Monday, April 26, 2010

Iron Man 2 clips

We are only a week and a half away from Iron Man 2. Can't wait? Here are a few clips to tide you over.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

April 9 and April 16

Kick-Ass - 3 1/2 stars

I loved it. It does have this wierd tonal shift half way through. For a while, it is simply funny. A little dark, but mostly funny. Then, people start getting killed, and the movie gets serious. And dark. Very dark.

The finale was awesome. Exactly what you would hope for from this kind of movie. Some people are going to have trouble with Hit Girl, though. If the idea of a 12-year-old girl killing people, saying the worst curse words, and getting the crap kicked out of her makes you queasy, maybe this isn't your movie.

Death at a Funeral - 3 stars

I can't remember the last time a movie was remade within 3 years, when both movies are in the same language. The British version was directed by Frank Oz and starred a bunch of British actors (plus Alan Tudyk and Peter Dinklage). This version stars Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Tracy Morgan, Danny Glover, James Marsden, and Peter Dinklage.

I liked the British version, but I don't remember it specifically enough to compare these two. But this one was really funny. The rhythm isn't quite as good as I remember the other version to be. Farce is really difficult to pull off, and at times that's what this is. But the jokes keep coming and I laughed enough to recommend it.

The best laughs come from not Martin or Rock, but James Marsden. Over the last several years he has been the best thing about almost every movie he is in. Remember when he was the most boring part of X-Men?

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo - 3 1/2 stars

A great thriller from Sweden. A reporter who is about to serve a prison sentence is asked to solve a 40-year-old murder (apparently in Sweden, you get sentenced to prison, but you don't have to report to prison for 6 months). He is aided by a girl with tattoos, piercings, and a very dark past. She is a little psycho.

The movie is 2 and a half hours, and it does take a while to get going. But before the plot kicks in, we get a little sub plot dealing with the girl and her parole officer (called a guardian in the movie). What happens with them is very creepy and disturbing, but it establishes how smart she is and how well she can take care of herself.

The Eclipse - 3 stars

Ciaran Hinds is one of my favorite actors, and I'm glad to see him in a starring role playing a sympathetic character. Set in Ireland, Hinds plays widower who is trying to raise his two kids. He volunteers at a literary festival to play chauffeur to visiting authors, and he strikes up a friendship with a lady author from London. The two kind of start an awkward romance, but because he is still grieving about his wife, he takes things slowly with her.

Oh, did I mention that this is also a ghost story? Every now and then, he sees a ghost. This isn't the typical ghost story. The ghost isn't trying to get him to solve a murder. It isn't coming to hurt him, although it does scare the crap out of him (and the audience) a few times. The funny thing is this movie puts you off your guard. You don't expect to see the ghosts, so when something scary does happen, it makes you jump and scream because it is so unexpected. At least, it did that for me.

The Joneses - 3 stars

Very interesting idea. A family moves into a rich neighborhood. Right away they start making friends with everyone, showing off their latest toys. Everybody is jealous, and wants to keep up with these Joneses. But they are not a real family. They are stealth marketers. Their job is to set up networks and get all these people to buy certain products.

David Duchovney and Demi Moore play the pretend couple. Moore is very career oriented, and claims she has no problem with this lifestyle. But Duchovney starts feeling conflicted, and starts developing feelings for his fake wife.

The movie makes some nice comments about our consumer culture, and shows how always trying to get the latest and greatest toy can ruin your life, if you are living above your means.

Date Night - 3 stars

Very predictable. We have seen this type of movie many times before. What makes it better than it should be is Steve Carrell and Tina Fey. They improved a lot of lines that elevate the material. It reminded me of Ghost Town, another by-the-numbers movie that was made a lot better by having a really funny leading actor.

The Runaways - 3 stars

I liked the first half. Michael Shannon steals the movie as Kim Fowley, the guy who put the band together and served as its manager. Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart are pretty good as Cherie Currie and Joan Jett. In the first half, the band gets together and they have their successes.

One problem with the movie is that it focuses on Cherie Currie. I was more interested in Joan Jett and Lita Ford. I didn't care about Currie's sister or father or their home life. The movie feels like it is missing a good 20 minutes from the end. One of the rare cases where I say the movie was too short, but when it ended, I was like "that's it?"

Vincere - 2 stars

Really the only reason to see this is if you are a student of Italian history circa World War II. I knew a bit about Mussolini, but I had never heard of his alleged first wife who bore him a child. He tried to keep her hidden, because he was married to another, and didn't want the scandal. I guess being allied with Hitler was ok, scandal wise, but having another wife was not ok. Well, he did need The Vatican on his side in the beginning.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A few more reviews

I don't always manage to see every movie that comes out each week. Over the weekend I caught up on a few movies that have come out over the last month or so:

She's Out Of My League - 3 stars

I've seen this kind of movie before, but usually the roles are reversed. Guys are usually portrayed as confident and it's the girl who is unsure of herself and thinks she is unattractive (usually these girls are played by smoking hot actresses like Amy Adams). This time, it's the guy who has no self esteem. The guy is played by Jay Baruchel. When he starts going out with Molly (Alice Eve, the hot, naked Australian chick from Crossing Over), his friends can't believe it. "Why is she with you? She's a 10 and you're a 5." Every unattractive guy likes to think he can hook up with a really hot chick like that, but it rarely happens.

I had the same problem with this movie as I do with all those chick flicks, where we are supposed to believe a girl that looks like Katherine Heigl can't get a guy. Baruchel isn't really a 5. He keeps saying he is 'out of shape'. If he looked like Jonah Hill, I would have believed him. He is tall and skinny. Maybe skinny isn't as good as muscular, but it's a lot better than fat.

Oh, and it's also funny how every girl in the movie is as good looking as Alice Eve is, but since the script says she is the hottest girl around, she is the one that turns heads, while nobody notices her sister or business partner.

I still liked the movie a lot. There were some really funny things that happened. My favorite scene is where his friend helps him, well, shave his balls. Yeah, that happens. Another great scene is when he meets her parents for the first time. Hilarious.

I have to point out another thing I didn't like. In every romantic comedy, there seems to be a big secret or plot device that is on the poster, and it's the tag line of the movie. And all those movies follow the same formula, so that means at about the 90 minute mark, one character has to find out the other character has been keeping something from him/her, get mad and never want to see the other person again. Then the next 15 minutes or so is the person being depressed, and by the end they are happy and together again (usually this finale involves a character proclaiming their love in front of a lot of people, or chasing someone down in an airport).

Well, in this movie's case, the tag line is "how can a 10 fall for a 5?" This is a recurring theme in the movie, and it comes to a head when Baruchel's character can't help but blow up at Molly - "how can you like me? I'm a 5, you're a 10, and there can't be more than a 2 point differential in a relationship?" When this fight happened, I didn't believe it at all. By this point, they were happy together and this shouldn't have been such an issue. He may have joked about it with her, but he wouldn't have actually been mad at her. Especially when they were in their underwear and about to have sex for the first time. I didn't believe this scene at all, and this is the point where I got mad at the movie. Why does every romantic comedy have to follow this formula? The movie was going along great up until this point.

Anyway, I recommend the movie.

North Face - 3 stars

Set in 1936, this is about 4 mountain climbers (2 German, 2 Austrian) who attempt to climb the most dangerous rock face in the Alps - the Eiger. This is one of the few movies where some characters are Nazis, but that isn't really central to the plot. We identify with the protagonists and forget their nationality. Most of these characters have no love for Hitler, they just happen to be German citizens in the 1930s.

The mountain climbing stuff is really intense. I have no idea how they can do it. Not only are they climbing a vertical cliff where they have to hammer pitons into the rock and use rope to survive, but they have to spend the night part way up the mountain. No room to pitch a tent. They just get in their sleeping bags, and tie ropes around themselves to keep from rolling off the mountain. Just imagine if you woke up and forgot where you were at first, only to come to and realize you were inches away from a 1,000 foot drop.

I have a big question about this movie though. There is a train that runs thru the mountain. Every so many meters, there is a tunnel branching off the main tunnel the train runs thru, and these tunnels open to the Eiger's face. At one point, the climbers get stuck and the people on the ground take the train into the tunnel, go to the end of one of these branching tunnels, and they are close enough to talk to the climbers.

Didn't the climbers know about this? It seems their girlfriend is the only one who figures out that they may be able to rescue them thru this tunnel. You would think the climbers would know about these tunnels. They know how dangerous the climb will be. You would think they would have backup plans in case they ran into trouble ("If we get stuck in this area, we just make our way over to this opening here, and we can get into the tunnel and take the train back.").

Oh well. The movie was pretty exciting. They deal with harsh weather and as they get frostbite, they look really bad. They did a great job with the makeup. Their faces got so bad that I couldn't tell which character was which.

The movie also makes me really want to take a vacation to Germany. Specifically, I want to visit the village that is right at the base of the Eiger mountain.

A Prophet - 2 1/2 stars

This movie has a 90 on Metacritic and a 97% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It swept the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. But I didn't like it that much. I'm very much in the minority.

It's 2 and a half hours long, and it feels like it. It's about a guy named Malik El Djebena who goes to prison for 6 years. While inside, he is ordered by Cesar (Niels Arestrup) to kill a guy. This guy is going to testify against somebody, and Cesar is like the Godfather in prison. You do what he says, or you die.

So Malik does what Cesar orders him to do. He becomes a member of the gang and eventually becomes Cesar's most trusted adviser/servant. He also manages to get his own drug running business going inside and outside the prison.

There's some good stuff in this movie. I really liked Arestrup's performance as Cesar. But there is also a lot going on that is kind of confusing. It's one of those movies that makes you go to to read about what happened in this scene or that scene. It is definitely an exciting and original movie, but I can't really recommend it to most people. There is not a lot of humor and I found it difficult to relate to the characters. It kind of bored me. Sorry. Just like Waltz With Bashir, I don't see what the big deal is.

Hubble 3D - 4 stars

This doesn't really count, since it wasn't screened for critics and it's only playing at the Clark Planetarium. It's a great 40 minute documentary about the last mission to repair the Hubble space telescope. The shuttle launches in it are great and the movie does a good job of putting you inside the mindset of the astronauts. You feel their excitement at what they are doing, and as you learn how difficult their mission is, you feel their stress. At one point an astronaut compares his job to doing brain surgery while wearing oven mitts.

There is a great sequence towards the end where we see some great shots of distant galaxies. The camera moves closer and it gives you the feeling like you are flying thru space. It's really incredible. Highly recommended.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Friday, 4/2/10

Clash of the Titans - 2 1/2 stars

First off, don't go see this in 3-D. Don't pay the extra money. See it in 2-D. The only reason it's in 3-D is the figured they could make more money, and people would be more excited to see it, if it was in 3-D. The problem is it was not filmed for 3-D. So the 3-D looks kind of lame, and it's not worth the extra bucks.

The movie wasn't horrible, but Sam Worthington is not charismatic enough to carry a movie. This is the 3rd movie I've seen him in, and he disappoints every time. He bores me. He isn't as bad as Paul Walker, but he's close. I never really cared about the characters. I got sick of Perseus complaining all the time. He gets these really cool gifts from the gods, but he angrily says "I'm not using them. I'm going to do this as a man, not as a god." Meanwhile guys around him are being killed. Dude, stop your bitching and use the nifty magic sword that Zeus gave you.

The action is pretty cool. The giant scorpion battle was fun. But I wasn't afraid of the Kraken. They didn't do a good job of making it seem like a real threat. Watching it destroy the city, all I could think about was the special effects that went into creating it.

And here is something that bugged me: Medusa's lair is in the underworld? That doesn't make sense. Usually the only people in the underworld are dead people. It's unusual for living people to pay the boatman to ferry them across the river Styx. So all the people Medusa turned to statues ... are they all dead people? It would make more sense if Medusa's lair was in the world of the living. I don't know if it's this way in Greek mythology or if it's the way the wrote the script, but that bugged me.

The Last Song - 1 1/2 stars

Miley Cyrus can't act. Every time she is on screen, she is posing. I imagine as the director is preparing to call action, she gets her Zoolander face ready.

I don't mind Nicholas Sparks movies. The Notebook was a good story, and so was Dear John, which just came out a few months ago. But this one was really lame. Miley's character was so obnoxious. As she is dating this guy, every 15 minutes she finds another excuse to be mad at him. She pushes him away and says "you should be with somebody who is more like this or that", then a minute later she caves in and they are kissing again.

By the halfway point, I did start to care about the characters. And when the inevitable Nicholas Sparks death scene comes, it was sad. So bring your hankies.

Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married Too - they never screen Tyler Perry movies in Salt Lake. So I have never seen one. Isn't he that admiral from Star Trek?

Movies at the Tower and Broadway

A Prophet - didn't see, but I hear it's great. Anne Thompson from Indiwire told me at Sundance that it was her favorite movie of the festival (at that point). It was nominated for best foreign language film at the Oscars.

The Host - 2 1/2 stars

The latest thriller from the Korean director who gave us The Host. A mentally challenged guy is accused of murdering a girl, put in prison, and his crazy mom investigates. It started out interesting but got boring as it went along. But it does have the best pre-title credit sequence ever!

Neil Young Trunk Show - didn't see, don't know anything about it.