Friday, June 22, 2012



Written by Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell and Irene Mechi
Directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman
Voices: Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Robbie Coltrane,
Craig Ferguson, Kevin McKidd

Pixar is the one film production studio I could count on for giving me a guaranteed good or great time at the movies when others failed. I am not a huge fan of movies like "Cars" but I am afraid "Brave" is the weakest Pixar movie (I have not seen "Cars 2"). I was really excited to see "Brave" after seeing it's superb teaser trailer. What promise for a movie that actually turns out to fall way short of it's premise.

This is the first Pixar movie to feature a female heroine/lead and I love the character but the movie squanders her charm. Her name is Merida and she has beautiful, flaming red hair and real verve and pluck. The movie is set in Scotland and Merida's parents Fergus and Elinor are set to arrange a marriage for her. She wants to be independent and find love on her own and she is more obssessed with archery. I like that the writers start off making Merida an individual and a strong young female role model. She can be whiny and self indulgent sometimes but what teenage girls aren't.

I expected a great adventure for Merida but the writers give Merida a cutesy, labored and boring story with no adventure. Merida fights with her Mom and she escapes. I thought she would escape, go on a thrilling adventure of self discovery and find her way back really appreciating how lucky she is to have the parents she has. Instead she finds a witch who helps cast a spell on her mother turning her mother into a bear. See, her father Fergus fought a bear once and lost his leg so now we get the mother as a bear trying to hide from the father. Ugh!

The problem is this story is too cute with scenes of clumsy slapstick and Merida becomes a side note to the other characters. They involve all the suitors that are trying to win the hand of Merida and the big bear which will figure into the final battle. This plot is recycled from a lot of other Disney or Pixar movies and I expected something more fun, thrilling and original from the Pixar groundbreakers. I loved Merida with her charm, bright red hair and search for growth and independence. I just wish her strengths weren't muted by a too precious, dull story of the same old stuff.

For a better Disney movie that sorrounds it's young female protagonist with a more solid story than "Brave" rent "The Little Mermaid" again.



Written by Seth Grahame-Smith based on his novel
Directed by Timur Bekmanbetov
Actors: Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Rufus Sewell, Anthony Mackie, Mary
Elizabeth Winstead, Jimmi Simpson, Martin Csokas

You will get what you expect when you go see "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter". Of course you will see our 16th president slaying vampires and the movie is well made. The novelty of seeing the former president slaying vampires wears off after awhile. It's like hearing the offbeat concept ,laughing and realizing that it's pretty clever and funny and then you see the movie and the joke ends right after the first kill. The movie looks good but how long can we watch kill after kill before we get numb. I started to get numb and bored after 45 minutes.

The movie is based on a mash up book by Seth Grahame-Smith who wrote this screenplay. I didn't read the book and after seeing the movie I am kind of glad I didn't. There is some cool commentary on slavery and a few nifty twists but not much story to this movie. There are other mash ups like "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" and I actually think you could do more with that concept and make a better movie with that ideal then ALVH. I don't need to explain this plot because the title is self explanatory and that is how shallow this movie is.

It doesn't mean it's a bad movie because if you love vampire movies this is different and you probably will like it, I didn't. I am not a big vampire movie fan to begin with. I have a handful of favorites but the vampire movie is getting old to me even with Lincoln partaking in it. The movie is well shot, the vampire/Lincoln clashes are compelling for the first hour at least. The acting is competent and vampire fans will love the concept. I think the remake of "Fright Night" is ten times better but ALVH has it's moments.

I am happy with my "True Blood" fix on HBO, that is the way to do a vampire saga and that is the only good vampire material in years, movies or television. ALVH works for a little bit, will probably please it's fan base and is really not a bad movie. I just got bored after the first hour and by the end I shrugged my shoulders and didn't think anything about it and I probably won't think about it ever again.

P.S. For vampire movies I find much better check out both "Fright Nights", "Martin" and "The Lost Boys" which was offbeat and much better at being offbeat then "ALVH". The best vampire movie ever made in my opinion is easily "Near Dark".

Wednesday, June 20, 2012



Written by Derek Connolly
Directed by Colin Trevorrow
Actors: Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake Johnson, Karan Soni, Jenica Bergere,
Jeff Garlin, Mary Lynn Rajskub

What a completely original, charming, easygoing delight "Safety Not Guaranteed" is! This is how you do a solid love story and comedy, it really is not that hard! Big Hollywood romantic comedies mostly break my heart with disspapointment but independent treasures like this give me hope. Not only is "Safety Not Guaranteed" a good love story but it is also a time travel thriller that literally got me on the edge of my seat. This is a very well written and funny comedy that puts a new spin on the time travel movie.

The movie stars three actors I will now be rooting for to become major stars starting with the wonderful Aubrey Plaza. Also the male lead Mark Duplass is really coming into his own and Plaza and him have great chemistry here. The third actor is Jake Johnson and all three actors are very solid here. There is also a sly, witty and sometimes very funny and smart screenplay by David Connolly who I hope writes a lot more!

"Safety Not Guaranteed" tells the story of newspaper writer Jeff who sees a strange ad in the newspaper. The ad says that a man is looking for someone to accompany him in his time traveling machine to go back in time. He says that he is serious and that his partner will have to bring weapons. He has done this once before and SAFETY IS NOT GUARANTEED. Jeff takes two interns with him to research this classified ad and they will answer the man's ad. That man is Kenneth and we are not sure at first if he is serious, crazy or if he is playing a joke on everyone.

Jeff takes his two interns on a road trip to answer this classified ad in person. The first intern is Darius, a female loner who has a dry sense of humor. The second intern is a shy kid named Arnau. Jeff also wants to take the trip to hook up with an old flame and get Arnau a woman to sleep with because he is a virgin. Jeff strikes out in answering the ad in a very funny scene. Darius has better luck because with her being a loner she feels she has a strange connection with Kenneth.

This movie takes it's plot seriously and the movie mostly works because of the smart screenplay and the earnest and great performances from the actors. I have a huge crush on Aubrey and she is great at comedy. She is April on the hilarious television show "Parks and Recreation" and I think she steals the show away from everyone else and I mean from some of the best talent on television. She is a deadpan delight who I now believe can carry the lead in a small or major movie. She is a star in the making and she is very unique and we need more stars like that. She is amazing here with precise comic timing and she also shows a surprising amount of tenderness.

Mark Duplass started out with the very low budget Mumblecore movie movement but now has shown that he can show his acting skills in big productions. He reminds me of someone like Tom Hanks playing the everyman and he gives a great performance here. We want to believe his Kenneth and root for him even though he might be delusional thanks to Duplass. Jake Johnson(TV's New Girl) also shows he can be in major films and he is also very funny here. He first plays the wisecracking smart ass but then he settles down getting involved with a sweet, little love story on his own. All three actors here give three of the best performances of the year.

Lending great support also are Karan Soni's Arnau who is the other intern and Jenica Bergere as Jeff's love interest. Soni has some classic lines to say and he delivers them solidly and sweetly. Bergere has a great screen presence and is very sweet and touching. The movie respects it's characters and it's plot and takes it seriously. The movie is full of talk but there are some very well done thrilling scenes involving the time travel machine and if someone is really following Kenneth. We also have great anticipation in seeing if Kenneth is for real and if he really has a time machine.

So here the acting is superb, the love stories are touching and charming and the movie doesn't demean it's characters and it could have demeaned Kenneth. The movie is fun, funny, thrilling and competently paced and directed. I love this screenplay that is somewhat quirky and this is how quirky can come off as a great thing. "Safety Not Guaranteed" made me leave the theatre with a big smile on my face and feeling good and happy. Aubrey Plaza is someone to watch for and I couldn't keep my eyes or attention off of her for a second. Bravo!



Written by Justin Theroux and Chris D'Arienzo
Directed by Adam Shankman
Actors: Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Paul Giamatti,
Catherine Zeta Jones, Bryan Cranston, Russell Brand, Malin Ackerman, Kevin Nash

Man, I wanted to like "Rock of Ages"! I wanted to like it so much I tried to force myself to like it. I am a nut when it comes to Movie Musicals but "Rock of Ages" is sadly limp, clumsy and badly directed! There is a better movie on the fringes just dying to break out but surprisingly director Adam Shankman (Hairspray) can't film a musical?! Maybe it is the source material and I haven't seen the Broadway musical but I really think the play can't be good either or did the movie really screw this up? This story probably plays better on stage because this story is too skimpy and badly cliched for a movie .

The only actors who do anything competent here are Tom Cruise and Malin Ackerman because everyone else is either miscast or tripping over themselves. Everyone was worried that Cruise was miscast but we forget how great an actor Cruise is. I liked him here after I got used to his incoherent mutterings. Cruise plays Stacee Jaxx, a aging rock star modeled after Steven Tyler mostly. He is an arrogant ass who we are supposed to hate but can you hate a Cruise character on screen? I never have and I liked how Tom Cruise breathed sexiness and life to his character and he is the only one who can sing here. Yes I said it, Cruise can sing very well. His "Pour Some Sugar On Me" and "Wanted Dead or Alive" renditions were the only parts of the movie where I woke up.

The two leads are two of the most boring characters I have ever seen headline a musical or any type of movie. Most of the characters are cardboard and some actors try to breathe life into shallow characters. Julianne Hough, now starring in two weak muscicals after the "Footloose" catastrophe, plays Sherrie. Newcomer Diego Boneta plays Drew and Drew and Sherrie will be involved in a love story that uses the same terrible plot of misunderstanding and then finally reconciliation of their love that sitcoms use every week, bad sitcoms. Julianne Hough I thought could dance though she doesn't really do it here and she is too Jennifer Aniston light. Diego Boneta is very pretty and he shows some signs of life but really comes off as blah most of the time.

The plot is thin so they really can't do much with anything the actors are given. That leaves it up to the music and except for Cruise's two showstoppers the presentation of the singing made me really mad. When the movie starts off with a strong, roaring song they cut the number half way through and they do it to every song. Musicals are supposed to give you the whole song, not butcher the songs, these are not MTV videos for chrissakes. Then the movie mashes up two songs together which I like on "Glee" but here it annoyed me. The choreography is clumsy and I am shocked, Adam Shankman directed the wonderful "Hairspray" reboot but here I would have fired him after the first dailies.

Catherine Zeta Jones, so good in "Chicago" is weak here thanks to her lame character. Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand try but their characters suck and they are also involved in one of the most embarrassing musical numbers ever in a musical and I have seen "Xanadua"! The movie is cheesy but not in a good way and I couldn't figure out if some scenes were supposed to be funny and campy or serious. Add to that a slumming Bryan Cranston and a miscast Paul Giamatti, John Goodman would have been a better choice in Giamatti's role.

So why am I not giving this movie a lower rating when I sound like I hate it? Well first of all I love musicals so much I strain myself to find things I like. That being said, Tom Cruise is great here going from incoherent to better to the best thing in this movie. His two songs are showstoppers like I said, he looks great, is sexy and funny even though he isn't given much material to work on here. He brings more to the role than it deserves. Also I am loving Malin Ackerman who I always find sexy, beautiful and funny and here she is second best to Cruise. They are involved in a weird sex scene mixed with singing and they make it work even though Shankman tries to sabatoge it with his lame directing. "Rock of Ages" needed Tom Cruise because without him this could have been the biggest disaster in musical history.

P.S. For better muscials then "Rock of Ages" take your pick. I will do an article on musicals sometime but my favorites are "An American in Paris", "Fiddler on the Roof", "Jesus Christ Superstar", "All That Jazz", "Grease" and "Hair". "Jesus Christ Superstar" is a rock muscical that I wished "Rock of Ages" would have took notes from.

Monday, June 11, 2012



Written by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof
Directed by Ridley Scott
Actors: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Logan Marshall-Green, Guy Pearce

There is no one better than Ridley Scott when he is on top of his game, which is most of the time. From the original, science fiction horror masterpiece "Alien" to my favorite science fiction movie of all time "Blade Runner" to the iconic "Thelma and Louise" (in my top 25 movies of the 90's). Scott has made his best movie in a very long time with the visually stunning and very effective "Prometheus". Scott's latest has been hyped as the prequel to "Alien" but who will care when you are watching this hypnotic movie with many effective jolts that will either make you squirm in your seats or jump out of them. "Prometheus" is equally as beautiful as "Blade Runner" and a great companion piece to the original "Alien".

Like the original "Alien" a crew of scientists and an android travel in a spaceship named Prometheus toward a distant and new planet to discover if they can figure out the origins of man. The original "Alien" had spare dialogue and a lot of classic and great shocks. "Prometheus" has those cool shock and gore scenes but a little more talk and science, mumbo jumbo expsosition. A little less of the religious and goofy talk and more atmosphere could have made this a masterpiece like "Alien". Scott wants to explore more plot and deeper meaning as the scientists argue the origin of man and some religion and mythology. It is interesting stuff in the beginning but less of it later could have made this movie a subtle masterpiece like "Alien".

The movie still rocks though with the best use of 3D photography since "Avatar" sucking us into Scott's World. I actually felt like the whole movie screen was circling around me and enveloping me into into this breathtaking vision of Ridley Scott. Scott is one of the best directors when it comes to capturing visuals on the screen, using the best Director of Photographers, and making his movies look haunting and beautiful. I also like most of the screenplay and story when it concentrates on it's characters and Scott made a brilliant choice in choosing co-screenwriter Damon Lindelof, writer of the brilliant TV series "Lost", to tell his story. I thought some of the talk should have been toned down but there are some captivating ideals at work here.

This movie is a visual delight and it has some perfectly directed shock set pieces that I loved and fans of "Alien" will adore.
I loved a scene concerning an alien that looks like a snake and what is does to two of the men in the crew. I also loved a do it yourself surgery scene that is as equally disturbing and effective as the alien jumping out of John Hurt's chest scene in "Alien". The movie's scares come in crisp, quick strikes and it's fun seeing scares and action that are simply and effectively done. Unlike other movies of this ilk that I have seen in the past years. Scott doesn't just throw things at you, there is actual care here and Hitchcock like precision. Oh and did I mention this is one of the most visually beautiful movies I have ever seen?

"Prometheus" has a great cast of great actors who all score here with effective performances that don't ham it up. Noomi Rapace (the Swedish "Girl With the Dragon Tattoo") has the Sigourney Weaver type role and she does an effective and commendable job. The suddenly hot and very fine actor Michael Fassbender plays the requisite android who has shiny blonde hair and he is very great here at playing someone without emotion perfectly like it is required. You also have some great gritty acting by my favorite actor these days Idris Elba and also Michael Logan-Green. They provide some character to the movie with charisma and some humor.

"Prometheus" may be a prequel to "Alien" or it may not. You will have to see the movie and it's final shot to find out if you think it is. At no point does it really set us up for "Alien" during the telling of it's story and since most of us have already seen "Alien" who cares. All I know is that "Prometheus" makes up for those horrible "Alien vs Predator" movies and the horrible and pretentious "Alien 3" and the huge mistake "Alien: Ressurection". It is a visually stunning movie with great scares, a great set up on story and premise and some solid acting. I was a little dissapointed in where some of the story went and this is no "Alien" but it is a thought provoking visual feast of scares and intensity. I want to see it again because I think it demands it because this is very close to another masterpiece for Ridley Scott.

Friday, June 1, 2012



Written by Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola
Directed by Wes Anderson
Actors: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Bruce Willis, Tilda Swinton,Bob Balaban,,
Jason Schwartzman, Harvey Keitel

When kids are young, most kids don't tolerate other children who are different so those different and strange kids have to find each other. Kids who are creative, quieter, more studious and more eccentric get picked on and don't get understood. With that being said I am glad that Sam met Suzy because sometime your soulmate can be your only friend and all you need is two people to start building a friendship with. Sam and Suzy are two characters at the center of one of my favorite movies in a very long time, Wes Anderson's delightful "Moonrise Kingdom". Suzy and Sam's unique and naive love is one of the best love stories I have seen in a decade. Wes Anderson is back at the top of his game with one of his unique type of movies that made me come out of the theatre feeling rejuvenated!

Sam is part of a group of Boy Scouts led by Scoutmaster Ward played by a very funny Edward Norton. Sam is a loner and all the other kids in the scout group pick on him because he is a little weird. I see Sam much differently because I have been in his shoes but someone like Suzy understands him very well. Suzy is a very introspective, quiet, dark and depressed girl but she needed someone like Sam. In a sweet, touching and funny early scene Sam comes into Suzy's dressing room as she is preparing for a play and points to her because he likes her. They run away and Ward's scouting control is now messed with and Suzy's cold parents, two academic intellectuals, don't seem too fazed. Sam is an orphan and his foster parents don't want him back anyway either.

"Moonrise Kingdom" has two central characters who are eccentric and different and I love both of them. Suzy is played by Kara Hayward and Sam is played by Jared Gilman and they are both wonderful. I am afraid Hayward will get the same flack that Kristen Stewart gets for playing a dark and gloomy girl. She is a natural and has a future and Jared Gilman is funny and effective as Sam. Bill Murray and Frances McDormand play Suzy's parents and they are both funny and great particularly Murray in another one of his classic and effective goof characters that just don't care. Edward Norton is fantastic and funny as Ward without showing us he is acting. Jason Schwartzman and Bruce Willis are also amazing here and Willis's character will have a huge effect on Sam as we will find out later in the movie.

You have two wonderful stories here, the young love story of two lost souls who find each other and a father/son like story that I won't spoil here with my review. This is another one of Wes Anderson's quirky movies that can be an acquired taste and I love his movies when he is at the top of his game. Nowadays there have been so many Wes Anderson movies that they don't feel new or different anymore. It took me three viewings of his classic masterpiece "Rushmore" to discover it was easily the best movie of 1998. He lost his way with his favorite fans and critics with the maligned " The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou" and "The Darjeeling Limited". I did not care for the pretentious "Life Aquatic" but I really did like "the Darjeeling Limited". Anyway, Wes Anderson is one of the most original writers and directors we have these days and "Moonrise Kingdom" is one of the most pleasing and original movies I have seen in months and months!

This movie hit me and pleased me so much because I love originality and writing that is creative. The screenplay by Anderson and Roman Coppola is a master class in original, smart and uniquely funny writing. The movie is also beautifully shot and it looks so original. The music is perfect, the 1965 set recreations and costumes are perfectly realized and the movie is just plain, consistently funny. The acting is pitch perfect and effective and all these actors are given such great material. I especially love the acting by Hayward and Gilman and Norton, Murray and Willis are at the top of their game. I just love how little details of this movie come off as brilliant and creative.

There are a few novels in this movie that Sam and Suzy read from and instead of Anderson and Coppola using real novels from the 60's they have fictional books made up with original book covers that are artistically beautiful. Now that is someone who is trying hard to give us something new, forceful, creative and touching instead of just phoning it in like everyone in Hollywood seems to be doing now. It is a delightful, strange and very touching movie that has pure moments of genius, beauty and offbeat charm. It is something fresh and beautiful and it is also easily the best movie of 2012 so far.



Written by Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock and Hossein Amini
Directed by Rupert Sanders
Actors: Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, Ian McShane, Sam Claflin, Bob Hoskins

"Snow White and the Huntsman' is a complete surprise and a visually beautiful looking movie that has a welcome feel of darkness.
It reminds me of a tamer, less violent "Excalibur" which was also one of the most visually beautiful movies I have ever seen. The movie is played seriously down the line instead of being a campy, annoying fluff piece like this year's earlier Snow White stinker "Mirror, Mirror". I went into this movie dreading another "Twilight" type film with doom and gloom and a brooding, pretentious manner. I was wrong for yes the movie is dark but is is also creative in the way it tells it's story and it is fun to watch.

"Snow White" stars Kristen Stewart as Snow (that's what I like to call her, "Hey, Snow! What's Up!") whoose father dies at the hands of the evil Queen. We first see this Queen in rags and all homeless looking and a handsome King who is Snow's father rescues her, takes care of her and makes her his Queen. That is when the evil woman kills the father and imprisons the beautiful Snow in a tower for years. Snow breaks out and the Queen dispatches a hottie named Eric to capture her and wouldn't you know it he will fall in love with Snow and protect her. Oh and there are seven dwarfs for back up too. My description of the plot is tongue and cheek and I expected to laugh at this movie but this movie surprised me with it's maturity. I only laughed when it was warranted and I can't say that about "Twilight".

The earlier Snow White movie "Mirror, Mirror" was a campy and pretentious movie with an annoying, wise cracking Queen played by Julia Roberts. That movie was like going to a party being thrown by a group of smart asses who were trying to entertain you so badly they fell on their faces. Tarsem directed that movie and it was beautiful in spots and Tarsem is supposed to be a visual genius but the latter Snow White movie kicks his butt. This movie is beautifully photographed with spellbinding special effects and it is not only beautiful looking it uses it's effects to be creative. There are many wonderful, creative visuals like when during battles a warrior would be slayed but there would be no blood, the warriors just exploded into pieces and ash. There are many breathtaking ways that monsters and animals are shown here that puts to shame any of the monster movies that have come out this year including "The Avengers" with it's metallic hunk of junk.

The acting is much better here than in "Mirror, Mirror" because no one has to mug here like a desperate buffoon. Charlize Theron is perfectly cast as the evil Queen and she milks this role for everything she can milk it for and she nails it. She is effectively evil and when she is given some really bitchy and overwrought lines to say that could have come off as laughable she twists them to make them sound chilling.

Kristen Stewart does what is asked of her very well here and she could get backlash for playing another brooding character and I am getting a little pissed off about this. I have never seen an actress have so much hate spewed at her. I will say this, Kristen Stewart is a great actress and I have three movies, "Adventureland", "Into the Wild" and "Panic Room" to prove it, case closed! It is not her fault she has been cast in roles that require seriousness. I am waiting to hear haters saying she stinks here too and that would be false. You can't expect her Snow White, who has been imprisoned in a tower for years to come out of the tower smiling, laughing, dancing and singing with birds tweeting out of her butt.

She is very good here, Chris Hemsworth is solid and Charlize Theron is delightfully evil here. She creates a Queen that is scarier and more effective than a lot of Queens in movies including the over rated and laughable Wicked Witch form the over rated "Wizard of Oz". The movie also has dwarves that are played by some of our finest actors like Ian MacShane and Bob Hoskins who are creatively manipulated visually to actually look like dwarves. They are very effective here and they have some funny lines of dialogue and some slapstick scenes including a very funny sight gag. The movie is drop dead gorgeous and I actually felt an effective amount of dread and thrills that I didn't expect. "Snow White and the Huntsman" is a delightful and dark movie that doesn't come off dark in a pretentious way, it is a breath of fresh air.