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Everything Must Go (2010)
A Wonderful Example of Ferrell's Acting Ability
"Everything Must Go" is a wonderful film. Taken from a short story by Raymond Carver, it is a simple idea, but richly textured so the viewer must look under the layers of simplicity for the story to open up. The short story is only a few pages long and it is very simple on the surface. The writing is sparse, but it still makes you think and this idea goes into the film as well.
Will Ferrell plays Nick Halsey, the ex-Vice President of a Regional Sales Office. We catch him on his last day of work, downing a flask and reminiscing on the meeting where he was recently terminated after falling off the wagon one too many times. After getting beer, Nick arrives home to see all of his stuff in his front yard and the locks changed. His credit cards and bank account are frozen and he's left with the money on his wallet and the stuff on his lawn.
Ferrell gives a very wonderfully subtle performance. Carver would be proud. It seems to me that the main complaint that people have voiced with this film was that there was no big payoff. I disagree. I think there was a big payoff, just not in the sense that there was this huge change in the character. The change is subtle, but it is there. Ferrell goes back to his dramatic abilities to show us the story of a man in crisis, struggling to get out and he does it well. My fear is that this movie will be misunderstood by fans of Ferrell's comedy.
It is a depressing movie, but it is a simple story of finding hope as well with comedy sprinkled throughout. My advice would be to give it a chance and be rewarded by seeing Ferrell's abilities.
The Wackness (2008)
Terrific film, Kingsley is Great
I had only heard the premise of the movie when I picked it up at Blockbuster the other day. While it is not the greatest movie of all time, it is surely in my top 10 of 2008. Not being a fan of Josh Peck, by the end of the movie I could sympathize with his character and I could actually take him seriously. The first half of the movie, I kept comparing Luke Shapiro to Josh Nichols from "Drake and Josh." However, despite others' beliefs, I feel that Peck played the role of Shapiro very well. But even more amazing was Ben Kingsley. Not being a fan of Kingsley either, I had only seen him in "Dave" and "Lucky Number Slevin" and I really didn't know what to expect. He played his part as the drug-addicted pyschiatrist very well and I felt a connection with his character more than Peck's.
The movie begins in what I assume is May of 1994 as Luke Shapiro (Peck) is graduating from high school. With the summer approaching and his family making money, Luke is selling more drugs than he usually does, including to his psychiatrist, Dr. Squires (Kingsley), and Squires' stepdaughter, Stephanie. After a night in jail with Dr. Squires, Luke and Stephanie hit it off and Luke is sure that he's found love. But Dr. Squires thinks differently. As the summer goes on and the heat rises in New York City, Dr. Squires and Luke start reevaluating their lives and trying to find the real meaning of their time on Earth. What starts as a coming-of-age film ends as a deep study of the parallels between young and old. "The Wackness" is a deep and solid film with great performances from Kingsley and Peck. I know exactly why the film was recognized at Sundance. Highly recommended.
The Dark Knight (2008)
The Movie That I've Been Waiting for All Summer
I remember in my younger days watching the campy (not necessarily bad) Batman movies with a wide variety of actors from Adam West to Michael Keaton to George Clooney. I remember being a child and being especially afraid of Jack Nicholson's Joker in Tim Burton's version of Batman in 1989. But I didn't even imagine the Joker as I saw him tonight. Heath Ledger is by far the scariest Batman character, I believe, to ever be brought to life on the big screen. The purple-suited prankster is more in love with anarchy than schemes and such. With a dark sense of humor, you find yourself laughing at some unexpected places in the film. But why not put a smile on that face? Enter Bruce Wayne, our model hero, to save the day...or so one would think. But when the going gets tough, Wayne questions his place in Gotham City. Now that new DA Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) is in town, maybe Gotham deserves a "hero with a face," as Bruce puts it. Maybe they deserve the knight in shining armor instead of the knight in midnight black bat suit.
With plenty of humor, character development, and action, "The Dark Knight" keeps you guessing and hanging on until the end credits roll. With the brilliant Nolan brothers writing and directing once again, how could this have failed? Who ever saw Batman as not just a figure in the dark, but a dark figure himself? While the original TV series was campy and comic, "Begins" and "Knight" have surely cast that image away from the franchise. And all I have to say is...bring on some more.
Supporting performances from Eric Roberts, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine make "The Dark Knight" a summer winner. Hats off to all involved for the entertainment and a job well done.
Grace Is Gone (2007)
Sad, Beautiful, Brilliant- "Grace" Remains With the Viewer
"Grace is Gone" is a very sad, but important film. Until I read about it on IMDb, I had no idea that it was being made. Very subtley, it slipped in and out of theaters. Finally, I found it at Blockbuster and picked it up to watch with my family. At the end, my family remarked on how sad the movie is. They are very right with this comment. In fact, this may be one of the saddest, but beautiful films I've ever seen. It takes a situation that every parent may face and turns it into a beautiful story about family and love.
Stanley Phillips is a dad taking care of his two daughters while their wife and mother, Grace, is in Iraq in the Army. When the news comes one day that Grace has been killed overseas, Stanley is left alone and clueless as to how to tell his daughters that their mother is not coming home. As a way of avoiding the conversation, Stanley takes the girls on a trip to Enchanted Gardens, an amusement park that looks similar to Disney World.
The plot, with Clint Eastwood's beautiful score and James Strouse's great writing and directing, brings the viewer a subtle and beautiful film. "Grace is Gone" definitely stays with the viewer.
Reign Over Me (2007)
Adam Sandler Makes a...POWERFUL PERFORMANCE?
"Reign Over Me" is not the type of movie that one would expect to see Adam Sandler in. The star of comedy hits such as "Billy Madison" and "Happy Gilmore" is not the type of actor that many, including myself, could imagine in a dramatic role. But Sandler sticks to his character very faithfully and actually gives a powerful performance full of pain and uncertainty.
Sandler plays Charlie Fineman, a once stable dentist who lost his family in the September 11 attacks in New York City. While one may be used to hearing Sandler quite audibly while he's yelling in his other films, I found myself having to turn the subtitles sometimes as he mumbles on to people. This is another key characteristic of Charlie Fineman and Sandler sticks to it throughout the family.
Meanwhile, Fineman's old college roommate Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle) is having a crisis. While it is not mid-life, it deals with the boredom of routine and repetition. His life seems to be passing him by and he is taking photography classes and doing puzzles with his wife.
Then one night in the city, Alan and Charlie meet for the first time in a long time. Charlie doesn't remember Alan, let alone college, but soon enough, he doesn't want to leave Alan alone. At first, Alan finds Charlie fine, maybe a bit depressed and quiet, but fine. But soon after, Charlie starts to have emotional issues resulting in fits of anger and jealousy. You see Charlie's life falling apart from Alan's point of view.
With a great soundtrack and even some comedy sprinkled about, "Reign Over Me" is a fantastic film for all involved whether it be Mike Binder, the writer/director/actor, or Sandler and Cheadle. Take a chance and don't let Sandler's name on the box fool you. This is a very serious and deep film, but a beautiful film.
Kudos again to everyone involved.
The Astronaut Farmer (2006)
Thorton Shines in "Farmer"
"The Astronaut Farmer" is the story of Charles Farmer (Billy Bob Thorton). After studying space aeronautics in college, Charles returns to his family farm after his father commits suicide. With all of his money, he begins to build a rocket in his barn. But when money gets tight and the bank threatens to foreclose on his farm, Charlie needs all the help he can get. And who else can help him, but his wife (Virginia Madsen) and three children. With the FBI watching his house and every move, Farmer builds his rocket and fights the FAA to fly it.
Even though Farmer is aiming for the moon and stars, HE, is in fact the star. Billy Bob Thorton played his role perfectly and he makes you really feel for his character.
This movie is very well done. It kept my attention without resorting to language or violence. The suspenseful scenes are suspenseful and the dramatic scenes are dramatic. Its an inspirational movie that the whole family can enjoy. With supporting roles from Tim Blake Nelson, J.K. Simmons, Jon Gries, Bruce Willis, and Bruce Dern, "The Astronaut Farmer" is a visual treat for everyone, space buff or not.
Smokin' Aces (2006)
A Whole Lot of Fun with a Great Cast!
I walked into the theater having so-so expectations, but they were blown away when the credits began rolling after the hour and fifty minute run time. I was completely amazed by this movie. The story, dialog, cast, and camera work is all great. The action scenes are all filmed extremely well also.
After Agents Messner (Ryan Reynolds) and Carruthers (Ray Liotta) hear some news of a possible hit against an important witness (Jeremy Piven), the race is on to get to Lake Tahoe to protect him. But the FBI agents aren't the only ones who are hurrying to get to Nevada. Along with them are a bail bondsmen (Ben Affleck) and his crew (Martin Henderson and Peter Berg) and many hit men and women.
The witness, Buddy "Aces" Israel, is a coke head magician who wanted to live the gangster lifestyle. Well, when Israel becomes a threat to the Mob, they supposedly want him dead. So the hit men/women come in and the game is on with a sum of 1,000,000 dollars as the prize.
All the performances are great, but the two that just mesmerized me were Ryan Reynolds and Jeremy Piven. They play their roles perfectly. And I found myself rooting for Reynolds and his band of FBI agents, but at the same time, I felt bad for Piven's character.
The camera work is amazing in the movie. The operators really had an eye, I guess or the director.
With great supporting performances from Chris Pine, Andy Garcia, Peter Berg, Jason Bateman, Alicia Keys, and Common, "Smokin' Aces" is a fun ride from start to finish that will have you on the edge of your seat for the entire time.
Snakes on a Plane (2006)
Anaconda 3 Starring Character Development
"Snakes on a Plane." The title is pretty blunt and self-explanatory. We've seen "Anaconda" and "Anacondas: Hunt for the Blood Orchid." What else could they put in a snake movie? Snakes are deadly. They are going to kill people. Well, they threw Samuel L. Jackson in the movie and what may seem like just a simple, stupid snake movie to some can be interpreted by others as a story with character development with snakes as a subplot. My second viewing of the movie turned out that way.
The movie starts of with Sean (Nathan Phillips) seeing a murder by a notorious gangster in Hawaii. After the mobster finds out where Sean lives, hero FBI Agent Neville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson) comes to the rescue. After escaping henchmen once, Flynn tells Sean that he can either get killed by the gangster or come testify in Los Angeles. Sean takes the second choice and Flynn and Sean take the red eye to LA. Little do they know that the gangster has put a variety of poisonous snakes on the plane. When the plane lifts off, the snakes come out causing some gruesome deaths. And of course, its up to Neville Flynn to save the day.
But as the snakes keep coming, the people keep fighting and there's a scene where they almost sound like one big fighting family. So despite this movie having a cheesy title, its actually not that bad at all. Supporting roles from David Koeschner and Keenan Thompson bring some comedic moments to the movie. But beware, there are gruesome scenes in this movie and it is not for everyone. But it is better than both "Anaconda" movies. So if you're looking for a decent snake movie, see this one. Its not bad at all.
Rocky V (1990)
Deserves More Than The 4.0 Rating
As of January 3, 2007, "Rocky V" has a rating of 4.0. And I feel that it deserves better. It has the same feel as all of the other "Rocky" movies. It is a standard underdog type of tale. The story is realistic until the end kind of. And the 5th installment deals a lot more with Rocky Balboa's family life than his fighting and such.
After the events in "Rocky IV," Balboa returns home to the USA to great media and country applause. But that soon ends when Rocky is pronounced unfit to box and he loses all his money with a financial error by his lawyer. So he moves back to the old neighborhood in Philly with Adrian and Robert, Jr., his son. Paulie makes quite a lot of appearances, but it is unsure whether he lives with his brother-in-law's family or not.
And that's when Rocky meets Tommy Gunn, a hotshot fighter who requests Rocky's help. He has enormous potential, but he is young and he refuses to listen. When Gunn wins fights, but craves more, he ditches Rocky for a big time promoter. But Gunn is always in his mentor's shadow as he learns after the fights and money don't bring him the love of the fans. For its like Adrian Balboa says, "They love you because you won with heart, not your fists." But Tommy, not knowing that, feels that he has to beat Rocky with his fists to show he is the more superior fighter.
With plenty of good suspense and lessons, the 5th installment in the "Rocky" series is a winner, but most don't seem to feel that way.
The Ice Harvest (2005)
Great Noir Comedy/Thriller
Black comedy is at its finest in Ivan Reitman's "The Ice Harvest." Mob lawyer Charlie Arglist (John Cusack) decides one day to steal 2 million dollars from his boss, Bill Guerrard (Randy Quaid). Together with pornographer Vic Cavanaugh (Billy Bob Thorton), Charlie thinks that he's pulled off the perfect heist. But when a few hours in Wichita turns into a few hours too long, Charlie and Vic get jumpy and try to skip town. But with the mob now on their tail, they're having problems with trusting people in their community and problems trusting each other.
With Charlie trying to seduce Renata (Connie Nielsen), a stripper who is not as trustworthy as she seems and trying to keep control of Pete (Oliver Platt), his ex-wife's new husband who's trying to reach the "perfect stage of drunkness", Wichita turns into a battleground.
With a great comedic performance from Platt (his character is drunk through the movie), "The Ice Harvest" brings John Cusack to the screen in prime comedic form. Although I would have liked to see more of Randy Quaid (screen time is less than 20 minutes) and a longer cut of the movie, "The Ice Harvest" succeeded in making me laugh (mostly Platt) and keeping my attention.