Saturday, March 27, 2010

3/26/10 and 3/19/10

Hot Tub Time Machine - 3 stars

Funny as hell, but drags a bit in the last act.

How to Train Your Dragon - 3 stars

Good story, bits of humor, I liked it a lot more than I thought I would. I saw it in 2-D, but I'll bet it looks incredible in 3-D.

Chloe - 3 1/2 stars

Amanda Seyfried is sexy as hell. I thought the story was really good, and it kept me guessing. I figured not everything was as it seemed (or as Chloe was describing), but I didn't know where the story would go. I really felt for Julianne Moore's character. Whether her husband is cheating or not, theirs isn't a happy marriage anymore.

Greenberg - didn't see
Art of the Steal - didn't see
House - didn't see

And from last week:

The Bounty Hunter - 2 stars

Not funny. It could have been funny, if say Jennifer Aniston was a bitch, and the movie made us hate her and identify with Gerard Butler. If it was a horrible divorce and she was treating him like crap and taking him for everything he was worth, then we would feel his joy when he gets to arrest his ex.

But the movie does none of that. We figure out that neither party was to blame, or both were to blame equally. As he mistreats her, we start to feel bad for her and start to not like him. The movie just doesn't work.

Repo Men - 1 1/2 stars

Even worse. Jude Law murders people and takes their organs back. He doesn't feel conflicted about this in the slightest, until he gets a heart transplant. Then, because he can suddenly identify with the other people who's organs are being repossessed, he suddenly develops a conscience. No, doesn't work. The movie is too ridiculous. I couldn't buy into its premise. Plus, it was boring. Although I started to like it a bit more halfway thru when I figured out that it was a comedy.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid - 3 stars

A good movie for kids. It did a good job of reminding me of things from when I was in school. But a complain I have is that the kid is too much of a jerk to his best friend, and he is too cocky. I think most kids are less sure of themselves. Everyone wants to be popular in school, but not many kids expect to be popular. At least that's what I think.

Red Riding Trilogy - 2 1/2 stars

Three movies, three different directors, one writer, many of the same characters. I love this in principal, but it wasn't executed very well. It could have been shortened. I was confused. There are so many characters and storylines to keep track of. Plus the northern English accents were so hard to follow it made it even more difficult to understand the movie. I look forward to watching it with subtitles when it comes out on DVD. I may like it better then.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


The Green Zone - 3 1/2 stars

The movie begins right after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Officer Miller (Matt Damon) is leading a team of soldiers looking for WMDs. They go to location after location, and they keep coming up empty. Miller starts to wonder if the intel is good, because they are suffering casualties. He asks his superiors about the source of the intel, and they just tell him to not question and follow orders.

When an Iraqi gives Miller a tip about a meeting between some important looking Iraqi generals, Miller takes his team to bust up the meeting. They find that Al Rawi is at the meeting. He is one of Hussein's generals, and he is the Jack of Clubs on that deck of cards the Bush administration was using.

It's a really good action movie, and it also does a good job of summing up a lot of what went wrong with the Iraq invasion. Rather than keep the Iraqi army in place and use them to help keep Iraq under control, we disbanded them, which led to thousands of well-trained, armed soldiers with nothing to do but join the insurgency. The movie shows how Bush's people living in the Green Zone were so out of touch with the reality of what things were really like in Iraq.

The movie is partially based on, or inspired by, the book Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone by Rajiv Chandrasekaran. The book is an actual account of things in the Green Zone and all the things that went wrong. The movie changes the names in some cases, in other cases it completely invents characters. There wasn't really a soldier named Miller who was responsible for exposing all this stuff. In the movie, the U.S. Administrator of Iraq is Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear). In real life it was L. Paul Bremmer.

Some people have criticized the movie for not sticking more to the book and calling people by their actual names. I think it was a wise move. First of all, if we want to learn all the facts, we can watch a documentary (I recommend No End In Sight) or read books, including Chandrasekaran's book (which I plan to do). More importantly for the filmmakers, they need to get butts in seats. If they sell it as a Bourne-type action movie, people will go. If people think they are just going to get lectured on what we did wrong in Iraq, not as many people will go. Besides, you know watching it that Poundstone represents Bremmer. You can connect the dots yourself. And Freddy, Miller's Iraqi interpreter, gets to say some important things to Miller which really represent what the Iraqi people probably want to tell us.

Remember Me - 3 stars

Here is another movie that is creating a lot of arguments. I'll try not to spoil too much, but it's hard to discuss this movie without bringing it up (Ebert does a great job using a refrigerator to talk about it without talking about it).

If you pay attention to the date the film is set in, you will see where it is heading. Some people are hating the movie because they say it is exploiting a tragedy. I don't think it is. I think if the movie was a lighthearted comedy and then at the end they tried to wring tears out of the audience with this tragedy, I think they would have a point. But the movie is a serious drama. It's not a chick flick with Jennifer Aniston or Katherine Heigel or Matthew McConaughey. The movie is about real characters and I was fully invested in them and really cared about what happened to them.

I thought I would hate the movie, and I did hate the first half hour or so. It started out real boring. Robert Pattinson plays Tyler Hawkins. Tyler's brother committed suicide, his kid sister is kind of a weird artist type and is picked on by her classmates, his parents are divorced, and his dad (Pierce Brosnan) is horribly neglectful. Tyler meets Ally Craig (Emilie de Ravin). When Ally was young, her mother was shot and killed right in front of her. Her father (Chris Cooper) is a cop, and is very protective of her. He also has a temper, and if she pushes him too much, he just might smack her.

Tyler and Ally have good chemistry together, and I was interested in their romance. I also really liked Tyler's relationship with his younger sister. The movie really worked for me, and while the end was a bummer (somebody dies, but I won't say who), I thought it was a good story. I also think it's ok to use the events at the end of the movie, because kids learn about history in an objective way. Stories like this can help put a human face on a disaster, and I don't think it dishonors the victims at all.

She's Out of My League -

Our Family Wedding - didn't see, don't plan to (heard it sucks)

Fish Tank - 3 stars

This is about a 15 year old girl who lives with her mom and younger sister. They argue and fight all the time. They never speak to each other without calling each other a 4 letter word. The movie is set in England and the accents a bit thick. If you aren't used to hearing it, you may have a hard time understanding what they are saying to each other.

This is one of those movies that doesn't have much of a plot to speak of. We are just spending time with these characters. The girl is always fighting or arguing with people. When her mom brings a new boyfriend home, she sometimes hates him and other times acts like she has a crush on him.

Some people will find this movie boring. I liked it, because I got involved with the characters. Plus I liked some of the insults. I always say Europeans swear so much better than we do.

North Face -

Until the Light Takes Us -

Friday, March 5, 2010

3/5/10 and 2/26/10

Alice in Wonderland - 2 stars

I thought it was boring. And it shouldn't be called Alice in Wonderland. It's not an adaptation of the book, or a live-action remake of the 1951 Disney cartoon. It's a sequel. So it should be called Return to Wonderland, or something like that. Imagine if the 1985 movie starring Fairuza Balk was called The Wizard of Oz instead of Return to Oz. People would have been pissed.

I don't think I have ever been annoyed by Johnny Depp like this before. Sometimes he uses a horrible lisp that reminds me of John Leguizamo from Moulin Rouge! and other times he uses a Scottish accent.

The big battle at the end was like something out of a Narnia movie. I don't think Lewis Carroll ever imagined Alice fighting a dragon with a sword while wearing a suit of armor.

Ghost Writer - 3 stars

This was a very good thriller. Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGregor are always interesting to watch. This movie has a great look to it. My only problem was the ending was a little bit of a letdown. We learn what has been going on, someone is confronted, and it's over. I wanted a little bit more resolution, and maybe a little more explanation.

Late in the movie, just when it needs a little bit of excitement, Tom Wilkinson shows up. That was a nice surprise.

Brooklyn's Finest - not screened for critics

Blood Into Wine - didn't see

And now, for movies that came out last week:

Cop Out - 1 1/2 stars

Kevin Smith has always written and directed his scripts, but everybody knows his real strength is writing. Why would they hire him to direct someone else's bad script? The first time we see Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan, they have this look on their faces like "What the hell have we gotten ourselves into? This is gonna suck."

The movie isn't funny. Tracy Morgan tries really hard to get laughs out of each scene, but the stuff he does just gets worse and worse. I was embarrassed for him. The funny thing is the story isn't terrible. A better director might have made a decent movie out of it. Maybe if they had cast Martin Lawrence and Will Smith as the cops, it might have worked.

The Crazies - didn't see

White Ribbon - didn't see