Sunday, November 28, 2010

Capsule Movie Show Reviews - November 2010

Red  ***1/2 
Based on the graphic novel, Red (Retired, Extremely Dangerous) was a nice surprise. Bruce Willis, Mary Louise Parker, Karl Urban, John Malkovich, Brian Cox, Morgan Freeman and Helen Mirren each give lively performances in this Action-Comedy hybrid that finds the right balance. A lot of fun.

I Am Love  ***
Directed by Luca Guadagnino, this supremely gorgeous Italian film stars Tilda Swinton as a housewife-Socialite who finds herself drawn to another man and a potential life full of the passion she's so missing in her carefully constructed life. Over-Melodramatic as all get out (those crazy Italians!) but exquisitely made and photographed.

Night Of The Demons  *
A complete waste of time. Stick to the 1988 original if you're in the mood for some silly, late 80's horror fun.

It's Kind Of A Funny Story  ***
Though it doesn't completely gel dramatically, It's Kind Of A Funny Story moves along nicely as a story about the unlikely friendship between a teenager (Keir Gilchrist of The United States Of Tara) and a patient at an adult Psychiatric Ward (Zach Galafanakis) These two performances are spot on.

Wild Grass  **1/2
Alain Resnais' (Last Year At Marienbad) latest film didn't move me as much as I thought it would. It's a middle-aged love story that is in turn thoughtful and sometimes hokey (CGI thought bubbles!) With it's humor and sense of the mischief, it's a bit of a change of pace for the director who turned 87 this year.

Giallo  *1/2
Dario Argento's homage to the Giallo (yellow colored bound) novels and subsequent films of yesteryear, but the sad truth is this filmmaker has completely lost his touch. Adrien Brody stars and looks appropriately bored in this mess of a movie that should have been exciting and a great way to introduce a new audience to the sub-genre. This movie fails to deliver on every level.

Catfish  *** 
Catfish follows a man who's recording his brother and his burgeoning online and phone relationship with a woman and her family, none of whom he's never met. There has been much talk about the film's surprise twist, but mostly I was surprised at how emotionally satisfying the film was.

Cropsey (2009)  ***1/2
This documentary follows filmmakers Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio as they try to get to the bottom of a series of kidnappings and child murders that happened in their childhood, and how it correlates to the local New York legend of the title. A Totally enthralling crime documentary.

30 Days Of Nights: Dark Days  * 
This sequel to the bloody fun 2007 film goes to great lengths to try to sully your memory of the original film. Resulting is a film that is badly cast, acted, directed, written and just about everything else. Skip it and re-watch the original film or catch it for the first time.

Winter's Bone  **1/2
The indie critical darling of 2010. A young woman in the Ozarks desperately tries to protect her family and save her home by trying to find her deadbeat father. Mixing elements of drama and Film Noir, Winter's Bone strangely left me more depressed than involved. However, the performance by it's leading lady, Jennifer Morrison, is eyeopening. She's great.

Splice  **
Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley star as two scientists who work in genetic splicing leads to some monstrous results. Not exactly terrible, but Splice is definitely a movie that will leave you cold and perhaps a bit bored.

The Karate Kid (2010)  **
I really wanted to hate this remake of the now classic 1984 coming of age film, which was one of my favorites in my youth. But it's a testament to the strength of the original film's story that it still works as much as it does. However, the film's biggest problem lies within it's two stars. Both Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan have absolutely no charisma here, and even though the movie is entertaining, by it's end you'll sorely miss the fun of watching Pat Mortita and Ralph Macchio.

Morning Glory  *** 
The inner workings of a low-rated Morning TV Show. The film has decent performances by Diane Keaton and Harrison Ford... The latter of whom actually plays a grumpy old Andy Rooney/Dan Rather type pretty well by not actually acting all that much... But the real star here is Rachel McAdams. The movie may be a low-rent, cheeseball version of Broadcast News, but Rachel makes it all worthwhile with her earnest and endearing charm.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps  *** 
Did anyone really want a sequel to Wall Street 23 years later? Oliver Stone found it rather necessary given our current financial crisis, but that really isn't what makes the film potent. Michael Douglas here gives another beguiling performance this year (See also Solitary Man) and Stone's energetic direction make the film work, against all odds... one that includes a really lackluster central performance by Shia LaBeouf. But who are we kidding, Charlie Sheen wasn't all that interesting to watch in 1987, either.

Chelsea On The Rocks  ***
Director Abel Ferrara's documentary on the famed hotel on 23rd Street in Manhattan. Ferrara interviews a bunch of past and present residents of the Hotel, and in the process traces it's rise and fall... Like most of old New York, greed wins out and the building is going the way of luxury condos. It's a pretty fascinating ride.

Jonah Hex  **
Based on the DC comic of the same name, Jonah Hex stars Josh Brolin as a post-civil war era bounty hunter who is fated to cross paths with the man who murdered his wife and child and scarred him terribly (played by John Malkovich) The film has interesting visuals and buzzes along briskly, though loses me a bit as I'm not really all that familiar with it's source material. Co-starring Megan Fox as...what else...a gun-wielding prostitute.

Due Date  **1/2
Another road trip from director Todd Phillips. The film surprisingly lacks a good amount of memorable laughs (they are all in the trailer) and some of the set pieces seem a bit redundant. However, the movie has a great match of Zach Galafanakis and Robert Downey Jr.They make it work with their zany charms and expert comic timing, I just wish the script was developed a bit more to match their considerable talent.

The Town  ****
Who knew Ben Affleck would be this strong of a director? The Town is a heist movie that has it's feet fully planted in it's environment (a working class neighborhood in Boston) Excellent performances all around, crackerjack action set pieces, and best of all, Affleck gives the picture a straightforwardness you just don't see much in these kinds of films anymore. One of my favorites of the year.

Love Ranch  **1/2
Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci (out of retirement!) star as a couple who revolutionized the legal brothel business in Nevada. Nothing actually revolutionary here, but a good central performance as usual by Mirren. Based on some true events. Taylor Hackford (Mirren's old man) directs.

Predators  **
This sequel to the 1987 Sci-fi/Actioner doesn't really add much more than we've seen before in other films of it's type, but it's mildly entertaining in doses. Too bad the film stars Adrien Brody. Arnold Schwarzenneger he really isn't. In fact, he's downright laughable in this film with all of his course whispering. Considering this is the third film on this list that he's in and all three aren't all that good, I would say he's become movie poison.

Sex And The City 2  **1/2
Not exactly the atrocity it's been made out to be, Sex And The City 2 is just a bit wonky as movie. The film is a bit of a fantasy, and that's completely fine, it's just that it's central stories involving Sarah Jessica Parker and Kirsten Davis are just no fun to watch here. A tighter script and perhaps less time away from the actual city would have made this one more entertaining and closer to the heart of the series. Lighten up, ladies.

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 1  ***
Part one of Harry Potter's last adventure finds him literally on the road to his destiny, who along with the help of his friends, he'll collect some tokens that will aid in destroying his greatest adversary, Lord Valdemort (Ralph Fiennes) Although this really is half a movie, Deathly Hallows Part 1 is a bit more substantial than it's previous entry, The Half-Blood Prince, with the focus a bit more on entertaining set-pieces and some real world danger.

**** excellent
***1/2 very good
*** recommended
**1/2 not bad
** not so hot
*1/2 skip it, buddy
* don't even think about it, mister

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