If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.

It's official. My paranoia is real.

Today a squirrel pretty much threatened my existence. If you think I'm exaggerating then you need to come over to where I live, sit in a lawn chair and watch me walk around the courtyard. Well, that's what we call it. I'm sure other people call it a patch of grass, but my Victorian sensibilities give me credence to call it a courtyard.

Well, if you do watch me walking around the courtyard, it becomes fascinatingly scary. You might actually fear for my life. Especially when I'm walking my tiny dog, Monty:

And I'm more scared for Monty because A) He is about the same size and build as a squirrel and B) He has a shirt (yes - we dress him up occasionally for torture) that says "Squirrels...they're not just for breakfast anymore!" You might scoff at that last reason, but I think god may in fact have a really sophisticated sense of humor and would jump at the chance to make that statement the ultimate irony. So I'm genuinely scared.

But back to the one squirrel. He was just sitting up in a tree, making weird grunting, high-pitched noises at me. And this isn't the first time. I don't know if it was the same squirrel (they all look alike. I know, I'm such a racist) but this happened to me last week. I tried to feign like I was going to lunge at him, but alas, I must have been too far away for him (or her. I'm not one to impose masculine dominance - maybe the females wear the pants in this species? I would wikipedia it, but I don't want my internet search history to come up saying "female squirrel dominance" when the government, aka Obama, takes away all of our freedoms and forces us into slave labor camps to make free first aid kits for the poor) to really give a damn because he didn't flinch. Or maybe he was just that ballsy.

And then it got more creepy - I started seeing squirrels everywhere. It quickly became that scene from The Birds where all of the birds are just watching them drive away, patiently waiting for the kill. I saw one on a window ledge. A couple of them were running around the parking lot, playing. My theory was they were a distraction. I picked up the pace and was tugging Monty along when all he wanted to do was chew on some stick. Sorry, buddy, but I'm not letting you get killed today. Maggie would be really upset.

It's only a matter of time before they really start to gather and start plotting their revenge. Yes, revenge. For what? Who the hell knows? Maybe they blame us for less trees or global warming or the continued, baffling career of Channing Tatum, but it's definitely for revenge. But I will be prepared. I'm already browsing the self-defense section on Amazon, tagging things for my wish list (did you know you can buy a self-defense bat? I guess a regular baseball bat only works on petty thugs, not, you know, felonious thugs) and of course, buying a gun. It's my right! And that right extends to unleashing a rain of bullets from above onto unsuspecting, but definitely nefarious squirrels. See you in hell, you furry bag of cute!

*If I am found dead for any reason in the next month, please forward this to the proper authorities. They may have seeped into our culture as cute and educational, but don't let that fool you! It's propaganda!

182: Rudo Y Cursi

Rudo Y Cursi (R) - 2009 - Runtime: 103 minutes
Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna
Director: Carlos Cuarón

Sometimes trailers can push me over the fence into seeing a movie. Rudo Y Cursi is one of those. This trailer was awesome. The cover of "I Want You to Want Me" by Los Odios is perfect; what a cover should be.

It doesn't hurt that the movie has been generally well received, either. I haven't seen
Y Tu Mamá También (it's on my list!) and I guess this movie reunites Luna and Bernal. And it's a pretty fantastic reunion. I don't like soccer... excuse me, football... so I was skeptical at how much I would really like this movie. I connected with this movie because of the unique rivalry between these two siblings.

Tato (Cursi, meaning corny) and Beto (Rudo, meaning rough) are two brothers who dream of better lives. As luck would have it, they come upon a soccer agent who sees potential in both of them, but can only take one under his wing. Cursi makes the cut and leaves his brother to the shanty town they grew up in. Eventually Rudo gets his break and they both become stars - Rudo the ultimate goalie and Cursi, the tenacious striker. They both rise quickly to super stardom and fall quite harshly.

It's a tale as old as time, but somehow, it manages to be engaging and fresh. Both brothers take completely different, yet very similar paths to stardom and crash and burn quite stupendously. Cursi becomes obsessed with his shallow, TV star girlfriend and tries to become a singing sensation even though he's not that good and Rudo ends up addicted to gambling and cocaine. There are some genuinely funny moments in this movie - and some compelling dramatic ones, too. Some moments you want to wring their necks and other times you want to high five them. The movie runs the whole gamut of emotions and does it perfectly. It's a bit long, but nevertheless compelling and I wanted to know what was going to happen to these brothers.

It all ends in a climactic showdown when the two brothers meet to play against each other and lives are on the line quite literally. It's a fun, quirky little movie that's narrated by their agent, who is just as messed up as them in his own ways. He often uses soccer as a metaphor for life and what's happening to the brothers and it sounds corny (another pun!), but it's all part of the feel of the movie.

If you're up for a foreign movie, love soccer or can go for something a little quirky, Rudo y Cursi is the right fit - it really is full of some heartfelt moments and laughs. Good stuff.

Rating: Rent It!

182: Duplicity

Duplicity (PG-13) - 2009 - Runtime: 125 minutes
Starring: Julia Roberts, Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti, Tom Wilkinson
Director: Tony Gilroy

I'm not a big fan of Julia Roberts. Okay. Got that off my chest. I guess she was past her prime when I got into movies...I've never seen Pretty Woman, nor do I want to and all that hoopla about Erin Brockovich made my stomach hurt. Big deal. But her last movie, Charlie Wilson's War, was a pleasant surprise, so maybe she's earning my trust. Thank god she was not in Ocean's Thirteen, otherwise it would've made an otherwise good movie something awful. Seriously, Ocean's Twelve was just appalling.

Okay, sidetracked. Sorry. And I was beginning to just give up on this movie after the first twenty minutes. Don't do it! This movie takes time to get through, granted, but the payoff at the end is certainly worth it. I was a huge fan of Michael Clayton a couple years back and Tony Gilroy has crafted another corporate thriller - albeit with more of a comedic flavor than MC (I love initializing movies now. Critics take note: this will make you feel even more elitist).

Clive Owen and Roberts play two ex-spies who fall for each other and end up pulling a con job on two of the biggest corporations on the planet. The movie starts out in the middle and goes back and forth between the past and the present. This sounds like a headache - and I was getting one - but if you stick through it, the puzzle pieces land in place quite nicely. Owen and Roberts are perfect for these roles - they both ooze charm and intellect and they play off each other well. I will admit I didn't see the ending coming because I was too focused on believing my own theory from the beginning of the movie.

But that's what made this movie great to me - the ending. It's a perfect payoff at the end - something that Lucky Number Slevin did so well a few years back. Gilroy does a nice job of making you look one way while he's working out the magic somewhere else. The evidence is all there, you just have to pay attention, and that's what makes these movies work so well.

Besides some great performances by the two leads, Giamatti and Wilkinson are perfect, too, as the corporate execs that are only out to ascend to the top and stay that way. Giamatti plays the schlub (what else would he play?) who's so paranoid of Wilkinson (the cool, calm bonsai tree-pruning mastermind), that he'll spend millions on trying to steal his ideas. It's a great rivalry and the movie starts off quite hilariously as they square off on the tarmac. I was waiting for Giamatti to bite off Wilkinson's ear! Oh well, you can only get away with so much in a PG-13 movie.

It's a good ride that does start off slow, but if you persevere, it's well worth the wait. It's out now, go rent it!

Rating: Rent It

182: Sunshine Cleaning

Sunshine Cleaning (R) - 2009 - Runtime: 91 minutes
Starring: Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Alan Arkin
Director: Christine Jeffs

The similarities to the indie hit a couple years ago, Little Miss Sunshine, are numerous: Sunshine in the title, Alan Arkin playing a lovable, but shady grandfather and a dysfunctional family trying to make their lives better through a business opportunity. And although Sunshine Cleaning is worthy of your attention, it's nowhere near the laughs or quality that made LMS (I can call it that because I'm a critic) so special.

Amy Adams plays Rose, a girl who peaked in high school and has lived a pretty ho-hum life ever since. She thinks her life will magically get better because someday, her hunky, detective lover will ditch his wife and she'll pass her realtor's exam. But of course it doesn't work that way and she ends up getting involved in a crime clean-up business with her just-as-messed-up sister, Norah (Emily Blunt). Their business is met with success and suddenly things are looking up, but things get messy as Rose tries to get back to elite status that she had in high school.

Despite all the usual trappings - the predictable plot, family dysfunctional jokes, etc. - the movie does shine (I'm really trying hard to implement more and more bad puns in my reviews, bear with me). The story wasn't too out of touch with reality for me not to connect with the characters, but it wasn't so oppressively bleak that you lose all faith in humanity (and god forbid, the crime clean up business!). Don't expect big laughs, even though there are some good ones. The movie clips along briskly and it's over before you know it - so it has that going for it.

As a side note - I am a huge advocate for shorter movies - I feel like the average length of movies keeps getting longer and longer. Don't get me wrong, sometimes their good, but after two hours, my butt can get sore and I get grumpy when my candy runs out - which usually happens after the trailers are done.

Anyways, this is a feel good movie, as implied by the title. It's got some lovely actresses who aren't too bad on the eyes and they're adorable cleaning up blood and vomit and other such lovely bodily fluids. But seriously, if you're looking for something a bit light, but with a little drama, Sunshine Cleaning is perfect. Definitely worth a rental!

Rating: Rent It!


182: Adventureland

Adventureland (R) - 2009 - Runtime: 107 minutes
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Bill Hader, Ryan Reynolds
Director: Greg Mottola

If you're thinking this is going to be another crazy teen comedy like Mottola's last effort, Superbad, then you will come away disappointed. Not to say that this movie misses the mark in the laughs department, it just has a totally different mood than what the studio wanted to market it as. It's essentially a coming of age story that has some good laughs and a compelling story to tell.

Set during the late 80s in Pittsburgh, James finds himself home for the summer after graduating college and needs to find a job in order to help finance his way through grad school. He lands a job at the local amusement park and immediately falls for Em. But he's just so awkward (I guess he lived in his shell the whole time during college? It's strange to me because I had the opposite experience in college) that he doesn't know how to handle his budding romance.

This was a good story and it never once felt stale or trying to force jokes throughout. I laughed, but I also was invested in these characters. James and Em - there's a spark, they just don't know how to ignite it. And Martin Starr is terrific as James new best bud at the park while Margarita Levieva plays the pretty girl perfectly (Lisa P. !!) - one who's not dumb, but surprisingly shallow. And Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig do get to make the funny when they're on screen. It's also nice to see the 80s treated more than just a Halloween costume. Sure the music's there (and not just new wave) and the clothing and style is obvious, but the characters don't talk about 80s stuff (although there is a reference to Compact Discs...hehe). This story could have easily been transplated into the late 70s or 90s too.

Performances are great - Eisenberg plays the Michael Cera-awkward teen card deftly and the supporting cast is terrific (although Ryan Reynolds seems to be playing himself - like "Hey, I'm Ryan, I'm going to be doing maintenance at the park, please oogle me if you like" kind of vibe). And Kristen Stewart plays her part very well - I'm just afraid I've only seen her work one note (granted she's been in two or three wide-release movies so far) - it's just that she's playing similar characters in this movie and in Twilight, so it sticks out to me. Let's just hope she won't turn into Jennifer Connelly and start to play the down-trodden, solemn girl every movie she lands.

This one's worth a rental and it comes out August 25. So go pick it up and enjoy some corn dogs with it!

Rent It!

182: Tyson

Tyson (R) - 2009 - Runtime: 90 minutes.
Starring: Mike Tyson
Director: James Toback

If you haven't seen the trailer for this movie, check it out:

Like I've said, I don't particularly like boxing, nor do I like Tyson that much. Putting that aside, he definitely makes for an interesting character to talk about in a movie. I saw the trailer and immediately I thought I may not really like him, but I'm fascinated by what he might say (or possibly do).

This isn't a typical documentary, in that you're introduced to Tyson and the director finds others to interview and narrates his story. Not so - this is all told through Tyson's eyes and it's his words that tell his story. I was a bit put off by this at first, but the movie kept getting better and better and you just get sucked into his story. I didn't really know too much about him except for the rape conviction, the face tattoo and the ear-biting fiasco, so I was intrigued as to how Tyson became who he was in the 80s when I was a young lad. When Tyson starts to cry on screen - choking and holding back tears - it's when the documentary got a hold of me and I wanted to hear everything.

On one of the DVD extras, Toback discusses a little survey he took. He asked 35 people (most of them who didn't particularly care for Tyson) if they wanted to see the first 15 minutes of the movie and if they didn't feel compelled to watch the rest, they could leave and get $100. None of them left. That's crazy (and possibly a lie), but I think if that opportunity was given to me, I would finish the movie. It's entertaining - you get to see the highs and lows of one of the most enigmatic sports figures in our culture. At the end, I don't really know where I stand with Tyson - at some level I feel sorry for the man, but then I realize he has gobs of money. And then I start to realize how much of a loser and degenerate he is. But I respect him. Crazy, right? This documentary, even though it's told through Tyson himself, has a lot of clarity. He doesn't shy away from the nasty side of his personal life. And to me that's what makes me want to know what's going to happen to him: he seems to have realized how crazy and messed up his life has been, but this was all shot during his stint in rehab, so who knows?

Either way this is a captivating film, no matter if you hate him or love him. It's out on DVD this week and it's worth renting!

Rent It!

182: Raging Bull

Raging Bull (R) - 1980 - Runtime: 129 minutes.
Starring: Robert De Niro, Cathy Moriarty, Joe Pesci
Director: Martin Scorsese

This was on my classic list and I don't know what compelled me to pick this up rather than some other classics on my list. Maybe it was Scorsese or the boxing theme (I picked up the documentary Tyson - review coming later) that I wanted to have over the weekend. But I really don't like boxing. I just think it's quite boring. I have a level of respect for the physicality and mentality it takes to be a boxer, it's just dull because I can't quantify/translate the scoring that goes into determining a winner when there's no KO. I'm a team-sports kinda guy.

But this movie started out particularly slow for me and I was ready to just write this movie off as another fall-from-grace about a self-destructive man who can't get it together in real life even though he's achieved super stardom professionally. The fighting scenes were enough to get me through the first hour - they're shot so real and visceral you do feel every punch thrown and how damn bloody and physical this sport is. They're great sequences and the black and white only hammered home how stark and cold these tête-à-tête battles are.

But something about Joe Pesci (who knew?!?) and his performance that turned things around for me. When Jake confronts his brother about sleeping with his wife, Pesci gives an utterly unexpected and brilliant performance during that scene. I don't know what it was, but I just became fascinated by the unraveling of Jake La Motta outside the ring after that. Even though I knew where the story was going, I got lost in it. What I found even more fascinating was that Joe Pesci was pretty much a failed actor before this movie and was running a restaurant when Scorsese called him up to put him in the movie. His Oscar nomination is deserving, more so than De Niro, even though De Niro gives an absolute stunning performance. It's funny that Pesci would go on to play mostly bad guys in movies - because his character is the "good guy" in this one.

The movie is definitely worth seeing for the boxing scenes alone. The angles and close-ups are unforgiving and it felt very real. As for the story, it's typical, nothing extraordinary, but the performances are what really stands out. Like I said, Pesci, man, Pesci.

Rent It!


182: (500) Days of Summer

(500) Days of Summer (PG-13) - 2009 - Runtime: 95 minutes
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel
Director: Marc Webb

I've been wanting to see this movie because A) The trailer and hype around this movie made it look like something totally unique and fun, and B) It's got two of my favorite actors as of late, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. I both have secret crushes (although really not that secret) on them and I think they're both poised to become great A-list stars.

As much as the trailer suggests and the reviews do, this is still a romantic comedy. It's just a quirky one and inventive. From the beginning of the movie, where we see both Tom and Summer in old film reels from their childhood, we're set up that both of these star-crossed lovers are meant to be. But it's not the case, as we find out from the beginning that they've broken up after only less than a year together. But Tom wants to get her back and we're thrust through the story as it unfolds: jumping back and forth through their relationship. This may seem jarring, but it never once felt confusing or erratic, you're just as much invested in finding out where things went wrong and how it's going to end up.

The movie is by far one of the best romantic comedies I've seen in years - simply because it's so refreshing in how it tells its story and the characters involved. Levitt and Deschanel are perfect - their performances are just so real and don't fall into stereotypes. I really felt for Tom and thought Summer just may be an "uppity, better-than-everybody super skank", but you realize half-way through the movie that he's just not getting "it," that is, relationships and how they work. He's grown up thinking idealistically about what love is and trying to find "the one" rather than actually enjoying where he is in life and what he's really supposed to be doing with it.

It's just a perfect gem of a movie that's also really funny - I laughed a lot - and I would easily recommend this to anyone looking for something light and fun, but something that isn't vapid or brainless (coughThe Ugly Truthcough). This is by far the best rom-com this year, better than The Proposal (which is almost the complete opposite of this movie, but still fun nevertheless) and almost just as funny as I Love You, Man and The Hangover. Beat that!

Rating: See It!


182: District 9

District 9 (R) - 2009 - Runtime: 112 minutes
Starring: Sharlto Copley
Director: Niell Blomkamp

There's no need to mention how this movie came out of nowhere these past few weeks to take the box office by storm (although I did just that, didn't I?). What's amazing in my mind is that this movie wouldn't have come to fruition had it not been for an overblown budget on a big time movie adaptation for the poorly plotted Halo games (seriously, even the Midas touch of Peter Jackson wouldn't have turned that would-be turd into movie gold). Thank god we got this movie instead, because who knows how bad Halo will end up (it's supposedly still in production...).

Everyone knows the story by now - aliens come to earth, but they don't make contact, we do. And so the alien enslavement begins, as more than a million "prawns" are imprisoned within the slums of Johannesburg, South Africa. The plot starts after more than 20 years since first contact and follows a corporate yuppie, Wikus van der Merwe, docu-style, as he's put in charge of moving the aliens from the slums of Johannesburg to a camp outside of the city, far away from the city and human contact. Basically the camp is built more like a concentration camp and the slums are actually a luxury compared to where they would end up. But things get hairy when Wikus gets infected about a third of the way through the movie with some alien substance.

I was actually relieved during the first part of the movie - which basically narrated the first 20 years of alien contact through various interviews with "experts" on the subject, something someday I wish to be. I was fully prepared for the movie to just drop you in during present time and not fully explain what exactly happened during first contact and up through present time. Thank god Blomkamp isn't a bastard. The exposition didn't feel boring or forced upon, it felt natural as part of the movie. It sets up the scene nicely as the cameras follow Wikus from shanty to shanty, dolling out eviction notices for the alien residents. The story is definitely one of the most original sci-fi concepts in quite some time and it's not just the plot, but the characters as well. Wikus is pretty much a dull, corporate jockey who really isn't a beacon for authority. He basically got the job because he's married to the boss's daughter. He's not quite someone you can root for, but one you sympathize with and when he gets thrust into status of the aliens' hero, you eventually find yourself rooting for him to succeed. Especially when things get intense and he finds himself blowing shit and people and aliens (sometimes by accident! Oops!) up, with the camera following every intense bit of action.

This is another remarkable achievement for this movie: the CGI. It didn't feel out of place or that the actors were just imagining the aliens in front of them - it felt as though they were actually touching them and interacting with real beings. WETA worked on Gollum for Lord of the Rings, but they've outdone themselves with the gritty realism of these aliens and the wretched, dirty squallor that they live in. It doesn't hurt that the movie is shot Blair Witch- (or Cloverfield-) style, which makes the action and characters more blurry than if shot on a fixed camera. But the action is intense and gory and it really doesn't get crazy until the last third, where blood and guts are flying everywhere. Hell yeah!

This was a fun ride, it had pretty much everything: explosions, guts, aliens, weapons (of mass destruction!), flying body parts, some good laughs, a tearful ending, decapitation and lots and lots of blood on the camera lens. Great stuff and if you're a sci-fi fan at all, you should pony up some money to see this on the big screen because it's worth it!

Rating: See It!


182: The Cat's Meow

The Cat's Meow (PG-13) - 2001 - Runtime: 114 minutes.
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Eddie Izzard, Edward Herrmann, Carey Elwes
Director: Peter Bogdanovich

Don't ask me how I came across this movie. I really don't know. I vaguely remember being excited to see this movie when I saw the trailer for it back in the day. But I never got around to watching it. So when I signed up for my Blockbuster Online account a long, long time ago, I put it on my queue figuring I'd get to it eventually. Well, I cleaned up my queue when I started this project and somehow it didn't get deleted. So I decided to watch this movie because it was already in my possession. And it was most definitely a big mistake.

I watched it with Maggie, whom has already seen it twice. She somehow ended up watching it with her friends back when it came out on DVD and then again with her sister - so she obligingly sat down with me to watch it (she must not have remembered how truly awful this movie was).

This movie would have been suited better if it was rated R. This is just such a scandalous and wildly adult story that a PG-13 rating wouldn't do it justice. And the casting is just plain awful - Dunst plays sultry actress Marion Davies, Eddie Izzard plays Charlie Chaplin. Yes, the Charlie Chaplin. Eddie. Izzard. Let that sink in. And Mr. Gilmore himself, Edward Hermann (who, BTW, went to school with my father-in-law at Grosse Pointe) as business mogul William Randolph Hearst. First of all, Dunst isn't at all sulty nor does she seem suited for this era. Izzard as Chaplin seems like he's really just playing himself and not Chaplin. And Hermann just doesn't make Hearst as big or as menacing as he should be (whether that's factual or not).

Like I said, there's a huge story and scandal here - you're better off reading the Hearst-Ince conspiracy in a comic book rather than sitting through this movie. But suffice it to say, there's a lot of affairs, sex and murder involved. It's still one of Hollywood's biggest scandals, yet this movie makes it out to be some Enterainment Tonight soundbite story, rather than the big scandal it really was. I seem to advocate for this a lot, but sometimes it just enhances the story: show some sex! It would make the plot more meaningful, especially when the movie plot revolves around this scandalous affair.

It's quite long and I found myself becoming very bored within a half an hour, but I trudged through, hoping that if someone comes across this review, they'll save almost two hours of their life from just bad movie making. The movie doesn't have any life in it, as evidenced by the actors' portrayal of these real-life characters and by the slow plodding of the script. And the other problem with the movie is that you almost have to know about the plot before it happens. They assume you've lived through the roaring 20s and depressing 30s to know about all the gossip from that time. It's a little ridiculous - I found myself reading the comic book during the first hour just so I could make sure who was who and why they were acting the way they were. Because this movie doesn't give you any clue or payoff at the end. It just ends, with this awful narrator (who is in the whole movie and never once seems real or enlighting throughout) trying to show us with this " how crazy and zany this all was and wouldn't ya know it? Only in Hollywood...." kind of monologue in the end.

It's a damn shame because I really like stories like these. And why's it called The Cat's Meow? Beats the hell outta me, I just know this story could've used a decent catfight.

Rating: Avoid Like the Plague


More Lists!

Yes, I've been going list-crazy, but here's the top 10 movies of 2009 (so far) that I've seen.

10. State of Play
It's too bad this one didn't get much love at the box office, because this one's truly a great political thriller. You don't get too many of these dramatic movies with so many stars (Crowe! Affleck! McAdams! Mirren!) that actually don't play out like a bad version of Crash (I'm looking at you, The Air I Breathe). It's just a good story that you want to fill in the pieces along with the characters. And there's a great little twist at the end. It all plays out very nicely and the performances are right on - although Crowe with that long hair can be a bit distracting. This one's coming to DVD in September, so check it out. Until then, rent the British miniseries it's based on, which is even better than the movie.

9. Funny People
Another movie that's pretty much going to bomb at the box office when compared to Apatow's other two hits, The 40 Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up. But this one is just as funny, if not more, than those two. The jokes are fresh and hilarious, there's a lot of tender moments and it never once collapses under the weight of "insider-itis" (where only Hollywood insiders would actually enjoy the jokes, something several movies have done lately - What Just Happened, for example). Don't let other reviews fool you - this is not a "dark" movie. There's serious subject matter, but it never overtakes the film - this is a comedy about comediens after all. And after two hours, it still had me hooked - I didn't really notice that so much time went by - it was that funny and entertaining. If you haven't checked it out, it's definitely worth catching a Sunday matinee for.

8. Public Enemies
Maggie read the book after we had seen this movie and I've enjoyed hearing her tell stories that were very true in the movie and others not so much (or not even in the movie itself). Johnny Depp is certainly a talented actor - I really believed I was watching John Dillinger and not Depp, it was that believable. It's a great story about Dillinger but also about the birth of the FBI. There's so many fascinating stories that Maggie told me, like how they lost a lead simply because an FBI agent (Pervis, played by Christian Bale in the movie) just plain forgot that Baby Face Nelson was staying at a hotel one night. It's just that ineptitude that blows my mind because we don't think of the FBI as being Three Stooges-esque in their day-to-day routines. But back to the movie - it's well paced and expertly shot - you feel like your in the 30s. This one won't be coming out on DVD until the holidays - so get your butt to the dollar theater and check it out!

7. Coraline
I saw this movie in 3D and it was probably the best movie I've seen so far using this new technology. It wasn't gimmicky and it wasn't the main focus of the movie either. The movie was excellent, it doesn't need 3D to have it in the top 10. At first Coraline is really annoying, she's a brat who didn't want to move away to some strange house in the middle of nowhere. But soon the movie settles down and we go exploring with her and she finds an alternate version of her reality. This is where the movie takes off and becomes something truly special. I'm sold on Neil Gaiman. I mean, I was a fairly big fan of his anyways (Stardust, American Gods, and Good Omens are among some of my favorite books), but this movie pretty much cements him as a really original and creative talent in Hollywood. Don't shy away from this movie simply because of it's family nature - there's a good story and it's full of wonderful visuals and effects. It's out on DVD now, so go check it out!

6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
This is the movie that I've been waiting for. Half-Blood Prince is the book that got Maggie interested in reading Harry Potter. The night of the first day it came out, I was reading it in bed before falling asleep. Maggie was poking fun at me for reading the book and she took it from me and started to read aloud. I thought nothing of it after she was done and we fell asleep. The next day we're in bed and she's reading the book! I told her she can't really start at number 6! If she's going to read it, she's going to have to read them all! And now, she's a much bigger fan of Potter than I am! She's re-read the books more than me and watched the movies several times over. So this movie means a whole lot more to me than any other Potter flick. It also doesn't hurt that I think it's probably the most well-rounded of all the Potter films: it has a lot of humor, the action's fantastic and the drama is so real - I can really feel a part of being in this world. Yeah, it's that good.

5. The Hangover
Although I am shocked at how much of a hit this movie has been (it's already surpassed Star Trek at the box office domestically!), it shouldn't be surprising. You have the director of Old School filming a comedy and pretty much the same formula: crazy guys doing absurd things and this time it's in Vegas. But this movie could have ended up being a bad, direct-to-DVD National Lampoon movie. But the movie works; mainly because of the cast and the idea of wanting to know what the hell happened along with the characters. It's a great comedy and worth watching a couple, I don't know...dozen times! And can you believe Lindsay Lohan passed this movie up because she thought it had no potential! Well, there goes your comeback. I guess we'll always have Mean Girls.

4. Away We Go
At first when I heard about this movie I kind of groaned out loud. A movie directed by Sam Mendes (of American Beauty fame and also the delightful Revolutionary Road - two of the most depressing movies in the past decade or two, in my opinion) that also was co-written by David Eggers?!? Hmmrph. I was thinking it was going to be a load of pretentious bullshit. But I watched the trailer and thought it looked pretty good. Maggie had another opinion, but somehow I egged (pun most definitely intended) her into going to a free (yay!) screening of the movie. It was worth it and Maggie was converted and so was I! I know I'm going to get a lot of slack for putting this and another comedy ahead of The Hangover, but to be honest, I just really enjoyed all the elements of this movie. Whereas The Hangover was a blast, like playing beer pong with your fraternity brothers and having a spontaneous round of fight club, Away We Go just made me feel like I have the best things in life right now. It's a great story about a couple finding themselves and the right home for their new family. Some might not get past all the crazy characters they end up meeting along the way, but I found them funny, even though they're not very realistic. It's so uplifting I'm willing to forgive Mendes about his previous works.

3. Moon
As I've said before, I really love this movie. It's great to see Sci-Fi getting so much love. I'm really looking forward to District 9 later this week and Tron Legacy next year. Hell, I'm looking forward to Surrogates, even though it looks like a big ball of cheese. Some people might not like the slow pace of the movie, but it's set up quite nicely. If you're a fan of 2001 or any sci-fi, you really can't go wrong with checking this movie out. While not the most original or groundbreaking, it's a solid entry into the genre. It's got a great cast (Sam Rockwell, Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey..'s umm, voice) and delivers a good amount of suspense all the while maintaining a pretty dire and lonely atmosphere of living alone on the moon. Although it is a science fiction movie, it's not really the main focus of the movie - it's just a fantastic setting for such a strange and bizarre journey for one man who thinks he's got everything under control.

2. I Love You, Man
This comes out on DVD Tuesday, so go out and buy it! It's worth it. I'm sure people will disagree that this is funnier than The Hangover, but I just think the comedic timing is perfect and the story is such a refreshing take on the romantic comedy genre. Plus Jason Segel is among some of the funniest (and hardest working) men in Hollywood right now. He's always been stealing scenes, whether it's in Freaks & Geeks, Undeclared or How I Met Your Mother. Forgetting Sarah Marshall was great last year and this is another home run for Segel. But Paul Rudd plays one of the biggest douchebags on screen this year - yet you're always rooting for him and can't help but be charmed. At first I was a little creeped out by Segel's Sydney Fife, but once he meets Peter, things start clicking and you can believe these two are really the same guy, they just took different paths in life. These two have such an enduring relationship that it's easy to forget Peter is marrying Zooey (Rashida Jones). Good stuff - like I said, buy it when it comes out Tuesday!

1. The Hurt Locker
It's probably no surprise that this is my number one movie so far. I still can't get some of the images out of my head from this movie. It's not a bad thing, it just speaks to how well this movie endures long after you've walked away from it. Perfect cast, perfect script and perfect execution. I really hope the Academy doesn't overlook this gem. As easy as this one could get lost in the summer shuffle, this is the best action movie - it's full of suspense and drama that's easily better than the new Transformers or Star Trek (I await the hate mail, fanboys). And although it's full of action and drama, there's quite a lot of commentary going on in the movie. This movie never once patronizes its characters or dumbs down the plot for the audience. You're along for the ride of these men and women who sacrifice everything in order to serve their country. It's such a good movie and simply the best of the year. It's been slowly expanding these past few weeks, so if it's playing near you, go out and see it! You won't be disappointed!


Chartin the flicks

There's this cool website that I stumbled upon through another blog I read. It's called Flickchart and the only thing you can do on the site is rank movies. Not by numbers. This is pure flick vs. flick:

As you can see, the match-ups can be very entertaining. If you want to be all serious, you can match up by genre, but that makes things less interesting. You can sign up yourself and join the beta. It's a great way to see what you really love and there can be surprises. I've ranked a little over 500 movies and so far my top 20 is a little bit what I've known for years, but there are some surprises.

1. Swingers - This is to be expected at the top. Pretty much the reason I fell in love with movies was because of this flick.
2. Fight Club - I've only seen this movie a few times, but every time I watch it, it's a revelation. Just exceptional performances by Norton and Pitt and truly a gritty, shocking twist with lots of men beating each other up. And it's got a lot of meaningful comments on human nature and society. Can't beat that combo.
3. The Big Lebowski - Another not-surprise, but it deserves to be in my top 3, I love this movie. I love the Coen brothers no matter what they do.
4. Zodiac - Another David Fincher movie. I pretty much dig whatever he does, too. And this is one of my favorite movies, it just sucks you in.
5. Shaun of the Dead - It's funny because I consider Simon Pegg's other parody, Hot Fuzz, to be the superior film but somehow this one is ranked high above it.
6. Sunshine - Possibly the most underrated movie of 2007, Danny Boyle's attempt at the sci-fi genre is near perfect in my mind.
7. The Royal Tenenbaums - I love Wes Anderson and this is his most accessible (and best) film.
8. The Shawshank Redemption - Probably Morgan Freeman's most memorable character and such am unforgettable story.
9. Forrest Gump - I don't know how this one is in my top 10, but somehow it's never lost too many match-ups. It's a great movie, I just think there's better ones below it.
10. Team America - South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone are consistently the funniest and wittiest people working in showbiz. They're always surprising and shocking with whatever they do - this is their best movie, hands down.
11. Kung Fu Panda - I have no idea how this one is 11 - I still consider the Pixar movies (most of them) to be better, but I don't know, this one I must've ranked more often.
12. Minority Report - Another good sci fi flick that I suppose is one of my more favorites, but really, this is a surprise to me.
13. Trainspotting - I spent half my sophomore year watching this movie over and over in my dorm room. A bit of an exaggeration, yes, but this movie always makes me smile at the end - it's what I consider the best film ending ever.
14. Aliens - Game over, man! I watched this movie over and over when I was sick and couldn't go to school for a year. This movie perfectly combines action, horror and comedy. Classic.
15. The Empire Strikes Back - Pretty much status quo for this film, although I'm sure many people would have it higher on their own list.
16. Chasing Amy - Kevin Smith's best movie (although Zack and Miri Make a Porno comes close) and it's one of the best romantic comedies, despite being so unconventional.
17. Slumdog Millionaire - Danny Boyle's third movie in my top 20. Seriously, I'm just glad he finally got an Oscar.
18. Hellboy - A bit of a surprise. I really like this movie - it's just that Hellboy II was better and Pan's Labyrinth was, simply put, jaw-dropping.
19. Spirited Away - Such a great movie - there's no real conflict, just a girl on a journey to adulthood. But it's told in such a creative and unique fashion - it's not too surprising this is in my top 20.
20. Army of Darkness - It's good to see Sam Raimi doing more of this with Drag Me to Hell, but AoD is the perfect mix of comedy, horror and action.

Although this list is constantly changing - I'm always ranking movies when a I have an extra minute or two. So two months from now this could look completely different. If you have an account - find me! My username is cwkelly!


182: 17 Again

17 Again (PG-13) - 2009 - Runtime: 102 minutes
Starring: Zac Efron, Leslie Mann, Thomas Lennon, Matthew Perry
Director: Burr Steers

I will admit I was excited to watch this movie. Not necessarily because of Zac Efron (who is dreamy, BTW), but mainly because I do get a kick out of teen comedies and body switch plots. Most of them tend to be decent (Hot Chick), if not great (Big).

The movie is all too familiar: Mike O'Donnell spent his whole life complaining about his life and thus gets a chance to do it all over again when a crazy janitor (much like Clarence in It's a Wonderful Life) takes Mike on a redemptive path to realize how great his life really is. In 1989, Mike's life changed when his girlfriend, and love of his life, gets pregnant. Instead of going off to college and becoming a basketball superstar, Mike gets thrust into family life right after high school.

I was a little wary when during the first scene, we learn that Mike is a stud high school basketball star and proceeds to dance with the cheerleaders before the game. Is this High School Musical? Not much of stretch for Efron, but the movie found itself after the first 15 minutes and I enjoyed the ride. Although the movie is a bit formulaic, that doesn't detract from the fact that the movie is funny and a little bit heartwarming. Yeah, you know what's going to happen, but there's some good jokes and Efron really is a charmer - that kid's going places. But I really thought Thomas Lennon (of Mtv's The State and Reno 911! fame) stole every scene as Mike's geektastic and superwealthy friend.

There's not much to say about this movie except that it's a solid, well-made comedy that pretty much anyone can enjoy. Definitely check this one out when it comes out on August 4!

Rating: Rent It!