Monthly Archives: March 2010

Top 5 movies we can’t wait to see this summer

This summer’s bevy of great movies is no different from recent years past. There are some obvious stand-outs, and we’re sure there will be a couple quiet movies that erupt into box office smashes. But these five movies are the ones we’re most looking forward to seeing.

5. Predators
This is a fresh take on a series that started out great and then tanked. We’re confident Producer Robert Rodriguez, director of “Sin City” and “From Dusk ‘Til Dawn” will bring this series back with a vengeance. A strong cast includes Lawrence Fishburne, Adrien Brody and Topher Grace. Well, maybe not Topher Grace, but Fishburne and Brody have acting chops galore. It also brings in a horror director Nimród Antal, who brought us “Vacancy,” an excellent thriller. Let the hunt begin.

4. Jonah Hex
This is the kind of movie that could slip by a lot of people. But this movie, about a bounty hunter in the old west, has a solid cast in Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Aidan Quinn, Megan Fox and Will Arnett, who makes a turn from comedy to this dark comic book movie. There’s no footage available yet, but we’re confident enough to place it at #4.

3. Inception
You had me at Christopher Nolan and Leonardo DiCaprio. In a world where technology exists to enter the human mind through dream invasion, a single idea within one’s mind can be the most dangerous weapon or the most valuable asset. This is a movie that seems to have both a cunning script and a visual paradise of action and dream worlds.

2. Toy Story 3
I know this seems like a cheeky pick, but these movies are really outstanding. They are wonderful symbols of our youth, growth into adulthood and a reflective, sentimental look at toys. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen return as Woody the cowboy and spaceman Buzz Lightyear in a new adventure that brings back all our favorites — Mr. Potato Head, Rex the dinosaur, Hamm the piggy bank and more.

1. Iron Man 2
The first Iron Man was fantastic fun. It rewrote the arch of Iron Man, which rattled some nerds’ pocket protectors, but the rest of us enjoyed it immensely. Robert Downey Jr. returns as Tony Stark/Iron Man, along with Gwyneth Paltrow and newcomers Don Cheadle, Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell, and Scarlett Johansson bring in the next chapter of the Iron Man films. This will easily be the biggest movie of the season, and for good reason. Director John Favreau has given nothing but respect to fans while creating his own vision of Iron Man.

Fagbug

Matt
Rating: 10 out 10

It’s a simple idea with a powerful effect: Take the weapon that is used to hurt you and embrace it as an opportunity of empowerment.

Erin Davies walked out to her car to drive to work and found the word “Fag” spray-painted on her driver’s side window, and “U R Gay” painted on her hood. It was devastating, having to drive around town with hateful message sprayed on her car — simply because she had a rainbow sticker on her car. She decided to seize the moment — she kept the car as it was, driving it in a gay pride parade. She then decided to take the car on the road, driving across America and Canada with her camera, talking to people about gay issues in a film that is part ethnography, part journalism, part documentary.

Davies has a strong voice. She understands narrative story-telling and how to use her camera. But aside from strong film making, Davies tells not only her story but the story of many victims of gay-related hate crimes, she talks to their families and friends, and shows the aftermath in communities. She used her small event to expose larger issues, putting herself aside for much of the film.

This is a daring documentary. Erin goes everywhere gay people are largely rejected, traveling to the bible belt to hold a mirror to much of the hate that still exists in our country. This is a film that should be shown in schools, colleges and universities across the country.

There are moments that make you sad and frustrated in disbelief. But there is a tremendous heart in the chest of this film. This is a fantastic documentary for everyone, made with an independent voice.

For more information on Fagbug, visit http://www.fagbug.com.

Where the Wild Things Are

An adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s story, where Max, a disobedient little boy sent to bed without his supper, creates his own world–a forest inhabited by ferocious wild creatures that crown Max as their ruler. This film, directed by Spike Jonze, brings his take to this very short kid’s book, expanding on characters and story line.

Brian
Rating:  9 out of 10

Children are more like adults than we will ever care to admit or recognize.  They share our fears, need for love, acceptance and friendship as well as a yearning to break out and become individuals.  “Where the Wild Things Are” expresses these emotions through the eyes of a child as well as any ever made.    Max Records plays Max, a 10-year-old boy dealing with the confusion of growing up by sailing away into his imagination to meet “The Wild Things.”  Spike Jonze, the director, decided to have real puppets instead of CGI so that his young star would have something to interact with.  The result is some of the most lifelike and believable puppets ever put to film.  Their eyes express real emotion and draw us into this world.

Now, what this film lacks in a linear story, it more than makes up for it with imagination and emotion.  You feel the story more than you’re told it.  For that, Spike Jonze and Max Record have my utmost respect.  Don’t miss out!

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Matt
6 out of 10

I secretly hoped Max Records would be nominated for best actor. His performance had to carry a movie. After all, he’s talking to puppets for an hour and a half. We need to believe in Max to believe in the Wild Things, and it worked wonderfully. His performance as the anxious, feisty, temperamental and independent Max was wonderful, and I hope we get to see Max in more movies to come.

Jonze’s vision for the movie was excellent, and he made a wise move to limit CGI and other special effects. The movie feels earthy, like the books, filled with trees, dirt, plants, and fur and horned creatures.

Where this movie falters is Jonzes’ choice to be very dramatic. It seemed to drag, like a whining child not willing to compromise — which in some ways is fitting. However, I don’t have kids for a reason.

Crazy Heart

Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal star in Crazy Heart, the story of two unlikely people who fall in love, and screw it up.

A faded country music musician is forced to reassess his dysfunctional life during a doomed romance that also inspires him. Jeff Bridges plays Bad Blake in his Academy Award-winning role as best actor, and joined by Maggie Gyllenhaal as they hold together this character piece. The film is set in the Southwest, where Blake’s tour winds through bowling alleys and dive bars, but his heart always leads back to a lady he can’t have.

Matt
7 out of 10

Crazy Heart shows us that forgiveness is possible, but redemption is not as easy.

Bridge’s strong performance as a country singer on the back slide of his career is given life in the little details — the jug of urine he empties when he arrives at a gig, the trip to the dark alley mid-set the vomit then returns to perform, and a loneliness that can only come from back country roads and dive motel rooms.

Maggie Gyllenhaal, nominated for best supporting actress, plays the vulnerable, single mother who stumbles upon an attraction and chemistry with Blake — her character interviews Bad Blake for a local paper and a romance is sparked. Their love affair is playful, hopeful, and, of course, bound for failure. Blake is his own worst enemy — a drunk, devout bachelor, and a slob. He knows he wants to change but fails.

In the end, he is forgiven but can never redeem himself, despite his efforts to change. I have found that life is very much like this. As much as we want to set things right, it’s not always possible.

Mulholland Drive

Brian
Rating: 10 out of 10

I went into Mulholland Drive, like most of David Lynch’s work, skeptical. Would it match the brilliance of Blue Velvet and Eraserhead or miss the mark ala Lost Highway. Well, to say this film exceeded them is an extreme understatement. This is, in my opinion, one of the finest film experiences I have ever had.

Lynch not only brings us a terrific story, rich with interesting characters and plot turns but he also inhabits in in such a beautiful dream state. The cinematography is nothing short of miraculous. We are within a dream state that can turn nightmare at any moment and because we are so emotionally involved in Naomi Watts’ character, we are on the edge of our seat as to what could happen next. Speaking of Watts, she gives the performance of her career as Betty Elms, the amnesiac looking for clues to her past.

This film is a love, detective, and art film wrapped in a world that only David Lynch could create in the landmark movie of his career. An absolute must-see!

Hurt Locker

Life through the eyes of a bomb tech.

Forced to play a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse in the chaos of war, an elite Army bomb squad unit must come together in a city where everyone is a potential enemy and every object could be a deadly bomb. Kathryn Bigelow earns an Academy Award for best director, ushering the film to its best picture status.

Bigelow directs a non-stop intense look into the lives of three soldiers, played by Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty.

Matt
Rating: 8 out of 10

Through the eyes of Staff Sergeant William James (Renner) we see a world where he who forgot to be scared. Or perhaps fear was driven out of him as chaos became  the norm. As a bomb technician, given the duty of disarming the improvised explosive devices that have killed many American soldiers, Staff Sergeant James is in a downward spiral of being a reckless thrill-seeker. He is always chasing the high that comes with his job, no matter the cost. But the caveat is this — he is brilliant at his job, despite the fact that he risks the lives of his fellow soldiers.

Renner is supported by Anthony Mackie, who had the best performance in the film as Sergeant JT Sanborn, a no-nonsense, by-the-book soldier whose has his world rattled when Staff Sergeant James endangers it.

Bigelow directs a film that is bold and daring because it rarely takes its foot off the pedal. The film puts you in the life of a soldier in some of the worst conditions human beings should endure.

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Brian
Rating: 7 out of 10

What goes through the minds of those that have to perform the most difficult of jobs in Iraq by diffusing explosives?  Kathryn Bigelow answers that question with her own unique vision.  The angle taken in this film, that some soldiers live for the excitement of facing life and death, is a terrific idea.  Instead of being given the usual hesitant men who don’t want to be there in the first place, we have true adrenaline junkies that live for the moment.  This film contains some of the best action scenes in recent memory.  Now, best picture material?  I have to disagree.  In fact, I was quite surprised by the Oscar attention it received.  While it is a great contribution to the war/action genre, it really does little to stand out in terms of character and story.

Avatar

15 foot blue aliens inhabit a strange and spectacular world in James Cameron's "Avatar."

A paraplegic marine dispatched to the moon Pandora on a unique mission becomes torn between following his orders and protecting the world he feels is his home. James Cameron directs this movie, nominated for an Oscar for best picture and director. This is a piece of groundbreaking filmmaking, using new techniques and technology to create a fantasy world like no other.

Brian
Rating: 8 out of 10

James Cameron’s first film since 1997’s titanic is a visual stunner of a familiar tale.  In close to three hours, we see an imagined world with the most breathtaking visual effects ever put to film.  The Na’vi look almost photo realistic and interact with the human characters in a totally believable way. It’s a shame that the story is not as original as the visual design.  It’s a predictable story with few standout acting performances (Sigourney Weaver the lone standout).  The hype surrounding this film has been almost impossible to ignore.  While I recommend it, I cannot overstate that if you’re looking for the next “Star Wars,” look elsewhere.

As a side note, I did see the film in 3-D and can say it offers very little in terms of enhancing the visual splendor.  Anything in the background is out of focus and can cause eye strain.  The true star here is the visual effects and production design team that bring the world of Pandoraa to life.

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Matt
Rating: 6 out of 10

It’s a good thing James Cameron is a director and not a writer.

His eye for telling a breath-taking story has never been matched in the science-fiction genre. However, it’s very clear that his energy is put entirely on making a spectacle, and not a necessarily on telling a story that challenges the viewers mind as much as their eye.

Avatar is the most visually stimulating moving I have ever seen. The mind is busy trying to keep up with the rich and vast world Cameron created. The science fiction elements of the story, the tribe of aliens and their culture is very interesting, as are the animals and plants that drip off the screen and onto your lap (if you were lucky enough to see it in 3D).

However, the characters are very predictable, and this is a format we’ve seen. It’s “Dances With Wolves” in space. It’s a story of the outsider soldier who enters a primitive culture expecting to take advantage of them but ends of seeing truth and wisdom in their way of life. The villains are trite, paper-doll, easy characters to digest, and there are no standout performances. The acting is pretty wooden, even from a wonderful actress like Sigourney Weaver.

All in all, a visual feast wrapped in a predictable storyline.

Inglorious Basterds

A nazi-eye view of the Basterds

This is a war film through the eyes of director Quention Tarantino. It is about a band of Jewish-American soldiers who sneak behind enemy lines, killing Nazis by the score and collecting their scalps along the way. We also see the story through the eyes of hiding Jews and the Nazis who are tracking them.

The film stars Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo Raine, a jut-jawed mountain man, who leads the Basterds. Christoph Waltz co-stars and Col. Hans Landa, in his Academy-award winning roll as “The Jew Hunter,” an SS office in a relentless pursuit of Jews.

Matt
Rating: 9 our of 10

Perhaps Tarantino’s greatest asset as a filmmaker is his patience. He is never in a hurry to rush through a story, or impatient enough to let it resolve with a cheap car chase or action sequence.

Basterds is another great example of his patience. In the opening sequence we physically feel the rising tension between the humble French farmer and the SS “Jew Hunter,” played so sharply by Christoph Waltz. We don’t know — for what seems like an eternity — that Jews are hiding in the floorboards. The resolution is dark, but real, and it sets the tone for the entire film where we are given moments of levity and moments where we’re dangling on a cliff side by the weakest of saplings.

There are several stories woven with the care and expertise of a Persian rug, showing the horror of World War II while mixing a blend of vigilantly fantasy and pulp sensibility.

This should have won best picture over “Hurt Locker” (which was a very good film). Tarantino’s best effort since “Pulp Fiction” will be remembered forever. “Hurt Locker” will be one of those movies where you say, “Oh yea, I think I saw that. It was pretty good, right?”

If you have seen Basterds, you know you’ll never forget it.

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Brian
Rating: 10 our of 10

What do you get when you combine the “Dirty Dozen” and “Pulp Fiction” and set it in Word War II?  Well, you get “Inglorious Basterds.”  The newest Tarantino creation is an absolute gem of a film that combines the usual Tarantino cocktail of amazing dialogue, humor, and violence, creating a truly special motion picture.

We are truly living in the age of some of the greatest screen villains of all time with both Heath Ledger as the joker in “The Dark Knight” and Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh in “No Country for Old Men.”  Well, add Christoph Waltz to that list.  His turn as the “Jew Killer” adds a sense of tension to every scene he’s in.  This is first-rate film making and my pick as the best film of 2009.

The Movie Brothers

What do you get when you mix two brothers, one an award-winning television director, the other an award-winning writer? You get the Movie Brothers, Brian and Matt Volke, two rabid film fans who wanted a forum to share their movies and different tastes. Brian sees through the lens, Matt through the page.

Each film will be rated side by side — one review by Brian, the other by Matt — on a scale of 1-10.

A film worthy of a 10 takes takes something like Stanley Kubrick’s “Paths of Glory” or Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed.”

A film with a 1 is like “ Mannequin 2: On the Move” or “Batman and Robin.”