The Grinch Review

Illumination Delivers Another Perfectly Acceptable if not Necessarily Exceptional Animated Diversion in this Re-Telling of the Dr. Suess Classic.

Bohemian Rhapsody Review

This Queen biopic Fails to Transcend the Genre the Way its Subjects Transcended the Music Scene, but at Least the Music is Good.

Overlord Review

Overlord Combines the Terror of War with the Terror of a Zombie Apocalypse and Accomplishes Exactly what it Means To.

The Nutcraker and the Four Realms Review

An All-Star Cast Attempts to Usher The Nutcracker Story to a New Generation Via Disney Blockbuster, but Unfortunately the Results Fall Short of the Ambition.

A Star is Born Review

Bradley Cooper Writes, Directs, Sings, and Stars in this Fourth Incarnation of this Story Alongside Lady Gaga to Rapturous Results.

THE KING'S SPEECH Review

When it comes to films such as "The King's Speech" it is hard to ignore the fact that these are the types of films the Oscar voters will look at. It brings a completely different kind of aspect to the viewing role if you have any interest in film or the awards shows. And while I enjoyed this film very much, I wouldn't put it at the top of my favorites. While it is a beautifully made film, it isn't the most beautiful film I've seen in recent memory.

What I am trying to say is that there is no doubt the two lead actors here, Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, will garner Oscar noms and at least one of them will probably win. Deservedly so, but what is there of this film after all the awards talk is wiped away? After we take away the pre-conceived thoughts the rave reviews have planted in your head and simply go into this with a clear mind. What would you think had you heard nothing of this film prior? That is what I went in trying to answer and I am happy to say that even without the positive hype I still found myself loving much of this film. It is a movie of moments, both touching and humorous. It opens up a fascinating world and while it is clearly a slower paced, artistic movie, it is never not entertaining and in that was where the victory was won.

In 1936 Firth's Bertie must take over the role of king after his father dies and his brother abdicates the throne. It is all completely true and completely fascinating. The catch here is that Bertie has battled with a stutter most of his life and when it comes to public speaking he is overcome and ultimately defeated by it every time. Enter Lionel Logue (Rush) the unorthodox speech coach that will overcome the King's handicap and lead him to a victory during the point in his life when he needs it most.

The acting here is fantastic. As Bertie Firth is nothing less than brilliant, truly, he inherits the character and leads the movie with a fearless quality that makes us wonder how he will cope with the predictable structure of the film. Though we know how everything will play out, it is the interaction between Firth and the wonderfully awkward Rush that make this film feel special. It is beautifully designed and shot. Its angles possess an in-your-face feeling. Putting you right behind the microphone or right in front of the audience that seem to be towering over you. It is almost nauseating at points and we see why Bertie is as nervous as he is. The style sometimes disrupts the uptight nature of the films subject but it does nothing short of aiding the storytelling.

As Lionel, Rush is not the high brow academic he portrays himself to be in the presence of his patients. He is simply a struggling actor who finds he has a talent for aiding those with speech impediments. Thus meaning his character isn't the usual quirky oddball, but he is a kind of deceiver, but in the terms least harsh of meanings. Lionel does what he does because he truly means to help his patients. As the time and lessons continue between he and the king, they naturally become good friends who by the end are much more than student and teacher. We see it coming, but this is the finest example of a buddy film ever made. And as exuberant as Rush is in his role, it is good to see such amazing support by such amazing and invested actors like Helena Bonham Carter's Elizabeth, who is always there for her husband, always supportive, always striving to help. Bonham Carter makes a turn here for the best, creating a calm and natural role from an actress that is known for her eccentric characters. Guy Pearce shows up shortly as the slimy King Edward VIII and Timothy Spall and Michael Gambon portray more famous historical figures that are filled out just fine.

What amazes me most about the film is the simplicity of its story. There is no rising action, no big climax we are really building to here. And what tension there might be is easily relieved by the fact we know what to expect or what is going to happen, if you know even a little bit of history. The pacing, acting and beautifully graceful musical score all help this move along in a way that doesn't necessarily require our short attention spans to be looking for that familiar conclusion. Instead we have become so invested in this character that Firth is playing so wonderfully that we only hop he can overcome his fear and lead his country at a time when a strong leader is most needed.

"The King's Speech" is not a large drama that has gained its status as serious Oscar contender because of its original story or its groundbreaking storytelling, special effects or even its sense of prestige. Instead it is just a character-driven story that relates a universal theme through an individual we would expect to have everything figured out. To see that even the most privileged of us all still have their issues is not just refreshing but it offers opportunity galore for a character actor to spread his wings and suggest the idea of what it was like to be that person they are portraying. All the actors here did that well, but Firth did it perfectly and as much as I tried to keep the awards chatter out of my brain, I could not escape the thought that Firth will no doubt be holding a golden statue come February.


THE KING'S SPEECH Review

When it comes to films such as "The King's Speech" it is hard to ignore the fact that these are the types of films the Oscar voters will look at. It brings a completely different kind of aspect to the viewing role if you have any interest in film or the awards shows. And while I enjoyed this film very much, I wouldn't put it at the top of my favorites. While it is a beautifully made film, it isn't the most beautiful film I've seen in recent memory.

What I am trying to say is that there is no doubt the two lead actors here, Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, will garner Oscar noms and at least one of them will probably win. Deservedly so, but what is there of this film after all the awards talk is wiped away? After we take away the pre-conceived thoughts the rave reviews have planted in your head and simply go into this with a clear mind. What would you think had you heard nothing of this film prior? That is what I went in trying to answer and I am happy to say that even without the positive hype I still found myself loving much of this film. It is a movie of moments, both touching and humorous. It opens up a fascinating world and while it is clearly a slower paced, artistic movie, it is never not entertaining and in that was where the victory was won.

GULLIVER'S TRAVELS Review

Ya know, going into this Jack Black family comedy I expected nothing more than an excuse for Black to flail himself around and make funny faces in an attempt to get the kiddies to laugh. I thought, surely the trailer wasn't a good sign and I am probably going to regret buying a ticket even after choosing to save a few bucks by seeing it in regular ole 2-D. So, to say the least, I expected very little. I wasn't completely correct in those assumptions.

"Gulliver's Travels" has its moments. Most of them due to the fun cast that has been assembled. Luckily, the film plays to Black's strengths. It doesn't ever try to make him something he is not and it is actually really good to see Black doing what he does best after so many roles of trying to prove his naysayers wrong. As nice as it was to see him try and with great success in "Tropic Thunder" and smaller films like "Be Kind Rewind" it was refreshing to re-live those reasons we fell in love with Jack Black in the first place. In supporting roles, Jason Segel plays Horatio a Lilliput who yearns to be with Princess Mary, played by the always pleasant Emily Blunt. Amanda Peet is present for a few scenes but is nothing more than a little bland and gives us no real reason to root fro Gulliver to leave this land of little people where he has become so at home.
One of my favorite parts of this experience was simply noticing how much fun the actors seemed to be having while trying to make a children's movie. Who is to say artsy, Oscar bait films are more enjoyable than a fun family-oriented film such as this. I'm not saying it is as meaningful, and certainly we are in a drought of quality live-action films geared towards the young demographic, but I cannot honestly say that I wasn't entertained and enjoying myself the entire hour and twenty-five minute run time. Heck, I even laughed out loud a few times. Watching Jason Segel and Emily Blunt go back and forth with their obvious put-upon old English accents and having Black feed Segel Prince lyrics as he tries to court her is nothing more than hilarious. Simple, but still funny.

And though much might be said for some of the poor special effects I, at the same time, find it hard to complain about the look of the film. For the most part, I found it rather pretty and thought the set design to be rather inspiring. Though the movie does slip pretty heavily into product placement and constant pop culture references it is fun to watch the very animated Black adjust to the time period of the tiny Lilliput. In a string of good gags, Black comes up with ways to incorporate his new found friends and servants into his world. Watching such a modern guy react and work with this strange world around him might not be what Jonathon Swift had in mind when he originally wrote the book, but the movie serves as a good segway for kids to enjoy mindlessly entertainment while possibly creating curiosity around its source material.

"Gulliver's Travels" is quick and colorful. It is lively while possessing little real heartbeat behind the surface images it conjures up. It would be a lie to say I didn't enjoy the film, it obviously exceeded my very low expectations but I know the difference in being surprised and being proved wrong. I was happy this wasn't as bad as I though it was going to be. I liked the sets, I enjoyed the company of the actors and I laughed at most of the jokes, but I couldn't ever suppress the feeling the film could have been much much better. It could have been more inventive at parts, it could have not relied on those pop culture jokes so much and instead been more true to Swift's book while making it a comedy. Learning through laughter was always best when I was a kid and while this provided a few moments of laughter, there was nothing to think about. In that regard, the kids of the world deserve a little more.


GULLIVER'S TRAVELS Review

Ya know, going into this Jack Black family comedy I expected nothing more than an excuse for Black to flail himself around and make funny faces in an attempt to get the kiddies to laugh. I thought, surely the trailer wasn't a good sign and I am probably going to regret buying a ticket even after choosing to save a few bucks by seeing it in regular ole 2-D. So, to say the least, I expected very little. I wasn't completely correct in those assumptions.

"Gulliver's Travels" has its moments. Most of them due to the fun cast that has been assembled. Luckily, the film plays to Black's strengths. It doesn't ever try to make him something he is not and it is actually really good to see Black doing what he does best after so many roles of trying to prove his naysayers wrong. As nice as it was to see him try and with great success in "Tropic Thunder" and smaller films like "Be Kind Rewind" it was refreshing to re-live those reasons we fell in love with Jack Black in the first place. In supporting roles, Jason Segel plays Horatio a Lilliput who yearns to be with Princess Mary, played by the always pleasant Emily Blunt. Amanda Peet is present for a few scenes but is nothing more than a little bland and gives us no real reason to root fro Gulliver to leave this land of little people where he has become so at home.

LITTLE FOCKERS Review

The critics have been extra harsh to the third entry in this franchise. And while the film itself isn't as bad as the poor tomatometer score might indicate it is only because we expected so much more from the movie and the people making it. Built with such solid foundation, the culmination of two movies worth of trying to get married and settling down results in a underwhelming third act and sadly, is probably not the last chapter to Focker world.

Whereas the struggle for Greg to constantly win the approval of his father-in-law might be long gone by now, the writer still find it necessary to re-visit that conflict again. But while in the second film Greg was attempting to make his parents worthy of Jacks approval here he is trying to make his kids and again, himself. It just runs out of steam and we seriously feel bad for Stillers character, wondering how long he will actually put up with this crap. Teri Polo does little to ease the pain in this film either, in fact her role along with everyone but Stiller and DeNiro's take a backseat to a new character played by Jessica Alba? What? Who's awful idea was that? While I don't usually like Alba, she proved herself humorous in a few moments but still, I would have rather had more story that included Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand and Blythe Danner. Their small bits feel forced and unnecessary. What brings up even more questions are the casting of Laura Dern and Harvey Keitel in even smaller roles that were no doubt cut sufficiently once the writers had to make room for Hoffmans storyline.

To put it lightly, the movie feels messy. The story is allowed no time to develop because we are constantly trying to include everyone and the jokes, well, you've heard them all before, and the fun little bits they do seem to come up with have all been put in the trailer so no surprises whatsoever. The one saving grace of the film and seemingly the only smart move on the part of the writers was to make Owen Wilson's role a larger one. Wilson's Kevin has always floated around the edge of the family but through the years that have passed between the last film and this it seems he has become close with not only Pam, but Greg as well. Wilson makes his odd role one that elicits the most laughs and is able to create the more awkward of situations, a thing this franchise has always thrived upon.

I really wish the makers of the movie would have simply waited until all the members of the cast agreed to a time to film a script they could all agree on. Instead we are presented with a rushed, slapdash effort that, while entertaining enough to withstand a Christmas night viewing from families looking for an escape into this familiar land, it is clear the test of time will not be as kind. This was the ultimate exercise in getting a group of actors together while not having the strong material of past purposes for their gathering present. Sure, we love to see these guys banter, but it doesn't serve a good enough purpose to take a family we so adore and as an audience, feel we know, and degrade them to this. I'm really upset about it. I didn't want to believe the reviews, but I must admit, I expected more, at least some evidence of effort.


LITTLE FOCKERS Review

The critics have been extra harsh to the third entry in this franchise. And while the film itself isn't as bad as the poor tomatometer score might indicate it is only because we expected so much more from the movie and the people making it. Built with such solid foundation, the culmination of two movies worth of trying to get married and settling down results in a underwhelming third act and sadly, is probably not the last chapter to Focker world.

Whereas the struggle for Greg to constantly win the approval of his father-in-law might be long gone by now, the writer still find it necessary to re-visit that conflict again. But while in the second film Greg was attempting to make his parents worthy of Jacks approval here he is trying to make his kids and again, himself. It just runs out of steam and we seriously feel bad for Stillers character, wondering how long he will actually put up with this crap. Teri Polo does little to ease the pain in this film either, in fact her role along with everyone but Stiller and DeNiro's take a backseat to a new character played by Jessica Alba? What? Who's awful idea was that? While I don't usually like Alba, she proved herself humorous in a few moments but still, I would have rather had more story that included Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand and Blythe Danner. Their small bits feel forced and unnecessary. What brings up even more questions are the casting of Laura Dern and Harvey Keitel in even smaller roles that were no doubt cut sufficiently once the writers had to make room for Hoffmans storyline.

Top 10 of 2010





1. INCEPTION

"Inception" lived up to the expectations I held for it. And they were pretty darn high. Chris Nolan, with this original piece of filmmaking has set himself apart from just being "the guy who made “The Dark Knight". This film, while not being as complicated as you may imagine, actually has the tone of a bank heist film. Of course the difference here being that in 'Inception' the bank is the mind and the team of robbers aren't stealing as they would usually do, but instead they are leaving something behind. It is a grand idea and Nolan explores it without losing anyone. Though he does assume his audience is smart enough to keep up, something we haven't really had to do much of this year.

2. THE FIGHTER

This is simply put: an amazing film. I loved it. Every minute of it. Going into 'The Fighter' I expected a rousing story and a great performance by both Wahlberg and Bale. Mark Wahlberg has been trying to get this film made for years and in more ways than one this feels like his film. Wahlberg plays real life boxer Micky Ward who was seen as nothing more than a stepping stone, but rose to win the welterweight title in the mid-80's. Along with amazing supporting performances from Amy Adams and Melissa Leo, Christian Bale will no doubt be a top contender for best supporting actor for playing Micky's cracked out brother Dicky. He disappears into the role and brings forth the true conflict in the film: Those within a family.

3. TOY STORY 3

Some people think you can get too wrapped up in movies and taking them as more than just entertainment is a little weird. But once in a while a film comes along that re-enforces the true reasons some people do get so wrapped up in the movies. In this case, we are discussing what is essentially the end to the films that defined mine and many others childhoods. 'Toy Story 3' is visually stunning, with an almost epic scope that takes everything Pixar has done to this point up a notch.

4. THE SOCIAL NETWORK

There is so much to say about the film I can hardly express it all here, but that the goal of facebook was to be cool, to see what others were up to, to know who's in a relationship and who's not anymore. That the whole thing grew from the need for revenge on a scorned lover, of not feeling included or elite. It is what the world is about, it touches on so many human emotions and it is all filtered through a page of your very own on the Internet. It is a cultural phenomenon and we are lucky to have a film that chronicles how something big can come from the most basic emotions that we all share. It is jolting, effective, complex and nothing like you probably thought.

5. THE TOWN

“The Town” is a superb piece of filmmaking. When Affleck's directorial debut garnered such positive praise I, like many others, was rather surprised. With his second though, Mr. Affleck proves he was not just a one hit wonder but a true artist and one who is very good at his craft. From the opening sequence the tone is set, the neutral color palette and the performance driven drama is all exemplified greatly within the first few minutes. At the head of these strong performances is Affleck himself. Managing several different duties can sometimes be evident in one's work, but here the director/writer/actor is as flawless as can be.

6. TRUE GRIT

The trademark Coen tone seeps through into the somewhat nostalgic material. The odd editing, the random bits of humor, the sly sarcastic wit of each character. It is all there and though the environment seems almost in conflict with that type of persona and tone, it only seems to enhance the idea of this genre western being taken to a different kind of level than we have been treated to before. With the beautiful landscapes, the Arkansas references and the subtle musical score that moves the somewhat slow paced film along at a good speed it is easy to catch the greatness of it all. We watch as a young girl struggles to accomplish what will bring balance to her world and though as we are shown in an epilogue type segment that this meeting between herself and Rooster was only a small section of her life it did indeed affect her greatly. This film affected me greatly. It is not a revolutionary story and it doesn't present some new way of thinking, but it does feel profound, and in that the film is a complete success.

7. SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD

Director Edgar Wright has provided a completely original, fun and inventive film that is a pure representation of this generations love story. 'Scott Pilgrim' is simply a feast for the eyes and more importantly, the brain. No, it's not some elaborate story and it does not possess an elaborate plot, in fact it is very much the same story as every other Michael Cera movie, but it is the way, the style in which it is told that makes the film stand firmly in a league of its own. Its a simple story of boy liking girl and the obstacles he faces in trying to obtain that dream girl. Nothing to strange right? No, but then we meet the first of seven evil exes that belong to Scott's hearts desire and so the fun begins and the film keeps a consistent upbeat tempo with little comedic quirks galore.

8. BLACK SWAN

"Black Swan" is most likely the closest thing we will ever get to seeing Darren Aronofsky make a horror film. Though it doesn't fit within the conventions of those types of films, it is still essentially a film revolving around the downward spiral of its main character into a mentally insane state of mind. Natalie Portman's Nina offers us a front row seat not only into the career of a ballet dancer, but into the many facets that go into what it takes to get roles, the pressure to fulfill them and the tension between you and your peers when you are rewarded with what they all desire. Ballet is not at the center of the film, it simply serves as a beautiful and elegant backdrop for one of the more terrifying aspects the human mind can conjure up.

9. WINTER'S BONE

The film encompasses a small community of nasty women and shady men, all surrounded by naked trees and signs of time passed. The environment is just as nasty a character as the people around Ree, played with Oscar worthy authenticity by Jennifer Lawrence. The Ozark atmosphere plays such a crucial role in the small but extremely rough and brutal climax of the film. The film is quite moving and presents a world not too many are familiar with outside those who live in it, yet it never feels like a grand melodrama and in fact feels less like a story and more like a poem, a stark and sadly moving poem.


10. KICK-ASS

It has huge elements of both action, comedy and drama. Neither of these are small elements of an otherwise dominate comedic, action or drama film. So, in order to mix all of these with a good balance and having to keep a consistent tone I'd also say it is the most impressive thing about this film. It does escalate from comedy to action comedy to action drama with bits of humor, but it knows what it wants and it goes for it with no regard as to who will be offended.







Yet To See: 127 Hours, Conviction, Nowhere Boy, Fair Game, The Kings Speech, Blue Valentine, Buried, Rabbit Hole, Let Me In, & Get Low.

Top 10 of 2010





1. INCEPTION

"Inception" lived up to the expectations I held for it. And they were pretty darn high. Chris Nolan, with this original piece of filmmaking has set himself apart from just being "the guy who made “The Dark Knight". This film, while not being as complicated as you may imagine, actually has the tone of a bank heist film. Of course the difference here being that in 'Inception' the bank is the mind and the team of robbers aren't stealing as they would usually do, but instead they are leaving something behind. It is a grand idea and Nolan explores it without losing anyone. Though he does assume his audience is smart enough to keep up, something we haven't really had to do much of this year.

2. THE FIGHTER

This is simply put: an amazing film. I loved it. Every minute of it. Going into 'The Fighter' I expected a rousing story and a great performance by both Wahlberg and Bale. Mark Wahlberg has been trying to get this film made for years and in more ways than one this feels like his film. Wahlberg plays real life boxer Micky Ward who was seen as nothing more than a stepping stone, but rose to win the welterweight title in the mid-80's. Along with amazing supporting performances from Amy Adams and Melissa Leo, Christian Bale will no doubt be a top contender for best supporting actor for playing Micky's cracked out brother Dicky. He disappears into the role and brings forth the true conflict in the film: Those within a family.

3. TOY STORY 3

Some people think you can get too wrapped up in movies and taking them as more than just entertainment is a little weird. But once in a while a film comes along that re-enforces the true reasons some people do get so wrapped up in the movies. In this case, we are discussing what is essentially the end to the films that defined mine and many others childhoods. 'Toy Story 3' is visually stunning, with an almost epic scope that takes everything Pixar has done to this point up a notch.

4. THE SOCIAL NETWORK

There is so much to say about the film I can hardly express it all here, but that the goal of facebook was to be cool, to see what others were up to, to know who's in a relationship and who's not anymore. That the whole thing grew from the need for revenge on a scorned lover, of not feeling included or elite. It is what the world is about, it touches on so many human emotions and it is all filtered through a page of your very own on the Internet. It is a cultural phenomenon and we are lucky to have a film that chronicles how something big can come from the most basic emotions that we all share. It is jolting, effective, complex and nothing like you probably thought.

5. THE TOWN

“The Town” is a superb piece of filmmaking. When Affleck's directorial debut garnered such positive praise I, like many others, was rather surprised. With his second though, Mr. Affleck proves he was not just a one hit wonder but a true artist and one who is very good at his craft. From the opening sequence the tone is set, the neutral color palette and the performance driven drama is all exemplified greatly within the first few minutes. At the head of these strong performances is Affleck himself. Managing several different duties can sometimes be evident in one's work, but here the director/writer/actor is as flawless as can be.

6. TRUE GRIT

The trademark Coen tone seeps through into the somewhat nostalgic material. The odd editing, the random bits of humor, the sly sarcastic wit of each character. It is all there and though the environment seems almost in conflict with that type of persona and tone, it only seems to enhance the idea of this genre western being taken to a different kind of level than we have been treated to before. With the beautiful landscapes, the Arkansas references and the subtle musical score that moves the somewhat slow paced film along at a good speed it is easy to catch the greatness of it all. We watch as a young girl struggles to accomplish what will bring balance to her world and though as we are shown in an epilogue type segment that this meeting between herself and Rooster was only a small section of her life it did indeed affect her greatly. This film affected me greatly. It is not a revolutionary story and it doesn't present some new way of thinking, but it does feel profound, and in that the film is a complete success.

7. SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD

Director Edgar Wright has provided a completely original, fun and inventive film that is a pure representation of this generations love story. 'Scott Pilgrim' is simply a feast for the eyes and more importantly, the brain. No, it's not some elaborate story and it does not possess an elaborate plot, in fact it is very much the same story as every other Michael Cera movie, but it is the way, the style in which it is told that makes the film stand firmly in a league of its own. Its a simple story of boy liking girl and the obstacles he faces in trying to obtain that dream girl. Nothing to strange right? No, but then we meet the first of seven evil exes that belong to Scott's hearts desire and so the fun begins and the film keeps a consistent upbeat tempo with little comedic quirks galore.

8. BLACK SWAN

"Black Swan" is most likely the closest thing we will ever get to seeing Darren Aronofsky make a horror film. Though it doesn't fit within the conventions of those types of films, it is still essentially a film revolving around the downward spiral of its main character into a mentally insane state of mind. Natalie Portman's Nina offers us a front row seat not only into the career of a ballet dancer, but into the many facets that go into what it takes to get roles, the pressure to fulfill them and the tension between you and your peers when you are rewarded with what they all desire. Ballet is not at the center of the film, it simply serves as a beautiful and elegant backdrop for one of the more terrifying aspects the human mind can conjure up.

9. WINTER'S BONE

The film encompasses a small community of nasty women and shady men, all surrounded by naked trees and signs of time passed. The environment is just as nasty a character as the people around Ree, played with Oscar worthy authenticity by Jennifer Lawrence. The Ozark atmosphere plays such a crucial role in the small but extremely rough and brutal climax of the film. The film is quite moving and presents a world not too many are familiar with outside those who live in it, yet it never feels like a grand melodrama and in fact feels less like a story and more like a poem, a stark and sadly moving poem.


10. KICK-ASS

It has huge elements of both action, comedy and drama. Neither of these are small elements of an otherwise dominate comedic, action or drama film. So, in order to mix all of these with a good balance and having to keep a consistent tone I'd also say it is the most impressive thing about this film. It does escalate from comedy to action comedy to action drama with bits of humor, but it knows what it wants and it goes for it with no regard as to who will be offended.







Yet To See: 127 Hours, Conviction, Nowhere Boy, Fair Game, The Kings Speech, Blue Valentine, Buried, Rabbit Hole, Let Me In, & Get Low.

TRUE GRIT Review

Without having seen the original 'True Grit' I prepared myself for this remake with no thoughts of a prior film, I looked at it with the eagerness I usually do any new Coen brothers film and I believed (and still do) they had no intention of making a film that was purely based on an older one. Not knowing how the Coens version differs or what it builds upon and takes away I cannot say it is a better film and I cannot compare Jeff Bridges to John Wayne.

What I can say though is that this is a damn solid film. Expecting nothing less from the brothers Coen, this 'True Grit' is an exercise in genre filmmaking for the directors. They have adapted the screenplay into a traditional western saga. The film telling the simple story of a man on the run and the determined young lady and U.S. Marshal out to capture him. The Coens not only take cues from westerns of the past but push them, force them to create a beautiful film that is compelling despite the predictable plot.

I cannot complain of the familiar plot for the story of it all is made very compelling by the two lead actors. Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn is a surly, drunken Marshal whom young Mattie Ross asks to help her acquire the man who killed her father. As Mattie, Hailee Steinfeld is a quick tongue and a sharp mind of what is fair and what is not, what is just and what is wrong. She knows the ins and outs of what she is capable of and she uses her knowledge to its full extent. At points it can be rather annoying, her nagging the marshal and Texas Ranger LaBouef to do only as she asks with no concern for other factors that complicate the situation. Steinfeld is relentless though and she plays the determined and unflinching Mattie with such vigor it is impossible to tear your eyes from hers. Bridges on the other hand gives just the right amount of his drunken persona to make you doubt he may turn out to be the hero that Mattie needs him to be. Throughout we want to believe Cogburn will come through for Mattie, but we never really trust him. In fact, between he and LaBouef we are put in the position of concern for Mattie and that her one desire to see her fathers killer put to death may not pan out, that it could in fact cause only more harm to Mattie.

As Labouef, Matt Damon is is completely mesmerizing and deserves a supporting actor nom. The Texas ranger he portrays is an odd character, one who fits the awkward Coen tone perfectly. Damon delivers his lines with a slow drawl that exudes ease. Even after his tongue is nearly bitten through and he speaks with a lisp, he never wavers from vocal tone that tells you exactly who this man is and what he thinks of himself. As with Cogburn he draws a fine line between ally and foe. Throughout the films the roles seem to almost alternate and allow us that almost non-existent pleasure in films of getting to know characters for more than just the person they are in the moment in time that the film is documenting. There isn't necessarily growth within these supporting male roles, but there is development, and as Mattie learns who she can trust and what needs to be done, so do we. At the focus of the hunt Josh Brolin supplies a small role that feels as vital to the story as it is supposed to simply because he is playing him. Had it been a no name actor we might not have felt such angst in catching up with Mr. Chaney, but in the hands of Brolin he gives the role just the right amount of weight that we feel the anger Mattie has towards him.

Though I only slightly mentioned it earlier, the trademark Coen tone seeps through into the somewhat nostalgic material. The odd editing, the random bits of humor, the sly sarcastic wit of each character. It is all there and though the environment seems almost in conflict with that time of persona and tone, it only seems to enhance the idea of this genre western being taken to a different kind of level than we have been treated to before. With the beautiful landscapes, the Arkansas references and the subtle musical score that moves the somewhat slow paced film along at a good speed it is hard to catch the greatness of it all. We watch as a young girl struggles to accomplish what will only bring balance to her world and though as we are shown in an epilogue type segment that this meeting between herself and Rooster was only a small section of her life it did indeed affect her greatly. This film affected me greatly. It is not a revolutionary story and it doesn't present some new way of thinking, but it does feel profound, and in that the film is a complete success.


TRUE GRIT Review

Without having seen the original 'True Grit' I prepared myself for this remake with no thoughts of a prior film, I looked at it with the eagerness I usually do any new Coen brothers film and I believed (and still do) they had no intention of making a film that was purely based on an older one. Not knowing how the Coens version differs or what it builds upon and takes away I cannot say it is a better film and I cannot compare Jeff Bridges to John Wayne.

What I can say though is that this is a damn solid film. Expecting nothing less from the brothers Coen, this 'True Grit' is an exercise in genre filmmaking for the directors. They have adapted the screenplay into a traditional western saga. The film telling the simple story of a man on the run and the determined young lady and U.S. Marshal out to capture him. The Coens not only take cues from westerns of the past but push them, force them to create a beautiful film that is compelling despite the predictable plot.

TRON: LEGACY Review

First things first, I write this without having seen the first 'Tron' film. Knowing that, I did my best to read up on the story of the first one, I got the gist of it and the beginning of 'Legacy' gives a minor prologue to the present day story that takes place. I am sure having the influence of the original film in your mind though only heightens the story with which unfolds in this long awaited sequel. I am sure it makes things more special, more relevant, and hopefully as mystic and ancient as they make things sound throughout this new film.

'Tron: Legacy' is a visually stunning science fiction epic. It truly is, and if anyone tries to tell you differently, simply ignore them and check it out for yourself. It combines an almost biblical like story with a world so far removed from the era with which we relate those kind of stories it came off not only as intriguing to me, but simply interesting. Throwing in some mighty fine action pieces throughout didn't hurt either. Jeff Bridges reprises his role as Encom founder Kevin Flynn who has been missing for twenty years. Garrett Hedlund, who finally seems to be making some headway in Hollywood, plays his orphaned son Sam who could easily take over his fathers company if he so desired, but instead prefers to live in a small garage with his dog and every now and then sabotage Encom to make right what they betray of his father's legacy.

This is all well and good, but it is when Sam jumps through a portal onto "the grid" as they call it, things take a turn for the, like I told you, interesting. And again, as I said before, I haven't seen the original and I don't know the critical reaction to its story, but the idea of an alternate reality that exists within technology, that is inhabited by ideas, possibilities, anything man's mind could ever imagine is not only epic but seemingly a spectacular basis on which to base a father/son tale. A story of how this Messiah type character that Bridges plays is betrayed by his own creation only to have his only son return and try to save the world he has created from that evil. Sound familiar? Well, even if it has no connection, the film has a plot of depth that is only enhanced by the amazing visuals that come along with it.

The visuals are no doubt what will attract audiences to the film, the world of Tron is one of neon blues and red. It is sleek, fast and everything seems to be right where it is supposed to be. The set design, especially when we finally meet the real Flynn for the first time in his secluded bungalow is reminiscent of a kind of ancient palace with a modern and technological twist. First time feature director Joseph Kosinski keeps the huge epic moving quickly along with gigantic action pieces that include combat games, bike races and mid-air shoot-outs and while these don't always necessarily move the story along, they are exhilarating to watch on IMAX 3-D and offer the kind of escapism the majority of these types of movies lack these days. I feel the film could have easily come off as cheesy in many ways, and at certain points it is hard not to resist a chuckle, but for the most part we accept this world and we go with it.

Bridges gives an invested performance as well as having fun playing his digitally altered nemesis Clue. The biggest complaint I have is the look of Clue's face though. The film has the capabilities to produce some of the most visually stunning sequences and still shots we've ever seen put to screen and yet the animators can't make a face look more life-like? More natural in the way it speaks? That aside, this is simply good popcorn-movie and it has a great soundtrack by Daft Punk that keeps the pacing at a brisk speed so while you have actually been sitting there for two hours, it hardly feels you've been introduced to the world of the grid by the time the climax rolls around.

'Tron' completely met and somewhat exceeded the expectations I had for it. The bottom line is if you are looking to see the most visually amazing film of the year, this is it, and it offers some pretty good stuff along the way of story and acting as well. Whats not to like? Solid film, you should definitely spend the extra bucks on the wall to wall screens and 3-D as well.


TRON: LEGACY Review

First things first, I write this without having seen the first 'Tron' film. Knowing that, I did my best to read up on the story of the first one, I got the gist of it and the beginning of 'Legacy' gives a minor prologue to the present day story that takes place. I am sure having the influence of the original film in your mind though only heightens the story with which unfolds in this long awaited sequel. I am sure it makes things more special, more relevant, and hopefully as mystic and ancient as they make things sound throughout this new film.

'Tron: Legacy' is a visually stunning science fiction epic. It truly is, and if anyone tries to tell you differently, simply ignore them and check it out for yourself. It combines an almost biblical like story with a world so far removed from the era with which we relate those kind of stories it came off not only as intriguing to me, but simply interesting. Throwing in some mighty fine action pieces throughout didn't hurt either. Jeff Bridges reprises his role as Encom founder Kevin Flynn who has been missing for twenty years. Garrett Hedlund, who finally seems to be making some headway in Hollywood, plays his orphaned son Sam who could easily take over his fathers company if he so desired, but instead prefers to live in a small garage with his dog and every now and then sabotage Encom to make right what they betray of his father's legacy.

HOW DO YOU KNOW Review

As an avid movie fan I am sad to admit I am not well acquainted with the films of Mr. James L. Brooks. I of course know of his work and have heard many great things about it, but the only film I have seen was his last effort, 'Spanglish' which I honestly thought was pretty terrible. What drew me to this film more than his name though was that of two of the male leads. I will watch Owen Wilson and Paul Rudd in pretty much anything and to have them paired with Reese Witherspoon and Jack Nicholson sounded like a pretty grand film. Mr. Brooks doesn't do justice to his name with this one though.

Don't get me wrong I actually enjoyed this film throughout, but its weaknesses are its simply a little lengthy and it just feels so middle of the road. Nothing spectacular ever seems to happen and when I say that I don't mean some shocking and amazing climax, but for a somewhat exception to the rule of romantic comedies there just wasn't that wow moment. There wasn't that one speech, that one look or anything close that even registers this as one of those fluffy rom coms you watch on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

The story here is actually quite intricate though for a genre with such strict guidelines. All revolves around Lisa, played here by Witherspoon in a role that is a departure for her. She is the uncommon woman here, the one not sure that love and the whole settling down thing is for her, thus the point of the film, but never the less it is nice to see her attack a role that doesn't necessarily fold into every one of her personalities little charms. As an aging softball player she is cut from her team and finally forced to come to terms with the fact she is going to have to have a life after the only thing she truly knows comes to an end. Enter Matty and George. Matty, the self-absorbed baseball star seems the logical choice, George the strange guy who she ends up in the most convoluted of ways on a blind date is definitely not the first round draft pick. You know how this is going to end.

And though we of course will have the movie figured out once all the ground rules are laid, it is the performances of Wilson and Rudd that keep us tuned in, that keep us chuckling through the extended run time and keep us rooting for, well, either one would have been fine. Thus the main conflict I have with the film is born and it is one that makes no sense to have in a romantic comedy. It defeats the purpose almost. We don't really hate either of these guys. Yes, Wilson's Matty is interested only in himself and fulfilling his wants and needs, he is ignorant to how to manage a real relationship but has the stability Lisa needs. George on the other hand is caring and completely in love with Lisa from their first silent blind date, but of course he is broke and being investigated at work. Each have their ups and downs but neither one of them makes a hard case for us to root against them. In fact as much as Rudd's George is appealing and sweet, Wilsons Matty is goofy and charming. I don't know if Brooks was trying to change the formula up a bit to make the story more grounded in reality, but lets be honest, everything here completely follows that time-tested formula except for this one aspect and in only changing that one thing it kinda screws up the rest of it.

I have to mention that I was especially impressed with Owen Wilson who plays this role to its fullest and its one of his best as he seems to keep growing in the roles he's taken lately. I look forward to his heavy roster of work in the upcoming months. And one cannot review a film that contains Jack Nicholson without saying something about him, sadly the entire side plot concerning him and his sons business troubles feels forced and in no way affects the story that it severely alters the course of the story. It is a pleasure seeing Nicholson interact with Rudd and he has a couple great moments but I just wish his role would have been more vital. Much like that of the wonderful Kathryn Hahn's. As George's pregnant secretary she not only provides the most touching moment of the film, but she garners laughs every time she is on screen and makes the most out of a role that most likely felt flat on paper.

I enjoyed watching this film once, but can't say that I would do it again. As much as I enjoy the work of its all-star roster it was simply too hard to get into with too little a pay off. I wanted to like it more, I really did, but the truth is, you just know when there is something special about a film and when there's not. 'How Do You Know' just doesn't have it. What a shame.


HOW DO YOU KNOW Review

As an avid movie fan I am sad to admit I am not well acquainted with the films of Mr. James L. Brooks. I of course know of his work and have heard many great things about it, but the only film I have seen was his last effort, 'Spanglish' which I honestly thought was pretty terrible. What drew me to this film more than his name though was that of two of the male leads. I will watch Owen Wilson and Paul Rudd in pretty much anything and to have them paired with Reese Witherspoon and Jack Nicholson sounded like a pretty grand film. Mr. Brooks doesn't do justice to his name with this one though.

Don't get me wrong I actually enjoyed this film throughout, but its weaknesses are its simply a little lengthy and it just feels so middle of the road. Nothing spectacular ever seems to happen and when I say that I don't mean some shocking and amazing climax, but for a somewhat exception to the rule of romantic comedies there just wasn't that wow moment. There wasn't that one speech, that one look or anything close that even registers this as one of those fluffy rom coms you watch on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

THE FIGHTER Review

This is simply put: an amazing film. I loved it. Every minute of it. Going into 'The Fighter' I expected a rousing story and a great performance by both Wahlberg and Bale. Mark Wahlberg has been trying to get this film made for years and in more ways than one this feels like his film. Wahlberg plays real life boxer Micky Ward who was seen as nothing more than a stepping stone, but rose to win the welterweight title in the mid-80's.

For his entire life Micky's trainer has been his older brother Dicky who had his fifteen minutes of fame when he knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard but has since succumbed to a life of crack and crime. The chemistry between Wahlberg and Bale is palpable. From the opening credits sequence where we see the two of them walking through the streets of their hometown it is clear both actors have transformed themselves into these brothers, friends and co-workers that have nothing but a sport to define their lives. Bale, who is known for his deep commitment to roles looks especially fragile here as the drugged out Dicky. He is a pure caricature and he drives the tension and drama of the film. Bale gives an outstanding performance, but to be honest it is a bit showy. It will no doubt garner much acclaim and as it is certainly deserved I must say I found Wahlbergs performance to be even more stunning. It feels more raw, more real and as his counter part Amy Adams is just as outstanding.

They both convey the truth of the situation and the realizations of what need to be done if Micky is to truly make a run for what everyone around him seems to know is a real possibility. To continue with the discussion of great performances in this film we must of course talk about Melissa Leo, as the patriarch of this highly dysfunctional family she has managed her sons careers and always played favorites. She has raised her numerous daughters to think and act in the same ways as she. She is a good meaning mother, but never selfless enough for us to buy her as a good person. She tries, but she is too concerned with things completely irrelevant to the present situation. This leads us to the aspect of this film that I thought made it rise above a general sports film.

It does take many of its cues from the genres greats, but I don't feel you could compare it to the Rocky's, or 'Raging Bull or even 'Million Dollar Baby'. 'The Fighter' is an entertaining and moving film because as much as it is about the battles within the ring it is more focused on those outside of it. Mainly concerning family. The family dynamics of 'The Fighter' don't hold any punches, they are what make it universal and so damn appealing. Not only between the two leads, but between Adam's Charlene and Micky's family, between Micky's mother and father and Dicky's odd relationship with his sisters, his son and his mother.

It is all fascinating and though it may not be as artsy a movie as the academy might like to reward this truly deserves some recognition, it is simply entertaining and uplifting, it relates the emotions of those on screen so strongly. I was amazed how much I came out loving the film and it will definitely be near the top of my favorites list for this year.


THE FIGHTER Review

This is simply put: an amazing film. I loved it. Every minute of it. Going into 'The Fighter' I expected a rousing story and a great performance by both Wahlberg and Bale. Mark Wahlberg has been trying to get this film made for years and in more ways than one this feels like his film. Wahlberg plays real life boxer Micky Ward who was seen as nothing more than a stepping stone, but rose to win the welterweight title in the mid-80's.

For his entire life Micky's trainer has been his older brother Dicky who had his fifteen minutes of fame when he knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard but has since succumbed to a life of crack and crime. The chemistry between Wahlberg and Bale is palpable. From the opening credits sequence where we see the two of them walking through the streets of their hometown it is clear both actors have transformed themselves into these brothers, friends and co-workers that have nothing but a sport to define their lives. Bale, who is known for his deep commitment to roles looks especially fragile here as the drugged out Dicky. He is a pure caricature and he drives the tension and drama of the film. Bale gives an outstanding performance, but to be honest it is a bit showy. It will no doubt garner much acclaim and as it is certainly deserved I must say I found Wahlbergs performance to be even more stunning. It feels more raw, more real and as his counter part Amy Adams is just as outstanding.

BLACK SWAN Review

'Black Swan' is most likely the closest thing we will ever get to seeing Darren Aronofsky make a horror film. Though it doesn't fit within the conventions of those types of films, it is still essentially a film revolving around the downward spiral of its main character into a mentally insane state of mind. Natalie Portman's Nina offers us a front row seat not only into the career of a ballet dancer, but into the many facets that go into what it takes to get roles, the pressure to fulfill them and the tension between you and your peers when you are rewarded with what they all desire. Ballet is not at the center of the film, it simply serves as a beautiful and elegant backdrop for one of the more terrifying aspects the human mind can conjure up.

Nina is completely dedicated to her dancing, she is trapped, locked away in her own little world where her mother still treats her as a child and allows her seemingly no contact with anyone or any influence beyond those of the other dancers at her company. There are several factors that account for Nina slowly spinning out of control, allowing the role of the swan queen in director Thomas Leroy's, played by the wonderfully arrogant Vincent Cassel, new, stripped down production of swan lake. It is all she ever wanted, but his criticisms that accuse her of only being capable of playing the white swan and not the darker, more ruthless black swan seem the root of this state where Nina is convinced there is someone around every corner trying to strip her of her dream role by showing they can do darker, better. And so, she must prove them wrong, and disturbing does she go.

These insecurities send her into this psychotic meltdown and it is with constant handheld camera motions and seeing this story play out strictly through Nina's perspective that we are sucked into her world and become as lost and confused as she does. Aronofsky uses a similar style to document Nina as he did to Rand "The Ram" in 'The Wrestler'. The camera is so intense on Portman we feel as if she could begin talking to us about her problems at any moment. This, for me, was the films greatest achievement. The ability to draw us in to such a dark world, to make us feel a part of it to come out of it feeling so affected. Aronofsky is a pro at this and he plays his cards with grace here. This is certainly a film for people who love films, it brings out the importance of costumes and lighting, of the musical score and the subtle acting. It is all very artsy and moving, yet it is strangely appealing. In saying those things, it was hard not to notice the deep contrasts between Nina's constant pink and white outfits and Lily's consistent dark tutu's. The swelling of the classical score was impeccable, another of my favorite sections of the film. It simply flowed with the pace of the movie so perfectly, it did what a musical score is supposed to do to its fullest extent, it made it better.

Much has been and will be said of the quality of this film. Some will love it, others simply won't get it. Natalie Portman will most likely be nominated and who am I to say she doesn't deserve it. This was a very demanding role and she dove into it completely embodying this strange girl who never really pins down what it is exactly she wants to be, but instead is silent and secluded, she is almost not a person at all, yet Portman makes her such a figure we can hardly take our eyes off her. When we do though it is usually to stare at Lily.

Will Portman be nominated? Yes, but I am more and more impressed with Mila Kunis every time I see her and here she truly rises to the top of my new favorite actress list. For me, it is her performance that grounds the film from becoming overly strange, from tripping over it's own elements that might make the audience laugh instead of sit there in shock. Kunis as Lily is either a figment of Nina's imagination or a ploy sent in by Leroy to evoke the inner black swan in Nina. Either way Kunis is sly and stunning and balances every strange turn Nina takes with a striking opposite reaction.

And though this is a movie that will no doubt be adored by film lovers I simply couldn't love it as much as it's hyped has played it up to be. It isn't a disappointment, but is neither as exhilarating or as excellent as I hoped it to be.


BLACK SWAN Review

'Black Swan' is most likely the closest thing we will ever get to seeing Darren Aronofsky make a horror film. Though it doesn't fit within the conventions of those types of films, it is still essentially a film revolving around the downward spiral of its main character into a mentally insane state of mind. Natalie Portman's Nina offers us a front row seat not only into the career of a ballet dancer, but into the many facets that go into what it takes to get roles, the pressure to fulfill them and the tension between you and your peers when you are rewarded with what they all desire. Ballet is not at the center of the film, it simply serves as a beautiful and elegant backdrop for one of the more terrifying aspects the human mind can conjure up.

Nina is completely dedicated to her dancing, she is trapped, locked away in her own little world where her mother still treats her as a child and allows her seemingly no contact with anyone or any influence beyond those of the other dancers at her company. There are several factors that account for Nina slowly spinning out of control, allowing the role of the swan queen in director Thomas Leroy's, played by the wonderfully arrogant Vincent Cassel, new, stripped down production of swan lake. It is all she ever wanted, but his criticisms that accuse her of only being capable of playing the white swan and not the darker, more ruthless black swan seem the root of this state where Nina is convinced there is someone around every corner trying to strip her of her dream role by showing they can do darker, better. And so, she must prove them wrong, and disturbing does she go.

CYRUS Home Video Review

'Cyrus' is an odd but pleasing little feature. Instantly, being a fan of the kind of comedy troupe the two leads in this are a part of I was attracted to the smaller indie-type film that would in fact attract them to make it. John C. Reilly has always been an actor of many dimensions, it was not until his unexpected but amazing turn in 'Talladega Nights' that is was made truly clear what a great comedic actor he was. Here, Reilly puts both his dramatic and comedic chops to work and they result in the ultimate contest of awkwardness. The film is shot with a simple intimacy and its premise serves this well. Reilly plays a loner guy named John who becomes even more sad and depressed when his ex-wife informs him she is getting re-married. In doing so, John is lured to a party where he meets the lovely Molly played by Marisa Tomei. It is clear that Molly is clearly out of John;s league but after hearing and raw and heartfelt speech to another party goer it is easy to see why she is so attracted to them. In any other film the mis matching of such opposites would certainly detract from the film, but here Reilly and Tomei make such a cute and believable middle-aged couple just trying to get on with their lives. This is all fine and well and was making for an interesting study of single folks in their first relationships since the ones they thought would define their lives. Then comes in Molly's son, Cyrus, and things begin to get weird. From the beginning we see the intensity in Jonah Hill's eyes. We see the wheels spinning the moment he meets John for the first time and their relationship and how it develops is what makes this film stand on its own. Cyrus is a disturbed young man, all he has is his mother whom he shares his music and his art with. When he sees the threat that John is, he immediately begins a game that delves deep into John's psyche and messes with him more than he could have ever imagined. The chemistry between Reilly and Hill is a highlight, there back and forth when Molly isn't around is priceless and the build up to where Cyrus finally cracks makes for one of the most heartbreaking moments while at the same time being both comically entertaining. It doesn't seem to make sense, but the Duplass brothers capture a tone that relates the tone of life into their film. They catch the sadness of being alone, of wanting to have a simple relationship where you can count on that person, but what John is looking for only becomes amplified by the fact that it becomes more distant because of Cyrus. The Duplass' make us feel sorry for Cyrus, they let us into his small world and reveal his pain but they never push out the fact that John is in just as much pain and deserves to be with Molly just as much if not more than Cyrus does. As the tensions between John and Cyrus grow, things only become funnier as well as becoming more and more undercut with awkward tension. There is only one thing that stops the film from crossing into the completely absurd and that is the natural tone of the film. It is simply real and you finish the film with a smile on your face. It isn't a story of romance, but it is one of love. It is different, and I loved how it approached its topic with such intimacy. Without it, this would have been nothing more than a laugh out loud comedy. This is so much more than that, and I'm happy to see Reilly branching out and using both his skills and for Hill to simply be getting out of his comfort zone. I hope they continue to work and Hill continues to experiment.

CYRUS Home Video Review

'Cyrus' is an odd but pleasing little feature. Instantly, being a fan of the kind of comedy troupe the two leads in this are a part of I was attracted to the smaller indie-type film that would in fact attract them to make it. John C. Reilly has always been an actor of many dimensions, it was not until his unexpected but amazing turn in 'Talladega Nights' that is was made truly clear what a great comedic actor he was. Here, Reilly puts both his dramatic and comedic chops to work and they result in the ultimate contest of awkwardness. The film is shot with a simple intimacy and its premise serves this well. Reilly plays a loner guy named John who becomes even more sad and depressed when his ex-wife informs him she is getting re-married. In doing so, John is lured to a party where he meets the lovely Molly played by Marisa Tomei. It is clear that Molly is clearly out of John;s league but after hearing and raw and heartfelt speech to another party goer it is easy to see why she is so attracted to them. In any other film the mis matching of such opposites would certainly detract from the film, but here Reilly and Tomei make such a cute and believable middle-aged couple just trying to get on with their lives. This is all fine and well and was making for an interesting study of single folks in their first relationships since the ones they thought would define their lives. Then comes in Molly's son, Cyrus, and things begin to get weird. From the beginning we see the intensity in Jonah Hill's eyes. We see the wheels spinning the moment he meets John for the first time and their relationship and how it develops is what makes this film stand on its own. Cyrus is a disturbed young man, all he has is his mother whom he shares his music and his art with. When he sees the threat that John is, he immediately begins a game that delves deep into John's psyche and messes with him more than he could have ever imagined. The chemistry between Reilly and Hill is a highlight, there back and forth when Molly isn't around is priceless and the build up to where Cyrus finally cracks makes for one of the most heartbreaking moments while at the same time being both comically entertaining. It doesn't seem to make sense, but the Duplass brothers capture a tone that relates the tone of life into their film. They catch the sadness of being alone, of wanting to have a simple relationship where you can count on that person, but what John is looking for only becomes amplified by the fact that it becomes more distant because of Cyrus. The Duplass' make us feel sorry for Cyrus, they let us into his small world and reveal his pain but they never push out the fact that John is in just as much pain and deserves to be with Molly just as much if not more than Cyrus does. As the tensions between John and Cyrus grow, things only become funnier as well as becoming more and more undercut with awkward tension. There is only one thing that stops the film from crossing into the completely absurd and that is the natural tone of the film. It is simply real and you finish the film with a smile on your face. It isn't a story of romance, but it is one of love. It is different, and I loved how it approached its topic with such intimacy. Without it, this would have been nothing more than a laugh out loud comedy. This is so much more than that, and I'm happy to see Reilly branching out and using both his skills and for Hill to simply be getting out of his comfort zone. I hope they continue to work and Hill continues to experiment.

THE TOURIST Review

What was it that made this production too big for its own britches? Too many people wanting control? Too many egos? Who knows, but whatever it was it is unfortunate. This film clearly has all the parts for a grade-A flick, two of the biggest stars in the world at their prettiest in a caper that desperately wants to come off as a throwback to a Hollywood classic where Depp is in a Carey Grant or Humphrey Bogart type role. I repeat: it tries, but Jolie's character is completely centered around how good she looks we can hardly feel like the film makers payed much attention to anything else. Seriously, every time she enters a room full of people there are what seem like obligatory shots of them turning their heads to stare at her. Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck captures his scenery wonderfully as well as his stars, but as this film is very pretty to look at, it never takes off, nothing ever seems to really get going and to say the least, that really sucks. This could have been such a fun film, while Jolie is completely bland here it is interesting to to see the normally odd Depp go for the everyman role. His quirkiness is hard to ignore and he is clearly the most charming thing about the entire film. From the first time we catch a glimpse of his natural face we are intrigued, we want to know this character rather than go with the focus of the film which lingers too long on Jolie's Elise. Depp's Frank Tupilo is bashful yet smooth, he is attractive yet general, he may or may not have the courage to go after what he wants. It is in that question that the film lures us in and it is with Depp's demeanor that we stick with this slow moving, uneventful flop. What is really wrong with 'The Tourist' though, is its pacing. It seems like it takes forever to actually reach the introduction of Depp's character and it feels like even longer before any action begins to take place. There is no building tension, no rising action, and no hope for what should have been a pure B-movie thrill ride with an A-list cast of talent by the time we're at the half hour point. Paul Bettany is completed wasted here on a character that doesn't even make sense and Rufus Sewell, while used as a nice distraction certainly could have been more integral to the plot. And yes, let's talk about the plot. Its pretty simple in terms of how everything goes down, but basically Elisa is being followed by the police because she is apparently involved with a thief they are trying to arrest. In this, Elisa chooses a man who looks similar to her secret lover (Depp) as a distraction for the coppers that are following her. Sound like a little too much to be logical already? It is, and that's not even the half of it. As the film drags along it only becomes more and more questionable. Resulting with an outcome that if you went back and watched it a second time I don't know that it would hold up. It might, but barely, my memory tells me that there were too many inconsistencies for this to have all added up and been as neatly wrapped up as it turned out to be. The film had such potential, a pairing of two big movie stars in an action/romance romp that should have cracked and sizzled with romance and style but instead fizzles and collapses under the weight of those big names and the expectations they bring. There is much to complain about in regards to 'The Tourist' but not much too like, it is pretty to look at, especially the two leads and Venice, but that's where it ends and that is where the film finally drags us to a conclusion that is neither climactic or satisfying. None of it is, it is like a great meal that wasn't cooked the right way. Too bad, it could have been something really special.

THE TOURIST Review

What was it that made this production too big for its own britches? Too many people wanting control? Too many egos? Who knows, but whatever it was it is unfortunate. This film clearly has all the parts for a grade-A flick, two of the biggest stars in the world at their prettiest in a caper that desperately wants to come off as a throwback to a Hollywood classic where Depp is in a Carey Grant or Humphrey Bogart type role. I repeat: it tries, but Jolie's character is completely centered around how good she looks we can hardly feel like the film makers payed much attention to anything else. Seriously, every time she enters a room full of people there are what seem like obligatory shots of them turning their heads to stare at her. Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck captures his scenery wonderfully as well as his stars, but as this film is very pretty to look at, it never takes off, nothing ever seems to really get going and to say the least, that really sucks. This could have been such a fun film, while Jolie is completely bland here it is interesting to to see the normally odd Depp go for the everyman role. His quirkiness is hard to ignore and he is clearly the most charming thing about the entire film. From the first time we catch a glimpse of his natural face we are intrigued, we want to know this character rather than go with the focus of the film which lingers too long on Jolie's Elise. Depp's Frank Tupilo is bashful yet smooth, he is attractive yet general, he may or may not have the courage to go after what he wants. It is in that question that the film lures us in and it is with Depp's demeanor that we stick with this slow moving, uneventful flop. What is really wrong with 'The Tourist' though, is its pacing. It seems like it takes forever to actually reach the introduction of Depp's character and it feels like even longer before any action begins to take place. There is no building tension, no rising action, and no hope for what should have been a pure B-movie thrill ride with an A-list cast of talent by the time we're at the half hour point. Paul Bettany is completed wasted here on a character that doesn't even make sense and Rufus Sewell, while used as a nice distraction certainly could have been more integral to the plot. And yes, let's talk about the plot. Its pretty simple in terms of how everything goes down, but basically Elisa is being followed by the police because she is apparently involved with a thief they are trying to arrest. In this, Elisa chooses a man who looks similar to her secret lover (Depp) as a distraction for the coppers that are following her. Sound like a little too much to be logical already? It is, and that's not even the half of it. As the film drags along it only becomes more and more questionable. Resulting with an outcome that if you went back and watched it a second time I don't know that it would hold up. It might, but barely, my memory tells me that there were too many inconsistencies for this to have all added up and been as neatly wrapped up as it turned out to be. The film had such potential, a pairing of two big movie stars in an action/romance romp that should have cracked and sizzled with romance and style but instead fizzles and collapses under the weight of those big names and the expectations they bring. There is much to complain about in regards to 'The Tourist' but not much too like, it is pretty to look at, especially the two leads and Venice, but that's where it ends and that is where the film finally drags us to a conclusion that is neither climactic or satisfying. None of it is, it is like a great meal that wasn't cooked the right way. Too bad, it could have been something really special.