December 30, 2010

(Un)popular Opinions of 2010

Top 10 of 2010:

Black Swan

King's Speech

127 Hours


The Social Network

Scott Pilgrim

Four Lions

Exit Through the Gift Shop

The Fighter

The Kids Are All Right

Bottom 10 of 2010 (no particular order):

Dinner for Schmucks

She's Out of My League

Hot Tub Time Machine



Vampires Suck

Last Airbender


Other Guys

Eat Pray Love

Keep in mind, there's quite a few movies that I haven't gotten to see for one reason or another, and if something's not in my top 10, that's probably why. If you'd like to take me to task, I welcome the opportunity.

Dinner for Schmucks - 2010

Director: Jay Roach
Writers: David Guion & Michael Handelman
Starring: Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, Zach Galifianakis, Jemaine Clement

An up-and-coming corporate type (Rudd) enlists the aid of an IRS employee (Carell) who reconstructs famous art with taxidermied mice at his company's traditional dinner for idiots.

This film is a vastly inferior version of Le Diner de Cons, aka The Dinner Game, the French film it was based on. On top of that, a scene near the end ripped off one of the most memorable scenes in Edgar Wright's brilliant show Spaced. See those over this. That's all I have to say about that. F

December 29, 2010

The Book of Eli - 2010

Directors: Albert & Allen Hughes
Writer: Gary Whitta
Starring: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis

"The war tore a hole in the sky, the sun came down, burnt everything, everyone, I wandered, I didn't really know what I should do or where I was going. I was just moving from place to place,trying to stay alive.And then one day I heard this voice.I don't know how to explain it, it's like it was coming from inside me. But I could hear it clear as day. Clear as I can hear you talking to me now. It told me to carry the book west, it told me that a path would be laid out before me, that I'd be led to a place where the book would be safe it told me I'd be protected,against anyone or anything that tried to stand in my way. If only I would have faith. That was thirty years ago and I've been walking ever since." A single man (Washington) is tasked to carry a mysterious book westward, protecting it from those like Carnegie (Oldman) who would use it to do wrong.

One of many recent entries in the cover-everything-with-dust-and-slightly-desaturate post-apocalyptic films, The Book of Eli is surprisingly good, perhaps a nice companion piece to The Road if you care for something less depressing and with more action. Washington and Oldman are never disappointing, with Washington even doing all his own stunts, shocking for a 55-year-old-man. However, the longer the film ran, the more I thought about a major aspect of the premise: most people in this society, even if they were around before the event, have no idea whatsoever of prewar culture and society (not even literacy). THIS MAKES NO SENSE. Just because something's old doesn't mean people can't be aware of it, and just because we're forced into the barter system doesn't mean we stop teaching people to read. Beyond that, though, the last five minutes reveal a twist of Shyamalanic proportions which pushes suspension of disbelief to new bounds. Maybe it would have worked had the writer mentioned this early on and EXPLAINED a bit more, but as is, made me go from enjoyable to almost an entire waste of time. D-

December 27, 2010

The A-Team - 2010

Director: Joe Carnahan
Writers: Joe Carnahan, Brian Bloom, & Skip Woods
Starring: Liam Neeson, Sharlto Copley, Bradley Cooper, Quinton Jackson, Jessica Biel, Partick Wilson

"They are the best, and they specialize in the ridiculous." Four special forces members set out to clear their names through a series of over-the-top plans.
Was this a great movie? Not by any means. However, it's a lot closer to the middle of the pack qualitywise than the bottom. Neeson and Copley really carry the film with their performances as the chief planner and nutjob pilot (respectively), Cooper plays the same womanizer we've seen him as all too often, and Jackson does as adequate a Mr. T. impression as is possible without the gold chains. This film is essentially a sequence of that's-so-crazy-there's-no-way-it'll-work-but-somehow-it-just-did events...and they kind of get away with it, even the bit from the trailers where they're shooting from inside a tank that's falling through the air to get it to move laterally. Biel's really my only issue with the film; her character (a military higher-up with a romantic past with Cooper) is wholly superfluous to the plot, although without her, Cooper wouldn't be doing much for the two hours. All in all, it's a film that takes refuge in its audacity, ending up fairly decent as a result. C+

December 22, 2010

Black Swan - 2010

Director: Darren Aronofsky
Writers: Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, & John McLaughlin
Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassell, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder

"I just want to be perfect." Up-and-coming ballerina Nina Sayers (Portman) struggles to keep hold on her sanity while competing against rival Lily (Kunis) in her attempt to play both the White Swan and Black Swan in the classic ballet Swan Lake.

As much as I've espoused the greatness of a few other films this year, this beats them all. I wish I had a single criticism of the film, but it's not there. Portman has hit the zenith of her career to date, Kunis plays someone who isn't her character from That 70s Show, the use of sound effects to enhance certain scenes is breathtaking...and overall, there's a movie for non-fans of ballet to love, although I'm sure die-hards will fawn over it as well. It's suspenseful and haunting and so many other things. If it doesn't win a certain three Oscars, I will be very disappointed. A+

True Grit - 2010

Directors: Joel & Ethan Coen

Writers: Joel & Ethan Coen

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin

"I will not go back, not without Cheney, dead or alive." Mattie Ross (Steinfeld), the smartest and most outspoken 14-year-old girl in the Old West, hires Reuben "Rooster" Cogburn (Bridges), a US Marshal with a dark past, to track down Tom Chaney (Brolin), who killed her father. Texas Ranger LaBouef (Damon) is also pursuing Chaney for another crime, and the two combine their efforts.

On one hand, I feel like I shouldn't review this until I see the original with John Wayne (I have never seen a John Wayne film, and very few Westerns); on the other hand, that might help me be more objective, and review this as a film of its own merit, and not an adaptation. Steinfeld really steps up to the plate for her feature debut, especially considering a 21-year-old portrayed her character in the original film. Bridges, as always, comes through stellarly, playing another Southerner with booze issues like he did in last year's Crazy Heart, yet still making it an altogether separate character. Damon is a great foil for Bridges, and the two exchange barbs to add just enough humor in parts to make the film a bit lighter without being hammy. I could have used more of Brolin's villain, but he makes the most of his time onscreen. The Coens have created a masterpiece in honor of a bygone era of cinema, and it would be amiss to pass up. A-

December 21, 2010

Date Night - 2010

Director: Shawn Levy
Writer: Josh Klausner
Starring: Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Mark Wahlberg, William Fichtner, Ray Liotta, James Franco, Mila Kunis

After Phil (Carell) and Claire Foster (Fey) take another couple's dinner reservation, they are quickly entangled in an altercation involving a local mob boss and two NYPD officers on his payroll.

I had a lot of concerns about this one going into it. Even though the two leads are probably the biggest names in comedy for their respective genders at the moment, neither was involved with the writing aspect, and many say the film suffers for it. However, even despite my personal distaste for Carell's humor, I kind of liked it. While the premise might not seem terribly original, it was very reminiscent of the screwball comedy of the 1930s and 1940s; I even chuckled a few times. The leads are a very believable worn-out couple, and they have great chemistry with the rest of the cast, especially Franco and Kunis (during their all too brief scene). I feel no remorse about missing this in theaters, but it's good for a rainy day when you're dreaming of something more. C+

Charlie St. Cloud - 2010

Director: Burr Steers
Writer: Craig Pearce
Starring: Zac Efron, Charlie Tahan, Amanda Crew, Ray Liotta, Donal Logue

"We'll always be brothers, every day, come rain or shine, come hell or high water." After surviving a near-death experience, Charlie (Efron) is visited by his dead brother Sam (Tahan) every day at sunset for a game of catch. However, the rest of Charlie's life interferes, and he struggles to keep his promise to Sam.

I understand Efron's need to break out of his High School Musical-induced shell, but this isn't how to do it. Like some other movies I've seen this year, this is one of those identity-crisis films. You've got Zac Efron: Sailor, Zac Efron: Ladies Man, and Zac Efron Has an Adventure with his Dead Kid Brother, each of which tramples over the other two. In addition (here comes my favorite critique), no proper explanation about why he was able to see his brother, on top of the inconsistency of him seeing a certain other character despite them not being dead. To Hollywood: don't make any more movies just as an excuse for Efron to drop a four-letter word or two if the story can't back it up. F

December 20, 2010

The Nines - 2007

Director: John August
Writer: John August
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Hope Davis, Melissa McCarthy, Elle Fanning

"The show's not real! Why can't you just see that? Jesus! What are you fucking blind? You think you're above this, don't you? You are trapped here with the rest of them brother! Get out! Get out! Oblivio essevet!" Gary (Reynolds) is an actor on house arrest who begins to see the number 9 in excessive facets of his life. Gavin (Reynolds again) is a writer about to screen the pilot of his new show for a focus group. Gabriel (one last Reynolds) is a video game designer stranded with his wife and child on the side of the road.

I'd like to describe the plot more, but I want anyone who sees this to enjoy it as much as I did. I'll say that Reynolds never truly shares the screen with himself, and that this is on par with his performance in Buried, far and above the majority of his work. For a movie that's as visually low-key as this one is, August has made one that's as mind-freaking as anything Nolan's ever done. A+

December 18, 2010

The Fighter - 2010

Director: David O. Russell
Writers: Scott Silver, Paul Tamasay, & Eric Johnson
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo

The third film from Russell tells the story of former boxing great Dick Ecklund (Bale) and how, after battling a crack addiction, trained his half-brother Micky Ward (Wahlberg) to become an even greater boxer.

The trailer for this film was a bit misleading, but the movie turned out even better than expected. The accents are spotless, and you really get a feel for the town itself over the course of the film, albeit its seedy underbelly. Wahlberg is an inspiring, Rocky-esque Ward, and never pulls punches both physically and with his performance. I WOULD BE OKAY WITH BALE TAKING ARMIE HAMMER'S OSCAR; THAT IS ALL I HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THAT. Leo is impressive as the boys' mother as well, and the small army of sisters is as legitimate as the entire cast of Winter's Bone (which I didn't care for because it might as well have been a documentary, it got so real). I don't even like most sports films, but the sports was my favorite part of this one. The boxing scenes were shot with 1990s equipment and with the aid of original fight filmmakers to replicate the original look, which is a great choice by Russell. My top 10 of 2010 is going to be really hard if the rest of the movies this year are this good. A+ - 2010

Directors: Noel Clarke & Mark Davis

Writer: Noel Clarke

Starring: Emma Roberts, Tamsin Egerton, Ophelia Lovibond, Shanika Warren-Markland

Thanks to a chance encounter with some diamond thieves, four friends in London have an action-packed three day span, despite every intention to lead altogether separate lives.

I come very close to calling this an exploitation flick. The majority of the film features our heroines triumphing over their obstacles, often by surprising displays of brute force. They also spend a significant portion semi-clothed or naked, usually serving no greater purpose to the plot. It eventually settles in as a standard failed heist film, more or less. How the girls can defend themselves so well is never explained, much to my annoyance, and the same goes for where the diamonds came from, where they're going, significant background about the characters….you know, silly things like that. The film's saving grace (aside from some choice cameos by Kevin Smith, Eve, and Mandy Patinkin) is its editing and narrative style. The girls are together in the introduction and conclusion, but each of the four stories is told consecutively, rather than concurrently, and then the film "rewinds" to the departure point. That makes it a little different in my eyes, and thus not a total waste of time. D+

December 14, 2010

68th Golden Globe reactions

Not going to predict anything, but I'm outraged, so I had to say something.




That is all.

December 12, 2010

The Town - 2010

Director: Ben Affleck
Writers: Ben Affleck, Peter Craig, & Aaron Stockard
Starring: Ben Affleck, Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall

"Driver's name is Arthur Shea. Former Metro Police officer, fifty-seven years old. Soon as his partner leaves with the coal bag, Artie cracks a Herald, and he don't look up 'til the guy gets back. Marty Maguire. Cummins Armored courier. Five-ten, two-twenty, fifty-two years old. Picks up every Wednesday and Friday at exactly 8:12, makes a hundred and ten dollars a day, carries a Sig nine. And he's about to get robbed." Affleck's sophomoric directorial project is yet another Boston crime drama, this time about four bank robbers (two of whom are Affleck and Renner), a hostage (Hall) they take in the opening scene who gets involved with Affleck's character, and the FBI agent (Hamm) pursuing them.

Affleck has directed, written, and starred in a great follow-up to his debut Gone Baby Gone. The story's compelling, and everyone delivers, even the much-maligned Jon Hamm. One stood out for me above the others: BLAKE LIVELY. While she has less screentime than the underutilized Renner, she makes the most of every second. After watching her performance, I wondered why she's wasting such talent on a show as vapid as Gossip Girl. My only complaint would be that the film had a lot of gunplay. Now, I understand that a movie about robbers has to have cops, and at some point the two will exchange bullets, but a great deal of this film was watching a nearly-Ocean's-Eleven-type plot unfold (even though their earlier criminal exploits were less subtle). It was a bit jarring to interrupt something so detailed with loud noises for seemingly no reason. Good, but I don't see it walking away with any awards this year. B+

December 11, 2010

A Nightmare on Elm Street - 2010

Director: Samuel Bayer
Writers: Wesley Strick & Eric Heisserer
Starring: Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara, Kellan Lutz

"Wake up, Nancy, wake up. Nancy, please. Please don't do this please. Nancy, come back. Please wake up. You promised." A decade after the death of pedophile Freddy Krueger (Haley), his now-teenaged victims begin experiencing similar dreams of a knife-clawed Krueger out to kill them all.

I've never been one for horror movies. "Scared" is not an emotion I have any desire to experience any more than absolutely necessary. And while there where a few moments of poor writing ("if we survive the next 24 hours" being one, as well as when/how Mara's character determines how to lure Krueger into the real world) stand out, the mains all bring decent performances, especially Haley as the new nightmare killer. In addition, the movie was genuinely scary. When I can't watch something in theaters, I do the best I can to replicate the theatrical experience by watching in total darkness. I'll admit I jumped once or twice, and turned the lights back on sporadically as well. Guess that means that slimeball Michael Bay (whose studio Platinum Dunes is responsible for the recent spree of horror remakes) deserves some of his ill-gotten gains after all. C

December 9, 2010

Diary of a Wimpy Kid - 2010

Director: Thor Freudenthal
Writers: Jackie & Jeff Filgo, Gabe Sachs, & Jeff Judah
Starring: Zachary Gordon, Robert Capron, Grayson Russell, Chloe Grace-Moretz

"It all starts in middle school, you know? You're not a kid anymore. The coddling has stopped. Kids are now separated by intelligence. The weak are picked on and girls that you've known since kindergarten won't even talk to you anymore." Told through the main character's drawings and not-a-diary journal entries, Greg (Gordon) and his friend Rowley (Capron) attempt to survive the "glorified holding pen" of middle school.

Despite pandering a bit too much to the young audience, the film appeals quite a bit to the older crowd as well. The child cast all turn out fairly good performances, though there was far too little Grace-Moretz for my liking. It's a very good look at the hyperimportance of the minutiae of middle school, and overall I was surprised at how much better this was than I expected, and might even see the sequel. B

December 5, 2010

Nowhere Boy - 2010

Director: Sam Taylor-Wood
Writer: Matt Greenhalgh
Starring: Aaron Johnson

"There's no point hating someone you love." Nowhere Boy follows the life of a teenage John Lennon (Johnson), eventual frontman of the Beatles, and his struggle to reconcile the complex relationship between himself, the aunt who raised him, and the mother who didn't. He also recuits schoolmates, including one Paul McCartney, into his first foray into music: the Quarrymen.

I will be buying this DVD the day it comes out. My only problem with this film (aside from the trailer's excessive focus on the almost absent musical aspect of his life)? Some of the Liverpudlian accents were a little thick. Every performance is a knockout, and Johnson leads the way as the young Lennon. Unlike the also-great Kick-Ass, he really gets to flex his acting chops here, and it's proof positive that if he keeps picking proper roles, he could be one of the up and coming British actors. A

The Sorcerer's Apprentice - 2010

Director: Jerry Turteltaub
Writers: Matt Lopez, Doug Miro, & Carlo Bernard
Starring: Jay Baruchel, Nicholas Cage, Alfred Molina

"I have been searching all over the world for you. You're going to be a force for good and a very important sorcerer. But for now, you're my apprentice." Balthazar Blake (Cage), one of three apprentices of Merlin, trains Dave Stutler (Baruchel) as his own apprentice to help him vanquish his nigh-immortal foe Maxim Horvath (Molina), another Merlinian.

I wasn't expecting a lot from this film; maybe that's why I kind of liked it. Molina's great at playing villains (remember Spider-Man 2?) and Cage, while it's not one of his best performances, it's not one of his worst either. The role plays to his natural insanity, shall we say. yet again the girl-repellant nerd he's been playing lately; I hope he can grow out of it, and sooner rather than later. The writing surprised me most, though. While it's a slightly-above-average summer popcorn flick, the science-as-magic premise really appealed to me, and while the dragon wasn't terribly realistic, the effects are otherwise executed well, and the obligatory mop scene is executed without a hitch. My only real problems were two: there's an elderly man that Horvath goes to (who seems to already know him) in search of an apprentice, and this man's background is glossed over completely. Is he another sorcerer? Your guess is as good as mine. In addition, a character near the end just sort of gets forgotten about by the writers during the film's climax, which is one of the worst things a writer can possibly do. He's there one moment, gets knocked out, and then not seen for the rest of the film. Regardless, I'd say this one's worth renting for a single watch. C/C+

Get Him to the Greek - 2010

Director: Nicholas Stoller
Writer: Nicholas Stoller
Starring: Jonah Hill, Russell Brand, Sean Combs, Rose Byrne

"This is it, Aaron. This is rock 'n' roll. Did you enjoy the party?" To please his boss (Combs), Aaron Green (Hill) flies to London to escort Aldous Snow (Brand) to a 10th anniversary concert at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles. However, Green does not account for Snow's far from sober lifestyle threatening to derail the trip at ever turn.

I try to stay away from anything connected to Judd Apatow, but maybe I should reconsider that. I didn't see Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but I thought this movie was really solid, and funny on top of that. The film starts with Snow's latest music video, "African Child," which dances on the line between funny and offensive perfectly. Hill's given a good line here or there as well, mostly in the mold of the character he always plays, but the reason to watch this movie is Combs. Essentially playing an exaggerated version of himself, the recording executive's shouting about his personal life and doing what it takes to keep the rock star happy almost entirely overshadow having Hill vomit onscreen three separate times (my only real issue). B

December 4, 2010

She's Out Of My League - 2010

Director: Jim Field Smith
Writers: Sean Anders & John Morris
Starring: Jay Baruchel, Alice Eve, TJ Miller, Krysten Ritter

TSA agent Kirk (Baruchel) has a chance encounter with party planner Molly (Eve) based on an iPhone mishap, and the two gradually enter into a tenuous relationship, which seems impossible not only to their peers, but even Kirk himself.

I'll be the first to say that I'm a big fan of Canadian actor Jay Baruchel. Fanboys? Loved it? How to Train Your Dragon? It should win for Best Animated this year. The Trotsky, a Canadian film where his character thinks he's Leon Trotsky reincarnate? Next on my list. This movie, however...not so much. Aside from an abrupt turn in the last half hour, the writing is nothing special (thanks again, Hot Tub Time Machine writers), and the supporting cast is mediocre at best (very glad that Eve won't be playing Emma Frost in the upcoming X-Men film). In addition, and this doesn't normally bother me, but the film went out of its way to secure an R rating, and I think it suffers for it. Lots of F-bombs dropped, and the vast majority feel unnecessary (unlike the films of Kevin Smith, for instance). There's also a scene shot from behind that Baruchel insisted on a very obvious body double for, and the camera is fixed for a horribly long time; some better cinematography could have completely avoided that. D-

Wait. Baruchel did this AND Sorcerer's Apprentice with Nick Cage this year? Please start choosing your parts more carefully, sir. It'd be a shame to see you disappear.

December 3, 2010

Shrek Forever After - 2010

Director: Mike Mitchell
Writers: Josh Klausner & Darren Lemke
Starring: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Walt Dohrn

In the final chapter of the Shrek tetralogy, Shrek (Myers) has become dissatisfied with the monotony of his life with Fiona (Diaz) and their three children. After one particularly bad day, he makes a deal with Rumplestiltskin (Dohrn) to get a day to "live like a real ogre" again, in exchange for the erasure of a day from his childhood that he won't remember. Rumplestiltskin being the trickster that he is, the childhood day is the day Shrek was born, launching the characters from the series into a dystopian alternate universe where Rumplestiltskin is king and Fiona, still under the curse, leads a band of rogue warrior ogres against his tyranny.

I'm almost willing to put aside the fact that this is merely a Shrekified version of It's a Wonderful Life. Unfortunately, the series is now a bitter shell of what it once was. Klausner and Lemke's attempt to literally rewrite the beloved film from nearly a decade ago falls short of even the third entry in the series, making the same things that were once entertaining and amusing now painfully annoying at times. In addition, there's a star-studded cast of minor characters that (aside from the ogre played by Mad Men's Jon Hamm) are lucky to get three lines each over the course of the film. What a waste! Unless you're a die hard fan, you'll agree that "the final chapter" had come and gone before this one went into production. D

December 1, 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine - 2010

Director: Steve Pink
Writers: Josh Heald, Sean Anders, John Morris
Starring: John Cusack, Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry, Clark Duke

"Do I really gotta be the asshole who says we got in this thing and went back in time? " Three men (and one's nephew), wholly dissatisfied with their lives, return to a beloved ski town from the three men's past for a weekend of male bonding. However, a night of intoxication in their hot tub leads to the four being transported from 2010 to 1986.

This film is a mess. It's a comedy lacking a sole funny moment (though it tries every possible way to have one). The writers didn't bother explaining ANYTHING (like a certain character who appears at random, or why Duke's character still looks like his 2010 self). The time travel aspect is contradictory at best, and the plot either namedrops or full-on rips off legitimately good time travel stories (A Sound of Thunder, Terminator, and Back to the Future twice). When I saw the first commercials for this, I wondered how John Cusack ended up with this motley crew of actors below his station; imagine my surprise when he was also a PRODUCER. That's right, he helped this movie get made. I'll never understand some motives. And what stellar film can we next look forward to from the writer's? Why, it's the Jim Carrey-helmed adaptation of Mr. Popper's Penguins. Oh, happy day! F