Review: RED

Retired, extremely dangerous.

We've seen this far too many times when a film has a stellar cast and doesn't fully deliver.

Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is retired CIA. He lives a pretty lonely life and spends a great deal of his time calling and hitting on Sarah. (Mary-Louise Parker) Frank knows he's being followed and targeted for what he knows, so he kidnaps Sarah (he's protecting her) and resembles his old team, Marvin, (John Malkovich) Susan, (Helen Mirren), and Joe (Morgan Freeman) to get to the bottom of this.

I never got around to reading the graphic novels that this film was based on, so I really can't offer a comparison for that. The cast is fantastic, it also includes Karl Urban and Brian Cox. The standout performance is very much Malkovich's, he's hilarious. The film felt really lackluster in comparison to the wonderful cast. I was expecting a bit more. The editing in the film is very different and choppy and actually made the film look a little sloppy at points. It's far from a bad film, I just left wanting more than I actually got.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: C+

Memorable Quote: "Can I kill her now?" - Marvin (John Malkovich)

Review: Never Let Me Go

Sometimes leaving questions unanswered is a good thing.

'Hard Candy' is a film that comes to mind. That movie asked more questions than answered them, and it worked for the tone. 'Never Let Me Go' feels the same way. Hours after seeing it, I found myself still thinking about it. Still asking myself "why this?" or "why that?" It didn't matter. This film is so powerful even without the added curiosity.

This is the story of Kathy, (Carey Mulligan) Tommy, (Andrew Garfield) and Ruth. (Keira Knightley) We first meet them as children at a very peculiar boarding school. Kathy is narrating, she's now 28 years old. She tells us how she always loved Tommy, and how Ruth got in the way. We also learn the ominous fate these children await. They are born for the sole purpose of donating their vital organs. The school they went to keeps them healthy, then sends them off to cottages when they turn 18. There, they wait for their first notice to donate, or they can work as "carers" and help other donors until they are called upon.

The biggest question I had was why no one ran away, but that's what makes this film so interesting and so intense. These people clearly except their short lives and don't question anything beyond that. They understand their purpose and while a slight glimpse of hope sidetracks them briefly, they eventually come to terms with their heartbreaking demise. Great acting all around by Mulligan, Garfield and Knightley. The children that played their younger versions all looked eerily similar to them and did a fantastic job as well. The entire film is beautiful, right down to the music and cinematogrpahy. Everything worked for it.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A

Memorable Quote: "He didn't understand what you were doing, but I did." - Ruth (Keira Knightley)

Review: Jackass 3D

"We took the most expensive cameras they make and shot the dumbest sh*t with them."

Anyone who reads this blog (or my twitter account) knows how much I hate 3D movies. I think it works great for animated films. Coraline was the best movie I've ever seen in 3D, it worked for that film wonderfully. I don't think 3D is the future of film. I don't think it adds anything to movies like say 'Clash of the Titans' or 'Alice in Wonderland.' I think that studios just want to jump on the bandwagon that Avatar created and jack up their ticket prices. I don't think 3D will be around for regular films much longer. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was originally going to be shot in 3D, they've abandoned that idea (thank you) due to time restraints. I'm willing to bet the new Chronicles of Narnia movie doesn't gross nearly as much as they are expecting because of 3D. So why did I go see Jackass in 3D? Because it's mocking it, and that's hilarious.

Jackass didn't break any grounds with 3D. They used it to gross us out more than they used it to make a stunt look cooler. I thought the use of slow motion shots worked far better than the 3D. I've always dug Jackass for the shear fact that's it's downright funny. You have to respect stuntmen for the pain they put themselves through, and we've grown to know Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, Steve-O, Ryan Dunn and the rest of the gang over the years. They obviously have a good time making these movies, and I have a good time watching them. It's hilarious, gross, and wait for it..even touching at times. When I say touching I'm referring towards the end credits where they show us pictures of the crew as kids, and then show them with their own children. Knoxville's daughter Madison even shows up to punch someone in the face. I thought that was a good way to end a film as funny as that one was. To show us that these guys may be crazy, they're still real people with families just like the rest of us.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote Stunt: Rocky. That never got old.

DVD Review: How To Train Your Dragon

Did Dreamworks finally one-up Pixar?

It's no secret that Dreamworks always seems to fall short compared to Pixar. I think one of College Humor's "Honest Oscar Posters" summed it up best last year:

How To Train Your Dragon is a refreshing change. It follows a young Viking, Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) who is supposed to be training to fight dragons. Instead he finds himself caring for one that is injured, and realizes everything the Vikings ever knew about dragons was wrong.

It's a very predictable plot, but most kids movies are. Dragons manages to be very endearing and teach a valuable lesson throughout.  There's actually lots of lessons piled into this film. Learning to except who you are, and not be who someone else wants you to be. Not judging a book by it's cover. Seeing something from another's point of view, etc. The animation is good, though not as ground breaking as say, WALL-E for instance. It was a very enjoyable film nonetheless, and probably Dreamwork's best since Shrek 2.

Voice actors include Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kristen Wiig,and David Tenant.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A-
Memorable Quote: "Thanks for the breast-hat." - Hiccup (Jay Baruchel)

--EDIT-- After thinking about it more, I raised my grade from B+ to A-. Also, l thought I should include the following: When I wrote my review for Toy Story 3, I wrote "See you at the Oscars, Dreamworks." After viewing this, I should definitely change that to "See you at the Oscars, Pixar!"

Review: Get Low

All hail Robert Duvall's awesome beard.

Felix Bush (Robert Duvall) wants to "Get Low." Meaning he's soon expecting to be underground, but until then he wants to plan his own funeral and attend it. With the help of an Undertaker, Frank Quinn (Bill Murray) and his assistant Buddy. (Lucas Black) Felix wants to invite everyone he knows to tell a story about him. This isn't easy since Felix is a hermit who's best known for keeping his rifle handy at all times. One of the people that turns up is Mattie, (Sissy Spacek) a woman he used to adore. She's also one of the few people to say something nice about him. When we get to the funeral "party", we hear stories of secrets that are told and defended. Feelings that get hurt, or redeemed. Probably the most influential of all these speeches is the one that Felix gives himself.

Get Low had every chance to be a boring drama that dragged it's feet through the dust. Yet, it's sprinkled with plenty of dry humor that helps it move along. Whenever it started to get slow, someone (mostly Bill Murray) made us laugh. Duvall and Murray are barely recognizable in their rolls and they do a fantastic job. Plenty of people are talking about Duvall being a strong candidate for the Oscars, and I agree. However, it's Murray that really stole the show for me. He was perfect in his roll, but then again, when isn't he?

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "I want a funeral party, and I want to be there." - Felix Bush (Robert Duvall)

Review: Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps

When the supporting cast steals the star's thunder.

To be honest, I wasn't a huge fan of the original Wall Street film. It was well made and well acted, but just not the type of thing that would interest me. Which is why I was a little surprised to find myself anticipating it's long awaited sequel.

Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) is released from prison is 2001 and is welcomed by nobody. 7 years later he's an author and catches the eye of Jake (Shia LaBeouf) a top broker at Zabel Investments and a protege of the owner; Lewis Zabel. (Frank Langella) Jake is also dating Gekko's estranged daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan) With Zabel's firm going under, and business man Bretton James (Josh Brolin) getting in the way. Jake, trying to "avenge" Zabel if you will, enlists the help of Gekko to bring down James. Not without some interesting trades of course. When Winnie eventually finds out about all of this, she's not a fan to say the least.

After watching this film I realized that I still really didn't care about Gordon Gekko, it was the supporting cast that drew me in. Brolin has been proving time and time again that he's a scene stealer every time he's on screen. He's no different here. Frank Langella, though his part is small is very interesting as well. I really enjoyed Winnie and Jake's story and the fact that Shia LaBeouf and Carey Mulligan are dating in real life really helps their characters here. You can tell they have instant chemistry and their fights are believable. Plus having watched LeBeof grow up from his "Even Stevens" days is always a joy. A lot of people rag on him, I've always found him very interesting.

I liked the film for the reasons the fans of the original did not. I enjoyed the supporting player's stories more than the main one. Douglas is still great as Gekko, don't get me wrong. I just find Brolin, LaBeouf and Mulligan more interesting.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "Every thief has an excuse.." - Jake Moore (Shia LeBeouf)

Review: The Social Network

"Insert Facebook pun here."

Before I saw 'The Social Network' I hadn't given a lot of thought into how websites like MySpace, Live Journal, and Facebook came about. Now I wonder if anyone else's story was as interesting as Mark Zuckerberg's

Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) gets dumped by his girlfriend for basically being an asshole. He copes with this by simultaneously dishing out insults on his blog and creating a site called Facemash, where users can rate the appearances of their fellow classmates. He crashes Harvord's system and gets noticed. After an interesting proposal from the Winklevoss (Armie Hammer) aka Winklevii to help them run a social networking site strictly for Harvard students. He enlists the help of his wealthy best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) to start a social networking experience called The Facebook. We watch these students create the phenom that is now known simply as "Facebook", and subsequently, Zuckerberg screwing over his best friend.

The best part of this movie was the rapid-fire dialogue for sure. It was very quick witted. Eisenberg gave an excellent performance as Facebook's founder. He literally made me hate him during the entire movie. Sometimes it's hard when a movie centers around an antagonist. The story (and the way it was told) are so interesting that you just can't believe someone would sell out their friend so fast. That also helped us sympathize for Andrew Garfield's character, who in my opinion gave the best performance of the film. Justin Timberlake makes an appearance as Napster founder Sean Parker. They look nothing alike by the way, but he also gave a surprisingly great performance. As much as I wish he'd go back to singing, I can't fault him for his acting. He's good. Besides a few supporting players that felt extremely out of place, (looking at you, Brenda Song) the only issued I had with the film was the score. Trent Reznor's music seemed a tad harsh for a film of this tone. Just when I thought parts were fitting, I was welcomed with a loud, out of place symbol. I was surprised by this, I thought I'd love it.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A-

Memorable Quote: "I can't stare at the loop of Niagara Falls, which by the way has nothing to do with the Caribbean any longer." - Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg)

Review: The Town

Who wants to move to Charlestown?

With 'Gone Baby Gone', Ben Affleck proved that he could handle being in the director's chair. His latest flick, 'The Town' proves that he belongs in it.

Doug (Been Affleck) is a long time thief who wants to turn his life around after meeting Claire, (Rebecca Hall) a bank manager that was an impromptu hostage in his last job. His best friend James (Jeremy Renner) doesn't approve of him being so close to someone that could possibly identify them.

I thought this film would be more about the relationship between Doug and Claire, but it's really about the relationship between Doug and James. They've been best friends their whole lives. James did time at one point, James's family took Doug in after his dad (Chris Cooper) is thrown in jail. It's all a test of loyalty. I'm normally not one that enjoys heist movies, but the flow to this one was perfect. It was intense and had some almost claustrophobic car chases. It was sprinkled with a bit of humor here and there. The ending is what I enjoyed the most, because it was different and unexpected.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B+

Memorable Quote: "We gotta do something. I can't tell you what it is, you can never ask me about later. We're gonna hurt some people." .... "Who's car are we taking?" - Doug and James (Ben Afflect and Jeremy Renner)