Archive for September, 2012

Robot & Frank: Robots Can Do Good

Anyone one else feel like the only movies released these days about a future with robots always portray robots as these evil or combative.  Movies like I, Robot, the Terminator series, and the Transformer movies seen to make the idea of the advancement of robotics absolutely frightening.  Don’t get me wrong there are also movies that do paint a nicer picture for robots like Short Circuit, Wall-E, and Batteries Not Included but those do not stick with you as much as ones where the robot is not operating in favor of humans.  So it is always nice to catch a movie about a robot that warms your heart like in Jake Schreier’s Robot & Frank.

Here is a brief introduction to Robot & Frank:  Frank (Franks Langella) is a retired jewel thief residing in a quiet town “in the near future.”  Frank is battling an ailing memory and his two children, Hunter (James Marsden) and Madison (Liv Tyler), are concerned about what to do in his best interest.  Being that Madison is off working on her philanthropic endeavors, Hunter spends hours makes weekly trips to check in on Frank and is steadily get tired of doing so.  One trip Hunter returns with a robot that is designed to help Frank with his memory and improve his life style.  Initially Frank was irritated but its presence but soon finds that the robot will do whatever helps Frank with his memory including planning a couple of heists.  Here is the trailer:

Robot & Frank finally puts robots into a modern world and I mean that in two ways.  One is that it is not too advanced of a robot in too near a future nor is it too simple.  Second is that it presents robots as a sort of like political issue where there are two opposing sides and that comes through Franks’ kids.  On one hand you got Hunter could not want more that to find something to help improve his father’s quality of life if that means getting a robot and then you have Madison who balks at the need for artificial life.  These days there are always two sides to every argument so it was kind of interesting to see it here.

The other thing I thought they did well was with Frank’s condition.  His deteriorating memory was obviously the central piece of the story but it never felt like it was being force down your throat.  It was not so much that memories were disappearing but that they were blending together that he essentially cannot seem to put his memories in order.  It was very well written and Frank Langella’s performance makes the character feel so real.  He develops this cute relationship with Robot that really feels that he not just wants him there but needs the robot.

And when I say relatable I mean it makes you think about your own parent/grandparents.  It makes me think of when we got my grandmother satellite TV after she has only been able to watch the same 3 channels for many years.  She would always say “What do I need that for?”  Then sure enough there was not a day that when we called or went to see her that she did not have Turner Classic Movies playing on one of her TV’s.

Robot & Frank is a well written and sometimes emotional drama about the possibility of robots in a not too distant future.  It is definitely worth a watch, I give it an 8/10.  Also stay for the credits, shows the amazing advancements already in robotics.

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Killer Joe Review

With all the things that they can show in movies these days you rarely see any movie receive a NC-17 rating.  That said the warning signs were there that Killer Joe was going to be very sexual and very violent.  So if you think you have seen some R rated movies that you felt pushed the line in some scenes, go see Killer Joe and you will know what warrants the next level rating.

Brief synopsis of the plot of Killer Joe is as follows:  Trouble making Chris (Emile Hirsh) shows up at his father (Thomas Hayden Church) and step mother’s (Gina Gershon) trailer one night after his mother tossed him out.  Chris told his father about his financial troubles with a loan shark and how he has a plan to have his mother killed to capitalize on his mother’s life insurance policy where his simple-minded sister, Dottie (Juno Temple), is the beneficiary.  With the okay from his father and Dottie, Chris enlists the services of Detective Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) who is a gun for hire on the side.  Joe, however, requires a down payment that ends up being equal to half the amount in the policy to which Chris agrees to give Joe his sister as a “retainer” resulting in a power struggle between Chris and Joe.  Here is the trailer:

I honestly cannot say the last time I saw a movie that was rated NC-17, let alone seen one in theaters.  I prepared myself for the worse and good thing because this movie blew my mind as well as my friends’.  What Killer Joe executes perfectly is a buildup of suspense in the story, the sex and violence is not just thrown at you like in a lot of other movies, instead it is built up to so that when it actually happens on screen it packs a more powerful punch that you just cannot turn away from.  And the comedy in this movie is very authentic and never seemed to be said just to trigger a reaction in an audience.  Thomas Hayden Church was the source of a lot of the comedy and he was great.

All the performances in Killer Joe were perfect but the actor that played the title character stole the movie.  The obvious one is Matthew McConaughey, who I never really took seriously until Lincoln Lawyer but this movie gives him some really acting credit.  He was charming one second and then absolutely chilling and unpredictable the next.  I dare any movie fan, even those with a strong distaste for McConaughey, to walk out of this movie disappointed.  It may sicken some with its content but you cannot deny how good of a job he did.

Overall, Killer Joe is a well written and acted dark comedy that is different from any movie going experience you have likely had over the last couple years.  To quote a friend of mine “I do not know if I like it or hated but my view of sex will never be the same.”  I give Killer Joe an 8/10.  This not something you can watch over and over but something you will definitely not regret seeing.

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Branded Movie Review: An Acquired Taste

The funny thing about Branded is that for a movie about the marketing/advertising/communication it seemed to be advertised as being a totally different movie than it really was.  But maybe that was the point.  Every movie-goer has fallen victim to advertising for a movie at some point.  Many could probably name dozens of movies off-hand that were completely different from what trailers suggest.  On IMDb, Branded is labeled as an action/drama/mystery which could not be more misleading.

Here is a brief synopsis of Branded:  Marketing genius Misha Galkin (Ed Stoppard) is on the verge of making what he believes will be the next greatest reality show with Abby Gibbons (Leelee Sobieski) about a woman that is about to undergo major weight-loss surgery.  Meanwhile, other major marketers put together a rival campaign to “make fat beautiful.”  A defeated Galkin runs away to the country side seeking an answer to combat his rivals.  The result is a battle over the minds of Russian consumers that are victims of whatever marketer choose to make them think.  Here is the trailer:

This movie will be hit or miss for audiences, mostly miss to be honest.  From the description above it sounds pretty straight forward but it is kind of an intelligent movie which helps and hurts it.  Now I took more joy in this movie since I was a marketing major in college and took a fair share of advertising/communication classes so a lot of ideas presented in Branded.  That is not to say if you did not take classes in advertising you will be lost you just may not appreciate it as much as was the case for one of friends.

As I started out saying this movie is not exactly as it was advertised for me.  It is labeled as action and mystery; well to me there was not much of either.  The action I just was the delusions Galkin was having of these brand monsters taking out each other.  But I failed to see the mystery in Branded.  So it is pretty interesting that a movie about advertising was not well advertised.  I would have labeled this as a comedy more than anything.

Branded did not score as poorly with me as it did with many other reviewers.  If you are interested in advertising this movie might strike a chord with you if you can get passed some of the weird delusions by its lead character.  I give it a 7/10.

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Movie Review: The Cold Light Of Day

Bruce Willis is known for a lot of high-octane action-thrillers.  From his early days of dangling from a fire hose outside the 35 story high Nakatomi building to his brief appearance in the star-studded Expendables series Willis always brings that extra something to make an action movie even better.  That is not the case, however, for The Cold Light Of Day.  No actor has a resume of just great movies.  There are bound to be a few that have you scratching your head wondering “what were they thinking?”  So I am willing to let Willis slide on this one because I think the success or failure of a movie is heavily dependent on the editing in my opinion (that does not mean that I am right).  The Cold Light of Day has no substance at its all action core.

A brief plot synopsis is as follows:  Struggling business consultant, Will (Henry Cavill), reluctantly takes time off from his ailing business to spend a week with family in Spain.  Will has a resentful relationship with his father, Martin (Willis), which leads to an incident on their yacht and Will has to go into town for a few hours to put some distance between him and his father.  He returns to see his family’s yacht torn apart and vacant.  When goes to recruit the help of local authorities he finds they are involved and the his father’s government job is not as honest as he had thought and now must scramble between fighting government agencies in order to get his family back.  Here is the trailer:

As I hinted at earlier this movie may have had potential had it been edited differently.  I have no idea whether this is how the director, Mabrouk El Mechri, had envisioned it but it just seemed sloppy and all over the place.  It spent so much time on the action scenes and none on the development of the story.  That is a petty complaint for an action movie but when there is an obvious question that needs to be answered and it is not it takes you out of the movie.  Now they definitely had shot some more scenes that did not make it into the movie as does every movie, but the way they chose to speed over a lot of what could have been important plot details that needed explaining did not make sense to me.  They would allude to explanations but never really make any sense of things and stuck the “just because” reasons.  Normally I love when there is a lot of action but not when it is drawn out and goes nowhere especially when it comes to car chases.

Of course with any action movie you do not watch it for the acting.  That said it is hard to do wrong.  Willis was his good as usual; Sigourney Weaver was very hate-able as a villain, and Cavill was so-so.  I kept having a hard time rooting for him because he was winey at the start of the movie and I was getting real tired of the “where’s my family” and “I need to find my family.”  It was very much a beating a dead horse kind of movie.  They kept saying how bad of a person Willis really was but they never clarify if they were just saying that to get Cavill to do what they wanted him to or if Willis’ character was really a snake in the grass government worker.  Kind of makes me nervous about Cavill being the next Superman.

The Cold Light Of Day is easily the biggest disappointment of the year to me.  Rarely do I question the title of movies of this one made absolutely no sense to me.  It has been a while since Willis has let me down but maybe he saw how bad it was going to turn out and said take me out which is why he is barely in it.  Yeah, I will just go with that.  It is just a mess so I have to give it a 3/10.

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Lawless: Bootleggers With Brass Knuckles

It is safe to say that Tom Hardy is a major star on the rise over the last few years.  His ability to morph into whatever the role requires means he will be due for some movie down the road that will at least earn him an academy nomination.  Hardy is a very serious actor without question and hopefully some of his talents rub off on his Lawless co-star, Shia LaBeouf who has stated in several recent interviews that he wants to take on more serious acting roles with a “method” approach made famous by the late Marlon Brando.  Lawless is definitely a different breed of movie than what we have seen LaBeouf in over the last few years.

Here is a brief introduction to Lawless:  Set back in the prohibition era of the early 1930’s in Virginia, the Bondurant brothers have their own niche in their community as ruthless bootleggers.  The reputation however most fits the two eldest brothers, Forrest (Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke), while the runt of the trio, Jack (LaBeouf), can do harm on to anyone.  Corruption and danger haunts the brother as a special agent, Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce), arrives from Chicago with the intent of bust all bootleggers in Virginia.  With their back against the wall the Bondurant brother struggle to protect themselves and other that they care about in the town.  Here is the trailer:

Not sure about how well Lawless follows the biographical novel it is based off of called The Wettest County In The World by Matt Bondurant but this is one hell of a story.  If you are going into this expecting just some simple hiding an underground operation from the cops kind of movie you will find so much more in this film.  It does a good job of showing the Bondurant’s place in Franklin County and not just telling their “legend of immortality.”  Now introduce into that a legend killer of a deputy that is not just hunting down the Bondurant’s but all bootleggers and the way it impacts the other inhabitants of the county.  And hunting may be a tame word considering the malicious and violent acts that are committed.

There are several noteworthy performances in Lawless.  Tom Hardy does not say much but has grunts and actions speak volumes about the nature of the tough as nails Forrest Bondurant.  LaBeouf definitely shows his acting range in this one even though his accent slipped a few times.  Guy Pearce to me was eerie in this movie for two reasons:  one he just did horrible things to who even rubbed him the wrong way and two he was so clean and proper that he was gross which is odd.  Jessica Chastain was fantastic too in her subtle yet seductive role.  Then finally Dane DeHaan as Cricket, Jack’s physically handicapped right-hand man.  The Chronicle star showed more of his acting ability and I hope to see more from him.

Overall, Lawless is kind of like a Scarface of the prohibition days of Virginia.  It is a solid crime/drama with plenty of violence that keeps the movie from ever getting dull.  I give Lawless an 8/10.

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Random Movie of the Week: Killer Klowns From Outer Space

You have to love when the title of a movie flat out says what the movie is about without having to seeing a plot synopsis.  For example, who could forget Snakes On A Plane.  Regardless what your opinion is of that movie the title alone indicates your interest without needing to investigate what that movie could possibly be about.  Another example is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, granted there is no mention of Leatherface but you can imagine the flat, deserted setting and gore galore.  So when you see the title for this week’s random movie, there is no question about what this movie is about, Killer Klowns From Outer Space.

If the title is not enough of a hint about the plot here is a brief synopsis:  Horny teens’ romantic plans are ruined by a space ship shaped like a circus tent that homes devious aliens that look like clowns.  The aliens begin taking control of the town, capturing the town folk in cotton candy punching bags in very clown-esque ways.  It is up to a couple and one good cop to stop these clowns since they are the only ones that know where the ship resides.  Check out the trailer here:

I will just state up front this movie is not meant to be taken seriously which is why it is just as much of a comedy as it is horror.  The movie has a very campy feel to it that I really liked.  The effects are really low budget even for the time and the acting is horrendous but that is what makes it campy and fun.  If you think normal clowns are creepy like a lot of people do, then you will find these ones pretty creepy or absolutely hilarious.  They are not just clowns, they are killer clowns and this is what makes this movie a classic horror gem.  The kills are not necessarily scary but really clever by fitting the alien killer clown theme.

Now there have been a lot of horror movie remakes as of late.  Even though the budget on this one was pretty low, this movie should not be remade.  Any of you who have read any of my previous posts know I have a strong stance against remakes of good movies.  Killer Klowns From Outer Space is so fun and cheesy that it is hard to watch it and not appreciate it.

A final note, I like to make comparisons to other movies.  Killer Klowns From Outer Space is a cross between the original The Blob and Mars Attacks!  I give this horror/sci-fi/comedy an 8/10.

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Movie Review Catch-Up

I have been lacking on my movie reviews lately because I manage to find time to set aside to see the movies but the time after to write up a review can be tricky.  But with the extra day off from work I am going to cram 12 reviews into this post by only spending a paragraph to talk about each movie.  So I will just jump into in

Collaborator

Martin Donovan’s movie about a struggle playwright that gets caught up as a hostage of a former neighbor/childhood “friend” that just wants to catch up over a beer while he is wanted for a murder.  A simple plot but the details are what drives this movie mostly because of the unpredictable Gus played brilliantly by David Morse who perfectly channels this big intimidating con with the mental capacity of a teenager who is still gaga over Olivia Williams character (and who would not be?).  Donovan’s performance is a tad on the stale side but you could tell he was more focused on the story and the development of Gus.  But to me Collaborator’s ending falls kind of flat and tries to be a little too artsy.  I give it a 6/10.

El Gringo

For those looking for a new face in action/martial arts movies may just find one in this movie with Scott Adkins.  He seems to be a cross between Jean Claude Van Damme and Jason Statham.  The fight scenes are pretty cool but the story is eerily similar to the Mel Gibson flick of a similar name of Get The Gringo which is easily the superior gringo film.  It is way too predictable even for the easily pleased action fan and just was nothing worth remembering.  I give El Gringo a 5/10.

Ted

All I can say if you are a fan of Family Guy there is no way you could not like this movie.  Seth MacFarlane sticks to the formula that has given him success and I mean that in a good way.  I am not a big fan of Family guy but I have always appreciated those seemingly random segues that are hysterical.  Not to be cliché but beneath all the vulgarity there is a pretty heartfelt story.  Plus unlike The Other Guys, I actually thought Mark Wahlberg was funny in this movie.  I give Ted a 7/10.

The Bourne Legacy

I used to say the Bourne films where one of my favorite trilogies but now with a fourth installment I cannot say that anymore.  (WARNING THIS PART CONTATINS SPOILERS) Not that this was a poor movie but it just was missing something to me.  It tried to explain something that did not need to be explained.  I think before this film we just assumed soldiers like Bourne were expertly trained and now it is revealed they are genetically altered.  Lame.  Plus my favorite part of the films is always when Bourne would duke it out with a similarly trained killer, but in this film Aaron Cross (played very well by Jeremy Renner) never fights someone of equal caliber.  I know my opinion is not shared but this one felt short of the others.  I give The Bourne Legacy a 6/10.

The Campaign

I think Will Ferrell’s well of laughs is starting to run dry and in a very distasteful way.  He resorts trying to find new ways drop the f-bomb and playing the same character that finds nothing wrong with how arrogant he is.  Galifianakis was a pleasant surprise in this one and easily the only funny thing about this movie.  I give The Campaign a 4/10.

The Expendables 2

It is easily one of the most fun and dumbest movies I have seen this year.  Not only does the film flat out mock itself but so do the actors which you cannot help but applaud.  The highlights of the movie were easily Norris, Van Damme, Willis, Schwarzenegger, and Lungren.  Stallone got old really fast because most of his jokes were lame and I wish Jet Li was in it more because his opening fight was awesome.  Don’t expect much plot going in but easily trumps the predecessor.  I give The Expendables 2 a 7/10.

ParaNorman

The plot is kind of like The Sixth Sense meets Coraline.  A loner tries to prevent the dead from rising by being able to speak with those who have pasted on.  You cannot help admiring all the work that must have gone into making this movie because it visually is amazing.  Plus laughs are ones for everyone.  They are not all dumb-down and simple humor but has some pretty intelligent laughs.  ParaNorman earns an 8/10.

Beasts Of The Southern Wild

I have never been very good with symbolism whether it is in a movie or in a book.  I just do not read too far into things.  So this movie had me scratching my head a lot.  I get that this movie is through the eyes of Hushpuppy, a child raise by her father in worn down and soon to be flooded neighborhood, but this was a little too artistic for me to follow and enjoy.  After leaving the theater I was able to put some things together but I still found myself drawing a blank on what some stuff meant.  This movie was way over my head.  I can only give Beasts of the Southern Wild a 5/10.  Beautifully made, I just had a hard time understanding it.

Premium Rush

David Koepp is probably one of the most underappreciated writers in movies in my opinion.  I mean he helped write Mission Impossible, Carlito’s Way, and one of my all time favorites Stir of Echoes.  So seeing his name and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s attached to this movie, I knew going in it would be enjoyable.  The movie has a great pace and never gets dull whether it is the relentless bicycle-stunts or the off the wall dirty cop played by Michael Shannon who stole every scene he was in.  I look forward to seeing him in more antagonist roles after this one.  My biased rating for Premium Rush is an 8/10.

The Apparition

Absolute ghost garbage is probably the best way to describe The Apparition.  The premise had potential.  I idea of bringing a spirit into reality through belief is an okay idea; I’ll go along with it.  But after that nothing makes sense even for a ghost movie.  Stuff molding together, out-of-body experiences, and reach of this unknown entity.  Ashley Greene, all be it attractive, was such an irritating lead.  I just could not find myself rooting for her or her lovie-dovie boyfriend Ben played by Sebastian Stan.  Just a failure of a movie, 3/10.

The Possession

Leaps and bounds better than The Apparition, but that is not saying much.  I liked Jeffery Dean Morgan as a basketball coach striving to make it back to division 1, fighting to earn his marriage back, and now stop a Jewish, demonic entity from consuming one of his two daughters.  The two girls were surprisingly not that annoying.  The only annoying thing was the inconsistency with the sound it would get really loud and suddenly silence which did not make you jump just cringe for the safety of your hearing.  And I was very impressed with the performance from Matisyahu.  It is by no means The Exorcist but still a worthy addition to the demonic possession genre.  I give The Possession a 7/10.

Hit & Run

I have to give a nod to Dax Shepard on this one, Hit & Run turned out to be a fun ride (no pun intended).  It is not too inventive of a story, a con in witness protection hiding what he really did from his girlfriend to keep from losing her and stay safe from a fellow con that he turned on.  But you could not deny the chemistry the Shepard and Kristen Bell had together.  Their banter seemed natural and not too forced but at times it was a little like “okay we get it, next scene please.”  Tom Arnold was hysterical and Bradley Cooper did an alright job.  I give it a 7/10.

 

Okay so there it is.  A long post for me but a short wrap up of my thoughts about these 12 movies.

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