Sunday, February 26, 2012

When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

I'm going to level with you: I have spent the past hour or so sitting in front of this computer trying to type out an intro paragraph for my review of Act of Valor. I've tried numerous stories about my family's history with the military or the delicacies of expressing an opinion on a topic that could possibly alienate your audience but nothing seemed to work. Eventually I put my fingers on the keyboard and I just froze. I couldn't find the right words to say. No matter what combination I used, I just couldn't create a suitable introduction. Then it hit me. You want to know the reason I'm struggling to find the right words to say?

Act of Valor is not a good movie.

It's not like I expected a lot. The jingoistic, near propaganda levels of overly enthusiastic patriotism that seem to bother a lot of critics was always going to be evident. Honestly though that doesn't bother me. I'm proud to be an American and I respect each and every member of the military that risk their lives so that we're safe. Whether or not you believe in war doesn't matter, they're still out there protecting your right to believe whatever you want to believe. Sometimes it's nice to be reminded of all the hard work that they do and that is one of the ways this film excels. That said, it fails in so many other ways it's really hard to recommend it.

The story follows a group of Navy SEALs who are trying to stop terrorists from blowing up America (or at least heavily populated areas of America) with a special kind of suicide bomb vest that can't be detected by normal metal detectors. While they are trying to stop that, they also must rescue a CIA agent who has been kidnapped by the ringleader of the aforementioned terrorists.

That's basically the plot in a nutshell. There are some intricacies to it, mostly between the two main SEALs that this film focuses on, but really it doesn't get much deeper than what I have already mentioned. For a reference, it's about as deep as a Call of Duty game. Sadly, for anyone who has played these games, they know that the stories in them are quite thin. There is enough substance to justify going into battle and doing what they do best, but don't expect any hard hitting, thought provoking writing in the down time between battles. If you don't care about that then this is the perfect movie for you, but for me I like a little more substance than just a means to an end. In fact I dozed off a few times during the quiet scenes. Never actually fell asleep, because that would be disrespectful to a movie, but I came close on a number of occasions.
The acting is surprisingly bad and it's actually not from the SEALs themselves. In fact, the SEALs do their damnedest and few of them did quite well with the material they were given, weak as it may be. It's the acting of Alex Veadov, Roselyn Sanchez and Nestor Serrano, the three professional actors that are featured in this movie, that really drag this film down. Veadov and Serrano are not convincing villains at all and honestly feel like glorified henchmen. Neither man gives off the right energy and even when they are blowing up innocents or doing terrible things it seems really tame because of they're presence. One of the most "shocking" scenes in the movie features Serrano doing something terrible that in any other film would cause an audible gasp or at least a "I really want him to die" attitude in the viewer. I couldn't care less and that's tragic. Roselyn gives a slightly better performance but she isn't given a ton to do so it's really hard to gauge her.

Where this film shines, and honestly the only reason to see this movie if you MUST see this movie, is in the action. Tight, well shot, gripping and intense were words that came to my mind when I was watching these scenes. They can be quietly powerful and explosively hectic within the span of a few minutes. IF you must see this film, see it for the action because that ALMOST makes it worth the price of admission.

Overall Act of Valor is a poorly written, poorly acted film with great action. If action is all you want then by all means see it, but me I'd rather spend my money on something with a little more substance.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

You are very beautiful, very talented. But we are going to make you more beautiful, even more talented.

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

Sometimes I wonder why I choose to watch the films I do. Granted I could just read my catchphrase and that'd be a good enough answer but sometimes even that doesn't seem to be a good enough explanation. Sleeping Beauty is one of those movies that raises that question. It's not a bad movie by any means, in fact I think it's Emily Browning's best role to date, but why in the blue Hell would I want to watch a movie about old men fondling an unconscious ginger? Then again I doubt that short little synopsis would really appeal to many people unless you are one of those said old men. Sleeping Beauty is a weirdly fascinating and disturbing film about apathy, silence and human nature. Though I continued to sit further and further back as the film kept going (I think at one point I might have been behind the couch) I could never take my eyes off the film. The film is like watching a train crash during a Pink Floyd light show. I know I shouldn't be interested but I am.

Anyway I probably should move on and talk about the plot. Otherwise I'll continue to make increasingly worse comparisons until I've offended at least three people.
The film follows Lucy (Emily Browning), a college student/waitress/prostitute/science experiment trying to make ends meat. She's quiet, mostly keeps to herself and her only friend is a man named Birdman who is infatuated with her. She of course doesn't feel the same way (she rarely ever shows any emotion) but she feels an obligation to visit and take care of him since he's the only one who will treat her like a normal person. She takes a job offer in the newspaper (like she needs more jobs) to be a server for old rich guys. The catch is she'd be in lingerie and would more than likely be humiliated. But she doesn't care. She doesn't care about anything. Eventually she gets a promotion and becomes a "sleeping beauty," which is a woman who is drugged and put to sleep for 6-8 hours. During that time a male (or female but only men are ever shown) companion will come in and do whatever he wants to her, as long as there is no sex.

Sounds like a wonderfully charming film doesn't it? Yeah, didn't think so. But to Julia Leigh's credit she does craft an interesting story and does a lot without saying a lot. The theme of the film, apathy and silence, is apparent from the opening minutes and it never tries to be anything more than that. If you aren't hooked by the fifteen minute mark, you probably never will be. But silence can be deafeningly engrossing to some and this film has it in spades. The plot does jump around a lot and leaves a lot of ambiguity/plot holes but overall it's unique and I appreciate unique.
Browning is brilliant as Lucy. She's an actress who can do subtle well and this role is basically the closest to pure subtlety we'll be likely to see for a number of years. She's almost non-existent but she commands the screen every time she's on it. That's hard, especially when there is almost nothing going on during the movie, action or score wise. She has to make you feel and react to everything without the film directing you to do so. That's tough. And she deserves credit where credit is due. Otherwise the acting is unremarkable. It's not bad but it's just there. Not bad, not good.

Sleeping Beauty is a film that nobody will probably want to see and even if they do they won't want to finish it. Even if they do they'll probably hate it. That's fine and I totally understand. But for me Sleeping Beauty is a compelling, original film led by a wonderful performance by Browning. But that's just me.

MY VERDICT: SEE IT (3 out of 5)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

This Means War Movie Review

I'm a sucker for romantic comedies. I don't know why but I just love them. I know wholeheartedly that they are probably, and usually are, not all that good and just there to earn an easy buck, but if they have an actor I like or I just want to have an enjoyable evening, most of the time I'd pick a rom-com. This Means War is the newest rom-com to hit theaters and I was hopeful when I first saw the trailers that it would at least be better than the steaming pile known as "One For the Money." It had one of my all time favorites Reese Witherspoon in it as well as two of my favorite leading men in Hollywood today: Tom Hardy and Chris Pine. It was also directed by McG, who directed the Charlie's Angels films, which are two of my guilty pleasures. It also seemed to have an abundance of action, something that seemed like a nice breath of fresh air in this genre. I mean I'm not expecting Michael Bay to release the next Miley Cyrus film or anything but to see some spy action thrown in can't hurt can it? 

But hope, posters and trailers can only get you so far. Is this film any good? Well surprisingly my hope was not misplaced and This Means War is actually really good. It's predictable, full of holes and everything else I've come to love/tolerate in a rom-com but at it's core it's hilarious, action packed and a frothy, enjoyable romp.
 The film follow Tuck (Hardy) and FDR (Pine) two CIA agents who, after a botched mission in Hong Kong involving a terrorist named Heinrich (Til Schweiger), are put on desk duty. Meanwhile Lauren (Witherspoon), a product tester, is anxious to get back in the dating game after her ex gets engaged to another woman. Her friend Trish (Chelsea Handler) signs her up for online dating and gets paired with Tuck, who starts an online dating profile after watching a commercial for it on television. FDR decides to be his wingman but soon finds he's not needed since the two are hitting it off. FDR and Lauren bump into each other later (him not knowing she was Tuck's date) and soon they begin hitting it off as well. Lauren feels bad about the idea of dating two guys but Trish convinces her to along with it. Soon both men discover that they are dating the same woman and, since neither will back down, decide to let Lauren figure out who she wants to be with. They start off promising they won't interfere in each other's lives but, like any good rom-com, that  doesn't last that long and soon they're sabotaging each others dates, all while Heinrich plans his revenge on the two.

This movie is flat out hilarious. While there are plenty of inconsistencies in the plot and the whole Heinrich storyline feels like an afterthought, for the most part the writing is really top notch. It's been a while since I've laughed this hard during a movie. You could question why two agents are spending hundreds of millions of dollars stalking a woman or how a restaurant full of people can suddenly become empty in a blink of an eye but really, why would you want to? Suspending your disbelief is part of what makes movies like these good. They aren't meant to break through any barriers or cause you to rethink your life. They are meant to entertain and make you laugh. That's all. On the acting side Hardy, Witherspoon and Pine all give great performances. Chelsea Handler though, who I usually don't like, steals the show. Her delivery, her facial expressions, everything about her is fantastic.

Great action, great laughs, great fun, This Means War may not change the world but it's escapism at its finest.

Monday, February 20, 2012

How do you look at the one you love and tell yourself it's time to walk away.

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

For the most part I tend to hate romance movies. They all ooze cheese from every pore, are usually shoddily written and acted and for the most part lack any redeeming value whatsoever, yet will sell out faster than a Madonna concert. There are exceptions to the rule (i.e The Notebook, Casablanca ect) but for the most part they are a chore to sit through and are usually the most predictable films of the year.

The newest film your girlfriend or spouse will most likely drag you to is the Michael Sucsy (the Emmy award winning Grey Gardens remake is his only credit) written and directed film "The Vow." The Vow is inspired by Kim and Krickitt Carpenter, who experienced the same thing that Paige (Rachel McAdams) and Leo (Channing Tatum) experienced and judging by the trailer, poster and stills I thought this film was going to be terrible. But a few of my friends said it was good and generally we tend to have the same taste in films, so I went with a group consisting of my mother, her friends and myself and surprisingly The Vow isn't all that bad. It's by no means great and it certainly has it's downfalls, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy it.
The film follows Paige and Leo, a newly married couple, who are involved in a terrible car accident. Leo gets some minor injuries but Paige is ejected out of the car through the windshield and suffers some pretty traumatic brain injuries. When she eventually wakes up from her coma though, she can't remember Leo or any of her life before dropping out of law school to become an artist (around the time she met Leo). Leo is obviously devastated but instead of pouting he decides to do his damnedest to help her regain her memories, or at least the memories of their love because when he said he'd love her forever, he meant it.

The general idea of the story works and for the most part when it's focused on Leo helping Paige get back to normal the film is good. It's all the other things the film throws into the story that hinder the film. Useless side plots (an ex-fiancee story that goes nowhere) weird characterization (her parents manipulate her and try to mold her into their image), and a whole lot of going nowhere scenes drag down and pad out what otherwise is a touching story of love. Whenever it deviated I felt like groaning and multiple times I found myself screaming "What?" in my head wondering if the writers forgot to take Screenwriting 101.
Usually when there is such mediocre writing I tend to give up on the film and call it a dud. But where this film shines, and where I'm able to forgive SOME of the screenplay's problems, is in the acting. Tatum gives a career best performance and actually made me feel emotions and genuinely care about his character. Umm...what? Where was this Tatum for the past couple years (Dear John especially)? I guess my theory about Tatum getting better as an actor is true. Granted he still has a ways to go before he reaches greatness but if you do well in a movie I'm damn sure going to point it out and Tatum deserves credit where credit is due. McAdams also delivers the goods and plays the amnesiac role quite well. Usually it's easy for an actor to go full cheese whenever they get amnesia but McAdams plays it well and you actually feel her struggle, even if she has a tendency to kind of repeat certain things ad nauseum from time to time. Sam Neil and Jessica Lange round out the cast and they both do fine jobs as well. It's nice to see Neil more active lately, as he has great delivery and can play a sly but lovable character almost better than anyone. And Lange has been on fire this year and she has one scene in this film that would have been eye rollingly bad if it had been any other actress. But she delivers on that scene and you can tell that she's giving it her all.

Overall The Vow is an above average romance film with great acting but mediocre writing. Honestly I probably won't remember this film six months from now but in terms of a date movie, you could really do a lot worse. If nothing else you get to see Tatum steadily improve in his craft and honestly that was worth it enough for me.

MY VERDICT: RENT IT (2.5 out of 5) 

TME Ink's Top Films of 2011

Travis McCollum:
2011 was a great year for film. We saw returning franchises get new life, well known directors getting a second wind, new cinematic classics and cinematic clunkers and if nothing else we got an abundance of films to make the Top 10 list. I had to narrow mine down from 25 to 10 and trust me that was a lot harder than I thought it would be, especially since I'm not doing a Favorites/Best this year and instead condensing it into one list. Then again when your favorite and what you consider the best are both number 1 then you probably don't need two lists. Without further ado, here is my Top 10 of 2011

(Note: The Artist and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy didn't come out till 2012 where I live so I'm not counting them)

Honorable Mentions: Horrible Bosses (Favorite Comedy), Rango (Favorite Animated Film), The Adventures of Tintin (Favorite Adventure Film), A Separation (Favorite Foreign Film), The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Favorite Adaptation)

10. Midnight in Paris-
I'm going to level with you, I'm not Woody Allen's biggest fan. Besides maybe Annie Hall I haven't really enjoyed anything he's put out. I don't hate him by any means and if you love his films that's great, more power to you, but he's just never appealed to me. That being said, Midnight in Paris is a wonderful film that, as a fan of literature and art, I could really get behind. While the modern day sequences didn't quite fully click for me, whenever Owen Wilson and the audience were taken back to the past I couldn't help but smile and feel a sense of joy. Whether it was the Fitzgerald's, Hemingway or Dali it didn't matter, these scenes were pure gold. Add in wonderful scenery and a comforting soundtrack that made you feel like you were in France, Midnight in Paris has made me like Woody Allen a little more.

9. Ides of March-
Political films aren't usually my thing. But a political film written, directed and starring George Clooney and featuring an all star cast (including multiple list maker and feminist icon Ryan Gosling) I guess is the exception. A tense, thrilling film about love, betrayal and the American way, I was on the edge of my seat throughout the whole film. Not much else to say except "Brilliant."

8. Crazy, Stupid, Love-
I was just expecting a good comedy. That's all I needed. Steve Carell doesn't have to do much to make me laugh and I'll basically see anything with Gosling (obviously), Emma Stone or Marisa Tomei. So imagine my surprise when CSL is not only hilarious but also a touching, poignant film about love and all the things that we will do for it. Whether it's a new couple, two kids or a divorced couple, we see that love has many forms and that sometimes life can be funny without needing a punchline.

7. Fast Five-
Before it's fifth installment I really dreaded every time I was taken to one of these films. I'd see them because my best friend loves cars and racing movies but in my head I was shouting "Get me out of here!" And when I saw the first trailer for this film I was about ready to just put my foot down and say "Nope, I'm not seeing this movie and you can't make me. This series needs to die." Then I saw the reviews and thought I was in bizarro world. It was one of the better reviewed films of the year (at the time). So I decided to beat my friend to the punch and see it by myself and by the end credits I sat with my lips pursed and shook my head saying "I loved this film and can't wait for the next one. Damn." With great action, cinematography, pacing and all around surprisingly good acting, this is the best installment in the series and a film that I still enjoy watching today.

6. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol-
I've always liked the Mission Impossible series. I recognize they aren't really that deep and have a certain amount of cheese involved as well as some weird plot conveniences scattered throughout, but overall I've found them all mostly enjoyable, although the first one was certainly the highlight...before Ghost Protocol came out that is. While it's still not a deep or well thought out film, the action level and tension level in this film is unmatched by any other film this year. Watch the hotel scene this above poster is based on and tell me that it's boring. Can't do it can you? Whether it's scaling a hotel, running through a sandstorm, fighting in a parking garage or sneaking inside the Kremlin, Brad Bird has a great understanding of action films and how they should be made. If every action was as good as this one, I'd see more action movies.

5. Melancholia-
Lars von Trier and I have a weird relationship. I love almost everything he's put out (Antichrist included) but I probably would never watch any of his films twice. That said, it's hard to deny that Melancholia is a beautiful, wonderfully directed and acted film that showed a side of the end times that we've not really seen before. 2012, I Am Legend and a myriad films have shown how the world is going to end or how the world will be after the apocalypse, but what if there was nothing? No hope, no escape, just darkness and death? If you only had a few hours left on this Earth how would you spend them? What would be going on through your head? Melancholia addresses all these things and does them in a way that not only makes you think, but really look at yourself hard. The second half of the film is a lot stronger than the first half and the acting sans Dunst (in probably her best role to date) is not all that special, but I probably won't forget Melancholia anytime soon. Just don't make me watch it again, I don't know if my soul can take that much depression.

4. Source Code-
Honestly I'm not sure why this film hasn't made more lists. I mean it. Source Code is one of the most brilliant and well crafted science fiction thrillers I've ever seen. Jake Gyllenhaal is brilliant in probably his best role since Donnie Darko and Michelle Monaghan gives her career best performance as well. The effects, the writing (especially the writing), the cinematography, everything works in this film. Duncan Jones and Ben Ripley know how to make great cinema and if I see their names attached to a picture now I will see it. While the ending and some plot elements may have confused and confounded people, I loved every minute. If you haven't seen this film, please give it a shot, it's brilliant.

3. Tucker and Dale vs The Evil-
As someone who grew up on horror films, it's rare that I see a film that completely changes how I look at horror films. But Tucker and Dale accomplish that. They take the old story of "hillbillies kidnap and kill a group of teens" and turn it into "two hillbillies are just trying to enjoy their summer home and nurse an injured teen back to health while a bunch of crazed teenagers try to kill them." It's laughs-a-minute hilarious and the payoff in most of these scenes are priceless and had me pause the film laughing my ass off. Alan Tudyk, whom I adore, is brilliant but it's Tyler Labine who steals the show in this film, playing for laughs but also delivering a lot of heart as well. You're rooting for these guys. They just took "Don't judge a book by it's cover" to a whole new level of awesome.

2. Hugo-
Marin Scorsese, one of the all time greatest directors, does a kids film. Please stop hitting me I'm not crazy and/or on drugs, I'm serious. But if you would have told me that years ago I would have laughed at you repeatedly. In fact when I saw his name attached I thought I was being punked. But I wasn't and Hugo proves to not only be a brilliant kids film, but a brilliant love letter to classic cinema as well as a brilliant Scorsese film. I don't want to spoil some of the magic for you if you haven't seen it, but this was a film that genuinely warmed my heart and made me fall in love with film all over again. Scorsese directs with childlike wonder and his grasp of film making is evident in not only the way he does the film but also the way he handles 3D. He seems to be one of the few that GETS 3D and if you get the chance to, watch it in 3D. It's worth it. The film is whimsical, wonderful and a bunch of other W words. If you love cinema you will love this movie.

1. Drive-
I know a few readers might groan at this choice and say "Oh he's just jumping on the bandwagon with everyone else" but I can't really think of a better film I saw this year. I went in with completely fresh eyes, only having seen a poster for this film and nothing else and when I walked out I was talking up a storm to anyone who would listen. I went up to the ticket counter telling everyone to see this film and honestly I hadn't been that in love with a film since The Hurt Locker back in 2009. Gosling gives a wonderfully subdued role, playing a role that he's mastered over his relatively short but brilliant career. Carey Mulligan and the rest of the cast may not have been as good as Gosling but nobody didn't give it their all and with beautiful cinematography, a still addictive soundtrack and a film that I have watched countless times now but still haven't grown bored with, Drive is my top film of 2011.

Tyler Tyrcha:

10. Scream 4-
A satisfying return to my second favorite horror franchise. And satisfying was all this film had to be to make my top 10.

9. The Descendants-
Clooney being Clooney but Clooney being Clooney is always fantastic to watch. But it might die soon.

8. War Horse-
Spielberg may have manipulated me to shoot streams of tears out of my eyes, but if someone can do that, they deserve great kudos. Damn you Steven.

7. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol-
Brad Bird proves that you can take an average action script and make a great action movie out of it. Also Lea Seydoux. That's all I need to say. Lea Seydoux.

6. Moneyball-
Brad Pitt reading words by Sorkin. Gold.

5. Tree of Life-
People may complain about it being two hours of nothing, but it is a beautiful looking film and film is a visual medium so if it looks beautiful for two and a half hours then in my book it's a beautiful film and beautiful films are great.

4. The Artist-
Despite having a very similar plot to Singing In The Rain, this 100 picture kept me with a smile all the way through (in addition to a full blow erection mid-way through, but it's possible that had nothing to do with the film).

3. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo-
David Fincher's superior adaptation of the pretty good Swedish novel. Mostly superior because of Rooney Mara's performance and naked body.

2. Drive-
A movie beyond words.

1. Midnight in Paris-
Woody Allen proves that he is in fact still alive and can still make cinematic masterpieces.

Andrew Gibson:
Ok, so as far as a top 10 list, I can’t give you that. I can give you a list of 5 movies from 2011 because that’s all I think I saw, as far as movies that came out in 2011. I don’t really get to the theaters as much as I used to and definitely don’t see as many new movies as I used to. Nothing seems to excite me anymore. I don’t know, maybe I’ve become cynical in my progressing age, or maybe they just aren’t making anything exciting anymore. It all seems to be comic book and novel adaptations, which are always better in their original format, so why waste $10 to see a great book condensed into two hours of drudgery? But, whatever the reason is, it kept me from seeing more than five new movies last year. So, here goes, my truncated list of movies that I felt worthy of two hours of my undivided attention (the list is from most favorite to least):

1.       Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2-
     This was actually a pretty decent movie if you look at it as just a movie and not an overhyped, under produced, blurry copy of the books. The acting was acceptable (brilliant from the more seasoned actors, e.g. Alan Rickman), and the story flowed well. My only complaint would be that it ended quite lamely and it was mostly fluff, which is expected of a studio like Warners these days.

2. Hall Pass-
      I actually quite enjoyed this movie, sure it was wildly predictable, but the characters were believable and they actually had a likeability about them which is key in these quasi-romantic comedies. The laughs were good and it kept my attention throughout (which, nowadays, is a tough thing to do) and I didn’t have buyer’s remorse afterwards and that’s always a good sign.

3.       Your Highness-
      At its fundamental core, it’s a stoner movie, the title is a dead giveaway. It’s definitely one of those zany movies that has some good slapstick and some pretty hilarious gags, but it’s nothing spectacular. It is quite ambitious for a stoner movie, I’ll give it that. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy it, it’s great for what it was intended to be and I was thoroughly entertained by it.

4.       Take Me Home Tonight-
As a huge That 70s Show fan, I love watching Topher Grace movies. I watched In Good Company simply because he was in it. Now, this movie he is a bit different than previous roles like that of Eddie Brock or Edwin from Predators but he pulls it off quite nicely and as a fan of his TV work, I definitely saw a bit of Eric Forman in this character. That said, this was a good movie, it wasn’t magnificent on the emotional scale but it had some good laughs and some good characters that showed a decent amount of development. Plus, who can forget that bathroom scene?? Epic!

5.       Sucker Punch-
      I didn’t see this in the theaters but I did by it on Blu-Ray because it looked like a pretty good action movie, and that draw lead me to a pretty interesting plot structure, I was mildly surprised by mostly let down, unfortunately. Half of the problem may lie in the fact that I watched it in two parts and not all the way through, but I doubt it. I get the whole escaping into the mind to be absent from the horror going on around you, but I mean, was she in a mental hospital? Was she in a place that took orphaned girls and made them dance at some madman’s whim? Where did he friends that died really go? I think this movie asked more questions than it answered. The action was good though, I’ll give Sucker Punch that. I mean, a samurai with a Gatling gun?? Yes, please!

6.       The Hangover Part II-
      I’m not really sure why I saw this. Was I expecting something new and not just a rehashed story line in a different location? Foolishly, yes. Boy was I disappointed. I don’t even need to explain it. If you’ve seen the first one, all you have to do is think of that but in Thailand. The best part of this movie though, the casting of Paul Giamatti. He was excellent, a little larger than I remember seeing him, but he was at his best yelling at those hapless idiots. I’d watch that movie again just for Paul Giamatti, but I won’t because, well, it’s just awful.

(P.S.: Turns out I watched SIX movies from 2011! Bonus!)

Lzzy Green:
10. Rango-
Quirky doesn't begin to describe this unique animated western. Full of laughs, great voice work and beautiful animation, it's hard not to fall in love with the tale of Rango.

9. Hall Pass-
I probably liked this film a lot more than I should have but as a fan of Stephen Merchant and Jason Sudeikis, who always seem to make me laugh, as well as including one of the best scenes of the year (think bathroom mishap), Hall Pass is comedy classic and certainly the funniest film of the year.

8. X-Men First Class-
I'm not sure why this film isn't getting as much love as it deserves. It took a floundering franchise, rebooted it and made it better than it's ever been. I'm really looking forward to the upcoming sequel now.

7. Killer Elite-
While this film may have not clicked for many I saw Killer Elite for what it really was: a kick-ass action film featuring three of the greats. It may not revolutionize the action genre but it's a good ride throughout.

6. Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene- 
Beautiful, haunting and brilliant...and that's just Elizabeth Olson. A wonderful thriller that shows the Olson family line has another star in the making.

5. Last Night-
Kiera Knightley rubs a lot of people the wrong way, myself included. That said, this complex tale of love and betrayal is simple but beautiful and it deserves to be seen by everyone.

4. Limitless- 
Give me a minute I need to take this poster in. There...that's better. Sorry I was distracted by the most gorgeous man in Hollywood looking off in the distance with those steely eyes of his. Cooper's looks aside, Limitless is an original, highly underrated that is probably his best role to date. Action and Science-Fiction fans will be sure to love this one.

3. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo-
Rooney Mara is brilliant. Daniel Craig is brilliant. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross are brilliant. David Fincher and Steven Zallian are brilliant. Put it all together and you have a film that can easily be described as brilliant.

2. The Rum Diaries-
Bruce Robinson is back and better than ever. This wonderfully charming and beautiful adaptation of Hunter S Thompson's novel is as funny as it is exciting. Johnny Depp and Michael Rispoli play off each other perfectly, Aaron Eckhart does his best sleaze since Thank You For Smoking, Giovanni Ribisi gives one of his most unforgettable roles and Amber Heard is gorgeous. I wish I looked half as good as her, or at least could borrow some of her outfits. Set in a place that is as breathtaking as it is breath taking, The Rum Diaries is a classic. 

1. Beginners- 
Mike Mills has created another masterpiece. The Thumbsucker director has created a charming and beautiful film about life and love. Everyone is perfect, Christopher Plummer especially, and if you haven't seen this film yet, you are missing out on not only the best film of 2011, but one of the best films ever made.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

My heart is stronger now, because you're in it.

 Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

Ever since I was little I've always had a soft spot for Studio Ghibli films. Their lush animations, compelling stories (even if they were aimed more towards a younger audience) and, for the most part, incredible acting have always kept me interested ever since I first saw Kiki's Delivery Service way back when. Now that's not to say I've loved every film they've put out, in fact they've put out some less then stellar films (i.e Ponyo), but usually if I see the blue Totoro production card in a trailer, chances are I'm going to go see that movie. Their latest release The Secret World of Arrietty is no different and I'm happy to report that it's one of the better "kid friendly" Studio Ghibli films to come out.

Based on the book "The Borrowers" by Mary Norton, The Secret World of Arrietty is the third adaptation of this story that I've watched. The first was the 1997 BAFTA nominated film The Borrowers which starred John Goodman, Jim Broadbent and Hugh Laurie and the second was the 1973 Emmy Award winning Hallmark film starring Eddie Albert. There have been other adaptations throughout the years as well but my initial concern with this film before I even saw it was that it would remind me too much of the previous films. Having now seen the movie I'm glad to say that while it has some of the elements that I remember from the previous films, the Hayao Miyazaki written screenplay does enough things different that it still feels like a completely new and fresh concept.
 The story follows 14 year old Arrietty, a borrower (a tiny person who lives in the floor of a persons house and takes things without them noticing, usually only necessities and supplies) who is finally getting her chance to be a part of the family tradition and go out borrowing. On the day of the borrowing, a young man named Shawn arrives at the house to be taken care of by his Great Aunt Hara before he has major heart surgery. Shawn catches a glimpse of Arrietty and when Arrietty and her father go out borrowing, he calls her out and she drops a sugar cube that they had borrowed. This confrontation sparks a curiosity in Shawn and he decides to try to befriend Arrietty by bringing her the aforementioned sugar cube. Arrietty's parents warn her though that beings (humans) are dangerous and can't be trusted so Arrietty is hesitant to befriend Shawn, even though she can see he is a good person.

The story is (and I hate using this word) quite refreshing. It's not a love story, or at least not in the traditional sense, more so it's a story of understanding and friendship between two completely different types of people. It's simple but well written and tackles some pretty deep issues, especially concerning mortality and death, without getting bogged down or too depressing. Considering this is a film directed towards the young ones I was half tempted to think they were going to talk down to the audience, but it's nice to see that, with the exception of a few moments, it's written for people of all ages. The English translation (this was originally in Japanese) is written by famed children's screenwriter Karey Kirkpatrick (James and the Giant Peach and The Iron Giant) and actually translates quite well from it's source material. You never get the feeling that you're missing out on something Miyazaki meant the audience to get and you'd be surprised how often that happens in the translating process.

The acting in the North American release is across the board pretty decent. Bridget Mendler and David Henrie (of Disney Channel fame) take duties as Arrietty and Shawn respectively. Shawn can come off as slightly breathy and monotone at times but Henrie's charm is evident if you look for it. Mendler is one of the better Disney actresses that has come out in recent years and she does her part quite well, mixing silly and serious appropriately and only rarely does she ever falter in her role. Amy Poehler, Will Arnett and Carol Burnett round out the rest of the main cast and sadly they are a little less memorable than the two leads. Poehler plays well to her comic strengths but comes off slightly annoying at times and can get a little grating. Arnett on the other hand plays it straight and without the wit and irony that is peppered throughout his comedic performances, he comes off as quite dull and uninteresting. He also has a weird pause every time he says Arrietty, like someone who is still trying to figure out how to pronounce it. Burnett is good but she only gets to play to her strengths later in the film so it's slightly disappointing. When she does she's great and becomes one of the more memorable characters but it does have a feeling of slightly too little too late.

Besides what I've mentioned though the film doesn't really have many other problems. It's animations are colorful and lush with great detail, the score is beautifully done and I found myself humming it after the film and it's well paced, which is key in a kids film because you don't want them to lose interest halfway through. There is a slight hitch with mouths and their delivery but as someone who watches a lot of Japanese dubs, unless you're really looking at the mouths intensely you probably won't notice. The only time is once during a sigh but once again...only if you're looking.

Overall though The Secret World of Arrietty is a great take on a classic novel with lush animations, a deep and well written story that doesn't talk down to kids and has pretty decent acting across the board. It draws you in and it's easy to get lost in the world of the borrowers and it leaves you hopefully feeling better than when you went in. Great for the whole family and Studio Ghibli fans alike.

MY VERDICT: SEE IT (3.5 out of 5)