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.

WAR HORSE Review

"War Horse" is one of those films that is immediately expected to have the stuff award contenders are made of. Really though, there is nothing about this film that makes it greater than most of the other above average movies I've seen this year. There is nothing that puts it ahead in the race. It is a movie that starts off in one direction and then, as we settle in to what it seems to be carving out we are jolted in the complete opposite way. Granted the new turn has a lot more excitement and is able to find its footing quicker than the tedious exposition did; still it just never quite seems to gel. The film is a perfect example of a good movie that just isn't as good as what we all expect it to be. Take Steven Spielberg's other release this year, "The Adventures of Tintin" which I saw yesterday. In the whole scheme of things is this as good a film? Does it merit as much heart or emotional pull from the audience? No, but does that make it worse than "War Horse"? No. These are two different films with two different objectives. "Tintin" simply succeeds more in meeting the demands of the style in which it operates while "War Horse" does not. "War Horse" is by no means a bad movie, it is a carefully crafted drama that has a master filmmaker doing what he does best. He is telling a simple story about a boy and horse that are surrounded and broken up by the events of the world we live in. It is one part (supposed) tear-jerker, one part war story, and all in all attempting to be a film the whole family can see. The formula for this more serious side of Spielberg fails him this time, but not because he doesn't know what he is doing but simply by the fact he doesn't feel invested.

Albert (Jeremy Irvine) has a special bond with his horse Joey.
Having not been familiar at all with either the novel this film has been adapted from or the recent stage play that has seen great success I mostly went into "War Horse" blind as to what would be going on. All I had to go on was what I'd seen in the trailers; and if you've seen the trailers you know there isn't much story divulged. I guess I should have expected nothing more than to see the trials of one particular, special horse and its journey through many years; from its birth to its long and strange journey through the first world war but I guess I thought there would be more to it. What we have is indeed that simple though. The film opens with the birth of a part-thoroughbred horse that is won in an auction by a local farmer whose boy admires the young colt. The farmer, Ted Narracott, buys the horse in spite of his landlord Lyons (David Thewlis) trying to outbid him and in spite of the fact he came looking to purchase a plough horse. This sets up early conflict within the Narracott household, but Ted's son Albert swears to raise him right and teach him how to plough. The extended exposition I mentioned earlier takes place here. Building the relationship between Albert and the horse that he calls Joey. All the fuss over whether the horse will plough enough land to produce enough crop to pay for the rent is quickly forgotten when the war begins though and Tom goes ahead and sells Joey to the military in order to make the rent. Albert is clearly heartbroken and here in lies my big issue with the movie overall. I get it, the kid raised the horse, he taught him everything he knew, and he loved the animal but the way in which this is portrayed is overly sappy and to be honest, a little strange. I couldn't escape or ignore the fact Albert was a little too sentimental when he had to let Joey go, especially considering the reasons he had to part with him. Even when the Captain who purchased Joey promises to take good care of him I couldn't help but feel a disconnect to the events being depicted and how it would have happened were this more of a gritty, honest portrait of life in those times.

Major Jamie Stewart (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Captain
Nicholls (Tom Hiddleston) discuss their war tactics
before battle. 
Once Joey is sold to Captain Nicholls (an underused Tom Hiddleston) though the story takes a tonal shift for the better and the more interesting. At this point the movie became an entirely different entity and for me, raised the bar on what looked like it might have been too slow of a burn for me to even make it through. Joey is trained for military operations but is quickly disconnected with his new owner when Captain Nicholls is killed in battle. Thus beginning a journey that will take Joey from the British military over to the Germans and from the Germans to a young French girl named Emilie. Emilie lives with her grandfather but is unable to keep her new found friends when the German army arrives and takes everything they have. The story then shifts back to Albert who has now joined the British military. From here we know where the story is heading and despite knowing what a knack Spielberg has for shooting battle sequences the ones we experience in "War Horse" are devoid of any kind of feeling. This seems due to the fact that because so much of the focus lies within the horse and the way it affects the people, the human beings it comes into contact with that we forget the two sides the soldiers are fighting for. Never mind we are never given a history lesson in why the war started (it really isn't necessary, but might have aided the narrative). This could be taken as a lesson Spielberg is trying to teach in its own right, that there is no black and white, there are no absolutes, and to take differences to such an extent shows how juvenile a species we are. It is valid argument, a statement the movie makes that begs the purpose of war in the first place is put front and center when opposing soldiers free Joey from a barbed wire entanglement. It is the highlight of the film and it speaks volumes. It is the one moment in the film I truly felt involved and genuinely cared. It is just a shame that reaction came so late in the film.

Emilie (Celine Buckens) and her Grandfather (Niels Arestrup)
celebrate her birthday together with Joey.
The film is a beautiful to admire as Spielberg and his cinematographers capture the essence of the time period and operate with lush reds and purples that are drastically contrasted by grays and greens when the film makes its ways into the more heavier scenes. For all of the beautiful photography though it cannot distract from the lagging depth the story experiences. At two and a half hours "War Horse" asks a lot from its audience especially with its tepid pacing and flat characters. Newcomer Jeremy Irvine plays our "hero" Albert and though Irvine possesses a natural and authentic persona he never comes off as more than one note when we should see the experience of losing his best friend take him from an ambitious farm boy to a jaded soldier that is redeemed by fate. This could be due to the fact that his character doesn't appear for a huge chunk in the center of the film , but I prefer to think that extended opening should have been plenty of time and in the end I wasn't impressed or moved nearly as much as I should have been by the connection, the bond that Albert and Joey shared. Since "Schindler's List" Spielberg has had a hand in deeper subject matters, proving to be more an artist than pure entertainer. He did this with "saving Private Ryan" and for me, coming into young adulthood I took in "Munich" with a sense of a director who really had an investment, a connection with the story he was telling. This was for more than the purposes of making a movie, but it was to create an experience that helped he and others like him discover things about the world and about our lives. "War Horse" seems like it would have been the logical next step in a career that has navigated so well between the artsy and the fluff. Instead there is no nerve that "War Horse" hits, it is a pure Hollywood concoction coated with the looks and credentials of something much deeper.

WAR HORSE Review

"War Horse" is one of those films that is immediately expected to have the stuff award contenders are made of. Really though, there is nothing about this film that makes it greater than most of the other above average movies I've seen this year. There is nothing that puts it ahead in the race. It is a movie that starts off in one direction and then, as we settle in to what it seems to be carving out we are jolted in the complete opposite way. Granted the new turn has a lot more excitement and is able to find its footing quicker than the tedious exposition did; still it just never quite seems to gel. The film is a perfect example of a good movie that just isn't as good as what we all expect it to be. Take Steven Spielberg's other release this year, "The Adventures of Tintin" which I saw yesterday. In the whole scheme of things is this as good a film? Does it merit as much heart or emotional pull from the audience? No, but does that make it worse than "War Horse"? No. These are two different films with two different objectives. "Tintin" simply succeeds more in meeting the demands of the style in which it operates while "War Horse" does not. "War Horse" is by no means a bad movie, it is a carefully crafted drama that has a master filmmaker doing what he does best. He is telling a simple story about a boy and horse that are surrounded and broken up by the events of the world we live in. It is one part (supposed) tear-jerker, one part war story, and all in all attempting to be a film the whole family can see. The formula for this more serious side of Spielberg fails him this time, but not because he doesn't know what he is doing but simply by the fact he doesn't feel invested.

THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN Review

Steven Spielberg has always had a knack for taking movies somewhere you might not expect them to go. Even if I had no interest in the material, but knew it was directed by Spielberg, I would be interested in seeing it. He carries that weight that if he finds it interesting enough to make then it is probably worth seeing. Such is true with both of his big releases this Christmas season. Before hearing of he and Peter Jackson's collaboration on a film adaptation of the comic book series I had never heard of Tintin or Herge. Still, the motion capture looked flawless and this coming from a guy who doesn't usually enjoy the medium. I just can't watch "The Polar Express" and I didn't even bother with "Beowulf". Instantly though there is something more to Spielberg's adventure flick that can easily be seen as an updated, more child friendly Indiana Jones. Most would say this is the Indiana Jones movie Spielberg should have made a few years ago even. That wouldn't bother me as I very much enjoyed "The Adventures of Tintin" despite the legendary director not doing as much with his first 3D opportunity as Scorsese did last month and it getting off to a rather slow start. No, it wouldn't bother me at all because once we moved past the exposition in the beginning and dove into the thick of the plot (meaning once Captain Haddock was introduced) the movie took a turn for the best and I was strapped in for the adventure and excited to take it.

Thompson and Thompson (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost)
pay Tintin (Jamie Bell) a visit.
Apparently what Spielberg and Jackson have done is to combine three of the stories from the comic strips; The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn, and Red Rackham's Treasure. Now, I have no idea whether these stories overlapped in the original comic strips or not, but if they didn't the top notch writing team here including Steven Moffat (Doctor Who) and director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim) and his long time collaborator Joe Cornish have done a fine job of connecting them and making them feel like a coherent piece. Despite how the circumstances may have come together and how the characters met one another in those stories what is important here is what happens in the feature. We begin this story with a wonderfully classic Spielberg sequence of a pick pocket as he roams the streets of a flea market that eventually leads to the reveal of our title character. Never has Spielberg seemed to feel so free with his camera as he does here. The technique of motion capture allows him to weave in and out of situations and set pieces that otherwise might seem impossible or could take days to complete successfully. Spielberg has always been a man of great camera work, but here his intuition really shines as he is able to do that initial instinct of a shot and have it come out just as he saw it in his mind. The pick pocket plays into the story only in a minor way, but it plays a part as you might imagine and so does what our hero decides to purchase at this flea market. Watching it you can almost feel the excitement with which Spielberg is operating and it translates from the screen into the wild imagination of the children experiencing it.

Sakharine (Daniel Craig) gets ugly with one of his goons. 
When our young reporter and his little dog Snowy come across a three-masted sailing ship for cheap it is impossible to resist but immediately after acquiring the ship he is approached by a mysterious figure and then Mr. Sakharine (Daniel Craig) who try desperately to take the ship from him. It is obvious there is something about this model that is of value to the two men and Tintin isn't one to let a mystery, or an adventure not go investigated. He takes the model home and when it is broken by Snowy and the neighbors cat we see a parchment scroll fall from the center mast with Tintin unaware of it he is sidetracked by Thompson and Thompson, two bumbling detectives voiced by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, who are on the trail of our pick pocket from the opening sequence. The layers overlap and form a larger, grander story than expected when Tintin is abducted by Sakharine's men and brought aboard a ship; a ship that is supposed to be under the command of a Captain Haddock. Haddock holds the key to the secret of the unicorn (the name of the model ship) that Sakharine is extremely invested in finding for ancestral reasons that we won't go into detail about here. The movie moves from one big set piece to the next as Tintin escapes his confinement on the ship, teams with Haddock (Andy Serkis, elevating the experience of a movie with his performance for the second time this year) and escape only to piece together why Sakharine needs Haddock alive and what it is he is after. The adventure is too much fun and is held together by enough mystery that I won't go into any more detail here. It won't really matter to the target audience though as the theater I was in contained enough parents and their children to make me realize that both were having a wonderful time exploring a world that while breathtaking to look at also offers plenty of nostalgia and strong story for the adults while supplying engaging characters that the kids will pretend to be in the front yard the next day.

Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) and Tintin do their best
to solve the mystery of Haddock's ancestors.
For knowing nothing about the origins of the character and having nothing invested in the source material, this film still seemed to come off as something special. It is a hearken back to the days of old where you watched something on screen and immediately wanted to be that main character. It is a movie that genuinely attempts to bring out the kid in you and for the most part succeeds. It made me feel like a kid again, an excitement in the adventure that moved past the screen and into my imagination. This is where Spielberg has shined for decades and in many ways has become his specialty. He guides the action through their grind with sparks of imagination that never seem to dry up. He gives us a pair to invest in and seems to desire nothing more than to do justice to the comic books that he fell in love with so many years ago. He is the director that was perfectly chosen for a movie like this, one that seems to have capture the tone of what the comic books were. Though I have to admit I was worried at first, both with this being motion capture animation and the fact I was not immediately engaged and waited a good fifteen minutes or so before beginning to settle in. Really, that is the biggest accomplishment in my eyes. That these characters feel real, that they seem to have a life in their eyes and a seamlessness to their movement. It is something I couldn't move past with the other films made with this technique. It was a distraction from the story those movies were telling. With Tintin though, I was completely absorbed by the film once Captain Haddock came into play and I couldn't be more excited to go on another adventure with he and Mr. Tintin next time they come around.

THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN Review

Steven Spielberg has always had a knack for taking movies somewhere you might not expect them to go. Even if I had no interest in the material, but knew it was directed by Spielberg, I would be interested in seeing it. He carries that weight that if he finds it interesting enough to make then it is probably worth seeing. Such is true with both of his big releases this Christmas season. Before hearing of he and Peter Jackson's collaboration on a film adaptation of the comic book series I had never heard of Tintin or Herge. Still, the motion capture looked flawless and this coming from a guy who doesn't usually enjoy the medium. I just can't watch "The Polar Express" and I didn't even bother with "Beowulf". Instantly though there is something more to Spielberg's adventure flick that can easily be seen as an updated, more child friendly Indiana Jones. Most would say this is the Indiana Jones movie Spielberg should have made a few years ago even. That wouldn't bother me as I very much enjoyed "The Adventures of Tintin" despite the legendary director not doing as much with his first 3D opportunity as Scorsese did last month and it getting off to a rather slow start. No, it wouldn't bother me at all because once we moved past the exposition in the beginning and dove into the thick of the plot (meaning once Captain Haddock was introduced) the movie took a turn for the best and I was strapped in for the adventure and excited to take it.

My Top 10 of 2011 & Other Lists

It has been a good year for movies. It started out a little rough, not having a good quality feature until about March but it was quickly able to pick up and once the summer movie season got rolling it didn't seem to stop. Even now, there are films I wanted to see that may very well have a chance of landing on this list. Movies like "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" which has been picked by a few sites as the best picture of the year while only having a current tomatometer score of 49%. Then there are expected front runners at the Oscars like "The Artist" and "Shame" that have not made there way to my neck of the woods yet. In making these kinds of lists though I always hope to include a few that were really some of my favorites rather than just another list of critical darlings which makes me sad that I haven't seen "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy", "Take Shelter" or "Higher Ground". Movies that feel like they are right up my alley and have a great chance of being on this list. Still, I can't complain; I have seen a wealth of films this year and have narrowed it down to ten that moved me, made me laugh, wowed me, and most importantly made me remember why I love the movies in the first place. Hope you enjoy, and if you disagree let me know what your favorite films were in the comments section.

10. Rango

"Rango" is an interesting piece of entertainment. There was what I expected going into the film, which was an above average family flick with A-level talent in front of and behind the camera as well as some amazing animation that would translate a story of adventure through the always reliable critters that make the kiddies laugh. And then there is what I felt as I exited the theater. It had very much met every expectation I held for it, if not exceeding most of them. The talent consists of the oddest but biggest movie star in the world Johnny Depp re teaming with "Pirates" director Gore Verbinski. What they have concocted here is more or less an experiment in how far they can take a film that is coated to look like a children's movie and have it contain enough nods to philosophy, religion, government and a few pop culture bits without a mass audience picking up on them while they slyly expand their minds. This is more of a discussion than a feature film, but it does possess an old western storyline and the animation is indeed breathtaking, but it isn't really for the children. No, "Rango" is more than that, it is an inventive and very good film that has no particular audience in mind, but will open up and talk to whoever is willing to listen. Full review here.

9. The Tree of Life

In trying to explain my thoughts on this film it seems best to divide it into two sections. While it is clear that Malick's intention was to give a chill inducing realization to the role our lives play in the bigger universe, the film never came off as disconnected. This is a coherent story, one that will test your patience if you go in unprepared, but if you are familiar with Malick and his style you will enjoy every moment of his biggest statement to date. The film begins with a quote from Job, the one that reads, "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth ... when the morning stars sang together?" this leads to the focus on the Texas family who we get to know intimately as a loving graceful mother in Jessica Chastain and a naturalistic, periodic father played with great anger and resentment by Brad Pitt. He is a righteous man, always giving, searching but never seeming to reach that ideal state of livelihood that he saw himself experiencing as a young man. Like Job, he feels he has lost everything and yearns to avoid such things falling upon his children. These opposing forces that are his parents cause serious conflict within their eldest son. In thanks to Sean Penn we are able to see this son as an older man and how he still wrestles with the influences that were instilled in him as a young boy. We are constantly hearing voice overs, many from the son, Jack, wondering aloud what are no doubt Malick's personal musings. It is a testament to nature vs. nurture and how instead of one winning out over the other that instead we, as mankind, are able to navigate between both of them. Full review here.

8. Martha Marcy May Marlene

"Martha Marcy May Marlene" is a dark, serious film that truly affected me. It is a silent, slow burn that like a bad car wreck you can't look away from. The story is engaging and mysterious while the characters are full and relatable. We could see ourselves becoming a part of something we fear. We wonder what would we do were we put in Elizabeth Olsen's (in a breakout, star making performance) characters position. Mostly though, we want more from it. Unlike most films today, instead of showering us with over explanation or unnecessary backstory, "Martha Marcy May Marlene" almost feels like it is holding out on us, demanding we pay attention to it. Some people will not like how abrupt the film ends, but in an odd way it fits perfectly with the rest of the film. There is seemingly no beginning, middle or end to the film, instead this is just a piece of someones life, albeit fictional, that happened to be going through a serious trauma in trying to discover who she is and if it is possible for her to begin again. You will wonder if that really is the end of the film, but trust me, it is, and you will then debate it for hours after. Full review here.

7. 50/50

I had much debate about whether to include "Bridesmaids" on this list or not. It was certainly one of the best comedies of the year if not the best, but when I was looking through my reviews of the past year I couldn't help but to immediately feel more of a connection with "50/50". This dramedy of sorts shows a most genuine portrait of what it must feel like to be young and sick and how it affects the people that are a part of your life. From a script penned by Seth Rogen's real-life friend Will Reiser who did in fact go through this experience, we are given a glimpse as to why it is just as important to allow yourself to enjoy life as it is to not take it for granted. Director Jonathan Levine who is mainly known for "The Wackness", his own little bio-pic from 2008, gives the film a perfect tone; shifting from humorous moments to ones laced with deep meaning and sadness that really resonate in our protagonist. This really is a moving film, a wonderfully well-rounded movie that is consistently effective both in its humor and moments of hurt. Full review here.

6. Moneyball

Brad Pitt makes his second appearance on my list with "Moneyball". A movie about strategy, it shines in brief moments of comedy when sharp conversations are exchanged over the phone in the midst of the trading game and shines even brighter when we feel the tension building as the A's close in on the longest winning streak of all time. The supporting cast is stacked with players like Philip Seymour Hoffman and Chris Pratt who makes all kinds of leaps here with limited screen time. This is Pitt's movie though and he owns it, strutting around as the man with everything to prove and even more to lose. His self doubt so big that he can't even watch the games in person. It is this man, and his ideals and dreams that drive this experiment. The desire not only to win, but to change the game completely and the reasons why is summed up perfectly by a late in the film pep talk and job offer from the Red Sox owner. It is not just an inspirational sports film, but a movie that is smart and cheer-inducing. I cheered, but not for reasons I expected to. Full review here.

5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

From the wonderfully executed Gringotts break-in sequence to that final stand-off between Harry and Voldemort, "The Deathly Hallows Part 2" is everything I hoped it to be and hardly stops to take a breather without ever feeling overloaded. Each large action sequence is filled with more meaning and substance than any cinephile could ask for out of a big budget Hollywood film. This is a more than satisfactory conclusion to a series I have been enthralled with since I was 12 years-old. It is packed to the brim with action, loaded down with emotional punches and we mere muggles should just be happy that such credible and high quality films have been made out of what is one of the best literary works of our generation. I cannot imagine the disappointment I would have felt had these film adaptations been turned into mainstream Hollywood money-grubbers, and can appreciate how lucky we are as an audience to have been given eight films that have truly been cared about enough to justify that source material to the loyal and devoted fans as well as being strong enough to convert others who would never have picked up one of the books. Harry Potter ends just the way it should, with our three heroes still friends and defining the meaning of that friendship in a touching epilogue that tells the audience things will be okay, even if we know we will never catch a glimpse of them on the big screen again. Full review here.

4. Midnight in Paris

I loved this film. After seeing it in the theater I couldn't wait to see it again. Since I purchased it on blu-ray I have wanted to continually watch it over and over. It is a light comical farce from director Woody Allen that is a meditation on our own generation and how we pull from and re-invent through what we have learned from the past. That there is a longing to be part of what created or what defined the genre or the area you aspire to be a part of is understandable, but that there is always room for innovation and expansion is something that can never cease to exist. Director Allen treats this subject carefully, letting us experience the joy Gil (Owen Wilson in his best performance in ages) gets from going out every night and hanging with the masters of his craft. Yet Allen also lets it be known that it can't go on forever and that too much of a good thing will soon lose its spark and thus become the same mundane flow of life you felt trapped in before. It is easy to love "Midnight in Paris" but it is not hard to dislike the conclusion that the promised joy ultimately comes to offer because we don't want to believe that our minds own perception of something might be completely off. Full review here.

3. The Help

I went into my number three film on this list expecting a quality flick but I didn't expect to see one of the most moving motion pictures I've seen in years. I can only hope that as we've made our way into the crowded fall movie season with all the Oscar hopefuls that everyone hasn't forgotten about what a great movie this is and how much it deserves serious recognition. Not just for the craft with which it was made or the skill with which it is performed but the fact of WHY it was made. To tell this story, to recognize our faults, and to feel truly inspired are traits in a movie we don't see very often and "The Help" has all of them. Much of the complaints around this film have concerned it making light of a very serious subject and to be honest with you,I simply don't see where those who think that are getting it from. Being a darker film doesn't make it more true. "The Help" does indeed evoke a lifestyle many in this country never knew existed and to tell that story from the point of view of those having first hand experience with true hatred allows the film to be, in parts, extremely moving and hard to swallow. It might offer just as many laughs as it does moments of harsh reality and moving sentiments but for me, that showed how well-rounded this film truly is. Full review here.

2. The Descendants

It is tough to describe what it is about a film that just hits you in the gut and seems to encompass everything you think of the world. It seems appropriate to give that type of description to this film where a man, in a critical moment in his life, is faced with decisions that will forever affect how he lives the rest of that life. George Clooney has always had a knack for these roles that seem to define so well what it means to actually live. He is so alert and aware to the raw emotion and truths of life that it is almost irritating how good the guy is. Paired here with director Alexander Payne, these two talented men have created "The Descendants" is a straightforward drama that delivers more laughs and genuine heartache than I have seen in a film all year. With the beautiful state of Hawaii as its backdrop and the sometimes ugly journey of a man searching to find his place in a life he has already created this is a film that actually moves you and relates, on a number of levels. With great performances from both Clooney and Shailene Woodley as his foul mouthed daughter Alexandra, Payne has made a heartfelt character study of a man in an uncommon dilemma. One that when paired with the sights and sounds of somewhere as beautiful as the Aloha state becomes something more than just a movie, but a cathartic experience. Full review here.

1. Drive

What I love most about "Drive" is it proves a film can truly be both greatly artistic and fun at the same time. I can't say that I had a more engaging experience at the theater last year while also admiring the craft on hand. Every element of this film comes together to create a piece of cinema that is in a class all its own. It is a combination of the familiar to make something completely unique. It is a patient movie, it is a rush of adrenaline. And what is most beautiful is that the movie as a whole becomes the idea, an incarnation of our main character. It is cool and collected, stylish to the point of envy and exuding confidence even if everything about it might have been a gamble. The minute it was over I wanted to go right back in and see it again. "Drive" is no doubt an unnerving experience and sadly, one some people will not understand if they go in expecting a full tilt action flick the trailers made it to be. I'm just glad that it wasn't the standard "Fast and Furious" though, I am thankful Gosling was wise enough to choose a director for the material who could really turn this into an experiment that at the end of the day is just as thrilling and ten times more artistic than what this could have easily become. Excuse me now, while I go pick listen to the soundtrack and continue to drive around pretending to be a bad ass. Full review here.





Honorable Mentions:



Marvel Movies

Kicking off the summer movie season with "Thor" and continuing each month with another hit the Marvel studio revving up for this summers "The Avengers" were everything we wanted them to be while the reboot of "X-Men" with First Class was a welcome return for the mutant squad. Each picture garnered respectable and great up and coming talent while thoughtful stories that stretched beyond the simple black and white of good vs. evil. Not only can we enjoy each in a different way, but they also lend themselves as big budget summer films we won't mind seeing sequels to in the future; in fact, we look forward to them.



Warrior

It may not end up being the heavy Oscar contender that "The Fighter" was and it doesn't have Christian Bale in a whirlwind performance, but Nick Nolte comes pretty close and both Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton deliver powerful, while polar opposite performances that not only make this a moving sports film, but a family drama that builds to a point where the sport is simply a metaphor for the struggle and pain that has burdened these brothers for years.





Hugo

  It is not often you can make a film or anything for that matter that has a mission of saying how great that art form is, but "Hugo" does it with a beautiful landscape and solid story that serve more than just the purpose of entertaining but also of actually teaching something. I loved the film and though I don't believe the award shows will give it its due, I hope that it will at least garner enough audience response in its theater run so plenty of kids around the world can experience a truly great cinematic experience.



Bridesmaids/Crazy Stupid Love

Kristin Wiig turns in a star making performance that will make her a box office pull for many years to come, and deservedly so. Wiig is surrounded by a stellar supporting cast as well including a contender for "it" girl of the year Rose Byrne, the always endearing Maya Rudolph, and of course Melissa McCarthy who steals every scene she walks in on. "Crazy, Stupid, Love." is one part comedy, one part drama and it balances those moments of both comical farce and tear-jerker realizations with great care. We never feel forced into a situation as so many romantic comedies seem to do these days and most importantly we fall for these characters. With multiple story lines all involving relationships and feelings at drastically different stages we get a full and satisfying picture of what a crazy and stupid emotion love can truly be. Plus, its cast is amazing as well.
 
Hanna

I have been interested in director Joe Wright's career since 2007's "Atonement" a film that brought a complex novel to the big screen with an almost flawless transition of words to image. With "Hanna" Wright sets a completely different tone for himself as a filmmaker while still retaining the same style that makes his films completely their own. "Hanna" in essence is a simple on the run from the bad guys thriller, but it is intelligent in its design, and slick in its execution. It is a film that proves even though you may have heard a story before, it is the way one expresses it that makes it new and exciting. This is a truly engaging film, a refreshing look at what dramatic action films can be

And now the stinkers...

I don't see a lot of movies I know are going to be bad. Thus the reason films like "Season of the Witch" or "The Roommate" will not be on the list. Instead, the films on here are the ones I held out promise for (one was even on my most anticipated for 2011 list) that instead, just disappointed me...



5. Your Highness

There are only so many ways you can say the F word and there are only so many sexual or bodily function jokes you can tell before they all begin to get old. Too bad Danny McBride and long-time collaborator Ben Best didn't take this opportunity to spoof some of the traditions and staples of the time period they were in, replacing the old English language with the current vernacular of a college sophomore seemed to instead be the funnier route to them. While I will admit there are moments of greatness in the film, I am still reeling from what my expectations were to what the final product delivered.



4. Green Lantern

"Green Lantern" was pure summer sugar, a piece of eye candy that delighted for too brief a moment and left you feeling underwhelmed by the time the credits began to roll. Reynolds tried, give him that, but nothing else came together, if only the Green Lantern might have taken a few cues from his fellow DC hero Batman, this movie could have really been something. Instead, it is a missed opportunity at its finest.



3. Jack & Jill

Sandler no longer seems interested in genuinely making an audience laugh or raging against the movie factory machine, no, instead he has become an integral part of it. It is as if after "Funny People" a film where he had to put in long days, and dig deep into the psyche of his character to get to that place where the thought of death was immanent, he became exhausted by the effort it took to pull off and has since resorted back to his safe zone. A place where he can slum through a role, get all his friends a paying gig, and still make plenty of money. Actually, he makes more money by doing what he is doing, "Little Nicky" is his lowest grossing film and probably considered his most awful critically as well and it still made more than "Punch Drunk Love" and "Reign Over Me" combined. There is no incentive to face what he has become, but this is surely incentive to continue the trend he has now perfected.

2. Something Borrowed

"Something Borrowed" can be summed up by one of it's only clever pieces of dialogue, "The Hampton's are like a zombie movie directed by Ralph Lauren." But instead of "The Hampton's" you can easily insert the title of this film. It is all very clean cut and the characters all dress in clothes that are all very monochromatic and do things like play badminton because they literally have nothing better to do. It is a zombie movie, but without the building excitement or scares just the overall effect of lifeless bodies walking around doing things that don't make a whole lot of sense. John Krasinski is the voice of reason here, and another reason to believe he is better than this, but even with his strong words and observations this film never rose above what he critiques his friends of being.

1. Red Riding Hood

What happened to Catherine Hardwicke? Does the "Twilight" director think she can only make gothic pieces that deal with love triangles and fairy tale creatures now? The idea of re-imagining Little Red Riding Hood as an old gothic tale was no doubt intriguing and could have certainly spawned something better than what was delivered here. Too bad really, because "Red Riding Hood" has the talent, both in front of and behind the camera, it's just none of the people involved seemed to care about the story they were telling or how it came out. They were only going through the motions, trying their best to capture what they think their target audience would most enjoy.

My Top 10 of 2011 & Other Lists

It has been a good year for movies. It started out a little rough, not having a good quality feature until about March but it was quickly able to pick up and once the summer movie season got rolling it didn't seem to stop. Even now, there are films I wanted to see that may very well have a chance of landing on this list. Movies like "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" which has been picked by a few sites as the best picture of the year while only having a current tomatometer score of 49%. Then there are expected front runners at the Oscars like "The Artist" and "Shame" that have not made there way to my neck of the woods yet. In making these kinds of lists though I always hope to include a few that were really some of my favorites rather than just another list of critical darlings which makes me sad that I haven't seen "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy", "Take Shelter" or "Higher Ground". Movies that feel like they are right up my alley and have a great chance of being on this list. Still, I can't complain; I have seen a wealth of films this year and have narrowed it down to ten that moved me, made me laugh, wowed me, and most importantly made me remember why I love the movies in the first place. Hope you enjoy, and if you disagree let me know what your favorite films were in the comments section.

WE BOUGHT A ZOO Review

While I have always enjoyed Cameron Crowe's films I have never relished in them to the point some of his more loyal fans might find necessary. His entire persona and the kind of films he is expected to make has never been more correct when describing his latest, "We Bought A Zoo". The difference in his newest feature and his hits of the past is that this one seems most easily marketable to the masses. Whereas "Almost Famous" was a surprise hit and "Jerry Maguire" had room to breathe because of its star, no one really remembers "Vanilla Sky" or "Elizabethtown" mostly due to their offbeat stories or lack of interest. Crowe is a respected director, but he is even more respected in his screenwriting and so when he decided to adapt a memoir about a father who moves his family to the country where they work to re-open a struggling zoo it seemed a perfect match for his quirky senses. The end result is a rather lovely film that is anchored by a strong and honest performance by one of our most reliable movie stars. Matt Damon, no matter how weak the material, is someone who always elevates it to something higher than it probably deserves. While watching him in "We Bought A Zoo" you realize just how grounded and solid an actor he is. If anything, this film with a fun premise and cheesy tone is made into a viable emotional experience thanks to the skill of the man in front of the camera rather than the one behind the scenes.

Kelly (Scarlett Johansson) and Benjamin (Matt Damon)
take a walk through their zoo.
Damon plays Benjamin Mee, a single dad who recently lost his wife and is now raising his two children alone. Against his better judgement of his brother Duncan (Thomas Haden Church in a small but fitting role) he moves his family to the country and buys a house that has a zoo in the backyard. His oldest child, Dylan, is in a 14-year old state of rebellion after the loss of his mother and is acting out in school. Sweet Rosie is only trying to help her dad get by as best he can while remembering her mother in the most mature of ways. As Rosie, Maggie Elizabeth Jones is the cutest child actor to come along in a while that actually has the charisma to go along with her cuteness. Her young enthusiasm translates to the screen everytime the camera finds her face and infuses the film and Damon's character with a sense of optimistic hope. I have not read the book on which this is based, but as far as the story goes Crowe was right to make Benjamin more dedicated to his children rather than his pursuit of a co-worker. That the film restrains from following through with that promise of a relationship between Benjamin and his zookeeper Kelly (Scarlett Johansson) is a good sign of discipline and avoidance of family film cliches. At points this story could sound like the premise of a made for TV Lifetime movie, but that storytelling discipline and ability to manage the intertwining stories of Benjamin, each of his children's personal journeys as well as the all encompassing driving plot of being USDA approved by a funnily ridiculous John Michael Higgins so they can actually open their zoo is handled with sweet care and attention by Damon and his co-stars.

Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones) enjoys the company of her
new friends that populate her new house.
The most important thing was that this story came off genuine and the people taking part in it even more so. In that regard the film is a success.As Dylan, Colin Ford creates our most engaging storyline as he is looking for an escape in the way of his art or in his friends. He, like his father, is searching for ways to leave behind the woman they loved so much. Their ideas of achieving this kind of freedom though are radically different. The move to the zoo is, for Benjamin, a way to escape everything that reminds him of he and all his wife shared. It is also something his little Rosie loves and wants more than anything. He is doing it for himself, to take his mind elsewhere, to go on a real adventure, but he is honest in believing it will help his kids as well. Dylan on the other hand has distraction taking another incarnation. That of his friends that surrounded him at school. It is with a note of despair that he has no choice but to follow his family to their new residence. It is not as if there isn't intrigue there for the young artist though. Coming off a great performance in this summer's "Super 8" Elle Fanning shows up here as Kelly's niece Lily, a home schooled teen around Dylan's age that works at the zoo's cafe. There is an immediate intrigue there for Lily who doesn't get to hang out with many kids her age. Never mind the fact she has settled out in the country of Southern California while Dylan and his family come from the city. Their relationship while feeling juvenile and ignorant does the almost impossible job of seeming sweet and honest without feeling forced or ridiculous. It is indeed this relationship we'd rather see flourish than the one between the two big movie stars.It is due to the perfect levels of innocence and sincerity the two young actors bring to their roles.

Ben and Dylan (Colin Ford) don't always see eye to eye,
but they still love one another.
There isn't a lot to analyze about "We Bought A Zoo". It is a simple, sweet film that means no harm and has the best of intentions. It is a heartwarming movie that shows the hard process of starting over and adjusting to life without a part of it that was once so constant. It is a tough road to travel and could have certainly been handled in ways that made it out to be more of a melodrama than the version Crowe and his team have delivered. I may not be the biggest Crowe loyalist, but can certainly appreciate an effort that aims to give an unfortunate situation a bright side to look forward to. The bottom line being though that I really enjoyed the film and was touched by Damon and his co-stars performances. I can't really say much for Johansson, she is here and does fine at playing a character that gets no real attention, but she doesn't stand out and there is no reason to fuss about something that doesn't even require any attention. In many ways it was right for her to not try and take the spotlight. Her character is a supporting role and the focus of the feature should be on the family and its coming together and it thankfully is and stays there the entire running time. There are a few slow spots sprinkled throughout but as I said earlier, thanks to Damon, we are invested in this man trying to make life something special again for him and his children. It is almost too sweet, but is wrapped with just the right flavoring to leave a great taste long after seeing the film.

WE BOUGHT A ZOO Review

While I have always enjoyed Cameron Crowe's films I have never relished in them to the point some of his more loyal fans might find necessary. His entire persona and the kind of films he is expected to make has never been more correct when describing his latest, "We Bought A Zoo". The difference in his newest feature and his hits of the past is that this one seems most easily marketable to the masses. Whereas "Almost Famous" was a surprise hit and "Jerry Maguire" had room to breathe because of its star, no one really remembers "Vanilla Sky" or "Elizabethtown" mostly due to their offbeat stories or lack of interest. Crowe is a respected director, but he is even more respected in his screenwriting and so when he decided to adapt a memoir about a father who moves his family to the country where they work to re-open a struggling zoo it seemed a perfect match for his quirky senses. The end result is a rather lovely film that is anchored by a strong and honest performance by one of our most reliable movie stars. Matt Damon, no matter how weak the material, is someone who always elevates it to something higher than it probably deserves. While watching him in "We Bought A Zoo" you realize just how grounded and solid an actor he is. If anything, this film with a fun premise and cheesy tone is made into a viable emotional experience thanks to the skill of the man in front of the camera rather than the one behind the scenes.

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO Review

I was engaged by the fuss around the books from which this film is based and the Swedish versions of the film that came out in the states last year. While I really had no idea as to what the books were about I rented that first foreign film to see what all the talk was about. I am not ashamed to say by the cover art I perceived it to be some kind of indie teen story that depicted outcasts and how they were picked on in all their gothic glory while dealing with their issues in the most general of ways. Needless to say, I was not expecting much. In fact, the last thing I would have expected was a grand murder mystery tale that hearkens back to novels of old. I was shocked and surprised by "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and by the end of that film I was a loyal fan. I could not wait to see the American versions of these films especially upon hearing that David Fincher would be making them. What Fincher has brought to the first of these very violent, disturbing, and blunt stories is a sense of style that was lacking in the Swedish versions. Every single frame is filled with such detail and ferocity it is hard to pull your eyes from the screen even when something horrible is happening. The lure of the film though is in the title and though many fans of the original film trilogy would have you believe no one Fincher cast would do a better job than Noomi Rapace in the title role you would be lying if you didn't admit Rooney Mara is just as much a revelation as Lisbeth Salander. Mara owns the role, bringing the exact amount of cynicism, sarcasm, intelligence and touch of actual emotion required for the role. This is a grand telling of a grand story that is only a disappointment in terms of already knowing what is going to happen and how it will play out before stepping into the theater. In that regard the personal touch that usually feels evident in a Fincher film is somewhat absent here. Still, we have a cold, dark film that in many ways is very much an improvement upon the original.

Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) shows Mikael
Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) evidence of his niece's disappearance.
Though the plot of the film can be summed up in a few sentences, this nearly three hour film is nothing short of complex. While I was somewhat skeptical of Daniel Craig's casting in the role of journalist Mikael Blomkvist (I would have preferred someone like Viggo Mortensen) I came to understand why Fincher might cast the rugged actor who has the kind of stand-up guy qualities you need in a leading man. The film opens with Blomkvist being crushed by the media after a story that he wrote in his publication took him to trial and relieved him of his life savings. Blomkvist is a divorced father who has had a long standing affair with his boss at Millennium magazine, Erika Berger. This relationship feels tacked on for most of the film and Robin Wright in the role feels almost unnecessary but knowing what is to come in the later films, she will get her due. The relationship is also used in the final scenes of the film that seem to better connect this first film to the second and third. In the original film trilogy the second and third films felt more like one story split into two with the first being a stand alone piece of work. It seems Fincher is wanting to erase that line and create one large coherent story for his Hollywood versions. In light of the media firestorm surrounding him, Blomkvist removes himself from the world he knows and takes a job offered to him by a wealthy business tycoon by the name of Henrik Vanger. Henrik and his family have many secrets, but the one the he needs resolved before he dies is where is niece Harriet disappeared to over forty years ago. Henrik enlists Mikael to investigate the case. It is unclear as to how Salander will be incorporated into this more intriguing aspect of the story for the first hour or so of the film, but we always have a sense that careful attention need be paid as there is certainly reason for things that happen that we don't necessarily see the purpose of.

Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) looks into old newspaper
clippings while trying to solve a murder.
The initial intrigue of the story is aided by the tension filled pace of the movie, at two and half hours this isn't a short film, but never did I feel like the film drug or did I catch myself looking at my watch. What really makes this stand out is the odd pairing of Salander and Blomkvist. The partnership and romantic involvement of these two is not only odd to us but to them as well it seems, they work well together though. So well in fact it is the bond of intelligence and determination that creates the believability of them getting along and becoming more than just co-workers. Craig and Mara understand their characters as well. They see where the attraction comes from and they understand the dynamics at play on the island where they perform most of their research. It is that air of distrust, greed, and brutality that hung over the original film with such grunge that graces this one with more of a reality. There is less a sense of immanent doom here, but more of a bleak atmosphere. This landscape with which Fincher paints his story has also been populated by menacing characters that are embodied by some great performances. The most notable being Christopher Plummer as the Vanger family patriarch Henrik. Plummer gives the mood to his scenes that captures the tone Fincher wants. It is disturbingly perfect how well they work together and I hope they have the chance to reunite after Fincher finishes the rest of this trilogy. Stellan Skarsgard who plays Harriet's brother Martin works his ever changing face into a mean, cynical man who appears helpful but lends the most menacing of eyes towards our protagonists. Ultimately though, this is Mara's movie and she rises to the task with no fears. The girl has to endure some pretty brutal violence and rape scenes that without giving much away are there to illustrate the theme of the film that focuses on people affected by such violence. These elements set "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" apart as not only a murder mystery but as a film in general.

Lisbeth and Mikael form a strange bond over the course
of their work together.
This was easily one of my most anticipated films of the year and in every way this became everything I wanted it to be. As much as I enjoyed the Swedish film, to have this version where we don't have to read subtitles the whole time is a relief that allows us to focus on the beautiful way in which Fincher captures such a graphic story. The images he produces give so much more insight into each character or situation than you could imagine. These are not just surface images that carry no weight, but are instead each little epic poems strung together to create a sprawling mystery. There is nothing I love more than a murder mystery and such a story has never been executed with such depth and style as it has here. And though it was hard to find anything radically different from the original film,other than Fincher's trademark style and look, I cannot help but wonder what else he could have done. There is a service to telling the story that he had to fulfill and in doing so there is an element of familiarity with this new version that cannot be dismissed. Fincher and company are not to be blamed for this, they simply serviced the story they were given in the best possible way they knew how. It is not that they intended for the film to feel empty in certain spots, but some things turn out that way and you simply have no control over it. That is the magic of filmmaking; that no matter how hard you try to define the aura the movie will take on, it is usually not determined until you see that final cut when all of the elements come together. This film has plenty of amazing elements and is indeed a satisfying feature by any standard. There is just that small spark missing, that something special that I doubt even Lisbeth Salander could pinpoint.

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO Review

I was engaged by the fuss around the books from which this film is based and the Swedish versions of the film that came out in the states last year. While I really had no idea as to what the books were about I rented that first foreign film to see what all the talk was about. I am not ashamed to say by the cover art I perceived it to be some kind of indie teen story that depicted outcasts and how they were picked on in all their gothic glory while dealing with their issues in the most general of ways. Needless to say, I was not expecting much. In fact, the last thing I would have expected was a grand murder mystery tale that hearkens back to novels of old. I was shocked and surprised by "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and by the end of that film I was a loyal fan. I could not wait to see the American versions of these films especially upon hearing that David Fincher would be making them. What Fincher has brought to the first of these very violent, disturbing, and blunt stories is a sense of style that was lacking in the Swedish versions. Every single frame is filled with such detail and ferocity it is hard to pull your eyes from the screen even when something horrible is happening. The lure of the film though is in the title and though many fans of the original film trilogy would have you believe no one Fincher cast would do a better job than Noomi Rapace in the title role you would be lying if you didn't admit Rooney Mara is just as much a revelation as Lisbeth Salander. Mara owns the role, bringing the exact amount of cynicism, sarcasm, intelligence and touch of actual emotion required for the role. This is a grand telling of a grand story that is only a disappointment in terms of already knowing what is going to happen and how it will play out before stepping into the theater. In that regard the personal touch that usually feels evident in a Fincher film is somewhat absent here. Still, we have a cold, dark film that in many ways is very much an improvement upon the original.

THE DESCENDANTS Review

It is tough to describe what it is about a film that just hits you in the gut and seems to encompass everything you think of the world. It seems appropriate to give that type of description to this film where a man, in a critical moment in his life, is faced with decisions that will forever affect how he lives the rest of that life. George Clooney has always had a knack for these roles that seem to define so well what it means to actually live. He is so alert and aware to the raw emotion and truths of life that it is almost irritating how good the guy is. Paired here with director Alexander Payne, who has before directed "About Schmidt" which I haven't seen and "Sideways" which I have, and also seems to be an expert in crafting real human stories and tapping into the emotions that are actually spawned from traumatic life events make for a great team in telling this story of a man who is completely opposite the Hollywood persona of George Clooney. "The Descendants" is a straightforward drama that delivers more laughs and genuine heartache than I have seen in a film all year. With the beautiful state of Hawaii as its backdrop and the sometimes ugly journey of a man searching to find his place in a life he has already created this is a film that actually moves you and relates, on a number of levels, to what you might have been feeling just before sitting down to watch it. It involves you in its characters lives and for all of this it is easily one of my favorite films of 2011.

The King clan plus Sid take a stroll on the beach to
try and get away from tragedy.
Clooney plays Matt King, a successful lawyer who, since he practices in Hawaii, looks as if he simply hangs out at the beach all day. In one of the many voice overs Clooney gives in the film he describes the stereotypes that are linked with his homeland and how they couldn't be more wrong. Except for maybe the fact that some of the wealthiest people in Hawaii might look like bums. It is these little insights not only into Matt's mind but into his world allows for Hawaii to become as integral a character to the story as the actual human ones. The film opens with Matt's wife in a coma, we know she had a boating accident and that she hit her head. We know their marriage wasn't in the best state (we knew that fom the trailer) but we also see that any kind of relationship Matt should have with his daughters is non-existent. With his wife dying and the rest of his family waiting on him to make a decision about a piece of land they have been entrusted with and are debating whether or not to sell there is a conflict of interests in the expectations people have for out protagonist. Then there is the bombshell from his oldest daughter Alexandra, that their mom, his wife was having an affair.

Brian Speer (Matthew Lillard) and wife
Julie (Judy Greer) find themselves in an
awkward situation. 
As played by Shailene Woodley, Alexandra is a troubled teen, one that has been sent off to boarding school to rid her of her drug habits. It is evident from the moment her father picks her up that not much has changed and that she still wants to be that rebellious adolescent. This relationship though turns out to be the rock of the film. Matt confides in Alexandra and looks to her to help him solve his issues. Not completely, but as far as their mother goes, he needs her and the truth is, whether she wanted to admit at first or not, that she needs him just as much. Shailene Woodley who most will recognize from "The Secret Life of the American Teenager" translates gracefully from TV soap to authentic drama. All the rave reviews you have probably been hearing about her performance are all, for once, satisfyingly true. At one point Matt wonders why all the women in his life want to destroy themselves. It becomes evident that Alexandra is very much a shadow of her mother and in many ways gives Matt the same kind of troubles with which he and his wife struggled. But where he and Alexandra connect is in that bond where she would defend him as a good man no matter what, even if he hasn't been the best father. The film runs its course by chronicling Matt and Alexandra's developing relationship as they search for the man who their wife and mother was having an affair with (Matthew Lillard in a great comeback/mature role). Along for the ride is Scottie, the younger daughter, played with great hilarity and heart by newcomer Amara Miller and Alexandra's friend Sid who proves to be the comic relief and so much more for this dysfunctional clan.

Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) and Max (George Clooney)
break the news of their mother and wife's impending death
to her parents (Robert Forster and Barbara L. Southern)
As Matt searches for some kind of closure to his wife's life he stumbles upon the realization that he did indeed show his love for her in the wrong way. In the beginning he has hopes of making everything right when she wakes up, that he won't have to deal with those regrets that he didn't take advantage of his good life when he had it and that now he will never know what could have been, but more tragically that he will have never given her all she deserved. It is in that type of mind set that Matt would drive himself crazy. He uses his daughters and his wife's affair to convince himself that she wasn't always his angel and that he can still do right by the lives they created together. It is a slight disappointment more attention isn't paid to Matt's internal struggles and insights that probably made him think more about the beginning of their relationship rather than the sad end of it. This can only be logged as a minor complaint though as the real accomplishment of the film is the way in which it handles the many aspects that make it up with such grace and ease. The film flows at a perfect pace while coming off as messy and as complicated as real life usually is. This story may not be something unheard of or even something that sounds too spectacular or worthy of all the praise it has received but it is not about the story it is telling as much as how that story is conveyed. Director Payne has made it a heartfelt character study of a man in an uncommon dilemma and it is in that character that we find an experience we understand. One that when paired with the sights and sounds of somewhere as beautiful as the Aloha state becomes something more than just a movie, but a cathartic experience.