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#981 Bulletproof

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Posted 11 December 2011 - 10:55 PM

New Movie Review

My Week With Marilyn

What’s the first thing you think when you hear the word, “biopic”? Oscar bait. And why not? Out of the last ten sets of Best Actor nominations, eight of them have included an actor playing a historical figure. Five of those eight nominees won the award. The ladies have fared even better, with a whopping thirteen actresses nominated in that span of time, another five taking home the gold. So, when I saw that one of my favorite modern actresses was going to play the amazing Marylin Monroe in a November release, my interest was piqued. Would Michelle Williams deserve another Oscar nomination for Best Actress, her second in as many years? The answer is an easy yes in a film that’s lacks a bit in energy and drive but more than makes up for it in pure acting gold.

The story is a basic one: a young English aristocrat named Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) travels to London to pursue the lower class craft of filmmaking. The year is 1956 and Colin’s first job is one of a “third director’s assistant” on the film The Prince and the Showgirl, starring Laurence Oliver and the most famous woman in the world, Marylin Monroe. Colin is instantly smitten by the American starlet, not only by her stunning beauty but by her vulnerability. Monroe is a stranger in the stuffed shirt world of British film acting and immediately finds herself the focus of distrust and ridicule, dragging her deeper into her own depression. Connecting with the actress on a number of different levels, Colin starts to befriend Marilyn, setting forth a number of improbable events that changes the life of the young filmmaker forever.

In films of this type, you go for the portrayal of the historic character and everything else is just gravy. In this respect, My Week With Marilyn succeeds in every respect. Michelle Williams not only masters the beats and rhythms that made Monroe the queen of American pop culture, she digs deep to find the star’s insecurities as well. William’s Monroe is conflicted and confused by the strange world she finds herself in and when she meets the kindly young Colin, finds herself a merry distraction from the pressures of being her. Redmayne also does a great job as the eager young filmmaker, perfectly balancing British politeness and genuine care in a performance that is wonderfully restrained. The two have a pleasant yet spark-free relationship, which causes the film to stall a bit halfway through. The supporting cast is also wonderful, including a great cameo by Dougray Scott as Monroe’s third husband, Arthur Miller and some fine work by Kenneth Branagh as Sir Laurence Olivier, the films main antagonist. The scene stealer of the film, however, has to be the lovely Judi Dench as Dame Sybil Thorndike. Dench exudes sweet charm as Marilyn’s supportive co-star and is a treat every time she makes an appearance. Dench is a lovely woman and her zest for life jumps off screen in what I hope is an Oscar nominated role for Best Supporting Actress.

All that said, the film is not without a few bumps in the road. While well shot and featuring some good direction, there is no tension to speak of. Like I mentioned earlier, the relationship between Colin and Marilyn is sweet one and while there is some obvious attraction between the twosome, the film never develops any genuine spark, despite a few scenes that obviously tries to do so. The result is a movie that sags in the middle and tends to drag, despite the great acting on display. Also, there is a strange side romance between Colin and the wardrobe girl, played by Emma Watson. While designed to show the consequence of having a fling with a superstar, the relationship is never cemented nor is the Watson character developed, making it strangely awkward every time the two are on screen. Despite these flaws, good acting by a great cast wins out, making a My Week With Marilyn for fans of both Michelle Williams and the starlet she perfectly portrays. Sure, playing historical figures can seem like a quick ticket to Oscar night but in the end, you have to play those people well. Williams more than does so in what is sure to be a nominated role, and one of the best female performances I’ve seen thus far this year.
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#982 Bulletproof

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Posted 27 December 2011 - 11:03 AM

Hey all!

Sorry this thread has been so dead lately, but I just haven't had the time to do the weekly updates. New job and Christams chaos have all contributed to that. So, to tide you guys over until I get the full reviews written, here are little summations of the last three films I saw in theaters:

Hugo - Curious of what my favorite flick of the year is? Look no further than Martin Scorsese's Hugo, a brillianty made love letter to the world of 1920's cinema. The story follows 10 year old Hugo, an orphan in a Parisian train station who is on a quest to rebuild a clockwork robot left to him by his father. Filled with lovely performances, a wonderfully hearfelt story and the touch of a filmmaking master, Hugo is easily the best Scorsese movie since Goodfellas. A perfectly made film in every respect. 10/10

Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadowss - Many moons ago, when I first started reviewing movies, I wrote up the first Guy Ritchie attempt at the classic sleuth Sherlock Holmes. At the time, I found Ritchie's visual style matched the modern interpertation nicely but still found the film silly and scattershot. The second entry in the series avoids the sophmore slump and delivers a film that is better on every level. The connection between Holmes and Watson is stronger while at the same time more perilous, Noomi Rapace is a very suitable fem fatale and the antagonist much stronger, making this more a game of wits than the video game action of the original. Sure, there's still some off the wall action, but the film feels more cohesive this way 'round. Ignore the critics and give the new Holmes a look as it's not high on thinking but high on fun. 7.5/10

War Horse- Steven Spielberg is one of the greatest living filmmakers out there and while his equine adaptation of 2011's most successful book turned play has all of his usual trademarks, the end result is a good but not great film. The story is of a horse names Joey, his connection to his owner and the war that teared them apart. Like any SPielburg film, War Horse is technically perfect. With the help of long time collaborator Janusz Kamiński, War Horse is a joy to look at and should get soem strong consideration for a Best Cinematography Oscar. The film is, however, a touch on the shmaltzy side, using all the classic devices to tug at our heartstrings. While the effect does work, there's little tension and the relationship betwene boy and horse is shown more than it's felt. Still, this is a quality movie made by a master filmmaker and comes recommended. 8/10

Also, I asked this in the Video Game thread, but everybody gets flicks for the holidays, so what did you get? I recieved the following:

Walk The Line
The Cohen Brothers Collection: Fargo, Raising Arizona, Blood Simple, Miller's Crossing

Happy Holidays!
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#983 Atterr

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Posted 28 December 2011 - 06:49 PM

Hugo - Curious of what my favorite flick of the year is? Look no further than Martin Scorsese's Hugo, a brillianty made love letter to the world of 1920's cinema. The story follows 10 year old Hugo, an orphan in a Parisian train station who is on a quest to rebuild a clockwork robot left to him by his father. Filled with lovely performances, a wonderfully hearfelt story and the touch of a filmmaking master, Hugo is easily the best Scorsese movie since Goodfellas. A perfectly made film in every respect. 10/10

Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadowss - Many moons ago, when I first started reviewing movies, I wrote up the first Guy Ritchie attempt at the classic sleuth Sherlock Holmes. At the time, I found Ritchie's visual style matched the modern interpertation nicely but still found the film silly and scattershot. The second entry in the series avoids the sophmore slump and delivers a film that is better on every level. The connection between Holmes and Watson is stronger while at the same time more perilous, Noomi Rapace is a very suitable fem fatale and the antagonist much stronger, making this more a game of wits than the video game action of the original. Sure, there's still some off the wall action, but the film feels more cohesive this way 'round. Ignore the critics and give the new Holmes a look as it's not high on thinking but high on fun. 7.5/10


I didn't like the first Sherlock Holmes but thought Game of Shadows was actually worse. It was less funny (if that was even possible), the plot was all over the place and nearly impossible to follow and there were even more sloooooow mooooootions. I guess Guy Ritchie is just not my type of director. I enjoyed Lock, Stock... and Snatch as much as anybody but haven't seen anything good from him since.

I totally agree with you on Hugo, the best movie of the year so far. Although I think it's Scorsese's best since Casino which I actually prefer to Goodfellas. Have you seen Hugo in 3D by the way?

Anybody else thinking 2012 will be a great year for blockbusters? The trailers of The Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit and, best of all, Promotheus were all released last week and have gotten me pretty excited already.

Edited by Atterr, 28 December 2011 - 07:01 PM.

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 12:20 AM

Old movie but i just found out that the Transformers 3 is in top10 movies of all time! Everyone said it sucked and here it is in the top 10.
--The Devil Inside look's good gotta check that out when it's released
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#985 Bulletproof

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 09:24 AM

I didn't like the first Sherlock Holmes but thought Game of Shadows was actually worse. It was less funny (if that was even possible), the plot was all over the place and nearly impossible to follow and there were even more sloooooow mooooootions. I guess Guy Ritchie is just not my type of director. I enjoyed Lock, Stock... and Snatch as much as anybody but haven't seen anything good from him since.

I totally agree with you on Hugo, the best movie of the year so far. Although I think it's Scorsese's best since Casino which I actually prefer to Goodfellas. Have you seen Hugo in 3D by the way?

Anybody else thinking 2012 will be a great year for blockbusters? The trailers of The Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit and, best of all, Promotheus were all released last week and have gotten me pretty excited already.

We'll have to agree to disagree on Game as I thought it was a very enjoyable action flick. For me, I enjoy the slow motion when used properly and I thought it was pretty well integrated into the plot. Not going to be on my Top 10 list or anything, but an enjoyable action flick if nothing else.

And yes, I did see Hugo in 3D and it's the first time I've seen a 3D movie that used the technology to enhance the storytelling. Best 3D movie I've ever seen, although I've only seen a handful. As for Casino / Goodfella's debate, they are pretty similar in quality but I still slightly prefer Goodfella, only because the characters seem more human.

Old movie but i just found out that the Transformers 3 is in top10 movies of all time! Everyone said it sucked and here it is in the top 10.
--The Devil Inside look's good gotta check that out when it's released

I'm not sure what Top 10 list this is from, but it's either a joke or somebody hacked that guy's computer! Haven't seen trailers for The Devil Inside, so I'll have to give that a watch.
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#986 95Crash

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 01:40 PM

Also, I asked this in the Video Game thread, but everybody gets flicks for the holidays, so what did you get? I recieved the following:

Walk The Line
The Cohen Brothers Collection: Fargo, Raising Arizona, Blood Simple, Miller's Crossing

1. Romper Stomper, both the DVD and soundtrack
2. The Legendary Italian Westerns ~ Ennio Morricone, soundtrack

Edited by 95Crash, 29 December 2011 - 01:44 PM.

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#987 Bulletproof

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Posted 30 December 2011 - 01:29 PM

New Movie Review

Hugo

At the core of the medium, the movie business is pure magic. From the pan of a far off vista to the intimate close up, films have the ability to pull you into a story like few other art forms can. Or at least they used to. These days, market research has replaced imagination, especially in the realm of family films. Movies made for mom, pop and the little ones tend to be noisy affairs, full of 3D spectacle, cartoonish slapstick and annoying rehashes of decade old pop tunes. Luckily for all of us, Hugo, the latest film from director Marin Scorsese, is none of those things. A cinematic mash note to the world of early filmmaking wrapped in the simple tale of a boy, a girl and their clockwork robot, Hugo is not only the best film you will see this year, it’s the best film Scorsese’s made since Goodfellas. In short, it’s an instant classic.

While there are a number of interwoven themes in Hugo, the central story is a relatively simple one. Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is a young street urchin who spends his days living in the walls of a Parisian train station, tending to the building’s many clocks. Being the son of a renowned clock maker (Jude Law), Hugo has a natural knack for fixing things. One of those objects is an “automaton”, an intricate mechanical man, left to him by his father. However, after an abrupt meeting with the owner of a toy stand (Ben Kingsley) and his literary daughter Isabelle (Chloe Moretz), Hugo finds himself in a race to fix the broken automaton and discover what secrets, if any, the machine may hold.

The forefront of any Scorsese film is the look and feel and Hugo is one of his most intricate and beautifully shot movies. From the mechanical world Hugo lives in to the bustling train station, Scorsese gives the film a brilliant sheen that embraces the fairytale nature of the story. With the help of cinematographer Robert Richardson, Scorsese’s camera dances and swoops throughout the film, creating an energetic yet patient tone. Hugo also utilizes 3D technology in a way that actually enhances the storytelling instead of detracting, a first for the style. In a way, the film is a mixture of old and new, combining cutting edge technology and decades old film making techniques in way that can only be described as magical.

But what would all this technical wizardry be without compelling actors living in it. Hugo is perfectly cast with the highest marks going to Ben Kingsley as the shopkeeper with a secret and Chloe Moretz as his plucky niece, both of which deserve at least some consideration for Oscar nominations come January. Scorsese also fills the film with colorful side stories in a way that’s more Amelie than Casino. From the station inspector constantly on the lookout for thieving orphans (played wonderfully by Sasha Baron Cohen) to the flower girl he falls for to the lady with the little dog, the world of Hugo feels alive and vibrant. These characters aren’t simple window dressing as they all help amplify the central theme of the film. Add to the mix a coy wink to the movies that helped pioneer the art form along with a number of jaw dropping set pieces and you get an experience that works on every level.

It’s a cliché, but it’s true. Hugo is a film literally everybody will enjoy. Kids will love the adventure, adults will laugh at Isabella’s expanded vocabulary and film geeks will swoon from the turn of the century film references. Using a deceptively simple mélange of styles and cinema, Martin Scorsese does his best remind us that film is still magic, despite what our internal cynics tend to think. Upon leaving my first viewing of this movie, a group of To Cool For The Room hipster types were doing just that. Lamenting the “kiddie nature” of the movie and complaining that IMDB let them down again, I imagine these were the people Scorsese was trying to touch most of all with his film. Hugo is a message to all of us that sometimes the best stories are the ones told simply, with good characters, good writing and great heart. Hugo is all of those things and for this critic, the absolute best movie of the year.
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#988 Pepperkorn

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Posted 30 December 2011 - 08:30 PM

I cant even make it through the ads for War Horse.
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#989 Bulletproof

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Posted 30 December 2011 - 09:03 PM

I cant even make it through the ads for War Horse.

Have to write that review as well, but it's not an awful film. It's obvious, totally lacking in tension and borderline emotionally pandering, but it's not a terrible movie. The cinematography is breathtaking and there are some really nice moments, but my main problem was that I never believed the relationship between the boy and the horse. There is also zero tension at all. Still, it's beautiful to look at and has some very cool moments. Worth a watch, but I wouldn't run out to see it.
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#990 Pepperkorn

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Posted 03 January 2012 - 11:44 AM

Oh, I meant that I cry through it.

I'm getting addicted to horses. they're SERIOUSLY like gigantic skittish dogs. There is this adorable little paint at our barn and she's so spoiled!! But she gives these huge pony hugs - that's when you hug their necks and they squish you back with their heads (in a friendly way). Anyhow.... :offtopic:
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#991 Atterr

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Posted 05 January 2012 - 08:28 AM

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
2012 will be a great year for blockbusters: the trailers for The Hobbit, The Dark Knight Rises and Promotheus left me counting down the days until these movies finally hit the cinema. The bad news is that the first of these movies won't show until June.

The good news is that Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is now in the theatres and is as good a blockbuster as I've seen in a while. It's entertaining from start to finish and sets the bar high for the 2012 blockbusters.

To be honest, I never really cared for the Mission: Impossible franchise until J.J. Abrams directed M:I-3 in 2006 which was easily only one of the best action movies of that year. This time Abrams is only on as a producer, leaving directing duties to Brad Bird, whose previous directorial credits only include a couple of Simpsons episodes and the Pixar movies The Incredibles and Ratatouille.

I couldn't be more excited when I saw Bird's name on the filmposter as he has done The Incredibles which contains similar themes and is action packed as well. Bird proves with his live action debut that there is no difference between animation and live action as Ghost Protocol is an action movie full of great and original set pieces from Budapest to Mumbai.

It is fun as well. Although the characters are only stereotypes, the actors have a good chemistry and make it all believe, although it is really over-the-top. Think of Tom Cruise what you want but the guy was made for these movies, Simon Pegg is the comic relief who actually is funny and Jeremy Renner is his usual cool self.

The story might not be original (but what action movie nowadays has an original story?), the bad guy is as bland as they come, and I definitely could have done without the "twist" at the end... But these are hardly negatives when a movie is this entertaining from start to finish.

Edited by Atterr, 05 January 2012 - 08:31 AM.

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#992 Bulletproof

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Posted 05 January 2012 - 10:38 AM

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
2012 will be a great year for blockbusters: the trailers for The Hobbit, The Dark Knight Rises and Promotheus left me counting down the days until these movies finally hit the cinema. The bad news is that the first of these movies won't show until June.

The good news is that Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is now in the theatres and is as good a blockbuster as I've seen in a while. It's entertaining from start to finish and sets the bar high for the 2012 blockbusters.

To be honest, I never really cared for the Mission: Impossible franchise until J.J. Abrams directed M:I-3 in 2006 which was easily only one of the best action movies of that year. This time Abrams is only on as a producer, leaving directing duties to Brad Bird, whose previous directorial credits only include a couple of Simpsons episodes and the Pixar movies The Incredibles and Ratatouille.

I couldn't be more excited when I saw Bird's name on the filmposter as he has done The Incredibles which contains similar themes and is action packed as well. Bird proves with his live action debut that there is no difference between animation and live action as Ghost Protocol is an action movie full of great and original set pieces from Budapest to Mumbai.

It is fun as well. Although the characters are only stereotypes, the actors have a good chemistry and make it all believe, although it is really over-the-top. Think of Tom Cruise what you want but the guy was made for these movies, Simon Pegg is the comic relief who actually is funny and Jeremy Renner is his usual cool self.

The story might not be original (but what action movie nowadays has an original story?), the bad guy is as bland as they come, and I definitely could have done without the "twist" at the end... But these are hardly negatives when a movie is this entertaining from start to finish.

I really hope I get a chance to see this in theaters, especially with all the Oscar contenders that I still need to see. Nice to hear the good buzz was warranted!
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#993 DaneykoIsGod

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Posted 05 January 2012 - 11:12 AM

I forget if it was MI2 or MI3, but the last Mission Impossible I saw was bad enough for me to swear off the franchise. The first one was awesome, but the last one I saw was nothing but slow-motion shots of Tom Cruise doing cartwheels and his long hair flowing in the breeze. The previews of this one look like nothing but shots of Tom Cruise running away from explosions and wearing capri pants.

No thanks.
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#994 Devils Dose

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Posted 05 January 2012 - 11:40 AM

I was really hoping to see We Need to Talk About Kevin in a theater. Some random travelers that I met while I was in Australia last year gave me the novel to read, I got sucked into it, then when I finished I was shocked by a headline saying that it stole the show at Cannes. But the movie doesn't seem to have a website, and Fandango seems to think that it's not playing anywhere.

Edited by Devils Dose, 05 January 2012 - 11:41 AM.

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#995 Atterr

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Posted 05 January 2012 - 12:35 PM

I forget if it was MI2 or MI3, but the last Mission Impossible I saw was bad enough for me to swear off the franchise. The first one was awesome, but the last one I saw was nothing but slow-motion shots of Tom Cruise doing cartwheels and his long hair flowing in the breeze. The previews of this one look like nothing but shots of Tom Cruise running away from explosions and wearing capri pants.

No thanks.


Guessing from your description that's M:I-2, with its trademark John Woo slow motions. Yeah, that was a bad movie. But like I said, I didn't get into the series until the third part which was really good. It features a lot of running by Tom Cruise (he sure can run) but also Philip Seymour Hoffman as bad guy which is a good enough reason to give it a look.
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#996 Bulletproof

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Posted 05 January 2012 - 12:51 PM

I was really hoping to see We Need to Talk About Kevin in a theater. Some random travelers that I met while I was in Australia last year gave me the novel to read, I got sucked into it, then when I finished I was shocked by a headline saying that it stole the show at Cannes. But the movie doesn't seem to have a website, and Fandango seems to think that it's not playing anywhere.

The movie has been getting fine reviews from critics and should be reaching the US in limited release next weekend. I think it was previewed a couple of weeks ago in 2 or 3 NYC theaters but next weekend should be a slightly larger release. Fandango should have the listing, if it's by you, by Wednesday.
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#997 Bulletproof

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Posted 05 January 2012 - 12:55 PM

New Movie Review

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Two years ago, on a random evening in January, I popped into the AMC on 34th Street and saw the original Sherlock Holmes. Being a chilly night with a nothing to do, I figured why not. Robert Downey Jr is an enjoyable actor, Guy Ritchie has a fun visual style and I had ten bucks left on an AMC gift card. The result was an entertaining but convoluted effort, full of energetic fight sequences and high octane sleuthing. Sure, it had next to nothing to do with the novel series by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but it was a fun go-round, highlighted by a charming performance by Downey and some explosive Victorian era set pieces. Upon seeing the trailer for the sequel, the same old action would have satisfied me and to my delight, I got quite a bit more. The second iteration in the detective series tightens up everything in the first film, providing a movie that delivers even more on the promise of the original.

Game of Shadows takes place one year after the events of the first film. Watson is about to be married and Holmes is investigating the assassination of the Crown Prince of Austria, with all the clues pointing at the great Professor Moriarty. Deducing that the killing is just one piece of Moriaty's master scheme, Holmes pulls the reluctant Watson away from his honeymoon and throws him in the quest to stop the evil doctor's nefarious scheme. The plot is just as silly as the first movie but has a more streamlined script, giving the film more room to revel in the swashbuckling we've come to expect from the franchise. If you hated the action from the first movie, you'll despise the second but being that I found it to be over the top fun, I had an absolute blast.

Before you balk at my enjoyment of the action, know one thing: I don't give a turkey about Sherlock Holmes. I've never read the stories nor have I never seen any of the many screen adaptations, so my knowledge of the character is limited to his cunning and his trademark pipe. Many critics have been blasting the new series for having little to do with these classic stories and to them I say, "So what". One of the biggest improvements this film makes over the first is the introduction of Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris). Harris' Moriarty is cunning and devious, a perfect foil to Holmes' charming genius. The film benefits greatly from this strong antagonist, making the sequel more about a match of brainpans than the video game style fisticuffs of the first movie.

Game of Shadows also benefits from a larger focus on the relationship between Holmes and Watson, again played by Jude Law. The chemistry between the two sleuths was the highlight of the first film and this movie amplifies the back and forth between the duo. While the dialogue does have some cringe moments, the two actors are genuinely having a good time and, in this situation, it works just fine. Watson's preference of settling down with his new wife in favor of adventuring with Holmes also adds some much needed tension between the twosome. This allows the relationship to feel more real and less like a buddy cop movie. The supporting actors all do a respectable job, including a fitfully funny turn by Stephen Fry as Holmes' elder brother, Noomi Rapace as a hard fighting gypsy and Kelly Reilly as Watson's newlywed wife. The cast is appropriately colorful and just fine in support of the dynamic duo. As for the rest of the movie, if you got a kick out of the first film's kinetic filmmaking style, you get more of the same this time around. Be forewarned, however, that this version does slightly overdo the slow motion effects but I didn't find it overly distracting.

The world of Sherlock Holmes is a long revered franchise that spans centuries of classic stories and films. While Guy Ritchie's interpretation may rub long time fans the wrong way with its hyper fist fighting and loud gun battles, the crux of the character is intact. Holmes is an investigative genius, has a dear friend in Watson and together they solve near impossible mysteries. The second film in the series focuses more on the investigation and the Holmes / Watson relationship while maintaining the modern pace of the first movie. Director Guy Ritchie refines everything that made the original so divisive yet so entertaining, creating a nicely balanced action spectacle. Sure, the plot has some head scratching moments, and the premise is almost too over the top for its own good, but the focus of this film is fun and fun is what it delivers. A marked improvement over the original, Games of Shadows is a fine choice for those looking for a vapid yet entertaining time at the movies this winter.

Score: 7 out of 10
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#998 Bulletproof

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 06:00 PM

New Movie Review

Shame

One word: NC-17.

Kinda freaks you out, doesn’t it. The Scarlett Letter of film ratings, NC-17 has the potential to doom a film to obscurity. Major theaters won’t pick it up, Walmart won’t sell the DVD and the film gets looked at with a crooked glance, as if you’d have to go to a creepy place with “viewing booths” to watch it. Usually given for explicit sexual content, the lines for warranting an NC-17 are ridiculously blurry. Industry pressure causes filmmakers to cut, crimp and tone down their work just to avoid the damming label. Even last year’s Blue Valentine was at risk of falling victim to the NC curse. Luckily it was saved at the last moment by an appeal from the Weinsteins and received the R without any additional editing but imagine if you had to go to Helga’s Adult Emporium to see an Oscar nominated film. Despite the stigma of the rating, British filmmaker Steve McQueen (Hunger) decided to pull no punches with his latest film, Shame, an unflinching look into the world of sexual addiction. Unfortunately, nearly every jab misses the mark in one my biggest disappointments of the year.

Michael Fassbender plays Brandon, a thirty something New York sex addict who spends his hours surfing scandalous websites and spending time with various women of the evening. Despite his life consuming desires, Brandon is functioning quite well. He just landed a big deal with his firm, he has the money to satisfy his urges and life isn’t too shabby. That is until his sister (Carey Mulligan) comes knocking on his door. She needs a place to crash while restarting her singing career and just like that, Brandon’s routine of decadence is thrown out of whack, forcing him to examine the lifestyle he’s created.

First the good and despite the low score, there are some positives. Director Steve McQueen does a very good job at setting the right tone for the film. Although the movie deserves every letter of its NC-17 rating with some very gratuitous sex scenes, McQueen never does so to titillate. Instead, the trysts are somber and joyless, perfectly conveying the compulsion of sexual addiction. Fassbender also does the best he can with a terrible script (more on that later) and delivers a performance that has flashes of brilliance, except when he starts crying or tries to hide strong Irish brogue. Again, not the fault of the actor as this is a pitch nobody could hit.

And what a hollow pitch it is. Supported by a god awful script, Shame languishes in dialogue that goes nowhere and one cut scenes that drag on indefinitely. The script is twenty minutes worth of ideas stretched out to ninety and the filler drags the pacing to a crawl. Scenes such as a long jog across midtown Manhattan and a funeral dirge version of New York, New York sung by a sleep inducing Carey Mulligan do nothing to further the story or give us insight into the characters. What the film calls ambiguous, I call lazy writing, the mark of a filmmaker who isn’t aware that having people suffer isn’t enough to make an audience care. While I did like Fassbender in the difficult lead role, Mulligan again disappointed as his eccentric sister. Playing more a caricature than a character, Mulligan flips from manic to depressive with little insight into her characters true motivations.

All that aside, Shame can be best described as a well-meaning mess, a film that does its best to take viewers on a cringe inducing journey into the heart of sexual addiction. The premise is good, Fassbender has some amazing moments and the film has a nice ending twist that highlights the central theme beautifully. Problem is, you need to give us characters we can care about and a story to pull us through their pain. Shame fails at both those goals, instead filling the screen with fluff and filler. Featuring banal dialogue, pretentious film techniques and boring scenes that chased people out of the theater, Shame offers much but, in the end, provides very little. A good try at pushing the envelope, Steve McQueen’s latest is a cold, desperate and utterly painful film to sit through. Not since Showgirls has NC-17 been so boring. Tsk, tsk. What a Shame.

Score: 4 out of 10
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#999 Bulletproof

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 10:07 AM

New Movie Review

War Horse

An orange glow washes over a boy and horse, framing them in silhouette against the late day sky. The thunder of hooves and hilts as an equine legion gallops towards an infantry unit. The giggle of a small girl as she tries to teach our protagonist how to jump. Two rivals become friends in the oddest of situations. War Horse is filled with glorious moments, expertly crafted by one of the greatest filmmakers of our time, Steven Spielberg. The classic book turned award winning play has been getting a lot of attention this year, culminating in this Oscar season film. Gloriously shot and filled with the filmmaking flourishes only a master like Spielberg can muster, War Horse is a visual marvel. Unfortunately, looks can only get you so far as this film misses great by a number of small missteps. War Horse is worth a watch but don't expect an experience that ranks among the director's greatest work.

War Horse tells the story of a boy named Albert (Jeremy Irvine) and a horse named Joey. Albert was witness to the birth of Joey and when his father randomly purchases the colt at auction, Albert takes up his training. However, things take a turn for the worse when a little thing called World War 1 breaks out and an attempt to save the farm (yes...that old gag), Albert's father is forced to sell Joey to the English army. The film then chronicles the adventures of Joey as he travels in and around the war, touching a number of people along the way.

Remember what I said about the movie being beautifully made? Wow, is it ever true. With the help of long time collaborator Janusz Kaminski, War Horse is painted in the award winning cinematographer's signature style. While some may find the textures over bright and unrealistic, I found them to be emotionally stirring. The film is also punctuated with the little directorial flourishes that make Spielberg a master storyteller. From a the turn of a windmill hiding a somber moment to a little girls shocking discovery as she crests a hilltop, War Horse is an easy film to get swept up in based on the visuals alone.

Oh yeah. Remember what I said about the film being very flawed? Wow, is it ever true. The film suffers from a lackluster first half that's predictable and episodic. While things pick up considerably in the second half, right around when Joey meets a farmer and his granddaughter, the film has already lost momentum due its inherent lack of tension. In a film called "War Horse", it's not too much of a spoiler to say that the horse is going to succeed throughout most of the film. Or course one could say the story is really about the relationship between a boy and his steed but even there the film doesn't quite work. While the movie goes to great lengths to show you the relationship between Albert and Joey, I never quite felt it. To further the issue, Albert disappears from the film 45 minutes in only to resurface towards the end. By the time you pick up his story again, I didn't even recognize the character, a bad sign for a film about a human/equine relationship.

Through all of the film's faults, there does remain one glimmer that pushes us through the predictable tale. Steven Spielberg loves the material and loves making movies. A perfect example of a director giving his all, War Horse survives solely on the breath of its director. If somebody else had helmed this film, it would have been a clichéd disaster. With Spielberg's direction, War Horse gallops above the contrivances of the plot, and provides an easy to enjoy film that everybody can find something to enjoy in. Just don't expect to get caught up in the tension, rooting for the characters or discovering something you didn't already know. Just sit back, grab some munchies and let the stunning visuals take you above and beyond the plot points. You'll enjoy the movie much better that way.

Score: 7.5 out of 10
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#1000 Pepperkorn

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 01:29 PM

Did you ever read Black Beauty? This is a very Black Beauty story and I gather though I have not read it - meant to be more of a story from the horses point of view. I actually really hope - and it sounds like he may have - that Spielberg left alone the whole horses have feelings too thing and just let the audience empathize - not be forced into it but nonetheless have no choice but to come to the conclusion animals have, not just basic feelings, but honest to goodness likes and dislikes. They make choices and are indeed noble beasts and not just following orders blindly.

I still can't see it yet. One of my daughter's first lesson horses just hit the skids. He's 25 and just lost an eye and has lameness in his rear leg and -- it's time to retire. But it's expensive to keep a horse who isn't earning his keep. Luckily a woman who also learned to ride on PJ when she was a kid is adopting him and giving him a happy retirement - not a trip to the glue factory. PJ was a money winning racer too before he became a lesson horse. PJ hates apples. How cute is that? A horse who just doesn't really care for them :wub:

Hey I just went to look into buying War Horse and it is indeed written by the horse a la Black Beauty.

Oh and PS - funny thing is as all this was going down I think it was the Times had an editorial about how people have to understand animals (I think even used horses as an example) do not earn retirement rights. Went on this tear about how they're machines - working livestock with no real lives, cares, likes or dislikes to speak of like humans. First off they do -- but second off - dogs and horses particularly have been bred to form emotional bonds with their owners. It's what makes them an animal of quality.

Edited by Pepperkorn, 18 January 2012 - 01:41 PM.

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