Friday, December 30, 2011

Hall Pass (2011)

Adolescent humor at its worst
A couple of married guys are given "hall passes" by their wives from marriage.  They have an entire week away from their wives to do whatever they want.  Hall Pass is the latest offering from the Farrelly Brothers, the team responsible for Dumb and Dumber, Shallow Hal, There's Something About Mary, and other slapstick comedies.  The only reason I watched this is because I was at my in-laws for Xmas and they were watching it.  About halfway through it, I started reading a book.  Consisting mostly of crude jokes about sex and bodily functions, this film feels like it stole a few of my IQ points.

Slightly amusing, but mostly offensive, Hall Pass gets 1 out of 5 Poblanos!

Director: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly
Writer: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly, Pete Jones, Kevin Barnett
Starring: Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate
Rotten Tomatoes: 35%
Metacritic: 45 out of 100

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Vampires (2009)

Twilight meets Spinal Tap
These documentary filmmakers follow a vampire family to  learn about vampire life.  Did I mention that this is also a dysfunctional vampire family?  This tongue in cheek mockumentary, set mostly in Belgium and partly in Quebec, is very refreshing especially in the face of all the serious, angsty vampire fare out there.  The film doesn't take itself or the subject too seriously.  It is a pretty dang funny film - goofy, quirky, ridiculous.

With lots of laughs, Vampires kills with 4 out of 5 Poblanos!

Director: Vincent Lannoo
Writer: Vincent Lannoo, Frédérique Broos
Starring: Carlo Ferrante, Vera Van Dooren, Pierre Lognay  and Fleur Lise Heuet
Rotten Tomatoes: no review
Metacritic: no review

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Exam (2009)

Time's up, pencils down
Eight candidates competing for the same job are seated in a room for an exam. Each is given a piece of paper, a pencil, and very little instruction. Told that the first candidate to answer their question is the winner, they are given 80 minutes and the instructor leaves the room.  Each candidate turns his or her page over to find it blank. And the next two hours are pretty wild. Exam explores the limitations, possibilities, and dangers that one room can hold. I put this film right alongside Hitchcock's Rope or Rodrigo Cortés' Buried. Minimalistic and intense, this film is a great thriller which had me hooked from the opening credits.

Exam passes the test with 4 out of 5 Poblanos!

Director: Stuart Hazeldine (Exam is his feature film directorial debut. He has written screenplays for Knowing with Nicholas Cage, Scott Derrickson's remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still, and the upcoming screen adaptation of Milton's Paradise Lost.)
Writer: Stuart Hazeldine, Simon Garrity
Metacritic: not reviewed

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Attack the Block (2011)

Aliens don't stand a chance in the ghetto
When aliens attack a tower block (the British equivalent of the ghetto) in London, they get a rude awakening.  A group of teenagers takes it upon themselves to defend their territory no matter the cost.  Reminds me of a passage from Deadline about Oakland, CA when it was invaded with zombies "...they had a lot of places they could hole up, and they had a lot of guns.  Maybe most important of all, thanks to the gang violence I mentioned earlier, they had a lot of people who actually knew how to use the guns".  This is the kind of film I loved as a kid - a film about kids having adventures and being heroes.  Loads of fun, fast paced, full of action, and the kids save the day, Attack the Block is part Goonies, part Gremlins, and part Kick Ass and is a total good time. 

Attack the Block kicks some serious behind with 4 out of 5 Poblanos!

Director: Joe Cornish
Writer: Joe Cornish
Starring: Nick Frost (Spaced, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz), John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, Luke Treadaway (Clash of the Titans)
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Metacritic: 75 out of 100

Paul (2011)

Out of this world road trip
English pals Graeme and Clive (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost respectively) make their geek-dream pilgrimage to Comic Con in San Diego.  The pals then hit the road to visit 'alien' sites throughout the southwest.  They meet up with Paul, an alien who takes them on a madcap road trip fraught with rednecks, government agents, and fundamentalists.  Paul works well as a tribute to E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind with nods toward Men In Black and the Alien franchise.  Pegg and Frost have great chemistry and the film is a fun watch with a a few laugh out loud moments.  But Paul pales in comparison to Shaun of the Dead and is not quite as good as Hot Fuzz.  The film hovers mainly in the area of 'amusing'.

A fun film that falls a little flat, Paul gets an out of this world 3 out of 5 Poblanos!

Director: Greg Mottola (Superbad, Adventureland)
Writer: Nick Frost, Simon Pegg
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogen, Jason Bateman, and appearances by Jeffrey Tambor, Jane Lynch, and Sigourney Weaver
Rotten Tomatoes: 72%
Metacritic: 57 out of 100

Prometheus trailer

Ridley Scott's new film Prometheus is set in the same universe as Alien.  Here's the trailer as seen on Collider:

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Nines (2007)

What the heck is going on?
Ryan Reynolds (Green Lantern, Buried, Blade: Trinity) stars as three different characters alongside two other actors who also play three different characters.  Sound confusing?  It is, but in a good way.   John August (screenwriter of several Tim Burton films - Big Fish, Corpse Bride, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) tells a story of characters whose lives are intertwined.  Using the same actors for multiple roles could have been a confusing mess but August pulls it off well.  Mislabeled as a 'thriller' because it was not very thrilling.  It was however engrossing, funny, and unpredictable. 

A good film with an interesting pay-off, The Nines gets 3 out of 5 Poblanos!

Director: John August
Writer: John August
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Hope Davis and Melissa McCarthy
Rotten Tomatoes: 65%
Metacritic: 52 out of 100

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ne Le Dis a Personne (Tell No One) 2006

It ain't over 'til its over
Dr Alexandre Beck's wife Margot is killed mysteriously. Eight years later he gets a cryptic email leading him to believe she is still alive. Then a video of Margot shows up in his inbox confirming that fact.  Alexandre is left trying to figure out what is happening. This is a good old-fashioned whodunit movie that twists and turns until the payoff. And the payoff is as good or better than many that I've seen. The French know how to make good movies.  They also know how to make great bread, coffee, wine, cheese, soccer players, and cyclists.  Viva la France!!!

Tell No One pays off with 4 out of 5 Poblanos!

Director: Guillaume Canet
Writer: Guillaume Canet, Philippe Lefebvre,
Starring: François Cluzet, Marie-Josée Croze, (Munich, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) Kristin Scott Thomas (Mission Impossible, Gosford Park, Sarah's Key)
Metacritic: 82 out of 100

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Melancholia (2011)

Its the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine)
What if a planet were to collide with Earth?  Of course that would be bring worldwide disaster.  Lars von Trier takes us into the minds of a few people as they anticipate this event.  The wedding of Justine and Michael (Alexander Skarsgård) and later how Claire (her sister) deals with Justine's mental breakdown are the events through which we view this apocalyptic disaster.   Kirsten Dunst as Justine and Charlotte Gainsbourg (The Science of Sleep ) as Claire give equally stunning performances. The emotions conjured up by the actors is convincing to the point of making the viewing experience feel more like an intrusion on some of life's more intimate, painful, and embarrassing moments. And I mean that as a positive aspect of the film.  With Melancholia, von Trier gives us is a stunning viewing experience.  The intro alone is worth the price of admission and could easily stand on its on as a short film.  Lastly, I love Magnolia Pictures!

5 out of 5 Poblanos!

Director: Lars von Trier
Writer: Lars von Trier
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Alexander Skarsgård, John Hurt, Kiefer Sutherland
Rotten Tomatoes: 77%
Metacritic: 81 out of 100

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Trollhunter (2011)

The title says it all
A group of university students is tracking a suspicious character.  He doesn't want to be followed, but they keep tracking him.  They find out that he is a guy that hunts trolls.  Thus the title.  It is a 'found footage documentary' in the vein of The Blair Witch Project, or Cloverfield.  This Norwegian film is very fun to watch and very entertaining.  The gorgeous Norwegian scenery alone is worth the watch.  Another great release into the US market by Magnolia Pictures.  Destined to be a cult classic.  Troll!!!

The Trollhunter gets 4 out of 5 Poblanos!

Director: André Øvredal
Writer: André Øvredal, Håvard S. Johansen
Starring: Otto Jespersen, Glenn Erland Tosterud, Johanna Mørck, Tomas Alf Larsen, and Hans Morten Hansen
Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
Metacritic: 61 out of 100

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Red Cliff (2008)

Not missing much if you missed this one
I love China, having lived there for three years.  I also enjoy Chinese historical epics.  Not many countries have a history as long and rich as the Middle Kingdom does.  That history usually translates well to film.  But this particular epic falls flat.  John Woo is great, but this film has too many characters, too much melodrama, and not enough substance.  The filmmaking is high quality, the costumes and sets and are gorgeous, and the cast is great, but the story is not interesting.  And at the heart of every film, there should be a good story.  I watched the first half telling myself I'd finish it the next night, but realized I didn't care how it ended so I never finished it.  Maybe I've just seen more than my share of this type of film which were much better that this.  Side note: this film was brought to the US by Magnolia/ Magnet, one of my favorite film distributors.  They bring great indy and foreign films to the big and small screen. 

Red Cliff left me hanging with only 2 out of 5 Poblanos!

Director: John Woo
Writer: John Woo, Khan Chan, Cheng Kuo, Heyu Sheng
Starring: Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Takeshi Kaneshiro and Fengyi Zhang
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Metacritic: 73 out of 100