Friday, January 31, 2014

Movie Review: Cyrus (2010)

This means war!

When John meets Molly at a party, they hit it off immediately.  Things start to go south after John meets Cyrus, Molly's 21 year old son.  Both funny and sad at the same time, this film showcases the Duplass brother's about to show the worst as well as the best sides of people.  The awkwardness that they are able to create is hysterical and makes you feel very sympathetic towards the characters. 

Heartwarming and heart-wrenching, Cyrus gets 3.5 out of 5 stars!

Director: ,
Writer: ,
Starting: , , ,
Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Metacritic: 74%

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Computer Chess (2013)

Do you want to play a game?

When a group of computer programmers get together for their annual chess tournament, it isn't the humans who do the playing.  Instead, their machines are pitted one against the other.  Set in the early 1980s, before the World Wide Web and iPhones, when computers were machines which only a select group of people knew how to use.  This documentary like film is very interesting.  To be honest, I couldn't get into this film at first.  I watched the first 20 minutes or so one day with some friends, then watched the rest of it about three weeks later.  I'm glad I did watch the rest of it though.  The film is unique in so many ways and I can't think of anything that I've seen that remotely compares to it.  It is also entertaining and painfully, embarrassingly funny. 

Computer Chess gets 3.5 out of 5 stars!

Writer: Andrew Bujalski
Starring: , ,
Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
Metacritic: 74%

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Berberian Sound Studio (2012)

Making a movie, about making movies

Gilderoy is an English sound effects man working in the film industry.  An Italian filmmaker hires him to do sound for his new film, but Gilderoy is having a hard time getting used to the way things are done in Italy.  And he can't seem to get reimbursed him for his plane tickets.

Set in the 1970s, this film is an interesting look at the way films were made in days gone by, when sound engineering was a bit more involved and a bit more analog.  I found this through a list on for 2013's best horror films.  The visuals in this film are very striking and the editing is phenomenal.  Toby Jones is pretty great in this 'fish out of water' story which is really not a horror film, but more like a black comedy which is concerned with the process of making a film.

Berberian Sound Studio gets 4.5 out of 5 stars!

Writer: Peter Strickland
Starring: , ,
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Metacritic: 80%

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Movie Review: Dredd (2012)

I am the law

Judge Dredd gets sent to investigate a triple homicide.  His superiors saddle him with a rookie judge, who just happens to be a psychic.  The rest of a shoot-em-up good time.  This 'day in the life' of a Judge Dredd is very watchable for genre fans and action fans as well.  Based on the comic book character of the same name, Dredd is the type of film which should be widely publicized and enjoyed by comic fans, action fans, and sci-fi fans.  Sadly though, it is also the type of film which gets overshadowed by inferior films such as Thor and Captain America, and Man of Steel.  On the whole, it is way better by far than most of the big name super hero films.  The story is tighter and the action is tougher.  It has much more in common with Christoper Nolan's Batman series, Blade, and Constantine than it does with most other contemporary comic book films.

Dredd pummels its comic book competitors to get to 4 out of 5 stars!

Writer: John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra, Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Sunshine)
Starring: (The Lord of The Rings Trilogy, Star Trek rebooted) (The Darkest Hour), , (The Sarah Conner Chronicles, Game of Thrones) (The Wire)
Metacritic: 59%

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Movie Review: 11:14 (2003)

I love it when a plan comes together

A body falls off an overpass.  A motorist gets stopped by the cops.  A convenience store gets held up.  How are all these things related?  11:14 is one of those great stories that you have to figure out as you go using clues that you've already seen.  And once the pieces fall into place, it is beautiful thing.  The non-linear narrative, which can be tricky and even come across as cheesy, is clever and very we'll used in this film.  And Patrick Swayze is pretty funny in his role.  A good, fun film.

11:14 gets 3.5 out of 5 stars!

Writer: Greg Marcks
Starring: , , , , , , ,
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Metacritic: 65%

You're Next (2011)

I will survive

When the four grown children (with significant others in tow) come together to celebrate their parent's anniversary, the sweet little family reunion turns into a bloodbath.  Stalked by masked killers, people start getting picked off one by one.  Except for Erin, the girlfriend of one of the sons, who decides to defend the house and fight back.  The rest of the film is pure badass action. 

My thought after finishing this film was, This is about as close to perfect as a film can get.  The next thought was, I've got to see this again.  Which is why I didn't send it back to Netflix the next day, but instead I watched it again the next night.  That is something that very rarely happens, maybe once or twice a year.

Why is this film so great?  Numerous reasons - The story was very tightly told, the pacing was phenomenal, the acting was great, the action was outstanding, and the cinematography was awesome.  On top of all that, I love how the filmmakers turned the home invasion sub-genre completely upside down.  This is the type of film that The Purge wanted so hard to be.  In fact, this is the type of film that so many films want to be like.  In short, this film is amazing.

You're Next gets 5 out of 5 stars!

Starring: , ,
Rotten Tomatoes: 74%
Metacritic: 66%

Monday, January 20, 2014

Movie Review: Roadie (2011)

It's hard to go home again

Jimmy, who has spent years on the road with Blue Oyster Cult, finds his services no longer needed.  Not knowing what else to do, he ends up back in his hometown.  Staying with his mother and reconnecting with old friends has him missing his life on the road.  A great little film with really strong characters, Roadie hard it is to go home again.  Jimmy's struggle with being back in his old stomping grounds and having no one really care about his life is heartbreaking.  A very we'll made film with great characters, good acting, and a great story.

Roadie brings home 3 out of 5 stars!

Writer: , Michael Cuesta
Starring: , ,
Rotten Tomatoes: 72%
Metacritic: 61%

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Movie Review: De rouille et d'os ((Rust and Bone) 2012)

Life loves a tragedy

Alain is drifter with a young son who moves to the south of France to find work where he and his son Sam move in with his sister.  When Alain encounters Stephanie, a former orca trainer who had a serious accident, they begin a relationship which is not easily defined.  I love Marion Cotillard, but this is the first French film that I've ever seen her in. She is great actress to watch in English language roles, but in her native French, she really comes alive.  Seeing her in this film is akin to me seeing Antonio Banderas in La piel que habito (The Skin I Live In) or Javier Bardem in Biutiful.  The truly surreal thing about watching this film is that the night before I had watched the documentary Blackfish.  Then I watched this one, not knowing that Cotillard's character in this film was once an orca trainer whose life was rocked by an accident like the one's portrayed in that documentary.  Crazy!

De rouille et d'os gets 3.5 out of 5 stars.   

Writer: Jacques Audiard
Starring: , ,
Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
Metacritic: 73%

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Movie Review: Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)

Gotta get back in time

Jeff is a reporter who is tasked to investigate a very strange newspaper ad.  His publisher makes him take two interns along with him.  Darius strikes up a friendship with the man who placed the ad and finds him to be a tad but eccentric, yet at the same time endearing.  Jake Johnson is basically playing his Nick Miller (New Girl) character and is nothing to excited about.  Mark Duplass and Aubrey Plaza on the other hand do a great job in their respective roles.  I enjoy small films like this which have a sci-fi premise, but which used it as a backdrop for the development of the narrative (such as Timer or 11 Minutes Ago).  Overall, a good film.

Safety Not Guaranteed gets 3.5 out of 5 stars. 

Starring: , ,
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Metacritic: 72%

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Spectacular Now (2013)

All I wanna do is have some fun

Sutter is a high school senior who lives for the moment, not wanting to think about his future.  He is the life of every party.  And he drinks a lot.  When his very popular girlfriend breaks up with him, he ends up with Aimee, somewhat of an unknown quantity to Sutter.  As their relationship begins to develop, Sutter sees more of what his life will be like after high school and doesn't want things to change.  The film has a personality that feels very natural.  It is funny without being ridiculous and is dramatic without being cheesy.  The interactions between the characters seem very authentic, more like a window into their lives than a scripted film.  It is a movie about the teenage years, yet it transcends that trope entirely.  From the director of Off the Black and Smashed, this film is a gem is is worthy of all of the praise that it has already gotten.

The Spectacular Now gets 4.5 out of 5 stars!!

Writer: .
Starring: , , Kyle Chandler, , ,  
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Metacritic: 82%

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Movie Review: Chop Shop (2007)

Its a hard knock life

Alejandro is a homeless kid who is also a hustler doing whatever he can to make money.  He and his sister Izzy get a break when a garage owner lets them live in a spare room over his garage near Shae Stadium.  The sad life of these orphan siblings is heartbreaking.  Chop Shop, from the same director who gave us Goodbye Solo, this film is a strong dose of realism.  The handheld shots give us an intimate look into the world that Alejandro and Izzy live in.  A very beautiful, yet tragic film.

Chop Shop gets 4 out of 5 stars!

Writer: , Ramin Bahrani
Starring: , ,
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Metacritic: 83%

Friday, January 10, 2014

Movie Review: Lawless (2012)

We are family

Based on a true story, this is a gritty tale of a bootlegging family in Virginia during Prohibition.  The acting is solid, the story is engrossing, and overall it is an enjoyable film.  While it may be better than the majority of films in this genre, it still lacks the punch of Hillcoat's previous films (The Road, The Proposition).  Gary Oldman's versatility is astounding.  I didn't recognize him and it was only when I saw his name on the credits that I realized he was in the movie.  That's one of the reasons why I love him so much as an actor.

Lawless is good, but not great and gets 3 out of 5 stars!

Writer: (screenplay), (novel)
Starring: , , , , Jessica Chastain, , ,
Rotten Tomatoes: 67%
Metacritic: 58%

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Movie Review: Goodbye Solo (2008)

Everybody needs a friend

Solo, a Senegalese taxi driver befriends William, an older white man.  William wants Solo to take him to Blowing Rock, NC, a few hours from Winston-Salem, but he doesn't want to return.  Their relationship is tenuous at best.  I watched this because I recently saw a trailer for an intriguing film called At Any Price directed by Ramin Bahrani.  I was intrigued so I looked him up and it turns out that he's a local, meaning that he's from Winston-Salem, NC which is just down the road from me.  Anyways, this film, Goodbye Solo, is sincerely good.  The narrative is the kind that you get lost in, the camera work is great, and the acting is superb.  I've got his other films on my Netflix queue and am looking forward to seeing them. 

Goodbye Solo gets 4 out of 5 stars!

Writer: Ramin Bahrani,
Starring: , ,
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Metacritic: 89%

Monday, January 6, 2014

Take This Waltz (2011)

Even if, even if you don't love me anymore

When Margot meets a new guy on a plane, they hit it off right away.  One problem is that Margot is married to Lou.  The even bigger problem is that the new guy, Daniel, lives right across the street from them.  While Margot's marriage to Lou seems to be enjoyable, she wants more and looks for it in Daniel. 

Not that this film is necessarily meant to convey a message, but if there was one, for me it is summed up by an older woman in one scene who says something like, "Everything new gets old."  From a storytelling perspective, this film addresses a lot of huge issues without trying to wrap up every thing nicely or moralize and is painful to watch at times (in a good way). 

From a technical point of view, there are so many great shots in this film - long tracking shots as the characters walk down city streets, great underwater shots, and a nice long focus shot at the with Michelle Williams in the foreground and Seth Rogan into the background.  This is great storytelling by an up and coming filmmaker, Sarah Polley, an actress in her own right is also a writer and director.  I look forward to seeing Polley's other films Away from Her and Stories We Tell.

Writer: Sarah Polley
Starring: , , ,
Rotten Tomatoes: 77%
Metacritic: 68%

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Conjuring (2013)

Don't ever go in the basement

A family moves into a house and things start going bump in the night.  The family tasks a couple of  paranormal experts to investigate and things get crazy.  Based very loosely on the story of a real life haunting, this film doesn't add much new material to the horror genre.  It has echos of The Exorcist and Poltergeist, but in a good way.  The best scares and thrills in this one are the old school ones - lights going out, things falling off the walls, things like that.  This film is really we'll shot.  Near the beginning of the film there is a super cool long shot that made me day wow.  I'm not a big fan of horror films, but I did enjoy this one.

The Conjuring scares up 3 out of 5 stars!

Writer: ,
Starring: , , , Carolyn Perron
Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Metacritic: 68%

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Jagten ((The Hunt) 2012)

What do you do when everyone is against you?

Lucas is a divorced, laid off high school teacher teacher who is working in a preschool.  When a 5 year old girl brings a serious accusation against him, no one will give him the benefit of the doubt.  Eventually, the entire town turns against him.  This film looks great, has a thoroughly engaging narrative, and has great acting.  It has a lot to day about human nature as it concerns our perception of other people whether they are true or not. 

The Hunt is a powerful film and gets 4 out of 5 stars.

Writer: ,
Starring: , ,

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Metacritic: 76%