DVD Review: Carnage

You're blowing this out of proportion.

It all starts with two elementary school boys. One hits the other one in the face with a stick, and thus begins the grueling visit between both sets of parents. Penelope and Michael Longstreet (Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly) invite Nancy and Alan Cowan (Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz) over to discuss this altercation between their sons. Of course it turns into a slight scuffle of their own.

It's hard to do a movie where the characters remain in the same room for the entire time. The dialogue really has to be strong to keep it interesting, because the change of scenery sure isn't. Luckily director Roman Polanski accomplishes this with ease. Reilly and Winslet were the shining stars in this film for me, they had the best lines. I can also say this is the first film of Jodie Foster's that I've liked in a long time. Christoph Waltz, as always is good at playing a complete dick. All of the parts suited these actors well and in my opinion, the ending was perfect for the film.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "My wife dressed me up as a Liberal!" - Michael (John C. Reilly)

Indie Gems: In Her Skin

Can we be best friends?

In Her Skin follows Mr. and Mrs. Barber (Guy Pearce and Miranda Otto) as they search for their missing 15 year old daughter, Rachel. (Kate Bell) The police think she's a runaway, she fits the profile. She had a fight with her mother the night before, key items are missing from her house, the only clue they had was that she was going to a "job" that was going to pay her a lot of movie. Eventually the focus shifts to their old neighbor, 19 year old Caroline, (Ruth Bradley) a deeply disturbed, insecure girl who seems to be fascinated by Rachel. She craves the attention of her father (Sam Neil) and he barely shows her anything. Caroline thinks killing beautiful, perfect Rachel will solve all of her problems.

If you ignore the bad editing, this film is very interesting and even at times, beautiful. This was based on a true story, and the film doesn't hide who the killer really is. I have to say the performances were wonderful, particularly Bradley's who goes from hot to cold in a matter of seconds. It's obvious Caroline had a lot of mental issues that either weren't addressed properly or not at all. Judging from the film she probably should've been in an institution getting better. Not that it's an excuse for what happened. Rachel's death scene was one of the most horridly realistic things I've seen in awhile. It was heartbreaking. Obviously I'm not from Australia, and I don't know how their justice system works, but it's also surprising to learn that Caroline only got 20 years in prison for premeditated murder. She'll be out next year.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B+

Memorable Quote: "I bet your parents don't know you as well as they think you do." - Caroline (Ruth Bradley)

Review: The Hunger Games

May the odds be ever in your favor.

Watching everyone geek out over the Hunger Games really made me realize how sad I am that Harry Potter is over with. I loved the excitement of the next book or film coming out and while I've never read The Hunger Games, I definitely will after seeing this film.

Set in the future, The Capitol rules over 12th districts throughout the country of Panem. Each year a district offers up one male and one female "tribute" to fight to the death in the annual Hunger Games. When 16 year old Katniss Everdeen's(Jennifer Lawrence) precious 12 year old sister Primrose gets called upon to enter the games, she bravely volunteers herself instead. Her fellow district 12 tribute is Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a strong by shy boy who harbors a crush on Katniss. They're taken to the capitol in a style of luxury, but they don't know that they are about to change the Games forever.

I remember when the casting for this film was first announced, a lot of people freaked out about Lawrence playing a 16 year old. They said she was too old, they lobbied for the likes of Saoirse Ronan or Hailee Steinfeld instead. While I didn't read the book, I thought Lawrence was perfect. Katniss is strong, brave, and confused. She's a warrior when she has to be, yet she still has simple teenage problems like deciding which boy she likes best between Peeta and hunting partner Gale. (Liam Hemsworth) I loved how flamboyant the Capitol felt compared to the rest of the districts, and man did I tear up during a particular scene in the middle of the film.  The film felt congested, but most book to movies do. The ending left me with more questions than answers, but that's what the books are for. I will be checking those out shortly.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A-

Memorable Quote: "Maybe you should throw the sword." - Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence)

Indie Gems: The Pianist

It's almost hard to remember that there were other people in this movie.

The Pianist follows a Polish Jew, Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrian Brody) watches his family get rounded up to go to the camps during WWII. He escapes with the help of a guard and has to survive by working/hiding in the now nearly deserted Warsaw ghetto.

When I say it's hard to remember that other people were in this, it's because Brody carries the film. Fucking carries it. This movie could've crashed and burned without the brilliance of Brody's portrayal. (and the directing of Roman Polanski) Brody is on screen probably 99% of the film, one scene that stands out the most to me is when he's walking home after seeing his family being forced on the trains. He's crying hysterically, and just walking. Walking to nowhere. That is powerful.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A

Memorable Quote: "I was cold."

DVD Review: The Company Men

Hard Times.

Corporate downsizing is effecting the lives of Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) and Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper) The man in charge, Geme McClary (Tommy Lee Jones) has to watch as his close friends and co-workers are let go. Bobby is hit hard, he loses his house, his car, his lifestyle. Phil, who worked so hard to get to where he is finds himself at the bottom competing to get at the top again. We watch these men as they try to adjust.

The directing and writing were fine, but this movie was a task to get through. I was expecting a drama that really showcased how hard it is to lose a job. It is difficult, and it's easy to blow through your savings when you all of a sudden don't have a steady income. But it was really hard to relate to characters who lose things like their mansions, their porches, their golf memberships. I'm not saying that those people didn't bust their asses to get where they were, no doubt they did. I just compare this to a film like Up In The Air, which was superb by the way. They really made you feel for the characters that were losing their jobs. I feel like this film has trouble connecting with an audience. (me, at least) It's a shame when you have a cast like Affleck, Jones and Cooper.

Recommended: No

Grade: D

Memorable Quote: "We're not selling the house." - Bobby (Ben Affleck)

Review: 21 Jump Street

You are some Justin Beiber and Miley Cyrus lookin' mother fuckers.

The 21 Jump Street remake wasn't intended to be a comedy until star/writer Jonah Hill came on board. When I first read about this film being rebooted with Hill and Channing Tatum of all people I immediately was against it. Soon the trailers and TV spots slowly started to win me over. Finally I read that Johnny Depp had a cameo and I was in.

Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) were enemies in high school. They join the police force after they graduate and book smart Schmidt and psychically fit Jenko realize they need each other and soon become best friends. After they graduate from the academy, they soon end up on an undercover project as punishment for not reading the Miranda Rights to a man they arrested. They have to go undercover as high schoolers to bust the dealer and supplier of a new drug on the market that's making it's way through the school. Seven years is a long time, and high school is completely different from what the two remember.

Besides the fact that Dave Franco and Brie Larson don't look anything like high schoolers, 21 Jump Street was hilarious. The first half of the film I found myself laughing harder than I have at anything in a long time. The 2nd half drags a bit and becomes terribly predictable, but thankfully an amusing 3rd act brings it back up to speed. Tatum should stick to raunchy comedy, he's much better suited for this than drama. Academy Award Nominee Jonah Hill once again proves why he's one of the go to guys for comedy these days. Normally I would say he's playing the same character over and over, but Moneyball kind of defeats my argument. The movie set totally set up for a sequel, and judging by how it's currently doing at the box office, I can see it in it's future. However I don't know if they'll be able to top the scene of Schmidt and Jenko reeking havoc around the school while they are completely tripping balls.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B+

Memorable Quote: "Fuck science!" - Jenko (Channing Tatum)

Indie Gems: Everything Is Illuminated

Sammy Davis Jr. Jr.

Jonathon (Elijah Wood) travels to Ukraine in research his grandfather's past. He hires a man, Alex (Eugene Hutz) and his grandfather (Boris Leskin) to help him navigate the country and search for a woman that helped his grandfather during the Holocaust.

Elijah Wood needed a film to remind everyone that he's more than just Frodo and this is it. Wood's character is calm and collected (literally, the guy collects everything) and the film shows his range. The scene stealer however is Eugene Hutz who plays Alex with so much energy. The three main characters balance the movie well. Jonathon's passions, Alex's eccentric actions, Grandfather's heart, and of course their dog, Sammy Davis Jr. Jr.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "Many girls want to be carnal with me... because I'm such a premium dancer!"

DVD Review: Like Crazy

I love you. I want you. I need you.

Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and British exchange student Anna (Felicity Jones) meet in college in California. They fall madly in love, so much that Anna ends up violating the terms of her student visa and gets herself banned from the U.S when she returns to England to visit. Jacob has a great business in LA building furniture that he doesn't want to give up, so they are forced into a long distance relationship. Over the years Jacob begins seeing Sam (Jennifer Lawrence) and Anna dates Simon (Charlie Bewley) but they still can't shake each other, and while their lives are so different now, they still try to find a way to be together.

What I liked best about this film was how invested we get in the characters. Of course at the beginning we want them to stay together and be in love, but as they grow older, get great jobs and meet other people, we want them to just be at peace and live their lives. The ending is symbolic and leaves more questions than answers. Performances were great all around, I found myself really drawn to Jennifer Lawrence's character and my heart ached for her. Its just more proof that life isn't always fair.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "It's not fair to you to be with someone that isn't fully committed." - Jacob (Anton Yelchin)

Indie Gems: Sunshine Cleaning

Life's a messy business.
Cash strapped Rose (Amy Adams) finds herself in a bind when her young son gets kicked out of school. In order to afford tuition to a private school, Rose and her slacker sister Norah (Emily Blunt) start a crime scene clean up business to earn extra cash.

This is a movie that I've been putting off for a long time, but I'm really glad I finally sat down and watched it. I loved the cast, Amy and Emily are both funny and interesting leads. Small supporting roles by Alan Arkin and Steve Zahn are a nice touch, the only performance I had an issue with was Jason Spevack, who played Rose's young song. I found him to be incredibly annoying. If so many scenes of his weren't tied to Arkin's, I'd say the film would've been better off without him.

Sunshine cleaning may be predictable at parts, but it's still a sweet little film with a talented cast.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "We come into these people's lives, and we help." - Rose (Amy Adams)

DVD Review: The Guard

Odd couple.

Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) is a peculiar Irish cop with an unconventional way of handling his cases. He is put to task when he must team up with an American FBI agent, Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) to solve a murder and break up a massive drug ring.

I loved how Gleeson and Cheadle played off of each other. Sure this may have been a typical buddy cop formula but they made it special and fun. It helps that Ireland is such a beautiful country to look at. I loved the scenery. This film first came to my attention when Gleeson was nominated for a Golden Globe for his role. Deserving he was, I'm kind of disappointed I hadn't heard of it until then. My only gripe is the ending, not that there was anything wrong with it, I had just hoped for something different.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A

Memorable Quote: "You don't know people speak Gaelic in Ireland and I'M the idoit?" - Gerry Boyle (Brenden Gleeson)

Indie Gems: The Believer

Know your enemy.

Anyone who thinks Ryan Gosling's talent came out of nowhere is sorely mistaken. This 2001 Sundance hit proves that he always had that talent, even at a young age.

Danny (Gosling) is an anti-Semitic man who's world views catch the eyes of a powerful group. The big secret is Danny is actually Jewish, and he's been fighting with his religion and self-loathing for years.

When I first started watching this film, I was afraid it would remind me too much of American History X and not be able to stand on it's own. While there were some comparisons, The Believer definitely delivered on a different level. While I say AHX is a better film, Believer really captures the conflict that Danny is having as his hides his true identity from his new group of friends. It was different for me to watch Gosling be a complete asshole at the beginning of the film, I enjoyed that change of pace. Gosling has range, and while I love watching all of his newer projects, it's nice to take a step back and look at where he came from.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "How can you say all this when you, yourself are Jewish?" - Guy Danielson (A.D Miles)