Friday, September 30, 2011

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day - FOX 35 Orlando 9/30/11


Check out my appearance from this morning where I gave my thoughts on '50/50', 'What's Your Number?', and 'Conan O'Brien Can't Stop'.

http://www.myfoxorlando.com/dpp/entertainment/movies/093011-flieder-flicks-friday

2011 Third Quarter

Well, we're three quarters through the year and it's been a busy three months with a lot of releases.  Overall I'd say it was easily better then the first but perhaps not as good as the second.  Below is a summary of my grades for theatrically released films in the third quarter.

(Note that I've tweaked a few grades since my initial review.)

(Movies released this week are in green)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II           Grade: A+

Moneyball                           Grade: A

Crazy Stupid Love               Grade: A-

Contagion                            Grade: A-

The Help                              Grade: A-

Friends with Benefits          Grade: A-

50/50                                    Grade: A-

The Guard                           Grade: A-

The Debt                             Frade: B+

Terri                                    Grade: B+

One Day                              Grade: B+

The Music Never Stopped    Grade: B+

Sarah's Key                         Grade: B+

The Whistleblower            Grade: B+

What's Your Number?       Grade: B+

Point Blank                        Grade: B+

The Future                         Grade: B

Rise of the Planet of the Apes     Grade: B

A Little Help                       Grade: B

Our Idiot Brother             Grade: B

Winnie the Pooh                Grade: B for kids under 8, but D for adults

Trollhunter                          Grade: B

The Change-Up                   Grade: B-

Tracker                                Grade: B-

Cowboys and Aliens          Grade: B-

Spy Kids 4D: All the Time in the World    Grade: B-

30 Minutes or Less            Grade: C+

Another Earth                   Grade: C+

Horrible Bosses                 Grade: C+

Ironclad                             Grade: C+

A Good Old Fashioned Orgy    Grade: C+

Apollo 18                          Grade: C+

Brighton Rock                  Grade: C+

Drive                                 Grade: C

Page One: Inside the New York Times     Grade: C

Salvation Boulevard         Grade: C

Captain America: The First Avenger    Grade: C-

Fright Night                      Grade: C-

Don't be Afraid of the Dark      Grade: C-

Killer Elite                         Grade: C-

Warrior                             Grade: C-

Colombiana                      Grade: D

Larry Crowne                    Grade: D

The Zookeeper                  Grade: D

Seven Days in Utopia        Grade: D

Bellflower                          Grade: D

Final Destination 5            Grade: D-

5 Days of War                    Grade: D-

50/50


Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a guy who seems to have it all:  A beautiful girlfriend played by Bryce Dallas Howard, a close friend played by Seth Rogen, and a caring mom played by Angelica Huston.  But when he learns that the pain he's been experienceing in his back is something serious, his whole life begins to crumble.

There's nothing that different or interesting about the storyline itself, but this is a really good film.  For one thing, they nailed the tone, walking the line between drama and comedy.  And the cast really raises the bar, with honest performances across the board.  Levitt keeps it pretty low key, generously allowing those around him to shine (kind of like Mark Wahlberg did in 'The Fighter'.)  Seth Rogen is easily the best and funniest part of the film, louder and more crass than ever.  Anna Kendrick ('Up in the Air') also shines as Levitt's caring therapist.  And there are two great supporting roles played just right by character actors Philip Baker Hall and Matt Frewer as fellow patients.  The talent involved makes this one an easy recommendation for this weekend.

Grade: A-

What's Your Number?


No, this is not a pickup line.  (But that's actually what I originally thought the title implied.)  Anna Faris plays a girl who just can't find 'The One' and she's suddenly feeling bad about the above average number of men she's slept with.  So she decides to try to reconnect with one of her past lovers in hopes that she will find love without increasing her number.  Seems logical, I guess.

This is basically just your typical R-rated, crass, romantic comedy targeted for women.  But I actually enjoyed it more than I think I should have, and probably more than it deserves to be enjoyed.  (That sounded like a backhanded compliment, but it's really not meant to be.)  This isn't the funniest movie of the year but it's really very likeable.  I had a smile on my face from start to finish.  And that's largely due to the appeal of the leads.  Anna Faris is adorable, sexy, funny, and way too appealing to not be able to find love.  (But isn't that the underlying flaw of every romantic comedy?)  And Chris Evans' personality really comes across here (unlike in 'Captain America').  He's also pretty much naked most of the film, so swoon away, ladies.  And some of the jokes are genuinely funny (while others are admittedly just awkward.)  But this one gets by on likeability and makes for a good date film for the weekend.

Grade: B+

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Philadelphia Film Festival: A Look Back and A Look Forward


Heads up everybody!  It's almost time for the 20th Philadelphia Film Festival which runs Thursday 10/20 through Thurday 11/3.  That's 15 days, and over 150 feature length and short films playing on up to 6 screens simultaneously.  Are you as excited as I am?

I believe this will be my 10th consecutive year attending the festival.  Some of the highlights from last year included '127 Hours' followed by a Q&A with director Danny Boyle, 'Black Swan' followed by a Q&A with director Darren Aronofsky, and a retrospective screening of 'Unbreakable' followed by a lengthy Q&A with M. Night Shyamalan.  Really great stuff.

And from the looks of it this year is going to be great.  I've already seen some of the movies at Toronto and TriBeCa, so I can honestly say you won't want to miss the following:

  • 'The Descendants', a dramedy starring George Clooney and directed by Alexander Payne ('Sideways', 'Election', 'About Schmidt').  This one is likely to be an Oscar nominee this year.
  • 'The Artist', a black and white silent film about silent films.   That might not sound appealing, but it's great and is also likely to be an Oscar nominee.
  • 'Martha Marcy May Marlene', a tense drama about a woman who returns home after becoming part of a cult.  Also, an Oscar possibility.
  • 'Melancholia', an atmospheric, apocalyptic drama starring Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Kiefer Sutherland, and directed by the infamous and controversial Danish director Lars von Trier.
  • 'Jeff, Who Lives at Home' - an indie comedy starring Jason Segal, Ed Helms, and Judy Greer.
  • 'The Good Doctor' - a tense thriller starring Orlando Bloom, Rob Morrow, and J.K Simmons
  • 'The Swell Season' - A documentary for everyone who loved 'Once' and wanted to see what happens next.
  • 'Butter' - A comedy starring Jennifer Garner, Ty Burrell, Alicia Silverstone, and Olivia Wilde
  • 'Barton Fink' - A quirky Coen Brothers classic from 1991 starring John Turturro and John Goodman which is easily my favorite Coen film.

And other films I'm excited to see include :

So don't delay, you can still buy all access badges, 20-passes, and 6-passes at very reasonable prices.  (Trust me, the price of the all access badge would barely get you in the door at a festival like Toronto.  And here it gets you unlimited access to films for 15 days and a special line for VIP admittance.)  Or better yet, become a member of the Philadelphia Film Society and get passes and tickets to the festival plus year round benefits.  It's the best deal in town for a cinephile.  No joke.  I don't promote things lightly on this site.

Alrighty, I'll see you at the festival!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Toronto Film Festival

If you regularly check in here you may have noticed a fewer than average number of posts over the last three weeks.  Sorry about that.  But it's because I was away at the Toronto Film Festival conducting my continuing education, seeing 30 movies.  And I've been so worn out and busy since I just haven't had time to post about it.  (blah, blah, blah.)  Well, shame on me.  But now I've had some time to digest all 30 and here are some brief thoughts.  And pictures!  (Better late than never, right?):

Rampart - Grade: A
Woody Harrelson stars in this drama about a cop on a downward spiral.  We've seen similar characters to this before in 'The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans', 'Training Day', and TV's 'The Shield' but I think this one belongs on that short list of really powerful, memorable performances.  Harrelson has been one of my favorite actors of late, and this role confirms that feeling.  But I may be alone on this one because I haven't heard much buzz about it since and it still has no release date scheduled.

Moneyball - Grade: A
This film starring Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, and Philip Seymour Hoffman is old news already, having opened wide last Friday.  But most critics and audience agree, it's one of the best of the year.

The Descendants - Grade: A
Alexander Payne ('Sideways') directs and George Clooney stars as a man who must deal with the final days of his coma stricken wife and all of her descendants.  It's a really great film, and based on all the festivals it played at and all the buzz, I'd expect to be hearing a lot more about this one over the next five months.  Oh yeah, and I got to shake George Clooney's hand.  Who's jealous?  In reality, Clooney spent more time shaking hands with fans than I've ever seen, and then followed the film with a great Q&A.  Movie stars take note, this is how you do it.

The Ides of March - Grade: A
This film is directed by George Clooney and stars Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Paul Giamatti, and Philip Seymour Hoffman.  Do I even need to mention the plot to get you to want to see it?

The Artist - Grade: A
A black and white silent film about silent films.  Doesn't sound like your cup of tea?  Give it a try.  I always whine that we never get anything different.  Well, this one is very different.

Hysteria - Grade: A
A period comedy about the invention of the vibrator.  Yup, that's correct.  It stars Hugh Dancy, Rupert Everett, and Maggie Gyllenhaal.  And it's a total feel good film.  (Pun intended.)

Take Shelter - Grade: A-
Michael Shannon (Academy Award Nominee from 'Revolutionary Road') plays a disturbed man who's been having bad dreams about a terrible storm coming.  And as the dreams progress he becomes more and more obsessed with creating a shelter for his wife (played by the ubiquitous Jessica Chastain) and child.  This one's got a lot of atmosphere.

The Oranges - Grade: A-
A comedy starring Hugh Laurie, Oliver Platt,, Catherine Keener, Allison Janney, Leighton Meester, Adam Brody, and Alia Shawkat about two close families who live across the street from each other in Suburban New Jersey.  Just the cast alone makes this one worth seeing.

Melancholia - Grade: B+
This film from controversial and legendary Danish director Lars Von Trier, starring Kirsten Dunst, Kiefer Sutherland, and Charlotte Gainsbourg, has received so much buzz it's been on many a film buffs' highly anticipated films list.  Of course, a lot of that buzz came from Trier's tactless comments at Cannes, but the film itself is also worthy of buzz.  It's atmospheric, dark, and weird.  In other words, it's a film by Lars Von Trier.

Friends with Kids - Grade: B+
Twice this year we've seen what happens when friends decide to hook up with no strings attached.  Well, why not take it one step further and see what happens when friends (played by Adam Scott and Jennifer Westfeldt) decide to have a kid with no other strings attached.  What's next?  'Friends with Kids who have Sex with No Strings Attached'?  But I digress.  The supporting cast includes Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Megan Fox, and Edward Burns.

The Hunter - Grade: B+
Willem Dafoe plays a hunter hired to find the last Tasmanian tiger.  Sam Neill costars.  If Dafoe and Neill aren't enough, the location and cinematography are reason to see this film.

My Worst Nightmare - Grade: B+
Prolific French actress Isabelle Huppert stars in this French comedy about an overprivileged uptight married mother whose life intersect with a boorish jerk father.  French comedies are often better than American comedies and this one is a great example.

Intruders - Grade: B+
Clive Owen stars in this action/horror/thriller about a faceless creature that invades his family's home.  It's pretty dark and fairly exciting.

Page Eight - Grade: B+
The inimitable Bill Nighy stars (in a very Nighy-esque role) as British Intelligence who gets involved in a lot of cross-country political intrigue.  I'd describe it more but I don't think I followed it enough.  But yet I liked it and look forward to seeing it again, if only for the unbelievable cast including Rachel Weisz, Michael Gambon, and Ralph Fiennes.  Wow!  And Nighy also participated in one of the best and most fun Q&A's of the festival.  This guy knows how to be a movie star as well as an actor.

Jeff, Who Loves at Home - Grade: B+
An indie comedy by the Duplass Brothers ('The Puffy Chair', 'Baghead') starring Jason Segal, Ed Helms, and Judy Greer.  A film festival programmer's dream.

Butter - Grade: B
An offbeat comedy starring Jennifer Garner as a woman obsessed with winning her small town butter craving competition.  (To be fair, who wouldn't want to win that?!?)  Ty Burrell, Alicia Silverstone, Rob Corddry, Olivia Wilde, and Hugh Jackman co-star.

Dark Horse - Grade: B
There's two types of movie audiences:  Those who get director Todd Solondz ('Welcome to the Dollhouse', 'Happiness', 'Storytelling', 'Life During Wartime').  And those who don't.  I'm definitely in the former category.  I just like his work.  This one, starring Selma Blair, Jordan Gelbar, Justin Bartha, Christopher Walken, and Mia Farrow is no 'Happiness'.  But it ain't bad.

Take this Waltz - Grade: B-
Sarah Polley came to fame as a director when she deservingly received accolades for 'Away from Her' in 2006.  It amazed everyone how such a young girl could make such a muture movie about such a mature topic.  Well I'm sad to say this one makes me think that one was a fluke.  Not that this one, starring Seth Rogen, Michelle Williams, and Sarah Silverman is bad.  It's not.  It's ok.  But just not as good as the talent involved.  And sadly that falls on Polley.

Twixt - Grade: B-
This quirky, stylish, supernatural horror/comedy is directed by Francis Ford Coppola and stars Val Kilmer and Bruce Dern.  And based on that sentence it was one of my most anticipated films of the festival.  Unfortunately it didn't live up to my expectations.  It's not bad but it's not really good either.  But Val Kilmer's Q&A was amongst the best of the festival.  Really good guy.

Hick - Grade: B-
Chloe Moretz ('Kick Ass', 'Let Me In'), who has talent way beyond her years, stars as a hick girl on the road.  Blake Lively, Juliette Lewis, Rory Culkin, and Alec Baldwin all have supporting roles.  This is director Derick Martini's second feature, with his first being the much superior 'Lymelife'.  I really wish this one were as good.  But yet I want to see it again, so maybe it's better than I recall.

Extraterrestrial - Grade: C+
This Spanish comedy is kind of the definition of bait and switch.  The premise is basically, what would you do if you noticed a sky full of U.F.O.s?  But it really has very little to do with the extraterrestrials.  Perhaps my below average grade is based on expectations.  I should see it again.

From the Sky Down - Grade: C+
A documentary about U2!  And it's focused on the album 'Achtung Baby'!  This'll be fantastic!  Or so I thought.  It's actually kind of dull, similar to the Springsteen doc, 'The Promise' I caught at Toronto last year.  It doesn't really reveal much except the band is holding strong.  But the music's great.

Peace, Love & Misunderstanding - Grade: C+
Buttoned-up business woman Catherine Keener is getting a divorce from husband Kyle Machlachlan.  So she takes her kids to her estranged hippie mom, played by Jane Fonda, and they mend their long strained relationship as Fonda shows Keener how the other half lives.  It's an ok movie.  Nothing more.

Drive - Grade: C
Based on the cast, Ryan Gosling, Carey Mullugan, Albert Brooks, Bryan Cranston, and Ron Perlman, this was one of the films I most looked forward to.  But if you read my review, you know that, unlike popular opinion, I was grossly disappointed by the film.  Brooks, Cranston, and Perlman are great.  But their roles are small and the rest of the film is terrible.

Killer Joe - Grade: C-
I really looked forward to this film because it was directed by William Friedkin, most famous for 'The French Connection' and 'The Exorcist' and for his uncensored commentary about these classic films.  I knew he'd make for a great Q&A, and by and large he did.  But the film, starring Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, and Thomas Haden Church didn't work for me.  It was too gratuitously violent and didn't have enough substance.  But that McConaughey's pretty good.  I think he's gonna be a star one day.

Trespass - Grade: C-
A Joel Schumacher action flick starring Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman as rich folks who get taken hostage in their home.  Wait a second, that's not the kind of movie that plays at a film festival?!?!  Shouldn't that be released wide in theaters in the summer?  Yes, if it were any good.  Unfortunately this one's a bore and that explains why it's scheduled to be released on DVD on 11/1, just 17 days after it makes a brief appearance in theaters.  Don't waste your cash.  This one's a rental, at best.

The Day - Grade: C-
This was my one and only midnight film.  I wanted to see it because fantasy-geek god Dominic Monaghan ('Lord of the Rings', 'Lost', and 'Flashforward') is in it.  But I just can't stay awake at film festivals for midnight movies.  I fell asleep early on.  So this grade isn't really fair, but I got a flavor and it just smells like a C-.  Dominic Monaghan still rules though!

Moth Diaries - Grade: D
A teen vampire flick.  I'm long over teen vampire flicks, but I took a chance.  And lost.

W.E. - Grade: D
Madonna, Madonna, Madonna.  I'm so angry with you.  I didn't even want to see your film juxtaposing two romances, one period and one contemporary.  But I knew it was already purchased for distribution and will be released in December, so it couldn't be too bad, right?.  And I knew if you showed up for the Q&A you'd be anything but boring.  Well, you didn't show up, and your film was terribly boring.  Clearly Guy Ritchie got the directing talent when you split up.

Damsels in Distress - Grade: D-
Whit Stillman, Whit Stillman, Whit Stillman.  I'm so angry with myself.  I thought I liked you.  I remember in the 90's being intrigued by your unique style and voice in films like 'Metropolitan', 'Barcelona', and 'The Last Days of Disco'.  Well I think I was just intrigued by something I hadn't seen before.  But I just remembered, they're really not very good.  And this is the worst of the four.  Shame on me for wearing rose colored glasses.


And now for the pics:

The Descendants - Director Alexander Payne, Actors George Clooney and Amara Miller

Drive - Actors Ryan Gosling, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks

Drive - Director Nicolas Winding Refn, Actors Ryan Gosling and Bryan Cranston

Dark Horse - Actors Selma Blair and Jordan Gelber, Director Todd Solondz

Take This Waltz - Actors Luke Kirby, Sarah Silverman, Seth Rogen

Take This Waltz - Director Sarah Polley, Actors Luke Kirby and Sarah Silverman

Page Eight - actor Bill Nighy

The Hunter - Actors Sam Neill and Willem Dafoe

Twixt - TIFF moderator, cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr, Actor Val Kilmer

The Artist - Director Michel Hazanavicius, Actor Jean Dujardin

Take Shelter - Actor Jessica Chastain

Peace, Love and Misunderstanding - Director Bruce Beresford, actors Marissa O'Donnell, Kyle Maclachlan, Nat Wolff 

My Worst Nightmare - Actor Isabelle Huppert

Killer Joe - Director William Friedkin

TIFF Midnight Madness programmer Colin Geddes

Damsels in Distress - Actors Carrie MacLemore, Greta Gerwig, Adam Brody, Analeigh Tipton

Damsels in Distress - Director Whit Stillman, actors Carrie MacLemore, Greta Gerwig

Friday, September 23, 2011

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day - FOX 35 Orlando 9/23/11


Check out my appearance from this morning where I gave my thoughts on 'Moneyball', 'Killer Elite', and 'Bridesmaids'.

http://www.myfoxorlando.com/dpp/entertainment/movies/092311-flieder-flicks-friday

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:

(Movies released this week are in green)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II           Grade: A+

Moneyball                           Grade: A

Midnight in Paris                Grade: A

Crazy Stupid Love               Grade: A-

Contagion                            Grade: A-

The Help                              Grade: A-

The Guard                           Grade: A-

Tree of Life                          Grade: B+

One Day                              Grade: B+

The Debt                             Grade: B+

Sarah's Key                         Grade: B+

Point Blank                        Grade: B+

Rise of the Planet of the Apes     Grade: B

Our Idiot Brother             Grade: B

Cowboys and Aliens          Grade: B-

Spy Kids 4D: All the Time in the World    Grade: B-

Drive                                 Grade: C

Don't be Afraid of the Dark      Grade: C-

Killer Elite                         Grade: C-

Warrior                             Grade: C-

Colombiana                      Grade: D

Moneyball


Based on a true story, Brad Pitt stars as Billy Beane, a real life former baseball player and former general manager of the Oakland A's who in dire times attempted to change the way baseball teams were constructed.  I don't want to say any more than that (even though I'd really like to), because this is one of the best films of the year so far and a lot of the joy is in watching it unfold.  I will say that it's hard to believe it actually happened, and even harder to believe it's taken Hollywood a decade before they finally made a movie out of it!  But good things come to those who wait, because this film is done perfectly from top to bottom.  I've seen it twice in the past two weeks and it's even more enjoyable the second time when you can focus on performance.  And to anyone who doesn't think Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, or Philip Seymour Hoffman are all top notch actors, see this film and tell me otherwise.  Oh, and don't worry if you're not a baseball fan.  This one's extremely entertaining regardless, and perhaps even Oscar worthy.  At the end of its 133 minute running time, you still want more.  And I don't say that very often.  It's a home run.

Grade: A

Killer Elite


Wow I forgot to check my watch, is it already time for another lame Jason Statham action movie?  Apparantly so.  Based on a true story, Statham stars as a 'killer elite' member of Britain's Elite Special Air Service who has to carry out a series of assassinations in order to rescue his captured ex-partner, played by Robert DeNiro.  Clive Owen also stars as the antagonist, a leader of a secret military society.  This all sounds a lot better than it is.  It's really just a lot of shooting, punching, and exploding.

I just don't get how a film like this attracts talent like DeNiro, Statham, and Owen.  They're all too good for it.  Although, Statham is starting to make me rethink that.  Is it just me or did he go from a bankable, charismatic action star (like Bruce Willis used to be) to a guy who just shoots, punches, and jumps out of windows?  He really needs to get back to his roots, when he exploded out of nowhere in Guy Ritchie's films 'Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels' and 'Snatch'.  Those films showed his personality as much as his physical prowess.  I understand that action is his bread and butter but occasionally he should go heavier on the crime drama and less on the action like he did remarkably in 'The Bank Job'.  Now that's a movie!  But this one is a waste of time.  And I'm not looking forward to the upcoming 'Safe', 'The Expendables 2', 'Crank 3', or 'The Transporter 12' or whatever number it's up to.  Are you?  (And don't just say yes because you're afraid of him.)

Grade: C-

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Drive


Early reviews are overwhelmingly positive for this one on Rotten Tomatoes with a 92% fresh rating as of today.  Well, don't fall for it.  It's just grindhouse cheese.

Ryan Gosling stars as a stunt car driver who also moonlights as a mechanic and dabbles as a criminal getaway driver.  And man, can that guy 'drive'!  And in case you weren't sure about that, the overly lengthy opening sequence will drill that point home.  Of course, what he makes up for in driving ability, he severely lacks in conversational skills.  And that intentional lack of charisma makes the connection that develops between him and Carey Mulligan just seem phony.  There's absolutely no chemistry.  But that's just the beginning of my issues with this movie.  Overall I was grossly disappointed, with the key word being 'gross' due to the gratuitous grindhouse-like over-the-top violence, which turns me off big time.  I also didn't care for the cheesy 80's style and music that director Nicolas Winding Refn seems to revel in.  (Even the font of the title on the poster irks me a bit.)  It just seems to me like Refn was trying to make a good bad movie.  But I don't like good bad movies.  I like good movies.

Nevertheless, there are a few things to like here.  Albert Brooks is always a joy to watch, and particularly here as the heavy, a role which is unlike any I've seen him do before.  Ron Perlman, who's also always a blast, gives a fun over-the-top performance.  And Bryan Cranston showcases what a true actor he is in a part completely different than he's done in either 'Breaking Bad' or 'Malcolm in the Middle'.  Those three are top notch.  I only wish this film were nearly as good as their participation.  And for them, it pains me to do this, but...

Grade: C

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bellflower

Please note that 'Bellflower' opens this weekend at the Ritz Theaters in Philadelphia. I wasn't a fan but it's played at many major festivals this year so clearly it has a following. If you like gritty films about the deplorable behavior of the youth of America look into it and check it out at your own discretion.

I will publish a more proper review for this film and many more when I return from the Toronto Film Festival. Stay tuned...

Friday, September 9, 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:
(Movies released this week are in green)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II           Grade: A+

Midnight in Paris                Grade: A

Crazy Stupid Love               Grade: A-

Contagion                            Grade: A-

The Help                              Grade: A-

The Guard                           Grade: A-

Tree of Life                          Grade: B+

Terri                                    Grade: B+

Sarah's Key                         Grade: B+

One Day                              Grade: B+

The Debt                             Frade: B+

Point Blank                        Grade: B+

Rise of the Planet of the Apes     Grade: B

Our Idiot Brother             Grade: B

The Change-Up                   Grade: B-

Cowboys and Aliens          Grade: B-

Spy Kids 4D: All the Time in the World    Grade: B-

30 Minutes or Less            Grade: C+

Horrible Bosses                 Grade: C+

A Good Old Fashioned Orgy    Grade: C+

Apollo 18                          Grade: C+

Brighton Rock                  Grade: C+

Cars 2                                 Grade: C-

Captain America: The First Avenger    Grade: C-

Don't be Afraid of the Dark      Grade: C-

Fright Night                      Grade: C-

Warrior                             Grade: C-

Colombiana                      Grade: D

Seven Days in Utopia        Grade: D

Final Destination 5            Grade: D-

Contagion


What would happen if a new deadly virus with no known cure arose out of nowhere and was extremely contagious?

We've seen it before in 'Outbreak'.  And we've also seen the impact this kind of apocalyptic disaster can have on mankind, resulting in man's inhumanity to man, in great films like 'The Road', '28 Days Later' and countless others.  So there's really no new ground here.  But nevertheless, this film is gripping.  To me, this is the scariest film of the year, easily trumping so-called 'horror' films like 'Fright Night', 'Final Destination 5', and 'Don't Be Afraid of the Dark'.  Unlike those massive disappointments, this movie is truly scary because it's so real.  This could actually happen.  Easily.  So, despite the fact that there's nothing really new here, and despite the fact that you can probably see where the film is going, the quality of the powerhouse cast, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, and John Hawkes, and the honesty with which it is told definitely make this Steven Soderbergh film worth seeing. 

So back to my question.  What would happen in this situation?  I believe this film depicts exactly what would happen.  And it's terrifying.  I need to go wash my hands.

Grade: A-

Warrior


It seems like just about every week lately there's a movie in wide theatrical release that clearly doesn't deserve the hefty cost of theatrical distribution and marketing.  'Columbiana' certainly fell in that category, as a film that should have gone straight to DVD.  And without question 'Seven Days in Utopia' belongs on the Hallmark Channel.  And this film has late night cable written all over it.  The only thing missing is Eric Roberts or Robert Davi.

Tom Hardy plays a teacher and family man who's about to lose his house to foreclosure.  But fortunately he has an aptitude for ultimate fighting.  Joel Edgerton plays his estranged brother, formerly of the military, who also has a knack for beating people's brains in.  And Nick Nolte plays their estranged former alcoholic father, who wasn't a very good dad but at least can train his son like nobody else in this sport of brutality.  Oh joy, what a great family bonding moment.

OK, I will admit that I'm not a UFC guy.  Or a boxing guy.  Or a martial arts guy.  I just don't get the art of two guys beating the crap out of each other in any format, and particularly not in this even less civilized version of boxing.  But that aside, I'm a sucker for a good movie on any topic, and 'Rocky', 'The Karate Kid', and 'Cinderella Man' are some of my favorites.  But this?  This is C-grade stuff.  Hardy and Edgerton are on par with the aforementioned Roberts and Davi, and Nolte is no Burgess Meredith.  And frankly, anyone who doesn't see exactly where this film is going has either never seen a movie before, or doesn't deserve to see one again.  And at two hours and 19 minutes, it's just too freaking long.  I wanted to tap out at the 60 minute mark.

Grade: C-

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Apollo 18


According to the history books, there have only been 17 Apollo missions to the moon, until 1972 when the program was put to an end.  But what if that isn't true?  What if there was a secret 18th mission we didn't know about and a reason why we've never been back?  And what if footage from it were just discovered?  That's a pretty exciting premise!

I must admit, I'm a sucker for a good found footage film.  But what was once a novel idea is now getting overdone.  I've thoroughly enjoyed 'The Blair Witch Project', 'Cloverfield', 'Paranormal Activity', '[REC]', 'The Last Exorcism', and most recently 'Grave Encounters' and 'Troll Hunters' at TriBeCa and Philadelphia Cinefest respectively.  And this one certainly had the potential to join that list.  But unfortunately, it really doesn't bring anything new to the table, and the vast majority of it just wasn't very compelling.  You know exactly where it's going to go.  I'm not sure what it was missing, but it really needs something more.  It's not bad, but it's just not worth going out of your way to see.

Grade: C+