. Others are the zany gags you'd expect from seeing "The Muppet Show", but are clever and hilarious too.

While the trailers had their share of recent movie parodies, the film fortunately eases up on them. There's one reference to "Kill Bill", but it's slight and capricious. I also laughed at the 80's Robot.

All the classic Muppet characters make their mark in ways they haven't done since "The Muppet Christmas Carol" (1992), the last great Muppet movie. The few newer Muppets that are allocated screen time happen to shine, fortunately. Walter is a great new Muppet, and has a lot of heart of which the late Jim Henson would whole-heartedly approve.

Dozens of celebrity cameos abound here, but the film's strength is knowing who the real stars of the movie are and why we love them. I just hope younger audience members get the same message.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Review: Puss In Boots (**)

Puss in Boots is one of my favorite characters in the Shrek series. Giving him a stand alone film is an interesting idea. It's suppose to be cool and exciting. It get what it wants. The movie is fun and often hilarious. The cat jokes are clever. Bunch of impressive scenes. The 3D is great. The scale is large. But the plot is too small for its large scale. It gets lazy in the second half and a bit predictable in the end. Though the film is pretty enjoyable but it could have been a lot better.

Puss In Boots starts in a solid blockbuster way. And one part of the beginning, the dancing, is very impressive. It's more than funny. That scene excites me which gives me a feeling that this film will be very great. I don't know why but it's just my feeling. The first half is exciting and great to introduce the cat hero. But when it comes to the second half(after the flashback), it's large but the story has a very little plot. It's a big adventure but ends up a little bit unsatisfying.

The story is like what Dreamworks Animated films usually do. Flashbacks of these critters when they were babies. They grew up being themselves. The rest of the story of Puss In Boots is Jack in the Beanstalk with Puss in Boots and Humpty Dumpty. It's not faithful to the original story. It's just another fairytale collaboration but this one has Mexican culture. The problem is the laziness of the storytelling. They mixed all the fairytale stories and threw some heart. These things are collaborated and nothing else. It's close to Direct-to-Video type of storytelling since this film was originally planned to be that.

But the film is never meant to be in the small screen since the scale is large. The movie is in 3D, as usual. The 3D is great. Just like Megamind, the camera is flying again. Swashbuckling cats and a lot giant stuff. The humor is clever. The natural instincts of cats are used as a joke. Like drinking milk, chasing a light, and some meows. It's adorable. The "Ooooh" cat is the "Do the roar" kid of this film. Here's the thing, cats are adorable and their instincts are funny.

In the end, it's just like Monsters Vs. Aliens and Shark Tale. But this has its heart but it's not well executed. It's still enjoyable to watch in the big screen and 3D. The filmmaking is good enough and everything is large. It just needs to make the story better. The film has ambitions for a sequel. Well I got to admit, it really needs a sequel because this adventure is not quite satisfying. More adventures to this kitty cat could be fun. Again, this film is fun but it won't blow your mind or touch your heart too much.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Review: The Descendants (***1/2)

'Descendants' focuses on the life of a family during the days when the mother lies in a coma after a boating accident, poised between life and death. Nothing crashes or blows up on screen, but there are plenty of emotional detonations as her husband and two daughters struggle to meet the challenges and, oddly, the obligations of the unexpected, tragic crisis. This is neither a perfect family nor a perfect mess of a family - it's something in between. They are well off - definitely 1 percenters - live comfortably, and are each very engaged in their lives and communities. The girls, Mom included, are hell raisers to some degree, but in ways that attract more than repel - they each make friends and play well with others, at least some of the time. Yet the members of the family are subtly estranged from each other, and we learn from Clooney's narrative and monologues with his wife's inert form that the marriage was a source of some disappointment for both of them, a disappointment that was not confronted or resolved in their years together. The movie takes us through the resolution of this family crisis, revealing progressively what each character has withheld from the others, and loops in a larger plot involving their extended family and, in effect, the entire Island community. 

Clooney gives a consistent, effective performance, and is one of the reasons this movie should work alright for the average guy (Women on average tolerate him pretty well, I believe) despite it's focus on relationships as the subject matter and rather slow pace. He maintains a strong masculine 'hero' persona throughout, and definitely rises to the tragic occasion. Along the way, he responds in ways, some comic and some cliché, that make him an attractive 'male' perspective from which to view the events of the film. He is strong, well meaning, active, and ultimately prevails to a large degree in the terms of the film. 

I really enjoyed the performance of Shailene Woodley in the role of his daughter, poised on adulthood. Her character's response to Clooney and their work with one another represents the visible 'love story' - father-daughter in this case - that makes the movie work moment to moment.

The comatose patient is very much a character in several of the most important scenes. I was struck by how silent the relatively full theater was during some of these climactic moments. The audience was neither restless nor tearful, just intent, during even the long, slow, quiet moments. Never sentimental, the film focuses on the experience of confronting death in others as an argument for living life authentically, acknowledging and resolving conflict rather than lapsing into comfortable disengagement.

All in all, a fascinating couple of hours of storytelling, acting, and thought-provoking cinema. A notch or two above the average theater experience, and way higher than the average among films that tackle this category of emotional experience.

Review: J. Edgar (**1/2)

Leonard DiCaprio continues to distinguish himself as an actor with a powerful performance as America's number one crime fighter of the twentieth century in Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar. Focusing more on the man than the achievements it is a joyless interpretation by Eastwood who displays some sympathy but mostly dubious aspects of the FBI Director's career re-hashing with very little new insight the same old tired rumors tossed around for decades about a paranoid workaholic with quirks that had the goods on enough Presidents to give him absolute power, corruption being the perk.

J. Edgar Hoover first made his name rousting Reds during the Rise of Bolshevism in the 20s. At age 26 he was given charge of what would be the FBI which he would transform into the elite crime fighting and forever Red hunting organization of the USA. The Linbergh baby kidnapping is solved, Dillinger, Machine Gun Kelly, Baby Face Nelson are all brought to justice. With success comes fame and more power which Hoover plans to hold onto for as long as possible. In this case it will be his last dying breath.

Eastwood's script and direction runs with all the rumors of the day (homosexuality, cross dressing, glory hound extroadinaire,) to flesh out J. Edgar and it comes across as catty as Hoover and Tolson in a scene gossip queening about Lucy and Daisy. There's a Ginger Rogers look alike Robert Kennedy and Richard Nixon imitators along with the dismissive glances of real American hero Charles Lindbergh who sees through the crime busters facade to convey his venality but little evidence from the up tight but elusive Hoover to offer viewer or historian anything new beyond the suppositions half a century old. 

With Eastwood literally and figuratively putting Hoover in a bad light throughout the film it is left up to DiCaprio to humanize him which he does with a startling restrained coldness and power of a man delusional or otherwise whose aim is true. From young adulthood to grave DiCaprio remains fully focused, convincing and absorbing. DiCaprio can only carry J.Edgar so far though and Eastwood's attempt at defining the man as a humorless Darth Vader most of the way adds nothing revelatory to the anti myth of the past few decades that followed the legendary build-up of the 20s and 30's.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Review: A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas (***)

Once again, Harold and Kumar bring it with more completely original ideas that made me laugh like a maniac several times throughout the movie. These guys once again prove that anything can be funnier if you add weed and nudity. And the fact that Kal Penn can still make these movies and maintain a respectable reputation at the White House is hilarious enough as it is.

As good as this one was, however, it didn't really live up to the expectations that were set by "Guantanamo Bay". Maybe it's because when I saw that one, it was in a packed theatre at 10 pm with a bunch of stoners laughing their guts out at every single joke. As unappealing as that sounds (I wasn't stoned during this movie), it's those types of things that make movies THAT much better if you ask me. Laughing my butt off with 30 or more people, including a few random 14 year olds who needed to pretend they were with me in order to get in (true story) just wasn't the same.

Something that really bugged me was how NPH was barely used in this one. Although his picture actually made it poster this time, he wasn't really in it as much as I hoped. Come to think of it, many of the old jokes from "White Castle" and "Guantanamo Bay" weren't used at all.

But even though it may not have lived up to the previous ones, Harold and Kumar prove once again that as far as epic stoner comedies go, they can't be beat. This one left me sore from laughing, and with an itch to see more (even though, once again, I wasn't stoned). I strongly suggest you get a big group to go to this one; the more laughs around you, the funnier this movie will be.

And of course, there's nothing like getting into the Christmas spirit a little early. Especially if you celebrate Christmas like these guys.

Review: In Time (***1/2)

I went into this one with the lowest expectations, and boy was I wrong. For one thing, before I saw his name in the opening credits, I had no idea this was an Andrew Niccol film, and since he is the stylish, stylized genius who gave us Gattaca, suddenly things were looking up. Then, wow, this cast! Sure, I knew about Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried, but check out the rest of them: Olivia Wilde, Cillian Murphy, The Big Bang Theroy's Johnny Galecki, White Collar's Matt Bomer and genre-It Kid, Alex Pettyfer. I mean, come on! How can a movie be directed by Andrew Niccol and contain so much of the pretty and also be science fiction and not be completely, exactly, entirely the kind of movie that I would love, love, love?

Want to know why my expectations were low? I'd seen a snippet of the trailer -- which just looked to me like a bunch of Transformers-style running around the place -- and had read the basic film synopsis sent to me by Fox Studios' publicity department. So what I knew was this:

"Welcome to a world where time has become the ultimate currency. You stop aging at 25, but there's a catch: you're genetically-engineered to live only one more year, unless you can buy your way out of it. The rich "earn" decades at a time (remaining at age 25), becoming essentially immortal, while the rest beg, borrow or steal enough hours to make it through the day. When a man from the wrong side of the tracks is falsely accused of murder, he is forced to go on the run with a beautiful hostage. Living minute to minute, the duo's love becomes a powerful tool in their war against the system."

Why was I hesitant about this premise? Because, come on! How many sci-fi tropes do you want to hit? Predetermined age-limit to combat overpopulation: Logan's Run, among many others. Being able to effectively purchase immortality: Elizabeth Moon's Familias Regnant series, among many others. Falsely accused and on the run in a future, dystopian society: hello Minority Report, The Island and who knows what all else! But you know what? Much like he did in Gattaca, where he took the already well-worn path of the genetically-superior being not necessarily being superior and made it his own, writer/director Niccol brings a freshness, almost a whole new sensibility to these and the other trappings of classic sci-fi he offers up to us here. We also get action, suspense, romance, humor, social commentary, gorgeous visuals and, as I mentioned, bucket loads of the pretty -- I would pay good money to see Matt Bomer and Olivia Wilde in anything; impossibly beautiful doesn't even begin to cover that blessed pair -- and wow, what a thoroughly, unexpectedly fun, truly thought-provoking and utterly engaging time this movie was. I am still flabbergasted at just how much I dug this. I actually broke into spontaneous applause as the credits rolled. And I can't wait to see it again.

But the big question: how was JT? He was, I will have you know, excellent. I have long felt that there was something effortlessly engaging about his whole persona, whether in interviews or on SNL or in roles as diverse as beleaguered rookie cop in Edison, Napster hipster Sean Parker in The Social Network or squirrelly substitute Scott in Bad Teacher. He doesn't really seem to act: he just IS. Here, he is an unlikely action hero, but somehow, he pulls it off in grand style, looking simultaneously earnest, dangerous and adorable, and easily holding his own even alongside someone the likes of Murphy, whose hypnotic eyes can convey more in one blink of an eyelash than many a lesser actor can get across in an entire soliloquy.

All of the other performances are top notch, particularly from Wilde and Galecki -- who brings most of the funny in the film -- and hey, you know who else is in here! Vincent Kartheiser, AKA Connor from Angel And he's not bad at all, either. In fact, he and Pettyfer are our main bad guys, and both pull of criminal cool pretty damn well.

But sometimes it's not about the provenance of the ideas, it's what you do with them. And here, Niccol has done wonders. (As long as you suspend your disbelief and go with the fact that Timberlake, Seyfried and the rest are, biologically, only 25. Luckily, Hollywood's been conditioning us to do just that for years.)

Review: Paranormal Activity 3 (**1/2)

Horror movies tend to polarize opinions all the time... Far more than the majority of movie genres. What one person might find scary may be humorous to another person... So when I left the theater after a packed screening of this movie , the audience seemed pretty polarized in their opinions. It really is an example of a 'you either love it or hate it movie' (Although some people may not take either extreme which is absolutely fine) .I am one of the people who came out of the theater loving it.

Paranormal Activity 3 is a prequel that goes back to the year 1988. It follows the sisters Kristi and katie (from the last 2 movie's) 18 years before the events of Paranormal activity 1. Its an origin story that gives us a little more information but still leaves us feeling confused and uneasy. 

The new cameraman (Dennis) acts as a foster father to Kristi and Katie (The whereabouts of the real father remains open to debate) works as a wedding moviemaker. This gives a decent enough explanation as to why he seems to have top of the range filming equipment (for the era) . His character comes across as more caring and less irritating than Micah from PA1. The Mother of Kristi and Katie (Julie)came across as caring towards her children. The children who play Kristi and Katie actually come across and fairly decent actors.

The basic plot is like the last two movies. Strange occurrences are happening at the house they are staying in. Dennis out of curiosity decides to set up cameras around the house to hopefully find something unusual. 

The greatest improvement of this movie over the other movies is probably the pacing. I wont ruin anything (that hasn't been in the trailer at least) but the younger daughter kristi has a seemingly imaginary friend, called toby ,that she talks to at night. As the movie progresses things get out of head fairly quickly and this imaginary friends becomes something real and horrific.

The movie does a good job of taking us out of our comfort zones. We feel confused and that confusion adds a sense of helplessness. While we may know the formula of the last movies we know little about the monster. What we don't see ,but know is there, usually scares us the most. The camera footage itself comes across as grainy and lower in quality than before (Again the trailer is rather misleading) . It makes it feel more authentic. While you know its not real you cant help getting sucked in by the movies world. There are also some clever shots and effects (Scenes with the oscillating camera are ingenious at times) .

The main complaints that I have with the movie are that sometimes the actions of Daniel can be questionable and the ending left me feeling a little unsatisfied.

Review: Munger Road (*)

Munger Road is well meaning and starts off with a typical premise. Serial killer escapes and returns to his hometown. Kids head off to scary road for some thrills encounter something horribly wrong.

It's obvious that wealthy dad was the key to getting this made, because as a writer and director Nicholas Smith is bottom of the barrel.

There are so many holes and so much stupidity on the parts of the characters watching was a chore and a bore.

Characters walking through tunnels arriving at roughly the same time other characters who drove to the same place made the plot preposterous too.

Also, the resolution was flimsy and unjustified.

Bad, bad, bad.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

John's DVD pick of the week (November 8th 2011)

Well it's Tuesday. This week my favorite film of the year so far and the only one to get four stars from me comes out Friday it's

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
That's right the finale of this film series is my pick this week. The other film that I recommend is The comedy The Change Up.

My vintiage pick is, In honor of this weeks release of J. Edgar, I'm recommending a pair of Clint Eastwood films, they are Gran Torino and Million Dollar Baby, the latter was #5 on my best of 2004 list.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Review: Puncture (**1/2)

Puncture is proudly "Based on a True Story." As is so often the case, this means an indifference to "true" human relationships in favor of crusading self-righteousness. In this instance, the cause is life-saving no-stick syringes, which, despite saving lives, are not beloved by Big Pharm. The upstart personal injury firm of Weiss and Danziger (Chris Evans and co-director Mark Kassen) is approached by Vicky (Vinessa Shaw), a nurse who was infected with AIDS by an accidental needle stick and wants them to get the "Safety Point" syringes invented by her friend Jeffrey (Marshall Bell) into hospitals, an attempt heretofore blocked by conspiracy between hospital buyers and group-purchasing organizations, in violation of the trust act.
Overall the movie is inspiring,and the plot is good but Chris Evans does a mediocre job. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Movie Blog: John's DVD pick of the week (October 25th 2011)

The Movie Blog: John's DVD pick of the week (October 25th 2011): Sorry for the delay. This week I chose a superhero flick its... Captain America: The First Avenger That's right the superhero flick (which...

John's DVD pick of the week (October 25th 2011)

Sorry for the delay. This week I chose a superhero flick its...

Captain America: The First Avenger
That's right the superhero flick (which ironically is the last of the Avengers to get his movie) is my pick this week. The other two picks out this week are Winnie The Pooh and A Serbian Film, I have not seen either film but will see them both at some time.

My vintage pick is... in honor of today's release of In Time, I'm recommending a movie that had four of the stars of this film appeared in before, it's called Alpha Dog. It's a very underrated gem and I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Amazing Race recap (10/23/11)

Sunday the 19th season of The Emmy winning series The Amazing Race continued airing
Road Block # 1 find a fish near a man and break it
The Speed Bump Liz and Marie had to do was having to wash an elephant
after that teams had to disassemble a spirit house
Road Block # 2 Reassemble the spirit house that was disassembled (the person who sat out the first road block had to do this one)
after that teams were given bread to feed to fish
Pit Stop was at the M.R. Kukrit Heritage House
Final Placings in this leg were
1st - Amani and Marcus (Won Trip to Bali)
2nd - Bill and Cathi
3rd - Ernie and Cindy
4th - Justin and Jennifer
5th - Andy and Tommy
6th - Laurence and  Zac
7th - Jeremy and Sandy
LAST - Liz and Marie (ELIMINATED)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Amazing Race recap (10/16/11)

Last week I did not have time for a recap but Kaylani & Lisa went home.

Teams traveled to Phuket, Thailand.
The detour choice is
Coral construction - Teams had to build a nursery out of coral pipes, when they were done teams took a kayak and set it on the ocean floor
Beach Preparation - Teams had to set up 20 beach chairs and 10 umbrellas with a symbol
The road block was to climb a sheer rock wall to a bird's nest to get the next clue
The pit stop was at Koh Panyi floating soccer field
Team rankings were
1st - Andy and Tommy (won $5,000 cash each.)
2nd - Justin and Jennifer
3rd - Jeremy and Sandy
4th - Laurence and Zac
5th - Ernie and Cindy
6th - Amani and Marcus
7th - Bill and Cathi
8th - Liz and Marie (SAVED, Must do speed bump next leg)

John's DVD pick of the week (October 18th 2011)

Hey guys it's Tuesday therefore it's my DVD pick of the week. This week I chose a movie that was awesome IT'S

Red State
Thats right the Kevin Smith Horror flick is my pick of the week. Other films out are the blockbuster sequel Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, The Comedy Bad Teacher and the chick flick Monte Carlo.

My vintage pick is, in honor of this weeks release of Martha Marcy May Marlene, I'm recommending a film that came out last year with a similar tone, it's Winter's Bone, it's a decent film worth seeing.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Review: What's Your Number (**)

I saw the promos for this pic when I saw "Crazy Stupid Love" and "Our Idiot Brother". It seemed kind of funny, so I took a chance on it tonight.

I'm not a big fan of the bubbly blonde genre, nor do I frown upon it, but the film seemed to have lots of sexual references, almost too many for a character like Anna Faris's "Ally Darling". In this regard the film is a bit of a disappointment as it dove immediately to uninhibited descriptors of sex, as opposed to building up to those moments where Anna's character has to blurt out the obvious. But hey, it's a chick flick rom-com, so you can't really fault it too much, because it does mean well.

I can't say I laughed too much at this film, but laugh I did, and I truly wanted to laugh more, but the humor bounced from raunch to intellectual, with some shades of gray in-between. So it was that I found myself hard pressed to absorb and laugh at all of the sexually oriented humor, but nor was I a prude in that department, as I could very much appreciate some of the finer points of sex-gags.

Some of the alleged romantic moments seemed way over the top. So much that one wonders why they were put in there to begin with. And casting Colin Shea as the hunky yet uninteresting neighbor who might be a sleaze, seemed a bit of a stretch. Particularly when Ally's past suitors physiques pail in comparison to her sleuth-neighbor.

The other stretch is the notion that perky cute blonde living on her own in Boston would have a hard time finding mister right. But, it's a movie, so we take the premise for what it is, and either go with it, or shrug and begrudgingly accept what is put forth.

Technical marks all hit their cues. There're some interesting shots here and there, and one wonders how they got some of those. Otherwise this film isn't about great cinematography nor sound, just about a quirky little girl in a highly explicit verbal-sex film. Now, having said that, I think the delivery and editing of some of the lines (not to mention some of the lines themselves) could have been better executed, for the film does feel a bit flat in act I, and doesn't really pick up until a third of the way into act II.

Still, it is what it is. Not a film I'd go see again, something I might rent in the future just to see what went into making this film.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

John's DVD pick of the week (October 11th 2011)

Hey guys it's that time of the week again. This week I chose this year's winner of the Palme D'or at Cannes It's
The Tree Of Life

That's right the Terrance Malick directed Brad Pitt/Sean Penn starrer is my pick this week. Other big releases include the comedy Horrible Bosses, The family comedies Judy Moody And The Not Bummer Summer and Zookeeper, and the mediocre Superhero flick Green Lantern.

My vintage pick is: in honor of this weeks releases of Footloose and The Thing, I'm recommending a handful of 80's remakes and reboots, they are The A-Team, Clash Of The Titans, The Karate Kid, and My Bloody Valentine, They may not be masterpieces but they are worth watching.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Review: The Ides Of March (***)

Stephen (Ryan Gosling) is a razor-sharp, rising star political media consultant. Presently, he is working on Pennsylvania Governor Mike Morris' (George Clooney) campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. Steve-o has only one man above him, overall campaign manager Paul (Philip Seymour Hoffman). The two consult each other daily. The governor has a single chief competitor, an Arkansas senator with his own astute adviser, Tom (Paul Giamatti). At the moment, the Ohio primary is looming and the staff is working out of Cincinnati. One of the governor's lower-level workers is beautiful Molly (Evan Rachel Wood), the daughter of the present head of the National Democratic Party. Only 20, she is just learning the ropes. One day, she makes a pass at Stephen and he responds positively. But, he makes it clear to her that politics is his passion and, especially, Mike Morris, his idol. Indeed, Morris is handsome, smart, and appears to speak sincerely and clearly to potential voters. Yet, very soon after their first encounter, Molly drops a bombshell on Stephen. It is a stunning piece of news, one that could knock the earth off its axis. Also, amazingly, Tom has been courting Stephen to "switch sides" while a respected, determined journalist, Ida (Marisa Tomei) is eager for any and all campaign stories. A cauldron of conflicting genuine and perceived realities is brewing. What will be the result? This is a fine film, based on a stage play, and directed by Mr. Clooney. While the story is more predictable in nature, the script has some great lines and Clooney's direction is quite, quite admirable. This is particularly true of the performances he draws from the cast, with Gosling, Hoffman, Giamatti, Tomei, Clooney himself, and especially Wood giving great turns. All the film's amenities, from sets, costumes, and camera work, are also nice. If you are a discriminating film buff, who loves quality flicks with ample discussion points, then I'd suggest you see Ides at your earliest convenience.

Review: 50/50 (***1/2)

Adam (Gordon-Levitt) is a rule-following, mild-mannered twentysomething who lives in Seattle with his girlfriend, Rachael (Bryce Dallas-Howard), and works at Seattle Public Radio. His life takes a sudden and dramatic turn when he is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that has taken over his spine. A laidback kind of guy, Adam handles each hurdle with surprising ease and levity while engaging in somewhat helpful counseling from Katie (Anna Kendrick), a young psychologist the hospital assigns him. Before long, though, his complex relationships with Rachael, his best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen), and his needy mother (Angelica Huston) become even more convoluted with the introduction of chemotherapy and medicinal marijuana into his life. As the severity of his condition increases, Adam begins to reassess his life, his relationships, and the nonplussed façade he uses to get himself through.

The inevitable comparisons between "50/50" and 2009's "Funny People" are unfortunate. While I stuck up for "Funny People" more than most of my colleagues, even I will admit it is an incredibly flawed film that misses the mark on many levels. "50/50", then, plays out a bit like what "Funny People" should have been, right down to the performance of Seth Rogen. It is, first and foremost, a very funny movie and that is where "Funny People" first went awry. You can't make a comedy about cancer, or any other serious illness for that matter, and fail to produce a genuinely funny script. Laughs come often and organically. I also quite liked that writer Will Reiser (who based his script on the events of his own battle with cancer) makes it clear early on that he intends to laugh at cancer and if you're not up for that, you're in the wrong theater. That is not to say that the disease itself or the havoc it wreaks on Adam's life is disrespected or ignored; in fact, "50/50" gives a fairly realistic view of the hell that is aggressive cancer and the sometimes even more aggressive treatment. "50/50" is bold but soft, a combination that works well.

The dialogue between the characters in "50/50" flows with tremendous ease, especially in the scenes involving Adam and Kyle. This dynamic between JGL and Rogen is the meat of the film and the two play it out brilliantly. They have a chemistry that Anne Hathaway only wishes she could develop with…well, anyone. (That was an unnecessary shot at Miss Hathaway. My apologies.) They reminded me of the type of friendship I might have with any one of my closer pals if we cursed more and occasionally smoked pot. Adam's other relationships are a bit awkward but whether this was done on purpose or not, it serves the narrative well. In my mind he would have a tense partnership with Rachael because they're clearly not suited for each other and any furtherance of his friendship with Katie beyond doctor-patient would be a bit odd.

All of the supporting actors hold their own. As spot-on as I might have been with JGL all those years ago, I would have never guessed, after reluctantly watching "Twilight", that Kendrick would be an actress whose performances I truly look forward to. This isn't quite to the level of her work in "Up in the Air" but it is good and believable nonetheless. Huston's character seems a bit over-the-top in the early going but the depth of her character comes to light in the late stages and Huston pulls it together splendidly. And Rogen gives what might be his best performance to date. To be fair, I'm not much of a Rogen fan so I'm far from an expert on his value as an actor. But whereas he was completely outclassed in "Funny People" and pretty much plays the same character in almost every film, he shows a little more strength in "50/50" than he ever has before (with the possible exception of "Knocked Up"). I actually liked him and I haven't felt that way toward him very often.

But of course, the weight of "50/50" rests almost entirely on the shoulders of JGL and he holds up to the challenge. One of the best compliments I can give an actor is to say that he and his character become one and the same. That's what JGL does here and that's why "50/50" succeeds. He envelopes himself into the Adam character and makes his portrayal incredibly believable. It is almost like watching a documentary on a young cancer patient. Adam handles his disease with class and dignity but not without emotion. His outbursts are few but powerful and through them JGL sells the story beautifully. Simply put, this guy is a star and "50/50" serves as the announcement of such to those of you who didn't already know this to be fact.

"50/50" is honest and at times tough to watch but never purposefully harsh or depressing. In fact, it is generally positive but in a way that isn't all sunshine and unicorns. It is smart, hilarious, and even touching while all the time remaining respectful of the audience's ability to relate to difficult circumstances without artificial emotional fishing. It is an excellent film marked by one outstanding performance that deserves the attention received come Award Season.

Review: Drive (***1/2)

It seems to be the case nowadays that film audiences, particularly at this time of year as the summer winds down, are left with a choice of seeing the latest broad appeal movies filling the multiplexes, or venturing to the local independent cinema in search of more intellectual fare. Very rarely will a film transcend these boundaries and offer a mix of Hollywood-style action and art-house flair, which is what makes Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive so unique and something to be celebrated.

Drive tells the story of an unnamed stunt driver (Ryan Gosling) moonlighting as a getaway driver for a crime syndicate run by Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks). Seemingly a loner, the driver becomes involved in the life of his neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her young son Benicio (Kaden Leos). After agreeing to drive for Irene's newly paroled husband Standard (Oscar Isaac), and finding himself on the wrong side of assassination contract, the driver embarks on a mission to protect Irene from the vicious gangsters who would seek to harm her to get at him. It's a well-worn plot line which in the hands of someone less adept than Refn would likely be nothing more than a forgettable thriller, yet the massively talented director, who picked up the Best Director prize at Cannes this year for Drive, crafts an engaging and thrilling throwback film elevated by masterful performances across the board.

Refn, previously known for the fantastic Bronson, and the lesser known but equally excellent Pusher trilogy, is a man who has very clearly studied his Kubrick. Certainly most modern directors could do worse than imitate the style of one of history's greats like Stanley Kubrick, but rarely does one pull it off with the skill of Refn. In Bronson, the influence was a little more obvious, with the resulting film seeming like something of a spiritual successor to A Clockwork Orange. With Drive however, the traces are a little more subtle, visible in the impeccable technical touches, and the use of dissolves, pensive long takes, and slow zooms, a hallmark of Kubrick's catalogue. Drive is a flawlessly crafted film, filled with beautiful imagery of the Los Angeles underworld seen more often in the work of Michael Mann.

The technical achievements of Drive are more than matched by the acting of the entire cast, and Refn shrewdly selects a wide variety of performers to populate the story. Top notch support comes from Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, the ever dependable Ron Perlman, and particularly Brooks, who jettisons his familiar comedic persona in a truly frightening and villainous performance, which will surely be on the radar of voters come awards season. Mulligan shows characteristic heart in a largely overlooked role, yet the film unquestionably belongs to Gosling. Often heralded as one of the finest actors of his generation, in Drive Gosling delivers his best work yet as the driver; a quiet role that is all the more effective due to the subtlety of the performance. He displays an ability to ratchet up the tension using just the slightest widening of his eyes and tensing of his jawline, and when the character is pushed to act more forcefully, Gosling transitions from almost silent observer to brutal aggressor so swiftly that it leaves one breathless. It's work that he makes look easy, yet it's the most focused performance seen in an action film in quite some time.

There's something undeniably retro about Drive, with its neon opening titles and 80s infused soundtrack, but the film seems remarkably fresh. Smart action filmmaking is so hard to come by these days, so Drive delivers refreshing variety, beginning the time of year when the so-called prestige pictures are released with a bang.

Review: Moneyball (***)

I recently saw Moneyball and thought the movie was quite great. The storyline is intriguing to say the least and though a lot of people already know the plot the movie made it come to life. The cast was great and specifically Jonah Hill, who usually does a great job in comedies, should get nominated for best supporting actor in it. It is nice to see him make a switch to a non-comedic role and I am sure this will greatly help his acting career.

This is one of those rare movies that everyone should like, whether they are sports fans or not. The story is so interesting that it could not have been made up and the original author of the book was well represented in the screenplay. I read some commentary that this might not be as big as The Blind Side overseas because a lot of people aren't in love with baseball, but I think this appeals to all people even if they are not a fan.

Overall, I think Sorkin did a wonderful job with the movie and picked a perfect cast-he has definitely been on a roll lately. Although I saw a matinée, I would have even liked it had I paid full price for my tickets. So, enjoy... :-)

Review: Crazy, Stupid, Love (***)

I wasn't sure if I wanted to see this movie at the theater,but I am really glad I did. The characters are well played out, not very likable at first, but after you get to know the cast, you really feel for everyone. I thought Julianne Moore & Steve Carrell had great chemistry with their relationship. Super script, nice directing, great casting with Robbie, the son. This movie will surprise you at how good it is. I loved how you saw the characters at work, at home, at the bar & with their friends. This was very well played out & comes together in the end extremely well. Ryan Gosling is very hot even when he is sleazy. Great date night movie!!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Review: Contagion (***1/2)

So what comes to mind when you think of a disaster movie? Is it gigantic alien invaders? Is it volcanoes exploding and flooding the land with lava? Or is it the world ending in some fiery, cosmic, or overpowering natural force way? Regardless we've seen various movies that have tried to destroy the human population in flashy, explosion filled ways. However, one movie that released this weekend called Contagion has decided to approach the threat of human extinction in a different way. Was it worth it? Well read on to find out.

Okay let's face it, when I first saw the trailer I couldn't help but think that this movie was going to be nothing more than a boring and over-dramatic remake of the movie Outbreak. About thirty minutes into the film however, I was proved wrong as the tale unfolded into something much deeper. As the trailer pointed out, the plot of Contagion centers on a mysterious virus that suddenly appears in a few random cases, making the doctors think that it's nothing more than a common virus. The opinion soon changes however, when cases across the world come pouring in and many people begin experiencing the symptoms. Soon the experts begin working out a solution to the virus causing the disease, but the fear and paranoia filling the general public begin causing major problems, which could be even deadlier than the virus.

However this tale is really split into two different scenarios one involving Matt Damon and his family and the other on Lawrence Fishburne and his team dealing with the silent killer. Both of these tales were, too my surprise, actually pretty interesting with their pace and drama balanced to a healthy level. Perhaps what made this movie come to life was the great acting by Fishburne and Jude Law. The two actors played the head of the health team and the weasel journalistic respectively, fighting each other to the vary core. While one is trying to pool all his resources into combating chaos, the other continues to increase it with his articles. As the two combat one another, the rest of the supporting cast, most of who are on Fishburne's team, attempt to do their part in surviving in the panic filled world. I'll mention here that Kate Winslet and Jennifer Ehle fans will be happy with the roles played by these starlets, while fans of Damon and Paltrow will be disappointed as their roles are much more diluted and calmer than what we've seen in the past.

Now although the acting was good, the biggest factor that gave this movie character was how the crew made your imagination fill you with fear. The combination of the camera-work, layout of the scenes, and dialog all combined to create a believable scenario about a world caught up in an epidemic. Instead of the flashy explosions, scream filled close-up death scenes, and high speed outrun natural disaster scenes, the virus instead silently travels across the world and you don't know who it's going to strike next. As a result, I was caught up in suspense at hoping my favorite characters would not succumb to the virus or be taken out by someone plagued with fear. Regardless despite not being able to see the killer, the virus may in fact be one of the scariest killers I've seen in a long time.

The other factor that I thoroughly enjoyed were the realistic steps and actions portrayed in this film that were used to combat the epidemic. The science, governmental laws and regulations, propaganda, and many other factors I felt were pretty accurate, and I was able to follow and understand what they were doing. I'm not going to lie that my favorite parts to this movie were the scientific explanations about the virus, which I was able to understand, but lets face it I'm a geek. Regardless I'll warn you that people who don't like science or bureaucratic processes will not like these scenes.

Now lets get to the weaknesses of this movie that I wish to share with you. The first thing is that this movie is very sad at parts and people who don't like depression will want to avoid this movie. The movie is not afraid to show the dying victims up close and personal, which can either tug at your heartstrings or make you sick. Germophobes as well will want to stay away from this film, as their fears will only be amplified by some of the focused shots of the victims leaving the virus on various surfaces. I guess the only other weakness I can say is that for an action-thriller, which this movie is classified as, there is not a whole lot of action. Again there are no high-speed chases, suspense filled acrobatics and climbing expeditions, or giant CGI natural disaster attacks. Those looking for said characteristics should choose another movie.

Contagion is one of the better disaster movies I have seen in a long time. The good acting, well angled shots, and ability to use the audience's imagination to paint the fear kept me deep into the movie and kept me surprised through most of the movie. However I do have to say that the focused portrayal of death and the emotions that came with it were not my cup of tea. So until then I welcome constructive criticism and hope you have a fun time at the movies!

Shirley MacLaine to recieve AFI lifetime Achievement Award

Following in the footsteps of this year's honoree Morgan Freeman, Shirley MacLaine has been tapped by the American Film Institute as the 40th recipient of its Life Achievement award.
And it's an achievement that is well deserved.
Not only has MacLaine sustained a viable career in Hollywood for decades, but the 77-year-old thesp is also an Oscar winner (among many other things).

After making her film debut in Alfred Hitchcock's The Trouble With Harry in 1955, the Valentine's Day actress later went on to win an Academy Award in 1984 as Best Actress for her performance in Terms of Endearment.
To date, MacLaine has nabbed six Academy Award nominations, six Emmys nominations
But that's just one entry on MacLaine's long list of awards.y noms and seven Golden Globe Awards, and she's even managed to squeeze in the time to become an established author, most recently penning the book I'm All Over That–And Other Confessions, which was published in April.
"Shirley MacLaine is a powerhouse of personality that has illuminated screens large and small across six decades," Howard Stringer, chair of the AFI's board of trustees, said in an announcement for her selection. "From ingénue to screen legend, Shirley has entertained a global audience through song, dance, laughter and tears, and her career as writer, director and producer is even further evidence of her passion for the art form and her seemingly boundless talents."

And MacLaine's success appears to run in the family. Warren Beatty, MacLaine's brother, also received the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008, making them the second family in the history of the award to 
have multiple honorees (Kirk Douglas and his son Michael were the first, honored in 1991 and 2009, respectively)

Review: Red State (***)

OK. So after reading the other reviews and deciding to watch this based on the positive reports, I feel compelled to offer a more realistic review.

First of all, this is not the masterpiece it's made out to be. A lot of Kevin Smith fanboys seem reluctant to give him a bad review.

So here we go, it's a bit of a mess really. It seems to be getting a lot of praise for switching genres but honestly, it just comes across as confused. Yes, the performances are pretty good and some of the camera work is exceptional (the escape/chase scene is noteworthy) but overall it's almost like three films in one. This might sound like a good thing but not the way it's presented here.

And as for everybody trying to get clever over the title, the meaning is pretty clear to me. It refers to both the political and the government angle that the authorities can lock any suspected terrorist up for an indefinite time. A la communist/red states.

Overall, some good performances, memorable dialogue and decent cinematography fail to save this confused mess.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

John's DVD pick of the week (October 4th 2011)

Well it's Tuesday, sorry for the delay but I picked a fun flick it's

Fast Five.

That's right the action packed flick is my pick this week. Other picks include The horror sequel Scream 4, the nature doctumentary African Cats, and the blu ray release of The Lion King.

My vintage pick is - in honor of this weeks release of The Ides Of March I'm recommending George Clooney's best directorial outing it's Good Night and Good Luck, check it out if you get a chance

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

RIP Steve Jobs

Apple issued the following statement today that Steve Jobs has passed away at the age of 56 due to complications from pancreatic cancer:

We are deeply saddened to announce that Steve Jobs passed away today.

Steve's brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives. The world is immeasurably better because of Steve.

His greatest love was for his wife, Laurene, and his family. Our hearts go out to them and to all who were touched by his extraordinary gifts.