The Grinch Review

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

Bohemian Rhapsody Review

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

Overlord Review

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

The Nutcraker and the Four Realms Review

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

A Star is Born Review

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

THE DEBT Review

I remember seeing a trailer for "The Debt" around this time last year priming it for a late 2010 release that was no doubt trying to set it up for a hopeful awards season. It is a shame it missed that opportunity, but also makes one realize how much precedence is put on those films labeled as "award contenders" and how those with seemingly just as much potential but with a less flashy release date seem to flounder as the little films that couldn't. It is almost deeply disappointing that "The Debt" has been reduced to late summer fodder instead of awards season contender because this is a true, down and dirty espionage thriller with a profound message, a plethora of talent, and a prestigious director on its hands and though I, as well as my fellow audience members really seemed to enjoy the film, it did almost feel like we were the only ones who were going to see it. I hope I'm wrong, I hope this Helen Mirren vehicle finds its audience and doesn't get lost in the shuffle between "Shark Night 3D" and "A Good Ole Fashioned Orgy" but thanks to that transaction between Miramax owner Disney and soon-to-be new owners, it probably will be.

Rachel (Helen Mirren) and Stephen (Tom Wilkinson)
discuss a startling revelation in "The Debt".
It should also be noted "The Debt" is based on a 2007 Israeli film of the same name, but it never saw theatrical release here in the U.S. From that film, Matthew "Kick-Ass" Vaughn and a team of writers have made a strong translation that tells the story of three secret agents who worked together in the sixties and became close while attempting to complete a mission that involved capturing a Nazi war criminal so that he may finally be put on trial. The film transitions smoothly between the original mission of 1966 and how it is still affecting those involved thirty years later in 1997. And though Mirren is being touted as the star attraction here the film actually spends more time with the younger version of Mirren's Rachel Singer than it does her 1997 self. This isn't at all a bad thing though as young Rachel is played by one of the best and brightest upcoming actresses in Hollywood at the moment. If you've seen "The Help" you know how good Jessica Chastain is and once you see "The Debt" you will see how versatile she is. You might have already known this fact had you seen her in "The Tree of Life" but sadly, I have yet to see it. Chastain is easily the reason this film works as well as it does. Though I completely enjoyed the structure with which the story was conveyed and can truly appreciate the raw tension the action scenes caused, it would all just be background noise had we not a central figure to hang all of our hopes and sympathies with. Chastain gives us that. We feel her pain, we can almost touch her fear, yet we still feel a distance from her, one that never allows us to really figure her out until that final moment of the picture.

Young Rachel (Jessica Chastain), David (Sam Worthington),
and Stephen (Marton Csokas) train together.
As Rachel's fellow agents we have Stephen and David, two equally talented spies that have their distinct strengths and weaknesses. Stephen is suave, the clear leader while David is determined, dedicated, and impossible to read. As played by Sam Worthington David is a stoic figure, clearly full of integrity and pure in his quest to do what is right. Stephen is a man looking to get ahead, he is good at what he does and he knows it. He knows where his life is heading and has no plans of it being detoured. Both have interest in Rachel when she is assigned to join them on their secret mission. Rachel, clearly more intrigued by the mysterious David but unable to resist the charm of Stephen becomes caught in the middle. And while this might start to sound all too much like a soap opera set in 1966 Berlin, rest assured the sweet love story is only one of the elements adding to what makes this film so intense, so involving, but most importantly, so good. Relative unknown Marton Csokas plays the young Stephen who grows into the always reliable Tom Wilkinson while David is just as mysterious in his old age as played by Ciaran Hinds. These three become our lifeline into this dark, gloomy atmosphere Madden slowly builds as he delivers piece by piece the entire picture of what actually occurred on their mission. It is framed beautifully in the beginning and throughout it is as if the movie continues to tighten its grip on your collar because it literally feels as if it's pulling you in. It is hard to go to deep into detail without divulging key plot points, but "The Debt" is nothing short of an arresting thriller and one that not only presents a story with subject matter that is hard to dismiss but one that begs questions of the value of truth and what that value attributes to the quality of life.

Doktor Bernhardt aka "The Surgeon of  Birkenau"
(Jesper Christiansen) is evil beyond measure.
Sure, as I watched "The Debt" I was reminded of countless other films based around spies and secret missions, especially those involving Nazi's but never did they make me yearn to watch them instead of "The Debt". This film stands on its own, delivering a compelling idea on the experiences of looking a cruel evil in the face and deciding to do what is right or what is easy. And though I doubt that even with a December release date last year this film would have garnered many statues, the one I believe it might have had the best shot at is best supporting actor for Jesper Christiansen's portrayal of that evil incarnate. There is a section in the middle of the film where his Doktor Bernhardt plays mind games with the three young spies and creates a certain feeling in your stomach you can only get rid of by swallowing. He brings it to the forefront and to a breaking point where what could have been becomes what do we do now? It is what makes this thriller the best of its genre is many years and to the core is what makes me hope audiences choose this rather than the up-charge for 3D glasses this weekend. "The Debt" may not get the release date it deserves, but that shouldn't mean it doesn't get the attention.


THE DEBT Review

I remember seeing a trailer for "The Debt" around this time last year priming it for a late 2010 release that was no doubt trying to set it up for a hopeful awards season. It is a shame it missed that opportunity, but also makes one realize how much precedence is put on those films labeled as "award contenders" and how those with seemingly just as much potential but with a less flashy release date seem to flounder as the little films that couldn't. It is almost deeply disappointing that "The Debt" has been reduced to late summer fodder instead of awards season contender because this is a true, down and dirty espionage thriller with a profound message, a plethora of talent, and a prestigious director on its hands and though I, as well as my fellow audience members really seemed to enjoy the film, it did almost feel like we were the only ones who were going to see it. I hope I'm wrong, I hope this Helen Mirren vehicle finds its audience and doesn't get lost in the shuffle between "Shark Night 3D" and "A Good Ole Fashioned Orgy" but thanks to that transaction between Miramax owner Disney and soon-to-be new owners, it probably will be.

COLOMBIANA Review

"Colombiana" is a strict action film that never climbs above the cliched. Trying way to hard to solidify star Zoe Saldana as a leading lady of action, this revenge tale is one we have seen many times over with few things to differ it from those previous incarnations of the tale. "Colombiana" has it all: drug lords, shoot-outs, weapons, but what it is missing is that x-factor. Saldana is not enough to keep the rehashed story and dry action sequences afloat. The only thing that allows this briskly paced action flick to be an entertaining watch is in fact that: the brisk pace. As beautiful as Saldana is to look at and I won't deny that she carries a certain sort of charisma, still, the "Star Trek" and "Avatar" actress has never given me the impression she could carry a feature on her narrow shoulders, no matter how muscular she has sculpted them to be. I don't mean to sound overly negative in reference to this late summer film that probably doesn't have much critical aspirations in the first place, but just because her resume says she has the potential to be a star doesn't mean the poor girl can make even the most recycled story a hit. C'mon Saldana, if you're as good as they're saying let's find a script that actually shows it.
Young Cataleya (Amandla Stenberg) has one
final talk with her father. 
In all honesty, I had no intentions to see "Colombiana" but after seeing a clip of the opening sequence featuring the younger version of Saldana's character, Cataleya as played by Amandla Stenberg (who will next be seen in the adaptation of "The Hunger Games") I was a bit more intrigued. The idea, though no longer original after Chloe Moretz's Hit Girl left too great an impression in last years "Kick-Ass" was still entertaining. It showed a young girl in an impressive parkour chase through the crowded streets of Columbia as she ran for her life after witnessing the death of her parents. It did indeed leave an impression that, while not as shocking as the aforementioned films, still peaked my interest enough that I thought it worth a Sunday afternoon show. Turns out (of course) that is probably the best sequence of the film. There is a pretty sweet prison break-in featuring Saldana as the character but after that each action scene seems to slowly grow more and more lazy and more ridiculous. This is really the only thing going for the film also, so when they start to slip we start to realize how lackluster the rest of the script is. The bad guys are so typical and foreign. The way in which the movie becomes as much FBI chase as it does quest for revenge gets out of hand quick. There are only so many extravagant coincidences we can buy until we start to laugh at the movie for all the wrong reasons.

Zoe Saldana attempts to keep her action resume
strong with this leading role in "Colombiana".
If you want to watch a true, original action film where you actually feel some effort was put into the story and you don't feel as if you are watching a mash up of every other revenge movie ever made then wait until next week and buy "Hanna". Seriously, coming out of "Colombiana" I am actually feeling a little swindled. I really thought my expectations might have been wrong. I mean, I enjoy "The Transporter" series and Oliver Megaton, the guy at the helm of the third entry in that series was in charge here and though he brings some of that energy to that opening sequence and in some ways to that inevitable final showdown between Cataleya and the goons who murdered her parents, he otherwise reduces himself to copying how every other action film has been shot in the last few years. The remainder of the film is filled to the brim with unnecessary subplots concerning our protagonists love life that is supposed to show us how much she really just wants to be a normal human being. A regular member of society. Sorry dear, you are starring in an action film, and one where you are supposed to be seeking revenge. Don't you know that is all you should be thinking about? I say that sarcastically of course, though "Colombiana" makes strides to add some depth to Saldana's character it is so much in the form of cliff notes that, as I said, it feels more unnecessary than anything else. We also have the guy in the police dept. who is close on her heels and Cataleya's only remaining family that has foolishly kept her in the business of killing.

"Hey, didn't I play this same role in Bad Boys II?"
There truly isn't much more to say about a film you have seen before. All one would have to do is substitute Saldana for "The Punisher" and you have "Colombiana" minus the whole skull t-shirt. Why Luc Besson, the guy who directed his breakout hit "La Femme Nikita" over fifteen years now thinks he can still write junk like this and get away with keeping the reputation as the guy who made "The Fifth Element" and produced "Taken" is a mystery to me. If anything, what "Colombiana" teaches us is that no matter how stylized the violence and no matter how gorgeous the star, there is nothing that substitutes for a good idea. If you are going to make a balls to the wall action flick then you need that one element that separates it from every other action film out there. Whether that be the attitude, the character that is your leading man or lady or a plot device that throws a wrench into the standard formula. "Colombiana" has neither of these and thus will be reduced to nothing more than a quick home video release and a small, insignificant mark on Saldana's resume between the "Star Trek" and "Avatar" sequels. I think I'm gonna go watch "The Losers" now, that will surely look like action gold compared to this only sometimes amusing nonsense.


COLOMBIANA Review

"Colombiana" is a strict action film that never climbs above the cliched. Trying way to hard to solidify star Zoe Saldana as a leading lady of action, this revenge tale is one we have seen many times over with few things to differ it from those previous incarnations of the tale. "Colombiana" has it all: drug lords, shoot-outs, weapons, but what it is missing is that x-factor. Saldana is not enough to keep the rehashed story and dry action sequences afloat. The only thing that allows this briskly paced action flick to be an entertaining watch is in fact that: the brisk pace. As beautiful as Saldana is to look at and I won't deny that she carries a certain sort of charisma, still, the "Star Trek" and "Avatar" actress has never given me the impression she could carry a feature on her narrow shoulders, no matter how muscular she has sculpted them to be. I don't mean to sound overly negative in reference to this late summer film that probably doesn't have much critical aspirations in the first place, but just because her resume says she has the potential to be a star doesn't mean the poor girl can make even the most recycled story a hit. C'mon Saldana, if you're as good as they're saying let's find a script that actually shows it.

DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK Review

This much delayed scary movie from talented new director Troy Nixey and the man with his name on the marquee Guillermo del Toro is based off a TV movie from the 70's apparently. Not that this little fact really matters, but it is interesting to note Del Toro's involvement in trying to somewhat bring his much acclaimed style from "Pan's Labyrinth" to this genre by stepping in as co-writer and producer while ultimately delivering a product that seems more a distant relative to his previous work rather than immediate kin. "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" has all the elements of a great horror film, even Nixey has the right ideas, the right sense of tone and a great visual eye, but the story in no way is good or original enough to bring these separate elements together in a coherent work that truly frightens the audience. Hell, this production even has grade-A credible actors (and though some may disagree on the Katie Holmes factor I've always thought her a quality talent). The normally selective Guy Pearce plays the most archetypal of characters here while Holmes actually spreads her wings rather nicely. It is the films real star, Bailee Madison though that makes all this fuss about little gremlin-like creatures and not being scared of turning out the lights even worth your attention.
Sally (Bailee Madison) is haunted by whispers she
keeps heaing throughout her dad's new house.
The story is simple enough, something terrible happened in this lovely Victorian mansion many years ago and no one has bothered with it since. Flash forward to present day where an architect and his younger girlfriend, an interior designer, are trying to restore the old place. Cue the introduction of the architects daughter from his failed marriage. Why little Sally (Madison) is shipped from her mothers to live with her dad and new girlfriend is never really explained, but there are several hints at an unstable mother who couldn't handle the responsibility. A connection through this mysterious aspect of the family and the history of the house might have been intriguing, but like I said, the script doesn't really try hard enough to convince us of the creeps it just expects us to react to the average, yet perfectly set-up scare tactics. "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" looks great and has truly gorgeous art direction. The tour of the old mansion we receive throughout the film warrants the price of admission alone, but as far as the film working as a scary movie this feels more been there, done that than it does fresh haunted house tale. And after "Insidious" earlier this year, this seemed nothing more than child's play.

Kim (Katie Holmes) comforts Sally after finding her
frightened by what haunts their new house.
The highlight of the film is the natural way in which the relationship between Sally and Holmes' Kim develops from an awkward daughter and dad's girlfriend relationship to Sally feeling as if Kim is the only person in the world she can trust. Young Bailee Madison is a gifted actor and is one you probably recognize from countless other movies and TV shows you've seen. Madison anchors this whole, heavy film on her little shoulders and creates what sense of fear this film does conjure up through her brilliant reactions to the little CGI monsters. With Holmes as well stepping into the standard stepmother role and turning it into a sympathetic woman who truly yearns to create a real connection with Sally allows for the movie to move beyond being just a scary movie, but one that explores themes of the human psyche and why that human connection is a necessary part of life even if our instinct is to initially distance ourselves as far from society as we can, to the point we don't have to face the truth about ourselves or our situation. That seems to be both what Sally and her father are doing. Attempting to wrap themselves up in their interests or work so as to stray away from the real issues that are happening in their lives. Too bad the script decides to leave these avenues unexplored as well. To have seen a reflection of our possible futures in these characters would have been the scariest thing of all, but heaven forbid a summer film try to teach us a lesson.

"Give me your teeth!"
Instead, "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" lingers far too early and for too long on the little furry creatures to actually cause the audience to fear them. Their entire mission of trying to get little children's teeth is never looked into either. We get a little history on the ancestry of the species via the cliched old documents in the local library, but why teeth? And why specifically children's? We will never know. I certainly don't intend to go looking for the original on which this based to find answers, this update should have worked harder to answer them for me. There isn't even any intrigue in leaving these questions unanswered. It's just annoying. Parts of the film can be forgiven due to the caliber of acting Del Toro and Nixey have assembled here, as well as for the captivating art direction, and the editing is particularly effective, but besides that one frightening, jump out of your seat scare we already witnessed in the trailer there is no reason to go see "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark". So, granted, this film works on some levels the fact of the matter is it doesn't on the one it touts as its bread and butter and for me, in the end, that counts for something. It counts enough for me to say wait for a good, stormy night when this is on DVD and rent it. Only then might it come off as the scary movie it coulda, shoulda been.


DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK Review

This much delayed scary movie from talented new director Troy Nixey and the man with his name on the marquee Guillermo del Toro is based off a TV movie from the 70's apparently. Not that this little fact really matters, but it is interesting to note Del Toro's involvement in trying to somewhat bring his much acclaimed style from "Pan's Labyrinth" to this genre by stepping in as co-writer and producer while ultimately delivering a product that seems more a distant relative to his previous work rather than immediate kin. "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" has all the elements of a great horror film, even Nixey has the right ideas, the right sense of tone and a great visual eye, but the story in no way is good or original enough to bring these separate elements together in a coherent work that truly frightens the audience. Hell, this production even has grade-A credible actors (and though some may disagree on the Katie Holmes factor I've always thought her a quality talent). The normally selective Guy Pearce plays the most archetypal of characters here while Holmes actually spreads her wings rather nicely. It is the films real star, Bailee Madison though that makes all this fuss about little gremlin-like creatures and not being scared of turning out the lights even worth your attention.

TRUST Home Video Review

*I don't usually post new DVD or Blu-Ray releases on the main review page, but seeing as this film was released a few weeks ago and I was unaware it was already available to rent and own I have made an exception seeing as how good of a film this turned out to be. As I said, "Trust" is now available to own or rent on DVD and Blu-Ray and I highly recommend checking it out. This is a powerful drama that deserves much more attention than it has garnered so far.

I watched the trailer for "Trust" a while ago and was anxious to see this contemporary drama as directed by the always interesting David Schwimmer. The cast looked great, the subject matter tough and so I was excited to know if the execution would be in a way that allowed such strong and present conflicts to be dealt with in a real, honest way. Why this film was not released with wider theatrical distribution or promoted with the importance of other serious minded films is a mystery to me. This is a well-acted, powerful, yet horrifying story that could happen to anyone and it is dealt with in such careful hands that no matter how bad we want to look away and not witness what is happening on the screen we can hardly justify that decision. More than anything this saddens me because "Trust" is definitely one of the top films I have seen all year and one that has stayed with me even a few days after watching it. The situation, the conflicts it presents and the way it so wrongly scars a young persons life is truly disgusting. Schwimmer has certainly made a mark with his feature debut and I look forward to seeing his work if it is anything near the caliber he has presented here.

Annie (Liana Liberato) is a victim of a horrible
crime in David Schwimmer's "Trust".
With a top of the line cast featuring Clive Owen, Catherine Keener, and Viola Davis we are given the story of Will and Lynn, two caring, protective parents who have three beautiful children. The oldest setting off for college, the youngest just barely into grade school and right in the middle we have 15 year-old Annie. For her birthday and with the prospect of high school just around the corner, Will and Lynn give their daughter a new laptop. This of course opens the possibility for on-line chatting and such. Annie begins a long distance relationship with a supposed young boy that at first seems harmless. With that type of premise in place already we as an audience start to squirm. We know where this is heading and Schwimmer's tone directs our mind in a way that keeps things very natural, very recognizable and that is, what in fact, is the most horrifying part of the whole thing. Annie, as played by newcomer Liana Liberato, is an appealing young girl. An athletic young woman who is excited she has made the volleyball team, who is excited to fit into the "in" crowd and make a rel impression among her new high school peers. The early scenes are written to evoke the normalcy of this families day to day and it works as we get to know Annie as if she was a friend and if you are old enough to be a parent, you begin to recognize her as one of your own. Liberato is a talented young woman and brings the confusion, the warped perspective, and the tragic way in which she thinks she has been in love.

Will (Clive Owen) is a father searching for answers
after his daughter experiences the unthinkable.
The film looks at a sensitive situation, with a very vulnerable young woman at the center of it. What makes this movie so compelling is that we are not only allowed a glimpse into the psyche of this young lady, but we see how much this affects her family, her friends, and her entire world that will ultimately never be the same. The film never allows Owen to go all Liam Neeson on us via "Taken" but it certainly demonstrates a fathers feelings of failure and torment to the point that it is almost unbearable. Owen is at his finest here as a father who cares for his kids yet doesn't realize the world around his perfect suburban existence could be disrupted by such things as sex offenders living down the street. The actor allows this material to fuel his motivation and rather than over-dramatizing what could have been poorly handled melodrama is instead a top-notch performance that deserves more acclaim than it has garnered. Throughout the film, the story takes turns that are to be expected but are again handled with such reality rather than being hammed up for Hollywood that the final result is not only more effective but a more haunting view as to what any parent out there could potentially encounter.

Lynn (Catherine Keener) attempts to comfort her
daughter before she returns to school.
Schwimmer pushes each of his characters to the brink of a feeling that could be described best as loss. Loss for what to do next, where to go after such an incident and loss of options as to what one can do to make mends over the situation. The truth being there is nothing one can really do to fix it, but what truly matters is how we react to it. This voice of reason is brought in the form of Viola Davis, a ray of sunlight on any film she chooses to grace. Though Davis is mostly a supporting if not minor character here, she is the opinion with which these characters and we as an audience are able to feel some type of emotion closest to comfort after going through this awful trauma. "Trust" is a solid film that in lesser hands, both in terms of director and actors, could have easily been a Lifetime movie waiting to happen. Clive Owen and his strong supporting cast are able to pull this from the trenches of melodrama and create an honest, moving film that is not just educational but it conveys honest fear in that we are not able to control everything and that no matter what lengths one goes to to protect their child, that something such as what happened to Annie could happen to anyone. It may not be the feel good movie of the year, but it is certainly one of the few that has made a real impact on me this year.


TRUST Home Video Review

*I don't usually post new DVD or Blu-Ray releases on the main review page, but seeing as this film was released a few weeks ago and I was unaware it was already available to rent and own I have made an exception seeing as how good of a film this turned out to be. As I said, "Trust" is now available to own or rent on DVD and Blu-Ray and I highly recommend checking it out. This is a powerful drama that deserves much more attention than it has garnered so far.

I watched the trailer for "Trust" a while ago and was anxious to see this contemporary drama as directed by the always interesting David Schwimmer. The cast looked great, the subject matter tough and so I was excited to know if the execution would be in a way that allowed such strong and present conflicts to be dealt with in a real, honest way. Why this film was not released with wider theatrical distribution or promoted with the importance of other serious minded films is a mystery to me. This is a well-acted, powerful, yet horrifying story that could happen to anyone and it is dealt with in such careful hands that no matter how bad we want to look away and not witness what is happening on the screen we can hardly justify that decision. More than anything this saddens me because "Trust" is definitely one of the top films I have seen all year and one that has stayed with me even a few days after watching it. The situation, the conflicts it presents and the way it so wrongly scars a young persons life is truly disgusting. Schwimmer has certainly made a mark with his feature debut and I look forward to seeing his work if it is anything near the caliber he has presented here.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN Review

"Conan the Barbarian" is not for everyone. It is certainly a definite type of film and this re-make of the 80's camp classic starring old Arnold Schwarzenegger plays it so safe and by the numbers there seems to really be no point in it even existing. Yea, the story has been altered quite a bit but the basic elements still stand true. And although my history with the original Conan film is in no fashion what makes me put this re-make down so much (I actually just rented the original last week and watched it for the first time) it is simply the fact this movie on its own is more a collage of battle scenes that are pieced together and separated by small bits of dialogue that seem forced and only present to move any resemblence of a story along. If anything, a film like this should be pure escapism, full of excitement and fun but instead this nearly two hour film just feels like a drag most of the time. Yea, I thought the sandmen and the fight with the giant squid looked pretty cool, but they never felt epic and if you are going to make a Conan film the thing needs to at least FEEL epic. The scope and the budget were definitely in place here, but it still feels like the final product we are watching on the screen was produced with little to no effort. The least they could have done is try.

Father and daughter get a little too close for comfort. 
What is an even more saddening fact for this update is that most of the actors here seem to really be into it. Honestly trying to make this as good a movie as it can be. As I said, "Conan" falls into a very distinct category and it is a movie you have to evaluate strictly on its own terms and while I try to do that with every review this came to mind in an especially blunt way with this film. It is clear that Jason Momoa has what it takes to pull off the lead role both physically and charismatically, he is not the issue here. In fact, and this is an opinion solely based on having no emotional connection with the original, but I think Momoa was just as good if not a little better than Arnie. It doesn't hurt he has the ever over acting Stephen Lang in the villain role either. Lang, who most movie goers of my generation will easily recognize as the baddie in "Avatar" does the films best work as Khalar Zym a power hungry ruler who seeks to capture a pure blood ancestor from an ancient blood line that will somehow bring his lost sorceress wife back from the dead. He has his daughter Marique to help him do this as she also possesses a few traits passed down from her mother. Marique as played by Rose McGowan is an evil little thing and though her performance and character design are both pretty interesting we never really dig into her twisted psyche that hints at a fondness for her father that crosses some lines. It is little things such as this that point towards what might have been a more substance-lined barbarian film.

Conan (Jason Momoa) and Tamara (Rachel Nichols) bond
over the campfire as they search for Khalar Zym.
Momoa has really hinted at wanting this to be a film not just made up of extravagant fight scenes but for those actions to have real substance behind them. And though he has optioned to write the script for the inevitable sequel; this first film has been condensed so much that it has his own, title character, feeling a little cheated. He is given more of a back story here than in the original featuring Leo Howard as a younger Conan and Howard along with Ron Perlman give those opening scenes enough zest to have us intrigued and anxious for what is to happen next. It is when Momoa finally hits the screen that things start to go downhill. The story hits the high points on every action adventure script out there. Conan is seeking revenge on Zym who killed his father and Zym is searching for that pure blood. Of course, Conan comes across the pure blood first, is able to have that leverage over Zym but will no doubt fall in love with the pure blood Tamara further complicating things and leading to a final showdown that is so bombastically gory and over the top we just feel dragged around by the time the credits roll. Momoa and Rachel Nichols as Tamara have good enough chemistry and I did like that their stories were not wrapped up too neatly, but all in all we knew where this was heading the moment we sat down. The difference is we expected a few surprises along the way and in that regard is where no effort seems to have been given.

Conan is impressed by his own, large sword.
What is bad is that it's really hard for me to dislike the film, but I can't help but to feel underwhelmed. When watching the newly issued blu-ray edition of the original film last weekend I of course delve into some special features and learned a few facts I would have never thought to occur. Apparently Oliver Stone had a hand in writing the original script for Conan back in the 80's and even had some interest in directing it for a little while. Why this didn't happen, I don't know, but in the interview with Stone he talked of his script simply being too epic, with hundreds more characters, bigger battle scenes and such to create in those days. And so I, in a way, was hoping with all the advances in technology and a sizeable budget that is what director Marcus Nispel had set out to create. The trailers surely indicated such a world. Nispel, who is mainly known for his work on the re-makes of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "Friday the 13th" seems a little hesitant to go forward with handling such a colossal order. But the thing is, Conan is a bigger than life character and you have to be willing to go big or go home with this kind of film. the quote that will no doubt catch on from the movie is "I live, I love, I slay, and I am content." Conan no doubt does all these things, but it is a shame that the audience is left only being content with his big screen return.


CONAN THE BARBARIAN Review

"Conan the Barbarian" is not for everyone. It is certainly a definite type of film and this re-make of the 80's camp classic starring old Arnold Schwarzenegger plays it so safe and by the numbers there seems to really be no point in it even existing. Yea, the story has been altered quite a bit but the basic elements still stand true. And although my history with the original Conan film is in no fashion what makes me put this re-make down so much (I actually just rented the original last week and watched it for the first time) it is simply the fact this movie on its own is more a collage of battle scenes that are pieced together and separated by small bits of dialogue that seem forced and only present to move any resemblence of a story along. If anything, a film like this should be pure escapism, full of excitement and fun but instead this nearly two hour film just feels like a drag most of the time. Yea, I thought the sandmen and the fight with the giant squid looked pretty cool, but they never felt epic and if you are going to make a Conan film the thing needs to at least FEEL epic. The scope and the budget were definitely in place here, but it still feels like the final product we are watching on the screen was produced with little to no effort. The least they could have done is try.

FRIGHT NIGHT Review

A movie must be pretty damn entertaining if you get a large drink, have it all gone mid way through the film and immediately have to go the bathroom but hold out for the next forty-five minutes because you honestly don't want to miss a thing. Saying that, my bladder was really happy the movie finally ended, but me, I was just glad this turned out to be such a thrilling, entertaining ride. In saying that, I have never seen the original 80's version of the flick, but I can guess how it went from seeing this updated version and I would no doubt have enjoyed this version anyway simply because of my generational expectations for films and enjoying the work of the actors involved here. As Jerry, Colin Farrell continues to step in the right direction in making a mainstream comeback. Jerry is a breed of vampire that is hard to kill and even harder to get along with, just ask Charlie Brewster (Anton Yelchin) who Jerry just happens to move in next to in . Now, I am definitely not hopping on this whole vampire train, but I gotta give credit where credits due and the 2011 "Fright Night" is nothing short of a good time at the movies. It's smart, funny, and with such a well-rounded cast the cheese never comes off as if the movie is making fun of the concept, instead we get subtle winks and nods that they're in on the joke but don't let it interrupt how much fun they're having. Happy to report that we don't either.
Charlie (Anton Yelchin) and Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse)
are friends turned enemies in "Fright Night".
The story goes as such, Yelchin, who looks a little to mature to still be playing Charlie Bartlett is a geek at heart who has somehow managed to capture the affection of the hottest girl in school Amy, embodied here by Imogen Potts. he has shunned his old friends, mainly Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and has taken up with the tools who run the school so as to impress Amy. He lives with his mother (Toni Colette), his father nowhere to be seen and that's when you cue the new neighbor. Jerry seems normal enough at first, given he looks like Colin Farrell, but it soon becomes apparent that Jerry is not all he appears to be. In an early scene where Yelchin and Mintz-Plasse break into one of their friends houses director Craig Gillespie sets the mood and overall tension the movie holds. While there are plenty of moments here that you find yourself biting your nails and laughing out loud it is also balanced by the fact that this is a film that finally makes us feel as if all those other entertainment pieces based off the blood suckers are just a bunch of bologna. Now, I haven't seen the what looks to be smarmy take on the genre that is "True Blood" or the "Twilight" TV series "The Vampire Diaries" but I've seen enough "Twilight", "Underworld", and "30 Days of Night" to appreciate "Fright Night" for what it is: a relief.

Jerry (Colin Farrell) makes a real
memorable impression on his new neighbors.
For me though, what made "Fright Night" a real bit of fun was the combination of genuine vampire lore and the way in which it did look at the label the genre has garnered itself. This is done by introducing Peter Vincent, a Criss Angel type figure, who is a Vegas showman and rumored vampire expert. Yea, that sounds like it might be pushing it a little too far, but it offers our main characters an insight into the world of the ridiculous and as played by British actor David Tennant who most will recognize from Harry Potter, he is a well rounded character that is vital to the follow through of the story. Going in, I had no idea as to where this film might take me so there was a level of excitement to the endeavor and even though my expectations weren't reasonably high I felt I could count not only on Farrell, but his credible supporting cast to make a wise judgement in terms of script. The story may end up going where we expect it to but there are enough little quirks thrown in as well as honest performances that the movie is never dull. Yelchin anchors the movie with his likeability but it is Farrell who is no doubt the real star here. He isn't playing it over the top and he doesn't get all Edward Cullen on us either. He is a solid, quiet figure. He sniffs the air for his prey and wipes blood from his smeared lips as if it were nothing. He enjoys the rush of being invited into a guests home and he is so confident in his tactics we never feel anything close to fear from Jerry. He gets by with the whole gig by investing in a house located in the generic subdivision located right outside the Vegas strip. blacking out his windows because he works on the strip at night and so must sleep during the day. It is little touches such as this that make you smile, make you believe the writers of this update really wanted to add a sense of reality to a character that has, by this point, been so far up-rooted from its original incarnation people would now see Nosferatu as a parody.

Charlie and Peter Vincent (David Tennant) fight to
defeat Jerry by any means necessary.
Though this summer movie season might feel like it is dragging to a close, "Fright Night" only adds to the final resurgence that has become apparent with films like "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" and "The Help" making strong marks with critics and average movie goers. This remake might not have the broad appeal of those films or the built in audiences but I hope there is still enough faith in movie-goers that there can be fun and original stories still told using the whole "vampire" plot point. "Fright Night" certainly deserves an audience but I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if this ended up being a bigger hit on DVD than it will at the box office. It is an R-rated fright-fest that doesn't overdo the gore or linger to long on any certain storyline. it moves along at a brisk momentum and charms us in a way that kept me at least fully engaged as my bladder could attest to. I didn't bother seeing the film in 3-D as their seemed no reason to really, although there were clear moments where the technology seemed to be put to creative use. Regardless, this was an enjoyable romp for a film fan who isn't even into the whole vampire craze so if you're in the club or out it doesn't seem you can go wrong as long as you're looking for solid entertainment. And who's not in the hot summer days of late August? Jerry sure is.


FRIGHT NIGHT Review

A movie must be pretty damn entertaining if you get a large drink, have it all gone mid way through the film and immediately have to go the bathroom but hold out for the next forty-five minutes because you honestly don't want to miss a thing. Saying that, my bladder was really happy the movie finally ended, but me, I was just glad this turned out to be such a thrilling, entertaining ride. In saying that, I have never seen the original 80's version of the flick, but I can guess how it went from seeing this updated version and I would no doubt have enjoyed this version anyway simply because of my generational expectations for films and enjoying the work of the actors involved here. As Jerry, Colin Farrell continues to step in the right direction in making a mainstream comeback. Jerry is a breed of vampire that is hard to kill and even harder to get along with, just ask Charlie Brewster (Anton Yelchin) who Jerry just happens to move in next to in . Now, I am definitely not hopping on this whole vampire train, but I gotta give credit where credits due and the 2011 "Fright Night" is nothing short of a good time at the movies. It's smart, funny, and with such a well-rounded cast the cheese never comes off as if the movie is making fun of the concept, instead we get subtle winks and nods that they're in on the joke but don't let it interrupt how much fun they're having. Happy to report that we don't either.

Movies I Wanna See Most: Fall 2011

The Summer movie season is coming to an end and though it hasn't been the best year for big Hollywood productions we have certainly had a few quality films that might stand a chance against all the award-type films that will be opening as the year draws closer to an end. That is what we are here to talk about today. The films of Fall 2011 and the ones I am personally looking forward to the most. Though I am excited to see if Eddie Murphy is funny again in "Tower Heist" and am glad to see we will have two Spielberg films this December ("The Adventures of Tintin" and "War Horse") as well as there being plenty of star studded vehicles like Steven Soderbergh's "Contagion", Roman Polanski's "Carnage", and Johnny Depp's "The Rum Diary" I have not placed any of them on my list because there are a few blockbusters, a few smaller films, and some definite award contenders that I am absolutely anticipating. Most of the trailers for these films have only added to the excitement and some I am just eager to see on their subject matter alone. Take a look at the list and see if you share some of my excitement and hey, if not, leave a comment and let me know what movies you are most excited to see this fall.  

10. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol




Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt.
It is easy to say this is an unnecessary movie. I thought the same even though I really enjoyed JJ Abrams third installment back in 2006. It seems Tom Cruise is unable to let this franchise go though and I guess we can't blame him, it is the only one he has. There was plenty of doubt around whether this would be worth a trip to the cinema but with the release of the first trailer last month I think everyone was impressed and took a second to re-think there pre-conceived notions of how bad this movie was going to be. With director Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille) taking on his first non-animated film this was destined to be an experiment that could have gone one of two ways. It is clear Bird is a talented director and it appears his skills have transferred flawlessly to live action film. If the teaser is any indication this could be the best "Mission" of the whole series. Bird and his crew shot select scenes with IMAX cameras and if the glimpse of Cruise hanging from Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, gives us any indication as to how well Bird took advantage of the technology it looks as if we'll be in for a pretty amazing action/adventure flick. This time around the story concerns the IMF being shut down when it's implicated in the bombing of the Kremlin, causing Ethan Hunt and his new team to go rogue to clear their organization's name. Returning cast members include Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg as well as featuring a slew of new players being inhibited by such actors as Paula Patton, Lost's Josh Holloway, Tom Wilkinson, and Jeremy Renner of "The Hurt Locker" and "The Town" will no doubt add to my hopes that this installment proves all the doubters wrong, including myself. See the trailer here. See it in theaters December 21

9. The Muppets

I have never seen a Muppet film. I'm the first to admit that and I'm not really ashamed of it either. I am of the generation The Muppet Show missed. I have always known about Kermit and Miss Piggy but never found any interest in sitting through an hour and a half feature with them. There is literally only one reason I am interested in seeing this new film that will attempt to catapult these clearly beloved characters back into the limelight. That reason being "Forgetting Sarah Marshall". I loved the 2008 film featuring Jason Segel that clearly demonstrated his love of muppetry(?) and when it was announced he would be helping put together a new vehicle to revitalize the Muppet franchise I was intrigued and thought it time I made myself more familiar with this strange world that always seemed more Sesame Street than genuine slapstick humor. Thus I find myself eager to see what Segel and his team have done to introduce these characters to a brand new audience as well as appealing to those of their generation that grew up with the TV show and the movies. Segel and "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" director Nick Stoller collaborated on the screenplay and hired director James Bobin of Flight of the Conchords fame as well as series regular Bret McKenzie to co-write some of the movie's musical numbers with Segel. All this and not to mention that Amy Adams co-stars as Segels girlfriend and a whole roster of stars including Mila Kunis, Jack Black, Zach Galifianakis, Ricky Gervais, Neil Patrick Harris, Katy Perry, John Krasinski, Rashida Jones, Billy Crystal, and Chris Cooper as the evil oil magnate who is out to destroy the Muppet Theater all make appearances. Sign me up. See the trailer here. See it in theaters  November 23

8. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows




Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr. re-team for the sequel to
"Sherlock Holmes".
What began in 2008 as Downey Jr. domination continues into this holiday season as he follows up his second successful franchise with its first sequel. In 2009's "Sherlock Holmes" set the bar rather high in terms of re-inventing a classic piece of literature. Director Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrells, Rock-N-Rolla) brought his gritty underground style to 19th century England and portrayed the infamous detective as a smooth-talking, handsome hero-type character rather than the anti-social man of Doyle's original stories. Ritchie, Downey, and all others involved didn't stray too far from the source material though re-storing Watson back to his original form as a former Army surgeon and a competent medical doctor. "Game of Shadows" drops the super natural element brought to the first film by villian Marc Strong though and adds Holmes's greatest archenemy Professor Moriarty. Mad Men's Jarred Harris portrays the criminal genius. The new film gives us Downey's Holmes coming to the aid of a fortuneteller (Noomi Rapace in her American film debut) who is threatened by the aforementioned Moriarty. The first trailer for the film released last month makes this sequel out to be just as action packed and quick witted as the first if not being a little underwhelming due to the fact this one is missing the presence of Rachel McAdams as Holmes estranged lover Irene Adler. Jude Law is of course returning as Watson and despite threatening to leave Holmes it is clear, and of course inevitable, that they must reunite to outwit and bring down Moriarty all amidst Watsons wedding and what looks to be a pretty exciting train sequence. I enjoyed the first film enough to be looking forward to this one with a pretty high excitement level. It doesn't hurt all the people included in bringing one of my favorite classic stories to the screen seem a perfect fit to allow those stories to make a new mark in pop culture society. See the trailer here. See it in theaters December 16

7. The Iron Lady




Meryl Streep as former British prime
minister Margaret Thatcher.
I am a real sucker for bio-pics. No matter the subject matter, if I am familiar with them or not, I usually find some element of them interesting if not entertaining through their movie incarnation. I was raised with a mother whose entire side of the family hails from Britain. I enjoyed this influence for many reasons, the chocolate, the hot tea, the fish and chips on Friday's, the comedy, but with these perks came a little knowledge as well and thus I am eager to see "The Iron Lady". As the former British prime minister, Meryl Streep takes on the task of bringing her story to the screen that is said to chronicle seven decades but will mainly focus on Thatcher at the peak of her power in the 1980's. There has been no trailer release for the movie yet, so I have little to go on as far as what to expect in tone and direction but I will say it makes me a little nervous that Streep's "Mamma Mia!" director is at the helm here as well. Though the story will no doubt touch on the price Thatcher paid for her power and the ways in which it affected her family channeling themes of love and loss. Still I am a little on edge and anxious to see the first teaser for the film with hopes that it justifies me going ahead and placing it on this list. Oh, who am I kidding, I'm a 24-year-old guy who enjoys Streep's work so much that I loved "Julie & Julia" enough to profess it on here and the subject matter alone would have me in line on opening night. See it in theaters December 16

6. Hugo




Chloe Moretz and Asa Butterfield in
Martin Scorsese's "Hugo".
Every year on Thanksgiving my family ventures out to the movie theater to see a film together. This is the only time all year this ever happens and is most likely the only film my dad will see all year. Though I doubt "Hugo" is something he would choose to see on his own it seems like the kind of crowd-pleasing family film we usually end up in. What separates this film from other holiday fodder is the fact it is directed by Martin Scorsese. Yep, you read that right, the guy who made "Taxi Driver", "Goodfellas", and "The Departed" has made a movie about a young boy who inherits a broken robot from his late father. The magic lies in the inventor of the robot which turns out to be real-life toymaker and French director Georges Melies as portrayed here by Ben Kingsley. Not to mention this is also Scorsese's first 3D film and features Sacha Baron Cohen as a goob of some kind of police officer. I am mainly interested in seeing this simply for the fact that it is a Scorsese film, but the thought of him spinning a tale that will enchant youngsters is no doubt, well, enchanting. The cast is top notch, the director will certainly make good use of the 3D technology rather than using it as a pawn to make a few extra bucks and when the trailer was released last month it looked like nothing short of a fun time. I'm not sure if my dad will like it, but who knows, he may enjoy the storytelling that a Scorsese film is sure to possess and what more could you ask for when it comes to holiday family entertainment? See the trailer here. See it in theaters November 23

5. The Sitter




Jonah Hill isn't the gold standard when it comes
to babysitting in "The Sitter".
I almost put "Tower Heist" on this list as the big comedy of the fall I was most looking forward to, but even the idea of an Eddie Murphy/Ben Stiller team-up couldn't convince my inner-conscious that I would be more excited going into that film than "The Sitter". As a completely unfit babysitter and college dropout Jonah Hill winds up taking three kids out on an adventure after his what seems to be tease of a girlfriend (the always awesome Ari Graynor who has had countless small, but hilarious roles in comedies over the past few years. Though she is probably most recognizable as the girl from "Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist".) asks him to buy drugs for her. The recently released red band trailer features handful of classic Hill moments. It doesn't hurt this is also directed by David Gordon Green. Green, a director who started out doing smaller indie films but moved on to big broad comedies with the success of 2008's "Pineapple Express" made a stinker earlier this year with "Your Highness". He is clearly looking to redeem himself here and if that trailer is any indication he has done so with flying colors. I have always enjoyed Hill as a comedic persona whether he be co-headlining ("Superbad", "Get Him to the Greek") or just playing a supporting role ( "Knocked Up", "Funny People", "Cyrus") but to finally have the chance to see this guy take the lead and carry a movie all by himself, while at some point surely feels a little odd, it also feels perfect. It is about time is the least I can say and this is not the only time you will see Hill mentioned on this list. He is looking to end 2011 on a great note. See the red band trailer here. See it in theaters December 9

4. J. Edgar




Leonardo DiCaprio and Clint Eastwood
collaborate on the set of "J. Edgar".
It was after seeing 2009's "Public Enemies" and afterwards purchasing the book on which it was based that I became more interested in the life of J. Edgar Hoover. The man who oversaw the creation of the FBI, helped initiate fingerprinting and other forensic evidence devices. The man who was the face of law enforcement for nearly 50 years. He was feared and admired, but this Clint Eastwood production looks to take a deeper look at the life of a man who no one seemed to know very well at all. The synopsis for the film states that behind closed doors, the man held many secrets that would have destroyed his image, his career and his life. One of these secrets that is sure to be investigated is the much discussed rumor that Mr. Hoover was gay. Though historians have never found any definitive proof about his sexuality, it is true that he was a very private person and that he never married or had children. Not, by any means, does that conclude a man to surely be gay but as the film was scripted by Dustin Lance Black (who won an Oscar for penning "Milk") I expect that aspect to be one that is certainly not sidestepped. the main attraction to this project though, besides the fact that it was penned by Black, directed by Eastwood and is another bio-pic of a figure I have great interest in is the fact Leonardo DiCaprio will be portraying him. If there is one actor from our generation I believe will go down in cinematic history as a Bogart or Grant type figure it is DiCaprio. He is a fully committed actor, one who brings a certain credibility and intensity to every role. I expect this to be nothing short of one of his better performances and we can almost but go ahead and count him in as a leading contender for the best actor Oscar this year. See it in theaters November 9

3. Moneyball




Bard Pitt and Jonah Hill star in the inspirational
baseball story that is the basis of "Moneyball".
Though some have labeled this Brad Pitt's "Blind Side" It is clear from the trailer that no matter how inspirational a tone this film might have that it isn't as centered around one central figure and his challenges as "The Blind Side" was. Sure Pitt's Billy Beane is struggling to re-invent his money-low Oakland A's by rejecting some of the game's most fundamental rules, but this is not a story of social issues. This is a story about people more than it is a person. At least that is how I want to take it. I personally feel this will probably be a much better all around film than "The Blind Side". Not that I disliked that film, I found it very moving, but it had it's moments or corniness as well as Tim McGraw who I wouldn't put in my film. "Moneyball" is a completely different tone, "Social Network" screenwriter Aaron Sorkin shares the screenplay credit with Steven Zaillian and it features a strong supporting cast with Robin Wright as Beane's ex-wife and Philip Seymour Hoffman as A's manager Art Howe as well as, you guessed it, Jonah Hill. Hill plays an up and coming A's exec who along with Beane decide to change the game and the way it has been played and perceived since its inception. Along with Hill's character, Beane begins to build a team based on statistics not status and if the trailer is any indication of how not only inspiring, but all around good this movie is going to be I'm pumped. Pitt may get more Oscar talk for "Tree of Life" but he is probably not hurting his chances of getting a nod at all by throwing this film into consideration as well. See the trailer here. See it in theaters September 23

2. The Ides of March

George Clooney is among a few actors that I will watch in just about anything. Especially in these last few years where he has made it to the point that he can hand pick whatever he wants to make and then does it. That streak continues with his fourth directorial effort "The Ides of March". The film is about an idealistic staffer played by the suddenly everywhere Ryan Gosling for a newbie presidential candidate (Clooney) who gets a crash course on dirty politics during his stint on the campaign trail. The first trailer was released just a few weeks ago and I literally got chills after watching it. It looks that good. The cast alone sounds like an Oscar ballot. Not only do you have Clooney and Gosling in the lead roles but the film also stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Jeffrey Wright, as well as Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood. Though Clooney's last directorial effort, "Leatherheads" back in 2008 didn't fare well with fans or critics this film is clearly a drastically different subject matter that looks to be right up Clooney's aisle. The distinction of the cast, the prestige of the director and the relevance of this story offer what is sure to be one of the leading films at the 2012 Oscars. Though I would like to think DiCaprio is most likely to take home best actor for "J. Edgar" I wouldn't doubt that "The Ides of March" will be a front runner in the best picture category if it turns out to be anything like the amazing trailer hints at. See the trailer here. See it in theaters October 7

1. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo





Clockwise from top left: Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander,
Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist, Christopher Plummer as
Henrik Vanger, and Robin Wright as Erika Berger. 
I came across the Swedish adaptation of Steig Larsson's "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" last year and was completely blown away by the grand murder mystery of the plot. It was completely unexpected seeing as the buzz around both the book and the film had been mainly concerning this punk-rock looking chick who was a computer hacker. As portrayed by Noomi Rapace (see "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows") Lisbeth Salander is a no holds barred tough girl. She doesn't put up with anything and her past as well as her current situation land her in some pretty extreme situations. This first installment was definitely my favorite of the Swedish films trilogy. And so, when it was announced that one of my personal favorite directors, David Fincher ("Fight Club" and  "Seven" make him perfect for handling the violence and "Zodiac" as how the intrigue of personal aspects when dealing with heinous crimes) would be taking the reigns on the American adaptations  I was more than ecstatic. Not only did he direct the aforementioned films but he also has films like "Benjamin Button" and last years "The Social Network" on his amazing resume. What is best about Fincher though, and this is clear from the first trailer and teaser poster, is that he won't hold anything back. he isn't scared of public consensus. he is going to do justice to the written word and if that trailer is any indication this version seems as if it will match the intensity of the Swedish version bit for bit if not surpassing it. If you are unfamiliar with the story it revolves around journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) who is aided in his search for a woman who has been missing for forty years by Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a young computer hacker. That quick summary doesn't nearly do the story justice though. Having Craig, Christopher Plummer, and Robin Wright surrounding the young Mara in the title role makes for an even more credible film and one that hopefully won't be looked down on by the Academy members for its graphic violence and sexual attitude, but instead give Fincher and his cast and crew the recognition they will hopefully deserve instead of blowing him off as they did at last year's show. It remains to be unseen if the movie will be a quality film at this point, but seriously, with Fincher in the directors chair, this story holding as subject matter and a cast that seems to have done justice to the roles there is no way this can fail. Thus, my anticipation for this is sky high. See the trailer here. See it in theaters December 21








Movies I Wanna See Most: Fall 2011

The Summer movie season is coming to an end and though it hasn't been the best year for big Hollywood productions we have certainly had a few quality films that might stand a chance against all the award-type films that will be opening as the year draws closer to an end. That is what we are here to talk about today. The films of Fall 2011 and the ones I am personally looking forward to the most. Though I am excited to see if Eddie Murphy is funny again in "Tower Heist" and am glad to see we will have two Spielberg films this December ("The Adventures of Tintin" and "War Horse") as well as there being plenty of star studded vehicles like Steven Soderbergh's "Contagion", Roman Polanski's "Carnage", and Johnny Depp's "The Rum Diary" I have not placed any of them on my list because there are a few blockbusters, a few smaller films, and some definite award contenders that I am absolutely anticipating. Most of the trailers for these films have only added to the excitement and some I am just eager to see on their subject matter alone. Take a look at the list and see if you share some of my excitement and hey, if not, leave a comment and let me know what movies you are most excited to see this fall.  

30 MINUTES OR LESS Review

As said with last weeks "The Change-Up", this has been a summer littered with more R-rated comedies than it has super hero flicks and this weeks "30 Minutes or Less" falls perfectly in the middle of the best and the worst. Some of this resentment may be caused by the fact this was one of the more anticipated comedies of the summer in my book and it just didn't hit those expectations I held for it. With a cast featuring Jesse Eisenberg who, with last years "Social Network" broke out of his Michael Cera stereotype, as well as the on the edge of greatness Aziz Ansari facing off against foul-mouthed Danny McBride and clueless Nick Swardson, not to mention it's all under the direction of the guy who made "Zombieland" how could this not be great? It is a high concept comedy, one that zips by at a breezy 83-minutes but despite its vulgarity and fearlessness to embrace the reality of the situation, it never feels like the movie really goes for it. And when your story is about a man with a bomb strapped to him with the circumstances of being blown to bits unless he robs a bank in a limited amount of time, you can't really just settle with being middle of the road. I expected more from you Ruben Fleischer. Why was this not more stylized? Why does Eisenberg have the same ticks as every other character he plays? These and many other questions ran through my mind as "30 Minutes or Less" rolled on but it all boils down to a question I have seemed to ask a lot this year: why wasn't this better?

Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) and Chet (Aziz Ansari)
are forced to rob a bank in "30 Minutes or Less".
It's not the fact that "30 Minutes or Less" isn't fun. It's actually a pretty entertaining little farce it is only the idea of what could have been that makes me long for more from my comedies that are stacked with actors I really enjoy. McBride is back to doing what he does best here as Dwayne, in a role that echoes the one of Rico from "Hot Rod" he is an ignorant yet hilarious southern boy with a mouth dirtier than pig slop. His wordplay here is great and he almost redeems himself for this years debacle that was "Your Highness". As his dimwitted partner who has a knack for building explosives Nick Swardson breaks free of his Sandler-comedy confinement and finally gets to play with the big boys. I have always enjoyed Swardson's persona as well as his stand-up so to see him alongside some of the more broader comedic minds in the game is a real treat even if his role is seriously underdeveloped. He and McBride have good enough chemistry though and their no doubt improvised conversations offer a few bits I'll likely be quoting over the next few days. As for Eisenberg, I like the guy, I really do and I can see him trying here. He really seems to be attempting to escape his geeky mold for a more average guy but he just can't seem to go without giving off those defining mannerisms that creep into every character he plays. As the lead here he is unable to command the film as he did in his Oscar-nominated flick last year (there is a funny little comment aimed at that films subject matter though that made me chuckle) and this time he has no Woody Harrelson to back him up. What he does have though is Mr. Aziz Ansari, and let's just say, the guy is easily the best thing about the movie.

Chango the hitman (Michael Pena) is just trying
to get paid for his desired skills.
Ansari plays a man child trying to define himself as an adult. His Chet has recently been upgraded from substitute to full time teacher and the little glimpses we get into his day to day are the best parts of the movie (too bad we've already seen all of them in the trailers). Ansari gets most of the laugh out loud moments and from beginning to end, no matter how much we appreciate the collaboration of the whole thing, I found myself looking forward to the next scene Ansari would appear in. Without him this film would have failed miserably. He brings real energy to the actual bank heist scene and most of the laughs whenever it is only he and Eisenberg sharing the screen. Ansari is certainly a comic force to be reckoned with and I expect this first step towards a big movie career to be quickly forgotten on his resume once he is able to have more input towards the story and direction of the film. It hurts me to say that because I really did enjoy "Zombieland" a lot but where that debut seemed to include every trick up director Fleischer's sleeve, this follow-up comes off as lazy more than anything. There are a few inspired moments that include Fred Ward as Dwayne's marine core father who won it big on the lottery a few years ago. He is inadvertently the reason for this whole scenario and makes funny use of his brief time on screen. Then we have Michael Pena who seems to enjoy throwing in the random comedic role every now and then. As a hit man he gives a slightly gay air to a thick Mexican accent that induces laughs every time he speaks. It goes without saying that Pena is also underused and that in general, this entire film feels like an underwhelming effort that was rushed together to capitalize on the ever rising popularity of each of its four leads.

Dwayne (Danny McBride) and Travis (Nick Swardson)
mastermind all the chaos that take place in
"30 Minutes or Less".
It honestly does kill me to write this review with the content I have placed in it to this point. I really wanted to love this film. It had the talent to do great things and a set-up that seemed ripe for one of the most experimental comedies of the year. Instead, I found myself constantly hoping that it would get better at some point. I enjoyed parts and I won't finish this without saying that in the theater where I saw the film the crowd seemed to respond favorably to the film. Granted it was mostly males in the age range of 18-25 present, but of course that is clearly who this film was made for and if they enjoyed then hey, what else matters? I guess what bothers me about it is the fact there are guys like myself out there who pay attention to actors and directors work and get caught up in a good collaboration when it is made. I feel like I know the true potential this project had and in that way I feel cheated by the fact the people involved in making this movie assumed they could get away with passing something half-hearted like this off as their best effort. Do they not want to go for it all and make the best possible film they can? I probably sound like a huge nerd with that sentiment, but nonetheless it is true and I can't help but be disappointed in "30 Minutes or Less" as its promise was so high and yet its delivery (pun totally intended) was completely half-baked.