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garyvanhorn

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89 reviews in total 
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Limitless (2011/I)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
I wasn't interested in the movie until I actually watched it. Phenomenal., 14 September 2011
9/10

Limitless is one of those movies I was really interested to see, until I read the synopsis. Wow a pill that allows you to use 100% of your brain.....LAME! It was with some hesitation that I rented the film but the next two hours I was entranced by a movie that is impeccable. Everything about the film sings, the characters, the acting, the plot all expertly crafted, guiding the audience through an incredible rags-to-riches story that is far more entertaining than the cliché might seem.

Eddie Mora ( Bradley Cooper) is a writer, well he wants to be one anyway. He has a book deal but just can't seem to get over his writer's block, or organize his apartment, or pay the rent, or keep his girlfriend, or do anything else constructive with his life. He's not a total failure but is one step away from becoming one. All of that changes when he bumps into his shady ex-brother-in-law (Johnny Whitworth) who happens to have the answer to all his creative problems. When Mora takes one little pill, everything changes. His thoughts become clearer, everything he ever half-read is remembered, cataloged, and ready for use in his now perfectly running mind. He becomes motivated, he knows what to do and how to do it, the possibilities for him become Limitless, especially after he joins forces with energy mogul Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro).

I know, I know, it still sounds lame, but trust me, it isn't. Much like Zodiac (not The Zodiac which sucks big time) Limitless is a great film, mostly because it is made so well made, which elevates the subject matter to a whole other level. The drug isn't perfect, Eddie Mora's life becomes filled with intrigue, danger, mystery and murder and his newly found intelligence is both the cause and the cure. Check out Limitless, you won't regret it.

Rango (2011)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Masterfully animated feature that is sure to delight both young and old., 26 July 2011
9/10

Rango is one of the best animated features I have ever seen. Johnny Depp is stellar as the naive and eccentric chameleon that is lost in the desert and trying to find himself. The animation is second to none, at times it seems completely real, an amazing feat considering the characters are all anthropomorphic animals. The characters, the voice acting, the story; everything falls together perfectly to create a wonderful film.

Rango (Johnny Depp) is starving artist chameleon, always performing for an audience of one (himself) in his safe, yet boring, fish tank. He has no real idea who he is or what his purpose in life should be. His life is turned upside down when an accident leaves him stranded in the middle of the desert where he meets a cast of crazy spaghetti western characters in the frontier town of Dirt. Dirt is a rough and tumble town that is facing a drought and a series of quirky misadventures leads to Rango becoming the new sheriff. Of course there are outlaws to be captured, corrupt officials to be stopped, and a woman to win, all staples of the romantic American western.

The creative energies that were obviously poured into the film really pay off, Rango is funny, polished, and vastly entertaining. There is enough silliness to keep children interested, yet there is always a serious overtone that keeps adults engaged and the plot moving along. Don't let the fact that Nickelodeon was involved, this isn't your average kid's movie, it's much, much more.

6 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
A worthy addition to comic movie lore and a great prequel for The Avengers., 23 July 2011
8/10

I must admit that I am an avid fan of the Captain America comic book series and as such I was eager to see the big budget cinematic adaptation of my favorite super hero. I must also admit that I was a tad let down by the movie, but only because I am so intimately familiar with the character and history of Captain America and was hoping for a few things that just weren't in the film. That being said, Captain America is still a very good movie and is well worth the price of admission.

Chris Evans isn't stellar as Captain America, but his is fantastic in his role as Steve Rogers, the scrawny kid that is all heart. The movie spends a great deal of time establishing and developing Steve Rogers but is a little lacking in the establishment of Captain America as a total bad-ass. That's just me nitpicking a bit, I really wanted to see Captain America wade through legions of German lackeys and take them out with impressive, Matrix-style martial arts moves. There is a bit of that but not to the degree I was hoping for. I also wanted to see Captain America in training, developing his fighting and tactical skills to superhuman levels, instead there was on-the-job training. It worked and the fact that Captain America is truly heroic is evident, I just wanted some Batman Begins training to hone and solidify that fact.

When it is all said and done Captain America is a fine movie with a good lead actor and a stellar supporting cast. Tommy Lee Jones is great as the gruff Army Colonel, Stanley Tucci is brilliant as the fatherly Dr. Abraham Erskine, and Dominic Cooper delights as Howard Stark, father of Tony Stark, a.k.a Iron Man. Captain America is funny when it needs to be, action packed where it can be, and grounded throughout. Oh, and stay through the end credits, The Avengers looks like it will totally rule!

5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
An unexpected sequel that is unexpectedly bad., 4 July 2011
3/10

Rarely is such a great film like Wall Street followed up with such a craptastic squeal. I'm not real sure what Oliver Stone was thinking, other than he wanted to make some dough at the expense of the public, not unlike the majority of the characters in the film. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps does everything it can to paint Wall Street as a collection of evil, soulless tyrants that were solely responsible for the recent economic downturn.

The biggest problem with the film, and there are a lot of problems mind you, is that there are no less than four distinct story lines that are inelegantly and, at times, ham-fistedly mashed together to form a disjointed central narrative. One story follows Gordon Gecko (Michael Douglass), the central (and most interesting) character from the previous Wall Street, as he gets out of prison and tries to put his life back together. A second story follows the young hotshot Jake Moore (Shia LeBeouf) and his mentor Louis Zabel (Frank Langella) through the financial meltdown. The third story is that of Winnie Gecko (Carey Mulligan) and her fiancée Jake Moore and their personal life and how Gordon Gecko's release from prison affects it. A fourth story follows Jake Moore as he begins working for his mentor's longtime rival Bretton James (Josh Brolin) in the cutthroat world of alternative energy acquisition and development. These plot lines are so ineptly woven together that it is possible to make four completely independent short films out of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Additionally, because of this plot diffusion, none of the story lines have any kind of emotional appeal or resonance with the audience, there just isn't enough there to latch on to. The movie also reaches a logical climax and ending almost 30 minutes before the film's actual end, and then reaches another, then another, eventually leading the audience to wish for an actual end to the film and completely destroying any sense of satisfaction or closure that might have been achieved by tying off the film sooner.

The story is fractured, the message trite and unimaginative, the camera-work is at times questionable, and Gordon Gecko is a mere shadow of the Academy Award winning character from the original. Sometimes it is best to sit on one's laurels and not attempt to relive the glory days of yesteryear. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps should never have been made and will hopefully be quickly forgotten.

1 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Snoozefest would imply there is a festival or party that might be related somehow to the film....there isn't., 2 July 2011
2/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The American, starring George Clooney (and some Italian actors nobody has ever heard of), starts off promisingly enough with Clooney and his girlfriend in a remote cabin in Sweden surrounded by a pristine snow scape. The two are obviously in love and enjoying every moment together and are happily walking in the wilderness when they spot footprints in the snow. "Get down!", Clooney yells, moments before bullets whiz by them. Clooney pulls a pistol from his pocket and quickly dispatches the would be assassin. He turns to his girlfriend and tells her to go back to the cabin and call the police, when she turns and has taken only a couple of steps, Clooney shoots her in the back and kills her. He then finds a second gunman, kills him and steals his car and drives away. I was very interested 10 minutes in, who was this guy? Why are people trying to kill him? Why did he shoot his girlfriend? What can possibly happen next? Unfortunately after the next two hours the only one of those questions I can answer is the last, and the answer is, not much.

For the next two hours the film alternates between Clooney doing push ups/pull ups/sit-ups, having sex with an Italian prostitute, some gunsmithing, and having dinner with a priest. He does get shot at again by some guy that he kills (we still have no idea why people are trying to kill him and this is 2/3 of the way through the film, and we never do find out so don't hold your breath while watching) but he's back to his push ups and prostitute soon thereafter so don't worry. I kept watching the film, waiting, hoping for some kind of payoff but in the end he decides to run away with the prostitute and get out of the gunsmithing/assassination business but bleeds to death from a gunshot wound from a shootout ( I use the term loosely as only three bullets are fired) with the film's antagonist (don't worry about who he is it won't help explain anything, he ends up dead, just leave it at that) just as he pulls into view of her then the credits roll.

The American is very, very boring and no amount of scenic, on-location European village shots, nor foreign language dialogue, nor hot Italian prostitutes can change that simple fact.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
An intense action/war/alien invasion movie that avoids all the major pitfalls of Independence Day., 20 June 2011
7/10

Battle Los Angeles can be quickly summed up as Saving Private Ryan meets Independence Day. While that might seem to be an odd combination of movies, it works very well as a grim and gritty alien invasion movie that avoids the major plot holes that crippled such films as Independence Day and Signs.

Sgt. Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) is a retiring Marine Staff Sergeant that gets sent to help evacuate civilians in Los Angeles. Eckhart's last command ended with the deaths of his entire squad and he has a bad reputation as a result and an inexperienced Lieutenant (Ramon Rodriguez) is in command of the mission. The squad arrives in a devastated Los Angeles and encounters alien troops that are, well alien, and all Hell breaks loose.

The movie does a great job of keeping things simple, understandable, and believable (assuming you are OK with the whole alien invasion thing anyway). The movie is told from the perspective of squad level combat. There are no grand plans to unfold, the President isn't involved (or even mentioned), no new super weapons are in development, no half-ass, tacked-on love story, no gimmicks, no tricks and an ending that is both satisfying and realistic. The combat is intense and dominates the movie while the special effects are fantastic. Battle Los Angeles makes no attempt to understand the aliens and is better for it; they are the bad guys coming to steal Earth's water and kill off humans in the process. There are countless alien invasion films out there, but few are truly good; Battle Los Angeles is on of those few.

The title is "Black Death" and it should be an indicator that it's not a happy film., 1 June 2011
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

No sunshine or lollipops in this film. As you might have guessed from the title, the movie takes place during the 14th century outbreak if the bubonic plague in England, and it is very, very dark.

The story centers around a young monk named Osmund (Eddie Redmayne) who sees the need of a church enforcer (Sean Bean) for a guide as a sign that he can do God's work from beyond the walls of the monastery. Sean Bean leads a small group of warriors that seeks out heretics, witches, and daemons and slays them. Reports have reached the church of a village that has escaped the ravages of the plague and foul magic is suspected.

The movie feels very much like The 13th Warrior, a small band of warriors, joined by an outsider, head into a remote and thinly settled countryside to encounter enemies of a supernatural nature that turn out to be less than supernatural. The movie does a good job of establishing a dark tone without making everything seem hopeless and pointless. There isn't a great deal of time devoted to characterization and the movie is a bit short at only 97 minutes, but I suspect any more time spent in the grim and desolate world that the director has created would rapidly encounter diminishing returns. If a grim, brutal, grounded in reality, sword swinging movie is what you want, Black Death will be what you want. If you want a happy movie with a cheery ending, look elsewhere.

Thor (2011)
9 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
I'm now even more excited for Captain America and The Avengers!, 17 May 2011
8/10

Thor is a bit of a harder sell as far as comic book characters go. I mean, how do you transform an ancient Norse god and 60's comic book character into something a modern movie going audience is going to like? Start with great casting (Chris Hemsworth is a dead ringer for Thor), add a brilliant screenplay by J. Michael Strazynski, and mix it with top notch special effects and you end up with a movie that is halfway believable (in a comic book way) and very entertaining.

Thor is an arrogant, perhaps spoiled, young warrior that seeks glory for himself and Asgard but nearly reignites an ancient war with the Frost Giants in the process. For his arrogance and poor judgement, Thor is stripped of his power and banished to Earth by Odin (Anthony Hopkins), and his hammer lands in New Mexico and becomes something akin to the sword in the stone of Arthurian legend, "Whoever holds this hammer, should they be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor". All of this is a result of the subtle manipulations of Thor's evil brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) who seeks power only for himself. Throughout most of the film Loki works from the shadows to manipulate people and events towards an end of his design, as only the trickster god can do. Thor must then work to reclaim his power and stop his brother's machinations, gaining some wisdom and humility along the way.

There is really very little to dislike about the film, other than a couple of minor casting decisions, Hogun, one of the famed warriors three, is apparently Asian for some reason, and Heimdall is black. Both choices seem odd for Norse gods but it doesn't really harm the movie, they just seem out of place. I would have liked to see Thor get beat up a bit more in the final two fight scenes with The Destroyer and Loki as both were relatively short and could have benefited from a couple of extra minutes. Overall Thor is a very fun, very entertaining comic book movie that only heightens my anticipation for the upcoming Captain America and Avengers movies.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A serial killer movie that attempts, and fails, to keep you guessing., 15 May 2011
5/10

As with most mediocre Hollywood fare I found myself reminded of similar films that were done better while watching Taking Lives. In this case the better film is The Talented Mr. Ripley. Both films feature a serial killer, or would be serial killer, that can take on the traits of others and effectively hide themselves in plain sight. Where The Talented Mr. Ripley shines and Taking Lives does not, is in the exploration of the killer and his transformations from identity to identity.

Taking Lives takes place in Montreal, Quebec, Canada where a murder has taken place in which the victim's hands were severed and his face smashed into unrecognizable pulp. Apparently this is too much for the local police to handle; enter special agent Illeana Scott (Angelina Jolie). A curious and astute audience might wonder why local Canadian police are receiving assistance from an American FBI agent. Curious as you might be you never do find out, just go with it. Soon after Scott joins the investigation, Costa (Ethan Hawke) informs the police that he interrupted the killer's latest work and can draw a sketch and the hunt for the killer begins in earnest.

What follows is a fairly typical story littered with suspicion, misdirection, and chase scenes. The thing that is lacking in the film is the thing that gives it an interesting premise, the fact that the killer not only takes the lives of his victims in a mortal sense, he also literally takes their lives and lives them because the killer cannot stand himself and longs to be someone, anyone else. We never get to see this happen, we just have to take the movie's back story as gospel. Even when the killer is revealed to be someone we are very familiar with from the film, he doesn't change a bit, still the same character we met during his first scene. While this doesn't make Taking Lives a bad movie, it does prevent it from being a good one. If you see it, fine, if not you will survive to live another day.

Hereafter (2010)
0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Would have made a good short film, but is instead a terrible feature., 15 May 2011
4/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The opening scenes in Hereafter are well crafted, unexpected, and provide a solid foundation for what should have been an interesting movie. Unfortunately, there is an hour and a half wait before that interesting movie emerges and it isn't enough of a payoff to offset the interminable boredom.

The vast majority of the movie is spent following three very separate story lines about three very different people. The first is about a French reporter/TV host who has a near death experience after almost drowning and her life is changed forever. The second is about twin boys with a drug addicted mother and the third follows Matt Damon doing his best John Edwards impression (the guy that talks to dead people, not the one who cheats on his cancer patient wife). It's not that the stories are bad, but the movie does a very poor job of moving things along and for most of the movie there really isn't a coherent plot to speak of. It's like a reality TV show randomly picked three people to follow and you get to see how they live their lives, even though that might make good TV if you found the right people, it makes a really crappy movie.

Eventually the plot lines intersect when the reporter writes a book, Matt Damon goes on vacation, and one of the boys runs away from his foster parents. Matt Damon reads the reporter's book, sees that she really did die, talks to the boy's dead brother (he died earlier in the film), offers him comfort, receives some naive yet sagely advice from the boy, seeks out the reporter and falls in love. All of these elements would have fit very nicely into a short film and have to be painfully drawn out in order to fill two hours. The movie really needed to focus less on character development and way more on plot advancement.


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