Thursday, March 31, 2011

Skyline

Aliens are attacking Earth.  Again.  And a small group of young, attractive humans are trying to stay alive.  Sound familiar?  It should because we've certainly seen it oh so many times before.  And this is not one of the better times.  There's no new ground covered here.  There's nothing new or interesting about the aliens, nor are there any interesting human characters either.  I can say that for its modest budget of $10M, it looks pretty good.  But they clearly didn't spend any of that money on script rewrites.  The problem is that the writers and directors are visual effects guys, not storytellers.  You really need a good writer, even for an aliens attacking Earth film.  The last 10 minutes is moderately intriguing, setting up a sequel, but I really hope I don't have to endure it.  But according to IMDB I will, in 2012.  Oh joy.

Skip it and go see Battle L.A. in theaters now.  Or better yet, re-rent 'Independence Day', 'Cloverfield, or 'War of the Worlds'.

Grade: D

Monday, March 28, 2011

Now Available on DVD

Looking to head to the video store, but don’t know what to see?  (Does anyone still go to video stores?)  Well, here are my grades at a glance for 25 recent releases worth seeing:
        (Newest releases are in green)
The Social Network                            Grade: A+

Kick Ass                                                Grade: A+

127 Hours                                            Grade: A+

Get Low                                               Grade: A+

City Island                                           Grade: A+

Please Give                                          Grade: A+

It's Kind of a Funny Story                  Grade: A+

The Greatest                                       Grade: A

Black Swan                                         Grade: A

Buried                                                  Grade: A

Never Let Me Go                                 Grade: A

Heartbreaker (L'Arnacoeur)              Grade: A

Paper Man                                          Grade: A

Against the Current                           Grade: A-

The Secret in their Eyes                    Grade: A-

Inception                                            Grade: A-

Winter’s Bone                                    Grade: A-

The Fighter                                        Grade: A-

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work          Grade: A-

The Art of the Steal                          Grade: A-

Middle Men                                       Grade: A-

The Next Three Days                        Grade: A-

The Kids are All Right                        Grade: A-

Toy Story 3                                        Grade: A-

The Switch                                        Grade: B+

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Switch

Jennifer Aniston plays a woman who just can't find Mr. Right to procreate with.  So she decides to take matters into her own hands and seek out a sperm donor.  But her BFF, played by Jason Bateman, is too neurotic, self-absorbed, and pessimistic for her liking.  So she decides to go with a complete stranger.  Or so she thinks.

Just when I had written off Aniston as only capable of making the same boring romantic comedies over and over we get one that actually feels fresh.  The script is tight.  Jason Bateman is as dry and clever as always.  And Jeff Goldblum adds some pizzazz with his trademark lightning quick repartee.  Sure, you know where it's going in the first five minutes, but this one's pretty fun getting there.

Grade: B+ 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sucker Punch


What do you get when you cross 'Kill Bill' with 'Sin City'?  You get sucker punched.  And that's what happened to me last night.  Emily Browning plays 'Baby Doll', a young girl who is wrongly committed to a mental institution by her father, and begins plotting her escape with the other inmates.  The young inmate ladies, including Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, and Vanessa Hudgens are the stars of the film, but Scott Glenn, Carla Gugino, and Jon Hamm pop up in smaller supporting roles.

This film is the epitome of style over substance.  The visuals are stunning in a 'Sin City' graphic novel kind of way.  (It's directed by Zack Snyder who made '300' and 'Watchmen', both of which have a great visual style.)  And it's two hours of hot chicks in seductive outfits kicking ass, set to a very cool soundtrack of updated classic songs like 'Sweet Dreams', White Rabbit', and 'Tomorrow Never Knows'.  Sounds good, right?  Well, maybe if it were a 5 minute music video.  But don't expect much of a coherent plot in this two plus hour movie.  Even moreso than 'Kill Bill' and 'Scott Pilgrim vs. the World', watching this film is like watching a videogame.  It's kind of fun for a bit, but after a short while you either want to take over or go home.  And that's exactly how I felt in the theater.  If they cut the running time to one hour thirty, that would've helped some, but certainly not entirely.

The target demographic on this one is clearly males, and since it's only rated PG-13, probably teenage males.  Just for style alone it's much better than the dreadful 'Scott Pilgrim', but it doesn't have the clever dialogue of Tarantino's superior 'Kill Bill'.  So unless you're really jonesing for some attractive ladies in a mindless action film I would recommend downloading the soundtrack and skipping the film.

Grade: C-

Kill the Irishman


Ray Stevenson stars as Danny 'The Irishman' Greene, a real life Irish gangster in Cleveland in the 70's, and this is the tale of his rise to power and inevitable fall.  The movie starts out with a bang, literally, as we see our protagonist's car explode with him barely escaping.  And that is the first of many explosions to come.  Many, many explosions.

My review of this film is mixed.  On one hand, it's basically just a composite of every gangster crime film I've ever seen, with a who's who of go-to gangster crime stars including Christopher Walken, Vinnie Jones, Paul Sorvino, Steve Schirripa, and Robert Davi.  On the other hand, I happen to like gangster crime films, and I happen to like Christopher Walken, Vinnie Jones, Paul Sorvino, Steve Schirripa, and Robert Davi.  So even though I was rolling my eyes in the first half of the film, I actually settled in and started enjoying myself in the second half.  I kind of enjoyed seeing one character after another get blown up.  (Don't worry, I didn't say WHO gets blown up.)  And I kind of enjoyed the stereotypical Irish music that scored the film.  And it was good seeing Val Kilmer again, even if he is slower and heavier than I remembered.  And Vincent D'Onofrio is always a trip.  So, if you're like me, and you dig these kinds of films, and you're not expecting something new, but rather more of the same that you know you love, then you'll enjoy the ride.  Just make sure to jump out before it explodes.

Grade:  B

Jane Eyre


Mia Wasikowska from 'Alice in Wonderland' and 'The Kids are All Right' stars as the titular character in this umpteenth update of the classic Bronte sister novel.  I'm going to be upfront that I've never read the novel or seen any of the other film adaptations.  (I know, I know, shame on me.)  So I can't really compare or contrast them.  And I also need to come clean that this was my fifth night in a row at the movies after a long week of work and I was quite tired.  And this is not the film you want to go into tired.  It is slooooooow.  Nevertheless I still think it's a decent film.  It blends unexpected moments of creepyness with a tragic love story.  I think to really do it justice in a review I'd need to see it again.  (And there aren't many other films from this year I'm even considering seeing again, so that says something.)  But, it's safe to say, if you're not into the period pieces and/or have ADD/ADHD or just don't care for the slow paced films, you probably want to avoid this one like the plague.

Grade:  B- (for now)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Killers


Ashton Kutcher plays a slick assassin for the CIA who falls in love with Katherine Heigl and decides he wants to retire and just be a regular guy.  And Tom Selleck and Catherine O'Hara play Heigl's doting parents.

I've avoided this film for quite a while because I heard negative things, but I actually completely disagree with those reviews.  This movie is surprisingly a lot of fun.  It's a great action comedy that actually has great action and great comedy.  And even though that sounds like it should be obvious, not many action comedies actually follow through with that promise.  And I'm surprised to say I really like the cast.  I always think I don't like Kutcher, but more often than not he's really very entertaining.  And I don't think I've ever liked Heigl before, but I enjoyed her performance in this one.  And a great score by Rolfe Kent really energizes the film.

This is a fun guilty pleasure worth checking out on DVD and Blu-Ray for some mindless entertainment.  Watch it back to back with 'Knight and Day' for double your rogue CIA assassin pleasure.

Grade: B+

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Next Three Days


Russell Crowe plays a man who will stop at nothing to get his wife out of prison, and Elizabeth Banks plays his wife who's been convicted of murder.  To what extent will Crowe go to get her out?  The film was written and directed by Academy Award winner Paul Haggis, who wrote 'Million Dollar Baby' and wrote and directed 'Crash' and 'In the Valley of Elah' (a great underseen film.)  Haggis' attention to detail really makes the difference between his films and most other dramas.

I don't want to say much more about it because it's a great film that grabs you and doesn't let go and I think it was totally underrated and underseen in theaters.  The DVD cover looks cheesy.  The film is not.  It's edge-of-your-seat thrilling.  Add one to my Best of 2010 list.

Grade: A-

Saturday, March 19, 2011

HappyThankYouMorePlease


Josh Radnor from 'How I Met Your Mother' wrote, directed and stars in this film which premiered at Sundance in January 2010.  In typical indie fashion, it contains multiple storylines related to three young, attractive friends and digs deep into the depths of love and friendship.  Radnor plays a struggling writer looking for love who temporarily takes on the responsibility of caring for a young african american boy who he witnessed get separated from his foster mom on the subway, and he uses his new little friend to make a move on crush Kate Mara.  Malin Akerman plays a woman stricken with Alopecia, a condition that makes her hairless.  (And boy is it freaky how unattractive an attractive woman looks without eyebrows!)  She, too, is looking for Mr. Right.  And Zoe Kazan and Pablo Schreiber round out the film in the least interesting storyline, as they question their relationship and debate the pros and cons of living in New York vs. Los Angeles.  On the plus side, Tony Hale from 'Arrested Development' breathes life into the film as a creepy office mate of Akerman's, and the great Richard Jenkins pops up in a way-too-small part in the beginning.

I've been waiting for this film to be released in theaters for 14 months now.  So, was it worth it?  Well, yes and no.  In many ways it's trite, with roll-your-eyes scenes aplenty.  But Josh Radnor is really indie movie star material.  To me, he's the next Zach Braff and this is his 'Garden State'.  It won't be nearly as well received by audiences of course, as it's not as good, but for a first attempt this is a success and I see big things to come from Radnor.  Just when I was about to blow it off as way too trite, certain scenes really hit a home run.  One scene in particular towards the end with Tony Hale and Malin Akerman really resonated with me.  I won't say what it is, of course, but I thought it was among the finest few moments of film I've seen this year.  So, while I don't necessarily want MorePlease, I sincerely want to thank Radnor, Hale, and Akerman for giving me a few precious moments of poignancy after months of just not getting any.  HappyThankYou.

Grade:  B

Friday, March 18, 2011

FOX 35 News Orlando - Friday 3/18/11


Check out my appearance from this morning where I give my thoughts on 'Limitless', 'The Lincoln Lawyer', 'Paul', and 'The Fighter'.

http://www.myfoxorlando.com/dpp/entertainment/movies/031811-flieder-flicks-friday-march-18

In Theaters Now

Looking to head to the theater this weekend, but don’t know what to see?  Here are my grades at a glance:
Barney's Version                Grade: A   (#4/38 of my Toronto Film Festival blog)
Black Swan                         Grade: A   (#7/38 of my Toronto Film Fest blog)
The King’s Speech             Grade: B+  (#11/38 of my Toronto Film Fest blog)
Limitless                             Grade: B+
Hall Pass                             Grade: B+
Biutiful                               Grade: B+
Another Year                    Grade: B   (#16/38 of my Toronto Film Festival blog)
No Strings Attached          Grade: B
Battle: Los Angeles            Grade: B

Unknown                           Grade: B
The Adjustment Bureau    Grade: B

Inside Job                          Grade: B   (#21/38 of my Toronto Film Festival blog)


The Lincoln Lawyer           Grade: B

Drive Angry                       Grade: B-

Rango                                 Grade: B-

Cedar Rapids                     Grade: B-
The Mechanic                   Grade: C+
Just Go WIth It                  Grade: C
Paul                                    Grade: C
Take Me Home Tonight    Grade: C
Red Riding Hood              Grade: C-

Sanctum                            Grade: D
I Am Number Four           Grade: D
The Rite                            Grade: F

Limitless

What would happen if you came across a pill that could make you smart?  I mean really smart.  Off-the-charts smart!  Bradley Cooper finds out in this exciting thriller.  He starts out as a struggling writer living in a dump trying to make ends meet.  But when he runs into his ex-brother-in-law, he is offered a mysterious pill which he is initially hesitant to try.  But once he does, his whole life changes.  Robert DeNiro has a supporting role as a corporate tycoon.  It's kind of a different part for DeNiro and I think it was a smart choice for him to accept a small supporting role against type.  It gives him a little more street cred than just playing a cop, mobster, and Focker-in-law over and over.

By the way, the film takes place in New York, but many scenes were filmed in Philadelphia, Bradley Cooper's home town, and he was at my screening followed by a great Q&A.

Aside from the premise, there's nothing revolutionary about the movie, but it is definitely a fun, exciting, fast paced ride from start to finish, and probably my favorite film of the year so far.

Grade: A

The Lincoln Lawyer


Matthew McConaughey stars as The Lincoln Lawyer.  No, this movie has nothing to do with Abraham Lincoln.  (Which is confusing because of the upcoming film called 'The Conspirator' which is about a lawyer defending a possible conspirator in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.)  This film is about a sleazy, do-anything-for-a-buck defense attorney who is chauffered around town in a Lincoln town car.  And he hits payday when a rich mother hires him to defend her son, played by Ryan Phillipe, who has been accused of the brutal beating of a prostitute.  The supporting cast includes Marisa Tomei, William H. Macy, Josh Lucas, John Leguizamo, Bryan Cranston, and Trace Adkins.

I must admit I love a good legal thriller, including all the great film adaptations of John Grisham novels.  (In fact, McConaughey starred as a lawyer in one of the best of them, 'A Time To Kill'.)  So I was a bit biased even before it began.  But biased or not, I still think it's a decent film.  It's not nearly as good as legal thrillers like 'A Time To Kill', 'The Client', or 'Michael Clayton', but it's entertaining enough to recommend for the weekend.  (Sorry ladies, McConaughey doesn't do his trademark move and take his shirt off.  Speaking of which, has anyone heard Matt Damon do his McConaughey impression on Letterman?  Classic.)

Grade: B

Paul


The comedy team of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, best known for spoofs on zombie and cop films in 'Shaun of the Dead' and 'Hot Fuzz' respectively, are back and this time they're spoofing alien encounters.  Pegg and Frost play two uber-nerds from the U.K. who have come to the U.S. for the first time to go to Comic-Con, followed by a road trip to the most notable alien related landmarks.  But just when you think you're watching a less enjoyable version of 'The Big Bang Theory', they run into Paul, a stereotypical looking extraterrestrial, voiced by Seth Rogen.  Of course, since this is a comedy, Paul means them no harm.  (Sorry, no anal probes, people!)  He's really a lot like Seth Rogen actually:  funny and crass.  Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Jane Lynch, and Jeffery Tambor are among the way-too-good-for-this-movie supporting cast of comedians.

I have mixed feeling about the film.  Pegg and Frost are a bore, but the supporting cast is strong.  And although the majority of the film felt slow and derivative of other nerd-pop-culture-referencing content we've seen before, the end of the film actually picked up speed and left a better taste in my mouth than I expected.  Nevertheless, I can't really recommend it, especially in a week that has two better films opening.

Grade: C

Monday, March 14, 2011

Twelve


Since you’ve undoubtedly never heard of this film, and since it was a complete waste of time watching it, I won’t waste much of your time or any more of mine discussing it.

This gritty drama about pretty, teenage drug dealers, junkies, whores, punks, losers, and other high school stereotypes in New York City, revolving around a drug called ‘Twelve’, premiered at the Sundance Film festival, had a very limited release in theaters and was recently released on DVD.  I’m not sure who does the programming for that prestigious festival, but they certainly let some junk into it.  And this particular piece of junk probably made the cut because it’s directed by Joel Schumacher, who’s made some great films like ‘Falling Down’, ‘The Lost Boys’, ‘A Time to Kill’, and ‘The Client’, but is probably best remembered for destroying the 90’s Batman franchise with the Kilmer and Clooney misfires.

‘Twelve’ is a complete bore.  The entire cast is as uninteresting as they are attractive.  And I didn’t even see a plot to the film.  It’s an art house mess, with some wasted talent, including Emma Roberts, Rory Culkin, Ellen Barkin, and narration by Kiefer Sutherland.  Skip it!

Grade:  F

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Biutiful


'No Country for Old Men's Javier Bardem stars as a single father of two who is dying of cancer in this film from Mexico which was just nominated as one of the Best Foreign Films at the Academy Awards.  Bardem was also nominated in the Best Actor category, which was extremely surprising.  His performance is very good for sure, but I don't think it's one of the best five of the year, and it certainly isn't one of the more well known.  Very few non-film buffs have seen or probably even heard of this film.

The film was directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu who is known for 'Babel', '21 Grams', 'Amores Perros', and 'Mother and Child'.  If you're familiar with any of those films you know that Inarritu isn't known for comedy or lightheartedness.  These films are all very serious, but this one makes watching the rest feel like being at the circus.  In other words, it's extraordinarily depressing.  And I do depressing, but this one was a rough ride.  I liked it for sure, but you really have to know what you're getting into before you plop down to watch Bardem's tragic character deal with his terminal cancer, repair a relationship with his bi-polar ex-wife, find a suitable caretaker for his two children, and help some illegal immigrants he works with.  And it's two and a half hours.  This ain't no picnic, but it's a powerful story.

Grade: B+

Friday, March 11, 2011

In Theaters Now

Looking to head to the theater this weekend, but don’t know what to see?  Here are my grades at a glance:
127 Hours                            Grade: A+   (#5/38 of my Toronto Film Festival blog)
Barney's Version                Grade: A   (#4/38 of my Toronto Film Festival blog)
Black Swan                         Grade: A   (#7/38 of my Toronto Film Fest blog)
Blue Valentine                   Grade: A
The King’s Speech             Grade: B+  (#11/38 of my Toronto Film Fest blog)
The Illusionist                    Grade: B+
Hall Pass                             Grade: B+
Another Year                    Grade: B   (#16/38 of my Toronto Film Festival blog)
No Strings Attached          Grade: B
Battle: Los Angeles            Grade: B

Unknown                           Grade: B
The Adjustment Bureau    Grade: B

Inside Job                          Grade: B   (#21/38 of my Toronto Film Festival blog)

True Grit                            Grade: B-

Drive Angry                       Grade: B-

Rango                                 Grade: B-

Cedar Rapids                     Grade: B-
The Mechanic                   Grade: C+
Just Go WIth It                  Grade: C
Take Me Home Tonight    Grade: C
Somewhere                       Grade: C-
Red Riding Hood              Grade: C-

Sanctum                            Grade: D
I Am Number Four           Grade: D
The Rite                            Grade: F

Battle: Los Angeles


I just saw this movie late last night and have to report on it on FOX in a few hours, so I'm going to keep this short and sweet. 

Los Angeles has just been attacked by a swarm of aliens, and Aaron Eckhart plays a staff sergeant in a small band of marines that has been given 3 hours to round up as many civilians as possible and get them to safety before the military blows up the infested area.  There's nothing too original about that storyline, but it's all about how it's done, and in this case it's done fairly well.  After about 15 minutes of getting to know the characters (which doesn't really work) the film dives right into war and doesn't let up, and it's mayhem for the next 100 minutes.  This is not a character driven film.  Most of the cast are throwaways.  But it really depicts war in a realistic, intense, edge-of-your-seat way, not unlike 'Saving Private Ryan'.

This is not a classic.  It's certainly no 'Independence Day', which to me is the gold standard of man vs. aliens attacking Earth films.  It's also not even as good as 'Cloverfield' in my opinion.  But I think it's better than the overrated 'District 9' (although I'm sure many would vehemently debate me on that.)  Regardless of how it compares to other similar films, it's an action packed two hours and an intense, enjoyable popcorn film for the first quarter of the year.

Grade: B

Red Riding Hood


Amanda Seyfried plays the titular character in this updated fairy tale that we all know.  But this time around the wolf is a werewolf, and the central mystery is the search for its human counterpart.  The always delightfully explosive Gary Oldman costars as a werewolf hunter, and other familiar faces include Virginia Madsen, Lucas Haas, and Julie Christie as Granny.  Are any of them the werewolf?  Maybe, maybe not.

That description may actually sound interesting, but fables targeted for teens are generally not that good and this one is no exception.  (I haven't seen 'Beastly' which just opened, but I've heard terrible things.  And 'Ever After' comes to mind as another disappointment from the past.  Can anyone else think of other fairy tale fiascos?)  The best thing this one has going for it is the surprisingly stellar cast, which may have something to do with the fact that Leo DiCaprio is one of the producers.  But really there isn't much to love here.  I can say that people in the audience were laughing heartily, but since it's not a comedy I strongly suspect they were laughing at it and not with it.  The movie takes itself pretty seriously (unlike the more enjoyable 'Drive Angry', which I believe you're supposed to laugh at.)  It's not terrible, and I do always enjoy Gary Oldman's performances, but I won't recommend it, if only so that it doesn't accidentally do well at the box office and then I have to sit through an updated teen version of 'Hansel and Gretel' next year.  That'd be grimm.

Grade: C-

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Cemetary Junction


British 'Office' and 'Extras' alumni Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant wrote, directed, and produced this British coming of age film set in the 70's and now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.  A group of friends from blue collar families flounder about, getting in trouble, dating, and yearning for a better life than their parents had.  Gervais has a small supporting role as a working class father, and Ralph Fiennes and Emily Watson show his son how the other half lives.

Similar tales have been told before of course, but generally with gangsters as the tempting lifestyle alternative to honest blue collar work (as in 'The Bronx Tale' and 'Brooklyn Rules').  But here, it's the cold industry of insurance that made Ralph Fiennes a rich executive.  So is that the path to true happiness?

This certainly isn't the greatest coming of age tale, but it's fairly decent and I'm not sure why it got no recognition whatsoever.  Mainly I want to give kudos to Gervais and Merchant for trying something totally different than their usual schtick.  It's not a complete success but it's definitely not a failure.

Grade: B

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Millennium Trilogy




This is the Swedish thriller trilogy based on the hugely popular books by Stieg Larsson, published in 2005, 2006, and 2007 respectively.  Noomi Rapace plays Lisbeth Salander, a tattooed, multi-ringed, emotionally disturbed girl with a violent and mysterious past.  Michael Nyqvist plays Mikael Blomkvist, an investigative journalist for a publication called 'Millennium' that exposes major crimes and injustices.  She is a gifted computer hacker, and he is on trial for libelous allegations he made in his magazine.  Their lives intersect and multiple disturbing storylines ensue.  Let me be clear about that.  These are dark and disturbing films, particularly the first.  And they're long too.  (Over 7 hours for the trilogy.)  But they're pretty good, especially the first.

They're currently in the process of remaking these films here in the U.S starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara.  (Clooney, Depp, and Pitt were all rumored to be interested, but Craig won out.)  But don't wait for the remake.  If this sounds like your thing, see the original.  I suspect the American versions won't be nearly as good.  Although David Fincher ('The Social Network', 'Seven', 'The Game', 'Fight Club') is directing, so I could be wrong about that.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo:  A-
The Girl who Played with Fire:  B
The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest:  B

Monday, March 7, 2011

Case 39


Renee Zellweger plays a social services employee overwhelmed with 38 open case.  But they ain't nuthin' compared to newly assigned Case 39, of a girl whose parents seem out to get her.  Bradley Cooper and Ian McShane co-star as a psychiatrist and policeman, respectively, who befriend Zellweger in helping the girl.

This is the latest entry in the creepy little girl horror genre.  That genre is getting a little old, but seriously is there anything creepier than a creepy little girl?  This one is more than a little similar to 'Orphan', which was very entertaining.  In fact, the girl, played by Jodelle Ferland, even looks like the girl in 'Orphan'.  That's creepy in and of itself!

I had heard mostly poor things about this film.  And I admit, it seems derivative of other creepy girl horror films, and you can pretty much see where it's going, but I still kind of enjoyed it.  It's frightening at times and all in all a decent horror suspense thriller with some scares.  But please, enough of those creepy little girls.  I want to be able to buy some thin mints without having nightmares, is that too much to ask?

Grade: B

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Defendor


Woody Harrelson stars in yet another film about a man with no super powers acting as a super-hero.  I would think after seeing 'Special', 'Kick-Ass', and the upcoming 'Super' starring Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page, I'd be crying, 'Enough already!'  But I'm not.  These are all great films, and each significantly different.  Each of them gets the tone just right, and has an interesting enough cast to make them all well worth viewing.  Maybe even as a marathon.  And you can start it off with the original: the 1981 little remembered 'Hero at Large' starring John Ritter.

After laying low for a bit, Harrelson had a huge comeback year in 2009, with other great performances in 'Zombieland', 'The Messenger', and as the best part of the so-so '2012'.  He's got 5 films in the works and here's hoping at least some of them are as good.

This film is basically a drama with some dark comedy and action mixed in, and it features solid supporting performances by Sandra Oh, Clark Johnson and Michael Kelly.  So get your vigilante on, and check it out on DVD and Blu-Ray.

Grade: B+

Friday, March 4, 2011

FOX 35 News Orlando - Friday 3/4/11



Check out my appearance from this morning on the FOX 35 website where I give my thoughts on 'The Adjustment Bureau', 'Rango', 'Take Me Home Tonight', and my DVD pick of the week, '127 Hours'.

http://www.myfoxorlando.com/dpp/entertainment/movies/030411-flieder-flicks-friday-march-4

Flieder Flicks: Friday March 4, 2011 : MyFoxORLANDO.com

The Adjustment Bureau


Based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, Matt Damon plays a likeable, gregarious politician running for Senator of New York who crosses paths with Emily Blunt and immediately falls in love.  So what's the problem?  The problem is they're not supposed to be together, or at least so says The Adjustment Bureau.  And what is said bureau?  That's a mystery I won't fully reveal of course, but as the trailer discloses, their purpose is to make adjustments to make sure things happen according to plan.  'Mad Men's John Slattery, Terence Stamp from 'Superman 2' and 'The Limey', and 'The Hurt Locker's Anthony Mackie are among the members of the bureau.

Even though the film seems to be marketed as an action thriller, it's really more of a romance than I expected.  Think 'City of Angels' meets 'Men in Black', but unfortunately not quite as good as either.  It doesn't have the strong emotion of 'Angels' or any of the comedy of 'Black'.  But, it's not bad.  It's entertaining and ultimately kind of sweet, albeit bordering on corny.

Most would agree you can't go too wrong with a Matt Damon film.  This is not one of his classics, but it's enjoyable enough for a date film this weekend.  In fact, you should definitely go see it this weekend!!!  (Wait, I think the Adjustment Bureau just made me write that last line.)

Grade: B

Rango


Johnny Depp voices Rango in this animated action/adventure western about a lonely chameleon who gets in over his head when he stumbles upon a town sorely lacking in water and gets appointed as sheriff.  And corruption is abound with the mayor who knows that he who controls the water controls the power. 

It's actually a bit of a 'Pirates' reunion here, with Depp, director Gore Verbinski, actor Bill Nighy, and composer Hans Zimmer also on board.  You can't go too wrong with that team.

I'm kind of torn on what grade to give this film.  It's definitely well made with a top notch cast of voices.  And I enjoyed all the details thrown in to keep the adults as entertained as the kids, including homages to Chinatown, Don Quixote, and the 'Man With No Name' Clint Eastwood trilogy.  And for some reason I particularly enjoyed the Mariachi owls who comment on the film throughout.  But there aren't any big surprises and I found myself sporatically bored.  That could just be because I'm not a huge fan of animation though.  So I think I'm mainly going to recommend this film for parents with children.  (It's rated PG, FYI, so you may not want to bring the real l'il ones.)  But I think adults on their own can probably find a better fit.

Grade: B-

Take Me Home Tonight


Topher Grace moves a decade forward in time from 'That 70's Show' to the distinctively embarassing 80's in this retro film about being lost post-college.  Grace plays a math whiz who just graduated from MIT but doesn't know what he wants to do with his life.  So, much to his dad's chagrin, he's working at Suncoast Video while trying to figure it out.  Then in walks his high school crush, played by 'I Am Number Four's Teresa Palmer (who looks remarkably like a blond Kristen Stewart), and a wild night to remember ensues.  'Scary Movie's Anna Faris co-stars as his sister and Dan Fogler plays the obligatory fat, goofy friend whose life is more in shambles than Grace's, and gets involved in one misadventure after another.

I may not be speaking for everyone, but enough with the 80's already!  It was funny in 'The Wedding Singer', and kind of ok in 'Hot Tub Time Machine' but seriously, enough already.  This one wants to be a throwback to the teen classics from the 80's like 'License to Drive', but you can't replicate that charm.  The Coreys are gone and they're not coming back.  Teen films have to evolve to succeed, like 1998's 'Can't Hardly Wait' and last year's 'Easy A'.  Those films are definitely worth seeing.  This one is passably entertaining at best.  If you're over 21 you may want to rethink seeing this one.

And if you want to see a really great film about being lost post-college then check out Noah Baumbach's 'Kicking and Screaming' from 1995.  (No, not the one with Will Ferrell.  The good one.) 

Grade: C

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Now Available on DVD

Looking to head to the video store, but don’t know what to see?  (Does anyone still go to video stores?)  Well, here are my grades at a glance for some recent releases:
The Social Network                            Grade: A+

Kick Ass                                                Grade: A+
 
127 Hours                                            Grade: A+
 
Get Low                                               Grade: A+

City Island                                           Grade: A+

Please Give                                          Grade: A+

It's Kind of a Funny Story                  Grade: A+

The Greatest                                       Grade: A

Buried                                                  Grade: A
 
Never Let Me Go                                 Grade: A

Heartbreaker (L'Arnacoeur)              Grade: A
 
Paper Man                                          Grade: A

I Knew it Was You:  Rediscovering John Cazale    Grade: A

Against the Current                           Grade: A-

The Secret in their Eyes                    Grade: A-

Inception                                            Grade: A-

Winter’s Bone                                    Grade: A-

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work          Grade: A-

The Art of the Steal                          Grade: A-

Middle Men                                       Grade: A-

The Kids are All Right                        Grade: A-

Toy Story 3                                        Grade: A-

The Last Exorcism                             Grade: B+
 
Mother and Child                             Grade: B+
 
Waking Sleeping Beauty                 Grade: B+

Centurion                                          Grade: B+
 
Timer                                                 Grade: B+

I’m Still Here                                     Grade: B+

Going the Distance                          Grade: B+

The Disappearance of Alice Creed     Grade: B+

Easy A                                                Grade: B+
               
Cyrus                                                 Grade: B+

High Rollers                                      Grade: B

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps     Grade: B

The Town                                          Grade: B
 
The Virginity Hit                               Grade: B

Leaves of Grass                                Grade: B

Knight and Day                                Grade: B

Sorcerer’s Apprentice                     Grade: B

How to Train Your Dragon             Grade: B
 
The Romantics                                 Grade: B

Dinner for Schmucks                      Grade: B-
 
Barry Munday                                 Grade: B-
 
Takers                                              Grade: C+

The Other Guys                               Grade: C+

Eat Pray Love                                  Grade: C

Salt                                                  Grade: C
 
Valentine's Day                               Grade: C

Despicable Me                                Grade: C

Piranha                                           Grade: C

Splice                                              Grade: C-

Frozen                                             Grade: C-
 
You Again                                       Grade: C-
 
Howl                                                Grade: C-

Devil                                                Grade: D

The A-Team                                    Grade: D

The Extra Man                               Grade: D

The American                                Grade: D

The Killer Inside Me                       Grade: D

The Expendables                           Grade: D

 
The Last Airbender                        Grade: F

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World         Grade: F