182: The Informant!

The Informant! (R) - 2009 - Runtime: 108 minutes
Starring: Matt Damon, Scott Bakula, Joel McHale
Director: Steven Soderbergh

Soderbergh is hit and miss for me. I've really enjoyed his mainstream movies (Ocean's Eleven, Thirteen. Notice I left out Twelve. Let us never speak of that movie again), but his attempts at the artsy-fartsy side of cinema leaves a bad taste my mouth (The Girlfriend Experience, The Good German). So I was half excited to watch this movie and half nervous because I didn't know if I'd be wasting the next two hours of my life. But, indeed, the better half won out - this is not only a hilarious movie, it's also a pretty tragic story. It's too bad this one got overlooked from the Academy, because I think at the very least, Matt Damon's performance is fantastic.

Damon portrays Mark Whitacre, an employee working for ADM, a giant producer of food-additives. He soon becomes and informant for the FBI after he reveals to them that there is a massive price-fixing conspiracy among other similar companies. But Mark isn't all what he seems as he has his own secrets and corporate shenanigans going on. This bears repeating: it's a pretty funny movie. Mark Whitacre, at times, is so withdrawn from reality that he's quite comical. And Damon's voice over of Whitacre's thoughts (whether based on real-life testimony, I don't know) are quite hysterical and also have you scratching your head at times. Mark is somewhat of a disturbed individual, but he's completely sane and intelligent. I got from the movie that this man knows how to manipulate and take advantage of others while remaining a completely coy and non-threatening individual. But Damon is the only shining star - Scott Bakula and Joel McHale play the FBI agents in charge of the investigation and start to work with Whitacre on getting evidence. They're both terrific because they're pretty much left in the dark half the time because Whitacre doesn't play by their rules.

It's a pretty crazy story and one that was definitely worth telling in this non-traditional way. Most would have dug hard into the actual scandal behind the business, but this movie is intent on focusing on such an interesting character. It's worth checking out because not only is the subject funny and surreal, the performances are top-notch.

Rating: Rent It!

182: The Damned United

The Damned United (R) - 2009 - Runtime: 98 minutes
Starring: Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall, Jim Broadbent
Director: Tom Hooper

I've been anxiously awaiting this movie for a good couple of months now every since it received good reviews and I saw the trailer. I wouldn't categorize this as a sports movie - it's more of a buddy comedy about an ambitious and somewhat maniacal coach. It's funny and a bit heartwarming and sentimental and most definitely one of the best movies I've seen in the past year.

The movie is based on the true story of Brian Clough (Michael Sheen - whom I have thoroughly enjoyed in everything he has done) (sometimes pronounced "Cloth," sometimes "Cloff." Damn you British accents!) and his forty-four day stint in 1974 as the manager of one of the most successful football clubs (at that time) in England. The movie goes back and forth between his ill-fated coaching job and his move up to the big time five years earlier. When he took over for Leeds United in '74, he managed to turn a very successful team into the worst in their division. But it wasn't all his fault - he's a very, very ambitious man as you come to find out and he won't let anything stop him from becoming the best. But the what's at the heart of this movie (and arguably the best part), is his relationship with his assistant manager, Peter Taylor (played by the wonderful Timothy Spall, who is best known for his role in the Potter films as Peter Pettigrew). They have a very close relationship and one that goes through a lot of ups (mostly ups) and some downs. They both are opposites when faced with moral decisions and you are hoping that all turns out well in the end. And that's why this movie is so good - their relationship is so genuine and honest that I really was hoping that they would reconcile. I won't give too much away because I think the ending is extremely satisfying. In the end, these two men need each other, as professionals and colleagues, but more importantly, as friends.

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this to anyone. I don't consider this a sports movie simply because that's not the focus. There are some fantastic performances and this movie is worth, in my opinion, multiple viewings. From Clough's cursed-laden tirades to the more gentler moments in the film - it's a great movie, hands down!

Rating: Own It!

182: Good Hair

Good Hair (PG-13) - 2009 - Runtime: 96 minutes
Starring: Chris Rock
Director: Jeff Stilson

It was quite surprising when I saw the trailer that I wanted to actually watch this movie. I have absolutely zero knowledge on hair products and specifically the hair industry targeted at the African-American community. So I as extremely intrigued to see what knowledge would be dropped in this documentary. And having Chris Rock as the interviewer and narrator really helped give this documentary enough lightness and comedy for it to not end up becoming dry material.

The hair industry is a multi-billion dollar industry and a large portion of that comes from relaxer and weaves. It's big business and Chris Rock goes to salons, barbershops and even India to find out what the big deal is. I was surprised at how diverse the cast was being interviewed. Not only are there some movie stars like Nia Long and Raven Symone, but Maya Angelou and Al Sharpton all get the Rock treatment. And the movie doesn't just gloss over facts - there's a lot of good information and interesting facts as to what women will do to look pretty. And even that social construct gets questioned - that in order for black women to be pretty, they have to have straight, flowy hair. It's pretty fascinating to see what relaxer actually does to your skin and how harmful it is, but millions of women use it everyday.

The weakest part of the movie is the hair competition that is interspersed between all the shenanigans going on with Chris Rock. Yes, a hair cutting competition is held every year in Atlanta. Some of the stuff that goes on there is completely ludicrous and absurd that I had a hard time believing people took it so seriously. But they do and what's extremely funny is that the front-runner for the competition was the skinny little white guy who knows how to cut a sister's hair for real.

It's a fascinating journey that isn't ashamed to poke fun at some of the absurdness of it all. And Chris Rock is extremely enjoyable, he never tries to take over the movie with too many jokes. He's just an observer and the interviewer and for that I was relieved. It's a fascinating documentary if you have no idea about the subject - I would definitely recommend it to anyone.

Rating: Rent It!

182: Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day (PG-13) - 2010 - Runtime: 125 minutes
Starring: Ashton Kutcher, Jennifer Garner, the rest of Hollywood
Director: Garry Marshall

I'm not gonna lie - I did want to see this movie. I really like ensemble cast movies. He's Just Not That Into You, Love Actually - usually what happens is the sum is better than the parts. And Valentine's Day doesn't stray too far from that formula. Although some parts were extremely dull and about a fourth of the characters I didn't really care for, this was a pleasant romantic comedy that you shouldn't be ashamed of seeing this alone or with a date.

The movie follows obviously about a dozen or so different characters on, obviously, Valentine's Day. Most of the plot is typical rom-com fare.The main focus of the movie revolves around Reed (Kutcher) and his recent proposal to Morley (Jessica Alba in what has to be the dumbest name in all romantic comedies) goes a bit sour. It's pretty obvious he was meant to be with his best friend, Julia (Jennifer Garner) who is dating a married man played by Patrick Dempsey (not that she knows! She's the girl next door type!). And there are other characters but most of them don't deserve too much attention. The main story is solid, if a bit contrived. But in the end your invested - the best characters all seem to be genuine. There is supposedly a big reveal in that we learn about a character actually being gay, but it's not much of a spoiler (although I heard a few gasps in the audience when the movie reveals this fact). There are some good laughs in the movie, but I wouldn't say I was laughing a lot.

The big problem with the movie is that when the characters are dull - they're extremely boring and you wish you could skip to the next scene to watch the characters that are more enjoyable. Emma Robert's story and Taylor Swift's seem to be filler. They just don't fit with the more adult-oriented drama going on with the rest of the cast. And Shirley McLaine's story could have used more screen time - I really didn't feel too attached to her or her husband. But that's the movie - it moves along at a brisk pace and you're never stuck with a character for too long.

All in all, I enjoyed the movie. I still think that Love Actually and HJNTIY (what up, acronym usage!) are by far the superior big-cast romantic comedies. Most of the characters in the movie are wonderful with very few exceptions. And they're both really funny. Valentine's Day is worth watching - if you didn't catch it on V-Day weekend, you might be better served renting it next year!

Rating: Rent It!


182: Law Abiding Citizen

Law Abiding Citizen (R) - 2009 - Runtime: 108 minutes
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Gerard Butler
Director: F. Gary Gray

Despite all the persistent rumors I've heard of this movie being "Saw in the Courtroom," it's not really that gruesome. In fact, I found all the torture bits to be quite entertaining. I was indeed rooting for Gerard Butler's character (Clyde Shelton) throughout and was somewhat disappointed with the ending. But this wasn't a bad movie at all - it did keep me guessing all the way through.

Clyde Shelton is a man who is out for justice. After watching his wife and daughter get brutally raped and murdered, he's out to set things right. He watches as the system fails to provide equal justice - one of the men who break into his house gets off with a light jail sentence after testifying against the other. And Jamie Foxx plays Nick Rice, the hotshot lawyer who cuts a deal with the murderer. Snap forward ten years and Shelton is out looking to exact revenge on everyone involved in the trial. It's a decent plot that had a few surprising turns. And I don't care what people will say - I still think the hero is Shelton. Rice is such a dick to the extent that you don't like him. The same goes for everyone else in the trial. Even the judge pretty much thinks she above the law. So I found it satisfying that Shelton was playing puppet master to all the authority figures.

I will say that you do have to suspend some disbelief in the story. While in the movie you're along for the ride, but after it ends there's some lingering questions as to how and why. But that doesn't detract from the movie - it's pure popcorn fluff after all. And even though I feel like there is some sort of message about the justice system and the morality of justice, it all gets pretty much lost in the thrill of the moment and who's going to die next. I did feel let down at the ending because I was, "That's it? Really?" This may be because I had my own theories as to what was going on and they were completely wrong! So my bitterness might have something to do with my opinion of the ending.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie a lot, but just don't expect to be thinking about it days after. It's a good thrill and one that will keep you guessing up until the end. But I felt that the movie could have ended on a much darker note and would have been completely satisfying. The movie's out on DVD this Tuesday, so rent it!

Rating: Rent It!


182: A Serious Man

A Serious Man (2009) - R - Runtime: 106 minutes
Starring: Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind
Director: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

I really have enjoyed most of the Coen brothers' movies. I think they're great storytellers and I was looking forward to this movie, especially after it received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. Although I don't consider it their greatest movie, it's still a funny dark comedy that probably isn't for everyone.

Maggie and her parents actually got the chance to watch this before I did and Maggie absolutely hated it. First of all, the beginning part has no bearing on the rest of the movie and that was extremely bothersome to her. I didn't mind it - it was supposed to represent the tone of the film and introduce thematic elements, but I can understand why someone would be upset about it. And the ending is very abrupt and doesn't resolve a lot of issues in the movie. I don't think the Coen brothers make these kinds of movies often (I can only think of one, No Country For Old Men, and that really isn't as ambiguous as some make it out to be) that leave you scratching your head at the end. I guess the reason I liked it was because those elements stuck in my head long after the movie had ended. I found myself thinking about it at work and the different metaphors (particularly Schrödinger's cat) that come up in the movie.

The story centers on Larry Gopnik, a physics professor in a small Minnesota town during the 60s who's life is spiraling downwards - his wife wants a divorce, his impending tenure has come into question and his brother doesn't seem to want to leave his house. Larry tries to seek help by reaching out to the leaders of his faith. It's a darkly comic tale that doesn't have a happy, nor a coherent ending. But I think there's a lot of interesting themes and ideas floating around in this movie for a worthy discussion - just check out the imdb.com message boards to find out what people are thinking, it's actually quite revelatory if you're struggling to make sense of the plot. Basically - the story's inspiration stems from the Old Testament tale of Job - the man who loses everything but never questions his faith. But Larry does question his faith and wants answers.

The cast is made up of mostly unknowns and I liked it that way. Sometimes I feel like movie stars get in the way of the characters so much that I'm not watching a movie, but rather Tom Cruise playing so and so or Julia Roberts playing so and so. So I always enjoy movies that have actors that are unfamiliar to me. And the performances are great - Michael Stuhlbarg is perfect as Larry - he walks a thin line between a complete patsy and someone on the verge of a nervous breakdown. It's great to see Larry deal with the problems the way he does. I was just waiting for some moment for him to explode, but it doesn't happen. And I liked that, the movie went in an unexpectedly different direction.

While I don't consider this one of my favorite movies from 2009, I think it's worth a rental. It's right up your alley if you like the absurd and dark comedies, but also any Coen brothers fan should eat it up.

Rating: Rent It!

182: The Stepfather

The Stepfather (PG-13) - 2009 - Runtime: 101 minutes
Starring: Dylan Walsh, Penn Badgley, Amber Heard
Director: Nelson McCormick

Sigh. I feel like I've hit a batch of bad movies lately. And this one is no different. I don't even want to spend time on it because it's so dull and not very scary. There wasn't any "gotcha" moments that made me jump, either.

Dylan Walsh is a guy who wants the perfect family. And if that perfect family doesn't live up to his expectations - he murders them. And that's where the story starts and pretty much ends. There's a lot of painful dialogue and less-than-thrilling moments in between, but it's not worth sitting through. In fact, if you're a fan of Amber Heard, I don't even know if watching the other ninety minutes of this movie is worth it. I mean - she's in a bikini or underwear in almost every scene. It's pretty apparent what the director thought of her acting ability (or what the producers thought of her body). Either way, it's a pretty tedious and implausible movie. I mean the characters should be killed (especially the mother) because they're too dumb to notice how insanely creepy and weird their soon-to-be stepfather is.

I will admit I had fun watching this movie because Maggie and I could make fun of it. Plus it was free and so I don't feel like I wasted any money on this joke. What I do hear is that the original Stepfather movie from 1987 (featuring Terry O'Quinn, everyone's favorite Lostie) is absolutely a great thriller. So pick up the original rather than sit through this dull snoozer.

Rating: Avoid Like the Plague

182: The Time Traveler's Wife

The Time Traveler's Wife (PG-13) - 2009 - Runtime: 107 minutes
Starring: Eric Bana, Rachel McAdams
Director: Robert Schwentke

I did not read the best-selling book that this movie is based on. Maggie did and enjoyed it from what I gather, but it took her ten times longer to get through it than a book of similar length - so that's saying something as to the storytelling of this particular tale. I really like the idea of following the story of a very extraordinary man's life through the eyes of his wife. It's an interesting perspective of science fiction that doesn't often get enough treatment. I knew the story wouldn't be stepping into any science fiction territory - this is a straight up romance movie. But I feel like the movie could have been so much better if they had explained things more about the hows and whys of this particular malady befallen on Henry (Eric Bana) because half the time I was confused and disoriented as to which Henry was which (young, older or middle aged?) and what exactly was happening.

So the title pretty much sums up the story of the movie: it's told through the perspective of the time traveler's wife - the ups and downs of their relationship. And it sucked. Big time. It should have been called The Time Traveler's Butt Cheeks because that was the most interesting part of the movie (who doesn't like well-toned butt cheeks?). My biggest problem with the movie? I felt absolutely no connection to the characters nor their supposed romance. It felt like I was just watching scenes of them interact together and not really fall in love. In fact, to show you what a cold, heartless bastard I am, I laughed the whole time he was dying! It was so funny! And if that spoiled the movie for you, well, frankly, I'm not sorry. It's a terrible movie and you know he's going to die pretty much from the beginning of the movie. Aside from the zero chemistry - there was a lot of creepiness going on. The older Henry meets up with Clare when she's a little girl. And it's a bit creepy because he travels naked (a time-traveling requisite established by The Terminator). There's a few more awkward scenes like this that don't really feel romantic. They just seem out of place.

I mentioned earlier how it would have been better if there was some more 'splainin' goin' on. And it's true because you don't know why he time travels except it's in his DNA. So what the hell? Were his parent's time travelers? No. Grandparents? Don't know. Is he the only person? Possibly. But then, why? The list of questions goes on and on and my itching science fiction brain needed answers to a few of those questions. Plus, I was so confused as to which age Henry was in each scene. He had gray hairs when he was older and that's about it. Otherwise you're at a loss as to what age he is when he pops in and out of Clare's life. Which is another problem - there's too much popping in and out that you cannot properly follow Henry's own time line of growing up. Oh, and they totally should have utilized Benjamin Button's aging effects because Rachel McAdams trying to look 18 was a huge laugher. Plus it was an extremely creepy (yes - it bears repeating).

When I first heard about the book I thought it sounded cool. My idea was that time traveling was a profession or something (boy I was way off on that one) and in my head sounded way more technical than "My genes make me travel naked through time!" I might have been getting it confused with that 90s movie, The Astronaut's Wife, which I never did see (and which is a completely different movie according to imdb.com). No matter what, it's a huge mess of a movie that should have just stayed on the bookshelf.

Rating: Avoid Like the Plague!


182: Love Happens

Love Happens (PG-13) - 2009 - Runtime: 109 minutes
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Jennifer Aniston
Director: Brandon Camp

Oh boy. I'm all for these movies, but let's just talk about the title? Okay - meet me down a few lines, I need to take a deep breath to enter into this topic of bad film titles.

So it seems that lately there has been a rash of bad film titles. Like it's gotten so bad that nobody seems to care. I mean this movie? Love Happens? I could think of a ton of different titles that are waaay better! Here: Seattle Love Story. A Parrot Named Rocky and His Totally Available Hunk, Burke. Two People Meet. Vandalism of the Heart. Eh? Okay! (You had to have watched the movie in order to get that last one - but please don't! Just take my word for it that it's extremely funny!) Okay, so we have Love Happens. But what about that rash of -ing movies invading Hollywood. Knowing, Fighting, umm, well that's it but that is two too many! Okay then there's the really long-winded titles: Percy Jackson and the Olympians Battling and Fighting With the Lightning Thief Because He's a Thief, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian with a Cameo by Amy Adams, Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire Because They Already Made a Movie Called "Push" and Yes, We Think the Public Could Not Discern Between a Movie About Poor Black People and a Movie About White People With Superpowers. C'mon, really? And then there's just plain idiotic ones: Funny People (I know, I know I liked it, but c'mon that title sucked!), Ninja Assassin, Push, Gamer, Shorts. I could go on but I digress. The only good thing about bad titles? It's easy to dismiss them because if they can't take the time to come up with a compelling title, chances are they really didn't do too much with the actual script. But I guess all I'm asking for is some creative juices flowing when it comes to naming your movie, possibly the most important part of the movie! Can you imagine if The Departed was called Bad Cop/Good Cop? Or There Will Be Blood was called Oil Crazy? Seriously, first impressions are vital. And don't get me started on DVD covers, that's a whole bloody series of blog posts.

You're still here? Well, back to the movie itself. As you can tell by the rant and by the title - this movie is pretty much garbage. I don't need to spend too much time on this. Aaron Eckhart, who is quite the handsome man, or so I'm told, plays Burke, a man who lost his wife in a supposedly tragic car accident. And he turned it into a thousand-dollar industry! He wrote a book and inspirational conferences about coping with the loss of a loved one. And he meets somebody (the supposedly down on her luck Jennifer Aniston who just can't seem to find the right man). And apparently love happens, but I don't think the cameras caught it (zing!).

The problem is that there's zero chemistry between the two leads and they seem to amble through their scenes together. Like they forgot they were filming a romance movie. We're supposed to think that Aniston's character (Eloise. Yes, like Eloise at the Plaza - I'm sure that's the inspiration) is quirky and jubilant and that's what makes her so attractive to Burke. But if owning a flower shop and writing odd words behind hotel paintings is quirky, I must be a raging eccentric freak. And despite the movie is under two hours - it felt so long! After only half an hour I was hoping we could get to the end. It was just boring!

So, please don't waste your time. Watch The Notebook for the tenth time.

Rating: Avoid Like the Plague!

182: On the Waterfront

On the Waterfront (PG) - 1954 - Runtime: 108 minutes
Starring: Marlon Brando, Eva Marie Saint, Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb
Director: Elia Kazan

Sometimes I will rent a movie and just not watch it. I only had to rent this movie twice, which is pretty good considering I rented Road to Perdition, Midnight Cowboy and The Godfather three or four times (I still have not watched the first two). I guess it is just a mental block that I have. I want to watch these movies, but part of it becomes like work. I don't know if I'll like the movie or not - especially with the classics. But after I popped in the disc and started watching, I thoroughly enjoyed what some consider one of the greatest movies ever.

Marlon Brando (looking so young! I watched this after I watched The Godfather and it's completely amazing how different he really looks) plays Terry Malloy, an ex-fighter who has managed to mess up his life. He's pretty much a hired goon for the local and very much evil union boss (ironically named Johnny Friendly) who controls the dock workers. It becomes apparent that the only way to take down Friendly is by testifying in court about the corrupt practices the union partakes of and by ratting out his fellow workers and Friendly himself. The movie is based on a Pulitzer-Prize winning series written by journalist Malcolm Johnson about the corruption and violence plaguing the New York docks.

It's easy to see why the movie won so many awards - the story is superb, the acting is top notch and the directing is spectacular. Brando and Saint give completely real and honest portrayals of the harsh life on the docks. It's a compelling tale - and one that still sparks controversy today - Maggie sent me this link - and it's a good read if you're at all interested in the Hollywood blacklisting or just a fan of the movie. The idea that doing what's right is the noble path, even if that means backstabbing your fellow workers and friends by "naming names." There's a lot of great scenes and powerful moments in the film, none other than the cab ride shared by Terry and his older brother, Charley. This is when Brando utters that most famous line, "I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody." but that scene is so much more - we learn the reasons behind Terry giving up his great love to fight and what sets him apart from his brother. It's a very emotional moment and one that still holds up so well after fifty years.

I don't think this movie has lost any relevance today - there's still the same problems of corrupt officials and bosses taking advantage of the working class. Hell, our whole mess with Wall Street reeks of the same kind of exploitation. Some will argue of the morality of the movie - but that's what makes it such a good movie, that people can still debate about the issues raised. I highly recommend this one!

Rating: Rent It!


182: The Godfather

The Godfather (R) - 1972 - Runtime: 175 minutes
Starring: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall
Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Ohmygod! I haven't seen The Godfather yet! Well, all you haters can calm down now. I've seen what some consider "the greatest of all the movies of all times, dude!" And to them I say, really? Okay, I may be a little biased going into this thing - mafia and gangster movies are not my cup of tea. I just find the subject matter to be a tad dull. And I've been hearing for almost all my movie-going life that The Godfather is the be-all, end-all of movies. No arguing. Period. But I think this movie has some minor, if not serious, flaws.

I'm assuming that most of you know the plot already - if you don't, it's pretty straightforward. It's about the Corleone family's fall and subsequent rise to power following Michael Corleone's (Al Pacino) reluctant takeover of the family business. So lets get down to the nitty and gritty: what I didn't like about the movie. First of all, it is long. And not in a good way. I'm a big fan of short movies - I just feel if it's over two hours and fifteen minutes, there better be a damn good reason why the director needed those extra scenes to fill in the story. And you know what? The Godfather could have used some choppin'. The wedding scene in the beginning is way too long. I know the movie is setting up the major players - but it didn't have to take so long or be so dull. And on that point - there are so many characters in this movie. It has an epic scope, so of course it has to have an epic cast, but I found myself too often getting confused as to what is happening and trying to follow who is who. The movie itself could have been trimmed down at least a half an hour - the pacing is not perfect. In fact, the whole Sicily side-plot was, in my opinion, not critical to the movie. Because it doesn't enhance any aspect of Michael's character - it's not like we see him later in the movie traumatized by his first wife's death - in fact, it seemed like he just took it as a fact of life. Which at that point in his life he was not used to dealing with death around every corner, so it seemed odd and out of character. There are some other flaws, like Sonny's fight scene with his brother-in-law was exceptionally laughable. It was so fake - at one point James Caan's fist goes to punch the guy in the face and completely misses him, but there's that stock punch noise on queue! You would think Coppola would have taken a look at that and decided to do another take, but no. That may seem like nitpicking, but if it's considered a perfect film, well, it ain't by my standards.

I don't want anyone to think I didn't enjoy this movie. I did, I just guess all my negativity is magnified because some of the people who love this movie are way too vocal about it. It was hard finding a fairly unbiased review on imdb.com out of almost fifteen hundred reviews. A lot of what I've heard is that it takes a second viewing to really enjoy the movie - and I may do that eventually - but if the movie didn't win me over the first time wholeheartedly, why bother with another three hours of my life?

As for the really good parts of the movie, the acting is phenomenal. It really does deserve all that acclaim. There's so many wonderful performances by everyone involved, it really is amazing how much talent is on screen. And despite the epic scope of the film, it still manages to be a very intimate portrait of a flawed and somewhat dysfunctional family.

Despite my intense negativity toward certain aspects of this movie - I do believe it's an important and great film. Maybe not of all time, but certainly it has impacted not only a lot of movies and filmmakers, but our culture as well. And for that alone, it's worth a viewing, if not two (which I will someday!).

Rating: Rent It!

182: Once Upon a Time in the West

Once Upon a Time in the West (R) - 1969 - Runtime: 165 minutes
Starring: Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson, Jason Robards, Claudia Cardinale
Director: Sergio Leone

I've had this movie on my shelf for a long time before I touched it. It's pretty sad because it's an awesome movie, too! We had one for sale used (the two-disc version! I love me some two-disc versions of movies! I get all excited and jump around when I get one. I did this like five times over when I got the five-disc set of Watchmen! Holy Cow! Five discs is like two and half two-disc sets! Thanks Annie, possibly the coolest sister-in-law ever. Just a smidge in front of Mollie, of course!) and the copy we had was only $3.99! I don't like westerns that much, but I've heard enough about this film to not pass up that deal. And it sat forever on the shelf. But I'm glad I got around to it because it's so good.

When I first popped it in and scanned the back of the box for the runtime I made the little math equation in my head, one hundred and sixty-five minutes = two hours and forty-five minutes! Oh no, not a western, too! I don't like westerns that much. But apparently I do now. Let me get this out of the way now: Claudia Cardinale was super hot. I don't know what she looks like now, but damn! Girl is smokin'! But back to the movie - at first I was a little skeptical as the movie starts out soooo slooow. But you have to get used to it (and I did!) because there's some wonderful magic being produced. It's the way Leone takes his time to build up the frenetic action that lasts only a few seconds. It's very intense and somewhat enthralling. You do get swept up in the revenge tale.

If you don't know the story, let me tell ya'll: Claudia Cardinale (so hot!) arrives at her new home only to find her fiancé has been brutally murdered, along with his kids. And the man behind it all is Frank (Henry Fonda), a cold, heartless bastard if there ever was one. She teams up with a local thug, Cheyenne and a mysterious drifter (Charles Bronson), dubbed "Harmonica" (because that's what he does before he kicks ass, he plays the harmonica) to take down Henry and his cohorts. It's an epic tale and I never once thought it was too long. I give credit to Leone for the pace and finding the right amount of tension in each and every scene. It's an amazing work of art, too. Apparently, Leone wanted to make this movie to pay homage to all the American westerns and it was not well received by the critics, nor the public when it came out. Only after several years was it considered a masterpiece.

Probably the best part about the movie is Harmonica's storyline. You don't know what the hell is driving him to get payback, but you want to know. And it pays off in the end - it's completely satisfying and brilliant from start to finish. There may not be a whole lot of action - but the tension and quieter moments in between is what makes this movie great.

Rating: Own It!


182: Surrogates

Surrogates (PG-13) - 2009 - Runtime: 89 minutes
Starring: Bruce Willis, Radha Mitchell, Rosamund Pike, Ving Rhames
Director: Johnathan Mostow

Ahh, this movie tries so hard to be I, Robot or Minority Report, but unfortunately, it's nowhere near the level of those blockbusters. This sci-fi movie does have some redeeming qualities and it may not be something you'll remember in five years, but it's worth checking out for a decent thrill and to get your Bruce Willis in a blond wig fix.

Willis plays Tom Greer, a cop who finds himself caught up in a massive conspiracy that will doom the human race! In the future, most humans have decided to live their lives through robots. There's practically no crime and the world is really, really happy. But two surrogates get attacked in an alleyway and somehow kill their users, too. This leads Tom on a path to redeem the human race and he must do it quickly or else everyone will die! So if you didn't catch my sarcasm, the plot is a bit dull. I feel like there was a great story, but somehow got lost in production. It seems like the producers wanted a big action spectacle. And I feel that this movie would have some how been better served as a quiet thriller - not necessarily an action movie (like Children of Men). I will say this about the movie - it makes me want to go find the graphic novel it is based on because I have a feeling that's a really good story.

The movie itself - is all over the place. There's a side story involving Tom's wife and their dead son and how their no longer a happy couple and blah blah blah. It's pretty dull and I wasn't very compelled to follow along. But there's a decent story in the main plot but it gets a little out of control when the twists start to happen and it seems to stumble through the climax of the movie. And it's a pretty ho-hum climax, too. You just feel a little let down at the end. But don't take my word for it - I don't believe I wasted my time with this movie, but it certainly isn't worth a repeat viewing.

Rating: Rent It!

182: Outrage

Outrage (R) - 2009 - Runtime: 90 minutes
Director: Kirby Dick

I totally forgot about this movie when it came out. This documentary is from the same guy who made the little seen This Film Is Not Yet Rated, a pretty scathing look at the MPAA and how much control it has over Hollywood. It was a very insightful documentary and I feel like it should be watched by any movie lover if they want an understanding of how a movie gets rated.

Kirby Dick's (great name, BTW) next documentary is another scathing look at the hypocritical world of politicians. Specifically the politicians who vote and approve of laws that harm the gay community while being closeted gays themselves. The DVD proclaims boldly that there is massive conspiracy by these politicians and the media to cover these stories up. I do believe most of what is on this DVD, but it's a bit of a stretch to say there's some sort of conspiracy. It's just politicians looking for their own gain - nothing particularly new.

It's a good documentary - it exposes some politicians whom I've never heard of, but also talks about the moral ambiguity of "outing"  those same politicians. Which I would say is the fair and balanced part of the documentary - but Dick has a purpose and it's very clear that the message of the movie is how much of a detrimental effect these lawmakers are having on gays. Just for the record - I'm all for gay rights. And I do believe that in twenty years from now we will all be shaking our heads at how absurd it was to not have gay marriages and that we need "to protect the sanctity of marriage." So I did find this documentary compelling and somewhat infuriating at the evidence laid out about these men and women who have made it part of the mission to strip away freedoms from a certain group of Americans.

Chances are you will breeze by this movie in the aisle if you're at all opposed to the idea of gay marriage, so this review isn't going to change your mind. But if you want to beef up your arguments as to why gays should be married - this is a good documentary to get some info.

Rating: Rent It!


182: The Invention of Lying

The Invention of Lying (PG-13) - 2009 - Runtime: 99 minutes
Starring: Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Rob Lowe
Director: Ricky Gervais, Matthew Robinson

I really enjoyed Ricky Gervais's previous effort, Ghost Town quite a bit. I thought it was a sweet, clever comedy. It didn't try to be something it wasn't - the characters were just endearing enough to like them and you were invested in the plot. But The Invention of Lying comes off as Gervais's sophomore slump. It's not necessarily a bad movie - but the material is more subject to an SNL skit than a full-length movie.

First of all, the idea of humans not being able to lie is pretty clever. But the execution and logic behind the movie is a bit faulty. Not only do all the characters speak the truth, they pretty much say all of their thoughts out loud. I didn't expect this - it made for the same joke over and over: that the truth is brutally funny. But the joke wears thin after more than a half an hour when every single character is shallow and awful, especially to Gervais's character, Mark. And another problem I had with the movie was  - why now? Why Mark? And how the hell did his brain just make the connection to lie (I know, I know, it's just a comedy, but my logical mind must be satisfied!)? The world is just like it is, except somehow humans haven't evolved into telling lies. It's just a little bit illogical to me and that bugs me.

And like I said earlier, most of the characters are just one dimensional and not likable. Even Mark, who we're supposed to feel sympathy for, just comes off as a twat. It's not particularly satisfying when he ends up with Jennifer Garner's character because she's just so dull and shallow. There absolutely no chemistry and it feels like the studio wanted Gervais to fit in a romantic plot to satisfy the mainstream audience. But instead the whole movie just keeps circling around the two leads getting together and loses its way. It's trying to be that laugh out loud comedy with a romantic subplot - but each part ends up watering the other down. Some scenes are funny, but it could have been a really fantastic fifteen minute skit and that's all. So I would pass this one up if your looking for a belly full of laughs.

Rating: Not Worth Paying For!