Twofer Thursday: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo & Zodiac



Twofer Thursday: offering up a new release and an oldie for you to enjoy during the weekend!


The Best & Worst So Far: Part II

Back again tonight with what I consider to be the worst of 2010. Once again, this list is comprised only of movies that I've seen. I usually skip the really bad ones (or at least what I've been told are really bad). Mostly these are just poorly made family films - The Tooth Fairy, The Spy Next Door - or they're just trying too hard to be funny or melodramatic - Our Family Wedding, Dear John, Remember Me. Granted I haven't seen these movies, but it's safe to say that I know I won't like them. They may find an audience, but the general consensus is that they're not worth your time.

So on to the worst!

Best & Worst So Far

Everyone loves lists, and what better time than now to figure out what I think is the best movies (and worst) so far this year. Granted, this only extends to movies I have seen, so it's not really a thorough list. But I can gather from what I hear through customers, friends and co-workers what was good and what wasn't. I also believe that you can really tell a person's taste by what they think is the worst rather than the what they think is the best, so that's why I'm including them in here.

So the best (they're listed in chronological order - they're all good movies and sometimes I believe it's too hard to rank a great comedy about a great drama). Check it out after the break!


Twofer Thursday: Cop Out & Brick


Twofer Thursday: offering up a new release and an oldie for you to enjoy during the weekend!

Cop Out (R) - 2010 - Action/Comedy
Runtime: 107 minutes
Starring: Bruce Willis, Tracy Morgan
Director: Kevin Smith

Warning! Kevin Smith did not write this movie! Although that's a good and a bad thing. The bad: none of the trademark dirty, foul-mouthed dialogue we come to expect from Smith. Sure, the movie is R-rated, but it just doesn't feel like Smith's presence was anywhere near this script. The good: Smith can actually direct and he seemed to have let the camera's roll and let the actor's take over this movie.

The plot is straightforward enough: Willis has to sell his prized baseball card in order to pay for his crazy, selfish and spoiled bitch of a daughter's wedding. Of course, as soon as he's about to sell it at the pawn shop, the store gets robbed and they take his card. Him and his partner, played by Morgan, are off to find out where the card ended up. Of course, it involves a local gang of drug dealers who aren't to be messed with. The plot is simple, but that's not what you come to watch these movies for. It's the comedy and the buddy cop relationship that evolves with these two guys. But I found it increasingly hard to believe that the only real motivation for Willis was his daughter's wedding. It cost him $50,000! And she expected a cop from New York to pay for that. He's probably lucky to see that money in a year.

As for the characters? Tracy Morgan pretty much plays his character from 30 Rock, Tracy Jordan here. Which isn't a bad thing, but if you don't like weird, off-the-wall jokes, you might find it a bit grating and annoying. I thought there were some brilliant lines and the goofiness didn't get to me at all. Bruce Willis also plays to his strengths - the good cop with a few character flaws that make you sympathize with his plight. What I found a bit jarring, though was the excessive violence and how serious the film took it. It's like they wanted to make things realistic as far as the gangs and violence, but at times it didn't blend well with the rest of the comedy in the movie.

Not to say don't watch this, in fact, this is the main reason for the article - check it out, it's worth a rental and Sean William Scott playing the parkour petty criminal is the best thing about the movie. He absolutely stole every scene he was in and I laughed quite a bit!

Brick (R) - Drama, Suspense - 2005
Runtime: 110 minutes
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lukas Haas, Norah Zehetner
Director: Rian Johnson

With all the buzz surrounding Inception and the rising start that is Joseph Gordon-Levitt, I thought I would delve into his filmography and come up with, what I believe, to be his best movie to date. In fact, every time a customer asks me the very off-putting general question: "What's a good older movie?" This movie always comes to mind first. It's a great noir-like movie with a modern look and style.

JGL plays Brendan, a high school student who has just found out that his former girlfriend has been murdered. Of course, he becomes obsessed with finding out what exactly happened and why. He soon untangles a massive conspiracy involving drugs and his fellow classmates. First of all - I love these movies, noir detective stories are always pure delicious pulp to me and I love the snappy dialogue, the femme fatales and everything in between. So if you absolutely hate this genre, you definitely do not want to pick this one up. But for those uninitiated - this movie is great, because it pays homage to lots of older noir movies (Double Indemnity comes to mind), but offers up new ideas (it's in high school!).

JGL is in his prime here. He's a man on a mission, but has so many problems himself and so naive to what's going on around him at first. I will warn you to turn on the subtitles. There's a lot of slang and dialogue that is hard to decipher, but I don't think this detracts from the movie. In fact, it's like this whole seedy underworld in high school has been created and the culture is unique to this world. There, of course, is a nice little twist at the end, but if you're paying attention, you can see it coming. But it's rewarding, rather than a let down. A great movie all around and now that I think about it, a good complement to Cop Out!


182: Eclipse

Eclipse (PG-13) - 2010 - Runtime: 124 minutes
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner
Director: David Slade

Ah finally! The last movie for the project, even though I finished this almost three weeks ago. It's hard motivating yourself to get through these reviews sometimes, but hey, I'm here. Well, it's funny that I'm ending on this movie because Maggie ended her project with one of my favorite books, and I'm ending mine with one of her favorite books. I have not read the books and I think that's fine - they're not exactly up my alley and I've listened to a decent amount of the audio books when we've traveled, so I'm pretty hip to what's going on.

I was trying to look for my review of New Moon, which I did see during my project, but I never wrote a review! I'm so disorganized and I can see Maggie shaking her head in shame. Well, I can say that I enjoyed the first movie. Most people have such visceral reactions to this material - intense love or hate - and I find myself on the fence. The movies themselves are entertaining, but not to die for. And while I enjoyed the first movie, the second movie seemed rather dull. Not a whole lot happened in my opinion and it felt like New Moon was just setting up for an epic climax in the third book. And for the most part Eclipse is pretty epic and entertaining - and it's probably the best movie of the series so far.

I won't rehash the plot here, most know the love triangle going on and the stakes involved for all the characters, so let's get right to it. This movie was fun and also funny. The story lends itself well for a good time - the vampires and wolves have to team up to eradicate a new threat of newbie blood suckers (who apparently are really insanely powerful). I liked it and there's a lot of good comedy that comes out of this relationship. I just wish there was more of that, but I wasn't too disappointed because the movie never really slows down - it pretty much flies by.

As for the acting? Pretty good. I don't know why people think these three actors can't act. I think it's really just the material - the characters are a bit flat at times and I've definitely rolled my eyes a few times at the dialogue. But they're decent actors, they just need to get some more movies under their belt. I particularly love Bella's dad - he's my favorite and I think he's probably one of the most complicated characters in the whole story. He's played really well by Billy Burke.

As I said before, the movie is epic and very entertaining. It's a good summer flick that has some good action as well as romance (duh!) and actually, it's funny, too! So nuts to all those out there that think the human race is doomed because of this franchise, but it's all pretty harmless fun.

Rating: See It!

182: Unforgiven

Unforgiven (R) - 1992 - Runtime: 131 minutes
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman
Director: Clint Eastwood

I pretty much loathe Clint Eastwood. But I needed a final western film and I've heard that this is the quintessential western that tops them all. Well, sadly, this is a very boring and dull take, in my opinion. Of which I will admit I have a limited scope on this genre. I guess I need my westerns to be big and epic and this movie just didn't fit the bill.

Clint Eastwood plays an old man, William Munny, a retired outlaw who takes one last job so he can get some decent money. He meets up with his old partner Ned Logan (Freeman) and a smart ass punk kid who don't know no better to take out a couple of thugs who beat up some whores. Seriously, it's such a rehashed plot of most other westerns - an old man doing one last job (rolling eyes - The Wild Bunch, The Searchers, True Grit, the list goes on...). But to be honest, I didn't really care for Munny all that much. He just seemed so ordinary. He kind of drags himself along in every scene and seems to be much of a drama queen. Eastwood made him out to be some man with the weight of the world on his shoulders, but seriously, he's just a pig farmer now who killed some men a looong time ago. Jesus C. it was so melodramatic! And of course, we see Eastwood's disdain for the younger generation who ain't go no respect with the kid that wants to be an outlaw and kill, kill, kill.

I heard that Eastwood wanted to make a western that didn't idealize killing and outlaws, but instead make a more realistic western in which death is cruel and swift. But I'll tell you what, the movie is too unrealistic. First of all, he leaves his kids and his farm - the only two things he cares about - to get a few hundred bucks that might last him for another couple of years? And, SPOILER alert, he dispatches with all these lawmen and jerky boys all by his lonesome in the end? And doesn't end up with one scratch?

As you can tell, I was rolling my eyes throughout the movie. I especially got mad when I read more about the movie afterward and what Eastwood was trying to do. This movie is full of cliches and idealism that I don't think it's realistic at all. It's the complete opposite and I say leave this one alone!

Rating: Avoid Like the Plague!

182: JFK

JFK (R) - 1991 - Runtime: 206 minutes
Starring: Kevin Costner, Kevin Bacon, Gary Oldman, Joe Pesci, Sissy Spacek
Director: Oliver Stone

Oliver Stone pretty much wears his beliefs and feelings on his sleeve. It's no secret he's a bleeding heart liberal and you can tell that this movie and the subject matter, are near and dear to his heart. The movie is over three hours long! At first, I was really considering something else, but Kevin Bacon movies, while there are a ton, aren't really that good on the whole (Stir of Echoes? Cavedweller? Loverboy?). All the good movies he has done I have seen, so JFK it is, then! Well, I will say this movie is engrossing and really entertaining. It sure is long, but it didn't feel really long. I will say you have to enjoy this era - the sixties. I absolutely love this decade. There was so much that happened that forever changed our country and culture in these 10 years than the previous twenty.

So the story involves Kevin Costner playing a New Orleans DA who gets obsessed with finding out the truth about what happened in that day in November in Texas. Of course, he uncovers lots of shady, underhanded deals and players all who seem to have connections to each other. As Mulder from the X-Files would say, the truth is out there. And from a pure murder mystery movie standpoint, this movie is good. You follow Costner's character all the way and it does a good job of making such a complicated mess of a conspiracy into a tight, thrilling movie. Say what you will about Stone's beliefs, you can't deny he isn't a great filmmaker.

So if you can stomach the running time and the setting, I say definitely go for this movie. It's worth watching and I'm so fascinated by it, I picked up a book Stone recommended a year ago, JFK and the Unspeakable. It finally arrived at my library today and I am looking forward to it!

Rating: Rent It!


182: Oldboy

Oldboy (R) - 2003 - Runtime: 120 minutes
Starring: Min-sik Choi, Ji-tae Yu, Hye-jeong Kang
Director: Chan-wook Park

Holy cow this film is awesome! It was simply, breathtaking and jaw-dropping! And any other cliche! Seriously, I had heard nothing but good things about this movie and of course, so many people had recommended it to me that I was more than hesitant to pick it up. But the hype I heard was well deserved. This movie is simply astonishing and packs a whollop. It's both visually arresting and emotionally draining, if a movie can be that.

Dae-su Oh is a simple business man, who after a night out drinking, finds himself kidnapped and put in a room where he is constantly alone. After fifteen years of this cruel imprisonment, he's released out onto the city streets and eventually has to track down his captor and find out exactly why he was imprisoned. Although the mystery seems simple and you just want to find out what the hell happened, the movie is much more complex than that as it starts to delve into each character's past. I won't reveal too much, but the ending has such a resonance and it sucker punched me, because I wasn't expecting it. The movie deals with a lot of violence and this sets up some very cool action sequences, specifically the Double Dragon-esque (non-video game nerds can ignore the reference) one-shot take of Dae-su battling a seemingly infinite gang of thugs. It's so well done and the choreography is perfect. But not only the action and violence are great - there is meaning behind those scenes. And that's what I love about this movie - there's so many layers involved within the characters and stories and what revenge looks like.

I loved this movie and would not hesitate to watch it over and over again. It's that good! Apparently this is the second movie of a trilogy based on some graphic novels. I desperately want to watch the other two - because this is one of the best foreign movies, let alone action movies I've seen!

Rating: Own It!

182: The Wild Bunch

The Wild Bunch (R) - 1969 - Runtime: 145 minutes
Starring: William Holden, Ernest Borgnine
Director: Sam Peckinpah

My last western, and boy was this crazy! I didn't think much about this movie when I picked it up - a bunch of old dudes taking on the law for one last robbery? Sounds like the predecessor to Space Cowboys! But instead, the movie is more like a predecessor for all those crazy ass action flicks with blood and guts (see any Stallone or Schwarzenegger movie).

So I've already discussed the plot, it's that simple. The movie is really all about the action and the violence. In fact, Peckinpah went to great lengths to create a very realistic and bloody movie to provide a metaphor for Vietnam. Sounds a little heady? Well I really didn't sense too much connection with that failed war, but there were some great action scenes! And those come fast and furious as Holden and his gang take out thug after thug. I read somewhere that Peckinpah also wanted to depict this much violence on screen (which was a lot for its time) to show how horrifying it all really is. Instead, audience reaction was more of glee than of horror. What he set out to achieve ended up biting him in the ass. By today's standards, this movie is fairly tame, but I can only imagine seeing this in 1969 probably caused an uproar. But for the most part I enjoyed the tale, even if it's slim on story and character.

I wouldn't ever consider this one of the greatest westerns (not that I've seen much), but it's a good action flick if you're looking for something to tide you over until the next modern bloodbath comes along.

Rating: A Half-Hearted Rent It!

182: Persepolis

Persepolis (PG-13) - 2007 - Runtime: 96 minutes
Voiced by: Sean Penn, Iggy Pop, Gena Rowlands
Director: Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi

Ahh, what a refreshing tale. I was suggested this by my sister-in-law, who has good taste, so I couldn't refuse. She lent Maggie a copy of the graphic novel the movie is based on, you can read her review here. It's a quirky comedy that takes on a lot of serious issues, but it does it so well that at times your laughing and other times your tearing up just a bit. It's a fun movie, but has layers to it, also. It's a story about growing up and never forgetting your heritage.

Marji is growing up in the late 70s in Iran. She watches as the Iranian Revolution takes over her country. In place of a ruling dictator, Iran's government has now been taken over by Islamic Fundamentalists. Marji soon moves away from Iran, only to be drawn back in because she can never abandon her cultural identity. I have always found the Middle East to be a confusing mess of culture, religion and politics and have never really delved too deep into its history. But here's a movie that's very open and honest about Iran and its own culture - and it was very engaging and informative. And although the movie has a modern, western idealism to it, it's never condescending of Iran and it never talks down to the audience, either. But as much as I loved the information, I absolutely loved Marji. She's such a conflicted character and, much like another animated foreign picture, Waltz With Bashir, she can never forget her past and family.

The movie is funny, too! Marji is cute as a little kid whose ideals about modern culture are clashing with the new regime. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a more substantial comedy than just dick and fart jokes!

Rating: Rent It!

182: Funny Girl

Funny Girl (G) - 1968 - Runtime: 151 minutes
Starring: Barbara Streisand, Omar Sharif
Director: William Wyler

This movie is about the life and times of Fannie Brice and I could care less. Uggh, this movie was just so, umm, not up my alley. I stopped paying attention after the first half hour. I really did not care about Fannie's rise to fame. She seemed to eager and bratty to me and her comedy wasn't exactly gut-busting.

The plot is simple enough: Fannie wants to be a star and she gets her break like right away and ends up being a superstar practically overnight! It's completely ridiculous, and of course, she falls for a hunk of a man, played by Sharif. Of course, they're meant for each other, but not really. I was actually quite surprised by that relationship's ending, because it was entirely realistic as opposed to the rest of the film. But talk about dull! And the music and dance numbers really didn't take off with me. It doesn't help that I have zero interest in Streisand. This is the movie that launched her movie career after finding success in music and theater. But I just didn't connect with her, hence my indifference to this movie.

The biggest problem I had was it's length. After the first thirty minutes, I realized there was two more hours and just rescinded myself to distracting myself until it was over. This is the only time I have done this while watching a movie and I figured it was okay just this once! If you love musicals, you'll probably adore this one and if you don't, like myself, make sure to avoid!

Rating: Not Worth Paying For!

182: Singin' in the Rain

Singin' in the Rain (G) - 1952 - Runtime: 103 minutes
Starring: Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds
Director: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly

This movie is hard to find, well, at least to rent. My old store had a copy, but we closed and no other store around the area had a copy. It was even hard to find online! Luckily, I found a copy and immediately took it home. The reason I had to see it, was because A) it was a musical and B) it was AFI's #6. And I had watched at least the rest of AFI's top 10, so I had to finish it up. Luckily, this movie is pretty good as far as musicals go, but I don't think I'll ever be watching it again!

The story is rather dull, it's another Hollywood insider story. The world has just been introduced to talking pictures with The Jazz Singer. And unfortunately, that puts Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont on the spot to transition from silent movie stars to bona fide sound actors. What really kills them is Lina's god awful voice. It's straight from Staten Island or Jersey or a mix of both. So of course, Gene Kelly gets Kathy Selden (Debbie Reyonolds) to be the voice of Lina. All is well until Lina finds out and hilarity ensues. It's really not a bad story, just that the movie is so light-hearted and completely unrealistic towards it. Which is fine, because the movie isn't a serious movie at all. It's a comedy, so I have no qualms with that, but near the end I felt so bad for Lina Lamont, but the movie did not. She turns into this evil and diabolical queen bee who wants to sabotage Don and Kathy's romance and careers. But she ends up being the one eating their dust. I know it's supposed to be light hearted, but the movie never gives Lina a happy ending and I felt a tiny bit sad.

But that's not what's great about the movie. The music and especially the choreography, are what makes this movie great. There's so much good dancing, especially by Kelly, that it's quite unbelievable what he can do. It's fun to watch no doubt, and your left kind of wondering what happened to these kind of dance numbers, they seem so simple, but hard to pull off (Although to be quite honest, I really am looking forward to that guilty pleasure, Step Up 3D. It's just looks like all kinds of ridiculous!). So in the end I did enjoy the movie, but I don't think I'll be watching it again.

Rating: Rent It!

182: Sleepers

Sleepers (R) - 1996 - Runtime: 147 minutes
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Jason Patric, Brad Pitt
Director: Barry Levinson

Wow. This movie hit me pretty hard. Not that I was completely floored by the movie, but it did not leave my brain until several hours later. This was a good movie about friends, loyalty and growing up. It tugs at memories and nostalgia a lot, but it's tastefully done, much better than Mystic River, in my opinion.

The story involves a group of four friends living in Hell's Kitchen during the sixties. They're rough around the edges, but all in all, they're good kids. At least, that's what their priest believes (played by De Niro), until one day when they're lives are forever changed. They decide to steal some hot dogs from a vendor, but instead it goes horribly wrong and they all end up in juvenile detention for a year. There, they start to endure all kinds of torture from the guards, ranging from beat ups to actual sexual abuse. It's pretty horrifying. Flash to over ten years later and a couple of the kids, now turned local thugs, run into one of the main guards eating at a restaurant (the evil Kevin Bacon). Of course, they dispatch with the man and are subsequently arrested. And it comes down to a decision by their priest if they make it out alive.

The story, I think, isn't as important as the friendship involved between these four guys and the paths they take after the disastrous events with the hot dog vendor. The movie was long, but it never felt like anything could be cut out - the movie strikes a good balance between its first act - they kids - and the second act - the grown ups. I love movies where we get past & present - I like seeing where these characters have ended up and how sometimes the pull of fate is too much for friendship. Now & Then, Stand by Me, The Sandlot, Radio Flyer. Plus, I think I like the fifties and sixties version of childhood portrayed in these movies. It's like an ideal time for them, but looking back, it's much more complicated than and not so innocent of a time.

I thought the cast was excellent, the kids are great and the grown ups who play them were just as good. The movie does a good job at showing the emotional scars left behind in all of them. I liked how in the end, it didn't matter what the outcome was, they were never fully going to get over what happened to them. It's quite a downer of a movie, but it's not an oppressive feeling during the movie. It just weighs on your mind a long time afterwards. And that's a great movie - one that digs under your skin and leaves its mark long after you've left the screen.

Rating: Rent It!


182: Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief (PG) - 2010 - Runtime: 118 minutes
Starring: Logan Lerman, Pierce Brosnan, Brandon T. Jackson
Director: Chris Columbus

I really love Greek mythology. Especially when it's expanded upon and creates its own unique myth (see: The God of War games). I don't know, something about the gods and the old titans I just really dig. So I was looking forward to checking this movie out - I haven't read the books, but I heard they were good, if not great. Alas, this movie was major suckitude and I don't think I'd want to check out the books after watching this one!

Percy Jackson is just a normal, breathing underwater for 10 minutes high school kid who finds out very quickly that he's a demigod (or, for those too dimwitted and slow, as the movie assumes, half man, half god). He's Poseidon's son and has been accused of stealing Zeus' lightning bolt, the source of Zeus's power. So it's up to Percy to figure out what the hell is happening and of course, have some good looking chick and annoying side kick tag along to help him. The formula already is a bit thin and after the first half an hour, I grew tired. The movie started off nicely - you get right into the story, but after that it's dull.

My problems are thus: I hate it when they re-tell stories - for example, Medusa is still alive? Didn't Perseus (aha, see what they did there?), the son of Zeus kill her already? What the what? I hated that the writers were too lazy to tell a unique story. Instead, we get the always clever (read: never) looking into the mirror trick, kind of. Second, the movie felt like a video game. And not in a good way because it seemed to play out like this: find three hidden pearls! Once you get the pearls, you will face a boss - Medusa, a Five Headed Dragon, etc. etc. It's too stilted and just doesn't flow right. I can't explain it better than that! Third, the villain isn't all that menacing and you never really feel like the world is in danger. The movie is so far removed from the real world from the very beginning that when it's threatened, it doesn't seem real. Plus! SPOILER! You never find out how the dude stole the lightning bolt in the first place! Sure, I'm glad he didn't monologue, but this is very important effing information! I suppose Zeus just left it on the porch on Mt. Olympus? This is just another example of the laziness of the writing!

Okay! So I would definitely avoid this one. It tries so hard to be hip to the new generation. Like the way to get to Hades in hell is found in a cave near the Hollywood sign or the entry point to Mt. Olympus is through the Empire State Building's elevator. Thanks for giving us instantly recognizable landmarks! Because making things up is too hard. Sigh.

Rating: Avoid Like the Plague!

182: Blow-Up

Blow-Up (R) - 1966 - Runtime: 111 minutes
Starring: Vanessa Redgrave, David Hemmings
Director: Michelangelo Antonioni

This is considered one of my foreign movies, even though it's an English (pretty much) film. It's Antonioni's first English-language film, but I guess it's considered very much an Italian film. It's considered to be a classic foreign film and I was definitely intrigued by the premise, but I will say this movie sucked big time. I absolutely wish I had those two hours back!

The premise is this: Thomas, a high-fashion photographer in the swingin' sixties, is looking for inspiration and decides to go out to the park and take some pictures. It soon becomes apparent that he's actually photographed a murder. Doesn't that sound really awesome? Yeah, except the dude doesn't actually find out about the pictures until about an hour and half into the goddamn movie! Most of the beginning is filled with his life as a photographer - BORING! I don't care about that stuff - get me to the mystery and intrigue. I suppose there's some great metaphor about high fashion and the sixties, but it's too lost on me because it was dull. I can't believe people love this movie - it ends on sour note and doesn't really solve anything. It's completely pointless! You don't know anything more about the murder than he finds the body and Vanessa Redgrave will smoke pot and get topless for the pictures of the crime.

Stay away from this movie - it's pretty much sums up what I hate about artsy fartsy movies, especially from the sixties and seventies. It's pretentious and slow and doesn't have any sense of where it's going.

Rating: Avoid Like the Plague!

182: 2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey (PG) - 1968 - Runtime: 141 minutes
Starring: Gary Lockwood, Keir Dullea
Director: Stanley Kubrick

Kubrick has had quite an amazing career. Most of his movies are considered classics and he's always referenced as inspiration to most modern filmmakers. And I completely understand. He has a mastery over the camera - he knows how to shoot a movie perfectly and distill the images and sounds on the screen into something more than a movie - he's creating an experience. It never more true than his possible magnum opus: 2001: A Space Odyssey. It's truly a masterpiece in film and such a great tale of mankind on a such a large scale. All that praise may sound a bit too dramatic, but the movie hit me pretty profoundly. It will probably take a couple more viewings to truly appreciate it, but the movie nevertheless is gripping on first viewing.

The story follows mankind - from simple apes to space colonizing astronauts. The main theme of the movie is evolution and this is represented by a big, black obelisk that pushes man to the next stage in evolution. All of this is shown and not really told. That's the beauty of the movie - there's more to show than tell and Kubrick does it so well. Like all of his movies, the look is just perfect, from the round space station and the running track to the hallucinating and colorful space (and time?) travel. The computer Hal is possibly the most vicious and delightful villain that doesn't have a face.

I really don't know what else to say, just that you need to see this movie if you haven't. It's so iconic and epic that you might not get it at first, but I know I'll be going back to this classic very soon!

Rating: Own It!

182: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (R) - 2009 - Runtime: 152 minutes
Starring: Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace
Director: Niels Arden Opley

I had decided to finally test the hype and put a request at my local library for the book The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I've heard nothing but great things and it took about a month before I actually got my hands on it. And once I had the time - I tore through the book in less than a week. It's so good - every bit of hype it has it well deserved. And it's no surprise they made a movie (albeit it is Swedish, duh, but an American remake is coming!) because the story lends itself so well to a film treatment. Well, that's both a blessing and a curse - the movie could never live up to the awesomeness of the book, but it's such a great story and the plot is perfect for a crime mystery movie. The movie is genuinely good, but there are some things lacking for those who've read the book.

The plot is somewhat complex, but the movie focuses mainly on the main mystery: Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a family gathering on the island owned and inhabited by the powerful Vanger clan. Her body was never found, yet her uncle is convinced it was murder and that the killer is a member of his own tightly knit but dysfunctional family. He employs disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist and the tattooed, ruthless computer hacker Lisbeth Salander to investigate. (the imdb plot was too perfect not to cut and paste!) Needless to say, the movie will have you on the edge of your seat if you haven't read the story. It's a long movie, but it's actually paced really nicely - there's enough suspense and drama to keep you going and the two main characters work well together. I found the actual actors to be really good - they play their parts to perfection, although I can understand people's complaint with Rapace, but that's due more to the complexity of the character itself than her acting. It's a thoroughly riveting film and it takes you along for the ride.

As for the flaws? Well, if you read the book, you'll know that there is a lot more going on than just the main murder mystery. There's all sorts of side plots that delve deeper into the characters and to be quite honest, these are just as good as the actual main mystery. And the movie barely touches on these aspects, but it's a movie. And that's my main complaint - this really should have been a miniseries, like on HBO. It would have been great to watch like a 6- or 8-hour treatment of the book - I would have really enjoyed it. Apparently, there is a Swedish television series about the books, but I can't find any information except for this imdb page.

Still, it's a great movie and worth watching! It's coming out this Tuesday, so check it out!

Rating: Rent It!

182: Double Feature! For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

For a Few Dollars More (R) - 1965 - Runtime: 132 minutes
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef

Director: Sergio Leone

I made a point to watch the whole Dollars Trilogy by Leone after watching the first one and really enjoying it. I totally forgot to write a review on the second movie so I'm squeezing it in here! The second one is even better than the first. And even though Clint Eastwood remains a nameless badass in all three movies, he's not the same guy, nor are the movies a continuing story. Rather, the themes and character traits are all tied together in the trilogy, rather than the story.

In the second movie, Eastwood and Cleef team up as two bounty hunters who take out a ruthless gang of bandits, led by a man named Indio. They both have different motivations to get to the gang and the movie plays this out brilliantly. It's a very romantic notion of the west and leans more towards the idealistic west, rather than the reality of it all. The two bounty hunters are very much good guys and after a few showdowns between the two, their pairing was simply natural. I have to say - I loved Cleef's character and his motivation for hunting down Indio and his gang, which I won't reveal here. The action is awesome and the pacing is great - it's never too dull and Leone has perfected that slow swell to intense action.

Rating: Own It!

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (R) - 1967 - Runtime: 161 minutes
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Eli Wallach
Director: Sergio Leone

I loved the second one even more and thought the third would be the most badass of them all - it's the one people most remember and it's considered the best western of all time. I'd have to disagree. While the movie is particularly badass and awesome, I still don't think it even comes close to touching Leone's other epic, Once Upon a Time in the West. Nor is it the best movie in the trilogy.

Once again, Eastwood plays a no-name character, nicknamed Blondie (the Good) by one of the other characters. He comes upon a ruthless outlaw, Tucco (the Ugly), who he teams up with to outwit and outgun local townsfolk out of reward money. But there's a much bigger reward at stake - a heaping of gold buried in a remote cemetery. On their heels is another bounty hunter, Angel Eyes (the Bad), looking to stake his claim. I wouldn't consider this epic, but the music and the showdowns and everything in between says otherwise. The story itself is rather small, but the characters are big. I loved this movie, but I don't think I liked it as much as A Few Dollars More. There's some great things about the movie - particularly the soundtrack. It's so iconic and just plain awesome - I'm tempted to buy the album! The last scene is particularly resounding and just great - Leone knows how to build up tension and the cemetery showdown scene is the perfect one yet.

The flaws of the movie? Well, I guess I'm a romantic myself, because I didn't like that Blondie wasn't particularly a good character. He's just as ugly as Tucco and Angel Eyes - he's only after the money and he shows no sense of reproach or regrets in what he does. I guess that's more realistic and makes for a better characters study, but dammit, I want my westerns to be idealistic and black and white! Oh well - it's still a great western and I'm definitely going to be watching this one again!

Rating: Own It!

182: Gran Torino

Gran Torino (R) - 2008 - Runtime: 116 minutes
Starring: Clint Eastwood
Director: Clint Eastwood

I will admit that I'm not a huge Eastwood fan. I don't get a raging boner whenever I hear news of his new movie that seems to come out every year. Seriously, this guy is the Bob Barker of directors. But when your dad recommends a movie, you are kind of obligated to watch it. Unless your dad has a proven track record of having bad taste - which I won't say that about my dad. But his choice in movies, is ummm, well, unique. So with much hesitation (I rented this three times before actually sitting down to watch it!), I popped this one in. And while it wasn't as depressing or awful as I thought, it still wasn't as good a movie as I heard practically every customer rave when it came out last year.

Walt is an old man. A veteran of the Korean war and has just seen the passing of his old lady. He hates everyone and his only companion is an old mangy dog and his mint condition Gran Torino. Of course, some Asian immigrants move in next door and cause all sorts of ruckus and soon, Walt finds his cold little heart melting just a tad. I will admit, the story did get to me at the end - I teared up a bit. But man, some of the dialogue and acting was just plain awful! The worst example was the priest, barely pushing 14? Well, he looked not much older than that. His lines were delivered so dead pan and flat that I wondered if he had trouble memorizing the lines and was solely just concentrating on the next word, instead of ya know, acting! It was so bad - and the dialogue! Dreadful! Let me give you an example: [Walt's smoking] "You should quit. Those things are bad for you. "
Walt Kowalski: "Yeah? So's being in a gang." And Walt is almost too racist to exist, it's like Eastwood is daring us to call him out on it. But of course, the man's just a sweetie pie in the end and it shows. But to me, that's the worst part about the movie - it ends up parodying itself in the end. The characters aren't worth a damn and they don't seem believable.

I don't consider myself an authority about Eastwood, but from what I gather he seems to be playing the same character over and over again! It's too bad, because he's a good actor, I just don't see much range. Oh well, just skip this one!

Rating: Not Worth Paying For!

182: Sex and the City 2

Sex and the City 2 (R) - 2010 - Runtime: 146 minutes
Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristen Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Kim Cattrall
Director: Michael Patrick King

I won't add too many words to what is already becoming the worst movie of 2010. I don't consider myself a fan of the show or the movie, but they were enjoyable and fun distractions. Pure entertainment. So I actually didn't mind that they were forging ahead with the next movie, despite the fact that everything wrapped up pretty nicely in the last movie. I think the characters a so well developed that I didn't mind seeing what would happen next. God, was I wrong. This movie takes a big ol' dump on the show and the movie and what they established with the characters.

The plot is pretty outrageous as it gets - Carrie whines a lot about her aging - she wants to be forever 21 and the rest of the girls have some problems, too. But for some reason, they're big enough to justify going all the way to the middle east for some R&R. There's a lot of side plots and distractions along the way that don't really go anywhere, but just add more noise to this movie. It's utterly dull and I found the characters becoming just flat caricatures of themselves by the end of the movie where they need to rush to the airport in order to not sit coach, which is the ugliest sins of all, apparently. So yeah, the movie is as bad as everyone has said and you don't need to watch it because it'll ruin the memory you had watching those four gal pals sexin' it up in the city. It's kind of like when Brett Favre retired. Much sadness ensued, but next year, we saw him again in a different uniform and it pretty much ruined his legacy - it's not like he's winning MVP awards or Super Bowls for that matter. And he did that twice! Let's just hope they get the message and bury this franchise before it gets even worse.

Rating: Avoid Like the Plague!

182: Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Treasure of the Sierra Madre (PG) - 1948 - Runtime: 126 minutes
Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Tim Holt
Director: John Huston

This one is actually good. With these older movies, sometimes they hold up really well, and sometimes they're just too dull. But I think the good outweighs the bad in this one - the performances are spectacular and the story is universal enough to never grow stale.

Bogart plays Dobbs, a drifter who heads to Mexico in search of jobs in 1925. There, him and his best friend, Curtin, get swindled into a job with no money. But they soon find out, according to a grizzled and experienced old man, that there's some gold in the hills if you know how to look for it. And that sets in motion a tale of greed and betrayal. Humphrey Bogart is fantastic because he isn't the hero or suave man that he usually plays. In fact, I was really impressed by his performance as a man caught up in his own greed and lust for gold. It's a classic tale about betrayal and how someone can change when their fortunes also change. And I don't know how intentional it was - but it was funny, also. I found the Mexican bandits to be absolutely adorable and hilarious! "We don't need no badges!" is a classic line, but the way the actor delivers it, it was quite a hoot. I don't know what it was, but I couldn't find those bandits to be menacing. They just seemed so cute with their sombreros and thick accents. Maybe I'm racist? I don't know but be sure to check this one out to find out if you're as bad as me!

Rating: Rent It!


It's officially been a whole year. Okay, well yesterday, but I did finish watching movies yesterday! I just have been a bit slow on the reviews - work is such a time suck!

But I accomplished what I set out to do and it feels pretty good! I've actually watched 189 movies total! That is pretty amazing for a non-professional, IMO. And I've learned a lot about movies and myself, as corny as that may sound. I actually learned that I like westerns. Well, at least for the most part. It's kind of weird that such a small, niche genre has so many movies. It's a genre that had its heyday before my time, but it might have a comeback soon with True Grit on the horizon. I still pretty much loathe musicals, although I do appreciate them more. They're always a bit too long and over dramatic for me. Or if they're comedies, I don't really laugh that much. As for horror movies? I love the classics, but I didn't really delve into the modern day horror films, like the torture porn movies - Hostel, Saw, in particular. Maybe someday, but I still think I won't ever find that stuff entertaining at all.

But I won't just stop here, I've loaded up my queue and have been skimming 501 Must See Movies every once in a while for suggestions. I'm always willing to give a movie a shot if someone recommends it. As for the last reviews? They're coming but you can expect them to be fairly short and sweet!