182: The Hurt Locker

The Hurt Locker (R) - 2009 - Runtime: 131 minutes
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty
Director: Kathryn Bigelow

This movie has been getting a lot of buzz lately and I've already made up my mind that I wanted to check this out as soon as I could. If you haven't seen the trailer, I'd advise you to go check it out. To say this is one of the best war movies in quite a while is true, but I also think it's one of the best movies this year.

The movie doesn't come on slow, right from the beginning you're thrust into the action - the suspense and thrill of searching and diffusing bombs in the war-torn ghettos of Baghdad. And once you're done with that scene, you're thrust into more and more challenging and thrilling sequences of terror and awe. The scene that's depicted on the poster to the left would seem like the most threatening situation that these soldiers find themselves in, but it gets far worse for them.

And at the head of this bomb unit is Will James, a man who lives for the thrill and risk involved in his particular job overseas. Increasingly frustrating and charming throughout the movie, he keeps putting himself and subsequently his squad in dire straits. Jeremy Renner, whom I've been enjoying on the now-defunct TV show The Unusuals, plays this character so well - he's both compelling to watch and also so destructive with the lives that come in contact with him. He's driven by this rush and love for doing what he does and he eventually comes to realize how unstable he is. The movie opens with a quote from Chris Hedges: "The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug."

And this movie is a drug: it's both fascinating and repelling; a tribute to the brave men and women fighting, voluntarily, for their country, but also a bit of a critique about this particular war - what it's doing to our soldiers psychologically. And it doesn't take political sides, either. Rather it focuses on the daily lives of this particular unit. All the characters are fully fleshed out and have complete transitions throughout the course of the movie. They're all played wonderfully and you'll be impressed by the small roles played by some big names: Ralph Fiennes, Guy Pearce, David Morse. They are a good supporting cast that doesn't get in the way of the main characters or the scenes in which they're involved. Particularly the desert scene with Ralph Fiennes was simply intense and completely enthralling. You don't want to blink one second during the whole scene, much like the soldiers who had to keep an eye open during the skirmish all day to check for the snipers that were picking them off.

This is by far the best movie based on the Iraq war yet and I would also say the best movie this year. I was completely ready to be impressed, but the movie delivered above and beyond. It's near perfect and if this movie is playing near you, you need to check it out!

Rating: See It!

182: Funny People

Funny People (R) - 2009 - Runtime: 146 minutes
Starring: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann, Eric Bana
Director: Judd Apatow

I've been a fan of anything Apatow since Freaks & Geeks. I give credit to my brother for lending me the show during college and I've since been hooked on Seth Rogen, Jason Segal and the rest of the crew. So to say I was super stoked to see this movie is a bit of an understatement. I was even more excited to get to go to a free press screening on Thursday night for the movie.

Now all you've probably been hearing is how "dark" the subject matter is and how incredibly depressing and sad the tone of the movie is. But the dude has cancer (no big deal, right? I'm only missing three ribs...) and it's only a catalyst for more dick jokes and really just a reason for the plot to move forward. It sounds cheap, but it works. Don't get me wrong - there is a lot of heart and soul to Apatow's work and there are some touching scenes between Sandler and Leslie Mann who plays his ex-girlfriend. I just think reviews might be blowing the whole cancer plot out of proportion.

Adam Sandler plays pretty much himself - although I don't truly know how much of a jerk he is in real life. But his character, George Simmons, is truly a dick. He doesn't care too much about anybody and he's extremely unlikable throughout the first half of the movie - even after he finds out he might die any day. Despite all that, he is funny - as the movie implies - and all the jokes in his stand-up routines work. And you eventually find yourself wanting to root for George, this unlikable schlub whose managed to isolate himself from any form of love and care after he cheated on his girlfriend 12 some years ago.

The first half of the movie is all about Seth Rogen's character, Ira, who stumbles into the job of writing material for George. This is a bit of a different character for Rogen - he's not playing some slacker still trying to relive his high school and college days. Rather, he's a hard-working nerd who just wants to write. In getting the writing gig, he soon becomes more than just an assistant to George; a confidant that is entrusted with George's secret illness and later, a good friend.

This movie was hilarious - I was laughing a lot out loud and really enjoying all the banter between Sandler and Rogen. They're good together and it really is fun to see them trade jokes and work on them. I don't know why people think this movie is dark, because it's not. There are some serious parts, but they don't get in the way of all the fun being had in the movie. And the cameos are just wonderful - there are a ton of them but they don't overstay their welcome. Also, Eric Bana is on a role lately. He completely changed himself for Star Trek and now he's showing his comedic side. He's very funny as an Australian douchebag who's always trying to make sure his life is in feng shui. And in August he'll be trying to win the ladies over by starring in The Time Traveler's Wife (that trailer gets me every time). Kudos, Nero, kudos.

If you like anything Apatow has done, you won't be disappointed in Funny People. One of the funniest movies this year!

Rating: See It!

182: The English Patient

The English Patient (R) - 1996 - Runtime: 162 minutes
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Kristen Scott Thomas, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe, Colin Firth
Director: Anthony Minghella

The only vivid thing I remember from the trailers when the movie came out was Ralph Fiennes running from a rogue plane in the desert. Evokes memories of North by Northwest, for sure (which is the only part of the movie I've seen, I think it's on my Classic list...so we'll get to that). I always wanted to rent it simply because I wanted to know what that scene was all about. I thought it was a good thriller along with adventure and romance (how naive, young ck).

Well, late Tuesday night I could not fall asleep and lo and behold, The English Patient was on one of the movie channels! Little did I know the movie was over two-and-a-half hours! Oh well, I thought I would record it and fall asleep.

But the movie sucked me in. A tale of love and betrayal - Ralph Fiennes plays Almásy, a map maker who falls in love with his colleague's wife and has an affair. The movie's told through flashbacks as he recounts his story to a few characters during the end of World War II. His story begins before the war and it's a very tragic and romantic tale. I will admit, I am a sucker for these movies and I was a little worried when we see the end of his tale as the very first scene. The first scene is him flying a plane through the desert and he gets shot down by the enemy. He's badly burned and ends up in the French-Canadian army beds. He's on his deathbed and finds someone to share his story, a nurse who can't get over her touch of death - she sees herself as cursed because everyone ends up dead around her.

But the story finds itself after half an hour and I found myself wanting to know how the hell did he get on that plane and why was the woman in it passed out. So in a sense, this is an adventure, although one for the audience. It's a great love story and out of all the nominees for best picture in 1996, I would want to watch this movie again (admittedly, I've only seen Jerry Maguire and Fargo - Shine and Secrets & Lies never really crossed into my radar). There's also a b-story (as those in the business would call it) involving the nurse (Juliette Binoche) and her love interest (a very, very long-haired, pre-Sayid Naveen Andrews), a sapper (basically a bomb diffuser). Their story was interesting enough for me to enjoy, but I really could care less about it, I wanted to get to more hot sex scenes with Fiennes and Thomas (spoiler: nudity! hooray!) - which is really what this movie's about, obviously.

But all kidding aside, if you haven't seen this movie and really like epic, sweeping, romantic movies like The Painted Veil, Atonement or (gasp!) Titanic, The English Patient is right up your alley.

Rating: Rent It!

182: Obsessed

Obsessed (PG-13) - 2009 - Runtime: 108 minutes
Starring: Idris Elba,
Beyoncé Knowles, Ali Larter
Director: Steve Shill

Oh boy. I just want to lay it out there: I really don't like Beyoncé. At all. I will admit I like her "Crazy in Love" song, but I like The Magic Numbers' cover even better. So I was looking forward to a huge cheese fest and the much talked about cat fight between her and Ali Larter. I knew this wasn't going to be a good movie, but sometimes bad movies are so bad they become good. Unfortunately, this movie went full circle and was just plain awful.

First of all Beyoncé cannot act. She's trying really hard in this movie and it's evident. Once you can get past all the forced smiles and rehearsed, no-emotion deliveries, you're left with a horrible plot. It makes it much worse when Idris Elba (who I really enjoyed in The Office despite hating his character so much) and Ali Larter give decent, if not good performances. It's like comparing a year-old crusty jar of mayo to a fresh can of Miracle Whip. You know both aren't that good, but at least with the Whip you know that shit ain't ever going to get stale.

But even if the stenchy, antiquated mayo was not in this movie, this would still be something to avoid. I noticed throughout the whole movie, every time there's a scene involving the office, we get a shot of downtown LA (at least I think it's LA). Even in between office scenes, there's outside shots of the glorious, sleek-looking towers of downtown LA. It's damn near ridiculous. Part of this movie wants to be stylish and slick, but it just comes off as filler and cheap transitions.

And I just don't buy some of the stuff that happens in the movie. Like some corporate executive VP is going to just have a friendly, non-flirtatious relationship talk with his temporary secretary? Puh-lease! And not even mention any impropriety to his bosses, colleagues, even his wife? It will just go away after she increasingly shows her Glenn Close crazy bitch personality? And then once that vapid jar of mayo finds out, they're going to just separate after three faithful years of marriage? It's just so contrived and dull. And I never actually once thought they were in any real danger. Now if I had seen Ali Larter praying in front of a shrine with jars of blood and sharpening a machete, maybe then I might feel a little bit of terror. But alas, no such luck - we're left with her very slowly walking down hallways. I'm...so...startled!

But, wait you say, there's that cat fight that looks so delicious at the end! That's good right? Well, if you like your cat fights poorly choreographed and filled with as much suspense as a scrabble tournament with your grandma, then yes, it is something to look forward to. But first of all, they're fully clothed. I know this is a PG-13 movie, but c'mon! You have two hot bods (even though that mayo may be putrid, the jar is in top shape) going at it - at least find the undecency to rip each other's clothes off and wrestle half-naked in the attic! Oh yeah, did I mention it mainly takes place in the attic? Talk about hitting the snooze button.

This one comes out on DVD next Tuesday and if you have any sense, avoid it. Run toward the older section and pick up The Crush - at least you get a good cheese fest; Silverstone is a lot like Baconaise.

Rating: Avoid Like the Plague

182: Bart Got a Room

Bart Got a Room (R) - 2009 - Runtime: 80 minutes
Starring: Steven J. Kaplan, Alia Shawkat, Cheryl Hines and William H. Macy
Director: Brian Hecker

I forgot where I had seen the trailer for this movie, but I was very intrigued and honestly, I laughed. So I was excited when we got the movie in last week, but didn't get a chance to check it out until Monday.

The movie's a teen comedy, but a fairly smart and small one. By small, I mean it doesn't try to impose big thoughts and epic, life-changing moments onto the audience. The movie is solely about one kid trying to get a date for the prom. The title of the movie comes from the fact that even Bart, the biggest geek in the school, got a hotel room to hook up with his prom date. And poor Danny is still trying to find a date. In fact, the movie's title becomes a catalyst for a lot of the plot to develop. For example, when Danny tells his mom that Bart got a room after she refused him his own, his mom makes it her priority to get one for him.

The movie is fairly straightforward and at times, predictable, but that doesn't stop it from being very enjoyable. It's fun to watch what will happen to Danny and the mess he gets himself into. Steven Kaplan plays him well, a Jewish version of Michael Cera's awkward teenager (speaking of which, Alia Shawkat - of Arrested Development fame - plays his best friend). But the man who steals every scene is definitely William H. Macy. He plays his recently divorced dad who's trying to relive his bachelor years. They have a somewhat strange relationship, but it's one that Danny uses in order to seek out his own relationship advice - which is something he shouldn't do when his Dad is having his own trouble finding a nice lady.

In the end, the movie has a good naturedness vibe and comes off grounded in reality enough to really be engaged with the characters. Make no mistake, it's a funny movie but one with a bit of a message. But you won't know the eighty minutes has gone by, that's for sure.

Rating: Rent It!


182: Casablanca

Casablanca (PG) - 1942 - Runtime: 102 minutes
Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman
Director: Michael Curtiz

Apparently, Roger Ebert hasn't heard of a negative review of this film. Well, let me be the first then!

Okay, just joking. This was a good film and it's deserving of all the accolades and love it has been given over the years. As much as the movie is for its time, it is also a timeless movie (huh? Did I just blow your mind?). Obviously there are some elements to this movie that haven't aged well (besides "As Time Goes By" the music was fairly borrrr-ing and some of the special effects were extremely unrealistic compared to today's standard - I need some blood in this movie, please!). But these are nit picky issues as they mainly deal with when the movie was made, rather than the movie itself.

So, for the uninitiated, Casablanca is set during World War II and Rick (Bogart), oozing a mysterious allure and confidence like no other, runs a nightclub in Casablanca, Morocco. Casablanca is a place where lots of refugees from the war end up and just hope they can make it to America someday. Things get hairy for Rick when he's entrusted with some letters of transit by a shady character (wonderfully played by Peter Lorre). These letters make it possible for anyone to travel throughout Europe without question and leave for America. And then walks in an old flame and love of Rick's: Ilsa (Bergman) who's trying to safely get to America with her fugitive husband. Cue "As Time Goes By."

The movie has a lot going for it: a love story, suspense and a healthy dose of comedy. Obviously the trademark of this movie is all the wonderful lines and witty dialogue between the characters. I don't think we'll ever see a movie again where six lines will fall in AFI's top 100 movie quotes of all time. A lot of credit is due to the writers but also the actors who delivered them. The movie has a good message and it's (surprisingly) dense when it comes to issues. Does Rick save the girl for himself or let her go? At the end of the movie, every character has to sacrifice something (especially the German commander, ouch!- good death scene, BTW Conrad Veidt).

This is a classic film that has really stood the test of time. I don't think I loved the movie like some do, but I really enjoyed it and I loved the dialogue - those quotes always put a smile on my face. Even the lesser known ones, like "When it comes to women, you're a true democrat." It's a classic that should be a staple in any movie lover's collection.

Rating: Buy It!


182: Sweet Home Alabama

Sweet Home Alabama (PG-13) - 2002 - Runtime: 108 minutes
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Josh Lucas, Patrick Dempsey
Director: Andy Tennant

There are about a dozen or so movies in my collection at home that I haven't watched. Mostly they're from Maggie, and Sweet Home Alabama is one of them. This was a movie I always wanted to watch but never got around to it. I thought I was pretty brave watching another romantic comedy in the same day. So when Maggie asked if I wanted to see it, I hesitated a bit, but finally decided to tackle this movie. I was at least hoping I could get The Ugly Truth's bad taste out of my mouth.

Reese Witherspoon (it's just such a good name to say and write) is Melanie, a fashion designer who has it all: the sexiest man alive (played by a very sexy Patrick Dempsey who doesn't have to stretch too much for this role - I mean that in a good way, ladies!) and a clothing line on the verge of success. But she does have skeletons in her closet: namely her first love whom she married right out of high school (played by another sexy playboy, Josh Lucas). A man whom she hasn't seen in seven years and has yet to get a divorce from. You can see the problems she's faced with when McDreamy proposes. So she has to go to Alabama - the sweet, sweet home that it is - to sort out the mess she left. And hijinks ensue.

While the movie has it's moments, it wasn't as special as I thought it might turn out to be. Maybe I just don't enjoy movies where a relationship has already been established. I like to learn how they fell in love, not how they reconnected. But there are some bright moments, mainly coming from Ethan Embry, who I think has gotten the shaft as an actor that came to mild stardom in the 90s (Can't Hardly Wait is probably my favorite teen comedy). There are some funny moments but some of them were either ruined by obnoxious stereotypes or Melanie being such a cantakerous bitch in the scene. Although there was a joke in the movie that had one of Maggie's friends in stitches. Near the end of the movie, we see a plane in the background with "Mo' Fishin" painted on the side. And one of Melanie's New York friends quips "Do we know...Mo?" And literally half a minute passes before Maggie's friend busts out laughing (quite loudly) in the theater. The joke worked for her, it just took some time for it to really sink in.

But the main problem in the movie is the south. Melanie absolutely hates the south from whence she came. And it shows because she talks about it constantly. Most of the people and places she runs into end up being stereotypically redneckish (although save a few, like Ethan Embry's character and Melanie's parents). The movie tries too hard to show the audience "Hey this is the South! Things are a bit different down here! They move a bit slower than your fancy pants New York Citay!" and it becomes too distracting.

About halfway through the movie I noticed I hadn't actually heard the song "Sweet Home Alabama" but thankfully, it's there. Just not by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Maybe they thought they would be misrepresented in the movie? Or the people in charge of securing licensing were too lazy? Either way, I was just a tad bit disappointed the original song wasn't in there. Man, I'm such a jerk, nitpicking on something like this. But I mean, c'mon! Amiright?

Although it's an enjoyable movie, I ultimately didn't get a strong connection with the lead characters enough to really like the movie. If Witherspoon (once again, great name) ever reads this, I hope she has her Oscar handy to wipe away her tears.

Rating: Catch it on TV!

182: The Ugly Truth

The Ugly Truth
(R) - 2009 - Runtime: 97 minutes
Starring: Katherine Heigl, Gerard Butler
Director: Robert Luketic

I'm not going to lie, I like a good romantic comedy. Sometimes they just hit the spot. I'm a fan of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and I really enjoyed The Proposal. So I actually was looking forward to another good rom-com (as the kids call it) because the trailer looked promising.

But what I wanted to see and what ended up in the theaters were two completely different movies. Don't be fooled by the R rating or Gerard Butler interviews, this movie is a by-the-book romantic comedy. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with this, as long as there's three important factors in the movie:

1. Good chemistry. A romantic comedy will fall flat if there's no sizzle between the two romantic leads and with the audience.
2. Comedy. If the jokes are few and far between or they fail to incite any chuckles, you end up feeling swindled.
3. Predictable. Don't try to "mix it up" or change the formula because it never works. You'll end up either pissing the audience off or confusing them.

Let's start with number one. Heigl and Butler play two polar opposites who end up having to work together on a daily talk show. Butler brings a high-energy, maniacal presence to his character: a womanizing, crude (although secretly he's a good guy who got burned too many times by too many women) public access star on the brink of humongous popularity. Heigl is the TV producer in charge of dealing with him. He's put to the test when he teaches Heigl how to snare in the right man by being a complete contradiction of who she really is. And for the most part, I believed they were falling for each other, but I wasn't completely convinced they ever shared a true connection in the movie. And to be quite honest, Heigl doesn't really make you want to fall in love with her, her character is quite the bitch.

On to number two. This movie has some funny moments, but there's very few of them. I don't think I laughed out loud more than a few times. And that's what bummed me out the most. I thought I really would laugh out loud a lot. There's just not a lot of jokes or funny situations. It's like the writers felt too rushed to move on to the next part of the chain of events that lead to the climactic "I love you" moment. Which leads me to number three.

This is what the film does right. It's predictable and you already know what's going to happen. Which is not bad, but since the chemistry isn't quite there and the jokes aren't funny, you end up watching a pretty boring romantic story that never quite makes you feel all fuzzy inside like any good romantic comedy should do.

It's too bad it ended up like this, because it is an R-rated movie and the only reason it's R is because of a couple of f-bombs and the word cock (in a sexual context). If the people involved would have thrown in some nudity or a steamy sex scene and more of Butler's character being crude (not the watered-down scenes that end up in the movie, either), this could have been well worth the money. If you're going to get an R from the MPAA, why not throw in as much crazy shit as you can? It would make it more entertaining and build some good buzz. Instead, the movie seems like a half-hearted attempt at reaching the elusize male-going audience.

Rating: Not Worth Paying For

182: Hotel Rwanda

Hotel Rwanda (PG-13) - 2004 - Runtime: 121 minutes
Starring: Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo, Nick Nolte
Director: Terry George

This movie had been sitting in my Blockbuster queue for quite some time and it finally arrived (after watching a great TV show called Skins). This movie became of one of those movies. You know, where someone recommends it and you think about watching it but never get around to it. And then another person recommends it and another until you're so sick of hearing about how great this movie is that you've decided that you don't want to see it anymore. That's Hotel Rwanda for me. But I put in my queue because I've heard nothing but great things and I almost feel obligated to watch it simply because it might enlighten me on things I would otherwise be oblivious to.

The movie, if you don't already know, tells the tale of one man who decides to open up his hotel doors to refugees from one of the worst genocides in the past 20 years. It's a very moving story and full of suspense and lots of conflict. Don Cheadle was nominated for an Academy Award and so was Sophie Okoneda, who plays his wife. These were great performances by both.

It's a good movie and is perfect for understanding more about Africa and some of the problems happening over there. I learned a lot about what happened and how (which is too detailed for a review) and that some of the same things are happening right now in Darfur. This was an ethnic civil war that took place and a genocide of most likely a million people. And the western world pretty much ignored the events that took place (in 1998, Clinton offered a semi-apology to Rwanda for this fact).

I don't think I would watch the movie again simply because it's long and a downer. That sounds selfish, but I do believe this movie is important to watch because of it's powerful message. I imagine this movie might make it into high school classes someday.

Rating: Rent It!


182: Bullitt

Bullitt (PG) - 1968 - Runtime: 114 minutes
Starring: Steve McQueen, Robert Vaughn, Jacqueline Bissett
Director: Peter Yates

I have a really hard time with movies that were made before the 80s. I don't know if it's the style of the movies, the music or some other factor that prevents me from truly enjoying older movies, but I just can't fall in love with movies from before my time. I guess I grew up on the modern movie, the blockbuster. Don't get me wrong, there's some older movies I absolutely enjoy, 12 Angry Men and Double Indemnity to name just a few. So I watched Bullitt, a suggested movie from someone, with this in mind, trying to keep myself open to enjoy it.

The back of the box boasts that Bullitt "features one of cinema history's most memorable car chases." So I was excited, figuring I was in for a pretty good action flick (it was in the action section at Blockbuster). However, I soon realized this was a slow, slow boiler of a movie. There really isn't any action save for the car chase scene. Which is absolutely one of the better car chase scenes I've ever seen. Mainly because it's so visceral and real - the angles of the camera, the noise of the gear shift and the roller coaster ride of San Francisco's streets - all make for a very entertaining and believable car chase. I was amused that he was chasing two old dudes - the driver of the assassin's car looked like my grandfather when he was 60.

As for the plot, it's fairly straight-forward: Bullitt (yes, that's his name in the movie) is charged with protecting a key witness for a huge organized crime trial. Why he's in San Francisco when the trial is set in Chicago? Don't know, I guess San Fran is secluded and they probably thought the gays may scare off any would-be assassins. Not so, by the end of the night the witness has been shot and Bullitt is determined to find the hitmen. And from there things get...very...slow.

Bullitt himself has very few lines in the movie. He speaks with his gun and his eyes. Oh, those eyes. If you counted how many minutes McQueen just stares (looking a bit dead behind the eyes), you'd have half the movie right there. That's the main problem with the movie (much like, as Maggie pointed out, MTV's The Hills - a show filled with long stares and dramatic pauses): there's just too many unnecessarily long shots. Getting in and out of cars takes a full half minute, there's a shot of an airplane pulling up to the terminal that lasts about a minute. And Bullitt seems to be comtemplating his situation way too much. It was so jarring at times. There's a particular scene in which Bullitt is chasing the hitman through the hospital. He's walking into a room without even having his gun out and ready. Either that takes balls (and we're supposed to believe Bullitt has some huge cajones and possibly a stick up his ass), or he's incredibly stupid or someone just forgot to give McQueen stage directions. But I can't help feel that Jack Bauer still holds the crown for the ballsiest badass on screen (I've said balls a lot in this review, haven't I? And in different languages!).

As for the good parts, the aforementioned car chase is awesome. And the cinematography - mainly the camera angles, are really cool. But that's about it, I really kept waiting for McQueen to unleash the beast and start kicking some ass, but we just get this sappy sidestory with his girlfriend about how he's so disattached from the real world. He can't switch off, as Nick Angel would say. I wish I could say the same about this movie. Zing!

Rating: Not Worth Paying For


182: The Great Buck Howard

The Great Buck Howard (PG) - 2009 - Runtime: 90 minutes
Starring: John Malkovich, Colin Hanks, Emily Blunt
Director: Sean McGinly

John Malkovich certainly knows how to entertain. And lately he seems to be channeling his comedic talent with great success. He was perfectly cast as the narcissistic and hapless ex-CIA agent in Burn After Reading, who seemingly gets (metaphorically) kicked in the balls by life time after time. And now he's playing another ego-centric bonafide weirdo in The Great Buck Howard. Although the movie has a much more lighter and approachable tone than the Coen brothers' latest.

The movie is narrated by Troy (Colin Hanks), a law school dropout who's trying to figure out his life and some such nonsense. He somehow stumbles into the job of being road manager to a past his prime mentalist (not a magician, Buck gave that up at age five) who puts on shows to half packed theaters. Buck Howard is looking for a comeback and Troy is there to witness it all.

The movie's a fun ride and if you don't enjoy the zaniness of it all, then you have no soul. Buck Howard, in all his cheesiness and cornball glory, still has a bit of magic left in his performance. And the movie captures that perfectly. It's easy to get caught up in wondering, like Troy, whether this is an act or is it real. Nothing's ever revealed and there's an air of enchantment about the movie that makes you want to believe in Howard, much like his fans.

Malkovich plays the character perfectly. He has this goofish charm when he yells out "I love this TOWN!!!" to his hosts and shakes their hands so roughly they look like they went into a seizure. You also find yourself wondering how a mentalist who can track down his payment for the night (a part of his act - he has the audience hide the money and he finds it every single time) but he cannot possibly figure out which green room is his or where to go to get onstage. It's little details like this that I found myself smiling.

There's a great supporting cast involved, too, including a love interest for Troy, played by Emily Blunt. And Steve Zahn, one of Buck's hosts in Cincinnatti that never really seemed to grow up and grow out of his obsession with Buck. They all seem genuine, if not out of place from the real world. And that's alright, because you're along for the ride and it's all about Buck.

If you're looking for a light hearted comedy, look no further. I enjoyed this movie immensely, if you couldn't tell. It's out on DVD this week, so check it out!

Rating: Rent It!


182: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (PG) - 2009 - Runtime: 153 minutes

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
Director: David Yates

I know your mind is already made up on this one. You're either going to go see it (or already have) or you don't care about Mr. Potter. So does this work as a movie? And is it good? I'm not even going to compare this to the book because it's pointless - I'd rather argue about what this movie does than what it doesn't. And this movie does almost everything perfectly.

The first scene in the movie just blew me away. You follow, like a rollercoaster cam, the path of some Death Eaters through London. It's amazing. Visually, I'm still on the fence of whether I like the color tones of this movie. It's all very dark and not a light of bright colors. It works, especially in the memory scenes, which are tinted green. I just don't know if I like it a lot.

This was no doubt one of my favorite movies this year. I just had a lot of fun watching it. The movie's pace and plot wasn't too confusing for those very few that haven't read the books. It's by far the best Harry Potter movie since Prisoner of Azkaban. I also found myself laughing a lot. At one point in the movie Dumbledore says he's an old man. And Potter replies, "You look the same to me." I laughed out loud (and embarrassingly was the only one to do so in the silent theater), because I thought it was a funny moment about how everyone has changed except for Dumbledore. There were some genuinely funny moments, especially from Radcliffe when he swallowed the good luck charm ("it has pincers").

I also was really impressed by all the acting. It seems that everyone has fully grown into their roles. Even Draco Malfoy, who I thought had probably the most difficult challanges in the movie. He used to be a one-note character in the movies but here Tom Felton really does make him a complete character and I never once found his performance off-key. Everyone else is great and I thought Rickman (perfect casting, BTW) was the best of the bunch.

And to those complaining about stuff left out, why bother? Read the damn book. If you want a movie, this is it. It's not going to get any better - so relax and just enjoy what's probably the most fun (and funniest) HP movie so far! So obviously, you've already made the decision on whether you're going to go see it, so I won't bother with recommendations. But you can't deny this is probably the movie of the summer.

Rating: Buy It!


182: Moon

Moon (R) - 2009 - Runtime: 97 minutes
Director: Duncan Jones
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey

Good sci-fi movies are really hard to come by these days. I can count the number of good sci-fi movies in the past decade on one hand. Two years ago, Sunshine (by my boy, Danny Boyle) was a breath of fresh air. Not necessarily because of its originality or premise, but because it was a good movie set in a science fiction setting. Some may argue about the last 30 minutes, but that doesn't take away the beauty of seeing that spaceship cruise towards its ultimate destiny: the sun.

So here comes Moon, a movie co-written and directed by David Bowie's son, Duncan Jones. It borrows heavily from
such classics as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Solaris (the 1972 version), but don't let that fool you: this is a smart, well-written suspense movie. Sam Rockwell (who continues to impress me in every movie) plays Sam Bell, a man working for Lunar Industries, a corporation dedicated to supplying earth's energy via harvesting helium-3 from the moon. He's the only one on the station and he's (supposedly) in full control. He's about to end his 3-year stint and head home, but things get a little strange when he has an accident in his moon rover outside the station and passes out from the collision.

Sam Rockwell's performance is outstanding, some of the best work done by an actor this year. He eventually meets a clone of himself during his last days, but you really don't know if he's going crazy or not - mainly because of his performance. The movie does capture that secluded lonely vibe of the moon and being isolated from everyone else.

There are a lot of surprises in this movie, subtle ones, but surprises nonetheless. I really enjoyed Kevin Spacey's voice-over work with GERTY, a more affectionate version of HAL from
2001. Even though Jones may borrow a lot of elements from past science fiction movies, he never allows the science aspect to take over the message of the film. I don't want to give too much away, but "technology is evil" is not the message here.

I don't think you have to enjoy science fiction movies to enjoy
Moon. It's a good story and well-acted. I really loved this movie, it's by far one of my favorites this year. If there's a theater near you playing it, go check it out!

Rating: Buy It!

182: Defiance

Defiance (R) - 2008 - Runtime: 137 minutes
Director: Edward Zwick
Starring: Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell

There's been a plethora of World War II-themed movies that have come out in the past year or two. Valkyrie, The Reader, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas are just a few. I'm not gonna lie, I do love me some World War II movies. Whether it's Saving Private Ryan or Schindler's List, some of the best movies have been centered around this historical clash of good versus evil.

Defiance may not win any awards, but it's effective in telling a largely forgotten (which is hard to imagine nowadays) story about an ordinary group of Jewish brothers (the Bielskis) just trying to survive the massive genocide that was taking place. While in the process of hiding in the woods, they become unwilling heroes in saving more and more Jewish refugees.

I am a sucker for these kinds of movies, so it's no surprise I liked it. The best thing the movie has going for it is that it really happened (to what extent, I don't know). I enjoyed the characters and I thought Liev Schreiber did an excellent job of portraying such a conflicted character who can't decide whether to help his Jewish brethren or leave them to fend for themselves (the Bielski brothers were mostly outcasts and criminals before the war). I thought Daniel Craig was okay compared to his fellow castmates, who really stole the movie (look out for Jamie Bell, he's going to be an up and coming star). The movie really does a good job of keeping you invested in the characters - you just don't know who's going to survive.

There are a few flaws to the movie, though. The pacing is a bit slow and jarring - the action sequences seem out of place. And it could have been cut down to two hours without any problems - you don't need to hammer the audience with scenes of how awful it was for the refugees. We get it, it was World War II and you were Jewish.

Just don't expect a whole lot of action out of this one or you will be sorely disappointed. But if you're in the mood for a movie "based on a true story," you can't go wrong with Defiance.

Rating: Rent It


182: Push

Push (PG-13) - 2009 - Runtime: 111 minutes
Director: Paul McGuigan
Starring: Chris Evans, Dakota Fanning, Camilla Belle and Djimon Hounsou

"A poor man's X-Men."

They tried really hard with this one. I guess an "A" for effort? Push is a story about ummm, pushers (who don't really push. The guys who push are called movers). Are you following me? Because I sure as hell couldn't follow this mess of a movie. Supposedly there's all these crazy folks out there with supernatural abilities who are being tracked down by clandestine government operation(s). Am I watching X-Men or Heroes? Anyway, there's this girl - isn't it always about a girl? - that escaped from the government's grasp and stole a secret formula which makes them super-super humans. Or it... controls them? I don't know! This movie falls under the weight of its own mythology and stumbles on a significant amount of plot holes.

For example, everyone wants this syringe with the formula, including the government agency that created it! Why on earth do they want it back when they could just look at the scientist's notes and recreate it is beyond me. And then they could kill all the pushers, movers, watchers, sniffers (seriously, there are people who sniff stuff to find out where people are) involved. This Chinese mafia group wants it, too. I didn't know they were mafia until halfway through - I just thought they were government cronies. And that made me feel stupid, which a movie should never do. But the whole damn problem with this plot, which is the major focal point of the entire movie - the formula doesn't work, it kills whomever they inject it into. Except Camilla Belle's character. Of course, the government wants her, but they really want this formula! And so does the mafia! They're both pretty daft if you ask me.

I feel like the writer wanted to create this cool movie/universe, but couldn't be bothered with details or rules. The logic for some of the characters' powers was seriously flawed. Watchers could see the future, but it's always changing, yet they could know exactly what's going to happen next. And sniffers could find out where a person was by sniffing something they touched, but that doesn't make sense. Because how could an object like my toothbrush tell someone where I would be next week through its scent? Especially if I haven't used said toothbrush in 10 years. Yeah, that happens in the movie.

As you can tell I was quite dissatisfied with the whole experience. And there really wasn't a whole lot of action. You see the poster? Yep, that's about as much action as you'll get in this movie. They also leave you hanging at the end. Which I don't mind, but the problem with this is that they make a big deal out of a couple of characters' stories and they never resolve them at the end. Dear God I hope they don't make a sequel called Pull.

Oh and one more thing. Why the hell were all these Brits and Americans running around in Hong Kong? They never once explained this. Is Hong Kong cool now? Is that where all the kids hang out? Maybe I'll take my Vespa scooter through the streets of HK and find a tree to sit under and write poetry in my moleskin journal. (Thanks for the inspiration, SWPL).

Rating: Not Worth Paying For


182: Mr. Brooks

Mr. Brooks (R) - 2007 - Runtime: 120 minutes
Director: Bruce A. Evans
Starring: Kevin Costner, William Hurt, Demi Moore, Dane Cook

Maggie had recorded this movie on our DVR a week or so ago and she watched it on her own and really liked it. So I decided to give it a shot. I had wanted to see it when it came out on DVD, but I just never got around to it.

Costner plays a well-known business man who's addicted to killing couples. He's been clean for two years until one night he needs a fix and makes one crucial mistake. That mistake leads him to meet Dane Cook's character: Mr. Smith, who knows about Mr. Brook's dirty deeds. And from there it gets rather interesting.

I was very surprised by this movie. The one word I would use is slick. Mr. Brooks is a very careful serial killer, making sure his killings are CSI-proof (which is funny because Marg Helgenberger plays Mrs. Brooks). So it was rather cool to see him unleash his inner Hurt and kill a couple (who obviously had it coming - I mean they screw with the curtains open, c'mon!). I enjoyed that we didn't get to know Mr. Brooks too well. The movie's primary focus was his new complications with Mr. Smith and dealing with a dumbass daughter who couldn't practice safe sex. Demi Moore plays the detective trying to find Mr. Brooks and I'm glad we didn't get too much of her, otherwise this would turn into Double Jeopardy. Thank God Tommy Lee Jones didn't show up as head of the FBI in this movie, otherwise I would have turned it off. I also wish Dane Cook would take more roles like this instead of his one-note characters in Good Luck Chuck and My Best Friend's Girl. He was good, but he's no William Hurt, who was pretty devious in his role as Mr. Brooks' alter-ego, Marshall.

If you haven't seen it and could go for a good thriller, Mr. Brooks is definitely worth renting.

Rating: Rent It


182 Movies in One Year

I'm stealing this idea from my wife, Maggie. Her ambitious project is to read 100 books in 1 year. She got the idea from a site I do not frequent, Pajiba (feel free to follow the link - they're pretty crazy over there). So I'm deciding to embark upon a noble quest: watch 182 movies in one year. When I was first mulling over the idea, I thought 100 was too low. I was thinking 500. Then I did the math. I don't think I could watch 1.37 movies per day! So 182 feels right - one movie every other day (with one day to spare!). I know this would sound lightweight for a professional movie critic. But I'm not a professional.


First of all, I love movies. I watch a ton of movies anyway, probably about 100 movies in any given year. Second, I work at Blockbuster, so this isn't going to be a strain on my wallet at all. Third, I work at Blockbuster. And I haven't seen a vast number of classic and cult classic movies. I once got yelled at (literally!) by a customer for not having seen The Godfather. All I can say to him now is "Sorry...I guess I'm the bad guy." Fourth, for fun! And the challenge. I want to be knowledgable about a lot of movies and have fun doing it so this seemed like a good way for me to accomplish that goal.


I'm going to lay down a few ground rules and I will start tomorrow (Sunday, July 5th).

Rule #1: All new movies. Any movie I have already seen will not count! This includes any new movies that I may re-watch during this one year (i.e. Harry Potter 6 I'm definitely seeing more than once!)

Rule #2: Movies have to be in a variety of genres. I will break down the list as this:

1. Classics (35) - The term classic is very subjective for each person, but I'm going with AFI's Top 100 from 2007.
2. Cult Classics (15) - Once again, very subjective. I'm sticking to EW's Top 50 list.
3. Suggestions (25) - I'm taking any and all suggestions. Please comment anytime, facebook me or send me an email @ colinwkelly@gmail.com (although I do get veto rights on suggestions - but I'm limiting myself to only 3 vetos).
4. Book Adaptations (15) - Some of the best movies are based on books. It does not matter whether I've read the book or not (I will let you know!).
5. Foreign (15) - It's easy to let this genre slip by, so I'm making sure I get a healthy dose.
6. Horror (10) - I do not like watching horror movies (there are a few exceptions, like 28 Days Later), so I'm making sure I put enough on this list!
7. Western (10) - Same as #6, I want to be fair, here!
8. Musicals (5) - I really despise musicals, so I think I'm being very generous with 5!
9. Documentaries (5) - I really love a good documentary, but I thought I would put this on here just so I make sure to watch at least 5.
9. Kevin Bacon (6) - Maggie came up with this one and I thought it was pretty clever.
11. Maggie's Pick (1) - Maggie gets one movie that I absolutely must see.

This equals 137 movies! That leaves me with 40 movies for me to randomly choose or any that I'm going to see anyway.

Rule #3: I will be posting a review/critique of each movie that I see. I will have a rating system - one that I will be tinkering with tonight and tomorrow for my first movie! I will have a running list of movie suggestions on the page and also a movie checklist.

I really hope people enjoy this and feel free to comment me whenever to argue the merits (or demerits) of any movie! I'm looking forward to being challenged!