Friday, December 30, 2011


Columbiana is one of those movies that didn't get very good reviews, buy I still wanted to see it anyway. Maybe it was because it had Luc Beeson's name attached to it. Maybe it was because Zoe Saldana made such an impression on me as Uhura in Star Trek that I was willing to overlook the low rating. The movie started well and had promise, but I felt it failed to deliver.

Columbiana is about a young girl who's parents are killed by a drug lord. She escapes to the United States, grows up, and as as adult, she seeks revenge against him. I can feel empathy for a young girl who was subjected to seeing her family killed, but her parents were criminals and the relatives she later moved in with were murderers so it's hard to side with someone who has basically grown up to become a vigilante serial killer. I guess it helps if they are pretty.

I liked the idea behind this movie, but it just didn't work. I know there are many women who know how to handle themselves and could kick my trash, but I still have a hard time buying the fact that a 115 pound girl can beat up grown men. (yes, I'm also talking to you Salt and Hannah). It would have been easier to accept if Saldana had some muscle on her, but she is just a skeleton in this movie.

I felt a couple scenes were particularly ridiculous. One involved her uncle pulling out a gun and shooting a car and causing it to crash near a crowd of people. It was just an object lesson to teach her about different types of crime. They simply strolled away after with no questions asked, but as a result, she decided to stay in school so it must have been worth it.

The other incident was when a photo of half of her sleeping face made it to the police station's computer data base. Their computer was immediately able to match her ear and nose and come up with a 100% match and help them find her. The way the computer showed this process was just laughable.

I'm sure there are many younger guys who will enjoy this movie since it features a hot chick shooting guns and stuff blowing up, but I didn't have a very good time watching this movie. The main character is an unhappy, angry woman who is consumed with getting revenge. I only give Columbiana  5.6 stars which is kind of sad because I wanted to like it more.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol continues the MI series as Ethan Hunt and his team are framed for bombing the Kremlin. They are disavowed and cut off from any support or funding from the government, but you'd never know it from all the equipment and gadgets they still have at their hands.

Tom Cruise is in top form for this movie and I think he has done a great job with the entire franchise. The supporting cast consists of Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, and Jeremy Renner. This installment didn't feature a memorable villain like Phillip Seymor Hoffman in MI3 but Hunt still had his hands full trying to prevent a nuclear bomb from going off . Ethan Hunt globe trots like James Bond in this movie and there are some exotic locations featured in the film.

Ghost Protocol is a very exciting, but I had a hard time with a few things in the movie. This is obviously not your Tom Clancy genre of spy movie. I know we are supposed to suspend our sense of reality for this kind of movie, but a couple things were pushing it.

I can handle tearing off masks and fake gadgets, but the holograph screen in the Kremlin and the floating magnetic suit were a little too much. I also think the whole concept of dismantling a bomb in the last few seconds before it detonates has been done so many times in so many movies, that I have become immune to the excitement that it may create for most people.

Despite these minor irritants, this movie was still very entertaining and had non stop action. It also features a staple of every Tom Cruise movie, which is him sprinting for his life. I don't think MI4 was quite as good as most people said it was, but despite my nitpicking, it is still a pretty fun movie and I give it 7.9 stars.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Last week Sherlock Holmes 2 was released and I finally had a reason to go to the movies. I enjoyed the first movie and thought it had a unique style to it. The second instalment feels almost identical to the first when it comes to the cast, visual effects, and music, but the sequel was still original and very entertaining.

The second installment continues as Sherlock Holmes and Watson attempt to stop Professor Moriarty from secretly orchestrating a world war. I found it interesting that Sherlock Holmes comes across as being so cool, yet he is a paranoid conspiracy theorist who suffers from substance abuse.

I really like the style that Guy Ritchie has given to Sherlock Holmes. There is action, humor, and some cool slow motion cinematography. Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law give great performances.

The female characters in the movie weren't given the change to make very big contributions with their roles. Rachel McAdams is only in the film for a few minutes and Noomi Rapace was just a tag along. Some people might accuse the most recent Sherlock Holmes of resorting to Kung Fu and MMA more than he does to sleuthing, but I still thought A Game of Shadows was pretty good and I give it 7.5 stars.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My Movie Complaints

I am very frustrated right now. I have some movie passes and I have time off work, but I don't care to see any of the movies that are currently in the theaters. When are some good movies going to be released? Below I have listed some of the movies that are currently in theaters and I really can't see myself watching any of them (even on video).

Jack and Jill- Shame on you Adam Sandler. You used to be funny. Your movies are getting worse with time. Have you been hanging out with M. Night Shayamalan? I won't be wasting my time on Sandler in drag.

Happy Feet Two- Why? Was there really a demand for a sequel? Would I ever watch this? No way!

Muppets- I like Frank Oz, but I have never been into muppets, not even as a little kid. I hear this movie is cute and fun and got great reviews, but it has no appeal to me.

Puss In Boots- Another animated movie that has good reviews, but I'm a grown man and if I'm going to see a movie, I don't want it to be a cartoon about a cat with a sexy Spanish voice.

Alvin and The Chipmunks- Chipwrecked- I'm afraid the catchy pun title to this movie is the only thing going for it. Three characters with high pitched voices for two hours? No thanks.

The Smurfs- Really? The Smurfs? Have I been transplanted to a parallel universe where the only movies you are allowed to watch are based on cartoon?

Arthur Christmas- This has good reviews. I have no idea what this is about, but it's ANOTHER dang cartoon!

New Years Eve- This looks like a total chick flick movie with a huge all star cast, but I have a feeling there are no stunts, action, or special effects in it.

I'm sorry to be so negative about these movies. I understand they may be cherished treasures to some people, but I am so ready for an action movie and I'm getting tired of waiting. Please bring on Mission Impossible 4!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Favorite Movie Composers

Music is an important part of movies that is often overlooked. My wife is a violinist and occasionally plays recording sessions for movie scores. She has frequently commented about how incomplete a movie is until a composer adds the score to a film. Most horror movies would not be scary without the right kind of background music. Music makes a huge impact on the final cinematic product.

John Williams
I'd like to highlight some of my favorite movie composers. These artists improve the quality of movies and I also enjoy listening to their soundtracks. Some of my favorite composers are:

Thomas Newman-The Green Mile, Cinderella Man, Road to Perdition, Meet Joe Black.

James Horner-Braveheart, A Beautiful Mind, Titanic, Avatar, Troy, Sneakers, Star Trek.

John Williams- Star Wars, Jaws, Superman, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park.

Hans Zimmer- Gladiator, Inception, Sherlock Holmes, Pirates of The Caribbean, The Dark Knight.

John Barry-A bunch of James Bond movies, Dances with Wolves, Somewhere in Time, Out of Africa.

Randy Edleman-Shanghai Noon, While You Were Sleeping, Last of the Mohicans, Gettysburg.

Danny Elfman-The Simpsons, Beetlejuice, Batman, Good Will Hunting, The Simpsons.

Eric Serra-The Fifth Element, Golden Eye, Bandidas.

There are many other great composers missing from my list, but I really like the work of these guys and I can usually identify their styles and recognize their work while watching a movie. I'm grateful that I didn't live during the era of silent films that featured standard background organ music to all of the movies.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


I recently saw Contagion and before the movie started, I noticed a guy in the row in front of me was wearing a medical mask. I don't know if he was sick, scared of germs, or maybe just getting into the mood and dressing up like people do for Star Wars or Harry Potter movies. After watching Contagion, I would have to describe it with the following words: gripping, frightening, disturbing, depressing, and thought provoking. This movie is about a new strain of virus that originates in China and spreads around the world causing a global outbreak.

This movie made me think about the far reaching affects of bio terrorism or some new disease if it were to were to spread around the world. With world travel as common as it is today, the world has become a smaller place and a pandemic could be a very likely scenario. The horrible disease featured in this movie did not scare me nearly as much as the social break down which was caused by rampant death and fear. Riots, looting, and life as we know it stopping was the scariest aspect of this movie for me.

I felt the ending was somewhat abrupt. I both like and dislike this movie because it left you asking many questions. I still am not sure what the message was or if it was some form of propaganda. I think people can read several messages into it, but the important thing is that Contagion got me thinking.

I was really shocked when I learned how many negative reviews there were for this movie. I have to disagree with all the picky and unhappy critics. I haven't been so caught up in a movie for a long time. I give Contagion 7.9 stars.

Friday, November 25, 2011

4th Year Anniversary Annual Summary

I just realized that I passed the anniversary of this blog last month and didn't even realize it. In keeping with tradition, I will summarize the movies I have seen over the last year as part of The Movie Guy's 4th year anniversary.

The Dark Knight  Rises 9.0
The Avengers 8.4
The Artist 8.2
Skyfall 8.0
Contagion 7.9
Mission Impossible 7.9
Moneyball 7.8
The Amazing Spider Man 7.7
Chronicle 7.7
The Hunger Games 7.7
Pulling John 7.6
Sherlock Holmes 2 7.5
Men in Black 3  7.2
The Bourne Legacy 7.2
Snow White and The Huntsman 7.1
In Time 7.1
Premium Rush 7.0
Tower Heist 7.0
Taken 2 6.9
Man on A Ledge 6.8
Real Steel 6.6
Lockout 6.5
John Carter 6.4
Unicorn City 6.3
Total Recall 6.2
The Double 6.2
Battleship 6.1
Atlas Shrugged 6.0
Transformers Dark of the Moon 6.0
The Three Stooges 5.8
Columbiana 5.6

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Tower Heist

Tower Heist is about a group of employees who work at a luxury high rise apartment building. One of their tenants who is a big shot Wall Street investor, ends up being arrested for fraud. He swindled his clients as well as the employees of the high rise since he was investing their pension fund. When it appears that he will end up going free and they will lose their retirement, several of the employees attempt to find a way to steal the money back from him.

Tower Heist is like a funnier version of Oceans Eleven. It's hard to bee too critical of this type of movie. I have seen better comedies and I've seen better heist movies, but it was still pretty good.

I liked Ben Stiller in this movie. He seemed more relatable and likable than he has been in other roles. I thought Alan Alda stole the show as the bad guy investment guru who had swindled them out of their money. Eddie Murphy plays a small town street crook who the group enlists to help them pull off the heist. It's nice to see him in a movie that isn't down right horrible for a change.

There's a lot of dirty language and crude humor in Tower Heist, which didn't really make it any funnier. Overall, I felt it was pretty entertaining and it had it's funny parts. It also has a nice soundtrack which doesn't hurt. I give Tower Heist 7.0 stars

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My Favorite Directors

I'd like to acknowledge some of my favorite directors who have consistently impressed me with their work. Making a list is a dangerous activity since some people get so upset if they disagree with you. I know there are some big names missing from my list, but I just want to name some of the directors who's work I have enjoyed over the years.

1. Stanley Kubrick- He was an amazing director but what really impresses me about him is that and was so successful directing such a wide variety of genres. Horror, science fiction, comedy, war movies, epic dramas, etc.

2. Alfred Hitchcock- Still the master of suspense. He made a lot of good stuff. I love his style and the fact that he has influenced so many other directors. There have been many copy cats, but there is still only one "Hitch".

3. Clint Eastwood- This actor turned director has really impressed me with his movie making skills. He has " gone ahead and made my day" with his work in the director's chair.

4. Christopher Nolan- I love his intense and serious style. I appreciate the cerebral, complicated nature of his movies. His movies make you think and that is rare these days.

5. Steven Spielberg- He is bigger than life. I especially like his earlier work. It seems he is attached to everything these days in one way or another.

6. David Lean- A master of many epic movies. He did with real masses of people, what can only be done with CGI today. I love his work.

7. Ridley Scott- He has produced some great action packed movies. I like his style.

8. Roman Polanski- I've really enjoyed his recent work, but I'm not a fan of his personal problems.

9. Werner Herzog- This guy is probably one of the most dedicated and extreme directors I can think of. I have a feeling I'd hate to be working on set or acting for him, but he makes some good movies.

10. James Cameron- Has put out plenty of big blockbuster hits and action movies.

11. Frank Capra- A master from the old school days of black and white feel good movies and dramas.

12. Joel and Ethan Coen- These brothers have made many movies featuring their trademark quirky characters. Their unique style has been applied to comedies and more serious movies.

13. Mel Gibson- He doesn't have as much experience in the director's chair as the others, but I have really enjoyed the movies he has directed. Mel has lost a ton of fans over the years, but I still think he has great director skills.

14. Ron Howard- Not all of his movies have been hits, but I still like his style and he has made enough good ones for me to add him to my list.

15. Tony Scott- His movies may not be academy award winning material, but I sure like many of the movies he has directed.

Honorable Mention: Wolfgang Peterson, Woody Allen, and M. Night Shyamalan- Even though M. Night has put out so much crap recently, I still like his style.

I know there are names like Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Tim Burton, Oliver Stone, Spike Lee, and many others who people will say are better directors than some of my choices. That may be true, be but what can I say? If you don't like my list, go make your own.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pulling John

Pulling John is a documentary about the world of professional arm wrestling. It features John Brzenk who is to arm wrestling what Michael Jordan is to basketball and Wayne Gretzsky is to hockey. I knew next to nothing about the sport and have never cared much about it, but I still found this documentary to be very entertaining. Arm Wrestling is obviously a sport of strength, but technique also plays a huge role since there are certainly bigger and stronger athletes who get owned by the some of the smaller pros.

Pulling John reviews the career of John Brzenk who has dominated the sport for over 20 years. As he gets older he struggles to decide if he should retire while he is still at the top of his game or continue to participate in tournaments.

This documentary shows the rise of two other dominant arm wrestlers: Alexy Voevoda from Russia and Travis Bagent from USA and shows how their goal is to be able to beat the respected champion and take over his title as the greatest arm wrestler in the world.

It was very entertaining to see the different personalities of these athletes. John is quiet and humble, Voevoda is intense and contemplative, and Bagent is brash and cocky. It's hard not to like any of the athletes in this movie. There is a lot of pride on the line to see who is the strongest athlete. My wife kept rolling her eyes and saying " Guys are so different from women" throughout the entire movie. I could tell she still liked it though.

This documentary kind of reminded me of The King of Kong as it introduces you to the competitive nature of those participating in a sport you didn't even know existed. I also found it quite informative and educational. I give pulling John 7.6 stars. It was a low budget documentary about an obscure sport, but I thought it was pretty cool and I really enjoyed it.

Friday, November 4, 2011

In Time

I'm a sucker for any sort of futuristic movie about societies that are oppressed by "the man", who's citizens have to fight back against the system or escape imprisonment, so I have been looking forward to seeing In Time since I saw the trailer several months ago.

This movie is about a world where people barter with their time as opposed to money. Everyone has a digital clock on their arm that shows them how much time they have left before they die. They can earn, spend, or trade their time with each other. Most of the poor only have 24 hours on their clocks and frantically live day to day in order to survive. As someone who lives paycheck to paycheck and sometimes just tries to make it through another day financially, I could relate to their plight.

Justin Timberlake plays Will Salas who is given a century of additional life by a mysterious stranger. He then sets out on a mission against the corrupt powers that have kept him and the masses down for years. Along the way he encounters a rich girl who he kidnaps and they essentially become Bonnie and Clyde as they try to take the system down.

In time has some elements of Logan's Run and Gattaca. It was interesting to see so many young actors in this movie portraying people of all ages since the aging process stops at 25. I thought for being a science fiction movie, they would have better technology, but the cars were old models and people didn't even have cell phones. 

The movie contrasts the poor in the ghettos who's clocks often run down to minutes versus the super wealthy who have thousands of years to live. There are some not so subtle political statements about class indifference in this movie. I didn't care for the insinuations that the wealthy are the reason why the poor suffer in real life, but I tried not to let any political messages ruin it for me.

I thought Justin Timberlake was good in this role except for the one scene when he tried introducing himself like James Bond. Cillian Murphy was great as the persistent time keeper (cop) who tries to track Salas down. He reminded me of Javert from Les Miserables because he is so relentless and obsessed with getting his man.

I give In Time 7.1 stars. It has it's problems, but I felt it was much better than the critics said it was. I thought the concept of exchanging time with money was enough to make the movie entertaining and thought provoking, despite it's weaknesses. Also, If I were Justin Timberlake I would have petitioned to re-name the movie "Just-In Time".

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Another Year of Reviews Oct 26

It has been three years since I started this blog so it's time to celebrate with my annual summary of movies and videos that I have reviewed over the past year.

I think it's helpful to see how these movies do when ranked in relation to each other. In case you missed it, here are my ranking for the movies I saw over the last 12 months

True Grit  9.0
Harry Potter part 2  8.5
Warrior  8.4
Limitless  8.2
Harry Potter part 1  8.0
Rise of the Planet of the Apes 7.9
The Next Three Days  7.8
Inside Job  7.8
Source Code  7.7
Ghost Writer  7.7
Hereafter  7.6
X-Men First Class  7.6
The Social Network  7.5
The Adjustment Bureau  7.4
Captain America  7.4
RED  7.4
Megamind  7.4
Fast 5  7.3
Unknown  7.3
Unstoppable  7.3
Get Low  7.3
Tron Legacy  7.2
Super 8  7.2
Hanna  7.2
Thor  7.2
Devil  7.1
Waiting for Superman  7.1
Killer  7.0
Sucker Punch  6.9
Of God and Men  6.9
Battle: Los Angeles  6.8
Pirates 4  6.8
Cowboys and Aliens  6.7
The Eagle  6.7
Fair Game  6.7
Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2  6.6
Voyage of the Dawn Treader  6.6
Armored  6.6
Priest  6.5
The Tourist  6.5
The Lovely Bones  6.5
I am Number 4  6.4
The Green Hornet  6.3
Ondine  6.3
Just Go With it  6.2
Grown Ups  5.9
Takers  5.9
Season of the Witch  5.8
The Bounty Hunter  5.8
Jonah Hex  5.4
Skyline  5.0
The Last Airbender  4.7

Some people may disagree with me on how I ranked some of these movies, but taking a stand and making hard judgement calls is all part of being an incredibly successful and sought after movie critic. Now that I have three years of experience, I am qualified for speaking engagements or at least coming to your child's birthday party dressed as a clown.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


I knew that Priest was going to be a bad movie, but for some reason, I still wanted to see it. It's kind of like when someone tells you to smell a gross couch cushion and you know better, but you still do it. Even though it was not very good, I was still entertained by it..

Priest is about a post apocalyptic society that is plagued by vampires. The church, which is the ruling authority, commissioned warrior priests (kind of like Jedi knights) who are gifted in martial arts and are able to kill the vampires. After years of war they believed they had been eradicated. The priests were then disbanded and no longer useful to society. Several years later, the vampire threat returns and one renegade priest played by Paul Bettany disobeys the church's command to remain in the city and he heads out to rescue his niece who was recently kidnapped by vampires.

The worst thing about this movie was the opening explanation that set the story up. It was an animated summary and was completely laughable. It looked more like Itchy and Scratchy than a serious movie. My kids came in during that part and were laughing uncontrollably because it was so funny.

The term vampire in this movie refers to eyeless CGI monsters that look more like aliens than people. Karl Urban plays an ex-priest who was infected by the queen vampire and as a result becomes a human vampire hybrid. He spends most of the movie dressed like he is trying to imitate Clint Eastwood in one of his spaghetti westerns.

Christopher Plummer has a convincing role as he plays the stubborn church leader who refuses to accept the fact that the vampires have returned. The movie never really explains his motivation for his stance which leaves you wondering if he was in alliance with the vampires. The ending is resolved by the good guys simply jumping off a speeding train full of vampires before it explodes.

The critics were right in giving this movie poor ratings, but despite the low marks, there was still some cool stuff in it and I have to admit that I enjoyed some aspects of  it. I give it 6.5 generous stars.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

I finally got around to seeing Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I wasn't really expecting much from another remake, especially after Tim Burton's attempt, but this ended up being more of a prequel and it was surprisingly entertaining. I thought I knew what to expect after watching the trailer, but there was much more to this movie than I anticipated

The movie is about a scientist working on a drug to help Alzheimer patients. It is tested on apes and makes them more intelligent but ends up being deadly for humans. Over time, we see the main character grow from a baby ape to a full grown primate with human intelligence.

James Franco and John Lithgow are not my favorite actors, but I liked their performances in this movie. Andy Serkis has continued the trend of taking on roles that require him to hunch over in a motion capture suit like he did as King Kong and Gollum. He did a great job of playing Caesar, the main ape.

The special effects were amazing and CGI has sure gotten better over time. I remember how fake and boxy the animals looked in Jumanji, but I was impressed with the effects in this movie, but I was even more impressed with the emotions that the CGI characters were able to convey to the audience.

As usual, Brian Cox is a bad guy and speaking of soon to be type cast actors, Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) is following in his footsteps. This installment pays homage to the original with several quotes and character names. For an unrealistic premise and far fetched story, this was still quite convincing and much better than I expected.

The biggest lesson I learned from watching this movie is that disobeying company protocol can result in the annihilation of the human race. (I will no longer check my e-mail during work). I give Rise of the Planet of the Apes 7.9 stars.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Re- Releasing Movies

What's up with releasing a movie in the theaters that has already been on video for over 10 years? I can understand when George Lucas did it with the digitally enhanced Star Wars movies. It was kind of fun watching for the additional CGI features, but I just don't get the appeal for most other movies.

I recently noticed that The Lion King is in theaters again. I think it's because it is being released in 3D or maybe there is a new auto tuned version of Elton John's theme song for the movie. I don't know, but I just don't get the appeal of paying good money for a movie that you probably already own on video.

I can see how a cult classic might be an exception for fans to get together in a theater and watch it but I just don't think most people are willing to fork out new release money for an old movie. I have a feeling Disney knows something I don't and they are probably laughing all the way to the bank.

Besides The Lion King, I have also seen this happen for Toy Story and ET. It also appears that Ghostbusters is going to be re-released which means we will have to put up with another generation of kids using the lame "ghost busters" joke answer when people ask them who they are going to call.

Maybe some day they will re-release The Grapes of Wrath, Judgement at Nuremberg, and 12 Angry Men in 3D. If you want to take your kids to The Lion King it at the theater, then go ahead, but I will not pay full movie price for a movie in the theaters unless it is a "real" new release.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Is It Just Me...

Is it just me, or does anyone else think Antonio Banderas kind of looks like a young Sean Connery in the poster for his new movie The Skin I Live In?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Season of the Witch

Season of the Witch is about two nights played by Nicholas Cage and Ron Perlman who are fighting in the Crusades. They become disenchanted with the war after years of slaughtering their enemy and become deserters. They return to their homeland only to learn that the land is cursed with a plague. They are put in charge of escorting a witch (a young girl who they blame for the plague) to a church monastary where she will be given a trial and most likely killed.

I suffer from Nicholas Cage anxiety because I never know which Nicholas Cage would show up for a movie. This movie started off on a negative note for me as the two main characters joke like Gimli and Legolas about who will kill more enemies in battle. The dialogue was unbelievable and what I mean by that is that there was absolutely no credibility since they spoke as if it were a modern day movie. There is some suspense since we are not sure if the girl is really a witch or an innocent victim but it is not enough to carry the movie.

I started to doze off at the end of the movie and when I came to my senses I was surprised to see them fighting a giant CGI demon which didn't help the movie either. I give Season of the Witch 5.8 stars which I feel is generous. I liked the idea behind it and it could have been a suspenseful story, but it was not very convincing. If you want entertainment from the middle ages, I'd suggest Cadfael from the BBC. There may not be much action but you will at least have good acting, decent accents, a plot, and a more authentic feel for the that period.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sucker Punch

Sucker Punch is about a girl who's abusive stepfather commits her to an insane asylum. (Apparently an institution that only accepts beautiful young girls). Those running the asylum exploit the patients and have turned it into a night club/brothel. The main character, who is played by Emily Browning, plans to escape along with 4 other girls. The film goes back and forth between the mental institution and a parallel fantasy/sci- fi world as they undergo several missions in an attempt to escape their captors. Sucker Punch has elements of The Matrix, Wizard of Oz, Charlies Angels, and Scott Pilgrim vs.The World.

Once again I am really torn about a movie. There were things I liked and disliked. Let's start with the bad news first and finish up with the positive.

The Negative

I felt kind of awkward watching girls named Baby Doll, Sweet Pea, and Blondie wearing skimpy school girl uniforms.

There were too many dramatic poses each time the girls jumped and landed on the ground during the fight scenes ala Trinity.

Maybe I'm a little slow, but I couldn't figure out how much of the movie was supposed to be real, especially at the asylum vs. her imagination.

If you give someone a lobotomy with an ice pick and hammer, wouldn't there be some bleeding of the eyes or nose as a result?

The Positive

The visuals were incredible, and I'm not talking about the girls. Even if you hate this movie you will still be impressed with many of the visual effects. This movie was directed by Zack Snyder who is known for 300 and Watchmen so if you like his style, then you will probably be entertained.

I liked the dirty greenish tint and old 50's look the asylum had and really liked the scenes when they fought the World War 1 zombies.

I really liked the performance by Oscar Isaac as the bad guy. I also thought he did a great job as the villain in Robin Hood last year.

This movie probably appeals to teenage boys more than anyone since it includes, action, sci.-fi, fantasy, and features girls in skimpy outfits. As a result, I'm sure many will write this movie off as being superficial eye candy. I give Sucker Punch 6.9 stars which may be kind of high, but the special effects were amazing and I felt it was very original even though it may have borrowed some components of other movies. I predict it will have a much better reception on video and over time than it originally did in the theaters.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pirates of the Caribean : The One With Mermaids

I recently took my younger kids to see Kung Fu Panda 2, but apparently I don't know how to tell time and we were an hour late so we caught another sequel movie instead: Pirates of the Caribbean 4 (I don't remember the suffix to the title)

So what's new in the latest installment? Zombie sailors, Blackbeard, Penelope Cruz, mermaids, and the Fountain of Youth. I can't really complain about this movie. I got pretty much what I expected, another action adventure pirate movie featuring Jack Sparrow.

This movie was entertaining, but I felt it was missing something. I didn't think the newest villain was very intimidating or scary at all. Barbosa, Tom Hollander, and the Davey Jones Octopus guy were all much more convincing bad guys. I also had a hard time buying Penelope Cruz in her role, but I'm not even sure why.

The zombie guys were just for show and didn't really contribute to the story at all. All of these movies are starting to run together for me now and I am having a hard time differentiating them. I know that makes me sound like an old guy or at least apathetic. I don't want to get too picky with this movie. It is what it is and I think most people know what they are getting with the Pirates franchise.

I can't blame Johnny Depp for milking the series. I'd sign on for 10 installments if I were in his shoes. I give this fourth Pirates movie 6.8 stars. I still think the ride was better.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


I'm a big fan of MMA so I was looking forward to seeing Warrior. This movie may appear to be about a mixed martial arts tournament, but it is really a drama about the strained relationship between two brothers and their father. I was pleased that this movie really delivered.

The acting was amazing. Nick Nolte has redeemed himself from any prior mugshot disgrace he brought on himself in his personal life. Ironically, he plays an alcoholic with an abusive past. His young family ran away from him 10 years prior. He later cleans up his life and stops drinking, but his sons still want nothing to do with him. It's heartbreaking to see him try so hard to be accepted and forgiven, but they refuse to open up to him.

I like inspirational sports movies, but I am usually disappointed by them so I didn't get my hopes up too much for Warrior. There were really only a few minor things that bothered me. 1) excessive shots of spectators cheering towards the end of the movie and 2) the fake premise that these two brothers with such little experience would make it into such a prestigious tournament on such short notice, 3) The abrupt conclusion. Aside from those little details, I loved it and can't complain.

The fighting is entertaining, but the tension between the family members was incredible. The acting was great. I didn't even recognize Tom Hardy in this movie. When I looked it up to see who the actor was for the younger brother, I was floored.  He was one mean dude and looked like he had packed on a ton of muscle for the role. I am impressed with how versatile of an actor he is.

If you liked Forever Strong, Glory Road, Miracle, Rocky, The Rookie, Remember the Titans, Karate Kid, etc. then you will like Warrior. It 's a sports drama like those other movies, but it is even better.

If you are a woman who thinks you would be turned off by watching men beat each other up, you will probably still enjoy this movie. I give Warrior 8.4 stars and it is definitely one of the best movies I've seen this year.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Of Gods and Men

My Dad introduced me to foreign films as a kid. He would regularly invite me to go to the international cinema or would bring home foreign videos to share with our family. As a result, I have seen my fair share of artsy foreign films and am fairly open minded to them. Recently the movie Of Gods and Men or "Des hommes et des dieux" if you prefer, was recommended to me on my Netflix account. I decided it was time for a little more culture since I've been watching so much Hollywood tripe lately.

This movie is about several Catholic monks serving in Algeria who chose to stay at their mission despite threats from Muslim extremists who were terrorizing the area. The film does a good job of showing how their concern for the locals and their commitment to serve helped them make the decision to stay instead of leaving as the government suggested they do for their own safety.

First of all, I have respect for this story since it is based on a true story, but it was very hard to watch since it was so slow. I don't mean it was slow, I mean it was S L O W. There were so many scenes that consisted of nothing but a camera slowly panning across the countryside or of men walking or working with no dialogue. The most exciting parts for me were when I recognized Michael Lonsdale from Moonraker and Lambert Wilson from The Matrix.

My younger kids came in my room while I was watching this film and they plopped down on the floor excited to see a video. They asked what it was and I told them it was Captain America. It was one of the best practical jokes I have ever done. They kept watching these long boring scenes with the actors speaking French for 15 minutes before they finally questioned me. I finally burst out laughing and most of them left the room at that point.

This is a good film, but I suggest you watch the trailer since it is more concise and actually does a good job of summing up the film in a few minutes as opposed to two hours. I give Of Gods and Men 6.9 stars, but beware, it is very slow.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Captain America

I recently saw Captain America and I liked it. In a world where comic book and superhero movies are released every 4 hours, I felt this one was better than most. I will now share a detailed summary and some of my insights about the film.

I liked the vintage 40's feel this movie had. It kind of reminded me of The Rocketeer which starred Jennifer Connelly. I later realized that both of these films were directed by Joe Johnston. Speaking of the Rocketeer, did you know that Melora Hardin who plays Jan in the Office was the lady singing in the night club scene in the Rocketeer? I've been watching old episodes of The Office lately and had forgotten how funny they are. I don't know what to think with Steve Carrell leaving. He's has had a few good movies, but I thought Dinner For Schmucks was lame.

Anyway, back to Captain America. Hugo Weaving plays Red Skull and he does a good job as the villain, but I will always see him as Agent Smith even if he has a red prosthetic face or long Elf hair. Speaking of Lord of the Rings, I'm excited to see the Hobbit prequel when it finally gets made. Guillermo Del Torro was assigned to direct it at one point but he backed out. It would have been interesting to see his stylized touch applied to Tolkien. One of the scariest characters Del Torro introduced was the white monster who has eyes on his hands from Pan's Labyrinth.

When ever I hear that movie title, it reminds me of Labyrinth staring David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly. Well it looks like I have come full circle to Jennifer Connelly again with my random thoughts so I guess it's time to end my comprehensive review of Captain America.

I give Captain America 7.4 stars. It was pretty good.

Monday, September 12, 2011

"The Book Was Better"

When speaking about movies, I frequently hear people say "the book was so much better than the movie". Although this may be true in most cases, I think it is usually a fair assumption that the book is always better than the movie so it doesn't really need to be said. In other words "No Doy!"

I've heard people say this about The Davinci Code, Angels and Demons, Harry Potter, Inkheart, and The Sum of All Fears just to name just a few. I'm sure I will also hear this when The Hunger Games and Atlas Shrugged are released.

If you find yourself ready to tell someone that a movie was not as good as the book, you may want to hold your tongue. Making such cruel and reckless statements not only hurts the feelings of everyone who was involved in the making of the film, but it also shows that you have a superiority complex since you think the way you imagined it in your mind is much better than how the director and movie producers were able to.

I am usually able to avoid this situation altogether because I don't read books for entertainment. I am ashamed to admit that the last book I read for entertainment was probably The Grapes of Wrath back in high school. By the way, Henry Fonda was great, but Steinbeck's book was better than the movie. See how that makes me come across so snooty?

Please stop saying this. It is not fair to compare books to movies. It also makes me sad when I hear this statement since it reminds me of yet another book I was too lazy to read. By the way, if you can recall any movies that you think were actually better than the book, I'd be interested to know which ones they were.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Cowboys and Aliens

I recently saw Cowboys and Aliens and am unsure if I really liked it or not. I still have mixed feelings about it. I admire the fact that the movie tried to mix two genres that have no business being together. Aside from Westworld and one of the Back to the Future movies, I am not aware of anyone mixing Westerns with Science Fiction. Jon Favreau does so with this movie and risks either failing or finding a new combination that works like peanut butter and chocolate. Unfortunately, this movie is not a Reece's peanut butter cup.

I liked the Western aspect of the movie and actually would have been fine just watching a western with the cast. Daniel Craig plays an outlaw of very few words who wakes up in the dessert and doesn't know who he is or how he got there. He has a large metallic bracelet/shackle on his wrist and doesn't know what it is until the town is attacked by spaceships and it is activated and he is able to use it as a weapon.

Harrison Ford plays a crusty old cattle rancher who pretty much runs the territory. Olivia Wilde is a mysterious woman who's role is not revealed until late into the movie. They join forces and form a posse with Craig and other townspeople in an attempt to fight against the aliens who have been abducting their family members.

There are many unanswered questions in this movie but even worse, I had a hard time buying the cowboys defeating so many CGI alien monsters with such advanced technology and weaponry. The concept behind this movie was risky, but it had some potential. I can't really put my finger on what turned me off, but I think it would have been much better if they left the aliens out and that is coming from someone who loves alien movies. I give Cowboys and Aliens 6.7 stars. Wait for it to come out on video.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Harry Potter 7 Part 2

I've previously mentioned that I never read the Harry Potter books and I wasn't a fan of the series when it first started and featured cute little kids at Hogwarts. Midway through the series I started to enjoy the movies more and I think the last several installments have been great. This is probably due to the fact that they have become more dark and evil so I relate to them better now.

I really liked the quality of the this last movie. The special effects were amazing. Many movies have great special effects and big budgets, but are still totally lacking in substance, but this movie was all around very good. After watching movies, I usually come away with a list of a few things I wished they would have done different or that they could have done better, but I didn't find myself making my usual list this time.

I don't want to give too much away since there are many twists and deaths of certain characters but I will say that Bruce Willis dies in the opening scene and didn't realize he was a ghost until the end of the movie. Actually I would imagine that most people who follow the series have read the books so spilling the beans about the plot is probably no surprise to most viewers since it's already been out over a month.

For those of you who might be criticizing me for reviewing movies so late after they are released, I would encourage you to take me up on my offer on the side bar. I'm still not having any luck with any theaters inviting me to the special early showings for film critics...yet.

I give the final Harry Potter installment 8.5 stars which on my rating scale is pretty darn good.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Just Go With It

I think it is appropriate that I review Just Go With It right after my prior post about embarrassing content in movies. My parents were not in the room with me during this movie, but my wife was and there was plenty of crude humor. What's up with Adam Sandler? He can be a very funny guy at times, but so frequently he reverts to the same old potty humor and gags. I'm a guy and can handle some crude humor, but his stuff has become so predictable over the years.

Just Go With It is about a plastic surgeon who is a bachelor and he regularly picks up women by wearing a fake wedding ring and pretending to be in a marriage that has fallen apart. I have no idea why that approach would work. I think the real ringer is when he mentions that he is a plastic surgeon.

Anyway, he finally meets the girl of his dreams and decides to settle down but before they can get married, she wants to meet his ex wife and family. Sandler enlists the help of his office manager played by Jennifer Aniston. She pretends to be his nagging and spoiled wife and they try to put on a show in order to show that their marriage is beyond help in order to convince his new girlfriend that they are ready to move on.

Two words that come to mind are illogical an absurd. What guy is going to go on a vacation to Hawaii with his supposed wife he is divorcing and kids and bring along the new woman he is leaving them for? They all pal around Hawaii together like they are a big happy family. What girl would be excited about marrying a guy who is constantly ripping on his wife in front of her? Sandler spends more money than the Prince of Dubai during this movie in an effort to cover his tracks. His sidekick friend in this movie was pathetic and not funny at all, but at least I didn't have to see the usual Rob Schneider cameo.

There were a couple scenes that made me laugh, but overall I felt this movie was totally fake and very predictable. So I give it 6.2 stars. If you want to see a better Sandler movie, watch the Wedding Singer or Happy Gilmore.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Parental Video Curse

I was recently reminiscing with a friend about watching videos as a kid and I had some funny memories. Many times while watching a video, whenever a part with swearing, sex, or nudity would come on, a parent would always come walking in the room. These were not bad movies we watched either, this would happen regardless of what they were rated. You could rent some rated G Disney movie and Pollyanna would start doing some inappropriate nasty dance as soon as a parent came in the room. (Not that she ever did that and not that I ever watched Pollyanna).

On one occasion I was at a friends house with several others watching a murder mystery which was very entertaining. My friend's Dad came in and sat down and within 15 seconds of that time there was a major shift in the direction and content of the movie and it got extremely uncomfortable. I just remember a minute later the TV was turned off and our video party was over. I walked home in a daze wondering what had happened and where that scene came from. I now know that it was just the parental video curse.

When I was a teenager, my brother in law rented Conan the Barbarian and left it at our house. I didn't even think about the rating and I started watching it with my friend. We didn't get too far into it when my Dad came downstairs and sat down. Conan had just killed some guys in a competition and his slave masters brought a lady wearing a leather bikini to his cage to reward him. My spidey senses kicked in and I knew where this might lead so I said "I just remember I am supposed to draw a basketball for my art class" and I hurried out of the room. I left my friend with my Dad and came back about 10 minutes later. When I returned, my friend was red faced. He was embarrassed and is still angry with me to this day. My Dad suggested we turn the movie off. I never did see how it ended but I'm still glad I took my "homework break" when I did.

Another thing I have noticed over the years is how you forget so much about a movie you saw a long time ago. Many times I have told someone how much I enjoyed a certain movie I saw when I was younger so I recommend it to them or rent it for myself and later find myself saying "I don't ever remember that scene" or "I had no idea they swore so much in this", or "I promise this was rated PG".

So I just want to give a heads up to all the young people out there and let them know next time you are planning a video (DVD) party go to IMDB or Screenit first for content details because it is guaranteed that if there is any questionable content in the video you are watching that your parents will walk in the room at the very most uncomfortable moment.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules

I don't usually get into kids movies, but since my kids have been talking about Roderick Rules for a while, I recently decided to rent it. Actually it was more of a rent to own transaction. I'm on a six month payment plan. Just kidding, I just thought it sounded strange that a famous movie critic like myself would have to rent a movie. I will try to focus and get back on topic now.

Roderick Rules is a sequel to Diary of a Wimpy Kid which is a popular short book series. This movie is about Greg and his mean older brother Roderick and their struggles as they try to get along with each other. All of the characters from the original movie returned for this installment so it is pretty much a clean continuation of the first movie. I think I may have actually enjoyed this movie a little more than the first one.

I had a good time watching Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2 with my kids and despite its shortcomings, I still give it 6.6 stars. It was pretty funny and I actually had some pretty good laughs during it.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Eagle

The Eagle is a movie about a young Roman centurion who attempts to find out what happened to the lost legion his Father led to battle 20 years ago. No one in his father's expedition was ever heard from and the emblem of the golden Eagle was also lost which brought dishonor to his family.

Marcus Aquila takes command of a new post in Britain and and after being wounded in battle, he is eventually discharged from duty. He then decides to solve the mystery behind his father's disappearance with only the help of his newly acquired slave.

Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, and Donald Sutherland star in this movie. Their performances were alright, but I was only mildly entertained with this movie so I had a hard time really getting into it.

I'm no history expert, but I thought it was strange that the Celts in Britain looked like Native American Indians complete with Mohawks and war paint. There was also a battle scene early in the movie that reminded me of a classic Cowboys and Indians scene with the Romans defended their fort from a night attack.

I also found it distracting that the actors spoke with American accents and used modern day language. It wouldn't have surprised me to hear words like Dude and awesome coming from some of the Romans.

The Eagle was alright. It 's not bad, it's just no Gladiator. I give it 6.7 stars for being somewhat entertaining.

Friday, July 29, 2011

X-Men: 1st Class

I recently saw a behind the scenes documentary about the Cuban missile crisis. It was very informative and much more entertaining than what I learned about this event in high school. I liked the X-Men First Class prequel for the following reasons:

1) I thought the casting of the young Dr. Xavier and Magneto was well done. I could see those actors turning into Patrick Stewart and Ian McClellan down the road.

2) I really liked the first part of the movie about Eric seeking revenge against the evil Nazi doctor.

3) The cold war/retro backdrop to the movie was a nice change.

4) This 5th X-Men movie got me thinking about which mutant superpowers I'd like to have. Teleporting, healing, and flying would be nice, but I think I'd be content with the ability to read people's thoughts and have mind control over them like Dr. Xavier. I probably wouldn't abuse that power that much.

I didn't care for all the teen mutants with insignificant roles in the movie, especially the dragonfly winged chick and the sonic screamer kid. (Sorry comic book nerds, I don't remember their names) It also didn't make sense how easily Mystique abandoned Charles at the end of the movie.

I also felt that this movie started very strong but lost steam as it moved on. Even so, I give X-Men First Class 7.6 stars since it was pretty good for a prequel.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Super 8

Super 8 has been on my "to see" list for a while and I finally got around to seeing it last night. This is a movie about a group of  teenagers who make their own low budget movies with a Super 8 camera. While working on one of their productions, they witness a train crash and soon realize that an alien escaped from the train and is roaming their town. They are forced to keep a low profile from the Air Force officials who are investigating the wreck and trying to cover up the incident.

This movie takes place in the late 70's and has an authentic feel to it much like the prior movie I reviewed. I really liked the performance of the young kids who were cast in this movie. I found their teenage camaraderie to be very entertaining, but they could hardly make it through a scene without heavy swearing. I liked the story of them making movies even more than I did the actually movie. I also found it interesting that there was really only one female character with more than two lines in this movie.

This movie was directed by J.J. Abrams and has a very Spielberg-esque feel to it. It features elements of movies like Close Encounters and ET, but this alien was not as cute and doesn't like Reece's pieces. I felt that the movie paid too much homage to prior Spielberg films. There was once scene where I was totally expecting a bicycle to start flying in the moonlight.

The biggest problem I had with Super 8 was how the movie resolved itself. I felt like I had dozed off and missed a couple scenes as the final scene showed the alien leaving earth and returning home in his spaceship he had repaired with car engines and microwaves.

There are some big plot holes and some distracting inaccuracies like a pickup truck driving head on into a speeding 20 car train and demolishing it while leaving the truck only half destroyed and the driver alive. Despite hard to ignore details like this, I still enjoyed Super 8 and give it 7.2 stars.
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