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Posts posted by njskaguy33

  1. New Movie Review

    The Descendants

    Brutal honesty mixed with dark comedy has become the hallmark of director Alexander Payne. With films like About Schmidt and the Oscar nominated Sideways on his resume, Payne has become known for creating complex characters and putting them in strange yet often hilarious situations. With his latest film, The Descendants, Payne puts George Clooney and three young newcomers in a tropical paradise that provides a beautiful backdrop to a film that just may be the most emotionally gripping work he’s ever done. Fans fearful that this film fails to match the comic beats of his previous work have to little to worry about as Payne has become a master of balance, providing a nice dose of humor to go with the tragedy. The result is the best film he’s ever directed.

    Clooney plays Matt King, real estate lawyer in his native Hawaii and absentee father of two children, Alexandra and Scottie, played by newcomers Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller. Clooney is wrapped up in a number of different issues: the sale of a premier piece of untouched Hawaiian beachfront that’s been in his family for generations, a life threatening accident that has left his wife in a coma and the sudden care of his two rebellious daughters. While this seems like more drama than a Lifetime movie special, Payne has an uncanny knowledge of human emotion, writing a screenplay that’s heavy handed but never overbearing. This is not a raucous comedy to be sure, but a well balanced one. I’ve often said comedy works best when it involves characters you care about and The Descendants does not disappoint in that respect.

    On the acting front, Clooney has always been a very reliable actor and in the role of the daddy in tumult, he puts forth his best performance since 2009’s Up In The Air. Clooney creates a believable and complex character, fully channeling the pathos in the script. This is a tough role, even tougher than the one he played in Up In The Air and he hits his marks perfectly in what very well could be an Oscar nominated performance. The rest of the cast is equally wonderful, especially newcomers Woodley and Miller as Clooney’s children. Much like the kids in 2010’s The Kids Are Alright, the siblings are believable and engaging, propelling the film thorough the difficult subject matter.

    The film is also benefited from a fantastic script and some fine direction from Mr. Payne. The setting of the movie provides some great juxtaposition between the toughness of the situation and the surrounding beauty. As somebody who has spent a good deal of time in Hawaii, I’m well aware of how revered tradition is to the native people and Payne elegantly captures this with the story point of the land sale. The film is full of nod and winks to the Hawaiian way of life and while many viewers may not catch these little nuggets, they were well received by a “haole” like me. The actors are also wonderfully directed, something that should be no surprise to those familiar with Payne’s previous work. The script is biting, sometimes shocking but always relatable, providing humor in the most dire of situations.

    If you are really curious about what the central theme of the film is, all you need to do is look at the title. The children are dealing with being descendants of a wealthy yet absent father, the family is wrestling with being descendants of Hawaiian royalty and Clooney is swimming upstream against the pressures of keeping a crumbling family unit together. A complex yet fully entertaining film that hits all the right buttons, The Descendents should get more than a few looks for some awards come January. While I do think this movie will be pushed out by the influx of top contenders being released this month, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Golden Globe or two in the future for this well made film. One the most satisfying films I’ve seen all year, Payne continues his tradition of being a director of patience, empathy and wonderful storytelling.

  2. MOVIE NOTE: Being the big Thanksgiving weekend, many of these movies are being released today, Wednesday the 23rd. Any film with an asterisk next to it (*) is already out in theaters for your viewing pleasure. Happy Thanksgiving!

    Opening This Week – Nationwide

    *Arthur Christmas (Also in 3d) – When I was a younger lad, I used to freak my sister out with tales of a high tech Santa. Ol’ Saint Nick didn’t cruise around with reindeer, he had a jetliner that cruised at supersonic speeds. Rudolph? A figurehead long replaced with sonar and radar. Good thing my sis is out of college, because if she had seen this brand new Christmas movie featuring a more modern take on the classic tale, she’d be screaming her head off. More of a story of a dysfunctional elfish family than anything else, critics have been hailing this animated feature as a new Christmas classic, on par in both feeling and tone to The Polar Express. While the bare synopsis’s I’m finding online don’t tell much of the plot, critics have said this movie is sue to satisfy adults and children in equal measure. Tired of the same old re-watching of Miracle on 34th St and It’s A Wonderful life? This film will certainly fill the void and provide some well needed cheer this Holiday season.

    *Hugo (Also in 3D) – Getting some of the finest reviews this year and an early contender for a Best Picture Oscar, Hugo is the story of a young boy who is left a key from his father, a key that takes the child on a wild and magically journey. Directed by Martin Scorsese, this movie is not only getting rave reviews for the pure magical of the filmmaking, but for being the best 3D experience since Avatar. Nearly every review claims this is a must see in 3D experience, so it’s worth the upcharge. Technology aside, most critics are embracing this film, saying it not only has a sweet center, it’s filled with old movie references and homages to the past, perfectly balancing the new tech and classic cinema. A film buffs fantasty, Hugo’s extraordinarily high marks is making it a must see this holiday season.

    *The Muppets- – It’s time to play the music. It’s time to light the lights! Everyone loves Jim Henson’s magical creations but fans haven’t seen a Muppets movie since 1999’s lukewarm Muppets In Space. The film stars Jason Segel, Amy Adams and Chris Cooper but you don’t care about that. You, like everybody else, wants to know how those delightful felt puppets hold up in the new century and reviews are unanimously positive. The film centers around an evil land baron who threatens to raze the now famous Muppet Theater and an effort by the three super fans to reunite the Muppet team to help save the stage. The plan? To hold a Great Muppets Telethon designed to raise to $10 million needed to keep the building up. Critics say the film is on the nose, perfectly blending the charm of the TV show with the size of the films, creating a new Muppet classic. Another must see!

    Opening This Week – Limited Release

    *My Week With Marilyn – Michelle Williams stars as the titular blonde bombshell in this fascinating and well received film. Centering around a plucky 23 year old film hopeful and his week showing Monroe around the English country side, this film attempts to not only show us the movie star in action, give us a chance to really see a different, more honest side of her. Every writeup for the movie unilaterally praises Williams in the main role but as for the actual plot, reviews have been somewhat mixed. Still, Williams is one of the finest actresses working in Hollywood today and her performance along makes this more than worth seeing. Showing in select theaters throughout NY and NJ

    The Artist – An early front-runner for Best Picture, this sumptuously made homage to 1920’s silent cinema has been getting awe inspiring reviews ever since it first screened at Cannes. Taking place in 1920’s Hollywood, the film focuses on a declining silent film star and his struggle to maintain relevance in the “age of the talkies”. Oh yeah, the film is shot entirely in black and white and, oh yeah, the film itself is a silent one. Luckily for audiences, this lack of sound isn’t just a gimmick, it allows the visual storytelling to really stand out and thanks to a brilliant performace by lead Jean Dujardin, the film is reportedly a triumph. Be sure to check this out, even if the idea of sitting through 100 minutes of silence seems completely wrong to you. Playing at City Cinemas Paris Theatre and the Angelika Film Center

    *A Dangerous Method –Staring Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender, this film centers on Dr Carl Jung, a turn of the century psychologist who had a complex relationship with an unbalanced yet beautiful patient. Unfortunately, Jung’s mentor, the great Sigmund Freud also falls for the woman, creating a triangle of both science and passion. Directed by auter David Cronenberg, the film has been getting mostly positive reviews, despite the strange blandness of the filmmaking. Cronenberg has never been a director of restraint, making this effort seem out of place in the filmmaker’s catalog. Still, critics have been praising the work of the three leads and the chemistry between them, so I say See It, just so long as you’re not expecting something in the director’s signature style. Screening at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and Landmark Sunshine Cinema

    *Rampart – The acclaimed writer/director of 2009’s The Messenger, Oren Moverman, returns with his latest film. Again staring Woody Harrelson, this films find the actor playing a dirty cop embroiled in LA’s Rampart corruption scandal. Signorney Weaver, Ben Foster and Robin Wright all lend a hand in a film most critics are saying is tense, exciting and full of great performances. One esteemed critic even mentioned Harrelson himself should get a Best Actor nomination playing the unhinged, self-destructive cop, so if you’re a fan of flicks like Dirty Harry and Bad Lieutenant, this one should be a no-brainer. Showing at Landmark Sunshine

    Opening This Week – Indie, Art House and Small Screenings

    Romantics Anonymous – Charming French film about two awkward chocolatiers who works to save a struggling shop while developing a relationship. Critics have been very positive about the film saying that while it runs down the middle in its emotional tact, the charm and wit of the film, hallmarks of modern French cinema, make this a quiet joy to watch. Sure the film may be a bit uneven, but there’s enough positive buzz about it to make me say See It! Screening at the Quad Cinema

    My 3 To See

    The Artist – Sure, this bad boy may scream Oscar bait, but when 47 critics give it near perfect reviews, who am I to say otherwise. Give the silent film one good try with The Artist.

    The Muppets – Oh, you need to actually hear your movies? Well, wrap yourself up in some nostalgia as you take one more trip into the weird with Jim Henson’s adorable creations.

    Hugo – While you could make an argument for every film coming out this weekend, this Martin Scorsese film not only pushes the envelope with regards to 3D technology, provides a heartfelt and beautiful story to go with it. Prestige season is officially upon us!

    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!!

  3. I HATE HATE HATE Daniel Craig cast as Blomkvist. He's supposed to look like Kalle Blomkvist :rant: and you know - I love that type and that's the whole point - he's not some tough guy. He's a dumb old (not literally) investigative reporter who's brain gets him in trouble (and out of it). He's a wise ass not a tough guy and it ruins it when they make him EXACTLY what he's not. Wiseasses can be tough - they're a wise ass first though. Tough guys who crack wise often just seem stupid. Wise asses who wax tough seem lucky. AND THAT'S THE WHOLE POINT OF THE CHARACTER! He's a lucky guy. Men dont like wise ass lucky guys. That's why they always ruin it and hire a tough guy.

    Did you all see the Swedish version? He was too old and wimpy I thought - tried to go too Noir. He's supposed to be this un-noir guy caught in noir situation after noir situation.

    I did see the Sweedish version, and while I see where you're coming from with the character, I thought the Blomkvist casting was spot on. In reading the book, I pictured him as an older fellow with a rugged handsomeness, a trait the actor pulled off quite well. Rememberr in the book, Blomkvist is quite the ladies man, and I think Michael Nyqvist really captured that side of the character. I do agree, however, that Craig will be too "ruggedly good looking", but if the intelligence is there, I think it can work out just fine. Really enjoyed the Sweedish version, so i'm hoping Fincher brings some of his trademark visual style to the American version.

    However, this all goes back to what I wrote about in my Rum Diary review about how casting films from books is so difficult because everybody has their own mental projection of what the character should look like. Perfect example!!

  4. My 11/20 best picture list - all I have seen, otherwise noted. If I haven't seen it then I nominatet hem based by recommendations from friends whom I trust.

    1. Hugo

    2. The Artist

    3. The Descendants

    4. War Horse (Missed the screening, but was told it was epic)

    5. Shame

    I'll be seeing Dragon Tatoo most likely next Monday. Hopefully.

    All films I will certainly be seeing and reviewing once they get theatrical releases, my most anticapted being War Horse and The Artist. That said, early reviews for Hugo have all been screaming Oscar, same for Shame and The Artist. Glad to hear you enjoyed The Descendants as it has a very good director behind it (same guy who did Sideways and ABout Schmidt whose name escapes me) and the trailer looked great. Friday is going to be Martha Marcy May Marlene if it's still playing in Montclair, followed closely by My Week With Marylin and Melencholia only because I promised myself I'd give Lars Von Triers one more shot. If this stinks, I'm done with him!

  5. Not sure if we have any Nintendo faithfuls around here, but I just got a Nintendo 3DS (along with Super MArio 3D Land) and am so far pretty impressed with both the system and the game. The 3D effect really works (provided you hold the system the correct way) and the game does a good job taking advantage of it to make for some very fun gameplay. I'm wondering if anyone else here has one and if so what do you think?

    I'm going to wait for one more prcie drop before snagging one up. Problem is, Super Mario 3D Land is one of maybe 5 good games on that system. The game got a 9.5 from Game Informer and the only other quality titles are old N64 games (Ocarina of Time, Star Fox 64) and the Street Fighter game. Interesting concept of a system but there's simply no quality software for it. Things are looking up after the holidays with the new Mario Kart and other games, but I hope it's not too late as Nintendo's focus goes to the Wii U.

    What else about the system are you enjoying, Mario 3D aside?

  6. BP, I can't thank you enough for reviewing this movie.

    As a HUGE Thompson fan, I've been among the many clamoring for a Rum Diary film adaptation ever since the first time we read the novel. I remember reading years ago that Depp planned on doing a film adaptation, but it would have to wait until after he was done with all of the Pirates movies. (Sidenote: That's actually why I hate those movies so much. Not because they're bad. I haven't even seen them. But they delayed something I wanted so badly.)

    HST nuts like myself have been clinging to the rumor mill for years because of that. I remember reading that Benicio del Toro was set to play Sala and Josh Hartnett would play Yeamon, and shooting was practically underway. Then nothing. For years. Several agonizing years.

    So now that the film is done, I've been anxious to see it. But, like you allude to, fans of the novel always hope to see the pictures that played out in our mind's eye as we read it, and that's rarely what we get.

    I'm disappointed to hear the film is a let down. I was also shocked to see that Yeamon wasn't even included as a character, but it sounds like they combined him with Sanderson, a move that I could see making sense for a film.

    Maybe I won't rush to see this in theaters, and the fact that I'm considering that saddens me. But so much anticipation is extremely difficult to live up to. If I'm going to be disappointed, I might as well be disappointed from the comfort of my own home.

    Thanks again for the review, and keep up the great work!

    Thanks for the compliment! It's funny, I remember when you first broke the news about this movie about a year and half ago and knowing you're a big fan, I kept you in mind when writing the review! Whenever I would get lazy on it I'd think, "Keep going, DiG needs to know not to run out for it". Yeah, the changes and omisions were shocking but I didn't mind them so much because the book has a very loose narative as it is. Problem is, everything Robinson wrote into the film to make it work just didn't connect up to the scenes pulled straight from the book. You're a big fan and while I recommend you check it out, I wouldn't pay the 12 bucks to do so.

    Problem is, and I think I allude to it in the review, is that style of writing doesn't lend itself to standard filmmaking techniques, which is why Fear and Loathing worked so well. Gilliam filled the movie with manic energy but still allowed the central theme to shine through, which is why it worked so well. This film has none of that energy, leaving a very fabricated story that has great intentions but simply doesn't work.

    Sorry to report it, DiG!!!

  7. New Movie Review

    The Rum Diary

    Turning a book into a film is one of the trickiest tasks a filmmaker can tackle. The pitfalls are endless: you have to deal with the book’s ardent fans, while appealing to those who’ve never read it. A book can tell you what a character is thinking where a film has to show you visually. People spend much more time with novels, 8 hours on average, than they do watching a 2 hour film, creating a deeper connection with the story. Even the issue of, “that’s not what the lead looked like in the book” will cause nightmares for directors, simply because they can’t compile a cast that will match everybody’s imaginations. So, when director Bruce Robinson set out to make a film based on Hunter S Thompson’s second novel, The Rum Diary, I was skeptical at best. The only other Thompson book to make it to the screen was 1998’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and thanks to the near maniacal mind of director Terry Gilliam, became an instant cult classic. The Rum Diary, on the other hand, is a much more subdued affair and I was curious how Robinson would take on this unique challenge. The answer? Simply ignore the novel’s plot almost entirely and use choice elements from the book as a back drop to tell the origin story of a literary revolutionary. It’s a fine idea, one that I appreciate as a huge fan of the late novelist. Too bad the film itself is a poorly made mess.

    For those who don’t know, The Rum Diary stars Johnny Depp as Paul Kemp, a rum soaked New York journalist who finds himself in 1960’s Puerto Rico working for a struggling newspaper. At the paper, Kemp meets the jaded editor Lotterman (Richard Jenkins), the habitually intoxicated Moberg (Giovanni Ribisi) and Bob Sala (Michael Rispoli), a fellow drinker/journalist who Kemp ends up staying with. Money is tight at the newspaper, so when a high powered land merchant by the name of Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart) offers Kemp a job writing brochure material for a fantastic new Puerto Rican hotel, Kemp jumps at the chance. Puerto Rico, however, is not without hypocrisy and as Kemp delves deeper into the good life of the island’s nouveau riche, he discovers just how full of s**t the whole place happens to be. Fans of the book, beware: while the plot has a passing resemblance to the novel, the similarities end at the synopsis. Literally 85% of the film is the invention of Mr. Robinson who reassigns character roles, makes up strange situations from thin air and removes entire characters from the screenplay. More on that later.

    Playing the Thompson-esqe lead character, Depp’s reprisal of the role he played in Fear and Loathing is much more restrained this time around. While still a good performance, he doesn’t get the opportunity to come as unhinged as Gilliam allowed, so fans expecting Fear and Loathing Part 2 will be a bit disappointed. The rest of the cast ranges from welcome surprises to flat out awful. Both Jenkins and Rispoli do fine jobs in their respective roles, giving the film a much needed dose of comic timing while Eckhart is believable yet one noted as the opportunistic land baron. The only blemish in the cast is Amber Heard as Chenault, lover of Sanderson and object of affection for Kemp. While undeniably beautiful, Heard is woefully miscast in the role, a character changed dramatically for the film and not for the better. The result is a strangely plotted love triangle that never gets off the ground or generates any heat.

    As a whole, the cast has their moments but much of the work is lost in bland pacing and boring direction. Robinson is a competent director but doesn’t have the visual imagination to inject the type of energy the source material requires. Sure that material is lacking in its own plot, but the scenes Robinson conjures up to make a cohesive story only detracts from the final product. From the cockfighting angle to an uncomfortable scene featuring a witch doctor to Depp’s ridiculous meeting of Chenault, nothing connects properly to the scenes straight from the novel. As a result, the film comes off disjointed and episodic. In fact, the best scenes in the movie are those pulled straight from the book, such as Sala and Kemp’s escape from the burger shop and Chenault’s Carnival dance. The rest of the film suffers from poor pacing and head scratching plot devices, making the end product a fitfully entertaining mixed bag.

    All that said, I can’t be too hard on Robinson for the final product. The work of beat writers like Thompson, Kerouac and Ginsberg are often difficult, if impossible to bring to the screen. Not reliant on narrative, beat writing tells the story through the energy of the language. These authors were literary revolutionaries, casting aside traditional form and structure for a mad, freewheeling joyride, saying whatever they want, however they wanted. The Rum Diary is no different, making Robinson’s task an exceedingly difficult one and in the end, I greatly appreciate his efforts. This is the film version of The Rum Diary Thompson himself would have liked to see, a brash strike against commercialism and a triumphant cry for journalist honesty. Problem is, the film itself has so many holes, problems and pratfalls, I have to label it a disappointment, despite my respect for the director’s intentions. Not a good film, but not a miserable one either, The Rum Diary should be seen by those not familiar with the original novel. For those who are already fans, this adaptation is just going to annoy you.

  8. Just weigh in on the NYC beer spots, if you ever find yourself all the way on the East side, David Copperfields is a pretty good beer spot. Food is quite good, reasonably priced and they have 30 taps, plus a wide selection of bottles. The bartenders generally know their stuff and they are constantly getting new stuff in, so it's always an experience. For me it's nice as it's literally a minute walk from my apartment, so if you ever decide to go, 74th and York is the location.

  9. Opening This Week – Nationwide

    Tower Heist – Ever imagine what the Occupy Wall Street folks would do if they actually had the initiative to bite back against the banks that wronged them? Well, the latest fil by director Brett Ratner tries to answer that question and while it may not be cutting political commentary, it does seem to be stupid enough fun to make it worthwhile. Ben Stiller stars as a disgruntled condo manager who, after learning one of the fancypants living on the top floor has defrauded the entire staff, decides to get back by breaking and stealing what he thinks is rightfully his. Going along on the heist is Casey Affleck, Matthew Broderick and, in what critics are calling a return to form, Eddie Murphy as an ex-con hired to help the team out. While everyone admits this is pure schlock, the concession is that it’s damn entertaining schlock. Featuring some nicely drawn action scenes, a very funny Eddie Murphy and enough likability in the main cast, Tower Heist may not be a brilliant film, but if you’re looking for some good times this November, you could do much worse. A very tentative See It!

    A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas (Also in 3D) – Christmas? In November?? Evidently so, as Harold, Kumar and the rest of the collegic stoner crew return this weekend in the third installment of the Castle Craving franchise. This film finds our heroes trekking through New York City on the search for the perfect replacement Christmas tree. What happened to the original you may ask? According to the synopsis, it has something to with a certain flammable illegal substance. The first Harold & Kumar was a surprising success and a film I openly enjoyed when I saw it not too long ago on DVD. Depsite the law of diminishing returns, this film has been getting some reluctant praise form critics, with most saying if you enjoy the sophomoric humor, you’ll get all you need and even a bit of a soft side from the dazed duo. Not exactly Miracle on 34th St, but a movie that just may sate the appetites of viewers itching for some holiday cheer.

    Opening This Week – Limited Release

    Young Goethe In Love – Period piece about an 18th century love triangle between a poet Johann Goethe, a fair damsel and the man she is promised to be wed to. Critics have said despite a strong director and some good actors, the story is so riddled with clichés, the film sinks under the weight. Unless you’re a huge fan of 1700’s era poetry, give this yawner a miss. Showing at City Cinemas Paris Theatre and Landmark Sunshine Cinema

    Charlotte Rampling: The Look – Documentary about legendary actress Charlotte Rampling as told through conversation with friends and fellow artists. While the movie does make an effort to show you why she’s so revered in the acting community, if you’re already a fan, there’s not much more to say. That said, the pure energy of the films subject shines through the narrative, making this a critical favorite this weekend. Showing at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas

    Killing Bono – Irish comedy about two brothers trying to make their way to rock and roll stardom in the 1980’s music scene. However, when a certain band called U2 makes it big, it casts them deeper into the shadow of the limelight. Critics have been mixed on this with half saying it’s a charming look into the drive for success and the other half saying the protagonist is annoying in his ineptitude. I’d recommend seeing a trailer or two before running out to catch this. Screening at AMC Loews Village 7

    The Son of No One – Channing Tatum, Al Pacino, Juliette Binoche, Ray Liotta and Katie Holmes star in this gritty crime thriller. Oh, did you stop reading at Channing Tatum? Good, because despite a varied and interesting cast, critics have been flagging this film as an incomprehensible mess. What’s the story about? Who knows as the one line synopsis seems just cornball as critics have said. Enough blabbing…skip!! Playing at City Cinemas Village East

    Opening This Week – Indie, Art House and Small Screenings

    The Last Rites of Joe May – Homage to the gritty crime films of the 1970’s this film stars Dennis Farina as a two bit hustler who, after a brief stint in the hospital, comes home to find his apartment rented to a single mother. She agrees to share the place as Joe plots his comeback to the underground life. Critics have been giving both the film its star high praise, saying the performance is deep, engaging and strangely moving. Recommended! Screening at Quad Cinema

    The Other F Word – Every wonder what happens when punk rock grows old? They become daddies! Taking some the stars of mid nineties punk, including Mark Hoopus, Tim Mcllrath (Rise Against), Ron Reyes (Black Flag) and Fat Mike (NOFX), this tribute to punk rock grown ups have been getting mixed reviews from critics. While the filmmaker manage to get some emotion from the usually bratty rockers, critics don’t really know where the film is going and in a documentary, that’s a bad omen. Still, fans of the Bay Area punk scene may still find something to enjoy in this doc. Screening at the Film Forum

    Dragonslayer – A documentary dictating the trials of living in economically depressed America through the eyes of a disenfranchised skate punk. Featuring a great independent soundtrack, and some interesting characters, critics have praised this doc as fascinating and timely. Showing at Cinema Village 12th Street

    My 3 To See

    Tower Heist – Silly, stupid and mindless, this Ben Stiller vehicle overcomes the shtick thanks to a great performance by Eddie Murphy.

    The Last Rites of Joe May – This well received film about a hustler regaining his groove has been getting fine reviews, especially concerning the work of star Dennis Farina.

    Puss In Boots – Really? This is the best reviewed film out in wide release? I need to take my medication…

    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!!

  10. You know, I never understood why people label Vice City as the best GTA. The terrain has no personality, the story was a mishmash of every gangster cliche known to man (including an ending battle so ripped from Scarface, it might as well been directed by DePalma) and the missions didn't have near the variety of San Andreas. It was a decent follow up to GTA III, but I would place it as my least favorite in the series. Tried popping it in about a month ago and couldn't get past the horrific targeting and bad controls.

    To me, San Andreas was the biggest sandbox and GTA IV is the best story. San Andreas is close on the story, but Niko has real depth of character. There is a certain malaise that Niko has that no other GTA character can claim and based on that alone, it's my favorite GTA. San Andreas is a close tsecond hanks to sheer variety of things you can do, but GTA IV stripped those away in favor of better textures and more precise combat and driving. GTA IV is definately not as sandboxy as Andreas, but it has the slightly superior story and the more interesting characters, which is why it barely edges out San Andreas for me. Maybe it's my film background getting in the way, but I always go for story above the ability to parachute out of airplanes. Still, San Andreas is a landmark game, one that would be happy to pop in over and over again.

  11. I realize Arkham City has gotten glowing reviews. I've only played it for about an hour, so hopefully it gets better (my wife's away this weekend, so hope to reserve a block of time on Sunday to get my videogame playing on).

    For Uncharted 2, it was more of an AI thing for me. You could be right in front of a bad guy for a second or two, and still either manage to get away or take him out.

    I never understood the mediocre reviews for Bioshock 2. I thought the story was great and that it does a good job with playing as a Big Daddy, i.e. having cool new capabilities but still making things a challenge.

    That tears it, I'll have to give Bioshock 2 a spin before I get Infinite, which looks to be amazing. As for Uncharted, I'm still a fan but you bring up some good points. The AI is pretty horrible.

    You can go back and be a young John Marston and do all the nasty stuff he did as a criminal....a prequel would work here....

    I HATED Jack Marston I found him boring and annoying, but maybe some of that comes from I felt like I was playing Farmville when I was doing father-son crap


    I have two friends who played Arkham and are now addicted drooling zombies to it.....I'm on a buying embargo since it's 5 weeks to my birthday......

    I actually didn't mind the stuff you mentioned in the spoiler. Sure it was very benign stuff, but it was a proper reward for John, much better than a standard "hurrah, you win, here's the credits".

    While I did feel like it was artificially setting up a huge finale, which it was, it did create a false sense of security while establishing the father/son relationship. That makes the death of John that much more poignant and heartbreaking because he came so close to getting his family back, the whole reason he went after his old partner in the first place. That said, I didn't like playing as Jack either, as I felt the whole epilouge of his tracking down the retired sherrif just felt weak and didn't avenge John properly. Another thing that bugs me about Red Dead is how Bonnie's character completely disappears a third of the way in. Loved her character and would have liked to see her more involved.

    You make a great point about a prequel! That would work great and it would be awesome to see John with his old gang, especially knowing how it all shook out in the first game.

  12. Played Arkham City for about an hour on Monday. Disappointing thus far. Think playing as Catwoman character is pretty annoying, and the story doesn't make a whole lot of sense to this point. Plus, hard mode is impossible while normal mode is too easy. Sad, because Arkham Asylum was one of my favorite games in recent memory, second to Bioshock 1 and 2.

    Also, people talking about Uncharted 3. While I only played part 2, thought it was one of the more overrated games I've played in a while, especially the fact that it won game of the year on X-Play. Pretty good game, but nowhere in the league of Bioshock 2 IMO.

    Wow, you answered my question seconds before I asked it! That stinks about Arkham City as it's getting glowing reviews. I'll still play it but I think it'll wait until I get done with Ico and Uncharted 3. As for Uncharted, I thought the 2nd game was pure and simple fun. Sure, the whole platform, shoot guys, platform again mechanic does wear thin, and doing anything slealthy is next to impossible, but there's something about that Nathan Drake character that I really enjoy, even if it's just a more likable Harrison Ford impersonation.

    Also, Bioshock is easily in my Top 10 games ever made but I'm suprised to hear how much you enjoyed Bioshock 2! For some reason, I gave it a miss in favor of other games and due to some middling reviews, I decided to just wait on it. My one question for you would be, how does the story hold up? While I'm not expecting anything on the level of the original Bioshock, I'm not sure where the whole "play as a Big Daddy" storyline will go. Is the story up to par?

  13. So has anybody played Uncharted 3 yet? Possibly the best game I've ever played...EVER. It's absolutely unreal. Anyone else try it yet?

    Uncharted 2 is literally one of the best single player games I've ever played and I can't wait to get my hands on 3. Was going to pre-order it but I'm trying to finish up some games I already have before diving into U3. Currently working on Ico, an old PS2 game that was just rereleased along with Shadow of the Collosus and it's pretty awesome.

    Did they announce a release date??

    I wish they'd make another Red Dead Redemption game too, that was so amazing.....

    Man, as much as I loved Red Dead, I'm not sure where else they can go with the storyline.

    I mean, you could have the second game take up from the son's point of view but the wow factor of the first game's ending is that the son became his father. At the end of Red Dead, you already avenge John Marsden's death, so I'm not sure where else you go, aside from putting the son in the same types of situations as John, which would be pretty derivitive.

    If they do another Red Dead, it would have to be a totally new set of characters because the first game ended pretty succinctly. Although, given how amazing the gameplay is, I don't think that would be a bad idea at all. Shooting people off of moving horses never gets old!

    By the way, has anybody played Arkham City yet? Game Informer gave it a perfect score and said it actually surpasses the original.

  14. Bulletproof -- check out Dr X. It is an oldie but it's really interesting. It must be a classic - I hadn't heard of it before though.

    I'll have to give that a look, Pepper! Thanks for the recommendation!

    New Movie Review

    Take Shelter

    What the difference between a prophet and a lunatic? The smelly guy who sits on the S train screaming about the end of the world sure looks crazy but what if he was really clairvoyant. As we move through our day to day routine, we hear things people are saying but through fear, arrogance or simple personal protection, we never let those scary notions sink in. But what if that wingnut is right? What if he sees something we don’t, tapped into an invisible stream meant to warn us of our end. How would we treat this screamer in the streets? How do we treat them now? This is the exact notion explored in Take Shelter, a smarty written film about one man’s premonitions and the effect it has on his friends, his community and his family.

    Character actor Michael Shannon stars as Curtis, father of a financially strapped family living in working class Ohio. In the caring of his supportive wife (Jessica Chastain) and their deaf daughter (Tova Stewart), Curtis works as a construction manager, enjoying a life of hard work in a loving family. However, after having a series of visions and dreams of an impending apocalyptic storm, Curtis becomes obsessed with the protection of his family. In the role of Curtis, Shannon cements himself as an actor of depth and range. Shannon expresses a range of emotions in a startlingly stoic way, creating a character that is stern and fixed in his belief. All of Curtis’ actions are in defense of his family and it’s this love that helps the audience through the subsequent consequences. The town doesn’t take lightly to Curtis’ increasingly manic behavior and the question of how far will you go to protect your family, even when that very family has their doubts, comes into play. The result is a tense and at time exhilarating series of events that take place in a patient way, a real treat to watch.

    In the role of his wife, Chastian continues her rise as one of the best actresses in Hollywood despite the character having little depth. The role of Samantha only exists to cement the family dynamic and while Chastain does a fine job with the responsibility, I would have liked a little more development from her character. In the end, this film is all Shannon and he pulls it off beautifully, all building up to a pivotal scene at a community dinner where the frustration of being seen as a psycho boils over in explosive fashion. Shannon does some remarkable work here and should be considered for a couple of awards this coming February.

    All the good work by the cast would be in vain without a smartly written script and lovely direction from writer/director Jeff Nichols. Brimming with tension, the arc of Shannon’s mindset is full of suspense and intrigue. While the main portions of the film are filmed in a bland yet honest way, the real visual treats arrive when Curtis falls asleep. His dream worlds are frightening and filled with terror, bringing the audience to the edge of their seats. There are some heart stopping moments in Take Shelter and full marks need to be given to Nichols for balancing the stark realities of working class life with beautiful imagery. In the director’s chair, Nichols never betrays the a-ha ending, letting the audience decide for themselves on the mental state of Curtis. The result is a film that immediately absorbing and quietly powerful.

    In the end, Take Shelter is a love story, not in a romantic sense but a personal one, a story of family trying to pull together in the hardest of moments. Curtis’ obsession pulls his loving family to the breaking point, and thanks to some excellent direction, we care every minute about the state of this small sampling of American life. Filled with lovely performances, gripping intensity and an underlying warmth that supports the mounting terror, Take Shelter is unabashed triumph. Maybe the yahoo on the S train isn’t a prophet but after watching the story of Curtis and his lovely family, I’ll at least lower the iPod a bit to hear exactly what he has to say. Not because I think he’s right but at least he cares enough to yell out loud in the first place.

  15. Top Gun for NES. I sh-t you not, I had the game since I was what, 4 years old, and it literally took me until last summer, while playing on a freaking emulator on my laptop, to figure out that while landing you can speed up and slow down using B or A.

    20+ freaking years later.

    I also absolutely loved Super Mario World for SNES.

    Top Gun for the NES is indeed maddening, especially given how weird it is to land the bloody plane! I think the trick is to watch the numbers and make sure you keep the actual speed and altitude in line with the readout. Or something like that. And yes, I'll reference AVGN one more time. Obviously NSFW:

    I still remember the first time I played Super Mario World. It was Christmas of some year and after all my presents were opened and scattered about, my parents dropped the big one on me. The Super Nintendo with two controllers and a copy of Super Mario World. Naturally, I freaked out, ran downstairs and begged my dad to hook it up. No breakfast, no stocking stuffers, no nothing. Once my dad had it all connected up, I popped in SMW, turned on the machine and was immediately taken by the brilliance of it all. I distinctly remember it feeling hyper real, like there was no way games would ever be able to surpass this level of quality. The game, quite literally, blew my mind. One of those Christmas's where your parents are screaming at you to get ready to go to Grandma's for dinner and you're still in your PJ's, clacking away at the controller. An enduring memory of childhood!

  16. Just saw this thread.

    I have an Xbox 360 and play it when I can...but prolonged gaming sessions are hard to come by. Being 41, working 50+ hours a week and being a father to a three-year-old cuts into my gaming time pretty significantly.

    I'm guessing I'm probably the oldest one to post on this thread...though I was too young to remember "Pong" back in the early 70s, I've seen pretty much the entire evolution of video games (the home market almost never recovered from the Crash of '83...Nintendo and Super Mario Bros. brought it back). The complete list of video game systems I've owned at one point or another: Atari 2600, Atari 800 computer, ColecoVision, Nintendo, Game Boy, Sega Genesis, Sega CD, Atari Jaguar, Sega Saturn, Sony Playstation, Nintendo 64, Sega Dreamcast, Sony Playstation 2, Nintendo GameCube, Xbox, Game Boy Advance, and the Xbox 360.

    The games today are obviously far more beautiful and striking than anything I played in my youth...I can only imagine the looks me and my friends would've had on our faces if someone had jumped into a time machine and showed us the games of today back in the early 80s. It is truly amazing how far the medium has come in a realtively short period of time.

    What I really miss are the "simple to play, difficult to master" games that dominated my youth. So many of today's titles require some serious time put in to really get anywhere. The games of my youth revolved around a simple concept that you could get into in minutes, then skills and reflexes took over from there. It was truly the "pick up and play" generation.

    And it seems like there are just way too many post-apocalyptic shooters out there. Maybe it's because I didn't grow up with them, but I watch the commercials and I think, "How does anyone tell these apart?" They all just look so derivative.

    Anyway, more than any other style of game, I tend to drift toward arcade-style racers. I've tried racing sims, but just can't get into them...I want to have fun, not be a mechanic. Last 1st-person shooter I played through to the end was Bioshock...thought it was great.

    Fine post, CR. If you're the oldest poster on this thread, then I'm probably the runner up. My gaming history started with the NES back in '86 and I was a Nintendo fan through and through, all the way through the Bit Wars. My brother had a PS2 and I now have a PS3 but up until then, I was all Nintendo. As for "easy to learn, hard to master", I would recommend the downloadable title Limbo. Creepy, atmospheric and exactly fits the type of gameplay you were talking about. Here's a quick trailer:


    And agreed on Bioshock. Too many WTF moments in that game that are just jaw dropping! If you enjoyed Bioshock, Bioshock Infinite is coming out soon and could be a Game of the Year contender. Here's a 10 minute demo:

    Would be nice to get an old school gaming conversation going in here along with the new games coming out! What were some of your classic from the 8 bit era?

  17. Review My Collection #13

    American Movie

    Ever try to make a movie? Sure, not many of us have done it on a professional level before but we all make films of some sort. Be it a documentary about a family vacation or a record of some milestone birthday, we all incorporate movie making in our everyday lives. Some of us now even do a little iMovie editing and if you’re one of those people, you know how time consuming the process can be. American Movie, a prize winning documentary about the filmmaking aspirations of Wisconsin native Mark Borchardt, tell the story for the rest of us. Knee deep in the production of Northwestern, his latest low budget project, Mark runs out of a cash and in a last ditch attempt to fund his feature, he decides to finish his short film Coven. With the help of his scratch off addicted friend Mike Schank, Mark plunges head first into the world of independent filmmaking, creating a fascinating and hilarious doc about the drive needed to see your dreams through.

    At first glance, Mark looks like a psycho. Long hair, thin build and a mouth that goes a mile a minute, Mark is pure energy. Sure he may not have the vision of a Spielberg, but he has the guts and in the documentary, that’s more than enough to keep the audience interested. Mark’s likability is infectious and within fifteen minutes, you can’t help but root for him, even when he’s borrowing money from his grandfather or pestering his mom to help with set design. The people in this Wisconsin town are rooted in reality and it’s a real treat to see Midwestern life so honest portrayed. The characters around Mark are all skeptical of Mark’s skill yet despite that worry, nobody dares to discount his heart. The filmmakers give the family space to genuinely interact and do a wonderful job of never mocking Mark or his cadre of crew members. That’s not to say the film isn’t brilliantly funny. American Movie is one of the most quotable films I’ve seen in quite some time, so if you ever want to score points with your film buff buddies, classic quips like, “sucking down peppermint schnapps and trying calling Morocco at 2 in the morning” and Mike’s feelings on the lottery will go a long way in doing so.

    My one knock against the movie is that it does seem fairly padded, especially towards the end. Some critics have also derided the film for being exploitive, but I strongly disagree. Sure, at first we’re all laughing at Mike’s blank stare or Mark’s wild mannerisms but the film allows both characters to build, creating real people that are complex and interesting. With American Movie, director Chris Smith deftly captures not just the weirdness of Mark but the person inside, creating a film that’s balanced, engaging and at times, hilarious. Mark may never make his opus to 70’s horror but he’ll always have the drive, never wavering even when the world conspires against him. A film that’s just as inspiring as it is humorous, American Movie reminds us all that following our true passions is what makes life worth living, regardless of where that drive takes us.

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

  18. Opening This Week – Nationwide

    Paranormal Activity 3 – Move over, Saw. There’s a new Halloween franchise in town yet unlike the diminishing returns of the former, the Paranormal Activity machine seems to be humming right along. Directed by the team who gave us last year’s Catfish, there isn’t much being revealed about this installments storyline. What fans can expect is more of the same found footage style storytelling peppered with a decent amount of jump scares and long shots of scary looking hallways. Reviews have ranged from decent to quite good, with most critics saying the film’s success hinges largely on how much the formula has gotten stale for you. As every year Halloween rehashes go, this series seems to be running strong, so give it a watch!

    The Three Musketeers (Also in 3D) – Directed by the filmmaking wizard who gave us Mortal Kombat, Alien vs. Predator and Resident Evil: Afterlife comes the modern retelling of the classic Alexandre Dumas tale. Starring Luke Evans, Matthew MacFadyn, Roy Stevenson and Logan Lerman as the swashbuckling foursome, this movie looks to be all flash, bang and 3D with absolutely nothing else of interest going on. Also starring Milla Jovovich as the eventual love interest and Christoph Waltz as Cardinal Richlieu, this movie has none of the charm and panache of the book, leaving a loud, noisy mess.

    Johnny English Reborn – Rowan Atkinson returns in this sequel to the 2003 spy spoof of the same name. Featuring a more cunning, more powerful English again employing some wacky gadgets to win the day against an evil adversary, this iteration doesn’t do much to improve on the silly first film. While I actually enjoyed the first movie on a very mindless basis, there’s no need for a second go-round with this character or this franchise.

    The Mighty Macs – Standard underdog made good film about the 1971-72 Immaculata College women’s basketball team and their rise to college b-ball’s biggest stage. Blandly acted, poorly written and completely predictable, films of this type need compelling characters to hold out attention and Mighty fails at that as well. Unless you absolutely love women’s basketball, give The Mighty Macs a mighty skip.

    Opening This Week – Limited Release

    Martha Marcy May Marlene – One of the best reviewed film in a weekend full of good indies, this psychological thriller stars newcomer Elizabeth Olsen as a young woman trying to reclaim a normal life after escaping a cult. Featuring great performances, taught tension and some very strong filmmaking, Martha promises to be this year’s independent thriller. Recommended if Paranormal Activity isn’t your bag of Halloween candy. Showing at AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 and Angelika

    Margin Call – Featuring an all star cast consisting of Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Paul Bettany, Zachary Quinto and Simon Baker, this ripped from the headlines financial thriller has been getting positive reviews from all over the web. Dramatizing an intense 24 hour period in the early stages of the fiscal crisis of 2008, this film has been getting high marks from its intensity and honesty when dealing with these high profile issues. While the film does tend to pull some punches in places, the film refuses to moralize the oft criticized player it portrays, rather taking a more thoughtful approach. Those burned by this year’s Wall Street sequel will find some good times in Margin Call. Playing at the Angelika, Clearview First & 62nd and Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center

    Klitschko – Documentary about Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko, two brothers who, after moving to Germany in 1996, became the dynamic duo of the boxing world. Tracking the brother’s rise to champions and the struggle to keep that status, this doc has been seeing mostly positive reviews. While it may not be as in depth as true fans of the sport may like, there is plenty to root for in this well received film. Showing at AMC Empire 25 and Cinema Village 12th Street

    Le Havre – The best reviewed movie being released this weekend, the latest film by Aki Kaurismaki centers around the unlikely friendship between well spoken bohemian and a young African refugee. Focusing on the power of belief and the simplicity of caring for another, this movie has been hailed as one of Kaurismaki’s finest films, with one critic saying nobody has a more delicate command of poetic potential of cinema. High praise for a must see movie for the indie crowd out there. Playing at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and the IFC Center

    Norman – Stop me if you’ve heard this one. A depressed young boy who after the loss of his mother and impending loss of his father to stomach cancer, feigns that very same illness as a coping mechanism. Yeeessh. Despite the heavy handed story, critics have been cautiously optimistic citing good acting from the entire cast including a great turn by Richard Jenkins in the role of the boy’s father. Still, this is some heavy stuff, making me give this one a See It For Yourself. Playing at the AMC Loews 19th Street East 6 and AMC Empire 25

    Oranges and Sunshine – Hugo Weaving and Emily Watson stars in this heartfrelt drama about the uncovering of a mass deportation of children from the United Kingdom to the plants of Australia. While most critics have hailed the work of Watson in the lead role, pacing problems and lack of tension plague the production. Still, most critics have given this a cautious thumbs up, so I’ll give it one as well. Screening at City Cinemas 1, 2 & 3, AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 and AMC Loews Village 7

    Revenge of the Electric Car – First shown at the Tribeca Film Festival, this sequel to 2006’s Death of the Electric Car details America’s renewed interest in gasless automobiles. Lacking in the biting nature of the first movie, this film reveals in the so called triumphs of the electric “revolution” but some critics have said all these niceties fail to make a compelling movie. Still, as a sister act to the first film, it’s nice to see somebody cares about this oft forgotten about piece of the American auto industry. Screening at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema

    Opening This Week – Indie, Art House and Small Screenings

    Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey – Lovingly told documentary about Kevin Clash, creator of the adorable little monster we know as Elmo. Detailing his entry into puppeteering and the affects this style of storytelling has on impressionable young minds, this doc is a beautiful piece of filmmaking. Featuring narration by Whoopi Goldberg and interviews with the likes of Frank Oz, Rosie O'Donnell, Cheryl Henson, and Joan Ganz Cooney, this film is a quick but delightful doc that’s definitely worth checking out. Showing at the IFC Center

    My 3 To See

    Paranormal Activity 3 – The spooky season is in full swing and what better way to celebrate than this well received entry into the Halloween franchise.

    Le Havre – There are a bunch of good indies coming to theaters this weekend but when 29 critics all give a film positive reviews, you know you can’t go wrong. Charming, emotional and poetically beautiful, the latest film by Aki Kaurismaki looks to be one of his best.

    Martha Marcy May Marlene – Almost gave it to the Elmo doc, but it is October, so why not give it to one of the best psychological thrillers this year. Detailing a young girls escape from a ravenous cult and her attempts to get her life back in check, this film has the right blend of action, suspense and intrigue to keep even the most picky of film fans happy.

    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!!

  19. What I can never forget just hearing the title American History X is the sound of teeth on pavement -- I can't imagine anything so horrible as that.

    That detail has me squirming and cringing everytime I see it! That enamel on concrete sound is heart stopping. Great call out!

  20. Review My Collection #12

    American History X

    Oh Tony Kaye. Why are you so brilliant yet so strangely weird? Critics, audiences and even green men from Jupiter all agree that American History X is pretty damn amazing. A shocking yet brutally honest character study of white supremacists and the lives they impact, American History X plays out more like an even handed documentary than a fictional tale. Full of wonderful performances, fine storytelling and Kaye’s signature cinematography, the film is a technical and emotional marvel. So why did Kaye have a public feud with New Line over the final cut of the movie, a cut done without his supervision? How come Kaye took out full page ads in film trade papers condemning the film? Why did he request his name be replaced with Alan Smithee in the director credit? The reasons run deep and long yet the end result is the same: American History X is an unflinching look into people consumed by hate and the people their anger touches the most.

    Telling the story of a Venice Beach family whose life is ripped at the seams by hate and bigotry, X centers around Derek Vinyard (Edward Norton), a thoughtful yet angry young leader of a group of neo-Nazis. After being sent to Chino for the murder of an African American gang member trying to jack his car, Derek spends three years amongst the very people he grew to despise and learns some hard lessons in the process. Luckily the film isn’t all about jail time and sieg heils as much attention is paid to the affect Derek’s life of hatred has on his family, mostly through his impressionable young brother, Danny (Edward Furlong). Danny is following in his brother’s skinhead footsteps and, after a stunt at school sends him to brink of expulsion, is tasked with telling the story of his brother, his history of hate and the affect all of this has had on his young psyche. This inclusion of the family element is one of the film’s greatest successes, creating both the motivation for Derek’s world views and the ending result.

    In fact, the element that makes the movie work is how much attention is paid to the back story of Derek, giving his mean spirited character a redeemable edge. This strange dichotomy puts the audience in an uncomfortable position, forcing us to face our own opinions of race relations head on. The film never apologizes for the actions of Derek, rather focusing on the events that led a brilliant yet impressionable youth down a path of self destructive bigotry. Kaye examines everything with a studious yet compassionate eye, never forgiving Derek for his vile ways but never truly condemning him either. To Kaye, Derek is a youth gone awry, led down a slippery slope by weak minded predators and we as an audience almost feel sorry for the Nazi, despite our natural distaste for the message he’s spewing.

    All this would be for naught, however, without the brilliant work of the film’s main cast. Edward Norton dives head first into the tricky role of Derek, giving the character plenty of emotional gravitas for us to latch onto. Much like many of his type, his racism is borne from the pain of loss, namely the sudden slaying of his father, told wonderfully via a profanity laced TV interview filmed shortly after his death. Norton plays the role smartly, honestly and emotionally bare, giving one of the best performances of his career. The rest of the cast is wonderfully written and realized, with top marks going to Furlong in the role of Danny and Avery Brooks in the role of Dr. Sweeny, an African American principal who sees a glimmer of good in the eyes of both brothers. And of course, one can’t talk about a Tony Kaye film without mentioning the exquisite cinematography that’s become his trademark. Filming the past in sumptuous black and white and the present day in color, Kaye masterfully tells the story in his signature style. In fact, the black and white portions are so visually gripping, it almost makes the color look weak in comparison. Sure the movie has some uneven moments and the ending is so shocking, it seems tacked on but the piece as a whole balances pain, love and even a splash of humor effortlessly.

    Race is a tough issue to tackle and with my recent review of this year’s The Help, it’s a subject that seems to be coming up a lot lately. Despite them both dealing with the subject of race, the two films tell entirely different stories in completely different ways. Where The Help took at a look at those beaten down by a broken system, American History X examines those doing the oppressing in an honest yet brutal fashion. More fable than film, American History X is a thought provoking and powerful piece of filmmaking that cements Edward Norton as one of our finest modern day actors and Tony Kaye as a director of daring and depth. The world needs more Tony Kaye movies and if only the studio hadn’t sparked a firefight with this eccentric yet genius artist, we just might have more of them.

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

  21. Just the ad for Drive had me throwing up a little in my mouth. What garbage that looks like!

    Yeah, it's slightly less than good, mostly due to some pretty poorly written characters. Kinda like David Clarkson is to hockey, Refn is a director I really hope puts it together and lives up to the promise his technical skills seem to show.

    Just saw a preview for Immortals. Director Zack Snyder, who directed 300. Looks awesome. comes out 11 11 11

    While this certainly looks like a Snyder film, this was actually directed by Tarsem Singh whose previous films include the indie thriller The Cell and the seldom seen The Fall. Not sure if Snyder is producing it or something, but according to Rotten Tomatoes, he's not directing. Just may the same kind of mad fun that 300 was, a film I'm critical of, but remains a damn good time.

    paranormal activity 3 looks pretty goo. Yea to alot of people it isn't scary(not to me) but is great movie to watch.

    Insidious 2 sequel being made as well.

    Paranormal 3 looks to be in the same vein as the other films and you know what, if it 'aint broke, don't fix it! Just so long as we don't have another Saw film, which there isn't one for this Halloween, I'll be exceedingly happy.

  22. Totally agree with you on Drive, Bulletproof. I had such high expectations mainly because of Ryn Gosling, who has quickly become my favorite actor after his turn in Blue Valentine. Unfortunately,Drive was a big disappointment. Thought the story was boring and predictable (I absolutely hated the happy ending), acting mediocre and sometimes over the top (Ron Perlman!) and was not impressed at all by the extreme violence.

    Fortunately I saw Warrior quickly after. Although it does not exactly rewrite the rulebook and it's basically The Fighter but with wrestling and kicking, I still enjoyed every second of it. Yes, you have seen this before in dozens of other similar films, and yes, it is predictable but it is very well executed and the ending is really powerful and emotional due to the great cast. Nick Nolte is as dependable as ever, Joed Edgerton was a pleasant surprise as the underdog who you'll be cheering for and after seeing Tom Hardy kick the sh!t out of everyone, I can't wait to see how he and Batman will fight it out in The Dark Knight Rises.

    I'm glad somebody agrees with me on Drive! I'm in the midst of some pretty decent pushback on Rotten Tomatoes concerning my score for the above review, which was 60%. To put it bluntly, it's not boring because it's "slow" or "nothing happens", it's boring because the characters are horribly developed. It's really all style with no substance.

    As for Warrior, I'm glad you had a good experience and while I doubt I'll see this in theaters, I'll toss it on the Netflix list for sure!

  23. i am still really into Gears of War 3... trying to finish Hoard on Insane is seriously impossible... gotta get mutators...

    looking forward to Halo CE: Anniversary Edition... new maps + coop campaign= fun

    i still have to play Mass Effect 2 before 3 comes out next year... if i get the time haha

    Question on Mass Effect. Is it really important to play the first one to enjoy the second. Reason I ask is because you can get 2 on PS3 but not 1. As far as I know, Mass 1 was a 360 only game but they ended up porting the Mass 2 to PS3. Just curious as I like to play from the beginning when starting a new series!

  24. New Movie Review


    Ever walk out of a theater and say to yourself, "What the heck did I just see"? More importantly, have you ever taken note of how you said it? Said one way, it could mean disgust after witnessing a convoluted mess and said another way, the sentence could tingle with fascination. Upon leaving the screening of the latest film by Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn, that strange sensation crept over me coupled with some serious self doubt. Much like the townsperson who saw a naked Emperor when the rest of village agreed he was clothed, I looked around to see if anybody else had been a little duped by the rave reviews this film's been getting. Best Director at Cannes, a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a ranking of 124 on IMDB's Top 250, this film has been universally lauded. So why was I so bored while at the same time so dazzled? How could I be on the edge of my seat while simultaneously yawning and picking sleep crust out of my eyes? The answer is a tricky one, but in the end, Drive is a filmmaking mash-up of decades and genres that does so much right, the missteps that are made make the film that much more disappointing.

    Before I even get into story, acting and the rest of it, let's get one thing crystal clear. Ryan Gosling is the best actor currently working in Hollywood. Period. Playing a stunt driver by day, wheelman for the city's undesirables by night, Gosling is simply mesmerizing in an undeniably difficult role. Opening with an expertly tense scene where Gosling plays a game of cops and robbers between himself, two thieves and the LAPD, the nature of the quietly intense Driver is instantly cemented. Coming off cool, calm and unflappable in the most intense pressure, Gosling's Driver is consistently engaging and despite us not having a good reason to root for this anti-hero, we find ourselves doing so anyway. More on that later.

    Unfortunately for the film, Gosling doesn't go it alone as he starts to develop a relationship with his next door neighbor, Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her young son Benicia (Kaden Leos). Irene's husband is in prison and when he's released only to find himself dealing with old debts, Driver comes to the rescue. Add to the mix Driver's crippled mentor Shannon (Bryan Cranston), the mafia entwined owner (Albert Brooks) and Ron Perlman as Brook's right hand man, Drive is populated with a strong cast. The problem here is that none of these actors have very much to do. With the exception of Gosling, the cast meanders through the movie, aimlessly going through the motions as they coast from scene to scene. Mulligan is boring, Perlman is jarringly over the top and Brooks is just there. While many people have called these characters "intriguingly ambiguous", their underlying motivations aren't clear and as a result, we really don't care what happens to any of them, really bad considering much of the film is spent with these periphery people.

    Which brings me to my introductory question of, "why was on the edge of my seat yet strangely bored"? To answer this, let's play a little game I like to call the "RedLetterMedia.com Challenge". If you've seen Drive, please do this game before continuing the review and feel free to use this trick anytime you're curious as to why a movie bored you death. For the characters in Drive, do the following: Describe each character in the movie WITHOUT saying what they look like, what they did or didn't do in the plot or what their profession or role in the movie was. Describe the character to your friends like they aint never seen Drive.

    Go ahead! Once again, I'll wait.

    Give up? While you should be able to come up with something for Gosling, I guarantee you won't be able to do this for any of the other cast members. If you did, let me know in a comment below and if I can't pick it apart, I'll mail you a pizza roll.

    This is the main reason why Drive is such a disappointment, especially considering there was so much I loved about it. As with Refn's previous work in Bronson and Valhalla Rising, Driver is visually stunning. From the patient camerawork to the nerve tingling score to the interesting choices made in both setting and scenery, Refn is quickly becoming a master of filmmaking techniques. A wild mash-up of 80's excess and 70's grit, the film borrows the best of each decade, creating moments that are nail bitingly tense and amazing to look at. As an addition to the "art house" action genre, a style that was pioneered by the likes of Tarantino and DePalma, Refn succeeds in both pacing and tone. The difference between Refn and those other directors, however, is that Refn hasn't matured as an artist yet. Just like when I saw his first film, Bronson, and had a very similar reaction, there is a brilliant filmmaker being born here. For me, Refn needs to have the courage to inject his characters with real life, real complexity and once he does that, he'll be on the level of the great ones. Without that, his films will remain interesting proofs of concept, but nothing more.

    A film buff's action film or a blockbuster junkie's indie, Drive ends up a disappointment despite doing almost everything right in the technical aspects of creating a stylish action/drama. Beautifully paced and carefully shot, the film falls apart every time one character is forced to interact with another. Without Gosling's courageous performance, this movie would have been a disaster. With it, you get just enough to stick it out to the end, even if you find yourself inexplicably bored through much of the feature. Filled with romance that's emotionally unexplained, bit performances that are shockingly over the top and characters that only serve as set pieces for the gorgeous cinematography, Drive is an empty shell of a movie. A beautiful, gripping and at times exciting shell, but a shell all the same.

  25. Just to piggyback on what everybody else has said, Salvador was well missed last year and he's shown why with some really solid play in preseason and the first two games. Like many have said, so long as he doesn't do anything glaring, he'll be just fine, so long as he can stay healthy

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