Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Public Enemies - 3 out of 4 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: People who like Johnny Depp in Blow, folks who like movies done in older film styles

Best Mood to Walk In With: Ready to hear a story

Don't See This Movie If: You want an action movie in the style of a summer blockbuster (e.g. Transformers, Star Trek)

The story of John Dillinger is interesting because it is based on a true story. That means, the biopic is free from the blockbuster extremes that has made Transformers and Star Trek box office hits this summer. There are no fancy effects or exaggerated fight scenes in Public Enemies. Although there are shootouts between the cops and robbers, this movie is much more of a drama than an action film.

That being said, what I found notable about Public Enemies is not the sequences of action but the style of film making. If you saw The Changeling with Angelina Jolie, this film was very similar in mimicking the older style of movies. Specifically the cinematography, the voices of the characters, and the costumes set the mood for this 1930s Great Depression period piece. Michael Mann's latest film is similar to the style he used with The Aviator and far from what we saw in his Hancock, Miami Vice, and Collateral.

Although the storyline starts to get slow and a bit condescending (the movie within the movie scene is pretty patronizing) towards the end, overall the movie is interesting to follow. However, it is obvious that without Johnny Depp, this movie would only be average. As usual Depp rounds out his role of Dillinger in a way that surpasses what most of his peers could do with the character. His acting adds an extra punch to an all-right script and he's probably also the reason that the film was able to cast so many other big names in smaller roles. His costar Christian Bale has even admitted that he signed onto this movie specifically to work with Depp and Mann. Bale gives his normal solid, nothing spectacular, I'll-be-a-foil-for-all-the-more-talented-actors-around-me performance. If he wasn't already famous, you would probably forget who was in his role when you left the theater. Marion Cotillard is artfully charming as she always is in her American films, and don't blink because you might miss appearances by Stephen Dorff, Channing Tatum, Giovanni Ribisi, Leelee Sobieski, and many others.

Keep Your Eyes Closed For: There was a scene where a policeman was physically violent to a woman that made me feel sick to my stomach
Keep Your Eyes Open For: The scene where John "woos" Billie

All in all, Public Enemies is the best, non-cry-your-eyes-out drama that is out currently. But if you're ok with tears, I still suggest My Sister's Keeper.

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Monday, June 29, 2009

One of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite movie makers

Movies can and do have tremendous influence in shaping young lives in the realm of entertainment towards the ideals and objectives of normal adulthood. ~Walt Disney

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Sunday, June 28, 2009

My Sister's Keeper - 4 out of 4 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: People who can appreciate the beauty of every day tragedy, people who could handle the sadness of Marley and Me because it represented true life

Best Mood to Walk In With: Contemplative, low key

Don't See This Movie If: You don't like crying

This movie is not for everyone. Do not be fooled by my 4 stars into thinking this movie caters to all audiences. Just like many Academy Award nominated films are lovely pieces of artistry but not very mainstream, My Sister's Keeper has a select audience it can appeal to. However, the film's goal is not only met, but exceeds expectations with a tenderness and beauty that is rarely captured in contemporary movies.

It's important to note, however, that I am speaking of My Sister's Keeper only as a movie and have not read the book. I have heard that the ending is drastically different, so readers of the novel may want to keep that in mind as they make movie attending decisions.

Although I compared My Sister's Keeper a little to Marley and Me above, this movie actually reminds me a lot of Gone With The Wind. Although there are seemingly no similarities at the surface, both movies are about destruction, difficulty, and accepting the sad realities of the world along with the triumphs. Although it is not fun to watch a romance where the couple do not end up together in the end, Gone With The Wind is a movie that audiences love and that has transcended time due to the realism of the characters. Although you can't identify with every character at every moment in My Sister's Keeper, you can understand their decisions and perspectives. Even the supporting roles have a backstory and these help you more intimately identify with, not only the characters, but the entire story. And because of that, you fall in love with the characters, empathize with them, and if you're like me become completely caught up in their situation.

This intimacy created in the movie can be partly credited to Jeremy Leven and Nick Cassavetes, the screenwriters. I have no doubt that this movie will be nominated for best adapted screenplay. However, equal credit is also due to the amazing acting across the board. It is rare that a movie perfectly casts every character, but the casting director for this movie deserves a big bonus. Although Cameron Diaz does a wonderful job as the mother and has come a long way from movies like The Mask and There's Something About Mary, Abigail Breslin steals the show. This young lady has previously charmed us (and the Academy!) in Little Miss Sunshine, but I was blown away by how much she has matured as an actress in such a short period of time. She and Sofia Vassilieva have incredible chemistry together and portray the epitome of sisterly love. Jason Patric also gives a very solid performance, and Alec Baldwin's cameo is equally commendable. However, of the supporting cast, I especially loved Joan Cusack. Though I like Cusack in her traditional role of sassy mom/sister/aunt/friend, I am very glad she chose a role with a more expansive array of emotions to showcase her enormous talent.

With such a phenomenal script and cast, it would be easy to forget the importance of the director Nick Cassavetes (yes the same guy who co-wrote the movie). It is a sign of a good director that the acting, the dialogue, the entire film if we're being honest seems effortless. Nothing drags the audience away from the believability of the story due to Cassavetes impressive execution of his vision for the film. That being said, it is not surprising that he also directed The Notebook, since there are many similar elements captured in the styles of the two movies.

Although I cried a lot during this movie (and could hear the rest of the audience doing the same), My Sister's Keeper does a fantastic job of also showing the joyful moments and the humor that occurs in any life. We would like to believe that when someone has cancer, the story becomes completely tragic, but life is never one-sided. As Sex and the City taught us last summer, even in the depths of despair and the most heartbreaking situations, people laugh when something is funny. And just as I could hear the noses being blown around me, I also heard a lot of laughter amidst the tears of the audience.

Keep Your Eyes Closed For: There are multiple moments of physical illness, in case you get sick from seeing someone vomit
Keep Your Eyes Open For: Cameron Diaz's face when her daughter Kate tells her about the physical part of her romantic relationship

All in all, this movie is true to its trailer. So though My Sister's Keeper is not for everyone, based on the ads you should already know if you'll enjoy it. And when you walk out of the theater, if you have not used an entire pack of tissues and cannot feel your heart being 3 sizes bigger than when you walked in, let me know how this was possible.

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen - 3.25 out of 4 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: People who liked the first Transformers movie and people who enjoy watching things explode

Best Mood to Walk In With: Ready to be entertained with action

Don't See This Movie If: You want substance over glitzy effects

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a feast for the senses, if not the mind. Lots of action, visually stunning effects, loud fights, and reverberating noises that pulse through your body fill this two hour blockbuster. Michael Bay stated this is the best movie he has ever made, and if you are someone who loves special effects then you would agree.

The story is secondary to the action and at times is a bit convoluted. However, the unrealistic script is not a problem since suspension of belief has likely already occurred. (I mean, you ARE watching a movie about robots from outer space fighting a war on our planet.)

Like the first movie, Shia LaBeouf provides the normal, guy next door likability and Megan Fox provides the gratuitous hotness. However, Fox's sexy factor has been amplified and a brief, but new hottie has been added for all the boys in the audience. For me, the real treats from the cast were again Kevin Dunn and Julie White, who play the Witwickys, Sam's loving and hilarious parents. If you thought they were funny in the first movie, you will definitely enjoy their scenes in the sequel.

Although Josh Duhamel, Jon Voight, and Tyrese Gibson are also in the movie, their performances are hard to remember. This is not because their roles were badly cast, but more so simply because you're going to do exactly what Michael Bay wants you to do and walk out of the theater oohing and ahhhing over the amazing CGI effects. The real performers in the flick are the Autobots and Decepticons, and the true stars are the amazing teams of technicians who created them.

Keep Your Eyes Closed For: Middle age man butt (when you see the movie, you'll know what I'm talking about)
Keep Your Eyes Open For: Shia's spazz out in class...it's hilarious.

All in all, a great summer blockbuster but not a movie that will become a classic. However, for the present, this is definitely the movie to see this weekend.

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Proposal - 2.5 out of 4 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: Fans of Sandra Bullock romantic comedies

Best Mood to Walk In With: Cutesy

Don't See This Movie If: You want realism or a deep emotional love story

The Proposal wasn't a great movie, but it is going to please a lot of people. If The Notebook is the feast of romantic comedies, then The Proposal is the jelly bean of rom coms...a small burst of fun, but unsubstantial in content. All in all, most viewers will get exactly what they want out of this movie: some laughs, a ridiculous situation that love eventually overcomes, and two extremely likable actors.

One thing I like about Sandra Bullock is that she never fails to deliver a solid, though mainstream performance. She knows she is not an edgy or Shakespearean actor, so she sticks with her own line of talent and works it hard. The script is not very strong, but most people would never notice or care about this because Bullock is so fun to watch. Although Ryan Reynolds is not as proven an actor and tends to run the gamut in film choices, his gentle sarcasm and patented slapstick facial expressions makes him a great foil for Bullock.

Although Craig T. Nelson disappoints as Reynolds's father, Mary Steenburgen as his mother provides the most well developed character. Not only does she have more than two emotions, but you can also understand her different motivations as a character, something that is often lost with Bullock and Reynolds whose two characters seem to choose the most unrealistic decision at every turn. Also, for you Golden Girls fans, Betty White is entertaining, though her character is all over the place. Together the cast is a lot of fun to watch, so long as you can suspend your belief about the plot.

Keep Your Eyes Closed For: The scene where Betty White is doing a Native American ritual around a fire. Very Strange.
Keep Your Eyes Open For: The special scenes embedded in the end credits.

Although I enjoyed My Life In Ruins more, I rated these movies the same because I realize The Proposal has more mass appeal. However, both are rather unlikely to happen in real life and provide extremely cliche endings. In the end The Proposal has the edge due to the fact that we already have a history of falling in love with the actors and so, once more, slip into a relationship with them easily.

Movies Are Life. ~ K


Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland looks incredible!!! Check out the promo pics below. Fabulous!!!!

Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter

Anne Hathaway as the White Queen

Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Saturday, June 20, 2009

My Life in Ruins - 2.5 out of 4 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: Folks who liked My Big Fat Greek Wedding, someone looking for some scenic shots of Grecian ruins

Best Mood to Walk In With: Ready to laugh and ready to let out a few "Awwwww"s

Don't See This Movie If: You don't want an atypical, predictable rom com

I'll be honest, I didn't have very high expectations of this movie. However, I was pleasantly surprised. Although the plot was not very realistic, the movie was filled with moments of laughter and cuteness.

Nia Vardalos is a bit more grating on the nerves than she was in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, though I'm not sure if it is because of her acting or because her character is whiny and pessimistic. Also, Alexis Georgoulis as the male "lead" of Poupi is overshadowed by Richard Dreyfuss's tender portrayal of Irv. To be honest, Dreyfuss is the main reason to watch the flick if you're looking for characterization, though there are some fun moments in the movie between the two main characters.

Keep Your EARS Closed For: The monologues of complaints from Georgia
Keep Your Eyes Open For: The scenic backgrounds of the tour

All in all, My Life in Ruins is probably the best rom com out right now, though it is more comedy than romance since it's difficult to fall in love with the characters. If you're looking for a run of the mill romantic comedy, this will suffice, but if you're wanting one of the more touching love stories, I suggest Blockbuster.

Movies Are Life. ~K

Year One - 1.5 out of 4 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: Jack Black fans, adolescent boys

Best Mood to Walk In With: Silly, ready to laugh at crude jokes

Don't See This Movie If: You are looking for an elevated type of humor

Year One is a movie that sells you exactly what it advertises. If you've seen the trailer, you know what to expect. Also, if you've seen any other Jack Black or Michael Cera movie, you are already acquainted with the two main characters.

Per normal, Black plays an over the top, crude character that probably doesn't weigh in heavily on the IQ scale. If you like his normal schtick, you will probably get a few laughs, unless you are tired of his recycled material. Michael Cera also stays true to the character that has led to his rise to fame and plays an awkwardly adorable, not-so-confident guy with a crush on a cute girl. There is not much else in terms of star power, other than when Oliver Platt makes a surprisingly gross and slightly offensive appearance in the movie and Paul Rudd's too brief walk on. Like all Black/Cera movies, the theme of Year One is how the characters come into their own.

Keep Your Eyes Closed For: The poop scene
Keep Your Eyes Open For: The funny scene with Paul Rudd as the Biblical Abel

All in all, if you're looking for a guy-oriented comedy, see The Hangover instead. This is more of a dollar theater or Netflix type flick.

Movies Are Life. ~K

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Harry Potter Countdown!!!


The Brothers Bloom - 2 out of 4 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: Folks who like heist movies from older days in cinema

Best Mood to Walk In With: Awake

Don't See This Movie If: You want a super fast paced, modern heist movie like Ocean's 11

I heard good things about this movie and was a little disappointed. Although I'm more of an action movie lover than a heist genre follower, I do appreciate a good twist ending. However, The Brothers Bloom did not quite meet expectations.

Now don't get me wrong, it was a decent movie, but you definitely need to enjoy heist movies to really get into this film. What I did really like about The Brothers Bloom is the beautiful cinematography and the kickback to older films. This movie definitely had a certain air of glamor that faded when stars like Grace Kelly, Humphrey Bogart, and Ingrid Bergman exited Hollywood. As he always does, Adrien Brody resurrected that lost art of je ne sais quoi, though his performance overall was relatively flat and uninteresting. Although I am a big Brody fan, I just could not get into his character of Bloom. Maybe it's that I've seen him play the brooding, soul searcher one too many times, but at the end of the movie I just did not care what happened to Bloom.

I felt similarly about Mark Ruffalo's character of Stephen, the other brother. Ruffalo's normal easy charm was buried under a too ambitious script that made it hard to understand what his character's motivation was to live the lifestyle of a conman. Although Rachel Weisz added some funny moments to the movie as Penelope, overall her character just made me feel awkward and I didn't buy into why anyone would fall in love with Penelope.

Rinko Kikuchi who was Oscar-nominated for her role in Babel a few years ago, again plays a silent character. Although in Babel she was a deaf mute, in The Brothers Bloom she is just supposed to be this mysterious jack of all trades. If the actors surrounding her were more effective, I would have enjoyed her more, but ultimately she was just another strange character in a solidly average film.

Keep Your Eyes Closed For: The super awkward scene in the train with Rachel Weisz and Adrien Brody...you'll know what I'm talking about.
Keep Your Eyes Open For: I thought the card trick that Rachel Weisz did was pretty cool.

All in all, if you like heist movies you will enjoy this one so long as you don't mind taking it back to the old school, before fast, glitzy heist movies like The Italian Job appeared in theaters. Appreciate the meets requirements level of this movie, because if you're looking for exceeds expectations in the categories of acting or plot you will be disappointed in my opinion.

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Land of the Lost - 2.5 out of 4 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: folks who loved the original or remake tv series Land of the Lost, people who like complete foolishness :)

Best Mood to Walk In With: silly, wanting something mindless

Don't See This Movie If: You want a realistic movie or an elevated comedy

If you've read the reviews, Land of the Lost has gotten hit pretty hard by critics. However, I actually found myself laughing more than those other reviews would lead you to believe was possible. To enjoy the film, you have to stop expecting it to be a summer blockbuster with big effects like Transformers, a strong story like Star Trek, and a built in cult audience like Twilight. Instead you must expect a very silly homage to the equally cheesy Land of the Lost tv show. If the movie were cleaner, I would suggest it as a great kid flick due to the silliness.

Will Ferrell delivers another movie more like the inane Stepbrothers, Semi-Pro, and Blades of Glory, rather than a movie like the smartly funny Wedding Crashers, Old School, or Anchorman. And it is a complete 180 from his more tender ventures like Elf and Stranger Than Fiction. To be honest, I think movies at the caliber of Land of the Lost should be behind Ferrell at this point. In my opinion he should have graduated completely into clever comedies or sentimental comedies, much in the way that Adam Sandler should stick to films like Click or Bedtime Stories rather than Don't Mess with the Zohan. For some reason former SNLers find it difficult to leave the cheese behind them and fall into an uneven pattern of creating a work of comedic genius only to follow it with a major letdown. And believe you me Land of the Lost is not a work of comedic genius when observing Ferrell's pattern.

Anna Friel was uninteresting to watch, though I'm not sure if it is because her character was badly written, her acting was flat, or a combination of the two. The major high point among the actors is Danny McBride and most of the kudos simply rely on his consistency as an actor to play the same funny and moronic character he always does. If you liked him in Observe and Report, Tropic Thunder, and especially the lesser known The Foot Fist Way, you will appreciate him in this movie.

Keep Your Eyes Closed For: There isn't really anything completely heinous and awful in this movie.
Keep Your Eyes Open For: There isn't really anything completely exciting and worth waiting for in this movie either.

All in all, it wasn't as big a disappointment as the other reviews led me to expect, but I definitely think if are interested in seeing this, you should wait until it is at the dollar theater...because that is about what it is worth.

Movies Are Life. ~ K

The Hangover - 3 out of 4 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: folks who loved the boys club movies like Old School and the sometimes juvenile jokes of movies like Superbad

Best Mood to Walk In With: In a "Bro" mood

Don't See This Movie If: You don't like movies about raucous male bonding

I was pleasantly surprised with this movie. If you're ok with vulgar but funny boy time, this is what you want to see. Although it is not quite on par with movies like Old School and probably won't be as much of a cult classic as Zoolander, The Hangover definitely delivers what it promises: a crazy, funny, hungover game of "what happened last night?" Think Dude, Where's My Car? with a more elevated sense of humor.

The four main guy roles could not have been better cast. Bradley Cooper was amusing as the best man Phil, and Justin Bartha was a great fit for the groom. However, it was Ed Helms as groomsman Stu and Zach Galifianakis as the soon-to-be brother-in-law who made the movie. Specifically, Galifianakis delievered on the hilarious awkward moments, proving his ability to captivate on the big screen. However, the four of them (sometimes three of them) together had perfect timing and delivery of joke after joke after joke.

Granted, the plot was a simple one. But sometimes comedies fail trying to be overly ambitious and so I preferred the simple storyline. If you've seen the preview, what you saw is what you get. However, The Hangover is not one of those movies where you've already seen all the funny bits in the commercials. Cameos by stars like Heather Graham, Mike Tyson, and Ken Jeong (the doctor in Knocked up and the "King" in Role Models) add to the silliness of the movie.

Keep Your Eyes Closed For: multiple scenes featuring Zach Galifianakis's butt
Keep Your Eyes Open For: The hilarious (and vulgar) snapshots during the credits

All in all, this movie will please most of the 20ish male audience it is looking for. Before you go, watch the trailer, since it is so accurate. If you think it is funny, you will like The Hangover. If you think it looks immature, go see Up which will please a broader audience.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Up - 4 out of 4 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: folks who loved Wall-E, people who want visually stunning animation and solid storylines

Best Mood to Walk In With: Thoughtful and ready for an adventure

Don't See This Movie If: You want a completely silly animated movie and don't want to deal with some more emotional themes

People talk about the "Golden Age of Disney" in reference to the 90s animated features like The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, and Aladdin. However, with gems like Wall-E and Up, I feel a Disney renaissance (rebirth) emerging. True, cartoony 2-D is gone as are the sing along songs we all know and love. Yet new strengths are emerging to replace these beloved characteristics, like deep emotional connections to characters and thought provoking storylines.

Although I saw Up in 3-D, I think it is enjoyable in any format depending on taste. The characterization is what truly makes the movie. Although we enjoyed singing with Ariel and laughing with the Genie, we weren't nearly as invested in these characters as we are with Carl (the old man) and Russell (the young boy). Think The Lion King times 10 if you didn't see Wall-E last year. However for this summer's Disney flick, I was tearing up in the first 15 minutes of the movie, because of the beautiful and tender depiction of Carl's life. However, the tears I did eventually shed are perfectly balanced with the consistent laughter Russell and his animal friends bring to the picture. Disney definitely proves it knows how both youngsters and dogs behave and the truth presented is hilarious.

Also, while I love the flat animation of old Disney movies, the things Pixar can do now amaze me. We still get the fun cartoon colors, but with more movement and vividness. Up is a true visual feast with its attention to detail.

While all the actors lending their voices to this film were incredible, it is necessary to give special snaps to Ed Asner. His voice is rich with emotion the entire way through and it is difficult not to be swept into the story he tells. This is my favorite Asner project by far.

Keep Your Eyes Closed For: Not a thing :)
Keep Your EARS Open For: Anything that Dug the dog says

Up is a brilliant and imaginative adventure. As part of the audience, you get a chance to explore life and enjoy all the laughs and tears and relationship building it has to offer. I recommend it for everyone.

Movies Are Life. ~ K

Drag Me To Hell - 1.5 out of 4 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: The Evil Dead lovers, people who enjoy campy and cheesy scary movies

Best Mood to Walk In With: Ready for ridiculous scares and nasty fluids, ready to laugh

Don't See This Movie If: You are grossed out easily or you want a Sam Raimi movie more like Spiderman

Drag Me To Hell was similar in many ways to Sam Raimi's original movie The Evil Dead, but with a lot more gloss. The cheesy laughs are guaranteed by ridiculous horror movie moments as are the bad lines. However, Raimi has broadened his focus from mere blood baths to showers of all bodily fluids. And it's quite disgusting to watch.

If all you want is from a scary movie are scenes that make you jump, this film definitely serves that purpose. The unexpected and ridiculous definitely occurs and I appreciated how many times I got scared, although I never felt creeped out. This movie is the kind that you go see, get scared, and then (for most people) walk away not feeling frightened at all due to the silliness of it all.

I am a fan of Justin Long and I have no clue why he signed up for this movie. Perhaps Raimi promised him a role in his upcoming Spiderman 4, who knows. Although Long does a great job playing the one-dimensional perfect boyfriend, the rest of the acting in the movie is rough and I don't choose to waste time dissecting it.

Keep Your Eyes Closed For: Anytime Christine is being covered in some disgusting fluid (Yes, Raimi is a complete perv. Note also his trademark, no bra in the rain scene that we also got to "enjoy" in Spiderman.)
Keep Your Eyes Open For: The hilarious seance scene...pay special attention to the goat and the dance ;)

Overall, Drag Me To Hell was not for me, but the cults that enjoy The Evil Dead trilogy will probably have fun watching Raimi's newest movie...as will all the pre-pubescent boys that enjoy cheap shocks and grossness.

Movies Are Life. ~ K