Saturday, December 31, 2011

Friday, December 30, 2011


The Artist on Sunday.  Finally!

From Netflix is the 2011 French thriller Point Blank.

Lots of HD On Demand and new Blu Ray options to keep me busy...

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

EARLY 2012

The begining of the year tends to be a dumping ground of weak efforts, however, there are always some great genre entries released in the dead of winter, so I'm hoping that there are a few small gems and minor pleasures to be had over the next few months.  Here's a list of what I'm curious about between January and April:

The Grey
Safe House
This Means War
Act of Valor
Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
Project X
John Carter
21 Jump Street
Wrath of the Titans
American Reunion
The Cold Light of Day
Bullet to the Head
Cabin in the Woods
The Wettest Country
The Five Year Engagement


At home:  Point Blank

Forks Over Knives
The Guard
Jane Eyre
Revenge of the Electric Car
The Last Mountain
The Wildest Dream
Red Road
Dark Days
The People Vs. George Lucas
Two Days in April
Just Another Love Story
Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control
Man Push Cart
Black Book


With the end of the year rapidly approaching, it’s always best to look back at the movies that I’ve missed, that way I can load up the Netflix queue. Theatrically, I still plan on seeing War Horse (tomorrow night), The Artist (this coming weekend), Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and In the Land of Blood and Honey. Either because they were never released in my area or because I missed them when they were here, here’s a list of the movies from 2011 that snuck by me and that I plan to see via Netflix, HD On-Demand, or HBO HD:

A Dangerous Method
We Need to Talk About Kevin
Texas Killing Fields
Puss in Boots
Paranormal Activity 3
Real Steel
Tower Heist
Happy Feet 2
Arthur Christmas
Scream 4
The Change-Up
The Mechanic
The Killer Elite
Fright Night

Pirates 4
The Rum Diary
Jane Eyre
My Week with Marilynn
The Guard
Margin Call
Like Crazy
The Skin I Live In
Martha Marcy May Marlene
The Double Hour
Red State
Attack the Block
Machine Gun Preacher
Project Nim
The Interrupters
Brighton Rock
Into the Abyss
Being Elmo
Magic Trip
Revenge of the Electric Car
The Last Mountain
Elite Squad: The Enemy Within


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Monday, December 26, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011


Tintin 3-D on Saturday morning -- looks like non-stop adventure and I cannot wait to see it...

War Horse on either Sunday or Monday, Tuesday night the latest.

From Netflix is Sarah's Key and Winnie the Pooh.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


I'll be writing up some reviews soon, but I've seen quite a bit lately, everything being good-to-great which is a real treat, so here's a scorecard of recent titles:

The Debt -- B
The Help -- B+
Another Earth -- A
Exporting Raymond -- B+
Super -- A
Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows -- B+
The Sitter -- B-
Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol -- A+
Young Adult -- A+
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo -- A-


Monday, December 19, 2011


The Tree of Life
Take Shelter
The Descendants
Young Adult

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Friday, December 16, 2011


Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows tomorrow morning.

Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol Sunday morning.

Young Adult Sunday night.

From Netflix is the indie comedy Super and the foreign language drama Sarah's Key.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011



Sat 12/17 -- Sherlock 2
Sun 12/18 -- Mission 4
Sun 12/18 -- Young Adult
Tues 12/20 -- Dragon Tattoo
Xmas Eve -- Tintin
Day after Xmas -- War Horse

The Artist, Shame, and A Dangerous Method have all yet to open in my area and I'm now wondering if/when they ever will...

In the Land of Blood and Honey and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close both look like incredibly powerful January releases...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011


Nothing in the theaters this weekend.  There are plenty of titles I need to see -- The Artist, Shame, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and Young Adult immediately come to mind -- but none of them are in my area.  Fucking annoying if you ask me...

I'll catch The Sitter next Tuesday when my local theater does $6 Tuesday.

From Netflix is the indie doc Exporting Raymond.

Lots of HD On Demand options...

Thursday, December 8, 2011


As promised by its visionary, ludicrously talented director Tarsem Singh, Immortals is Caravaggio meets Fight Club, a hyper-stylized, uber-bloody take on Greek God mythology, shot 100% green-screen/CGI-style ala 300.  Henry Cavill is appropriately chiseled as the hero (he should make for a solid Superman) and Mickey Rourke sank his teeth into the main villain role with greasy, nasty gusto.  But first and foremost, the film is an opportunity for Tarsem to let loose his wild, baroque visual sensibilities on his largest budget yet, which makes for some of the most striking imagery you’ll see all year on a big-screen.

Mike Mills’s Beginners is a wonderful little film filled with a lot of honesty and tears.  Christopher Plummer delivers an excellent, heart-warming performance as a 75 year old father who decides to come out of the closet and take up with a muuuuch younger boyfriend, which has Best Supporting Actor written all over it.  Great chemistry between Ewan McGreggor and Melanie Laurent (who delights with some casual, peek-a-boo nudity) meshes with a generous screenplay, while the quirky, stylish direction felt fresh at every moment.
Directed with his usual brand of cold, clinical detachment, Steven Soderbergh’s riveting virus thriller Contagion is a thinking person’s horror film, a genre piece that defies genre in more than a few ways, never giving into cheap Hollywood sensationalism or resorting to hackneyed plot twists.  With basically everyone in Hollywood in a juicy supporting role, Soderbergh surgically races through Scott Z. Burns’s brilliant screenplay, never resting for a moment, aided immeasurably by Cliff Martinez’s pulsating electronic score.  This is procedural cinema at its finest – no bloat, no bull-shit, just the facts – so if you’re into this sort of thing (Zodiac, All the President’s Men, Shattered Glass), it’ll knock you sideways and leave you wanting more.

Leave it to Martin Scorsese to show everyone how to truly utilize the 3-D format so that the medium actually feels pushed – Hugo is a technical masterpiece for all involved (Robert Richardson’s cinematography and Dante Ferretti’s production design are both Oscar worthy).  I’ll admit to  becoming slightly bored with Hugo’s plight at about the half-way point; had the film been a tight 90 minutes with some of the redundant bits cut out it would have been more successful.  But what truly makes the film special is its final act, which is nothing short of an ode to cinema itself and a cry for film preservation, reminding us why movies are important and why they’ve been such an integral part of our collective society for the last 100 plus years.

If Andrew Niccol’s heady and entertaining sci-fi thriller In Time doesn’t entirely make good on it’s incredible premise (time has replaced cash as society’s currency; people are genetically engineered to stop aging at 25 and die when their “time” has run out) then that doesn’t stop it from being leagues above most genre entries.  Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried generate sexy sparks as lovers on the run from thugs and corrupt cops in a dystopian near-future, with Cillian Murphy making for an excellent nemesis as a potentially sympathetic “Time Keeper” who thinks that Timberlake is guilty of a crime that he didn’t commit.  The look of In Time is sleek and shiny (the endlessly sharp and stylish cinematography is from the legendary Roger Deakins), and it’s clear that Niccol, a clever writer who often feels too cool for school (The Truman Show, Gattaca, Lord of War), is progressing as a director of action and sensation.

Leonardo Dicaprio gives a customarily intense performance as J. Edgar Hoover in Clint Eastwood’s shadowy and mysterious biopic J. Edgar, a film that refuses to be something that many people clearly expected it to be.  Less concerned with the formation of the FBI and more interested in the personal relationships that shaped Hoover’s bent and deeply troubled psyche, Dustin Lance Black’s info-packed screenplay effortlessly oscillates back and forth between young and old J. Edgar, showing how his mother (Judy Dench, terrific) and life-partner (the perfectly cast Armie Hammer) influenced everything that went on in his life.  Tom Stern’s painterly, desaturated cinematography (the film almost feels like it’s in black and white) is elegant and restrained, while Eastwood’s gentle and surprisingly sensitive direction takes him in new directions as a filmmaker.

Simply put, if you can’t find time in your life to see and enjoy something like The Muppets, well, then there’s no helping you.  A total blast from start to finish, Jason Segel, Nicholas Stoller, and James Bobbin have taken all that you remember and love about the adorable gang of puppets and have brought them into a new generation, for old fans to fall in love with all over again, and for new fans to become familiar with and develop attachments.  Filled to the brim with smiles, songs, self-reflexive humor, amusing celebrity cameos, and the effervescent Amy Adams, The Muppets will delight anyone who comes into contact with it, unless of course you’re a total ass-hole with zero sense of childlike wonder and fantasy.

Don’t be fooled by the sunny, chirpy exterior of Jesse Peretz’s dark comedy My Idiot Brother – this is a film that relishes in showcasing dysfunctional people.  Paul Rudd is fantastic as Ned, a Jr. Lebowski sort of guy, blazed-out completely, totally naïve to all that’s around him, with the capacity to upset and annoy his three totally messed up sisters (Emily Mortimer, Elizabeth Banks, and Zooey Deschanel) to the point where each one takes him in for a few days and then eventually throws him out.  This is a smart and silly comedy, a film that has a lot of heart buried in its darkly layered fibers.

Take Shelter is a shattering, devastating work of American art, written and directed by the mega-talented Jeff Nichols (Shotgun Stories), and a film that I greatly anticipate re-watching as soon as it arrives on Blu Ray.  Michael Shannon again demonstrates that he is one of the best actors currently living, delivering a performance of intense, sometimes overwhelming power and emotion, portraying a psychologically fractured man (or is he?) who is convinced that the storm to end all storms is brewing, and that life as we know it is coming to an end.  Jessica Chastain is quietly fantastic as his skeptical but loving wife, and by the film’s poetic and haunting finale, you’ll be convinced that you just watched a masterpiece, the sort of film that could only come from a truly original place.

What’s so special about Alexander Payne’s wonderful but sad new dramedy The Descendants is how all of the humor and pathos comes from a real and honest place, and how nothing feels contrived, fake, or nonsensical. George Clooney is great as a father of two girls who is forced to actually be the parent he hasn’t been in years after his wife is critically injured in a boating accident.  What follows between Clooney and his two daughters (the magnificent Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller) is nothing short of phenomenal; genuine emotions are explored, old wounds are re-opened and examined, and life is shown for what is it – precious, unpredictable , and totally out of our control.

The Ides of March is a sharp-as-a-tack political thriller, the best John Grisham thriller that doesn’t bear the Grisham name, more concerned with being a ruthless piece of high-minded entertainment than an Oscar-winning expose on modern politics.  Ryan Gosling continues his incredible run of engaging performances as an idealistic campaign strategist for George Clooney’s presidential candidate, who may or may not be swayed to the other side by the reptilian Paul Giamatti.  Clooney’s direction gets better as the film progresses, culminating in one of the best scenes of the year, pitting Gosling against Clooney in the basement kitchen of a hotel – in this one scene you see just how good of a director that Clooney has become.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Friday, December 2, 2011


A Better Life is a wonderful movie about an illegal Mexican immigrant (the Oscar worthy Demian Bechir in a heartbreaking performance) trying to provide for his teenage son.  Writer/director Chris Weitz, in a riff on The Bicycle Thief, wisely steers clear of cheap Hollywood sentimentality and nonsensical situations (precisely one moment felt “movie-ish” to me) which added up to a narrative with honest emotions and a finale that felt real and true.  This is one of the most underrated films of the year, a small gem that people will discover and wonder why they’ve never heard of it.
Bill Cunningham: New York is a great documentary because it reminds you never to lose sight of doing what it is that you love to do.  Funny, sad, and uplifting in equal measure, it’s a movie about fashion, photography, and a man driven by his wild passion of documenting pretty people wearing outrageous outfits.  Quick and to the point, it’s a doc that will not disappoint.
Another excellent documentary from this year, the horse-whisperer expose Buck, will totally delight equestrian fans and confound most everyone as it displays a man in tune with animals on a level that most people will never fathom.  Buck, who served as the inspiration for Robert Redford’s The Horse Whisperer, is a man of intense values, and I found it amazing to see how he related to the horses and literally seemed to understand what they were thinking.  This is a fascinating portrait of a mysterious and complex person, and a movie that animal lovers will flip out for.
Made in completely poor taste and without a subtle bone in its depraved body, Lee Tamahori’s giddily violent and nasty Uday Hussein biopic The Devil’s Double is a messy ode to Scarface with a bravura double performance by Dominic Cooper (Oscar better come calling...but it won’t…) as both Hussein and his real-life, look-alike body-double.  Tamahori, a director who has never made good on his promise (Once Were Warriors is still one of the best debuts ever), is only as good as his script as he isn’t much of a visual auteur even though he’s got some nice flourishes, and the script here is a bit sloppy.  But Cooper is so irresistible and magnetic in both roles that it doesn’t matter how outlandish or garish or gross the proceedings are – you’re transfixed by Cooper to the point where you can do nothing but applaud the Daniel Plainview-esque immersion into the characters.
Green Lantern is easily the worst movie that I’ve seen in 2011 – stupid, cheesy, unfocused, and feeling 100% synthetic, this is what happens when a director (Martin Campbell, hit or miss) has zero grasp of special effects/CGI filmmaking and when the script is rushed so that a release date can be met.  As much as I like Ryan Reynolds, his inherent snarkiness didn’t mesh well with the Hal Jordan character; he’s blown off the screen by Peter Sarsgaard, who’s about the only good thing about the movie.  Boring, cruddy-looking (the entire thing looks like a video game), and completely misguided, I’m glad I didn’t pay money to see it in the theater.
Steve McQueen’s brutal and unflinching Irish prison drama Hunger is the cinematic equivalent of 10 shots of whiskey and a swift kick to the groin.  Michael Fassbender pulled a Christian Bale and lost half his body weight portraying striking inmate Bobby Sands, who refused to eat in order to make a personal and political statement.  In all of its high-art, shit-smeared-wall glory, it’s the sort of movie that feels like punishment and homework, but it’s demanding viewing for demanding viewers, and announces McQueen as ruthless purveyor of cinematic misery (the upcoming Shame seems to confirm this…)
Life in A Day, aka “the Youtube movie,” is my favorite documentary from 2011, if for no other reason than it showed me things I’ve truly never seen before, which is getting harder and harder to do.  Produced by Ridley and Tony Scott and directed by Kevin MacDonald, this is a Baraka-esque kaleidoscope of imagery from all around the world, shot (rather handsomely and artily) by regular joes who then uploaded the footage onto Youtube, and then a fleet of professional editors turned it into something transcendent.  Unforgettable footage abounds in this breathtaking look at where we’re currently at in our world – ugly, beautiful, sad, exciting, heartbreaking, scary, and above all – real.
Page One: Inside the NY Times will fascinate those of us with an interest in journalism and bore the shit out of everyone else.  Factual, dry, and wholly compelling (to me at least), this is a scholarly documentary that showcases what it’s like to work at the NY Times in this day and age of digital media and online news outlets.  I’m a sucker for all movies about journalism and news papers so I was sucked into this immediately; for many others I think it might be like watching paint dry.
Small, simple, and tragic, Shotgun Stories demonstrated that writer/director Jeff Nichols is a true talent and someone to watch out for (his latest film, Take Shelter, is one of this year’s finest films).  Michael Shannon burns up the screen in a customarily intense lead performance, and he’s matched by an ensemble of unknowns who up the authenticity levels.  And even if the narrative doesn’t go anywhere revelatory, you’re able to appreciate the performances, direction, and atmosphere.
Errol Morris’s loony and extremely entertaining documentary Tabloid is a crazy look at a whacko-lady who kidnapped her former fiancée, tied him to a bed, and then “raped” him for a period of 4 days in a British country-side cottage.  Those are the nominal details – the rest I will leave for you to discover.  Make it a double feature with Crazy Love and you’ll never look at your significant other the same way again!
Win Win is another underrated, small movie from 2011 that didn’t truly find the audience it deserved – with Paul Giamatti front and center and delivering yet another fantastic performance, it’ll be a popular Netflix/Redbox/On Demand title.  Writer/director Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent, The Visitor) is becoming the go-to-guy for “smart adult dramedy,” not quite on the level of Alexander Payne, but certainly getting close.  Don’t be fooled by the DVD cover-art – this isn’t a “high-school wrestling movie” – it’s a great little drama with equal doses of black comedy and layered pathos. 


Sadly, nothing in the theaters this weekend as nothing opened wide or expanded into my area...annoying...

From Netflix is Beginners, which sounds excellent...

Thursday, December 1, 2011