Blog Archives

Carnage

Sometimes, I’ll watch a movie and read the reviews that critics have given it, then think I watched a different movie. Carnage is like that. I didn’t think anything could beat Your Highness for the worst movie of 2011 until I saw this. I’m sure on paper this movie sounded like a good idea. You have a talented director who has made excellent movies before. You literally have a cast of nothing but talented actors and actresses. How can you have Roman Polanski directing Chris Waltz, Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly and Kate Winslet yet, the best you can up with is the most boring movie I have seen all year?

Read the rest of this entry

Genre Spotlight (Secret Santa): Super High Me

Most discussion of documentaries, like that of a historical/period biopic, seems centered more around the subject matter than the movies themselves. A lot of documentary filmmakers have gotten away with building entire careers on this fact – one in particular (whose name I won’t mention) has managed to create and popularize his own subgenre of shrill, “ambush”-style comedy-documentary, which has dominated the industry for over two decades now, based on the fact that people only discuss him in terms of the ideas he sets forth, not on the quality of movie he actually makes (and don’t even get me started on what I think of him as a human being). Me, I enjoy a good documentary as much as the next guy, but much prefer the interview-only or fly on the wall types to the ones with lots of voiceovers, Powerpoints, and “wacky” infographics, all of which I find a bit obvious, reductive and…well, cheesy.

Read the rest of this entry

Genre Spotlight (Secret Santa): MirrorMask

I’m torn on MirrorMask, my DAMRB Secret Santa gift this year. I can see how people can like it, even adore it (including, I’m assuming, my fellow reviewer who bestowed it upon me), but I can also see it as a clumsy, second-rate children’s tale.

Read the rest of this entry

Young Adult

The “young adult” market, in case you don’t know, refers to that segment of the reading audience that is perhaps too old for Dr. Seuss and Winnie the Pooh, but not quite ready for Faulkner or Fitzgerald. Late grade school thru junior high, roughly – the “tween” years. Though these books are written for 11 and 12 year olds, the subject of the books themselves is, more often than not, high school – a time just far enough away to seem glamorous and even magical, while not so far away as to be inconceivable. Funnily enough, that’s basically how nostalgia works as well –  the “young adult(s)” of Jason Reitman’s Young Adult refers to people well into their 30s, arrested in and obsessively replaying their glory days, generally trying their best to look, act, and feel like they did back in high school. We’ve all been there. Haven’t we?

Read the rest of this entry

The Sitter

The Sitter – this generation’s answer to Adventures in Babysitting – may be our last glimpse of the spherical Jonah Hill. And based on the trailer for 21 Jump Street, perhaps those worried about the correlation between weight loss and funny loss may be right.

Read the rest of this entry

Devil’s DVD Advocacy: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

During one of our mini-episodes of the Devil’s Advocates podcast, I was complaining about how filmmakers now have such great technology at their disposal and make horrible movies with all of that technology. In the last five years, we have been inundated with movies like Avatar, The Last Airbender, Clash of the Titans and a whole lot of other horrible movies that were just excuses to show off special-effects. I used the example of Raiders of the Lost Ark to show how a movie could be made thirty years ago with some of the simplest movie making techniques (matte paintings, puppets and miniature sets) and still be better than most of what Hollywood keeps putting into the movie theaters now.

Read the rest of this entry

Genre Spotlight (Secret Santa): Almighty Thor

Before I start this review, I gotta say, I didn’t think I’d been THIS naughty this year. Cause the DAMR Secret Santa took a big ol’ poop in my stocking, let me tell ya!

Read the rest of this entry

Devil’s DVD Disappointment: The Hangover Part II

In Hollywood the adage “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” rings truer than ever. If audiences shelled out hundreds of millions of dollars for a product once, they’re very likely to do it again. And again. And, if not, there’s always the reboot. Why create when it is so much easier (and more lucrative) to re-create? Because you may end up with The Hangover Part II.

Read the rest of this entry

The Muppets

After a decade-plus absence from the big screen, those loveable Muppets triumphantly return in, you guessed it, The Muppets. And those Muppets are as self-aware as ever, taking their Hollywood and mainstream hiatus as a reason to rally the troops for a welcome comeback.

Read the rest of this entry

The Descendants

I’m going to admit to something that has rarely happened to me in the movie theaters. I was almost brought to tears by The Descendants. I had to walk out during the showing for a few seconds to compose myself. It came out of nowhere for me. One second, I’m laughing at something and in the next scene I was so moved I got choked up. That’s the kind of movie The Descendants is. It’s a movie about life and the surprises that can change everything in an instant.

Read the rest of this entry

Immortals (Devil’s Advocates Review)

Immortals is a remake of Clash Of The Titans set in Mickey Rourke’s 1980’s Los Angeles apartment that….Wait. It’s not a remake? Really!?!? I have to start this review over.

Immortals is the sequel to the mostly forgettable Troy. Like Troy, this movie….What?!?! Again?!? It’s not a sequel to Troy? But, it’s got…And….It’s….I am so confused now. Please, forgive this reviewer as I try this again.

Right! I think I’ve got it now.

Read the rest of this entry

Actor Spotlight: Elegy

Based on the novel The Dying Animal by American novelist Philip Roth Elegy, from director Isabel Coixet, Elegy stars  Ben Kingsley (Shindler’s List), Penélope Cruz (Pirates of the Caribbean, Blow) and Patricia Clarkson (Shutter Island).

Read the rest of this entry

Immortals

Evil (and impractically helmeted) King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) blames the gods for the death of his family and plots to free the Titans from Mount Tartarus so that they can destroy the gods. On the side of good is young Theseus (Henry Cavill) who, despite being the spat-upon bastard son of a peasant mother, is fated/groomed by Zeus himself (John Hurt when in disguise; otherwise, Luke Evans) to defeat Hyperion and save all mankind. Thus begins Immortals, director Tarsem’s (a.k.a. Tarsem Singh, Tarsem Dhandwar Singh, Tarsem Singh Dhandwar) long-in-the-making answer to Louis Leterrier’s rather unfortunate 2010 remake of Clash of the Titans.

Read the rest of this entry

Melancholia

Melancholia is the newest film from director Lars von Trier  staring Kirsten Dunst (Spiderman), Charlotte Gainsbourg (21 Grams) and Kiefer Sutherland (24). I don’t see many art house films, mostly because they play in downtown Chicago which is a bit out-of-the-way for me. I do occasionally get to see a few before they hit DVD and am sometimes pleasantly surprised as was the case with Tree of Life. Tree of Life captivated me with its mix of visual scenes cut in between it’s story. Melancholia, while similar, engrosses the viewer in its story and visual style while also having a running narrative.

Read the rest of this entry

Actor’s Spotlight: Schindler’s List

“I’m trying to thank you. I’m saying I couldn’t have done this without you.”

I’m going to start this by stating the obvious. That Schindler’s List is an amazing movie. Loosely based on real events and inspired by the novel, Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally, it’s quite possibly Steven Spielberg’s best movie. It’s a harrowing, at some points disturbing, look at the horrors of the Holocaust. It’s a movie that I think should be shown in every single high school and college history class as a reminder of the evils of hatred and what happened during World War II. It’s a living monument to both those that died during the Holocaust and the survivors. The movie co-stars Ben Kingsley in the pivotal and memorable role of Itzhak Stern, a Jewish accountant hired by Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) to help run his factory in the Jewish ghetto of Krakow, Poland. Schindler arrives in Poland during the German occupation and quickly sets up a munitions factory for the Nazis using Jewish slave labor. At first, Schindler is only interested in making a fortune through the necessity’s of war, in essence becoming a war profiteer. After seeing first hand the destruction of Krakow and the slaughter of the Jewish people at the hands of the evil Nazi Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes), Schindler decides to try to save his workers and as many Jewish people as he can in a plot to smuggle his workers out of Krakow.

Read the rest of this entry

In Time

At some unspecified time in the near (or not?) future, time has replaced money as currency and human beings have been genetically engineered to stop aging at 25, at which point you are given a year to die or to start “earning” more time. Of course, the rich have decades, even centuries of time stockpiled to give to their children and each other, while the poor must work, it seems, a whole day’s work just to earn another day’s life…in order to work another day to earn another day, forever. I wonder how much time it would cost to watch a movie in this world, i.e., would the length of the movie itself be factored into the cost? Would you, in other words, “pay” 2 hours of your life to watch a 2-hour movie (net cost: 4 hours)? Would the “price” of a longer movie be higher, or lower?

Read the rest of this entry

Footloose (2011)

My wife and I decided to cut loose and put on our Sunday shoes and make our way to the theaters.  27 years after Kevin Bacon danced his way onto the silver screen Hollywood brings us another remake.  This time it was the dancing sensation Footloose.

Read the rest of this entry

Paranormal Activity 3

When we last left our extended family of paranormal activitiers, we discovered that the activity in part 1 was caused by the activity in part 2, and the demon-possessed Katie had upped her body count to at least three before stealing her sister Kristi’s baby and spiriting off to parts unknown. Wisely (or so I thought), rather than showing “The Further Adventures of Possessed Katie” (shot, presumably, thru gas station security cameras and whatnot), Paranormal Activity 3 decides instead to delve even further into the past, to offer us what I hoped to be a seamless, well-integrated story of how it all really began. No brainer, right? Right?

Read the rest of this entry

The Skin I Live In

Antonio Banderas is one of those actors who are so good that people often just take him for granted. With his Hollywood success of the 90s and afterwards, people also forget, or just overlook, his beginnings in the scrappy, indie-ish Spanish cinema of Pedro Almodóvar, another artist who has seen much international acclaim in the last 20 years, but who, luckily, people do not yet seem to take for granted (at least, I don’t). Their early collaborations were key in shaping and defining both their styles and careers for their international success which was to follow, from the dark-sexy Matador, to the wacky-sexy Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, to the…complicated-sexy (and still-debated) Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! Now, 21 years since they last worked together, would the magic still be there, or would they simply be two international superstars, working together but not together. Do they, in other words, still have use for one another?

Read the rest of this entry

Real Steel

Watch as many movies in a year as I do and you inevitably run into a few titles where you find yourself having to constantly repeat “no, really!” when explaining to someone that you liked them. Last year alone there was The Losers, The A-Team, The Other Guys. Now welcome 2011’s entry to the club: Real Steel. I liked Real Steel. No, really! And despite everything you’ve seen in the trailers, it’s less “Rock ‘Em Sock ’Em” than it is Rocky. Except…you know, with robots. Call it “The Sweet Science Fiction”, if you must.

Read the rest of this entry

Devil’s DVD Advocacy: Scream 4

Looking back, it’s hard to believe it has been 15 years since the original Scream came out. 11 years since the previous installment. I loved the first one back in ’96 and really enjoyed the sequel in ’97. The third film was by far the weakest and now Scream 4 (or Scre4m as it’s spelled on some posters) doesn’t alter that fact whatsoever. Scream 3 is still the low man on the totem pole.

Read the rest of this entry

Killer Elite

I’ve been wracking my brain for more accurate titles for Killer Elite…maybe Killer Not-So Elite, Killer Amateur, or Killer Movie Clichés perhaps. With that said, I assume you can tell where this review is going.

Read the rest of this entry

3

Hanna (Sophie Rois) and Simon (Sebastian Schipper) are a more-or-less happy couple in their 40s – professional, successful, and comfortable together even if the spark has long since fled the building. Living under a constant cloud of aging, dying and general new-millennium malaise, first Sophie then Simon independently meet and fall for Adam (Devid Striesow), who awakens in each of them a new lust for life and perhaps a new outlook on our times and society as a whole – for them, and for all of us.

Read the rest of this entry

Shaolin

Amitābha”

Shaolin is the latest historical epic to hit the theaters from overseas and it’s another example of how some genres Hollywood can never get right. It’s a good action drama. The closest Hollywood can get to that usually is The ExpendablesShaolin, starring a who’s who of Chinese kung fu and action movies (Jackie Chan, Andy Lau, Wu Jing), is a drama with some great action scenes in it. It’s a mess of a movie that redeems itself in the last hour.

Read the rest of this entry

Warrior (Devil’s Advocate Review)

I’ll tell you what: you do that to someone on the street and they’d lock you up and throw away the key! Break out the yellow tape, Sam. Tommy’s walking away from the cage like he’s leaving a crime scene.

Warrior like almost every other movie out there currently is not anything original. In the day and age of movie remakes. Warrior takes a bit of other previously done movies and adds new twists.

Read the rest of this entry

Contagion

Contagion, Steven Soderbergh’s return to “mainstream” cinema, boasts a lot of big-named Hollywood stars, but at what cost? For each plot thread picked up by a Damon or a Fishburne just as many are left to flounder without consequence or reason.

Read the rest of this entry

The Troll Hunter DVD

“We need a change in troll management.”

The last few years have brought some great ideas and movies from Europe. The [rec] movies and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Millennium trilogy) are both good examples of this. Now I’d say you can add The Troll Hunter to that list. A mix of horror comedy and mockumentary, The Troll Hunter is a fun horror movie with a great imagination and an even better sense of humor.

Read the rest of this entry

Apollo 18

Based on overheard pre-show conversation, Hollywood has apparently left many younger-ish moviegoers with the impression that the ill-fated Apollo 13 was our last attempted mission to the moon. The Apollo program actually continued on for three more years and four more successful moon landings, missions which saw the first deployment of Lunar Rovers and the famous miles-long driving of at least two golf balls (Alan Shepard, Apollo 14). By 1973, however, with budget cuts, waning public interest in the space program, and increased attention being paid to the Skylab project, the planned Apollo missions 18 thru 20 were unceremoniously cancelled.

Read the rest of this entry

Genre Spotlight: Above The Rim

September is a genre month for our Spotlights and this month’s spotlight is on Sports Movies. I must confess to not being a fan of most traditional sports and even less of a fan of traditional sports movies. I think my favorite sports movie might be The Big Lebowski (bowling). See? Not a traditional sports movie. I find most professional sports in this country boring. There. I said it. I feel so much better. For Sports Month, I decided to do things a little differently and watch a movie that I would never have watched on my own and I am glad I did.

Read the rest of this entry

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

Really, the best haunted house stories are the ones that are “about” so much more than just a house that’s haunted. Think of The Haunting of Hill House, The Shining, The Others, or even, at a stretch, Forbidden Planet. On the other hand, if you’re making a movie for and about kids, it’s excusable to keep things to the simpler, stuff-just-happens model. On the third hand, if you’re making a movie for kids that features some pretty gruesome violence that fully earns its R rating, things get a little…messy. And I’m not just talking albino monkey-rats, either.

Read the rest of this entry