Friday, September 20, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty - 2012

Geoff - 2/7/13

Zero Dark Thirty is a film about the hunt and ultimately the killing out of Bin Laden. You already know how this movie ends, but that doesn't stop it from being enjoyable. I found it interesting to learn that a young woman had so much to do with OSB's search. When I think of CIA Agents hunting down bad guys, I imagine standard Hollywood action hero types, not Jessica Chastain. Though I'm sure in reality the woman behind the character doesn't look like Chastain.

Zero Dark Thirty is directed by Katheryn Bigelow, who also directed The Hurt Locker and there is definitely a similar feel. As interesting as some of the facts are, the movie is actually quite slow until the final act when the Navy Seals actually raid OSB's compound. When that scene does finally show up, it starts out really exciting and really keeps you pumped up waiting to see Bin Laden get his.

Critics will all rave about how great Zero Dark Thirty is, just because they don't want to be labelled as "unpatriotic", but truthfully it's a good movie, not a great movie.

Rating - 2


Chandler - 9/19/2013

I really didn't want to watch this movie when it was first released. It just seemed a bit too soon, as if it was an exploitation film attempting to cash in on a recent event. I should have known that Kathryn Bigelow (director of The Hurt Locker) wasn't going to fuck it up.

Zero Dark Thirty begins with the chilling phone calls of victims during the 9/11 attacks. It then jumps right into detailed scenes of water-boarding and other interrogation techniques used on Al-Qaeda prisoners. Regardless of how you feel about the United States' torture policy (and its effectiveness), it's a pretty chilling depiction.

So the story is about how we found Osama bin Laden and the raid which ultimately killed him. From what I can tell it's a pretty accurate portrayal, in fact it was so accurate congress launched (and later dropped) an investigation to see if the filmmakers had access to classified documents. I appreciate the attention to detail and facts, even if some characters are tweaked (mostly because we don't really know who these people are).

The raid on Osama's compound is an awesome piece of film-making. Having read up on various accounts of the raid, Bigelow managed to re-create the event in shocking detail.

Basically... this is the best of the 2013 Best Picture Nominees, and a much better movie than Argo.

Rating - 3

Monday, September 16, 2013

Pan's Labyrinth - 2006

Chandler - 9/16/2013

At its heart, Pan's Labyrinth is about the Spanish Civil War in 1944. The evil Nationalists are hunting Republican rebels, and basically acting like dicks the entire movie as they occupy a small village. Caught in the conflict is Ofelia, a young Spanish girl whose mother is now married to a Nationalist general and pregnant with his baby.

Ofelia is a typical hippie girl, obsessed with stories of fairies and magic. Her real father is dead and her mother is a bit too preoccupied with her new sociopathic husband. So little Ofelia runs though the forest and encounters mythical creatures. Fun.

The real reason to watch this movie is for the special effects. Using mostly makeup and animatronics, the director doesn't shit all over the film with CGI graphics. It's a very welcome change in today's movie industry. And if it weren't for the awesome costumes, this movie would be a waste of time.

Rating - 2

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Lives of Others - 2006

Chandler - 7/22/13

The Lives of Others is a German film about the secret police (the Stasi) in East Berlin. One of the many tasks of the Stasi was to spy on citizens in order to protect the socialistic society. You know... you can't have people defecting to West Berlin or talking shit about Socialism.

But the biggest flaw of an oppressive government is human nature, both good/caring and bad/evil. The more you spy on someone, the more trapped you become in their world.

The movie has a lot of interesting characters and does try to humanize a group of arguably evil people (much like Downfall did with Hitler). It's a pretty good plot that accomplishes a lot with very little, regardless of how historically accurate it may be.

It may not be based on a specific true story, but the window into Eastern Germany life is fascinating. Good movie that I'm rating high because my expectations were so low.

Rating - 3

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Queen - 2006

Chandler - 7/8/13

Judging a book by it's cover, this movie appeared quite boring and stuffy in the usual British way. But The Queen was entertaining. Helen Mirren did an outstanding job as Queen Elizabeth II, and there's some great insight into the days following Princess Diana's death.

I can't really say I paid much attention to the ordeal back in 1997, so the film was interesting. Now all they need to do is make a movie about Diana whoring around. Oh wait... that's in post-production.

Rating - 2

Monday, June 24, 2013

Silver Linings Playbook - 2012

Rachael - 6/24/13

I don't celebrate trashy people finding love in real life. Why would I on screen? Get a job, fix your shit, and get back to me. The Academy Awards nominating this for best picture is more bizarre than watching DeNiro root for the Eagles.

Rating - 1


Chandler - 6/24/13

An emotionally crazed widow seduces a delusional, bi-polar felon. And it's shoved down your throat as a love story. Hollywood has run out of ideas.

Silver Linings Playbook suffers from many of the flaws most movies do. For one, I don't give a shit about the plight of the characters. The movie makes it quite clear how much this family loves Eagles football. So right off the bat, 99% of the county loses interest. Why the Eagles? They're a terrible underachieving team with an even worse fan base. It's almost as if the sports aspect was added to keep the attention of men in the audience. Make no mistake... this is a terrible chick-flick.

Robert DeNiro is horrible in this movie. He's an OCD, superstitious illegal bookmaker (as in gambling) who can't stop betting on his own team. We're lead to believe he has a successful book... but NO bookie is successful if they're gambling with baseless emotions. At one point he's trying to give away points on a spread, increasing it from 1.5 to 10! All because he believes in his team and the luck of his family. It's a excruciatingly over-acted scene filled with gambling cliches and mind numbing stupidity.

The two main characters are awful as well. Patrick almost beats some guy to death when he catches him fucking his wife. He then gets out of an 8 month stay at a psych-ward (court ordered) and attempts to get his wife back. He does this by losing weight and making excuses for his actions. I'm pretty sure his actions were justified, and he's just an idiot for wanting to rekindle a relationship with his whore wife.

Tiffany is the "new girl" whose cop husband has been killed. She's also unemployed after fucking her entire office, which I guess was some sort of coping mechanism. After meeting Patrick for 5 minutes, she decides to take him home and date him. Despite his refusal, love blossoms after she lies her way into trapping him in a terrible remake of Save the Last Dance (which is also a shitty movie).

Halfway through this film I realized I was watching various personalities of people I hang out with. And it's bad enough to witness the pathetic delusions in real life.

Rating - 1

Thursday, May 9, 2013

My Week with Marilyn - 2011

Rachael - 5/9/13

With movies like War Horse, The Descendants, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy rounding out the extensive list of nominees for best picture in the 84th Academy Awards, I’m surprised My Week with Marilyn did not make the list. Michelle Williams did rightfully win the Golden Globe for best actress and probably would have won the Oscar if not for Meryl Streep being her competition.

The success of this movie, as Marilyn Monroe’s actual movies did, hinged simply on Marilyn’s existence. There was no real storyline, there was no plot. You’re watching purely to be enraptured by Williams, who nails Monroe so perfectly you forget they’re not one in the same. Because of that, it’s hard to treat this as a movie review and not a character analysis on Marilyn. I’m not even going to try to fight it.

There were so many reasons to hate Marilyn. She was always late, rubbing it in everyone’s face she was worthy of them waiting on her. She was an attention whore, always pulling some stunt to get everyone to come running to fawn on her. She was fake: she developed a character to get attention and then forgot how to turn it off. She was not a good actress. She was a constant insecurity that needed to be told 100x a day how wonderful she was in all the ways. She was abused and abandoned as a child, leaving her with severe abandonment issues as an adult. She fell in love with men constantly purely because they were there, giving her attention. She constantly played dumb. She was addicted to pills and alcohol. She was an actual whore, sleeping with the President for God’s sake, and used miscarriages and abortions as a form of birth control. She used people to make her feel better and then moved on like they never existed. The world revolved around her and she blatantly abused it.

And yet beyond all that she had this ability, not lost in this movie, to make you want to give her attention. To make you want to play along in her act. To make you want to be used by her. Anything to just be in her presence. She had a way about her I don’t think will ever be duplicated by another celebrity. Without it I imagine she’d be the Lindsay Lohan of her time. Her assets were magnetic and her flaws only amplified that magnetism. At the end of the movie, you don’t care that there wasn’t much to it, you just don’t want Marilyn to leave you either. You begin to think a plot would have been a distraction from your time with Marilyn.

That being said, with more substance this movie would have been a 3, on par with a movie like The King’s Speech. But because it hinges on the ploy that is Monroe’s charm, as-is it’s a strong 2.

Rating - 2

Monday, April 22, 2013

Looper - 2012

Chandler - 4/22/13

In the year 2044, much of the United States is in poverty (presumably due to Obamacare). In the year 2074, time travel is invented and immediately made illegal. So of course mobsters use it to send people back to 2044 to be murdered, thus disposing of the body and evidence. The mob will also eventually send back the future self of the hired killers... creating a situation where a guy must kill himself and then live the next 30 years like a boss.

Ok... time travel movies are almost always terrible, with none ever coming close to the quality of Terminator and Terminator 2. But Looper is very good. It glosses over most of the paradoxes, and provides a pretty straight forward film that doesn't warp your brain too much (unless you let it).

Definitely worth a watch.

Rating - 3

Take Shelter - 2011

Geoff - 4/22/13

This movie should have been titled: "Take me to the counter and give me my money back".

Rating - 1

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Into the Wild - 2007

Chandler - 4/18/13

I never thought I'd see the day when I let Sean Penn and Eddie Vedder into my house for 2.5 hours, and I didn't want to punch them in the dick afterward. In fact, Kristen Stewart made a 20 minute appearance as herself (a slutty, trailer trash 16 year old)... and I actually don't dislike her anymore today than I did yesterday.

It's a fucking miracle.

Into the Wild starts slow but really picks up steam once it has a chance to give you some back story. Only then did I finally start to sympathize with the main character: a 23 year old kid who decides to run away from society to live a few years off the grid. Basically, he's a homeless man.

What makes this movie worth watching (and I find myself saying this a lot) is that it's based on a true story. And by all accounts, it was pretty damn accurate. The final scene has a major historical inaccuracy, but that's just Sean Penn trying to push the dirty hippie cause. It's also not worth me nit-picking, since he did a pretty good job directing the rest of the film.

Rating - 3

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"42" - 2013

Chandler - 4/16/13

Jackie Robinson breaks the color barrier in Major League Baseball. "42" breaks the N-word barrier in Hollywood. Seriously... it has to be a new record how many times that word is used.

So everyone knows the story of Jack Roosevelt Robinson, and how he was the first Negro League player to ever be signed by an MLB team. During his first season he endures a lot of racism, especially in the south where spring training is held. But Jackie is mentally strong and takes insults on the chin, and balls to the face, in order to play the game he loves.

"42" showed the above synopsis and nothing more. It wasn't really "gripping." None of the characters were that interesting, and it kinda felt like a drawn out made-for-TV movie. Harrison Ford's portrayal as Dodger owner Branch Rickey ranged from "awful southern accent" to "literally acting like Lewis Black when angry." I'm still not sure if I think Ford did a good job.

Anyway... the movie was alright. Just seemed like it tried too hard to be the "feel good movie of the summer." A good example was during the final epilog:

One of the film's villains was Phillies player/manager Ben Chapman, who would yell all sorts of racist things at Jackie from the dugout. The movie pointed out that he was eventually fired and never managed again, as if to say bad karma and racism were his downfall. In reality, Chapman not only finished the year as the Phillies manager, he also managed most of the next season. He was fired because the team was in 7th place (out of 8 teams). In fact, the Phillies went through three managers that season.

Oh well. Racism is bad. So... yeah... just remember that.

Rating - 2

Monday, April 15, 2013

Lincoln - 2012

Chandler - 4/15/13

Geoff hated this movie. He would tell you all his reasons, but he can't remember how to post a quick review of films he's recently seen.

However, I thought it was great. Daniel Day-Lewis was superb as Abraham Lincoln, and his method acting was so intense you really forget you're watching an actor. Sally Field also did a wonderful job as the broken-down and crazy Mary Todd Lincoln.

Sure, the film should have been called "The 13th Amendment." And the fever at which Lincoln fights for and  incorporates the amendment was a bit overblown. But it's still a good look back into that period of our country. The emotional toll the war took on Abe is the most interesting part of the story.

As a person who likes to tell random, long-winded stories... I found Day-Lewis' depiction of the President endearing.

Rating - 3


Geoff - 4/22/13

Ugh... where to start. Lincoln is really long and probably wouldn't be a bad movie if it were called "The 13th Amendment" and Daniel Day Lewis wasn't being weird. The movie isn't really about Abraham Lincoln at all; this movie could be made with the exact same plot, without ever even having a scene with Lincoln in it.

And what was wrong with Daniel Day Lewis, you ask? He won an Oscar. He won an Oscar for the same reason Chandler mentioned, you forgot it was DDL when you were watching. The problem is he had some weird voice, and he told the semi-humorous long winded stories throughout the movie. Maybe that's how Lincoln was, maybe not. The point is, it was a huge distraction, and I found it extremely annoying.

And then, you get robbed of the payoff in the end of the movie, because the assassination scene was a complete letdown. Hey, Spielberg, how 'bout we skip just one of those lame anecdotes and toss in a a quick scene someone might actually want to see.

Rating - 1

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Serpico - 1973

Chandler - 3/14/13

Great movie starring Al Pacino as a young undercover cop in NYC, who is disgusted with the corruption in the police force. Serpico is based on the biography of Frank Serpico, who was the first officer in NYC to uncover the scandalous activity.

There's not much to say about the film. It's well done, and you can clearly see how influential it is. Also... Al Pacino is pretty badass, which is to be expected since he filmed this between the Godfather movies.

Watch it.

Rating - 3

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Separation - 2011

Chandler - 3/12/13

A Separation is an Iranian film about a wife who files for divorce, and the issues it causes their immediate family and acquaintances.

It was a well done and honest story, which seemed to provide a good view into Iranian culture. The class, legal and religious institutions all play a key role in the conflict and resolution of the characters, just as you might imagine they do in Iran.

Good movie... good story... very insightful...

But probably not entertaining enough for most American viewers.

Rating - 2

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Host - 2006

Chandler - 3/11/13

The Host is a South Korean monster movie about a mutated fish in the Han River. The US poster has three quotes on it:
  • "One of the greatest monster movies ever made."
  • "On par with Jaws."
  • "A knockout monster movie."
Upon its release, it set a South Korean record by selling 10 million tickets in just twenty one days. It won best film at the Asian Film Awards and Blue Dragon Film Awards. It made over $80 million dollars profit, more than 700% the cost of the film. It is critically acclaimed by the movie industry,  including Quentin Tarantino.

And... it's a waste of time.

The film doesn't know what it is. On one hand, we're led to believe it is a scary monster movie... but that fails miserably. The melodramatic acting, music, gags and fart jokes make you think it's a comedy (maybe even a self-aware movie like Gremlins)... but The Host provides more eye-rolls than laughs. And the movie is filled with examples of pollution, bureaucracy failures, American military occupation, Western arrogance, South Korean youth protests and lower-class poverty... so maybe it's a political satire? Perhaps... but it really comes off making South Koreans look stupid. I can't imagine this is what the director was trying to achieve.

The production value was high, but the CGI moster looked like crap. Basically, I'm not better off having watched this film.

Rating - 1

Monday, March 4, 2013

Argo - 2012

Chandler - 3/4/13

I saw this movie in the theater last year, but now that it won Best Picture, I imagine they'll add it to The List in the next revision.

Argo was OK. Ben Affleck did a great job as director and a mediocre job as the lead character. The problem with this movie is they didn't have much to work with. It's an excellent real-life story that is better fit for a History Channel special. Almost every interesting aspect (outside the initial embassy raid) was stretching the true events of the operation. You know how this movie ends, and the way they show it is overly desperate for some drama that didn't exist. It made me roll my eyes.

John Goodman and Alan Arkin are excellent, and really save the film.

But if you want to watch historical non-fiction about Muslims kidnapping white people... watch Munich. It's a much better story with actual conflict. Argo is a poor man's Munich.

Rating - 2

Monday, February 18, 2013

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World - 2010

Rachael - 2/18/13

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World wasn’t a movie I particularly wanted to see. It’s based off of manga-style comic book series, which although I like comic book movies and Asian foreign films, manga is a world I don’t understand nor have interest in. But it came recommended so I tried to go into it with an open mind.

I instantly appreciated the video game / comic book feel of the movie, created by eye-popping visual effects and video game sounds. It allows the characters’ to interact with the space around them on another level, amplifying emotions. Even though these effects proved rather childish as the movie progressed, I still give it style points.

As characters are introduced, their name, age, and “level” appeared in a box next to them, letting the audience know this movie is about people around the age of 22. I don’t believe any character was over the age of 25. And it doesn’t take long until you realize the movie deals with issues only thought to be as intense as the movie treats them by people between the ages of 17-23: starting new relationships and dealing with the fact that you’re not the first person to date your significant other.

I know I’m giving adults too much credit, but theoretically once you hit a certain age and have been in enough relationships, you develop a level of maturity that allows you to let the existence of exes fall into the background. But for young adults who have only been in a couple relationships, I guess this is a huge deal to overcome, and worth building a comic book series and movie around. I’m was already emotionally detached from the plight of Scott Pilgrim and what he’d do to date the “girl of his dreams” Ramona.

I completely separated myself from this movie once I realized there is zero chemistry between any of the characters to warrant use of the “L” word (love, not lesbians), let alone risking lives over relationships. There is no girl in the world where every single one of her exes (going back to the 7th grade) is still hung up on and wants back regardless of how hot their current girlfriends are or how successful and famous they’ve become. Especially this girl, who looks goth and has the charm of burnt white toast. Sorry Ramona, in real life your exes are over you and probably forgot that week in middle school when you guys dated. And there is no way Scott Pilgrim is bagging the hot Asians and hot rock star chicks that are fighting over him. He has no job, he sleeps in the same bed as his gay roommate (and whatever other dudes his roommate brings home) and his hair kinda makes him look like this:

In real life, Scott Pilgrim can only get Juno-esque chicks.

Now I’d let Cera’s looks slide if I truly felt the two main characters were supposed to be together. But there’s no way I’m going to emotionally back Pilgrim for 112 minutes as he roundhouse kicks and karate chops his way into a relationship that will probably end unconsummated within a month.

Rating - 1


Chandler - 2/18/13

This movie lost me when the first "battle" turned into a painfully awkward musical. It then tried to draw me back in with some clever and unexpected nerd humor (people turn into coins when they die), but the giggles were too few and far between.

I get the metaphor. But the idea would probably be better served as a short film instead a full-length feature. Or, maybe it works better as a comic. Either way, it flopped in the box office... and again in my living room.

Rating - 1

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Pianist - 2002

Chandler - 2/7/13

When director Roman Polanski isn't having sex with 13 year old girls, he makes some pretty decent movies.

The Pianist is no exception. Unlike the movie Shine, which I also just watched, there isn't much piano playing in Polanski's story. Instead... there's a lot of Germans killing Jews.

The Pianist is a biographical film of a Polish-Jewish piano player, who gets "stuck" in Poland during WW2. The movie follows the establishment of the Warsaw Ghetto, the failed uprising and eventually liberation by the Soviet Army.

It's a pretty accurate film, with a lot of great detail given to the Warsaw Ghetto. It's also pretty disturbing at times, as the German government moves from humiliation, to containment to extermination (resulting in the death of over 300,000 Jews from the ghetto alone).

Worth a watch, especially for the historical context.

Rating - 3

Beasts of the Southern Wild - 2012

Geoff - 2/7/13

Beasts of the Southern Wild is set in a broken down bayou town called "The Bath Tub" and is a tale about the main character, "Hush Puppy". Hush Puppy lives in The Bath Tub with her sickly, drunk father, who spends most of the picture yelling at (her). I spent half the movie trying to figure out if Hush Puppy was a boy or a girl. In my defense, her father in the film often refers to her as "man" and tells her one day she'll be "king of the Bath Tub".

Beasts of the Southern Wild is an interesting movie for a few reasons. For starters the main stars in the movie haven't acted before. Quvenzhané Wallis (Hush Puppy) is getting a lot of acclaim, even an Oscar nomination. Though, personally, I think Dwight Henry who plays her father "Wink" is the one that did the better work.

Beasts of the Southern Wild takes us through the trials and tribulations of what happens to the people living in The Bath Tub when a levy breaks and floods their homes. As Wink's condition worsens and they're forced to evacuate, Hush Puppy must grow up quickly. The movie shows almost literal parallels between the citizens of The Bath Tub and giant prehistoric hog-like creatures called "Aurochs" as the Bath Tubbers fight their own extinction. It's a lot to wrap your head around, but it's actually done pretty well in the film.

Rating - 2

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Illusionist - 2006

Chandler - 1/23/13

Didn't I just watch this movie?

Ohhh... it's another movie about a magician getting revenge for the death of his lover, while some other dude who is into magic tries to figure out his secrets. And it came out the same year as The Prestige?!?

Here are a few things I learned watching this film:

- Edward Norton does a good job playing a monotone, lifeless wandering magician... until he's required to show anger and grief. Then he sucks at acting.
- Jessica Biel continues to be famous for no reason, with zero "breakout" performances on her résumé.
- Paul Giamatti is an underrated actor, which is probably his own fault.

The movie is OK. Nothing special with a disappointing conclusion. The yellow-tint gets annoying too.

Rating - 2

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Atonement - 2007

Chandler - 1/15/13

Atonement is almost a great movie. It starts off painfully slow, conjuring up too many memories of Pride and Prejudice*. I began to question my viewing decision as I watched some spoiled rich brat run around whining about a play she wrote. But then Keira Knightley (by far the world's hottest anorexic person**) strips down and jumps into a fountain. Alright, Atonement. You have my attention.

The rest of the film deals with various guilt, pain and emotional suffering as the two main characters attempt to survive WW2 long enough to be united. It's a decent story, but the movie could have been a lot darker.

Sometimes in life you can fuck up so badly that you don't deserve forgiveness. Society places too much value on "I'm sorry," and not enough on the responsibility to not to fuck up in the first place. Far too often we give people a free pass, as if their apology is a sign of an unbearable burden that desperately needs to be lifted. But what about those who were originally wronged? Words and hindsight won't make amends or erase their disappointment.

Basically, I didn't like the end of the movie. It reminded me too much of people I know who selfishly create ways to achieve atonement. Maybe that makes it more realistic?

Rating - 3

*P&P is burned into my brain as one of the most horrible film experiences I've ever seen. It turns out what I was forced to watch in high school was the 1995 British TV series. I actually had no idea that a 2005 film was made, also starring Keira Knightley.

**K. Knight is adamant that she is not anorexic. Please don't sue us, KK. You're perfect the way you are.