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Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010)
A Hidden Treasure
I saw the trailer to this film online and it seemed like a funny - yet unsustainable premise. I went to see it with friends anyway and I can't remember laughing so hard at a film in years. This movie takes a promising premise and knocks it out of the park. The cast is superb in this send-up of the psycho in the woods genre and the writing and direction take what I feared was an unsustainable premise and they give it surprising energy and humor. This is not Scary Movie crap. This is inventive and fresh and it has a beautiful heart. Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk are the "Hillbillies" in this hilarious tale of prejudice and paranoia and they deliver performances that are grounded and authentic. Tucker and Dale never become plodding stereotypes of ignorant rednecks. They are portrayed with great wit and dignity and the actors never overreach or retreat into the safety and insecurity of broad camp. The cast trusts the writing and the director and it pays off. The script by Morgan Jurgenson and director Eli Craig is tight, smart and has a wonderful heart. These qualities are given life by an above average cast that includes the lovely Katrina Bowden from NBC's 30 Rock. An especially guilty pleasure is the character of Chad, brilliantly played by Jesse Moss who channels some alternate universe version of a sociopathic Tom Cruise as the lead frat-boy. Eli Craig really guided home a winner with this film. The movie sets a course at the beginning and you know where you're headed in the first five minutes-- but Craig's the captain of the ship and this journey is filled with surprises and wonderfully subtle moments that give the film a fun trajectory and a brisk pace. You breezily travel through a fantastic, hilarious and utterly sublime entertainment. Bravo!
An Unexpected, Transcendently Bad Treat
I really didn't expect much. I knew the resumé's of the players: The Cast, The Producer, The Director. But damn!... Damn!... I had so much fun watching this destruct-orgy... I have to say it was really, really funny. I almost gave this 8 stars, but I was afraid people would get the wrong idea about me... me!? Woody Harrelson had me in tears. John Cusack played it so straight for awhile... then a wink and a nod would peek through... I see... you're in on the joke. I get it. This movie is so over the top, it redefines where the top is. Try fifty-thousand feet higher than you think it should be. I think this film and its relative box-office success have given way to its real achievement: lowering the bar on script development to the point that it would hardly qualify as an English language film. Yet there is the comedy... brilliantly, defiantly staring me in the face, making me laugh though the part in the film where the second act is supposed to go. My ribs are hurting... but nobody spends two hundred million on a comedy! I can't reconcile it. Not even Mozart could construct such a tangled web of coincidence; cliché, coincidence; cliché, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. Oh, and the moral crisis... I almost forgot about the moral crisis... it appears in the "third act", stapled to the main scientist guy like a "For Rent" sign on a North Hollywood mailbox on the last day of the month. I wallowed selfishly in the ham-fisted, contrived, thinly woven gauze of the plot, giggling and laughing my way into a sublime euphoria. Even the word "contrived" has lost its measure, its weight. All that is left is the far-away echo that hearkens to a time when movies were made by people that could marshall more than just an escrow account of foreign pre- sales fees, leveraged-hedge-fund-private-equity participations. I wipe away the tears of laughter, with fond memories of the computer-generated images of destruction so perversely maudlin, goofy even, yet vividly realistic-- like a special effects corporate welfare program. Thank you, Roland Emmerich, sir, for not pulling out and shooting your load of cinematic brilliance on the audience's tramp-stamp.
The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)
I loved this film. Clooney and Spacey were particularly hilarious
The story borrows liberally from the exploits of Joe McMoneagle and Ingo Swann and the cadré of Remote Viewers stationed at Fort Meade, MD, under the operational detachment Project Stargate. Yes, as the film states upfront: "More of this is true than you would believe". There are instances in the film that incorporate actual Stargate operations: tracking submarines, finding a kidnapped American General in Italy and the search for Noriega following the US invasion of Panama. The comedy comes from the disconnect that the professional military hierarchy has from the rest of us. The Pentagon has too much money at its disposal and its internal political dynamics encourage a bizarre mixture of risk-averse yet forward-thinking innovators. This was particularly rampant after our loss in Vietnam. Vietnam and the Cold War combined to pull the Pentagon Brass in a thousand different directions and created a schism in the strategic planning sectors that is ripe for comedic exploration. Grant Heslov deftly captured this cultural watershed through his direction of the film. He ably guided the actors in performances that while sometimes brief, captured the totality of the real absurdity that the military can sometimes give us, while keeping the characters real and grounded and not drifting into farce. Heslov has captured an elusive tone, entirely his own, that I've only previously seen in Coen Brother's films. This is a story I've longed to see told on the big screen and it was worth the wait. You could say its a story about the Military-Insanity Complex, but that's too broad a brush for this slice of American military history. Clooney is brilliantly understated as always, he's a master of subtlety and an actor that understands how powerful the camera can be. Kevin Spacey is throughly despicable as the film's only real villain. If the film has any flaws at all its that Spacey is not in it enough. But the most poignant character is beautifully drawn by Jeff Bridges, who in just a few scenes depicts the inevitable trajectory of the innovative free-thinker in a rigid, uncaring system. Bridges shows us the cost of being that individual and Heslov gives the film room to explore this aspect of the story without sacrificing the reason we're all there to watch: and that is to have a laugh at something that maybe should never have happened but did.
As Pagan An Orgy Of The Psyche As You're Likely To Get
Yes, I rated this film One Star. It is not entertaining, necessarily enlightening, or revealing really. But don't let my One Star review lead you astray. I could not, in good conscience give it a six or seven. Its not horror, but it is horrifying. It is beautifully cinematic, but not in a way that captivates, yet it doesn't let you look away. I believe this experience is Pagan. Not that it strips away one's belief system in order to pervade your senses with the rawest expression of nature. The sexuality is stark, toxic, inherently dangerous and brutal. Its animalistic and raw. Equal parts satisfying and bloodlettingly cruel. You feel as if you are being pulled inside the film, through the use of imagery and the unwinding of time, and lashed to a terrible conveyor belt that takes you to a dark place of cold fire and evisceration. It is the animal's view of the forest. we are as much the prey, we humans, as the predator. And what of the innate evil that is woman, as the film supposes? The woman is a beastly servant of an unseen master, driven by uncivilized carnal desire to procreate, nurture briefly and give her offspring only the illusion of filial connectivity. She, marching to a drumbeat of biology, devoid of emotion and casually cruel, disconnected from the false construct of what we hold to be civilization, wreaks havoc and leaves a wake of destruction to which the Man is drawn like a moth to a flame. Her power as the epicenter, the gateway through which life and death passes, results in a furious clockwork of Pagan expression, which is at once familiar and malignantly inevitable. Or so Lars Von Trier seems to believe. If you are confused by this review, imagine how it felt to watch the film.
Paranormal Activity (2007)
Yes, it lives up to the hype, if you give it a chance.
I was skeptical that a film like this could actually deliver the required thrills and chills to keep me interested, but it delivered. Don't expect huge production value, but you can expect to get absorbed into the story and witness some chilling moments and yes, even some terror. Like the Exorcist, this film presents an intimate peek into the lives of a couple terrorized by something unseen. But unlike the Exorcist, there's no Priests that show up to deal with it. Let's be clear: this film is artfully constructed by a filmmaker that has studied the underlying Psychology of horror and they really stick it to you. This film has a huge impact in a theatre, with a fun crowd of young girls ripe to shriek at every turn. I doubt this film will have the needed impact on DVD. So I suggest you fill out the petition to get it to your local theatre so you can enjoy the ride like I got to. You won't regret it. Take a date. There's plenty of charm and laughs early on from the wonderful actors who play the couple ( they're also decent cinematographers) and so you really get a sense of dread when the spooky shows up. I have very high standards, but the IMDb rating tells the tale.
The Hurt Locker (2008)
A Great Film Undermined By Style
I really liked the writing, the acting, the direction of this film. However, the hand-held camera-work was repetitive, artificially motivated and self-conscious, and it took me right out of the movie. I have to say this because I really liked this movie and I feel like the actors did a fantastic job making their characters feel real. But all this work is undermined by the artifice and the visual cliché of the shaky hand-held camera. The camera movement was so disconnected from the action, it called such attention to itself, it took me right out of the movie. The filmmakers should have studied "Children of Men" for how to use the camera more effectively.
Eastbound & Down (2009)
The pilot episode was really funny. Danny McBride has that elusive, thoroughly Southern quality of brazenly aggressive, righteous pride that infuses every note. I have met pure examples of the archetype of "Kenny Powers" and while they may be rare, McBride captures the essence honestly and vigorously. The strong cast really elevates a show that could so easily and effortlessly slide into a grating farce. The women in Kenny's life are played with brilliantly understated dignity that is rendered so subtly, so carefully, it turbo-charges the comedy. Katy Mixon's reactions had me howling with laughter. Jennifer Irwin's southern housewife is spot-on with her quiet, tortured expressions that are amazing in their subtlety. Katy and Jennifer coil the show's mainspring so remarkably tight, it explodes when the raucously sexy Sylvia Jefferies and the hilarious Danny McBride pile on. John Hawkes has the hardest job in the cast. Hawkes plays Kenny's older brother Dustin and has to be both dignified and provide some degree of plausibility for Kenny's existence. There is a rich vein of comedy and heartfelt sincerity that lies underneath Kenny and Dustin's relationship and I hope the creators can navigate through it over time as deftly as Hawkes has managed his role in the pilot. The pilot episode seemed effortlessly directed by Jody Hill. Hill let the writing and the performances do the heavy lifting by placing a premium value on subtlety and nuance. For all Kenny's hurricane-like energy to dominate a scene, Hill balances that power by tempering it with the lightest touches from the rest of the cast. I look forward to future episodes, these folks have something indescribably great on their hands.
3:10 to Yuma (2007)
The Most Beautiful Aspect of This Film is Easily Missed
Westerns are by their nature allegorical territory. But this film hides away a secret that if you're not careful, you may miss. I picked up the clues somewhat by accident, but as the film unfolded I began to more fully understand the Russell Crowe character and the Christian Bale character in a way that made the film impossible to misinterpret. Fathers almost always want the best for their sons. They want to protect them from harm, disappointment and loss. But in the final analysis, when everything else is taken away, even a bad father wants his son to have someone in his life he can count on, someone worth looking up to. In the final moments, when a father knows that the only things he's given his progeny are the worst parts of himself, and he has an opportunity to give him something truly good he'll do anything to provide that gift. Even when his nature is to destroy everything that matters to him. How could a man, who by every measure is a failure, not be a hero when he stands as a giant in the eyes of the boy he calls a son? Who could ask for a better father than the man that walked Ben Wade to the train station when no one else would? A man could not ask for a better Father for his son than that.
Why, why, why...
Why are movies about "astronauts" always populated with people that wouldn't pass the psych. profile necessary for setting foot on the ship in the first place?
Why do science-fiction screenwriters watch all the great science fiction movies that have gone before and then blatantly rip-off the iconic scenes from each one and string them together in what some people call a script?
Why does the fate of mankind ALWAYS come down to the same lame "fist-fight in the engine room"? Why does Sunshine, which starts out okay, degenerate into a bad TV show by the third act? Why do well-respected filmmakers attempt to make science fiction movies when it's clear they really want to do a bad action movie instead?
Why does it never seem to occur to movie makers that when a audience pays money to see a space movie, they expect a mind-expanding, intelligent story to unfold, not a "Heroes" episode.
Bottom line: If you can't take me where I've never been, show me things I've never seen, make me think things I've never thought, then don't bother leaving earth orbit. Take the money you spent on this movie and build a few wells in Africa.
The Polar Express (2004)
Tom falls into the "Uncanny Valley"
In short, this film tells a great story. I would give some weight however to the gentleman that put forth the theory about population control and fascism when the train arrives at the north pole. That argument at least sounds interesting. But my problem with this film lies along a different path. I had a difficult time watching the film without becoming nauseous. My principle reaction to the look of the characters was revulsion. This is a fantastic example of when not to use computer animation. It would have been fine to turn the people into cute animals or caricatures, but photo real looking CGI people that talk and act in medium shots and close-ups are nothing more than animated cadavers. At least that's how our brains see them. I saw the film in 3D, which I'm sure amplified my natural and innate instinct to reject the characters, as one would reject a fresh corpse.