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.

DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: RODRICK RULES Review

I haven't read any of Jeff Kinney's massively popular books that these films are based on, but I can spot a franchise in the making and with it being safe to say that "Wimpy Kid" isn't going anywhere anytime soon, which is more of a comforting thought than anything else. It feels so few quality live action films are made for the younger crowds anymore. If I were a child growing up right now I would no doubt have tired of computer animated films long ago, no matter how magical Pixar's are. The kids need some variety, something more real to grasp onto, but most importantly something they can really relate to. This is why the books are such a success and that is why these movies will continue to grow in popularity. As I said after stumbling upon the first installment of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" last year, these are films I could have easily seen myself watching multiple times as a child and definitely enjoying them. Heck, I enjoyed watching it yesterday and I am nowhere near the key demographic of the film.

No, these may not be as smart or creative as the first two "Home Alone" films, but that is what I feel they are for this generation. Giving the awkward age crowd of 11-13 year old's a voice. The main protagonists in these films certainly share many qualities, both are stubborn, picked on by their siblings, but ultimately just trying to win the approval of their peers and parents. And while Zachary Gordon's Greg Heffley will never be Kevin McCallister in my 1990's mind, I can see the same appeal and am relieved to see that the underdogs of the middle school world can find some hope and escape through the antics and accomplishments we see Greg go through.

Whereas the first film was mainly focused on Greg and his best friend Rowley beginning the sixth grade this second movie is a little closer to home. Straying from some of the pressures put on by the social structures of middle school and instead focusing on the relationship between Greg and older brother Rodrick, the second "Wimpy Kid" allows us to get to know the Heffley clan a little more. It is to the makers credit they cast more adult type comedians in the parent roles, though Steve Zahn knows his way around a kid flick, here he plays the suburban dad with not only the grace of a man blessed with patience but with a knack for making the most common "dad" traits humorous. As the Heffley mother, Rachael Harris is the ringleader and the instigator of this new bonding session between Greg and Rodrick.With these two in the parental roles, they make them plausible enough that not only will the children in the audience be relating to Greg and his friends, but the parents probably see a litle bit of their struggle in Mr. and Mrs. Heffley. It is nice to see the siblings relationship grow and develop from where it was in the first film to what it becomes at the climax of number two, as well as where it may go from here.

What "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" loses for cheap laughs throughout it makes up for with genuine moments of inspired hilarity such as Greg running through a retirement home in only his underwear or the disaster of the poop stain in church. As I sat in the theater experiencing these embarrassing moments through this adolescent on screen I couldn't help but look around and notice the key demographic for this movie laughing it up and not only them, but there parents who brought them were clearly enjoying the film as well. It is a great family film, it is relatable and we really shouldn't analyze it too hard or pick out its faults. It is a rarity in film these days, and if anything we should simply appreciate the effort. Its doesn't hurt the movie is pretty dang good as well.


DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: RODRICK RULES Review

I haven't read any of Jeff Kinney's massively popular books that these films are based on, but I can spot a franchise in the making and with it being safe to say that "Wimpy Kid" isn't going anywhere anytime soon, which is more of a comforting thought than anything else. It feels so few quality live action films are made for the younger crowds anymore. If I were a child growing up right now I would no doubt have tired of computer animated films long ago, no matter how magical Pixar's are. The kids need some variety, something more real to grasp onto, but most importantly something they can really relate to. This is why the books are such a success and that is why these movies will continue to grow in popularity. As I said after stumbling upon the first installment of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" last year, these are films I could have easily seen myself watching multiple times as a child and definitely enjoying them. Heck, I enjoyed watching it yesterday and I am nowhere near the key demographic of the film.

SUCKER PUNCH Review

What to expect from "Sucker Punch"? Not really sure, another visual feast from Director Zack Snyder no doubt, but much like "Watchmen" I really had no idea going in as to what the story was about. I didn't even know if this one was based on a graphic novel or had some kind of hip, underground source material that I was oblivious to until hearing there was going to be a movie based on it (turns out this is Snyder's first film not based on pre-existing material). In what should have been an epic trip through a young girls mind who may or may not be mentally insane instead we are treated to montage after montage of massive set-ups and beautiful camera work with retro songs re-fitted to the current scene as their backdrops. It is an interesting film and it has its moments, but it is nowhere near how stunning and epic it should have been. It is the epitome of all style and no substance.


Getting to the bottom of it, "Sucker Punch" is really a combination of male fantasy materialized with young, attractive women in school girl outfits fighting dragons and samurai soldiers. It is concerning damaged women, locked up for reasons unbeknown to us. Except for Baby Doll (Emily Browning) we know very little of her gang of scantily clad co-horts. As played by Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Jamie Chung, and a surprising turn from Vanessa Hudgens they are all somewhat cardboard figures told to stand in the background and strike specific poses so as to create a classic looking portrait with Snyder's signature grunge tinge to it. Beginning with a quick back story of how Baby Doll ends up in the crazy house and set to a very creepy cool version of "Sweet Dreams" sung by Browning herself, it is super-stylized and an indication of what I hoped the entire movie might consist of. Emotions elicited through intense images and heightened by the choice of soundtrack, but instead the film slumps quickly into simple melodrama and is ultimately used as an excuse for Snyder to show how visually insane and creative he can really get.

And make no mistake, if the film has anything going for it it is in fact its stunning visual landscape. It is simply disappointing when realizing there is no real vision for the story as a whole. There are these set pieces, these different worlds we are transported to when our protagonist goes into her dancing trances, they by themselves are greatly choreographed and some of them are even fun. The zombie Nazi soldiers look like something straight out of a video game, but the action is relentless and we cannot help but to marvel at the pure scope of the cinematic dreamland being exploited in front of us. As short little films on their own, they might be the most breathtaking things we have seen in a long time, but as one coherent feature, the lack of unity has everything falling apart. There are interesting ideas at play here, there is a concept waiting to be better explored and there is a better film to be made from this story. I cannot help but think if Snyder would pay half as much attention to making sure his story is conveyed and executed the best way it can be as he does making sure the visuals look cool he would be a landmark filmmaker. Instead, his films are weighed heavily down because they have so much to offer in one area and very little in the most important one.

As he now works on re-booting "Superman" I can only hope the critical reactions to this film make him realize his flaws and that he does his best to correct them. "Sucker Punch" should have been his first bold statement, saying he could construct a film as striking in story as the definitive visuals he has provided us with. Instead, it flounders under it's own oblivious fantasy that these effects and action sequences are a viable excuse for a quality story. If only the film were as much a sucker punch to the brain as it is for the eyes.


SUCKER PUNCH Review

What to expect from "Sucker Punch"? Not really sure, another visual feast from Director Zack Snyder no doubt, but much like "Watchmen" I really had no idea going in as to what the story was about. I didn't even know if this one was based on a graphic novel or had some kind of hip, underground source material that I was oblivious to until hearing there was going to be a movie based on it (turns out this is Snyder's first film not based on pre-existing material). In what should have been an epic trip through a young girls mind who may or may not be mentally insane instead we are treated to montage after montage of massive set-ups and beautiful camera work with retro songs re-fitted to the current scene as their backdrops. It is an interesting film and it has its moments, but it is nowhere near how stunning and epic it should have been. It is the epitome of all style and no substance.

PAUL Review

How do you make an alien movie original in this day and age? We asked this question in serious terms last week with "Battle LA" but another week and another alien film means a different variation on the answer. This week is the long-awaited follow-up to Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's commentaries on different aspects of pop culture. They've tackled the zombie craze and cop/buddy flicks with "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz" so why not make a film about the nerdy sub-culture of the world? Insert "Paul" a road trip, buddy flick following two sci-fi obsessed friends who stumble across an actual alien. I love the kinds of films and stories that there are countless references too in the movie. Whether it be the entire climax of the film mirroring a Spielberg type film or the fact every other character in the film is some kind of inside joke about stock characters in those kinds of stories, it's great. It's all well thought out and a pretty great comedy, but at the end I wondered if anyone outside the realm of science fiction films or super hero mythology might enjoy this kind of film at all.


And while the first fifteen minutes or so lead us to believe the audience might be a bit too narrow for this to be as popular as the two leads previous works, but then something happens, the little green guy shows up with the voice of Seth Rogen and we know after he utters his first few lines that he won't only broaden the comedy, but he will bring balance to it. No doubt, intentionally, Pegg and Frost made the two human leads harder to understand than the extra terrestrial. As a kind of stoner dude, Paul, curses and smokes as Rogen delivers his best comedic performance since "Pineapple Express". Rogen, though making Paul as rude and crude as possible balances him out with a sweet side that allows the title character to be the best thing about this film. Whereas Pegg's Graeme Willy and Frost's Clive Gollings are the characters who make the biggest transformations throughout the course of the film it is Paul who helps them do so and no matter how bog of lovable dorks those two are, it is clear the real appeal is the little green alien.

What also makes this not only one of the smarter comedies so far this year, but one of the best is the combination of Rogen and "Superbad" director Greg Mottola's loud and vulgar sense of humor combined with the more subtle and observational humor of Pegg and Frost. Combined with a great comedic cast including Jason Bateman as the secret agent with a secret past sent to capture paul. Bill Hader doing wonderful as the leader of Bateman's second hand men who are in the dark about what exactly they're trying to capture. As his partner Joe Lo Truglio gets some of the bigger laughs as he continues to get bigger parts, but I must admit the guy makes one too many space man balls jokes as well as the film overall taking a bit too many hits on the question of if Graeme and Clive are gay joke and of course the whole anal probing thing. One joke is plenty fellas.

Besides other great cameos from David Koechner, Jane Lynch, and Jeffrey Tambor there is Blythe Danner, stealing her scenes, as the young girl all grown up who's yard Paul crash landed in and Sigourney Weaver as "The Big Guy" leading the mission of capturing Paul in order to probe his own brain. Weaver in this part is a joke in itself, seeing as she is kind of the matriarch of films like "Aliens", "Avatar", and "Ghostbusters". But the real gem in casting here was the idea to have Kristen Wiig as a scared and sheltered daughter of a strong Christian man who comes to feel freed by Paul and his two geeky co-horts. As Ruth Buggs, Wiig creates what is her best big screen creation to date. Whereas her SNL regulars may get a little redundant, here she is hilariously innocent as a woman new to cussing and eager to try out a combination of curse words, no matter the context. It is hilarious and the only repetitive joke throughout the film that never gets old. If it is any indication of Wiig's big screen career, we have a lot of good things to look forward to.

And though "Paul" may not ever reach the expectations I held for it, it offers enough little moments to keep you laughing and repeating a few lines with your friends as you leave the theater. It may not appeal to everyone as well as a big Hollywood production should, but if you have seen E.T. or anything having to do with Star Wars you might get a few of the jokes. And no matter how appealing the title character might be here, and trust me, Paul is a hilarious character, the thing I couldn't shake about "Paul" is that it never gets past its own limitations.


PAUL Review

How do you make an alien movie original in this day and age? We asked this question in serious terms last week with "Battle LA" but another week and another alien film means a different variation on the answer. This week is the long-awaited follow-up to Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's commentaries on different aspects of pop culture. They've tackled the zombie craze and cop/buddy flicks with "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz" so why not make a film about the nerdy sub-culture of the world? Insert "Paul" a road trip, buddy flick following two sci-fi obsessed friends who stumble across an actual alien. I love the kinds of films and stories that there are countless references too in the movie. Whether it be the entire climax of the film mirroring a Spielberg type film or the fact every other character in the film is some kind of inside joke about stock characters in those kinds of stories, it's great. It's all well thought out and a pretty great comedy, but at the end I wondered if anyone outside the realm of science fiction films or super hero mythology might enjoy this kind of film at all.

THE LINCOLN LAWYER Review

There is almost nothing better than settling in and watching a 90's courtroom drama and what I enjoyed most about "The Lincoln Lawyer" was it carried that same tone as those films. From films like "The Client" to McConaughey's star making role in "A Time To Kill". They are films that engage us on principle, asking what we might do were we put in that situation. What "The Lincoln Lawyer" doesn't try to do though is manipulate us into thinking one thing only to have a twist ending (I'm ignoring the tacked on final scene). It gives us full access to McConaughey's Mickey Haller and all the going-on's that weave through his busy days. It is a gritty film with the slickest of lawyers at its center. It is nothing too special, or original, it certainly isn't breaking any barriers, but it is entertaining and intriguing and it knows where its strengths lie.


It's biggest strength being McConaughey himself. The guy is an interesting actor, starting off in diverse and interesting roles but someone who has slipped into playing the leading man role in nothing but a bunch of half-assed rom coms lately. It seemed his star was beginning to fade, but with this return to a role that requires more than just flashing his very tan bare chest and drawing out sentences in that texas drawl, he delivers a character who is blessed with a very specific skill, someone who turns the nature of his up-bringing into the strongest weapon in his arsenal. As Mickey Haller, a Los Angeles defense attorney with a knack for getting the guilty off scott free, he exudes confidence and among many other nice little quirks this film has, operates out the back of a black lincoln. Haller is put to the test though when a spoiled son of a wealthy divorcee specifically requests his services after being booked for attempted murder among other things. The plot quickly complicates, but the pacing is crisp and the organization of the story makes it very easy for the audience to pick up on everything we need to know in order to made well educated guesses at where this is all going.

Working on his biggest feature to date, Director Brad Furman uses a mix of very cinematic looking camera work to capture the intense courtroom scenes while switching to very loose camera work as we follow Haller in and out of his Lincoln, it correlates well with the persona Haller has created. He is an off the cuff kinda guy, he calls it as he sees it yet genuinely does his best to preserve justice in a corrupt and twisted system where deals are made and the guilty are set free for the right price. The plot quickly complicates, but we never lose track, by feeling as if we are Haller's right hand man we are never thrown off course, instead we become all the more involved with every one of these characters. "The Lincoln Lawyer" boasts a pretty impressive supporting cast as well, from Ryan Phillippe who is great at giving us bad vibes from the get go to the only other southern boy that could go toe to toe with McConaughey in a courtroom, Josh Lucas. William H. Macy stops by for a few scenes adding a bit of comic relief while adding a one of the biggest emotional impacts of the entire film. Michael Pena, John Leguizamo, and Marisa Tomei also show up adding not only to the credibility of the film, but also enhancing how each aspect of the film is another layer of important detail in making each plot strand come together. Oh, and did anyone else not realize that was Trace Adkins until his final scene? I totally missed it.

As a trip back to the days of legal drama's, "The Lincoln Lawyer" succeeds on almost every level. The actors are engaging and make their characters individuals and very interesting while the story is something that is perfectly packaged for a hollywood production. It is a well-made film that knows exactly what its intentions are and what points it needs to hit in order to be well recieved. It certainly knows what it's doing surpasses any expectations one might have for a Matthew McConaughey release in mid-March. It isn't exactly re-inventing the wheel but it is certainly a solid entry in the genre.


THE LINCOLN LAWYER Review

There is almost nothing better than settling in and watching a 90's courtroom drama and what I enjoyed most about "The Lincoln Lawyer" was it carried that same tone as those films. From films like "The Client" to McConaughey's star making role in "A Time To Kill". They are films that engage us on principle, asking what we might do were we put in that situation. What "The Lincoln Lawyer" doesn't try to do though is manipulate us into thinking one thing only to have a twist ending (I'm ignoring the tacked on final scene). It gives us full access to McConaughey's Mickey Haller and all the going-on's that weave through his busy days. It is a gritty film with the slickest of lawyers at its center. It is nothing too special, or original, it certainly isn't breaking any barriers, but it is entertaining and intriguing and it knows where its strengths lie.

RED RIDING HOOD Review

What has happened to 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 is no doubt intriguing and could have certainly spawned something better than what has been divulged here. Too bad really, because "Red Riding Hood" has the talent, both in front of and behind the camera, it's just none of them seem to really care about the story they are telling or how it comes out. They are simply going through the motions, trying their best to capture what they think their target audience will most enjoy. Hardwicke, I thought, is a talented director. I enjoyed her earlier films like "Thirteen" and "Lords of Dogtown" and if she would have applied some of that skill for depicting genuine relationships between young women and their elders to a changing society and social world as she did in "Thirteen" to her latest effort, it may have turned out a little more serious and not so much silly.

I'm not an expert on folk tales, but I'm pretty sure the little red riding hood story didn't involve Edward and Jacob, I mean Peter and Henry. Was it really necessary to continue making the vampire series because she didn't get the directing gig for the rest of the series? "Red Riding Hood" should have focused itself more on the family histories and towns people that make up this little village tucked away in the snow covered mountains. Instead we get a very familiar story that features two male leads we can hardly tell apart. As Valerie, the very pretty but very lifeless Amanda Seyfried seems to think that because she looks perfect for this type of role, that it is enough and that she can get away with passively saying the lines with no conviction as to whether she really even likes either of these guys pining for her affection. As Henry, Max Irons (nephew of Jeremy Irons) seems bored with his righteous, wealthy good boy image and as Peter Shiloh Fernandez looks distractingly like a young Joaquin Phoenix, but has zero if that guys acting chops.

Which brings me to the biggest conundrum of this whole deal, why is the acting so stiff and awkward here. Even though Fernandez's acting skills are probably too naive too know how bad they turned out to be on screen, there is no excuse for actors such like Virginia Madsen, Billy Burke to be so corny. And though Julie Christie is the only light in this very dark and gruesome acting experience, you are constantly wondering what made her take this project. The best part about the film is Gary Oldman's corrupt preacher man, a famous werewolf hunter, who the town hires to help them rid themselves of their infestation. Oldman is the only one who seems to know how silly all of this really is and he revels in his showy role, wearing off-setting purple robes and sporting sharp silver finger nails, you know, just in case any wolves sneak up on him.

No matter how silly it got or how bad I wish it could have been fixed, I was never able to get over what a horrible waste of an opportunity this was. "Red Riding Hood" could have been a truly creepy story along the lines of a "Pan's Labyrinth" but instead the CGI wolf just elicits more laughs than shivers. We are exposed to it all too much and all too often. There is no suspense, no horror, no mystery left by the end of the film. The film simply has no bite and will be relegated to the rental shelves where, if you have any interest in it at all, is where you should pick it up from and either be disappointed, find yourself laughing or worst of all be reminded of that other huge love story involving things with sharp teeth. Why Hardwicke why?


RED RIDING HOOD Review

What has happened to 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 is no doubt intriguing and could have certainly spawned something better than what has been divulged here. Too bad really, because "Red Riding Hood" has the talent, both in front of and behind the camera, it's just none of them seem to really care about the story they are telling or how it comes out. They are simply going through the motions, trying their best to capture what they think their target audience will most enjoy. Hardwicke, I thought, is a talented director. I enjoyed her earlier films like "Thirteen" and "Lords of Dogtown" and if she would have applied some of that skill for depicting genuine relationships between young women and their elders to a changing society and social world as she did in "Thirteen" to her latest effort, it may have turned out a little more serious and not so much silly.

BATTLE: LOS ANGELES Review

It's hard being an alien invasion movie these days, with a flurry of them hitting the cineplexes lately it is harder and harder for films to distinguish themselves as to why we should even care to watch them. Sure, I enjoyed "District 9" and like everyone, I strongly disliked last falls "Skyline". Now, with the very promising trailers for "Battle: Los Angeles" I hoped that finally we might get a quality film that was as intelligent as it was action- packed. The presence of Aaron Eckhart certainly gives a project such as this a little more prestige than it might have otherwise garnered. Early descriptions of the film had it basically labeled as "Skyline" with real actors, but it is much more than that, this is a full on war film where our marines could have easily been taking on some foreign enemy, but instead are facing aliens.

It is also the first alien invasion film in a while that doesn't cop out at the end, this may not be as original as the storyline "District 9" offered up, but it offers an onslaught of combat that doesn't cease till its final frame. It allows the aliens to be real foes, not a group of mysterious creatures who have some mangled reason for invading earth. In fact, we never really know what the reason is the aliens are invading our planet, the glimpses we get of local news stations tells us it is for our water sources, but that is what I really enjoyed about the film. It didn't bother with the small details of it, they don't really matter when you're in the middle of it all and when you have a mission. Ramon Rodriguez takes a huge step forward from his "Transformers" break and gives a serious and solid performance as Lt. William Martinez, leading his men and a staff Sgt. with a bad reputation for losing men in battle. As staff Sgt. Michale Nantz, Mr. Eckhart provides a character who is to be redeemed by his actions while proving to a much younger group of marines that the stories of battle are not all so black and white.

That there is real dramatic tension here between the marines helps the fact that we aren't simply following a group of soldiers we know little about. The opening moments of the film introduce us to each of them before the action really kicks in and it is a nice distraction from the video game inspired combat. That is the complaint (or compliment) I have heard most about this film. Myself, I am no gamer and have no idea or desire to play some POV shooting game, but I can see how "Battle:LA" could easily be "Halo" on the big screen.The film does begin to drag in its middle section and almost over stays its welcome at two hours, but the final battle is worth the sludge through the night scenes and there is nothing wrong with its closing moments inspiring a little American pride, even in the midst of an alien invasion. It has enough action to be labeled as a film that might suffer under that weight of countless combat scenarios, but it had enough visual flare and committed performances that I enjoyed its effort. You can see it trying to be better than the other alien films. Yes, it is a story we have seen countless times before, but don't act like you wouldn't mind a less corny "Independence Day".

Director Jonathan Liebesman doesn't have the best track record, with crappy horror flicks like that "Texas Chainsaw" prequel a few years ago and "Darkness Falls" to his credit it would be easy to not expect much, but he takes some serious forward steps here and even if you aren't as pleased with the execution of this action and story, you have to admit the film looks great. Cinematographer Lukas Ettlin is to be commended though he to has no other great films to his credit other than the gritty looking "Lincoln Lawyer" opening this weekend. The scope is one of the most impressive things about this film as is its supporting cast. Along with Eckhart, it was nice to see such pro's as Bridget Moynahan, Michael Pena, and Michelle Rodriguez elevating the film to something more than just another alien invasion film.


BATTLE: LOS ANGELES Review

It's hard being an alien invasion movie these days, with a flurry of them hitting the cineplexes lately it is harder and harder for films to distinguish themselves as to why we should even care to watch them. Sure, I enjoyed "District 9" and like everyone, I strongly disliked last falls "Skyline". Now, with the very promising trailers for "Battle: Los Angeles" I hoped that finally we might get a quality film that was as intelligent as it was action- packed. The presence of Aaron Eckhart certainly gives a project such as this a little more prestige than it might have otherwise garnered. Early descriptions of the film had it basically labeled as "Skyline" with real actors, but it is much more than that, this is a full on war film where our marines could have easily been taking on some foreign enemy, but instead are facing aliens.

RANGO Review

To say the least, "Rango" is an interesting piece of entertainment. There was what I expected going into the film, 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 about the film as I exited the theater. It had very much met every expectation I held for it, if not exceeding most of them. The talent of course consists of the oddest but biggest movie star in the world Johnny Depp re teaming with his "Pirates" director Gore Verbinski in what 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 to say this is more of a discussion than a feature film, but it does possess and old western storyline and the animation is indeed breathtaking, but it isn't really for the children. "Rango" is simply an inventive and very good film that has no particular audience in mind.

With that being said, it also means that this film could potentially be for anyone. It certainly has a broad spectrum of appeal that includes quirky humor spouted by rodent characters crafted after the most general of western stereotypes that seemed to have been turned on their heads (the supporting players here are one of many great highlights of the film). It features a genre that only seems to be getting better with time, a western that takes the classic atmosphere and allows our title character to compile a kind of manifesto for himself while living out his dreams and aspirations that he no doubt thought would ever venture past his secluded glass tank. And while younger children may have a little trouble understanding some of the plot points, the visuals are so stunning that once their brain gets past the eye candy they are enjoying they will understand just enough of whats actually going on to never get bored with the nearly two hour film. It is funny that this is probably more appealing to adults if they can get past the simple fact that it is an animated film, but more than anything this seems to be a genuine movie for people who love movies.

The humor of the piece was so sly and random, I was literally laughing for about three minutes straight at one point and I'm not even sure there was an intentional joke for me to be chuckling at. Instead it is a credit to the performers in these roles, that they have fully invested in and aid incredibly in making the world of "Rango" feel as life-like and zany as its makers intended it to be. This is in part due to the fact that the film was made with motion capture rather than simply having the actors read lines in a recording booth (think more "Avatar" than "How to Train Your Dragon"). I would love to see the footage of the full cast acting out their parts as if it were a stage play, but for their first outing on an animated feature ILM has made one of the most gorgeous films to date. The animation is really to be commended here, there are certain landscape shots that looked to be a mixture of live action camera work and animation that are done so flawlessly you can't be sure if what you are looking at is real or not and if it is all CGI than that is even more amazing. Seriously, if you go to see this movie for one reason it should be to glance upon how far animated films have come.

There are so many more great reasons to venture out and see "Rango" though, not only does Depp deliver another zany character to his arsenal but he redefines what makes him such a versatile actor. He takes Rango from being a dreamer to a do-er, from his opening monologue about acting and his many jokes with the naked top half of a barbie doll to his climactic overcoming of the small towns problem with which he solves as their proud sheriff is cut between a few high tense action sequences and a ton of creative dialogue and well written characters. "Rango" may not have had a specific audience in mind but that has made it a film that is to be loved by a variety of movie goers as well as marking the first great film of 2011. If the rest of the movies that are released this year are half as creative and skillfully crafted as this one, we should be just fine.


RANGO Review

To say the least, "Rango" is an interesting piece of entertainment. There was what I expected going into the film, 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 about the film as I exited the theater. It had very much met every expectation I held for it, if not exceeding most of them. The talent of course consists of the oddest but biggest movie star in the world Johnny Depp re teaming with his "Pirates" director Gore Verbinski in what 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 to say this is more of a discussion than a feature film, but it does possess and old western storyline and the animation is indeed breathtaking, but it isn't really for the children. "Rango" is simply an inventive and very good film that has no particular audience in mind.

THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU Review

I absolutely love a good sci-fi story, an interesting concept, especially when such a genre and all its odd amenities are contratsed by such normalities. This was no doubt the most intriguing aspect of "The Adjustment Bureau" for me, I was drawn into this intriguing relationship, this seemingly unconventional political man who meets a woman who brightens his eyes when he should be at his lowest of emotions. The film teases us with a chemistry between its leads that makes us as an audience member smile and immediately want to see them together. In doing that, it gives the audience the same instincts as Damon's David Norris and when the story tries to keep them apart we want more than anything to get them back together and so we will follow Norris anywhere and what an interesting story he takes us on.

The film is so good at intriguing us we don't even look at it as a genre picture. Instead, we witness a story that actually is more interested in discussing different philosophies, it hints at religious subtexts, and it is ultimately about love and how special true love is that you will fight to overcome any obstacle when you know you have truly found it. It is actually striking how well the ever reliable Damon and the always charming Emily Blunt work together as a screen couple. I had my doubts going in, they just didn't seem to fit, but they play off of each other so well and with such conviction in this relationship director George Nolfi is able to bring us into a world that without this grounded relationship we might view as being a little silly. I mean, c'mon, when you have stipulations such as having to wear a certain hat to go through secret doors or if you are surrounded by water the adjustment fellas can't hear you, things can get pretty overdone and corny, but instead we accept it and we root for the romance to work, for it to last, no matter how well Terrence Stamp is able to convice us it just isn't in the cards for these two.

And while this is clearly Damon's show, I am happy to see Blunt continuing to up her wattage with bigger roles without losing her wisecracking attitude that sets her apart as an original in the field of women in Hollywood. She is quirky yet beautiful and though one of the only problems I had early on in the viewing of the movie was that the relationship seemed to get too serious too fast, but Blunt is able to convey a genuine set of reasons as to why Damon fell so quickly for this woman and why he couln't stop thinking about her for the many years that actually go by in the time frame of the film. And beyond some of the initial disbelief that these two people couldn't be so in love after only one meeting, but that quickly slides away as we see the chemistry begin to build between our two leads. The film is paced great though and we never feel a moment that passes where we are wondering where this is going to go, instead we stay in that moment and are fascinated by that until we move onto the next scene.

Many times throughout the film I found myself thinking, "how frustrating" referring to the situations these characters were put in, and I feared I might begin to feel that way toward the film itsef, but instead I my wonder for the film just continued to grow. I admired how different this film dared to be, how unafraid it was to be a love story while fearlessly including such elements of the sci-fi and thriller genres. It isn;t a movie you can really put your finger on, but it is entertaining. More importantly, it is engaging and will no doubt leave you wanting to discuss it with others after you view it. This is a smart film, one that might sadly have a bad stigma to it because of the marketing campaign, but believe me when I say this isn't as much a sci-fi or thriller as you may believe, but it is a love story in the most interesting of circumstances. Enjoy it on the big screen, its one of the most original films so far this year.


THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU Review

I absolutely love a good sci-fi story, an interesting concept, especially when such a genre and all its odd amenities are contratsed by such normalities. This was no doubt the most intriguing aspect of "The Adjustment Bureau" for me, I was drawn into this intriguing relationship, this seemingly unconventional political man who meets a woman who brightens his eyes when he should be at his lowest of emotions. The film teases us with a chemistry between its leads that makes us as an audience member smile and immediately want to see them together. In doing that, it gives the audience the same instincts as Damon's David Norris and when the story tries to keep them apart we want more than anything to get them back together and so we will follow Norris anywhere and what an interesting story he takes us on.

TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT Review

It is hard to criticize a film that seems to really want to be better than the standard teen party flick. The fact Topher Grace stars and had a hand in writing the story helps raise the credibility here considerably. The guy should have made something like this closer to his final days on "That 70's Show" . This follows the tone of that show closer than some of his other projects and it is obvious there is a special place in his heart for this film. And while it may not be a great movie, it does make for a fun two hours. It is a nice escape and offers todays youthful audience a glimpse at what they might have been like in an alternate 80's universe. While the era may not be of any real relevance to the story, it is always nice to have a soundtrack full of 80's hits and to gawk at the outfits that now look hideous. And though the main crowds that will venture out to see probably weren't even born in that decade, it at the very least carries a Hughes-inspired story that will still relate the same way to the youth of today as his movies of the 80's did to the youth then.

And while Grace and his fellow cast mates are a little old to be playing college graduates we are never too distracted by this fact but instead are wrapped up in the story of each of these main characters, and how, in the course of one night they will learn to face their issues and take control of their lives. It is all genuine enough that the movie never feels like a concocted story to fit in cliches of a film of this type nor does it ever try to hard to remind us this is based in the eighties with forced jokes. Instead it is paced smoothly, following a predictable but fun path. We can see exactly where the end of the night will leave these characters, but it is these characters that make the ride of the night so much fun and it is due to the great cast of comic actors that they pull this rather typical party night storyline above what my expectations were going in.

Besides Grace, what I once considered the poor mans Jack Black, now better known as Dan Fogler makes a strong impression as Grace's Matt Franklins's best friend who decided to skip college and go straight into selling cars. Fogler has never really played a different character in his array of films I have seen him in, but he at least has his persona down pat. He is loud, obnoxious, with a bit of reverence and after being fired from his job, he seems to be up for trying anything under the moon. Fogler gets the most laugh out loud moments here, while Grace is more of the straight man with a more smart, subtle sense of humor. Also along for the ride is the always amusing Anna Faris as Grace's twin sister who is afraid to open her letter from Cambridge University in fear that she may not have been accepted. Not helping the situation is that her boyfriend proposes and has no aspirations that go past his flipped collar. As Faris' on screen boyfriend, Parks and Rec's Chris Pratt is simply another reason to love the characters inhabiting this film. Pratt is a gifted funnyman and seeing as this was filmed a year or so before his break on Parks he proves a diverse character and an actor who enjoys and is capable of playing a variety of male types.

Not to mention a ton of great little cameos from the likes of British comedian Lucy Punch as an obsessed weirdo who still has a thing for Matt. There is also a gothed up Michelle Trachtenberg who encourages Foglers Barry to do whatever he wants without holding back. To top it off Demetri Martin and Michael Ian Black make some hilarious cameos, Martin especially providing some of the funniest bits in the film. Lastly, as the high school crush Matt never had the nerve to ask out, Teresa Palmer plays up the teased hair and the styles of the time perfectly. The girl obviously knows what its like to be admired and she uses that to play up her status. In the end it is the journey that matters more than the ending, and in "Take Me Home Tonight" it is a fun if not fully satisfying adventure. Grace has a bright future and this will no doubt either help or hinder his career, but he needs to start stepping it up soon. He can't play the confused teen forever.


TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT Review

It is hard to criticize a film that seems to really want to be better than the standard teen party flick. The fact Topher Grace stars and had a hand in writing the story helps raise the credibility here considerably. The guy should have made something like this closer to his final days on "That 70's Show" . This follows the tone of that show closer than some of his other projects and it is obvious there is a special place in his heart for this film. And while it may not be a great movie, it does make for a fun two hours. It is a nice escape and offers todays youthful audience a glimpse at what they might have been like in an alternate 80's universe. While the era may not be of any real relevance to the story, it is always nice to have a soundtrack full of 80's hits and to gawk at the outfits that now look hideous. And though the main crowds that will venture out to see probably weren't even born in that decade, it at the very least carries a Hughes-inspired story that will still relate the same way to the youth of today as his movies of the 80's did to the youth then.

127 HOURS Home Video Review

Danny Boyle is a very interesting director, the guy enjoys delving in and making intelligent and engaging genre films as he has tried his hand at horror (128 Days Later) and sci-fi (Sunshine) but upon viewing those earlier films I don't know that I would have ever expected Boyle's career to make the turn it did with "Slumdog Millionaire". I enjoyed that film immensely and though I didn't necessarily think it deserved best picture the year it won, I couldn't disagree with the fact it was visually stimulating and a well told love story that really rejoiced in the emotion. With his follow-up being another kind of Oscar-bait film, I have been eager to see if Boyle truly found something to match his niche here or was he simply trying not to stray too far from his current path and let audiences know that "Millionaire" was no fluke. Turns out Boyle knew exactly what he was doing and I don't think the man cared if "127 Hours" was nominated for zero awards. The film is his imagining of what it must feel like to be stranded, desperate, and to find strength in the most unbelievable of places that force a human being to survive. It is just as inspiring as his last film and equally as stunning visually. The story and the landscape it provides are like a playground for Boyle's directorial eye.


The story is simple, and we all know what it is and how it will end. Going in, this was my biggest concern. How can a film where the audience already knows the ending with a plot that already feels thin turn out to be anything but? What Boyle and his lead actor James Franco are able to accomplish here is a real testament to their talent. Boyle finds numerous ways to shoot his solitary character in the same position, inserting dreams, flashback, mirages and premonitions throughout. All tinged with an almost burnt out color scheme that enforces the climate around this man. What Boyle does realize is that this story is more about the psychology behind its success than the actual act of what Aron Rolston had to resort to to free himself. Hence the flashbacks, dreams and whatnot, but when we hear Franco as Rolston give a voice over about how this rock has been waiting for him his entire life, that this moment had been destined even before he was born, we understand the kind of thoughts and pondering a man in such a situation begins to go through. And from that we see the investment that Franco has made in Rolston, he becomes the man and gives a great performance that truly takes us on this journey with him. It could not have been easy for Franco to go through such a wide range of emotions when surrounded by no one else, with no others to play off, but like Ryan Reynolds did in a similar role in "Buried" Franco completely captures our hearts and gives what is no doubt a defining moment in his film career.

What "127 Hours" does best though, is take an extraordinary event and turn it into a film that encompasses every emotion that Rolston goes through as well as the reason, the push behind what he did, what he was forced to do to survive and what he decided was worth living for. It is a truly rousing story of not only survival but about life and all that we don't realize when we have it all. What it is like to get a glimpse of life when everything has been taken away from you, what it is like to be so close to death you simply cannot accept it. If I have heard any complaints about this film it is usually that it is more about the aspect of filmmaking than it is the story but while Boyle obviously makes some bold choices here, using things like split screens, bold music choices and odd camera angles but I never felt as if it overtook the emotion and the story the film was trying to tell. It starts out giving just the right impression of busy and non-stop people going about their daily duties only to make the seclusion of the bulk of the movie even more affecting. It uses its camera movements to emphasize the severity of Rolstons situation and while it is mostly due to Franco's performance that this film succeeds as well as it does, without Boyle's creative force behind the camera the film would have most likely felt more of an actors showcase rather than a testament to a man who overcame insane odds. Yes, Boyle invests heavily in filmmaking techniques, but they never made themselves more relevant than the fact that what we were watching was really about a man and his journey to live. It is inspiring and would have definitely been on a Top 10 list had I seen it earlier.

Now, I simply cannot wait to see what Boyle tackles next...


127 HOURS Home Video Review

Danny Boyle is a very interesting director, the guy enjoys delving in and making intelligent and engaging genre films as he has tried his hand at horror (128 Days Later) and sci-fi (Sunshine) but upon viewing those earlier films I don't know that I would have ever expected Boyle's career to make the turn it did with "Slumdog Millionaire". I enjoyed that film immensely and though I didn't necessarily think it deserved best picture the year it won, I couldn't disagree with the fact it was visually stimulating and a well told love story that really rejoiced in the emotion. With his follow-up being another kind of Oscar-bait film, I have been eager to see if Boyle truly found something to match his niche here or was he simply trying not to stray too far from his current path and let audiences know that "Millionaire" was no fluke. Turns out Boyle knew exactly what he was doing and I don't think the man cared if "127 Hours" was nominated for zero awards. The film is his imagining of what it must feel like to be stranded, desperate, and to find strength in the most unbelievable of places that force a human being to survive. It is just as inspiring as his last film and equally as stunning visually. The story and the landscape it provides are like a playground for Boyle's directorial eye.