Monthly Archives: August 2010

Brooklyn’s Finest

Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Tears of the Sun) directs this tense drama about three New York cops whose paths collide in a Brooklyn housing project where each must make a decision that will change the course of their lives forever. Cynical, washed-up Eddie (Richard Gere) no longer cares about the job or the rules; cash-strapped Sal (Ethan Hawke) sees a shortcut to solvency; and Tango (Don Cheadle) is torn between conflicting loyalties. Ellen Barkin and Wesley Snipes co-star.

Matt
Rating: 8 out of 10

This is one of those movies I rave about to people only to have them turn around and say, “That was awful! It was so dark.”

It’s true, I have a liking for dark cinema, and this is no exception. Antoine Fuqua brings us a sharp film about the more realistic side of being a cop, and it’s a multi-faceted one. There is no one type of anything, let alone police officers. Fuqua does a great job at looking at the world they live in, the crime they see, and the internal and external conflicts they endure. The performances are excellent.

We follow the lives of an undercover officer dealing with drugs and organized crime, a lazy cop seven days from retirement, and a family man who can’t afford to support his family who tries to steal from drug dealers. It’s not an uplifting story by any stretch, but it’s a good one, and it’s ending is unexpected and intense.

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Memento

Memento chronicles two separate stories of Leonard, an ex-insurance investigator who can no longer build new memories, as he attempts to find the murderer of his wife, which is the last thing he remembers. One story line movies forward in time while the other tells the story backwards revealing more each time. The movie stars Guy Pearce (Factory Girl, Hurt Locker) and is directed by Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Inception, The Prestige).

Kyle
Rating: 10 out of 10

With the recent success of “Inception,” I find myself suggesting the hell out of “Memento.” People will tell me how much they enjoyed “Inception” and appreciated how in-depth the plot was. My immediate response has been: “If you really liked ‘Inception’ as well as the reprisal of the Batman franchise, you absolutely have to see ‘Memento.’ It leaves you with the same reactions, but without all the CGI.”

The script for this was so beautifully written. Every time I watch it I think to myself, “How did they come up with and storyboard this to work out the way that it does?!”  It’s so easy to understand how it is set up after a few scenes but trying to explain it to others can be difficult. Also, I particularly enjoyed how the characters that enter Leonard’s world cope with his condition. At some point they lie, manipulate, tease, sympathize and aid him on his journey for justice. All at the same time, they try so hard to believe that his condition is like a wound that will heal when he finds his wife’s killer.

The main character Leonard is someone that the audience, at first, can empathize with but as the film progresses, and he is revealed as a different person than we thought. Perhaps it was because I was quite young when I first saw this but the climax to this film is probably one of the best I have ever seen; so much is revealed about Leonard’s past that it is quite overwhelming. There isn’t anything more I can say other than to GO RENT THIS FILM!

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Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.

The giant mechanized lizard that’s captured the imagination for decades rises again when its robot version, the Mechagodzilla, goes out of commission. The angry Godzilla is joined by Mothra, and now the government must work overtime to get Mechagodzilla working again to protect the citizens.

Matt
Rating: 3 out of 10

Godzilla is coming, but Mechagodzilla, a government robot made from the bones of a Godzilla — there’s been lots of them — isn’t fully operational. Some mystical Japanese fairies are visiting to send a message to a guy who was in a Mothra movie in the 1960s to warn that you can’t play God, mixing technology and the bones of Godzilla and then give him the symbol to call Monthra, a giant, heroic — you guessed it — moth.

If that weren’t enough, there’s all kinds of drama between the Mechagodzilla pilots and engineers, the guy from the 1960s movie is trying to warn politicians who don’t listen that Mechagodzilla is a bad idea, and Mothra is about to hatch twins that will help save the day by spitting a web like goop on Godzilla.

It’s too much for this boy to take!

Die-hard fans may love this, but I didn’t. The “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers” feel was a little much for me. The original “Gorjira” is a masterpiece. But this Godzilla is a turd, full of hilarious dialogue, like this choice selection:

Female pilot: “I know you’ve made Mechagodzilla your life, but still, it’s all you talk about. Engine performance stats, the latest developments in navigation. You even get crazy about cannons. Machines are all you talk about.”

Mechanic, speaking defensively: “Who says I get crazy about cannons?!”

Or at one point, the mechanic is looking for his lost family members, and a medallion with Mothra’s logo lights up, glowing and pointing in their direction like a compass. Putting the car in gear, he says: “They’ve gotta be this way!” At another point, during a big, slow, awkward fight with Godzilla, Mechagodzilla sheds a digital, red tear down an LED on his face.

If you want to laugh, watch this movie. If you want a good Godzilla movie, watch the original.

The real reason I love movies: Popcorn

Matt

I love the movies, but I love popcorn more. In fact, I seek out movie theaters that have good popcorn. Munching on some hot, buttery popcorn, washed down with a cold drink is one of my favorite pleasures. I often go to the movies just because I’m in the mood for popcorn. I’m a little eccentric because popcorn is my favorite food. It’s something of an obsession. I once lost interest in a girl I was dating because she absolutely hated popcorn with a passion.

Let’s face it, the popcorn you get at the mega-plex theaters is OK. It does the job. But indie theaters are more likely to use real butter and fresh popcorn and the quality is so much better. I intentionally see movies at indie theaters for the popcorn, even though I know the sound and screen will be much better at a large theater. I have two great theaters where I live in Albany, NY — The Madison and The Spectrum — and both have great popcorn. The drive-in theater I go to is the worst, but I still love the drive-in experience. The drive-in has these gross, giant tubs of greasy popcorn coated in a powdery, fake butter flavor that leaves your mouth with a burning, dry sensation. I bring my own instead, which is permitted there. My mother brings a bag of microwaved popcorn no matter what theater we go to. It’s very embarrassing.

Even at home, I have a whole process for making it. I have to eat popcorn when I watch a movie. My favorite popcorn popper is the Whirly Pop, which I whole-heartedly endorse. I’ve had dome poppers and air poppers, but they aren’t the same. My technique — which I’m hesitant to give away — is fantastic. Melt the butter and put it in the bowl you plan to serve the popcorn in. While you pop the corn, have a friend move the melted butter around the bowl so it coats the sides. When you pour the popcorn in the bowl, toss the popcorn and salt to taste. It coats the popcorn without leaving gloppy kernels that mush in your mouth — yuck. If microwaves are your bag, check out this popper. You can still use my buttering method. I could go into details on the varieties of kernels, their flavor profiles and textures, but I’ll spare you the details.

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Whip It

Escaping the beauty pagent plan of her smothering mother (Marcia Gay Harden), small-town Texas teen Bliss (Ellen Page) joins an all-girl roller derby team in Austin and begins living a thrilling double life as Babe Ruthless. Drew Barrymore makes her directorial debut and plays fellow teammate Smashley Simpson in this coming-of-age tale. Kristen Wiig, Juliette Lewis, Eve and Jimmy Fallon co-star.

Matt
Rating: 6 out of 10

Grrrrrrllll power!

I love roller derby, not because of the sport or the sex appeal, but because of the empowerment and bond the women share. If you’ve ever known a roller derby chick, they’re very cool, fun people and are a close-knit bunch. While this is a fantasy version of that world, Barrymore delivers a nice movie with a simple message that girls can go after their dreams, make friends, get the boy they always wanted, find success and be someone that matters.

Of course, these themes are also the movie’s downfall. It was hard not to gag a little from the overpowering sweetness, but the movie has enough charm from Page and the supporting cast to make it worthwhile. Lewis is always solid, and Wiig and Fallon are funny people I enjoy seeing on the screen. Harden is very sharp as the overbearing, Texas mother who hides her smoking habit and never looks anything but her best.

Barrymore made a sharp, visually appealing movie with a fun cast, great soundtrack and likable characters. It was a little sappy for my taste, but a fun movie nonetheless.

Movies we completely disagree on

Brian and Matt have very similar taste in film, but every once in a while we completely disagree on a movie. Each of the Movie Brothers will list three three movies we disagree on and rip on each other in the process. Enjoy!

Brian

Hulk (Ang Lee version from 2003)

This film is an abhorrent failure on every conceivable level.   The special effects make the Hulk look like a fake plastic doll, Eric Bana is lifeless in the lead, Nick Nolte seems like they grabbed him from a  totally different movie and Ang Lee’s direction is rudderless, flat, and uninteresting.  This was even more apparent when the movie studio pretended they got a do-over and released the much better “Incredible Hulk” in 2008.  Matt always told me he liked the more cerebral aspects of the film.  To this I say:  “Yeah, I enjoyed the really ‘cerebral’ moments as well, like when Hulk smashed some cars and fought mutated dogs.  Wow, so deep……”

Matt’s rating: 7 out of 10
My rating: 2 out of 10

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

This one isn’t as awful as Hulk but it’s damn near close.  I remember sitting in the theater after this chunk of mule shit started and thought: “This is what all the hype is about?  Are you fucking kidding me?”  All those readers who enjoyed the book (including my brother) told me it was awesome and I’d love it.  What is there to love?  A stupid robot with Alan Rickman’s voice?  A plot that meanders around with little or no explanation?  Characters that pop in and out of the story with no dramatic arc or sense of purpose?  Matt loves the books and is just kidding himself that the film isn’t bad.

Matt’s rating: 8 out of 10
My rating: 3 out of 10

Kids in Hall: Brain Candy


I was never a huge fan of Kids in the Hall but I did catch their show once in a while and though it could be pretty funny.  But, this movie is one of the biggest pieces of garbage I’ve ever seen.  It makes no sense, looks and feels exceptionally low budget and cheap, and is just plain unfunny.  The actors go in and out of characters that belonged in bad five minute sketches and not 90 minute films.  If any of the original creators ever happen to run into this blog, I just want you to know that your film single-handedly turned me off to the Kids in the Hall forever.  Yes, it’s that bad.

Matt’s Rating: 7 out of 10
My Rating: 1 out of 10

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Matt

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

I’m sorry, but Hunter S. Thompson is a hack. He used his whole career to shape “gonzo journalism,” and what bothers me more than his fake journalism is that people believed him. Would you really rely on the work of a journalist who loads up on cocaine before heading into the office? And that’s precisely why this script fails. It is moronic. Terry Gilliam‘s visual style works for this movie, but what’s so great about seeing alligators playing poker? I have friends who’ve tripped on acid and they say they’ve never seen anything like that. It’s hard to say Johnny Depp over acted, since that was a requirement for the role, but it was just annoying. The whole movie was a flop.

Brian’s rating: 8 out of 10
My rating:
3 out of 10

Titanic

I remember when my brother came up to me, beyond excited, exclaiming that “Titanic” was the greatest movie ever made and that he’s never seen anything like it. He insisted on going again and taking me. He explained that it was of vital importance that I see this movie. It was one of those movies that would change my life. Instead, I was forced to endure more than three hours of the corniest dialogue and acting I had seen in a long time. Look, the third act is powerful, but there’s a reason for it. It’s all action. The actors can’t trip over the terrible dialogue and each others’ wooden performances. Director James Cameron knows special effects and little else. There are some truly laughable moments, like when Leonardo DiCaprio’s character is handcuffed to a pipe and Kate Winslet goes to look for something to cut him free, and he says, “I’ll be right here!” Where the hell else was he going?

Brian’s rating: 10 out of 10
My rating: 4 out of 10

The Devil’s Rejects

This movie should have been called “The Devil’s Retards.” This is another one of those movies where Brian approached me with bounding enthusiasm. He literally said: “Rob Zombie is the future of Hollywood. He will represent the next great generation of directors.” That’s a huge endorsement. And no, I’m not joking when I quote him.  He really said that. So I ran to rent “The Devil’s Rejects” expecting to see the next Kubrick or Kirosawa. Instead, I sat through 109 minutes of pure crap. Wretched acting (he needs to stop putting his wife in all his movies because she can’t act), laughable dialogue, and special effects that look like a high school audio-visual club pieced it together. On top of that, this movie is a sequel! Lions Gate dished out $7 million on this piece of crap — which is nothing, I know. But Rob Zombie is the last guy I’d give $7 million. This is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.

Brian’s rating: 8 out of 10
My rating: 1 out of 10

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The Eclipse

In this supernatural thriller penned and helmed by award-winning Irish playwright and director Conor McPherson (Salt Water, The Actors), Ciarán Hinds (There Will Be Blood) stars as a recent widower who begins to sense that a mysterious presence is sharing his house. Iben Hjejle and Aidan Quinn co-star as a pair of novelists whose worlds converge with that of the widower thanks to an international literary festival in Wexford that brings surprising changes to all their lives.

Matt
Rating: 8 out of 10

This film is extraordinarily subtle, from its performances, writing, cinematogrphay, and even its more chilling moments.

McPherson is very patient as a director. He develops characters, never goes over the top with gore or scary imagery, and builds the entire movie to have meaning in the third reel. Because of this, the viewer needs to be share McPherson’s patience. It’s not very hard, though, as the characters are believable, ones we can relate to on many levels and care about by the end of the film. McPherson never takes the easy way out of his story — a big splashy scene with gore and car chases or a corny monologue to wrap up a conflict within a character.

Because of this, the ghost story he tells is more believable and therefore even more tense. It’s not out-of-this-world crazy. In fact, many of us may had similar experiences as the characters in “The Eclipse.” This is one of the best psychological thrillers I’ve seen in a while. The scares are few, but powerful. As a side note, it’s available on Netflix’s instant viewing.

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