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Beautiful Boy (2010)
9/10
Beautiful Boy is a raw and realistic look at society in which very few filmmakers dare to explore.
1 June 2011
Kate (Maria Bello) and Bill (Michael Sheen) have been struggling with their marriage for years and have decided to give it one final go before actually calling it quits. One night while planning their huge family vacation, their son Sam (Kyle Gallner) calls and seems quite out of it. Both Kate and Bill seem worried but feel that Sam is just having a rough time during his first semester away at college. The next day, life goes on as normal until the couple is notified that their has been a mass shooting at their son's college. Its only a matter of hours before Bill and Kate's already troubled life gets worse as they learn that Sam is not only dead, but the one who began to shoot up the school. A raw, realistic, and heart-wrenching look into our society ensues...

Man, do I love movies like this! I love movies that dare to tackle subject matters that our society just completely ignores. Beautiful Boy is not only a realistic tale about a crumbling marriage, but also a unique look at the family of a trouble college student who did the unthinkable. In a time where school shootings are at an all time high, there comes a movie like this that dares to examine the subject matter from a unique perspective. For years after mass shooting at various schools like Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois, and of course the notorious Columbine, its about time some filmmaker dared to take a look into this subject and from the parents point of view.

When we hear about school shootings, we always think about the crazy kid who shot up the school, but we never question for a second, what about the parents and how are they taking the news. The media tends to point the blame at the parents and state that they must have screwed the kid up and caused him/her to do that. Why purely blame the parents? Why isn't it on our society? The media? Or even just the large amount of hate in this world. No one can deny that there are some crazy people in this world, but the question that remains is who is to blame and what would ever bring a person to take on such horrific action? No one knows and this film doesn't necessarily answer that questions, but instead does show how hard the parents not only take the loss, but how it makes them feel as people who have to live with knowing what their child is a killer.

While this film not only tackles that difficult subject matter; it also takes a brutally honest look at divorce and the basic struggles of every day life. Many husbands and wives stay together for the kids in our society today. I personally know several people that have stood together for the years when their marriage was on the rocks. Beautiful Boy shows this with Bill and Kate throughout the film and how the couple goes through periods where their love is strong and where it is weak. There is a huge fight scene near the end of the film in which Kate and Bill begin to violently argue about the relationship and whose fault it is that Sam turned out the way he did. That scene would bring tears to the eyes of any couple who has a kid or wants a child. It is gripping, raw, and unforgettable.

In order for this film to work as perfectly as it did, it clearly depended on Maria Bello and Michael Sheen to give realistic and believable performances. Needless to say, they nail it and gave some powerful and gut-wrenching performances. The chemistry and tension that they face is as real as any that I have seen in real life. When they are happy on screen, you are happy and when they are sad and miserable, you are sad and miserable. This film is clearly a character study of Kate and Bill and while there are some great supporting roles its really only those two who we as audience members are focused on. Bello and Sheen are the ones knock this film out of the park and give some truly Oscar worthy performances.

I applaud director/writer Shawn Ku as well as co-writer Michael Armbruster for creating a film that makes our society look at life, marriage, and adolescent violence from a whole new perspective. The script was well written and the scenes were placed perfectly throughout the film to make the movie keep the audience wanting more. The emotional scenes in this film were beautifully captured by Shawn Wu, who seems to have an eye for detail on capturing raw emotion from his actors. With Wu's direction, Beautiful Boy feels makes the audience feel as though we are dealing with the events that are taking place on screen and as filmmakers that is a great accomplishment.

At the end of the day, Beautiful Boy is definitely not the feel good film of the summer, but is probably one of the most powerful and realistic films that I have seen in many years. It's real, raw, and brutally honest and I love that about indie films. I love feeling good when I go to a movie, but I also like movies that tackle issues that are relevant to our society today. This film does that and while many may not appreciate how honest of a film this is, I did and applaud everyone involved for taking on a film of this caliber. Beautiful Boy will more than likely be one of those films that around December of this year that will make it's way onto my " best of" list for the year.
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The Beaver (2011)
8/10
Jodie Foster takes on depression and Mel Gibson in "The Beaver"
19 March 2011
"The Beaver" tells the story of Walter Black (Mel Gibson), a man who has lost his way in life and is dealing with an extreme case of depression. His wife Meredith (Jodie Foster) has told him to move out and his oldest son Porter (Anton Yelchin) hates him. Just when he is about to call it quits, Walter becomes friends with a hand puppet named The Beaver, who takes total control of Walter's life. With The Beaver constantly attached to Walter, he is able redeem himself at work and with his wife and youngest son. It isn't long though before living life through The Beaver catches up to Walter making his life even worse than ever before. It is now up to Walter to take back his life or to lose everything he has worked his entire life for and live it forever as The Beaver.

"The Beaver" is a really dark and depressing piece of cinema. As the film continues, you really saw how deep Walter's depression is and that he is in serious need of help. The man is living his life through a stuffed beaver! It's really an original and interesting take on depression, which has never been seen before. The subplot, which was focused around Anton Yelchin was also interesting and kind of played hand and hand as the same situation that Walter was dealing with.

Mel Gibson gives us an extremely powerful and dark performance in this film. This is something that you have never seen him do before and it's extremely scary to watch him portray this character. This is the most unique take on depression that I have currently seen and Gibson nails it. Jodie Foster is good as the dedicated wife and gives an emotional performance. You can tell that Meredith cares deeply for Walter and will stop at nothing to be with him. Anton Yelchin, gives the best performance of his career in this film. He is a kid who hates his father so much that he lives his life through others. He is so focused on hating his father that he doesn't realize he can't live his own life. That is until Jennifer Lawerence's character Norah comes along and helps him find himself. The acting in this film is just ravishing with everyone involved showcasing some of the best performances of their careers.

While I admired the film's creative and unique take on depression as well as everyone's acting, there were a few elements of the film that didn't sit well with me. The first being why the heck didn't anyone have Walter committed to a mental institute? About 30 minutes in, I couldn't suspend belief that an entire company would allow its CEO to run a company through a hand puppet. That just wasn't plausible. I also didn't get how Meredith didn't take more active role in helping Walter out. There is a scene where Meredith and Walter go to dinner and Meredith tells the Beaver that she wants Walter to come out. This scene is quite disturbing as it shows just how much the Beaver has taken control. At this point, however, why Meredith doesn't bring him to counseling is just unbelievable. He has obviously lost his mind at this point. I just didn't get it those two factors of the film. It's like everyone cared yet no one really took the time to guide him to the light so to speak.

Despite those minor hiccups, I really enjoyed the film. I liked that it was about two stories in one. There was Walter living life through depression aka The Beaver and there was Porter living his life through writing about others. Both of these stories were showing how much Walter and Porter were alike and how much Meredith and Norah are alike. It was a very unique way to view living life through others or other things but it worked out perfectly. My favorite thing about the film was the last 30 minutes. The entire third act was remarkable and really overshadowed all my initial dislikes in the film in regards to no one committing Walter. It was a truly powerful and scary because it showed the true side effects of depression and just how deep into the depression Walter really was. I don't want to give anything away but I will let you know that something does happen to Walter in the last 30 minutes that truly impacts his life. It brings the overall tone of the film to a very dark and depressing state but I feel it was an important part of the film. This film wouldn't have worked out to be so good if it wasn't for how deep it got in that last 30 minutes.

In the end, "The Beaver" will definitely not be a film for everyone. If you are going expecting a comedy, I will warn you right now that you should stay far away. This is not a comedy and it's not even a dramedy. While it does have a few light-hearted moments here and there, this is probably one of the darkest mainstream films that I have come across in quite some time. I don't know how well this is going to do, one for the obvious reason of Mel Gibson, but also because of the small niche market for this film. It obviously has great performances, good direction, and a well written story but the subject matter isn't what most people want to see. I think it's great to see a film be as ballsy and real as this one but I also know this isn't what sells tickets. I would be curious to see how this does when it's released. I personally think it's a must see and recommend those who are into really serious dramas to put this on the top of your list. It's a really unique take on depression, as well as a unique piece of cinema.
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7/10
Emily Blunt & Matt Damon fall in love and question their destiny in "The Adjustment Bureau"
7 March 2011
David Morris (Matt Damon) is running for office in New York. After a shocking photo is revealed to the press, David realizes that his dream of taking office as New York's next Governor isn't going to happen. While prepping for his last big speech to congratulate the winner of the election, he runs into a woman named Elise (Emily Blunt) who changes everything. Elise makes David feel something that he has never felt before and changes his whole outlook on life. This is when the Adjustment Bureau steps in to make sure that Elise and David never cross paths again. An interesting film about destiny ensues...

I have been seeing advertisements for "The Adjustment Bureau" for what seems like over a year now. The film was originally slated to be released in 2010 but the film went through some re-edits including some alterations with the ending. Needless to say, I was really worried when it was pushed back for so long. Normally in Hollywood, when a movie gets its release date moved so much, its a bad sign. I am happy to report, however, that the film is actually pretty solid and lives up to it's solid marketing campaign.

Emily Blunt and Matt Damon are the stars of the film and the two of them work great together. They have solid on-screen chemistry and seem like they really enjoyed working with one another. Damon's character David seemed like President Obama when he was running for office. Damon is skilled at playing characters like the one he played here. He plays the smart yet action packed role perfectly and has done so in several other films. Emily Blunt is great in the film as well. I enjoyed her humor and she has solid on screen presence. Her character is fun yet intelligent, which really made Elise such a likable character. She just felt real, like someone who you would meet in real life.

The other supporting actors were terrific as well. There are so many smaller roles in this film that I probably won't name them all but will focus on a few of the main ones. Anthony Mackie who played agent Mitchel, played a really solid character. It was interesting seeing him go through the emotions and fighting the idea of whether or not he should help David. John Slattery and Terence Stamp who also played agents in the film did a good job trying to warn David about adjusting his future. These supporting stars all helped to build the suspense in the film.

The best thing about "The Adjustment Bureau" is probably the story, which oddly enough is also it's biggest flaw. The idea of an organization that controls our faith and destiny is an interesting one. The film makes its audience wonder about the events that occur on a regular basis in ones life and asks the question was it part of a bigger plan or was it destiny? That idea alone is what makes this film interesting from start to finish. The audience is always trying to unravel the mystery behind what's going to happen next. We want to know how and why this organization is controlling the faith of David and Elise.

With that being said, the movie's idea is great but the script leaves the audience wanting more. Its one of those movies where the idea is intriguing but requires its audience to shut off their thinking caps. I will begin explaining this with the simple fact that David is running for major office, yet he is never surrounded by body guards or security. That seems odd from the get go. Then this organization gets introduced and why they pick him isn't really flesh out. Then the idea of going through doors isn't really discussed with enough detail either. The ending, while I did enough it, left me wanting more. I just felt that the story's premise was a great one especially for a film but it just wasn't intelligently executed. The story was more for the non-thinkers and I guess for a Hollywood type film, I shouldn't knock it because at least it was a creative story.

In closing, I ready did enjoy "The Adjustment Bureau" and thought it was a solid flick. The story will really grab the audience's attention and the performances by Blunt and Damon will have you at the edge of your seat and rooting for them at the same time. Some may argue that the end result was one that was too clichéd but I think in terms of the story here, it really made sense. I think even in life as much as we don't want to admit it, all we really want is companionship and the film really goes the distance to rely that message. Sure, it should have spent a little less time with that message and more about the bureau itself and I will not try to deny that. This film could have been a masterpiece if the storyline was better explained. I realize most people don't like thinking when they see a movie but I think nowadays with film's like "Inception" making big bucks, I think a few movies a year that challenge its audience really would be great. "The Adjustment Bureau" had the potential of being that type of film but instead it took the turn off your brain route instead. At the end of the day, it was a good flick with some flaws but I really did enjoy it from start to finish even though I had to turn off my brain to do so!

MovieManMenzel's final rating for "The Adjustment Bureau" was a 7 out of 10.
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Due Date (2010)
3/10
It's like a modern update of "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" with half the laughs and drug jokes!
5 March 2011
Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr) is trying to make to home to his wife, Sarah (Michelle Monaghan) who is scheduled to deliver their first born at the end of the week. When Peter arrives at the airport, he bumps into Ethan (Zach Galifianakis), who accidentally switches his bag with Peter and begins to cause trouble in his life. While boarding the plane, Peter and Ethan get into an argument and both are kicked off the plane. This is when Peter finds out even more bad news! He is now on the no fly list. With no one else to turn to, Peter hitches a car ride with Ethan across country to hopefully get home to his wife before the baby arrives. A somewhat amusing road trip ensues...

When I first saw the trailer for "Due Date," I felt indifferent about it. Sure, it looked really amusing at times but then I got the feeling it was going to be really bad. "Due Date" was made by Todd Phillips, a man who I feel has gotten a lot of attention off comedies that are better than the norm. I would like to put this out there right now, while most of his films are amusing, all of them are overrated. "The Hangover" was a funny film but it wasn't god's gift to comedy like almost every critic made it out to be, and the same thing goes with "Old School." Phillips knows how to make successful raunchy comedy and has done so since 2000 when he brought us "Road Trip." He's good at it but like everything else, there is room for improvement.

At times, the overall story and characters in "Due Date" reminded of "Planes, Trains and Automobiles." You know, the 1987 road trip comedy with John Candy and Steve Martin that was directed by John Hughes? Yep, that one. Sure, it wasn't the exact same movie but it was similar in many ways and felt like it. Galifianakis pretty much played the funny, annoying but ultimately lovable fat guy aka John Candy's character and Downey Jr played the stressed out business guy. It was very similar in terms of characters just with some extras added in to bring it up to date with the times.

The jokes in the film were very hit and miss. I found some of them to be really funny and others just fell dead in their tracks. There are tons of drug gags in the film as well as some sex humor specifically masturbation. These jokes didn't really work for me. The funnier jokes to me were the ones found in the trailer involving them putting Ethan in the cab of the truck and driving over bumps. The jokes I found more amusing were the little ones, more than the big ones. I think the film tried to hard at times to be funny and I just wasn't laughing at it.

I will be honest and say that I thought, Downey Jr and Galifianakis did have solid chemistry with one another. Galifianakis was back to playing that clueless loser character that he played in "The Hangover." I personally didn't like his character but than again, I didn't like Downey Jrs either. I think that was a big problem with the film; neither of the leads were likable. Sure, they had funny moments but they were both equally annoying and not someone the audience could relate to. Downey Jr plays a good a-hole and he does that extremely well. It's not that they didn't have good on-screen chemistry or that they didn't fit their roles, it's just there wasn't any redeeming qualities about either of them. With buddy road trip films, you have to like at least one of the characters and I didn't here.

In the end, "Due Date" received average reviews and for once, I actually agree with the critics about a Todd Phillips film. It's not a bad movie but it's just not great. For every joke that works, there are probably two that fail. It's an enjoyable film that I am glad I watched but probably not one I would want to add to my collection. I think with a little bit more character development and maybe a better and more well-rounded ending, it would have been a much better film. Since the film used characters similar to "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," it would have been nice if it used some of its heart as well. Its not something you will be upset when watching but you will just ultimately saying to yourself, "eh, it was OK." in the end. I think for a comedy, it's decent but than again great comedies don't happen every day.

MovieManMenzel's final rating for "Due Date" is a 5.5 out of 10.
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7/10
A gritty, raw and depressing look into the lives of several students whose life is far from perfect.
1 March 2011
"Inside America" is one of the many films being showcased at SXSW 2011. I, however, am lucky enough to have seen the film before the festival run and therefore am able to write this review as a way to truly help promote independent cinema. "Inside America" tells the story of a group of high school students, who live near the Mexico border. While their backgrounds are different, they are all struggling to follow their hopes and to live the "American Dream." This film shows the struggles and offers a depressing yet realistic look at the lives of kids from a small town. It may not be pretty but "Inside America" offers a blunt and in your face look at people in our society today.

The film "Inside America" is an important film to watch. Like several independent films in the past, "Inside America" gives its audience a look into the lives of students from a small town. Now, while I grew up in a small suburb, I did not live in an area like the one shown in this film. This sort of town doesn't even exist near me, which made this film even more interesting to watch. As a film critic and film connoisseur, I always enjoy films that take risks and don't sink in to give it's audience, the warm and fuzzies. That is the job of most Hollywood films. Movies like this are made to tell a story and while they offer their own biased view on life, I think its an important one to acknowledge exists. I truly believe there are kids right now, going through this sort of life style that this film depicts.

The movie focuses on a loner, a group of kids involved in a gang, glamor and beauty obsessed cheerleaders, and even ROTC Students. This isn't your typical teen flick so don't expect lots of laughs and sex filled jokes. This is a realistic look at kids dealing with real life scenarios like living in poverty, drugs, popularity, gangs, immigration, and struggling to just get by in America. There are several scenes in the film, which make you feel as though you are watching a documentary. One such scene is the as a gang fight scene. The violence was raw, gritty but most importantly real. When the scene happens near the end of the film, the audience is glued to the edge of their seats by the realism being shown on screen.

The overall message of the film was one that I don't think will win over the majority of the world but I don't think writer/director Barbara Eder cares about that. She created a film for those who don't mind looking at the dark and realistic world that exists around our daily lives. This is a world that most of us will thankfully never see but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. It's not a pretty portrait of America but the realistic truth that towns and more importantly, people like this do exist. While the film is not a perfect film, it is a solid film for a first time director despite it's minor flaws. The budget on this film had to be almost non-existent and for what little resources the cast and crew had, they did a solid job with what they had.

In the end, "Inside America" probably won't reach a large audience anytime soon and that's just the hard reality behind it. That last sentence, however, proves the fact that film festivals are an important element in the Independent Film World. With festivals such as SXSW, movies like "Inside America" get a chance to find an audience, even if it is a small one. Independent films are the heart and soul of cinema as they are created for next to nothing and focus on telling a story. Films like this are made, not for money but as a work of art. It was made to share the directors vision and passion for film. This film is no different, its a powerful and realistic look into a world where moviegoers rarely venture. The film leaves its audience hating the world and upset by what they just witnessed. It goes to show you how human beings treat one another and it isn't a pretty picture. While depressing and even upsetting in it's conclusion, Barbara Eder created a film that ultimately paints a gritty, realistic, and dark portrait of life at Hanna High School.

MovieManMenzel's final rating for "Inside America" is a solid 8 out of 10. If you get a chance to see this film and are a fan of realistic films that don't paint that pretty picture, check out this flick!
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Unknown (I) (2011)
8/10
A smart edge of your seat thriller that actually delivers the goods!
28 February 2011
Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) has just landed in Berlin with his beautiful wife (January Jones) to attend a biotechnology submit. While at the airport, Harris accidentally leaves his briefcase on the luggage cart. Unaware of his actions, him and his wife get into their taxi and head for the hotel. Once they arrive, Harris realizes that his briefcase is missing and informs his wife to check into the hotel, while he searches the cab for his briefcase. With no luck, he grabs the first taxi and heads back to the airport with the hope of retrieving his briefcase. This is when this happy story takes a turn for the worst because the taxi swerves to avoid an accident and lands in a river. As the taxi collides off of a bridge, Harris bangs his head on the window and slips into a coma. Three days later, he awakes in a hospital with a foggy memory of the events that lead him to the hospital. Harris ventures out into Berlin to find his wife, only to find out that his wife as well as everyone else has no recollection of who he is. This is when he sets out to prove to everyone that he is, in fact, Dr. Martin Harris. A smart and edgy thriller ensues...

I felt the same way that everyone else did when I first saw the trailer for "Unknown." The movie looked a lot like "Taken" and when I went into the film, I really was expecting that. The great news is that, while the film takes place in another country just like in "Taken," the rest of the film is nothing like it. The story that takes place in "Unknown" has nothing to do with the one that occurs in "Taken" so get that out of your head now. I have read several reviews trying to compare the two films but as I said they have next to nothing in common. "Taken" was an action film from start to finish with very little story. "Unknown" is more of a suspense thriller with a solid story that is loaded with twists.

My question, however, is this, when did Liam Neeson become box office gold? I am not saying that in a negative way, because I always admired the man as an actor but after "Taken" his rise of stardom has grown ten-fold. Neeson, who has always had a wide array of talent, seems to be able to play every role from romantic comedies to a bad ass assassins. Neeson, has been acting since 1979 and has now found his market playing the lead role in such films as "Taken" and "Unknown." I guess to answer my own question is that Neeson became a huge star when he took on the genre of action thriller. What I like most about Neeson is that he has no problem going from nice guy to a complete bad ass in just a few scenes. The reason "Unknown" works as well as it does is because of Neeson in the lead role. He is believable throughout the entire film and his struggle to prove his identity feels real.

There are many scenes in "Unknown," where the audience may have to sustain some belief in order to follow the story. This sadly is the cliché of Hollywood to create unrealistic action scenes to keep the audience involved. The film, however, didn't need those scenes to work but seemed to be added to keep people who enjoy this genre happy. The thriller is a genre that leaves its audience at the edge of its seat. This film accomplishes this pretty early on and runs with it through the entire film. Once you get into the story, you are hooked or at least I was.

The simple idea of someone's identity being stolen is a subject that has always intrigued audiences. The topic itself has been done before several times and most films that have tackled the subject don't leave us with a good taste in our mouths. We live in an era where identity theft is a regular occurrence, therefore, allowing the viewer to truly understand what Harris is feeling. The best part of the film is simply the fact that the story doesn't just stop at a stolen identity topic but adds an interesting twist that keeps the film's audience wanting more. The pace of "Unknown" as well as the better than average storyline is what makes it stand out from other films that feature the whole "stolen identity" plot. The introduction of new characters as the story advances also helps the storyline built more suspense. Each new character introduces unravels another piece of the puzzle that "Unknown" sets us up to put together.

With films like "Unknown" doing well at the box office, I am happy to report that movie-goers may actually want films that actually try to make them think. While this movie has its normal action packed scenes, which feature unbelievable car chase sequences, the story is where it really stands out. "Unknown" may be a thriller that is made for a mainstream audience but it has enough there to keep a person who expects more from cinema to be happy. It's not a masterpiece by any definition but is definitely is one of the better thrillers with a solid story to come out of Hollywood in years. I think if Liam Neeson keeps it up, in a few more years he may actually make it to the big leagues to where people like Tom Cruise once sat. When watching "Unknown" please remember its not a sequel to "Taken" but rather a smart, edge of your seat thriller that will leave you feeling refreshed.

MovieManMenzel's final rating for "Unknown" is a 8 out of 10. This is one of the better action/suspense thrillers to come out of Hollywood in years.
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7/10
A prequel/lead-in that makes the original into an even better film.
22 February 2011
Paranormal Activity 2 is sort of a prequel/tie in to the huge hit that was Paranormal Activity. In the prequel, a family's house is tampered with one evening. As a way to fight their fears, the father has a security system installed to prevent the incident from ever happening again. The family soon learns that maybe their house was not broken into but is rather haunted by something that they can't see. Now, the family must try to unravel the events that continue to occur and hope that they can stop it from happening again.

When I originally saw the trailer for Paranormal Activity 2, I was upset. All I could think was why the heck are they doing a sequel to that film? I am one of those people who found the original to be very overrated. That might be because I saw the film so late in the game but to me it wasn't scary and extremely boring. I definitely was not on the band wagon when I saw the trailer for the sequel. Avoiding the film in the theaters, I decided to pick up the sequel when I was out and decided to sit down last night and watch it.

Paranormal Activity 2 actually serves as a companion piece instead of a direct lead in or prequel to the original film. You SHOULD watch the original before you see this one. There are a lot of connections between the two and the end result kind of plays out like the "Saw" films. This sequel or say prequel actually for the first time makes the original feel like a better film. Its hard to explain but I will try. The original had very little story and not much background. This film has more story and is better explained. Also, Activity 2, probably, because of its bigger budget looks better and feels more realistic for some reason. I thought that was odd since the original was actually filmed for next to nothing and had a smaller cast in a real house but something about the house in this film made it feel more authentic to watch.

When you talk about a film flowing, its all about its pace and how the film shapes its story. This movie flows well. It starts off rather rough and I was well on my way to start mocking it within the first 10 minutes. However, when the film hits the 25 to 30 minute mark, it becomes a lot better and actually keeps you on the edge of your seat in suspense. I think the action scenes are much more scary in this film and I actually jumped a few times here and there. I think that bringing in elements like a dog and baby added to the creepiness of the film. We all have seen films with couples being haunted by things but when a baby and a dog are, well that's something new.

I realize that Oren Peli, who wrote and directed the original, was trying to pull a Blair Witch Project on its audience. Nowadays, after films like that and the rise of amazing reality television (why oh why does it exist), I know I can't really believe that a film like this is true. I think both films try to be believable and work for the most part. If I wasn't a victim to bad reality television, I would have probably believed the first film was real that is until I saw that the filmmaker released multiple alternate endings. The scares of this film come from the unknown. There is something just simply chilling about the paranormal. It's creepiness comes from that idea alone and it works.

I do realize that many have said that this film is poorly acted and I have to agree with that mark but these are suppose to be real people so it fits the tone of the film. I can't say I liked any of the characters in the film, while I actually didn't mind Katie and Micah in the original. In that case, the first film is better for having more likable characters. The characters here were very whinny and actually unlikable from the start. They also seemed a bit more silly than those in the original.

In the end, Paranormal Activity 2 does two things that rarely occurs in film. First, its better than the original and the second is that it actually made me like the original film. I know, I am shocked myself. After watching the sequel, I immediately put the original on and watched it from start to finish. The storyline in the sequel helped connect some of those weird what the hell? moments that occurred in the original. It also helped make the original film feel scarier. I think that's a rare feat for movies like this. I admire films that actually create suspense from nothing. It takes a skilled writer or writers to create a story that is scary without actually seeing something. I can't believe I am going to say this but I am now a fan of Paranormal Activity 1 & 2 and am excited to see the third film. I just hope that everyone involved don't overstay their welcome and keep these going like every other successful horror series. They should just stop with the trilogy and not try to push their luck.

MovieManMenzel's final rating for Paranormal Activity 2 is a solid 7 out of 10.
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Let Me In (I) (2010)
7/10
A unique vampire horror gem with a solid story and acting.
7 February 2011
"Let Me In" follows a boy named Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who is a outcast and gets bullied on a regular basis at school. To make matters worse, Owen lives a pretty depressing life at home with his mother (Cara Buono) who is constantly arguing with her ex-husband over the phone. One night, Owen notices a new family moving into the complex and wonders who they are. The following night while sitting in the park, Owen is greeted by Abby (Chloë Grace Moretz) who begins to talk to him for the first time. The two of them instantly form a bond and become close friends. The only issue is that Abby is not human but rather a vampire who needs to feed off humans in order to survive. An interesting and well made vampire flick ensues...

I have to point out right away that I have not seen the original Swedish film. I do realize that I should have before watching the remake but fear not, I have it at home and will watch it very soon. With that being said, I didn't know what to think of "Let Me In" before I watched it. I wanted to see it just because Chloe Moretz from "Kick-Ass" was in it but other than that it didn't make my must-see movie list. The reason why is probably because I am not a big fan of horror films as a whole because they are usually clichéd and stupid. I am also a little sick and tired of recent vampire films. This film, however, received solid reviews and intrigued me enough to see it. It's not everyday that a horror film gets solid reviews so I knew this had to be somewhat decent. Sadly, "Let Me In" didn't really do well in the theaters (no surprise there) so I had to rent it in order to see it.

Over the past few years, vampire films have become a dime a dozen. Luckily, "Let Me In" is one that truly stands out. Its nice to see that Matt Reeves actually took the time to create a solid horror film about vampires. What stood out the most about "Let Me In" was that it's focus was on the "old" version of vampires. You know the ones seen before "Twilight" and "True Blood" flooded the market. Abby is not your typical vampire and that also adds to it. The character itself is very likable and you as a viewer feel bad that this poor girl has become a vampire. The bond that she shares with Owen is genuine and sincere BUT is also extremely believable. I think that was another key element of this film. In a lot of films, you see characters that don't really fit with one another but Owen and Abby seemed to be a perfect fit for one another.

The scares in "Let Me In" were not the typical horror clichés that one may expect when watching a film like this. Matt Reeves relied heavily on the cinematography and scene set up to create the overall mood for the film. The movie was very dark and gloomy but that fit the film's theme. By doing using these elements wise, Reeves set the mood for the film therefore making the scares work to the best of his advantage. The story also had several story-lines going on at once, which I felt kept the viewer always interested in and questioning what was going to happen next. The multiple story-lines included Abby and her guardian, Owen and the bullies, Abby and Owen's relationship, and of course Owen's home life. I also loved how the film's story felt like a horror retelling of "Romeo and Juliet." The screenplay was well written with solid character development.

Any film junkie knows that a screenplay is only as good as the actors you pick to play the role and if they have chemistry. There are really only two main stars in this film those being Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloë Grace Moretz. Both of them shine in their roles and I am going to put this out there right now that Moretz is going to be a huge actress in the next couple of years. She is already skilled as an actress at a very young age. There were a few smaller supporting roles in this film including Richard Jenkins and the three kids who played the bullies. All of which played their part and played it well. I think in terms of acting for a horror movie, this was some of the best I seen. I know that isn't saying much but everyone really nailed the role they played.

"Let Me In" is a breathe of fresh air for the horror genre and more specifically in the vampire sub-genre. I can't really say how loyal this version is to the original but based on my research for the film, it is extremely similar with a few scenes being almost identical. I think "Let Me In" will end up being a cult classic for those who appreciate it as a well made vampire flick. I don't think "Let Me In" will be loved by all because it is very dark, gloomy and a deeper than your typical horror flick. Those who like the "True Blood" take on vampires may or may not enjoy it. As a whole the film is not what you would expect from your average horror film but more or less what you would expect from a independent one. Its basically a character study focusing on a troubled boy who shares a special bond with a girl who happens to be a vampire. While its not for everyone, I know that as a film lover I thought this film was a great staple in the horror film library and will be a Blu Ray I will be adding to my collection.

MovieManMenzel's final rating for a solid 7 out of 10.
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ExTerminators (2009)
4/10
An interesting premise is ruined by a sloppy script and poor direction.
31 January 2011
"ExTerminators" is about a woman named Alex (Heather Graham) who loves to help out people. This could be the reason why she married a man that she supports and doesn't work. One day, Alex comes home from work to find her husband cheating on her. Without any explanation needed, this ends the marriage leaving Alex feeling bitter and upset. A few weeks later, Alex is at the grocery store and while shopping a random male approaches her and takes the pie that Alex was planning to purchase. Alex informs the man that she was going to buy that pie. The guy responds by stating, "I don't see your name on it." Upset by the response, Alex punches the guy and is of course, arrested. Alex now has to attend an anger management class. This is where she meets Stella (Jennifer Coolidge) and Nikki (Amber Heard), who have their history of anger issues pertaining to men. What happens next has to be seen to be believed but the three women go into business to become the ExTerminators.

"ExTerminators" is terrible title for a film. I get the fact that it's suppose to be funny because its a play on words. If you read the title and get the little gag in the title than you will figure out exactly what the film is about. Its a film about a group of women who go around and terminate the exes of various women who pay them to do so. I guess if the film had the right director and writer on board it could have been a pretty funny film but instead it turned into something that I feel I would see on Lifetime.

The first problem I had with the film was that it made every male in this movie out to either be a jerk or completely clueless. That element alone made this film feel like a Lifetime movie. Alex's husband is a user and a cheater, another guy is a woman beater, and all the other men in this film are all the typical college guy stereotypes who just grab female asses. Even the good guy in this film was portrayed as stupid. I understand this is a film about strong women but seriously not every guy is an ass or an idiot. Don't insult my intelligence like that. I would pose to even question what kind of guy would cheat on Heather Graham? The woman is freaking beautiful with an amazing body. I don't really get that. If your going to make a film about someone cheating why not make Jennifer Coolidge the main character, because than it would be a bit more believable but that's just my take.

The next issue I had was the whole subplot of the film, which involved an IRS agent by the name of Hutt (Sam Lloyd). You see Hutt was investigating Stella's business, which ironically is a exterminator business. She kills bugs for a living. As it turns out, Hutt now begins to investigate Stella and and the rest of the girls. One would argue that this is all part of the story and adds something to it. I personally found it to be rather silly and the twist in the end seemed almost too simple for its own good. It wasn't as crafty as writer, Suzanne Weinert intended it to be. As the story develops everything just seems to simple and unexplained. Why doesn't anyone look into why all of a sudden this anger management class keeps getting a ton of new members each and every week. Why are the cops so stupid? It's three women who are killing men left and right but yet no one can figure this out? I am sorry but that's a bit of a stretch. The cops didn't even really investigate through the film.

I actually liked Heather Graham in this role. I think she did a decent job even though the script was weak and the characters weren't well written. I personally thought it was really silly to try to make her look ugly by giving her huge glasses from the 50's though. What the heck was the director thinking? Who makes fun of people who wear glasses anymore? Seriously, what is this... the 70s? I don't get it. Anyway, Graham did all she could to survive the role. As for Coolidge, she was alright as well. I think she plays a good drunk and bitter ex-wife. Amber Heard was unrecognizable in the film and was good in the role even if she was a bit too over the top at times. I don't know why they made her into such a psycho but would guess she was the perfect opposite of the character Graham played. The acting by the leads was decent however all the smaller supporting roles were horrible including the guy who played Hutt. Just bad supporting roles all around...

At the end of the day, "ExTerminators" is a direct to video film that truly deserves the title. While the film's premise could be funny, it fails to produce any real laughs. The direction is sloppy and the writing is poor. Graham, Coolidge, and Heard do all they can to help make the film watchable but sadly due to the poor character development they couldn't do much. It's no shock to me why this film went right to video because it would have failed in theaters as a feature film. Its sad to see movies like this sometimes because you can see where if it were in the hands of another writer or director it could have been 100 times better. I will give it some points for the premise and for the decent acting job by the three leads but other than that I would have to tell you to skip this one because it's definitely a stinker.

MovieManMenzel's final rating for "the ExTerminators" is a 4 out of 10.
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You Again (2010)
7/10
"You Again" is a tad bit silly but all in all is a fun film about high school with an interesting premise.
30 January 2011
Marni (Kristen Bell) is a successful PR representative, who moved out to Los Angeles as a way to start fresh and forget her past. "You Again" opens with Marni telling a group of young PR interns the tale of her life as a nerd in high school. Like many of us, Marni didn't have a great time in high school because she was picked on and bullied especially by the lead cheerleader, Joanna (Odette Yustman). After Marni is done with her big speech at the PR firm, she boards a plane to head home to attend her brother Will's (James Wolk) wedding. Once home, Marni finds out that Will is marrying Joanna; the woman who made her life in high school a living hell. This is when Marni sets out to prove that Joanna is not this innocent good girl that she is pretending to be. To top all this off, Joanna's Aunt Romona (Sigourney Weaver) arrives that same evening only to find out that Marni's mother Gail (Jamie Lee Curtis) has a history with her as well. A funny, silly but ultimately clever film ensues...

Many reviewers are labeling "You Again" as 2010's "Bride Wars" and while I see a few similarities between the two films, "You Again" is a far superior film. I was actually perplexed by the amount of negative press this film received. While it is a far cry from an Oscar worthy, it was still a feel good film with a really funny story and interesting premise. "You Again" is a movie about a nerdy high school chick who is bullied by the head cheerleader only to find out years later that her brother is engaged to the woman who ruined four years of her life. A plot like that is ripe for comedy. Furthermore, the movie addresses the theme of confronting and overcoming high school rivalries; a topic I feel very few movies address.

One may argue that the film is too silly for it's own good. I would have to say that it's true especially towards the end but in all honesty its a Hollywood comedy. I would rather it be a bit too silly than a film loaded with sex gags as a filler. There are some really funny scenes in this movie too. I loved the whole car ride scene when Joanna plays "We are the Champions" and of course, the dance studio scene. I think sometimes watching actors act like teenagers are funny especially if you can understand where they are coming from. The reaction that Kristen Bell's character has when she sees Joanna again is priceless. Try to put yourself in these shoes...you are tortured in high school and get out hoping to never see that person again but find out they are marrying a family member. That's like a nightmare of epic portions. The thing I thought was even more humorous about the film was the fact they showed it happens to all generations, not just the younger. I think Jamie Lee Curtis's reaction to Weaver's entrance was equally priceless.

Kristen Bell is the highlight of the film. I always enjoyed her in these types of roles. I find her to be cute and lovable. She plays a good nerd in the beginning and I found it believable because it fits her as a person. Bell doesn't seem to have that mass appeal that say Reese Witherspoon has but I do enjoy her films and hope she continues to do films. I would say her character Marni is a bit similar to her character in "When in Rome," however here the character has more depth. It's a better written character with more of a background story.

As for the other actors, I felt Odette Yustman was just great and like Bell really fit her character. You can tell that she wasn't this innocent girl she pretended to be. She plays one hell of a mean girl that's for sure. I think she had great chemistry with Bell as enemies. As for Curtis, she's good in comedies and I loved her in this film. While she plays the mom role here watching her competing with Sigourney Weaver is a blast. I think everyone involved did a good job with their roles and did what the script requested of them. I should mention Bette White, who absolutely steals the scenes and has a hilarious scene at the films conclusion.

I really don't know what all the reviewers were complaining about with "You Again." I thought the premise was fairly unique and the overall film was fun and full of fluff. The movie was really funny at times even though it used the typical clichés that comedies nowadays tend to use. This is a movie where you just sit back and enjoy a few good laughs. I know as a male, I didn't mind watching this film and felt that it wasn't like the typical chick flick. The ending was rather typical and overly clichéd but than again that's not surprising coming out of Hollywood.

All in all,"You Again" is an enjoyable comedy that I wouldn't mind having to watch again. Everyone involved did a great job especially Bell who steals the show and wins the audience over within the first 10 minutes of the film. Just remember people, this is a silly comedy and not a comedic masterpiece. No one should be expecting an Oscar worthy film and if you can get past that you should be able to enjoy to this. I personally think a lot of people have enjoyed this film despite what the critics say because can relate to one of the characters in one way or another. It's an cute and enjoyable flick and I recommend those looking for a wholesome laugh to check it out.

MovieManMenzel's final rating for "You Again" is a 7 out of 10.
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8/10
A film about learning how to take the good with the bad but most importantly living each day to the fullest!
28 January 2011
"It's Kind of a Funny Story" tells the story of Craig (Keir Gilchrist), a teenager whose life is just an utter disaster. His family drives him crazy with his mother being an over-emotional mess and his father wanting him to follow in his footsteps. To top of it off, his best friend is dating the girl that he has been obsessing over for 3 years. About ready to give up on life, Craig checks himself into an adult psychiatric ward, where he experiences a whole new way of thinking as well as a new appreciation of life. A well crafted dramedy ensues...

I am officially marking "It's Kind of a Funny Story" as one of the most underrated films of 2010. This film had very little marketing and was in and out of theaters within a few weeks time. I don't even think the film got a major release. It's kind of funny (no pun intended) because with all the attention that Zach Galifianakis has gotten since the release of "The Hangover" one would think they would try to get this film off the ground as his first major dramatic role. With that being said, lets get into the real meat and potatoes of the film.

First off, I wanted to see this movie as soon as I saw the trailer for it. It looked like a great mix of comedy and drama with an interesting premise. A film about a teenager checking himself into a psychiatric ward because he is depressed not only makes for an interesting story, but is also a topical subject with all the ongoing teenage depression talk going on in our society. Keir Gilchrist, who you may recognize from "The United States of Tara" plays the perfect candidate for the lead role in a movie of this topic. Not only because he fits the look and bill to play the role but because he is not a huge known actor. I don't know if I could see someone big in the lead role. I think that's what made the film feel so authentic. He seemed like an everyday teenager. He's not overly attractive, his problems seems believable, and his explanations about life seemed like something a regular teen would say. He was just a perfect fit for the role.

Along with Gilchrist, the movie co-starred a few bigger names in showbiz including Emma Roberts and Zach Galifianakis, just to name a few. I have to give Zach Galifianakis some props with this film. We all know he can play the plucky comic relief but it was nice to see him play a character with some depth to it with a bit of comedy mixed in. There were some great scenes featuring Zach's character Bobby, including an emotional breakdown scene and a more comedic scene where Bobby gives Craig some advice on how to talk to a girl. Another great performance in the film was Emma Roberts, who played Noelle in the film. Roberts was very well suited for this film like Gilchrist because she just fit the overall look and fit of the character she was portraying. I also thought she had great chemistry with Gilchrist and definitely proved here that she deserves to do more stand out work like this rather than lackluster teen films like "Aquamarine" and "Nancy Drew."

While the acting was solid across the board, I think the best part of this movie was the film was the overall story and message. It was nice to see a film about life and how sometimes it takes the weirdest scenarios to make you see life for what it was. A movie about people in a psychiatric ward doesn't seem like it would have a feel good message but this film does. It's not even overly sappy or anything like that. It's purely a film about learning how to live and appreciate what you have in life. I think almost everyone goes through a period in their life where they just feel depressed or want to toss in the towel. That's what this film is about and how you should always try to look past that feeling and see what good you have in your life. It has a funny way of showing it but "It's Kind of a Funny Story" makes you feel alive and makes it's audience really want to go out there and live everyday to the fullest.

A the end of the day, I was actually very sad that I didn't get to catch this film in theaters and that it didn't get the kind of attention it deserved. "It's Kind of a Funny Story" was a well acted and well written film that featured a good mix of drama and comedy but also managed to stay realistic. I think that's probably the best part of the film that it felt like these were real people with real problems. I have to give the directors/writers Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden credit for picking who they picked for these characters and really knowing how to set up the scenes. I think more people should check out this film because not only will you enjoy the film as a whole but you will feel good about life after seeing it, at least that's how I felt when it ended. This film is without a doubt one of the most underrated and overlooked films of 2010! MovieManMenzel's final rating for "It's Kind of A Funny Story" is an 8 out of 10. This is oddly enough, the feel good film of 2010
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The Town (2010)
8/10
"The Town" proves that Ben Affleck is not only a gifted actor, but also has a great eye for directing.
25 January 2011
In "The Town," Ben Affleck plays Doug, the brains behind an Irish mob that robs banks and plans heists all around the Boston area. After their last huge bank job, Doug learns from his colleague, James (James Coughlin), that the female bank manager, Claire (Rebecca Hall) from the bank lives a few blocks away from where the mob meets. This is when Doug decides to investigate Claire and see what she knows about him and the other members of his crew. Along the way, Doug falls in love with Claire as the FBI is slowly investigating him and his fellow mob members to see where they are going to strike next. It's only a matter of time before the FBI comes after Doug and it's now up to Doug to decide whether it's the mob life or love....

I have to admit when I first saw the trailers for "The Town" I wasn't really that impressed with it. Sure it looked like a solid action movie about bank-robbers but the trailers just seemed to give away too much. When "The Town" was actually released in theaters I didn't have a chance to see it because it was released during a time where for some reason, which I am not sure of, I didn't see any films. I did however, read the reviews for the film and they were nothing but extreme positives. I tried to see the film in theaters but like most things nowadays it didn't last more than a few weeks at the local theaters. I decided to buy the flick on Blu Ray and finally sat down last night to watch it...

There is so much good to say about "The Town" but it's hard to pick where to start. The easiest place to start is with Ben Affleck so I am going to start there. As many may know already, Affleck directed, co-wrote, and starred in this film. Unlike most people, I never really disliked Affleck even though earlier in his career, he had a few stinkers ("Gigli," "Daredevil," and "Jersey Girl" all come to mind) but I figured he just hasn't found the right fit yet. In "The Town" Ben Affleck shows off just how solid of an actor he can be with the right material. He plays the tough Irish mob leader to perfection. I am talking everything from the accent to the mannerisms; Affleck just nails it.

Along with the acting, his eye as a director is also rather solid. This is Affleck's second directorial endeavor and its surprisingly better than his first, which is saying a lot. "Gone Baby Gone" was well reviewed by critics and audience members alike and many were shocked to learn that Affleck directed that flick. "The Town" is rated even higher by both categories of people. Affleck knows his way behind the scenes capturing raw emotion, realistic and gritty violence, and truly showing his audience he knows how to make his cast act out their roles to near perfection. Affleck's dark and corrupt vision of Boston reminded me of something Martin Scorsese would have created. If Affleck keeps this up, you never know but he might just become the next Scorsese.

Besides Affleck providing a solid performance, there are several other names that deserve some recognition here. Rebecca Hall is absolutely terrific as the bank manager and Doug's love interest. It's was interesting to see a smaller name in such a big role but it worked to the films advantage. She seemed perfect to play an out of town girl, who gets involved with someone has sleazy and shady as Doug. Jon Hamm did a perfect job as the lead FBI agent. I haven't seen him in many other projects but his mannerisms fit my ideal image of a FBI agent. Jeremy Renner, who played James was just nuts! He played this whacked out character perfectly. The guy seemed to not care about anything and anyone but did it in such a believable fashion. He truly was a demented and troubled soul in the film and really acted his heart out to show that. The one person I do have to say didn't really wow me was Blake Lively. I will admit it was nice seeing her play a really dark and gritty role, which is out of her normal character but she wasn't convincing to me. I just had a hard time believing her as a trashy person. As a whore, I can see but the white trash thing didn't work for me. I am sure many would disagree but trashy I couldn't picture.

All in all, I really don't have anything bad to say about "The Town." It was a solid film all around. The pacing was perfect, the acting was solid, and the direction was superb. This movie may soon be placed in the same category where such movies like "Goodfellas," "Casino," and "Reservoir Dogs" now sit. It will not shock me if this film holds up over the years and becomes known as a cult classic. The film may be too violent or gritty for some but for those who like raw and gritty dramas will probably be adding "The Town" to their favorites list.

MovieManMenzel's final rating for "The Town" is a solid 8 out of 10. A ton of kudos points are in order for Affleck and the entire cast of this film.
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No Strings Attached (I) (2011)
6/10
Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher charm their clothes off in "No Strings Attached"
24 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Adam (Ashton Kutcher) works as an assistant for a "High School Musical" type television show and is deeply in love with his girlfriend, Vanessa (Ophelia Lovibond). One day out of the blue, Vanessa tells Adam that she is leaving him because she isn't happy with his current lifestyle. To make matters even worst, Adam finds out that Vanessa left him for is his own father, Alvin (Kevin Kline). Now depressed and looking for affection, Adam turns to booze, his two best friends, and his cell phone as a way to relieve the pain. This is when Adam gets the brilliant idea to dial every woman in his phone book and try to convince one of them to sleep with him. After waking up from a drunken stupor, Adam finds himself in a apartment belonging to Emma (Natalie Portman), whom he has had a crush on since their summer at camp together. Happy to see her, Adam tries to pursue a relationship with Emma only to find out that she doesn't want to get involved in one. This is when the pair decides to try out a friends with benefits relationship with the hopes that neither of them begin to fall for one another. A surprisingly decent romantic comedy ensues...

After reading my plot description for the film, you are probably thinking to yourself that this can't possibly be good; it sounds so incredibly clichéd. While it is clichéd, the film itself is actually believable with real life scenarios. The fact that Portman's character Emma works in a hospital only helps with how believable the story is. I have friends who work in a hospital and I know how crappy their schedules can be. The fact that Emma has no time for relationships seems believable based on her career choice. Add on to the fact that Emma is afraid of commitment and being hurt only makes it more believable. A lot of the story works because of Emma. That's not saying that Ashton Kutcher's character didn't help the story because it did. Sure Adam was a nice guy but he was actually believable here. He worked as an assistant and not as some high profile role. He was just a normal everyday guy in this film and actually didn't seem like a cocky jerk or douche-bag like he normally comes off as in his previous films.

Along with believable human characteristics, Portman and Kutcher chemistry was the key element that made the film work. They have terrific chemistry with one another and even if you don't normally like Kutcher (like me) you can't help but admit he is likable here. The two play off one another from the get go and as the film goes on you can truly feel that these two people are in fact falling in love. Portman is extremely charming as Emma but also plays a very strong character, who believes she can truly take care of herself and doesn't need anyone. Her character here reminded me a lot like Anne Hathaway's character in "Love and Other Drugs" minus the illness subplot. I have met many women in my past who share a lot of the same characteristics that Emma had and the way Portman portrayed that role just added to it working.

While I had good things to say about the film, I also have some negatives. There were three elements about the film that really irked me. The first one was Kevin Kline, who I normally love as an actor, but he was a horrible miscast here. He just seemed out of place and his character just felt like an unnecessary filler. The next thing was the over abundance of sex jokes that seem to come flying out at the audience at a mile a minute pace. There were way too many of them and out of every 20 I would say about one or two of them worked. I get that this was a sex comedy, it's a film about two people having a friends with benefits relationship, but I don't need the jokes reinforcing that fact thrown at me every single minute. The last thing that really bugged me was the whole "Judd Apatow Effect" element of the film. I have mentioned this in a previous review but I hate when a film goes from a raunchy comedy to a romantic comedy with heart. To add to the typical "Apatow effect" there are usually a few best friend characters who seem to be there for plucky 'sexual remarks' comic relief. This film holds these qualities and I find this formula overused already. I didn't even see a point to Ludicrous (Wallace) even being in the film at all.

In the end, "No Strings Attached" is as predictable as it looks from the trailers but it doesn't end up being a complete disaster like one would expect. Portman and Kutcher both have great chemistry together and play realistic characters, which help make this simplistic and clichéd story work. While I feel this role is beneath Portman at this point in her career, it was nice seeing her play a role where she can have a little fun. I thought it was hilarious when Portman described Adam waving his penis around as well as the one-liners she spit out when the two played mini golf. Kutcher didn't make me a fan (at least not yet) but he did actually get me to enjoy him in a film. The film was enjoyable for what it was and provided some good laughs and some nice romance even with its flaws. I recommend this one to most who are looking for a decent date movie. It's definitely one of the better ones released from a major studio in the past few years.

MovieManMenzel's final rating for "No Strings Attached" is a 6.5 out of 10.
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8/10
Underrated and unknown by most "I Love You Phillip Morris" is probably one of the greatest dark romantic comedies in recent memory.
18 January 2011
Jim Carrey plays Steven Russell, a man who's life seems to be near perfect. He has a great job at the local police station and is married to his wife Debbie (Leslie Mann). One day, Steven is driving home from work and gets into a horrific car accident. After the accident, Steven decides that he is going to live his life how he wants to live it. He openly admits to his wife that he has been a closeted homosexual and now takes up a career of being a con man. As you probably expect this new career choice lands him in a state penitentiary where he meets and falls deeply in love with Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor). This is when the fun really starts as Steven is now devoted to spending his life with Phillip no matter what he has to do to achieve it. Lots of hearty laughs ensue...

One should pose the question, how did a movie as good as "I Love You Phillip Morris" not get a real release in the United States? The film's plot alone is fairly unique and the story itself is extremely funny with a little bit of drama and romance mixed in to add some flair. Top that off with a pretty popular and well known cast including Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor, and Leslie Mann and one would really ask the Hollywood studios why? Why was this film failed to be picked up by a major studio? It all comes down to the subject matter, at least in my eyes. Also every film buff knows that Jim Carrey is a bankable star. If you look at his career, almost every movie he has starred in has made a lot of green. It seems that Hollywood Studios were afraid to give money to a film that showed Carrey in a lead role as a gay man and that's a damn shame.

Jim Carrey's performance in "I Love You Phillip Morris" is probably one of his finest roles to date and that is coming from someone who truly appreciates his work. Outside of "Eternal Sunshine" and "Truman Show," this film marks Carrey's best performance to date. I think the reason why is because he uses his comedic side, sarcastic side, and dramatic side all in one character. Carrey's character, Steven Russell is very interesting and seems to have lead a secret life for many years. Carrey sometimes uses his slapstick humor in the film and it works. He also plays one hell of a con man and even more so plays the southern role even better. He is definitely the one to watch every moment he is on screen.

Let me say this and I don't know if this is a good thing or not but Ewan McGregor plays one hell of a gay guy. Man, he nails the role perfectly and I found him to be extremely believable as the sweet and ultra sensitive Phillip Morris. Leslie Mann plays more of a minor role in the film but is extremely funny as the clueless ex-wife of Steve. Mann's character is pretty similar to a lot of the previous roles she has played but she's good at it none the less.

This film was written by the two guys who wrote "Bad Santa" and while I actually hated that movie, I did love this film. I think John Requa and Glenn Ficarra did a great job bringing the story of Steven Russell to the big screen. The film felt fresh and original and wasn't afraid to be daring. I would also like to point out that this film is based on a book, which is the biography of a real man named Steven Russell. When you watch this film you would think it was made up or a work of fiction but it wasn't. This is actually a true story, go figure! I am sure the film takes some liberties to make it more interesting for film purposes.

Why was the film daring? The story itself because of the story, a gay con man in a southern state, well that's bold. The humor in the film as well including the amount of gay references with actual gay characters is another bold move by the filmmakers. Lets not even touch on the fact that there is some sex in this film and yes it is gay sex. The sex is actually pretty graphic too for a comedic film. This is probably another reason why this film didn't get that Mainstream release I was talking about earlier because heaven forbid a mainstream audience realizes that gay people do exist outside of cowboys in "Brokeback Mountain." That wasn't an insult because "Brokeback Mountain" was a great film but just a point to show that gay and lesbian's still don't have equal rights in film.

Bottom line: "I Love You Phillip Morris" is a underrated and under-appreciated film. It will never get the kind of audience it very well deserves. The movie tells an interesting and comedic tale about a real life con man who's life is nothing short of fascinating. Carrey is brilliant in the film and McGregor plays a gay man with such ease that it makes you wonder if he really is gay. This film is a breathe of fresh air for those who enjoy dark comedies or con movies and are sick of the same old Hollywood clichés. I recommend almost everyone to check this film out when it hits DVD shelves since its nearly impossible to find a theater playing it outside an major city.

MovieManMenzel's final rating for "I Love You Phillip Morris" is a sold 8 out of 10. One of the best Jim Carrey films in recent years!
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The Fighter (I) (2010)
8/10
Bale, Wahlberg, and Adams all fight for the Oscar in "The Fighter"
11 January 2011
Based on true events, "The Fighter" tells the story of boxer Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and his rise to fame. While focusing on Micky's life, the film also focuses on his family especially his brother Dicky (Christian Bale). The film starts off with Micky being a fighter living in his brother Dicky's shadow. We learn early on that Dicky, was once a great fighter who beat Sugar Ray Lenard, but is now washed up and fighting a drug addiction. The struggle soon begins when Micky has to decide whether he is going to make a career for himself or keep living in the shadows of his family. Lots of great acting and an inspiring story ensue...

Around November and December of each and every year a whole bunch of films are released with the hopes of being nominated for an Oscar. "The Fighter" is one of those films that just watching the trailer you can smell the nominations cooking. It also doesn't hurt that this movie is based on actual events, which seems to be a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination. "The Fighter" is extremely lucky because it was released in December and is also based on true events. With that being said, I can't even begin to say that this film doesn't deserve the attention its getting. Sure, we have seen films about boxing before but its the acting and the story that makes the film really worth while.

Christian Bale went all "Machinist" in this film. He looked horrible and deathly ill. For those who don't know, Bale always gets into his roles and does what it takes to play the part. In "The Fighter" he was to play a washed up fighter with a crack addition and let me tell you that he played that role to perfection. I actually laughed when the film first started because Bale looked so sickly and obviously had to really starve himself to fit the role, while Wahlberg just looked like his normal built self. Bale pulled off the crack addition fighter role like a pro, from the talk to the actual look, he just nailed this role. Don't get me wrong, Mark Wahlberg did a great job as Micky Ward. It was just funny seeing how much Bale had to transform himself to fit the role and Wahlberg just looked like he normally does. Wahlberg really shows that he is a good actor here and shows he has what it takes to play a more serious roles. Wahlberg has always been known to play the sexy buff roles but most of his other films haven't had much substance. Micky has a lot of back story and really requires a lot from Wahlberg.

Along with Wahlberg and Bale, fighting for the better performance you have some great supporting roles in this film. Amy Adams is just terrific as Charlene and gives a really powerful and emotional performance. I like how her character is frowned upon in the film for the first half that she's almost like the villain but than turns into the voice of reason later in the film. Adams has always been a great actress but it takes films like "The Fighter" to really get someone noticed. She is nominated for a Golden Globe, which I hope she wins. She definitely deserves it. Another noteworthy supporting role is Melissa Leo, who I recently really enjoyed in "Welcome to the Rileys." She played Micky's mom in the film and I have to tell you really played the mean-spirited and over protective mother role to near perfection.

The film itself wouldn't have worked as well as it did if it wasn't for a strong director and script. The story is simple but what made the film work was the vision and how it was was brought to life from script to screen. David O. Russell normally doesn't direct films like this but its nice to see him step outside his norm to direct something a little more down to earth. The screenplay, which was written by Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, and Eric Johnson really did a good job developing the characters but not only that delivered a lot of raw emotion as well. Its sad to say but very few recognize that it takes a lot of effect from a director and screenwriters to make a film great. Sure actors steal the spotlight but those people behind the scenes are the ones who make them truly great.

In the end, the story of "The Fighter" is a uplifting one filled with some great performances, a great screenplay, and some solid direction. Its probably going to win a lot of awards this season and I think it deserves some of that attention most notable Bale and Adams. Its not a groundbreaking film because its based on actual events but its a solid film nonetheless. In terms of sport films, its probably one of the best I have seen. I think anyone who likes real life dramas will really enjoy this film. I think its one of the better films of 2010.

MovieManMenzel's final rating for "The Fighter" is an 8 out of 10.
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127 Hours (2010)
9/10
"127 Hours" is the most intense film to be released in recent years!
11 January 2011
In "127 Hours," James Franco plays Aron Ralston, an extreme sport enthusiast with a love for adventure. The film starts off with Ralston planning a huge trip through Canyonlands National Park in Utah. At the beginning of his journey, Aron meets up with Kristi and Megan, who are also looking for some adventure. Aron and the girls share a fun filled day together full of swimming and some hiking. By nightfall, Megan and Kristi part ways and invite Aron to come to a party a few days away. Aron says, he will see if he can make it and that's where the real adventure begins. Aron, now alone ventures deep into the Canyonlands where he falls into an isolated canyon only to find his arm trapped by a boulder. What happens for the next hour and 30 minutes is the remarkable true tale of one man doing anything he can to save himself. An intense film ensues...

First and foremost, "127 Hours" is based on a true story of Aron Ralston. The film itself is based on his autobiography "Between A Rock and Hard Place"and the story is nothing short of fascinating. As far as the movie goes, Danny Boyle really makes "127 Hours," a unique and intensive movie going experience, which I give him a huge amount of credit for. As a film lover, I realize that a film about a guy stuck in a canyon for 93 minutes isn't an easy sell nor would many think it would make for an intense and exciting movie.

Boyle using his directing and writing skills makes "127 Hours" probably one of the most intense films I have seen in years. I love how Boyle made the beginning of the film feel all upbeat and lighthearted. While I was watching this film with my fiancée it was funny because in the first five minutes of the film we looked at each other and said "what is this?" It seemed like a nice little film about this adventurous guy who meets up with two women and goes on adventures with them. The film sets its audience up for the unexpected. You think your getting a feel good film but after the first 10 minutes you are just glued to the edge of your seat in suspense.

As I said above, about 10 minutes in, Aron falls down the hole and I thought to myself "oh great this is going to be so boring now because all now he is stuck in a hole. The reason I thought this is because of previous films, which feature people being stuck and how dull they were to watch. One film I instantly thought of was "World Trade Center" directed by Oliver Stone. That film was so long and boring that after a while the audience just didn't care. With this film, Boyle made it interesting because not only did he use flashbacks but he also showed the thoughts running through Aron's mind. The way Boyle does this perfect because he doesn't overuse any of the resources he has. It does a good mix between the actual situation, flashbacks, and visions, which help make this film more intense than any horror film I have seen in recent years.

The movie would not be nearly as good without Franco in the lead. Franco is an interesting actor because he started off playing very random roles but then got popular in comedies. Now, Franco seems to go back and forth with comedy and drama. I think this role was perfect for him. Franco fits the look, the build, and even the personality for the film. I didn't think I would ever say Franco deserves an Oscar but he just might for this film. I think a lot of that goes into the solid story and direction of Boyle but it also proves to me at least that Franco has a lot of talent and has what it takes to be a big star.

"127 Hours" proves to me that a good simple story can go a long way with the right people taking on the material. This film is a remarkable and intense film that leaves you as an audience member just sitting on the edge of your seat wondering whats going to happen next. We all heard about the end scene and it's probably one of the most disgusting scenes I have ever seen. I think this scene is so hard to watch because of how real the film is. This isn't a special effects film, it's not about some weird killer, or anything else far-fetched and overused. This is a real story about real people. As I said in the beginning of this review, this movie isn't an easy sell but Boyle turns it into an emotional, edge of your seat film that surely won't disappoint. It takes a talented director, writer and cast (even though small) to make a film like "127 Hours" work and this is one film everyone involved should be very proud of.

MovieManMenzel's final rating for "127 Hours" is a solid 9 out of 10. It definitely ranks up there as one of the best films of 2010 and is definitely the most intense!
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Casino Jack (2010)
8/10
"Casino Jack" features Kevin Spacey's best performance since 2005
6 January 2011
"Casino Jack" tells the real life story of Jack Abramoff (Kevin Spacey), who at one time held a successful career as a lobbyist in Washington, DC. Abramoff, like most lobbyists, was paid by big companies and organizations to help convince Members of Congress to vote for or against certain things in the senate. The film focuses on a massive corruption scandal that led himself, two White House officials, and 10 other lobbyists and congressional members to be convicted. This film is an interesting and somewhat humorous tale of just how far greed and money will take you in America.

I am not a news junkie by any means but I do remember this news story when it happened back in 2006. For those who don't recall, Jack Abramoff became a big focus in the news back in 2006 because he was convicted of fraud, tax invasion, and conspiracy. The film itself never really discusses his sentence however focuses on all the events leading up to it. Now given the fact that this is a movie, I am sure they took some liberties on the story to make it more entertaining. I will have to admit however that this movie seemed pretty realistic and seemed like most of it was based on fact. The people involved in lobbying probably fear films like this because I am sure it shows their true colors. The film really shows how anyone can be bought for the right price and the right amount of negotiation.

Kevin Spacey nails the role of Jack Abramoff in the film. We all remember Spacey from the 1990's when he amazed us in "American Beauty," "L.A. Confidential," and "Usual Suspects" but recently his films just haven't been delivering. However, I am happy to say with "Casino Jack" I really enjoyed his role. It was a very interesting role, he was a little crazy, a bit of a smooth talker, but yet overall a likable guy. I noticed Spacey got nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance in this flick and I have to admit either him or Paul Giamatti should get it. This is the first time since 2005 where I think Spacey has actually found a role that fit him as an actor. He was really superb in this flick.

Other than Spacey, there were some good supporting actors here. Barry Pepper, does a good job of getting the audience to hate him. He plays a young clueless womanizer who is also a lobbyist helping out Jack. Kelly Preston plays Jack's wife and she doesn't have much of a part but does add a little bit of flair to some of the scenes. Jon Lovitz plays a great overweight and clueless man who doesn't know a thing about bad investments. He like Barry Pepper's character is also a bit of a womanizer but than again isn't that how most of those people in politics are.

The film was directed by George Hickenlooper, who oddly enough died before the film was actually released. This officially marks his final film as a director. I can't say I have seen any of his previous work but I definitely like his take on this story. It was a very dark and sometimes funny look at things. His vision for Spacey as I said above was dead on. Huckenlooper really unlocked the dark side of politics with this film and really showcased how everyone has a price and even the most likable guys can have dark side.

Norman Snider wrote the screenplay for "Casino Jack" and really did a wonderful job creating the man known to the world as Jack Abramoff. With the help of Hickenlooper directing, Snider's script really made these actors seem like the people they were suppose to present. The script itself was very well written with great dialogue and focused on some of the key elements of the scandal. Snider did an excellent job with character development and that is really what made the film work. This is a very character driven story so its good to see that Snider made it his priority to focus on that.

In the end, I think with the right marketing this film could have been a lot bigger. I was surprised to see how middle of the road most reviews were for this movie. I thought it was a really solid drama with some comedic elements and a great performance by Kevin Spacey. I also have to say that the tag line for the film, "Honor. Integrity. Principles. Everything is Negotiable" is a perfect summary for the movie. If you like films based on actual events with a well written story than you will probably like this. This is definitely a very political film and really does make most politicians and lobbyists look like complete asses but than again don't well all feel that way now? Isn't everyone in government a crook and about themselves? I think a lot of people tend to believe this and this movie only showcases that more. It was a well made and well acted movie and for that I give it solid marks.

MovieManMenzel's final rating for "Casino Jack" is a 8 out of 10. Kevin Spacey's performance is worth the price of admission alone.
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6/10
"Little Fockers" is a feel good ride even if it is more of the same.
5 January 2011
In the third film of the "Focker" trilogy, Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro) is realizing that he is getting up there in age and that he may not be around forever. Jack researches his family tree only to find out that the next person to take over as head of the Byrnes family is his son in law, Greg Focker (Ben Stiller). When Jack and Dina (Blythe Danner) venture to Chicago to attend Greg and Pam's (Teri Polo) kids birthday, Jack makes it his goal to test Greg to see if he has what it takes to become "The God Focker." This is where the fun begins as the hijinks that always seem to plaque Greg Focker ensue...

By now, if you have watched "Meet the Parents" or "Meet the Fockers" you know what type of movie this is. It's a dysfunctional family comedy surrounding a father questioning his son in law's character. "Little Fockers" carries the same plot formula as the previous entries, just centered around a different goal. This time the plot focuses on Jack seeing if Greg has what it takes to hold the family throne. Does it work? I would say it does as long as your not expecting anything fresh or original. The normal Greg and Jack arguments and bickering take place, which at this point many would argue why does Jack still have reason to doubt him? I felt the movie actually did a good job creating reasons for why Jack would still question Greg after all these years. Some of those reasons without going into too much detail focus on Owen Wilson's character, Kevin and Greg taking a new job working for Andi Garcia ( Jessica Alba), a drug pharmaceutical rep.

In all honesty, I don't really get why there was so much hate from critics when this film came out. Sure, its not a masterpiece but in all honesty were any of this films? The answer is No. These are just feel good lighthearted comedies. The chemistry between these characters is what really draws the people into the theater. You can't help but chuckle even if it's a little bit when you hear Robert De Niro call Ben Stiller "The God Focker." It's just humorous. Its still numerous (unlike gut busting hilarity from the first entry) when Greg and Jack argue and fight with one another. Some will argue that the jokes in here are cheap? But weren't all the films filled with cheap jokes. The whole milking a cat joke was a cheap joke. Yes there were penis jokes in here but isn't that the staple of Hollywood comedies nowadays. I am not defending it because I think they are a bit tired but hey if its a formula that works and people seem to like it than hey why would they change it for the critics or film buffs like myself.

All the original characters from both the Focker clan and the Byrnes clan are back in this film. Robert De Niro is the same guy he is in all the previous entries. His acting is just as solid and his character is just as crazy. I think its hard for film lovers and critics to see De Niro in this type of film because the role really is beneath him. He has so much talent yet he has sunk to do comedies. This was the guy who starred in "Taxi Driver," "Godfather," and "Goodfellas" so why is he doing family comedies? As for the rest of the crew, Ben Stiller, plays the same good guy here as he is in a lot of the films. He has a knack for playing characters who are nice, misunderstood, and most importantly someone the audience feels bad for in the end. One argument I do have is with Owen Wilson, who is just annoying in this film. I understand why they brought him back, but he has too much spotlight and his character traits here are just annoying and weird. For some reason, he always seems like he is trying to hard when on screen to be funny. I really disliked his character. Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand reprise their roles as Mr. & Mrs. Focker and both bring a little flair to the film although I do wish there was more of them in the film. Teri Polo and Blythe Danner also had minor roles but they always been supporting cast members and never really played a critical role in the film unless it was calming down their husbands, Greg and Jack. Along with all these alumni to the "Focker" saga, we did get Jessica Alba, who I must admit was pretty funny in the film. Her character was really ditsy and silly. I know I sound like a typical guy here but it has to be said it was a pleasure to watch her beauty on screen and she looked amazing in the film. Oddly enough that was pretty much her point of the film to be eye candy and lets be honest, Alba can do that with such ease and grace.

In the end, "Little Fockers" is actually more or less of the same. Its probably my least favorite film out of the three but than again that's how it is when it comes to comedy sequels. I am not sure if there is anything left to make a fourth entry with but with all the money this film is making, I am sure they are working on a way to churn another one out. It's not Oscar worthy, it's not original, but it is fun and for that I will give it credit. I am not always a hard ass when it comes to film, I can take things for what they are and in this case I can take this for your standard Hollywood comedy, which delivers 98 solid minutes of enjoyment.
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TRON: Legacy (2010)
7/10
"Tron: Legacy" is a visually stunning ride with a killer score but lacks story and emotion.
22 December 2010
In the first 10 minutes of "Tron: Legacy," the audience gets a quick briefing of what happened in the original film. By quick briefing, I mean we get the basic overview of what happened to Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) and when he disappeared. The film then flashes to present time where we meet Kevin's son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) who we learn is now 28 years old and still isn't over his father's disappearance. After his yearly prank on his fathers company Encom, Sam gets visited by one of his fathers old friends Alan (Bruce Boxleitner) who informs Sam that he has received a message from his father coming from the Flynn Arcade. After some convincing on Alan's part, Sam makes his way over to the arcade only to find a secret room hidden behind the Tron arcade game that could be a portal to his father. A visually stunning film ensues....

For the 45 to 60 minutes of the film, I was extremely involved with "Tron: Legacy." It was interesting, amazing to look at, and the story was good enough to hold one's interest. Then all of a sudden I found myself bored with the film. The story started feeling a little limp and I didn't really care all that much about the characters either. The film started going downhill when Quorra (Olivia Wilde) came into the picture, not saying that she was a bad character because she probably was one of my favorites, but this is when the story started to drag.

On top of the lack of details (poor character development and character background), the emotional attachment between Sam and Kevin seemed to be missing. At first, I didn't know whether to blame Bridges and Hedlund for that or Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis for not having a stronger screenplay. But after a few moments of debate, I would honestly have to blame the screenwriters because they are the ones who didn't dig deeper into these characters. The script didn't give them a whole lot of background so they were only working with what they had and they did try their best. The story also wasn't that interesting after a while, it's like OK he's here to save his dad, I get it but what else? Don't even get me started on the lack of back story on the actual Tron character. They just left that wide open with very little explanation.

As for the high points of "Tron: Legacy" well that goes right to the visual effects. The movie looks absolutely stunning. The set designs are amazing, the uniforms are awesome, and the whole entire grid looks brilliant. The design of the grid itself was also believable. You truly believe that this is what the inside of a computer looks like. I give everyone who was involved with the visual elements of the film major kudos points and that includes director Joseph Kosinski, who really captured the visual aspect of the film.

Besides the visual aspect of the film, the music is the film is also amazing. The score was by Daft Punk who has been getting nothing but phrase for their music. I have to agree with everyone else because the music really made the film. I think it was one of the strongest elements of both the trailer and the film itself. Besides, the music and visuals, there is a really amazing scene where Sam enters into a club, which is extremely well shot and visually appealing. The race scenes are pretty sweet and the background recap in the beginning is also well done.

The acting is decent, nothing great but not bad. It's typical action/family film acting all around. When Bridges plays Kevin Flynn he mixes his character from the original Tron in with The Dude from "The Big Lebowski." When Bridges plays Clu, who is the bad guy in the film, he actually does this extremely well. I think Bridges had much more to work with playing Clu than with Kevin to be fair. He did a good job with both though overall. Olivia Wilde is good in the film, not to mention easy on the eyes. Her character was simple and she played it off well. Garrett Hedlund, who played Sam, was decent in the film. He was probably the weakest of all the acting but than again he isn't as established of an actor as the rest of them. Also even though he wasn't in the film much, I have to give props to Michael Sheen, who was just wacky and crazy in the film. His character was by far the most interesting because he was so odd.

In the end, "Tron: Legacy" was a a unique movie experience. It was visually appealing with some decent scenes and a killer soundtrack. The problem, however, was what I call the "Avatar" effect. It was amazing to look at but when it came down to the end, it could have been a lot better with a more solid story. Like "Avatar" the film lacked a complex story as well as great character development. It just wasn't as interesting as it should have been. It didn't hold my interest after I got past how cool it looked. I still would recommend the film, however, I just wouldn't give it as high of marks as I would have liked and that in itself is a shame because the film definitely had the potential to be something great! MovieManMenzel's final rating for "Tron: Legacy" is a 7 out of 10.
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7/10
Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise have a blast in the nonsensical "Knight and Day"
15 December 2010
"Knight and Day" tells the story of June Havens (Cameron Diaz) a woman who is just trying to get home for her sisters wedding. When June arrives to the airport, a man named Roy (Tom Cruise) bumps into her. What seems like an innocent accident turns into something more as Roy tries to keep June from boarding her flight home. When he fails from keeping June from boarding the plane is where the fun begins. While June heads to the airplane bathroom to powder her nose, we find out that the entire plane is full of armed men wanting to arrest and/or kill Roy. Roy takes out the armed men and now warns June that there was a reason he didn't want her to board the plane. Now, Roy and June must join forces and work together to protect a new invention that's so big that even the FBI wants a part of the action. A nonsensical but action packed and fun movie ensues...

Within the first 20 minutes of "Knight and Day" I knew why people hated this movie. First off, it makes very little sense and its really out there. Don't get me wrong, this is a really fun movie but don't expect to "get" it because it doesn't make any sense. The action sequences are over the top, Diaz and Cruise look like they are having a blast the entire time, and the movie is somehow interesting despite the plot making no sense. It's a brainless summer movie with some dark humor tossed into the mix. Not what you would expect from the normal Tom Cruise action flick and therefore why people didn't enjoy it that much.

While there are a lot of names in this film, Cruise and Diaz are the main stars and everyone else seems virtually unimportant. Cruise does a great job on this film with playing a wacky FBI rogue agent. He really uses his action star skills along with his comedic skills in this flick. Diaz, besides coming off as a brainless ditz, is fun to watch on screen. She really plays the clueless role in the film well and looks like she is having a ton of fun while doing it. I enjoyed watching her and Cruise because they have some really solid chemistry and know how to play off one another. The supporting cast consists of pretty solid actors although they are underused including Peter Sarsgaard and Viola Davis.

The screenplay for "Knight and Day" was written by Patrick O'Neill, who hasn't written much besides a television series called "Dead Last." The script didn't lack action nor did it lack comedy, however, it did lack common sense. This movie made no sense and I really had a ton of plot holes. If you watch the movie you will wonder how can they get all these places so fast? How can they avoid being shot so many times? How is there no one flying this plane? How does Cruise jump from car to car when they are going 75 miles an hour? Those are just a few of the questions I have with the film. I also have questions about the plot, which has to do with a high school drop out who invented a top secret energy source that is the size of a battery. Why do so many people know about this? Why is it so valuable? And there are plenty more questions but hey this truly puts the title of mindless action flick to good use.

The oddest thing about the film to me was that it was directed by James Mangold. For those who aren't familiar with the name, he is the man who directed "Walk the Line," the western remake "3:10 to Yuma," and the intelligent and underrated thriller "Identity." This movie just seemed like a odd choice for Mangold because he usually does dramas with some light action mixed in. This film was an action comedy and definitely not something Mangold has a lot of experience with. He did a fairly decent job with the film and really helped make sure Cruise and Diaz had fun with the film and looked good doing it.

At the end of the day, I wouldn't say I loved "Knight and Day" but than again I don't usually love any action comedy. It was completely nonsensical but it was a fun and enjoyable action flick. It's not your typical action movie because it mixed a bit of dark and demented humor. Its plot makes no sense and nothing about the film is serious at all. Everyone is acting goofy and looks like they are having fun working on the film. I liked it but that's because I appreciated it for what it was. People expecting the typical action film will probably not like it as much as they would like and those who want to see it for the comedy aspect alone will probably be a tad disappointed as well. I can see how this had mixed reviews and mixed audience reactions. Its not for everyone but for those who are bored with the typical action film nonsense, you may like this one. It's a fun action packed ride, that's for sure! MovieManMenzel's final rating for "Knight and Day" is a 7 out of 10.
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The Tourist (I) (2010)
6/10
"The Tourist" leaves its audience feeling a bit of jet lag
13 December 2010
In "The Tourist," Angelina Jolie stars as Elisa, a woman who has been assigned to hide the identity of her lover Alexander Pierce from the FBI and the mob. Elisa is told in a letter by Pierce that she is to board the 8:22 train to Venice and find someone who she can use to pose as him. On the train ride to Venice, Elise eyes a random American tourist named Frank (Johnny Depp), who is traveling alone as a way to forget about the death of his wife. This is where the plot thickens as Elise decides to use Frank as the perfect impostor for Pierce, who has no clue to what he is about to get himself into.

The storyline for "The Tourist" was actually based on a previous film called "Anthony Zimmer," which I never saw nor heard about before this past week. I originally thought "The Tourist" was an original film but it was in fact, a remake. I found that "The Tourist" lacked suspense and I found the story to be almost too simplistic and obvious. My fiancée Ashley, also known as my movie partner in crime, didn't find the film as obvious as I did but actually found the film lacking action. I would have to agree with her there as well. There just wasn't enough action for a film of this caliber. Also, some scenes went on too long where they could have been better if they were cut in half. On that same page, I also have to point out that the film itself was very slow moving and could have been cut down to an hour and a half to make the film flow better.

I won't deny it for a hot minute that I am a huge fan of Johnny Depp and I have seen every film the man has put out over the past 12 years or so. I think Depp is one of the biggest names in the Hollywood along with one of the most talented actors of this generation. Depp seems to be able to play a large array of roles from "Donnie Brasco" to The Mad Hatter in "Alice in Wonderland." It seems Depp can conquer all roles no matter how odd or straight laced they are. With that being said, Depp is comical in "The Tourist" and he uses his charm on the audience to really make him the most enjoyable thing about the film. The one thing Depp can't do however, is find chemistry with Angelina Jolie. Their relationship in "The Tourist" was probably one of the weakest links in the film. For some reason neither Depp or Jolie seemed to connect with one another. Maybe the idea of putting two of the most beautiful people together in one film should rely more on chemistry than $$$. I don't really know why Depp and Jolie lacked chemistry could it be because of the director? The story? Or maybe it was just simply the two actors didn't really feel that deep connection with one another on the set. I don't know why per say but the chemistry just wasn't there.

As for Jolie, she plays the typical role that she has played before in multiple films. Many will argue she adds little twists to her characters so they aren't 100% the same and I will agree with that statement. However, Jolie plays the same sexy woman of mystery who everyone is trying to kill in this film . At times, Jolie almost looked bored and uninterested in the film. She also lacked facial expressions, which I found odd. As I mentioned above, her relationship with Depp wasn't believable nor did the two have chemistry. As I said about Depp, I don't know if the characters she played lacked that special something because the script lacked or if it was just the bond Depp and Jolie had with one another. I just couldn't get over the fact that these two A-listers lacked that much on screen.

It may seem that I am really attacking "The Tourist" but the truth is I liked it but was just expecting a lot more from it. It was one of those films which, when I heard about it, I was extremely excited to see it. What I got was a film that didn't live up to the hype I created for it nor that most people had created for it. It's not a bad movie at all it's just incredibly average, which is the ultimate problem with "The Tourist." Everything from the story, the direction, and even the acting, is just average. Nothing really blows you away and that's why so many people are leaving this film disappointed. It's not that its horrible or hell even a bad film, it's just a disappointment, plain and simple.

Depp is hands down the best part of the film and without his involvement even though he lacks chemistry with Jolie, the film would probably be really really bad. His charm, subtle comedic gestures, and just the oddness of his character really saved the film from being below average. I would recommend the film but probably more as a matinée or DVD rental instead of a night showing at the local multiplex. It's a shame with the amount of talent involved the film that it couldn't breach out of average territory.

MovieManMenzel's final rating for "The Tourist" is a 6 out of 10. A decent film for Depp fans but Jolie and die-hard Depp fans will surely be slightly disappointed.
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7/10
Hathaway & Gyllenhaal give it their best shot in the uneven "Love & Other Drugs"
5 December 2010
In "Love & Other Drugs," Jake Gyllenhaal plays Jamie, a guy who really knows how to sell anything and everything including himself to various women. Jamie is the top salesman at a local electronics store when one day his boss finds out that he is sleeping with his girlfriend and then fired. With no where else to go, Jamie asks his brother Josh (Josh Gad) to help him get a job. Josh helps Jamie land the ultimate sales job at Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, where he has to use his smooth talking and charm to become the number one sales rep in Ohio. All is going well until Jamie meets Maggie (Anne Hathaway), a woman unlike any woman he has ever met before. Maggie is a strong and bold woman with a zero crap policy and can see right through Jamie's little sales man act. This turns Jamie's life into a tail spin as he learns that love may in fact be his ultimate drug...

First of all, let me tell everyone reading this review that "Love & Other Drugs" is a very hard R, which totally shocked me. I wasn't expecting a sex scene about every 20 minutes but there was at least for the first hour and 20 minutes of the film. With that being said, that becomes my first issue with the film. The movie had too much sex and I know that sounds odd coming from a guy. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed seeing Anne Hathaway's beautiful and amazing naked body but after a while it almost felt like a cheap exploit. I enjoy films that use sex scenes wisely because this film definitely needed sex to work but it went over the top and almost felt like a filler at times.

On that same topic, I am growing tired of the whole "Judd Apatow" effect in film, which are sex comedies with heart. Nowadays, a lot of chick flicks have turned into a raunchy comedy for the first hour of the film and then turn into this heartfelt love story by the end. Before "Love & Other Drugs," I saw two other trailers using this same "effect" in their storyline and I have seen them many times before as well. I think what is happening now is that Hollywood is trying to manipulate males and females by selling them these raunchy chick flicks and putting a hot male and a hot female in the lead. This seems to be a way to get guys to want to see a chick flick. The problem is that in my opinion very few movies are able to achieve this without manipulating it's audience and drawing in on being unbelievable.

I know it sounds like I am beating up "Love & Other Drugs" because I am criticizing it but truth be told I did enjoy it. Its definitely far call from being a perfect film but Hathaway and Gyllenhaal are truly great in the film and make this film worth watching. The odd thing, however, is that even with the film trying way too hard to balance two genres it works for the most part but that's only because of it's leads. Hathaway has always been in my book an underrated and beautiful actress. She's definitely not your normal Hollywood Scarlet but you know what, that's what makes her so good at what she does. She seems like a real every day kind of woman and this role fit her personality well, not to mention her chemistry with Gyllenhaal was dead on. I also really liked Gyllenhaal in the film as well. He did a good job with the material at hand and played the smooth talking sales guy like a pro. As I said, the two leads are really what helped the film succeed because without them this movie would have been a huge mess.

"Love & Other Drugs" is loosely based on a book called "Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman" and it took three people to write the screenplay for the film. The script is where the film's weakness truly lies. The mixing of sex comedy and romantic drama is a hard sell with the film. Then you add in the typical movie clichés like the fat annoying funny guy (Jonah Hill, anyone), the good looking and smooth talking lead who can get any woman he pleases, and then of course, the notorious "sick girl," just to name a few of the many clichés used in the film. On top of these flaws, the film's script seems almost unbalanced throwing in over the top nudity and sex scenes, which were definitely nice to look at but extremely uncalled for. There are also several plot holes and things that don't really add up in the film.

In the end, "Love & Other Drugs" was one of the oddest films for me to sit through in recent years because I liked it and didn't like it at the same time. What I didn't like was the over the top sex scenes along with the raunchiness of the film, the overabundance of film clichés, and how unbalanced the film was, which made it hard to figure out whether it wanted to be a sex comedy or a romantic drama and that annoyed me. I know from the majority of my review, it sounds like I didn't like the film but I actually did at times. Its one of those films I had a lot to say about it afterwords. I enjoyed the film's conclusion, I enjoyed the chemistry and performances by Hathaway and Gyllenhaal, and I even somewhat enjoyed the story even though it was extremely clichéd. Overall, I would still recommend this film because it was definitely an adult geared romantic film with great performances by the two leads.

MovieManMenzel's final rating for "Love & Other Drugs" is a 6 out of 10.
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8/10
David Yates finally "gets" Harry Potter in the beginning of the final chapter.
23 November 2010
I don't know how other film lovers and Harry Potter fans feel but I for one have had mixed experiences with these films. The first two films were good, the third and fourth were the best in the series, the fifth was a disaster, and the sixth was OK. The beloved wizard named "Harry Potter" has definitely had a bumpy road in his transition from novel to screen in my opinion. With that being said, the end is near folks and part one of the final chapter of "Harry Potter" has arrived in theaters. That's right for those of you living under a rock, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One" is in theaters now. I was a bit leery seeing the film after how disappointed I have been since David Yates took over the franchise but like any dedicated fan boy, I walked into the theater hoping for the best.

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One" is the beginning of the end of one of the most popular and beloved book/film franchises in history. In the seventh entry in the film series, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) along with his two best friends Hermione (Emma Watson) and Rupert Grint have to fight time and evil as they discover that the three of them have to track down and destroy the missing Horcruxes. Along the way, the three friends learn about the dark secrets of Dumbledore as well as the three most powerful objects in the wizarding world known as the Deathly Hallows. Suspense ensues..

As I said above, I am a pretty loyal fan to the franchise as I have seen all the films and read the books. I enjoyed the film franchise a lot until David Yates took over as director. When I attended the midnight showing of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" I was extremely disappointed. I knew going into the film that they left the franchise in the hands of an amateur filmmaker and the end result was not a good experience at all. When I saw the sixth film, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" was being made my Yates, I actually cringed. I had a slightly better experience with the sixth film although I still felt Yates really didn't really give the book much justice. The whole ending of the film was just terrible and wasn't even remotely dramatic. Yates destroyed a huge moment in the "Harry Potter" legacy with that ending.

Now moving on to the seventh film, David Yates actually made "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One" into one one the best films in the franchise. Let me tell you that I was shocked to come out of the film saying wow this is a great entry in the franchise but it truly was. Yates must have really studied the last book when he made the film. Yates added some stuff to the film that was not in the book and was unnecessary but as a whole the film was very loyal to the book. Yates finally captured the magic that is "Harry Potter." I guess the old saying, third times the charm, applies to this film.

Yates direction was perfectly timed and placed, unlike the previous two entry the film didn't suffer from any real boring spots. This one was shot much better and the pace was on the ball. Yates captured the actors and actually made them seem mature and realistic without coming off as forced. In the previous entries, I remember laughing at Harry when he started yelling but in this film he was more convincing and that's due to the better direction by Yates.

At this point, I think its unnecessary to comment on the acting in the film because all the same characters have been playing the same roles. I will say that all of the actors in the film have definitely matured in their roles. Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson have these roles down to near perfection at this point. I liked how good Grint was in the film. His acting skills have definitely improved as the franchise went on. All the acting is solid in this one. I can't even complain about that!

In the end, would I classify "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One" the best film in the franchise? No, because I still feel "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" holds that honor. It's is however, the second best film in the franchise and "HPATDHP2" does have the potential to being the best film in the franchise. My faith in Harry Potter has been restored and that says a lot considering I was ready to toss the towel in on the franchise, if this film wasn't good but Yates restored my faith. This was a great film even if your not a Harry Potter fan. The pacing, the acting, the story, and the suspense is all very well done with this entry. I think HP fans will be in love with the film and it is not surprise to me that this is the biggest money making film in the franchise. If you haven't already, get to the local theater and check this entry out as you wont be disappointed! MovieManMenzel's final rating for "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One" is a solid 8 out of 10. A terrific beginning to the end of one of the most beloved book and film series in history!
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Catfish (2010)
8/10
"Catfish" is an thought provoking look at the relationship between the internet and our society today.
18 November 2010
One of the biggest hush hush and most talked about films from Sundance this year was "Catfish." Every article I read about this film didn't say much about the plot other than a guy who meets a family from the internet. The truth is "Catfish" tells the true life story of Nev Schulman, a regular guy who like all of us enjoys chatting and mingling with people online through various social networks such as Facebook. One day, Ariel Schulman, Nev's brother decides to document Nev's relationship between him and this online family he has been talking to from Ishpeming, Michigan. What Ariel and Nev soon unravel is not only fascination but a rather interesting look at the relationship between people today and the internet.

I know you guys and gals expected me to give away the film in the above paragraph but the truth is I can't do that. This film is a great watch and I recommend anyone who uses a social network to check this out. While the film is marketed as a thriller/horror film, I will warn you now, it is NOT! The film will haunt you and stick with you but that's not because of the horror behind it. The truth is this film really says a lot about our society today and tells the dark side of human nature. Its an interesting film that very few will probably appreciate when all is said in done.

"Catfish" is shot as a documentary style and while this alone will make most people avoid it, I would argue to give it a shot. Even though it is documentary style it's intriguing and keeps you interested. You won't be bored like I was in "Paranormal Activity" because the story is fascinating and isn't fake. Go ahead take some time and Google this story after you watch the film. It's all real, its haunting, and it's even a bit depressing and sad. The way the film is shot basically adds to the emotional feel of the film, if this was actually shot with real film cameras, it wouldn't work as well in my opinion.

I have read a lot about this film and most people have given it high marks. Does the film live up to all these high marks? Almost but it is a little over hyped in my eyes. While I appreciate critics and avid film buffs viewpoints, I do want to know why very few haven't questioned some aspects of the film like the editing. Obviously, the film was edited to make it more interesting and suspenseful but I wonder how much of the film was edited to make us feel a certain way towards the characters, not to mention if any of it was edited to stretch the truth. I guess at the end of the day it doesn't mean much because it is a film but I am a smart movie addict and I question things like this. I would say that's my only gripe with the film.

At the end of the day, "Catfish" is a cautious tale of people and today's technology. Its misleading marketing probably helped the film make more money than it would have without it but it's nothing like the trailers lead you to believe. It's not a horror or thriller but rather an in-depth look at social networks and the relationships people make on those sites. Those who enjoy thought provoking films that really stick in your mind when all is said and done should check this one out. This is not a movie for everyone but I think most people who are familiar with the internet or social networking will appreciate the story here. Its a film that really makes you think and makes you question humanity but at the same time almost makes you feel bad for everyone involved. It's really hard to explain without giving anything away. For independent film lovers, this is a must see. For everyone else, I think it will be hit or miss depending on how much you enjoy documentary style films. I personally appreciated the story and truly think its an important film for today's generation to see. Check it out!

MovieManMenzel's final rating for "Catfish" is a solid 8 out of 10. On final note, if you want to know where the title came from? Well that is explained at the end of the movie. Enjoy!
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7/10
The final chapter ends on a high note
29 October 2010
"Saw 3D" picks up right where "Saw VI" leaves off. Yes, "Saw VI" the one no one saw (no pun intended) because they were watching the first entry to a new horror franchise that will be milked into at least four or five movies called "Paranormal Activity." The basic plot of "Saw 3D" focuses on Jigsaw survivor Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flanery) who has become a self help guru to help those who have been victims of Jigsaw's games. It's only a matter of time though before Bobby's dark secrets are revealed and a new series of games begin...cue "Saw" music.

Let me first say this, I actually felt that "Saw VI" was the best film since the original. It's truly a shame that no one really went to see that chapter. It seems that the movie going audience doesn't like a lot of sequels especially in horror and I don't get why Hollywood doesn't it at this point. Most people like first to third film in a franchise and usually by the third film the audience starts losing interest. Want proof? Look at the majority of horror franchises including "Nightmare on Elm Street," "Friday the 13," and "Child's Play." The films started tanking after the fourth entry. This is the same thing that happened with "Saw" as a series. People got tired of every Halloween another one of this films hitting the theaters and it just felt very repetitive so they lost interest.

"Saw 3D" is actually a really good ending to the franchise. Sure some will say the 3D is a cheap way to lure people back to the theaters to see the film but hey so what? It's Hollywood and they always do it to us. The deaths in "Saw 3D" were probably some of the most violent and over the top death scenes out of every film in the franchise. I am sure that is done for the 3D effect and to make the audience feel more apart of the action so to speak. This factor seems to be the reason for the negative reviews in the film and I have to say what are you expecting its "Saw" and most people watch them for the death scenes so of course they are going to make sure those are the most elaborate.

The acting in the film is typical just like the rest of the series. Some of the acting is really good and some is really bad. I look at it this way, for a horror movie the acting lives up to it's normal standards and some roles are actually above and beyond the normal horror movie standards. Some of the best acting highlights in the film were Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Sean Patrick Flanery and of course Cary Elwes. The low acting point would have be Chad Donella and a few other other smaller roles in the film. As I said, for a horror film this film has the lackluster acting with a few standout performances.

My favor factor about the "Saw" franchise is the storyline and how they always tie things together at the end of the film. Sure the traps are cool but how they make all seven films to make sense is what truly intrigues me. When you go see "Saw 3D" you will probably ask yourself how the hell can this franchise end when you watch it. Well that's the best part of the film to me. The last 10 minutes where everything comes together is what really makes "Saw 3D" a satisfying end to the franchise. I will say this right now for those who haven't watched all films, meaning from one to six, you MUST see all of them before you see this movie. It will not make sense if you don't know all the previous films.

I must give both writers Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton some credit here. These guys wrote the last couple of films in the series and they tied all the films together very nicely. Sure the basic premise is simple and has been since the first film but the tying the films all together takes some credit. I also have to say Kevin Greutert who directed this film and part six, did a great job as well. He really made the deaths in this film gruesome and made people in the audience squirm. I went to see the film with my fiancée and her two friends and they were all screaming and squirming in their seats! In the end, "Saw 3D" is the most convoluted and over the top film of the bunch but you know what it worked. The 3D effect although it was a gimmicky way to sell the film really worked to make it's audience feel more apart of the film. The highlight however is the way the entire franchise comes together in the end. While it's not the most amazing ending ever, it's a great ending especially for a horror franchise. "Saw 3D" is not my favorite film in the series and I would say its probably third in line after the original and the sixth film but it's definitely a satisfying end to a series. It works especially well if your like me and have watched all the previous films and enjoyed how the stories all flowed together. If your a fan of the series, I don't think "Saw 3D" will disappoint.

MovieManMenzel's rating for "Saw 3D" is a 7 out of 10. It's a solid ending to what I would say is one of the best horror/suspense series in recent years.
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