Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Honestly, I have been looking forward to this film since I first saw the teaser trailer over a year ago. The folks over at Pixar certainly have an impressive collection of successful films on their belts. And it seems that every Pixar film seems to build upon the one before it. That is certainly the case with Up. It is by far the best Pixar film to date, and one of the best overall films I have seen in a long time.

With music by Michael Giacchino (Lost), this film uses its beautiful CGI animation to tell the story of Carl, an elderly man who is about to be kicked out of his house and sent to a nursing home. So, in order to escape this dreadful life of boredom Carl, who recently lost his wife who has a great love for traveling and adventure, rigs his house with hundreds of balloons so that it will take him to South America. 

When the house launches off, Carl is unaware that young Boy Scout, Russell is on his porch. Since the house is thousands of feet in the air, Carl has no other choice but to let Russell join his quest to find a waterfall that his wife had hoped to visit. What follows is the most touching story Pixar has ever created filled with humor and heart. 

This film is definitely, without a doubt, the must-see film of the summer, and you will regret missing out on this guaranteed classic. Pixar is going to have an incredible challenge when trying to top this with their next film. This one is certainly not to be missed!

Release Date: May 29, 2009
Rating: PG for some peril and action.
Running Time: 1 Hour, 36 Minutes.
Director: Pete Doctor and Bob Peterson.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Repo: The Genetic Opera

For months, I have heard talk about this film, and when it was released in theatres, it was nearly impossible to find. Finally, this film was released on DVD last Tuesday. While I was watching it, I was both in awe and shock. Mixing gore with the incredibly untraditional music of a rock-opera, director Darren Lynn Bousman was able to get phenomenal performances out of nearly every cast member. What I found the most shocking was that he was able to get a performance out of Paris Hilton that is not complete garbage. In fact, I did not her character or her acting, which in my personal opinion is a miracle. This film utilizes great performances from a variety of actors and actresses that you would never think of being in a film like this. 

Alexa Vega, of Spy Kids fame, is the main character Shiloh, the unknowing of the Repo Man. Anthony Head (Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) portrays the Repo Man with such violent intensity the likes of which you have never seen. In a futuristic world, where organs have become rare for transplants. Rising to save the world, Geneco, created organs that save countless lives. The twist is, that if the patients are unable to pay for their new lease on life, the Repo Man is sent out to recollect the organs. When the film begins, the audience learns that the founder of Geneco is dying, and it is unknown who he will leave the incredibly powerful company to.

With the use of incredible visuals and intense music, Repo: The Genetic Opera was able to transcend it's campy horror exterior and provide the viewer with a unique experience that will not be forgotten.

My Grade: A+

Release Date: November 20, 2008
Rating: R for strong bloody violence and gore, language, some drug and sexual content.
Running Time: 1 Hour, 38 Minutes
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)

When I first saw the trailer for this film, I honestly was not very excited about it. It looked like another attempt by Hollywood to cash in on an original idea from over fifty years ago because they cannot create anything new. In a way, it is that, but it is still quite watchable and entertaining. This is one film where its only dominant feature is the spectacle, and with its interesting use of special effects mixed with human emotion and relationships it is somewhat successful. Of course, there are several ways that the film could be greatly improved. Sadly, Kathy Bates was terrible (which I hate saying, as I love her in nearly everything she has ever done) and seemed like she was reading from a script with no emotion whatsoever. This definitely seems like a paycheck film for her. 

Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, and Jaden Smith were all quite good in their roles, particularly Connelly. Reeves was simply acting the same way he always does, which is not necessarily a bad thing, and Smith was excellent in his role as Connelly's stepson. Connelly, who is one of my favorite actresses today, turned in a solid performance, a bit below her normal standards, but quality none the less. John Cleese had a great part that he filled with all the zest and emotion that he always musters. 

For those of you who haven't seen the original film on which this one was based (myself included, sadly), the story focuses on Helen Benson and her stepson Jacob as the Earth is seemingly invaded by large galactic balls of light, and a large robot-like machine. Benson is a scientist of some sort, and is called in to assess the situation to determine if the Earth is in any danger. When she is approached by an intergalactic being, the creature is shot, and morphs into Keanu Reeve's Klaatu. Once Klaatu has escaped from the government holding facility, he seeks out Helen to inform her that he came to save the Earth. From what you might ask? Well, you'll have to see the film, as this revelation occurs late in the plot. 

Overall, this film was quite enjoyable, and with its 1 Hour and 43 minute running time, it was not overly long like some invasion films made recently. With its decent special effects, this one is just a fun night at the movies. Although it is not moving, or particularly meaningful, The Day the Earth Stood Still knows that its simply an invasion film, and it doesn't pretend to be anything that its not. 

My Grade: B-

Release Date: November 12, 2008
Running time: 1 Hour 43 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for some sci-fi disaster images and violence
Director: Scott Derrickson

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Having finished the 1st Twilight book by Stephanie Meyer at around midnight on Monday evening, I wanted to see the movie as soon as I could. I'd heard very mixed reviews, some claiming it to be the worst thing ever (mostly my friends that were hard core in love with the book) and some saying it was awesome (mostly my friends that haven't read the book). When literary adaptations come out, its hard not to hold their book up to them and judge them critically. Since the Harry Potter films, I have become better at lowering my expectations so that I am not disappointed in the film based on my favorite book. If you are going to see this film, be sure to go in expecting that it isn't going to be the next Casablanca or Citizen Kane. I went into the theatre just to be entertained, and just to see what the characters I had been reading about would look like in real life.

I'm sure everyone and their cousin is aware about what the Twilight book series is about by now, so I'm not going to dwell on summary this whole time. But for those of you who are out of the loop, girl meets boy, boy's a vampire, you get the rest. Meyer's take on the vampire world is very interesting as it shelves most of the general "vampire rules" and creates its own. For example, a stake, garlic, sunlight, etc. are not effective killers of vampires in this series. Long gone are the days of Buffy when you had to invite a vampire in for them to be able to enter your house. Edward (Robert Pattinson) is able to sneak into Bella's (Kristen Stewart) room without any difficulty.

I was a little nervous that the filmmakers would destroy the characters that I had developed in my head by casting people that were completely wrong in their roles. In most cases, I was pleasantly surprised. Edward and Bella were cast well. Stewart was good in her role that rivals her role in In the Land of Women in its level of teen angst. Now, to analyze the Cullen family... Let's begin with the parent figures. Carlisle (Peter Fasinelli) looked like the creepiest Ken doll that you could ever find, as his face looked like it was made of plastic: rather creepy, actually. For those of you that watch Grey's Anatomy, you'll recognize the woman who plays Esme (Elizabeth Reaser) as the dreadful Grey's character Jane Doe. I didn't like her on that show, and I don't like her in this film, as she is completely inappropriate for Esme. Alice (Ashley Greene) was casted perfectly. She was my favorite Cullen sibling while reading the book, and she is certainly my favorite in the film. Kellen Lutz does a good job at playing Emmet, while Nikki Reed was effective at playing the bitchy sister Rosalie, and finally Jackson Rathbone was actually quite good at expressing Jasper's inner turmoil as he tries to abstain from drinking the blood of every human teenager that he crosses. 

Just like in the book, it takes a while to get to the action in this film. I'm not saying that the first 3/4 of the film is boring, it just focuses on the developing relationship between Bella and Edward. For some of you out there (who haven't read the book) you might want to avoid this film, as much of it is just one angty teen scene after another. Adding more to the awkwardness are the terrible angles and one liners that fill scenes that are supposed to be sensual and romantic. Perhaps the second movie could be better if a new director, one who knows how to set up a scene without making it one ridiculous extreme long shot after another. Personally, however, I enjoyed this movie as much as I could. It's not perfect (but what film is?), but its entertaining. And isn't that all one can ask for when going to the movies?

My Grade: B

Release Date: November 21, 2008
Rating: PG-13 for some violence and a scene of sensuality.
Running Time: 2 hr. 2 min.
Director: Catherine Hardwicke

Monday, December 1, 2008

Blast From the Past: In the Land of Women

Meg Ryan has always been one of my favorite actresses. I loved her in You've Got Mail, Joe Versus the Volcano, and virtually everything she has ever done. When I saw that she was coming out with a new movie, I was more than excited. In the Land of Women is an interesting look into the lives of several people who live in a small Michigan suburb.

Carter (Adam Brody), who happens to write scripts for pornos, has just been dumped by his famous actress/model girlfriend, and decides to go live with his grandmother in Michigan to get over it. His grandmother (Olympia Dukakis) is constantly thinking that she is dying, and is always trying to convince Carter that any minute could be her last. Sarah (played to absolute perfection by Meg Ryan), the woman from across the street, soon comes over to welcome Carter to the neighborhood, and the two become friends. The pair begin to take walks where Carter tells Sarah everything about his painful breakup while she tells him how her daughter resents her. 

Sarah's daughter Lucy (Kristin Stewart) is the usual angsty teen girl, who's life is filled to the brim with regular, and some not-so-regular, teenage drama. Her boyfriend, the quarterback, is a total jerk and she thinks her mother doesn't care for her at all. When it is discovered that Sarah has breast cancer, Lucy must face her issues with her mother in order to show her that she loves her. 

Overall, this movie is quite good. Meg Ryan is truly spectacular, and so is her material. The mistake that this film made, however, was shifting its focus from Sarah to Lucy. There have been so many teen movies that have dealt with the same thing, but Sarah's character (due to Meg Ryan) was incredibly original and well-developed. If the story had focused more on the friendship that developed between Carter and Sarah, the film would have been much more effective. Stewart does do a pretty good job with her material, but the applause must be given to Ryan for her exceptional performance. As usual, Adam Brody is his normal cynical and sarcastic self, but his scenes with Meg Ryan were quite good. If you are up for a dramatic film that deals with some of life's greatest challenges, then this one's for you.

My Grade: B- (A+ for Meg Ryan's scenes)

Release Date: April 20, 2007
Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, thematic elements and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. 37 min.
Director: Jon Kasdan


First of all, I would just like to say how much I love all of Baz Luhrmann's films. I have always been a fan of Moulin Rouge and Romeo and Juliet. This visionary director always puts his own personal touch on each of his films, and the finished product is always nothing short of spectacular. When I first saw the trailer for this film, I was incredibly excited to see what Luhrmann had concocted this time, and he certainly did not disappoint. 

There is one word to describe everything that this film is: Epic. It is truly epic in every sense of the word, with its vast setting, its wonderful actors, its lush costumes, and its consuming score. Coming in at just a fifteen minutes short of three hours, its also epic in length. This is truly a love letter to the grandeur of classic cinema. Luhrmann is well known for including incredible production value in each of his films, and Australia is no different. 

The film begins by telling the tale of how the white man is constantly trying to claim the land that was once owned by the indigenous aboriginal people. The young voice that is informing us of his country's history is that of Nullah, the grandson of aboriginal leader King George. After the brief history lesson, the action begins as King George is blamed for the death of a British rancher. Unbeknownst that the murdered man was her husband, Lady Sarah Ashley (played wonderfully by Nicole Kidman) travels to Australia to sell the ranch, and swiftly return to England. 

Against her original plan, however, Sarah becomes attached to the people that live on the ranch, young Nullah in particular. Nullah's mother is killed early on, and Sarah feels that she must take care of the boy, and protect him from the police of the region who set out to arrest children of his kind. He is the son of a white man and an aboriginal woman, which was an illegal act at the time. Race relations play a big part of this film, and the selfless acts of certain individuals help to prove that race is unimportant, and that every one is equal. 

When the ranch is in danger of being bought by the corrupt businessman that owns all of the ranches except Sarah's, she seeks out Drover (Hugh Jackman) to help her save her land. In order to do so, Drover, Sarah, and the inhabitants of the ranch must drive 2,000 cattle over hundreds of miles of treacherous and merciless land to Darwin. This all leads up to the imminent bombing of Darwin by the Japanese that helped initiate WWII. 

This film provides a very interesting look at the early beginnings of WWII without being a typical war movie. It is first and foremost a tale of love and compassion, with war-like violence taking the back burner. With its impressive scope and incredible detail, Australia is a wonderful film that should not be missed.

My Grade: B+

Release Date: November 26, 2008
Rating: PG-13 for some violence, a scene of sensuality, and brief strong language.
Running Time: 2 hr. 45 min.
Director: Baz Luhrmann

Friday, November 21, 2008

Blast From the Past: Love Actually

It's that time of year again. Christmas is just around the corner. So, I've already begun to bust out my favorite holiday movies that I watch every year. It's just like my horror movie cycles that happen every Halloween, but without the blood and gore. That being said, of course, there are an equal amount of made-for-TV Christmas movies that have become a Holiday staple in my household. Love Actually is one that my friends got me started on a couple of years ago, and it has become one of my favorite films to watch any time of year. In essence, it really isn't a "Christmas" movie, but several love stories that occur at Christmas time. In my opiniong, it has certainly upstaged and overpowered the other films by its writer (Notting Hill, Bridget Jones' Diary, etc.). 

It's Christmas in 2003, and love is all around. Through its series of love stories that are all somehow connected, writer and director Richard Curtis creates a truly special film that will be around for ages. There are too many characters and plots to discuss here, but they add up to make the film all the more enjoyable and interesting. As the DVD case says, this is "The Ultimate Romantic Comedy." That does not mean that it is a sappy mess. It is hilarious throughout, and will entertain anyone who watches it. Personally, my favorite character is Billy Mack, played to hilarious perfection by Bill Nighy). Nighy plays an aged rock star who is trying to recapture his once-popular image in a world of hip boy bands. 

The phenomenal ensemble cast that populates this spectacular film includes a legendary cast: Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Keira Knightly, Laura Linney, Rowan Atkinson, and Billy Bob Thorton (who plays a very humorous spoof of President George W. Bush). The cast work extremely well together and develop a highly complex plot which utilizes their individual talents and skills as actors. Another highly effective tactic used by the filmmakers is the interesting soundtrack. The tracks range from Christmas songs to classics from Motown. 

Whether you like romantic comedies or not, Love Actually is definitely a must-see as it provides a hilarious look at relationships. The great cast and script make for a film which will be remembered for a long time. This heart-felt story deserves its place among the Christmas classics that have preceded it.

My Grade: A
Release Date: November 14, 2003
Rating: R for sexuality, nudity and language.
Running Time: 135 min.
Director: Richard Curtis