328 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
6/10
A Bit of a Let-Down but Still Funny and Charming
29 December 2007
Homer Simpson: We have a great life here in Alaska, and we're never going back to America again! What an extraordinary and refreshing television series the Simpsons is. What an average, over-hyped movie it is. Is it because the movie isn't as good as the series? No, the movie is practically identical to the series, it just works far better with a 30 minute television format rather than a 90 minute film format. The Simpsons Movie is funny and entertaining but it leaves you wanting more. There are scenes that will have you laughing hysterically but after the hour mark it starts to get kind of repetitive and a bit tedious. Now there are heartfelt sappy Kodak moments, but for the most part they work well in the movie. All in all I recommend The Simpsons Movie only if you are a fan of the series. If you like the television show you'll like the movie, if you don't like the television series you won't like it. Grade: B-
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Atonement (2007)
10/10
One of the Best Period Pieces I've Seen
29 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Cecilia Tallis: I love you. I'll wait for you. Come back. Come back to me.

Sweeping, Involving, Well-Acted, Masterfully Directed, Entertaining, Long and Extremely Dramatic. Exactly the way I like my epics. Lord of the Rings, King Kong, Saving Private Ryan, Schindler's List, but certainly not one about romance between two teenage lovers. Usually I'm not a big fan of the period piece genre, especially the "romantic" period piece genre. In 1996, a romantic period piece won best picture. Despite it's immense critical acclaim, one of the most boring films I've ever seen was 'The English Patient'. As I sat there on my couch watching I almost began crying because I thought this cruel form of punishment in the form of a DVD would never end. Of course, I could have taken the DVD out of the player, but I always complete a movie once I start it no matter how bad it is. However, I'm not reviewing 'The English Patient', I'm reviewing 'Atonement'. So walking into 'Atonement', I wasn't expecting something I'd be too excited to recommend to people. But, after those ending credits started to roll I was absolutely shocked at how brilliant the piece of film-making was I had just witnessed for the last two hours. 'Atonement' is perhaps the best romantic period piece ever made and without question one of 2007's very best films.

On the outside, 'Atonement' may seem like something Jane Austen would write. However, it is not. First of all it's too rough around the edges and secondly it's far better than anything she wrote. It's not a sappy, unrealistic, "feel-good" movie but a hard-hitting, painfully realistic and uncompromising masterpiece of a motion picture. The story takes place in 1935 England, when the country is just on the cusp of World War II. There's a rich family plantation owned by Tallis family. Cecilia Tallis (Keiria Knightley) is the good-looking and desirable late-teens rich girl who the not-so-simple clean-cut farm boy Robby (James MacAvoy) falls in love with. One day, Cecilia's younger sister Briony (Sairose Ronan) witnesses Cecilia and Robby physically expressing their love for each other what the twelve year old understandably mistakes for forced sexual violence upon her sister. When Robby mistakenly gives Briony a letter addressed to Cecilia explaining how Robby would like to taste Cecilia's nether regions and there is an "incident" in the house, Briony comes forward and indicates Robby as a sexual predator. Robby gets arrested and sent away never to see his love Cecilia again. The story then shifts a couple of years later in 1939 where Robby is a soldier in the war and Cecilia a nurse. That's about all I'll tell you about the plot.

The biggest achievement of 'Atonement' is perhaps while the film isn't always fast-paced, it's never boring. This is due partly because of the exquisite acting. James MacAvoy who has usually been upstaged by other actors in his previous films (cough, cough, Last King of Scotland, cough, cough), finally gets his moment shine and he's brilliant in his performance. Keira Knightley is great as well in a small part, but the best performances come from the three actresses who play Briony. Vanessa Redgrave is remarkable in her five minutes on screen and Romola Garai is extremely powerful as Briony at age 18. The best of these three is 12-year-old Saoirse Ronan as the 13-year-old Briony. She's absolutely incredible if not creepy in her role that will no doubt be remembered at Oscar time. Joe Wright's directing and the film's cinematography is without question some of the finest of 2007, and Christopher Hampton's screenplay is outstanding.

There's really nothing I have to complain about 'Atonement'. It may not take the #1 slot on my top 10 list of 2007, but it will be there around #2 or #3. 'Atonement' is not only one of the best movies I've had the pleasure of seeing this year, but it's also one of the best movies I've had the pleasure of seeing ever. Grade: A
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8/10
Refreshing Political Satire
29 December 2007
In one of the better movies of the year, Tom Hanks stars as Congressman Charlie Wilson in this sardonically funny and extremely relevant (given reasonably current events) historical comedy-drama surrounding the 1980s Afghan/Soviet fiasco. The Soviets were attacking Afghanistan killing hundreds of people. Why should anyone care? People are dying, right? No, the reason the United States got involved through Charlie Wilson was because the Afghans, in fear they would get blown to sh_t, started illegally coming into Pakistan which in turn p_ssed Pakistani President Mohammad Zia ul-Haq off. Charlie Wilson in an effort to fix this situation teamed up with the sixth richest woman and religious fanatic in Texas, Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts) and a amusing and robust American spy for the CIA, Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to help supply Afghans with high-tech weapons to destroy Soviet fight air-craft that would try and attack their land.

Although certainly not a serious Oscar contender for Best Picture, 'Charlie Wilson's War' is probably one of the best of the many political films of the year. Academy Award Winner Mike Nichols provides solid directing as to be expected while Emmy Award Winner Aaron Sorkin (Sport's Night, The West Wing) provides a remarkable screenplay that near-flawlessly balances comedy and drama. The acting is great for the most part as well. Tom Hanks delivers his best and most enjoyable performance since his 2000 Oscar-nominated turn as a FedEx worker stranded on a tropical island in 'Cast Away'. Hanks takes a slimy character like Wilson and with his trademark charm turns him into a likable guy. Amy Adams and Ned Beatty are reliable as always, but the real stand-out performance of the film is from Philip Seymour Hoffman. Arguably the finest actor working in the film industry today, Hoffman takes a small supporting role and upstages everyone around him. From his first scene where he's screaming at his boss before violently breaking his window, Hoffman sucks you in. The only disappointing cast member is unsurprisingly overrated Hollywood starlet Julia Roberts. Hamming her way through yet another movie, Roberts' overbearing and over-the-top portrayal of a rich Texas oil woman hits all the wrong notes and is at most times flat-out annoying. At 97 minutes, the movie is short and sweet, and that isn't to say it doesn't drag at some points but when it does drag it's for a very brief amount of time.

In conclusion, 'Charlie Wilson's War' is not a perfect film by any means, but it's certainly worth a look. Grade: B+
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7/10
The Most Overrated Film of 2007
28 December 2007
I think I was expecting something else. 'Before the Devil Knows You're Dead' wasn't as thrilling as I anticipated, but more of a depressing, slow-paced yet painfully realistic kind of a movie. I was surprised to read such rave reviews of this film, seeing as though I didn't find anything particularly outstanding about it. It's a good film, but certainly nothing worthy of an Oscar like some critics seem to believe.

The story is about a jewelry store robbery gone awry. Andy (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his younger brother Hank (Ethan Hawke) are running low on money, so they decide to rip off their parent's jewelry store. Even though they planned everything out carefully, something terribly wrong goes wrong during the robbery and tragedy ensues.

The best part of the film is Philip Seymour Hoffman. Although it isn't one of his best performances, Hoffman owns the role like always and makes 'Andy' a sympathetic character despite the awful things he does. Ethan Hawke, not nearly as good, excels in the role of Hank. Marissa Tomei is great as Andy's wife and even better when she doesn't have any clothes on! Just kidding, but not really, she's a very beautiful girl. Albert Finney is powerful in a kind of nothing role as Andy and Hank's father, and Broadway actor Brian F. Byrne (Doubt) is genuinely creepy in his role.

The acting is the high-point of the film. The story is very good, but the screenplay is awful. The dialogue is solid, but Kelly Masterson has some serious problems with pacing. Everything seems to run into together, which result in a film that isn't as compelling as it has the potential to be. The film's editing and cinematography are amateurish and teeter on the point of being annoying, and Sidney Lumet's directing is nothing to shout home about. Lumet, a director I highly admire for his work on such masterpieces as 'Dog Day Afternoon' and 'Network', really phones it in for his latest feature.

In conclusion, 'Before the Devil Knows You're Dead' is a good film with some great performances, an intriguing plot but some serious problems. Grade: B
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5/10
The Farrelly Brother's Return to Raunchy R-Rated Comedy
28 December 2007
Sure the new raunchy Farrelly Brothers movie 'The Heartbreak Kid' is stupid and disgusting, but one thing it is not is sappy. In an age where most comedies with a romantic angle have a sweet sentimental side, 'The Heartbreak Kid' is completely free o...(read more)f that. It's insensitive, gross and completely unpretentious. But that doesn't mean it's good. While side-splittingly funny at some parts, a great deal of the film swings and misses with it's jokes. Ben Stiller is very funny playing the emasculate pussy he always plays and Malin Akerman is adequate in her role. The rest of the cast is decent with the exception of Carlos Mencia who overplays his part so much he becomes annoying. As far as Farrelly Brothers go 'Heartbreak Kid' is certainly not on par with 'There's Something About Mary', 'Kingpin' and 'Dumb and Dumberer', but certainly better than 'Stuck on Me'. I recommend 'The Heartbreak Kid' to someone wanting to see a gross-out comedy lacking in plot. Grade: C+
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The Lookout (2007)
6/10
Good but Disappointing
28 December 2007
Gary Spargo: My old man used to say to me, probably the only thing we ever really agreed on, was that whoever has the money has the power. You might wanna jot that down in your book. It's something you're gonna need to remember.

Disappointing would be the best adjective to describe very talented screenwriter Scott Frank''s (Out of Sight, Minority Report) directorial debut. A great plot is ruined by unrealistic dialogue and a cop-out ending. 'The Lookout' builds up this great story, but it never takes off. I kept waiting for the film to get interesting and when it finally did it only had 15 minutes left in the runtime. The best aspect about the movie is perhaps the acting. Joseph Gordon Levitt is outstanding as always as the film's hero suffering brain damage, while Jeff Daniels provides a powerful dramatic turn as Levitt's blind roommate. Isla Fisher is solid in an unimportant role, but I was not impressed with Mathew Goode's inarguably average performance as the movie's antagonist. Scott Frank's direction has moments of innovative brilliance but for the most it's average and uninteresting. Scott Frank's screenplay is absolutely devastating though. For such a great screenwriter, Frank turns out some pretty trite stuff. Like I previously mentioned, the plot is solid but the dialogue needs some serious work. All in all, 'The Lookout' was disappointing to me after reading all these positive reviews. 'The Lookout' is overall a good film whose positive qualities outweigh the bad qualities. I recommend it, but just don't be expecting anything groundbreaking or Oscar-worthy. Grade: B-
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You Kill Me (2007)
3/10
The Most Disappointing Film of 2007
28 December 2007
Frank Falenczyk: It isn't that I'm sorry I killed them; it's that I'm sorry I killed them badly.

Wow! Talk about a swing and a miss. You have a great cast and a great plot with endless possibilties...how do you f_ck that up?! Well, apparently John Dahl has found a way. With an atrocious screenplay featuring jokes about as funny as a malaria epidemic and dialogue so painfully dry it makes none of the characters likable, 'You Kill Me' might be the biggest cinematic failure of 2007. On a positive note, Ben Kinglsey provides another great performance as the alcoholic Polish hit man trying to get clean but the material he has to work with is crap. Tea Leoni is good as well as is Luke Wilson, Dennis Farina, Bill Pullman, Philip Baker Hall and the rest of the cast. I guess the best way to describe 'You Kill Me' is a terrible movie with good performances. Grade: D+
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Talk to Me (2007)
8/10
Entertaining and Well-Acted Biopic
28 December 2007
Petey Greene: I'll tell it to the hot, I'll tell it to the cold. I'll tell it to the young, I'll tell it to the old. I don't want no laughin', I don't want no cryin', and most of all, no signifyin'. This is Petey Greene's Washington.

What a fascinating person Petey Greene was. What an important person Petey Greene. Sure he might have just seemed like a sharp-witted loud-mouth smart-ass, but his courage to speak out against the racial injustices of the 60s broke ground for later radio disjockeys such as Howard Stern, Don Imus and a lot more. 'Talk to Me', Kasi Lemmon's latest feature chronicling the rise and fall of radio dis-jockey turned talk show host Petey Greene is flawed but moving.

The film's biggest problem lies in the writing. There's a few parts in the middle of the film that really drag. The dialogue is realistic and often quite funny. Kasi Lemmons directing is adequate, while the cast is sensational. Don Cheadle is hysterical and compelling all at the same time. He perfectly embodies Greene, doesn't create an over-the-top character but a man we can relate and sympathize with. The multi-talented Chitwel Ejofor (Kinky Boots, Children of Men) is just as good in a less showy role as Greene's manager, and Tarj P. Henson is amusing to say the least as Greene's girlfriend. Martin Sheen and Mike Epps are solid in their small roles, and Cedric the Entertainer is decent in a role that really doesn't require much acting range.

All in all, 'Talk to Me' is a powerful movie wrapped around an intriguing real-life story. Grade: B+
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The Namesake (2006)
7/10
A Solid Indie Flick
28 December 2007
Ashoke Ganguli: Not at all. You remind me of everything that followed. Everyday since then has been a gift... Gogol.

Powerful but a bit disappointing. One thing you can definitely not say about Mira Nair's coming-of-age tale 'The Namesake' is that it is filled with bad performances. Every actor in their role is near-perfect. Kal Penn whom you may dismiss as a bad actor because of his previous roles in such films as Van Wilder and Harold and Kumar, shows some amazing range here and gives an emotionally-charged dramatic performance as Gogol. Irrfan Khan is excellent as Gogol's father but the real-standout is Tabu as Gogul's mother who strikes all the right chords with her exquisite performance.

I walked into this movie expecting something sappy but I got something else. 'The Namesake' isn't sappy at all it's at times painfully realistic and sad, and anything but contrived. It's an original and exciting story, but it has some serious pacing problems. My only huge complaint with the film is it's pacing can be extremely slow at several times. This detracts from the mostly good qualities the film has to offer. I feel the conclusion would be a lot more powerful if not for the slow pacing especially during the first half of the film.

All in all, I recommend 'The Namesake' to anyone wanting to see something new, different and relevant. Grade: B
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Fido (2006)
6/10
Flawed but Delightfully Bizarre
28 December 2007
Bill Robinson: Now, I know you're not supposed to have a hand gun until you're twelve... but it can come in real handy.

I think I love the concept of 'Fido' far more than the actual movie. How original is it to have an alternate reality set in 1950s Leave it To Beaver Era in a perfect little neighborhood where all of the inhabitants are devastated after the great zombie wars of the 1930s. That's right, instead of WWII this reality faced a military conflict with flesh-hungry corpses revived from the dead. Now everything is quarantined, and a company called 'Zomcom' controls basically everything. 'Zomcom' is a company known for converting and brain-washing zombies with electronic collars to become servants.

After the first five minutes of FIDO my hopes were set sky high but by the end I was sorely disappointed. 'Fido' is a good film and a great film in it's genre, but there is so much that could have been done with this groundbreaking and shockingly innovative plot that the final result is almost appalling.

The performances are are solid. Carrie Anne-Moss is excellently creepy as the mother, K'Sun Ray is great as little Timmy, Dylan Baker, best known for his outstanding and haunting portrayal of a conflicted pedophile serial-rapist in Todd Solondz's 'Happiness', is solid here in the stereotypical uptight white male role he is always type-casted in. The real stand-out is Billy Connolly, who with essentially no dialogue is side-split-tingly funny with his priceless facial expressions as the zombie we all cheer for, Fido. It's also nice to see the always reliable Tim Blake Nelson here as Mr. Theopolis, the neighborhood's Quagmire who uses his zombie as a sex slave. The writing is solid on the ideas scale, but the screenplay gets tedious and slow for a big chunk in the middle of the film. Andrew Currie's directing is solid for the most part, but nothing special.

All in all, I highly recommend Fido to any fan of the horror/comedy genre and only lightly recommend it to the rest of you. It's a good film, but it could have been so much better. Grade: B-
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Junebug (2005)
7/10
Realistic, Bleak and Unnervingly Funny
24 November 2007
Peg: I don't want your water breaking. We just had the upholstery cleaned.

Like many modern indie/art-house films, 'Junebug' isn't so much a movie you enjoy watching as much respect how intricate it is. Definitely not a movie I'd watch again, 'Junebug' while almost too disturbingly realistic is worth watching for the near-perfect ensemble cast. 'Junebug' tells the story of gallery owner / agent Madeline (Embeth Davidth) and her journey to South with her new husband George (Alessandro Nivola) to poach a client and meet George's dysfunctional and extremely unhappy family. There's George's dad, Euguene (Scott Wilson) an almost mute hermit who gets bossed around by his over-bearing wife Peg (Celia Weston) who basically hates everyone, Geroge's closed-minded, insensitive and aggressive brother Johnny (The O.C.'s Ben McKenzie) and Johnny's very generous, very dumb and very pregnant wife Ashley (Amy Adams).

The story never resolves itself in the end and it's frustrating to see all these character's problems never solved. However, for the one hour and forty-six minutes we do have with these characters we learn a lot about them and their nature from the odd, funny and sometimes flat-out cruel things they do. The film's writing is solid and realistic, but the directing needs work. Most of the transitions are uneven and detract from the story. The acting, like previously mentioned, is near-perfect. Embeth Davidth is fantastic in her role as the "main character" while Laurel Canyon's Alessandro Nivola is compelling as the good-natured hick turned city-boy George. Celia Weston is magnificent as the mother-in-law from hell and Scott Wilson while quiet is brilliantly subtle and believable in his role. The weakest performance of the film comes from Ben McKenzie who fails to connect with the human side of his ignorant red-neck character. McKenzie does a great job at creating a caricature, but unlike the other actors fails to make his character believable and realistic. On the exact opposite side of the spectrum is Amy Adams. Adams, the real stand-out of the film, provides the most powerful performance of the film. She's so dead-on and perfect, especially in her hospital scene, it's no surprise she got an Oscar nomination for her work here.

All in all, I recommend 'Junebug' to those who appreciate film and not so much those looking for an enjoyable movie-watching experience. 'Junebug' makes no excuses for being so bleak and doesn't offer a second of mainstream entertainment. Maybe that's what makes it so special. Grade: B
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10/10
The Coen Brother's Finest
23 November 2007
Anton Chigurh: What's the most you ever lost on a coin toss.

Goddamn! The Coen Brothers are back and in full form. It seems as though 'No Country For Old Men' is the film to beat this year for the coveted Best Picture Oscar prize. Although it was a different film than I expected, it's every bit as powerful, tense, awkwardly funny and relevant as I had hoped, perhaps even more so. Based on Cormac McCarthy's critically acclaimed novel of the same name, 'No Country For Old Men' is a deeply symbolic and straight-forward story of the struggle between good and evil. The film opens with a flawlessly delivered monologue by the ever-so-great Tommy Lee Jones who portrays Sheriff Ed Tom Bell. Bell is a small-town sheriff in the state of Texas, and in his monologue he talks about how hardened and ruthless we've become as a society. "The crimes we see today...it's hard to even take it's measure. It's just all out war." mutters Bell. This monologue is the perfect setting for Llewyn Moss (Josh Brolin) who while hunting antelope in the desert stumbles upon half a dozen dead Mexicans, heroin and $2.4 Million. Being the road scholar he is, Moss figures no one will come looking for the moo-la if he snatches it. WRONG! Not only does the Mexican mafia and reputable bounty hunter / smart-ass Carson Welles (Woody Harrelson) pursue Moss, but also one of the most twisted, unpredictable and unreasonable villains in recent film history. His name is Anton Chirguh (Javier Bardem), and when he's not blowing innocent civilians' heads off with a cattle gun or flipping a coin to determine whether you live or die, he quietly observes everybody and everything around him.

'No Country For Old Men' is a triumph in film-making in that the film has no real flaws. Critics might pan it as "slow-moving" but that's essential in order to correctly build the tension for the key scenes. Most of the film is actually quite fast-paced with such nerve-wracking sequences it will have you on the edge of your seat with a knot in your stomach for a majority of it's runtime. But 'No Country's' quiet and subtle scenes are every bit as powerful as it's action-packed and suspenseful ones. This is due in large part to the screenplay. Supposedly following very closely to McCormac's novel, the Coen brothers deliver their finest work EVER from a screen writing perspective. Yes, it's even better than 'Fargo'. As for the Coen's directing and editing, it has never been smoother. The film's transitions are nothing short of breathtaking.

From an acting stand-point 'No Country For Old Men' is also incredible. The stand-out of the film is of course Javier Bardem as the ruthless homicidal maniac Chirguh. Just his facial expressions and body language is enough to make your skin crawl, and if that's not enough, he delivers every line including his catch-phrase "friend-O" with such brooding intensity and creepiness it makes you want to sink in your seat. Bardem is a lock for a Best Supporting Actor nomination this Oscar season, but his biggest competition is the two other key performances of the film. Josh Brolin who last week impressed me with his malicious turn in 'American Gangster' as a crooked cop, is the best he's ever been here in the role of Moss. Moss is such an unlikely hero in the sense he is kind of dumb, not very nice, makes stupid decisions and yet we still root for him to escape the drudges of the Mexican mafia and even worse, the wrath of Chirguh. Tommy Lee Jones I'd say is Bardem's biggest competition. With this and 'In the Valley of Elah', Jones has proved this year with these two performances that if anything he's getting better with age. Jones' monologues are flawlessly delivered like I previously stated, including his final one which left me with goose bumps at the end of the picture. Woody Harrelson is humorous in his limited role as a sharp-witted and over-confident bounty hunter, and Scottish actress Kelly MacDonald is phenomenal in her role as Moss' butter-brain wife. The film has a numerous amount of strong small performances including Garret Dillahunt as Bell's Deputy, Tess Harper as Bell's wife and the 'Office Space' stapler guy (Stephen Root), in a well-played dramatic role as a crime boss. Roger Deakins outdoes himself yet again with some awesome cinematography, and while quiet and subtle, the film's music score is haunting.

There is no other film this year that I can recommend as highly as 'No Country For Old Men'. There are times when it has you on the edge of your seat in suspense, there are times when it has you laughing violently at some of the darkly humorous scenes and through-out the entire 121 minutes it has you using your brain. There's a lot of symbolism and powerful metaphors in the film, but since I'm not writing a 5-page essay, I'll let you figure them out for yourself. With 'No Country For Old Men' the Coen Brothers have once again raised the bar on how outstanding and thought-provoking a simple crime-drama can be. Grade: A
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8/10
Finally a Thriller with a Brain!
23 November 2007
Michael Clayton: I'm not the guy you kill. I'm the guy you buy off! Are you so blind that you can't see that? I sold out Arthur for 80 grand. I'm your easiest problem and you try to kill me? Finally, a thriller that's not lacking in intelligent plot! First time filmmaker Tony Gilroy brings us a suspenseful, engaging and intricate legal drama about a plot to expose a corrupt weed killer company whose product is hazardous to those who buy it. George Clooney, in his finest performance to date, plays Michael Clayton, a high-level lawyer at a big firm in NYC, who works as a "fixer". Basically his job entails keeping clients out of legal trouble by lying, cheating and doing all sorts of other dirty work. When one of the firm's big shot corporate lawyers, Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson), goes off his meds and starts exposing a weed killer company's dirty secrets he works for, it's up to Clayton to diffuse the situation. That's about all I'll tell you about the story, in fear I might give something away.

As far as thrillers go, 'Michael Clayton' is certainly one of the better ones. The acting is all top notch, with a brilliant performance by George Clooney. Tom Wilkinson couldn't be better as the lawyer who has a mental breakdown, and Tilda Swinton is absolutely incredible as Karen Crowder, the "evil" weed killer company's litigator. Sydney Pollack and Michael O'Keefe are also solid, but the real star is writer/director Tony Gilroy. From his near-flawless screenplay to his cool, slick film-making style, Gilroy has succeeded in making one hell of a debut film.

My only complaint with Michael Clayton is that it takes a while to build suspense. The first 30 minutes are a bit shaky, but after it builds some momentum, 'Michael Clayton' becomes a force to be reckoned with. Expect some possible Oscar nods for original screenplay, George Clooney and Tilda Swinton. Grade: B+
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The Kingdom (2007)
7/10
Action-Packed but Seriously Lacking Drama. A Bit of a Let-Down.
23 November 2007
Adam Leavitt: What did you say to Mayes to get her to stop crying?

Ronald Fleury: I said we were going to kill them all.

Walking into 'The Kingdom' I think I was expecting something a little more than a good action film. I was expecting a taut, suspenseful, powerful, moving and intelligent action/drama. Unfortunately, I got the former. 'The Kingdom' isn't a bad film by any regards, but it certainly isn't a great one.

'The Kingdom' directed by actor-turned-director Peter Berg (Very Bad Things, Corky Romano), is heavy on the action but lacking in the drama department. Yes it has drama, but most of it is so melodramatic it resembles a Lifetime Original Movie. Some sequences are so cliché they'll make you bow your head in embarrassment. In the acting department, things are mostly good. Jamie Foxx is decent as the character he always seems to play -- Mr. Badass. Chris Cooper, probably the best actor of the film, is magnificent when he's on screen, but unfortunately he gets limited screen time. On the other hand probably the worst actor in the film, Jennifer Garner, is given too much screen time and the movie suffers because of it. The ever-so-talented comedic actor Jason Bateman (Arrested Development) is given a dramatic role in which he excels, but the film is stolen by the only non-high profile actor, Ashraf Barhom, who is outstanding as the Saudi Colonel caught in the middle of a tough situation. An Academy Award Nomination for Best Supporting Actor is not out of the question, but then again there's a long time between now and Oscar time.

All in all, I found 'The Kingdom' to be highly entertaining but nothing too memorable. Perhaps it was aiming for something higher in terms of quality, but for some reason it just didn't reach that level if you ask me. It kept me on the edge of my seat, but certainly didn't move me. Grade: B
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9/10
Powerful Film Helmed by an Outstanding Oscar-Worthy Performance by Tommy Lee Jones
23 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
In what is easily the best film of the year thus far, multi-talented up-and-coming Oscar-winning writer/director Paul Haggis (Crash, Flags of Our Fathers, Million Dollar Baby), brings us this intense, intelligent and subtle drama wrapped around a murder mystery. In what may be his finest performance yet, underrated actor Tommy Lee Jones plays an old, grizzled and retired military police sergeant who receives word his youngest son (Jonathon Tucker - Hostage, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) is missing after being back in the states from fighting in Iraq just two days ago. Jones high-tails it to the military base to get answers, but what he ends up discovering is his son's dismembered body. With the help of a smarty young female police detective (Charlize Theron), Jones starts unraveling the truth behind his son's death. The film although written and directed by Paul Haggis doesn't feel like a Paul Haggis film. Million Dollar Baby, which he wrote, Crash and Flags of Our Fathers were all showy films, but In the Valley of Elah is remarkably subtle. By down-playing the emotions of the actors, Haggis achieves something far more powerful than if he had gone the easy melodramatic route most films centering around our current conflict in Iraq do. Haggis' directing skills have improved, and his screenplay features exceptional dialogue. The acting is all top-notch. Charlize Theron is excellent in her role, and Susan Sarandon does the most she can with a tiny role as Jones' wife. The rest of the cast is solid, but it's Jones who steals the show with a complex, brooding and brilliant performance that should absolutely earn him a Best Actor Academy Award Nomination come Oscar time. All in all, 'In the Valley of Elah' was great minus a few flaws. Many people say the film is too heavy-handed, and I have to agree. The ending was the worst part of the movie, not because of the writing/directing/acting aspect. All three of those components were powerful and moving, the only thing that stunk about the ending was the song choice. We get a heart-wrenching and relevant message at the end to the tune of f__cking whiny Pro-America country music?! Ehh, what's the use in complaining about these small details. For the most part, 'In the Valley of Elah' is an outstanding motion picture that might be on a couple of top 10 lists come the end of the year. You don't want to miss it. Grade: A-
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Shoot 'Em Up (2007)
4/10
Are You F__king Kidding Me???
23 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The title basically sums it all up. BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG. Basically it follows Clive Owen as a bad-ass with a couple of guns. After saving a newly born baby by a bunch of thugs led by the ultra-chunk-a-liscious Paul Giamatti, Owen basically hi-tails it and fends off bad guys. French hottie Monica Belluci has a part as a lactating hooker who helps Owen care for the baby while he's shooting bad guys. The movie basically has no plot besides shooting people. Yes, it's entertaining, but the movie has no substance. The acting is horrendous, which is most likely intentional. All in all, see it for the action, but when it comes down to it, 'Shoot 'Em Up' has no real merit as a slice of film-making. It's just ridiculous. Grade: C
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9/10
The Best Western Since Clint Eastwood's 'Unforgiven'
23 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Robert Ford: It is interesting the many ways you and I overlap; you're the youngest of three James boys, I'm the youngest of five Ford boys. You have blue eyes, I have blue eyes. You're five feet eight inches tall, I'm five feet eight inches tall.

Some of the most unique and beautiful cinematography you'll ever see is in Andrew Dominik's western 'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford'. But that's not the only positive thing to be said about this gritty and powerful film. 'Assassination' tells the true story of outlaw Jesse James (Brad Pitt) and his murder by weak-minded close associate Robert Ford (Casey Affleck). 'Assassination' is very much a play in three acts, the first is us being introduced to Jesse and Robert, the second is the growing bond between them and the third is Robert's life after the assassination of Jesse James. Although it's a western, there's not much gun-play here. There are violent bullet-ridden scenes, but very few and they are spread out quite a bit. Although I enjoyed the film from start to finish, many might not because of it's incredibly long running time of 2 hours and 40 minutes. It's leisurely paced (or slow) but seldom does it become boring. There's a slow chunk in the middle for about 20 minutes that I felt could be cut, but besides that 'Assassination' is pure cinematic greatness.

Andrew Dominick, whose directed the obscure Australian gun film 'Chopper' with Eric Bana, does remarkable work here. The screenplay is very good as well, it has a few slow parts like I stated before but the dialogue is far superior to that of say '3:10 to Yuma'. On an acting scale, everything is pretty solid. Brad Pitt captures James perfectly, while Casey Affleck in a tour-de-force performance steals the film. Affleck is just so quiet, subtle yet creepy and sympathetic that whenever he's on screen your eyes are glued to him rather than his more famous co-star, Mr. Brad Pitt. The supporting cast is all solid especially the extremely underrated Sam Rockwell as Robert's older brother and Deadwood and John From Cincinnati's Garret Dillahunt as one of the outlaws who rides with Jesse James.

As far as westerns go, 'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford' is the best one since Clint Eastwood's 1992 Best Picture Winner 'Unforgiven'. Don't miss it. Grade: A-
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7/10
Overrated but Anchored by an Astonishing Performance by Denzel Washington
23 November 2007
Frank Lucas: See, ya are what ya are in this world. That's either one of two things: Either you're somebody, or you ain't nobody.

Expectations were high for multi-talented filmmaker Ridley Scott's latest feature film exploring the life of powerful African-American drug trafficker Frank Lucas (Academy Award Winner Denzel Washington) and his eventual capture by a down-on-his-luck Jewish cop Richie Roberts (Academy Award Winner Russell Crowe). I expected it to be a Best Picture contender for sure, but after having viewed it I realized I was sorely mistaken. I guess disappointed is the correct term I'd use for my feelings after having seen 'American Gangster'. Don't get me wrong, 'American Gangster' is a very good film, it's just not a great one. I guess the film's problem lies in how unoriginal it is. 'Gangster' just doesn't seem like an honest and genuine movie, it seems to borrow from a lot of other similar films and relies a lot upon gimmicks and catchy snippets of dialogue to con the audience into thinking it's the next Godfather. 'American Gangster' is anything but the next Godfather. It's very good, with some extraordinary performances, beautifully filmed sequences and some significantly powerful scenes, but it's nothing we haven't already seen before time and time again.

Denzel Washington steals the film with a charming yet terrifying portrayal of a man pushed to the edge. Russell Crowe is solid but underused as Richie Roberts. 'Gangster' also sports some outstanding supporting performances. Josh Brolin is brilliantly creepy as a crooked cop, the marvelous Chitwel Ejofor is excellent in a against-type role for him as Washington's f__ck-up brother, and flamboyant Broadway actor Roger Bart (The Producers, Hostel Part II) is very much out of his element as an angry, foul-mouthed and racist FBI agent.

Ridley Scott's direction is spot-on as always, especially during an astonishingly well-shot sequence where Washington and his goons get arrested. The screenplay is another story. While taut, engrossing but kind of contrived for the most part, the ending is perhaps the sappiest I've seen from ANY movie all year. God! It made me want to puke crap! I apologize for being so graphic and raunchy, but I felt that was the best way to describe how the film's conclusion made me feel.

Despite it's flaws, when all is said and done, 'American Gangster' is a long but fast-paced, contrived yet entertaining, well-acted, well-directed and adequately written crime/drama that is well worth your time. Grade: B
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Transformers (2007)
6/10
The Best Special Effects of the Year
23 November 2007
Wow! First off the special effects are f--king awesome! No contest, 'Transformers' has the best visual effects of the year thus far. But as a movie...it's all right. I mean it's entertaining as hell, but the acting/writing are kind of lacking. Shia LeBeouf is fantastic as always. Veterans Jon Voight, John Turturro and the always amusing Anthony Andersen are good, but the rust of the cast is disappointing. Tyrese Gibson and Josh Duhamel give commercial-calibre performances and the lead female besides having a knock-out physical appearance is jaw-dropping awful. The writing is seriously lacking as well. They should take more time to explain what the hell these machines are and what they want, besides rushing the plot so much. All in all, 'Transformers' is your typical Michael Bay movie -- BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM! CHEESY PLOT! LACKLUSTER ACTING! BAM! BAM! BAM! But hey, if you want to see some awesome special effects, 'Transformers' is without a doubt the movie for you. Grade: B-
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8/10
Wes Anderson Never Disappoints
23 November 2007
Jack: I wonder if the three of us would've been friends in real life. Not as brothers, but as people.

Arguably the most original and/or most bizarre filmmaker working today, Wes Anderson never fails to bring us unique entertainment. 'The Darjeeling Limited' while not one of his best films, is no exception. It's an engrossing, neurotic, funny and dare I say emotionally moving tale about three brothers (Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman) who after their father die, take a trip to India to re-connect with their long-lost mother (Anjelica Houston). That's about all I'll tell you about the plot.

The film is great yet I didn't appreciate it quite as much as 'Rushmore' or 'The Royal Tenenbaums'. It's far better than 'Life Aquatic' or 'Bottle Rocket', but 'The Darjeeling Limited' represents Anderson's most serious film to date. It's a bunch of quirky fun wrapped around a sad but realistic center.

As far as directing goes Mr. Anderson outdoes himself, and the screenplay is magnificent (co-written by star Jason Schwartzman with Wes Anderson). The acting is all top-notch from the three brothers but the real scene-stealer is Adrien Brody, an actor new to the Wes Anderson territory. Brody is sensational in his role as the conflicted oldest brother. The supporting cast is all great especially Bill Murray in a tiny role that's hysterical. Natalie Portman is in the movie for all of about 1 second as Schwartzman's manipulative self-centered abuse-junkie ex-girlfriend, but she is absolutely phenomenal in the online short film prequel to 'Darjeeling' appropriately titled 'Hotel Chevalier'.

All in all, I recommend 'Darjeeling' only if you like Wes Anderson films. Some people will loathe this movie, others, like me, will cherish it like gold. Grade: B+
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Dark and Powerful With Extraordinary Performances
23 November 2007
Nikolai Luzhin: Forget any of this happened. Stay away from people like me.

Underrated filmmaker David Cronenberg is back in the spirit of his last film 'A History of Violence' with his latest feature 'Eastern Promises' a taut well-crafted crime thriller centering around the dirty doings of the Russian mafia in London. The ever-so-talented Naomi Watts plays a delivery nurse in London who one night delivers a baby from a dying 14-year-old Russian immigrant. The 14-year-old Russian immigrant dies in delivery and only leaves behind her journal. Translating her journal, Naomi Watts learns her demise involves the Russian mafia syndicate lead by the ruthless but seemingly sweet Seymon (Academy Award Winner Armin Mueller-Stahl) and his psychotic son Kirill (Vincent Cassell). Viggo Mortensen stars as one of Seymon's henchmen/drivers who becomes entangled in the mysterious death of the 14-year-old Russian immigrant. Although I didn't think 'Eastern Promises' was quite on-par with Cronenberg's masterpiece 'A History of Violence', it was certainly a very intense and involving motion picture. The acting is phenomenal. Viggo Mortensen steals the film with his indescribably brilliant screen presence and powerful performance. Perhaps we could expect to see Viggo Mortensen's name on the Best Leading Actor list when the Oscar nominations come out this upcoming February. Naomi Watts is great as always in a tedious kind of role, while Vincent Cassell gives his best screen performance to date as Seymon's crazy son. Armin Mueller-Stahl is certainly Oscar-worthy here as the head bad guy. Stahl manages to create one of the most terrifying movie villains in recent years without raising his voice or even being impolite. Cronenberg's directing is masterful as always especially during a bathhouse fight sequence that is exquisitely crafted. The only downfall of the film is the writing. It's solid, but it's nothing innovative. That really threw me for a loop. Cronenberg the man behind 'Videodrome', 'Naked Lunch' and 'A History of Violence' is a lot of things but never, ever conventional. 'Eastern Promises' stands as his most conventional film to date. That's not a bad thing, I was just expecting something a bit more original. All in all, despite dragging a bit at certain parts and conventional writing, 'Eastern Promises' is a great film and stands as one of the best films of the year so far. Grade: B+
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Disturbia (2007)
6/10
Very Talented Shia LaBeouf Elevates an Otherwise Mediocre Film
23 November 2007
I forget who, but someone said Shia LeBeouf was the next Tom Hanks. I seriously don't doubt it. Although his performance in Disturbia is nothing close to 'Oscar-worthy' material, LaBeouf demonstrates that he's a phenomenal young actor with great rang...(read more)e who in a few years could easily be one of Hollywood's greatest film actors. The movie itself, is enjoyable but tediously conventional. Sure, I enjoyed watching it, but it's like I've seen the movie before 2000 times. David Morse is good as always as the token creepy bad guy, and the rest of the cast is decent. I didn't like the character of the lead girl -- she was a cock-teasing bitch. Anyway, I recommend 'Disturbia'on the strength of Shia LeBeouf's performance. Grade: B-
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Stardust (2007)
7/10
A Notch Above Your Average Fantasy Movie
23 November 2007
Old Pirate: (to Captain Shakespeare, after finding him in drag) We always knew you were a whoopsie...

Usually I hate these types of 'fantasy' movies. With the exception of the brilliant 'Lord of the Rings Trilogy' and the charming 'Princess Bride', these fairy tale movies can't hold my interest. Going into 'Stardust' I didn't know what to expect. I thought it could be great, but it could also be a huge, long, stupid bore like most films in the same genre. Well...what I got was a very good film, nothing spectacular, but in a year like 2007 where most of the movies are laughably bad, 'Stardust' is one of the best thus far. The story is silly and doesn't make 100% of sense, but for the most part aside from a few dragging sequences 'Stardust' is a vastly entertaining motion picture with humorous performances. Michelle Pfeiffer returns to the screen after a hiatus of sorts as the film's villain. She is great. Charlie Cox is solid as the lead, as is Claire Danes. The rest of the cast is solid, but I'd like to give kudos to The Office's Ricky Gervasis and of course, 2-Time Academy Award Winner Robert DeNiro playing against type as a gay cross-dressing sky pirate. Even though he doesn't show up until over half of the film is over, DeNiro was the highlight of 'Stardust' for me. Some critics panned his performance as being too hammy and over-the-top, but seeing as though 'Stardust' is a "FANTASY" movie, I saw the more hammy the better. DeNiro made me laugh uproariously, along with most everyone else in the movie theater I was in. The biggest downfall of 'Stardust' is that it's overlong. It would have been a better film if they trimmed a few minutes especially towards the end. All in all, I recommend 'Stardust' for anybody in the mood for an enjoyable little action romp. Grade: B
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8/10
The Best of the Trilogy!
23 November 2007
Jason Bourne: You listen very carefully to what I'm about to tell you... I remember... I remember everything WOW! In a summer where movies have been lacking in quality, the third and final installment in the 'Bourne' trilogy comes out and knocks my freakin' socks off. Arguably the best of the three, 'The Bourne Ultimatum' restores my faith that 'action/thrillers' can still be intelligent motion pictures. Matt Damon showcases his admirable acting skills again as the hero with amnesia fighting the CIA for his true identity. The rest of the cast is solid to say the least, with veteran actors David Straithrin (Good Night and Good Luck.) and Joan Allen (Pleasantville) turning in first-rate performances. Julia Stiles is decent in a kind of nothing role, while small appearances by the greatly talented Albert Finney and Paddy Considine are a nice treat. The real star of the movie isn't Damon or any of the other actors, it's director Paul Greengrass. Greengrass, who also directed the previous Bourne film, was an Oscar nominee last year for directing 2006's harrowing true story of Flight 93 entitled 'United 93', which was one of last year's best films. Greengrass is an incredibly talented and innovative director and his mind-bending and in-the-action camera work here proves it. The camera is never steady, and that may be annoying to some, but I found it enthralling because it constantly kept me involved with the movie. All in all, 'The Bourne Supremacy' isn't exactly Oscar material, but it's probably the best action film you'll see all summer, and perhaps all year. Grade: B+
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3:10 to Yuma (2007)
7/10
Overrated, Unrealistic but Entertaining
23 November 2007
Overrated is the first word that comes to mind. I don't know, I remember hearing such wonderful and shockingly positive things about this movie from critics. For god sakes, Roger Ebert gave it a '4-star' rave review. Critics said it was the best western since Clint Eastwood's 1992 Best Picture Oscar Winner 'Unforgiven'. After having finally viewed '3:10 to Yuma' I realized that most of what the critics said was pure bullshit. I mean, it was a good movie, don't get me wrong, but it's a seriously flawed Western and calling it the "best Western since 'Unforgiven'" isn't ridiculous, it's unforgivable. Christian Bale stars as a down-on-his-luck rancher/family man who is struggling to get by and getting run out of town. When gun-slinging bad-ass Russell Crowe comes to town and gets arrested, it's up to Christian Bale who is appointed to take him as a prisoner to the 3:10 train to Yuma prison. After that it's a wild but uneven ride rittled with clichés and poorly-crafted dialogue. When guns are a-blazin' in '3:10 to Yuma' it's absolutely incredible. Both the cinematography and directing (from the highly underrated James Mangold -- Identity, Walk the Line) of the film are absolutely sensational. The dialogue is another story. When the movie relies upon the dialogue and character development it's tedious, drawn-out and uninteresting. Also, while entertaining the gun-slinging is completely unrealistic and unlike what many morons want to compare it to "Unforgiven", which was one of the most realistic and gritty westerns I've ever had the privilege of seeing. As far as the acting goes, the two leads are very good. Russell Crowe is very effective and likable as the bad-ass bad guy, but it's Christian Bale who outshines him with a much more subtle and better crafted performance which boils to an emotional and brilliant peak in the film's final minutes. The supporting cast is filled with solid performers -- Gretchen Mol (The Shape of Things), Peter Fonda, Luke Wilson, Alan Tudyk (FOX's Firefly, Serenity) and especially Ben Foster (Alpha Dog), who for some reason seems to only being playing a hyper-active sociopath these days. All in all, I recommend '3:10 to Yuma' for anyone looking for a good time. Just don't be expecting anything Oscar-worthy. Grade: B
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