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Posts posted by njskaguy33

  1. New Movie Review


    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

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. It's a Belgian Dark Ale. I liked it, although maybe not as much as I had hoped I would, considering that I REALLY like some of the other River Horse brews.

    Also, I mentioned the Harpoon Winter Warmer a few posts back. In case anyone was wondering, that stuff tasted god-awful! And the Weyerbacher Winter Ale was only OK, but barely.

    However, the Long Trail Hibernator was awesome, and I liked the Troegs Mad Elf Ale too.

    Also, the guy working at the liquor store I went to the other day turned me on to Wolaver's Oatmeal Stout, which I enjoyed very much.

    Had the Mad Elf at my local brew pub and it was very tasty. Suprising as I'm not the biggest fan of winter beers as they often overdo it on the spice.

  6. Eeeeeehhh, this may be entertaining enough but I'm not holding my breath. Curious what Chimera thinks of it as the release date got pushed back to March 30th here in the US. Will get a limited release for sure, so if you want to see it, NYC's your only bet. Maybe we could get a little njdevs viewing party going or something! Wait...I'm suggesting this for a Sean Williams Scott movie...I need to get my head examined.

    In all seriousness, RT has four reviews for this on there, probably from the Toronto Film Festival, and they're all relatively positive, so this may be more than just a slapstick hockey comedy. Still, I'd actually like to see a documentary on "goons". Talk with players from the old time hockey era, take a look at their quality of life after the game, talk to modern enforcers, etc. Really examine the phenomenon of being on a team, soley to dish out and take sbuse. Would be an interesting doc and I'm suprised there isn't one out there already.

  7. Cangi has actually surprised me at how not annoying he's been thus far this season. Chico has come unhinged without Doc grounding him, but that's just the magic of Chico. He's a crazy person, but he's our crazy person. Cangi does his job well enough and that's all you can ask of someone who's taking the place of a legend. It's a tall task to ask of anybody and Cangi is performing as well as can be expected given the situation. When compared against other announcers in the league, he may be a bit homogenized, but he's not terrible by a long shot.

    As for the Sharp Angle Shot thing, it's a crutch and what's better, he realizes it. If you notice, he's really tried to limit his use of it because it did reach comic levels earlier in the season, so much so that now it stands out every time we hear it. Every announcer develops crutch phrases, even Doc. Thing was with Doc, you didn't notice because his crutches melded so well with the flow of his call, you didn't notice or care. All in all, Steve is doing a more than adequate job.

  8. 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.

  9. New Movie Review


    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.

  10. Thats true. Either way, Clarkie doesnt pass the puck to his linemates much. As for Teddy, i think an off-season workout hitting the weights and bulking up would do him some good. Hes literally getting knocked down every shift lol.

    This is pretty much my opinion of Teddy. He just dpoesn't have the size to skate with the bog boys and is getting knocked off the puck very easily. When he gets the puck, he tries to make magic happen by himself and when he doesn't, his linemates don't seem to pass to him anyway. It's a tough spot for Teddy, but I think some size and confidence will really help his game.

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

  13. I got InFamous 2. Liked the first one so much that I asked for the sequel. My girlfriend was not happy. :lol:

    There really is nothing more satisfying than zapping somebody with lightning! That and shooting somebody off a moving horse in Red Dead Redemption never gets old!

  14. Soooo, what did everybody get for Christmas / Hoidays in the game world? Santa left three games under my tree: Uncharted 3, Skyward Sword and Mass Effect 2, which was a welcome suprise. My plan is to start with Uncharted 3 and go from there. Have plenty to play!

  15. Just to weigh in on the accent conversation, I used to have a pretty strong North Jersey accent. Had all the "cauwfee" and "chauwcolate" that everyone knows, plus the Italian neighborhood beats. Not quite Goodfellas, but there were traces of it. After doing radio in college, that accent has completely disappeared. Nothing makes you more aware of your voice than listening to yourself talk on tape. Most people who hear me talk can't even tell where I'm from anymore. Kinda sad, but for a while there I was considering a career in broadcasting and if you want to go anywhere in that biz, you can not have an accent.

    As for the South Jersey thing, people from certain parts of Philly have that exact same "o-wahn" instead of "on". Accents are interesting!

  16. Opponents are not going to let Kovalchuk 'set up' and rip shots all day long like you're suggesting. Nor do I think that's a particularly good strategy even if they did, because if he's missing those shots high and wide it will probably result in free clears for the opponent.

    I don't think Kovalchuk is a good player when he's stationary and someone's coming at him - a position that he will find himself in a lot over there.

    While this is true, you would think he should be a good player in that one on one position. Truth is, you're right, he really isn't. He has the hands and the skill to be able to beat d-men one on one, but just doesn't often enough. Still, PK units are going to have to respect him in what my co-host calls, "The Stamkos Spot", leaving other people open down low or at the point. The real problem is that nobody respects or should respect our shot from the point. Fayne has nice low, accurate shot and Foster has the potential, but that's about it. Like you said, opposing D's will just collapse down low, daring out point shot to beat them.

    In the end, it's our lack of offense from the point that's really killing our PP. It's improving but that's not saying much considering how bad its been.

  17. 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.

  18. Newish Movie Review

    The Tree Of Life

    Writing reviews can be really difficult, especially when your opinion of a film flies in the face of your critical peers. The Tree of Life, the latest film from director Terrance Malik, won the Palme d'Or, has a respectable 84% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is almost assured a Best Picture nomination come February. So why didn't I think it was all that? Why did I glance over to my brother thirty minutes in and mouth, "I can't do another two hours of this"? Sure, I have my reasons but the real question is if you, the patient reader, should give this film a watch. The answer is a complex one, but let me try an experiment that should help you decide to spend 139 minutes of your life seeing this film.

    Please read the following passage:

    The morning glinted through the lowered slats of Bill's Venetian blinds that bright Monday morning, horizontal lines right out of a 40's film noir. It was a Monday, like the thousand before and the million to come, the beginning of a week drenched in opportunities lost and gained. Sitting on the edge of his queen size bed, Bill stares blankly at the ticking minutes of the dresser clock. Half dressed and already late, he struggles to pull a black sock over his left foot. Nothing. His mind knows he has to but his body refuses, a perpetual conflict of interest between duty and want. Two more minutes tick by and still he sits, bathed in the mid dawn daylight, unable to move. Inert. Motionless. The sounds of the morning rush leak through the window crack, the clock continues its steady march and the light grows brighter. Again Bill tries to pull the sock over his still sleeping foot and fails. Hands won't move, muscles won't tighten. The clock cries out a final digital squeal as the last tap of the snooze bar expires. Jerking to life, Bill tries one more time to secure the sock. Grip, pull and success! His socks are on, the day is in motion and, whether he likes it or not, Bill is officially dressed.

    If you read the above passage and thought, "Wow, what an interesting depiction of getting dressed to go someplace he doesn't want to go", congratulations. You will love The Tree Of Life.

    However, if you got halfway through it and said, "What a load of crap. He's putting his socks on. Get to the point!", congratulations. You will despise The Tree Of Life.

    Of course, you could have said, "Sure it's pretty and all, but he's just putting a sock on. I see there's some sort of subtext there but I could have done without the overdramatic writing". If you did, congratulations. You, like me, will find the Tree of Life artistic yet pretentious, a frustrating mix of complex ideas rolled around in so much arthouse fluff, the message gets hopelessly lost.

    The crux of the story lies in the recollections of Jack, a lost soul in the modern world who thinks back on his 1950's childhood. Being a Midwestern boy was tough for young Jack. With a stoic yet stern father (Brad Pitt) and a mother teetering in her beliefs (Jessica Chastain), Jack found himself torn between duty and rebellion. Much of the film is told through the sepia toned reenactments of Jack's childhood where we watch his growth from boy to confused adolescent and it's in this middle part where we actually get some of the best stuff in the movie. Young Jack is played very well by first timer Hunter McCracken and you really get a sense of his internal struggle, a big theme in the film. Everybody is struggling with issues of faith, life and direction, creating a mood that's unfocused yet tense enough to pull you through. Chastian is quite good as the mother but Pitt is his usual average self, playing the gruff disciplinarian as decently as one could expect. Sorry kids, but aside from Fight Club and maybe A River Runs Through It, Brad Pitt is not a good actor. His charm lies in his personality and when that gets muted, much like it does here, the whole experiences come off very blah. As for Sean Penn, who plays the older Jack, he says about five words and has about ten minutes of screen time. Enough said.

    Luckily for filmgoers, the film isn't so much about the acting as it about the spectacle, and this is where most of the derision lies. Make no mistake, Terrance Malik is an artist of the highest order. The main storyline is bookended with a complex series of esoteric flares, swaths and images, all designed to evoke an emotional response. These scenes are admittedly stunning to look at and, much like a living painting, conjures up powerful feelings and emotions. Too bad it simply doesn't work. Many people have compared this film to 2001: A Space Odyssey and they're not half wrong, especially considering the man who did the visual effects for that landmark film, Douglas Trumbull, came out of retirement to contribute to Tree of Life. While the look of the two movies may be similar, there is one glaring difference, a difference that makes 2001 a classic and Tree Of Life a missed opportunity.

    In 2001, things happen.

    In Kubrick's film, the spacecraft dance whimsically to the Blue Danube. Why? Because they are orbiting a planet. The pod crawls out of the space dock to fix the radio dish. Yeah, it takes a mind numbingly long time to get there, but lo and behold! Something is occurring! The spaceship slowly lowers itself into the dock of the station. "For God's sake, get there already", I scream but at least, at the very minimum, the thing is landing. Eventually, the cursed spacecraft will hit the ground and we'll move on. Malik's error is that in midst of the light bending, mind warping madness, nothing is happening. No story is being told, no plot is being driven forward, no ideas are being exchanged. Instead, Malik expects us to conjure our own feelings from the ether and while that can work to a point, eventually you need to start telling us a story. Malik gets so wrapped up in his esoteric themes of worlds being born and destroyed, he forgets we're not in his head and forgets to simply tell a tale. Yes, we start to get something going thirty minutes in but by then it's too late. We're already dazed and confused, high on a trip of light bursts and dinosaurs, we're out of the movie, either stuck in our own heads or bored out of them. Shame to, as if he had just told the story, the film would have had the exact same impact.

    Now, I'm sure I'm going to get my share of detractors on this review. Comments like, "You just didn't get it" or "You're too brainwashed by the Hollywood system" will come down the pike and that's expected. Let me say again, Terrance Malik has a lot to say about the world and he does his best to do so in The Tree of Life. Faith, belief, and indecision are all powerful topics and they are all nicely touched upon in the main arc of the film. However, much like the crazy guy on the six train who babbles about how Jesus is a cat, Malik doesn't know exactly how to synthesize his thoughts and instead takes us on an arduous journey through the surreal with diminishing returns. To answer my question from the beginning of the review, the one where I ask if you should see this or not, the answer is yes. If you are on this site, commenting on reviews, you are a film fan and every film fan should see this movie. There is some stunning cinematography, there are a couple of very good performances and the underlying story is a simple yet evocative one. Just be prepared to grit your teeth a bit at a director who reached for a question that exceeded his grasp, leaving a film that is just as annoying as it beautiful.

  19. Saw Black Star this past weekend at the Best Buy Theater (old Nokia Theater) in NYC and while they were great, the sound at the venue was completely jacked up. In case you don't know, Black Star is a hip hop group consisting of Talib Kweli and Mos Def. In 1997, they released one of the greatest hip hop albums ever made and never did another one. If you dig hop hop, this is one of the must get albums:

    The other problem with the show was it started about of half hour late, while we all listening to the DJ, so they weren't able to do the entire album. Still, it was great watchign two maters at work and nice to see live music, something I haven't done in quite some time.

  20. To bridge the gap between now and Christmas, I started playing Devil May Cry on the PS2. While I can see why it was pretty mind blowing at the time, the game has not aged well and good lord, it is hard as hell! Two missions in and it gave me the option to play on Easy Mode. Naturally I say no and proceed to get manhandled by the giant spider boss about 5 times. Corny dialouge, not quite sure why I'm in a castle after some chick breaks down my door and asks, "Hey! Wanna do something?" but it'll be an entertaining deversion until I see what Santa brings me.

    I also have Bioshock 2 and Metriod Prime 3 collecting dust, so maybe I should popped either of those two in.

  21. Hugo

    Martin Scorsese's latest is a long overdue love letter to film and pure cinematic magic from beginning to end. The first scene of the film where the title character and location are introduced is quite simply brilliant. Maybe it's the Parisian landscape but it reminded me so much of the start of Moulin Rouge, another movie that sucks you in right from the start and never lets go.

    The story might not seem like typical Scorsese at first but actually it is: it's about the magic of filmmaking. You can tell how much fun cinephile Scorsese has had during the filming of the movie. There are numerous shots that pay homage to films from the 1900s as well as actual footage of those films throughout the movie. Even though every shot is so detailed, full of life and carefully framed, the real evidence of Scorsese as a great director is the 3D. This is not just a gimmick but it actually adds value to the film. It's one of the best uses of 3D I have ever seen. I won't say it's better than Avatar but supposedly James Cameron thought so.

    The acting is strong throughout. Ben Kingsley is dependable as always and the young actors are decent enough. Sacha Baron Cohen might seem a weird choice but his character's redemptive arc prevents him from becoming just a caricature.

    One final note has to be made about editor Thelma Schoonmaker. As great a director as Scorsese is, his films would probably not be this good without his long time collaborator, who once again does a beautiful job with Hugo.

    Even though I still have to see a whole lot of films from 2011, Hugo just might end up being my best film of the year. Well done Marty, well done!

    I've heard nothing but raves for this movie and this review has helped bump it up to my next must see, even before The Artist, Shame and The Muppets (a flick that will certain fall by the wayside in favor of the first two). Really looking forward to this based on everyhting I've heard!

  22. Review My Collection #15

    Animal House

    85% Rating

    Whenever you bring up John Landis’ third film in mixed conversation, you’ll often get a dreamy gaze and a wry smile. Anybody who’s seen this 1978 comedy classic is immediately brought back to simpler times. Days of class schedules, wild parties and sleeping to noon usually comes to mind and even if you didn’t have that type of college experience, this film not only makes you wish you did, makes that debauchery seem more of a rite of passage than a waste of daddy’s money. In short, I’ve never met somebody who didn’t enjoy Animal House. One of the films that define the term “cult classic”, Animal House is a runaway train through the absurd, a juvenile take on college life through the eyes of the offenders. One of the originators of the “gross out comedy” genre, Landis’ tale of the drunken exploits of the Delta Chi fraternity is high on energy but low on story and character development, creating a fun yet slightly hollow look into early sixties college life.

    Then again, this is Animal House were talking about. Rather than create a hard hitting look into early sixties college life, writers Harold Ramis, Douglas Kenney and Chris Miller instead penned a tale of heightened antics, punctuated with sight gags, slapstick and shameless nudity. Larry Kroger (Thomas Hulce) and Kent Dorfman (Stephen Furst) are freshmen at Faber College and after getting recruited by the self proclaimed “worst frat on campus”, find themselves in the midst of mayhem. The competing frats find them repulsive and the school board wants them expelled, all for their propensity for toga parties, pranks and excessive drinking habits. The film does a fine job creating a sense of community amongst the wild boys, allowing the audience to root for them, bad taste and shameful behavior be damned. Landis also does a nice job drawing up distinct dividing lines between the “good guys” and everybody else, all of which who want the party to end. There isn’t much grey in the storytelling, but in the case of Animal House that’s a good thing, allowing for some exceedingly humorous situations and storylines.

    And with actors this funny, why get in their way. Featuring an ensemble cast of mostly unknown actors, Animal House has some standout performances. Tim Matheson is great as the frat’s Dou Juan, Donald Sutherland has a memorable turn as the pot smoking professor and Kevin Bacon, in his debut role, is totally believable as an opposing Greek. One of the most underrated performances, however, comes from John Vernon, who plays Dean Wormer. Wormer is the perfect foil to Delta Chi’s shenanigans, playing it straight yet for big laughs as he schemes to get the lads kicked off campus. The performance is a bit one noted but when that note is deadpan hilarity, it’s perfectly acceptable. And yes, the line, “No fun of ANY kind” is permanently burned into my filmgoing lexicon.

    Of course, all these performances pale in comparison to the career making role of Bluto, played by the late, great John Belushi. Pulled by Landis from a regular gig at Saturday Night Live, Belushi has perfect physical comedic timing. The catalyst for the entire film, Animal House soars on the edge of his energy, propelling the movie to classic status. What the film doesn’t do well is give us more than a series of episodic scenes that are all funny in their own right but do not lend themselves to a cohesive story. The relationship between Boone and his more mature girlfriend doesn’t really work, the situations are beyond ludicrous and there is absolutely no character development to speak of. These issues aside, there’s not much else you can say about a movie that defines cringe comedy. Despite the less than perfect score, this a landmark comedic film filled with funny performances and larger than life situations. While I never personally experienced the type of college the Delta Chi boys did, I still remember that sense of boundless optimism, a feeling like the world was yours to conquer. Animal House captures that sentiment perfectly, creating a world of youthful energy and timeless friends. And yes, it’s still really damn funny.

    **Check out my RT blog entitled "Review My Collection" for the rest of the series!!**

  23. Saw Moneyball yesterday and it's instantly one of my favorites films of the year. Great story of the general manager of the 2002 Oakland Athletics who went on a 20 game winning streak. It's a weird thing that for a sports movie, there isn't much sports involved at all. Most of it takes place off the field and not on it. Weirdly enough that's actually what makes this sports movie interesting. Add in the terrific script by Aaron Sorkin and good performances by Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill and it's a must see film, even if you know nothing about baseball.

    Yeah, Atterr, I didn't get a chance to check out Moneyball in theaters but I'm looking forward to based on Sorkin's script alone. Thanks for the write up!

  24. BP, where does one go to find out where movies in very limited release are playing?

    I get all my information from fandango.com, so that's a good place to start. That said, if a movie has a really small release, as in community theaters, libraries, "small room venues" as I like to call them, a great idea is to check out the film's website. Even the smallest of films have some sort of website, and from there they'll certainly have a list of screenings.

    Good hunting!

  25. The weekend after Thanksgiving is often a Dead zone of new releases and this weekend is no exception with no major releases out in theaters. Cineplexes are full to the brim with holiday flicks, Oscar bait and puppets, so there’s nothing big coming out this weekend. Still, there are some decent indie flicks hitting theaters, including the buzz worthy Shame. Enjoy the previews!

    Opening This Week – Limited Release

    Shame –Getting some Best Actor buzz for awards season, this weekend’s “big” opening stars Michael Fassbender as a sex addicted Manhattanite coming to grips with his life altering affliction. Also starring Carey Mulligan as his sister turned roomie, critics have said this movie earns its NC-17 rating but does so with validity, providing plenty of substance to go with the graphic nature of the film. Fassbender is a fine actor and even though this film may put off those who are on the more sensitive side when it comes to sexuality, this should be a must see for fans of “Awards Season”. Playing at AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13

    Answers To Nothing – When the tagline reads, “Dane Cook leads an all star cast”, you know you’re in trouble. Featuring a Crash style story of interconnecting lives all connected to a missing girl case in Los Angeles, the trouble is a) that style of filmmaking went the way of the Rio mp3 player and b) if the characters are boring, the connections don’t matter. Both of these issue plague this film, spurning terrible reviews from critics. That and Dane Cook is in it. ‘Nuff said. Screening at AMC Lowes Village, Kew Gardens Cinemas and Clearview Clairidge (Montclair)

    Opening This Week – Indie, Art House and Small Screenings

    Outrage – Directed by Japanese superstar Takeshi Kitano, this film about the Yakuza underworld has been getting fine reviews from critics. Most reviewers say the movie is well made, taught and full of entertaining action, a nice middle ground between the art house flicks currently in theaters and good, old fashioned action. Worth a watch! Screening at Cinema Village 12th St

    Sleeping Beauty –This film stars Emily Browning as an apathetic college student who takes a strange job as a “lingerie waitress” in a strange sex club. Requiring her to be fully sedated before she can service her clients, this film has a sleepy, dreamlike quality to it that has been rubbing some reviewers the wrong way. As a result, reviews have been mixed for this film with some saying it’s precisely staged and others saying it’s just a bore. Watch a trailer or three before giving this a shot. Screening at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center and the IFC Center

    A Warrior’s Heart –Dealing with the death of his father, a young man find solace and recovery in lacrosse. Yeah, I’m already bored too. Getting terrible reviews, this one isn’t even worth spending time on discussing…so I’m not going to! Playing at the Quad Cinema

    My 3 To See

    The Artist – Ton’s of Oscar buzz can’t be wrong concerning this silent film about a 1930’s actor struggling with his transition to the talkies.

    The Muppets – Yeah, it’s awesome. I’m sure you’ve heard a ton of Facebook buzz about this already, so just see it!

    Hugo/Shame – Since I already praised Hugo last week, if you’ve seen it already, switch gears entirely and see the latest sexual thriller starring Michael Fassbender.

    Confused by the colors? Here’s the guide!

    Green means that reviews are great, the trailer looks great, so this is definitely worth seeing!

    Orange means reviews have been mixed but there’s enough here for me to say, “See It For Yourself”.

    Red means this film should be avoided at all costs! Run, Devil fans, run!!

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