Sunday, January 29, 2012

MAN ON A LEDGE - high and dry but lots of energy

Man On A Ledge was slightly better than I expected. It has your usual impossible plot line for a movie gimmick of this caliber, yet I found it enjoyable to watch. It reminded me of The Next Three Days which came out in 2010 and was a surprisingly enjoyable intense thriller also starring Elizabeth Banks. MOAL had the same kind of energy.

Sam Worthington has become for me what Michael Fassbender is and wishes he could be. The only movie I have been able to enjoy him in was Terminator Salvation in which I thought his character actually eclipsed that of Christian Bale. I thought I was really going to like this aussie but I never find myself connecting to him in all his subsequent performances including Avatar, Clash Of The Titans and Last Night. He looks a bit seedy and washed up in this film and it's hard for you to care about his problems. Not that looks should be the only influence on your opinion of character but in this instance they affected me negatively.

Worthington's costar, Jamie Bell, was very likable and however implausible the likelihood of the aforementioned and his scatterbrained girlfriend were at robbing a diamond from the multimillionaire Ed Harris's safe, they did so with an exciting dynamic. I would be surprised if the could successfully rob a candy store in real life. So if your looking to escape for a couple hours and watch a silly but enthralling spectacle unfold, then this movie is for you. It's a movie you might rent one day and be like "that wasn't as bad as everyone said."

Recommended Viewing: Rififi - The Next Three Days - A Shot In The Dark

                    Also Viewed: Underworld Awakening - I like this saga but this one was my least favorite 
                                           Redtails - a joke of epic proportions 
                                           Contraband - not bad, not great - some surprising twists

              Bob Scale: Objective: 6.5   -   Subjective: 7.0
             MetaCritic: 40
 Rotten Tomatoes: 23
                      IMDB: 6.5

Saturday, January 28, 2012

THE GREY - white and red all over

The Grey is survival of the fittest blown up and served cold. It reminded me of another film I saw only a month ago titled Essential Killing starring the elusive, Vincent Gallo. I believe that film was shot more beautifully and captured the essence of survival more so than The Grey but regardless I still believe this film to be decent as well.

It has some surprises a normal Hollywood film would not usually deem acceptable. It is very bleak right up to the end. Consider the opening shots and the sparsity of human connection. When a man is about to die in the plane crash, Neeson tells the man he is going to die - even in the most realistic war movies, characters aren't so honest! The penultimate scene and maybe the most important, is when Neeson asks for God's help to no avail. Most films would have someone or something show up with a golden hue from the sun around it to help the characters - but not this movie.

The wolves are the gimmick that propels the story and the characters to act but I believe The Grey does pull this off all the while feeling fairly realistic. The Grey and other films like it are successful for the same reason - it's innate to fight for survival. I don't think anyone knows why but we all want to live no matter what pain is incurred or what trials we must endure. Its in our DNA to fight to live, to survive another day. It may be the strongest instinct we possess next to food and sex cravings - which are also there in order for us to survive. We don't know why Neeson and the others must keep fighting to live, we just know they must. 

Few people ever give up on themselves, relatively speaking, and think of the brain power needed to overcome your own genes to commit suicide or decide to be euthanized. These decisions don't come lightly for most and usually, I assume, after tremendously long struggles with life. So if you want to watch some grisly men fight for their lives from flesh eating wolves - go see The Grey.

Recommended Viewing: The Way Back - How To Die In Oregon - Essential Killing

              Bob Scale: Objective: 7.3   -   Subjective: 7.5
             MetaCritic: 64
 Rotten Tomatoes: 77
                      IMDB: 7.5

Monday, January 23, 2012

HAYWIRE - a lot of stars but too much space

Steven Soderbergh is one of the great last innovators of cinema. He is the only director I know of who can transition so easily from extreme Hollywood fare like Ocean's 11 and digress completely to indie land with films like The Girlfriend Experience, starring hardcore pornstar Sasha Grey, and other obscure works with unknown actors like Bubble. Somehow he generally succeeds at both turning out great work almost every time. He has always  been a great advocate of digital cinema and was one of the first to make a feature film with Timecode, in which four screens play simultaneously. He was also early to use the RedCam (a digital camera capable of 4K resolution which is the 35mm film equivalent) to shoot his 4 hour epic Che.

A side note - 4K will be the next HD viewing experience. Right now your watching 1080p HD on your LCD, LED, Plasma or DLP TV sets. In a year or so you will be watching 3,800+ resolution HD on OLED TV sets with glasses free 3D HD. And yes its crazy crazy high quality.

Haywire, his latest venture is a hybrid between Hollwood and indie and I must say the mixture feels a bit off. This is a star studded cast with an unknown lead, Gina Carano, who holds her ground with rest but still conjures strange non emotive reactions from me . The movie is a bit like Contagion, his last effort. He doesn't allow you to connect with any of the characters in your normal way, much like Paul Greengrass's United 93. This is an experience of humanity as a whole, not individuals. I found both Contagion and United 93 to be excellent sources to utilize this kind of cinema experience - not so much for Haywire. Lauded as his first foray into martial arts cinema, it seems a bit lacking, however the fights scenes are good and feel realistic (which is the point) but also have a slight choreographed vibe during certain moments in them.

Overall I can't say I really enjoyed this film. The plot, to quote Ebert was "nonsense" and you have a difficult time connecting with anyone because Soderberg won't let you, but still worth a look for fans of fight sequences and chicks who can kick ass. 

Recommended Viewing: The Limey - The Informant! - Contagion - Solaris (2002)

              Bob Scale: Objective: 7.0   -   Subjective: 6.8
             MetaCritic: 67
 Rotten Tomatoes: 82
                      IMDB: 6.7

Thursday, January 19, 2012



First, I must say I am a huge Lars Von Trier fan. His films overtake me and transport my mind to a universe that is uniquely his own. This magnum opus was no different. 

The prologue is a delight to behold much like his Antichrist (which was even better). The opening sequence to Antichrist also reminded me of a film by Tarsem aptly named, The Fall. It was such a great sequence that it obliterated the rest of the film. I wish more directors would use slow motion, I find it absolutely mesmerizing.  

Melancholia is moody and purposely ambiguous throughout even though I suspect most people seeing the film already know how it's going to end. I personally try my best to not view trailers (even though I love them) or read anything about a film before seeing it. All I know is the poster, the title and who's behind it. 

sadness meets bliss 
I had a curious feeling of impending doom while watching numerous characters from his other films show up for the sham wedding. He knows how to make an audience respond to the unknowable.

The fact that astronomy has introduced the existence multiple exoplanets in the last couple of years (one very much like earth has just been discovered) no doubt has had its influence on this film as well as another interesting film of the year, Another Earth.

This film moved me, Kirsten Dunst and her relationships to Kiefer Sutherland and Charlotte Gainsbourg were particuallary well articulated through the masterstrokes of Von Trier. Visually stunning and interesting throughout. A welcome piece to his canon.

Recommended Viewing: Breaking the Waves - Dancer in the Dark - Dogville

              Bob Scale: Objective: 9.0   -   Subjective: 8.7
             MetaCritic: 81
 Rotten Tomatoes: 78
                      IMDB: 7.4
                    Netflix: NA
                   Instant: NA

a drive down memory lane
A truly great film of the year, stylish, innovative and genuinly entertaining. Easily the best electronic soundtrack for a film since TRON Legacy.

Ryan Gosling is perfect for the role of the antihero as well as Albert Brooks, the ideal token bad guy. I'm not sure about Pearlman, however. 

I loved the look and feel of the movie combined with Kavinsky's 80's like electro, it just revved me up for the whole ride. You know you have a clever movie on your hands when you view the whole opening sequence and then see Gosling as a cop in the next shot who then turns out to be a stunt double.

The director, Nicholas Winding Refn, was superb in his deft and terse approach to the story as well as ample use of blood which bordered on the Cronenbergian plain. I would highly recommend you check out his pusher trilogy and be prepared for two more mash ups with Gosling in coming years.

Recommended Viewing: The Pusher Trilogy

              Bob Scale: Objective: 9.0   -   Subjective: 9.5
             MetaCritic: 79
 Rotten Tomatoes: 93
                      IMDB: 8.1
                    Netflix: Yes
                   Instant: NA

van gogh by woody allen
The man can do no wrong. I have seen all 41 of his films and I can truly say that I damn near love them all which is a very rare thing indeed. I would certainly be a rare person to think this but even Woody Allen at his worst is better than most of what's out there.

I was dubious towards his choice of Owen Wilson at first but grew to love him quickly. Allen always has a character play himself in nearly every movie and Owen does as good a job as any neurotic narcissist.

This is a fantasy, pure and simple and you will love every minute of it especially if you have any appreciation for great art, films or literature. The dinner scene with Buñuel, Ray and Dali was absolutely priceless and hilarious to no end. Buñuel not being able to comprehend an idea, about which he made into a film 40 years later called The Exterminating Angel is the reason I still go to the movies.

Recommended Viewing: Zelig - Whatever Works - The Purple Rose of Cairo

              Bob Scale: Objective: 9.0   -   Subjective: 9.6
             MetaCritic: 81
 Rotten Tomatoes: 93
                      IMDB: 7.8
                    Netflix: Yes
                   Instant: NA

a bike without a master
This Belgian director pair continue to amaze with how they can always get me to feel such deep compassion for their characters. Since La Promesse they have  used the same cinematographer, Alain Marcoen, who with his cinema vérité style brings such  an overwhelming empathy that it can barley be resisted. 

This is yet another story of someone fighting against the odds and born into a world that doesn't care for them. The use of Adagio Un Poco Mosso is utterly used to perfection in the small moments of hopelessness and fits beautifully as the tragic coda.

Stop making me feel so bad that I have it so good.

Recommended Viewing: La Promesse - L' enfant

              Bob Scale: Objective: 8.8   -   Subjective: 9.0
             MetaCritic: NA
 Rotten Tomatoes: 92
                      IMDB: 7.5
                    Netflix: NA
                   Instant: NA

marry me
My second comedic pick of the year and well deserved. Kristen Wiig pulls out a suprising and sensitive performance which has to be the best of her career. Newcomer (at least to me) Melissa McCarthy was terribly funny as the not even needed comic relief. Maya Rudolph was good in her usual "I'm really a good person with feelings too" sort of way. Perhaps most interesting was the use of Rose Byrne as the femme fatale. In all the roles I've seen her play she does not strike me as this sort of character but she did so here extremely well.

Most raunch coms are, for lack of a better word, stupid, and generally unfunny to those that have half a brain but this film succeeds because it never insults your intelligence and allows you to laugh without feeling dumb for it.

Well directed and thoughtful and of course very very funny.

Recommended Viewing: Son of the Bride

              Bob Scale: Objective: 8.5   -   Subjective: 9.0
             MetaCritic: 75
 Rotten Tomatoes: 90 
                      IMDB: 7.0
                    Netflix: Yes
                   Instant: NA

you can give me a tattoo anytime
Wow, what a surprise this film was to me. I honestly didn't really care for the trilogy of Swedish films, so I wasn't really expecting to like this because I already knew the story and was unimpressed. Maybe because my expectations were so low that I enjoyed this so much but none the less it was a fantastic viewing experience.

I found the story told through the lens of David Fincher, who also directed one of the best films of last year, The Social Network, to be incredibly fascinating and entertaining. I unfortunately did not care for Zodiac or Benjamin Button but every film prior I have enjoyed and respected immensely. 

Rooney Mara was almost too much for me in the best way possible. I literally fell in love with her while watching the film. I have never much cared for girls with tattoos and piercings but after watching this my views have been changed forever. Preposterously sexy!

A distinctly unobtrusive yet always there soundtrack by Atticus Ross and NIN headman Trent Reznor was an audible treat.

Recommended Viewing: Women in the Dunes - Enduring Love

              Bob Scale: Objective: 9.0   -   Subjective: 9.3
             MetaCritic: 71
 Rotten Tomatoes: 87
                      IMDB: 8.2
                    Netflix: NA
                   Instant: NA

silent nostalgia
What a great film and my choice for best picture oscar. It took a lot of will power and gusto to get this film made in an age where no one wants to see black and white and especially not a silent movie!!

The leads are extraordinary in there only slightly histrionic performances and all too curious in their uncanny ability to mimic their silent counterparts of years long since past.

Parts of the story reminded me a bit of Gilbert and Garbo and their struggle to stay together in the turbulence of sound. The creation of the mole on Bérénice Bejo's cheek really got to me in how something so small could have such a huge impact on the story. So poignant.

Recommended Viewing: Flesh and the Devil - The Passion of Joan of Arc - 3-Iron

              Bob Scale: Objective: 9.5   -   Subjective: 9.0
             MetaCritic: 89
 Rotten Tomatoes: 97
                      IMDB: 8.5
                    Netflix: NA
                   Instant: NA

an artist's dream
I loved this film from the moment Ewan McGregor and Mélanie Laurent meet. A truly realistic (as can be) love story between two people that are attracted to one another with a gay dad thrown in for good measure.

Mike Mills is a director who I believe will keep turning out good work as long as he keeps making stories close to his heart. His art may leave something to be desired but is nearly instantly recognizable when gazed upon. 

This movie challenges the viewer with the idea that relationships always seem to be euphoric in the beginning and then quickly fade into fecal matter because the real person shows up. So is there any point to falling in love? 

I choose to believe - even if it is against our caveman biology.

Recommended Viewing: 500 Days of Summer - Like Crazy - Thumbsucker

              Bob Scale: Objective: 8.7   -   Subjective: 9.2
             MetaCritic: 81
 Rotten Tomatoes: 84
                      IMDB: 81
                    Netflix: NA
                   Instant: NA

a western  re-envisioned
Gore Verbinski has always had a magic touch for me  - at least some of the time. His movies feel a little bit smarter than usual Hollywood fare and Rango is no exception. 

The animation is superb to say the least and just feels good to watch. The story fits so flawlessly with the characters and I must say an unparalleled modern 3D western. 

The appearance of the Clint Eastwood like character voiced by Timothy Olyphant was brilliant and timed well in the story progresson .

Johnny Depp is well cast as a lizard down on his luck who comes  in to town and becomes its unexpected hero. Be prepared for a visual treat that both the young and old will surely enjoy.

Recommended Viewing: The Weather Man - Open Range

              Bob Scale: Objective: 9.4   -   Subjective: 9.3
             MetaCritic: 75
 Rotten Tomatoes: 88 
                      IMDB: 7.4
                    Netflix: Yes
                   Instant: NA

per chance to dream
I liked this film for many reasons chief of which is because I had a similar experience with an older woman. Expertly cast which was ideal for this little known story about a young man who gets to nearly have his way with none other than Marilyn Monroe for a week.

Michelle Williams was a good choice to play Marilyn. She more embodied the spirit of the afore mentioned than actually looking like her. 

I recently viewed The Prince and the Showgirl and was really bored by it but this film about the making of that film was far more enrapturing because of all the intricacies in making even not so good films. 

Be on the lookout for Eddie Redmayne who was perfect for the woe begotten chosen of the ultimate female.

Recommended Viewing: Chéri - The Yellow Handkercheif - Day For Night

              Bob Scale: Objective: 9.0   -   Subjective: 9.4
             MetaCritic: 65
 Rotten Tomatoes: 83
                      IMDB: 7.5
                    Netflix: NA
                   Instant: NA

searching for peace
This film was my personal subjective favorite of the year. I have not shed this many tears in the cinema since I can't remember when. 

It is based on a supposedly true story during the Nanking invasion of 1937 that to me was expertly told by my favorite chinese director, Zhang Yimou.

Christain Bale shines as the mortician who reluctantly turns priest for a short time to save a number of young church girls from being raped by the Japanese. And then the whores show up... I don't want to give anything away but your in for a tear jerker which to my surprise is why most of the critics seem to hate the film. I agree that mawkish sentiment is banal and annoying but I never felt manipulated with picture, just taken with the incredible story.

Recommended Viewing: Raise the Red Lantern - To Live - Happy Times

              Bob Scale: Objective: 9.2   -   Subjective: 9.7
             MetaCritic: 46
 Rotten Tomatoes: 41
                      IMDB: 7.5
                    Netflix: NA
                   Instant: NA

Rise of the Planet of the Apes - surprisingly dark and affecting
The Descendants - set in hawaii entirely, Payne to the rescue from tedium
Warrior - Rocky rehashed at its best
Moneyball - great script, great story
Into The Abyss - Herzog is the greatest documentarian on the planet - period
Martha Marcy May Marlene - creepy and well acted
Being Elmo - a moving portrait
Tabloid - I love you Errol Morris
Trust - David Schwimmer proves again he is a gifted director
Certified Copy - my favorite of Kiarostami since A Taste of Cherry
Win Win - this movie should be in my top 11
The Help - Chastain is brilliant, did you catch her 5 other roles?
Another Earth - an indie gem
The Guard - how could you not like this Scottish  charm of a film
Like Crazy - an adult look at teen romance
Carnage - could have been crazy good but still worth a look
A Dangerous Method - Cronenberg delivers a unique look at great thinkers
Contagion - many will hate it but you should expect a thinking man's film - best ending of the year
A Separation - a solid voice from Iran
Senna - amazingly told story about someone you should know
Red State - was this really Kevin Smith?
Take Shelter - Michael Shannon is an alien but never the less a great seducer
The Skin I Live In - Almodovar in top form with another wild erotic tale
Margin Call/ Too Big to Fail - a pair of interesting films looking at the current financial crisis 
Hanna - overlooked and under-appreciated - great score and great acting from Saoirse
X-Men: First Class - Fassbender is my new favorite actor
Thor - there may be a lot of haters but I enjoyed this
Kung Fu Panda 2 - I dare say better than the first
Arthur Christmas - the best original Christmas film in ages
Crazy, Stupid Love - a witty and funny romcom - better than most
Tucker & Dale vs Evil - a humorous twist on a nearly crap still ongoing extant genre
Cell 211 - a fantastic prison movie

Drive Angry - a fun romp with the over criticized Nicholas Cage
Mars Needs Moms - not the best story but great animation and enjoyable
Real Steel - an exact facsimile of Stallone's Over the Top but great fun 

Warhorse - did I like it, yes, but it felt like a movie for geriatrics
Source Code - I loved Moon and I liked this but it was not quite that good
The Adventures of Tintin - did I like it, no, just plain wtf
Hugo - being a film buff I should have liked this more but I just didn't
The Tree of Life - love love love Malick but I found pondering on this film just wasn't worth the effort and believe me I wanted to like it so badly
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - if this is the truth of spyland, you can have it 
Young Adult  - Diablo Cody is good here but missing something
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - just tell that kid to shut the hell up already