Thursday, May 8, 2014

(Rental Review) American Hustle (2013)

I'm starting to think that I have no taste. Seriously. I'm really starting to think that I consider my taste in movies to be pretty good but in reality it is garbage. Why, because this is another movie that was nominated for Best Picture and one that I liked, but I didn't love. I know, I know... "Look at the cast. Look at the costumes. Look at the acting. Look at the writing. Are you BLIND you fool?" is what they will shout from the rooftops at me. So what? I don't care. Because while I DID think that the writing was good and I DID think that the acting was good I really didn't think that the movie was all that it was cracked up to be. 

Storyline:  Brilliant con man Irving Rosenfeld (Bale), along with his equally cunning and seductive British partner Sydney Prosser (Adams), is forced to work for a wild FBI agent named Richie DiMaso (Cooper). DiMaso pushes them into a world of Jersey power-brokers and mafia that's as dangerous as it is enchanting. But it's Irving's unpredictable wife Rosalyn (Lawrence) who could be the one to pull the thread that brings the entire world crashing down. - 

I will give all of the actors involved with this movie credit for playing their parts wonderfully. Bale, Adam and Cooper, are all great. I'm not a super huge fan of any of the three, but they are all really strong in this movie. Lawrence, for me, steals the show. I'm so glad that she is having such a great career, because she is truly one of those rare actresses that can play anything and make it feel like each part was made for her and her alone. Seriously, they were all great. 

One thing I continue to fail at grasping is why Jermey Renner continues to get parts in such great films. He's just not that strong of an actor (in my humble opinion). Not only is he not that strong, but he, as a person, seems to be really unlikable in almost every interview I have seen him in. People like Bruce Willis, who has been making movies for 30 years, can get away with that type of attitude. Someone who's career has only really reached the "big leagues" since 2008's Hurt Locker. So it miiiight be a little premature to become an insufferable jerk. 

(Rental Review) The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

It's been a long time since I have actually updated anything on here. To be honest, my times has been pretty much consumed by work and my new little one, so I don't get to see as many movies as I once did and I really don't have time to write anything about most of the ones that I do see. But I had a few minutes to spare and wanted to do a few small reviews of the some of the movies that I have watched recently.

I understand the reason for the Academy doing everything they can to justify giving Leonardo DiCaprio an Oscar, but I REALLY didn't see how THIS movie (above many other movies out in 2013) was in contest for Best Picture. Sure, the movie was good. It even had a good message and it showed, in a palatable way, the underbelly and corruption that runs Wall Street. But Best Picture? Come on! There is no way that this should have even been nominated.

Storyline: This is the true story of the outlandish rise and non-stop pleasure-hunting descent of Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio), the New York stockbroker who, along with his merry band of brokers, makes a gargantuan fortune by defrauding investors out of millions. Belfort transforms from a righteous young Wall Street newcomer to a thoroughly corrupted stock-pumper and IPO cowboy. Having quickly amassed an absurd fortune, Jordan pumps it back into an endless array of aphrodisiacs: women, Quaaludes, coke, cars, his supermodel wife and a legendary life of aspiration and acquisition without limits. But even as Belfort's company, Stratton Oakmont, soars sky-high into extremes of hedonistic gratification, the SEC and the FBI are zeroing in on his empire of excess.  -

As I said, the movie is a fine movie, and Leo actually deserves the Oscar Nomination for Best Actor, but this is a far far cry from being Best Picture worthy. If you watch it, I'm sure most of you already have, you will enjoy it. But you won't walk away from it thinking "Jeez. 12 Years a Slave robbed them" or "Mcconaughey didn't deserve the Oscar for Best Actor". Still, it's enjoyable.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

(Rental Review) In a World... (2013)

I'm a sucker for a certain type of movie. And that type of movie is anything with Lake Bell in it. Not only do I find her to be one of the most underrated comedic actresses of today, but she is a legitimately good actress. Every time that I see her in something she is almost ALWAYS the thing that I love most about the movie. Obviously that is what drew me in to this film. And while it isn't some massive budgeted epic film, it IS a  movie with a lot to say about family dynamics and a person trying to find their way.

Storyline: After the passing of Don LaFontaine, the originator of the line "In A World..." , a series of voice actors are looking at not only reviving the famous line but also taking over for "The Don" of movie trailers. While the world is sure that Sam (Fred Melamed) will take over as the "go to" voice, he quickly takes himself out of the running to promote up and comer Gustav (Ken Marino). But when Sam's daughter Carol (Lake Bell), a voice coach, begins to make waves by stealing work from Gustav, Sam becomes adamant about holding his daughter back. Sam considers himself the King of this world, and he refuses to let his daughter dethrone him.

So, as you can see from the storyline, this movie is not only about a girl coming into her own and making a name for herself in her profession, but it is about a father that is not only not willing to accept her as an equal but is surely not going to allow her to one up him. A father that is so adamant about remaining in the spotlight that he would choose to hold his child back from achieving a dream in a vain attempt at remaining relevant in an industry that is looking for something new. It really is an interesting look inside that family dynamic.

Also in the cast is Demetri Martin (Louis), Michaela Watkins (Dani) and Rob Corddry (Moe). Rob is really solid in this movie (as he is in most things) and I really enjoyed what his character and this Dani go through in this film. The struggles of a somewhat stagnant married couple may not sound very entertaining, but a particular scene in the film is not only heart breaking but it feels so real (the way they play it) that it absolutely "gut checks" you. Very solid performances from Rob and Michaela  in that scene.

Demetri Martin was a surprise to me. I'm not a huge fan of his. I think that he is funny and a bit quirky, but not someone that I just HAVE to see. His Comedy Central show was entertaining, because Demetri is a smart comic, but his shtick can become tiresome pretty quickly. But he was really strong in this movie. Not only was his character someone that was easy to identify with, but his character's budding relationship with Carol was believable and pretty adorable. Kudos all around for those involved in this film.


(Rental Review) Captain Phillips (2013)

There is a reason that I HATE to watch a movie late. People have either built it up or torn in down to the point that I am always either really really excited to see it or I have heard so much negative buzz that I skip it. Obviously, with this movie, I have heard nothing but positive. So I eagerly sat back with my snack and prepared for something truly inspiring to come on.....and I waited....and I waited.....and I waited. I don't know why I didn't love this movie as much as most people, but it bored me to death. Literally. This what I looked like after the credits.

moisturize meeeeeeeee


The film focuses on the relationship between the Alabama's commanding officer, Captain Richard Phillips (two time Academy Award®-winner Tom Hanks), and the Somali pirate captain, Muse (Barkhad Abdi), who takes him hostage. Phillips and Muse are set on an unstoppable collision course when Muse and his crew target Phillips' unarmed ship; in the ensuing standoff, 145 miles off the Somali coast, both men will find themselves at the mercy of forces beyond their control. - 

What I can't wrap my tiny mind around is what all the love for this film was about. Don't get me wrong. I think it is an amazing story and I truly feel sympathy for the people that are forced into a life and robbery/murder or be murdered. It's not fair and I am grateful that I do not have to suffer that hardship. But I didn't find new comer Barkhad Abdi to be all that convincing, I mean, look at him, how can you be scared of him in this movie. 

Give me my Oscar! 

Wrong picture, but pretty close. Not only did I kind of find the lead "big bad" to be less than terrifying, I think that this is the absolute least that I have ever liked Tom Hanks in a role. He was utterly and entirely unconvincing to me. His "emotional" scenes in the movie were laughable and his inability to emote was surprising. This is a man that brought me to tears when he lost his Volleyball, but can't work up a few tears for a man being held captive on a ship? Doesn't add up and felt phoned in. 

All in all, and I can't believe that I am saying this, I would recommend that you skip it. If you haven't seen it by now the hype has probably made you think that it is a masterpiece, and it wasn't. I was disappointed. 


Thursday, January 9, 2014

(Movie Review) Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)

There really is nothing like receiving a visit from an old friend. Especially one that you haven’t seen in years. You start reliving all of the “good old days” and the fun that you once had together. While mulling over all of these past memories you usually fail to consider the fact that in the years since you last saw each other that things might have changed a good bit. Your sense of humor might have changed. Or you might just end up spending a few hours reliving the past and not really discovering anything new. Combine ALL of that together and that is how I felt about this movie. No new ground is broken with this movie and most of the jokes are pretty standard Ron Burgundy jokes,  but the cast and the audience seem to have no problem settling into the familiar territory and “catching up” with each other after Ron’s nine year sabbatical.

Storyline: After years of living with his wife and son in New York City, Ron (Ferrell) and Veronica (Applegate) are called into the office of the legendary Mack Tannen (Ford). Mack is retiring and must promote one of them to Nightly News Anchor. He promotes Veronica and ruthlessly fires Ron. Ron, hurt by the fact that he was fired and that his wife took the position, leaves Veronica and their son in New York to return to San Diego. After a few failed attempts at staying relevant he is asked to join a 24 hour news channel. Ron goes back to re-recruit his old new team and convince them to follow him back to New York City to take back what was stolen from Ron….the news. 

Worth the admission? While I am going to say “yes”, I have to warn you about the second half of the movie and its descent into madness. The first half of this movie is hilarious. But the second half of the film is pretty out there. The situation that Ron finds himself in seems like a weird direction for the writers to take. There were much funnier situations that they could have written for him.

Also, the inevitable “News Anchor Brawl” that takes place in this movie might be the single strangest thing I have ever watched. Not that it was bad, or even good for that matter, but just insane. The movie kind of goes off the rails a bit. But at the end of the day, it’s a funny movie with a great cast doing what they were born to do.

As a side note, I LOVE the message of this movie and the jab that it takes at those that sensationalize the news. The fact that the News Anchor Brawl is so bloated and crazy is because there are too many news channels involved because of the saturation of the market. I found that to be one of the best running jokes of the movie.  

Friday, December 13, 2013

(Movie Review) FROZEN (2013)

FROZEN warms the heart as one of the best Disney films ever

Last year I praised BRAVE (2012) for being one of the best Disney related films to grace the screen in a long time. I still stand by that statement. Brave was an awesome movie. But technically it was a “Disney” Pixar film (which means it was Pixar doing all of the heavy lifting) and I really shouldn’t have heaped love for Disney onto a product that they only “presented”. Frozen, however, is ALL Disney. Which means that I will once again claim a movie to be the best thing that Disney has produced in years. I think that this settles into the #2 spot on my favorite all-time Disney movies. Nothing beats The Little Mermaid (1989). Nothing.

Storyline: Princess Elsa (Menzel) is special. She was born with the ability to control ice and snow. As children she and her sister Anna (Bell) would use Elsa’s powers to play and have wintery fun. But an accident causes Anna to get injured and, in retaliation, Elsa’s father makes her promise to never use her powers again. Years later, the relationship between Elsa and Anna becomes strained because Elsa is scared that she will hurt Anna again. Then, at a coronation ceremony, Elsa accidentally exposes her powers to the town’s people and, fearing for her life, retreats into the mountains to live in solitude. This leaves the town in a wintery state that it can’t survive long. Anna decides to strike out on an adventure, with the help of Kristoff (Groff) and Olaf the snowman (Gad), to find Elsa and end this eternal winter.

Worth the admission? This movie is so good. I really hated for it to be over with. The musical numbers were fantastic, the voice acting was great, the animation was top notch, and the story was absolutely wonderful. It was a seriously touching movie about strained relationships, embracing the fact that everyone is different, and a continuing cautionary tale about trusting the wealthy good looking people of the world.
While everything in the movie was really great the one thing that stood out above most others was Olaf the Snowman. Voiced by Josh Gad this character was often the most subtle comedy in the entire movie but the character that I found to be the most fun to watch.  

Also be sure to look for some of the small inclusions of other Disney/Pixar characters in the film. At one point it can be seen that Rapunzel and Rider from Tangled (2010) are attending the coronation of Elsa. It’s little things like that that make these movies so fun to watch.  The interconnectivity of these worlds are always interesting to see and they add another layer to the depth of the world that makes up Disney and Pixar. 


Here are a few links that show the ways that these movies are all connected in some way or another. 

(Movie Review) The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire manages to burn the competition in its record breaking opening weekend

I’m not a film snob. Some are and enjoy the fact that they look down on certain movies/genres as “lacking”. They consider movies like this to be a waste of time. But I can always find something that I like about every movie. It may be something VERY tiny, but there is always something. Heck, even with the ABISMAL Twilight series I constantly praised them for their scenery (while also mercilessly berating them for the horrible acting and story). It’s no wonder that when I watched The Hunger Games (2012) I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I expected it to be another Twilight-esque movies about a damsel in distress that has to be saved by the heroic male. Little did I know that it would turn out to be more “Buffy” than “Bella”.   Since then, Catching Fire has been one of the few movies that I was actually looking forward to this year. The world needs strong, believable and well developed female characters on the big screen...and Katniss Everdeen fits that need perfectly.

Storyline: It’s been a year since Katniss (Lawrence) and Peeta (Hutcherson) won the 74th Annual Hunger Games. They have returned to their homes and are constantly reminded of their actions taken and losses suffered during the contest. Katniss has become a symbol of hope for the downtrodden. Showing people that they can fight the government and make their own path. This does not sit well with President Snow (Sutherland). He wants her dead. To stomp her, and the hope she gives the people, out. Knowing that killing her will make her a martyr for the cause and galvanize the rebels, President Snow and his cohorts devise a plan that the 75th Hunger Games will be a contest between past winners. In this way, Snow is positive that he can not only take out Katniss and Peeta, but also take out every other past champion that gives their districts hope. He plans to end them all, but Katniss has no intentions of taking this lying down. She is prepared for the fight of her life. If she goes down she plans to take President Snow with her.

Worth the admission? Obviously! It’s a Holiday weekend and you should take the extra time off to go check this movie out. It’s getting great reviews, the actors have really gotten a grasp on their characters in this installment, and the message of the film is a pretty powerful one. I have two small critiques for the movie. One, the camera work in the first few minutes of Katniss and Gale (Hemsworth) in the woods is not great. I don’t know what it was about it, but it didn’t look good to me. Second, Josh Hutcherson is not a believable male lead. I’m not sure what it is about him, but I just don’t believe him as a lead. Other than that, I have no problems with the movie and think you should go check it out.