Monthly Archives: May 2010

The Messenger

While on a recent deployment to Iraq, US Army Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) is injured when an improvised explosive device goes off within close proximity to him. He is back in the States recovering from the more serious of those injuries, including one to his eye and leg. He has resumed a sexual relationship with his long time girlfriend Kelly (Jena Malone), despite the fact that she is now engaged to another man. With the few months Will has left in his enlistment, the army assigns him to the Casualty Notification Team in his area. Not having a background in counseling, psychology or grief management, he is unsure if he is well suited to this job. He is partnered with a career soldier, Captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson), who teaches Will the precise protocol involved in the job. As Will learns to adapt to the range of emotions of the next of kin, he is unprepared for the reaction of Olivia Pitterson (Samantha Morton), whose husband was killed in Iraq. His initial encounter with Olivia leads to him wanting to get to know her better, which may not be in either her or his best interest. Despite being a recovering alcoholic, the more experienced Tony tries to guide Will as best he can under their collective circumstances. The film is made by first-time director Oren Moverman, who also co-wrote.

Rating: 8 out of 10

This film is full of writing and characters, emotional scenes, cinematography and settings that make us think while not answering questions or taking sides. This is no easy task for any director, but Moverman helped create a beautiful script that is thoughtful, and a style of direction that flows with ease, but challenges the viewer.

Harrelson and Foster deliver two of the best performances of 2009, the former getting a worthy Oscar nomination for best supporting actor. Tony and Will are full of contradiction and their character development is smart. Will keeps people at bay, including his ex-girlfriend who he still sleeps with, despite her being engaged. He doesn’t own a computer, so he can’t e-mail or instant message. He turns his phone off and listens to loud heavy metal when he’s alone in his largely empty home. Tony is a recovering alcoholic who hangs out in bars and drinks water with lemon, can’t keep a relationship, is competely insensitive but has to be for his job.

There are many dramatic and emotional scenes throughout the movie as the two visit the dead soldiers’ family member homes. There’s a great role played by Steve Buscemi (Reservoir Dogs) as a grieving father. Will is torn, trying not to be too sensitive while Tony is icy in his calm delivery of the bad news. This is the military’s toughest job, and this current events picture is honest about that without being preachy, taking sides, or being unfair to the veterans who selflessly serve our country every day. This is one of the best films of last year, and I look forward to seeing more films by Moverman.

Top 5 Untalented Actors

There are lots of bad actors working today. In fact, you could argue more are bad than good. But this list isn’t for them. This list is for the Top 5 untalented, meaning, they lack very little talent. Bad actors can at least punch their way out of a wet paper bag. The following five should just put that wet paper bag over their heads and call it a day. Here’s Brian’s Top 5 untalented actors.


5. Matthew McConaughey: If you’re looking for an actor to simply speak in a southern accent, be in your movie despite the script sucking donkey balls, and finding any excuse to take his shirt off, Matthew “Duh…” Mcconaughey is your man.  Do yourself a favor and look at his resume.  This guy is an insult to the word “actor” and that’s saying something.

4. Keanu Reeves: You have to hand it to this guy.  He keeps getting job after job while more talented actors fall into obscurity.  How does he do it?  Is it his “whoa” catch phrase?  Is it his amazing ability to sound like a surfer dude even when he’s in 19th century Transylvania?  If you ever want to laugh your fucking ass off at what isn’t supposed to be comedy, rent the Devils Advocate.  Not only does he do the worst southern accent in the history of film but whenever he acts alongside the legendary Al Pacino it’s like watching Michael Jordan compete against a Special Olympian.

3.  Jeff Goldblum: This guy has one acting move.  He stutters and stammers his way through dialogue to make it sound natural when it is anything but.  He also never, ever plays characters.  He plays Jeff Goldblum and he doesn’t even do it very well.  You don’t believe me? OK, I want anyone who’s reading this to explain to me what the difference is between any two Jeff Goldblum characters and how his acting performance is any different film to film.  Yeah, that’s what I thought…….

2.  Orlando Bloom: Ok, this is going to get me death threats from 12-year-old fangirls everywhere but this guy is a horrendous actor.  In “Pirates of the Caribbean,” when he’s sword fighting with Johnny Depp and spewing out that horrible dialogue, I was looking for the nearest barf bag.  He nearly sunk “Kingdom of Heaven” with his awful acting. And in “Troy,” I nearly had a bellyache from laughing so hard every time he spoke.  The only movie he’s even passable in is “Lord of the Rings” where he has almost no dialogue and is given the lone responsibility of standing there looking like an elf.

1.  Will Smith: There has never been a more talentless actor than Will Smith.  It’s not that he’s the worst actor that ever lived.  I’m sure if I gave it any thought, David Caruso or some B-movie actor could be worse.  But, we’re talking about one of the top box office stars in the world and he sucks!!!  We’re not talking sucks a little bit.  We’re talking he sucks every single form of testicle that the biggest whore in the world could fit in her mouth at once.  Yeah, that much!!  He also suffers from “Oprah Syndrome.”  What I mean by that is:

A) He thinks he’s incredibly important to the world and amazing at what he does the way Oprah loves the smell of her own feces.  I mean she actually has a magazine that she puts her own ugly mug on week after week!!  But, I digress.  We were talking about Will Smith..

B) He goes in and out of being black whenever the need suits him just like Oprah.  If Will Smith goes on Larry King, he’s as white as can be and even tries to awkwardly fit in large words that he has no idea how to wield.  But, put him on the BET awards and it’s “Dog” this and “yo” that.  I hate that shit. Be yourself and stop trying to cater to everyone to suit your own ego.  He does this in his films too.  He’s constantly picking the safest possible films ever.  He never ever takes a chance on anything.  Think about it.  What film of his ever put him in a risky situation?  I mean, even Tom Cruise did “Eyes Wide Shut.” But Will Smith?  “Pursuit of Happiness?” “Ali?” “Men in Black?” Who in the fuck are these going to offend?  I could go on forever about how much he sucks but I think you get the idea.

In a word: lame!

The Backup Plan

After years of dating, Zoe (Jennifer Lopez) has decided waiting for the right man is taking too long. Determined to become a mother, she decides to go it alone and get artificially inseminated. That same day, Zoe meets Stan (Alex O’Loughlin) a man she doesn’t like at first, but falls for after his persistent pursuit of her, but he doesn’t know she’s pregnant yet. Trying to nurture a budding relationship and hide the early signs of pregnancy becomes a comedy of errors for Zoe and creates confusing signals for Stan. The story’s focus happens after Zoe reveals to Stan that she’s pregnant and the real pregnancy test comes when both of them realize they really don’t know each other outside of hormonal chaos and birth preparations. With the nine month clock ticking, both begin to experience cold feet.

Rating 5 out of 10

You could do worse for a date movie. This is a romantic comedy that could make your sweet tooth fall out from decay, but there are enough funny moments to endure the bad.

I suppose corny monologues professing love are expected in romantic comedies, but there are a couple that made me gag. But Lopez is very likable in her role as a single woman in New York who hasn’t had much luck finding the right man. She’s got a good heart in the role, there’s good chemistry between she and O’Loughlin despite his wooden performance, and her comedic timing is nice.

The movie is highly predictable, sticky sweet, and often overly sentimental, following a tried and true arch for the genre. But, if you’re looking for a date movie she’ll enjoy and you want to avoid something with too many special effects and gratuitous nudity, this is a safe bate.

Robin Hood

In 13th century England, Robin “Hood” Longstride (Russell Crow) and his band of marauders confront corruption in a local village and lead an uprising against the crown that will forever alter the balance of world power. And whether thief or hero, one man from humble beginnings will become an eternal symbol of freedom for his people. “Robin Hood” chronicles the life of an expert archer from his service in King Richard’s army in the crusade to Richard’s death. Robin travels to Nottingham after assuming the identity of a dead knight. Nottingham suffers from the corruption of a despotic sheriff and crippling taxation. Here he meets Lady Marian (Cate Blanchett). With their country weakened from decades of war, embattled from the ineffective rule of the new king and vulnerable to insurgencies from within and threats from afar, Robin and his men heed a call to ever greater adventure. This unlikeliest of heroes and his allies set off to protect their country from slipping into bloody civil war. Directed by Ridley Scott (Gladiator).

Rating: 7 out of 10

This is not your grandpa’s Errol Flynn, swashbuckler in green tights. In some ways, it should have been a little more of that romantic, idealized character.

Instead, we’re given a very gritty Robin Hood who steals the identity of a dead knight, assumes his role as husband and son, and stumbles into heroism rather than a planned, gallant effort. We’re given the origin story of a soldier-for-hire, working his way through the crusades for King Richard (Danny Huston) as an archer. We’re given a little too much violence, which is odd for me to say because it normally doesn’t bother me, but there are a lot of battle scenes that get in the way of this picture and slow the story down.

The back story of Longstride is nicely woven into the story, and Crow gives a solid performance in a physically demanding role. This film has a great cast with Max von Sydow and Blanchett in strong supporting roles, and Oscar Isaac is delightful as the villainous Prince John. But the movie is bogged down by too much action and moves slowly at times. It’s 140 minutes long, and I’d bet that a good half is fighting which could have been cut way back and, streamlining the picture.

Check out the trailer for the Errol Flynn Robin Hood here:

Why we love drive-in theaters


You should thank the movie gods if you are lucky enough to have a drive-in movie theater near you.

At the height of drive-in popularity, there were 4,063 in 1958. In 1952, drive-ins actually surpassed traditional theaters in attendance. By 1989, there were only 999. The good news is, though, that the number of drive-ins has been stable since then, and you should support the one near you.

There is a charm about drive-ins. It’s a community event, where it’s OK for kids to run around before the movie starts, we can wear pajamas, make out, drink a beer, or even chat during the movie without bothering anyone. There is a freedom at the drive-in you don’t get at a regular theater. Granted, the sound system is your car (which is actually a bonus), the image isn’t as sharp, and sometimes the smell of pot from the teenagers car next to you can be overwhelming, but we feel the charm outweighs the negatives.

3. The Novelty: Call us corny, but there’s a nostalgic novelty from the drive-in. The Malta Drive-In, in Malta, NY, still plays those corny snack stand reminder videos, and has everyone honk their horns before the movie starts. I just love that. It’s so much fun. Their snack stand is like many of the other drive-in theaters I’ve been to, it’s old, straight out of the 50s, everything is deep friend, and the prices are cheaper than traditional theaters.

2. Price and value: It’s hard to beat a double feature for $8 for an adult. We had our choice of “Robin Hood” and “The Backup Plan” or “Iron Man 2” and “Shrek Forever After.” Not bad, considering these are new movies. I was glad to see both were sold out. Our theater charges $5 if you bring your own food, but we opted for the popcorn at the stand, which was $5.75 for a monster tub.

1. Freedom: You get to horse around at the drive-in, as long as you’re not a jerk. One of my favorite things to do is make shadow puppets on the screen during intermission. It’s really gratifying to make the dog shadow puppet eat the big tub of popcorn on the screen the theater is advertising. Also, you can chat in your car without bothering anyone, as long as you’re not loud about it. You can put the air conditioning on or turn up the heat, open the moon roof, put your seat wayyyyy back, bring a pillow, determine how loud you want the sound, and our drive-in lets me bring my dog. Try doing all that at a mega cine-plex. The other aspect is, you’re outside when the sun’s setting. It’s a perfect way to spend a summer evening.


The horror comedy Zombieland focuses on two men who have found a way to survive a world overrun by zombies. Columbus, Jesse Eisenberg (Adventureland) is a big wuss — but when you’re afraid of being eaten by zombies, fear can keep you alive. Tallahassee, played by Woody Harrelson (The People vs. Larry Flynt) is an AK-toting, zombie-slaying’ bad ass whose single determination is to get the last Twinkie on earth. As they join forces with Wichita, Emma Stone (Superbad) and Little Rock, Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine), who have also found unique ways to survive the zombie mayhem, will have to determine which is worse: relying on each other or succumbing to the zombies.

Rating: 6 out of 10

This was a fun film, especially because I love watching zombies getting killed in interesting ways.

We’ve seen the bullet to the brain more often than not. But a banjo decapitating a zombie? That’s pure gold. Or how about snuffing out a zombie clown with a sledge hammer from a carnival game? Just makes me feel warm and tingly all over.

Mind you, I’m rating this as a zombie/comedy. It’s not for everyone, but horror and zombie movie fans will enjoy this. It’s a funny movie with just enough suspense to keep you interested and having fun. There’s also a great cameo by Bill Murray that makes the movie. Harrelson is fun as the bad-ass zombie killer who drives a giant SUV equipped with a zombie-smashing plow, driving the country, mowing down zombies and finding new and interesting ways to slaughter them. Eisenberg plays the eccentric, anal retentive kid who works nicely off of Harrelson’s cocky demeanor. If you enjoyed “Shaun of the Dead,” which I’d say is better than this film, then you’ll want to check this out.


In Germany, Hans Beckert (Peter Lorre) is an unknown killer of girls. He whistles Edvard Grieg’s “In The Hall of the Mountain King,” from the “Peer Gynt Suite I Op. 46” while attracting the little girls for death. The police, being pressed by the Minister (Franz Stein), give their best effort as they try unsuccessfully to arrest the serial killer. Because of intense police activity, organized crime has taken great losses and the criminal underground decides to chase the murderer themselves with the support of the beggars association. Directed by Fritz Lang (Metropolis).

Rating: 10 out of 10

There are some issues that are still taboo today.  It’s difficult for people to deal with controversial material, that for some was “in your face,” such as the film “Milk,” which dealt with homosexuality. “United 93” dealt with the horrors of 9/11, and made many uncomfortable that it was even made.  So, I find it incredibly fascinating that the greatest film to ever deal with the issue of a serial killer is a foreign film from 1931.  This was only two years after the “Jazz Singer” wowed audiences as the first “talking” film.

The film stars Peter Lorre as a serial child killer who is so mentally sick that the allure of a new victim is impossible for him to pass.  This causes the city and all its residents to be in a constant state of fear and panic.  The police begin stepping up raids on local taverns and mob businesses so much that the criminals start looking for the killer as well.

All of this leads to a final confrontation that is so realistic and well acted that you feel as if you’re part of the public jury.  This film is hailed as the late Lang’s second masterpiece alongside “Metropolis.” But I would say it’s even better and one of the finest films ever made.  If you have a desire to watch an old film that is truly timeless, give this a watch.


Nine tells the story of Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis), a world famous film director as he confronts an epic mid-life crisis with both creative and personal problems. He must balance the many women of his life, including his wife (Marion Cotillard), his mistress (Penelope Cruz), his film star muse (Nicole Kidman), his confidant and costume designer (Judi Dench), an American fashion journalist (Kate Hudson), the prostitute from his youth (Fergie) and his mother (Sophia Loren).

Rating: 5 out of 10

Day-Lewis is engaging as the anxiety-ridden genius director who is on harder times after weak follow-ups to early success. He makes terrible decisions with women, sabotages any chance of happiness, seeks insight into religions and friends. The women who surround him are varied — strong, weak, wise — and the performances are strong.

The major problems with this film are the music and the storyline.

I couldn’t tell you one song from this musical, which is its biggest failure. The greatest musicals, like “Singin’ In the Rain” and “Fiddler on the Roof,” have songs that stay with us. They stand the test of time and stick in our heads like ticks on flesh. But this has weak music. The strongest musical performance is by Hudson, who seemed misplaced on the surface in this cast of Academy Award winners, but she gave a strong performance.

The story goes no where. We are given a compelling performance and character by Lewis — albiet a character we don’t empathize for or relate to — but the film fizzles from uninteresting musical numbers and a plot that takes us no where.


A crooked cop (Elias Koteas), a mob boss and the young junky they abuse (Kat Dennings) are the denizens of a city’s criminal underworld. It’s a world that ordinary Arthur Poppington (Woody Harrelson) doesn’t understand and doesn’t belong in, but is committed to fighting for when he changes into vigilante superhero Defendor. With no power other than courage, Defendor takes to the streets to protect the city’s innocent. Peter Stebbings, known more for acting roles in movies, wrote and directed.

Rating: 8 out of 10

This movie surprised me more than any other in a long time. Of course, like everyone, I underestimate Woody Harrelson.

I rented this to throw in the Blu-ray player while I cleaned, figuring it would be background noise to keep me company while I swept and dusted. Instead, I found myself engaged with an intriguing character in a world that is very real, where people get hurt — a nice sidestep from typical superhero movies. Of course, this is anything but a typical superhero movie.

This is a dromedy, for sure, but it lives within a world that is realistic. What would happen if a mentally handicapped man tried to be a hero? He’d get beat up a lot and have a hard time solving crimes. But to say that is all this movie is would be selling it short. This is a character piece by Harrelson, who adds the humanity and humility needed to prop this picture up beyond being a silly, throw-away hero spoof. It has a sense of humor, for certain, but it’s never cripplingly dumb. This movies was marketed as a goof ball comedy, but it’s not. At it’s core, it’s a drama with a good heart and  some dark story lines and characters. But this movie doesn’t take itself too seriously — which is why it succeeds. It could easily be a foolish movie about a moron who dresses up in tights and gets beat up.

Instead, “Defendor” has a subtlety, taking the time to develop relationships, characters, and back stories. I would say this is a movie for people who loved “Kick Ass” or the classic TV cartoon superhero “The Tick,” and anyone who enjoys comic book movies. I give Harrelson all the credit in the world. This was a $3.5 million passion project shot in 20 days, and Stebbings deserves credit for his directing style and writing, especially since this was his first film.

Lies and Illusions

Wes Wilson (Christian Slater), a best-selling author, has a self-help book about honesty that has saved millions of relationships. But when his fiance Alicia (Sarah Ann Schultz) is abducted and declared dead, Wes suddenly finds himself hunted by hired killers, beautiful spies, and a ruthless criminal mastermind (Cuba Gooding Jr.) with a taste for both style and violence. What does Wes have that an international smuggling ring wants? Why did his late bride-to-be keep a secret room full of weapons? And who can he trust when nobody is what he or she seems to be? Directed by Tibor Takács (Mansquito, Mega Snake, Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep)

Rating: 2 out of 10

You never go full retard.

Christian Slater ignored that common Hollywood, unspoken rule when he made this epically bad movie. And just a public service warning: this DVD is in Red Boxes everywhere. Do not be fooled by a catchy title and sexy description. It’s awful.

Slater, who has fallen so far in his career, plays a wimpy love writer who says things like, “Ow! My ribs!” after being kicked, or, “You shot him!” after witnessing a man being shot. This is bad writing, pure and simple.

Gooding, who I once thought had great potential, has done nothing since winning an Oscar for “Jerry Maguire.” Well, I guess he was pretty good in “Radio,” but again, you never go full retard. His interpretation of a bad guy in this film is the over-pronunciation of words. You can’t entirely blame him. There was nothing on the page to work with.

This movie is full of horrid dialogue, awkward looking fight scenes, plot lines that never connect and directing that looks like it was made for TV. There are plenty of mistakes, too. A wound will be on different sides of Slater’s face after a cut, his wristwatch changes sides from right to left and back again to right, and in one scene, Alicia rips a windshield wiper from a car and stabs a man in the cheek with it who is wearing a mask, but the damage to the mask and blood are gone seconds later in the next shot. There are full on car chase scenes for 10 minutes complete with shootouts, near hits of pedestrians, and vehicles smashing through carts and canopies, but no police are in sight. The police don’t come until Slater gets shot and someone says, “Call the police,” and sirens are heard immediately.

After seeing this movie, I had to shout, “That movie was bad!”