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11/7/08

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I'm way, way behind on my reviews. I've been busy working, my usual job editing Tony Robbins videos and I also picked up an editing gig for an ultra-low-budget feature, so I don't have nearly enough time to write. I'm 50+ movies behind, so I'm going to pump out a bunch of quick opinions, for films that I don't feel like writing full-length reviews. They're going to be first drafts, so you'll probably find lots of redundancies and grammatical errors. (You're thinking, how is that any different than the usual reviews?) I'll try to knock enough out, so I might actually be able to catch up again. I really hate reviewing films I saw over two months ago.

There are 19, quick reviews below, for the majority of the films I saw in August & September, with a few left-over from July. I'm saving a few others for full reviews when I get the time. I plan on posting a October & November version soon. I hope you'll stick with me through this busy time.

Castle in the Sky -
Our entire family loves Hayao Miyazaki's films, I'm talking from Grandma, to aunt, to cousins, down to my son. There is something utterly timeless and magical to nearly all his films. Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, Kiki's Delivery Service and My Neighbor Totoro are on constant rotation in our home. They're beautifully animated and wonderfully told tales of ordinary people in magical situations. But we had never seen Castle in the Sky, it's not quite as perfect as the four films mentioned above, but it came before them. You can see the common theme that runs through all the films, his love of family and friends and the importance in saving the environment. Castle concerns a young boy, who finds a magical girl, who's the princess of a long lost kingdom. There are air-pirates, huge battles between ships, giant robots and magic galore. I'm sure this film will soon join the rotation, as soon as I get around to buying the DVD. - Grade: B+
(Seen on 9/29/08)

The Princess Bride -
My dad was over for the night, my son was up with us, we all wanted to watch something that we hadn't seen a thousand times. When I learned that my dad had never seen this, I knew it was time to change that. But I wasn't quite certain the film would hold a 4-year-old's attention. Halfway through they were both loving it on completely different levels. I've seen it near 50 times and it never fails to entertain me. Perfectly crafted, with a whip smart script, unforgettable performances, classic entertainment from beginning to end. It only leaves me with one question, what happened to Rob Reiner? He had a run of 4 or 5 near classics, now, he couldn't direct a dog food commercial. - Grade: A+ (Seen on 9/27/08)

Burn After Reading - Undeniably a Coen Brothers film. Nobody else could make this. It's wickedly dark humored. Nobody can make you laugh at others major misfortunes, like losing life and limbs, the way the Coens can. They get great goofy performances out of movie stars George Clooney and Brad Pitt. The film's many twists and turns fly by so quickly, you're constantly playing catch-up, while the jokes pile up so fast, you can barely keep up with the laughs. It has an ending that will probably piss off 90% of those that see it, those that only check it out, because of Clooney and/or Pitt, and don't understand the Coens sense of humor. Me, I can't wait to see it again, because, this is truly a film that needs to be seen twice. - Grade: B+ (Seen on 9/20/08)

Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay - I really dug the first film, it's absurd humor kept me laughing throughout. This one was mostly a misfire, it had a few inspired moments, I particularly liked the scene where they smoked dope with George Bush. Made me almost like the guy, until I remembered it was just a movie. - Grade: C- (Seen on 9/19/08)

The Brave One -
Jodie Foster goes for a Death Wish. The film is executed fairly well, I usually dig revenge films, but this one didn't offer any new twists to the genre. Terrence Howard's super-cop kind of bugged me, he was able to tell way too much, from far too few clues. - Grade: C+ (Seen on 9/18/08)

Whale Rider - An absolutely incredible film that I've seen a few times before. If you haven't seen it, I can't recommend it enough. It's a great film for young and old. The heartwarming tale of a young Māori girl, proving her worth to her Grandfather, the chief of their tribe. It's beautifully filmed, nearly flawlessly told and wonderfully acted. I'm cynical as hell, and it gets me every time. - Grade: A (Seen on 9/16/08)

August Rush - This film is too predictable and right on the nose, every scene plays out exactly how you expect it to. I enjoyed it for a while, because otherwise it's fairly well made, with some nice photography and a beautiful score, but towards the end I was getting extremely bored as they drag out the ending I knew was coming from 10 minutes into the film. Robin Williams is especially annoying, in one of his outlandish bad-guy roles. - Grade: B- (Seen on 9/8/08)

The Love Guru - I used to really like Mike Meyers, I've seen Wayne's World, Austin Powers and So I Married an Ax-Murderer, countless times. His brand of humor really did it for me. But now after three Shrek films and this cinematic-abortion, I've lost my patience. The Love Guru is indescribably bad. It's like a group of wanna-be filmmakers took Austin Powers, changed the character into a gross Indian stereotype, kept the same jokes, but slaughtered them in their execution, managed to fool Jessica Alba into co-starring, where she gave worst performance of her life. (Which is really saying something, cause she has about as much range as a stop sign.) A truly retched film. - Grade: F (Seen on 9/5/08)

Smart People - This film is saved by four talented actors, the forever underrated Dennis Quaid, the very funny Thomas Hayden Church, the charming Sarah Jessica Parker, and seemingly endlessly talented Ellen Page. If it wasn't for these four, this wouldn't be a film. Put four unknowns into this script and you've got an unfunny, undramatic, indie-dramedy, that's instantly forgettable. I never really bought into this film, into the premise or these characters, none of it really begins to play as anywhere near real. But these four actors manage to bring enough to it, to keep it entertaining, and the fairly dreadful script moving along. I think I'm being a little harsh on it, because while I was watching it I didn't have these strong of feelings, only now looking back at it. - Grade: C (Seen on 9/2/08)


Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants -
I'm almost embarrassed to say I watched this film. I never would have done so, without my wife in the room. Sometimes I like to watch bad chick films and tear them apart with her. And I'd just recently read a review that made it sound not too bad. This film isn't aimed at me in the slightest, but I must admit that I enjoyed it more than I expected. The four lead girls are all pretty good, funny and charismatic. Some of their stories dragged on a bit too much and a bit to soap-operary, but they managed to suck me in for the most part. I especially dug all the scenes filmed in Greece, I have to go there someday. If I had a little girl, I'd buy the DVD for her, but for now I never need to see it again. - Grade: B-
(Seen on 8/23/08)


Transformers - Second time I'd seen this, and honestly, besides the effects I'm not sure why I bothered. The transformers themselves, at least the way they look, is very cool and well done, there's an organic feeling to the computer effects here that is missing from a lot of big budget films. But the film drags on way too long, they needed to trim at least a half hour out of this thing. Too many scenes of Shia saying; "No, no, no, no!!!!" Too much sass talking and over-explanations from a bunch of robots. Too many characters that I didn't care for. Much of the last battle sequence could have been lost. The battle on the freeway is the high-point of the film, and there's enough cool robot fighting action to keep you interested, but tightening it up would have made it that much better. - Grade: C+ (Seen on 8/4/08)

Planet Terror - Seeing this as part of a double feature in Grindhouse, is one of my all-time favorite theater experiences. It loses a little something by itself on DVD, but it's a really wonderful over-the-top cheese-fest, full of graphic violence, howl inducing one-liners, gruesome zombies and despicable characters. This is Robert Rodriguez at his best. The film speeds by like a race car on fire, flashy and fun to look at, with no redeemable qualities. A great late-night flick, when you want something mindlessly disturbing. - Grade: B
(Seen on 8/3/08)


Pope of Greenwich Village - An 80's film, I knew by reputation only. Eric Roberts in maybe his defining role as the sleazily, stupid Paulie, a character who's lovably annoying as he stammers and schemes his way through the whole film. He's somebody that you couldn't stand to be around in person, but is undeniably entertaining on film. Mickey Rourke, plays his slightly smarter cousin Charlie, who has to put up with his constant bullshit. When Paulie comes up with a plot to easily steal some money from a safe, it seems too good to be true, which quickly turns out to be the case, when the local mob boss comes after them hard. This film is a great look at New York City, before it was gentrified. You get a real sense for how these kind of lowlifes really want a taste of something better. An impossibly cute Daryl Hannah, plays Charlie's ever-suffering girlfriend. - Grade: B (Seen on 8/2/08)


The Bank Job - A really fantastic heist movie. Almost everything about this film feels realistic; the characters, their motivations and their actions. I loved the 70's setting, which takes today's technology out of the equation, no cell phones, no security cameras, etc. The filmmakers do a wonderful job of placing us into that era. Jason Statham, gets a chance to act, which he does really well, instead of just flexing his ample muscles. The film has some great twists and turns, that feel natural to the story. I highly recommend this one. - Grade: B+
(Seen on 8/1/08)


Evan Almighty - I probably never would have bothered with this film, if it hadn't played during a free HBO weekend. My wife and I are always looking for new comedies to end our days with, and this fit the bill over two nights on our DVR. I wasn't that big of a fan of Bruce Almighty, and Jim Carrey is a much funnier film actor in my opinion. And the concept this time around, seems even more outlandish. I got sick of everybody ignoring the fact that he could grow a beard in one day, that animals followed him around two by two. Even I, an agnostic, would have to recognize that this guy was the second coming of Moses. There were probably one or two good laughs in this film, otherwise, completely forgettable. - Grade: D+ (Seen on 7/26/08)

Year of Yao & Cocaine Cowboys - Two decent documentaries that I watched on IFC. Neither blew me away, but both kept me fairly interested. Cowboys is probably the better of the two, but the history of Cocaine in Miami, seemed to go on forever. I had a bit of interest in Yao Ming, simply as a freakishly tall, Communist, fish-out-of-water. The film does a fine job of following him around during his first year playing in the NBA, but it does it without any true panache. If you're a documentary junkie, they're both worth seeing. But if you're not and you don't have a true interest in either subject, they're easy to ignore. - Grade: C

50 Pills - A decently done little drug comedy. The opening few minutes are fairly inspired, which pulled me into it, but the rest of the film doesn't live up. It's one of those films, where a seemingly simple task like selling 50 hits of X, turns into a thousand different problems, with characters fates ramming into each other like brake-less trucks. It's a typical first-time indie-director film, with every trick in the book thrown up on screen, some of them working, many of them not. The film has a bunch of great young character actors, that keeps it entertaining. - Grade: B- (Seen on 7/24/08)

Lars and the Real Girl - This is one that I wish I could have written a full review for, because I really loved it, but it's been so long since I've seen it, that I don't think I could do it justice. I didn't have a lot of faith going into this film, that it could work for me. Ryan Gosling, playing some-kind of social retard, that falls in love with a sex-doll. I figured it was a one-joke film, that was going to get old. But it's never played that way, it's crafted with a ton of heart, and I actually began to feel something for this relationship that he gets into with the doll. Something I never thought possible. It never gets sappy or gross, it's heartwarming without ever getting cheesy, it's not overly quirky, with a sense of realism to the whole thing. The film manages to keep the perfect tone throughout, while it jumps from absurd comedy to romantic drama. A truly inspired film. - Grade: A (Seen on 7/21/08)

5 Responses to Playing Catch Up: July, August & September:

  1. Some really good ones in there. I also have a big backlog and I wonder what to do. Might do quick reviews like yourself. Just saw "Burn After Reading" and was a little disappointed after seing the trailers. Love "Planet Terror". Simple great, even on DVD :)

  1. You are the first person that I know that actually watched The Love Guru.
    I had heard that it was absolutely awful [*quote "the unfunniest movie ever made"] and was curious as to whether it was really that bad. Now, after reading what you had to say about it, I no longer have to wonder. :-)

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  1. Shit, this is an impressive post!

    The Brave One - You hit it on the head with your Howard criticism. That being said, the opening attack scene made me shudder...but not as much as the operating/sex scene bit. Bleh.

    Smart People - *slides it back down to the middle of his Netflix queue*

    The Bank Job - Damnit, another Bank Job supporter. I need to see this one again, apparently my initial opinions (which were that TBJ was less than stellar) were wrong. Embarassingly wrong.

    Lars and the Real Girl - I thought for sure that this was wasn't going to be for me. I thought it would be a little quirky, pretty boring, and try way too hard to be different. But what I ended up watching was the complete opposite of what I had assumed.

  1. I don't know how impressive it is, considering it's my only post in the last month and a half. I'm slowly working on my next one that's going to be fairly similar. I wish I had the time to write my full reviews again... hopefully at the turn of the year.

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