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joestank15

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151 reviews in total 
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Jumper (2008)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Didn't like it. Didn't hate it. Shoddy considering some of the talent behind it., 22 November 2008
4/10

Jumper - David Rice (Hayden Christiansen) has the ability to teleport. He is what the film refers to as a "Jumper". Rice is chased by people who want to taser him because...well I suppose because they saw the Star Wars prequels. No it turns out they are what is called Paladins. Why do they hate the Jumpers? That's not really delved into. Who funds this worldwide elimination of Jumpers? We just don't know, and by the end, don't care.

The film just has no time to spare for much of anything besides the effects, which are, admittedly, cool. It's a shame. The idea of a character who can teleport is a cool concept. The idea of a middle of the road superman is a bad concept. Why? Because it's interesting to watch an everyman pick up the mantle of hero or fall into darkness. What is not is to see a average guy do mildly criminal acts but pretty much stay on the middle of the road purely out of self interest and not learn a damn thing on the way.

Hayden Christiansen gives a completely bland performance as David Rice to the surprise of none. Can we close the books on this one? He isn't given a lot with the dialog, I'll give you that, but he's bordering soporific. He just plain lacks charisma, and every time he gets that half baked grin on his face (far too often) you want to slug him. David Rice ignores news reports of people stranded in hideous places so he can go surfing. Peter Parker would whale on this sob. And I'm supposed to care about David's plight, why? I mentioned the writing. It's even crummier when you find out who did it. I would've expected better from David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight) Jim Uhls (Fight Club) and Simon Kinberg (xXx: State of the Union). Okay maybe not that last one, but still. Far too much mileage is gotten out of David's 'mystery' in his courtship of Millie Harris (Rachel Bilson). It's about half of the dialog between the two, who have pretty mediocre chemistry. The writing and story are lazy.

Some plot-holes among many that vexed me: How does David stay so damn thin if he hardly ever walks around? He even teleports to different spots on the couch, for God's sake. Also, why does he need a passport? And the whole jump spot thing is vexing and never explained. These Jumpers can go anywhere, but have several "jump-spots" that they have to aim for. I guess it's like weblinks or something.

Everything is far too easy in this film, even considering it's about teleportation. The end result is hollow and flat. It's got some pretty visuals (minus Rachel Bilson's lips. Sorry but I couldn't get over them) and it's fun to see Mace Windu taser Anakin. Also the pointless teleport fight at the end was pretty cool. Aside from that, the film is a pass.

I didn't like it. Didn't hate it. Jumper gets a C-

3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Bond for the art-house action film-goer, 14 November 2008
9/10

Quantum of Solace - Daniel Craig's second outing as James Bond has him in pursuit of Vesper Lynd's killers from the previous movie. He pursues (and is often pursued by) agents of a shadowy organization. The leader of which is one Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric of "Munich") a faux environmentalist who is holding a country's water supply at ransom. Judi Dench reprises her role as "M". Giancarlo Giannini returns as Mathis and so does Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter.

Everyone I have talked to about this movie has one question: Is it better than Casino Royale? No and I'll tell you why. Casino Royale was a fantastic movie that had the novelty of a first-time Daniel Craig and the direction of a seasoned James Bond director (Martin Campbell). This movie does not try to be better and probably could not have been. It tries to be different. The plot, for one thing, actually makes you think.

I was happy with the choice of Marc Forster (Finding Neverland) because I knew he and Daniel Craig would help bring depth to the proceedings and help flesh out the character of Bond so that he is not just another man with a gun in an action film. Daniel Craig is as good as he was in Casino Royale, though this time he is "damaged goods". He has tremendous force of character, and looks like he could kill you with a glare. He escapes by the skin of his neck, and works harder than any of the other Bonds ever had to. He is the best of the Bonds, because he's a real actor, and a damn fine one at that. Roger Moore was not an actor, even by his own admission. Lazenby was a model. Brosnan was a star. Craig is an actor.

Olga Kurylenko gives it a decent run as Camille but she's no Vesper Lynd. And that was the point really, wasn't it? Jeffrey Wright is sly and fun as Felix Leiter. Mathieu Almaric is cruel, weaselly and has an interesting dynamic with Craig.

Right off the bat this film provides visceral action, but it does not try to glorify it. The action is gritty and fast and hard, though not quite as fantastic as the chases and fights in Casino Royale. Bond never caps off a death with a wisecrack, like in the original Ian Fleming novels (he rarely quipped at a death). I'm glad they dumped the sometimes stupid humor from the original movies. It was mostly puns and boner jokes. This Bond is coldly efficient, and when he does joke, it's as ironic and dry as the deserts he spends quite a bit of the film in.

This film is self aware, a new thing for the Bond films. Prior to Quantum, no one, in or out of the movies, seemed to have a problem with the fact that James Bond's love interests tended to die. It just became like the red shirts in Star Trek, a franchise staple. He lost his wife in OHMSS, mourned for 5 seconds, and was off again. In Quantum of Solace a few people venture that Bond is poisonous through his very nature.

The femme fatal used to be more of a way to showcase the latest Hollywood starlet, who came and went before we had the next installment. I think films like The Dark Knight and Quantum are a sign of maturity in our action films, with female characters treated with respect and the understanding that violence has repercussions. Villains want power and money, not global destruction and underwater lairs.

That's not to say that this Bond is all work and no play. It is fun, frequently. Marc Forster has fun deciding when to show and not show bits of violence, until the action gets pretty brutal at the final fights. I enjoyed this film stylistically. The film uses a lot of blues and grays and the occasional yellow. Another thing I enjoyed was the location subtitles. By embellishing these, the globe-trotting was not just a "Bond's gone to Cairo again. yawn." sort of thing.

I was expecting to dislike the fact that this is the shortest Bond yet, after Casino was "too" long and I felt like I still didn't get enough. It turns out that quality is what matters, not just quantity. This was just the right amount of Bond.

It really is a Bond for action lovers and art-house fans alike. I happen to dabble in both camps. I thoroughly enjoyed this film and recommend it to all. It really gives luster to qualities in the James Bond series that repetition has made stale.

A-

6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Some Stories Should Never be Written. This is One of them., 13 November 2008
3/10

Final Draft - A screenwriter (James Van Der Beek) locks himself into his apartment and succumbs to psychosis in an attempt to write a horror script. Not a terrible premise, but the execution is awful. This feels like a first year direction and writing job, and probably is. The director jump cuts the hell out of everything. It's meant to be disorienting. What it IS is annoying. So much so that small chunks of film are incoherent. The writing is predictable, and doesn't use follow through on most of the ideas it offers (bag of oranges). It's like they ran out of time and slap-dashed it together for the Toronto Film Festival.

This film is not jaw-droppingly "oh my god it's so bad it's good" bad. It's boring bad, and irritates you for a long time afterward. James Van Der Beek is not a terrible actor, and keeps the ship barely above water. But he's too normal for the kind of psychosis the film tries to offer. He is merely a withdrawn guy who one day sees people and hallucinates things, then decides to act mildly deranged. Cause follows effect. Maybe there's something in the water. Now Darryn Lucio, who plays his "friend", is a terrible actor. He shares the likeness of Chris O'Donald and is even more annoying, a superhuman achievement.

The atmosphere the film provides is good (dull gray and somber), but as it's the only thing the film achieves it means nothing. This film wants to be Jacob's Ladder or The Machinist. It isn't even Secret Window. It's the preppy girl in class deciding to turn goth.

Not irksomely terrible, but the sheer stupidity of it will ebb at you. I've already put more thought into this critique than the filmmakers did for this.

D

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Cute movie elevated above the mediocre by Pegg and Moran, 13 November 2008
6/10

Run Fatboy Run - Dennis Doyle (the wonderful Simon Pegg) with commitment issues runs away from his pregnant fiancé (Thandie Newton) on their wedding day and, 5 years later, tries to win her and his son back by running a marathon.

Anyone hoping for a Edgar Wright style riff (not an unfair expectation, as this has two cast members from Shaun of the Dead) on the sports genre will be disappointed. This is directed by David Schwimmer, and scripted by Michael Ian Black and Simon Pegg himself. Schwimmer's direction is adequate, and the story is pretty cute, though really by the numbers. Could we just freeze the use of the sports montage for, like, two decades? Pegg is very watchable and his presence is more or less what breathes life into the film. Thankfully he also has Dylan Moran (change of pace from Nick Frost), who lights up any dull moment and steals many scenes from under Simon Pegg's feet. Moran plays a near-do-well friend with a gambling addiction and a strange (but funny) lack of pants.

On the other hand, Thandie Newton has pretty much nothing to work with in the material. And Hank Azaria has the virtually thankless task of being the uptight nemesis of Pegg's character (trying to steal the woman Dennis ditched on their wedding day. *What* an ass). God, why do we always have to have a reason to hate the other man (or woman, depending on the film)? Is the theory that any man who is nice and decent on the outside has to be a monster on the inside? God it's such a cliché.

In conclusion, see it for Pegg and Moran. B-

42 out of 61 people found the following review useful:
Funny and sweet without seeming too formulaic, 13 November 2008
8/10

Forgetting Sarah Marshall - A slacker composer Peter (Jason Segel from "Knocked Up") has a breakdown after his girlfriend Sarah (Kristen Bell of "Heroes"), the star of a hit TV show, dumps him for a British pop star. Peter goes to Hawaii to try and forget about Sarah, which proves to be a poor choice when he finds Sarah is not only in Hawaii, but they are staying at the same hotel. Paul Rudd, Bill Hader, Jonah Hill and Mila Kunis co-star.

This was a funny movie! It's a more mature than your average comedy. It survives comedically without leeching off too many other bits of pop culture, unlike Knocked Up. There is the exception of some funny spoofs of CSI and Ghost Whisperer, two fatted calfs rip for killing. Everyone is allowed to be funny, even the women, and they are. I enjoyed the occasional "Scrubs" style cut-aways which were frequently funny. The best one has to be the week Peter spent in the same pair of sweat pants.

This was a lucky stroke from from first time director Nicholas Stoller and first time writer (in addition to lead actor) Jason Segel. I hate making comparisons to other actors, but I kept thinking of Judge Reinhold when I saw Segel. Not that that's a strike against him.

Segel is a fresh face in the comedy genre, and is adept at playing sympathetic slacker and funny man in one. Kirsten Bell acts much better in this than Heroes, and it's a nice change of pace to not recognize Paul Rudd in appearance and character immediately. Bill Hader is funny as always. What really comes across in this film is that everyone, even Sarah Marshall, seems like a 3-dimensional character. Hopefully the days in comedies when people are bitchy or vile just for the hell of it are gone. Even the shallow pop star Aldous Snow (Russell Brand), who is the rival to Peter, is likable. There's no animosity between the two men. It's nice to have a comedy where we don't have to demonize anyone.

It's a cute film, sometimes hilarious, but the first half is definitely funnier than the second half. I might pick it up on DVD sometime.

B+

Get Smart (2008)
0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Fun. Nothing more, occasionally a little less., 9 November 2008
7/10

Get Smart - Based off the TV series, of which I know nothing, Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell) is promoted to Agent status after nearly every other agent is killed. It's more or less the same story as Johnny English and countless other spy spoofs, and the fact that Get Smart is based on its TV series makes little difference to that fact.

Homage or not, it also homages a little from Moonraker, the one James Bond I thought there was nothing to glean from. I'm sorry, but the parachuting sequence near the start of the movie was a bad idea. It's too much, even for a spoof, and especially for one that tries later to legitimize itself. It borders on Indiana surviving the nuclear bomb. The film doesn't know whether it's serious or not, and picks odd moments to do so and not to. I'm gonna blame that on the director and writers.

What this film has, that other spy spoofs do not, is Steve Carell. He shows a happy blend of competence and incompetence to suspend your disbelief. He's also very funny and watchable. Unless for some reason a Get Smart 2 is made, for which there is no reason, this is the only time Carell will appear in an action sequence. Speaking of which, the action is pretty cool. I had to rewind a few times. Anne Hathaway is a nice spunky addition. It's nice to have her playing a 'beautiful' character now, after so many movies where we are told how fat and unattractive she is. They have good chemistry, though the romantic sideplot felt tacked on.

My favorite in the film though, has to be Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. I knew The Rock could act (The Rundown isn't a terrible film, and Doom wasn't a sh*tfest because of Dwayne), but I didn't know he could be funny. And no, I'll never watch the abomination with him and the little girl. God, he was wasted on wrestling all these years. Alan Arkin is also quite funny as The Chief (the sequence at the golf-course had me roaring). Bill Murray has a surprising and hilarious cameo as lonely Agent 13. And I love Masi Oka. Just in general, but he's in this film too. Everyone seemed to be having so much fun making this movie and it often shows on screen.

One slight against the film is the toothless performance of Terrence Stamp as the baddie. He just phones it in these days, doesn't he? Chalk it to old age, I guess. Bow to Zod? I might nod my head in his general direction.

So, when all is said, we have a not bad film homage to an old TV show, thanks largely to strong performances from its leads. That was more than I, (and, I'll imagine, everyone else) was expecting. Get Smart gets a B.

27 Dresses (2008)
7 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Film-making at it's most mechanical., 9 November 2008
2/10

27 Dresses - After serving as a bridesmaid 27 times, a young woman (Katherine Heigl) wrestles with the idea of standing by her sister's side as her sibling marries the man she's secretly in love with. The premise: about as cliché as you could imagine. The direction: about as static as you could expect from a former choreographer (Anne Fletcher). See kids, in Hollywood you really DO just fail upwards! The writing (Aline Brosh McKenna): about as hideous as her script for The Devil Wears Prada, another film I was revolted by.

I could be less cruel towards this film, considering it's a rom-com (not the genre of choice for a 20 year old man) with emphasis on the rom not the com, but this film is appallingly bad. As in, I think a cliché threw up all over this film. The film just does not have a fresh idea in it's head. It's a bad sign in writing when a phone rings exactly at the same time someone is expecting it to in their dialog. 27 Dresses telegraphs every move.

And the music. Don't get me started. It's never used until it's cued in. i.e. a sad moment a "fun" moment. This is filming at its most robotic and mechanical. The worst moment in the whole thing is the use of Elton John's "Benny & the Jets", a song I can never listen to again. Hint, it involves standing on a bar. And yes, everyone joins in. I felt cold. Gah.

Marsden plays an asshole though he's supposed to be lovable Heigl plays an shell of her other characters. The girl playing her sister goes from ditzy to evil to nice at the whim of the writer. I could go on, but I'm tired, and at this point it's like beating up an old man.

One bright spot, there was one funny moment early on in the film and a few unintentionally funny moments near the end. One question though, are there actually underwater weddings? Boring, cliché to the hilt, and a waste of time, 27 Dresses gets a D-

107 out of 148 people found the following review useful:
Do what makes you happy. This film actually believes it., 8 November 2008
9/10

Role Models - Two energy drink spokesmen, Wheeler and Danny (Seann William Scott and Paul Rudd) get in trouble with the law after Danny has a break-up with his girlfriend (Elizabeth Banks who is in everything these days). They are given the choice of jail or community service with troubled kids, and choose the latter. Danny is given a boy Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse of Superbad) who wears a cape and is into role-playing games. Wheeler is given a foul mouthed terror of a boy (Bobb'e J. Thompson).

Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott have good chemistry. Rudd has dry sarcasm to spare and Scott plays a sex-addled numbskull. Their interactions with the two talented young boys are funny and occasionally sweet. Bobb'e J. Thompson is one of the better child actors of his age and makes the nightmare of every teacher a cool often wickedly funny little character. Christopher Mintz-Plasse, or "McLovin'" as he's known throughout America, plays essentially the same character but sweeter and shy and, funny enough, less creepy. So yeah, he's pretty firmly typecast as "dork" at this point. But he's a very palatable dork and may help raise the image of dorks everywhere above the status of subhuman. I heard many girls in the audience very sensitive to his plight in the audience.

A few parts of the plot are contrived. But aside from a few film snobs, who goes to see a comedy for its original plot? The important thing is the laughs, and this is where the film delivers. Directed by David Wain, maker of The Ten (funny cult film), and written by Wain and Paul Rudd, this film is hilarious. The laughs were frequent and hearty. One of the films defining elements is the showcasing of role-playing games such as Dungeons&Dragons (here it is known as L.A.I.R.E). Role Models takes a surprisingly even handed look at it. It pokes fun, of course (so easy). But there is also respect ingrained. The result is a case of "so lame it's awesome" where the absurdity of D&D is given the gravitas of your average Hollywood blockbuster. It's hilarious, and does look terribly fun.

And it's here that the film makes it's stand. Do what makes you happy, no matter what your parents or anyone else tells you. It's been said in so many films that the message seems false at this point. But in Role Model's extreme example of people doing what makes them happy, it really does ring true. You got to give a bunch of people playing with foam swords in the forest their due. They're doing what makes them happy. Can you say the same for yourself? I can't right now.

This was a delightful film. It may be a bad year for movies, but it's a damn fine one for comedy. A-

2 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Sweet, funny, and raunchy., 2 November 2008
7/10

Zack and Miri Make a Porno - Two long-time best friends, Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) are having trouble paying their bills and decide to solve their money troubles by making a porno with the help of their friends.

The amount of trouble this film has had getting to the theaters is almost worth of a flick on it's own (more likely a DVD feature). It's hard to see why, apart from the title and the occasional presence of boobs (and Jason Mewes c***). Who knew the word "porno" was itself pornographic and taboo? I think the FCC has too much spare time.

Aside from the mentioned, this is a sweet cute flick. Well that's not an entirely true statement. It's pretty profane, a given for a Kevin Smith film. It alternates between sweet, funny, and has brief moments of raunchiness. But mostly the film is on sweet mode. A surprisingly tender relationship between Zack and Miri is formed, and they learn that the porn industry is not as easy to conquer as once thought. Also, that sex, despite the easy way it is talked about by the characters and treated in the porn industry, means more than either cares to say.

Kevin Smith actually does quite a bit with the camera this time around. Some changing of angles, cuts, and some nice fades. Nice, nice. I approve. But the centerpiece of his films is usually the script. It doesn't disappoint. That doesn't mean the film is uproarious. It's funny. It probably could have been funnier. Ironically, the film might appeal a little more to the "Nick and Nora" fans for its sweetness, once they grow up a bit. Given it's juvenile premise, the film is often quite mature.

The supporting cast is wonderful. Jason Mewes gives the best performance you cold expect from him, which happens to be quite good, as Lester. It's the closing monologue that seals the deal, really. Brandon Routh and Justin Long switch names (Long plays a character named Brandon and Routh plays Bobby Long) as a pair of gay lovers, one of whom works in the gay porn industry. Craig Robinson (club doorman in Knocked Up and the hit-man in Pineapple Express) plays Zack's co-worker and the producer of the attempted porno. And Jeff Anderson is hilarious as the cameraman Deacon. Actual pornstars Katie Morgan and Traci Lords are also in the film, and both give surprisingly good performances. Why can't actual pornos have decent acting? It won't make a lot of money for its hard R rating and being banned in several states, and that's a shame. Why are we, as a nation, so PTSD about sex? I can watch a man get his fingers smashed in (and did, I saw Body of Lies) in raw graphic detail easier than I can see Katie Morgan's boobs for 20 seconds. And that's just wrong.

Nice film overall. It sacrifices some laughs for genuine tenderness. If it were a little funnier I might score it higher. As such, I'll give it a B

Changeling (2008)
156 out of 204 people found the following review useful:
Grueling and scary search for truth., 2 November 2008
9/10

Changeling - In 1928, Single mother Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie) returns home one day to discover her nine-year-old son, Walter, is missing. She calls the police and, after enduring a grueling 24 hours, they search for her son. But the boy they return to her is not her son. After confronting corrupt city authorities, Collins is vilified as an unfit mother and sent to an asylum.

This is a grueling film to watch. I have not felt this hideous since North Country, a film which also dealt with misogyny within the power structure. Women are treated as fragile, emotional, and not believable. This film tackles corruption to boot, as the LAPD is accused of being a gang of thugs that answer to no one. Eastwood is old school with the violence, understanding that the mind can fill in the very brutal gaps.

Angelina Jolie delivers another great performance. But unlike A Mighty Heart, this film actually deserves her presence. I don't think she really should have so much press coverage, but there is definitely reason for her acclaim as an actress. The situation her character goes through is so surreal and the film captures it perfectly. It gives you chills from the second Christine is given this pretender to raise and rarely lets up. And if for one moment you tell yourself "It's just a movie" as I tried to, this s*** actually happened. Characters were composited or changed, a disclaimer at the end states, but the events were the same.

An odd praise goes out to Jason Butler Harner, who plays Gordon Northcott, a kidnapper and murderer of many children. He has played one of the monsters of everyone's nightmares to perfection. Also of note is Jeffrey Donovan for his portrayal of J. J. Jones, corruption personified. Jones is a man able to whisk people away to asylums with no need of warrants. Scary indeed.

Changeling shares a theme with several of Clint Eastwood's other films. Unforgiven and Flags of Our Fathers come most readily to mind. His lesson concerns truth and lies, and exposing the hypocrisy of falsehoods for want of the truth. The truth is rarely pretty, but generally preferable to lies, and will often come to surface, if given enough time. I doubt I will watch this struggle for truth for a long time to come (it's not one for casual viewing), but it's a very good film.

A-


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