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Monday, November 5, 2012

Film Review: CLOUD ATLAS


Oh boy, where can I begin? Reviews have been mixed, and for a good reason; Cloud Atlas is a love it or hate it movie. I do not expect to find a middle ground. The great thing about movies like this is that they get people talking, debating, and thinking. So even if you are on the hate it crowd, this movie affected you in someway or other. Generally speaking, I’d say this is a good thing in any art form. Luckily for me, I am in the LOVE IT crowd. 

Cloud Atlas tells six stories interwoven to various degrees, all with the same thematic elements: primarily the search for freedom and the human desire to be together. Individually each piece is engaging enough, it would have made a good short story. But the editing turns all six into a thematic concerto that only film as an art medium can provide. To think that the novel was considered “un-filmable” means there is a lack of creativity out there. If anything Cloud Atlas proves the vast versatility of film as a story telling medium.

The six stories that we see are:

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Review: SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS




I can safely say you won’t see this one coming. Not because there is an unexpected twist at the end - or some other kind of cop-out - but because the characters in this movie are so unpredictable there is really no way of knowing what direction they are pointing their gun at, or when they might pull the trigger - accidentally or otherwise. This is a richly self aware movie, where the characters are literally writing the movie on the go. In an age where most movie characters - and writers - lack freewill and subscribe to common genre conventions a script like this might appear to lack direction or cohesion. But that is not the case here; it is just rare to see a movie where the characters truly have control of the events that surround them. Writer / director Martin McDonagh has done what many writers aspire to by breathing freewill into his characters.  

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Review: THE PAPERBOY




Popular trash movies are sometimes compared to fast-food; they are manufactured to provide immediate satisfaction without little to no concern about the consumer’s health. The Paperboy is trash, but is has more in common with the juicy mess of grease cheese that fills the street-cart burrito you have at 4am in the morning after a long night of drinking than a McBurger cooked up in a sterilized kitchen. Like the burrito, this film has no care, no substance, and no shame but every single moment of it is delicious, rich in texture, and a unique experience.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Review: ARGO



Every now and then there comes a story so preposterous and incredible that you know it has to be true; no Hollywood screenwriter could have come up with it. Ben Affleck’s new film, in which he stars and directed, is one of those cases. The film opens with an animated intro covering the events that led to the Iranian Revolution; “This is the land of The Persian Empire”, it begins - as if this were going to be a large fantasy epic. But Argo is no fantasy and the film is ten times more gripping because of it. 

Like most average movie goers, I am not particularly fond of modern day political thrillers. They involve a lot of characters sitting around, discussing “stuff” in complex jargon as if they were playing chess. Even the acclaimed Syriana was a bit of a bore. There is some chess playing in Argo but it is mostly for a set characters to pass the time; most of the film is all show business. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Review: Looper



Any conversation dealing with time travel it can easily become an endless debate  about the technicalities, ethics, paradoxes and impossibilities of practicing time travel. Time travel is messy and because of this it is a bit of a cheat when used as a literary device. It can get the writers into very tricky situations when the impossibilities begin to pile up, or it can be used to completely wipe a slate and start anew. Few writers have ever gotten it right, but when they do it is usually beautiful. Rian Johnson’s Looper gets it right within its own world. Unlike most time travel stories, Looper embraces the paradoxes. But more surprisingly it wipes them away in a rather clever - and intense - conclusion.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Review: RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION



One has to know what type of movie your going into when you walk into Resident Evil: Retribution, the fifth part of Paul W.S. Anderson’s adaptation of the zombie survival video game. Essentially it is going to be wall to wall action, zero-to-none character development, and Milla Jovovich prancing around in near-S&M gear. I could essentially end the review here, the film won’t be any deeper than that but, as far as bad action movies go, the Resident Evil franchise has always been a guilty pleasure of mine. So I will indulge a bit more. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Review: RED LIGHTS




Red Lights provides us with an interesting thriller about the debunking of paranormal activities by a team of university physicists. And then the debunking of physics, and rational thinking, by that irksome thought in the back of everyone’s head that maybe, there just might be something unexplainable out there. All good horror movies depend on the exploitation of this feeling. Red Lights is the first movie, I’ve seen, that explores it through its characters. For the most part it is effective; the movie will keep you on its grip until everything falls apart in the last few scenes.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Review: TOTAL RECALL




This new version of Total Recall succeeds in many ways. It has all the necessary ingredients to make a great contemporary action Sci-Fi: it is based off a cult classic based off a Philip K. Dick story, has a great action-class cast with a few British A-listers on the side, it includes three or four exhilarating action sequences, and some incredibly rich production design, packed with lost of juicy details. Unfortunately, for the film, its characters, plot, and - most importantly- logic get drowned by the opulent production that surrounds them. What comes out is a bit of a mess, but a fun mess nonetheless. 

Lets start with the good stuff. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Review: THE DARK KNIGHT RISES



So finally here it is; the epic conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s Batman re-imaging delivers both an incredibly good movie and a well rounded third part for a trilogy that has been all about deconstructing the hero myth. Usually, the third part of a trilogy - or any extended franchise - tends to be an underwhelming mess, as if no one knew where to take the story or what to do with the characters. Whether or not Nolan had a plan since the beginning is hard to tell, but The Dark Knight Rises could convince me that he did. Nolan tells a long coherent story across three films; amazingly all three films  could work by themselves, but together they form an almost perfect three-act opera.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Review: RUBY SPARKS



Recently there’s been a literary trend in film and TV to portray quirky and somewhat broken women as the ideal partner in a relationship. I partially blame (500) Days of Summer for it. Like that movie, Ruby Sparks has something interesting to say about this cultural ideal and the men who write it in their minds. The ideal is only ideal in theory and never in practice. Calvin (Paul Dano) a young novelist from Los Angeles stumbles upon this truth by writing his ideal quirky girlfriend and having her appear in flesh and blood, and living in his apartment.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Review: THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN



            I will confess; I was not a fan of Raimi’s Spiderman trilogy. The first movie was all right; the second movie – despite the critical acclaim – felt too much like a telenovela that I couldn't properly enjoy; and the third movie… well, we can all agree that movie was an incomprehensible mess of CGI and not much more. Comparisons between the old and the new are inevitable - it has only been five years since the Spiderman 3 fiasco - but I will try to avoid them and speak for The Amazing Spiderman as a stand-alone film.

           With that in mind, The Amazing Spiderman is a highly enjoyable film. You feel a sense of déjà-vu through out it, not necessarily because it is a rebooted Spiderman, but because since then, we have grown accustomed to the origin story of superheros. In effect, "been-there-seen-that" is the best way to describe The Amazing Spiderman. But think about all the things you've done and seen and enjoyed more the second time; I bet there are quite a few instances. The Amazing Spiderman is like that. You have seen it but are thankful that enough has changed that you can still enjoy. More attention has placed to detail, and the back-story is extended and made deeper, and best of all, Peter Parker is actually interesting even before he becomes Spiderman. Against all odds there are still some refreshing moments in the film.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Review: TED



It is going to be hard to convince you -or anyone for that matter - that Ted, a movie about a foulmouthed pot-smoking teddy bear, is a relevant work of literature that should have your critical consideration. But, please, indulge me as I try to do so. 

As you would expect from the creator of Family Guy, Ted is an avalanche of raunchy comedy, politically incorrect humor, and four-letter one liners that could put any other comedy of the kind to shame. But aside from its superficial humor, Ted is also one of the most honest movies about buddy-bro-hood and arrested adolescence out there. Add these together and you realize that Ted is mostly funny because its true. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Review: BEATS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD



“Daddy says the people who built the levees are afraid of the water”, the fierce and wild six year-old girl named Hushpuppy (Quevanzhené Wallis) explains. “Daddy says we live in the prettiest place on Earth”. This is a swamp-island off the coast of New Orleans that the locals, fittingly, call The Bathtub. Isolated from the world by the levees the keep New Orleans from sinking, the inhabitants of The Bathtub live as close to the earth as possible, existing on their own terms, and surviving from the seafood the floods the landlubbers fear provide. They might be poor by suburban standards but the floods and swamp are abundant enough for them not to starve to spend their days enjoying life. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Peter Wayland Gives A TED Talk on PROMETHEUS

This video was intended to be viral campaign for Prometheus. It features Guy Pierce as a young Peter Wayland, giving the world a TED Talk. It is an interesting effort, and Guy Pierce does an amazing job as the young corporate visionary who will, indirectly, end up destroying the Earth (that is if we are still counting Alien: Resurrection as canon). Anyways enjoy:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Review: PROMETHEUS



If a Facehugger from the Alien franchise ever face-raped 2001: A Space Odyssey, the resulting Xenomorph bastard would not be unlike Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s long awaited return to the genre many claim he revolutionized. Prometheus is an ambitious science-fiction film with the lofty goal of presenting questions about the origins of life. Like all great science-fiction literature, it is a blend of thoughtful speculation, great story, awe-inspiring effects, and wonder. And because the Alien franchise is its predecessor the package also includes chilling rape allegories, a nauseating birth scene, and a good amount fetal imagery. All in the name of brilliant filmmaking. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Review: TO ROME WITH LOVE



I believe it was Socrates who said, the unexamined life is not worth living; at 76 and with over forty films attributed to his name, Woody Allen has now examined his life and then examined himself examining his life. After Midnight in Paris -his most successful film in terms of revenue- Woody Allen takes a step back and returns to his more traditional depiction of neurotic characters observing, describing, philosophizing about, and suffering because of love, life, universal inconsequence, and - for the first time - Rome. 


To Rome With Love, is a collection of four vignettes all set in Rome. Each vignette could have been separate stand alone film. And some of them would have likely been more enjoyable that way. We are introduced to the four vignettes by a traffic cop; who from his pedestal in the middle of the road observes everything. Or so he claims. 

Traditionalist may criticize Allen for abandoning New York and “selling” to tourism boards that want to show off the most beautiful cities in the world - London (Match Point, Cassandra’s Dream), Barcelona (Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona) and Midnight in Paris (Paris)- but, personally, I like how my pseudo-intellectual self can relax and enjoy a Roman holiday alongside my giddy low-brow tourist self, while enjoying these romantic Euro locales, and conversing with characters as neurotic as... my neurotic self. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Review: BRAVE




Can Pixar beat Disney, its parent company and corporate partner, at its own game? That is, could Pixar create en emotional fairy tale with a moral core that will survive beyond its current generation? That was probably the question in every creative and executive working for Pixar during the production of Brave. The answer is not simple; Brave is a lovely film, with endearing characters. And like most of Pixar’s it is at its core strength is being a well-told story, but it is also missing a certain oomph for a Pixar film.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Review: THAT'S MY BOY


Most people, including myself, can appreciate a dumb joke. Hell, every now and then they are even refreshing. But for Adam Sandler there is no such thing as too dumb a joke or too low an audience. By now I suspect that his movies are conceived by team drunken twelve year olds and afterwards typed by the laziest intern at Happy Maddison. Sandler’s movies are the lowest common denominator of humor; to which I’ll admit I laughed, though most of the time I didn’t feel good about myself afterwards. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Review: ROCK OF AGES




Well, this is one silly movie. I never quite understood if I was laughing with the movie, at the movie, or if the movie was some sort of joke being pulled on me. Was I supposed to sing along? 

At the opening, Sherrie (Julianne Hough) rides a bus with her headphones on listening to Sister Christian; she starts singing out loud and soon enough the entire bus joins in. Once again, was I supposed to sing along? Most of the audience laughed but didn’t join. It is understandable; in real life singing along is only acceptable if said song happened to be Bohemian Rhapsody. But in a musical film like this it could be any song. And it could have been any song for that matter; the number is not really memorable. Actually, none of the numbers are particularly memorable. But, at the very least, they do happen to zesty and entertaining while they last. With an extra punch they might have gotten someone in the audience to sing along.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Review: MOONRISE KINGDOM



It seems that Wes Anderson has been practicing with every movie he makes to one day deliver a masterpiece. That day may never come, but it doesn’t matter. Each of his films, so far, have been a hell of an exercise towards that  goal. And as a spectator, I've been enjoying the ride. Moonrise Kingdom may not be very different from your typical Wes Anderson film; after all, it is still part of these exercise. But then again- aside from centered frames and dry humor- what is a typical Wes Anderson film? 

Consider the film's opening, which is told against an educational breakdown of the variations and instruments on a theme by Purcell. Anderson is bluntly telling the audience he will be playing by his own rules- as he usually does. And like the educational soundtrack the film is broken down, and each element is introduced separately before it all comes together in a litteral cliffhanger. 

SONY PICTURES ANIMATION DRIVES TONKA TRUCKS TO THE BIG SCREEN



 CULVER CITY, Calif., June 11, 2012 - TONKA, the Hasbro brand that for 65 years has stood for its line of toy trucks for children, will bring its TONKA toughness to the big screen in a fully animated motion picture to be produced by Sony Pictures Animation, Hasbro and Happy Madison Productions. The announcement was made today by Bob Osher, president, Sony Pictures Digital Productions, Michelle Raimo-Kouyate, president of Production for Sony Pictures Animation and Brian Goldner, president and CEO of Hasbro. The film will also be produced and developed by Goldner and Hasbro’s senior vice president and managing director of motion pictures, Bennett Schneir and will be written by Fred Wolf.

The new TONKA project strengthens the growing ties between Sony Pictures and Hasbro, following the announcements that Sony Pictures is developing motion pictures based on Hasbro’s RISK and CANDY LAND brands. CANDY LAND is also a Happy Madison project.

Commenting on the announcement, Osher said, “In its 65 years, TONKA has become more than a toy or a brand – TONKA trucks are a rite of passage for kids all around the world. Time spent with these toys creates memories that last a lifetime as kids are inspired to play using the boundaries of their imagination. We look forward to creating a family friendly motion picture that brings the TONKA experience to life.”

Raimo-Kouyate added, “Fred and our friends at Happy Madison and Hasbro have a truly inventive take on what it means to be ‘TONKA tough’ that will translate the multi-generational appeal of this world-renowned brand into a fun animated adventure for the whole family.”

“We’re thrilled to be working with Bob, Michelle, and the amazing team of artists and storytellers at Sony Pictures Animation,” said Schneir. “Together with Happy Madison, we’re excited to bring TONKA trucks to life in a terrific story for audiences around the world.”

One of the most recognized brands in Hasbro’s portfolio, TONKA has been the bestselling toy truck globally since 1947. Giving children real-life, relatable experiences, TONKA trucks help kids learn the confidence to get the job done.

About Sony Pictures Entertainment

Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) is a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America, a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Sony Corporation. SPE’s global operations encompass motion picture production and distribution; television production and distribution; home entertainment acquisition and distribution; a global channel network; digital content creation and distribution; operation of studio facilities; development of new entertainment products, services and technologies; and distribution of entertainment in more than 159 countries. For additional information, go to

http://www.sonypictures.com/

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Review: THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL



If you are broke and looking for retirement look no further; The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful is -well- it is supposed to be a retirement center in Jaipur, where Westerners can outsource their elderly; the latest venture of the young entrepreneur Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel). Sonny inherited the shabby inn from his father; against his mother’s wishes, and without any previous experiences Sonny reopens it. But this is not the story of Sonny; this is the story of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’s guests, seven elderly english-folks who found themselves retired in Jaipur for some reason or other. If you can’t see where this is going, then you need to get out more.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Review: AMERICAN REUNION




The first American Pie film was very-likely the first R-rated film I snuck into the theater for; I remember it fondly. By the time the second one came out, I was still in middle-school but the characters felt like all friends and it was cool to see them once again reunited after a year in college or two years of middle school for me. American Reunion follows the same formula of American Pie 2. After a long time away the four guys - Jim, Oz, Finch and Kevin - along with Stifler get together to re-live old times. This time it is their high-school reunion. Sadly while most of their behavior is appropriate for high-school seniors and college freshmen it comes out rather awkward coming from thirty-year-olds. Age hasn’t been good to this franchise. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

FLIGHT Trailer

Well, I am extremely pleased that Robert Zemekis has gotten over mo-cap and gone back to real movies.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Review: JOHN CARTER




By now we all aware that John Carter will be known as the largest flop in history (for now), but this is unfortunately undeserved. John Carter might have not been the best movie of all time but it was a sincere attempt to recreate the wonder upon which early science fiction writers looked upon the sky, and to breathe life into a retro-futurism world. Unfortunately for Disney, and any fan of late-Victorian pulp fiction, the result is somewhat clumsy and despite 21st century special effects, it still feels antiquated. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Review: MIRROR MIRROR



There is something delightful about a movie in which the handsome Prince insists that it must be him who saves the lovely damsel, and not vice-versa, because “it does well with carefully studied focus groups”. This comes right after the damsel, Snow White (Lily Collins, daughter of Phil Collins) exclaims that “it’s time to change that ending”. Mirror Mirror is the type of self-reflexive, sly in-joke fairytale within the tradition of the original - just the original and not the sequels - Shrek, and it carries a freshness we haven’t seen since. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Review: SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN


Who doesn't know of Snow White, the girl with skin white as snow, lips red as blood, and hair black as ebony? Specially this year, after the Brothers Grimm princess has made no less than three appearances in film and television. First in the series "Once Upon A Time", where a curse falls upon Fairy Tale Land and Snow ends up in present day Maine. Then she reappears in "Mirror Mirror", a cute yet absurdly childish film starring Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen? Really? And now, after months of watching the awesome trailer, comes "Snow White and the Huntsman", the darkest account of the princess to date.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Review: IN TIME




Value is a thing of faith. Cash is physically worth nothing but paper, ink, and in the case of coins, metal. Sometimes, as in the case of the penny the metal is worth more than the value attached to the object; the copper in a penny is worth 1.5 cents approximately, but most of the times it is the reverse; a $100 bill costs about 50 cents to make. I won’t claim to be an expert in economics, but I do understand why some people argue that we should go back to the gold standard (whatever that means), or just get rid of cash altogether and switch to digital points as if life were a video games. I'm pretty sure we are much closer to actually doing the latter than going back to metallic standards.


In Time, comes up with an intriguing proposal about using our lifetime as -basically- cash. A cup of coffee costs ninety minutes of your life, a taxi to midtown a year. In this world the rich are semi-immortal, with a million years to spend, and the poor live day by day; spending most of their daily wages on sleep just so they can rest in order to earn their hours the next day. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Review: BERNIE



Small town, middle Americans are mocked as uncultured, uneducated, discriminatory and naïve. At the same time, many of the residents pride themselves on simple joys, practical know-how, camaraderie and displaying trust. Having grown up in Kansas and lived in other places, I’ve lived through interactions of both states of mind and saw each on display yet again in Richard Linklater’s refreshing and personable film, “Bernie.”

Linklater, while not quite worthy of household recognition, is essentially the Otto Graham of Mumblecore cinema and to a lesser extent, the indie film movement from the early nineties. In such a sense, Linklater is as condemnable (if not more so) as Quentin Tarantino for his legions of film school imitators who have far less to offer the world than their silver screen superstars. As he has for the last twenty years, Linklater’s newest movie can only knock at the door of mainstream cinema—which is a sad limitation given the quiet brilliance of “Bernie.”


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Review: DARK SHADOWS




The Tim Burton / Johnny Depp collaboration has, by now, become a genre of its own. Originally it was a fresh new take at the gothic horror story as a comedy of manners. But what was once fresh has now become so conventional that Burton-esque is indeed an adjective. Usually filmmakers strive for their name to become an adjective  but when you can apply it to their own work, it means their work is becoming repetitive and uninspired. Dark Shadows is very Burton-esque; it is exactly what you expect from a Burton/Depp summer blockbuster- nothing less than, but sadly, not much more either.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Review: MEN IN BLACK 3



I’ve put forth a theory before that the "Hollywood alien movie" is the most reflective genre of America’s military-industrial complex. In short terms: when the federal government nears a zenith of trust and efficiency (1960s, 1990s) alien movies are routinely about government employees saving the day. And when people are feeling rather low on their government (1970s, 2000s), alien movies are more personal, civilian and disaster-prone. This is the difference between “Independence Day” and “Men in Black” verses the post-9/11 counterparts, “War of the Worlds” and “Signs.” While the third “Men in Black”—in a rather inconsistent trilogy—offers nothing new cinematically, it at least hypothesizes that the nation has turned a corner in the last eight years.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Review: HAYWIRE




There isn’t much to Soderbergh’s newest film. The plot for the most part is nonsense; like many action films, Haywire simply uses any excuse to weave chase scene after chase scene together. In fact, Haywire isn’t really any different than a movie like, let’s say, The Transporter, except that the action is choreographed to look plausible, and that like every other Soderbergh film, it features a parade of cameos that includes every Hollywood name worth mentioning: Michael Fassbender, Michael Douglas, Ewan McGreggor, Gary Oldman, etc. Yet, despite their presence Gina Carano, a relatively unknown actress, remains the most interesting part of the film; and it is not thanks to her acting prowess. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Review: THE AVENGERS




So, by now it's safe to say that half the world (and then some) has seen The Avengers. And it is easy to see why: up until now every superhero movie has tried to bank-off audience’s inner child and repressed id. Broad emotions and large explosions are fun to watch; it is the same root emotion with which children bash action figures, have snowball fights, and play with NERF guns. However, no film has yet captured the childish enjoyment of bashing action figures against each other in the way The Avengers does. Long awaited, since Samuel L. Jackson’s cameo at the end of Iron Man, The Avengers assembles a good array of Marvel characters into one film: Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye and Nick Fury; it gives them a worthy villain: Loki and the Chitauri, and then proceeds to wreck havoc over a CGI Midtown Manhattan. What more can we ask for?

Anchorman 2: Coming Soon

San Diego's about to get a whole lot classier. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Review: THE PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS


It's been a while since we've last seen a true-blue animated film that was more-or-less created in the painstakingly crafted stop-motion technique. Maybe it's just me, but when you look at one of these kinds of films and realize that each character model or set piece was physically made by the God-given human hand, the resulting illusion on screen becomes just as extraordinary and remarkable as any CGI-laden motion picture. We've seen an onslaught of computer-animated films recently, so it's nice to see that The Pirates! Band of Misfits - from the same creators of Chicken Run - are back at the ready to startle the eyes and the minds of average moviegoers with its visually stunning stop-motion antics.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Review: LOCKOUT



While this has been a personally disappointing year in cinema so far, I still find myself at the movie theater. Perhaps to escape the early nice weather, I don’t know. The string of disappointments started with “Tailor Tinker Soldier Spy” and at least continued through Guy Pierce’s bicep showcase, “Lockout.” In the interest of full-disclosure, shortly after leaving the theater, I must have been bludgeoned over the head as I cannot recall a startlingly large amount of the movie. Thankfully, the plot was neither a primary nor secondary nor even tertiary concern to the film production. I suspect the crews’ catering occupied more deliberations and concerns. Why some action movies cast themselves as so defiantly passive is beyond me but it makes for a nice exercise in viral criticism.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Review: THE HUNGER GAMES


Before seeing the intended feature film, two movie previews juxtaposed together revealed that the most obvious, and perhaps best, trailer mash-up for this year will be “Twilight: Breaking Wind: Part Two” and “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.” That my computer-literacy tops out at around updating a blog stops me from creating the fan-trailer myself—well, that and I now I feel the joke has been acknowledged and drained of its comedy. Measurably more shocking, and for the first time in a long time, two hours later I found myself in a very, very small circle of dissenters and carping faultfinders holding an abysmally low opinion on the year’s first megahit: “The Hunger Games.”


Monday, February 13, 2012

Wilder's Top 10 of '11

Hey internet. Time for my annual round up of, in my opinion, the ten best movies of the year. Jose did the same thing, so you can check his out here. So here's my ten favorites. Keep in mind, I didn't see The Artist, Shame, or A Seperation. This year's list was especially hard, because nothing I saw was truly as amazing as most of last year's nominees.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Review: CHRONICLE


Anyone who has ever bullied another kid in school should be forced to watch Chronicle. It's easily the best "found footage" movie so far. Chronicle took everything that was good about Cloverfield, Quarantine, The Blair Witch Project, and others and kept it, all the while eliminating and fixing the things that were wrong with those films. Chronicle is a very good movie.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Review: THE GREY


The urge to stay alive is a peculiar one. Thousands of people kill themselves every day and millions more want to kill themselves to varying degrees of sincerity when the line at the grocery store moves too slow or when a former love announces on Facebook that they’re getting married to a drug dealer on April 20th. Hypothetical? Yes. Philosophical? Indeed. Depressing? You bet your meaty ass. Surviving is not enough; one needs a reason to live. Liam Neeson's latest romp in a string of ultra-masculine, brutal, inwardly driven films, is “The Grey” and never has a search for purpose come up so empty.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Wilder's Oscar Blurbs


Hello the internet!

I know you've all waited on bended knee to hear what I have to say about this year's Oscar noms, so I'll get right to it. Bold will indicate what I want to win, and italics will indicate what I think is going to win. I'll write some stuff about films I think either did or did not deserve to be in the category too. It's important to note that I haven't even seen "The Artist", but regardless, I expect it to destroy urrybody.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Review: RED TAILS


A prominent executive producer publicly stated that financing and distributing the WWII-fighter pilot movie “Red Tails” was hindered primarily by movie studios’ racism. Or, to be more specific, the major movie studios feared that the rest of the world was too racist to go see a big-budget war movie starring a predominately black cast. Following through on the pessimism, 20th Century Fox dumped the movie in late January, when ticket numbers reach annual lows rivaled only by the month of September. This is a conversation worth having.

With the film starring Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding, Jr, are we going to get some Oscar-caliber acting?
Nope. But Howard will chew on some scenery and Gooding will chew on his pipe in a distracting caricature of Black Douglas MacArthur. Also, both are given a smaller font than one George Lucas.

Wait. George Lucas? The Star Wars guy?
Lucas has an executive producer credit. Which is the same credit he had in “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” However, it’s also the same credit he had in “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” and “Howard the Duck.” In short, “Red Tails” can not be chalked up as yet another Lucas tragedy but his finger prints are there.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Review: 2011 A YEAR IN REVIEW & THE TOP TEN AND A HALF


           2011 is one of the best, and oddest film years in recent memory. On one hand, while there were numerous great films year round, none of them particularly sticks out the way something like Slumdog Millionaire, Avatar, Inglourious Basterds, Inception, Toy Story 3, all did in the last few years. In terms of big movies it was actually a very poor year; there was a record number of sequels, threequels, fourthquels, fifthquels and prequels; 27 in total, not including remakes. There was even an octoquel. But besides that said eighth Harry Potter Film that we waited a decade for none were memorable, and at least two were essentially a remake of the previous installment (Hangover 2 and Transformers 3).


            And yet at the same time there was a major breakthrough in independent filmmaking. For the past few years online movie watching, particularly Netflix, has brought the realization that the market for such films is huge; it is just not as big as the market for Avatar. Nevertheless Indie films can use a limited release as a form of promotion, and earn their money back, off theaters. Either on iTunes, Redbox, Netflix, DVD sales, whatever. And thus the public’s legal accessibility to such films has greatly increased.

            It has been an interesting year; and to top it off it might be the first time that a silent movie takes Best Picture, since the first Academy Awards were held. Anyways, here is our Top Ten and a half for 2011, presented in no particular order besides alphabetical:


Monday, January 23, 2012

Review: THE TROLL HUNTER



           The Troll Hunter (aka Trolljegeren) is, for lack of a better expression, one interesting monster. On one hand it is just another B-level mockumentary ala Blair Witch Project, or Cloverfield that is allegedly edited from found footage rolled by a group of teenagers tracking a troll hunter. But it is also a damn good monster movie, and a decent drama about survival in the Norwegian backwoods. This can be mostly attributed to the fact that, unlike most horror-muckumentaires, The Troll Hunter has a decent in-story cameraman. So, even though the genre still requires tremendous amounts of queasy-cam, we actually get to see quite a good amount of troll shots. I for one greatly appreciated this.

Review: UNDERWORLD AWAKENING




           I couldn’t care less about the battle between vampires and werewolves in popular culture; to be honest I don’t quite understand why they would ever be at such odds against each other. Luckily, I guess, the Underworld franchise doesn’t care too much to explain either. In the first movie, the Lycans (as the werewolves are known in this universe) created a hybrid were-zombie-wolf-fang-boy who we are told fell in love with the vampiress Serena (Kate Beckinsale). Three movies later, the humans have gained the upper hand in this battle and capture Serena and the hybrid. All this happens in a “previously on…” style recap. And the rest of the movie, involving Serena’s escape from the humans and the werewolves, feels like a very bad TV episode on the SyFy Channel or a prolonged cut scene in a video game. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Review: LIFE IN A DAY


Perhaps “The Artist” was doomed by the high hopes handed down to me. Perhaps it was the hope that a non-traditional film would walk off with the grand prize on Oscar Night. Could this be the first, again mostly, silent film to be nominated for Best Picture in the last 80 years? The foreign-language “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” was a note-worthy nomination. As was “Beauty and Beast.” Perhaps now we’ve reached a time to nominate a truly extraordinary film this year. A film unique not just in genre but in content and context, scope and intimacy. I want to argue the best film of 2011 was not the remake of “Footloose” (close one, I know) but was actually the documentary “Life in a Day.”

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Golden Globe's Three Firsts




           It is almost a week past since the Golden Globes, and that means the Oscar nominations will be announced this weekend. And the final countdown towards the end of award season will begin. It also means, good movies will start getting re-released and whole bunch of blog (including us) will begin posting predictions, commenting, and arguing about the likely winners. And comment, complain, and accuse the Academy of bias afterwards. With so much fuss around them it is almost relaxing to watch the Golden Globes, a shorter, more relaxing, and somewhat more entertaining ceremony.

            The winners at the Globes will also end up being favorites at the Oscars, despite the fact that there will likely also be (as there is every year) a much-heated debate over which award show is fairer. All the members of the Academy decide the Oscars through a vote; this might be more democratic but it is also highly political. Meanwhile the Hollywood Foreign Press, a committee of 93 bribable journalists, decides who shall receive the Golden Globes. Nevertheless, they are also hosted by Ricky Gervais so they are quite a bit more entertaining, and shocking. Even after being toned down this year.

            Anyways, there wasn’t much surprise in the winners this year. The highest one being that Al Pacino, was not even nominated for “Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series, or Motion Picture Made for TV” for his work in You Don’t Know Jack. However there were a few “firsts” in the Best Movie Categories. The Artist has become the first black & white, as well as the first silent movie to earn the Motion Picture Comedy Award, and The Adventures of Tintin became the first non-Pixar film to earn Animated Film. The Artist in particular has been placed in the fast track to win Best Picture at the Oscars. If it does, it will be the first silent film since the first awards, when Wings won, to receive the award. 

You can check our reviews for The Artist, and The Adventures Tintin as well as Wilder's review for The Descendants (winner of Motion Picture Drama).


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Review: WE BOUGHT A ZOO



 

           We Bought A Zoo claims to have been based on a true story; I double-checked the facts on Wikipedia (now that it is back online) and it seems to be true. Now that I think about it, it has to be true. Had this film not been “based on a true story”, it would have remained in development hell. The premise is so preposterously naïve that no Hollywood screenwriter could have come up with it, and no Hollywood producer would have backed it had it been an original idea. After all what type of character would ever buy a zoo on a whim?

Ad Classics: TARSEM SINGH, JUST THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF WRONG, COSMOPOLITAN LAS VEGAS



          Tarsem might have produced history’s most boring film with the Immortals, but it stands that visually; he is one of the boldest directors out there. Best remembered by his trippy visuals in The Cell, or the gorgeous use of geography in The Fall, Tarsem uses a much more whimsical aesthetic in this commercial than what is generally seen on his films. Perhaps this is what we can expect from his upcoming Snow White adaptation Mirror, Mirror.

            Not surpassingly this campaign raised plenty of eyebrows, when it was first aired during the season finale of Mad Men. Criticisms went as far as critiquing that the ad promoted the mistreatment of animals; baby animals that is. But like any good piece of fiction, and advertising, getting people talking is exactly what it intended. For me the ad works. And it is a great example of Tarsem’s visual extravaganza. I hope you agree; here it is:

Friday, January 13, 2012

Review: TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY




The next James Bond movie is in the works and movie audiences will likely be treated to the more familiar beats of the franchise than the last two films offered. Gritty reboots have run their course and the movie industry has begun to reestablish escapism proper. Fortunately, as in the 1990s, enough films will pride themselves on political intrigue and power acting—ala "The Stockholm Affair"—as to keep audiences moderately involved while gushing up and slurping down gummy worms. One such newly released mood-heavy movie is, the playfully titled, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.”


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Ad Classics: RIDLEY SCOTT, "1984" MACINTOSH


           We started posting these “ad classics” under the philosophy that a commercial is a movie told in thirty seconds (sometimes up to two minutes). And because today many movies, like Transformers or New Year’s, are so overwhelmed by product placement that they have essentially become two-hour ads. We have chosen to revive the ‘ad classics’ positing to collect a few more samples of good storytelling, even if they are for commercial ends.


            Ridley Scott is perhaps one of the greatest filmmakers working today. Right after working on Blade Runner, Scott was commissioned by Apple Computers to create the Super Bowl Spot for the release of the first Macintosh. At the time computers were regarded as objects from an Orwellian dystopia by most people. This was because the personal computer had not yet come into existence; the Macintosh was going to change that.

            Apple has always been known for great advertising. They gave us The Misfits Poem and Justin Long with their campaign “I Am A Mac”.  This is the ad that started it all. The  ad cost nearly 1 million dollars, an amount previously unheard of in advertising. Not only was it a marketing success (the ad was re-broadcasted in every subsequent talk show, generating millions in free advertising) but it also shows why we are all so excited for Ridley Scott return to Sci Fi with Prometheus. Enjoy:



The top image is from a "remastered" version where an iPod was added to the runner. George Lucas is not the only person who goes back to re-tweak masterpieces. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Review: THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO



            I knew what was coming. I saw the Swedish film when it first came out. And read the book afterwards. Yet nothing could have prepared me for the visceral intensity that David Fincher’s take on the story of Lisbeth Salander (Ronney Mara) holds. Stieg Larsson’s story is already a gripping thriller that needs no further advertising. This is the story of a girl with a terrible past, who is proudly isolated and dangerously angry; the first installment doesn’t dwell too deep into the back-story, but it lays out a twisted series of murders where the broken heroine begins to heal.

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