Monday, June 13, 2011


      What better way to get back into the blog game than by seeing one of the most anticipated movies of the year, "Super 8".  The official description on 'Super 8's IMDB page says:

"After witnessing a mysterious train crash, a group of friends in the summer of 1979 begin noticing strange happenings going around in their small town, and begin to investigate into the creepy phenomenon. "

and truth be told, without giving away more of the plot, that probably is as full a description as you can give.  Having said that, I'm either going to end my review here, or continue on and possibly (probably) give away more of the plot and story than someone that hasn't seen the movie would want to know.  On that note....


If "Stand By Me", "The Goonies", "ET", "Predator", and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" had a baby, it would probably be this movie. In fact, the main character in 'Super 8', Joel Courtney, looks supsiciously like a perfect mix of Sean Astin and Henry Thomas.  I was fully expecting him to pull out a small red inhaler at any point.  If there's any justice, the real breakout star of this movie will be Elle Fanning, younger sister of Dakota Fanning.  She's excellent as the only (yes, only) supporting female star in the film. 

I really don't want to attempt to rehash the plot at the risk of completely spoiling the movie for someone, but I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed the first 75 minutes or so, while the last 30 minutes left me feeling a bit empty while the credits began to roll.  Way too many unanswered questions.  What's the deal with the dogs? Why were the people taken in the first place? Why wasn't the white square ever fully explained? Why did the teacher have a gun? Why didn't he use it? Why is the Airforce so inept? Were walkmen really that ugly?

Were it not for the fact that there were at least 3 or 4 genuinely 'jump out of your seat' scary moments, and 2 or 3 very intense and extremely loud action sequences (the train crash, is one of the most intense, spectacular, well designed, action sequences I may have ever seen), this could easily be a movie specifically made for the 10-13 year old demographic - and judging by the Harry Potter, Twilight, Taylor Lautner previews before the film, that's clearly the subset they're after here.

The movie's a throwback to films of the 80's, while capturing the futuristic appeal of 'The Transformers'.  It's an odd mix that actually works very well, until, in my opinion, it wimps out at the end.  If you see it, you won't be dissapointed, but don't expect 'the next great movie'.  It falls short.  4 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


Well....I almost did it.  A scant 1+ hours away from this years Academy Awards, I managed to watch 9 of the 10 movies nominated for Best Picture this year.  The worst part is that I have 'Winter's Bone' on my bookshelf, ready to be watched - I just didn't get to it in time.  So close! 

As a whole, not surprisingly, I enjoyed this years crop of nominees.  So without further ado, here's my personal opinion and thoughts on who I think will come away victorious tonight, and who I think should win (if I had a vote).


Will win:  The Kings Speech
Should win: The Social Network

In order, here is how I would rank my enjoyment of this year's Best Picture nominees:

1. Inception
2. The Social Network
3. The Kings Speech
4. The Kids Are All Right
5. Toy Story 3
6. True Grit
7. The Fighter
8. 127 Hours
9. Black Swan
10. (Winter's Bone - abstain)

Even though I have '127 Hours' way down at #8, I still liked it and thought it was well done, I just liked the other movies better.  I loved 'Inception' - more than any other movie I saw this year, and I understand that it didn't appeal to everyone.  However, I thought 'The Social Network' was spectacular, and worthy of the Oscar.  We'll see, but it appears that 'The Kings Speech' is a juggernaut that cannot be stopped right now.


Will win:  Colin Firth
Should win: Colin Firth

I did not see the Javier Bardem film 'Biutiful' yet, so can't comment on his candidacy.  As for the other candidates, Franco did the most with the least, Bridges was awesome as Rooster Cogburn, Eisenberg made us love and hate Mark Zuckerburg in spectacular fashion, and Firth jumped off the screen.  I think Firth gets the win and deserves it.  Eisenberg is a close 2nd in my book though...


Will win: Natalie Portman
Should win:  Annette Bening

As the only 2 movies I saw in the category, 'Black Swan' and 'The Kids Are All Right' put the two favorites for this category up against each other.  Annette Bening gave one of the best performances I've ever seen in a movie.  I think she deserves to win, and has a definite shot.  One of the most unpredictable categories of the night.


Will win:  Christian Bale
Should win: Geoffrey Rush

Rush's long face and 'every man' attire, acting as a perfect foil to Firth's stoutness and proper dress are what make 'The Kings Speech' the movie that it is.  Bale completely lost himself into the role of Dickey Eklund in 'The Fighter', and as soon as I saw 'The Town', I thought Jeremy Renner deserved a nod in this category.  Bale is a shoo-in for this category that features a number of great performances, but I liked Rush even more.


Will win: Melissa Leo
Should win: Melissa Leo

I'm torn here.  I loved, LOVED Hailee Steinfeld in 'True Grit'.  Why she wasn't nominated for Best Actress as opposed to Supporting Actress is beyond me, but she was spectacular.  As 14 year old Mattie Ross, Steinfeld is the heart and soul of 'True Grit', and deserves every bit of recognition she can get.  Melissa Leo plays the character that you absolutely love to hate in 'The Fighter', and goes above the call of duty to perfectly nail the domineering mother of Micky Ward.  Leo deserves the win here. 


I'm not technically advanced enough to understand why one of these directors should get the win over another, but David Fincher's ability to jump seamlessly back and forth in time throughout 'The Social Network' was a revelation, and allowed the story to be told in the best way possible.

As a minor side note, 'Toy Story 3' is a lock to win Best Animated Feature, but 'How to Train Your Dragon' was a simply awesome movie, animated or not, that I was thrilled to see get nominated.  It won't win, but is worth your effort to see.

So there you have it, my thoughts on this years Academy Awards.  I hope you enjoy the show, as I'll be watching to the very last overwrought, musical accompanied, 6 minute acceptance speech. As always, thanks for reading.

- Mike

Friday, February 25, 2011


Somebody tell me how you make a movie about Mickey Ward without showing Arturo Gatti?  It's like making a movie about salt without pepper, peanut butter without jelly, Charlie Sheen without hookers.  They just go together.  One brief mention of Gatti in the last 10 minutes of the film, and that's it.  Nonetheless, this is a well acted movie that tells an excellent story, and that's enough to get the job done.

After seeing 'The Fighter', and previous movies set in this area like 'The Town', 'The Departed', etc..., I can't help but think at this point, "do we really sound like that?".  I mean, does everyone from Greater Boston sound like they have a 5th grade education and have to use four letter swears in every other word?  For our sake, I certainly hope not.....

'The Fighter' is the story of the rise of Lowell, MA boxer Mickey Ward (Mark Wahlberg), his drug addicted, former boxer brother Dickey Eklund (a nearly unrecognizable Christian Bale), their controlling mother Alice (Melissa Leo) and Ward's girlfriend Charlene (Amy Adams).  Mickey's a 'stepping stone' boxer, used by other boxers to beat up and move up in the rankings.  Trained by his brother Dickey, Ward's got heart, but doesn't have the training or skill to move up and become a name.  Charlene wants to help him, but is an outsider to everyone in Mickey's family, leading to constant bad blood and forcing Mickey to choose between his family and his girlfriend. 

Complicating matters is Dickey, the former pride of Lowell, but now just a crack addicted criminal bringing Mickey down.  Bale must have lost nearly 50 pounds to play the role for the movie, and is sure to get a best supporting actor win at the Oscars as a result.  Unfortunately, I found Bale's acting actually a bit distracting and certainly over the top.  He was almost a caricature of Dickey Eklund, and as a sympathetic figure, found no sympathy from me. 

I found the morale of the story to be one of letting go, not forgiveness.  The film should be a warning and a lesson to people who keep 'friends', family or not, like Dickey and Alice in their life.  It's clear how destructive these people were to Mickey Ward's life, both personally and certainly professionally.  Who knows how good he would have been had he been properly trained, and not spent years of his prime getting beat up, both literally and figuratively?  I thought Wahlberg did a great job showing how torn Ward must have been, knowing what he needed to do to further his life, while finding it impossible to let go of the only thing he knew. 

Melissa Leo is fantastic.  I'd find it hard to talk to her in real life and not distinguish her from the character she plays in this movie, and that says quite a bit about the job she does.  Adams is also excellent in an enormous turn from her roles in movies like 'Enchanted'.  The biggest problem I had with the movie is in the boxing scenes.  They weren't good.  Wahlberg spends the film in the classic boxing pose of his hands up in front of his face, getting pummelled over and over again.  Just poorly done boxing scenes overall.

Sorry folks, but I didn't like 'The Fighter' as much as the Academy did.  I thought the acting was great, the scenery, background, background actors, and accents were all spot on as well.  I certainly liked the movie, and think it tells the story very nicely.  I recommend it as well, I just don't think you need to go running out to see it.  3.5 out of 5 stars. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


'The King's Speech' is a very solid, spectacularly acted movie.  Colin Firth is damn near perfect, and Geoffrey Rush may be even better.  The two actors work very well together on the screen and play perfect counterparts to one another's mannerisms.  Although nearly two hours long, the film is never boring, and the pacing by Director Tom Hooper is very well done.  You're able to get a full sense of the kind of person that King George VI (Firth) is as he rises to the throne in 1930's England, and as the King's speech therapist, Lionel (Rush) has the kind of screen presence that can take over a movie. 

The plot/ending is no secret, as the movie chronicles King George VI's continual stammering problem, and his repeated attempts to break the habit and become the 'voice of a nation' that he's expected to be.  Geoffrey Rush plays Lionel Logue, a speech therapist hired secretly by the King's wife (Helena Bohnam Carter), who becomes not only the King's speech therapist, but also a close friend. 

The training is a success, and through Lionel's help, King George VI is able to deliver a wartime speech to the nation at the beginning of WWII, and become the King everyone hoped he would be, and the public speaker he never thought possible.  It's a story of triumph, trust, and overcoming obstacles to reach full potential. 

As a 'period' piece, and an English 'period' piece at that, the movie may not appeal to everyone.  It would be hard to overlook Firth and Rush's performances though, as both are certainly worthy of their Oscar nominations.  From what I've heard and read, the film is a front runner for the Best Picture Oscar.  While I don't necessarily agree with that (in fact, I'd put it 3rd on my list right now), I did enjoy the movie, and believe that it will certainly stand the test of time as one of the all time greats.  4 out of 5 stars, very well done.


Any movie that begins with Vampire Weekend cranking out "Cousins" over the opening credits is bound to be ok with me, and I was not disappointed.  As the media darling of The Sundance Festival, multiple Golden Globe and Oscar nominations, including a Best Picture nod, 'The Kids Are All Right' is more than just 'all right', it's downright fantastic.  Just a supremely solid movie from start to finish, a true adult drama/comedy that leaves you satisfied at the end and enjoying the ride along the way.

Annette Bening and Julianne Moore star as a lesbian couple raising two children together, each of whom conceived one of them through a sperm donor some 18 or so years ago.  As their daughter Joni (Mia Wasikowska, last seen as Alice in Alice in Wonderland) reaches the age of 18, she's convinced by her younger brother Laser (Josh Hutcherson) to reach out and contact their sperm donor father (Mark Ruffalo).
As is expected, the new relationship creates a new dynamic within their 'normal' household, and seemingly overnight, their lives, friendships, and values are all altered dramatically.

Despite the sometimes heavy handed cliches thrown at us by the film, there is enormous heart and depth to each of the characters, leading to numerous touching and funny moments.  Bening has been getting all of the award recognition for her portrayal of Nic, an overly controlling, stuck up, 'father figure' of the family, and make no mistake, she is fabulous.  Moore is also fantastic as Jules, the more earthy, loving 'mother' of the family, and deserves accolades as well.  Both do a tremendous job in the film.

The one bone that I will pick with the movie is the overall message that gets portrayed to the audience.  This is not a 'happy story', and many worse movies have been made using a similar storyline, with dramatically different outcomes at the end.  In an effort to appeal to a more discerning audience, we get an ending that does everything but tie a pretty red bow onto the screen for us. 

While I don't believe that the film has any shot of winning the Best Picture Oscar next week (and it shouldn't), I still highly recommend seeing this movie.  As Steve Carell was humorously corrected at the Golden Globes a month ago, this isn't a movie about a couple of lesbians, it's a movie about a lesbian couple, that is filled with real life issues, and contains a couple of tremendous acting performances.  Excellent movie, 4 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Instead of writing full blown reviews of each of these films, I thought I'd just give quick one-line review of each.  I've seen quite a few movies over the last few weeks, and haven't had time/effort to write reviews of each.  Enjoy!

127 Hours:  The true story of Aron Ralston, who literally cuts his arm off to save his own life.  James Franco is fantastic, as basically a one man show for the entire movie.  There were many reports of actual fainting during some screenings of the movie, and I can almost understand why.  It was gruesome, up close, and very personal.  Very much is Danny Boyle's style.  Excellent film.  4 out of 5 stars. 

Easy A:  I really enjoyed this movie.  Emma Stone was great, and I found it genuinely funny.  Would have liked to have seen more of Stanley Tucci though.... Highly recommended.  4 out of 5 stars.

The Devil's Ground:   Crappy horror movie.  Just awful.  1 out of 5 stars.

She's Out of My League:  Pretty funny film with Jay Baruchel, I enjoyed it.  3 out of 5 stars.

Iron Man 2:   Pretty good follow up to the first Iron Man  -  Downey is good again, but Cheadle is wasted.  Good action, good waste of 2 hours.  3 out of 5 stars.

Robin Hood:  This was the new adaption with Russell Crowe in the lead role.  Bears no resemblance to the 'Robin Hood' that we're more familiar with whatsoever though.  Director was going for more 'Braveheart' than anything.  Not awful.  3 out of 5 stars.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World:   I liked this more than I thought.  Michael Cera is great, another genuinely funny film.  Well made, but definitely not for everyone.  3.5 out of 5 stars.  Absolutely worth a rental.

Knight and Day:  I'm just going to say it:  I love Tom Cruise.  Thoroughly enjoy his movies and this is no exception.  It was fun, lots of action in Boston as well.  The story is 100% completely unbelievable and nonsensical, but it was fun to watch.  Rent it, and just go along for the ride.  3.5 out of 5 stars. 

The Other Guys:   Funny?  Sure, I guess so...... Not great though.  I really had hoped for more, but I'll take what I can get nowadays.  Way too many unfunny films lately.  3 out of 5 stars.  I say really not worth a rental.... (unfortunately)....

Buried:  Ryan Reynolds trapped inside a coffin, buried underground for 90 minutes.  Great job by Reynolds to keep us interested, but too many odd plot twists and bad decisions by his character to keep me fully invested.  3 out of 5 stars.

Devil:  This was the new M. Night Shyamalan movie.  5 people trapped inside of an elevator, one of them is the devil.  Huge twist that you never see coming towards the end (as is typical of his films), which truly disappointed me.  Not very scary, not very interesting.  2.5 out of 5 stars.

The Road:  I likes this better the first time I saw it, when it was called The Book of Eli.  Talk about depressing..... 2.5 out of 5 stars.

The Road to Perdition:  Now this one I liked overall.  Love Tom Hanks, and despite the ending, and Daniel Craig's odd casting, this was a generally good movie.  One of Paul Newman's last roles as well..... 3.5 out of 5 stars.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011


At the risk of not being taken seriously as a movie critic (that was a joke....), I'm just going to come right out and say it:  I did not like this movie at all.  In fact, I seriously disliked it.  I honestly don't understand where all the hype is coming from surrounding this movie.  I went and saw this today based solely on hype, and hype alone.  My entire knowledge of the film was that 'it was pretty freaky'.  I truly wish I had read more about it and had a better idea of what I was getting into, because to say I was unpleasantly surprised, and that the movie was 'a little freaky', would both be the understatements of the year.

If you're considering seeing this film, please know full well that it definitely should be put into the 'Thriller/Horror' section of your local Blockbuster Video.  Now, I'm not opposed to these kinds of movies at all, but they certainly don't usually garner Oscar buzz (and nominations), and the previews usually make it pretty clear that this is the kind of movie that you're getting yourself into.  Not the case here.... Again, I have no problem with that, I just want you to know what you're in for...

Natalie Portman (Nina) is a ballet dancer.  Mila Kunis (Lily) is also a ballet dancer.  Nina is the lead and new star, and Lily is the new girl who wants to take her lead role in the upcoming production of Swan Lake.  The problem is that the role is completely encompassing Nina, who is quickly losing her grip on reality, growing increasingly paranoid, and developing a self-mutilation habit.  In addition, she has the kind of mommy issues that we haven't seen since Norman Bates in Psycho. 

Perhaps the most buzzed about scene of the movie involves a very steamy, simulated sex scene between Portman and Kunis.  Yes, it is very risque.  Yes, it is hot.  No, there is no nudity (sorry to all my 14 year old male readers....).  Interestingly enough however, it fits perfectly into the bizarre and sordid action throughout the film, and actually progresses the plot perfectly. 

In the end however, the movie is just way too weird and, yes, freaky, for me to objectively take much of anything away from it.  It reminded me a bit of 'Vanilla Sky', an utterly confusing and equally as bizarre Tom Cruise film from a few years ago, and I don't mean that in a good way.  "Black Swan" is frequently creepy, often grotesque, and one of the most stress-inducing ways to spend 2 hours.  I couldn't wait for the movie to end, not because I hated it, but because it was so cringe inducing and genuinely uncomfortable to sit through.

2 out of 5 stars, if only because Portman is completely believable in her madness and paranoia.  If you're a fan of the thriller/suspense/horror movie genre, you may really enjoy Black Swan, but the casual movie watcher will absolutely hate this film.  2 out of 5 stars.

As a side note - I'd really love to hear from someone who enjoyed this movie and get their take on what I missed, let me know what you think in the comments below - and thanks for reading!