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Posts posted by njskaguy33

  1. New Movie Review

    The Help

    Newsflash to the world: It’s easy to be a white straight guy in America.

    Despite growing up as one of a few Irish/Polish kids in a neighborhood of Italians, I’ve never once been discriminated against. Picked on for my big dorky glasses? Sure. Made fun of for my lack of kick ball skills? You bet. Forced to drink from a different water fountain just because I was born with a darker skin tone than the government accepted race? Not ever. Despite my heart knowing that such prejudice is a weakness in spirit and an absolute wrong, I’ve never been personally subjected to it. Sure, I can go on for hours about equal rights for gays and modern day socioeconomics. Yes, I’ve seen a fair share of filmstrips in school about Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement. And, oh boy, I’ve seen plenty of movies that have decried the injustice of racism from all sides of the issue. Despite all that exposure, the fact of the matter is, I’ve never felt the pain of discrimination. Never been told that I can’t take a piss in a certain bathroom, never had my choice of marriage partner legislated by a government, never been forced to live a life of inequality. However, thanks to the personal stories and heartfelt acting of the women in The Help, I not only feel more connected to the pain these victims of discrimination had to endure, I feel as though I’ve been on a journey with these amazing survivors, experiencing their hardships, trials and ultimate triumph in a way I can only describe as magical.

    Featuring the finest female cast from any movie so far this year, The Help tells the tale of a group of African American maids toiling their days away in the segregated South. The focal point of the story surrounds two of these laborers, Minny, played by Octavia Spencer and her best friend, the amazing Viola Davis. Working in separate households, a plucky young writer by the name of “Skeeter” Phelan (Emma Stone) comes back to her childhood home of Jackson, Mississippi to discover with new eyes the injustice around her, primarily at the hands of local socialite Hilly Holbrook, played by Bryce Dallas Howard. Partly to help get her a job at a fancy New York publication and mostly because the racial injustice around her has worsened since she was a child, Skeeter starts to write a book telling the true stories, both good and bad, of the women who serve the Southern class elite.

    Note my use of the term “good and bad” because, above all things, that is what this movie does brilliantly. First time director Tate Taylor does a wonderful job of telling both sides of the tale, giving the audience humor, drama and excitement in equal measure. Civil rights movies are often heavy handed in their treatment of the subject but The Help balances out the natural tension with some much needed comedy. The result is a film that will have you weeping one moment and laughing the next, poetically dancing between the two extremes. Taylor also does a fine job in giving his actors space to breathe, feel and live the moments on screen. Too many directors these days rely on quick cuts and jumpy editing to tell their stories but Taylor directs with a steady hand, filling the screen with stunningly heartfelt moments that never cross the line to melodrama.

    That said, good actors doing great work in those long drawn moments make The Help one of the finest films of the year. Each actress in the film works the tightly balanced script to perfection, mining comedic gold one moment and heartfelt emotion the next. In one of the more difficult roles in the film, Howard could have played the prissy Hilly Holbrook as a pure villain but makes a brave decision to humanize the character. Much like many of the people living during this era, Holbrook thinks she is completely in the right when it comes to segregation, and in peppering the character with this unwavering sense of self righteousness, Howard makes the character bearable even when she’s committing hateful acts, a real feat by an actress I’d love to see more of. In the role of Skeeter, Emma Stone reaffirms herself as a quickly rising star in Hollywood, portraying the spunky journalist with a brave gentility mixed with heartfelt empathy. The scene stealer of the film, however, has to be Spencer as baker extraordinaire, Minny. Jumping from dogged determination to gut wrenching fear and always with a sharp comic edge, Spencer will make you forget she’s the subject of grave injustice simply in the way she laughs with her friends, cracks wise to her superiors and takes big handfuls of life. Not to give anything away, but there’s one uproariously fantastic moment in the film that will sure to dominate the post film conversation. Just have two words for you: Two Slices.

    In a cast filled with brilliant acting, though, it’s Viola Davis who takes the main prize. In what is sure to be an Oscar nominated role, Davis expresses a range of emotions in her character. Nervous about helping a white woman write a taboo book yet emboldened at the thought of her story being told, Davis is tasked with tapping into a wide range of emotions and to her credit, never falters once. Viola Davis shocked the word with her one scene turn 2008’s Doubt and if you loved her in that role, this time around you get an entire film’s worth of excellence. Quite simply, if you cherish good film acting, Viola Davis in The Help is a slam dunk must see.

    If you follow my reviews with any frequency, you know I don’t pass out 100% scores very often. To get that marker, you must be near perfect and The Help is exactly that: a near perfectly realized labor of love that wells up the tears, tickles the funny bone and feeds the soul. In fact, that’s the one phrase I can use to sum up The Help: a labor of love. Directed by the very good friend of the book’s author, featuring family members in supporting roles and acted by performers who obviously felt the weight and magic of the material, this film more than lives up to the hit book it was based on. Every actor from the main cast, to the supporters to even the few male roles sprinkled throughout give the film their absolute all, creating an experience that is a triumph of acting, of heart and of soul.

    Films of this quality usually get released around awards season, a time when the air gets colder, the films turn arty and audiences have long forgotten their local cineplexes. The fact that this movie is not just competing with the Marvel movies and action flicks of the summer season, but beating them in the box office, is a testament to the quiet beauty of this amazing piece of filmmaking. Much more than a Disney-fied retelling of early sixties race relations, The Help is a remarkable film that should garner more than few Oscar nominations come January.

    And while I still can’t say I know firsthand what it’s like being discriminated against, me being a straight white male in America and all, I think I can now say I at least understand what those brave people went through. A remarkable accomplishment for a remarkable movie.

  2. Just saw Exam the other night, I thought it was awesome. Here is the trailer for it.

    It's about eight candidates that have reached the final stage in a job application that involves them being in a room for 80 minutes taking this exam which consists of one question, but they first have to figure out what the question is before they can answer it.

    Wow, looks like a tight little thriller! I'll have to add this to the list. Thanks for the recommendation!

  3. I'm on the 10th floor of a building in mid town Manhattan and I felt it pretty good. In fact, we were all sitting in the office, minding our own business when my boss comes in and says, in a somewhat panicked way, "Is the floor moving???". At first, both myself and my co-worker looked like him like he was nuts but then my friends chair started quivering and I could see my desk listing left and right. Very weird feeling, and since I'm right in front of a window, I could see the building mpoving ever so slightly to the left and right. We all evacuated the floor but the building never forced one and we were all able to get back inside after twenty minutes. Nothing major, but weird to literally feel a building move like that.

  4. Batman (when done right, fvck you Tim Burton) is also the most deep and complex mainstream Comic Hero out there, so it leans itself in the right hands to being deep, dark and complex character based on his roots alone...and again Nolan is doing a fantastic job at it I agree, but campier heroes like Thor, GL or even Capt America, the story doesn't lead to the gritty as easily

    Agreed, but you don't have to be gritty to be good. Sure, Batman lends itself to a more dramatic tone, but you can develop the other characters in different ways. To me, Captain America drastically lacked in the development department but overall was an entertaining adventure. Maybe Batman just works better cinematically, but the others can be done well and have been done reasonably well this summer.

  5. Uh oh, let's not get into Inception, I don't want to start an argument, haha. Actually, as much as I loved it, it's probably not in my top 3 Nolan movies (probably Memento, TDK, and The Prestige). Tough to decide, they're all so good. I'll try not to get carried away because I could talk about Nolan movies all day, haha.

    I'm also looking forward to TDK Rises, the teaser especially got me very excited about it (Bane looks scary). I've heard that some videos and pictures have leaked onto the internet, but I'm avoiding them like the plague. I don't want anything ruined for me. Going to be tough to avoid them for a whole year though, but I'll do my best. If anybody posts spoilers here I'll hunt you down. :ph34r:

    I'd have to agree with you on your top three, as The Dark Knight could be considered the best superhero movie ever made. Just a classic.

    As for TDK rises, I think it's will be awesome and I'm with you, I'm not the type who likes all that sneak scenes / sneak pictures stuff. When the movie comes out, I want to enjoy and be taken in by it completely.

    As for Inception, here's a link to the review I wrote for it last year. I'd reference the review in this thread, but it would take ages :D Also, sorry I couldn't link the actual page, as RT is weird like that, but the full review in on this page:

    Inception Review

  6. Thanks. Next time I'll try to actually put some effort into putting the review together like a proper piece of writing. I was too lazy this time, haha.

    Great review of Captain America. I haven't seen it but you summed up basically what I've come to expect from most superhero/comic book films - some flair, and nice moments, but ultimately lacking the kind of substance and character development that marks a truly compelling film. I risk revealing myself as a Nolan fanboy by saying it, but nobody seems to be able to match what Nolan's done with the Batman franchise.

    Thanks for the props! Have to agree, nobody has created a more complex superhero than Nolan and it really isn't close. Despite my issues with Inception, Nolan is a visionary filmmaker and he created the most complex superhero character in history with the new Batman. Really looking forward to the third installment!

  7. Hey Bullet,

    Thanks so much. What's your Rotten site? ARe you in the business at all?

    Here's a link to my RT site, although everything I review on there gets posted in the Movies Thread, so if you follows my stuff there, it's the same thing, only with ratings.

    My RT Site

    As for being "in the biz", my brother is a working filmmaker and editor and I'm an aspiring movie critic, so I guess you could say I'd like to one day start writing for a publication. My brother hasn't done anything "mainstream" yet, as he's just a few days out of film school but he's an excellent editor and actually makes a living doing editing gigs here, there and everywhere. He's working on a few new scripts which I may lend a hand on, so when he starts casting for them, I'll keep you in mind!

    Also, do you have a link to any of this director's previous work? Having a link or a trailer on the message I send out would go a long way in getting my readers to pitch in.

    Again, good luck!

  8. New Movie Review

    Captain America: The First Avenger

    Note To NJDevs Readers: This review, like all my reviews, are posted on Rotten Tomatoes and the first line references one of the commenters on that site. Also, this review got a 6 out of 10 rating by me, which explains the final paragraph. Enjoy!

    Famed Rotten Tomatoes contributor Mr. Taylor has been writing over and over again about the Superhero Overload of 2011 and, finally, I'm starting to feel the strain. So far this year, in the span of only eight months, we've seen five major superhero movies come out in theaters, the same amount as the last two years combined. In fact, we haven't had a year like this since 2008, when there were a whopping eight movies released in the comic / superhero genre. Unlike that year, which was dominated by the universally praised The Dark Knight, the caped popcorn munchers of 2011 have all seen the same level of quality. While they're all good enough movies, nothing has stood out as amazing, making the influx seem monotonous and one noted. Captain America: The First Avenger is the final big budget hero flick to hit theaters this summer and while it's not a bad movie by any stretch, it's not a particularly great one either and provides the final explosion filled flatline to a summer full of caped crusaders.

    Staring Chris Evans as the shield wielding super soldier, Captain America tells the story of Steve Rogers, a Brooklyn based Army wannabe who supplements his wishey washey physique with a heart of gold. After applying and getting rejected for the armed forces multiple times, a scientist, played by Stanley Tucci, selects him for a secret government experiment that transforms him into the muscle bound Captain America. Up to this point the film is entertaining yet uninspiring but when the film takes an unexpected turn, taking on the notions of pro capitalist propaganda, the movie starts to show signs of life. The shift is awkward, but at least it's different, providing plenty of 1940's nostalgia and pompous energy. Unfortunately, about twenty minutes into this new thread, the movie shifts back to the type of action set pieces that's dominated the genre for the last decade, inexplicably dropping the new plot point. While I get that director Joe Johnston needed to get to the action, the hamhanded way he goes about it makes the side track seem out of place and unnecessary.

    Luckily, that was one of the few missteps made by Johnston as Captain America is a well directed action movie. Once Cap dons the uniform, he spends most of his time jumping on moving trains, saving scores of American POW's and fighting laser gun toting villains dressed like the 1940's version of The Gimp from Pulp Fiction. The action is fast, frenetic and is on par with the set pieces offered in the other Marvel films from this summer. One of my favorite aspects of the film, however, has to do the with the excellent art direction. Johnston took great pains to make sure the high technology would seem believable given the World War 2 setting and the result is a great blend of period elements and comic book pop. Much like Johnston's other work in the Rocketeer and The Wolfman, the film has a great look to it, a very nice change from the standard dank cities we're used to seeing in this style of movie.

    Sadly, all the great action in the world can't save a weak main character and this is where The First Avenger hits the skids. Despite an earnest performance by Evans, the character of Captain America doesn't have an arc: he starts the film eager to help the world and ends up the exact same way. Just to make a relative comparison, consider other modern heroes: Batman in Nolan's Dark Knight series learns to deal with his demons, Tony Stark learns humility in Iron Man and even Thor gains a touch of maturity, but Captain America stays strident and brave. While being a shining example of American bravado may work as a plot point, this limits the Captain's growth as a character and that hurts the film immensely. Although it's nice to see him get the brawn to go with the bravery, once that happens we're left with seventy minutes of Captain America simply being awesome. Sure, there are some low points in the story of Steve Rogers' fight against Nazi extremists but the core of the character never changes, creating a lead that's not bad, just uninteresting.

    The rest of the cast does a more than adequate job with the archetypical roles presented to them and you better believe that all the action flick stereotypes are firmly represented. You have the tough as nails love interest (Hayley Atwell), the curmudgeonly drill sergeant (Tommy Lee Jones), a young, vibrant Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) and the wise scientist (Stanley Tucci). All of the cast members, while stuck in the confines of their roles, do a fine job with them, especially Tommy Lee Jones who gives off a sense of tough comedy as the US commander. The other notable performance is the one given by Hugo Weaving as the nefarious Red Skull, leader of the underground Nazi offshoot Hydra and the film's main antagonist. Weaving is deliciously over the top as the crimson faced baddie, strutting in his M. Bison inspired uniform, chewing lines and bellowing in unintentionally hilarious close ups. Weaving plays the part with comic book gusto but, like most of the characters in the film, suffers from gross underdevelopment. Yes, he was fun to watch but again, not that interesting.

    That, in fact, is best way one could sum up the Captain America experience. While the movie features an impressive visual style and some lightly entertaining action, the film meanders around mediocre, failing to provide an interesting protagonist or villain for audiences to latch onto. Like a loud Harley with a quarter tank of gas, the film has all the potential to be big, explosive and awesome yet quickly runs out of steam before reaching the finish. Easily the weakest of this year's Marvel offerings, Captain America: First Avenger is worth a viewing for "Avengers Completeness" but falls a few strides short of the company's previous efforts.

    Also, one more note on my final score: walking out of the theater I was ready to give the movie a 70% but now, about one week later, my feelings have dropped a notch and it has nothing to do with acting, action or directing. To be perfectly honest, the Superhero Overload of 2011 has taken its toll and I'm now officially sick of the genre...that is, of course, until The Avengers comes out in 2012.

  9. I just saw 30 Minutes or Less yesterday. Kind of a difficult movie to review. I've seen a lot of really negative reviews for it, and I think some of them are a bit exaggerated. It's not an awful film, and it has some funny moments, but overall, it doesn't fully live up to its potential. I'm not really sure how to organize my thoughts for this so I'm just going to give you some bullet points of my thoughts:

    -It's pretty short. I believe it's only about 80 minutes long. It went by pretty fast, almost feeling a bit rushed at times. I wouldn't have minded at all if an extra 10-20 minutes of character development were added in.

    -The tone is a little sporadic. A few times it almost feels like there was a "happy, feel-good" version and a "darker" version of each scene and they just alternated randomly between the two. The filmmaker perhaps was unsure of which way to go with this film and it never seems to settle on one style, which makes it feel a bit odd at times.

    -Reminds me a bit of Pineapple Express, in that both contained more violence and action than I expected from a seemingly silly, laid-back comedy. Although, I believe that Pineapple Express was the better overall film.

    -Aziz Ansari had perhaps the best comedic delivery and timing out of all the characters in the film. He and Jesse Eisenberg had pretty good chemistry and I wish there were more scenes expanding on the relationship of their characters, which is only touched upon.

    -Danny McBride and Nick Swardson, two comedic actors who I often find to be a bit obnoxious, were not bad as the dim-witted villains. Some of their comedy feels a bit tired, and some of their improv dialog is too predictable to really be laugh-out-loud funny. One of the jokes right at the climax of the film is a "that's what she said" joke, which I'm pretty sure stopped being funny or clever like a year ago.

    So overall, it's not a terrible film, but I can't really compare it to any of the other comedies that came out this summer since I didn't see them. I'd say it's an average comedy flick, with enough twists and turns to at least make it enjoyable to watch, but in the end it is not particularly memorable. I'd say 6/10 is fair.

    Fine review, prodigy! It's interesting how you mention tone as that is single hardest thing to achieve other than timing, in a comedy. Many times, directors will sacrifce an even tone for something funny and while that moment may be hilarious on its own, the movie suffers a bit for it. Well done!

  10. Great topic!

    My first jersey had #44 Richer on the back, was red, which at time was the away color and was made by Starter. The funny story about the jersey was that I recieved it for the Christmas of 1995 and literally wore it once a week for the remained of that school year. Sadly, Richer got traded, I believe towards the end of the '96 season, so the jersey I had wanted for over a year was rendered obsolete a mere three months after I got it.

    Still, I ended up wearing the snot of that jersey whenever playing street hockey and going to games but it sadly was only relevant for a short amount of time.

  11. Just kicked in a little something...finances are a bit tight right now, but like you said, every little bit helps! I'll also pass along the word to my Rotten Tomatoes readers, just to get the word out that much more.

    Good luck on the film!

  12. Just wanted to give you all a quick update on a weekend of movie going and my thoughts. Each flick is going to get a full review, but I thought I'd post my quick thoughts first.

    Planet Of The Apes - Well, I did as promised! I bit the bullet, saw this flick and, I have to say, I'm damn happy I did! While I felt the cast, with exception of the actor playing the ape, was merely good enough, the film embraced it's B-movie sensibilities and delivered some very enjoyable summer action. The work of the main character was really wonderful, CG enhanced and all, as I really forgot I was watching a computer generated monkey and lost myself in the character. Good flick and I'm glad my expectations were exceeded!

    The Guard - Directed by John Michael McDonagh, brother of the famous Irish playwright Martin McDonagh, The Guard is a dark comedy starring Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle as an American FBI agent and a local Irish cop on the hunt for a trio drug dealers in Ireland. Playing like a buddy cop movie with a morbidly comic edge, the film, while providing a few laughs, falls flat in the characterization of the two leads providing little in the way of chemistry and interest. A flatly made film, The Guard was one of my more anticipated films of the summer that, despite the many fine reviews, fell well short of good for me.

    Captain America - Probably the hardest review I'll be writing this week, Captain America was just fine as it did everything it intended; it created an interesting 1940's world of hidden technology, put some very exciting action set pieces together and connected many of the dots in the Avengers franchise. Not a stupendous film by any stretch, but one I quite enjoyed while in the theater.

  13. Firstly, sorry for missing the Week In Reviews over the last few weeks. Life has been exceedingly busy and I just haven't had the time!

    Saw The Tree of Life the other day. As a big Terrence Malick fan I was very disappointed in his latest film. As always, there are moments of true beauty to be found, but at times it almost felt like a parody of Malick's own work (how many times do we have to see the sun through the trees or hear someone whispering to God?). Tree of Life's epic scope has drawn comparisons to 2001: A Space Odyssey but this one is nowhere near Kubrick's classic, and not nearly as transcendent and poetic as some reviews make it out to be. Every image in 2001 supports the story, but Tree of Life's seemingly random scenes just result in a pretentious mess.

    100% agree, Atterr! While I'm holding off on a proper review until I see it again, mostly at the behest of my Rotten Tomatoes readers who mostly love it, but I found it over long, boring and highly pretentious. The acting, with the exception of the woman who plays the mother, is average, the themes get muddled amongst the pretention of the filmmaking and the whole thing just seemed drawn out and dull. Going to watch it one more time before reviewing it but I doubt my feelings are going to change.

    I have to say that Cowboys and Alienswas one of the worst movies I've ever seen.

    Hmmm, I'm still strangely curious but I'll reserve this for a Netflix viewing.

    It really doesn't (BTW, I do highly recommend the originals....well except the 2nd, that one was pretty awful, but amazing movies for their time), this movie kinda stands on its own from the Tim Burton embarrassment (well it has to, it has a good plot, story, you care about the characters and it's not getting screwed up by Burton's "vision"), and it had some nice nods to the original (the Space Ship scenes)...this is totally how you reboot a movie and franchise!

    The trailer looked awful which is why I'm shocked everyone is enjoying it so much. I may just bite the bullet, and my pride, and see it this weekend but man, I thought this was going to be a stinker! Then again, like you said, anything would be better than the Burton Planet...talk about junk!!

    I just saw Source Code the other day. It was entertaining; not a bad film at all. I'd probably give it a 7/10. Jake Gyllenhaal does a fine job as the lead and Vera Farmiga is also solid. I found parts of it to be a bit predictable but there were enough twists and turns to keep me interested.

    Not sure if you caught my full Source Code review from a few pages back, but what killed that movie for me was the tacked on ending. Just went too far, took too hard a twist and made nowhere near enough sense. Outside of that, though, it was a very decent flick.

  14. Review My Collection #7

    After Hours

    One strange Christmas, approximately five years ago, my brother scraped together some cash from his part time supermarket job and bought me a present that would keep on giving. The gift contained a DVD box set entitled "The Martin Scorsese Collection" and like many discount collections of this ilk, packaged two well known films with three obscurities. While I was thrilled that I now owned a better transfer of Goodfellas and was euphoric it threw in the slightly better Mean Streets, the other three films were complete mysteries to me at the time. Even though one of those movies, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, was surprisingly good, the other two remained encased in shrink wrap, forgotten and forlorn in favor of the more popular movies therein. Unwatched and collecting dust, the final two films in the collection became footnotes in my movie-going mind, usurped by more modern Scorsese classics. The first of these films is Who's That Knocking On My Door and the second, unearthed exclusively for this Review My Collection series, is the dark comedy After Hours, a barely satisfying footnote in the storied career of the master filmmaker.

    Griffin Dune stars as Paul Hackett, an Upper East Side computer consultant who leads a staid existence: he consults Bronson Pinchot on how to use a mid 80's computer terminal, reads Henry Miller and lives in an orderly New York apartment. However, after meeting a quirky but fascinating girl in a New York diner and calling her that evening, Hackett kicks off a series of events that takes him through a very strange night in the City That Never Sleeps. From the first frame, one thing is readily apparent: After Hours is clearly a Martin Scorsese joint. The film is peppered with Scorsese's signature cinematography, full of quick pans, jolting zooms and meticulous pacing, all hallmarks of a director at the height of his craft. Nobody can deny Scorsese's aptitude behind the camera and After Hours highlights that ability in spades. Yet another love letter to the city that Scorsese called home, After Hours serves as a time capsule to a New York that simply doesn't exist anymore, highlighting all the madcap grittiness, weirdness and danger of that place and time. As a current resident of Manhattan, I often wonder how it would have been living here two decades ago and the best Scorsese movies give me a little taste of the New York gone by.

    Unfortunately for the film, nostalgia and film techniques can only go so far without a competent story to keep it afloat and this is where After Hours takes a turn for the bad. Labeled a "dark comedy", the movie heaps on the satire without ever winking, creating an experience that's more unsettling than humorous. Just like the guy you knew in college that thought Holocaust jokes were funny, After Hours wants to be darkly comic without having an inkling of what the term actually means. People get robbed, talk blandly about rape experiences and attempt suicide, all played for a chuckle that just isn't there. It's not that the performances are bad: Dune plays the hapless fella just trying to get home with sincerity, Rosanna Arquette is at her weirdly comic best as the diner girl and bit parts from Catherine O'Hara, Teri Garr and even Cheech and Chong serve their comedic purpose. Problem is, the comedy just isn't there. Although Scorsese was able to find that comedic balance in his previous film, The King Of Comedy, that movie had the strength of a more interesting story, likable characters and, oh yeah, some guy named Robert DeNiro. After Hours, on the other hand, features a cast of misfits and degenerates, all trying way too hard for your cautious laughter. Sure the movie has its moments, but just as you think Hackett is about to come across a person somewhat normal, the shtick ramps back up, hurling you headlong into the next out of place encounter. The tale is scattershot and for the most part humorless.

    After Hours, in a word, just isn't funny. Perhaps this was considered a biting farce in 1985, which would explain the mind boggling 92% Fresh rating it currently holds on Rotten Tomatoes, but to me it just fell flat on nearly every level. Well constructed and decently directed, After Hours fails at its primary goal of providing some cringe inducing laughs in the midst of a wild New York night. Although I'll always love viewing NYC through the eyes of a master, good technique only goes so far. Even though the movie doesn't provide much in the way of laughter, it's still worth a watch for the hardcore Scorsese fan, featuring some top notch camerawork and direction. Now all I have to do is give my brother a ring and let him know I finally watched his gift from all those years ago. And, oh yeah, I'm saving that final box set installment for Review My Collection #197.

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

  15. Sadly, I don't have cable but I'm working through The Sopranos for the first time...just finished the second episode of the 3rd season and it's pretty fantastic. Yeah, I know I'm a decade late, but it still holds up.

    As for new shows, the only one I would follow, if I has cable, would be Curb Your Enthusiasm. I'm all caught up as of the 7th season but that whole not having cable thing makes following the new season quite difficult.

    Other than that, I love the Office (watch instantly on Netflix) and am very interested in Game of Thrones and Luther, a pyschological crime thriller series on BBC. Would like to check both of those out at some time.

  16. Review My Collection #6


    While I know I've been asking a lot of questions in my reviews as of late, allow me the latitude to ask one more.

    Ever "self narrate"?

    You know, self narrate. Take the events going on in your day to day life and do a mental narration? Kind of like a self imposed voice over for your daily what nots. Makes life more interesting, doesn't it. Well, here's another question. Ever exaggerate these mental monologues? Maybe you put yourself in more interesting places, surrounded by more interesting people, getting yourself in more compelling situations. Ever conjure a more fascinating you?

    If not, screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine, Being John Malkovich) certainly did. In the process of adapting a rambling book called the Orchid Thief, Kaufman not only inserted himself in his movie, he documented his internal struggling in doing so, highlighting fears, ambitions, self doubt and finally creative breakthrough. The result of this experiment is Adaptation, one of the strangest and most compelling filmgoing experiences from the last ten years.

    Directed once again by Spike Jonze, Adaptation is the story of its writer, Charlie Kaufman, an all of sudden hit of Hollywood who, despite his success, lacks self esteem in nearly every aspect of his life. From the women he fantasizes about to his personal appearance to the screenplay he needs to adapt, Kaufman is man without a direction, ambling his way through the chic world of late nineties Hollywood. Kaufman, in inserting himself into the movie, forces himself to really examine what he is who is and who he wants to be, a task that could have self serving and boring but is brought to life by the fantastic direction of Spike Jonze. Jonze seems to have a knack for pulling of Kaufman's oddball stories and does so with flair and imagination.

    Of all the tricks in Jonze's arsenal, the most compelling one is the creation of the Kaufman character himself. Nicholas Cage plays both Kaufman and in a feat of camera trickery, his live-in brother Donald. Donald is an aspiring screenwriter who not only mirrors the type of fun, outgoing person Kaufman secretly wants to be, personifies everything he feels is wrong with the Hollywood machine. The result is a playful and near genius wink to the system that brought him fame. Cage is fantastic in both roles, disappearing into both characters seamlessly. If you've ever doubted Cage's skills as an actor, Adaptation will set you the right way.

    Luckily, Cage has some help as the rest of the ensemble cast is just as fantastic. From Meryl Streep as the author of the book to Chris Cooper as the wild child horticulturalist (in an Oscar winning performance) to Cara Seymour as Kaufman's love interest, this is a perfectly chosen cast. Despite the best efforts of everybody involved, it's the brief turn of famed character actor Brian Cox as screenwriting lecturer Robert McKee that not only steals the show but serves as the catalyst for the films eventual downfall. Two thirds of the way through the movie, Kaufman goes to one of McKee's seminars in a fit of desperation and learns about of all of the teacher's "don'ts of screenwriting", which include lack of voiceover, avoiding acts of God, etc. While the class proves inspirational for the writer, Kaufman goes ahead and peppers the final third of the film with exactly the type of devices McKee warns about. While I'm sure this was done as a wink to the "know-it-all film teachers", the third act suffers greatly for it, coming off contrived, clichéd and bland in comparison to the brilliant two thirds. Luckily, the audience is invested enough with the characters to excuse these flaws in the narrative and while the film ends on a pleasing note, I would have loved to see the story play itself out without the almost corny plot twists of the final frame.

    Despite my criticisms, Adaptation is a triumph and a success on almost every level. Brimming with originality, self depreciating humor and a startling insight to the pressures of creativity, Kaufman and Jonze have created a lasting film experience that should be seen by anybody who has ever dreamed up a heightened reality for themselves or simply just dreamed. In another writer or directors hands, this could have been a pretentious mess but thanks to some extremely smart decisions, Adaptation isn't just an interesting experiment, it's a wholly realized success. And if you're one of those people who've never done that self narration I mentioned in the opening paragraph, give it a shot sometime. If Charlie Kaufman was able to conjure up Adaptation by doing just that, imagine what's brimming in your own self conscious.

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

  17. Crazy Stupid Love was absolutely phenomenal. I took a girl to see it, but guys: you definitely don't need to. It's not at all a chick flick. Increadible story, great directing, and steve Carrell is going to win his bodyweight in awards for his preformance. Best film I've seen in the movies in quite a long time.

    You know, I just may need to see this flick now. Glad to hear it exceeded your expectations!

  18. Matt Wong left RBF back in 2007 also. I hate when my favorite bands members go their own ways but both of them left the band to pursue a family and other things. I know Wong is making his own beats, I forget what name hes under now.

    I have never really been able to get THAT into the bosstones but I do have all of their music and listen to them quite a bit. If Toh Kay does another acoustic show.....I expect both of you to be there with me. hahaha It was the best show I have ever been to.

    Here's my favorite song from LTJ's new EP Greetings From Less Than Jake (even though the whole ep is damn good)

    Here's a clip from Toh Kay in the city:

    As you could tell, he was very talkative and joked around with the crowd all night.

    Damn, totally forgot Wong had left a few years back. That little nugget of information must have been replaced by a hockey stat or something :D

    That LTJ song is a good one and it's nice to hear them going back in time a bit with their sound. Always a good idea to simplify when the music stops working. Oh and that Toh Kay song? Pretty much the coolest thing I've heard all week. Really bummed I missed that show now!

  19. To Microwave and Quinn, you have a third person here who's been listening to ska since the late ninties, so cheers! :cheers:

    Just heard that Scott is leaving RBF, and that's a shame. To me, Aaron, Scott and Matt Wong are the core of RBF and it will be interesting to see how the band evolves without Scott. Haven't seen them live in quite some time.

    As for Streetlight, I'm psyched to hear they are working on new music as they are pretty much the only band out there doing something different with the ska genre. As for LTJ, I didn't pick up the EP but I do have GNV FLA which is fairly decent, much better than In With The Out Crowd. So long as they write good hooks and stick to what thye do bets, their always a good time.

    Also, while it's a bit old by now, the latest album from The Mighty Mighty Bosstones is really fantastic. They went back to writing simple, catchy ska tunes and the result is their bets work in quite some time. Was a random buy but glad I did so.

    Oh, and I was minutes away from going to that Tomas acoustic show in NYC a few months back. Just didn't get there and from the sounds of it, I missed a good one.

  20. Quick Reviews from the screening room :)

    Crazy Stupid Love - Excellent, one of my favorite films this year so far.

    Cowboys and Aliens - Big letdown. Boring.

    If you enjoyed Crazy, Stupid, Love, I'd recommend I Love You, Phillip Morris which was done by the same writer / director team as Crazy. Great flick if you haven't seen it! As for Cowboys, I'm not suprised as inital reviews have been mixed at best.

  21. New Movie Review

    X-Men: First Class

    Even been asked, “Sooo…what’s your story?”

    It’s a hard question, isn’t it.

    Where do you start? What do you include? More interestingly, what do you omit? Some may think to start at the very beginning but then the story goes on forever, boring the listener to tears. Maybe you include just the important details, the events that impacted you most directly but you then run the risk of sounding like a blowhard, never betraying the missteps that also shaped your psyche. Everything from personal triumphs to momentary setbacks to the minutia that makes us, “us”, all of our stories are much more complex then we realize.

    Now imagine answering that same question to a theatre full of five hundred people. Some in attendance have never heard of you, some know bits and pieces of your tale, and some have been following your story your entire life. Who do you target? Your long time followers have their own interpretation of your life, bringing a head full of demands as to what you should include. Do you cater to fan service? What about those who know a bit about you and simply need you to fill in the blanks while staying true to what they know. And let’s not forget the newbies who need everything re-explained, much to the chagrin of the veterans of your story. How do you satisfy that entire theatre? How do you keep everybody happy.

    That is the primary challenge facing director Matthew Vaughn (Kick Ass) in the origins story / franchise reboot X-Men: First Class and while the movie has some issues with character development, plot structure and pacing, the end result is a satisfying first chapter in the long running superhero story.

    Right off the bat, this review has to assume you, the reader, are a member of the X-Men newbie club, so forgive me if I’m reluctant to give away what most people already know. X-Men: First Class is essentially a tale of two friends, one by the name of Charles Xavier, a professor of mutation with telepathic powers (James McAvoy) and the other a Holocaust survivor with the ability to manipulate metal, played by Michael Fassbender. These two unlikely friends, in conjunction with a team young mutants and a special division of the CIA, look to take down the nefarious Dr. Schmitt (Kevin Bacon), an energy absorbing mutant whose end game is to take the Cold War to a whole new level. Much like Captain America, X-Men: First Class is based in revisionist history and while the new take on events like the Cuban Missile Crisis works as a device to push the story, I couldn’t help but laugh at the generous leaps the film takes to make it all work. The plot is contrived, silly and fairly ridiculous but luckily it knows it, doing its best to stay out of the way.

    Luckily, like I said at the outset, this is really a film about the relationship between McAvoy and Fassbender and in that respect, the two leads do a great job. McAvoy plays the part with a surprising amount of charm mixed with the empathy comic fans expect from the long standing character. Despite his mutation, Dr Xavier has a strong sense of the human condition and wants nothing more than to co-exist with the dominant species, a drive that is portrayed perfectly by McAvoy. Fassbender, on the other hand, brilliantly balances his desire for revenge with his burgeoning friendship with Xavier. Both McAvoy and Fassbender are fine actors and it’s good to see them in a high profile role that allows them to really get entrenched in some quality characters.

    Sadly, the same can’t be said for the rest of the cast. Kevin Bacon is fine as the evil doctor but the rest of the young mutants play the parts to type. In this film, we get introduced to many of the classic characters, but rather than examining each story, the film does it all montage style, convenient for time purposes but bad for character development. As a result, these kids, while well acted by the youngsters involved, never rise above their powers, creating characters that are a little difficult to connect with. Luckily, Vaughn, who I thought did a relatively poor job with Kick Ass, directs with a confidence and focus that I haven’t seen in his previous work. While there are characters that just exist for the sake of the action and scenes that look as though half got left on the cutting room floor, Vaughn does the best he can with the script he was given. Although I can’t help but think a more seasoned director could have given the movie a more even flow, Vaughn does an admirable job with the sheer amount of material presented.

    X-Men: First Class is an enjoyable yet uneven ride that is complimented with fine action, entertaining set pieces and two great performances by the leads. Fassbender and McAvoy both have chops to spare and propel the film past the breakneck pacing, giving the audience something interesting to latch onto. As I mentioned earlier, films of this type are innately difficult, especially given the popularity of the source material. While it could be easy to nitpick the ludicrous story, critique the scenes that end unexpectedly and laugh at the awfulness of the Beast costume (seriously, what the heck was that), the goal of the film was to cement the relationship between the stars of the franchise and tell us how the team got together. To that end, X-Men: First Class is a genuine success, even if it ends up being the ultimate compromise: when you attempt to please everybody, nobody is fully satisfied. An easy film to pick apart but a hard one to provide any insight on how it could have been better, X-Men: First Class is am enjoyable introduction to the world of mutants and men.

  22. Opening This Week – Nationwide

    Captain America: The First Avenger (Also showing in 3D) - Joe Johnston (The Wolfman, Hidalgo, Jumangi) directs newcomer Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones and Hugo Weaving in this retro adaptation of the classic Marvel hero, Captain America. Much like the other Marvel reboot, X-Men First Class, Captain America rewrites history a bit, creating a world where America is creating super human soldiers and there are secret organizations with crazy names, all of this set in the 1940’s. Critics have been largely positive about this adaptation saying it’s solidly directed and quite fun take on the action adventure genre, with a style and tone much like Johnston’s second film, The Rocketeer. Featuring good performances, a solid story and high flying retro action, Captain America should be a solid bet for those looking for a well made action film this summer.

    Friends With Benefits – Haven’t we seen this movie at least twice this year already? With films like No Strings Attached and Love and Other Drugs already clogging theaters with similar plotlines, will the latest movie by Will Gluck bring some originality to the, “friends who screw with no emotional consequences” story? According to critics, nope, not really but the sexual chemistry between stars Mia Kunis and Justin Timberlake make up for the retreaded plot. To be fair, I enjoyed Gluck’s previous effort, Easy A, and that aspect alone vaults this to See It For Yourself levels, so if you really need one more adult edged rom com in your life, this just might be it. For my money, however, this is worth seeing on DVD if anything.

    Opening This Week – Limited

    Another Earth – Metaphysics, astrology and science fiction combine in Another Earth, an ambitious film about two people who, upon the evening of the discovery of an alternate reality version of Earth, find their live irrevocably changed, have to make a choice: is their current Earthly existence good enough or risk starting over on the New Earth. Critics have mostly praised this movie as being ambitious despite the twists in the screenplay and the contrivance required to make it work. To me, it’s a fairly interesting concept that is definitely worth Seeing For Yourself. Screening at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center and Landmark Sunshine

    A Little Help – Jenna Fischer, of The Office fame, stars in this little comedy about a young long Island girl who tries to rebuild her post 9-11 life who tries to rebuild her life. Promising poignancy and laughs in equal measures, critics are mixed as to how well the film achieves that goal. While critics say Fischer is affable enough in the starring role, methinks that may just be some Pam Beasley love rubbing off. To me, there are far better comedies new on DVD and in theaters to give this a look but if you like your ha ha’s with a sense of sentimentality, A Little Help may be right up your alley. Showing at City Cinemas 1, 2, 3, AMC Loews Village 7 and AMC Empire 25

    The Myth of the American Sleepover – The titles basically say all you need to know about this well received independent film. Taking place in a small Michigan city, four teenage friends spend their last day of summer together, taking turns coming to stark realizations about life, youth and fleetingness of it all. Getting mostly positive reviews from critics, most praise first time director David Robert Mitchell’s ability to honestly tell the coming of age story without glitz or smarm, instead choosing a more honest approach. Saw this trailer last week and while it looked interesting, I was waiting for critical response before making a decision. Now that the reviews are positive, I can make an honest See It recommendation! Screening at the Angelika

    Sarah’s Key – Story of a modern day journalist who, while investigating the notorious Vel d’Hiv roundup in 1942 Paris, discovers a dark family secret. Another one of those parallel story type films, Sarah’s Key has been said to work when it’s set in the past and fall apart when the modern story takes hold. Getting mixed reviews from critics, this is another one those See It For Yourself type films. Playing at the City Cinemas Paris Theatre and the Angelika

    Opening This Week –Indie, Art House and Small Screenings

    World on A Wire – Do you have three hours to stare spellbound at a screen? Then run right out and check out, World on a Wire! Labeled as a dystopic science fiction epic, this rerelease of the rarely seen 1973 German movie has been getting raves from critics, with most saying it’s just as awe inspiring at it was 40 years ago, worth seeing for those who loved 2001, The Tree of life and films of that ilk. Playing at IFC Center

    My 3 To See

    Captain America – The First Avenger – Modern day action mixed with old school set pieces make this latest Marvel flick a good one to see for some solid if old fashioned action fun.

    Another Earth – Despite some Twilight Zone style plot twists, this Sundance favorite is sure to please the science fiction fan looking for something new this summer.

    The Myth of the American Sleepover – Poignant, funny and brutally honest, this story of four teens having one last gasp at childhood has been labeled as a triumph by critics.

    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!!

  23. Good post, thanks for shedding light on what's happening behind the scenes. A listener-run radio station would be interesting, but I wonder if enough people would support it for it to stay afloat.

    It could, but without some sort of corporate support, it wont work in a major market. Problem is, the wider your range of broadcast, the more expensive the licensing fees get. For listener supported radio to work, they would have to limit the range of the stations. This would naturally lead to more variety, but you'ld get more frustration for listeners as their favorite station wouldn't have the range of the major stations now. Plus, instead of commercials, you'ld have donation drives, much like you do on public TV. Not the worst thing in the world, but again you're competing with CD's, iPods, satellite and other mobile entertainment. Again, it would have to be a fine balance but if could work.

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